All posts by stephen

Having Eyes to See – Part 1

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. – Acts 3:1-10

Peter and John probably had places to go and people to see, but who they saw here gave them opportunities to share the gospel, as people empowered by The Spirit to be on mission.

In the general sense of the continuation of the Church, this is not just their story; this is our story. If we are to do ministry in Christ’s name, we need to see how Christ and the apostles did the work. The apostles were emulating Christ by the power of the Spirit just as Christ promised. And the whole book of Acts is about Christ!

The beauty and power of the gospel always speaks for itself. Methodically there are always new ways of immersing ourselves in our particular culture, and the method changes. To find these new methods we must have the eyes to see the need.

We see several times in scripture where before Jesus teaches he either heals someone or feeds them. It almost seems to be systematic in a way of understanding missiological method per culture. If we look at this and focus on Jesus we can then use this as a framework for us whether it’s working to build relationships or as a community trying to make change around us.

What are the needs of those needing Jesus. Do you have particular giftings that just come naturally to you?

There are two things you need to know to start. First, you need to see the doors of opportunity, then in my next blog we’ll talk about how you must walk through those doors.

Seeing Doors of Opportunity

Physiological

These needs are things that we need in order to survive. Is there a child that you come across often and seems as if food comes rare? Is there an elderly person that seems to have a hard time getting around because their health needs aren’t being taken care of properly?

Security

This need is connected to the things we need in order to feel secure in our self, jobs and resources. Is there a neighbor that has recently lost a job and you may have connections to start the conversation of new employment? Is there a counsel you could give a co-worker who is experiencing a particular difficulty such as an abusive relationship that you may be able to speak life into because you’ve experienced the same?

Love/Belonging

Making people feel like family is probably the biggest hurdle we have if we are honest with ourselves. I’ve been realizing more and more that people don’t want you to be friendly; they want a friend. Who is ‘that’ person that you may ignore, but you know deep inside they just need someone to talk to? Who is the individual around you that is hurting just because they simply have no one to talk to?

Next week we’ll talk about how to walk through these door of opportunity…

A Farewell…

So the story goes a little like this…

10 years ago or so, I remember leading worship at a youth gathering event in our area where 150+ students came together for the sole purpose of worshiping Jesus under one roof, no matter the denomination. It was around the time in modernism where you would see evangelical ecumenicism a little more often. Either way, it was a good thing. The church that the gathering was held in was a United Methodist Church, from the outside, you would usually expect a totally different vibe, but it was surprisingly refreshing. I guess I thought there would be lots of robes, candles and wood.

Anyway, that night I had the pleasure of meeting Melinda, the youth pastor who spoke at the event for the evening as she was in the rotation to speak. I didn’t think she would remember me since at the time I probably sounded like an underdeveloped guitar player who ‘thought’ he could sing. (Side note. I actually listened to a song the other day that I wrote back then, that if it ever got leaked, I really don’t know what I would do. It is one of the most awful things I’ve ever heard. For those of you who may have a copy, please burn it.)

Years pass, and along the way I am able to build more connections with pastors across the city and more specifically with First United Methodist Church via the Music Minister at the time and Melinda through city-wide youth pastors meetings. The opportunity had arose at FUMC to apply for a new role at the church for professional staff to develop the growing contemporary music ministry at the church. I thought “nah… I don’t have a masters, so I won’t even try.”

Any-who… This was a very difficult season for me and my family five years ago that I wasn’t sure at the time how things would pan out, and out of the blue I get this call from Melinda. She says, “dude, I put in a good word in for you, please apply. You’re really what the church is looking for, at least start the process…”

After that, honestly, my first question was like, “I don’t think I could work at a Methodist church, aren’t they like theologically liberal and won’t I need to play the organ and stuff?” I remember her replying with… “this place is different, just apply man…”

The Staff…

So I applied, did the interview, and got the job. Thank you Pastor Craig Curry and FUMC Staff Committee circa 2009 for giving me a shot at it, I don’t know if you all realize that this big shift made waves for my growth and future as a pastor. I still can’t believe I got it, I wasn’t ready in so many ways, but through the strength of The Spirit, He carried me through  journeys that I will never forget. It would take me too long to describe the valleys and mountain-tops of working and being so trusted to pastor so many people through tears, counsel, prayer and through leading worship.

Over my time at FUMC there has been staff that have come and gone and a few that have stayed. The main-stay through my tenure has been Melinda. What a good friend and partner in ministry you’ve been. From worship planning, Tuesday’s tear-filled prayer, outreach and mission; everything seemed to be in sync. Thank you for your patience with me. So sorry I have to say good-bye in this functional capacity, but if you ever need a wild badger delivered in a manger in your office, please let me know… (inside joke…)

Thank you Pastor Dave for being a patient and prayerful man. Every time you would leave the office to pray, it was so encouraging to me as a young man in ministry to see that diligence. You have been able to navigate our church through some difficult seasons, thank you for that. I will miss our impromptu prayers sessions, your leadership will not be forgotten.

The People…

About a year ago we started community groups at FUMC. I don’t if any of us in our group expected to see such life-giving moments of nitty-gritty christian community. Every week in our home was more than worth it, we couldn’t wait to see every single person every week. It’s been so amazing to see work by The Spirit in people’s stories and lives. Thank you so much to those who have trusted so much of your time and energy to see what God can do when we are mindful about His mission of seeing us reach out and invite others to what we do, love each other. I know Travis and Kory will serve you well, they are generous and passionate about the move of God in our communities.

One of my favorite things about working at FUMC is their encouragement for me to grow through education, and to give me opportunities to feed into others lives. One of my giftings is to mentor teenagers and young adults, and through the past 5 years I’ve been able to feed into so many lives. You all know who you are. Thank you for allowing me to speak into all your lives, and I hope this won’t change even though I’ll be serving someone else. I care for you all so deeply.

The Music…

When I arrived at FUMC in 2009 I knew it would take a little time for me figure out the type of sound, flare and dynamics that would begin to identify the music of the church. ‘They’ say it takes 3 years before you first notice significant shifts in culture and process in anything you do, no matter the type of organization or program. (I believe the standard calculation looks like this in these cycles; 3, 5, 7 and 10 years are the big shifts in vision and culture…FYI) I can verify that at 3 years, all of our bands began to change. I believe they started to see the possibilities that could take place if we focus our attention to Jesus,  expectations of leaders, and excellence in our craft.

The Sound EPIt was at this time we produced our first EP. I couldn’t believe we did it. I was so proud of what we all accomplished in little ol’ Farmington, and how much we all learned together. And of course above you can see the Live Recording we did this last year…

All of you have been so impressive to me. Your consistency, talent, passion and friendships have all been so influential to me. The AAD jam sessions and practices filled with tears by worshiping together with the gifts of music I will never forget. The video will help explain a little bit… but thank you for everything, thankfully our family is staying in Farmington so we can jam here and there together, just call me!

A Farewell…

My prayer is that FUMC in Farmington is faithful to Christ. Never abandon Christ. Love Him and His Word before anything. This local church showed me what genuine friendships look like. Continue to be intentional about local mission. FUMC is probably one of the most active churches in the community that I’ve ever seen, just always remember to proclaim the Gospel by sharing the Good News. Be bold. Be loving. Be the Church.

God’s Glory. My Joy.

Today is a good day. It is honestly hard to say that, knowing so many people around us are experiencing pain and suffering everyday, and I want to be sensitive to that fact. With that being said, this morning, I was filled with an indescribable joy spending time with my family and especially celebrating my daughter River’s third birthday. As Brittany and I woke up we could smell the morning dew seeping through our open window and our kids came in the room to crash our peace with laughter. Most days, waking up to chaos and demands is incredibly annoying, but today, we welcomed it.

Last month, our family took part in our close friends’ beautiful wedding in Denver. The scenery in Washington Park was truly gorgeous. My wife was doing the photography, I was officiating the wedding, and our kids were in the ceremony themselves. After the ceremony, everyone was ecstatic as our friends had just made life long commitments to each other. The moment was so perfect.

The reception was held on a boathouse facing a lake that had no guardrails, which for a parent is terrifying. Every chance I got, I would let the kids know to not get close to the water or they ‘would drown and not come back’. During the exact same moment of excitement, post-ceremony as the couple was signing their license, Brittany asks me, “Where is River?” Of course my guy response is, “I thought she was next to you?”.

The next 60 seconds felt like the longest minute of my life. The feeling of desperation and fear filled my heart. The entire wedding party stopped what they were doing and helped us look for her. She could not be found. I remember calling her name out and running to the lake to see if there were any sustained ripples from a previous fall. I was ready to ditch my camera and pride and jump in the lake even though I didn’t see any ripples in the water. Next thing I know, Brittany calls, “I found her upstairs!” River was in the boathouse stealing corn chips from random strangers’ tables. The whole wedding party felt a sigh of relief with us.

This morning, I got to kiss and take pictures of my baby princess River. I am not guaranteed everyday with my family, but I did enjoy this morning,… I had this morning.

There is a very present existential eternality to joy that only Christians get to experience, I am sure of it. Not to say that unbelievers can’t experience joy right now by having an amazing marriage or treasuring priceless moments, that’s ridiculous! But there is a sense of gratitude toward Yahweh when you know you don’t deserve moments, yet you are graciously given them to revel in! And all of these moments whether they are experienced or promised, will be consummated when Christ comes back and all things will be made new and death-defeated will be physically realized!

When you study theology, you think about this stuff all the time, but it does not always hit close to home until you meditate on the fact that God presents gifts to us because He is a good Father, and at times, wants His kids to experience happiness in the midst of joy.

Take a moment and think about the narrative of the garden in Genesis Chapter 2…

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17 ESV)

First the LORD commanded Adam to ‘eat of every tree‘… it seems to be an initial command of enjoyment first. A call to virtuous bliss of all the things God set before them! AFTER THAT the perversion of God’s intention was retold by the serpent to Adam and Eve that God was hiding the pathway to god-hood. What a lie! God wants us to enjoy Him and His gifts.

I praise Jesus for this morning. Thank you Jesus for my family. Thank you Jesus for River. What can you thank Jesus for today?

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory.