My Master Passion

3.18.20 Leave a comment

Over the past weeks, I have been giving much thought to this one question — what is the one thing about which I am most passionate?

Like everyone else, I have many interests, many sources of discovery, enjoyment and fulfillment!  But this very unique time of “social distancing,” or in it’s true sense “voluntary isolation,” has really allowed the Lord to shine His light most brightly on this question:  now that many of these “lesser things” are on hold, perhaps not even available to me, what is truly my master passion?  What do I desire more than anything else?

For most of us, we’ve already matured to the place where we know that our ruling passion is not to be found in “things” no matter how beautiful, exciting or inspiring they may be.  Money and all it may provide is a “lesser master.”  (See Matthew 6:24)  Things are not inherently wrong, but they must never rule us, never be what we think about, desire and pursue more than our master passion.

For others, maybe something far higher such as family, friendships, teamwork, success in one’s chosen career, sacrifice, service, giving to others or even a ministry of the Lord; but still, none of these should rule us.  None of these should become the highest and most dominant focus of our lives.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that you’re not susceptible to these distractions.  They are all good things and therefore seem to be worthy of being our master passion, but they are not!

I’ve come under great conviction that the constant assault on our minds and senses with all of these lesser things tends to eventually dull what is revealed in scripture as our highest and unchanging master passion.  “We make it our life’s passion to live our lives pleasing to Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:9b

This is not a weekly exercise when we gather to worship with others, or in our small group experiences in homes and other locations, nor even in our daily devotions; but rather it is a moment by moment experience – born of the conscious awareness that the Holy Spirit lives in us and will reveal to us what the Lord desires in every decision, every conversation or exchange, every relationship, every pursuit, what is pleasing to Him!

There is a level of relationship, communion with the Lord, that this commitment opens to us that far exceeds whatever sacrifice, whatever discipline, it may seem to take.

In the end, my life is not about “me” any longer, it is about Him, knowing Jesus, being one with Him, in this life and forever.

With all of my heart I desire that by grace this will be my master passion.

Blessings,
Pastor Jay

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Fear vs Faithfulness

3.12.20 Leave a comment

No doubt about it, the message that we are now receiving from our national leadership professionals in medicine, economics and politics is that the coronavirus will have a profoundly more widespread impact than perhaps originally perceived.

As more and more measures are taken to limit the potential for contact with infected people (social distancing), it tends to lead us down the very precarious path of imagining the “what if the worst happens” scenario.

Just yesterday, longer lines are being seen in places of bulk grocery and home supply distribution and the likelihood that further public gathering opportunities will be curtailed is seemingly inevitable.

Thankfully, the great majority of our population should not suffer significant physical implications, although it is clear that older people and particularly those with other pre-existing conditions are most vulnerable to serious medical consequences. (Think about the thousands of people just in our area that are currently in nursing homes, retirement villages, etc., who would be much more susceptible than others.)

There is one particular posture that I think is absolutely critical for every Christ follower to embrace in this time.  What we are facing has taken place literally thousands of times during the course of redemptive history.  Scripture is full of the accounts where the people of God faced situations that naturally speaking produced great fear because there was no certainty about the future or clear way though the potential pain, suffering and confusion that seemed to be about to overwhelm them.  It was in those very moments that the Lord was preparing His plan for the deliverance of His people and He called upon them through His prophets, His leaders and His men and women of faith to believe and trust more in God’s faithfulness than the fear that was consuming their hearts and minds.

That’s it in a nutshell loved ones.  It’s fear vs faithfulness that every one of us must consider in every dimension of our personal, family and corporate lives in the coming weeks.  I’ve been blessed by God to have lived through a number of these kinds of situations as far back as gasoline shortages that potentially were going to cripple our nation’s economy in the early 70’s, the widespread uncertainty that lead to a fair amount of hoarding and hysteria as we approached the Y2K event at the turn of the millennium, the 9-11 strike and days of uncertainty that followed that tragic occurrence when all flights domestic and foreign were cancelled as well as other rather draconian measures and perhaps most recently the financial crash of 2008.

In all of these fear was widespread in its manifestations clearly seen in the habits and practices of individuals let alone groups, institutions and businesses.  However, in every situation God’s faithfulness was the true “safe haven” as those with a spirit of discernment knew that nothing was outside of God’s control and that fear would not and could not overwhelm the faithfulness of God in caring for His people.

And so, in the immediate future, may I encourage you to pray faithfully for our nation, and the people of the world who might be suffering with fallout from this virus even more than we are, until the tide begins to turn.  Pray for the people of our nation to have their hearts opened to recognize just how fragile the lifestyle that we have created and the things in which we put our energy and trust in really are.  Along with protection from illness and/or serious implications, pray that the Lord opens hearts and conversations and exchanges as we go through this together.

Remember in the end, God’s faithfulness will always defeat a spirit of fear.

Blessings,

Pastor Jay

A Word of Encouragement Part 4

3.04.20 2 Comments

In the last three posts, we talked about the need for encouragement, that is God’s comfort, strength and hope in the course of our daily lives.  No one is immune from the overwhelming circumstances and challenges that we face in our daily lives.  Some manage better than others, but all of us, at one time or another, need encouragement.

I want to close this brief series of thoughts on this topic by talking about finding encouragement when you’re by yourself.  In my experience, this is the most important source of this great gift from God that we can cultivate.  Others can help us from time to time and there’s certainly different resources that we can access such as Bible teaching and worship music, etc.

I have found the greatest instruction on tapping in to God’s encouragement on my own from the very transparent and personally revealing thoughts and revelations given to David, King of Israel, throughout the course of his spiritual journey.

In a time of being exiled from his throne in Jerusalem, wandering in the Judean wilderness without any clear path or strategy to recover his god-given kingship, David needs the encouragement of God Himself.  He writes this in Psalm 63:

” O God of my life, I’m love-sick for you in this weary wilderness.  I thirst with the deepest longings to love You more, with cravings in my heart that can’t be described.  Such yearning grips my soul for You, my God!”

Note that David doesn’t begin by talking to God about his obvious dilemma.  He doesn’t focus his thoughts on what he doesn’t have but on where he knows his heart belongs, and that is with the presence of God.

You’ll have to read the entire Psalm to fully grasp just how intent David is on discovering this source of power from God Himself.  But know this, he is not timid about just how expressively he desires this intimate connection.  In verse 4&5 we read:

“Daily I will worship you passionately and with all my heart.  My arms will wave to you like banners of praise.  I overflow with praise when I come before you, for the anointing of your presence satisfies me like nothing else.  You are such a rich banquet of pleasure to my soul.”

You see, David understood that true encouragement is not necessarily the resolution of a conflict or situation that has brought you down. Rather, true encouragement is a soul connection with God where He imparts to you the sense of favor, grace and confidence that He’s with you and will sustain you and carry you through whatever it is that has brought you into the season of disappointment, doubt, or even despair.

Dear friend, you can apply this in every area of your life; whether it be in your closest relationships, your physical body, your financial or career issues, even your own spiritual dryness.

The beginning of encouraging yourself in the Lord is to make time in His presence your number one priority, no matter what your circumstances dictate.  Rise up early in the morning if need be or stay up late at night if that suits you, but be with God in some sort of undisturbed and unbroken way.  Use the “weapons of your warfare” including the Word of God, songs of spiritual praise and worship, expressing yourself as honestly and openly as you know how. These are the “on-ramps” that move you onto the highway that leads to God’s “anointing presence” which you will discover satisfies you like nothing else and imparts to you the very encouragement that you need to be lifted up and out of the entanglement of life’s seemingly impossible situations.

If you get a moment to share how you’ve discovered this to be true in your life, I’d love to hear about it.  I may not always be able to respond personally, but I read your responses and I value them as I seek the Lord for what to share with all of you in this spiritual journey together.

Blessings,
Pastor Jay

A Word of Encouragement Part 3

2.27.20 Leave a comment

There are many times in our spiritual journey when we need encouragement but we find ourselves either unable to reach out to others or simply in a time of being alone.  As uplifting and strengthening as words from others may be, there are times when you have nowhere else to go but God yourself.

Of course, the potential problem with this is that you may not find yourself knowing where to turn from your resources within.  The fact that you need a word of encouragement likely means that you have been spent in trying to deal with an issue or struggle or faith-battle on your own and find that your resources are depleted.

In John chapter 4 in the beautiful story of the Samaritan woman that Jesus met at the well in the village of Sychar (a place where Jacob of the Old Testament dug this well nearly 1000 years before… ) he teaches us a great lesson.  Jesus sees the need of this woman who is internally very thirsty and who is in need of a word of hope, some way to break out of the cycle of failed relationships and quiet desperation in which she was living.

Jesus asked the woman to give Him a drink of water. (vs. 8)  The woman was surprised because the Jews and Samaritans did not speak with each other.

Jesus answered her confusion when He said, “If you only knew who I am and the gift that God wants to give you you’d ask me for a drink, and I would give to you living water.” (vs. 10)  They go back and forth for a few verses and then Jesus says this:

“For when you drink the water I give you it becomes a gushing fountain of the Holy Spirit, springing up and flooding you with endless life!” (vs. 14b)

The most common mistake that we make in a time of extended struggle is to look at what God has done in the past in our lives and conclude that we don’t have the resources ourselves to change anything.  Our wells are dry and there’s no use in trying to simply lift yourself up by looking within.

The key here is to recognize that the Lord is not expecting you to find the resources within, but rather to draw on His resources from above which will then in turn refill your own personal well, your heart, with fresh love, power and encouragement.

Don’t make the mistake of only believing in what Jesus can do in your life based on what He’s done in the past.  Those wells may be dry, but He is here to give you fresh and living water even today!  It takes some focus to look away from yourself and what you know based on the past, but the answer lies in looking to the Lord and His limitless resources of life that never run dry and are never inaccessible to us.

There’s a fascinating reference to this same principle in the life of King David in 1 Samuel 30 where King David finds himself in a time of deep and profound discouragement.  His city had been burned and the wives and families of his fellow soldiers had been taken captive.  His own people even threatened to kill him as they blamed him for this carnage.

And then one simple verse stands out in 1 Samuel 30:6 “But David strengthened himself in the LORD His God.” 

In my next post I want to talk about how we can learn to do what King David did:  to strengthen ourselves in the Lord.  (By the way, the Hebrew word for strengthen in that verse is the exact same word for “encouragement.”)

So take heart, dear friend, that even if you are feeling somewhat alone and unable to be encouraged by others, the Lord has an endless supply of living water that He desires to pour into your life.

Blessings!

Pastor Jay

A Word of Encouragement Part 2

2.20.20 Leave a comment

More often than not, when I hear the expression “a word of encouragement” I think of it in terms of one individual speaking to another one a word that edifies, uplifts, or sustains a fellow believer or sometimes even a stranger. (In some future post, I want to talk about “prophetic encouragement” which is simply another way of describing the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when we believe the Lord has given us a specific “word” for a person, group or situation.)

However, just recently in my personal home group we had the experience of what I would call “full body encouragement”!  In other words, there were 12 people present and fully engaged for the meeting and after a few brief words of welcome and introduction, we simply prayed that the Holy Spirit  would lead the meeting. There was no particular person that was in charge of providing direction, focus, a teaching or a flow of ministry, etc.

If you think this sounds a little bit uncomfortable, I will confess to you that, as someone who has been blessed to provide leadership for literally thousands of such meetings over the past decades, I find it hard to let go and simply believe that the Holy Spirit will lead every individual in that room in the direction that He wants.

In 1 Corinthians 14, after a rather long word of correction to the church about the focus of spiritual gifts not being on “rating manifestations” but on “strengthening the entire church,” Paul says this:

When you conduct your meetings, you should always let everything be done to build up the church family.  Whether you share a song of praise, a teaching, a divine revelation, or a tongue and interpretation, let each one contribute what strengthens (encourages) others.”

Over the course of the 90+ minutes, we didn’t just grow in our  knowledge of what spiritual authority in Christ meant or our understanding of what spiritual gifts were about, we actually grew in our experience and manifestation of those truths.  The meeting was a wonderfully edifying time and much ministry took place that was not prescribed or predetermined.

Here are three practices that I believe led to a “corporate word of encouragement.”

  1.  We began with a time of expressive praise and worship.  It’s not unknown to me that quite a number of small group leader training manuals discourage worship in small groups.  Most think it’s awkward for a dozen or so people to try to openly worship together.  Even though it takes a little bit of adjusting and accommodating, we have found that our worship times are vitally important in transferring our control from ourselves to the Spirit of the Lord as we focus heart, spirit, mind and soul on Jesus and His presence with us.  (Even during the worship time, individuals felt the freedom to quote a scripture, to lead out in a word of specific praise or thanksgiving and most everyone sang whether they were gifted in doing so or not!)
  2. Everyone had something to contribute.  I thought this through carefully in reflecting back over the meeting and all 12 participants made some sort of contribution.  A few had very powerful prayers of ministry for specific needs including healing, relational breakthrough and wisdom and peace for a major business decision.  When you’re participating in a meeting like that and no one is leading or giving anyone else permission to speak, you begin to realize that literally, the Holy Spirit’s controlling the meeting.  It’s not an individual leader or a specific protocol that’s been established in a guidebook.  It’s the Spirit Himself, which is new territory for many of us.  Let me say that though it’s a bit stretching, the end result is truly uplifting and encouraging in ways that we rarely experience.
  3. We keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace by focusing on the love of Jesus as the highest focal point of the evening and not the various expressions of encouragement or ministry to one another.  We did this by celebrating the Lord’s communion together, and frequently, not just at the end of the meeting, acknowledged that everything that is happening in and through us is to the glory of Jesus and an acknowledgment of His presence with us by His Spirit.

Corporate words of encouragement where the whole gathering is involved in giving expression to those words is an amazing experience.  However, I believe it’s what Paul was talking about in the book of Corinthians and other places and is possibly one of the clearest expressions of the reality of the living “body of Christ” that one can ever see or experience.

By all means, believe that such experiences are meant for everyone in the body of Christ and not just a select few.  This is the normal Christian life!

Blessings,
Pastor Jay

A Word of Encouragement

2.13.20 Leave a comment

Over the past few weeks I’ve sensed the Lord is getting my attention about one fundamental need that is common to almost every believer, as well as everyone who may not yet know who Jesus is.

This is something that we may find “non-essential” in our day-to-day activities, but I have no doubt that every one of us have need for this gift from time to time, if not from day to day.  That gift, that empowering moment, is called in the Bible encouragement.

The Hebrew words translated “encourage” mean “to strengthen.”  The Greek words, the ones used in the New Testament, are somewhat more complex.

The basic New Testament words are related to the verb parakaleo which appears over 100 times in the New Testament and carries three different meanings:

  • “to summon, invite, or ask”
  • “to exhort or encourage”
  • “to comfort”

So basically, to encourage means that we come alongside (the exact translation of parakaleo) and comfort, strengthen and perhaps exhort others to continue to walk faithfully with God or, perhaps more basically, to continue to pursue their goals and/or solutions to their challenges or problems.

I was first struck by this important concept in Acts 13 when Paul and Barnabas speak to the church in the city of Antioch.  They are asked by the leaders of the synagogue for God’s message when they say “Brothers, do you have a word of encouragement to share with us?  If so, please feel free to give it.”  (Acts 13:15)

What struck me about this expression was that these new believers, or potentially in some cases non-believers from the Jewish faith, wanted Paul and Barnabas to share something with them that would strengthen, uplift and exhort them in their search for the truth about who Jesus was and His mission on the earth.

Amazingly, Paul stood and went on for nearly two whole pages detailing what the “Jews and non-Jews who worship God” had in fact understood and yet still missed about what God was doing through His Son, Jesus.

In other words, this was not a message that was uplifting at first, nor did it have any sense of perseverance or overcoming; rather it was a clear word that they all needed to change what they believed about God’s plan and the work of His Son.

I’ll go into this more in the next post, but rather amazingly it says that “as Paul and Barnabas start to leave, the people pleaded with them to share more about these things on the next sabbath day.”   (Acts 13:42)

In other words, a word of encouragement may not be the final insight or perspective or truth that we need to hear; but it may move us out of our stagnant or lifeless practices and beliefs that keep us from experiencing the fullness of God.

We’ll talk more about this, but let me encourage you to begin to ask God to hear, in small ways, what He’s saying to you as an encouragement for your life, or perhaps even better, for someone that you love.

Blessings,
Pastor Jay

 

 

Freedom From Fear!

2.04.20 1 Comment

Whether or not we want to openly acknowledge it, I believe it’s true that most every one of us deal with some sort of inadequacy or past experience that cause us to have fear in different situations.

This fear is not the kind of “horror” that people may fall into when being physically attacked or in some sort of open conflict.  No, this is not fear of bodily harm as much as it is fear of not being good enough, not being accomplished enough, not trusting enough, and not being loved enough.

I’ve been talking with a couple of friends over the past several months who are seeking a job/career change in their lives.  They know that this is something they want to do, but for quite a few months now neither one of them have seen any doors open.  Opportunities and even interviews come and go and yet no one comes back beyond a second interview to make an offer or even give feedback as to what might be needed for the change to occur.

This kind of fear can be paralyzing.  It can cause one to believe that somehow they may be stuck in a situation that they find unsatisfying and certainly far from what they dreamed their lives might be about.

The same kind of fear comes upon people who have had relational difficulties and find themselves at a time in their life when they never thought they would be “living alone.”  There’s no shame to that situation, but there is fear that perhaps this may be their permanent state and that’s not something that they see as a blessing.

I have my own illustrations but I wanted to share some encouragement from King David in Psalm 34.  David begins:

Lord! I’m bursting with joy over what you’ve done for me!
My lips are full of perpetual praise.”  Psalm 34:1 (TPT)

“Listen to my testimony: I cried to God in my distress
and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears!
Gaze upon him, join your life with his, and joy will come.
Your faces will glisten with glory.
You’ll never wear that shame-face again.
When I had nothing, desperate and defeated,
I cried out to the Lord and he heard me,
bringing his miracle-deliverance when I needed it most.
The angel of the Lord stooped down to listen as I prayed,
encircling me, empowering me, and showing me how to escape.
He will do this for everyone who fears God.”  Psalm 34:4-7 (TPT)

There are many more verses in Psalm 34.  You really must read it to get the full impact of how David experienced the power of God to deliver him from his fears.  What really affected me as I read this over and over again is that David did not concentrate on those things that were causing him fear.  He didn’t think about them over and over again and try to find a way to help himself out of those circumstances.

Rather, David talks about the emergence of the presence and power of God as he focused his whole heart on who God is.  He says it best in verse 17:

Yet when holy lovers of God cry out
to him with all their hearts,
the Lord will hear them and come to rescue them
from all their troubles.”  Psalm 34:17 (TPT)

Even when bad things happen to the good and godly ones,
the Lord will save them and not let them be defeated
by what they face.”  Psalm 34:19 (TPT)

The revelation of these verses has reminded me of the need to do more than just have my “Bible reading” every day or to go through my prayer list in some perfunctory manner.  Rather, there’s a profound level of relationship which David models for us and calls us into with the Lord Himself.

If we’re all really honest with ourselves, many of us know that getting to that place with God where we know that we are pleasing to Him and encountering Him and loving Him for who He is and not what we can get from Him, often takes more focus and investment than we are willing to give.

I read yesterday of one of the fathers of the faith movement of the last century who was a pastor and would hear from the Lord that it was time for him to seek God “earnestly.”  He told His wife he would be going over to the church and was not to be disturbed unless it was an emergency.  There were times, he said, when “I would pray for several days and not leave the church.”

I know there may not be any of us who could imagine doing something like that.  However, it did make me ask the question ‘just how desperate am I to hear from God?”

And so if you’re dealing with fear, the way to find freedom from your fears is to focus on the face of God and read His Word about His love for you, His promises for your circumstances and situation and most of all, the glory that is due His name for all He has already provided for you and me and all who call upon His name.

Becoming free from fear,

Pastor Jay

Praying the 23rd Psalm

1.23.20 Leave a comment

If you have read any of my posts over the last several months, you’re aware that I’ve become a very big fan of The Passion Translation Bible.  In it’s current form, The Passion Translation is simply Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and the entire New Testament from Matthew through Revelation.  (I’m doing some research on if and when a more complete Old Testament translation will be released.)

What I’ve discovered in this Bible reading adventure is that many of the more familiar passages have taken on entirely new dimensions of understanding for me.  What is a true blessing is that often this deeper understanding seems to come along on days when I’m facing situations that require just that particular insight.

Today in reading the 23rd Psalm, I was struck by the fact that though the word fear is only referenced once in the NIV (vs. 4b “I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”), it is referenced three times in The Passion.

 “Lord, even when your path takes me through
the valley of deepest darkness,
fear will never conquer me, for you already have!
You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way.
Your authority is my strength and my peace.
The comfort of your love takes away my fear.”Ps. 23:4

So why would I fear the future?
For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life.
Then afterward, when my life is through,
I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!” Ps. 23:6

As I read those verses over and over today, I recognized that fear is many times hidden within the various trials and struggles of our lives.  When relationships falter, we fear that we may be hurt or rejected.  When we become sick or perhaps lose a job, we fear that we won’t recover.  And on and on it goes, even to our ultimate destiny where we somehow fear that we will come up short and not spend eternity in the Lord’s loving presence.

I want to encourage you once again to consider investing in a copy of The Passion Translation and letting God refresh your heart with the thoughts and promises from His heart as revealed in this amazing Bible.

Blessings,
Pastor Jay

The Blessing of a Smooth Transition

1.07.20 Leave a comment

One of the most significant and indeed profound disciplines of our great country has been the consistent unity and order that has surrounded almost every transfer of primary (presidential) leadership in our nation.

Despite seasons of heated political rhetoric that seemed impossible to overcome, every 4-8 years our entire nation witnesses the pomp and circumstance of a smooth transition of power from one outgoing leader to another incoming president who may extend his predecessors political agenda or introduce an entirely new one.

In the church world, the matter of “succession” has become much more critical with the rise of non-denominational churches throughout the country.  Through many decades denominational churches had a very clear process by which pastors were prepared and then in time were assigned positions of primary leadership; sometimes early on if it was a small congregation, and sometimes quite a bit later if it was a large church in a growing suburban or urban area.

This past weekend the members and friends of North Way Christian community experienced one of those treasured moments of a smooth transition of leadership from the second generation leader to now the third generation leader, only the second time there’s been a transition in 39 years.

For those who were privileged to attend one of the services at the Wexford campus or even at one of the five other campuses in the Greater Pittsburgh Area, there was something very special about these moments.

It was a major achievement for the elders of North Way Christian Community and all it’s campuses to appoint a transition team and to do the diligence of almost a year’s worth of prayerful evaluation and investigation as to who God was preparing to take on the responsibility of this growing church movement.

Pastor Scott Stevens, who took on the challenge of leading North Way into it’s second season of leadership 8 1/2 years ago said with great clarity and conviction that he knew this calling for him was to be an 8-10 year commitment.  Scott capably and faithfully fulfilled that commitment and recognizing that his season was coming to a close initiated the process that was culminated approximately 15 months later.

The transition team enthusiastically recommended Pastor Dave D’Angelo who had joined the North Way team about 3 1/2 years ago as in ideal candidate for a lead pastor.  Dave brings a slightly different skill set and giftedness than either Pastor Scott or this pastor provided the church family.

Most clearly, Pastor Dave also brings the energy and passion of being a younger man who simply has the strength, endurance and focus that effectively leading a growing ministry often requires.

However, the real beauty of this transition was not so much the three lead pastors who were on the platform together this past weekend, but rather it was the very clearly declared and affirmed focus of the great leader of the church, the Lord Jesus, who was most honored in those gatherings.  As Pastor Dave very humbly declared, “If we make this transition about the hand-off from one man to another, it’s much too small.  Our eyes need to be on the presence of Jesus and His headship over His body, the church, which we celebrate this day.”

The response from those folks with whom I had the privilege of interacting after each service was unanimously positive.  Some, such as Grant Smith,  who have journeyed with us for the entire life of the church, knew just how miraculous this God-honoring and celebratory event really was.

Those who are newer to the life of North Way will come to see that the honoring of leadership at all levels is absolutely essential to the ongoing fulfillment of our vision and mission as a church in the Greater Pittsburgh area and far beyond, and many other expressions of ministry and world missions.  In our ever changing culture, there are doubtless going to be new challenges and opportunities for our church to continue to declare the life changing love and grace of the Lord Jesus who is alone the answer to the deepest longings of every heart.  However, having witnessed now our second very orderly and powerfully demonstrated transition of leadership, I have a great anticipation for what the future holds for us all.  As Pastor Scott shared, we have gone from a long pioneering phase, to a necessary establishment phase, and are now prepared for what we believe will be the multiplication phase of the ministry of Jesus through North Way Christian Community.

Blessings

Pastor Jay

Simple Strategies for 2020

1.02.20 1 Comment

If you’re like me, I’ve read dozens of blog posts, articles and emails reminding me of the obvious connection between the year 2020… and having clarity of vision for the New Year.

I’ll confess that in many years past I’ve started the New Year with what I thought was a clear vision, but as time went on I lacked the fundamental disciplines to pursue that vision; or at least to the degree that I believe God had desired for me.

My desire for all of you who might read this post is to share with you a couple of very simple and probably even basic understandings that renewed my anticipation for this new year and spoke to my heart.  I also want to say right out of the gate that much of this inspiration comes from The Passion Translation Bible which I highly recommend to anyone who has fallen into a bit of a rut in terms of Bible reading and the anticipation of hearing God speak to your heart through His word.

As I approached January 1 with an open heart and very open schedule, I was deeply moved by the two chapters of the Old Testament that I’ve read more than any other over my nearly 50 years of walking with Jesus.  That would be Psalm 1… and Proverbs 1!

In Psalm 1, probably written by David, we find these opening exclamations of what God promises to those who passionately pursue Him.

What delight comes to the one who follows God’s ways!
 His pleasure and passion is remaining true to the Word of “I Am,”
meditating day and night in the true revelation of light.

Just a word of commentary here.  I pretty regularly read the Word of God, mostly on a daily basis, but I was struck by the two words “pleasure and passion” and had to concede that I was very far from “meditating day and night in the true revelation of light.”  If there is one clear curse of this technological generation it’s the inundation that we have of information technology that distracts us, sometimes totally, from the Word of God.

He will be standing firm like a flourishing tree
planted by God’s design,
deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss,
bearing fruit in every season of his life.
He is never dry, never fainting,
ever blessed, ever prosperous.”

One of the words I most commonly use as I close any correspondence with someone that I know is the word “blessings.”  However, this scripture underscored in my own heart how the source of such blessing is linked back to the word of God and making a priority of becoming passionate about it.

I was also drawn to the language of promise where God says “bearing fruit in every season of his life.”  Let’s be honest with each other and say that the farther along we seem to be in our spiritual journey, the more we are prone to ask ourself the question “is our fruit bearing season over?”  Not according to this scripture!  How many of us would yearn to be “never dry, never fainting, ever blessed, ever prosperous”?!

The second strategy that came alive to my spirit in the past couple of days is from Proverbs 1 which is all about wisdom.  Although there are many verses preceding verse 5 of Proverbs 1, it was the first one to really impact me.

For the wise, these proverbs will make you even wiser,
and for those with discernment,
you will be able to acquire brilliant strategies for leadership.”

The how to of this is in verse 7:

How then does a man gain the essence of wisdom?
We cross the threshold of true knowledge
when we live in obedient devotion to God.”

What struck me in Proverbs 1 was that wisdom comes from God’s word but also it is found in everyday life!  Just listen to these two verses.  Proverbs 1:20-21  “Wisdom’s praises are sung in the streets and celebrated far and wide.  Yet wisdom’s song is not always heard in the halls of higher learning.  But in the hustle and bustle of every day life.”

And also, Proverbs 1:23b “Don’t you know that I’m ready to pour out my spirit of wisdom upon you and bring you to the revelation of my words that will make your heart wise?”

And so my simple strategies are simply to renew my passion to not just read God’s word, but reflect on it, not just in the morning but throughout the day, and even when I take my rest.  The promised blessing of this simple discipline far exceeds anything I could possibly imagine for myself.

Second, my desire for wisdom, choosing God’s way in every situation, is something I’m going to anticipate that He will illuminate for me throughout my daily routine.  In the “hustle and bustle of every day life” I’ll be able to hear God speak to my heart His words of wisdom and guidance.

I won’t make an apology for the simplicity of these two insights.  I know that many of you have already discovered these for yourself.  However, there’s something inspiring about renewing our commitment to living wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord and to the leading of His Spirit and thereby prospering in the things of God throughout a brand new decade!

Blessings and Wisdom,

Pastor Jay