Saturday, June 28, 2008


I haven't shared much about what I have been doing ministry wise for awhile. Mostly because it hasn't been the sort of thing that is easy to really describe. But this last Monday I gave the 2nd in a series of Parenting Classes in a small church in a town east of Krakow called, Brzesko.

This is something that I have been praying about for a long time. Helping parents to communicate and work with their children is a passion of mine. For years it has been difficult to watch both children and parent struggle when I knew I could help. But when Jesus opens doors they cannot be shut.

The news of these lectures has begun to spread throughout this cute little town. People who don't go to the church are coming. Please pray for my next lesson that I will continue to be able to really speak to their needs in practical ways . It will be on July 14th. Then on the 18th I will return to meet with each individual family unit (parent/child) to talk about whatever issues they are dealing with.

As a result of these 2 simiple lectures the pastor in Krakow has heard about it and is looking forward to having me do something similar in Krakow when I return from my furlough.

A Calling

Sometimes I think that we over spiritualize our life with Jesus and what it all should look like. We spend a great deal of time trying to "find" God's will for our lives or what we are "called" to do. Or where and who we are to serve. I don't think it is that complicated. Who ever I meet where ever I am are the people God has for me to serve. And I don't think that we have to "search" to find God's will. Why would He hide it? I think that we are to be our best self allowing Jesus to live through us.
I'm convinced that Jesus has created you and me for a purpose, and that we are uniquely designed for that purpose.
Today I was reflecting on who I know myself to be and what that means. Or at least what I know it to mean today.
It is interesting learning again and in a deeper way who Jesus has created me to be and what that means. I know that I am to be like -
Jeremiah: one who stands alone bringing God's love & word to expand His kingdom to a stubborn and rebellious people.
Nehiamiah: one who organizes & coordinates those who are needed to get the task done.
Barnabas: one who encourages individuals to growth and maturity.

I know these are the things I have been created for because they come so naturally to me that it is like falling off a log. When I have the opportunity to use these skills I am filled with joy and fulfillment.
Jesus, you have called me to use those skills to be the touchable you to the people who live around me.
John 1:14 "So the Word (Jesus) became human (real, touchable) and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son."
Jesus you have called me to be Your flesh here where I live. Just like you made your home with us, I have made my "HOME" among these people. May it be said of me that I am one who is full of your unfailing love and faithfulness. Lord, I ask that all will see Your glory through my life, the glory of the Father and the Son.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Finding the HUB in my life

It's strange how one can live for years even knowing and serving Jesus, yet not really fully living the abundant life. I realize that I have missed knowing the fullness that Christ has to offer because I was too busy doing the "right thing" and sometimes even for the "right reason".

I don't think that I would have done/or made any different decisions but how I lived out those decisions would have a different look.

Never before have I felt such an intense need for the presence of Jesus in my life. He has truly become my "Daily Bread" that nuritious and strengthens me. He is my very "breath" without communication with Him throughout the day it is as if I have an asthma attack.

There is nothing legalistic about it but I almost experience a physical reaction.

It is strange yet at the same time comforting to know that my Lord is that close and that my awareness of His presence has become that sensitive. I have no desire to have anything less.

I was reading a devotional book that discribed it as a wagon wheel. The Hub is the center of my life, the heart, my life with Jesus. The spokes are life's things that distract me and draw me away from the source of life.

Sometimes I feel like I live my life either jumping from spoke to spoke or running along the outter rim of the wheel struggling to keep up. I realize now that I was just wearing myself out. I wasn't able to fully experience and appreciate the "spokes" in my life; the people, places, opportunities. I was too exhausted to know what was right before my eyes.

Lately, I find myself RUNNING to be in the HUB. I find great joy and peace just sitting in the HUB. The interesting thing about being in the HUB is I actually have time and energy to experience and enjoy each and every spoke in its time. Another thing is that "work" that I thought was SO important for me to accomplish and kept me running around in circles, or from spoke to spoke, is actually completed by the "gravity" and momenteum of the wheels movement around the HUB.

In the HUB there is solitude, it is never lonely. The motion and potential chaos of the spokes never dislodge the HUB's peace. The depth of the relationship found in the HUB radiates to each and every spoke. It is never ending as the HUB is in constant communion.

Jesus, help me to live my life from the HUB where you are. When I find the chaos of life creeping in help me to find my way back to the HUB where my heart & soul find peace and I can breathe the breath of life once again.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


During the course of the last month I have had 2 dear friends challenge my thinking on the subject of accountability, one from Switzerland and one here in Poland. I’ve found myself wondering where I got my thinking about accountability and I realized that I had never actually searched God’s Word for myself or even thought about what others had said or taught me.
What does it mean exactly to be accountable?
Who should I be accountable to?
What should accountability look like?
Who is my leader?
Is accountability a linear process or could it possibly be more like a web like process?
What exactly does the Bible say about accountability?

I have always felt that accountability was very important…that there needs to be people in my life that know me and can speak freely and openly into my life. People who know how to challenge me in love and discipline but I realize that the most meaningful accountability partners in my life were not necessarily the people that one would think. They were mentors from mission agencies in other countries, prayer partners, Bible Study Leaders from ecumenical groups, but mostly they have been friends. Does that mean I’m not being accountable? How can that be if those people are godly, wise, and mature Christians who know me well and point me to Jesus’ best in my life?

It is very interesting to me that there are individuals who have had all the “appropriate” accountability structures in their lives; church counsels, pastors, support groups, etc, yet some of those individuals still seem to fail morally and in doing so they not only destroy their own lives but those of their family, friends and people from their churches. On the other hand, there are those individuals who seem to have no accountability structures, as we would recommend, that go on to greatly impact the world for Jesus. I’m thinking primarily of some of the early missionaries, who followed the call of Jesus to the jungle or some uncharted territory and people with their Bible, a coffin full of their personal items never to have contact with anyone “at home” again. One such person was David Livingstone. He lived a life that was morally pure in a pagan culture without his wife or peers completely cut off from “Christian” society for many years. Yet he greatly impacted Africa for Christ.

In this era of multiple ways to be and maintain connection with people and to get the support and encouragement to live a life worthy of the Gospel somehow we seem to be weaker in character than many of our predecessors. Why is that?

When I actually looked up accountability or to be accountable in the Bible I didn’t find any model like the one I had in my mind. I had envisioned a linear model, in which you/I had a pastor or leader that would be my primary source of input, correction and encouragement. That being said, rarely have I actually ever experienced such a relationship, yet that was the model I had envisioned in my mind.

As I have contemplated this I have explored what it means to be in a linear model of accountability. This model looks something like the chain of command found in the military, where the “less experienced/learned/wise” person submits to the authority and thinking of the wiser more experienced to do what that person sees as the right thing to do. Of course this is a VERY simplistic description but it gives the basic idea. Yet sometimes in the body of Christ, with the best of intentions, we set up accountability structures that mirror this thought. But what are the ramifications and messages that are sent by such a system?

Firstly, by having such a linear way of thinking about accountability I suggest that there must always be someone, a leader, who is over me and someone over that person and then someone over that person and so on. But eventually that hierarchy must come to an end and who is the person at the end accountable to? Secondly, what do you do if there is no one willing or capable of being that wise, loving, caring and challenging person in your life? Maybe they are busy with other people or responsibilities or you find yourself being one of those people who have move up the “line of accountability”. So, where does one go from here? Or are you just not submitted or you are not accountable? Hmmm.

Thirdly, and from my perspective most importantly, “Who is your leader?” I thought Jesus was to be my Leader. I think in the linear model of accountability it is too easy to rely too much on the “leader” and not on Jesus. It is also too easy for the “leader” to influence those they lead to follow their voice (unintentionally of course) instead of the voice of the Lord. I have also observed that “followers” in such a model can often have a difficult time hearing the voice of the Lord for themselves. They can become self-conscious and doubt what they have heard the Lord say. Sometimes they are afraid of asking questions about the advice for fear of being perceived as “rebellious” or “unsubmitted”. This is strange to me because God challenges us to ASK Him, question and even argue our case before Him, yet we as leaders can often be threatened by a follower who asks, questions, desires to know and understand the reasoning behind our thinking and advise.

Don’t misunderstand me, I believe strongly that we are to submit to leadership and that they have God-given insight and wisdom to speak direction, encouragement and correction into our lives. But I think when we follow a linear model of accountability we limit the effectiveness of that accountability and we set ourselves up for abuses. I know I want those who follow me to listen to my “great” advice but I’m challenged to encourage them to ask questions, seek the advice of other wise people, especially those who think differently then me and above all else ASK Jesus! I think too often we rely too much on our wisdom (godly though it may be) and experience, above challenging our followers to HEAR the voice of the Lord for themselves. Proverbs 11:14b “…there is safety in having many advisers.” Proverbs 15:22 “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.”

All that being said what is our Biblical model? The one I would like to focus on is one Paul shows us. He obviously was submitted to the authority of the leadership in Jerusalem but foremost in his thinking was being submitted to the voice of Jesus. There were times when there was disagreement, discussion, prayer and the Lord’s final will was reveal. But how did this work?

I’m no expert nor am I a great Bible scholar but may I suggest to you that perhaps a healthy accountability structure is more like a web or a network of relationship that represent a wide range of input just like the body is made up of many parts why shouldn’t those we receive counsel from be just as diverse and represent as many different aspects of the character of God. I’m sure there will be someone who would say that this could be confusing. Yes, this could be true but if we have taught our followers to hear the voice of the Lord and to screen all advice through the Word and Prayer, I am convinced that the God peace will reveal Himself. I think that it is better that those who follow me know how to think for themselves and to hear God’s voice for themselves than to be running to me with every issue. 1Sam 3:2-11. Not because I’m so bad or not wise enough but rather it is because my role is a secondary one to Jesus.

In my searching for some insight into accountability I found something interesting in Jack Hayford’s book “Pastors of Promise”. He described accountability as a boxing ring. He suggests that there are 4 influences that create the shape of the accountability structure:
Our relationship with our family/or household (he said wife but I have no spouse)
Our friendship with Christians
Our stewardship of our money
Our interaction with our Lord.
Pastor Jack says that the ring is to remind us of our own responsibility to “fight the good fight” and to follow the rules. I think it is also a good example of how accountability works in the sense that only the boxer enters the ring, no one else. Not the trainer, or the doctor or anyone else. Hayford says “The ropes establish a perimeter, guarding me from accidentally transgressing appropriate boundaries but they do not substitute for my own external performance, internal responsibility to fight by the Rulebook or my personal actions in the eyes of the Referee.”
In away I like to think of these four influences as the posts on which our web of accountability can be built.
Our relationships with those whom we live: Those individuals with whom we live know who we really are. There is no hiding how we live because they see it. I think this is why the Apostle Paul requires leaders to have their household in order. Accountability is about me being transparent and congruence between my inner self and my outer self. People with whom I live can help me to truly be consistent inside and outside.
Our Christian Friends: These are people who are truly FRIENDS. They know me. They can be peers or mentors or both. They know how to listen to me and how to help me clarify what Jesus is saying to me. They don’t necessarily have answers or advise but they continually point me to Jesus, His Word and His Ways. They pray with me and check back to see what the progress is. According to Hayford these relationships need to include the following in order to have the basis to be truly accountable:
Joke and have fun together
Relax, to “let down” from …pressures
Become transparent regarding personal need or concern
Enjoy & be unaffected in discussing spiritual matters
(Straight) communication – encouraging, critiquing, supporting & making observations
Submit to gracious “iron sharpening iron” confrontation
Pray together without pomposity, judgmentalism or mere formality – but with tears for each other’s needs, with faith for each other’s blessings and with joy in each other’s hopes.
Some scriptures for you to consult with this Rom 12:5, 10, 16, Rom 14:13, 19; Rom 15:7, 14; Heb 13:13, 1Cor 11:33; 1Cor 12:25; 1Pet 3:8; Gal 5:13; Gal 6:2; Eph 4:2; Col 3:13; Eph 5:21; 1Thes 4:18; Heb 10:25; 1Pet 4:9, 10; Jam 5:16
Our Money – How I handle my money has a huge impact on every area of my walk with Jesus. It affects my faith, how much I trust Jesus, the condition of my heart towards others, and my ministry. There are 2 things I would like to highlight from Hayford’s book on this. The first is “If I refuse to honor God’s Word that ‘the tithe belongs to the Lord,’ and withhold offerings born of faith, the life-giving, multiplying spirit of grace cannot be released because my money isn’t being put in the circle of obedience.” Secondly, a leader’s “personal accountability in all his living will inevitably be very closely related to the way he handles his money, and his heart attitude, concerning finance.” Now, this may be an area where someone may call upon the help of a Christian friend from “post” number 2 to keep you honest before the Lord but no matter what it will require you/me being transparent to ask for help and to admit the need.
Our Interaction with Jesus – This is the key or cornerstone to the other accountability people having any influence. As Hayford says, “…all human help and accountability is only as effective as a person’s initial commitment to “walk with God in integrity.” This requires an honestly before the Lord in which I willing and openly expose my true self before the Lord. I completely pour out my hurts, pains, expectations, desires, disappointments, angry, failings and successes with the purpose of Him communicating His love, correction, conviction and healing. This is something I have fallen upon over the last 6-9 months. An honestly before that Lord where I am completely laid bare. I give Him complete freedom to communicate anything to me. I have to admit that I have confessed more sins in the last bit of time than I can remember doing in a very long time. My time with Jesus is a time of interaction. It is through this time of interaction that my heart is soft to hear and receive correction. It is also because of this time of interaction that I am not devastated when someone criticizes me because I am assured of the Father’s love and care of me.

I believe that accountability is an important principle for us to maintain in our lives. It helps us to continually grow and change to be more like Jesus. It helps us to keep from falling in to moral sin and can assist in safe guarding our character. For me, at this time, I will endeavor to employ a combination of the boxing ring and the web with Jesus as the beginning and ending point of it all.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Being Freed from the Shoulds in Life

Awhile back, the Lord was challenging me to be freed from the "shoulds" in my life. Those thoughts and expectations that I had put on myself and my performance as a Christian, Pastor, Missionary which kept me from seeing Jesus in the midst of my life and joining with Him where he was working. How I should have a church service? What type of "worship" I should have? What a good sermon should be like? You know, it had to have so many points with a fill in the blank bulletin insert and a conclusion that ties it all together.

I realized that my life in Christ is filled with freedom. He came to set me free from the shoulds in my life to follow Him in faith and trust that He has created me the way I am for a purpose. And how I am is perfect for the tasks that He has prepared for me. Today I read a short text along this thought I would like to share with you. It is from "Here and Now. Living in the Spirt" by Henri J. M. Nouwen
Without 'Oughts' and 'Ifs'
It is hard to live in the present. The past and the future keep harassing us. The past with guilt, the future with worries. So many things have happened in our lives about which we feel uneasy, regretful, angry, confused, or at least, amivalent. And all these feelings are often coloured by guilt. Built that says: 'You ought to have done something other than what you did: you ought to have said something other than what you said.'These 'oughts' keep us feeling guilty about the past and prevent us from being fully present to the moment.
Worse, however, than our guilt are our worries. Our worries fill our lives with 'What ifs': 'What if I lose my job, what if my father dies, what if there is not enought money, what if the economy goes down, what if a war breaks out?' These many 'ifs' can so fill our mind that we become blind to the flowers in the garden and the smiling children on the streets, or deaf to the grateful voice of a friend.
The real enemies of our life are the 'oughts' and the 'ifs'. They pull us backward into the unalterable past and forward into the unpredictable future. But real life takes place in the here and the now. God is a God of the present. God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful or painful. When Jesus spoke about God, he always spoke about God as being where and when we are. 'When you see me, you see God. When you hear me you hear God.' God is not someone who was or will be, but the One who is, and who is for me in the present moment. That's why Jesus came to wipe away the burden of the past and the worries for the future. He wants us to discover God right where we are, here and now.

I pray that the Lord will help me and you to live NOW. Communicating all that is on our hearts so that He becomes the center of our world and that we can be free to be His creation in this place at this time.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Faith in Jesus when the fruit is not visible

I recently returned from an inspiring week in Houston, TX at the Foursquare Convention. I watched Jesus orchestrate meeting after meeting. With some 3,000 participants, housed in more than 3 hotels, it was often difficult to figure out where I was going let alone where I might find someone I was hoping to meet.
Lord also spoke to me in very powerful ways. I will be processing everything for awhile. One of the things I heard Jesus say LOUDLY was: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen.” Hebrews 1:1
That verse is resonating within my being everyday since I’ve been back. My faith in the unchangeable Christ who always fulfills His promises gives me the hope that every promise He has given me for the Polish People WILL come to pass. And my HOPE in the risen Lord is the only evidence that is needed to press on because it is not what is seen but the TRUTH of His WORD that makes His will a reality here on earth.
"My hope is set on nothing less then Jesus Christ his Blood and Rightousness."
I pray and ask for your prayers that I would hold tight to these truths. That no doubt or negative thought would be allowed to steal the Hope that is within me.
I’m also including an excerpt of an inspirational story sent to pastors that I just received. This story is something that challenges me to Fix My Eyes on Jesus and to look to the future with Him. I hope that it will do the same for you as well.

“…A lieutenant colonel in the Army's Warrior Transition Brigade, Gadson is a former West Point teammate of Giants wide receiver coach Mike Sullivan. Sullivan initially had invited Greg to address the team before they played Washington D.C. (American football team). At the time, the Giants had become discouraged after their first two losses of the season, and were assuming that all of their practice and preseason work was in vain. From his wheelchair, Greg gave an inspiring speech. He talked about serving in Iraq that past spring, when a roadside bomb blew up the truck he was riding in, costing him both legs above the knees. He admonished the team to look toward the future instead of back at the past. "It's not about what happens to you in life," he said. "It's about what you do about it. It's about making the most of all your opportunities ... because I'm here to tell you, it can end in a flash." Greg's pep talks left a lasting impression on a team who suddenly realized they had a lot going for them, and they needed to quit complaining about each other and instead start working together as a team. Out of the challenges he had endured just months previously, he was able to bring hope and encouragement to a team that desperately needed it. At Walter Reed Hospital, Greg Gadson experienced what happens when:
Friends (from West Point) rally around someone in great need. (Philippians 2:4)
You stay focused on what you have, not what you don't have. (Philippians 2:14-18)
Acts of kindness remind you of how powerful it is to be a part of a team. (Philippians 2:25-29)
Adversity can bring out the fight in a person. (Philippians 3:12-14)
If things haven't quite worked out the way you planned, consider Greg's inspiring story ... as well as Paul's reminder that "God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19 NIV) “
Thank you so much for your faithfulness to Jesus and me.