Archive for June, 2010

Why Do Hard Things?

June 27, 2010

Contributed by John Hellmund, Elder Overseer of Finance at Image Church

Why do hard things?  This isn’t a question I would normally think of.  I am the type of person that tries to work smarter and not harder.  As far back as I can remember, I have been this way.  I will watch the way somebody does something and try to improve on it.  This can be taken too far when you do not try your best.  Sometimes what some would say is working smarter is actually taking short cuts.  I know I have done this myself at different points in my life. 

What got me thinking about this question is a book I have been reading.  It is called Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris.  This is a book written by teen brothers for teens.  Why then am I reading it?  The teens at Image are going to be going to a conference by the Harris brothers.  I worked security for the conference last year and was given the book by the Harris’s father; so I thought I would check it out and see what our youth will be learning. 

The brothers have come up with a new word, “rebelution,” which is a combination of two words, rebellion and revolution.  This is a new word for their new concept.  They want teens to begin rebelling against rebellion.  The brothers define rebelution as “a teenage rebellion against low expectations.”  I haven’t finished the book, but from what I have read the brothers really have a great point.  Today, most teens are given too much of a break.  Some parents are OK with their teens being mediocre as long as they aren’t doing anything too bad.  Most teens are not given the responsibility or encouragement they need to thrive.  Of course, there are exceptions where teens have to take full responsibility of their siblings or other hard life issues that are no fault of their own.  The Bible doesn’t talk about teen years, as we think of them, as a time to take life easy and relax.

In 1 Corinthians 13:11, Paul writes, When I was a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  There is no middle ground or teen years where we do not get after it and serve God.  It was not that long ago when young adults in their teens were heading off to work, and even getting married.  Why is it that today many parents don’t want their teens to grow up too fast?  Are we as parents holding our kids back from serving God at an early age? 

Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12-13 – Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity, 13. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.  There are many interesting things to look at in this passage.  One funny thing about this advice is that scholars believe that Timothy was in his thirties at this time, which was still considered young in his Greek culture.  Just think that people at that time were looked down on as inexperienced and young in their thirties.  This would have made things even harder on Jesus.  The Pharisees would have looked down on Jesus even more because of his age.  Jesus’ ministry here on earth was while he was in his early thirties.  Another great point that Paul made was for Timothy to stay in the Word.  He was told to give attention to reading and to doctrine.  How many of us are not in the Word daily and praying like we should? 

As stated before, I have not finished the book by the Harris brothers, but from what I have read they have shared a lot of great wisdom.  I have to wonder if we should take it one step further and include all our children in this.  As parents, we have to take advantage of our time with our kids and teach them the truth about Jesus and what He has done for us.  We have to live our own faith and use every opportunity to encourage our kids to not only learn God’s Word but to also live it.  Proverbs 22:6 says, Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. 

All this leads me back to my original question.  Why do hard things?  The only answer I can come up with is that we are called to do hard things.  In Mathew 28:18-20, Jesus came and spoke to them saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19.  Go therefore and make disciples o all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.  It is not easy to follow Jesus in a fallen world and to be bold witnesses, but it is the most important thing any of us can choose to do.

Dependence Is Like Tetherball

June 19, 2010

Contributed by Toby Ward, Elder Overseer of Service at Image Church

The older I get, the more I seem to mature. (My wife would argue the opposite.)  Its natural, I guess, and built into the fabric of who we are that as we age, we start to see things in a different light. Things that we thought were important no longer are, dreams that we had seem to fade, and grand plans that we made fall to the wayside of life. That can be construed as bad or good, I suppose, and it really depends on how you look at it. How do we handle one season of life to the next? How do we adapt to changes in our behavior, actions, attitude, social status, financial status, and on and on as life’s challenges fly by? What is it that keeps us who we are, focused, grounded, and humble as our life progresses? Money? Neverending pursuit of climbing the corporate ladder?  Acceptance? Love? Children? Jesus?

At some point in your life, you have to define who you are. You have to establish what you believe and what’s never going to change. At some point, you have to anchor your life to something that will never let go, and always pull you back in no matter where life’s challenges/changes/disappointments/highs and lows take you. You have to have a point of reference that never changes, and can always guide you home.

This has really hit me hard lately, as I struggle with total dependence on God. What does that look like? How do we  FULLY and TRUSTFULLY depend on God in all that we do? God has been clear in Scripture that He wants ALL of us, and not just parts of us. He’s not interested in half-heartedness, and He desires to use us when we fully commit to him. So what is it that keeps us from doing that? Stuff. Its the stuff in the questions I asked above that keeps us who we are. Who we are striving to be will ultimately define who we are, and keep us in the same place.

Look at life like a tetherball game. You have this ball on a string that is tied to the top of a pole with two people on opposite sides of the pole. The goal is keep hitting the ball until you get it wrapped around the pole in the direction you are hitting. As you hit it, the other side is hitting it back, and usually the fastest and strongest person wins. Life is JUST like that. Imagine you are the ball, and we have a “pole” in our life that grounds us. Issues keep hitting us from all sides, and all we really want to do is rest on the pole, and THAT is why the pole is so important. If that pole is not firmly in the ground, then any strong hit or combo of hits will rip it out of the ground, and the game is over. All the hitting was for naught, and whoever was winning is now bitter because the pole is on the ground. The ball is the only happy thing because it’s no longer being hit, but it’s only a matter of time before the pole is up again, and the hitting commences.

In life, we need to define what our pole is. If your pole is money, career, status, or a combo of these things, then you will constantly be getting hit, knocked over, and hit again. It will never stop. However, if your pole is God, then that bad boy is NEVER going to falter. It will always stay grounded, and while getting hit may hurt you, know that ultimately it will stop, and the pole will win. It ALWAYS does when the pole is FIRMLY grounded. When that ball gets completely wrapped around that pole, the game is over, but my goodness what a GREAT PLACE to be!!!! When we get hit the hardest in life, it should drive us closer to our pole, and if our pole is Jesus, then that will be the sweetest place we can be!!!!!!!! Christ drives us to Him through adversity, and through adversity we HAVE to totally depend. Don’t anchor yourself to something in life that will not hold you up. Anchor yourself to something that will never let go, and keep you grounded no matter how hard you are getting hit.

The apostle Paul got hit harder than most during his walk with God. He was beaten repeatedly, mocked by a nation, always fighting uphill, but through it all he never thought too much of himself. He did not care about his well-being, but only that he completed his work for Jesus. (Acts 20:24) You think Paul is in heaven with any regrets for how he lived his life? Doubt it!!!!!

In 2 Corinthians 3:5 Paul says: ” Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.”  That is what was able to keep Paul going no matter what. Paul got that in order to succeed for the cause of Christ, you had to place your own ambition to the side, and know that God was the only one that can make us sufficient. There is NOTHING this life has to offer that can give us the kind of joy and satisfaction as being firmly grounded, and fully dependent on God. So, as I have gotten older, yes, I am maturing, but GOD is surely doing a work in me, showing me that dependence on Him is all that I need no matter what. No matter how much I am being hit, as long as I am centered in Him I will be ok.

What is your ball wrapping around?

Alive in Christ

June 13, 2010

Contributed by Chad Seidler, Director of Ministry/Assistant to Lead Pastor of Image Church

A few weeks ago, my POD (which is what we call our weekly home groups at Image Church – “Points of Discipleship”) was discussing Colossians 2.  As we were discussing the chapter, I was fixated on the end of the chapter, when Paul warns the church of Colossae to not let anyone disqualify their work or mission.  Evidently, legalism, mysticism and asceticism were creeping into the church, and Paul felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to warn them before it got out of hand.

As I focused on these warnings in verses 16-23, my mind was flooded with how true this is in many churches today.  I have experienced many of these churches first-hand and have heard countless accounts of the same.  I thought to myself – “I’m going to have a field day writing about legalistic churches when I blog later this month.”  I couldn’t wait to pile it on, given my own experiences.  I could surely take Paul’s reigns and continue the tirade.  I have in the past.  I would be happy to once again.

Conviction is a funny, real thing.  Actually, it’s humbling.

As I prepared to write this post, I was drawn back to chapter 2 in its entirety.  Just before Paul warns the Colossae Church about slipping into legalism, he gives the church this reminder…a reminder that I also needed myself:

6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.  8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

The section heading for this passage in my ESV study Bible reads “Alive in Christ.”  Am I “alive” in Christ?  Am I living “alive”?  Would others look at me and not just think, but be drawn to the reality that I’m “alive” in Christ?

Like I said, conviction is humbling.  I was about to stand on a soapbox and make use of my imaginary megaphone, but instead, I found myself looking into the mirror of Colossians 2.  What I saw were reminders of what my life was suppose to be reflecting:  walking in Christ, rooted and built-up in Him, established in my faith, living a life of thanksgiving, guarded against untruth, filled with Christ, no longer living in the sphere of flesh and its influences, and identified with Christ is His death and resurrection.  This “identification” is further described within my study Bible – “Dying and rising with Christ signifies death to the power of sin and Satan plus empowerment to live the new life that Jesus calls believers to live in imitation of him.
 
I strive to live a life that’s reflective of Christ’s image; a life imitating Christ.  But, I’ll be the first to admit that at times, I feel inadequate.  I doubt myself.  I fall prey to past guilt.  I don’t feel worthy to be serving in the capacity that I currently am.  Although I strive to reflect Christ’s image, I’m far from perfect and struggle with these things.
 
As many of you might know, the Image Church Elders had our yearly retreat in Lynchburg this week.  It’s a time of reflecting, visioneering, planning and implementing.  It was also a time of edification and accountability, which was, to me, the most valuable time spent this weekend.  The eight of us stripped away our pride, made ourselves accountable through personal transparency, and then were edified and encouraged by each other.  I needed this!  These seven men – Elders, co-laborers, and friends – helped me to face my feelings of inadequacy and doubt.  I was humbled to listen and glean from my peers and mentors.  I was encouraged and challenged to be “alive in Christ.”
 
I couldn’t help but be reminded of the opening session of the recent Whiteboard Sessions in Virginia Beach.  Jonathan Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, opened the one-day conference by directing us to I Peter 5.  Here are some quick thoughts from what he shared with us:
  • What I do really matters.
  • Be who I am.
  • God desires me to be me.
  • I need to know who I am, accept who I am, and be who I am.
  • Who am I…a minister of grace.
  • People don’t call me;  God does.
  • God called me to be me, or else He wouldn’t have made me to be me.
All that to say this…  As an individual, I sometimes get discouraged and down on myself; I try to compare myself to others and feel inferior.  As a church, I feel that sometimes we are tempted to pattern ourselves after other churches and their practices, programs and beliefs.  And when we feel like things aren’t growing or going the way we think that they should, we’re once again drawn to look to other churches for answers.
 
Maybe we need to be reminded that God made us alive in Him.  Both individually and corporately, let’s stop trying to be something that we weren’t called to be.  God desires and has called me to be me.  God desires and has called Image Church to be Image Church.
 
Imagine if we just got over ourselves and lived lives alive in Christ.  Imagine the potential!

An Outcast among Outcasts

June 5, 2010

Contributed by Brian Shifflett, Worship Pastor of Image Church

Reading through the gospel of John this week, I ran across a familiar passage in chapter 4.  Yet this time, my focus was stopped near the beginning of the story, where Jesus speaks to a woman of Samaria.  John 4:3-9 says:

3He [Jesus] left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) [ESV].

If one were to travel from Judea to Galilee, the straightest shot would be to go through Samaria. Yet, the Samaritans were considered by the Jews to be an inferior race, and we see in verse 9 that “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.”  So, often times, Jews would travel around the city turning a normal 2-day walk into about a 6-day walk.  However, Jesus chose to travel through this city where this “inferior” group of people resided.   It is here where Jesus meets and converses with a woman who was seen as an outcast.  Isn’t it interesting that Jesus was more concerned about a person than His reputation?

His reputation was on the line because….

1)      She was a woman (women were automatically looked upon as inferior in that culture)

2)      She was a Samaritan

3)      She was an outcast among outcasts

Let me expand upon number 3.  The passage says it was about the sixth hour (around noon) when Jesus met the woman.  This is important to note because it is HOT around the sixth hour in the Middle East.  The majority of people would come to the well to get their water in the morning, before the midday heat arrived.   She was most likely an outcast even among the Samaritans because of her past, which is revealed later in the story.  This woman has had five husbands (John 4:17).  This was completely looked down upon in that culture.  Divorce is not such a big deal today, but it was back then.  So she was probably not even welcome to travel with the Samaritan women in the mornings to get her water for the day.  A complete, unloved, outcast!

Jesus was compassionate to whom society deemed as unlovely and unacceptable.  His priority was not His reputation among men, but bringing life to those who were otherwise helpless.  So let’s not let our pride and egos get in the way of showing the love of Christ to those whom society would call unworthy.  We are ALL unworthy of God giving us attention.  He does anyway, He and calls us to show that same compassion to others, regardless of our reputation among men.