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It can be an interesting thing to pastor a church.

On the one hand, you see amazing things. God is clearly at work in your congregation and He is showing His handiwork in ways that are unavoidably beautiful. On the other hand, there is consistent opposition to His work. It is certain that the devil has come to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).

The truth is that, in Gospel ministry you will see amazing things, but it will come at a cost.  Yes, God is good. And yes, life is hard. The pain that come from a tough life coupled with the opposition from the “thief” can be difficult to overcome.

But, there is good news. Sometimes this kind of opposition can be a clear sign that God’s work is in fact taking place. And, Christ Himself told us to take heart, for he has “overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Here are three things that you can do during tough times to partner with God in His good work! So, the next time that you face opposition in your life or ministry, draw clearly, draw near, and draw close!
(1) Draw clearly the picture of God’s goodness and His work. Let us clearly declare and proclaim the good work of God when we see it. There is power in testimony and praising God for the work he is doing. May we be a people who spend more time talking about the good things that God does than the difficulty that we face.
(2) Draw near to the Lord. God is already the victor, may we bring his work against the opposition/difficulty in this life. Identify that God’s good work does meet opposition with the Enemy, who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. With this, we should not fear the opposition, but in awareness of the opposition, bring God’s work on the cross and in the Spirit against the attack/difficulty (e.g. “I pray the work of Christ in this particular situation by the power of the Spirit”). James says draw near to the Lord and he will draw near to you. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. May it be so with us His body!
(3) Draw close to one another.  2 Timothy 2:23-24 warns us about what can happen in a body that is divided in the midst of conflict. Paul writes to Timothy, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” By contrast, Hebrews 10:24 invites us not to give up meeting together and instead to encourage one another all the more!
Let us bind together and encourage one another in the Lord throughout the various circumstances of life. God’s good work will continue to be done! In times of opposition, may we draw a clear picture of God’s good work, draw near to the Lord, and draw close to one another.

“However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all.” – Ecclesiastes 11:8

I enjoy John Eldredge’s awareness of the move of God.

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I have followed John Eldredge for a number years, after meeting him as a student at Biola University. Each year, Eldredge encourages people to consider what their word for the year might be. This is not a New Year’s Resolution. It’s not what do you want your year to be. It’s an opportunity for one to ask God to speak into and over the year what He would like to see in your life. I can honestly say that I tried multiple years to do this and never had what I believed to be a genuine word from the Lord over my year.

However, 2018 is the year. Liz and I have been more intentional about “Listening Prayer” over the past couple of years. We never wanted to manufacture something. We never wanted to manipulate. But, after quite a bit of study on the topic, we have practiced “Listening Prayer” more intentionally in the past couple of year. I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise then when the Lord brought the word “Enjoy” to mind several times at the end of 2017 and leading into 2018. 2018 is the year of Enjoy.

I’m to enjoy the work that is before me.

I’m to enjoy the presence of God in my life.

I’m to enjoy the relationships that God has given me.

I’m to enjoy the world that is all around me.

So, 2018 is the Year of Enjoy. I plan to be intentional about enjoying God this year and all that He has for me. After all, it was John Piper who said that the purpose of life is to “Glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” I plan to.

I remain thankful for John Eldredge’s life and ministry. I remember breaking down crying within seconds of his Restoration of the Heart Conference in June of 2016. He hadn’t even begun to speak yet. But, the power and presence of God in that place (New Life Church, Colorado Springs) was palpable. I remember hearing him say later how much prayer had gone into the event, days and months leading up to the start. It’s no wonder that God was moving from the start!

So, here is the start to my Enjoy Year (2018). I enjoy John Eldredge, his awareness of the move of God, his compassionate heart for people, and the way that he walks with joy.

Perhaps you enjoy John Eldredge too?

“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.” – T.S. Eliot

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Neither arrest nor movement. That phrase always troubled me, as I read Eliot for the first time. I was a student in the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, in La Mirada, California. How could something not be still and not be moving at the same time? Neither arrest nor movement.

Today, as a Pastor of Worship Arts in the Denver area, Eliot’s words still ring true. Over the years, since my time as a student, I have at times oscillated from arrest to movement and back again. It’s an easy thing to do in life and an even easier thing to do in ministry.

In ministry, we often feel caught between two extremes regarding our work. On the one side of the pendulum is the goal of a fully reliant walk with God. After all, it was Paul who said, “it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (see Philippians 2:13). On the other side of the pendulum, is a healthy desire to impact the world for Jesus Christ. We work hard and feel like it is our responsibility to offer all we can to the Lord in His service. As James reminds us, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (see James 2:17).

Could it be that Eliot’s riddle has a grasp on Christian living and Christian ministry that finds the sweet spot between arrest and movement?

In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson argues that the Christian life falls somewhere between the Western Paradigm of working increasing amounts of hours in order to get ahead and the Eastern Paradigm of remaining absolutely still in letting go of the world. Peterson argues that, like most things, Jesus won’t that easily be put in a box. Instead, the Christian both takes up his cross (Luke 9:23) and has a burden that is light (Matthew 11:30).

It is there, cross in hand and with an easy yoke, that we find the sweet spot of Christian ministry. The Christian jumps into the river of God and joins Jesus in the work that He is already doing. It is both reliant on the work of God and offering our firstfruits. It is, as Eliot said, neither arrest nor movement. And there, we find the dance.

There is an interesting parallel to the weekly worship services that we have at Greenwood Community Church. There are some weeks in which I enter the services feeling like we have absolutely worked our tails off preparing for what will surely be an awe-inspiring worshipful time. And some of those same weeks, the congregation comes away with a resounding “meh.” There are other weeks in which I have entered the worship services feeling as though we didn’t quite have enough time as a band together to work out all the details, or I wasn’t quite sure that the “right” songs had been selected. And some of those same weeks, I have been greatly encouraged by the ways that God has moved in the hearts and lives of the people of the church.

So what do we learn?

There is a sweet spot of Christian ministry that lies somewhere between arrest and movement. It is not reliant on self; it is reliant on the work of God. But, it offers the best of what is available and it prayerfully asks God to do what only He can do and use what “we gladly bring” to the Newborn King.

It is, as Bob Sorge has written, the pursuit of jumping the very river for which God has created His children. Of the river, Sorge says, “We have been fashioned in such as way that the river of God alone will satisfy the deep longings of the human spirit” (See Sorge’s Following the River). Let us be clear that the river flows from God Himself at His very throne (Revelation 22:1). It does not originate from us, but we are invited by God Himself to take the plunge!

May each of us today, find the sweet spot, not only of Christian ministry, but of our very lives in Christ as we offer ourselves freely to work that Jesus has already begun!