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SmallGroupTrader.com‘s mission is: “Helping people trade in the pursuit of the American-Dream for a world that desperately needs Christ.” Remember the old game Chutes and Ladders? To me, this carries some of the same ideas.
Paul didn’t exactly trade in his pursuit of the “American-Dream,” but he traded in a similar pursuit – one that placed himself at the center of the universe. Paul traded the life of ladder climbing and achievement within the Jewish religious system for a life of self-sacrifice. He even longed to suffer in order to have fellowship with Christ where he knew his true identity could be found. He traded a facade of worth for fullness in Christ. Paul was a trader. He traded the ladder for a ride down the chute.
Acts 8:1-3 describes Paul (Called Saul at that time) as one who made havoc of the church and dragged Christians off to prison. He breathed threats and murder against believers (Acts 9:1-2) and was exceedingly zealous (Gal 1:13-14) in persecuting the church and trying to destroy it. He was a blasphemer, persecutor, an unbelieving insolent man. (1 Tim 1:13)
Why?? Cause Christianity threatened the old Jewish religious system where he had found his whole identity. It struck at the roots of who he was. Paul (Saul) had worked very diligently at climbing the rungs of the religious ladder. He was well educated and well respected within that system and was perfectly happy with the way others perceived him. He was comfortable in that system and Christianity didn’t play by the same rules.
I know. I know. Some of you are saying, “How could you say that Paul’s identity was in the Jewish religious system?” Here’s how: Check out what he wrote himself about those days.
Galatians 1:14 – “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”
Philippians 3:4b-6 – “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”
Galatians 1:10 – “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
There it is. Paul said himself that he had been trying to please men. Why? ‘Cause it esteemed him. He was a people-pleaser. These verses make it clear that Paul had been trying to be better or more worthy than others. He was compensating for his own inner feelings by working for positions and bragging rights – climbing the religious ladder.
Acts 9 describes Paul’s conversion experience. It’s a beautiful trade. I will not ruin it by trying to recount the story – you should read it yourself. Here’s the link: Acts 9
Now, check out how Paul’s thinking was changed. Look at what he wrote afterwards:
Philippians 3:3-11 – “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
It’s clear that his identity is now in Christ alone. He even calls his past accomplishments “rubbish.” His position in the Jewish religious system, his reputation, his esteem. . .rubbish compared to Christ. His new values are to gain Christ, to know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. It doesn’t sound like his position is important to him anymore.
In 2 Corinthians 12:5-11, Paul goes so far as to say that the greatest position he could find himself in is actually the lowest rung on the ladder. He says he’ll boast only in his weakness, ’cause it’s in those circumstances where he finds Christ’s power resting on him.
Andrew Seidel writes of Paul after his conversion in this way: “He is no longer seeking their approval; he is no longer competing with them. As a result, they have lost their power over him and he is free. He has the confidence to do what he believes God is calling him to do, no matter what the opposition to him might bring. The one Person he cares about pleasing is God himself. ”
In the end, it’s clear that Paul was a trader. He traded a life of facades, positions, people-pleasing, and never-ending ladder climbing for a simple life in Christ. And it is there that He found fullness. He was loved and secure simply in being a child of God and his new identity in Jesus Christ could never be stripped away.
Paul traded the ladder for a chute. Paul was a trader.
PS – These ideas are not original. They are from Andrew Seidel’s book, “Charting a Bold Course.” I’d recommend it highly for anyone interested in the study of leadership.
Miranda and I went to Dallas last weekend for the Right Now conference. It was a perfect way to get away and refocus ourselves on God. It just seemed like a good time to get away to think and dream and pray and talk about our future a bit. At this time in our lives, with our future so up in the air, we know we’ve probably got some tough times ahead of us. We wanted to use this time so that we could enter this time as healthy as possible so we can be more prepared for whatever the future holds. The conference helped us to get confirmation about a few things and God used many of the speakers to really encourage us on a deep level.
Here are some of the quotes I wrote down from the conference: (They may not be exact quotes – some are, but some are ideas expressed by the speakers which I wrote down as closely as I could.)
“If people follow you, will they get to Christ?” – Tim Ross
“Is there anybody in your church who is your written epistle?” – Tim Ross
“Small group = the purest form of the church. And the church exists for the world. Therefore, our small groups should exist for the world. Why do we build them for the benefit of the church?” – Alan Danielson
“Jesus’ small group met on the streets, in the bars, everywhere they went. It was the exception, not the rule to meet in a home.” – Alan Danielson
“If we aren’t traders, we are traitors to God.” – Alan Danielson on trading in the american dream for God’s.
“Leaders lean in to their strengths.” – Heather Zempel
“We like leadership where we can act as travel agents who sit in their offices and make decisions for others, but we should be more like tour guides who travel with their students.” – Heather Zempel
“I like the term ‘editor’ better than ‘accountability.’ Editors look for the good stuff and improvements as well as mistakes.” – Heather Zempel
“Carrots that reproduce have to stay in the ground an extra year. Farmers have to leave their best carrots in the ground. Stay planted so you can reproduce.” – Heather Zempel
“Lead with your ears.” – George Barna quoting Ken Blanchard
“I never learned anything talking.” – George Barna quoting Lou Holtz
“Leadership is about bringing the danger with you.” – George Barna quoting Erwin McManus
“Get them out of their comfort zones and believe in them more than they believe in themselves. Anyime you push an individual toward greatness, it’s because you believe he or she is capable of greatness.” – George Barna quoting Lou Holtz
“Scripture doesn’t say anything about a middle road. It’s clear there’s a narrow road and a broad road, but no middle.” – Francis Chan
“Imagine the fellowship you’d have if you were actually able to be crucified and suffer next to Jesus – looking Him in the eye as you suffer together.” – Francis Chan
“It doesn’t matter how many people are in a church or how great the worship is. God asked for a family – a body. That’s what we should strive for.” – Francis Chan
“There are ways to do church that no one has thought of yet.” – Mark Batterson
“Unbelief = putting circumstances between you and God. Faith = putting God between you and circumstances.” – Mark Batterson
“Neurology shows that the older you get, most people shift from right brain thinking to left brain thinking over time. Kids don’t have much experience stored in the left brain, so they live their lives in their imaginations.” – Mark Batterson
“God doesn’t fit in our left brain!” – Mark Batterson
“Don’t let an arrow of criticism pierce your heart unless it first passes through the filter of Scripture.” – Mark Batterson quoting Erwin McManus
“Sometimes criticism from a poor source should be received as a compliment. Sometimes a compliment is a criticism.” – Mark Batterson
“You’ll never be more than 80% certain.” Mark Batterson quoting Andy Stanley
“9 times out of 10 the answer to our prayer will come out of nowhere.” – Mark Batterson
“Compassion (International) is helping rescue us from the poverty of wealth.” – Anne Jackson
“The most Christian thing I’ve ever done is to give.” – Anne Jackson quoting Francis Chan
“A generous heart is never foolish.” – Tim Ross
“We may live like we’re gonna die tomorrow, but we should learn like we’re gonna live forever.” – Mark Batterson
“Like a watchman on a wall, prayer lets us see what other people can’t see.” – Mark Batterson on Col 4:2
“If it doesn’t seem crazy then God might not be in it.” – Mark Batterson
I know who moved my cheese. God did. 2 weeks ago today, my church decided to make all full-time positions “part-time.” The Administrative Board may very well have been the instrument He used, but God moved my cheese. I believe He has greater plans for Miranda and I. I believe He is leading us into an amazing future. Sometimes, it’s been tough. We’ve had our ups and downs over these past 2 weeks, but I believe God will use this whole thing to bless us eventually. We’ve just gotta keep moving so we can make it there. I’ve caught myself saying, we’re just between blessings right now. We’re not sure where we’ll end up, but we know who’s hands we’re in and we will choose to trust Him.
It seems to come up quite often, but I keep telling Miranda we’ve just gotta be mice right now. I asked her to read the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” so we could be on the same page here, but since many of you haven’t read it, I’ll explain. This is an awesome book that describes the best way to handle big changes. It’s a modern parable about a maze, some cheese, and 4 characters: Sniff and Scurry are mice and Hem & Haw are little people who all live inside the maze. Each day the four of them go to one section of the maze to find their cheese, but then one day they discover that it’s been moved. Hem and Haw wonder what happened and hang around for a while waiting for it to return. They argue a bit about it and blame all kinds of things. Meanwhile, Sniff and Scurry just keep their noses to the ground and continue through the maze looking for more cheese. Sniff and Scurry are the first to find new cheese.
That’s why we’ve gotta be mice. There’s no point in complaining about our situation or blaming people or the economy or whatever. We could sit around and be upset or we could just go look for more cheese. It’s sort of like the quote from Shawshank Redemption – “Get busy living or get busy dying.” We will choose to live. We will choose to be mice and keep our noses to the ground. Besides, God is in control. He moved our cheese. We may not know where, but we do know that He knew what he was doing. He must want us somewhere else now. We will find out where soon enough – in His timing.
Please pray for us. We are searching through this maze and probably still have a few hurdles and pitfalls ahead of us. I even sang about this on a song I wrote for our Wedding Day – Just Wanna Be With You clip
We’re hanging on to this verse.
Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”
Our church has struggled through this rough economy. Every full-time programming staff position is being made “part-time” in January. They have been very intentional about communicating that this is not a “performance related” decision. Here’s a letter drafted by the SPRC chairman describing the circumstance: Clarification Letter Anyway, I have until January to find another way to support my family.
In spite of the title of this post, I’m NOT looking for a job, but a position that I can passionately pursue – one in which I can bring Jesus glory and make a difference in the world. This might be another church position, a teaching position, or any number of endless possibilities.
Over the years in youth ministry, I have developed many skills and believe I can be an asset to almost any setting.
I have experience in:
Leading contemporary worship
Multimedia and film Production
I love dreaming, leading, casting vision, and chasing after God’s preferred future.
I have a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Leadership from the College of Biblical Studies. You can get some ideas about my philosophies and ideas about ministry from these articles:
I have also written a couple of articles that were published by smallgrouptrader.com. These are the direct links:
I Don’t Know What We should Study
Leadership is Service
Practical Ways to Connect as a Group
I’m not too proud. I ask for your prayers, your advice, and your help. Miranda and I are confident in God’s hand of providence, but we will also need our friends (the body of Christ) to help us through this difficult time. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”
Want to contact me?