The Lavish Love of God

Rock Creek, Montana
Rock Creek, Montana

Every year for the past thirty years I have gone fly fishing. For the last ten years, I’ve fished with a great friend named Larry. We choose a river somewhere in Montana, hang out, and fish all-day every-day for a week. And I mean fish. We hire a guide some days or go by ourselves and wade in the river on others. Either way, we get up early in the morning and fish until dark. It is one of the few times each year that I have no responsibility and nothing I have to do. It is a completely restorative time. That is why I keep going back.

I am a doer. I like working and accomplishing things, whether it is at CRISTA or at home. I can’t sit still for long. So, during the first few days of this year’s fishing trip I set out as usual to catch (and release) as many fish as I could. About the third day it dawned on me: “I don’t have to hurry anymore or get anything done today.” I challenged myself to go slow and enjoy the experience.

I sat by the river and told myself to relax and stay put for an hour. To make sure I didn’t move too soon, I timed myself at first. I found a flat rock where I could keep my feet in the cool water. I noticed a dark dipper bird diving underneath the water to feed on bugs. Then I saw a kingfisher dive from a tree branch to scoop up a fish in its beak. Amazing. Then, an osprey dove straight into the river and came up with a large fish, returning to its nest on top of a dead tree to feed its young. I reveled in the beauty of the mountains, the sky, and the river as it flowed cool and clear.

I began to thank God for the beauty of His creation. His presence slowly enveloped me. Spontaneously I asked Him, “What do You want me to do with the rest of my life to serve You?” Like a lightning bolt the stunning answer came. “Nothing.”

“Really God, nothing?”
“Yes, nothing. Just be with Me,” He said.

A few days later, I returned home and sat with my wife Kathleen in our family room to debrief the time. While I was gone, she had different grandkids over each day. They all have such unique personalities, which makes them so special. One wanted to go play sports, another shopping, some exploring, others staying home.

Then, she stopped and contemplated one very special moment. When Kathleen asked one of our grandsons what he wanted to do, he came over to her, gave her a big hug, and said, “Grammy, I love you and I just want to be with you.” It was the highlight of her week.

I hope you get the connection between our relationship with God and my wife’s experience with our grandson. God doesn’t need anything. He doesn’t need us to do anything for Him. He simply wants us to be with Him and experience the lavish love he has bestowed on us through His creation and in His Son, Jesus Christ.

I John 3:1 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God…”

The definition of ‘lavish’ is to expend or give in great amounts or without limit. This word is used six times in the Bible. Very few humans can love like this, if any. Understanding and accepting the love of God and knowing through faith that we are His sons and daughters, regardless of what we do or don’t do, is a transforming experience. Learning to accept and live into this lavish-love is a life-long journey.

We are adopted sons and daughters of the Creator of the universe. We have been given unending love out of the limitless resources of His personhood. My prayer for you and me is that we can rest in the lavish love of God, knowing that there is nothing we need to do but accept that it’s all we need.


Why Prayer Week?

2 Corinthians 2:12 – 6:13 is the apostle Paul’s summary of Christ’s work on earth. This is a significant passage that goes deep. It is a section referred to as “The New Covenant.” Paul calls us ambassadors, fellow workers with God, servants of God. Ambassadors speak with the full authority of the Head of State (Jesus for us) but they do so under his direct guidance. Ambassadors do not wander off on their own and then ask for him to ‘ok’ their decisions.

God has a purpose not just in the big sense but in our everyday lives. We are not on a mission for God, we are on a mission with God, directed by the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. We are empowered when we welcome His Spirit into everything we do, looking to Him for direction and understanding. We do not get our joy primarily from what He accomplishes through us, but in experiencing a deepening relationship with Him.

Our annual Prayer Week at CRISTA is coming up February 2nd–6th, 2015. At CRISTA, we firmly believe that God wants to align our vision with His calling through prayer. The purpose of Prayer Week is to collectively lift up and entrust CRISTA Ministries at the beginning of the year and pray boldly and specifically about how God will use us through our ministries to bring glory and honor to Him.

I invite you to join me in the events and programs during Prayer Week in February, praying on your own or as a group during the week and then continuing throughout the year.

How will you join Prayer Week this year? See the schedule below and mark your schedule!

Prayer Week Schedule

Creating Trust Through Transparent Conversations

A leader within CRISTA Ministries said to me recently, “Transparency is almost always your best friend.” I have been thinking a lot about the concept of transparency, and what the Bible has to say about it. In a day and age when everyone seems to calculate their statements and responses in order to project the image they want —  or not offend others, or gain votes, or  win trust — I am realizing more and more the accuracy of the biblical teaching from Ephesians 4:15: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Speaking the truth in love is not an easy thing for most of us. Actually pulling this off requires us to:

Walk in humility. Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” How we communicate openly and honestly is just as important as what we communicate. The tone of humility and grace helps pave the way for openness on the part of others.

Have a team of people you trust to help you see reality and gain wisdom. No one sees the whole picture. No one knows the truth completely. A group of people around us helps us see things from others’ perspectives. I John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” This fellowship not only keeps us in the light, but it helps us speak the truth in love.

Speak the truth as you see it with courage and a tone of tenderness. Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Be open to others who speak the truth to you. Not being defensive personally or professionally is a sign of spiritual and emotional maturity. Proverbs 18:2 says, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.

I want to help others in my life grow and become everything God made them to be. Building a Christian ministry that reflects God’s desire to bring His Kingdom down to earth is a challenge, but it is well worth it.

I aspire to be transparent in conversations with my family and friends. I hope you noted that this is a lifestyle – it is not about adopting this as a tactic that rings hollow to those we are engaged with. I know how freeing and how challenging it can be to be open and honest in your communication with others. There is always some risk! Yet the other options just don’t sound that good to me.

Every Little Thing Means A Lot

You’ve probably heard of the New York Times bestseller Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, and It’s All Small Stuff by Dr. Richard Carlson. Every little bit counts.I copied this snippet from the book’s Amazon listing: “Are the little things in life driving you crazy? Isn’t it time you put these small annoyances into perspective once and for all?”

This #1 New York Times bestseller offers suggestions for daily changes that can add up to a more relaxed, stress-free life. Richard Carlson reveals ways to calm down, live in the present moment, let others have the glory at times, lower your tolerance to stress, trust your intuitions, and ultimately live each day as if it might be your last.

I have not read this book, but I get the point and agree with it.

But the title of this blog, “Every Little Thing Means a Lot,” is also true.

Everything communicates. Our body language, the tone of our voice, the exact content of the words we use. The font, the color and the size of the words we read. The accuracy of the things we say. The things we do, the things we don’t do.

I have an appreciation for good lawyers, because this is something they grasp. Details matter so much that they get paid real money to worry about them.

Leaders need to pay attention to the details.

For instance:

  • Don’t sign anything you have not read or don’t understand. Ugh. It is hard work to go the extra mile with proofing. It takes time and most often the document is fine anyway. When you have a leadership role in your family or at work, know and act like signing something means you are acknowledging its value.
  • Send well-written and well thought-out thank you notes. Few people do this anymore, even fewer make them sound personal. When I receive these and they are well done, I become more of a fan of the person who sent it.
  • Make good on your word. Do what you say. Through your follow-through, trust is built or diminished. Quit saying you will call someone to get together when you never intend to. This habit quickly wears down trust. I keep a note card in my pocket and write down what I promise.
  • Remember birthdays, anniversaries and important dates.
  • Learn people’s names. One of the most important words we hear is the sound of our own names.
  • While walking around our campus I witnessed one of our Vice Presidents bend down and pick up some litter and throw it in the trash. This was not in the job description, but man, was I impressed!
  • A person I work with on campus always rises when someone enters their office. This shows value and appreciation for the person paying a visit. I am trying to do the same thing.

The list could go on. Make your own. My point is that these things may seem small to us, but to others they will probably have a big effect. Have fun doing random acts that make a big difference.

Bob Lonac
President & C.E.O. of CRISTA Ministries

“Jesus” Leader are Powerful

The closer you get to Jesus, the more powerful you become as a leader.

A man asked the Pope, “How can you actually do more when you’re spending so much time alone?” The Pope's answer was, “How can I get anything done without being on God’s agenda every moment of the day?”

The value in our own walk with Christ is not only to make us into all that He desires for us to become, but to be the light of the world. We are called to make a difference in this life, and the closer our walk with Jesus, the bigger difference we will make in a world that desperately needs hope and love.

Why is this?

Jesus was the most powerful leader who has ever walked this earth. I would define ‘powerful leadership’ as both how many followers you have, and the effect you have on others’ lives for the good. Jesus wins hands-down on this measurement. Therefore, we need to learn how Jesus led, and get our power, insight and direction from Him.

The problem is that the Bible is very clear that “God’s ways are not our ways” (Isaiah 55:8). Here are some things the Bible challenges us with in regards to powerful leadership:

  • Humility trumps lording over people.
  • Great leaders know it is not about them, but about inspiring followers to a transforming vision.
  • Wisdom comes from multiple voices. Listening trumps talking.
  • The things we see are not the real and important things. The unseen things are more valuable than we know.
  • You cannot fake leadership. In the end we are all “found out.” Leaders know that the biggest challenge they have is in leading themselves, not others. Leading is just as much about who you are as what you do.
  • You can’t lead without knowing those you lead and being known by your close followers. This, in turn, casts a big shadow. When you make a point to know your team, they are more likely to do the same with the people around them.
  • You can do nothing of eternal importance without being grafted into Jesus who is the fruit-producing vine. We are only the branches. (John 15)
  • An intimate relationship with Jesus that is lived out daily, moment by moment, is the whole ballgame.

What is your reaction to these leadership concepts? Many of these I have heard and believed for a long time. But these truisms only empower you as a leader when you actually put them into practice, constantly and faithfully working them into your daily life. We know from experience that this is a nonstop battle. Our own humanity works against this and the evil in our world tries to interfere with the transforming process that Jesus wants to carry out in the lives of leaders.

As President and C.E.O. of CRISTA Ministries, it is my hope that every one of our leaders sees the purpose and value of walking the narrow path. We do this by recognizing that everything we do, great or small, has great significance.

Someone once asked the Pope how he is able to carry the burden of his office and to get so much done in a day. His answer was that he rises early and prays for five hours before he starts the day. “How can you actually do more when you’re spending so much time alone?” came the reply. The simply answer was, “how can I get anything done without being on God’s agenda every moment of the day?”

Jesus called this the narrow gate. I want to be a leader who goes through that gate!

President Bob Lonac
CRISTA Ministries