The Generosity of a 9-Year-Old Girl

Kenya GiftThis past Sunday, we showed a video at the church I have the privilege to pastor, Christ Community Church of Magnolia, about a new ministry that was launched from our church family called Feed Teach Hope. Later that day, I had a 9-year-old come to me and hand me $50 cash for the mission trip in October. I asked her if she was sure and she replied, “Yes. They need it more than I do. I can earn more.” Continue reading

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The Empty Grave Compels Us to Community

CoffeeCupsLet us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)

As we celebrated Easter yesterday, I found myself reflecting on all of the opportunities and privileges that those who are followers of Jesus are granted because Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead. One of the most interesting elements is the gift of biblical community.

For some, the idea of being involved with other people, particularly Christians—especially the media’s stereotypical portrayal of Christians—can be less than desirable. However, when you take the time to get to know people who have been impacted and transformed by the risen Christ, you begin to sense that there is more going on than what is on the surface.

In Hebrews 10, the writer encourages those who have been consequentially impacted by the empty tomb to intentionally live out their faith in community with one another. This community is not merely a gathering based upon affinity—that is, everyone being exactly the same; the dynamic community described consists of people from various backgrounds who share the common focus of knowing Jesus and making Him known.

This passage instructs us towards the aim of biblical community and accountability. There is an intention behind believers meeting together. The writer urges them to hold fast to the confession, which is that Jesus in fact did pay it all, and through His death and resurrection, we have a hope for today. This hope is not in our ability to believe but in the object of our faith,

The intentional thrust toward community in this passage focuses on “considering how to stir up one another to love and good works.” The author is essentially saying, “Let’s really know each other, how we each work, how we are gifted. Then we can encourage each other to live daily in response to the Gospel in ways that are consistent with what we believe.”

At Christ Community Church of Magnolia (C3 Magnolia), the church I pastor, we live out this focus through both our Sunday morning gatherings and our Community Groups. The aim of our Community Groups is to fulfill the exhortation in Hebrews 10:23-25 and help people to develop meaningful Christ-centered relationships. We believe that if people have meaningful connections with other believers who consider how to encourage them to be all that Jesus has redeemed them to be, this discipleship inevitably results in great multiplication of disciples who are becoming more like Jesus.

As we celebrate the empty grave, let us heed the encouragement from Hebrews 10:23-25 and not grow tired of gathering with one another, but be intentional to know each other, encouraging one another to grow in our faith, both in our understanding and expression of it.

Perhaps you have been in a season defined by inconsistency or frantic busyness. Maybe you feel like community is something you don’t have time for. Allow me to kindly be a pastor to you and say that you cannot afford to NOT be in community. We have each been saved to be a part of the church, not merely an attendee. I encourage you, if you call C3 Magnolia home, to sign up for a community group today. Feel free to visit a few and find one that you connect to.

If you are not a part of Christ Community Church, then I strongly encourage you, however your local congregation expresses community, to engage in that, whether it be Sunday School, small groups, or Bible studies. Find a way to engage with and encourage those around you, because as you are mutually encouraged, the your community will overflow with the mission of the gospel.

This post is also available on the Christ Community Church of Magnolia Blog.

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Encouragement for the ADHD Pastor

I was once on an airplane and a woman sitting next to me was a Christian from a different tradition. As I was sharing my testimony with her, I mentioned that I have ADHD. She interrupted me and said, “Don’t speak that over yourself!” Not wanting to be overly confrontational, I told her that I viewed it as a thorn given to me to keep me dependent on the Lord and not a curse. She looked puzzled, and we changed the subject.

For many years I went undiagnosed with ADHD, perhaps it was because I didn’t get into much trouble in my younger years and I was pretty shy. However, as I entered into college, I was having a really difficult time focusing. After a series of testing, it was determined that I have ADHD and Dyslexia. It has been challenging, but I have been able to see it as a gift as well. Not only a ‘thorn’, but also an invitation, as it were, to see Jesus redeem even that area of my life.

I am blessed to have several pastor friends who are uber studious, great planners, organized, etc. They are able to sit for hours and pray, read, write, plan, and get a lot done. These guys are awesome and I respect them so much. However, I know a lot of pastors like myself who have a really difficult time sitting still, reading, writing, sermon prepping, and who have been conditioned for years to rely on the extra boost of adrenaline right before a deadline to be able to crank out whatever is due with some level of success as a result.

While there is arguably positive reinforcement for a negative habit of procrastination, it is often not laziness that is the reason for the procrastination. If you do not have ADHD, or think that it’s made up for a generation that should’ve been spanked more, or whatever, this post won’t make much sense to you. With all due respect, I’m not writing this to help you understand your ADHD pastor, but to those who find themselves bathing in shame for not being like the other pastors who appear to have it all together (MEMO: they don’t!) and to help them see how God can use how they are wired for His Glory and their joy.

I know first-hand how difficult it can be to sit down, with your Bible, a stack of commentaries, and have a list (or pop-ups) running in your mind about all of the things you forgot to do, need to do, should do, or a random fantasy about a vacation you will be taking all while you are needing to crank out your sermon notes. I understand the tension of knowing how important your time with Jesus in the Word is, how important prayer is, and also feeling like you’ve been after it for hours, and only ten minutes have passed by, while reading social media updates about pastor so-and-so’s hours of prayer and study. It’s not that we shouldn’t aspire for more in our walk, but I think we are forgetting some important things.

It’s not that we shouldn’t aspire to experience more in our walk and ministry, but I think we are forgetting some important things:

  1. God Made You: While we could argue that ADHD is a product/consequence of the Fall, we would be remiss to ignore the creativity, relational care, and other strengths that those with ADHD have. God made you, saved you, and called you. Even with your brokenness and even with your ADHD.
  2. Stop Comparing Yourself: The gauge of success in our personal walk with Jesus and our sermon prep shouldn’t be the quantity of time, but the quality of that time. Are we positioning ourselves the best we can in order to hear from Him, obey Him, and serve Him and His people? Then what business is it of yours how long pastor so-and-so is spending in prep and research? If you’re not properly prepared, then you will need to make adjustments to help yourself be prepared. You do not need to make adjustments to keep up with someone else.
  3. Learn YOUR Rhythm: I’m a crockpot (pressure cooker) sermon prepper. I need to read the passage, talk about it, think about it, and wrestle with it for some time. A lot of my sermon prep happens in my head while driving or doing other stuff. I know that I need to cultivate a relationship with the passage, and then press in and draw out what I believe the main point of the text is, and then see how it applies to the context where I am teaching. I know that when I need to sit down to write, that I need to give myself less time, not more time, in order to be the most productive. I plan for margins on the end in case I go long, but I do better when I’m focused on accomplishing my sermon prep goals. When it comes to personal devotions, my needs change at various seasons of life. At times it is reading the Scriptures, at other times it’s listening, and at times it’s both. I have buddies who enjoy their devotion from the Hebrew and Greek texts. That’s awesome, but that’s not me. I think God loves me anyway… Also, what time of day do you tend to focus best? What needs to be done, or what distracts you?
  4. Use Some Good Apps: I’m a Mac guy, and I use the following apps to help me focus: Isolator & Anti-Social (I also close my email). I also put my iPhone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ when studying or sermon prepping.
  5. The Goal = Faithfulness: Even in ministry, there is a lot of pressure to be successful. We must remember that God’s gauge of success is ultimately Jesus’ victory on the cross and His following resurrection. Our calling is to be faithful to Him. Part of being faithful means to be honest about who and how you are, and asking for and receiving the proper help. Whether it’s from a doctor or a dietician, we must do whatever we can to position ourselves to be available to faithfully serve Jesus.

My ADHD Pastor Friend, I understand the battle. There are many days we feel defeated and feel like that others can do this job much better. In times like this, we need to turn that feeling of shame into focused worship of the One who made us and is redeeming us. Let it be an invitiation to dependence on the Holy Spirit to help us move beyond our limitations to faithful pursuit of Him in and through our time in study and preparation, and through our expressions of our calling.

May this ‘thorn’ lead us to deeper worship and dependence. Be encouraged, subscribe below, then get off of here and go finish your sermon!

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