2009: principles from an up and down year

I’ll be honest and say that I’m kinda glad 2009 is over. While there have been some amazing things happen @ The Ridge, it has been a difficult year in many other respects…personally and in the church. There have been days I felt exhilarated, depressed, happy, sad, defeated, victorious, hopeful, fearful, loved and betrayed. It has been a roller coaster year. “But God…!”

My wife posted her thoughts on this year HERE. Here is my take on 9 things I’ll remember and principles I’ll take away from an up and down ’09:

  1. Life is tough…pray hard! This year has been one of intense spiritual battle in my life and, I believe, in the life of the church (and many others I know of).  I believe I have filled more pages in my prayer journal this year than ever before. I have seen my family attacked and me personally attacked. Not to mention the attacks that His church has been subject to. Many of you can relate. You have been attacked in every way imaginable. I have felt the spiritual warfare over His flock @ The Ridge. It has been difficult to watch the enemy attempting to destroy families, marriages, individuals, careers, people’s finances. I feel like I have not prayed enough. Can we ever pray enough?
  2. Rejoice even in the difficult times. Sometimes…many times…God asks us to walk through the valley. While He never promises a “rose garden” kind of journey, God promises to walk with us through the valley. He also says He will grow us in those times (James 1). Through family tragedy, financial challenges, God’s pruning, friendship challenges, and emotional stress, God has always walked through the valleys of ’09 with us. He has protected and proved Himself faithful over and over again. My valleys have not been as deep as some, I know. I also know that I don’t have to worry, because it isn’t about me.
  3. Please God…not man. People will always scream for the church, pastor to DO for them. They want to be pleased. I can chase many a person and try to stroke everyone…and satisfy few. OR I can get on my face, hear from God, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, trust Him, and be pleasing to my God. People have stabbed me int he back, betrayed me, talked about me and ripped me. However, others have encouraged me, joined in the vision and helped me grow. Through it all, I came to understand more fully that if I will only do one thing…please God…He will handle the rest. I simply need to walk in integrity and trust in Him as I follow His leading. Just recently Psalm 26 has taken on much meaning and challenge to me.
  4. God’s plans are not always my plans. Gideon was given a plan be God to defeat the Midianites. It didn’t make any sense from the outset, yet Gideon obeyed…albeit sometimes reluctantly. I love this story found in Judges 6, 7.  I have always liked Gideon, because I feel a lot like him much of the time…needing reassurance, not feeling worthy or capable, yet desiring to trust God no matter what. I believe God showed me earlier this year, that this experience of Gideon is exactly what He was doing with His church. As much as I don’t always understand or even like what He may be currently doing or allowing, I must trust Him and His plans, knowing that the promises of Jeremiah 29:11 are true.
  5. I am blessed. I am blessed with an amazing wife, eight fantastic kids who are healthy. Five of our kids have professed faith in Christ and one more is very close. God has provided over and over this year for our family in many ways. He has once again proved He is Jehovah Jireh, The Lord Provides. He provided for my oldest to go to college at a school that we weren’t expecting. He provided a car for her. He provided for my second oldest to begin pursuing her giftedness in earnest. He has provided relationally, spiritually, physically, emotionally and financially. We are blessed to be a part of an awesome church full of people who really love the Lord and are all about reaching people with the Gospel. You Ridgers have been a blessing! I thank God for you!  Philemon 1:4-7 says: 4I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. 6I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. 7Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.
  6. God is doing stuff behind the scenes. I’ve always said I want to be a part of something God is doing that I cannot explain. Many times that means He is doing stuff behind the scenes that are not always evident on the surface. God is always at work, even when I can’t see what He’s doing. In John 5:17, Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” Sometimes I forget that. He is always working, doing stuff behind the scenes to prepare us for what He has planned next. I believe He has been doing that in me and us as a church this year. I can’t wait to see what the Lord has next! Even if it is to walk through the valley again, I’ll do it.
  7. His Church is alive, well, and will prevail! In a day when the enemy has brought down many churches and church leaders…both economically and morally…it is easy to think that the Church is dying. Well, I know how the story ends! The Church will prevail because Jesus is victorious! At the Ridge this year has been a struggle at times, but God has proven Himself faithful and HE is the one who established this Body of Believers @ The Ridge and HE and HE alone will be glorified. HE will build His church. None of us can, should or have to. There is freedom in that! God’s Church @ The Ridge is alive and well! Lives are being changed as Jesus is lifted up.
  8. People are human and will act that way…me too! People make mistakes. They say hurtful things. Sometimes meaning to and sometimes not meaning to. People say dumb things and miscommunicate or even hurt others. The church is made up of imperfect people. Thankfully God loves us all in spite of our imperfections. I’m glad He does, because I am very much that way too. That is why we all need grace. I am amazed that God uses people like us to accomplish His work. He does, so that we won’t take credit for what HE is doing. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 has become a leadership verse for me because I believe it is who I am: But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. So when any of us thinks we have God and His word all figured out, we need to be careful. That’s what the Pharisees thought. I must stay mindful of that as a leader.
  9. “But God…” Any time I read those words in the Bible, I know God’s about to step in, make a change, intervene, do something new, or shake things up. Those “But God…” moments are always set up by Him, so that He may receive glory for what is about to take place. I see that in our country right now. I see that in my life. I see that in the Church right now. I see it in many people’s lives. “But God…” wants us to trust Him and seek Him. He wants us to wait on Him. He wants us to pursue Him with all of our hearts. No matter what you or I are facing “But God…”  No matter what happened this past year…good or bad… “But God…” has something amazing ahead.
    9However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard,  no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Corinthians 2:9

As you look back on 2009, what will you take away? I pray that you will reflect and look at what GOd would have you learn. Then rest in His grace as we all get a fresh start in 2010!

I’ll blog later about the 10 things in 2010 that I am praying for. Have a blessed New Year!