Lessons from the lake

Our annual family vacation to Virginia and North Carolina is nearly over. We had a great time visiting Julie’s family, finding rest and seeking the Lord.

Vacations take us away from being at the center of everything—putting us in environments where we can unwind, rest our minds, and breathe. This allows us to hear God in ways we do not in Hawaii.

Our vacation came at a time where we have seen God at work in our church. This has been a tremendous year of growth and I have been enjoying the ride. 

In the midst of our busyness the last few months, God has caused me to wrestle with several areas of my personal life and ministry. This vacation gave me a great opportunity to dive deeper into what God has been laying on my heart. 

In the spirit of vulnerability and transparency, I would like to share what God has been challenging me with:

Depend more on the Holy Spirit.
Personally, I really do lean charismatic and it is never my intention to ignore the Holy Spirit. I regularly pray, worship, cry out to the Holy Spirit, and address Him in the first person by name. 

But people like me have a tendency to avoid going deeper in the way we interact with the Holy Spirit. First, whether this is true or not, we assume that emphasizing the Holy Spirit runs counter to having a strong theological foundation. Second, in our attempt to steer clear of sensationalists along with those who abuse and misrepresent the Holy Spirit, we lump the good with the bad.

Our desire to uphold the truth of God’s word leads someone like me to not know and interact with the Holy Spirit like we should.

So instead of depending on the Holy Spirit and walking in His power, we depend on our own strength. Doing this over time, causes us to grow tired, weary, frustrated, and we eventually become a poor reflection of Jesus. We miss out on what God could do through us.

God has shown me that I was headed down that path.

We need to be people and a church who live in the realities of the Holy Spirit according to scripture. I am committing to greater dependency and engagement with the Holy Spirit for my personal life, ministry and preaching.

My prayer is that our church will grow in being filled with, walking with and depending on the Holy Spirit with greater depth. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit’s work through us will be evident in and out of our church so that all people will see that God is not limited by time, space, our abilities, resources or anything.

My prayer is that we will be people on fire for Jesus because of God’s work in us through the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 promises that: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

In Christ, we should see evidences of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in our lives. The Holy Spirit gives what we need to walk with Jesus (Romans 8:14, Galatians 5:16) and speaks on our behalf to align us with God’s will (Romans 8:26-27).

The Holy Spirit helps us and gives counsel (John 14:26). He convicts us of sin (John 16:8), bears witness for Jesus and points people to Him (John 15:26). 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 says that the Holy Spirit helps us see what we cannot see outside of Jesus. The Holy Spirit also empowers the church to fulfill Jesus' mission and purpose. 1 Corinthians 12 shows how the Holy Spirit empowers the church.

Extending more grace to my brothers and sisters in Christ who do not agree with me. Theological convictions, ministry philosophies, political views, non-essential issues should not be the basis by which I see people. I must first see people as Jesus would see them. When I allow my differences with another Christian to define our relationship and alienate myself from them, I am wrong.

I am not saying that we should not correct error--we are commanded to do so. However, we should examine our attitude towards others. Do we have an attitude that truly desires to honor Jesus or is our first reaction to divide? 

Jesus makes it possible for us to extend grace. He paid the price for our sins, our brokenness, our shortcomings, and gives us eternal life. Through Jesus we can love and believe the best in each other. 1 Corinthians 13:7 says that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Philippians 2:1-4 tells us how Jesus humbled Himself to show us grace and that we should follow His example. Romans 12:3-21 shows how we can practically extend grace.

“For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” Romans 12:3

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” Romans 12:16

As we grow in Christ, we will experience more of God’s love, goodness and mercy. This leads us to realize the depth of God's love for us. When we realize that through Jesus, God gives us eternal life that we do not deserve, our understanding of God’s grace connects deeply with our hearts. This should lead us to show God's grace to others because of the grace He has shown through Jesus.

Being a unifier in the Body of Christ, not a divider.
It should grieve us to see Christians and churches divided. Our division is a bad testimony to the world. Individuals, churches and denominations battle and divide in the name of Jesus. Satan uses our selfishness, pride, jealousy, greed, desire for power to take our eyes off Jesus and tarnish our witness.

Most Christians intellectually agree with what Jesus said in John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

But one of the biggest challenges among Christians is living that out. 

That challenge was there from the beginning of Christianity. Less than two decades after Jesus’ resurrection, James (the brother of Jesus) addressed this very issue to the early church: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1)

Unity among the Body of Christ does not mean we compromise our theological, political or any other convictions that come from God. But unity should lead us to see our brothers and sisters in Christ through the eyes of Christ first. Only in Christ can we look past denominational affiliation, networks, secondary issues, ministry philosophy, etc. In the end, we may still strongly disagree with each other. However, our response to each other will reflect Jesus and that is what becomes a testimony to the world in spite of our differences.

Being more vigilant in praying for churches, pastors, ministry leaders, missionaries and for the salvation of those who have yet to know Jesus--and encouraging those who co-labor in the gospel. It’s not that I don’t pray for these because I do. However, there are more churches and people I could pray for with greater expectation and urgency. In addition, I must lead our church to pray with greater urgency, compassion, and Gospel-centeredness for pastors, churches, missionaries, and those who do not know Jesus.

Systems, strategies and ministries outside the church are great and we need them. However, we must remember that the primary means God uses to reach the world with the gospel is the church—training, equipping, ministry, discipleship, and sending out.

At this very moment, there are many pastors, churches and missionaries going through deep discouragement, loneliness, feelings of failure, wanting to give up, and every negative emotion imaginable.

Our natural proclivity will lead us toward these thoughts: “I wonder what is wrong with them.” “They should quit.” “What did they do to get there?” “If they had it together, they wouldn’t be in that situation.” The list can go on and on. 

Even if those thoughts are legitimate, where is our heart? When was the last time we were so broken for struggling churches, pastors or missionaries that we stopped to pray and plead to God on their behalf? When was the last time we reached out through an email, phone call or a visit?

Here’s my point. You may be the lifeline God could use to share hope to churches, pastors and missionaries. You may be the one to help a struggling church see the importance of good theology, Gospel-centrality and a strong Christ-focus.

Imagine how God could use you to build into, encourage, and pray instead of ignore and divide? God could use you to encourage churches to be stronger, healthy, Gospel-centered, theologically sound, Holy Spirit filled churches that point people to Jesus. Imagine how different our communities would be if we had more churches impacted through our prayers and encouragement. 

In doing this, we follow Jesus’ example (John 17:6-26). We also follow Paul’s example (Ephesians 3:14-19). 

Making a greater commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission.
Jesus commands us in Matthew 28:19-20 to “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Our mission comes down to sharing the gospel and making disciples. But our view of God’s sovereignty in salvation can lead us to lack urgency. We become laze fare about spreading the gospel and making disciples. 

Human nature is naturally fearful and lazy about sharing the gospel. Many of us hide behind our theology and use it as an excuse to not share the Gospel with urgency and passion. God’s sovereignty should never be an excuse to avoid sharing the Gospel, calling people to repentance from their sins, and challenging them to turn to Jesus.

Although I share the gospel and make disciples, God has convicted me that we (myself, our church, and anyone reading this blog) should share the gospel and make disciples with greater urgency, faithfulness and passion. Yes, God is sovereign but we are also commanded to reach people in our communities, people in Hawaii and people of all nations.

Encourage our church more.
I want to take this time to let The Gathering, both Mililani and Citywide, know how much I love you all. I love our fellowship, I love who are and who we are becoming as a church. 

Thank you for your faithfulness to Jesus, His word, and for living it out. Thank you very much for putting up with me all these years. As the years go by, I realize the miracle of any church not only putting up with its pastor, but graciously submitting to pastoral leadership--that continues to blow me away. You all have been awesome in loving and supporting me, Julie, Sadie and the work of God through the church.

The Gathering in Mililani and Citywide, you are an awesome church! 

Let me share an example. This weekend, we visited a family who attended our church while they lived in Mililani. They have since moved. However, they talk about the impact God made on their lives through The Gathering and the evidences of God’s grace and power. They shared that many people at The Gathering have tremendous testimonies of what God saved you from--and how your lives give testimony to the glory of God. You all have impacted this family in so many ways.

God does not expect us to keep all this to ourselves. 

Let me encourage our church in this way—God has a greater plans for us. We can do great things for God. We can make a difference through the gospel in our community, on the island, throughout the state and among the nations.

God does not bless us for the sake of us staying and enjoying where we are--He calls us to go. Our church provides a great foundation from which to launch from. 

I am excited about coming back to experience this season of our church life. 

Let us give God our all!