Bearing the Wrong Cross  

Posted by Mike Sharrow in , , , , , , , ,

Have you ever felt overwhelmed? Plate overflowing, mind over-saturated with to-do's, and more problems to solve than you had time to even consider?

I had the chance to get away for a vacation back home (Alaska) recently and then did a little road trip on the west coast. It was gorgeous. It took a few days to truly unplug - to get over the guilt of not being productive, the haunting thoughts of "what's not getting done while I'm away" and all of those other distractions. Once I got over the hill, then it was truly a time of refreshment, relaxation and recharging.

One day while I was driving I began to sift through my thoughts and began to feel overwhelmed as I tried to sort through all of the needs, opportunities, projects, situations, and "things" waiting for me back home. Family, Grace Point, the Church of San Antonio, the cause of Christ across America, my role in fixing it all or figuring it all out...Stop! Right as all of those weights were getting stacked up, God hit the pause button for me.

We stopped in the Big Sur area of the Los Padres National Forest in California and hiked to see the Pfeifer Falls shown below:

Isn't that a gorgeous picture? Literally a waterfall colliding with a perfect sandy beach in a quiet cove with a redwood forest on one side, the Pacific on the other and beautiful cliffs enclosing it. It is one of those places you don't want to leave. You want to just put a tent and lawn chair out and call it good!

God made that. The same God who created the universe, who unleashed creative power with a few words yielded scenes like this. That same God sent His Son to kick His long-running mission of redemption into high gear and is presently installing His Kingdom incarnationally through the transformed lives of those who follow His Son, via a thing we call "the Church."

That same God doesn't really need advisers, consultants, architects or assistance in figuring it out. Much of the weight I was carrying was from trying to "help God" with His mission. In that "pause" moment, God reminded me that I was overwhelmed trying to carry His burden instead of focusing on my actual calling to follow, rest, obey, serve and participate in the supernatural work He wants to do in and through me. I don't own the outcome, I own the journey of dependent surrender and unrestrained engagement.

In Acts 20 the Apostle Paul is saying farewell to a church plant he helped start in Ephesus. It was still young, had a lot of kinks and challenges but his time had come. In leaving he doesn't wring his hands over all that remains to be done, nor does he boast in having accomplished everything - he says he is simply confident in leaving because he knows he "has not shrunk back" from doing and saying the things the Lord sent him to. Because he was obedient, he had peace in trusting God with the mission of saving the world.

I know that moment with God triggered a sense of release and freshness for me. (Being around a lot of really pretty places along the coast didn't hurt!)

What are you overwhelmed with that is not truly your cross to bear? What are you claiming responsibility FOR instead of TO to your own demise?

The Rest of a Leader  

Posted by Mike Sharrow in , , , , ,

Jody Harris gave a mother's day talk at Grace Point this morning, and embedded within the broad scope of her content was a mention of the need to "find rest in Jesus." She was referencing the famous passage where Jesus invites those following Him to find a perpetual rest, what Eugene Peterson referred to as the "rhythm of grace."

Anybody in leadership knows the burden of responsibility, the exhaustion of continuous exertion, the weariness that can come with struggle, and the elusive ideal of rest. It is easy, as a leader, to reach points where there is an inclination to toss ones hands up, walk away, and seek much anticipated rest. Of course, by leaders I mean all stripes and types - mothers, pastors, teachers, fathers, husbands, small group leaders, managers and everything in-between. Sometimes there is a part of each leader that wants to just sit out an inning and let the rest of the team swing the bat for awhile...Yet, that's not always realistic, appropriate or necessary. A husband cannot sit out a season, a mother cannot pass of the raising of her children, a leader cannot afford to just take a pass.

Here's where the real gem of sustainable, high-caliber leadership lies - the ability to find rest. The diligence to learn, renew and operate out of a rest that truly nourishes is what high leadership - fully leading, fully alive - hangs on. The question is not whether we will need rest, but whether and where we will find it? Nobody can provide this for us. Nobody will look out for us adequately to ensure we do not drift into hazardous anemia. It is our responsibility as leaders to find our rest, to invest in our leadership quotient, to keep ourselves in a place out which we will have the capacity to lead well.

Where do you find your rest? How do you find renewal?

Guest Blog: Boldly Speaking (Faith Herrera)  

Posted by Mike Sharrow

Faith Herrera, the Childrens Pastor @ Grace Point, sent out this devotional thought to her leaders/parents this morning and I thought it was worth all of us reflecting on...

Acts 4:13
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

This week Melody (Associate Children's Pastor) and I went to a conference called Orange. One of the things that stuck out was when Francis Chan (a dynamic pastor from California) said, "The people 2000 years ago were astonished that uneducated men would be so bold as they spoke about Jesus. Today I am astonished that we're so educated, yet not bold at all."

How true is that? Today we know more and we are the most educated people of all time. Yet, are we bold? Do we breathe as if it will be our last breath? Do we live as if after our next breath, we will be in God's presence?

I know that I want to breathe and live each moment as if it is my last. When I am in God's presence, I don't want Him to look upon me and say, "If only you had..." I want to live knowing that the things I do here on earth are counting in eternity. I want to imagine the moment I stand before God and remember that this moment is the moment I'm living for now.

I pray that God will give us boldness to be the change in this world...that we won't be content with the status quo. I pray that we will be excited about Him. I pray that we will not try to ramp down someone else's enthusiasm. I pray that no one will be able to calm us down!

Celebrating the Cloud of Witnesses  

Posted by Mike Sharrow in , , , ,

Next to the Bible, the biographies of men and women who have all-out sought God and been radically messed up in the process have been impactful to me. I remember delighting in not just reading the "works" of guys like Jonathan Edwards, Erasmus, George Whitefield, John Wesley, John Calvin and Thomas Aquinas - but then reading their biographies to be inspiring and challenging. It was peculiar and telling to see how many times the lives we most celebrate today were nothing special in their lifetime - theirs was a life of simple devotion, frequent adversity, and uncertain ends. It was a lifestyle of worship and relentless pursuit of the Holy. Posthumously God has used the dust of these saints to help inspire and draw future generations to Himself.

I just ordered the biography of A.W. Tozer and am excited to get it. Much of his life he was deemed too intense, too focused on God, difficult to engage - and then suddenly a generation of college students began sensing the Truth (capital T) behind the words of this man and a public ministry began to explode. Decades after his death his books are revered for their simple focus, their depth, their uncomfortable call to nothing less than Him.

What stories inspire you? Do you read the lives of men and women of faith and wrestle with what lessons are to be learned in your own?

Consider these drips from Tozer and wait in anticipation with me for his biography!

Let a man set his heart only on doing the will of God and he is instantly free. If we understand our first and sole duty to consist of loving God supremely and loving everyone, even our enemies, for God's dear sake, then we can enjoy spiritual tranquility under every circumstance.

The sovereign God wants to be loved for Himself and honored for Himself, but that is only part of what He wants. The other part is that He wants us to know that when we have Him we have everything -- we have all the rest.

Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit; these and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.

What I believe about God is the most important thing about me.

Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and bring Him nearer to our own image.

The devil is a better theologian than any of us and is a devil still.

No man should desire to be happy who is not at the same time holy. He should spend his efforts in seeking to know and do the will of God, leaving to Christ the matter of how happy he should be.

One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful organizations do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men make a football team. The first requisite is life, always.

God may allow His servant to succeed when He has disciplined him to a point where he does not need to succeed to be happy. The man who is elated by success and is cast down by failure is still a carnal man. At best his fruit will have a worm in it.

A Resiliently Piercing Light  

Posted by Mike Sharrow in , , , , , ,

I received a testimony email this morning about an Ugandan pastor who was resilient. He wasn't a formal pastor, but when 100 Christians were imprisoned in a hostile Muslim uprising he was the eldest and most determined to praise God in the circumstance. He refused to deny his Savior and instead rallied the other Christians to praise God in their gruesome confines. After years of this he was considered a pastor and as people were released hundreds and thousands began to be reached with the Gospel. Resilient light that pierces the darkness.

Peterson's The Message paraphrases 2 Corinthians 3:18 like this: And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We're free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

Chamber's Utmost entry for yesterday reminds us followers of the Way to look at the face of God for ourselves and let that glory radiate un-hindered, untempered, un-restrained to everyone around us. Whether we are a solo radiating face or whether we are in a host of witnesses who echo and share our glorious radiance.

Leadership - whether 1st chair, 2nd chair or from the caboose always brings wrestling with herd mentality hazards. The tempo and mindset of those around can become a force we permit to distract our hearts and minds from the glory of God, and thus our own leadership (i.e. influence, stewardship of the gospel) is passively retarded.

We do not "feed" off of the crowds around us - we feed off of the glorious riches of the Father through the Son and His Spirit Who indwells those who call Him "Abba," who live dependent upon Him. May we be discontent with anything less. Relentless. Resilient. Radiant.

If you have not faced death, you have not lived.  

Posted by archie