Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sabbatical Comes to a Close

God has given Sandi and me an absolutely fantastic 12 week sabbatical journey.  We've been able to accomplish many of our goals, including some quality time with our family, a focus on our marriage relationship, a focus on our relationship with Christ, and some great work including research and writing on the role of District conferences like ours in church ministry today.

Some of the highlight and takeaways that we will carry forward as we enter back into regular work and family duties include:

  • A deep sense of appreciation for our heritage, and how God has woven our family and spiritual stories. The trip to Sweden was so special in this regard!
  • Numerous keys to maintaining and igniting our personal walk with Christ and continuing to grow in intimacy with Him.  The 4 day experience at The Cove with Ken Boa was instrumental with this.
  • A deeper understanding of how to meet each other's needs as a couple, and of the needs and passions of our grandchildren and children.  Quality time with each other and with family, has helped us with this.
  • Many lessons on leadership and on keys to generating interest and financial support for our Converge Mid Atlantic church planting organization.  The Christian Leadership Alliance conference we attended in Orlando in early April helped a lot with this.
  • A deep sense of renewed conviction regarding my calling as a movement leader for Converge Mid Atlantic, and some keen insights into what our organization needs to be focusing on to remain vital and effective in the future.  Reading, research, and much writing greatly helped with this project!
Both Sandi and I want to thank our Converge Mid Atlantic Board of Overseers for their commitment to serving us by granting this sabbatical season.  I am praying that God will honor and bless their willingness to grant us this time.  I also want to thank Gary Schroeder and Bob McClain for filling in for me in many duties during these past 12 weeks.  It couldn't have happened without their support.  Thanks much, guys!

I'm praying that God will see fit to use me for his greater glory as I return back to normal ministry duties in the weeks and months ahead.  I'm excited and very optimistic about what I believe He will do in and through those who are fully devoted to Him and seek to serve Him with pure and holy hearts.

Warmly in Christ,

Dan Peterson
Converge Mid Atlantic

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sabbatical Journey to The Cove - A Mountaintop Spiritual Highlight

Without a doubt, the high point spiritually, for our sabbatical experience was an incredible 4 day conference at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove near Asheville, NC, June 7-10, 2012.  The setting was spectacular!  The hospitality of The Cove was outstanding!  We enjoyed the fellowship of meeting and getting to know a good number of the 75 other conference participants!  Yet, the biggest spiritual impact came from the Conference speaker, Dr. Ken Boa.  Dr. Boa's seminar was entitled: "Living Fully in the Present"!

The thrust of Ken's teaching centered around the concept that who we are in Christ is most fundamental and must shape what we do.  He taught us and reminded us that doing must flow out of being. He stated that: "who we are in Christ is the basis for what we do.  The key is faithfulness in the journey, rather than living from one product or result to the next. Spiritual growth is inside out, not outside in".

Over the course of the 3 days of teaching, Ken helped us to see that God wants us to be process focused rather than product focused.  He talked about things such as Practicing the Presence of God in our daily routine.  He talked about cultivating an attitude of trust in God, gratitude, and contentment.

Here's a brief summary of some of the key ideas that stuck with me!

  • Many of us have a tendancy to always live in the future - a tendancy to invest our energies in accomplishing future goals
  • "It's not for us to determine our times, but to decide what to do with what we have been given" (from The Fellowship of the Rings)
  • Spiritual growth is long obedience in the same direction.  This often involves living with ambiguity
  • The trilogy of faith, hope, and love, are 3 keys to the spiritual life.  Faith is not a leap into the dark, but a step into the light
  • The Christian life is lived by faith, sustained by hope and exemplified by love
  • One of the big problems of our day is the problem of busyness.  We need a sabbath regularly
  • We must combat busyness by developing a clear sense of mission, by saying no to the good and yes to the best, by knowing our personal limits, by freeing ourselves of the expectations of others, and by seeking a balance between rest and work
  • We can get so involved in causes, even good causes, that we fail to focus on Christ and nurture intimacy with our Savior
  • The greatest competition to devotion to Jesus is service for Him - Oswald Chambers
  • When discussing practicing the presence of God, "what appears to be secular, actually is spiritual, if the focus of our hearts is eternal"
  • Trust, Gratitude, and Contentment are 3 keys to living fully in the present and to cultivating intimacy with Christ
  • Gratitude has a short half life.  It quickly degerates into entitlement
  • Gratitude is a choice, not merely a feeling.  We cannot give thanks and complain at the same time
There was so much more I could write about.  It was a rich and powerful time.  Both Sandi and I made a list of some very practical action steps that we are committed to implementing in our daily and weekly lives as we seek to apply these teachings in the "busyness" of life.

Perhaps most powerful for me, was when Ken spoke about how he seeks to focus on 4 Scriptures every morning when he wakes up.  I am inspired to seek to do this as well.  Here's a summary of these 4 powerful passages from the Apostle Paul!

  • Ephesians 1:17-19 - "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know Him better.  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe".
  • Ephesians 3:16-19 - "I pray that out of his glorious riches, he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God".
  • Philippians 1:9-11 - "And this is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God".
  • Colossians 1:9-12 - "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you, and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will, through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light".
Wow, these are powerful verses!  The Conference at The Cove was a powerful time.  Sandi and I are very grateful for the privilege to have experienced this mountaintop time with Christ.  We believe that the impact will have eternal effect!