Author Archives: tgardner7

About tgardner7

Christ-follower. Husband to an amazing wife, Emily (PrimitiveRoads.com). Californian living in Idaho, and doing ministry as the Pastor of Student Ministries at Coeur d'Alene Bible Church.

a new identity

The story of Jesus and the bleeding woman has always intrigued me. At face value, it’s another account of Jesus healing someone from a life-hindering ailment. Which, in itself, is an amazing miracle. It’s crazy how our God can heal. He heals with his words, with his touch, and even from a distance. When people have a healing encounter with Jesus, they are never the same. That’s amazing!

But whenever I read this story, something else strikes me as amazing.

Jesus restores this woman’s identity. 

This woman had been bleeding for years. She was probably known as the “unclean one.” The woman was avoided on the street by others out of a fear of becoming unclean themselves. She wasn’t able to have normal relationship with people or God because of her condition. And when she touches Jesus’ coat, that all changes.

When she touched him, Jesus knew the healing took place, but he took the opportunity to take this healing one step further. He called her out in the middle of a large crowd and declared her healed. She was publicly declared clean. And this woman, who’s entire identity in life was probably “the unclean one,” was given a new name for all to hear. Daughter. Clean.

When we encounter Jesus, when we allow him to transform our hearts and minds into his likeness, we are given a new identity. We are no longer defined by our past mistakes, failures, and short-comings. We are no longer defined by what we do or how we look. We are defined by Christ. Because of his love for us, we are called his sons and daughters. Amazing.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1, NIV)

Check out the healing story – Mark 5:24-34.

#GardnersGoPA

Wait, we live on the EAST COAST?!

I have always strived to prioritize my life in this way: (1) God, (2) family, (3) ministry. Based on these priorities, my wife and I have longed to be closer to family. And for this reason, we began looking at the possibility of moving away from Coeur d’Alene and closer to family, which currently reside in New York and California (the two extremes!).

Once we began looking, God made it quite clear that He was moving us on. Doors opened, conversations happened, and the house sold. Fast. In fact, we had two offers on the table almost before the “For Sale” sign went up. So now I’m one week away from starting as the High School Pastor at Faith Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a short drive from Emily’s parents in Burlington Flats, New York.

GardnersGoPA

This past month has been crazy. Like I said, the house sold faster than anyone (other than God) could have imagined. We also sold a car and appliances like they were the last on earth. At the end of this week, we’re going to move into a beautiful townhouse in a great neighborhood. And I doubted God every step of the way.

Apparently, I have a memory problem. I know God is faithful. He has always been faithful, and I trust that He will continue to be faithful. And yet, my anxiety and fearfulness of the unknown creeps in, probably thanks to the fact that I am human, and I worry about what’s going to happen.

 

ME: What if we can’t sell the house? We can’t afford a rent and a mortgage at the same time!

GOD: Don’t worry.

ME: What if we don’t break even with the house? We don’t have money to pay the bank!

GOD: Do not fear.

ME: Ok, the house sold. But what if the inspection doesn’t pass? This is an old house!

GOD: Be still and know that I am God. 

ME: Ok, the inspection passed, but there’s still a lot that can go wrong! Ahhh!!!

GOD: I work all things together for your good according to My purpose.

ME: What if what You see as good doesn’t match up with what I see as good?

GOD: Trust Me.

 

Why do we do that? Why do we constantly forget that God is good and He works ALL things together for good according to His purpose. If I’ve learned anything from this adventure called following Jesus, I have learned this: God is faithful, and I mess up. God is perfect, and I have flaws. God is good, and I need to remember to rest in His grace.

This new adventure is exciting and scary. And I am so glad that I get to follow my Savior through it all!

leading change

Change.

This word can invoke two powerful emotions in people. Change can lead to excitement, positivity, and a renewed passion for what’s coming up. Change can also lead to fear, resistance, and a sense of being out of control. And as leaders, we have the power control which of these reactions the majority of our followers feel.

Leading Change 1

It’s hopefully a leader’s goal to seek a positive reaction to change. The question is, if a leader can control the majority of people’s reactions to change, how do we lead change well?

First, we have to understand why people resist change. Church leaders often joke that if change is coming, people will fight, and that’s just the way it is. No effort is given to figuring out why change is so uncomfortable. But if we are going to lead change well, figuring out the truth behind why change hurts is crucial.

I love the resources that have come out of the partnership between the Fuller Youth Institute and Fuller Seminary leadership professor Scott Cormode, specifically the Fuller Youth Institute’s Sticky Faith Launch Kit. In it, they guide churches through a process of leading change.

From their expertise in the field of leadership and change, they have found that “fear isn’t primarily about change; it’s about loss(Launch Kit, page 33) So often, we try to navigate change out of the felt reality that people’s resistance to and fear of change comes from the change itself. However, people’s resistance to change actually comes from a resistance to loss.

  • CHANGE: When I “canceled” high school Sunday school, parents resisted the change, not because it was simply a change, but because they felt a loss associated with their children’s spiritual development.

So if fear of change is from a sense of loss, it’s important that a leader is able to “anticipate the losses involved and prepare a response” (Launch Kit, page 34). There are two main components to this task: (1) listen to those you lead and anticipate their felt loss, and (2) cast a vision for what is possible.

I believe casting a compelling vision is crucial to leading change, and I love Bill Hybels’ definition of vision in his leadership book, Axiom: Vision is “a picture of the future that produces passion in people.”

Leading Change 2

If leadership can cast a picture of the future that is clear and compelling, followers will gladly weather change to reach that future. It means calling out the losses and sharing why you think the future goal is worth experiencing this loss.

  • VISION: We see students leaving the church and their faith after high school, and we’re not okay with that. One of the biggest factors that develops a faith that sticks after high school is intergenerational experience. So in order to see our students grab onto the hope found in Jesus, we are integrating them into the life and ministry of the church. For this reason, we’re taking our Sunday school model and integrating it with our adult Bible studies. We’re welcoming our high school students to worship, learn, and serve alongside multiple generations each Sunday morning and throughout the week, resulting in a greater chance for our students to develop a faith that sticks.

If the vision is clear enough and communicated properly, passion will keep people on board. This is a daily task of leadership.

I know I haven’t mastered the art of casting vision or leading change, so I’d love your feedback! What do you do to lead change well?  

doing it all (7 deadly sins of youth ministry)

I’ve got something to prove. In the world of church-work, I’m new at this and I need to make a splash. I need to be noticed. Therefore, the more I do, the more I can produce; and the more I produce, the better I will seem to those around me.

7 deadly sins title

There’s a lot wrong with the opening paragraph. I hope that’s painfully obvious.

Unfortunately, this is an often unspoken reality in the lives of youth workers. We are often seen at the bottom of the totem pole of church hierarchy, “serving our time” as youth pastors before we can graduate to a more glamorous, higher paying senior pastor position (check out this blog post by Amy Jacober on this very topic!). Even if you’re not in youth ministry as a stepping stone (and I pray most youth pastors today are not), this mentality brings with it the often subconscious thought that we have to prove ourselves worthy of our calling.

I’ve been guilty of this, and I’ve seen people guilty of this. So what do we do?

I think we have to come to the realization that we’re not Jesus. I think we need to understand that being good at a lot of things keeps us from being great at a few things. Less than ten lines into the first chapter of The Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley spells out what he calls the “two best-kept secrets of leadership,” which are:

1. The less you do, the more you accomplish.

2. The less you do, the more you enable others to accomplish.

7 deadly sins content

If we try to do it all, our underlying goal is to please people instead of God. In trying to do it all, we take on roles that don’t necessarily maximize our gifts and calling when we could be delegating to others and thereby helping them fully live out their own calling. Not only have we hindered ourself, we’ve hindered others.

If we acknowledge that we’re not Jesus, release control, and involve others in the mission of seeing youth experience the life-transforming power of God, we accomplish more.

Live out your calling, accomplish great things, and don’t do it all.

hear him: where is god?

You forgot to do your homework. That worksheet you needed to do for english class is blank because when you got it the day before, you placed in the middle of the book. Because it was out of sight, you totally forgot about it until you got to class today. Now you’re frantically trying to finish it before the teacher needs to collect it.

It wasn’t in front of you, you didn’t notice it, so you forgot it was there. 

Just like forgetting about your homework, it’s easy to go through life and live in the moment, not remembering God or paying any attention to his presence. Because how are we supposed to notice God’s presence, anyway? If God isn’t actively speaking to us throughout our day, it’s easy to forget that he’s there.

So where is God…?

Let’s start at the beginning… God creates the heavens and the earth. He creates all things, plants, animals, light, dark, and everything else. And then God places man and woman in a special place, a garden.

And God, man, and woman lived together in perfect community in that garden. They hung out, played games, laughed together. It was perfect!

Hear Him 1

And then sin entered the picture.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” (GENESIS 3:8-9 NIV)

“Where are you?” — For the first time in all of creation, God felt a separation between himself and his creation. And because of sin, humans could no longer be in a right relationship, in perfect community with God.

Hear Him 2

And the entirety of the Old Testament is humans trying to regain a right relationship with God. But then Jesus enters the scene.

Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel (meaning, God is with us). (MATTHEW 1:23 NIV)

Hear Him 3

God in human form lived in community with humans for the first time since the beginning. We walked, talked, and cried with the people he was with. And he loved them more than they could know. But Jesus couldn’t say around forever, but there was a plan.

Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (MATTHEW 28:20, NIV)

But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (JOHN 16:7)

Hear Him 4

From the beginning, the plan was always to make sure God was with us. The bottom line is this: God is not absent, although he may feel absent. He never says, “I’ve got a universe to run, I get to you when I’m done… and what was your name? Never mind, I’ve got things to do.”

This is called God’s OMNIPRESENCE— God is everywhere. That means that no matter where we find ourselves or how difficult our circumstances, we can be certain that we are never alone.

And really, the reason I know that God is not absent is because he poured out his anger on his son so that we can be with him. Because John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the WOLRD that he GAVE…”

If God is simply a cosmic ruler who doesn’t have time for us, not really caring who we are or what we do, who isn’t present in our lives, I don’t believe he would have gone through the physical and emotional pain of sending Jesus to the cross. It wouldn’t make any sense. His sacrifice would be for nothing.

God is present and wants to have a conversation with us.

But in order to have a conversational relationship with God, where we can talk to God and we know how God talks to us, we have to understand God’s presence. God. Is. Present. And he’s ready to have a conversation with you. 

For further study:

  • Genesis 28:16 (It says that Jacob was in a “certain place,” a place so not important, it’s not worth mentioning. What does that say about God’s presence?)
  • Job 42:5 (Thinking about who Job is and what he’s gone through, what is the significance of his statement?)
  • Psalm 46

hear him – developing a conversational relationship with god

Hear Him TITLE

In 1 Kings, which is a book in the Old Testament, just after 1 and 2 Samuel, we find the story of a prophet, a messenger from God, named Elijah. Elijah is this guy who was called by God to do amazing things.

One day, he challenged false prophets to a showdown on Mount Carmel. You may have heard this story: the false prophets sacrificed a bull and tried to get their God Baal to light the altar on fire, but nothing happened. Elijah rebuilt the altar, sacrificed a bull, and poured water all over it. It was soaked. And when Elijah called on God, fire fell from heaven, consuming everything on and around the altar. And then Elijah had all 850 false prophets killed.

Word got back to someone who followed one of the false gods, and she sent Elijah a death threat. So Elijah ran for his life. He ran for 40 days until he reached Horeb, which was known as the mountain of God, where God dwells.

There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 

Like God doesn’t know what Elijah was doing there…? I think it’s cool that when we approach God in prayer, he doesn’t stop us from sharing what’s on our heart since he knows already. He welcomes us to pour out our hearts to him, and he loves it when we invite him in to our lives that way.

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

Did you catch what Elijah is saying here? I have been zealous (or passionate, devoted) to you, God. But look at the rest of Israel… yeah, they rejected your covenant, they messed up, and I’m the only one left who loves you. In fact, everyone is trying to kill me. What am I supposed to do?!

Elijah had been a hard working prophet, dedicated to God and God’s people. But now Elijah has had enough. It seems as though everyone now hates him and wants to kill him. And he comes to God for help, not knowing what to do. He wants to hear God’s voice and receive guidance.

And check out how God responds…

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” [STOP!]

Ok, weird sentence. God says, go stand on the mountain in the presence of God, because God is going to pass by…?

Whether or not it made sense to him, Elijah went.

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Elijah walks up the mountain, and there’s natural disasters left and right. But Elijah didn’t find God in any of those powerful forces of nature. Elijah notices God’s presence in a gentle whisper, or a light breeze, the kind that you feel coming off the lake on a hot day and all you can say is, “ah…”

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

It’s interesting that God wasn’t in the strong wind, earthquake or fire. He wasn’t in the things that Elijah probably expected God to be in.

Elijah had just poured his heart out to God — and he wanted God to take action! To defeat Israel and all of her wickedness with the force of a strong wind, the devastation of a powerful earthquake or fire. But God’s presence was actually in the gentle, refreshing, life-giving breeze.

I wonder if God was trying to tell Elijah something — that he was not interested in destroying Israel, but of being gentle with grace and compassion. Elijah obviously doesn’t get it, because he says the EXACT same thing as before: I’ve been good, they’ve been bad, what are you going to do?!

The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel–all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.” 

It’s only after Elijah spends time in the presence of God that God gives him an answer.

I wonder if God was trying to say to Elijah — “Before we talk, get to know me. Know my character. Know my heart. Spend time in my presence.”

I’m in the middle of a book called Hearing God by Dallas Willard. He was a professor of philosophy at USC, and he wrote a lot about God and how we relate to God. In this book, he wrote “Only our communion with God (only our relationship with God) provides the appropriate context for communications between us and him.”

Hear Him CONTENT 1

Elijah needed to experience God’s presence and spend time getting to know his character before God was willing to give Elijah an answer.

We have to develop a conversational relationship with God, where we can talk to God and know how God is talking to us. And this begins with spending time with God, getting to know his character, and understanding his presence in our lives.

THINK ABOUT IT

  • Why do you think it’s important to develop a conversational relationship with God?
  • What does a conversational relationship with God look like in our daily lives?
  • How are we going to spend time getting to know God this week?
  • All things considered, do you want to hear God’s voice? Why or why not?

 

Bold text is taken from 1 Kings 19:9-18 (NIV).