"It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones." - Psalm 127:2 (NLT)
So over the past couple of weeks, it has been really hectic and crazy. Last weekend was Manhood Camp at Biola. That came on the tail end of a week of VBS which included a youth Beach day. Prior to that, there was a youth pool party, Open gym of Volleyball right after a week of Summer camp.In the middle of all of this I am trying to work through meetings, making time for family and taking a sick day.
Kick in the pants. In the middle of all of this, I found out that I have maxed out my accumulation of vaction days. How did that happen? It's because I failed to actually TAKE A BREAK.
Why am I such a workaholic?
Both of my parents are hard working and really focused. But THEY MADE TIME FOR FAMILY VACATIONS. I remember some amazing trips to San Diego, Washington, up the West Coast, and a number of other places. I know that my dad took my mom to a number of trips with just the two of them. So that's Not the reason.
1. Workaholic Leaders I work for.
I think a part of it can be attributed to a Senior Pastor I had who told me that I really needed to work a minimum of 80 hours. He felt that paid staff needed to hit things harder because, church leaders asked people to serve and give and sacrifice above and beyond their own time at work.
2. Workaholic Peers
I think there's also a part where I see alot of my friends doing a ton and a LOT is being acomplished. I like hanging around people who do things. I love learning from people who are making a difference. In the midst of this, I not only like learning from them and connecting with them, I also like being a part of what is going on.
3. The Comparison Trap
Sometimes as I watch God doing things in other places, I want a portion of that as well. I think about Elisha and how he asked God for a double portion of what Elijah had. Often I feel I'd just be happy with just a fraction of what I see God doing. I feel like that puppy that keeps begging for attention and after a while, tends to be a little annoying.
4.Forgetting the Role of the Holy Spirit
In our society, there is a lot of talk about ownership and personal responsibility. As an American, we also hear much about the importance of a strong work ethic to get where you want to go. (Having Asian roots might compound that some.) I think that there are times where I get caught up in that and I forget 1 Corinthians 3:7 "So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth."
I look back and I think about other places I have worked and served. I look back at the places I was released from ministry or I had to let others go. I think I can also get caught up in the fear of being let go, or that others might think I'm not doing enough, or letting down people. For better or worse, the last three times I turned off my phone, 2 people died and one went to the ER.
6. I'm not paying attention to God
As we look back to that verse we started with, God is really REALLY clear. The NLT says it is USELESS. Other translations says that it's VAIN. Too much craziness leads to stress and anxiety.But God calls not only for a good work ethic, He also calls for TRUST in HIM as well as REST.
There's a lot I want to do and acomplish. But I don't want to burn out. I havent gone hiking or camping or kyaking for a while. I don't remember the last time I read a book, just because. (I'm not counting netflix binging.) When was the last time I went to bed early and just slept in?
Rest and refilling is super important. Somewhere I heard the phrase, 'You can't Pour out of an Empty cup." Praise God that He sets up options to be filled and refilled. Over the next couple of months, my plan is to take some days off, go to bed early, arrive to work a little later in the day and just do some fun things, just for myself and just for my family.
Regardless if you are an adult leader who is trying to balance family work and ministry, or you are a student leader trying to balance school, sports, family and friends, what gets in the way of your rest? What do you do to rest and refresh?
Movie Moments #1
Over the Summer, there tends to be a push for summer Blockbusters. With millions of dollars spent on the movie industry and billions invested, it can be pretty incredible to see what people will spend their money to watch. For those who don’t go out to the movie theatre, many will just binge on Netflix or other streaming options.
Why is it that people spend time and money for so much of this? For myself, yes, I do love a strong storyline and great character development. I enjoy witty dialog and a strong music score. I marvel at well-choreographed fight scenes and the multi billion dollar special effects. I may not agree with every theme that comes out and I probably won’t see a ton of movies myself, but what about the people who do? I think that some people just want a simple escape into fantasy. But I think that there is great power in stories.
5 Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser.
Let those with understanding receive guidance
6 by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
7 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Proverbs 1:5-7 (NLT)
Perhaps not every movie is pushing a particular message, but I think that every story does have something to offer.
Matthew 13:34 says that Jesus never spoke to crowds without using a parable.
At the beginning of Matthew 13, the disciples ask Jesus why he used parables.
11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. 12 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. 13 That is why I use these parables,
For they look, but they don’t really see.
They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.
Matthew 13:11-13 (NLT)
If we zero in on verse 12, we see a number powerful things about parables. I think that in this, we also see several powerful ways that we can interact with movies and television shows for something deeper.
When it comes to what is on the screen, the words that are being said and the interactions that are going on, what is really there?
A question I ask:
What is this movie/character saying? Why?
Questions to ask:
What might be something that reflects God’s Character?
What might be something that illustrates a Biblical truth?
As we are encouraged to meditate on God’s word day and night, I often wondered if that meant that we needed to repeat Bible verses all day long. I think there are some people who can do that, but other people may struggle with staying focused too long. … Ooh! There’s a light flashing on the mouse.
A question I ask:
How might this illustrate something I love about God or help me to help someone else understand God better?
I have slowly begun the process of collecting tools. I have found that even though I might be able to jerry rig stuff and “Macguyver” up something, things tend to work better if I use tools designed for a job. The more I know, the more options I have.
Questions to ask:
What is something new to learn? What is a different perspective that is available? What is something I would have missed?
Questions to ask:
What does this remind me of?
What do I need to remember?
What might I need to do or change?
As we’ll take m=Mondays to look at movies, we’ll ask some of these questions and more. You can use these for yourself or to spark up discussions with others to connect together and to connect with God. As we look at how Jesus dealt with parables, we see that these were sources of some great discussion. They were pretty incredible then, perhaps there could be some great discussion today.
What are some of your favorite television shows or movies that you use to connect yourself or others to God?
Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV)
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The church is put together by all different types of people. The Apostle Paul gives a good overview of the types of people.
The call of the church is to equip people. Equipping for unity and knowledge and maturity. The idea of growing up past childhood to be stable.
I think most church leaders want their congregations to be like that. To be focused and determined. To not be 'tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine.' Sometimes when people are really focused, they might miss out on what else is going on around them. It happens in churches, schools, workplaces and on social media, people can get so intense on their position or opinions, Unfortunately, there are a number of leaders who are aggressive and sometimes downright rude. I think that sometimes leaders feel like they need to be that way, perhaps it's to show resolve. But Scripture says differently. Verse 15 says, ' rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.' I think that there are four parts of leading that Christians should live out.
1. Speak the truth. I think that honesty is important. I think there can be great temptation to 'sugar coat' our thoughts. I never liked the idea of walking around with something in my teeth. As embarrassing as it may be to hear the truth, the awkwardness is short lived, but the benefits are worth it.
2. Speak in love. Honesty is important, but sometimes in leader's eagerness (or impatience, or arrogance) To speak in love is a balance of consideration, tact, thoughtfulness and care.
3. Speak in balance. Our personal styles and backgrounds all affect the way we speak with others. Typically we tend to lean one way or another. Slowing down to ponder a little more about what is said and why is also important.
4. Speak in growth. Leaders share their thoughts concerns and ideas on a pretty regular basis. As I look at the various situations I've dealt with and I notice that I didn't respond to situations in High School, the same way I did in elementary school. I learned and hopefully continue to learn. Sometimes leaders get stuck with the way they communicate.
We don't always see these practices today. In many cases, our students see it less. May we help change the norm.
Proverbs 1:1-7 Begins with a description of Wisdom. I think a lot of times in reading that passage we simply just skit to verse 7 where it says that "But in doing so, I think we tend to miss out on what we are talking about. YES the BEGINNING of knowledge is in fearing God, however, if we are talking about WISDOM, what does that really mean?
I was taught for a really long time about the importance of scripture and being 'Biblically Based'. But it wasn't until later that things started to clear up for me. In looking at what the Bible says, I think it's actually important to look at what the Bible SAYS.
Today I just wanted to chew a bit on verse 2.
Verse 2 says 'To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight,"
'To know wisdom'
In today's society, I think everyone has something they want to say. I think most of us also feel that we have something smart to say. But how do you actually define wisdom? Where does it ACTUALLY come from? I think that really anyone can find something wise to say, but I also think that Scripture assists in figuring out what wisdom actually IS.
In your ministry, is there a difference between 'earthly wisdom' and wisdom from God?
How would you know?
How would the students know?
How would others know that students know?
The idea of learning, not not only learning, but learning to DO something.
In your ministry, what IS being learned?
It's been said that each year, Biblical literacy drops. What is being taught? What can the students recall?
Maybe more importantly, what is being DONE with what is learned?
Not to regurgitate. We are really good at repeating stuff.
What did things mean in the past?
What does it mean for us now?
If something REALLY means something, what does that to to me? To the way I think? The way I react?
'Words of insight'
Sometimes words are more than words. Sometimes there IS MORE DEPTH.
Does your current ministry impact hearts?
What does your ministry reveal?
Just more thoughts to chew on.
So this last week a number of things happened and I didn't get anything close to what I wanted accomplished. That kinda makes me sad. From my time studying music, to the time I have spent studying and working in Radio, I have come across a large number of Musicians. There are so very many incredible talented people out there. Today I simply wanted to highlight a favorite. Realistically, there are a number of artists and bands who can balance a number of genres.
Regardless if you are thinking about your church service, your ministry, your family, or something for you to simply listen to as you drive/walk/run/work out, I think it's important to remember that we all have different tastes. But what do you do for meeting the needs of people with totally different tastes? What if you are a 'mood listener' like myself and your listening preference is totally dependent on how you are feeling or what you are doing?
I think that some musicians simply focus on their 'zone', their preferences and their own desires. But I kind of think it's refreshing to encounter those who are willing to go a little outside of that. In (NASB)
The idea that Paul would be willing to stretch himself and try various ways of bringing the Gospel to as many people as possible is kind of refreshing as there are may time in today's society where people just have to have it 'My Way".
Stephen Curtis Chapman is an incredible example of an artist who is willing to branch out. He's known to be a songwriter with a passionate focus on worship. Yet he has been known tow write and travel with a large variety of other artists. He's dabbled in a little bit of Rap with old school DC Talk, has written some incredible love songs, and has been known to rehash older 'classics' (Hymns as well as rock).
One of the reasons why I think I look up to artists like him is that there seems to be some incredible authenticity. I remember seeing him once at Liberty University with his sons and he was just loving on his kids while he waited for his set. He shared a heartfelt testimony on the death of his daughter. Yet he doesn't take himself too seriously. He has posted some pretty fun videos on his facebook page, sometimes they involve his touring, sometimes his Snoopy shirts.
Stephen Curtis Chapman may be one of my favorite artists, but I am also happy to say that he is not the only one with a variety in his skill set. (Or with his life story).
Here are some other artists you (or your ministry) might enjoy:
Seventh Day Slumber
Family Force Five
Future of Forestry
We may not always like every kind of music. We might not always even agree with preferences or life choices.
But I think it's important to be wise and pay attention to the possibilities that are available in connecting others with Christ. Again, the list I presented was a pretty small one. Hundreds of new artists come out every year.
Who are some of your favorite Christian artists or bands that have a variety of skills and can bounce from genre to genre?
Introducing Music Mondays - The Options in our Worship
I have studied various aspects of music from as far back as I can remember. I had an aunt who taught me the basics in regard to vocal music. I've studied music in theory, in regard to not only voice, but guitar, piano, and wind instruments. In the midst of all of the classes, the instructors and the teachers, I have come to realize that THERE IS A LOT OUT THERE. There are not only a variety of instruments, but CATEGORIES of instruments. There are not only variations of these instruments, but HOW these instruments are used, what they mean and how they impact others.
As music has placed such an important and such a large part of my life, I wanted to take some time to dedicate Mondays to looking at some of the options that there are in regard to music. This may cover styles, practices, genres and, of course, artists.
Today, I wanted to look at Ephesians 5:18-20.
18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NLT)
This passage is part of a larger discussion that Paul is having with the Ephesian church. Part of this discussion is focused on music. This seems to be broken into five parts; psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, making music, and giving thanks. What Might this look like in the ministries that you are connected with? What might this look like for students?
Traditionally, when one discusses psalms, one might just be focusing on the Book of Psalms in the Bible. Simply the reading or the meditation of one of these Psalms. Some people might simply put the focus on songs written with the use of Psalms (Classic Maranatha Music Choruses from the late 80's or early 90's) Others may Focus on the musical concept behind this where a stringed instrument is used and chords are struck. What might that look like in today's music? What kind of parallels could be formed with an acoustic guitar? A banjo? An upright bass? A mandolin? An Electric guitar?
Hymns, the concept of sacred songs. Sacred songs could be part of a musical category, as in traditional sacred music. However, if you look at various hymnbooks, the contents change over time. Songs that used to be 'contemporary' or 'current' or 'break through' or 'cutting edge', ended up in hymnbooks. So what exactly makes a hymn a hymn? I think that part of the definition becomes evident over the test of time. Hymn books seem to encompass the best of the best in an area. Favorites, classics and time tested. What might have been some of your favorite contemporary songs for you growing up that are found in hymnbooks now?
Spiritual songs. This term seems so vague. Would that be any song addressing the spiritual? Or are there underlining tones to this idea? What would make a song spiritual? Would it simply be a song that addresses God? Our relationship and connection with God? Our Pursuit of God? Could a current secular song be a spiritual song?
The idea of 'making music' with a focus - 'To The LORD', with a vehicle 'In Your Hearts'. This again seems to leave a lot of options. Could this be clearly shown as little children make up songs? Fun, cute, simple, heart felt?
To express gratefulness, specifically to God as an act of worship. In and through and maybe even by everything, to again, express thanks to God. What might that look like today? The ides of thanking God through music.
The truth is, musical styles change. Concepts and approaches change. Tastes change. Could this be why this passage seems to cover everything? Ultimately, it seems to be inclusive as far as addressing everyone, be personal as the directive is something that an individual has to choose, and be focused and the ultimate audience is simply, GOD.
This article, and the blog posts that will follow, are not designed to necessarily push you in a particular direction. They are designed to encourage discussion. You can take this to your family, a leadership team, a small group, your peers or your students. You can totally just chew on it yourself, but God designed us to be a part of community. Sharing thoughts and ideas tend to stretch us. Here are some questions to ponder.
What options does this present to you?
What options might you have missed?
How might this affect your own personal worship?
How might this affect how one might lead others IN worship?
Let the discussion and brainstorming take off!
- JACKSON FONG