POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

God himself will...

Life is full of difficulty, pain and suffering. No one is immune to it. Not one exempt. It may seem that he or she has it good, has it better or doesn't have any problems but this is an illusion. Now there are varying degrees of suffering and we don't get to choose our lot and circumstances. So much in our lives comes to us and what matters is how we travel in and through the difficult day as well as the days of sunshine.

I've spent a lot of time in the book of 1 Peter this year and a verse popped up on my watch today that is one of my favorites. Chew on this for a minute. Or as one of my friends likes to say, "marinate on it."

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:10, 11

A few things to see here that are treasures and life to the follower of Jesus. First, the duration of our difficulty is "a little while." Now that may mean a few years or a whole lifetime, but nonetheless suffering is not eternal. It is temporary in light of the eternal glories that await us in the Kingdom. Paul said it this way, 

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

Paul's struggles that were "light" included beatings, shipwreck, prison, snakes biting him, folk throwing rocks at him until they thought he was dead, etc. We need his perspective to know that suffering is only for "a little while." 

The second thing we see is that "God himself" is going to act upon the behalf of his suffering saints when all is said and done. Not just any "god" but our creator, the God of all grace (kindness, love and favor), is the one who will personally restore us. God himself...pause and think about that. Who will ultimately take care of things in the end? Who has your back? God himself has your back. After a life that may seem to be but loss and difficulty there will come a restoration, a confirmation, a strengthening and an eternal establishment. Who will do it? God will. To him be the dominion (in charge, his running my game) forever and ever. Amen!

So no matter if work, school, sport, health, family, friends or politics seems extremely jacked up today we need to know this. God himself...he's on point for his people. He has our back. Run and tell that.

Thoughts on Missional Innovation

Every so often in history leaders, people, ideas and circumstances come together and dramatic changes take place. Ways of living, perspectives on reality and even our understanding of ourselves are profoundly impacted. We call these convergences of people and ideas, "movements." Every movement displays an interconnected nature as certain ideas coalesce into shared passion and joint action for change. Many times movements are marked by innovation, new ways of thinking and acting as human beings. At times innovations are seen as bursting forth out of nowhere, or as sudden awakenings, yet many historical events build successively into movements. The cumulative action of many leaders and ideas evolve forward or build like a wave crashing upon a seashore with powerful momentum. It is often said that today’s leaders stand on the shoulders of giants; we know this to be true. What is prevalent today was influenced by what came before as the interconnected nature of people and ideas moves us in one direction or another. 

Recently I've been thinking much about some the technological movements of the last 100 years and I've read four books to that end. My undergraduate education was in the science and technology space and I’ve enjoy histories in that area of human work and inquiry. The first work was entitled The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner which focused on the history of Bell Laboratories and its various communication inventions that led into the modern information revolution. The transistor arguably the most important of the technologies that emerged there in the twentieth century. Next up was When Computing Got Personal: A History of the Desktop Computer by Matthew Nicholson, a work on the history of the desktop computer from it's very earliest forms until some of the recent sizes and shapes we see today. After this came Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet  by Katie Hafner. A fascinating read on the invention of this most important of computer networks through the combined efforts of industry, government and academia. I finally, finished up with Moore's Law: The Life of Gordon Moore, Silicon Valley's Quiet Revolutionary by Thackray, Brock and Jones. Moore is an unassuming titan of what became our modern Silicon Valley and one of the chief inventors of silicon semi-conductor technology. He was one of the founders of what became the tech juggernaut known as Intel. Incidentally, an Intel chip is currently humming along inside my laptop as I type these words.

In my reading I observed that time and time again there was an interconnection between ideas that lead to innovation. Technology built upon the gains of the past and the previous generation’s hard work, problem solving and creative thinking. The innovation that took place in our technological revolutions was not in any way magic. It took place under certain cultural and structural circumstances that made the movement possible. I will outline a few of these in the final section of this essay below. As I looked at technological innovation I also saw much to be gleaned for the innovation needed in gospel mission in every generation.

What I want to do in this essay is to first look at the necessary restrictions and freedoms for innovation to flourish. I will do this under the header Context for Innovation. From there I want to draw some parallels between technological innovation and missional innovation for church planting movements before closing with a reminder of the type of innovation needed in the church in our time. 

Context for Innovation

It may be surprising but some of the modern technology and correlated free-flowing creations were actually driven by some imposed parameters and restrictions. Physicists and engineers are constantly encountering problems that cause them to think outside of the box precisely because they are working within one. What do I mean? Our scientific work does not bend or break the laws of physics. Our work will either conform to or be defeated by them. Reality shapes and constricts our efforts. Innovative thinking comes to bear in trying new ideas as we necessarily stay within the bounds of the created space-time reality. Learning how things actually work and how they work best is essential for our creation and innovation in technology. So the technologist is not some magician pulling a white iPhone out of her hat, but she is learning how things work within the system she has been given. This does not mean she is a traditionalist who only accepts the answers of the past. Yet she must see many past failures and go forward with things that work as she moves towards new solutions to problems in the future. It is not some terrible requirement to have to conform to the laws of Physics; there is no other way to cross technological hurdles. When a technology does not work because we did not understand the nature of reality, we have simply hit a restriction that sends us quite literally back to the drawing board. The restrictions are no enemy. They help us head off in fresh new directions that may prove more fruitful in the end. 

This brings us to a second necessary parameter for innovation to flourish. The technologist must have the freedom to try new things to solve problems. Otherwise we will be stuck in the past's failures or remain content with the status quo. The technologist simply cannot accept a current technical hurdle as the final defeat but must seek new ways to overcome it. This constant tension between the laws of physics and problem-solving creativity creates the spark of movement that can become a stunning wave of innovation. Both the restrictions and the freedom are necessary interlocutors that create momentum. Failures and success both drive forward the wave. 

The same can be said for the work of the church in every generation. First, there must be a firm anchor and reality to which we conform our efforts. This must be the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed to us by God in history and Scripture. Just as creation itself is no hindrance to technology and science, sound doctrine and theology is no hindrance to missional innovation. We must have rails within which we are faithful, otherwise we won't build anything that actually "works." Without the bounds of revealed truth and the historical verities of our faith we can run the mission aground on the rocks of heresy and false teachings. The truth must be the raw materials with which we move forward in mission. Secondly, we must also grasp the freedom necessary to encounter people in every generation with the gospel. We must contextualize the good news of Jesus Christ to a changing world without denying or changing the laws of our theological “physics”. Yet we must have freedom while engaging with our inherited past, to question whether or not certain practices flow from human traditions (Mark 7:13-23) or from the revealed truth of God. This means there is a “faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3), and there are new horizons and new expressions of that faith needed in every generation.

The parallels between technological and missional innovation are not difficult to find. I will close with a look at the process of innovation and its necessary ingredients gleaned from various histories of technology.

Thoughts on Innovation

Innovation comes from passion

Innovation comes from a strong desire to learn and then solve problems. Those who seek new, faithful ways to reach people with the gospel are driven by a similar desire. A desire to engage the problem of a world in need of Jesus and to use all possible, godly means to bring the good news. They are willing to connect with people far from God in various cultural and societal settings because of their love for God and people. It is their passion and love that compels them as they are convinced that Christ died for sinners and communicating this truth is essential. Apologetics and missional thinking help us to overcome the hurdles that prevent thoughtful engagement with people in culture. Missional innovation must be driven by passion: love for God and love for people.

Innovation flows from proper freedom

One of the observations I made in reading about technological innovation is that smart people were given the time, space and funding necessary to do their work. Freedom in research must be funded with exploration and even failure as an aspect of the way forward. In missionary work, space needs to be created in, by and through local churches for similar efforts. Church planting provides the freedom for both faithfulness to gospel truth while engaging in some exploration and experimentation in methodology. Even those who hold to some form of the regulative principle may still maintain space for variation in style within a given culture for gospel life and ministry. Even if you have the conviction that we can only preach, sing psalms, pray and observe the sacraments in a church gathering, how a church goes about such things, language, style, aesthetics, etc. can still be a subject of exploration.  Furthermore, there is a wide open field of ministry through church members, smaller communities, missional groups and parachurch work that can flow with innovation even for highly regulative churches.

Innovation comes from people who dared to try and have some talent

The status quo can trap us. As people, we don't always like change even when change is what we desperately need. There are churches that will demand their own death and extinction rather than change out carpet or switch up musical styles in worship. Church planters are willing to accept the dare of the Holy Spirit to follow Jesus outside of the camp to the lost, beginning new works that might connect the gospel to those far from God and his church. Innovation comes when there are people who take "risks" for the sake of the gospel putting their hearts, souls, mind, strength all in with their God given gifts and talents.  

Finally, innovation comes from systems demanding attention and constant improvement

One of the striking driving forces for technological innovation in the 20th century was the growing complexity of telephone networks. The problems that emerged in expanding and maintaining such a complex network drove innovation because there were so many problems to solve. Necessity, quite literally, was the mother of many inventions. The place where many inventions were made was within the actual telephone system itself. The same might be said of the technology that was invented within the 20th century context of the cold war. There were secret groups of smart, dedicated, well-funded and focused people (see Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed by Ben Rich) meeting serious military problems with life and death implications. Will some Soviet or US military advantage lead to our mutual destruction? Let’s get to work on solving this or that technological hurdle so that no one gets nuked into oblivion. This has striking parallels to our work in church planting. New ideas for the mission must emerge from the necessity of the mission itself. In the middle of the messiness of ministry we must solve problems which arrive from the streams of providence and the shifting of cultures. A world broken with sin and death while facing coming judgment should bring an urgency of action and missional innovation from God’s people.  

Let me conclude with one final thought about "innovation" in and through the church. It is not innovative to simply copy and ape a worldly culture and society. I once heard Nancy Lee DeMoss say that the world is not aching for a "religious version of itself." What did she mean? I think we must see that the lost world around us does not necessarily need a sermon series called "Soulflix" with a perfectly mimicked Netflix logo all the while preaching messages from this or that movie. As fun as this might be, it is neither innovative nor really creative. What we do need are churches that can passionately preach the great gospel truths of the book of Ephesians to people that watch four hours of Netflix a night. That task will require both creativity and innovation in thought. It will require the bounds of the truth and the freedom to innovate in our styles, modes and communication. It will require us to be faithful and daring. It will require prayer and the dynamic leadership of the Holy Spirit in our day. After all, our goal is not simply to innovate in missionary methods for the sake of doing new stuff to make a church seem “cool”. Our goal is to bring people to Jesus through the preaching of the gospel and that means we must care about the methods we use to connect and communicate in THIS or THAT time and place. 

To be grateful...guest post from Kayla Monaghan

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To walk you have to take a single step

“Kayla, can you take a look at the stacks of books we are not going to take with us when we move and see if you want to keep any,” my mom called. We were moving in 7 weeks and the floor was littered with pile after pile. I went through a few and found one I used to love when I was little and sat down to read. It is called Polyanna, a story about a girl who learns to play the glad game, finding things to be grateful for, despite her legs becoming paralyzed. Little did I know I would be playing the same game later that night.

It was around 4:30pm that afternoon and there was a crack that echoed through the field. It was my leg, violently smashed by a heavy footed goal keeper. The middle of my leg wobbled and a scream escaped my throat. I knew it was broken. The next twenty-four hours were a blur. I was carted off in an ambulance to the emergency room and then had surgery the next day. It turns out I had my tibia and fibula, the two bones in the lower leg, completely snapped. I found myself playing the glad game the night before surgery with my mom finding all sorts of things to be grateful for.

In the hospital a lot was taken away from me. My spot on the New Jersey state team I had just made, the rest of my final season with my team, and the ability to do just about anything on my own, all gone. Then, my hopes for going to back to school were dashed a week later. I was crushed. I cried and kept asking why? Why me? Why now? Eventually, I realized it wasn't my place to ask those questions. I could only be thankful for what I did have. An ever present God, a strong left leg, a titanium rod in my tibia, amazing people checking in and caring for me, and the best family anyone could ask for made the list in that round of the glad game. I've learned, and still am learning, how to be grateful for everything because nothing belongs to us, not even our bodies. I know I will be back on my own two feet (and a soccer field) as soon as possible. I have found so much, much more than I thought possible, to be grateful for.

The Double Pain of a Sports Injury

Over the past week our family has been hurting a bit. Our oldest, Kayla, a.k.a. Kayla Joy, a.k.a Joy, a.k.a. baby duck suffered a devastating injury on the football pitch. After a feet first tackle by the opposing goal keeper she was left with a tibial-fibular fracture and a level of physical trauma that was quite shocking. With the excellent work of a top surgeon along with a fantastic titanium nail from Smith and Nephew, the team has put our girl back together again. Though the road to full recovery is long, we are now taking the first steps in that journey.

First steps and back on our feet  

First steps and back on our feet  

The injury has me thinking about and meditating on the nature of pain. And a pain in two kinds. First and most obvious is the physical pain of having you leg bones crunched in the storm of a violent collision. We have good meds for that in 2016 but the physical pain is still a shocking and present reality. Furthermore, as bone breaks go, the larger the bone the more painful when it breaks. The femur is supposedly #1 (do follow that link if you need a laugh) and the tibia is a close #2. It's hard to watch someone you love go through such things.

Yet there is a pain of a second kind that rapidly descends upon an athlete in the aftermath of injury. It arrives upon the tracks of loss and uncertainty.

Loss

Many high level athletes have literally played their sport almost their entire lives. Though only 14, our Kayla has literally played the game of football/soccer in an organized fashion for two thirds of her life. If you add in kicking balls around from a very young age, soccer had been a part of her story as long as she has literal memories. When a leg breaks part of your story breaks of suddenly as well. The regular training sessions, the games, the travel, the tournaments and the constant presence of teammates all comes to a sudden and grinding halt. It's almost as if part of you is suddenly gone. The loss is painful and the physical pain that lingers reminds you of the loss. It's no wonder that when a player is seriously injured that teammates rally to that player. The empathy and understanding of what is lost is grasped  by all. And as an aside, thank you to the coaches, teammates and supportive leadership of FC Copa Academy in this time. 

Uncertainty

Along with the quick realization of loss another fear visits the soul. The doubt and uncertainty about the future. Life is suddenly changed. You cannot walk on your own.  Sleeping is difficult and you have to get to the bathroom over and over and over again. With such sudden change you also begin to ask the questions: Can I come back from this? How long will it take? Will I be my old self? Will I come back better? What about my future dreams for the game? Are those in jeopardy? Who am I, really, apart from these things that I do? The spectre of uncertainty does not wait to visit the soul. That deranged spirit just lands upon you without delay. It brings a certain aching to the heart. 

My wife and I, both former athletes, also feel these emotions and psychological difficulties vicariously because we have walked in these shoes. The memory of losing my final year of collegiate wrestling to a labrum tear in my shoulder comes rushing back even now. As parents, watching the physical pain and knowing the turmoil inside my girl just breaks the fatherly heart a bit. 

The Christian athlete faces all of these issues and perhaps some theological questions related to providence and the sovereignty of God. Yet the Christian athlete, like my daughter have many great benefits.

  • She has the great benefit of the constant grace and care of a good, good Father.
  • She has a present help in the time of trouble and a strength to face fear. (Psalm 46).
  • She has the great Helper (John 14:25-27) and High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16) walking with her in deepest times of need. 
  • She has the church family encouraging her along the way (John 13:34,35; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11),
  • She has presence of God ever with her to strengthen her heart (Isaiah 43:1-11; John 16:33; Hebrews 13:20,21) and
  • She has the knowledge and contentment that "we can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13. Here it can appropriately applied to sport)

As I wrote earlier, youth sports is a great place of need for mission and the gospel; it is also a great arena for sanctification and life change. Even, no especially, in the seasons of double pain. 

Love you Joy! With you #everystepoftheway  

 

Youth Sports - Part 2

Good morning friends. Yesterday I posted an article about engagement with youth sports. That essay was edited by my brilliant 14-year-old daughter who is a great writer in her own right. 

Later yesterday afternoon that same sweet girl suffered a crushing injury on the soccer field snapping both her tibia and her fibula in her lower right leg.

This too has taught us much about God, his kindness and some terrible pain and utter sadness. Yesterday as we rode in the ambulance she asked me to read her the Psalms so her heart would be drawn to the Lord and her heart at peace in the midst of the pain and the crazy. I read to her the 63rd Psalm: 

1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

- Psalm 63:1-8

My little girl is a beautiful soul. Today we will have some reconstructive surgery where a rod will be placed into her tibia. Please pray for us in the days ahead and all of those who surround us…church, family and our soccer community. We are all praying that the Lord would use everything to express his grace and glory to many. 

Love in Christ, for the Monaghan Home Team

Reid  

Books I enjoyed in 2015

The Bible says that of "the making of many books there is no end and much study is a weariness of the flesh." (Ecclesiastes 12:12) In other words, there are many words not worth reading. Certainly the words of the wise and the Words of God are the guides of life and there are many books not worth the bits and bytes they are produced in. Yet there are some good ones to read. Here are a few of the books where I found some joy this past year.

The Bible

I've been reading and teaching in a few main biblical texts in the most of 2015

My continued love of history and creative Non Fiction dominated my audiobook reading again this year and continues to be my favorite genre of music to listen to ;-). The following were fantastic reads in 2015. All my car, exercise and yard work time is occupied with these sorts of friends...and a few podcasts.

In terms of explicitly Christian market books I enjoyed the following...

Power of Change in 2016

Friends, 

As many of you may be aware, Kasey and I will be transitioning with our family out of New Jersey in the summer of 2016. We thank the Lord for all he has used us for in the Garden State and the Northeast during the last seven or so years. You can read the letter we shared with our church to catch you up to date here. We are thankful for our Jacob's Well  family and are so looking forward to all they will do in service of our King in New Jersey. We are thankful to continue to serve and remain connected with both Jacob's Well and The Acts 29 Network in fruitful partnership for many years to come.

As we look towards the future there are some changes coming to Power of Change. Beginning in 1996 Power of Change (POC) was the name of our newsletter to our supporters of our ministry with Athletes in Action. POC then became the domain and name of our web site when powerofchange.org rolled out. It morphed into a blog format and will soon undergo its most significant change yet. Power of Change will be birthed as a ministry to impact and influence the coming generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Over the first half of 2016 we will be working on incorporating and relocating our family to Blacksburg, VA which was our home from 1998-2004. We will base our ministry there as we move forward in God's calling. It is our hope to serve in some specific ways in the years ahead should God give grace.  Blacksburg is a university town which is home to Virginia Tech and will also allow me to base close to family as I serve broadly in ministry. 

We are currently in the midst of work to brand, incorporate, file for 501c3 status and build the proper systems to support the ministry. We are also praying and dreaming about how the Lord may use us in days ahead.  Check on the branding work my good friend Weylon Smith has already completed for us. Pretty sweet.

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Colors and Application

Colors and Application

We are also quite exhausted as we finish up our 20th year of full time ministry together. We need to rest and refresh a bit and that is one of our objectives for late 2016 as we get things moving with Power of Change. Much more to come in terms of details and vision for sure but we are thankful for God's grace, humbled by his call and looking forward to the journey ahead. The power of change lies with the power of God and we are still hung up on he who is the truth and his Kingdom that is to come. 

If you are interested in being on our mailing list, supporting the work and keeping in touch, drop us a note here and I'll add you to the email list.

Much love and grace in Christ

Reid, on behalf of the Monaghan Home Team