The Times They Are a-Changin’

photo credit: ky_olsen via photopin cc
photo credit: ky_olsen via photopin cc

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always like Bob Dylan’s singing voice. Although I was born a little late to join the protests of the sixties, I must have somehow absorbed the feel of the era. Dillon’s title track from his third album, The Times They Are a-Changin’, became an anthem of sorts for those wearied of the uncaring, repressive ways of the old order.

I don’t know if Bob Dylan ever truly gave his life to Christ, but there is no question that he was drawn toward Biblical themes. I suspect he inherently understood that humankind can never provide the answers for all that it needs.

Almost forty years later, a similar sense of weariness has settled into our bones. We live in an era of global upheaval—there’s no question about that. Old methods, old mindsets, old structures, and old technologies are just that—old. The “new”, however, continues to lack the moral substance missing through much of the turmoil of the ’60s.

The Western church saw a powerful move of God in the 1970s, filling faithful believers with a sense of confidence that she (the church) would fix the ills of society in a way that hippie protests never could. Today, it seems, we don’t see the expected fruit from either movement.

photo credit: zappowbang via photopin cc
photo credit: zappowbang via photopin cc

Born during the upheaval of the ’60s and born again at the tail end of the ’70s’ renewal, I have spent much of my life looking for answers. I’ve never been satisfied with the status quo—especially the institutional ineffectiveness of the Western church. But now, in an era when we seem to have fewer answers for the pain of the human condition, I finally feel as though I am beginning to see and understand the transformational power that the gospel professes to possess.

In spite of the onslaught of criticism that’s been directed toward the church in recent years, I don’t think that we have it all wrong—a large number of devoted and sincere followers of Christ continue to make a significant impact on broken lives. At the same time, I believe that our version of Christianity is lacking in several key areas. We emphasize repeating the sinner’s prayer over counting the cost to become disciples of Christ. We preach and teach a form of grace that breeds passivity. We fail to grasp the importance of identity in the battle we wage against sin.

photo credit: Sean McGaughran
photo credit: Sean McGaughran

I could elaborate further, but time and space do not permit. My point is that we have much right, but that significant adjustments still need to be made if we are to see the church become the fullness of Christ she was meant to be. The upheaval of our times serves as a mysterious blessing in that it simply will not allow us to be content with the status quo.

Personally, I have been changing as I’ve sought to become more usable for God’s purposes. As a ministry, we are changing to prepare ourselves for a greater measure of influence in the coming days. A major part of that change will involve our web presence. Our new SfMe Ministries web/blog site (searchforme.info) is now live. Our new SfMe Media website (sfme.org) will be unveiled in the coming weeks. As a result, we will soon begin phasing out the use of https://searchforme.wordpress.com/.

Rather than automatically switch all of our subscribers to the new site, we’d prefer to give you the option of continuing to follow my weekly posts. Please take some time to familiarize yourself with the great new website that Sean, our faithful employee, has put together. It’s easy to subscribe to my weekly “blogotional” by providing your email in the top right section of the home page. (You may also want to unsubscribe from my Hidden Trails blog.)

I think that you will find my weekly posts to be both insightful and beneficial. The Times They Are a-Changin’. Let’s collectively seek to position ourselves for the further advance of God’s awesome kingdom!

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Let the River Flow

I suppose it began about 10 years ago. Several evangelical campus ministries at Indiana University of PA (IUP) loosely organized into what we call The River – many streams fed by one Spirit, flowing together with one heart and one mission. I believe in this concept so much that we named our ministry center the River House.

In launching Search for Me Ministries I’ve had to back off from my direct involvement with college students at IUP, but the heavenly Father certainly had plans that weren’t on my radar screen. And so I’ve stayed involved with The River, doing what I can to help network, support and encourage those who are on the front lines of college ministry at IUP.

Several of us have met together over the past couple years at our River House for prayer and this year we’re excited to have some new folks on board (as an answer to our prayers). Recently we kicked off the school-year with a luncheon and what an excellent time we all had together!

Our mission is universal, flowing from the Great Commission.

18And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NASB)

Our call is not to make converts or even denominationalites—we’re here as the covenant family of God to make disciples for His kingdom.

In spite of being a relatively unknown, secular state school, IUP has a rich legacy of lives that have been touched and transformed by Christ, people who have gone out to make an impact in our world.

I have former classmates from IUP who pastor large churches and lead national organizations. Former students from ours and other IUP ministries are making an impact for the kingdom both here and abroad. But regardless if the footprint is large or relatively small, they all matter. Each disciple, whether a ministry leader or a stay at home mom, has the potential to powerfully influence the lives of many others.

Our disciples must be disciples of Christ first and foremost. We are not here to build our own kingdoms, but to advance His. This is perhaps one of the greatest errors of the church through the years. As organizations we often display the same sense of self-centeredness that we would despise in the lives of our members. All too often we fall prey to the slithering hiss of the serpent, seeking to build our own kingdoms, unrighteously judging our brothers and sisters and competing against those who share our mission. Aren’t these all identity issues?

It was our Lord Himself who said that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:24). One primary reason that the church is losing the battle for our culture is that we are a kingdom divided (John 13:34-35). Why are we so quick to ignore this reality? We don’t have to morph into one organization, but we do need to be of one heart and one Spirit.

I’m not just talking about unity for the sake of unity. We are a brother and sisterhood in Christ. It’s not what we’re trying to be. It’s who we already are. If we will simply be who we are, who knows what our God will do?

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard,
Even Aaron’s beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forever.” Psalm 133 (NASB)

All of our programs, all of our outreaches, all of our hard work, mean relatively little unless God blesses. As we walk in covenant unity the life of God begins to permeate our ministries and our mission field.

Let the river flow!

Harassed at the Border

Photo by Sam Mugraby - Photos8.com

A couple of friends recently helped lead a mission trip into a neighboring country. On the way they got stuck at the border as a customs agent tried to coerce a $100 bribe out of them. It wasn’t until 2-3 hours later that they were able to move on with the trip, their pocketbooks being creatively lighter after covering the cost of certain fees. The trip was great in the end, but the fruit did not come quickly or easily.

The problem of harassment seems to be typical of almost every step we try to take in a positive direction. What happens as soon as you choose to eat right? Donuts suddenly appear! Begin your new exercise plan? Head cold! Decide to start a budget? Large car repair bill! And so it goes in practically every area of life.

Several years ago, God began to unfold to me an understanding of identity unlike anything I’d seen or heard to that point. Soon a vision was born and Search for Me Ministries, Inc. was launched. Writing about the experience is relatively easy compared to all of the research, hard work and faith that encompassed this new endeavor.

Eventually a vision for The Search for Me Identity Series was birthed, but that was just the beginning of the uphill climb. A multitude of needs had to be met and a wide variety of people employed. And time! Editing video and text took soooo much time! I’ll spare you the mundane details, but in addition to the work involved, practically every step forward was met with one type of harassment or another.

Whacked out weather. Health issues. Equipment problems. Technical glitches. Financial needs. The list goes on . . . and on.

And yet, our project is now complete and we’re on the verge of launching our online store! We’ve been able to accomplish something that should have never been possible for an organization with such limited resources. Through all of the adversity, challenges, obstacles and needs, our God faithfully met us every step of the way. Still, the process was way more difficult than expected. Why is this?

Photo by Sam Mugraby - Photos8.com

Our world is cloaked in darkness. The kingdom of light gleams brightly on the horizon, but darkness releases its death grip neither quickly nor quietly. Crossing the border into new territory is always met with harassment by dark forces intent on holding their ground.

Perhaps you began 2011 determined to move into new territory in your walk with God. Or maybe you had fresh faith for the welfare of your loved ones. Weary of the same old life with the same old issues, you were ready for a new stage of your journey.

But barely four weeks into the New Year you are already struggling, thinking that, for you, change is nothing more than an impossible dream. Trust me in this! Giving up is the last thing you want to do!

Over the next 3-4 posts I’ll share a few thoughts that I believe will help to facilitate real and lasting change in your life. But until then, I’ll leave you with a final thought. Just because change is difficult, even extremely difficult, does not mean that it is impossible. Nor does it mean that God is somehow absent from the process. The fact we are so often harassed at the border is almost always an indicator of good things to come. Sometimes we just need to persist even in the face of dark and seemingly impossible circumstances. He will meet us every step of the way—as long as we keep stepping!