How To Survive a Lion Attack

wild_african_lion_4k

Tomorrow marks the 8 year anniversary of one of the craziest stories I have read about.

It begins in the small town of Zanesville, Ohio. A retired school teacher named Sam Kopchak left his home to check on a horse he recently purchased. When he saw the horse he noticed something was wrong – the horse was extremely skittish. He probably assumed this was due to the horse’s new home but as he looked out the window he saw an even stranger scene. He spotted a small black bear surrounded by a group of horses in his neighbor’s pasture.

As Sam left the barn to walk back to his home, he spotted a dangerous and terrifying sight – on the other side of the fence there was a full grown African Lion looking back at him.

This was the beginning of the infamous exotic animal escape in Zanesville, Ohio. It began with Terry Thompson, an owner of many exotic animals, releasing his animals to terrorize the Zanesville area before taking his own life. Terry released 18 tigers, 17 lions, 8 bears, 3 cougars, 2 wolves, and 1 baboon.

Imagine for a moment you lived in Zanesville and received a notification that there were hungry lions and tigers on the loose. If it was me, I would quickly make sure my family is inside my home and keep my focus outside so that if I spotted one I could warn others of the danger.

This is the type of mindset Peter is encouraging us to have at the end of 1 Peter. He is writing to Christians experiencing immense and unjust suffering as a result of their faith in Jesus. In order to encourage them to stay strong in the faith, he pens a small but powerful letter. He closes this letter with a lion warning:

1 Peter 5:8-9
Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.

In this passage, Peter shares with us two ways to survive a lion attack. First, we must remain vigilant and second we must learn how to fight.

1. Remain Vigilant
If you have ever watched an animal documentary, there are two things you will notice about the tactics lions use to attack their prey. First, they are most successful when they attack under the cover of darkness. They can quietly sneak up on the prey, pounce on it, and then suffocate it by gripping around its throat with their teeth.

In a similar way, this ancient lion often attacks when we are experiencing the darkness of suffering. He attacks our faith and encourages us to walk away from God when we go through the shattering effects of divorce or the shame-inducing experience of unemployment. When we are walking through the darkness, we must stay close to Jesus and focus on His Word rather than the lies of the enemy.

Second, lions never attack an entire herd of animals all at once. Instead, they pursue the weaker animal that gets separated from the rest. When the animal is separated, it becomes ideal prey for the lion.

Likewise, one of Satan’s tactics in our suffering is to separate us from the people of God by giving us a myriad of excuses why we do not need to be committed to a local church. The moment you disconnect from the local church is the moment you become ideal prey for the enemy to consume. When we experience the darkness of suffering our natural reaction is to isolate ourselves and avoid community – that is the absolute worst thing we can do. The Church is called to be a hospital for sick people; recognizing your sickness is the precise moment you need to run to the church body for help, healing, and encouragement!

2. Learn to Fight
Peter says it this way, “Resist him, firm in the faith…” What does Peter mean when he commands us to resist Satan? Well, if we keep in mind the lion imagery, one of the worst things you can do if you are attacked by a lion is turn your back and run! The natural instinct of all cats (even your house cat) is to pursue people and prey when their back is turned. It’s important that Peter does not tell us to run from Satan or to pretend as if he doesn’t exist. Instead, he says to resist him and remain firm in the apostolic faith.

So… HOW do we resist him?

Roughly 30 years before Peter wrote this letter, we see a battle between two lions in the Scriptures – the Lion of Judah and the Lion of this World (see Matthew 4). Immediately after Jesus’ baptism he is thrust into the wilderness to battle with Satan for a period of 40 days. Each of Satan’s temptations is an encouragement for Jesus to become self-dependent and achieve the glory of the Resurrection without the brutality of the cross. If anyone could stand toe-to-toe with Satan by his own authority, it would have been Jesus.

Nevertheless, do you remember how Jesus responds to each of these temptations?

It. Is. Written.

Jesus resists the Lion of this World by meditating on and quoting the Scriptures (specifically, the book of Deuteronomy). Elsewhere, the Bible is referred to as the Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17) by which we fight against the spiritual forces of darkness in this world. The reason so many of us have disconnected from the local church and fallen prey to the enemy is because very few of us study the Scriptures on a daily basis. The only time many American Christians open the Bible is on Sunday morning and the vast majority of the pulpits across our country preach malnourished messages full of life-tips and empty of sound doctrine and real teaching.

Hearing the teaching of the Bible one day a week and expecting it to sustain you is like having one meal the entire week and hoping it will give you enough energy for the other 6 days. It is foolish and will leave you malnourished or dead. Likewise, refusing to study the Scriptures on a regular basis will leave you spiritually malnourished and ideal prey for the enemy of your soul.

You have an enemy who is hunting you.

He hides under the cover of suffering and seeks to separate you from God’s people. Learn to fight against Him by being so consumed with Scripture and the message of the Gospel that it flows out of you in your marriage, your parenting, your friendships, your workplace, and your community. It is time to reject the Americanized version of Christianity where we sit and listen for one hour a week. Instead, let’s pursue the radical discipleship that is evident throughout all of the New Testament.

It is through the words of God (the Bible) that we encounter the Word of God (Jesus). It is through the Word of God (Jesus) that we experience the work of God (salvation and sanctification). 

Research… Dissertation… Transformation

books

It has been awhile since I have written a blog post. In the last month alone we have moved into a new home and welcomed a new baby into the world. In the midst of all this (good) busyness, I took a 2-month leave from my doctoral work at Sioux Falls Seminary. Now that things are moving towards a new normal and I am able to focus on some long-term goals, I am back to working on my doctoral work.

As many of you know, the purpose of my current study is creating a vision for small church pastoral ministry that is biblically sound, historically faithful, and practically helpful. A vision of ministry that defines success by faithfulness to God and formation by His Spirit rather than the false success of higher attendance, bigger budgets, and better branding. It is my attempt to speak into the lives of pastors who are serving in small churches and wrestling with the overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, failure, and depression due to the “smallness” of their call.

Truthfully, it’s me wrestling with my own soul and pointing myself to the Gospel and the person of Jesus – in the hope that another pastor out there will find encouragement and friendship through this journey of ministry.

As part of this process, I will be documenting much of my learning and reflections here on my personal blog. The first part of this will be a lot of academic research and interviews with various people who follow the Rule of St. Benedict; my goal is to learn how the ancient monastic rule can breathe new life into our ministries in the 21st century (in a way that is relevant and practical – not just nerdy). This will culminate in me creating a “Rule” or curriculum for pastoral ministry and spiritual formation for pastors in small churches.

The second part of this project will be creating a cohort of small church pastors who I can journey with for about a year. This cohort will study the Rule of St. Benedict and ancient spiritual formation alongside of me; seeking to apply the principles to each of our ministry contexts. I will be measuring the spiritual, physical, and emotional health of each of these pastors at the following times: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 8 months, 10 months, and 12 months. Our hope is that we would see an increase in health for these pastors’ ministries and families as a result of this process.

Eventually, all of this will be detailed into a dissertation that will eventually earn me my Doctorate (hopefully this will all be done within the next 3 years). Finally, I am hoping this research and dissertation – alongside of my mentors at Sioux Falls Seminary – will connect me with a publisher (such as IV Press) to write a book and curriculum that will be academically strong and practically relevant to encourage small church pastors in their ministries.

I have a lot of work ahead of me so I want to close this post with a quote from the Rule of St. Benedict and strive to live accordingly:

“And first of all, whatever good work you begin to do, beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it…”

I am asking all of you to join me in prayer. If you keep a regular list of prayer requests, please pray for the wisdom, discernment, and strength I need to complete this project for God’s glory and the good of His Church. Thank you!

 

Renovation Church – Membership Meeting Agenda

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Tomorrow (Tuesday, August 13th) we are holding our next “Membership Meeting” for Renovation Church at O So Good in Garretson. This is not a business meeting and it is not a vision casting meeting; it is a time for us to prayerfully discern the direction and leadership of the Holy Spirit in our church.

This meeting is open to ANYONE who regularly attends or supports Renovation Church. The agenda consists almost entirely of discussion questions. If you are coming to the meeting, I urge you to seriously pray through these questions, listen to the Holy Spirit, and come to the meeting ready to share your thoughts. The agenda for this meeting is below:

Membership Meeting
Tuesday, August 13th – 6:30pm – 8:00pm
O So Good – Garretson, SD

Focus of our church this Fall, Winter, and Spring
1. Rooted in the Word (Col. 3:16)
2. Empowered by the Spirit (Acts 1:4-8)
3. Centered on Christ (Col. 1:15-20)

Discussion Questions:
Rooted in the Word
Practically, what does it look like for a church to be rooted in the Bible? What does it look like when a church is NOT rooted in the Bible?

What are some unique resources/training we can offer to people to help them better understand how to read, understand, and apply the Bible to their lives? Do you have an interest in being a “mentor” to new Christians?

What are some biblical concepts that you find especially difficult to understand that we can address either on a Sunday morning or through another resource?

What do you find most difficult about rooting your own life in the Bible? How can the church come alongside of you – not from a place of condemnation – but rather from a place of encouragement and accountability?

Empowered by the Spirit
What are some pictures that come to mind when you think of the following terms – “Holy Spirit” “Living in the Spirit” “Baptism in the Spirit” and “Spiritual Gifts” – why do you think these images come to mind?

What are some questions you have about the ministry of the Holy Spirit? How can we address these questions (or concerns) during our Sunday morning service or a resource offered at a different time?

It is clear that many churches in the Western world lack the power of the Holy Spirit. How can we as a church come to a place where we depend in greater measure on the leading of the Spirit rather than our well-developed plans and strategies?

One of the emphasis in Scripture when it comes to the Holy Spirit is prayer. A praying church is a powerful church. What does it look like to be a “praying church”? How can we make prayer a priority in our church this Fall?

Those who live according to the Holy Spirit are constantly making disciples. What does it mean to “make disciples” in our everyday lives? How can we as a church better help our members make disciples who make disciples?

What are some resources, books, retreats, or other resources we can offer people to help them develop a life in the Spirit and in prayer with God?

Centered on Christ
What does it look like to be a church centered on Christ? What are some other things/people/agendas that churches can be side-tracked by? How can we avoid these traps?

Practically, what are some ways we can center Renovation Church more on Jesus rather than on Tyler?

One of my (Tyler) weaknesses is leadership development and taking on too many things. What does it look like for our church to develop godly and mature leaders? Can you think of anyone in our congregation who might make a good spiritual leader to oversee a ministry area?

A large part of being centered on Christ is having a healthy membership structure where members themselves are living in such a way that their lives are centered on Christ. How can we improve accountability/encouragement for those who are members in Renovation Church?

Another aspect of being centered on Christ is doing more by doing less. Is our church adding “busyness” to the calendars of those in our congregation? How can we help people understand that God is more concerned about who they are becoming rather than what they are doing?

Summary Question:
Are there any other questions we can use to guide our church in being rooted in the Word, empowered by the Spirit, and centered on Christ?

(P.S. – If you are unable to make the meeting, feel free to message or e-mail me your thoughts!) 

 

 

 

 

It’s Not About You

devilsgulch

Credit: Charlie Wilson (http://charleslwilson.smugmug.com)

A few weeks ago, I took my daughter Ava (who is 2) to Devil’s Gulch in Garretson for the first time. For those unfamiliar with Devil’s Gulch, it is a hiking destination filled with many imposing and jagged cliffs. It is both a beautiful and yet exceedingly dangerous place – especially for a Toddler. As we entered the park and began to hike through the tall grass and pass over the famous metal bridge, I instructed Ava to hold onto my hand. I explained to her that the cliffs were dangerous and if she were to fall from the side, she would be seriously injured.

Thankfully Ava listened to me as we explored the different areas of Devil’s Gulch but here’s the thing – she could not have fallen off a cliff even if she wanted to. Ava may have been gripping my hand but I was clinging to her entire arm. If she left go of my hand and tried to fly off the cliff (as Toddlers sometimes believe they are birds); I would have simply pulled her back to myself.

Ava’s safety was not found in her holding onto me but instead in the fact that I was holding onto her.

This is a picture of our relationship with God.

Many Christians fearfully ask the question, “Is it possible to lose my salvation?” If your salvation was based on your effort and righteousness, the answer would be a resounding yes. If your spiritual safety is rooted in you gripping the hand of God with all your might, the answer is surely yes. You do not have the strength to endure the storms of life through your will power or spiritual vigor. But here’s the thing – your salvation is not based on your effort, righteousness, or spiritual vitality. It is the gift of God you receive by faith. Salvation from your sin, the devil, and the world is based on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in your place – not your religious works.

In John 10, Jesus is using a metaphor of sheep and shepherds to explain his relationship with those who follow Him. This teaching left the crowd divided; some believed Jesus was more than a mere religious teacher while others accused him of being possessed by demons. Rather than appealing to logic to try and convince the unbelievers in the crowd to give him a chance, this is what he says –

“The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. 26 But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.” (John 10:25-30).

As you begin your Monday, here are a few incredible realities to ponder based on this passage:

  1. If you are a Christian, it is Jesus who has given you eternal life; not your effort to follow Him (“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.”)
  2. If you are a Christian, no one can snatch you away from Jesus; not even your own actions (“No one can snatch them away from me…”)
  3. The beauty of the Gospel is that God is holding onto you; not the other way around (“No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”)

Friends, rest in Jesus today. Quit trying to perform to earn God’s favor or nervously seeking to establish your own righteousness. Instead, find your peace in the reality that your salvation has been accomplished through Jesus on the cross. Listen to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to transform your thoughts, attitudes, and actions to look more like Jesus. It’s not about you; it’s about Him working through you.

 

 

My Schedule for a Day Long Retreat

Chair on Dock at Alice Lake in Late Afternoon

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to lead my first ever spiritual retreat. Many retreats and conferences consist of sitting in a large room with other people and listening to spiritual or business leaders give presentation after presentation; to be honest, it can be exhausting.

Instead, I decided to pattern the retreat from Mary’s posture when she sat at the feet of Jesus and simply listened to His teaching (Luke 10:38-42). Our day was structured around connecting with God through Scripture, silence, prayer, and nature. As one of the people who joined me said, “God whispers through nature, talks through His Word, and shouts in our circumstances.”

Below is the schedule and information I created for those who joined me on the retreat. I pray you find it helpful and possibly encourages you to embark on your own retreat so that you can practice the discipline of solitude and silence to hear God’s voice more clearly.


MEETING LOCATION:

As soon as you enter into the State Park, directly in front of the entrance, you will see a picnic shelter and various tables. This will be our designation meeting location. Please be there by 8am.

RETREAT SCHEDULE:
(8am – 5pm)

 8am:
– Meet at Palisades State Park
– Welcome
– Short Teaching
– Morning Prayer

9am:
– Meditation Walk/Hike
One of the “spiritual disciplines” we can practice to connect with God is to slow down and be truly present to what is around you. Go on a walk or hike around the state park with no agenda. Listen to the sounds of nature and pay careful attention to the trees, flowers, grass, and insects that you see. What does the created world teach you about the Creator? Write down a few observations in your journal.

10am:
– Centering Prayer & Meditation on Scripture
Find a place to sit down at the park – it could be on a bench, a picnic table, or even on the ground. Focus on your breathing and seek to be still in the presence of God. As you do this, meditate on 1 Kings 19:1-13. In this passage, Elijah has reached a place of exhaustion and fear – seeking to die. God reveals Himself to Elijah but only through the still small voice of a whisper. What other details do you notice about this passage? What is the significance of God speaking through a whisper?

Notice the question God asks Elijah – what are you doing here? Take a moment and write out the reason you are on this spiritual retreat. Are you exhausted? Anxious? Fearful? Why? What circumstances in your life have led you to this point? How might God be inviting you to find rest in Him during this retreat? Journal your answers.

11am:

– Spiritual Reading
Spend some time reading the book you received at the beginning of the retreat – Habits of Grace. What stands out to you from the reading? How might God be using this book to speak into your specific situation of life? What about the “spiritual disciplines” is new to you? What is a good reminder for you? Journal your observations (or continued questions) about spiritual disciplines.

12pm:
– Silence Lunch
Return to our meeting place with your lunch. We will sit down & have lunch together but we will practice a “silent lunch.” This is a monastic discipline of eating in community while seeking to be aware of nature together. During your lunch, pay attention to what is around you and how God is seeking to get your attention through nature and the meal. As you eat your food, reflect on Jesus’ death & resurrection. As the food is crunched in your mouth and as you consume your drink, remember that Jesus’ body was broken for your sin and his blood poured out for you. Receive the afternoon meal as a gift from Him.

– Afternoon Prayer
After lunch, we will slowly read a few Psalms together and pray for one another as we enter into the afternoon time.

1pm:
– Meditation on Scripture
The best way to grow in the Christian life is to read Scripture slowly, prayerfully, and out loud. Find a place in the park where you can sit down and read the Bible out loud to yourself. For this time of meditation, read through the famous “Sermon on the Mount” preached by Jesus as found in Matthew 5 – 7. What themes stick out to you? How is the Holy Spirit speaking to you through this sermon by Jesus? In what ways does this message challenge you to live differently? Journal your reflections and observations on the Sermon on the Mount.

2pm:

– Rest in God’s Presence
We have arrive at the afternoon hour of rest. Around 2pm, we often become tired and lethargic. Rather than fighting against this, spend some time “resting” your body, soul, and mind in whatever way you prefer. You can continue to read Scripture, you can read another book, you can go on a walk or a hike, you can even find a place to lay down and take a short nap in God’s presence. In order to begin your time of rest, read aloud Matthew 11:28-30 and receive Jesus’ invitation to rest in Him.

3pm:
– Reflection on the Retreat
For this final hour in solitude, reflect on the retreat today. What parts of the retreat were especially life-giving and joyful to you? What parts of the retreat were difficult? Was solitude and silence easy for you? Or was it extremely difficult?

– Three Take-Aways
Pray through Psalm 139. After praying and reflecting on this Psalm, ask the Holy Spirit to give you at least three “take a-ways” from this retreat. How is God asking you to apply ideas, themes, or principles you learned to your every day life? How can you make this type of retreat a regular occurrence in your life? How is God inviting you to sit at his feet and listen to his voice this upcoming week?

4pm:

– Meet for Sharing
We will return to our meeting place and share with one another some of the insights God has given us during this retreat. Specifically, we will share our “take-aways” we journaled about in the previous hour. How can we support, encourage, and pray for one another before we leave?

– Closing Prayer
We will close our time by reading and reflecting on Scripture together. Finally, we will pray for one another and be dismissed.

THANK YOU For Your Support

RC Cover Photo

Hey everyone!
I know that many of you who follow my blog also support the ministry of Renovation Church I just received financial statements for the first part of the year and wanted to thank you for your support and generosity.

As a church, we have been able to give over $5,000 in outreach in 2019 alone. This comes to a little more than $1,000 a month. We have been able to give to both our local community & beyond through partnerships with Simba Educational Ministries and AsOne Ministries.

We are a small church with an average attendance of 50 people (including children) in a town of 1,100 and we meet in a school each week. Nevertheless, we do not view our size or lack of a building as a handicap. Instead, we believe God has blessed us, not so we can hoard our wealth or purchase a fancy building, but rather so we can be a blessing to others & make disciples.

If you would like to partner with our church in 2019, you can give online at the link below. We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization so your gifts are tax-deductible.

Thank you!

https://renovationchurchsd.com/giving/