Review: Goals for 2013

As the year winds down, I like to look at the year that’s past and see how I did on the goals I made. I don’t know if anyone achieves their goals 100%, but I find the goal to be completed if I have made significant and lasting progress towards it.

Dig into theology

I felt I’ve handled this ok, but not well enough. Different beliefs (particularly those mentioned in the post) have solidified more since last year, but not because of ardent study on my part. That’s what I’m not happy about and I plan to change next year in a significant way.

Read

This is something I started this year that I’m really happy about. I have read quite a few books (fiction and theology) and they have been helpful to my life this year. Here are a few that I have read this year:

  • Gospel Coach
  • Creature of the Word
  • The Hunger Games Trilogy
  • Divergent and Insurgent
  • The Giver
  • Doxology & Theology
  • Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars
  • Think

These are some of the books I’ve read and enjoyed. I’m in the middle of a few more now although I haven’t read that much in the last month or two. I need to take my own advice and read 10 minutes before going to bed.

Blog better

If I wrote no other post than Jeremiah & Judgment I would have been happy this year. I also started a new series called Rethink that has been received favorably. I haven’t written too much but I’m happy with what I have written this year. I’m also super excited that my wife started writing this year!

Learn leadership

This is a hard one for me to evaluate but I feel like I have significantly grown as a leader, even though the beginning of the year was rough. Yet, because of these experiences, books I’ve read, and situations that I’ve dealt with, I been able to grow more into the leader that I see in the Sermon on the Mount. Due to some issues, I wasn’t able to take the leadership course at work this year (though in hindsight, I count this as a blessing). This year has been extremely taxing on our little family, but I thank God that He has helped me lead us through it well enough so far.

I have much more ground to cover on this one, and I look forward to what is to come this next year.

Between Peter & Thomas

My mom has cancer.

My mom has terminal cancer.

Barring a miracle, my mom is (possibly, even very likely) on her death bed, living her last days.

My soul is conflicted about all of this. It ponders “should I believe?”, “should I prepare for her death?”, etc. In all my pondering, I have realized that there are two extremes that I have to stand/balance between.

Don’t doubt like Thomas

Thomas gets a really bad rap in scripture for doubting the promises, power, and resurrection of Jesus. I tend to find myself (sadly) joining Thomas in believing God for a miracle for my mom.

I grew up in a Pentecostal family. I have seen healings happen before my eyes. I am so grateful for being raised in this environment. It’s easy in the face of death and disease to throw in the towel and give up. But that’s not God’s will. Even if this situation ends with death, God is pleased by our faith and when we place our hope in Him and His ability to heal. I (we) must fight despair and defeat, and decide to “go to the grave” believing God for a miracle.

Don’t deny like Peter

Peter was one of the most passionate and greatest of the disciples. Yet, Jesus rebuked him as the devil. Why? Because when Jesus told Peter how He (Jesus) was going to die, Peter denied this possibility. Peter even tried to persuade Jesus from God’s plan. This earned Peter a serious rebuke.

This is good for me to remember. We must believe and have faith, but that doesn’t mean we deny reality. We can’t deny that God sometimes has a “seed fall to the ground and die.”  Many are left devastated when God doesn’t respond with a miracle and rather lets death take hold instead. They never prepare themselves like Job, “He gives and takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” We must get to the place where we say “come what may, You are good and I love You.”

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I don’t know what this next two weeks hold, but I find myself in a place of realistic hope and belief. God will raise my mom up from this death bed, either physically or by giving her a new body in the resurrection. Regardless, He’s good and my mom will take joy in whatever the Lord chooses.

In the meantime, I’m going to pray like crazy for her healing as I prepare for her passing.

What is intercedewith.me?

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I’m so excited to announce (at least here on my blog) the launch of a new social prayer website, intercedewith.me. Here is the “about” information from the website:

First Assembly DeLand is passionate about equipping the Church with tools for building a life of prayer in each individual believer’s heart, a house of prayer in each believer’s home, and a culture of prayer in each partner ministry. The frenzy of modern life makes it hard to sustain a secret life in God. To that end, we built intercedewith.me to help you build prayer into your daily life. Visit the site whenever you find yourself with a free moment – in line, on your lunch break, in the evenings before you turn on the TV – and take some time to engage in prayer with the current focus.

Intercedewith.me is the brain child of my good friend Mark, our pastor, and myself. We have been trying for years to get a greater amount of people at our church to pray. We’ve experimented with many different things and while some people did engage, we realized that some people saw “prayer times” as a special service or an elitist thing to do. Many people didn’t see it as something practical or something that they could do at anytime or anywhere. We were praying and thinking of ways to help and teach our church to pray throughout the day. We wanted to show them that prayer is for everyone and doesn’t have to be hours long to be effective. I’ve talked before how, sometimes, 15 second prayers, prayed throughout the day, are better than a whole hour once a day. It’s all about constant communication and conversation.

It was in that heart that intercedewith.me was birthed. Mark had an idea of making a online, mobile-friendly site where people from all over could engage with a prayer focus and, if they wanted to, leave prayers about the prayer focus on the site. It was an amazing idea and something that I’ve never seen done before. While people are waiting in line at the grocery store, they can open the website on their phones, hear/see the prayer focus, and engage in prayer in their heart and online….all while still in line! We added the ability where people can also share the prayer focus and/or their prayers with their friends on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

As a designer, I understand the opportunity cost to the things we attempt to do. The theory is if we make something easy enough, people are more likely to do it. While praying does involve time, focus, and attention, intercedewith.me is not meant to replace a believer’s personal prayer life. Rather, it is to boost and encourage their prayer life by stirring their faith and passion as they join with others believers in prayer, just like corporate worship times should boost our desire to worship at home.

I encourage you to check the site out and engage with us as we pray throughout the week for different issues. You can follow us on Facebook or Twitter to see when a new prayer focus is posted.

Goals for 2013

Dig deeper into theology

When I say “theology”, I mean “studying and knowing God”. I’m not talking about memorizing more facts or studying university books. I want to have the view of God that the Bible holds. Therefore, I want to study the Bible ruthlessly to know Him better and more rightly than I do now. There are a million different things I could focus on, but this year I have chosen three.

Here is what each one means:

  • Charismatic
    There are many who would strip the power and Spirit out of the Bible, explaining it away as something reserved for biblical times and not for the present age we live in. I wholeheartily reject that notion. The life of a believer is a supernatural one full of things that our minds can’t explain (although we ought to attempt to in a biblical way). Sadly, many of the great Bible teachers today are missing this piece. Their theology of God is sound and biblical, but when it comes to the Spirit’s empowerment, it becomes too much for their mind to rationalize. I yearn to find the balance.
  • Calvinistic
    While I am not a 5-point Calvinist neither am I an Arminian. As I have been studying and meditating on the Bible, I realized that a good part of the Calvinist viewpoint is highly credible and worth digging into.  I want to see God as sovereign over all things, good or bad. There are some hard questions to ask and harder answers to hear. There are tough arguments on both sides and neither are perfect in and of themselves. Again, I yearn to find the balance.
  • Complementarian
    I have realized this year that gender and their roles, whether in a sexual sense or a spiritual sense, is becoming a big issue and will continue to be a big issue in 2013. My focus on it though is for personal reasons. If I truly believe that men and women are equal but created different for different purposes then it is in my best interest to study these things to know how I ought to live and serve.

Read

I waste much time watching TV; time that could be used reading the Bible and other books. I have no excuse. I have realized this past year that I can’t have a desire for that much TV and reading. I have to choose. Currently, I have no passion to read. None. That needs to change. For the most part, TV gives me nothing substanially good for all the time I invest in it. Reading books though can. While I plan on reading multiple books this year, here are a few that I have at the top of my list.

Blog better

I don’t mean more. If I only write 3-5 posts in the next year, I will consider it a success if they are:

  • Well written
  • Incredibly biblical and Jesus-centric
  • Needed and well timed
  • Provoking
  • Passionate

For reasons I’ve already written about, blogging continues to help me master the art of communication through text.

Become a better leader

This upcoming year will be a big leadership training year for me, both in my work, church, and personal life. I give updates on what’s going on in my life periodically, so I’ll do that here.

  • Work
    This year I’ve been accepted into a leadership training program that my workplace holds every year. Only 9 to 11 people are picked each year and I was blessed to have been chosen. I highly look up to my workplace leaders and think they do an excellent job leading. I’m excited to learn the the foundational elements of leadership that they know.
  • Church
    This past year has been a drastic change in my church life. I started teaching a high school Sunday School class (which I love) and I help lead the worship ministry with a handful of close friends. While I’ve always helped and led in some capacity, now I am responsible for leaders and other volunteers. Gone are the days of serving however hard I wanted to at the time. Now there are people and projects that rely on my fellow leaders and me. We have a great church staff who is helping us and we are learning how to lead and direct like Jesus would. We have far to go but I’m happy to see how far we’ve already come.
  • Personal
    This past year has been crazy. We had our first child, Lily, and life hasn’t been the same. It’s been great, maddening, frustrating, joyful, tiring, memorable, faith-filled, and full of love. That said, we are welcoming our second baby girl, Anastasia, in a few months. We know that, while it’s going to be tough, it will be rewarding, so we are looking forward to her birth. I have always dreamed about having a wife and a few kids and building a family altar in our home complete with devotions and family prayer time. Alas, due to my own spiritual laziness, these things are not a part of our house. This must and will change this year. More than work and church, I must become a better leader of my home.

Why I Rewrote “Seek”

I love songwriting. For the past 13 years, it’s been one of my greatest joys. I remember some of the first songs I wrote back in the day and I’m glad no ever heard them. They were trite and horrible, but I learned from them. I am now writing songs that I’m happy with and others think are good.

The first song I wrote that my church started singing was called Seek. Most of the song was written during a spontaneous worship time, but the verses were written quickly afterwards without much thought in a rush just to finish the song. Overall, I never took the time to craft the song to make sure its focus, grammar, and theology was right. Yet our church loved it! (Note: there’s a sermon there. Just because people like it doesn’t mean it’s good or theologically correct.)

It’s been 10 years since I’ve written the song. Since then it’s been played in multiple churches, recorded on my EP project, and memorized and loved by hundreds of people. In the last 3 years, I’ve become more and more uncomfortable with the lack of focus I’ve given this song, particularly theologically. I finally decided to re-write the verses to the song.

Here were the old words to the song. You can listen to the song here.

Verse 1
How lovely is Your temple
Majesty You bestow
Your name is holy alone
You are my loving Savior
Righteous in all Your ways
I bow before you Lord and say

Pre-chorus
That the one thing I always have desired
And the one thing I always have sought (is)

Chorus
To dwell in the house of the Lord
To worship Him, praise and adore
To stay in the presence of the King
This is what I want, this is what I seek
You are what I want, You are what I seek

Verse 2
I stand in awe and wonder
How You could love me so
How could you call me Your own
Your grace, it overwhelms me
It causes me to draw near
Knowing that You will hear my prayer

Pre-chorus
Chorus

Bridge
You’re all I want
You’re all I need
You’re all I’m asking for
You’re all I seek

Here are a few reasons why I decided to change the above verses.

Unfocused cliches

In the recent years, I’ve never liked how unfocused the verses are. They are basically random worship cliches  thrown together with no focus and nothing they truly link to. The verses don’t paint a story or declare a message. I wrote them in 2 minutes and that’s exactly how it reads. There is little weight or theology behind these words. While the pre-chorus and chorus are pulled from scripture (Psalm 27), the verses are lacking in any grandness of theology or greatness of God.

Self-centered vs God-centered

The biggest problem I’ve had with the old verses is how they are self-centered. In the last few years, I’ve been acutely aware how most worship songs (including mine) are more about us than about God. I’ve refocused my songwriting to make God the center of the song instead of me. Even singing us is better than singing I or me. While I still write lyrics that are personal, I am striving to write more and more about God and what’s He’s like and why He is deserving of worship.

Emotion vs a response

In reading the verses, they are quite emotional. While I like and believe in emotion, I wanted a higher vision for the song than our passion for God. In reading Psalm 27, where the song is taken from, the psalmist desires to dwell with God, not from his own personal passion but in response to what he has seen. I don’t think this point can be overstated: we worship God, seek Him, love Him, desire to stay by Him…all in response to God revealing Himself. When we see God, we love Him and want more of Him. I found this to be a much better source and foundation for the song than my own passion.

This even changes the implication of the song. The old words made it a lie if you weren’t passionate for God when you were singing it. I wanted the verses to declare that worship was about who He is and how He moves my heart to love Him, not how my performance sometimes moves me to self-centered worship.

Teaching by example

In our church, we have several people who are starting to write songs. They ask for my advice and help and I’ve been teaching them and giving them a few tips. I realized that while I can tell them that theology is important and crafting a song well is needed, it’s all meaningless if I don’t follow what I say. It’s just words unless I am willing to teach and lead by example. The song’s popularity can help drive this point home: there is no song too sacred or popular that negates the need to fix poor theology.

Seek, Revised

Here are the new words to Seek. The changes are in red.

Verse 1
How lovely is Your temple
Majesty You bestow
Your name is holy alone
You are the Lord of glory
Over all things You reign
You are now and always the same

Pre-chorus
And the one thing I always have desired
And the one thing I always have sought (is)

Chorus
To dwell in the house of the Lord
To worship Him, praise and adore
To stay in the presence of the King
This is what I want, this is what I seek
You are what I want, You are what I seek

Verse 2
You stand alone in wonder
Matchless in strength and awe
Who can compare to You o God
Your love burns like a fire
Your grace compels my soul
To draw near and approach the throne

Pre-chorus
For the one thing I always have desired
And the one thing I always have sought (is)

Chorus
To dwell in the house of the Lord
To worship Him, praise and adore
To stay in the presence of the King
This is what I want, this is what I seek
You are what I want, You are what I seek

Bridge
You’re all I want
You’re all I need
You’re all I’m asking for
You’re all I seek

I am praying that these new lyrics accomplish what I set out to do. While they make not be uber-artistic, my main concern was making the song focus more on God. In that, I feel more comfortable with this.

Books I’m Currently Reading

Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men To Love
(Douglas Wilson)

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I’m reading this as a father and husband. The quotes I’ve already read from this book assure me that it will be a great book. It’s written by a complementarian author and I expect to learn a lot about my role as the priest of the home.

Gospel-Centered Discipleship
(Jonathan K. Dodson)

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I’ve been wanting this book since I first heard about it. Discipleship and being gospel-centered are two of my favorite subjects to read and think about. It looks like it is a discipleship argument based on Matt Chandler’s book The Explicit Gospel (that I recently finished reading). If that is true, this book may become one of my favorites.

Jesus Killed My Church
(Randy Bohlender)

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A great book from a friend. This book is very highlightable. There are truths found every where in this book that will catch you up in thought. It is such a beautiful book written from years of God killing a church-planter’s dreams.

The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?
(F.F. Bruce)

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I’m reading this to study up on the canonization of Scripture. There were a few questions posed to me in the High School Sunday School class that I felt I needed to study more about. I bought Canon Revisited: Establishing The Origins & Authority of The New Testament Books by Michael J. Kruger (which is great too) but I wanted something shorter and simplified. I asked a bunch of people and searched the internet for a book like that. This 100-page book was the unanimous answer.

The Pursuit Of God
(A.W. Tozer)

The pursuit of god

Tozer is my favorite author. After the Bible, his book The Knowledge of the Holy is my favorite book of all time. I have never fully read Pursuit of God or God’s Pursuit of Man. I found this book for free and couldn’t resist reading it.

This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence
(John Piper)

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I have heard of this book for a long time. I’ve also read quotes from it and thought it would be nice to read. Then I saw this video:

I saw the video and bought the book immediately. I want and need my marriage to be that grounded in Christ.

Why I Blog

In the past, I’ve given reasons why blogging can be a great idea. I wanted to give the few basic reasons why I blog.

It allows me to lay out a longer and deeper argument.

This is the main reason why I have a blog. Typically I write and publish my thoughts using Twitter. I love Twitter’s micro-blogging platform. It has caused me to condense what I say to 140 characters. This has helped me cut many wasted words and get straight to the point in whatever I write.

Yet there are times where a few tweets are not adequate to lay out a thought or an argument. A great example of these longer thoughts is when I wrote my argument stating that tongues were still part of the typical believers life. This post could of never been written in a series of tweets. It would of been separated and not seen as a whole piece and argument.

This is why I have a blog. I don’t write in-depth posts everyday, but when I want to write one, it’s great to have a place to do it.

It allows me to me train myself in the art of communication in writing.

In my opinion, writing is one of the hardest things to do in communication. Written words contain no emotions, inflections, attitudes, etc. It is only in the way they were written that they can convey those sort of things. Writing long-form blog posts here help me to tune my written communication skills. Writing has never been my strong suit, but the more I write here, the more my writing is being refined.

It allows me to write once, share forever.

I have talked to many people over the years and will continue to do so. Writing my long thoughts in a blog keep me from using time repeating myself. Now I can send them a link and say “read this.” I can also share a thought with a group of people instead of saying it multiple times, person to person.

It’s my personal doctrinal journal.

It’s beautiful and humbling to look at my blog posts over the years and see the maturing work of God in my life. I don’t like writing in a paper journal and I’m not much of a everyday journalist. Using a blog though, I can capture the major spiritual things I have believed and taught as well as post personal updates from time to time.