Two more hours before the 626 Mandate.
We will be ushering in the next 40 days with 24/7 prayer around the world with all the AMI churches and missionaries. It is exciting to know that we are not trying to accomplish the Great Commission by ourselves but there are other brothers and sisters that are just as passionate and committed to finishing the task that Jesus gave to us in Matthew 28 and Acts 1:8.
Two more hours before the 626 Mandate.
I am looking forward to this coming Sunday. There will be a new wave of people coming to HMCC of Ann Arbor. It has been our prayer for the last couple of days that whenever someone steps into any of our gatherings that they will experience the Presence of God.
We are continuing in our 2-year theme of “The Church Beyond the Walls.” One way of being the missional church is bringing the Gospel to right where the people are. In fact, we as Christ’s followers need to embody the Gospel message so that it can be translated in a way that the world can understand.
Just as Christ incarnated God’s love to sinful people like us, we need to incarnate His love in weak vessels like ours. May the world see and know this incredible grace and love.
Time is flying by so quickly… yesterday was KiKi’s first day of pre-school. It seems like only yesterday when we brought her home from the hospital. For some reason, releasing her to go to school was harder than the two previous times with the boys. I think my “protective-father” side came out. But then I realized that I will have to go through this process over and over again in the years to come – elementary school, junior high school, high school, driver’s license, college, and marriage (Lord help the man who will have to get my permission to marry her).
Sometimes life is about learning how to release the ones that you love. By surrendering, we are acknowledging that we are not as strong and in control of life as we would like to believe. Ultimately, we have to acknowledge that nothing we own or have in our possession are ours in the first place. As my children go through the various stages of life, I have to once again remind myself that they have been loaned out to me by God. Isn’t everything we have on loan? Lord, help us to surrender… again and again.
Wow! Last night was a special night. We had Pastor Keith (leader of AMI) and his family join us in our meeting. Pastor Keith blessed us by delivering God’s Word and sharing about what God is doing all over the world. It was a great time of fellowship afterwards as well. God is setting the stage for us… we have four more Sundays before our official launch.
Pastor Keith shared from 1 Peter 2:9-10, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” He focused particular on three key Greek words in this passage – genos (family or generation), ethnos (nation or ethnic group), and laos (people).
It was refreshing to be reminded that we are part of a chosen family. This is where we need to base our identity on. We are too often swayed by what the culture tells us. We allow them to shape and form our identity and self-worth. But we are a special and chosen family member belonging to God with a special and particular purpose in life.
Pastor Keith also shared about the importance of seeing a “Saints Movement” in generation. For too long, we have fallen into the trap of allowing the clergy to do all the ministry, when in fact it should be the laity that are doing the ministry. The role of the pastor (or leader) is to equip the saints for ministry (Eph 4:12). Succinctly, Pastor Keith mentioned that we needed to “reclaim the fivefold ministry” that we see in Eph 4:11-13.
Lastly, Pastor Keith shared about the 626 Mandate that will start this Wednesday for all the AMI churches. We are pretty excited about this mandate that God has given to us. It will be a 24/7 prayer movement which will occur for 40 days (Sept 1st through Oct 10th). Prayer has to be the bedrock of all our missions activity and church planting.
God is moving rapidly all over the world – one particular place is in China. God has opened this door for us to work with a person that has connections to various people in the Chinese government. We will be allowed to legally hold bible studies and teach English to some of the graduates of the most prestigious university in China. If we influence them with the Gospel, they will be able to go back to their hometowns and share the Gospel with their friends and family.
It is truly an exciting time to be alive. We want to follow God’s lead as we commit ourselves to prayer. What a privilege to just tag along for the ride!
Afterwards, Pastor Keith wanted to have some Buffalo Joe’s famous chicken wings. So what could I say? I had to be a good host and oblige :-)
Here are a couple of pictures from our gathering:
We spent some time praying – asking God to help us be counter-cultural
Pastor Keith praying for this new church plant
Earlier tonight, the pastoral staff and I went out to celebrate a b-day. This was a special b-day because one of our pastors was turning the big “Three-O” (30). Somehow in the midst of our conversations, we decided that we will not talk about two particular topics that always stir up passion and even dissention amongst the ranks – religion and politics. What do you expect? We are pastors so we have to talk about church, right? But, see that is the challenge. Can a bunch of pastors get together to celebrate a b-day without talking about church? This was the challenge that I brought forth to these pastor guys.
We were doing pretty good… well, for about 5 minutes. We talked about UM football. Then somehow the trajectory of our conversation went towards the church. We had to catch ourselves and change the conversation to another topic. We talked about the media and the various sources in which we get our news. Then somehow we got on the topic of politics and then the church. I, then quickly mentioned that we were drifting toward the danger zone (Kenny Loggins playing in the background… if you have no idea what I am talking about then forget about it). The other pastors just gave me an incredulous look and clearly pointed out that I was the root cause of our failure to stay away from these two topics.
I couldn’t stop chuckling because it brought back memories of the time when Christina and I went out on a date. We decided that we will not talk about two particular topics that night – church and the kids. We crashed and burned within 15 minutes of our conversation.
I don’t know this is a good thing or a bad thing… haha!
I was reading a book recently and there was a quote in there that captured my attention. Olive Drane said, “I remember being at a workshop on leadership at which a nun drew a diagram of how different human systems connect. Neat circles intersected in different ways until she drew a line flying off the edge into a different orbit. ‘That’s where real leaders usually find themselves,’ she commented, ‘out on the edge, both marginalized and admired by those who manage the systems.’ I’ve often wondered how we can live with this reality while still remaining incarnationally located in the center (not as the center of attraction, but being more obviously and easily integrated into other people’s lives and ways of being).”
The calling to be a leader is not an easy thing, but the reality is that every single one of us will be a leader in some shape or form – whether it is being a parent, a manager in a company, small group leader, leading a ministry team, etc. The leaders that make a difference are the ones who are willing to be “incarnationally centered” in order to be involved in people’s lives. Nevertheless, the ones that blaze the trail for others to follow are constantly living “out on the edge.” We just have to make sure that we are not constantly “flying off the edge into a different orbit.”
How long has it been since I spoke at a youth conference? This was the question that was running through my mind as I was getting ready to preach yesterday night. The worship was energy packed with colored lights, strobe lights and media presentations. The students were jumping up and down and singing their lungs out.
I realized how much I miss the “youth culture.” It is so easy for us to forget that we were at that stage at one point in our lives. My past experiences as a junior high and high school student began to flash in my mind – all the struggles, all the acne, all the peer pressure, all the boy/girl relationship issues, and etc.
Even though times have changed with the new fashions, new youth culture lingo and new expressions of worship, there is one thing that will never change throughout history, which is the need for a Savior. We all long for security, unconditional love, hope and significance – and these things can genuinely be found in Christ.
Side note: I can’t believe Josiah will be at some of these conferences in about 3 years.
I was at the Detroit airport getting ready to go to a youth conference out in the East Coast. As I was sitting at the gate, waiting for my flight to take off, I noticed that there was a large number of young Jewish boys waiting for the same plane. Without knowing all the details, I could tell that it was some sort of camp or “retreat.”
I was struck by their boldness. They were all wearing their yarmulkas and they pulled out their prayer books to pray right there in the airport. Even as the time of departure got closer, they began to sing a Hebrew song, not really caring about what people would think or say.
I ended up striking up a conversation with one of the students (he was fascinated with several of the technological gadgets I had… I guess God can redeem anything… ha!). I found out that they were just coming back from a one month camp in northern Michigan. It was a camp that was started with the vision of teaching young Jewish boys to retain their culture, heritage and learn from the Torah.
The passage in Dt 6:4-7 came to my mind, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Then, I started to think about how there are many Muslims camps and retreats where they train up their next generation of people. As Christians are we any different? Don’t we have all these retreats and camps in August? Don’t we try to indoctrinate the next generation with the teachings of Christ?
For a moment, I got a bit saddened about this whole retreat process. It is sad that so many young people get trained to think and act a certain way, regardless if it is the truth or not. Is this how many of the other religious groups and pre-Christians think about us?
The Jewish boys in the airport humbled me with their fervor and boldness in being Jews. I am wondering what would happen if more Christians were that bold and passionate. Would people see our love for Christ, if they just saw us?
“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” by St. Francis of Assisi
One of the phrases that we use within our leadership is, “The ministry is the people, and the people are the ministry.” It is all too common to be task-oriented when it comes to doing ministry. Since we have to get things done it is easy to take the relationship for granted. But a strong relationship is the oil that keeps things running smoothly. So the board of directors (my mentoring group) and Christina’s mentoring group all went to Chicago to spend some time just chilling together.
Christina used her Priceline anointing to get us a top-notch hotel near the Magnificent Mile at a rock bottom price ($60 for a 4-5 star hotel). We did a lot of walking, talking and eating. It was a great time of relaxation and building stronger relationships together.
One of the highlights was when we rented out some mountain bikes and rode on Lake Shore Drive along Lake Michigan. Wow… my legs were sore after the ride. Then we closed out the day with a great dinner. We ended up getting back at around 1AM. I am pretty sure that everyone crashed right when they got home. Hopefully, they all made it to work the next day. :-)
Here are some pictures:
Tour de Chicago
Praying for the NU church plant as we overlooked the Chicago Skyline
This past Sunday’s meeting was a little special because we had a lot of people from Ann Arbor join us for our gathering. We had the Board of Directors (people that I am mentoring) and Christina’s mentoring group come out to see what God is doing in this new church plant. The energy in the room was awesome. In fact, I told Christina that if we had this number of core committed people, then we would be able to do a lot of things. It was encouraging to see all of us together in the same room (old school and new school).
Since the room was too crowded for the number of people who were there, I decided to share from a passage instead of breaking up into smaller groups. There were several things that I focused on:
1) God uses people to do His ministry – In Ac 19:11 it says, “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul.” Isn’t it amazing that even though God had all the power in the world to accomplish His purposes by Himself, He chose to demonstrate His love and power by using people? This is the heart of the incarnational ministry. God does not want us to come as idle spectators, but He wants us to be active participants. In effect, it is God’s call for every believer to embody the Gospel message to a lost world.
2) God uses humble people who are willing to pay the price to do His ministry – In Ac 20:19 Paul says to the elders of the church, “I served the Lord with great humility and with tears.” There are many references in the Bible where Paul realized that he was nothing before God. If anything good happened, it was only because of God’s grace (1 Ti 1:12-17 is a good summary of this mindset). If we are serious about seeing a church being planted in Chicago that will commit to transformation, then we have to be willing to pour out our tears in prayer.
3) God uses people who are resolved in the mission to do His ministry – In Acts 20:24, Paul says, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” How can you stop people who are that committed and resolved in finishing God’s assignment? It is my prayer that we will be more concerned about finishing the race and completing God’s task than about our future, leisure and our petty self-centered concerns. Then we will be an unstoppable force.
4) God uses people who are generous to do His ministry – In Act 20:35, it says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This is a principle that is like the law of gravity – if you violate it then you will fall. In a consumer generation, it is hard to be serious about this kind of teaching in the Bible. The natural human tendency is to think that we are blessed when we receive something, but the way of the Christ’s disciple is to be blessed when we give. In many ways, this is an avenue to reflect God’s heart. Do you remember in the most memorized verse in the Bible (Jn 3:16) – “For God so love the world that He gave…” The more we learn how to give, the more we learn how to reflect the heart of God. But the amazing part of all this is that when we do give freely and joyfully, God, in an incredible way, blesses us by giving us more – crazy! We need more generous people in the church today, not just with their money but with their time and talents as well.
After the study, I felt led to pray for various groups of people represented in the room. We first prayed for all the marriages that were represented. We asked the Lord to strengthen the marriages and use the couples to reach out to other married people in the area. Then we prayed for our beloved single adults and students. I know that this is often times one of the most difficult stages of life; therefore, we prayed for God’s anointing on their lives. Then we closed out by praying for other prayer needs for this new church plant. It was a sweet meeting. God still has not failed to amaze me!
We just finished off our leadership prayer summit tonight. By God’s grace, our prayer times this year were deeper and sweeter. On Friday, the first night’s focus was on our devotion to prayer (Col 4:2). We then spent a lot of time just praying on our own and seeking God’s face. Saturday was declared a day of fasting. There is something important about feeling the pangs of hunger to remind us of our need to hunger after God.
I ended up praying for all the small group leaders and the ministry team leaders. Even though I couldn’t pray for everyone extensively, I prayed for God’s anointing and blessings on their service for this coming year.
King David in Ps 141:2 wrote, “May my prayer be set before you like incense.” With all the prayers that we lifted up at this summit, I feel as if we filled the retreat center with a sweet aroma. Now, we have to emanate it to the spheres of influence that God has placed us in. Reality check!
I just came back from my personal retreat. Now, I am rested, refreshed and renewed. It was awesome reading through the whole NT again. There were a lot of insights as the Holy Spirit was speaking through God’s Word (you will probably hear about them in the near future). When I was younger in my faith, I wondered about what would happen after reading through the whole Bible. I thought it was like reading a book – once you finish the book, you already know the plot, the characters and the ending so why do we have to read it again and again.
But over the years I realized that as our lives go through changes, God’s Word (which is unchanging and eternal) speaks to us in a different way. The illustration I think of is the baby stroller phenomenon. Before I got married and had kids, I have never really paid attention or even noticed the strollers in the shopping malls. But after getting married and having kids, I realized that they are EVERYWHERE! So the question is: Are there more baby strollers now compared to 10 years ago? Maybe. But, I am guessing that there were many baby strollers back then but I did not have the “experience” to notice the strollers.
In the same way, there are a lot of things that we read in the Bible at different stages of our lives, but we are limited in our understanding. So, as we go from one stage of life to another, we begin to gain a greater perspective and God’s Word speaks to us differently. I think this is why the author of the book of Hebrews says, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
Now, I cannot read anything in the Bible about the father-child relationship without thinking about my children. Before, it was just head knowledge. I praise God for His living Word. Now, I am off to the Leadership Summit with our church leaders.
I am going up north for several days on a personal retreat today. In the last 7 years, I have tried to get away to seek the Lord before all the madness starts at the end of August. Last year, I was not able to get away and I took a hit for it. This year, I want to make sure that I carve out the time and the space to pray and seek the Lord’s direction for my life, my family and the church.
For some reason in the shower, I was convicted to read the whole NT in my time away (oh those crazy shower convictions). I don’t even know how long it will take to read the entire NT, but I am going to follow through on the conviction. I have faith that God is going to speak to me about something.
I thank God for my family who is always so gracious in allowing me to get away – Christina, you are my heroine! And I thank God for a church that is always looking out for my best interest. Thank you HMCC for loving me and my family and always supporting me, even though at times it seems foolish and even irrational to follow a leader like me. Remember to pray for me.
Today was our final round of BBQs for the leaders… four BBQs within 10 days! We have made good use of our grill this summer; and after grilling for so many people, a person gets better and faster. But cleaning the grill afterwards is the hard part… thanks to those who helped clean the grill.
The boys said something today that made me think about the routine of life. After all the grilled hamburgers and chickens, they said, “Dad, we don’t want hamburgers and chicken anymore!” What? They love hamburgers. I guess having something almost every single day will cause a person to want a change in the menu.
Is this the reason why so many of us go through the motions and the routines in our relationship with God? The same thing over and over again. How does a person keep their relationship with God fresh and vibrant? When it comes to food, we can possibly fast from hamburgers in order to have the craving for it again. But when it comes to God, how can we fast from Him? He is the very air that we breathe.