Obedience

When is being selfish in the church okay...

(This post has not been edited for errors. These are my raw, honest thoughts.) Okay here you go...

One of the hardest things for me to hear and something that is really bugging me is hearing people talk about the church as if it is something that is consumed rather than something to be actively living out in our lives and community. I hear from ministry friends from all over the country that share in this frustration.

I get sad when I hear people church hop because the church community/family they have been a part of is no longer meeting their needs or no longer is the cool flashy place they can invite friends to. I guess in reality they really don't see church as a community or family, instead it is place to meet personal needs and desires... We people abandon a church for these reasons they show their true colors, they were only seeking to be a part of God's kingdom for selfish reasons i.e. "what can I get out of church." They are like the kid in high school who only hangout with certain people because it will benefit them socially, but once that person(s) can no longer benefit them they move on to a different friend or group...

I also get frustrated when people leave churches because of conflict they have with a pastor, church staff, or another believer. How can we expect to rule and judge alongside Jesus if we can't even settle hurt feelings, disagreements, character clashes, disputes, and the like amongst ourselves, the body, house, bride of Jesus? I think the Apostle Paul said something to this affect in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. When someone abandons the church they were a part of for these reasons, they are like the kid who doesn't like it that the pickup game of football isn't going their way so they get their football and go home...

The problem is that our North American culture allows for this kind of flippant Christianity, and our churches do as well... I dont judge a person's desire to keep from going to hell, but I do judge their selfish and consumeristic motivations for being a part of the body, the house, and the bride of Jesus.

DON'T get me wrong! Sometimes the only solution to a problem is to leave and find another church to be a part of, that is not what I'm talking about here. I am referencing people who for selfish-consumeristic motives leave churches.

The solution (Your are correct to assume that I have already premised the former is incorrect, unhealthy, and not what God wants His Church to demonstrate to a world that needs His grace and mercy)... Well there are many things that can be done to help the situation, but lets just take a glimpse of three ideas for this blog post... Abide in Jesus (John 15:1-11 ESV), Love one another (John 15:12-17 ESV), and do good works (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV). If we do these things then it becomes hard to be selfish and have selfish-consumeristic motivations, and people might actually stay at their church and BE the church. To answer the question in my title of this blog post - I'm not sure it is ever okay to be selfish if it blemishes the church...

Okay and done...

What's On The Other side Of This Life

journey Journeys are not something to be taken lightly. I remember when my family went on a journey to Joplin, MO it began over twelve years ago. We left all that we had and all that we had known back in Sonoma County, CA. We journeyed through the Southwest part of the United States on our way to the heart of the country. My wife and I had never ventured that far out of our motherland before, so we took as much safety and precaution as we knew how; and hit the road with our three little kids in-tow.

We saw beautiful country along the way, desert, mountains, high country forests, and big open blue sky. It wasn't before long that we found ourselves on winding detours, tornadic storms, and even experiencing bad gasoline for our van. In between the serendipitous and tumultuous moments we found a rhythm that centered us back on the purpose of our journey...

We were headed to Joplin, MO to attend Ozark Christian College and prepare for fulltime vocational ministry. Or more precisely, we were moving out of and with the overflow of our love and passion for God and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit - we were being obedient because of love and devotion, not because of obligation and duty.

 

The real purpose of the journey was to grow deeper in our love and passion for relationship with the Father, it was not the destination to the college nor the vocation of ministry.

 

The Journey Is Still Going...

In many ways the journey is still going. We have moved geographically again on this journey and have found a home Colorado just like we did in Missouri, and the journey could very well pick us up and change geography again; who knows... However, what is still on going is the internal part of the journey, and this is the hardest part of the journey, moving through the constant ebb and flow of understanding our relationship with God, keeping our passion for Him, and obediently living out our love and devotion to Him.InnerJourneys

Too be very frank. Changing geography isn't hard to do! Moving from Northern California to Southwest Missouri and then to Northern Colorado isn't that difficult to adjust too. Leaving friends and family is hard, but eventually you make new friends and thanks to Facebook and vacations you can still see the people you love and care about...

What's hard is keeping focused on growing deeper in our relationship with God... Let me be even more upfront. I mess-up my relationship with God sometimes. I let everything else take precedent over this relationship, things like the type of ministry job I have, money, pleasing people and being who they want me to be,making a name for myself or for others, cars, electronic gadgets, vacations, things to complain about, ideas, philosophies, ministry methods, what we're having for lunch or dinner, and the list could go on...

 

I've let all these things whether good or bad corrupt the rhthym and purpose of my journey... The reason for the journey isn't the journey or the desitnation, the reason for the journey is the person we are on the journey for. I am learning not to take journeys lightly, but to cherish every moment and keep focus on the one who was the reason for the journey.

A good friend of mine, Brian Mavis, shared with me a prayer that I am going to pray first thing every morning, that's if none of these other things get in the way...

Here it is:

"I will live every day as if it is my last, knowing by God's grace and love the Savior waits for me beyond the grave." -- Chuck Colson

Ugh! It's so easy to forget that there is something else on the other side of this life.

Serious Rant...

LoveGodLovePeopleDoSomething1I read this quote yesterday regarding a message someone heard this past weekend..." a great way to show your love for Jesus; is to spend time with him."

Really? Is this what we've come to in our Christianity?!? The best we can do to show we love the person who sacrificed everything for our filth is to spend some time with him throughout the day. Of course when it is convenient for us.... Is this just an American church issue or does the Church worldwide struggle with "spending time" with Jesus?

PLEASE hear me... I am not belittling the need to walk with Jesus daily. We are called to do that, but it is not culmination of our Christianity it is the genesis. When I read the New Testament, I fail to see how this is one of the options we can show Jesus we love him. This isn't a great "way," it's assumed that we'd spend time with Jesus.

Why do we always have to remind ourselves to love Jesus? Are we not listening to the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us, because He tells us to do more than just spend time with Jesus? I get the need for reminders and instructions on how to love God and stuff. Life has a way of taking its toll on our priorities and such... Hey even the author of Hebrews (A book in the Bible) reminds us to not take our eyes off Jesus. I just feel that our commitment needs to be deeper and move us beyond the stagnation of "needing reminders" to spend time with Jesus.

thegospel

The gospel beckons us to permit God's radical and life-altering grace to transform us. If we fail allow it to happen then we have missed it. Jesus wants so much more for us than to just hangout. He wants us to live a vibrant and exciting life that challenges us and stretches us through seeing God's heart for humanity and all creation.

I just wonder if we are not realizing the depths of what Jesus has done for us. Maybe we aren't realizing the situation we are in because of the consequences of our rebellion and sin. We are in a desperate need to be rescued and God provided one for us in His Son Jesus. His life, death, and resurrection transforms us to be different and act differently. We become the healers, restorers, peacemakers, love-givers, and the truth revealers, empowered by Jesus to carry the redemptive qualities that come from the grace of God to a hurting and broken world (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Jesus gives us purpose, passion, authority, and dignity.

Homeless DinnerHere's the skinny - Jesus wants more from us than to just spend time with him; he wants us to live sacrificially by loving our enemies, serving the poor to the point that it costs us something personally. He wants us to forgo some special event or after work-hours activity and stay home and hangout with our neighbors. He might even ask us to die for him physically, and most definitely he wants us to die to ourselves daily...

The best way to show Jesus we love him is go find the person we least like or have nothing in common with and wash their fungus infected feet (literally and metaphorically) with love.

Do I sound too judgmental? Come on son! You know I was writing this to myself; I needed to here it. Thankfully we are a people of a second chance. Oh how I need grace daily in my life.

Transition...

Now this might news to some of the readers of this blog, but I recently resigned my position as Lead Youth Pastor at LifeBridge Christian Church. Fortunately I am not leaving the church. I am transitioning out of the student ministry and into a new role at LifeBridge. Our church is moving towards a neighborhood emphasis and I will be one of the Neighborhood Pastors. I started this transition back in January, which will come to complete closure in mid-May. We have hired a new Lead Youth Pastor and I will assist in his transition as much as need be... I will write more about this transition later and about our journey of being a Neighborhood Pastor and our church's emphasis in the neighborhoods of Longmont as we go... Below is the resignation letter we sent to the staff, parents, and students. I did not add the portion that contained the bio of our new Lead Youth Pastor... Please pray for me, my family, our students, their families, Luke Pinder and his family (New Youth Pastor), our youth staff, and our church during this transition...

A note from Joe Puentes, Director of Student Ministries:

Over the past nineteen years, I have been blessed to serve and lead students in helping them discover grace, grow in grace, and live gracefully. These past five years, I have had the privilege of leading the student ministry at LifeBridge, which have been some of the most exciting and fruitful years of ministry for my family and me. We have been blessed with rich relationships with both students and their families. Without hesitation, I can say these have been some of the best ministry years I have experienced.

A little while ago, I went to Rick telling him that I felt God was stirring in my heart a passion to be more involved in the neighborhood focus of our church, and that I was feeling a sense that it might be time for me to move out of student ministry and begin a new ministry journey, exploring other ways to serve in God’s kingdom. After sharing our thoughts and concerns about me moving out of the student ministry, Rick asked me to pray about the opportunity of becoming a Neighborhood Pastor. After praying for a period of time and having conversations with my wife, I have decided to resign my position as youth pastor and accept the neighborhood pastor position.  I’m able to do this in part because I have a peace that our students and the ministry will be cared for and led well by the other associate student pastors and our volunteer youth coaches.  This is one of the best student ministry teams I have had the good pleasure of serving alongside.

I want to thank the leaders of LifeBridge, our students, and their families for allowing me to serve and lead them these past five years. I have been tremendously blessed by all our past and present students. We can trust that our students will continue to discover grace, grow in grace, and live gracefully during this transition (I currently have two of my own kids in the high school ministry). We can also be sure that the leaders of LifeBridge have done everything humanly possible through the guidance of the Holy Spirit to find my replacement to lead our students. I am excited about the future of the student ministry being led by our next youth pastor. Once again, thank you for the honor and privilege of being a part of your family’s journey of growing in your relationship with Jesus.

Grace & Peace,

Joe

A note from Kevin King, Administrator:

We are thankful for Joe’s leadership provided to the Student Ministry here at LifeBridge over the last five years.  He has built a solid team of staff and coaches that will help carry us forward to the next phase of Student Ministry and will provide our new director a great foundation on which to continue building.  Please be praying for Joe and his family as he transitions from Students to Neighborhoods.

When Your Not a Fan of Jesus...

images My family hasn't really moved a whole lot, if I were to really think about it - we have really only moved two times in our family's seventeen years of existence. Sure we've moved more than that, but they were tiny moves, you know the cross-town moves, or the moving to the city ten minutes away type of move! These small moves were significant, but they were not life changing. The two big moves, as I like to call them, were “life changing" moves! We moved several states and paradigm shifts away from our comfort zone. The "big two" changed everything! We were no longer near our security blankets - our families, friends, hometown, financial security, job security, and culture familiarity. Each move in it’s own way was different, yet the same. The first time we moved, our family was young, unseasoned, innocent, scared, but optimistic. The second time we moved, we were older, experienced, savvy, scared, and skeptical! The common thread in both of these moves was the fact that we decided to no longer be a fan of Jesus! What this meant was that we decided to allow him to be a part of our lives, to be a part of our decision making, in the big things and the little things… We believed that Jesus was asking us to change the way we did things; we were being asked to be an active part of his plans.

I wish I could tell you that once we made the decision to move from being a fan of Jesus to actively being a participant everything went smoothly! You know the thing that every Christian experiences when they decided to actively be a part of God’s plans – that “God has everything worked out and prepared for us, the “our house sold before we even put it up for sell, or we both had jobs lined up that would double our salaries from what we made before” type of things.” Well it didn’t quite work out like that... We’ve experienced difficulties in selling homes (We are still trying to sell our house in Missouri). We’ve experienced being in our house when it was hit by a tornado (We didn’t need a hedge of protection that time, but a steele curtain of protection). At times we can be home sick, sometimes the budget is tight, our kids have been affected, like missing friends and grandparents (No there are not in therapy or on medications for emotional trauma), and other things that go along with life-change.

However, those things are small in comparison to all the awesome and amazing things we have experienced when we decided to no longer sit in the bleachers like a fan, but become a player in the game! Some of the cool things we have experienced as a result of not being a fan of Jesus are - as a family we have grown closer together (It’s hard for in-laws to get in the way when they live three states away), we’ve made a ton of friends (Shoot I have 883 friends on Facebook alone J…), and we get to live about 35 minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park... Plus, we have been able to see God move in our lives in a way that we would have never seen otherwise! We know God is always faithful, He is never late, He always give us what we need, my kids have stories to share about a living God who has moved in their lives, my wife knows that true security comes from God, and ultimately we all know that this planet – this world is not our home, but our home, our place of belonging is with our Creator! Being a fan of Jesus doesn’t mean he likes you less, it just means you miss out on experiencing and knowing him now, which could make for an awkward tomorrow with him…