Several years ago, a mentor of mine passed along to me the yearly practice of taking one to two days alone and away for time of prayer and fasting. As I go each year I’ve asked God for a word, or two, to help define the vision and direction God would have me operate in for the coming year.
I should’ve known I was in trouble when the word God gave me for this past year was #DeathToSelfie (hastag and everything).
To take a few steps back, I was working my way through the Catalyst: Devotions For Leaders Who Love The Church devotional, when this passage hit me like never before:
“I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2 CSB)
My initial thought was, “Of course! More than ever, my preaching and discipleship practices need to be laser focused on being Gospel-Centered first!” This seemed like a no-brainer, especially since Gosepl-Centered is one of our church’s core values—and I just needed to remove even “more” of me from the messages and approach.
The problem was, when Jesus says #DeathToSelfie is your word for the year, He pretty much means that ALL OF YOU has got to die so He can be elevated—not just your preaching.
What followed was probably the hardest, most taxing and challenging year I have experienced personally and in ministry. I would love to just chalk it up to the hard work of breaking fallow ground in a new church plant. But no, this year was more than that. This was about Jesus using EVERYTHING I would experience to bring me to a place of complete humility, surrender and total reliance on HIS PRESENCE. You know, #DeathToSelfie…
If you’ll indulge me just a little bit longer, I’d love to pass along some quick takeaways I’ve had the “privilege” of picking up this past year:
It begins and ends with Thanksgiving
Being intentional in gratitude (because it isn’t passive) before God shifts my focus from my battles, and/or what I feel I lack, and places them all in true perspective. It also prepares the heart to heal, forgive and hear the voice of our savior clearly.
Vision can’t be worshipped
I’ve found lately that my experience, strategy and skillset on my best day are not always (or most times) the way God would have me get things done. The sooner I can surrender MY ways, the sooner those things I’ve been created with will actually be of real use and effective.
Elevate others often, especially those who bother you
I’ve found this to be the true gauge of the level of humility inside me. Hand out praise to others like it’s their birthday on Facebook; and if you want to really experience next level change in heart, start praying blessings for those you don’t exactly “jive” with. It’ll mess you up in a good way–it did me!
Wrestling is still Embracing
I almost feel I’ve experienced too much of the unplanned, the needlessly painful, the careless hurts, the death of dreams, the shifting seasons and the tragic turns this past year. I have wrestled with God in new ways this year. But I’ve recently had the revelation that while I might see it as wrestling with God; God is also embracing me, is near to me—holding me close. What an unexpected gift that is!
Stop resurrecting what Jesus wants to stay dead
For me it has been the pride of self-reliance, a need for affirmation in the many toxic ways it presents itself, and dredging up the evil twins named unforgiveness and bitterness. In other words, leaving what was behind and pressing on…
Live in the unforced rhythms of Grace
I may preach God’s grace weekly, but I can be quick to forget it extends to me too. Remembering this simple fact has helped me to experience a freedom from not getting it right (aka failing) in the little and big steps of faith. I also find the greater level of His grace I am able to accept equally translates to a greater level I have been able to give out to others through forgiveness. The healing and restoration I have been able to witness first hand during this past year has been incredible.
I’ll close with some hard-earned wisdom that was passed to me from another leader recently. He said, “Before God can do a great work through you, He needs to do a great work IN you.”
If you’ve experienced a season similar to mine—be encouraged. God is up to something, and 2019 might just end up being epic.
Lead Pastor | Illuminate Indy, Indianapolis, IN
Communications Director | Heartland District