Recent Thoughts

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's all about me, Lord!

It has been a while since I have put pen on paper (or better said finger on keyboard) to jot down my personal thoughts. I guess I did not have much to say. Who would have thought that during this past year that I have read the most, studied the most about a zillion things and written the most for academic purposes I would not have anything to say to myself or to others? Was my mind numb? Was the information not sinking in?. Indeed it took me by surprise.

But again, here I am. I have opened my computer, resisted to check my email, struggled to fight the urge of knowing what is the latest news on Apple products and rushed quickly to greet my big old friend the elephant who always helps me remember the words that fly out of my mind.

The possibility of not having anything to say or process about scripture and its self-application never popped in the minds of the men known as the Puritans. One of the greatest traits of the Puritans was their ability to apply expository preaching not to others but to themselves during their personal time with God. Leadership expert Dee Hock suggests that self-leadership needs to occupy 50 percent of a leader’s time and long time before Hock, these guys knew exactly what they were doing. Leaders are called to nurture and care for themselves, refocusing their eyes and hearts to their original purpose and continually evaluating their walk with God. I am far from being a full fledged leader and probably the few who read this feel the same way, but this sounds like something we should be doing right?

I had the following note written down in my computer:

"When challenges arise and decisions need to be made, no amount of personal insight or energy can make up for not knowing Scripture."

I'm not sure how I got this and I'm still not certain if I can claim this my own (probably not… it sounds too good) but it helped me connect some dots regarding self-leadership. First of all, when I think about leadership I immediately think about two things, decision making and crisis control, and this quote covers both. I guess an excelling leader is known for handling both of these in an elegant and efficient way. Crisis management and decision making are like the two edges of a sword that well gripped will help produce a solid path to victory. Firm resolves help a leader cut sharply through the clutter of options, variables and the increasing blurred lines between truth and relatives. Trials and unexpected challenges help the leader cut the fat and laziness produced by predictability and over planning. This is dot number one.

Going back to our mysteriously conceived quote, we see that no matter what amount of personal insight, energy or, might we say, drive, a leader has it will never make up for not knowing Scripture. The interesting word here is personal. We still need insight, we still need drive and energy so where do we get it from?

To start, the bible has one entire book dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom. Here are snippets from Proverbs 4:1-11:

"Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention…. Do not forsake my teaching…. Get wisdom, get understanding…. Do not forsake wisdom…. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost you all you have, get understanding…. Accept what I say…. I guide you in the way of wisdom."

And on Proverbs 3:13-14:

"Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding,for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold."

Alright, knowing now that wisdom is important how do we attain it? Here is an answer from our Lord through James 1:5:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

God also tells us through James 3:17:

"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere."

So no amount of personal energy and knowledge will suffice because it is not meant to. As we lead others into new grounds, as we share with others our vision and as we invite them to walk with us, self-leadership must be the first tool we carry with us… it should be what we use to sharpen the sword of crisis management and decision making. And what is the material that makes up this sharpening tool? Scripture, the word of God. We sharpen our noble sword when we know scripture, when we pray when we meditate and when we teach it to ourselves through expository self-preaching.

In Psalm 32:8, God as a loving father tells us "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye."

There it is, dot number two.

Now I know why it is so awesome for me to write these things down. As I go through these verses and as I elaborate a structure of ideas, I am preaching to myself… surely not in any degree as the great Puritans but in my own rudimentary way. So there it is, I am selfish and I am actually doing all this for me… but you know what? As I do this for myself I end up being more able and capable of serving you all… Thinking back to Dee Hock's comment about spending 50% of my time leading myself I probably invest 60% or more on me, but doing the wrong things and nurturing the wrong attitudes, desires and pleasures… that definitely needs to change, and in the power of My Savior I will, by His grace and mercy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We Press On Toward The Goal

A Vision For Ministry

“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” Fitzhugh Dodson

"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Phillipians 3:13-14

Indeed there is a “bad feeling” that creeps up when we start noticing that we are just pushing forward without an overall goal being accomplished. Even when we jump on a car with the desire to run free like the wind and take off without a planned itinerary, the goal to achieve is precisely that one, not have a plan at all, thus behaving totally opposite from what is expected. That in itself is a goal.

Although this "bad feeling", as I said before, is there when we lack a mission, we can easily be caught in our day to day lives in such way that this feeling, this desire or even need to “get” somewhere is muted. In our own lives, in our personal ministry, in our family ministry or at church, a muted or oppressed need for direction is very dangerous and will lead us to a dreadful waste of time.

Today May 21st was very sweet and sour day for many. Some had a great time cranking jokes about Harold Camping’s prediction and other where shocked by the reality of them being still here, in a world full of pain, suffering and now for many of them added debt and shame. Those of us who from the start dismissed his prediction based on a simple scripture passage have a question to answer now: Are we to sit in the chair of the scoffer or are we to address others urgently with the Gospel? We could either have the wrong goal like Camping or we could have no goal at all. Honestly, which one is worse?

When thinking and praying about the God's worship, and in this case I mean by worship the musical and singing praise part of the whole service, I have come to understand that I personally did not have any goals at all. How am I waking up every morning, sailing in the sea of seminary knowledge, to use Dodson’s illustration, and not know where I am going? This was even more evident to me when a dear friend of mine requested that I share with him the importance of a vision and structure of the Worship Ministry. When asked “Why is it such a big deal for you that we have a vision or goal if Sundays are being taken care of?” I stood frozen without words. I could believe this was not obvious for my friend but what I couldn’t believe even more was the fact that it was so obvious for me that I never thought of an answer to that question. Nothing came up, nothing popped into my head... just silence.

God in His marvelous grace has given me a glimpse of this vision and by His grace I will be able to take this, meditate on it and really give shape to my personal and family ministry.

For this we praise and lead others into the worship of our Lord: That by knowing Him for a little through praise and worship, we may know Him better through scripture and our personal time with Him." This of course is nothing but a ripoff of C.S. Lewis words in his book Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Now that credit is given to he who credit deserves I must say that this for me was God’s clear answer to my prayers. I have come to understand clearly now my purpose in ministry and it is like the heavy fog has cleared and I can finally see the road!

I will certainly meditate in the implications of this, I have faith that this is just the beginning of God’s specific revelation in my life, my wife’s life and my family. We have both found in this very simple statement a sense of tangible purpose that will allow us to sharpen our arrows and hit the desired target with more precision. This of course does not mean that we won’t miss, but by knowing failure we will recognize success... cross-centered success, godly success.

So I formally introduce to you our Pajon Family Ministry’s vision:

For this reason we strive each day: That by encouraging others to know Christ for a little through praise, worship, music, art, teaching and friendship, we may all know Him better through scripture and personal time with Him.

What I have shared with you all is work in progress. Surely this will start to mature and God will allow me to see all the ramifications of this vision. But as of today we are a family with a mission, a family with a target in front of us that, in Christ, we will pursue every day for His glory and His kingdom!

Blessed is Your name Lord!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Here at Your Table - Bread of Life

Link to the song here.

As an assignment of my Music Theory II class, we took an unknown hymn and rewrote the melody and parts, making a new SATB (4 voice) arrangement. God in his immense wisdom and sense of humor decided to open my curiosity and see how this would sound with a contemporary arrangement. Having my dear church Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, in mind I decided to play with it and see if it would fit our worship service and maybe one day eventually use it.

This 19th century text, written by May Pierpont Hoyt, speaks for itself! For the rest, all I can say is that this is an answered prayer. Thank you, Lord, for giving beautiful creativity and sparks of light to my weak and dirty hands and prideful heart. Thank you for letting us use music to worship and glorify you despite the fact that we have used music before to worship ourselves!

Here is the text for this precious hymn, with some added text for the hook.

Here at Your table, Lord, this sacred hour,
O let us feel You near, in loving power,
Calling our thoughts away from self and sin
As to Your banquet hall we enter in.

Come then, O Holy Christ, feed us, we pray;
Touch with Your pierced hand each common day;
Making this earthly life full of Your grace,
Till in the home of heaven we find our place.

So shall our life of faith be full, be sweet;
And we shall find our strength for each day meet;
Fed by Your living bread, all hunger past,
We shall be satisfied, and saved at last.

Come, Living God,
King of all Kings,
Merciful Savior,
Holy One.

Come, Lamb of God,
Promise of grace,
Come to Your table,
Bread of life.

The demo’s lead vocals features a dear friend Sara Jerez, wife of worship leader and composer Jonathan Jerez. Please feel free to listen to some of the wonderful things God is doing through them:

Thank you Sara. You are awesome!!!