Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Day

It's the last day of 2011 and in a somewhat cliche & typical manner I find myself looking back over the past 365 days (I actually have been for most of the month of December.) I don't believe that I could accurately reflect on all that this year delivered (and in some instances didn't deliver) in one blog. I will admit that it has been a tough and challenging year both spiritually and professionally. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it still has me sorting out the lessons that need to be carried over and implemented, and which ones can be set aside. There have been tremendous blessings for my family and God has certainly shown us favor and love in multiple ways. Our family has grown closer together this year and we have seen God's answer to prayers for our children and continue to seek Him for more. God is working in and through us to see His will made complete and even if I don't understand everything as it occurs I know that His plan will prevail.

I'm not finished ruminating on all that 2011 offered, but I also don't want to get trapped looking at the past when there are opportunities for growth in front of me that need to be grabbed onto. I look forward to seeing goals accomplished personally and professionally and know that success will be a blend of God's blessing & guidance and my faithful obedience and perseverance.

To paraphrase a popular sports writer: and this year will be better than the last.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Not Yet

I seem to have fallen off of the blogging wagon these last few days of 2011. I have had many thoughts of blogs to write, but have lacked the time and zeal to sit and write them out. In fact, I would even argue that I have fallen victim to dwelling in these thoughts a little too much in the busyness of the Christmas schedule.

The thought that I have been mulling over more than any other is a question that I read in a leadership blog last week: Will you be where you want to be in five years by doing what you are doing today? That requires forethought and an understanding of the choices that you make today building towards a future. It means having a vision of where you want to be and what kind of person you want to develop into. Achieving that vision requires discipline to stay committed to the plan that God has revealed to you even when the journey seems difficult.

My immediate answer when I first read that question was a resounding "No." But while I am not entirely satisfied with my progress in this journey, the meditation on the future has caused me to carefully examine all facets of my current life & what I believe to be God's vision for the future.

I posit that there is a greater follower of Christ, husband, father, and pastor in my future. The faithful and obedient work that lies in front of me can be daunting, but I have full confidence in God's refining process. I pray for the focused discipline to continually work towards that future and eagerly look forward to the progress along the journey.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Better Half

I could blog today about all the details of life with my incredible wife. I could write of how we can finish each other's sentences, how her hand fits so perfectly in mine, and how she understands me like no one else does. I could write about the joy I find in making her happy, how I love to watch her walk into and out of a room, or her passion for God, our children and me. I could blog about how she has seen me at my best and my worst and loves me anyway. Details could pour forth on the journey of our marriage and how God has certainly been at work through it all-in the rock bottom times and the highest joys. I could regale you with stories of her character and her passionate desire for what is right even when it is difficult. My blog about her compassion for hurting people, both near & far, would speak to the depth of her heart.

Instead I will simply say that today we celebrate 17 years of marriage and I recognize that I am blessed far beyond what I deserve. When God has gifted you with a companion for life there is nothing sweeter than growing old together through that journey. Wherever life may lead us, I take confidence in knowing that my bride goes with me.

You have my heart and my love as long as I have breath to give it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Get In the Ring

The body will naturally do one of two things when confronted with stress: fight or flight. There are no other options. When confronted with a situation that causes anxiety we either use the natural rush of adrenaline to stand firm or to find a reason to quickly escape. I saw it in athletes for many years and it resulted in championships for those that refused to run and disappointment for those that didn't recognize that their bodies & emotions had betrayed them. I saw it happen many times in youth ministry as God's truth become evident to young people who either fought the good fight of faith or simply disappeared to never return.

I am pondering this natural, God-created response as I think about the people that I know need to make a decision to follow Christ. There are so many that are sitting in church (not just Northridge either) and are being exposed to the beauty of choosing God's way and yet they don't choose to follow. I sense the Holy Spirit bringing people right to the edge of radical change and then see them run. Fighting isn't easy (it's not called the "nap or flight" reaction) but it reveals our confidence in God's power over our circumstances. It's a trade-off that we are not always consciously making. Do we run from the challenge of life change or stand firm on the promises of God to give us a life that is abundantly full? It's a decision that we must continue to make daily if we want to stay on the narrow path that leads to salvation.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Still Good

It has been a full week. That sentence alone carries more weight than six words should.

I sit here at the end of it and have a hard time fathoming all that has been packed into seven days. I have experienced the joy of seeing others blessed through Christmas gifts and Christmas dinner. I have witnessed warmth as senior citizens came together for a celebration of Christmas through songs and a meal. I have laughed and cried with staff members as we tirelessly work to fulfill God's calling on us and struggle to deal with the trials of our personal lives. I have been overwhelmed by the beauty of the birth of Christ through our Live Nativity and touched by the tears of a father who stopped to thank me for giving his family an opportunity to witness it. I have officiated a wedding, calmed nerves, and asked for God's blessing over a young couple just starting their life together. My heart has been heavy with sorrow over the death of a young man that left us far too early and my tears flowed as I missed grieving with friends. I have prayed and meditated over sharing a message from God to our church and been blessed as God allowed me to preach it.

I am overwhelmed with so many emotions as I look back on this week and I do not know what the week ahead holds for me. I do know that God is still King and that He is still good. No matter what lies ahead those facts will not change. There is great comfort and encouragement in knowing that I worship a God who does not change based on my circumstances.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Too Soon

I experienced one of the coolest athletic feats at a CIY Move conference several years ago. We had a team in the annual dodgeball tournament and were actually playing pretty well. We had moved through the first few rounds and were playing against the worship band. Five of the six members of our team got knocked out very quickly and it looked like our run was over. What happened next was incredible to watch and is a story that I have shared with many people since.

Our one remaining team member was a young man named Trent Turner. Trent was a natural athlete with an incredible arm. He realized how the odds were stacked against him and seemed to take his intensity up a notch (as if it could be any higher for him.) He started methodically mowing down the opposite team by catching everything they threw at him and then knocking them off one at a time. He was throwing so hard that the ball bounced off of their chests as they tried to catch it. When he knocked out a few of them and we realized that he had a shot at pulling this off our cheers grew louder. The crowd surrounding the court started to grow as people came running over to witness this great comeback. When Trent knocked out the last opposing team member we rushed the court with shouts of victory and picked him up to carry him around. It was like we had won the World Series or the Super Bowl.

Trent passed away this week in a car accident-another life taken from us far too soon and my heart is heavy for my own grief and for that of his family & friends. I think back to that day of dodgeball and see how it encapsulates my thoughts of Trent. He lived life with passion and intensity. He drew people to him-we all loved him and his infectious personality and laughter. He would fight for those he loved and for those who couldn't fight for themselves. When he was fired up about a project or goal there was no stopping him from getting it done. All of us wanted to see him succeed and to cheer him on when he did. He lived life at full throttle and I treasure the times of laughter, tears, sweat, worship, and service that we shared together.

You will be missed my friend. I am grateful for the gift that you were to the lives around you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Comparison Shopping

When we make an inexpensive, impulse buy at a store we make a quick judgment in our mind that it isn't a big deal because the item was cheap and easy to purchase. If we were going to buy a flat screen TV however, we would probably search for the best possible deal, make sure that it had all of the features that we need, and even then may choose not to purchase it. We are putting into practice the principle of assigning value.

At some point in our lives we put a value on spiritual things. We will have to determine whether we want to stay in a small comfort zone or step into the wild journey of following Christ. A decision will have to made about our lifestyle and maintaining it as it is, or whether we will exchange it for God's way of life. We will have to choose either the pleasures of God's Kingdom or the pleasures of sin.

We make these decisions as we determine the cost of declaring allegiance to the King. It is a continual, daily process of assigning value that requires us to actively choose who we will follow.

Monday, December 12, 2011

It Doesn't Matter

Alice "I was just wondering if you could help me find my way."
Cheshire Cat "Well that depends on where you want to go."
Alice "Oh, it really doesn't matter, as long as..."
Cheshire Cat "Then it really doesn't matter which way you go."

I want to be a better husband, father, pastor, and follower of Christ. I'm not satisfied with my current standing in any of those areas and I know that God has greater plans for me than what I am currently experiencing. I have full confidence in God's ability to work in and through me. I strongly believe in the fulfillment of His will and that His plan will prevail.

I also recognize that I can't passively sit back and hope that my future is revealed and fulfilled. He desires for me to take an active role in increasing my faith and growing as a godly man. That requires intentional daily effort and constant seeking of direction and vision from God. I have to be willing to fervently ask God for a vision of the future, have the faith to believe that He will reveal it, and then faithfully pray and work to see it come to fruition through the power of His Holy Spirit. 

If we aren't willing to seek that specific vision and passionately work towards it we have neglected true revelation from God. Then our prayers and intentions are merely pleasant platitudes that make us feel good about becoming better people without actually living out a Holy Spirit filled existence.

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Lindsay Bug

Today my oldest daughter turns 14 and I have a difficult time reconciling how quickly it seems that she has reached this point. We had our traditional daddy-daughter breakfast this morning and enjoyed the simple time together. Her birthday present was an iPod touch which she saved for the last year to pay 1/2 of the cost. When we got home after breakfast and gave it to her she chose to wait to set it up so she could go and buy Christmas presents for a child we are sponsoring this year. I couldn't be any prouder of the young lady that she has become.

She is confident in who she is and is able to talk with adults as well as connect with children much younger than her. She is always wanting to help-whether it is bringing in groceries from the car or getting up early on a Saturday to hand out food to those in need. She is beautiful inside and out and I am already prepared to beat the brakes off any young man that approaches her inappropriately. I love her sense of humor, her passion for God, and her little idiosyncrasies that make her uniquely Lindsay. I still love the fact that she will wander in a room and want me to hug her for ten minutes while I stand talking to her mother. I have a hard time believing that I have anything to do with how incredibly awesome she is (her mother deserves most of that credit!) I love her and her sisters more than it should be possible to love other people.

Happy birthday my Lou-bug. I am grateful for you and the privilege of being your father.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

You've Got to Pray

I was blessed to spend time in prayer tonight with our elders and couple of our staff members. We cried out to God on behalf of spiritually wounded people, for friends who had just lost loved ones, for physical healing in far too many cases, and for satan's strongholds to be shattered in our community. It was an intense time and yet powerfully refreshing and encouraging to battle for people together. I am honored to have the opportunity to pray for others and even more so to petition God with good friends and brothers. It is in these times of intense spiritual warfare that our community with each other is developed. More importantly, it is through this that our confidence in God's ability to redeem and restore His people is strengthened. No wonder satan does everything in his limited power to distract us from prayer.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Under Arrest

I find it slightly ironic that this blog title comes on a day that I attended the ribbon cutting for the new prison here in town, but it actually doesn't have anything to do with incarceration. I'm also grateful that I was allowed to leave of my own volition-not that I was overly concerned, but you still never know what might happen when touring with Mike Waers.

I was reading this morning in a book by A.W. Tozer (one of my favorite authors and pastors) and he used the phrase "arrested development" to describe the faith of people within the church. His premise for this statement was that people tend to progress to a certain point and then just stop growing. They cease to develop and become stuck without moving any further.

I think that this unfortunately describes far too many Christians. There may have been some excitement about our faith in the beginning, but now it has become just simply part of who we are and what we do. There is a stagnation in how we worship God that reflects the lack of new frontiers and a hesitance to stretch ourselves into new territories. If we aren't willing to aggressively address this lack of forward growth we will cease to be effective in leading our families and reaching our community.

God is able to do more than we could possibly think or imagine and there are things that He hasn't begun to reveal to us yet. If we suffer from arrested development of our faith the fault doesn't lie with Him. It will require an intentional act on our part to grow beyond where we are now by working to shake up our patterns of spiritual discipline and taking bold (and sometimes risky) steps of trust in God's ability to draw us closer to Him.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Relentless Grace

I just finished reading the book Relentless by John Bevere and came away with an enlarged perspective of God's grace for us. I have always attributed most of the power of grace to the forgiveness of sin in my life, but Bevere brings new understanding through the power of Scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit. He makes bold statements about the work of grace in our lives, but always provides Biblical texts to add authority.

The powerful charge (as given by grace) is that we are to rule in life through Christ. The grace that God gives to those that choose to follow Him daily is the force that enables us to overcome opposition to life and godliness. Bevere states that it is the evidence of that grace in our lives that truly identifies a follower of Christ and not just a one-time public proclamation of faith or regular attendance at church. It is a continual process of grace refining our lives and not a one-time experience. He writes, "Grace is not merely a God-given cover-up of our sin. It empowers us to live like Jesus, to rule in this life by manifesting heaven's authority and power to change our world of influence."

Bevere does an excellent job of expressing the meaning of grace as shown through the Bible and builds a strong foundation of understanding and faith. He is able to expand upon that base of grace and communicate how much bigger God's vision of grace is for us than our own. The testimonies offered in the book only reinforce the truth of the power of God's grace. It is an essential element in the life of a Christ-follower that is based on all that God has to offer and our willingness to accept His gift and utilize it as fully as possible in this temporary life.

I would recommend this book for fans of John Bevere and for anyone who is looking for greater depth in their understanding of God's intentions for us in this life. It has certainly made me reevaluate my own belief in God's ability to influence my life through grace and how fervently and humbly I should be seeking more of it.

"I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review" 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Salt & Pepper

I read something tonight that only reinforced lessons that I have been learning for the past 17 years. It revolves around the analogy of salt & pepper (and I'm not talking about the increasing change in my hair color.)

A CEO was talking about the balance of leadership and power and that people tend to fall more deeply in love with the concept of power. She likened pepper to power-it is independently sharp, strong, and definitely has an impact on what it chooses to season. Salt however, is like leadership-it brings out the flavor in things, sharpens what is already there and brings enhancement. Both of them are necessary and shouldn't be separated, but pepper (in a management sense) should be used sparingly and wisely.

Power comes easily to a management role, but it is not always used well. History is littered with the remains of families, churches, corporations, and nations where power was abused. When it is combined with a legitimate concern for people and a desire to bring out the best in them, power actually doesn't have to be utilized very often. When you have a strong personality it takes more work to bring out the "salt" in who you are, but I have found (through much trial & error) that it is more rewarding for all of us if leadership is in the driver's seat.

I am still working through my own development as a leader (and will never stop until my last breath here.) I genuinely care for the people that I have had the opportunity to influence-even if my efforts didn't always reflect that. It is part of my continual life goal to be aware of the need to "season" appropriately and trust that God will work even through my mistakes.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I Have Decided

I was listening to music from my friends at Salty Church in Ormond Beach this morning and they sang the words to the old hymn, I Have Decided to Follow Jesus. The truth contained in those lyrics is timeless and brought me to contemplate what it really means to live those words out.

Following is more than saying a prayer or being baptized-it is a commitment to letting Christ lead you throughout the rest of your life. It is a journey that is started by being willing to leave everything else behind-job, social status, friends, addictions, sin, life goals, family history, selfishness and more. Choosing to follow means that you stick with it even when it's tough-when you have relationship difficulties, when your reputation is being damaged, when your emotions are telling you something that is contradictory to what God is telling you, when you are unsure of what is next and how to move on. It is a matter of trusting in the One who is leading. It is putting our confidence in His ability to take us where we need to go and having faith that His way is the best way.

When we decide to follow Jesus it is more than a statement made with our voices. It is a declaration of allegiance to the King and His guidance and plan. It must infiltrate all of our decisions, passions, attitudes and talents if it is going to be an accurate representation of our heart's intent. This level of faith isn't attained overnight, but is a journey of discovery and endurance that is traveled by keeping our eyes focused on the One who leads us.

"Christian faith is not so much what you say you believe, 
but how you behave in a consistent manner." A.W. Tozer

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Bailey Boo

Today my middle daughter turns 13 and we have already started her day of honor with our traditional daddy-daughter breakfast. As we ate and talked with each other I could see just how much she is growing-not just physically, but maturing in her thoughts and desires. It's hard as a parent to reconcile the image of that tiny baby with big blue eyes that would stare up at me with the young lady that was sitting and drinking her coffee. So much of her is changing and yet she still possesses the innocence of heart that I pray will always be part of who she is. I hope that she will always exclaim loudly and gleefully at surprises. I treasure her excitement at seeing me come home as she runs to my car with her sisters to get hugs & kisses and dread the day it ceases to happen. She will always be my deep-thinker and dreamer-just as content to sit alone and stare at the water as she is with other people. She is uniquely and wonderfully Bailey and it warms my heart to see her love for others and her excitement for life.

I'm proud of you my girl. God is doing incredible things in and through you and He's not done yet. I'm more grateful than you could ever know for the gift that you are to us.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Once Upon a Time

The common misunderstanding about the Bible is that it is two different tales. The Old Testament is the story of a God that is judging and damning of people. The New Testament tells of a God that loves His people and would do anything to save them. The truth is that the Bible is a metanarrative (an overarching story) that declares the same consistent theme throughout each part. It tells of a Kingly Father who created us to love Him and has done everything that He can to bring us back to Him since our separation of sin. The root of the story doesn't change-God is always good and has been working since the beginning of time to reconcile His people to Him.

We each play our part in this overarching theme of love, redemption, and restoration. It starts with our commitment to Him, but that is only the beginning. We get to have input in what our part of the story says and how we want it to reinforce what God is already doing. He tells us that if we will delight in Him that He will give us the desires of our hearts. I firmly believe that He takes those passions and weaves them together with others to advance His Kingdom and transform individuals into a collective tale of majesty, power, and perfect will.

I know that the story ultimately ends in heaven, but I am also challenged (and a little anxious) about the impact that my story will have while I am here in the middle of it. The beauty of living out my part in this grand adventure is found in sharing that experience with others along the way. It creates an epic telling of life that reinforces God's Holy purpose and His desire to share that story through the transformation of His people.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Nothing But the Truth

We live in a world that is fascinated with lies. Covering up physical blemishes, inflating personal accomplishments, dishonesty in relationships, shifting blame to other people & circumstances, and false advertising are only some of the lies that we allow to infiltrate and rule our lives.

Is it that we don't want truth or that we are afraid of what the truth might be? In relationships it can be messy to work with the truth, so many people ignore it for the sake of "comfort" not realizing that it leads to destruction. We believe the lies of "it's not that bad" and "at least I'm not doing what he/she is doing" instead of realizing that any sin obstructs our view of God. We have managed to look in the mirror at our broken lives and yet convince ourselves that everything will be fine-as if it will just magically get better one day without changing anything.

The truth can be painful, but it is the only option for real life. It is exclusive and leaves no room for any falsehood-no matter how big or small.

Jesus is The Truth. He shines a light so bright that the darkness of deceit doesn't stand a chance. He is ready to speak a reality into us that will set us free from the traps of our past and those that satan has set for our future. It is time for our circumstances, addictions, and sin to be exposed for the flimsy substitutes of grace that they truly are. It is the only way that a full life here in God's Kingdom can be lived.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Anger Management

What makes us angry? The results of our favorite sports team? The rudeness of someone at the grocery store? An injustice that we want to correct? Self-righteous indignation over perceived slights from co-workers, friends, and family? That guy who ate the last piece of pumpkin pie?

I want to be able to say that I get angry over the same things that God does. I want it to be said of me that I was upset over the sin that continually entraps people. I want to be striving against satan and the strongholds that he has set up against our community. Even if everyone else around me becomes tolerant of sinful behaviors I want to stand against anything that violates God's Word.

We sing songs that say, "Break my heart for what breaks Yours" but I don't know that we truly mean what we sing. If we did we would be praying with increased ferocity for God's Kingdom to expand and destroy ingrained habits of generational sin. We would genuinely be upset about the addictive power of sin that enslaves instead of simply judging people and casting them aside for their choices. 

True Christ-followers let their emotions be stirred up by the Holy Spirit to fight the right battle-not against each other, but against the powers of darkness that seek to destroy individuals, families, and communities. When we focus that anger in the right direction and allow our efforts to be fueled by the Holy Spirit, we'll start to see what the power of God in His people can truly accomplish.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude

I co-taught with a good friend at Mainland High School who would use the phrase, "Attitude of Gratitude" when he was talking about a thankful lifestyle. It truly should be more than just periodic gratefulness for this blessed life that we get to lead, but in honor of the calendar I thought I would carve out (no pun intended) a blog showing appreciation for my own blessings.
  • Salvation-knowing that I am not condemned to a life of sin
  • A God that loves me for me-in spite of my numerous faults, failings, and flaws
  • My wife-there is no way to adequately appreciate her in a few words here, but to know that this gorgeous woman has my heart and I have hers is mind-blowing
  • Three beautiful, intelligent, and caring daughters-they amaze me in so many different ways and I can't believe I have anything to do with how incredible they are
  • My family-a special place in my heart reserved for my mom and how she has influenced me, my brothers & sisters and extended family, my stepfather and his love for family, my grandparents who continue to influence my life even though they are no longer with us
  • Friends that stick with you-from childhood friends that I still communicate with, my Mainland family (Buc Pride Never Dies!), new found friendships that continue to develop, and those you weather the storms of life with and come out together on the other side
  • My calling to be a pastor-working through tough periods of refinement and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make the best/most impact for the Kingdom
  • Teaching God's Word-working right in the middle of my gifting and feeling alive as God opens that Word up to others through it
  • Second chances-being given an opportunity by a boss & friend to do things over
  • Simple pleasures-a good book, a strong cup of coffee, playing guitar while my children sing along, holding my wife's hand, watching a sunrise & sunset, enjoying good Chinese food with friends & co-workers, making my children laugh, daddy/daughter breakfasts, a big bear hug, early morning prayers
  • Physical blessings-a beautiful home (and generous friends!), a meal prepared in love, clothes to wear, and health
  • This journey of life-not often easy, but knowing that this is where & when God has placed my family to grow together with others makes me thankful that He is in charge and I am not.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Who Are You?

There is a fine line of difference between your reputation and your character. How you are perceived and the true nature of your heart don't always match up. We can choose to hide our character (creating a false positive reputation with some) or it can be misinterpreted through the lens of other people's experiences/biases and our (in)ability to communicate.

Both of these are developed over time-one as a product of conversations, actions, and attitudes with others that determines the images that they conjure up when your name comes to mind. Your character is refined through some of the same things, but is also a product of our life story, environmental influences, and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. They can both be changed, but none of that work is easy.

I have been pondering this concept for my own personal development, but also for the church. Measuring and desiring to close the gap between reputation and true character is the first step in growth. Consistently working to reflect Christ is the long journey of spiritual refinement for individuals and the body as a whole. In the process we discover more of God and our utter dependence on Him for true success.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Don't Look at Me!

As a Christ follower we tend to deflect people to the image of Christ. We believe that a properly humble Christian will say, "Don't look at me-look at Christ for He is the reason that I am." 

Perhaps this isn't the proper attitude at all. What if God intended for people look at us since we are created in His image and should be a reflection of Him? It was Paul who wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:1 "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." This adds a level of responsibility to a Christian lifestyle that demands authenticity and consistency. It is an accountability for our choices and attitudes that might influence others to choose to follow Christ as we do. 

The recognition for such a life is still attributed to God and yet gives us a motivating factor to reflect Him through our lives. Following through on this mission accurately describes the call of leading someone to Christ-in fact, it is the only way it really occurs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Who's In Charge Here?

When things go well (and especially when they don't) we want to know who is responsible. We possess a desire to find out who we can blame for the results we see in front of us. Sometimes it can be easier for us to accuse other people and experiences: our parents, the government, our spouse that doesn't understand us anymore, our children that we don't communicate with well, the school system, the church, or that boss that is difficult to work for. We create scenarios in our mind that usually do not reflect the truth, but instead feed upon our own insecurities and shortcomings. We imagine that circumstances are worse than they truly are and create conflicts that don't actually exist. 

When we are caught in this spiraling pattern of sinful, self-destructive thought we have to recognize that we have now let our thought life take charge of us. I know from personal experience that this can be dangerous for the well-being of your soul. Without proper boundaries of godly discipline and prayerful focus these thoughts can eventually lead to decisions that can threaten our spiritual, emotional, and physical health. 

It is a matter of deciding whether we will let our thoughts enslave us or if we will take each thought captive through the power of the Holy Spirit so that there is no doubt God leads our life. It is this slow process of letting God take charge that is necessary for our holistic health and spiritual fulfillment.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Unpopular Prophet

The prophet Amos didn't always work in ministry, but had the secular job of shepherding until God put a call on his life that changed his career profile to full-time ministry. Amos now had the unpopular job of relaying God's message to the Israelites who had forgotten who the One True King was. Several times Amos would beg God to stop the impending judgment and destruction that was forthcoming and God acquiesced. This did nothing to increase Amos' popularity, but he was obedient to that calling nonetheless.

Pastors are called to be prophets. This does not always guarantee popularity or loyalty, but it is more about our obedience to God's calling and our confidence in His faithfulness than it is about our reputation. We have to be willing to speak the truth from Scripture as revealed by the Holy Spirit regardless of crowd affirmation. We also must speak to God for people who are unwilling or unable to do it for themselves. With true compassion for the circumstances that our people find themselves in, we will humbly seek God's favor for them-even if they don't appear to desire it.

The response of people isn't the main predictor of success-not in God's eyes anyway. It is found in the fulfillment of His calling and our confidence in Him. The seems antithetical to American standards of church success, but being a faithful Christ-follower is almost always countercultural to popular opinion.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Torn to Shreds

God doesn't sneak judgment in on us-He doesn't play games or try to trick us. He repeatedly tells us that if we ignore His Word and choose sin that destruction will follow. We establish a pattern of ignoring His warnings and then are devastated when the consequences fall on us.

In the book of Joel, the prophet is revealing a message from God concerning the destruction that is on the way. The Israelites have forsaken God for too long and are about to suffer the consequences. Staying true to His compassionate nature, God again offers an opportunity at repentance in Joel 2:12-14. He tells them to return to Him, but to "rend their hearts and not their garments."

It was a cultural sign of sorrow to tear your clothing and it symbolized the remorse that you felt over your current circumstances. It was supposed to be a reflection of the deep anguish that was felt over sinning against God, but easily turned into a false display of humility and repentance that did nothing to bring about transformation. While we no longer tear our clothes, this disingenuous action is still seen in dashing to the altar at the end of the service for prayer while doing nothing all week to actually change our hearts.

God's greatest desire isn't for us to do the right thing externally. It is for our hearts to truly be broken over our sin against Him and for that soul transformation to be reflected in the decisions we make. Authentic pursuit of godly repentance is the key to personal and community revival.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Scripture repeatedly tells us that we will reap what we sow-if you plant tomatoes you will harvest tomatoes when the time is right. In other words, our current circumstances in life are a result of our efforts and investment of resources in the past.

If you neglect your children so that you can focus on your career you shouldn't be surprised when they become adults and are no longer close to you. When you live beyond your financial means each week to maintain your status you shouldn't be shell-shocked when your car is repossessed or creditors call. When you don't have the tough conversation with your spouse because it brings up things that make you uncomfortable, you shouldn't expect there to be honesty & intimacy in your relationship no matter how long you've been together. When you are difficult to work with and don't build trust with your co-workers it shouldn't be a shock to you when you are asked to leave your job. When you continually choose your addiction over real relationships, why would you be stunned to find yourself broken, alone, and desperate for something that lasts?

You can't plant squash and expect cucumbers to grow. The only way that we can harvest something different from what we have planted is through God's power. It is a result of His ability to transform our weaknesses and sinful pasts and turn it into something magnificent for Him. This is a product of our willingness to fully repent of sin and beg God to redeem our mistakes through the power of His grace.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

We've Got Spirit

Striving to live a Christian life isn't always easy. Part of that struggle is trying to keep your focus on Christ so that the decisions we make reflect our commitment to Him. It is the constant tension of who God is calling us to be and who we actually are. It can sometimes be discouraging, but I attribute the majority of that to our disappointment at the results of efforts powered by us. 

2 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." This is a verse that is often quoted to remind us that we don't need to live in fear, but that as Christians we have a confident spirit of power that fuels us. As I read it this morning, I see that it encapsulates our calling as followers. We are called to be bold witnesses for Christ and we can leap forward in faith with the understanding that the power comes from God. Our capacity for loving other people also doesn't rely on our ability, but is from the King as He enlarges our hearts to have compassion for those around us. The self-control that we need to exhibit doesn't come from our ability to regulate ourselves, but from the power of the Holy Spirit that transforms us from the inside out.

While it is not often used in this context, this verse perfectly embodies what a Christ follower should be and the recognition that all of the power that we might have in our life comes directly from God. If we were to pray, witness, and act in the authority of this verse we would start to see a transforming revival in our community that even the schemes of satan couldn't stand against.

Monday, November 7, 2011

It Could Get Messy

Our lead pastor, Mike Waers, preached a hard & powerful message yesterday about the call for us to minister to our modern-day Samaria. This would be defined as people that we have a hard time reaching out to because of our own prejudices and biases. Our discrimination can be based on ethnicity, socioeconomic standards, or just a general dislike for people based on our own selfishness. Fulfilling this calling takes a change of heart in many ways and will most definitely make us uncomfortable.

If we are actually willing to fulfill God's call to the church we have to realize that things will start to look different than they do right now. As we wade into the middle of people's hurts and share the truth of Christ that will save them, it will prove to be a difficult and messy journey. It will stretch us as we ask God to increase our compassion and place a new heart within us that does not judge based on our weak prejudices. This will be a church that is actively engaged in reaching all of the community and not just people who are similar in appearance and experience.

It brings to mind an image of sitting around a table filled with diversity as we share with the King in worship, repentance, recovery, and healing. This will certainly change the way church looks, but I would wager that it would finally start to be the church that God has envisioned all along.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Always Alert

I wrote yesterday about the need for us to stay focused on what God has and not our own agenda. There is another part to that verse from 1 Peter-the need to to be vigilant. This requires a daily, intentional awareness of what is happening around us and the intensity of the battle that we face. Our calling is not to just fill ourselves up with the things of God, but to be ready to confront the things of this world with that truth.

Each day will come with temptations and influences that will work against God's plan for us. When we don't recognize those schemes we suffer damages that pull our hearts away from God. We see disunity arise, families drift apart from each other, addictions take hold of us, and rationalization of sin become our new pastime. Even if we are equipped with the power of the Word we have to engage the enemy to defeat him otherwise we are spiritually impotent.

Our enemy (satan) is always prepared and ready to steal, kill, and destroy us. Being alert to what he is attempting to do and fighting it with the preparedness that comes from God's Word and the power of the Holy Spirit will certainly defeat him. If our eyes are not open to the constant battle we will certainly become casualties of war and the lost souls of people around us are collateral damage.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ready or Not

Life can come at you quickly and often not too gently. There are periods of peace, but also times of trial that require diligent perseverance to survive. Most of us are unprepared for those difficulties which in turn brings a reaction that isn't always healthy for us or anyone else around us.

God cautions us to be ready for these moments in 1 Peter 5:8 when He says, "Be alert (vigilant) and of sober mind." He understands the need for us to be focused on Him and not to be consumed with other things. The common perception of "sober" is usually associated with alcohol, but it can apply to anything that we allow to take all of our focus: sports, our fantasy football team, careers, hobbies, our children, love interests, etc. Those things are not bad as part of our overall life, but when they become the primary focus of our energies and thoughts they crowd out any space that we might have for God. 

That is where God is trying to guide us-into a daily, desperate search for Him that fills our needs and prepares us for whatever comes our way.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

In Progress

I admit that I often feel tension in my life-not in any relationship, but within myself. It is the gap that exists between the man that I presently am and who I feel God is calling me to be. It isn't necessarily an unpleasant tension, but one that keeps me focused (most of the time) on what is next and how I should be preparing in the interim. It can sometimes be a touch frustrating as the pace of growth doesn't seem to be fast enough for me, but I have to remind myself that my faithful obedience in small steps leads to something bigger.

I finished typing up my end-of-year evaluation to submit to my boss today and it caused me to evaluate a great deal of that growth as well as look to the future. I know that I am a continual work in progress, but I think it is healthy to step back periodically to see what growth has happened. It brings me encouragement to know that I am on the right path-maybe not moving as quickly along it as I would like, but on the path nonetheless. The confidence that I gain from even the small recognition of God's work in me is worth the examination even if the tension reveals the work that still needs to be done.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Walking Shoes

The old expression is that you have to walk a mile in someones shoes to understand their problems and to give them a little compassion. The mistake that we often make is that we put on other people's shoes without taking ours off first. Instead of seeing things from their perspective we end up looking at things from our viewpoint. While this might help us be more comfortable it won't provide the most effective compassion for their situation.

Being willing to step away from our own experience and viewpoint to gain understanding for someone takes maturity and intentional effort. It is not always easy to do, but it is the mark of someone who truly cares for others. It is an extension of the grace that has been given to us and reveals whether we actually are invested in building Kingdom relationships.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Surface Level

We can come into a church each week looking pretty on the outside. We can make sure that our outfit looks just right, our hair is done in just the right way, and that there are no glaringly obvious blemishes. Parents reprimand their children to act appropriately so that no one notices that things are actually out of alignment in our lives. Couples act as if everything is just fine so issues won't be brought up. We plaster a smile on our faces even when it doesn't reflect what is truly going on in our hearts and minds.

We convince ourselves to hide the disease, brokenness, and fatal wounds that are infecting us because we don't want to admit they are there. They fester within us and damage relationships as a result of the venom they end up spewing out of that hurt or because of the walls that we throw up in the misguided notion that it protects us. Until we recognize these symptoms and admit our need for help nothing will get better. 

God's Church is a place of healing and grace-we don't always do it perfectly, but I firmly believe that is what we still are-and we need to reach out to the harassed and helpless. True healing also requires a transparent humbling of ourselves to see that we all share that need for God's healing touch.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Right Name

When we pray we close our prayers with the phrase, "In Jesus name, amen." There is power in that statement, but it doesn't come from merely reciting words. Scripture tells us that whatever we ask for in Jesus' name we will receive, but it is less about the verbiage and more about the heart behind it.

Praying in the name of Jesus is more about the humble attitude that we take into this spiritual conversation. It is seeking His direction and blessing in our own lives and in His church and opening ourselves up to following His leading. It is a prayer that thrives in humility and asking God what His will is instead of dictating what our will is to Him. When we pray selfish prayers that seek to satisfy our imperfect longings we can't tag the name of Jesus on the end of it and expect it to be pleasing to God's ears.

The power of the name of Christ will be reflected in the heart of the person praying and will bring answers that reveal God's desire to bless His children.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gotta See It

I am a visually oriented & stimulated person (as my wife vigorously affirms.) I tend to be very observant of changes in people and my environment. I look for small details in things and appreciate them for the unique perspective they bring. I tend to write a lot of things down so that I can see them. I use a 4' x 8' whiteboard mounted on the wall of my office (see pic below) for ideas, planning & sermon writing. Even though I am well-versed in technology, I still use a Franklin planner to write everything down. It helps me to be able to physically visualize things as I process thoughts.

This can create hardships however when talking about faith. Since faith is clearly defined as what I cannot see, I sometimes struggle with interpreting God's messages for my own life. Being so visually oriented can make it difficult to lean firmly on faith for direction and guidance and can sometimes lead to hesitance to take action on other signals from God.

I am constantly asking God to increase my faith and to give me signs of what He has next for me. It is a sign of His strength meeting my weaknesses when I am able to hear His voice and take action on it.

If I could just get Him to write things out on a whiteboard for me it would be so much easier.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Too Far Gone

We don't like for other people to lie to us and yet we believe in the lies that we tell ourselves far too often. These may be the words that echo in our own mind or have been ingrained by those close to us, but we have allowed them to masquerade as truth. It is a common trap that satan uses to paralyze people. These lies attack common areas:
  • We haven't communicated in years & our marriage isn't salvageable
  • My finances are in such disarray that I will never get out from underneath it
  • We have done such a poor job of parenting and now it's too late to do anything about it
  • My past relationships define my self-esteem & all my future relationships will suffer from it
  • The sins of my past are greater than anyone can ever know-I can't possibly be forgiven for them
  • I never lived up to my parents' expectations for me and don't measure up now
  • I've made so many mistakes & hurt those around me-I don't think I can change who I am now
  • I'm too far gone for God to do anything with me
Grace is a gift from God that is not just intended for forgiveness. It is about His power to negate the lies of satan and change us from the inside out. We refute the effectiveness of grace when we allow ourselves to be enslaved to lies that are in opposition to the truth God freely offers. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I wrote this blog in my head this morning while getting things ready for worship services at Northridge. I found myself thinking about and praying for the people that were going to be filling the halls later that day. I knew they would be coming in with emotional baggage, expectations, frustrations, joyfulness, and a longing for something meaningful. My prayers turned towards God providing exactly what they needed and being faithful as church staff & leadership to do our best to let God work through everything that was going to take place.

The thought resonated with me that we need to have an eager anticipation for our churches to be filled and for God to do His work through our faithful obedience. We never know what each day will hold-I can assure that I could not have predicted all that today would bring-and we need to be ready to do our part as agents filled with the Holy Spirit.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Then You Will Know

I am reading through the book of Ezekiel and there is a lot of it that isn't pretty. God is more than a little ticked off at His people who are not following Him and is predicting the exile and destruction that is on the way. As He prophesies through Ezekiel, He continually uses the phrase, "And they will know that I am the Lord." It is as if the people have forgotten who God is and what He has done for them. They have turned their backs on Him to focus on other passions and objects of worship. It has reached a point where the alternative in front of them is unpleasant.

Even today God will do what is necessary to get our attention. He doesn't do this because He is vindictive, but out of the purity of His nature and the truth that He is what is best for us. He actually reveals Himself to us in many different ways each day-through creation, divine appointments, moments of worship, His Word, quality time with our families, and the kindness of others. When we miss the message or become calloused to it then He will use other methods to pull our focus back to Him. Those methods are not always comfortable or pleasant, but God's desired objective is to remind us that He is the Lord. It is only in following Him that our paths are made clear and our worship made true and complete.

I would prefer to acknowledge His Lordship on my own instead of needing a Jethro Gibbs head slap from God to make it known.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


The practice of self-discipline isn't always easy to maintain. It can apply to multiple areas of our life: healthy eating habits, an exercise regimen, wise financial practices, or spiritual disciplines. Being able to stay focused on those things that we have decided are important to us requires more than a cursory glance once a week. It has to be something that we strive to ingrain as part of our character and not just an item to be checked off on our to-do list. It requires a vision for our lives of what kind of man/woman we want to be, setting the goals to achieve it and the discipline to work to make it happen. The phrase that I read this week that embodies it for me is "ruthless self-management".

I have that written on one of the whiteboards in my office so that I am reminded of the need to be intensely focused on where God is leading me. It is a reminder that this journey of refinement will not always be pleasant, but the results of God's great work and my faithful obedience will be worth any sacrifices along the way. I won't accidentally end up closer to God's vision for life, family and ministry. It will take an intentional effort on my part to actively practice the disciplines that lead me into intimacy with Him.

1 Corinthians 9:27 (MSG)  I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to 
get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Good Reason

When people go through difficult times a common phrase that is repeated to bring comfort is, "Everything happens for a reason." I agree with this in principle, but the motivation behind this platitude is usually to attribute our current circumstances to something that God has done. There are certainly things that are beyond our understanding that God has orchestrated to bring Himself glory and to fulfill His ultimate plan. When we hide behind that phrase however, we sometimes forget the role that our decisions have played in creating our present situation.

God has given us the ability to make choices each day that will determine the path our lives will follow. Not all of those choices will lead us to where we anticipated and they don't always produce our intended results. I am living proof that God will work His sovereign will in the midst of my own stupidity, but He still allows me the leeway to choose to be stupid. It is in our mistakes and sin that He reveals His perfect power to work above and through our flawed decision-making.

Everything in our lives does happen for a reason and many times it is simply because of our own poor choices and lack of foresight. I am grateful for a King that is able to redeem those circumstances and bring a greater reason & purpose to the free will that He has allowed us to have.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What Did You Expect?

When people are feeling the tension between where they are now and the impatient urgency of where they feel God is leading them next, I tell them to ask Him one question-"What am I supposed to be learning now?" It is a query that should open us up to the refining that God wants to do in us before He reveals the next step in our faith. Always keeping that question in mind will make us more aware of the situations surrounding us and what we can glean from the trials that we go through.

I have been feeling that tension in my own life lately-from what is here now and where He is guiding me next. God recently told me "Not Yet" in response to my prayers, so I then asked the old faithful question of what I was supposed to be learning in the interim. I was then confronted last week with some uncomfortable truths about myself-things that I didn't necessarily love to hear, but after a few days of processing were made more clear. 

It was while mowing my yard on Friday (and talking with God in the process) that it hit me between the eyes. I had asked God what I needed to learn next and He had revealed it to me. It wasn't a skill I needed to acquire or some new leadership/management technique. He needs to refine some things inside of me before He reveals the next part of His vision for my life. 

I asked and God answered. Just because it didn't come in the format I expected doesn't mean the response wasn't true or necessary.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Just Do It

Andrew Murray (South African minister) wrote in his book, Working for God that "True action is born of contemplation." It is a short statement filled with complexity and challenge and brings attention to the need for thought and follow through.

There is a link between the need to carefully think things through and the need to pull the trigger and step into action. I would wager that the difficulties we have in personal growth, spiritual disciplines, and life change stem from our inability to work in both ends of that equation. My experience has been that we will talk and think about the things we want to happen in our lives (i.e. getting in better shape, becoming a better spouse, practicing financial responsibility, growing closer to God) but it stops in the talk phase. We may contemplate the person that we desire to be, but we never follow through on it.

There are also the times when we exert no mental energy, but simply jump into what seems/feels right in that moment. This leads to a short-sighted decision that might bring immediate, temporary gratification, but short-changes the potential for our future and isn't the most beneficial for us in the long run.

I believe that the value of "thinking" is underrated, but there also has to be a call to take action. It is in the gestation phase of prayerful, considerate thought that the birth of godly action is prepared. To see the greatest impact on our lives we must be ready to work through both.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Opportunity Cost

In a simple explanation, opportunity cost is the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. Choosing to forego an expensive vacation to put a larger down-payment on a car brings a loss of relaxation time, but a benefit in a lower monthly payment. Choosing to work late might curry favor with your boss, but will cost you time with your family. Some of the decisions are simple, but others are more complex because of the long-term impact they will have on us and our circle of influence.

Each of us have to evaluate the opportunity cost of life on a daily basis. There is a value that we place on the decision to follow Christ over the influences of the world around us. Some of those choices will be difficult to make and that is why Christ told us that we would need to die to ourselves. It is an active decision to live a life that is worth far more than the temporary, immediate gratification that we often see in front of us.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's Up to You

I remember reading the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books when I was younger. You would make a decision based on the current circumstances and then turn to the appropriate page to see what happened next. There were many times that the choice did not lead to a desirable outcome, but then you could just go back and change your choice to create an adventure with a better ending.

We still have the power of choice in our lives, but we don't have the safety net of going back when things don't work out like we intended. If we act rashly or without forethought, we may find that we are in a predicament of our own making that is less than satisfactory. This doesn't negate the ability of God to work in the circumstances of our own creation, but it should make us prayerfully consider the options in front of us before we make a decision.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sense of Urgency

I have a statement written on the whiteboard in my office-"Vision + Urgency = Growth." It is referring to the growth of a church, but my thoughts this morning are focused on its impact on my overall life.

I don't know that a lot of people (myself included) live each day with a sense of urgency. We tend to keep up with the pace of life as dictated by our calendars, but busyness is not the same as urgency. Fervent attention to a vision for our lives and the disciplined obedience it takes to see it fulfilled lead us to a level of growth that is absent otherwise. It is our failure to seek vision from God and adhere to it that leads to complacency. We can easily become people who simply go through the motions of life.

I am not comfortable with that and I believe that is why there has been unrest in my soul these past few weeks. I need to recapture the vision that God has for me as His son, for my family, and for my calling as a pastor. Each day must then be directed by diligent faithfulness to see the growth that He intends.

Imagine the difference in the church and in our communities if we operated with that focus. We haven't even imagined the metric to measure the growth that God has waiting for us if we do.

Friday, October 7, 2011

In the Right Hands

In Jeremiah 18, the prophet is sent to the house of the potter so that God can teach him something significant. Jeremiah sees the potter working with a piece of clay that is flawed so he shaped it into something else as it seemed best to him.

This obviously describes each of us and our relationship with God. The flaws in the clay are not a result of God's design however-they are a result of our choices and of those around us. We have short-circuited relationships, worshiped at the gods of reputation and prestige, allowed our emotions to control our mouth and actions, and wallowed in destructive patterns of behavior that have marred who we are today. God is able (and willing) to work through all of that and still shape something that will bring Him honor and fulfill our purpose. He will work with our flawed nature to create something beautiful-perhaps not what we imagined or hoped for initially, but sometimes our own decisions have limited certain future options for us.

The next step of growth for us is to willingly surrender to the creativity of the Potter. God's purpose will be done on earth regardless of our submission, but the journey is much sweeter when we acquiesce to the work of His hands in us. I am thankful for a loving Creator that will take me in my flawed nature and work to shape what He knows is best.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Circumstantial Living

It is easy to let the circumstances of life dictate your emotional and spiritual health. When things are going well we get along with people, we feel close and connected with God, and there is stability in our emotions. When the status quo changes however, we no longer exhibit the same even temperament and our confidence in God and His relationship with us dwindles. It can be quite frustrating especially when you realize that you are allowing your current circumstances to define your mood and mindset.

That is not the desire that God has for any of us. He doesn't want our overall health to fluctuate based on the temporary nature of our current situation. He knows that a truly fulfilled life with the right perspective is based in Him and our belief in His ability to provide for us in ways we cannot see. A person with their roots in God will live with quiet confidence in the King's power to guide His people.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 "But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Sound of Silence

I pray about a lot of things. I'm not attempting to sound holier-than-thou or like a braggart, but I find myself in multiple conversations with God throughout the day about a number of things. Some of them are very focused prayers with a specific intent and others are a reflective time between God and me. When praying for other people I will often hear the answer through them as they communicate what God has done. There are times when the answer is quite visible (i.e. improved finances, a new house to move into, someone showing up in church or making a decision, etc.) I also have periods of prayer about something specific where God doesn't seem to say anything at all. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero.

Even though this "silence" can cause me to carefully examine my heart and motivation for the prayer, many times the lack of an answer is an answer in itself. When looking for direction from God I have discovered that His silence often means that I need to continue to trust and be faithful in the direction that He is currently moving me. It is His message to me that He will make it known when that direction changes as long as I keep in continual communication with Him.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Unfailing Love

I was reading in Romans this morning and was reminded again about the powerful, unrelenting love that God has for us. God shares the truth in Romans 8 that we are never separated from the love that He has for us through Jesus Christ. Our circumstances may try to fool us into believing otherwise, but the truth still stands. Satan may try to convince us that we are unlovable, but God continues to declare His passion for us every day. This is a message the world is dying to hear.

If we accept even a morsel of this love it will radically change our outlook on our daily lives as well as provide an enduring motivation for the choices we make and the attitude in our hearts. I know that I need constant reminders of it and that when I dwell in this love it drowns out all other messages that are contrary to His truth.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Love Story

Being in love with someone is all-consuming. You think about them constantly-the things they have said to you, the things you have shared together, and how they make you feel. You find yourself looking at the clock pining for the next time you can be together. Neither one of you wants to be apart from the other one and when you are  in each other's company it makes you feel complete-as if a part of you that has been missing is finally back where it belongs. If you are in a passionate, committed relationship it is part of you all day long. It wouldn't be something you relegated to one day a week-not if it was important to you.

When we limit our worship of God to one day, one hour and four songs a week we aren't in a committed, passionate, personal relationship either. We're treating a church service like a conjugal visit.

God isn't okay with that and we shouldn't be either.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Baptismal Truths

We are eagerly praying for Sunday, October 9th at Northridge as we make a big emphasis on baptism. The message that day in our "All In" series is titled, "Go Public." We are already praying for 50 baptisms to take place and are asking people to join us in that prayer.

I pray that people understand the power in baptism and the steps that follow.The video below is from Granger Community Church and is a powerful teaching on the significance of baptism and our obedience in following through. I pray it answers questions and inspires.

Monday, September 26, 2011


The Christian life is not always easy and neither is the calling to serve in ministry. There are trials and difficulties that pop out of nowhere and some that are created by the choices that we make. I am still learning that sometimes the hardest work that takes place is within ourselves. Closely examining who we think we are, who we are actually becoming, and the person that others perceive us to be can be quite painful in the revelation. It leads to a fork in the path that we travel and a decision that must be made. Will we forge ahead down the road that is filled with potholes and hard work or will we choose the path of least resistance and stay the course we are on no matter how wrong that course might be? Making the right decision will build a bridge of maturity and painful growth that will be worth the rewards on the other side of it-especially if we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit through it all.

You would hope to learn valuable lessons from finding that forked path so that you wouldn't repeat the same mistakes, but perhaps the willingness to see the mistake and react by turning to God is progress in itself.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Believe It or Not

In Reggie McNeal's book Missional Renaissance, he makes this statement, "To practice the blessing life, you will need to believe God, not just believe in God. There's a huge difference between the two."

There is tremendous power in understanding that declaration. If you asked most people they would probably tell you that they believed in God. Numerous Christian researchers have proven that to be true-that somewhere between 75-90% of people say that they believe in God. The dilemma lies not in an understanding that He exists, but in believing that what He says and does is true. 

If we trust that God is exactly who He says He is and will do what He says He will do, it will cause us to live our lives differently. It will determine the day-to-day decisions that we make and how we view people around us. Believing God will bring greater significance to what Christ called the two greatest commandments: Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself. 

True Christ-followers cannot be content with just believing in God's existence. It's time to live with bold confidence in the truth of His promises and the purity of His character and daily do something with it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Working the Plan

I was on the road last Friday and drove by a church sign that said, "Goals without a plan are wishes." Most church signs aren't worth remembering, but this phrase hasn't left my mind all week.

There are a lot of things that I want to do in my life. I want to be a better Christ-follower, husband, father & pastor. I want to achieve and maintain better physical health. I have a goal of leading a church. I want to live my life with a purpose instead of just shuffling along with the flow of the day. None of that is possible without a plan to make it happen. I sometimes forget that in the busyness of life's details.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I Want It Now

It is often said that we are a society focused on instant gratification-the desire for things to be delivered to us quickly without having to wait. We get impatient waiting two minutes for the microwave to deliver hot food to us. We get easily frustrated waiting five minutes on hold for an answer to a problem. We will switch aisles at the grocery store trying to find one that is moving faster. I am as guilty (if not more so) than the next person.

Even if this desire for the instant results causes agitation, I really believe that a more accurate description for this syndrome is present gratification. It isn't so much about wanting something instantly as it is our willingness to shortchange our future for immediate pleasure and fulfillment of desire. It is the root of the destruction of relationships (friend & marital), the cause of financial ruin and the explanation behind the shallowness of Christianity as a whole. 

We want things to happen right now, but aren't willing to invest the time, energy, finances and discipline into the process of building it up. It is in the labor of working towards these future goals that our character and reliance on God are developed. It won't happen in one day or one church service, but is the result of daily trusting God and working hard to increase our faith and dependence on Him. 

We have to be willing to wait for the results God has for us and make the hard choice of delayed gratification to receive the greater reward that waits.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wise Investments

When I taught high school my main subject was Health. I spent the first four years of teaching fixated on the idea of getting my students to remember all of the important facts about their health decisions-leading causes of death for age groups, the dangerous chemicals in tobacco, signs of alcohol abuse, STD statistics, etc. I figured out after those first years that no one really remembered any of those details and that my opportunity to have the greatest impact wasn't in the regurgitation of facts. I then spent the next five years teaching the importance of decision making and understanding that what we decide to do today will have short & long term benefits and consequences.

That is true of more than just a health class. We are making an investment each day in our future and not just in a financial sense. What we commit ourselves to today will determine where we end up. If we are wise with our finances we have the ability to be generous when God presents the opportunity. When we will engage and talk with our children even though we are tired at the end of the day, we are building a bridge for a deeper and meaningful relationship when they are older. If we will take the time to make sure that our spouse knows we love them today in a simple way it builds a foundation for a relationship that will endure tough times. When we make the commitment to healthy eating and exercise it creates a lifelong discipline that avoids the start & stop exercise regimen that most of us find ourselves in. If we are willing to step away from the computer or television so that we can intentionally engage in prayer and Scripture we develop a reliance on God that will strengthen our commitment to Him in good times and in bad.

Even as adults we need to see that what we do now is making an investment in our future. Our vision for that needs to be lived out in the decisions we make today.

Galatians 6:7 "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. People reap what they sow."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review: Desiring God DVD Series

I just recently watched a DVD series of teaching from John Piper based on his book Desiring God. I admit that I haven't read the book in its entirety yet, but gained a great deal from the DVD sessions. There are ten sessions included in the two DVDs which are in-depth enough to challenge viewers, but also broken down into manageable time frames.

The basic premise of Desiring God is that we are called to live a life of Christian hedonism based on the principle that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. The principles that Piper shares are supported heavily in Scripture and through other Christian authors. Piper challenges us directly to believe the words from Scripture and that the alternative is not desirable for any of us. He points to the full glory of God in the created world around us, through Jesus Christ and in the way that we choose to live our own lives. It begins with the plan to save the world from sin and then continues as we are made more into the image of Christ.

Piper speaks with a passionate intensity throughout all of the sessions and it is easy to see that he is confident in what he is sharing. There are many times where he was on the verge of tears as he shared the truth from Scripture. He surprised me with his sense of humor in the midst of heady topics and his ability to not let it distract him. He was obviously very comfortable with the material (which he should be as the author of the book) but still spoke with an ease to his presentation that made you feel that you were talking over a cup of coffee as well. This is not just a matter of increasing sales of his book by attending the seminar or watching the DVDs. He has a deep conviction for our need to pursue satisfaction in God and to be changed by the revealing of God's glory that will take place as this happens.

I would recommend this as a study for those looking for a much deeper challenge to their Christian faith, but would suggest that it be done with a group instead of just as an individual. The depth of teaching and the amount of information in the short sessions will be better absorbed through group follow-up and conversation after watching the DVDs. It is a worthwhile investment for a small group setting or for a challenging series for somewhat larger groups as well.

I received this DVD series for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Get to It

In John 13, Jesus is sharing His last meal with His disciples and shocks them all by His actions before they begin to eat. Verses 3-5 share this: "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." 

Jesus had a complete understanding of His position in relation to God and what God was going to do, and His immediate reaction was to get up and serve. I don't believe this is written this way by accident. It reveals the model of servant leadership that Christ set for us and the example that we are called to follow. When we begin to gain a glimpse of God and His work in us-even if it is a small glimpse-it should spur us to get up and get to work as well.

That act of serving extends beyond the church and the local & global mission fields. As a father & husband my calling is to serve my wife and children and the rest of my family. I am to serve my neighbor and the people in our city that are in need. I am to serve with the resources I have been blessed with including money, time and energy. Most importantly, I am called to serve God no matter where He sends me or what He asks me to do.

This isn't an obligation for any of us. It's a response forged out of love for God and the confidence that we will one day be returning to Him.

Monday, September 12, 2011

On Purpose

In John 12, Jesus is predicting His death to His followers and says in verse 27, "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour?' No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour."

Obviously Jesus is God and has a greater understanding of things than we do-even in His human form-but it is the dedication to His true purpose that stands out to me. Even though what He was about to endure was going to be the most difficult thing He had dealt with, His commitment to fulfilling that purpose was greater than the temptation to walk away.

What about our purpose/calling in life? Are we willing to pursue it even if the journey is difficult? Do we even have a clue what our true purpose is? Do we have the disciplined obedience to stay true to what God has revealed to us in the midst of trials?

I don't have all of the answers (obviously), but I know that God has called me to be a follower, husband, father & pastor. I forget how important that calling is and allow the distractions of the mundane to pull my focus away from it. I let tiredness seep into my daily routines and neglect to keep my eyes intently centered on the prize of pursuing Christ in this life.

I pray that I stand firmly on my calling and see that it was for this reason that I have come to this time & place.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


In John 6, Jesus has fed thousands of people with a sack lunch and then walked on water during the night to head to Capernaum. The next day some people show up on the side of the lake where Jesus had been and realize that He is not there. Scripture tells us that they then got back in their boats and went to the other side of the lake to look for Jesus and the disciples.

The persistence of these people in searching for Jesus is significant. They had heard about Him, the miracles He was performing and the truth He was teaching and were desperate to experience it. When they arrived where they thought He was and found that He was gone they didn't give up. They continued to search in the next place in hopes of finding Him.

I admire their tenacity and willingness to make an effort to find Christ. It is an example for us to do the same today. We can't simply show up on a Sunday/Wednesday and then walk away disappointed that it wasn't a mountain-top experience. I think we too often sit back with an attitude of "show me Jesus" and then criticize when it doesn't happen. The responsibility lies with each of us to search for Him with fervor and passion and to be committed to searching with all our hearts to find Him.

Maybe we don't seek for Him with all our hearts because unlike the crowd in Scripture, we don't really want to find Him.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What Does This Mean?

We pursue many things in life-some with cognizant effort and others just as intentionally, but without the realization on our part that we are working towards it. We strive to accumulate wealth, develop reputations, establish portfolios that reflect our status, maintain our popularity, and be the person that people count on in crisis

How significant are all of these pursuits? What impact will they make after we are gone from this place? They all end up being temporary reflections of status that can lose all of their value in an instant. Our focus needs to shift from fulfilling these fleeting needs to investing in something that is more eternal. Our intentional efforts should align with God's calling on our lives and the work of the Church that supersedes the time limits of our physical life here.

It can be a difficult prism to examine our lives through, but focusing our efforts into something with true meaning will not only benefit us in eternity, but add greater significance to the life we lead here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sheep or Wolf?

The old phrase of "a wolf in sheep's clothing" is used to describe someone who attempts to appear as something other than what they really are. It is usually with a malicious or selfish intent and can be difficult to spot. This type of person can be destructive and extremely harmful to other people.

I heard a car ad today that used the phrase "a sheep in wolves' clothing." The thought occurred to me while driving that this can be used to describe the church far too often. We speak about the power of God to do great things, we sing loudly in worship services, nod at the right places in the sermons and even volunteer down the hall in ministry. The problem is that we then step out into the reality of the world and instead of moving forward with the strength of the Holy Spirit, we meekly shuffle our way through each day with a spirit of timidity. Instead of forcefully advancing the Kingdom we hang back on the fringe while carrying the banner of likability and a desire to not offend. We wear the name "Christian" and "Church", but act like we are much less than that-not something that is dangerous, but something that can be ignored because it lacks power.

The cause of Christ is calling for warriors filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to do supernatural things that can only be credited to Him. When we accept this challenge and gain a glimpse of what God can do through His people we can stop pretending to be something we aren't and become strong, bold Kingdom workers and witnesses to God's ability to change lives.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Generals & Gatekeepers

When you read the Old Testament and look at the story of King David you see the many people that interacted with him and those that he relied on greatly in battle. There were valiant warriors and leaders of his military, but there were also faithful people who served in other capacities as attendants in his home, gatekeepers, priests and servants. Each role supported the cause of the kingdom and was essential in its own way to the success of God's work through David.

The same is true of the Church. There are generals with a larger scope of responsibility, but there are also gatekeepers who have extremely important roles as well. Maturity in believers leads us to find what calling we have and then fulfilling our role so that the Church can continue to fulfill her mission. When the church is filled with people clamoring to be a general instead of joyfully and humbly serving in their giftedness and calling, we create missional impotence and the result is a dying church that brings no honor to the King.

Unity of purpose in fighting satan (and a church that cannot be stopped) is found when we step into the battle and serve faithfully together with more concern for the advancement of the Kingdom than our own recognition.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

In Training

It is easy to become overwhelmed by your current circumstances and the hardships you are struggling through. You can become concerned with what other people are saying & doing and your perception of what that means to you. You can succumb to the emotion of the moment and the tidal wave of details that swamp over you and easily forget the big picture of what God is doing.

With your head down (from weariness or frustration) you won't be able to see where God is leading you in the midst of the trials you endure. We are promised that we will endure tough times here-Scripture tells us that time and time again. The key to surviving those is to know two things: God is firmly in control and that He is using this to shape us into warriors for Him. All of what we endure is training for future endeavors and a shaping of our hearts into Kingdom workers. 

My perspective has changed this morning. I am not down-hearted at the difficulties of the last few weeks, but I am instead encouraged at the work that God is doing in me as He transforms me into what I need to be. I see the glimpses of the future that He has for me and I know that this preparation is necessary. Satan will not dissuade me or cause me to lose my focus. 

I am a warrior with a Kingdom cause and I am in training.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What Are You Growing?

If you have an orange tree in your backyard eventually you will probably see oranges grow. You can choose to paint the oranges a different color and you can even tie different fruit onto the branches to make it look like other fruit grew there. None of that changes what that tree is-it is still an orange tree.

We fall victim to the same thing in the church. We focus so intently on changing the outward appearance of things that we have forgotten the most important detail of changing our root structure. It is easy to put on a shirt with your church name on it and walk the halls on Sunday declaring how awesome God is. It is simple to pray out loud for the right things in a group of Christians. It is not a difficult thing to sing loudly when the worship music starts up and even lift a hand or two when we get to the chorus of the song. Without a change of heart (our root structure) you are still what you were before you knew Christ. Your true fruit (not just what others see inside church walls) is who you are.

I am thankful for the power of the Holy Spirit to change my roots. My daily prayer is that I would not be the same man tomorrow that I am today.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Reminded of Calling

Ministry is hard-sometimes it is extremely hard. There are days when it is a struggle to keep your focus on what is important and to not get bogged down in the details of emotion and the tasks that lie in front of you. You perceive that most of what you do is put out fires of conflict and assuage the feelings of wounded people. The politics of organization can threaten to overwhelm you as you try to determine the best practices and pathway for the future vision of the church.

Thankfully God provides the reminder of the calling He has placed on your life. He gives you bountiful moments of sacrifice and kindness from good friends. He gives you people who place their arm around you and tell you with passion in their voice that they are earnestly praying for you. He gives you a good friend & mentor who empathizes in how hard this is and leads the way nonetheless. He lets you have the pleasure of spending time with new friends over coffee and sharing the story of each other's lives. He lets you share in the joy of a powerful woman of God's birthday and the lives that she has touched.

He reminds you quietly and firmly that though this life is hard, this is the one that He has called you to and He will bring you through the good & tough times.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 "The One who has called 
you is faithful and He will do it."

Thursday, July 21, 2011


We don't fully comprehend how passionately God pursues us. God is not passive in His desire to have an intimate and engaging relationship with each of us and works to get our attention in ways that we often miss.

It is that concept of relentless pursuit that changes the way we view the love He has for us. If we see God as a distant being who sits and waits for us to choose to join Him we have neglected an important part of His character-His all consuming love for His sons & daughters. We need to learn that He will continue to extend his grace and mercies each day to us and will use other people, His created world, our life circumstances and the Holy Spirit to draw us to Him. It is a picture of a God who wants no one to perish, but for all to have eternal life.

I am grateful for a God who loves me so deeply that He would chase after me.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Seeking Acceptance

Acceptance can be a very tantalizing and dangerous object of our affections. From a young age we become conditioned to seeking it from our parents and then spend the rest of our life in pursuit of it. We push after success in athletics, academics and in the number of our friends to appease our souls. As we get older we look for it from our bosses and our spouses. This human need affects all of our relationships-sometimes in ways that we don't even recognize. It ultimately influences the way that we interact with God.

We fight within ourselves to gain His acceptance. We fall victim to the tainted belief that if we can just be good enough that He will love us. It is one of the greatest lies that satan has ever convinced the world to buy into. It is a fallacy that keeps too many souls from pursuing God because they don't think they can measure up.

The truth is that we are His beloved. He knows all of who we are and loves us deeply and passionately through it all. He has fully accepted us long before He ever created us and wants us to grasp that love so we can begin to trust Him.

Communicating that message to the world (and believing it for ourselves) is the key to a passionate intimacy with God that will transform His people and His church.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Fine Line

Faith is essential for following God. We have to believe that He is able to lead us better than we can lead ourselves. We must have confidence in His promises and lean on Him for understanding in tough times and give Him credit for the good times. Our prayers should reflect how important He is to us and that we eagerly seek God's guidance for all that we do.

All our expectations should be firmly in His ability to provide answers to our prayers. There also comes a time when we are called to action. God intends for us to believe in Him and His plan for our individual lives and His Church, but He also calls for us to be an active participant in that plan. There is a desperate need for prayer in the church-in fact, I am convinced we are not praying enough as a whole. It is also time for God's people to decide to follow through on their desires with tangible action. Pray for the finances of the church, but also tithe. Pray for workers for the harvest, but jump into the fray and use your own gifts. Pray for the less fortunate in our community and the world, but make the sacrifice and take care of someone's needs. Pray that a neighbor will come to Christ, but risk rejection and invite them to church. Pray for God's will to be done in your church, but be willing to be part of the solution-even if what God asks you or your church to do is outside of your comfort zone.

We can't have one without the other. If we won't pray we will never know what God's desire is and we won't experience His power. If we only pray we neglect our active responsibility to be influential change agents and the world will go to hell around us while we sit in our prayer meetings.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sharing in Love

I was blessed this past weekend to officiate the wedding of a truly incredible couple as they started their journey of life together. Josh & Heather Hollar and I got to spend a lot of time together over the past few months as we worked through their premarital counseling and wedding planning. Their love for each other was very obvious through it all, the ceremony went off without a hitch, and they are now enjoying their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. It was a huge pleasure for me with the investment that we had made in each other over the past several months.

It never ceases to amaze me how God brings people together when we are willing to listen. There is no doubt in my mind that God brought Josh & Heather together as a couple, but He also gave me the opportunity to be part of their day. I never take these moments for granted and there have been many of them since I was called into ministry. Sometimes it is a divine appointment with the chance to speak into a stranger's life for just a moment, sometimes it is God leading me to a friend in need where I least expected it, and sometimes He will give you the opportunity to make a longer investment in someone (and them in you.)

This is part of life as the Church-keeping your focus on those around you and being willing to make a difference for them as the opportunity arises. I have to admit it's one of my most favorite parts of this life God has called me to.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I Forgot

I have learned a difficult truth in ministry. Whenever I return from a mission trip, camp, or other spiritual event, I will encounter intense spiritual resistance and attack the very next week. It happens without fail and yet it would surprise and discourage me each time it occurred. You would think that I would learn that lesson and know that satan would be doing everything he could to negatively affect any positive growth that had taken place.

This year I had myself fully prepared for it. I had prayed and asked for strength and knew that the week after returning from being campus pastor for CIY Move was going to hold spiritual attacks. In reality the week was pretty smooth and ministry just kept thumping along. Then the calendar turned to July.

I forgot again. "He who shall not be named" decided to wait a week to tear it up. I took my eyes off of God and His plan and His providence and allowed the demons of discouragement, despair and futility to settle in and make themselves comfortable. The truth had not changed-the thief has come to steal, kill & destroy (he isn't here to play nice or fair)-but I had forgotten about the confidence that is gained from trusting in God and the abundant life that He promises in spite of our circumstances.

When I forget to keep trusting in God and His ability to work in and through His people then satan has won half the battle. Good thing that the guarantee of God winning the war isn't dependent on my focus. Let's hope I remember that next time.