Saturday, August 1, 2015

Discover Life: Wrapping Up June/July 2015: Plan Your Garden!

Discover Life: Wrapping Up June/July 2015: Plan Your Garden!:

Where does the time go?  June felt like it was only 10 days long and it was mid July before I realized it!  There is so much to do around here during the warm months to prepare for the long winters that we could easily fill every sunlit moment of every day with work and still have things left undone. Yet we press ourselves to keep the task of making sure that the people ministered through Discover Life are "thoroughly prepared for every good work."  This means that we have to continually view the person as the focus of the ministry, and not as a resource for getting ministry done.  These two months we saw some good transition within some of the men who have come to a place in their transformation where they need real world environments to properly apply what they've learned and what they must continue to learn in their discipleship.  Transition is part of the nature of this type of discipleship, and this month we said farewell to Justin as he moves forward with his life in his walk and welcomed Ken into the ministry here.  I ask that you pray for both.

We are so pleased and proud to see the men growing in the Lord and the outworkings of that maturity.  Nick is serving as an usher. Taylor and John have served faithfully and dutifully in the sound booth.  John has accepted the responsibility of planning and implementing the morning physical fitness sessions.  Justin and Stephen are both part of the music ministry teams as well as the youth and children's ministries of the church, along with Taylor.  All of the students also continuously and faithfully serve the church in supportive roles.

Stephen has successfully carried the weight of the responsibility for the spiritual well being of the men at the Hope House as well as oversight of the retreat center.  It should be a natural part of the development of the disciple to recognize needs and be willing to adjust one's self to meet them. Meeting needs is part of the essence of who Christ was and who He calls us to be.

Both Nick and Taylor have begun the process of being reintroduced back into society continueing the pursuit of being "thoroughly equipped for every good work." Nick has been responsible for scheduling the daily tasks as well as ensuring jobsite success for the men of Discover Life.  Taylor has begun working at a local hardware store as an integral part of the process of discipling students into thriving in their purpose.  This level of exposure is necessary for successful discipleship.  We can fill a mind with hypothetical situations and use paper assessments in determining if they know the right answer but it weighs little as compared to real life scenarios. Knowing the thing takes a distant second seat to doing the thing.  It is "doing" that determines whether we have chosen to obey.  Pray for Nick and Taylor as they continue this journey of testing and proving their self-discipline.

Our goal is not to simply impart Biblical knowledge of who Christ is and what He wants from us but to foster an environment that challenges growth in the spirit, soul, and body of every person we minister to.  At some point the plant must be removed from the green house and planted in the world where it can grow.  One of the characteristics of discipleship is to "bear fruit."  Bearing fruit has two purposes.  The first is to provide nourishment for others.  We should be influencing the people around us and that influence should cause them to grow in their walks being nourished in Christ by our ministering to and among them.  The second purpose is to multiply.  A lonely tree growing in a field will soon be surrounded by saplings.  The purpose of bearing fruit in this case is to reproduce.  Our lives as disciples should be marked with multiplication, or at least the constant attempt of it.

During these two months the students had several opportunities to help serve the people of our community here.  They provided help in the planning and labor involved with replacing a roof and deck for a family in need.  They cut plenty of firewood and helped pen up more than a few loose cows.  It may be difficult to understand how this type of working can be associated with bearing fruit but our works should be an outworking of who we are inside and what specifically Christ is doing within us.  While chasing a cow may seem fun to the inexperienced, it is no joy to those responsible for the cow.  The stress involved in returning it to its pen brings much to light about what is going in inside of that person ... we refer to that as bubbles rising to the top.  It is reassuring to see the students respond appropriately to events and situations that are distractions to the day.  If they respond well, it shows growth and maturity but if they respond poorly, it shows an area where growth is needed ... bubbles rising so to speak showing life existing where we don't want it; in either way, we win ... because that's a major part of why they are here.

In order to thoroughly provide opportunity for the students of Discover Life to establish themselves in the faith, we press those who plan to reenter society to find work once they have finished the first two approaches: the School of Discipleship.  This allows them to start making money which leads us to teaching budget and financial responsibility and ultimately affords them the opportunity to begin to save money allowing them some cushion when they move forward with their lives.  But more importantly, it allows them to continue in their discipleship in a real world environment bringing to the surface many issues that could easily remain dormant concerning interacting with peers, employers, customers, and society in general.  This opens the door for a lot of teaching opportunities that remain hypothetical situations in books but are of an eternal value in real life and real time.

We were also able to take advantage of some community events this month including local Independence Day festivities and parades.  It is important that the students of Discover Life get off of the Hill and spend time in community with their neighbors.  Life in seclusion can give a false sense of reality and a poorly rooted strength.  Here at Discover Life we concern ourselves with the total health of the individual, spirit, soul, and body.  They are taught that a healthy and responsible social life is part of being physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. We are called to be lights to our communities and here they must work in that capacity both in and out of the church.  While we take advantage of opportunities to fellowship with other churches, we also take advantage of community entertainment resources such as trips to malls, movies, and restaurants.  This month we were also able to hike up the Kaaterskill Falls (see pictures HERE).

We strongly encourage the people of our church to invest time into the students and enjoy seeing the fruit that is a direct response to those relationships.  A major part of the discipleship process is for the disciple to see him or herself as part of the church as a whole ... the body of believers ... able to thrive outside of the local church.  Life brings movement and change.  So many believers struggle with fellowshipping with a body of believers outside of a single group, which causes so much strain and competition within the church and greatly prohibits growth while encouraging conflict.  The students had several opportunities to have some great times on hikes with a concerned leader in our church. They learned how to select edible mushrooms, roots, plants, etc.  The mushrooms were a great addition to our Wednesday breakfasts.  The students also enjoy frequent investments of time and energy from men and women of the local community.

As we prepare for fall, we look with expectation to the future of the School of Ministry up here.  We are excited about our ministry preparation and credentialing process that provides real time opportunity for prospective minister candidates that desire to be discipled in ministry in an environment where classes are taught and lessons are learned in real life rather than the normal textbook hypothetical situations that do not afford immediate and assessable consequences that are vital for shaping skills.  Though the textbook questions offer time for debate and argument, life rarely offers a "pause" button.  It is our desire that the students here learn to make decisions in real time where the skill of weighing and considering consequences, good and bad, previous to making decisions is learned and mastered prior to entering life.  This skill alone is vital for the ability to be content in life and will minimize so much pain that could be avoided through simply learning to think things through.

In conclusion, I ask that you continue to pray for the men and consider becoming one that helps us as we help others.  CLICK HERE to see our updated needs list.  Thank you for reading and keeping up with us here at Discover Life.  Share this ministry with your friends and associates ... we exist to serve the specific needs for discipleship of people desire to be thoroughly prepared for ministry and also for people who need to be removed from their environments in order to strengthen their walk in Christ.

Lesson From The Saw Mill: "Plan Your Garden!"

You may or may not know that I have been away from NY for many years.  My return to NY filled me with great anticipation for what life would be like for myself and my family as we assimilated into living up north.  One of the adjustments I was concerned about was the ability of my wife and children to adjust to the winter weather ... and we had a cold one.  But one of the unique differences I was not prepared for was the complete change of strategy I was going to have to experience concerning the designing and planting of a garden.  I was raised in the city of Newburgh, NY but had not seen a real winter since serving in Bosnia in 1997-1998.  Since then, we've spent most of our time living between Lake Charles and New Orleans, LA and working and ministering among the Gulf Coast states.  Winters have been warm and short while summers and hot and long.  We plant our gardens in February and they continue to bear fruit through November (even sometimes into December).  Up here in the mountains, the open air gardens must wait to be planted until May!  Some of the experienced gardeners even advised me that, without a greenhouse, it is advisable to wait until after Memorial Day (last Monday of May)!

I was not prepared for that.  We (the Discover Life team) knew we would need a garden to supplement our food needs as well as develop a healthy and usable skill in the students, but we planted in the beginning of May and lost quite a bit of our garden to frost even though we had it covered!  That's crazy!  We planted good seed in good soil using responsible techniques and preventative measures.  We invested intelligently cultivating the ground planting crops that have the best chance of success in our climate and condition.  That should have produced a good crop but due to the risk of the timing we lost nearly everything.  Was it neglectful?  Was it a poor risk analysis? Not at all.  In truth, it was it just an unpreventable reality that the need to harvest in increments will require the need to plant knowing that though there is a risk of losing the crops, the chance and profit of success is worth the eventually unavoidable loss of it.  What they should our response to the loss be?  Common sense would dictate to keep planting knowing that the results will come, just not in the time we hoped for.  When it comes to any form of agricultural industry, there is a looming certainty of crop failure or loss of meat due to unpredictable weather anomalies, disease, water shortage, water over saturation, storm damage, etc.  But it doesn't stop us from planting ... it can't.  The reward is well worth the risk.  Now when I walk to my garden, I don't leave without bringing back a bounty of veggies and joy myself in the sight of the life thriving within it.

What's the point?  In ministry, often times, we quit on the garden because of crop failure as if we were ever responsible for what comes out of the ground!  While it is vital that we hold ourselves to the specific task of only doing what God has called us to and true that we should consider the timing in the obedience what we feel God has called us to do, we must still acknowledge that God can lead us to plant gardens that for no reason just seem to die.  There is always so much more going on that we can see or understand.  It is ours only to obey and do faithfully what He has laid before us to do. He promises that His Word will produce fruit (Isaiah 55:11) whether we get to see it or not.  Paul encourages us to continue doing what He has called us to remembering He will reward us for our faithfulness.

Galations 6:9  And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Have you stepped out in faith obeying what you feel strongly led to do and it failed?  Did you quit?  I encourage you to get back to it.  Are you still at it but frustrated and doubting God?  I encourage you to continue and change your perspective.  I ensure you that He is much more interested in what comes out of the ground [the salvation and deliverance of His creation] than we are (Jonah 4:11). Have you felt led to share the gospel and minister to your neighbors or coworkers but are not sure what exactly to do?  I feel strongly led to share these two scriptures as an encouragement to you:

Proverbs 16:3-9  Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established. 4 The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom. 5 Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished. 6 In mercy and truth Atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil. 7 When a man's ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. 8 Better is a little with righteousness, Than vast revenues without justice. 9 A man's heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.

It has been a huge weight lifted for me to know that all God asks of me is to do the best I can do in knowing what I know of Him and making my decisions for whatever I will do in that light knowing that He will be pleased by my intention and agenda and will guide and direct me even if it is going in a way I did not plan to go because I am His and I want to do what He wants even if I can't recognize what He desires for me to do ... I will just end up doing it.  That is a huge relief for me now.  I am freed to decide.  But the only way I can do that is if I am willing to experience crop failure in my life (sometimes repeatedly) and keep it in the perspective of all being His.  In other words, I cannot have my ego invested in the successful outcome of what I put my hand to do.  That is the secret for walking this life with purpose in His joy and His peace.  Trust Him and remember that He is so much more invested in the salvation and deliverance of humanity than we will ever know.  Plan your garden and get after it!

That's my take anyways!  Thanks for reading...

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