dear God…

dear God

 

“Commit your plans to the Lord and he will make you succeed.” – Proverbs

[this is a call]

I like having control over everything. When I am not in control, I get out of control. I don’t enjoy being stuck in traffic. I don’t like not knowing what’s next in life. I am a planner and I like routine. I recall when I first spoke to my pastor about God calling me to be a preacher and listening to his suggestions that I get into a good school and study theology.

Well, I wanted to get into school immediately but it took a few months. Even then I wanted to know “What’s next?” From my home study course to my undergraduate degree program to seminary. During seminary, the questions moved beyond schooling into how to get ordained as a pastor and the endless job search for a pastoral position in the local church began.

Every now and then I would go to my mail box to find another “Rejection Letter” from a church I applied for. For a long, long time, I have felt lost and confused. While I have discussed this before, I am going to re-share a story with you all; it is the encounter I had with Rod who asked me, “What are you doing now that requires faith?”

Near the end of that conversation, Rod encouraged me to write down the question to which I was seeking an answer to. I listened to his advice and asked God where he wanted me to be and where he wanted me to serve.

Over the course of ten days, I prayed and wrote ten simple prayers in a journal and each day, I felt God ask me a question. These are those questions…

What have i been preparing you for?
Why have I been preparing you?
Will your pursue me?
Why are you following me?
What are you willing to surrender?
Are you willing to let go of your past?
Will you give up your sins?
Will you give up your pain?
Will you give me room to speak?

Will you follow me?

[here i am, saying goodbye to myself]

Ever since I announced I was moving away, I’ve felt more unsure of the move. i’ve felt this way for one reason: FEAR! I am moving away without knowing the area at all, I have no idea where I am going to do for work and an income and I have no idea where I am going to stay.

That caused me to remain awake for many nights. I began to ponder all of the “what if” questions which came like a flood. I hated having to wrestle with my flesh. Then came the voices; the voices that drown out God’s voice.

What if I don’t make it?Where am I going to go?

What if I can’t find a job?

What if I go hungry?

What if my car breaks down?

God’s voice needs to be louder than everything else! I wanted to stay here, in Vermont but I know this- I am not being effective here and it’s not for a lack of trying. i’ve stepped out in obedience to God’s call.

I haven’t done as much as I wanted and I believe a lot of that is attributed to me being alone (without a wife and or someone to partner with). I don’t regret what hasn’t been accomplished either; I know God works all things together for the good. All things.

I pray for my area and I pray for the area I am moving to.

I still feel completely under qualified to do ANYTHING for God. That’s a good place to be though. God can do anything with anyone if they are willing to be used.

That said, I am moving to Texas. Whatever happens, to God be the glory!


 

dear God| written by mike monica

realigned theology

realigned

“But Moses told the people, Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” – Exodus 14:13-14

As a disciple (learner) I love reading the Word of God. As a prior student of theology I love learning about God (theology) and as a Pastor I am charged with the task of defending the Word of God. Being able to articulate what the Word is saying and what it is not saying is rooted in an understanding of context. Without context, we are capable of manipulating the Word to our hearts content.

The above Scripture is proof of the classic manipulation.

This might destroy your theology but hear this…God isn’t always going to fight for you!

Look at Exodus 14:13-14 and then look at what I just wrote. On the surface level, they are polar opposite statements. Most would side with the Scripture. And those who would side with Scripture would be dead wrong. Dead. Wrong.

Context|

Israel has been led by Moses out into the wilderness. The Egyptians are now chasing them. The Egyptians have an army and horses. Israel are not warriors, have a ton of goods which were given to them, women and children and elderly. It’s not to difficult to see how this battle would turn out.

Check Mate-Egyptians win!

But God…|

When God is in the picture, everything changes and I mean everything. God called Israel to cross the Red Sea. Here’s the lingering problem with that though; the Red Sea doesn’t part until Israel begins crossing. Thus all they see is a Sea before them and no way of getting across.

So here comes the motivational speaker Moses with this line. “God will rescue you. God will fight for you. Be still. Stay calm.” Such a great motivational speech they all need to hear, right? God wasn’t impressed with it though.

Need proof. Okay. Here you go…

Exodus 14:15
“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!”

BAM!

Here’s the deal. Did God rescue the people? He sure did! Did God fight for them? Sure did. But God was informing Moses and the people of Israel that they had to do something; to get moving so they could live out the victory God has already established.

One of my favorite lines in a song is from a rock band, Petra and the line is this. “Waters never part until our feet get wet.”

I think the issue we have caused for ourselves is the idea that we have NOTHING to do but be still and remain calm. That simply isn’t true. God calls us and God gives us the victory. Then it is up to us but it’s not about us.

When you have time read through the Exodus account. It’s pretty cool the way God calls to Moses and says…

“I have seen the suffering Israel has endured.”

“I have heard their cries.”

“I have come down to rescue them.”

“Now Moses, Go and lead my people.”

Check that out. Pretty cool stuff there. God hears the sufferings of his people. God’s love compels him to act. God calls Moses. God informs Moses the work of God will be done. There’s a whole lot of God doing stuff in this story. But then, out of the blue-Moses is told to go.

Why should he? Why can’t Moses just say, “I’m just going to be still and stay calm. Go ahead and fight for the people!” God is fighting for the people of Israel through MOSES! It’s not about Moses, it’s about God! And while God fought for the people and led them, he allowed Moses to be his servant.

The truth spills out into the Red Sea. What if Israel listened to Moses and just stood there? What if they loosened up, stayed calm and chilled out? They would have a radically different story to share. The people were not to “be still.” (Moses’ command) The people were to “get moving.” (God’s command)

God calls us to accomplish things and places us in situations we cannot possibly handle. Moses could not lead the people of Israel out. God could. Moses could not stand up to the Pharaoh and convince him to let the people go. God could.

You see, the issue that arises from this verse(s) like this is that it creates a philosophy that isn’t aligned with God’s truth. Exodus 14:13-14 by itself would indicate that 1) God is going to fight for us and 2) We just need to be still.

The opposite was true in this situation! God already had fought for them-he already led them out of Egypt. He already told Moses to lead the people across the Red Sea. But, if we get stuck on Exodus 14:13-14 then we live our lives believing that God is going to fight for us and rescue us when God is actually calling us to live out and enforce the victory.

The people of Israel were not called to be still and wait for God to carry them over the Red Sea; they were called to pick up their feet and walk across the Red Sea but they had to get moving! The point of this story is that it revealed God’s power.

Question…

What are you doing to accomplish the task God has called you to do?


realigned theology| written by mike monica

in search of a new god

new god

 

John 6:29|

“Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” (NLT)

[the search for significance]
Context is vitally important in understanding any Scripture so here’s the background information we all need. A large group of people had followed Jesus and in the evening hours, sat down. The disciples urged Jesus to send these people away because they were hungry and the disciples felt they could become upset or frustrated. Jesus, being the cool guy he is and all, told the disciples to feed the people with five fish and two loaves of bread.

Jesus is always asking us to do the impossible!

As the story continues, Jesus blesses the food and it multiplies, again and again and again. The food is multiplied so that the entire crowd (5000 men at the very least) were fed by the hand of God. Over 5000 people witnesses and experienced a move of God.

The next day the crowd woke up and discovered Jesus and his disciples had left them and went to the opposite side of the lake. The crowd followed Jesus. When Jesus saw the crowd arrive, he pointed out the reason they were there; they had not come because he had performed miracles but because they were given something to eat.

I want to pause for a second to ask this question: Why are you looking for Jesus?

Jesus continues on and shares with these people that they were seeking something perishable but they should be seeking eternal life. The crowd, wanting to please Jesus, told him, we want to do the work of God as well.

Then Jesus reveals the truth about the work of God. That the only work God wants from us is this-to believe.

[the search for purpose]
Jesus has this way of breaking down walls and barriers and revealing truth and grace in a way that impacts those who are truly seeking him. You see, Jesus said something that sounds so simple but it’s deeper than we can imagine.

First, Jesus plainly told the crowd, “I know why you’re here! You didn’t come because I have the ability to heal the sick, raise the dead and change water into wine; you came because you were hungry and you were given something to eat.”

Sometimes people seek Jesus because of what he offers in the temporary settings of this world. Sometimes all we are seeking is the blessings of a future with hope, we throw our lives towards a God who is all about us and is willing to give us what we need. Make no mistake, food was something this crowd needed but the focus was wrong, their hearts were wrong. They were seeking, not what Jesus wanted to give them but what they wanted him to provide.

Sometimes, personal satisfaction is the catalyst for following Jesus.

Jesus’ response not only expels people who seek him for their own purpose but also for the religious minded as well. In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders had built themselves into a society of demigod’s who believed that God was for them because of their religious activities.

Jesus made it more simple. What does God want from us? Faith in Christ.

True faith rests on the person and work of Christ alone.
True faith always seeks after Christ.
True faith abides in Christ and through grace produces obedience.
True faith leads us to live a life worthy of the calling we have already received.

When we seek after Jesus because of temporary needs fulfilled, we are in search for a new god. Yes, we are already loved by God. Yes, he cares about us and he will provide for our needs. Prosperity is not what we think though; prosperity is what God gives us, even if that doesn’t lead to much.

When we seek after Jesus because we believe he approves of our activities, we are in search of a new god. We are not seeking to worship Christ but simply to work and we work for ourselves when we do that. Working for God flows out of our worship for God.

Follow Jesus for who he is and what he has done for you.

in search of a new god| written by mike monica

it’s my job as a christian to tell you that you don’t have a job as a christian

 

I. Semantics Matter|

Semantics do matter. That might sound strange to some but it’s truth. Semantics really do matter. What we say and how we say things matter. Over the course of my life I’ve heard this phrase thrown out, “it’s my job as a christian…”

I’ve thought about that as of late because I’m someone who puts a lot of weight of semantics. I know this may seem silly but let’s be honest with one another. Do we really view Christianity as a job?

If the answer is No, then let’s skip over the phrase and throw it out. It really doesn’t belong in a believers vocabulary.  If however, the answer is Yes, then I think its appropriate to make the announcement

“You don’t have a job as a christian.”

If Christianity is a job then we should expect the following|

1. Part or full time status.

2. Time off (such as weekends, vacation, personal and sick leave.)

3. The option of calling out and or skipping work.

4. Payment for doing our job.

5. Advancement.

6. The possibility of being fired or let go.

Here’s some reality for us all. Some Christians actually live this out. Sometimes I have been guilty of being like this. Sometimes we live our lives in the sense that being a Christian is a job. We’ll go to church and bible study.  The rest of our lives are separate from Christianity. Others however, are workaholics and never stop to rest.

Sometimes we can live wanting a break or time off from everything the bible commands us to do. We can also want and seek recognition for doing a good job. Maybe we witnessed to our coworkers or invited friends to church. Perhaps we stepped up in our tithes and offerings.

There are also times we expect advancement. As an honest confession, I’ve struggled dealing with not being in a pastoral position. Sometimes this comes when I compare myself to those who I know should consider how they pastor and lead. God’s reminded me lately that…

1. Its not about me, its about Jesus.

2. I need Jesus, not recognition.

3. God has work to do in my life. There areas of struggle, doubt and insecurity that need to dealt with. Character is a priority.

4. God also must prepare the church. The people need to be ready as well.

Finally, there are Christians living under the fear of a vengeful God who will fire them for not getting the job done. Here’s a newsflash, everything we need to do Jesus already accomplished. Obedience is the response to what Christ has already done.

That being said, its my job as a Christian to tell you that you

 don’t have a job as a Christian!

II. Doctrine Matters

1. As a believer, you have an identity. ( Gal. 2:20, 1 Peter 2:10)

2. As a believer, you have a new nature. ( 2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 4:24)

3. As a believer, you have a calling. (1 Peter 2:9, 2 Tim. 1:9)

_________________________________________________________

It’s my job as a christian| written by Mike Monica

the day i visited jesus at the hospital

I hate going to the hospital. Let me say that again; I hate going to the hospital! I took the time to underline the word, hate, because it’s a point I want to emphasize. You see, hospitals are not something I enjoy. In fact, I am not even sure why people work at hospitals. There’s blood and sickness all over that place. Sure, that’s where babies are born too and that’s part of miracle of life but still.

I understand some people love being doctors and nurses and they love being able to “heal” people or “bandage” them up but it’s not something I enjoy. I try my hardest to not be in the hospital. I do my absolute best to be there once a year for my yearly check-up.

Well I was at the hospital this past weekend. I spent a good portion of my Saturday there as well. You see, a friend of mine wasn’t doing well and I wanted to visit. I already had plans set up for the late morning so I thought I would swing by, pop in, say hello and be on my way. I planned for a short visit; probably about an hour or so and then I would be on my way. Besides, I had other things to do like shop for more clothing and get groceries.

As I was traveling towards the hospital, I realized that I wasn’t simply visiting a friend but that I was also visiting Jesus. You see, the Word of God is quite clear on this matter as Jesus spoke of this.

Matthew 25:31-40|

“But when the Son of Mancomes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nationswill be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,you were doing it to me!’

So, I want to share a small story about the day I visited Jesus in the hospital. I don’t want to share this for any praise of man or to make myself look as if I am better than anyone else because I am not! I want us all to consider the implications of seeing Jesus in those around us.

Jesus really blew my mind the day I went to the hospital. While I had initially planned for a short visit, Jesus asked how long I was going to stay. I responded with my own question and asked, “How long would you like me to stay?” Jesus said “I want you to stay for a while.” So I went ahead and texted my friend and said I wasn’t going to be able to meet up and we could reschedule. My friend was cool with that.

First off, Jesus was excited to see me as evident with a huge smile that overtook his face, after he was finished watching Dora the Explorer (one of his favorite TV shows).

Secondly, Jesus loves bacon and watermelon for breakfast. An odd combination perhaps but hey, he enjoyed it!

Third, Jesus loved talking and visiting with me. You’d think that someone who already knows everything about you would be more interested in just chilling out maybe watching TV or something but quite the contrary, Jesus engaged in conversation with me!

Forth, Jesus hates getting blood work done! Jesus doesn’t like needles and so I guess he and I are a lot alike in that manner.

Fifth, Jesus really enjoys being pulled in the red wagons throughout the hospital and really loved when I ran as fast as I could down the hallways. I probably shouldn’t be doing that but oh well. I wasn’t caught!

Sixth, Jesus was quite interested in a painting I did. When I revealed my artwork, Jesus was quite surprised. You see, I had painted a picture earlier in the week and took a picture of it. The painting was actually just a white piece of paper with paint that said, “This is my painting. Pretty cool huh?”

Jesus looked at me kind of funny and said, “Words are your painting?” That’s a pretty deep statement too since my work of art is done through my blogs and other writings. Jesus is pretty smart I guess.

As the day went on, I realized I had to get going. I still had a few things to get accomplished so I told Jesus I needed to get going. Jesus looked kind of sad in that moment and said, “I don’t want you to go. But I hope you come back.”

Jesus doesn’t want us to leave him. Not while he’s not feeling well in the hospital or sick. He doesn’t want us to leave when he’s in prison. He really appreciates the meals we cook for him because he hasn’t eaten in days. He thanks those of you who gave him a place to stay and a blanket to keep him warm.


 

The day I visited Jesus at the hospital| Written by Mike Monica

All Scriptures taken from the New International Version (1984)

the more you know [8 things your pastor wants to tell you]

The following guest post was written by Landon DeCrastos


 

Currently, the church I pastor is seeing more and more new people each week in our worship service. On a personal note, I have been incredibly encouraged concerning the growth I am seeing and the excitement on a weekly basis. Some people have approached me after a short time of attending and have sought to become more involved in the church. This is also great!

As I have reflected on this in the last few days, I have felt the need to tell people what they should expect when joining my church. The following are the 7 things that you should expect when taking the step to become a leader or generally involved in this worship community….these things are universal and can be applied to any other church.

1. Someone will eventually hurt your feelings….Someone is going to say something to you, or step on your toes, or even blurt something out randomly that will offend you.

2. You will encounter hypocrites. Churches are full of them and many are leaving the church for this reason…..grocery stores, civic groups, concerts, political groups, bus stops, restaurants, parking lots, hospitals, call centers, parties, and family reunions are also full of hypocrites….good luck avoiding those too.

3. Someone in my church will annoy you. Fact: everyone has an annoying side.

4. My message will not make sense to you on occasion. That’s okay…perhaps God will use it in your life later.

5. The music may not connect with you this Sunday. That’s okay….perhaps God will use it in your life later.

6. There will be discouraging times in our church. You can bet on this…..we are a church full of people with problems and regular discouragements. It just makes sense that a group of people would reflect this….

7.  Church will be boring at times. ….umm……..I got nothing. Sorry.

8. I am “not perfect.” …I love being a pastor and there is nothing else I would rather do. However, I am human and I make mistakes. God has me in the process of becoming more like Him.



There are going to be times that I let you down, I fail you and I mess up. I’m not perfect. Please forgive me as we both live out our calling to be all that God calls us to be.

Overall, the church is not only a family but it is a redemptive and purpose-oriented community. Due to the fact that it is filled with people, not everything is going to be perfect. When we are interacting with people with wounds, hang ups, and brokenness we have to understand that grace is not just something for people on the outside but we are the prototype before distribution.

Redemptive communities require imperfection to participate.


Please check out Landon’s blog @ other-words.net