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Releasing God’s future today

August 22, 2011

Over the month of August we’ve been taking time to talk about some of basics around what guides Convergence as a community.  Every community is focused in a particular direction with a particular purpose which is why there are things like mission statements.  Mission statements or whatever you want to call them communicate values and guide the life and decisions of a community.  You write the down because people are forgetful creatures and too easily are guided and informed by the chaos of the immediate or the often unspoken yet powerful assumptions embedded in the cultures we inhabit.  Mission statements are only helpful though if two things happen:

1.  We actually remember what they are.  (I know, rocket science stuff)

2.  We have some sort of tangible vision for what they mean and would look like on the ground.

So that’s we we are doing – taking time to remember, explain, fill out and dream about what might God have in store for this particular community of people.  Here’s the basics….

VisionRelease God’s future today. We seek to play our role in helping 20s and 30s set a trajectory for their lives in which they both experience the fullness of God’s power in their lives personally as well as in the influence of blessing that God has called them exercise in life. 

Getting more specific:  Playing our role means providing opportunities for:

>Faith to deepen and expand to meet and inform current reality.

>A kingdom vision to be developed for all of life and insight into the unique roles that each person is gifted to play in God’s grand mission.

>Brothers and sisters to walk with who will encourage, challenge and pick you up when you fall.  You can’t play a team sport alone.

Some things year to year look the same – some change – some get reimagined.  I hope you’ll be praying with me for what it means for us to respond to God’s power and presence this year.

Peace:: Jon

Jon (2)

The Future

August 8, 2011

I tend to think about the future quite a bit, both by inclination and profession.  By inclination, I tend to live in the place of vision always looking over the horizon.  By profession I have the privilege of walking with the 20 and 30 year olds who will be the ones to lead us into the future. 

Two experiences recently have captured my attention – not on the importance of the young – but of the old.  Let me explain.

Joy and Sorrow

On July 21st, Shannon and I had a quiet day to ourselves to celebrate 11 years of marriage.  The sweetness was broken early in the morning with sad news via email that Dick Myers had died that very morning.  In our moment of joy-sadness.  Not six months early I had lost another beloved brother to cancer – Connie Jacobson.  In my sorrow, joy came bursting through as I shared with my three year old about the man who showed me Jesus.   Before I knew it, I found myself praying with Caleb hand in hand on the front room floor for Jesus to come into his life. 

I’m happy to report that after 11 years, seminary, living in a foreign country, unemployment, two kids and a host of other dark and mundane moments – we still kind of like each other!  Dick and Jan Myers have part to play in that.  It was Dick and Jan that hosted Shannon as a UMin intern and showed a kid from a broken home what a great marriage looks like up close.  It was Dick and Jan that welcomed in another intern from the Bellingham INN who drove down on weekends to see about a girl.  It was Dick and Jan who would be part of our formal wedding pictures and continue to bless us throughout the years.

Two deaths in less than six months right on top of moments of great joy.  What’s going on?  Irony in a broken and cruel world?  Simply the way it is – death and life crammed uncomfortably together? 

Releasing the future

My connection to each of these men isn’t accidental but the result of their investment in me.  It was their love, interest, generosity, vulnerability, hope for the future fostered by a life time of being a student and most importantly a passionate and authentic love for Jesus that the Holy Spirit used to release God’s future in my own life. 

I’ve come to articulate the mission of Convergence as that of releasing God’s future today.

My understanding of what it means to be a pastor, father, husband and leader in an ever changing culture has been profoundly shaped by those older men and women who have walked before me and made it part of their mission in life to cheer me on.  They’ve modeled, instructed, listened, trusted and believed in me when I didn’t always believe in myself. 

They taught me to drive, threw me the keys and told me that I’d do great.

I chose the world release to talk about the approach to ministry with 20s and 30s because it captures both how hard and easy it is.  Hard because it involves letting go, risking and trusting.  Easy because well, often its really easy.  Here’s some examples:

>Ray Moore, UPC pastor since the dawn of time, noticing that new staff member who can’t figure which room the worship planning meeting is and helping them get settled.

>Mary Anne Hagen going to wrap presents in Renton with a bunch of 20s to bless families financially squeezed and having a blast doing so.

>Mentors who marvel at the junk that 20s face today as well as the inspiring tenacity at which they seek to live out their faith.

>Kind words of encouragement from those who have been around UPC for many decades to young pastors and leaders seeking to be faithful.

>Countless people who have opened their homes, shared their resources and given of themselves simply to say you’re welcome here at UPC and we believe in what God is doing in you.

Eight months into leading a discipleship group of three guys through Convergence, Dick got the diagnosis.  My immediate response was that he could stop leading tomorrow.  His was to hang in there and see.  That group continued long after the end of the year right up until Dick’s death.  Dick’s final gift perhaps was his vulnerability – an open life for the next generation to see what generosity, joy, true investment and hope in Christ really look like.  It was a gift that allowed them to bless him in return.

Our future isn’t just about the young who are rising to leadership but the old who stand in a place to release and shape God’s very best in them.

Peace :: Jon

Jon (2)

Prayers for More

June 22, 2011

Where do you see God at work in your life, your work, your organization or right here at UPC? What’s your or our call to more?
It’s one thing to talk about what get’s in the way of calling, it’s another to call out hope.
Reply and leave a prayer below for yourself and for others.

Peace::Jon

Beyond the power of entitlement

June 21, 2011

5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 So if you worship me, it will all be yours." 8 Jesus answered, "It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’"  Luke 4:5-8

If only I could remove…calledtomore_postcard Large Web view

The power of entitlement is perhaps the greatest of temptations for it seems so right.  It’s logical.  It’s just.  It’s our duty.  It’s also leads to madness.

Gene Edwards delved into the narrative of David and Saul as a way to make sense of a growing number of letters that all pointed in one direction – devastation felt by Christians at the hand of authoritarian movements in leadership.  In A tale of Three Kings he illustrates that Saul had been set apart as king but had also been driven mad.

To read of Saul is to read of madness that arises from entitlement connected to what he considered his place to be – king.

>He was entitled to to throw spears at anyone who stood as his advisory. 

>He was entitled to offer sacrifices on his time table to meet his needs.

>He was entitled to kill the priests of Nob along with the whole town (1 Samuel 22).

>He was also entitled to anxiety, fear, violence, suspicion, depression and humiliation.

 What happens when we hold the spear?

In two particular instances Saul is chasing David and nearly catches his perceived threat when fortunes turn:  one in a cave while relieving himself and one has he sleeps.  In both instances David now has the chance to put an end to the one he is entitled to thrown a spear at in retaliation.

7 So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him. 8 Abishai said to David, "Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear; I won’t strike him twice." 

Seriously, what would you do?  Remember, you have been called by God as the new king.  Anointed.

9 But David said to Abishai, "Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? 10 As surely as the LORD lives," he said, "the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go." 1 Samuel 26:7-11

What’s discouraging is that the one who will be known the great King David – the one in whose line Jesus will come- is one who spent years being chased by a mad king.  What’s amazing is that David chooses better than get got.  He chooses a different strength to base his kingship on.  A strength that comes through brokenness.  A strength that is rooted in hard won trust in God and God alone.

12 May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.                              1 Samuel 24:12-13

When you begin to look at David’s psalms through his time in the wilderness you see one who is painfully wrestling with the power of entitlement.  Consider Psalm 37.  You can hear his wrestling – I will delight in the Lord for I have considered the ways of the wicked and they lead to madness.  Against all the evidence, I will choose to to put my trust in God.

The power of entitlement makes fools out of those called to more.  Entitlement beckons us at every age.  Entitlement calls us to terrible things in the name of duty.  Entitlement calls us to spend our time in fear and anger of those who either hinder change we are called to bring or bring change to to what we have come to love.

Entitlement is madness. 

What do you feel entitled to and who or what do you feel you just need to remove?

3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
   dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the LORD,
   and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD;
   trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
   your vindication like the noonday sun.                                                            

Psalm 37

Peace :: Jon

Jon

More than the power of acquisition

June 16, 2011

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around 1by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. Luke 4:1

The more that God has called us individually and communally can really only be realizedcalledtomore_postcard Large Web view through the power of God in and through us.  Our call to more too often is subverted not at the point of response, but through the false power that we are tempted to use for a good end.  Powers of acquisition, entitlement and proof. 

It is in times of difficulty and suffering that we are given opportunities to lay aside what is false and enter into the power of the gospel. 

The life and experience of Jesus and those for whom we ascribe great in connection with their calling  invite us to consider the more that we might be missing.

And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." 4 And Jesus answered him, "It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE.’"  Luke 4:1-4

What is important to remember is that Jesus is tempted to turn subtly away from trusting relationship with the Heavenly Father by things that sound spiritual, rational and good.  It is the very subtly of the way that the power of God is replaced that is such a challenge.

If you are called, then take or do what you need to affirm and empower that call.

The power of acquisition says that if you could only do something or acquire something – then and only then will your call be affirmed and empowered.  It focuses your attention not on God but on what you need to get.  It convinces you that you’re powerless without it.  When you attain it, it frightens you with the prospect of being easily “stolen” by others.  It compels you into  shortsighted action that is laughably pathetic in light of the calling which you have received – action that you discover only undermines your credibility.

Consider Moses.  Clearly called.  The individual who God would part seas, defeat empires and free an enslaved nation.  The individual who perform miracles and form a nation.

10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 who did all those signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.  Deut. 34:10

Moses also started off thing that killing one Egyptian slave master would affirm his call empower that call that he must have felt in his gut (Exodus 2).  Kind of sad when you think about it.

‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  Matthew 4:4

1 Question / 1 Challenge   

q.  What is it that you are convinced you need to acquire or hold onto that both affirms and empowers your sense of call individually or communally?  Position / title / answers / resources / authority / recognition / promotion / the right…. 

c.  We don’t just survive but truly live and our empowered beyond our imaginations by every word that comes from the mouth of God.  Spend some time in scripture and prayer to hear what God has said about you, about what matter to him, about what you need, about what is there in abundance for those who ask.

Peace :: Jon

Jon

Called to More than this

June 13, 2011

The whole concept behind our series on calling has been to explore the more behind our understanding of calling.  Brian, one of our graphic designers here at UPC, came up with thecalledtomore_postcard Large Web view image of an iceberg as I described the series to him and concepts that I was wrestling with.  I wanted to explore the age old and ever interesting topic of calling but in a way that connected to the discussions that UPC had been having with Dr. Guder around missional theology.  Everyone knows that the church is part of God’s action in the world – the problem as Dr. Guder began to open our eyes to – is that European and American vision of the Church’s call has been reduced and domesticated to less.  Now back to Brian and his iceberg, I didn’t initially like it, it wasn’t dynamic or exciting enough.

Missing my own point.  Brian had captured my point better than I.  Calling is sexy and powerful because calling has to do with how we exercise influence in the world which then can’t help but play into how we understand our own significance.  The problem comes when we don’t understand the the significant way in which we will influence the world has perhaps more to do with what is below the surface than is above.  What is above the surface are things such as gifting, passion, interest, opportunity and pressing need.  All things that fill headlines. 

11.5 Hawaii (630)In anticipation of our recent family vacation, bolstered by a new ability to swim, Noah wanted to do one thing – take surfing lessons.  He asked for it again and again and with a boldness that can  only come from a 6 year old boy declared that he was more than ready to swim out in the open ocean.  So like any good parent we came up with a first step that we hoped would provide a good experience and encourage his love of the water and perhaps even surfing.  As a kids who grew up body boarding – it was one of the highlights of my trip to see Noah riding the waves.   11.5 Hawaii (630)

All was well until…he crashed; fell off the board, tumbled in the waves and horror of horrors – got that terrible salty taste in the back of his throat!  It took a while, but we were able to coax him back out there for a few more rides that day but not again on the trip.  Turns out that embedded  in playing in ocean let alone surfing is the chance that you will get tossed around if not hurt.  I speak from personal experience :)  It also turns out that there is much, much more that Noah is called to experience than what he did that day.

This is all about power.  What is below the surface on calling beyond what fills headlines is how we understand, make sense of and deal with the suffering,difficulty and discouragement that is at the very heart of our calling as followers of Jesus Christ.  I’m growing agreement with Gordon Smith who writes in Courage and Calling that this is is perhaps the most important aspect to understand if we are live into the depth of our own call. 

Gordon writes, “Our ability to make a difference for God in a broken world, both outside the church and within it, comes through our capacity to be life in the midst of death, to be people of hope in a place of discouragement.”  page 145

Too many of us, and I’m talking about all ages here, have been tempted to ascribe a tragic reduction of the gospel the call of God or have mistaken the presence of suffering for the absence of God and his power.  In both cases, this is as much a call to less, as Noah thinking a push from his dad into the beach is all there is to riding waves and getting mad when he gets that uncomfortable salty taste in is mouth. 

The way power beyond what we can ask or even imagine.  Heard that somewhere?  Maybe in a benediction?  (Letter to the Ephesians 4:20).  The Church of Jesus Christ including every single one of us is called to a mission way over our heads.  We are called to influence far beyond what we individually capable of.  We are called to significance that can’t be rivaled by any role, position or job.  If we have any chance of living the call to more  that every single one of aches for, it will be by the power of the Holy Spirit released in our lives.  The only way that will be released in our lives individually and as God’s people is through suffering.

Jesus got the granddaddy of all calls in his baptism.  Not many of us get a call with the Holy Spirit visibly coming down and an audible voice from heaven.  Jesus did.  Headline stuff.  The devil couldn’t stop birth and couldn’t stop the public call.  He could gut the power to fulfill the call from the inside out as has been from the beginning of time to this very day. 

Jesus was lead into the wilderness to be tempted in which he had to answer the same question that we have to answer when it comes to calling – will I live by the power of God and transform the world or live by tragic – reductionist – self serving – ultimately powerless imitations. 

>The power of acquisition.

>The power of entitlement.

>The power of proof.

Over the next couple days – the temptations of Jesus and the narratives of scripture will expose each of these and invite us to something much better.

May God work by the power of his Holy Spirit, this Pentecost Sunday, to release his kingdom among us.

Peace::Jon

 Jon

Called to more- An interview

May 29, 2011

New video interview for our Called to More series!