A big reason us leaders keep failing you. Too many of us have fans, not friends.

One of the big reasons we as Christian leaders keep failing you is simply because too many have fans, not friends.

Let’s break this down with a few questions.

How did this happen?

It’s a complex set of circumstances that can cause one to build fans rather than friendships. It’s partially the posture the leader takes towards the people, partially the posture the people take towards their leader, and even current cultural expectations play into this. I don’t want to spend my time extrapolating this current complexity other than to say I believe we have made church into entertainment centers with entertainers and there are some dangerous things that have come out of this. Back to the thought at hand.

What’s the difference between a fan and a friend?

You can bring good friends in close. You can “let down” around them. Friends can push back and the relationship isn’t easily in jeopardy. Good friends help someone feel like they aren’t alone. Friendship requires that people are transparent, real, and yet still loved and safe. Friends love you, fans love what you can do. Friends love you through your hard places, fans love you until it gets hard. 

Fans are different. They can sing your praise, but the praise is fragile. Fans need the object (I choose the word object on purpose) of their affection to constantly give them what they want, to always perform. If you miss a cue you could lose a fan. Everyone knows this deep down and it can cause incredible loneliness. Fans, even when they like you, don’t bring security and wholeness. Fans drain a leader because the leader needs to keep entertaining and impressing while they are around. 

What does this mean for the church world?

As the church has let go of its familial roots and embraced the rock star production driven ways of the modern world, we traded the pursuit of what is transparent, real and a little messy for the pursuit of a perfectly produced show. This puts church leaders in an interesting spot. They are now primarily called to become “actors” who are relatable rather than having real relationships. Being relatable to your congregation and having a real relationship with them are two very different things.

This begs a great question…

How can you help your church leaders have friends and be a friend?

Let me ask it in a more poignant way. How do you help your leader step out of the lonely modern production machines they are becoming?

I honestly wouldn’t have been able to see this unless Trinity (the church I serve in) was filled with incredible people. Your pastor will move more into a friend based on how you respond to the ways they display their humanity. Meaning, do you leave the church when your pastor accidentally cusses, or when the worship leader misses a cue or sings off key? Can he/she be human? The more you help them see that you choose to love them and not only what they produce, the more they will feel safe enough to grow in friendship. Don’t just be a fan, be a friend. Remember, just like you need a real church, a real Jesus and real Christian community to love the real you, so do they. At Trinity I have some great friends, yet even in my church some of my biggest current fans I know I am not “safe” around. One leadership mistake and they would be gone. This brings up a great question.

What about the weight of leadership and if a spiritual leader is actually in sin?

This doesn’t mean you ignore sin. It means you help them feel loved all while you deal with it. Just like you would a real friend. I am not saying you ignore their messy parts. There are a lot of wonderful Biblically centered groups that help restore people. I could be fired from my position and I truly do think my friends here would still grab coffee and love me. Some would even help me find a job. Fans flee, friends restore. This is why I love our church, not because of the organizational growth and my fans, but because of my friends. I can be truly known and still loved by them.

What about your context?

You can’t change how your leader will respond or what is currently going on in their heart, but you can take a posture of friendship. My guess is the more you show yourself as friend and not merely a fan, the more your overly polished pseudo “perfect” leader will feel safe enough to be real in turn. It won’t happen at once. Especially if the system has taught him or her that there is no room for anything but the relatable actor. It will take time, like any friendship. Maybe in this case your leader needs you to lead them. Let me say that differently. I can almost guarantee this is an area the laity needs to lead in. Why? I have coached a number of pastors over the years and I promise many think you want the spiritual “showman” and the moment they can’t put on an amazing show, you’re gone. I can’t overemphasize the weight this assumption puts on them. Modern church families feel really fragile and divorce is not only an option but a constant threat. 

I know my friends have saved my ministry multiple times over and I am grateful beyond words for ministry friends, the ones who hold me accountable and still stand by my side. It makes me want to stand by theirs too. When my ministry fans wear me out, I remember my ministry friends. I owe them more than I could ever state in a blog. Let me encourage you, as a front line lead pastor, hold your leaders accountable, speak your mind and keep standing by their side in a God honoring way. It’s those loyal people that have won my heart. It’s those people I listen closely to. It’s those people I can vent on. It’s those people who I really feel are my…friends. They know me too well to be my fans. 😉

Our lack of self awareness is killing us and driving others crazy. 

Our lack of self awareness is killing us and driving others crazy.
A maxim used by the ancient Greeks γνῶθι σεαυτόν translated is “know thyself.”  In numerous ancient writings the phrase carries the idea that without knowing who you truly are and what strengths and weaknesses you actually have, you place yourself and others in great danger. Even in the Catholic tradition they have the discipline of mortification, in which the purpose is a greater self-awareness along with seeking help and guidance so that you can pursue a right and true life before God. Dr. Timothy Keller believes that this healthy self-awareness has nearly been abandoned in modern Christianity. Think about it. Even in church we look for our truth without weighing it through the lens of other believers. The infamous phrase, “God is calling me…” has become the trump card to brush off all other spiritual wisdom and blindly move forward. The first step in “knowing yourself” is listening. Not to the echo chamber of your own will and desires played over and over again in your mind, but to others. Without real honest feedback you will work to build a world that blindly supports your blind heart. This will ultimately hurt others. Here is the question we must all ask:  Who has the right to say to us, “Nope, you’re wrong and I don’t think that is actually from God”? Who actually has the right to question your motives and cause you to pause before taking action? Who can call out your blind spots and, perhaps most importantly, who will you allow to speak into your blind spots? The first step in γνῶθι σεαυτόν is to listen with true humility. If you don’t, and the ancients are right, your blind spots pose a real danger.

Study the book of Ruth

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The book of Ruth is one of the most unique stories offered in the Bible. Why? Because God isn’t mentioned all that often and His actions are indirect. God works through others. God is uniquely “shy” in this book.  Let’s jump into the historical and contextual work that will display the unique beauty that is the book of Ruth.

Below you will find four sessions with full notes, study references, audio and video and even an option to see the whole service, including dramatic readings of the Bible and the music we selected to accompany the Scripture. I also attached a link to a 12 day devotional that accompanies the series and explores in even more depth how the ancient world speaks to our modern context.

First: The Devotional

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Click HERE or the picture to go to the Amazon.com page for the devotional: Unpack the deep meaning and symbolism found in the book of Ruth. I’ll pull together some of the best concepts from top scholars into a simple 12 day devotional.

Second: The Series

Session 1: Let’s unpack the history and attributes that make Ruth unique.  Click the link below for the video, audio and .pdf notes. You also have the option to watch the entire service including worship music selected and dramatic reading of the scriptures.

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Session 2: My wife joins me as we do a character study of the major players in this beautiful historical drama.  Click the link below for the video, audio and .pdf notes. You also have the option to watch the entire service including worship music selected and dramatic reading of the scriptures.

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Session 3: Let’s examine the life rhythms that made these people unique.  Click the link below for the video, audio and .pdf notes. You also have the option to watch the entire service including worship music selected and dramatic reading of the scriptures.

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Session 4: From total loss to beautiful fulfillment. God works in ways we often can’t see. There is a powerful key to finding wholeness… Click the link below for the video, audio and .pdf notes. You also have the option to watch the entire service including worship music selected and dramatic reading of the scriptures.

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The Potter Knows Best

-By Leslie Colaw-

I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting close to 40 and finally beginning to learn this lesson, but lately I’ve realized that I have spent most of my life trying to be a certain something, a person that I have deemed good or ideal, rather than seeking to be the best version of myself.  I have wanted to hand pick certain personality traits and make them fit me, unsuccessfully of course.  A square peg never fits in a round hole.  We can try and jam it in, but it will always fit loosely or uncomfortably.

A lot of my intentions in this have been good.  Part of my effort to do this has come from my desire to better help and serve others, and I sort of decided in my mind how I should be in order to help others or, less nobly, be liked by others.  There were people I admired that I sought to emulate (not all bad – I had some pretty good role models), and of course, there are certain traits we should all aspire to make part of who we are that do not always come naturally, like patience or generosity.  It’s more about the WAY in which I exercise these good things.  Am I allowing God to use me the way he crafted me, or am I trying to be like someone else, trying to live up to the ideal my mind has created?

If it’s the latter, I’m beginning to see how this might actually cause me to be less helpful because I am imposing a false self on others in a frantic need to be liked, admired, or useful. If I can learn to be my best self, to not impose it on others but instead withdraw in order to create space for them, it gives us both freedom and space to be ourselves.  I love how Henri Nouwen words it in “The Wounded Healer,” that I can help others be free because I am free, “free to let others enter into the space created for them and allow them to dance their own dance, sing their own song, and speak their own language without fear.  Then our presence is no longer threatening and demanding but inviting and liberating.”  I am better able to do this if I have learned to “dance my own dance.”

So how does one do this, exactly?  Learn to be the best version of oneself, or even get in touch with their authentic self? Well, I’m definitely still on that journey, and imagine it’s a lifelong one, but for me it’s been a process of self-examination (the Enneagram has played a huge part in this for me, but that’s for another blog), and the willingness to “enter into” myself, especially the places I most fear, the places of pain and, well, dysfunction.  The process of accepting ourselves means facing all of it, including the places we are ashamed of.   We all have those places, and if I have had the courage to go there myself, I can help others do so as well.  When we go there with Christ, we need not fear, because he meets us there with tender love and compassion.  We can face who we are when we know there is already one who fully knows us and deeply loves us.  If he already dwells in my innermost being, I need not fear entering it.  I can try to hide it or hide from it, like Adam and Eve in the garden, but it is not hidden from him.  Here, at the intersection of his love and my broken self, my true identity can begin to emerge.

Why is it so hard to accept who we are?  We all have things we don’t like about ourselves, weaknesses or flaws we’d give anything to be rid of.  Isaiah 45:9 says, “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’”  God has created us each so uniquely and purposefully. We aren’t meant to be the same as any other pot.  If he has chosen to make me a certain way, or allows certain things to happen to me, so be it.  It is better to yield to the Potter’s hands, accepting the way he made me and allowing him to continue shaping me however he sees fit.  His artistic style is perfect…he does not make mistakes and always produces something good and beautiful.

If I live my life from this perspective then I can begin to face who I am, the measure of myself that has been crafted through personality, experiences, hurts, victories, relationships. Once I face it, I can begin to work on accepting it and living into it more fully and authentically, and even grow beyond it.  I might as well.  Trying to be something other than who I am doesn’t really work, or can only take me so far. I can be of more service to this world and the people around me if I learn to be and do and live from my authentic self.

Let me give an example. As a Christian, I am called to extend hospitality to others.  I used to see good hospitality as being someone who loves to have people over to my house, spending hours making a delicious meal with a perfectly set table, ready to entertain with sparkling conversation and a smile on my face throughout the entire process.  If I haven’t done this, then I’ve failed at hospitality.  Well, I know people for whom this does seem to be their authentic expression of hospitality (at least it seems that way), and God bless ‘em, they bless me in their doing!  But that is not me.  I can try and force that, but frankly I’ll be miserable and a ball of stress (just ask my husband).  I’ve begun to realize that for me, expressing hospitality looks more like being a good listener, being fully present and comfortable with someone who is hurting or in pain, giving my time and full attention.  That is what comes naturally for me.  I can and certainly should practice other methods of hospitality.  I believe it’s good to stretch myself, and I do open my home to others in my own more relaxed version of entertaining.  But I want to be able to uncover what my natural strengths are, operating primarily out of those to most benefit others.

The Bible illustrates this truth in talking about the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12, how we are all many parts of one body, each given different gifts for the good of the whole body.  Vs. 15-16 says, If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.”  Here again we have an example of those who resist the way they’re crafted, the gifts they’ve been given, wishing instead to be made differently than they are.

There’s another almost opposing side to this idea.  God loves and accepts us as we are, yes, but he doesn’t leave us as we are.  Sometimes the shaping process can lead to doing things that at first feel unnatural or foreign.  Let me be really clear: when I talk about being your authentic self, I don’t mean follow your heart, or do what feels right, or be who you want to be.  It goes way beyond that.  The pot has to yield to the potter.  While this does mean accepting and operating in the way he’s made us, another important part of this process involves letting go and allowing him to shape us, and this is often not pretty or pleasant.  It can be downright painful.  It may mean letting go of something that feels precious or even sacred.  It may mean losing something that feels like part of your identity.  When we follow Christ, we are called to put off the old and put on the new, to die to the old self and find a new identity in Christ. Keeping with the analogy of a pot and potter, think of what clay goes through before it becomes a beautiful pot! There is pounding, kneading, shaping, cutting, firing, grinding.  But the end result is beautiful and worth it.  It is simply a matter of the clay trusting and yielding to the very capable and loving hands of the potter.

The great paradox in Christ is that when we fully give ourselves up to him and yield to his shaping hands, he takes who we are and makes it more, makes us better.  We may even see new gifts and strengths come to life.  One of the most amazing things he does is bring good from our pain, if we’re willing to trust him with it.   He came to give us life to the full and he does not make mistakes.  Every scar, every blemish he artfully adds to the masterpiece of each life with it’s own unique design.  Because of this hope-filled truth, I can more readily accept who I am, trusting him with the process of being made new.

Why don’t we see revival and miracles like they do in other countries? An Interview with a foreign church planter.

Why don’t we see revival and miracles like they do in other countries?

Let’s ask a church planter from one of those countries, one who has seen miracles and moves of God most of us only dream of. One who has now lived in the United States nearly two years and believes he can see the difference.

I have the honor of working in a fairly diverse ministry.

Could we do better? Yes, always, but we are moving in a good direction.

One of the benefits of diversity is increased perspective. With every conversation the world gets a little smaller as my understanding of Christianity around the word grows bigger. There are some amazing moves of God happening, especially in countries that are closed to Christianity.

One of the big questions I have had bouncing around in my head over the last few years is simply this. “Why not revival and miracles in America?”*

Well one benefit of a diverse ministry and staff is I can ask people who have experienced true miracles firsthand, as well as revival and church planting around the world. Our conversation was so good and personally challenging I decided to record it.

I’ll sum it up, but you absolutely should watch the 5 minute clip I pulled out of the interview below.

Deep within our noble and right value of freedom the enemy has placed the dangerous “Trojan Horse” of individualism and superiority.

We are all now an army of Martin Luthers all constantly proclaiming our own version of the “95 theses” against the church and other Christians, thus creating an ethos of constant rebellion, or if you are the one fired up, constant purification. It’s not that you (or I) are always wrong, but the cowboy, draw a line in the sand, put your dukes up way we approach our differences just might be. Every discovered imperfection is now an insurmountable barrier to unity.

Even church leaders are guilty of this.

Many new ministries and churches planted are not really passionate moves of God, they are rebellious actions against something disliked or someone really wanting to be known and famous. They are really doing something new because they want to stand out. What if God knew motive? What if God actually blessed motive? Let me say that again. God knows motive. Real revival (not manufactured or marketed exaggeration) comes to actual humility before God and love for His people. I confess! I am guilty of this at times. My relationships with our global pastors is helping save my soul.

This amazing underground church planter who has seen revival, healings and moves of God says the answer is… you won’t like it…. I didn’t either… submission. A heart of unity and charitable love is desperately needed in the church.

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” -Jesus (John 13:35 KJV)

*There have been research projects supporting these claims made by missionaries. One of the best summaries of them is Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Miracles.

A Quinceañera devotional

A Quinceañera devotional

I want to offer you three statements that will not only help you become truly beautiful, they will help you make everything you connect with more beautiful too.  If you live into them, you will birth a powerful identity that will carry you far beyond this world.  I have three scriptures that go along with each of them. Here are the statements.

  1. Be secure as a woman.
  2. Be courageous as a woman.
  3. Be loved as a woman.

Be secure as a woman:

It’s really easy to feel lost. There will be so many different things that will try to convince you that they can be your compass. I want to encourage you to lock into a time transcendent anchor.

Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

People often overly rate their spiritual health by their current emotional health. I want to challenge you to choose to trust God even on days where you may not feel good or feel like trusting Him. Put your anchor in God who is much stronger and more secure than your shifting emotions.

Philippians 4:6-7 ESV Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Continuing with the idea of emotions I want to challenge you to think about where you place them. When you are scared where do you go? When you are mad where will you turn? When you are lonely to whom will you turn? When you are anxious where will you look for direction? Turn to Christ, turn to God.

Proverbs 31:25-29 ESV Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

As you practice making Christ the central driving force for making decisions and the place where you turn when you feel lost, you will gain a profound strength. You are only as strong and secure as the things you trust in and nothing is stronger or more secure than God.

Be courageous as a woman.

We need powerful leaders in men and women. Today I am calling out the courageous leader in you. This only works based on the security laid out above, but in that security you can change the world for good.

1 Timothy 4:12 ESV Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

With Christ as your compass and the place of your trust, set an example for not only your peers but the adults around you too.

Romans 5:1-3 ESV Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Do not walk in shame. Your worth is immeasurable. God gave His son to adopt you into His family. Be brave, be bold, daughter of the King.

Isaiah 41:10 ESV Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Let me say it again. Be brave, be bold, daughter of the King. How? With your family, the Family of God standing by you.  As you fight temptation and distraction, as you fight to help others caught by temptation and distraction, be brave.

Be Loved as a woman:

Romans 8:28 ESV And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

You do not have the ability to understand as the Father does, but you do have His heart. When you are confused, remember: you are loved and in the end God will make all things right and fair. Trust your heavenly Father.

Psalm 139:14 ESV I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

You are not only the daughter of the King, you were made by him and for a purpose. You are wanted.

Ephesians 2:10 ESV For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

This is one of my favorite verses. You are still in process. You are still being formed. When this life feels like a workout it’s because it is. You are being formed right now. You are being made into something even more beautiful.

Final Thoughts:

Your best is yet to come. I believe it, but even more important, God believes in you. Walk in His promises and you won’t only be truly beautiful, you will make everything you connect with more beautiful too.

Mary’s Desire

By Leslie Colaw

Have you ever had a really hard time letting go of something?  Like face on the floor, gut wrenching, ugly cry kind of hard?  Maybe you lost someone you love, or someone you loved left you.  Maybe the future you once envisioned is seeming less and less likely.  Perhaps a lifelong dream got crushed, or physical challenges limit you from doing the things you love.  Maybe there is something in your life you know God wants you to let go, but you just can’t seem to muster the faith.

Letting go can be really hard.  We make plans or place our hope in things or people we think will always be there, and suddenly they’re not.  We’re left feeling empty and disoriented.  It can even feel like a bit of our identity has been lost.  Sometimes God moves us in a direction where we begin to sense it will mean letting go of something precious to us, or maybe something comfortable and familiar, and we cling to it, our tightly clenched fists raised to the heavens, pleading for another way, hoping to walk through a door that we already know has been shut.

If this is our posture, oh how much we risk missing out on!

We look to the story of Mary, mother of Jesus, one called to a task that required her to let go of the life she had planned.  “And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God’” (Luke 1:30).  Usually our idea of God’s favor means an easy life – wealth, prosperity, the love of the masses.  What we learn from Mary’s story, however, is God’s favor meant a great and noble calling, yes, but also loss of all that was familiar, public humiliation, and heartbreak.  As Simeon said to her in Luke 2:35, “a sword will pierce through your own soul.”

When the angel appeared to her, we would assume she had questions, wondering how people would respond when her belly started growing, Joseph in particular.  In those days an illegitimate pregnancy was major scandal, punishable by death.  But what was her response?  “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Let it be to me…

Mary’s response reveals her humility and desire.  She received her task with humility, fully submitting to and embracing God’s plan.   Her words also indicate an expression of desire, not the indication of doubt.  She desired God to do a great work, and trusted he would do it.  She goes on to say, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior..for he who is mighty has done great things for me” (Luke 1:46-49).  This does not carry a tone of doubt, fear, or hesitation.  She only looks back to remember the great things God has done and looks ahead with desire and anticipation for what he will continue to do.

She understood that what was being asked of her led to something good because she recognized the one asking as the Giver of all good things, the one who satisfies the desires of those who fear him.

Recently I was having a difficult time with letting go.  One day I was struggling with it in prayer and I asked God to speak a word to me.  After waiting a few moments, I heard him speak…

“Embrace.”

I knew instantly this was a word from him, and I knew what he was saying to me: “Instead of focusing on what you are letting go, embrace what is in front of you.”  Notice he didn’t say, “Let it go.”  He said “Embrace.”  He was urging me to stop looking behind and instead look to what was ahead.  To stop trying to hold on so I could fully embrace what was being held out to me, to move forward with desire…because he always leads us to something better.

When we understand this, when we really believe it, the pain of letting go is eased…because we realize we are letting go of something in order to free our arms to embrace something more.

Sometimes we are so consumed with things not going according to our wishes that we lose sight of God’s promises.  Our wishes are very limiting.  If we try and dictate how our lives should go we eliminate the extraordinary possibilities that could be accomplished when we fully embrace the work of God.

This is when something really new, something beyond our expectations can happen.

That’s what Mary did. She fully embraced the calling God placed on her even though the future was uncertain.  She didn’t ask a bunch of questions, needing to know how it would all play out.  God’s favor on her life led her to some places she probably would have preferred not to go.  Who wants to see their beloved child die a public, gruesome death?  But her willingness played a part in the redemption of the whole world…and I’m sure God exceeded her expectations when she learned her son was brought back from the dead in order to free her once and for all from the bondage of sin and death.

Mary teaches us it’s not about us or our wishes.  It’s not about how we would prefer things to go.  “I am the servant of the Lord,” Mary said.  “Let it be to me according to your word.”  In other words, let it be to me according to HIS wishes, HIS design, HIS plan.  I willingly let go of what is familiar and safe, of what I believe will make me most happy and fulfilled.  Not out of duty but desire; not just because that’s what I should do, but because I really believe his plan is better!! I am optimistic because he is a God that always exceeds expectations, always delivers on his promises.

“Embrace.”

We can rest assured God will always enable us to accomplish his purposes, however daunting the task ahead may seem.  Mary asked the angel how it would be possible that she, a virgin, could conceive a child. The angel’s response to her tells us all how God will accomplish his purpose through us: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).

What a promise.  I would rather see God’s power work in me according to His promises than grant me my wishes.  As I trust Him with this, the more I will see Him exceed my expectations, and the more likely I will be to readily respond as Mary did: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.  Let it be to me according to your word.”

Simplest marriage advice you’ll ever hear…

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Kids Discipleship Resources

Discipling kids isn’t easy! Thanks to busy lives, constantly changing children, and the added challenge of children at very different stages of maturity if you’re like us, discipling them can feel nearly impossible. You are not alone in facing this complexity.  Here are three quick videos sharing our weekly routine for discipling our four kids (ages 2-Highschool) as well as the books and resources we are currently using.

Here’s the list of books we like mentioned in the final video and where to find them!  Ages are just a recommendation, give or take a year or two depending on the kid.

  • The Jesus Storybook Bible for ages 4-8:  This is a great devotional for kids, even adults can get something out of this!  The illustrations are wonderful and each story points to Jesus.
  • The Adventure Bible for ages 9-12:  A great first “real Bible” for kids.  Includes illustrations and extras to help kids understand the stories better.
  • The Action Bible for ages 9-12:  This is more of a comic book style.  Our son LOVED this Bible, and we love it too.  He asked some great questions and got a lot out of the stories.  Engaging for girls or boys!
  • ESV Student Study Bible for ages 12-18:  This is just one option, lots of design covers to choose from.  Great Bible for students, we like ESV version.
  • For any of the Bible reading plans and journals (we have these available with reading plans for ages 1st grade through adult) contact Leslie at lcolaw@encountertrinity.com.
Finally;

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The Power of Vulnerability

By Leslie Colaw

Think of the most vulnerable places in your heart.  The weak spots, the deepest wounds you carry.  Our instinct most often is to guard and conceal those places.  We don’t like feeling weak and vulnerable.  It’s uncomfortable.  It’s scary.  Revealing our weakness feels risky.  The reality is many of us have experienced pain as a result of our vulnerability.

A few months ago I was watching a Ted Talk called “The Power of Vulnerability” with Brené Brown.  Really interesting, I recommend watching.  Here’s the gist…Brené, a qualitative researcher, was working to uncover what it is that allows people to find a strong sense of belonging and connection.  In other words, what do people with fulfilling relationships have in common?  After six years of research and thousands of interviews, what her findings came down to was this – vulnerability.

People with real, authentic connection in their relationships fully embraced vulnerability.  They saw it as necessary

I like her definition of vulnerability – she says it is the willingness to be seen.  She shares openly about her reaction to this finding.  She didn’t like it.  She didn’t want to accept it.  She wanted to believe she could outsmart vulnerability.  Like many of us, she was uncomfortable with the idea that it is necessary, but she couldn’t deny what the research was saying.


A thought struck me as I was watching.  This was not a Christian research project, there is nothing to indicate that Brené herself is a Christian, but what stood out to me was the parallel between this concept of the power of vulnerability and the Biblical story.  When we think of the way Jesus came to us, as a tiny human baby, born in a barn to a very ordinary young couple, we realize how vulnerable he made himself.  Through the life of Jesus, God allowed himself to be seen.  This display of vulnerability is a necessary component in God’s story.

This is incredibly powerful.  Because Jesus made himself vulnerable it means he can sympathize with us.  

He understands weakness, knows what it is to wear human flesh.  Hebrews tells us he is able to sympathize with us because he suffered (Heb. 2:18) and was tempted in every way we are (Heb. 4:15).  Because of this, in him we find mercy and grace. We can approach him without trepidation because we know he looks on us with compassion.  He understands what we wrestle with!  In fact, he understands temptation like none other.  In the words of C.S. Lewis,  Jesus “was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means – the only complete realist.”  Never can we say to him, “You don’t understand!”

Bring to mind again those deep wounds you carry.  When you encounter someone with similar wounds, someone walking the same difficult road that you have walked, are you not stirred to compassion?  Is it not your desire to help and encourage them?  Jesus has this same heart for us.  Because he has walked the same road we walk, he is able to look on us with tender compassion and understanding.  He too has experienced pain as a result of being vulnerable.


Hebrews 5 talks about the role of a high priest, which in the Old Testament was one appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God.  A high priest was able to deal gently with the wayward because of his own weakness, and he was obligated to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as for the people.  Jesus is the ultimate High Priest.  Only, in him, there is no sin, and he was under no obligation to offer a sacrifice. He MADE himself weak, he CHOSE to offer sacrifice on our behalf.  God appointed him, and he went willingly.  He did not exalt himself to be made high priest (Heb. 5:5), he humbled himself as the sacrificial lamb.  Not only did he offer the sacrifice for our sins as a high priest does, he BECAME the sacrifice.  He is the only High Priest who could do this because he is the only one who is perfect, and he was made perfect through suffering (Heb 2:10).

Because he is without sin, he is our source of salvation, and because of his suffering, he is also our source of mercy

We tend to picture him as one who looks down on us with disappointment.  We should rather think of him as one who looks eye to eye with us and says, “I get it.”  This is why we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Heb 4:16). He is both our perfect Savior and sympathizing friend. 


As we learn from Brené’s research findings, vulnerability is the key to human connection.

The vulnerability of Christ is also the key to our connection with God

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers for us. In his period of human weakness, he interceded for us and was heard because of his obedience (Heb. 5:7).  He still continues to do this today and will ultimately do so on our behalf when we stand before God.  Because of his obedience and willingness to be vulnerable he serves as our connection, our bridge to God.  He is our connecting point.


What does this mean for us and how we live?  How does vulnerability become powerful in us?  We do not like our vulnerability, our weakness.  We mask it, we run from it, we plead with God to remove it.

We want his power to work in us without the weakness.  But that’s not how it works.  Apparently, not even for his own Son.

So we look to the example of the Son.  We must be willing to take on weakness, to embrace vulnerability, to see it as necessary.  In this way God’s power will be made perfect in us.  In this way we can sympathize with others in their weakness.  If we allow ourselves to be seen, we can experience real connection, with others and with God.  We can even be a source of connection between others and God, just as Christ is.

While transparency is essential, embracing vulnerability does not necessarily mean revealing all our flaws to everyone.  It is more about seeing our weakness from a new perspective.

It is willingly accepting weakness so that God’s power can be made visible through us.  So that HE can be seen.

We want God to use us in a powerful way, but we don’t want to have to operate out of a place of weakness.  But this is exactly what Jesus did.  He took on vulnerability, allowed himself to be made weak so that the power of God would be made manifest through him.


So let your weakness shine. Remove the mask, let the walls fall down, allow yourself to be seen.  May your life serve as a connecting point between others and God.  Embrace the power of vulnerability.