January 31, 2014

Are You Still Resolved?

This is it. It's finally here. The last day of the first month of the year. Didn't see it coming, did you? Me neither. Heck, I've already gotten used to writing 2014. That seems to happen every January. So what's the big deal? Well, chances are you determined to make some changes in your life this year. It may have even been one simple, single thing that you vowed to do differently. Start something new. Eat right. Exercise. Learn Spanish. (Muy bueno!) Read more books. 
Here it is in English: 

What did you resolve would be different?

[Is this all ringing a bell now?]

The reason I bring it up is because NOW is the time you're actually going to find out - or maybe a better word is "determine" - just how much resolve you have. NOW is the time - TODAY is the day - to evaluate your progress. Be honest. After all, it's only you that you'd be lying to. How's it going? 

Are you still resolved?

Regardless of where you stand or how you've done, I'd love to give you a few words of encouragement to keep moving forward. Here goes.

First off, if you failed, it's OK. You can start again. Did you almost make it? Like you just caved in last week? Or did you go off the reservation like Day 4? Either way, we've all been there. And you can either just tap out and concede, "I blew it!" and give up (OR) you can shake it off, refocus, and start again. Now you probably have an even better idea of where you're weak, vulnerable, or in need of encouragement. Get back on the horse, cowboy!

On another note, maybe you've been more resolved than ever before, stayed focused, pushed through, and are still on track. But you've all of a sudden noticed, "I seemed to be more weighed down, overcommitted, overbooked and overwhelmed. What gives?" This is where I'd encourage you to consider something that sounds elementary but seems to baffle even the best of us: When you ADD something to your life - something new, something beneficial, something constructive, even something great - you've nevertheless added something to your life. And I'm going to bet your life - your plate - was already a bit loaded to begin with. So the question now becomes: If you added something to your life, then what did you SUBTRACT? Think about it. Even if what you've started fresh has now overloaded you, it won't take long before you go stale. You know that moment when you flush the toilet...and suddenly begin to realizing there's water coming in but no water going out? Don't do that to your life! Find the balance. 

I'm now drinking about 1/3 of the diet soft drinks that I was last year. Which also translates to about 1/3 of the caffeine that was going into my body on a daily basis. Not gonna lie; there were a couple of ROUGH days! But the Lord has given me a lot more strength and a LOT more victory than what I expected. (Yes. Shame on me for such a puny lack of faith!) This has been one area of change and victory in my life. I'm grateful. 

What about you? 
What changes have you made?
Have you gotten off track, fallen off the wagon, or just plain flat given up?
Get back up. Read Philippians 4:4-20. Ask God to give you the strength. Surrender it to Christ. Trust that the Holy Spirit will fill you. Just remember: In order to be filled, you'll have to be emptied first. Maybe that's what these first days are all about.

January 28, 2014

Small Beginnings

Many of our church family just finished a 21-day Daniel Fast. During my (almost) 5 years as Pastor of The Brook, this is the first corporate fast we have done. As I now stand on this side of that time, I want to share some things I learned, confess where the Spirit began convicting me, and hopefully encourage you and hear from you how these times of fasting and prayer have changed and transformed you in your walk and journey with the Lord. 

Let me start by stating this plainly: 
I have been a wimp.

You could use the word "wuss" or "pansy" if you'd like. For a few years now I've been aware that I am hypoglycemic. I have minor blood sugar issues. Compared to those who struggle with diabetes, I have no sad story to bring to the table. Nevertheless, it can mess with you. And while that's true, I've allowed this very small deficiency to become a crutch - an excuse - to heavily lean on food. And by "lean on", what I should probably say is "bow down to". Often, I hear things like "Don't let Brian get hungry. He's a bear!" In fact, a friend recently (with complete justification) pointed me to the newly coined phrase "Hangry", the condition of someone whose hunger leads to what we'll term "irritability". The equation: hungry + angry = hangry. And let me be clear: I've had a serious hanger problem.

This has to end.

This has to be put to death.

This is not some physical condition that I'm plagued with; it's a sinful decision to allow my life to be ruled by food instead of led by the Spirit. And while that causes me frustration, it also gives me hope. This is something that can be surrendered. This is something that can be overcome. The Spirit gives me self-control. The question becomes, "Will I take hold of it?"

Over the last 3 weeks my dependence on the Lord has grown. My faith and trust in the power of the Spirit in my life has increased exponentially. I can't tell you how many times Jesus' words flooded my mind: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." I've never felt these words more affirmed in my soul before now. "Man will not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." If we think food will satisfy us more than the Word of God, we are sadly mistaken. Ironically, that pizza - that chocolate - that hamburger - will leave you empty. We have to determine how much of our life we want to be temporarily filled and to what degree we long to be truly satisfied. The difference - the chasm between them - is vast. What we've mistaken to be a physical battle is actually one of epic spiritual proportion.

So as I look in the rearview at this much-needed time of sacrifice in my life and in our church, I am grateful. I am renewed. I am more and more aware of my hunger and thirst for communion with the Lord. I know that only He can truly satisfy me. I am no longer ignorant to the fact that I can make much healthier choices in what I allow to go into my body. I have a much greater capacity to be disciplined and self-controlled than I thought imaginable, mainly because I've realized it's not about my capacity or strength or power; it's about God's.

This was my first Daniel Fast. While the Enemy would whisper to us deceitfully, "Big deal", the Lord reminded me this morning in Zechariah 4:10: "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin."

I will be my quicker to embrace any small beginning if it comes from the Lord.

I will be much quicker to fast; to take the opportunity of a day or week (or longer) to allow the Lord to refine me again - to purify my heart to the point that it beats for nothing more than it beats for Him.

What small beginnings has the Lord begun to unfold in your life?
I'd love to hear about it.

January 23, 2014

The Gathering

"Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Hebrews 10:24-25

This is one of the most universally misunderstood and misquoted verses in the New Testament. Mainly because it's most frequent use is to guilt people into "showing up for church". While it is most certainly an exhortation for the local church - the Body of Christ - to place the gathering of the church in high priority, it's the motive that I believe is often omitted from the conversation.

When Hebrews was written, followers of Jesus Christ were not living in the United States with religious freedom. They were persecuted. They were hunted down and often murdered. They spent their week, while prayerfully and assertively taking the Gospel to those who were "walking in darkness", trying to fend for the own safety as well. To live for Christ was to risk your life. And when you're laying your life on the line for the sake of something or someone else, there is indescribable comfort, encouragement, and power in not only knowing that you are not alone, but in literally not being alone. There is great power in coming together with those who are on the same mission. The writer of Hebrews is crying out for the people to not forget or forsake this.

Because in the SCATTERING - the sending and going out of the people on mission to make disciples - you will be opposed, discouraged, persecuted, exhausted, burdened, and broken - you will be in desperate need of the GATHERING - coming together with those who are on the same mission to be encouraged, comforted, inspired, and renewed.

One is not more important than the other.

The gathering cannot overshadow the scattering. Or vice versa.

At The Brook, we've spent a great deal of time and energy over the last year and a half emphasizing the scattering - the sending out - the forward, propelling movement of the mission. Recently, I've been led to believe that in doing so we have possibly neglected to reemphasize the enormous importance and priority of the gathering. Not only that, I think it's essential for us to often reflect on and reconsider WHY it is we come together. Why do we gather each week as a local church body? 

I don't think it can be overstated: worship is a way of life. Worship is the adoration & attention we give to the thing(s) we value most in life. But worship is also the corporate praise, adoration, confession, and celebration of God's people when they come together. It's the "Body of Christ" acknowledging WHO God is and WHAT He's done. That's a pretty hefty task, right? Something we should take seriously? Absolutely. So it begs the question: Am I preparing my heart each week for this opportunity? Am I living my life in such a way that it causes me to almost bust in anticipation of the chance to celebrate and adore the work of the Redeemer in and through my life? 
Remember: worship is a way of life.

When we come together, it's a powerful thing to hear, receive, and respond to the Word of God. The accurate, anointed teaching of scripture - through the power of the Holy Spirit moving in and through us - can transform our minds and radically change our hearts. It reinvigorates our soul. It brings us back to the center - to the starting point. It reminds us why it is we're scattering - moving out - on mission together. And it hopefully always brings us back to the life-changing truth: It's all about Jesus! 

Because most of our churches choose to included some very specific items in our Sunday morning schedules, these elements, pieces, and programs require volunteers, workers, and leaders. For instance: If your church family choose to have a weekly children's event/program (at The Brook we call it Faith Builders for preschoolers & Faith Factory for kids) it requires a small army (maybe militia) of passionate, dedicated, and prepared teachers, leaders, and workers. It doesn't just "happen". To have a "worship service" with a band, you not only need musicians, you're also in need of someone to run the sound, lights, video, etc... If you want people to get out of their car, walk through your doors, find a seat, and not only "participate in worship", but to feel welcomed, received, and loved by your church family, then you need greeters. I think you can actually put it this way: For a local church to worship together, we have to serve together. We have to serve each other. And just as (if not more) important, we have to serve those who are not yet part of the "family".

If your church has small groups or missional communities or whatever it may be called, those groups and communities - if growing and functioning biblically and properly - are going to at some point begin to reach people. They are going to reach lost people who do not know the Lord. That's our mission. At the same time, we have to understand and acknowledge that there are still going to be people walking through our doors for the first time on Sundays, looking for a church home, searching for fellowship, and desperate for the Lord to change their lives. They need to know someone cares. They need to feel welcomed. Bottom line: they need the love of Christ to overwhelm them. That will only happen if the people of God are extending that love. And this reality begs us to ask some questions of ourselves:

When I wake up on Sundays - when I'm preparing to gather with my church family - is it honestly, first and foremost, all about me?

If you're 10-15 minutes late every week, can you possibly make other people feel welcomed? Like you were there waiting to receive them and greet them?

If you've been "going to your church" for 2 years now, but you're still not serving anyone inside the church, what does that mean your worship really looks like to God? To everyone else? If we're "lifting our hands" without ever getting them dirty, what's really going on in our hearts?

Is it possible you could be robbing yourself of all that it means to be part of the Church because you're neglecting corporate worship? Because you're refusing to serve someone other than you?

If you're going to get up this Sunday and "go to church", I beg you to ask this simple question first: WHY? And if your WHY doesn't include one of these aspects and reasons above, I would encourage you to pray about it. No cliches here. I mean go in the closet, get down on your face, and ask the Lord: 'What do you desire of me in your church?' If you ask, He'll begin to show you.

Are you looking for a starting point? Let me give you a couple of easy ones:

  • Show up 15 minutes early & greet people. And don't just greet them ("Hey, I'm Bill. Welcome!") RECEIVE THEM! That looks more like: "Hey, I'm Bill. Would you guys like to sit with us? I'd love to introduce you to my wife." Treat people the way you would want to be treated if it was your first time walking through the doors.
  • Wake up 30 minutes early and spend time in the Word. Pray and ask the Lord to prepare your heart and open your eyes as you are with the people of God. 
When we SCATTER, we are on mission.
When we GATHER, we are STILL on mission.
The Church is always on mission. ALWAYS! 
What an awesome privilige to worship the Lord & serve each other!

We are all in need of refining in areas of our lives. Is there one of these areas where you can ask God to bring some change in your life?

January 21, 2014

Replace the Alternator

Last night I would have told you it was a few days ago that it started. But much later last night I began to realize it started long before then. Probably a couple of weeks ago. Out of nowhere - whether driving down the road or sitting at a stop light - the battery gauge on my Jeep would go down. Not like it would slowly begin to drop. It would go DEAD. And immediately my CHECK GAUGES light would come on. As this began to happen over and over, I wrote it off. I thought, "This stupid Jeep has more issues than the Kardashian sisters. Now my battery gauge is broken!" After all, it seems like in the 4 months I've owned this vehicle, it's just been laughing at me. Taunting me.

I thought the gauge was broken.

I was wrong.

One thing I learned last night from my friend Steve is that the battery gauge isn't actually for the battery; it's for the alternator. Go figure. And to those of you who think like me, you may find that to be stupid. Join the club. But our disdain for gauge misrepresentation is only rooted in our ignorance. Understanding what an alternator actually does helps alleviate this confusion:

Alternator (n.) - Used in modern automobiles to charge the battery and power the electrical system when the engine is running.

So get this: If the alternator stops working, it tells your battery gauge to hit the floor. If your battery gauge is suddenly dropping like a limp noodle, this means your battery isn't being charged. And when your battery isn't being charged, it's eventually going to run out of juice. And when it runs out of juice, that means it's done. Game over. And at this point, most automotive geniuses like myself (insert laughter here) are left sitting in the car in the parking lot, cranking it over and over, wondering WHY I left the jumper cables hanging on that peg in the garage, beginning to boil over the fact that I'm about to have to purchase a brand new battery. When in reality, it's not the battery at all. In fact, the battery is just fine. It simply needs to be recharged. 

The painful reality: It's the alternator that's broken. Which is a much bigger issue my friends.

[HUGE thanks to my friend Steve for spending 5 hours with me last night replacing my alternator.]

As I stood there freezing my backside off into the wee hours of the night, becoming a World Class Flashlight Holder, I thought about some things that I think many of us struggle with at times:

Sometimes, we think our spouse is the problem. And sometimes, we may be right. But more often than not, it's the greater issue of US.

Lots of people think the job that they're in really sucks. But the bigger problem is they haven't learned gratitude, humility, or a simple work ethic.

Parents spend countless amounts of time & energy trying to modify their child's behavior, without ever addressing the much bigger issue of the heart.

Today, millions of people will keep trying to patch up the surface and smooth things over and see if they'll maybe possibly be able to get it right enough that they'll "win God's approval", still failing to understand that while they'll never be able to "fix it all", they don't need to. Jesus has done that. We keep messing with the battery, running for the jumper cables, while the alternator sits there, less than a foot away, needing to be replaced. 

How much time do we spend - how much of our hearts do we beat down - in pursuit of trying to fix things that really aren't the problem?

Is there any issue or an area in your marriage, with your children, in your job, with your health, or most importantly, in your relationship to Jesus Christ, where you need to finally address the actual problem?

I want to encourage you: Stop messing with the battery & replace the alternator.

Ephesians 2:1-10
Matthew 5-7
Isaiah 1:18-20

January 13, 2014

Stop Making Bad Choices

"Why am I the one in the family...?"

The Black Sheep. The Prodigal. The screw up. The list goes on.

I can't begin to tell you how many times I've heard someone, through this agonizing fog of self-pity, allow this sort of painful question to come flying out of their mouth: "Why am I the one? Why am I constantly messing things up? Why can't I just get it right?"

Maybe this is you. Maybe you've made one bad decision after another after another. Quite possibly (as beforementioned) as you've allowed yourself to be seduced and deceived by self-pity, you've also started to mistakenly believe that THIS IS JUST WHO YOU ARE, or that THIS IS JUST HOW YOU'RE WIRED. Maybe you think your destiny is to constantly repeat your mistakes and put your family through hell. If any of this is ringing a bell or starting to sound familiar, I want to encourage you and help you by telling you the truth. 

Now don't misunderstand me, I'm completely aware of the fact that - by nature - you probably haven't been very good at hearing the truth. That's why you are where you are. But I'm believing that you're growing tired and weary of being in that place - that you're ready to shake this and truly make things new. If so, then I hope you'll keep pressing forward and read on. Here we go.

99% of the time that someone falls into this trap, begins taking on the identity of Family Screw Up or Black Sheep, becomes the one who makes Thanksgiving Dinner the most awkward moment for everyone, and just can't seem to ever get things straight, there's a very simple reason behind it. It's not earth-shaking or mind-blowing. In fact, it's actually so simple and foundational that it's irritating. If you want to know HOW to strip off this weight and once and for all be free, here is the FREE, money-back guarantee, simple solution:


That's it.

I told you it was irritating. 

I know you wanted more. 

Much like the Carmax commercials where people "want more drama", I'm sure that's you right about now. (That's part of the reason you keep being this person. You're magnetically drawn to drama like the tractor beam of the Death Star is sucking you in. KILL THE TRACTOR BEAM!) But it's really this simple. As Andy Stanley says in The Principle of the Path, "It's direction, not intention, that determines destination." [Read that again.] Do you grasp this life-changing reality? It doesn't matter what your INTENT is. What matters is the DIRECTION you walk. The STEPS you take. The DECISIONS you make. Those steps - one after another after another - are going to determine where you wind up. DIRECTION, NOT INTENTION, DETERMINES DESTINATION. 

While you soak that in, I want to make sure you also understand one more piece of this puzzle. And it's the most important piece. WHERE you're headed and WHAT you do and HOW you live are all going to be rooted in WHO you are living for. These steps you need to take - the wisdom and discernment you need to even see what direction to go - will only be found through the power of God's Word and His Spirit guiding and leading you. Surrendering your life to Jesus Christ - FULLY SURRENDERING - is the beginning of you kissing that old person goodbye. [2 Corinthians 4 & 5 speak powerfully to this!] Until you surrender, you will just keep running back to your old identity. As painful and heartbreaking as it is, it's become comfortable because it's what you know. But God has better. MUCH better! Forget Black Sheep. He wants to make you "white as snow". But only He can accomplish this. Look at what Isaiah says:

"Come now, let's reason this out together", says the Lord. "Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you will be eaten by the sword." For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. Isaiah 1:18-20

Surrender. Stop running. Maybe for the first time in your entire life:

January 10, 2014

HE is the Reward!

In Matthew 6, Jesus speaks directly to the heart of prayer and fasting. In contrast to the pious and the hypocrites, Jesus says when you're praying you should "go into your room and shut the door and pray to the Father who is in secret". And then, rebuking those who fasted and made a big, religious, self-centered show out of their deprivation and sacrifice, Jesus said instead you should "anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others, but your Father who is in secret." In other words, don't walk around looking miserable so that everyone knows what a spiritual juggernaut you are. 

In reading His words, there are some things I think we've misconstrued or misinterpreted about the heart of what Jesus is telling us in these verses.

This past week our church family at The Brook - like many other churches - began walking through a Daniel Fast together. (You can read more about that HERE. You can also read Daniel 1, 9 & 10 to learn more about the origin of this fast - spending 21 days fasting from specific foods.) Already this week I have been incredibly encouraged by what I see the Lord doing in the lives of many of our people and families, and I am being challenged, refined, and rejuvenated in my own walk with God as well. But as I said, there are some things I think we tend to either ignore, misunderstand, or become too attentive toward and can miss the whole point of an opportunity like this. Let me explain.

First off, Jesus doesn't say we should make it a SECRET that we are praying or fasting. But He does expressly say that we shouldn't make a SPECTACLE out of it either. It's about our heart and motive. Why do you pray or fast? If it's to look more religious or pious in the eyes of other people, as Jesus said, you've "already received your reward". (And in case we're not certain as to what He means by this, the reward in that instance would be ZERO. Nothing. Except maybe you've falsely impressed someone else. Way to go.) There are times you need to or have to tell someone else you're fasting. Just do it discreetly and humbly. Make sure your motive is in check.

Also, remember the most important point of fasting is to draw closer to the Lord. It's giving something up that quite possibly you've become dependent on - maybe even begun to "worship" - so that you are driven back to the realization that the Father is the One you need. For me, if I'm bearing my soul here, it's a constant reminder that Jesus told me to ask the Father for my "daily bread", not my Dove Chocolate & Diet Dr. Pepper. My flesh begins to deceive me into believing that I NEED these things. I'm dependent on them. And as a child of God and a follower of Jesus Christ, this is incredibly unhealthy. All the way around. Fasting, as Amanda McNeil puts it in her blogpost, too often "become about changing WHAT WE DO, when it should be about changing WHO WE ARE." When we draw near to the Lord, it changes us.

The nation of Israel fasted corporately. David, Daniel and others fasted during times of mourning. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, longing to commune with the Father. The motives and heartbeat were always brought back to this simple, yet life-changing desire: SEEK GOD.

If you're doing the Daniel Fast, yet finding yourself thinking, "This is a piece of cake! (No pun intended.) I don't see what's so hard about this." You might want to consider fasting from something else. There will almost always be SACRIFICE involved. I know someone right now who is fasting from Facebook, Twitter, and every form of social media because they've literally become addicted. I have another friend who is completely fasting from TV, movies, and every form of entertainment, wanting their children to feel some of the tension of this sacrifice and using that time to be together as a family, fully present. Consider whether or not your fast is driving and propelling you to a greater dependence on God...or is just some sort of challenge to your dietary habits. Remember WHY you're doing this in the first place.

I want to encourage you, if you're fasting right now, spend some time the next few days meditating on these verses in Matthew 6 (which include the Lord's Prayer). In fact, walk through the whole Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Draw near to the Lord through this. 

Seek Him wholeheartedly. 

HE is the reward!

Other Scriptures:
Deuteronomy 8
Daniel 9 & 10
Matthew 4

January 7, 2014

What Would a Homeless Person Tweet?

This morning I was on my way to the gym and started thinking to myself how funny it was - and predictable - that the heater in my Jeep would get nice & warm right about the time I pulled into a parking place. Doesn't that kind of thing always seem to happen? And so of course I began crafting in my mind how this would best be expressed in a tweet. How could I convey this nagging annoyance with all my friends, who would most certainly resonate with my frustration. It would probably sound something like this:

On the way to gym at 6AM. Freezing my butt off! Heater in the Jeep finally got nice & toasty....when I pulled into a parking space. #annoying

And then I remembered something else. 

The night before (when the Arctic front moved into our area) there was a segment on the news about how a few area churches and missions were opening their doors to the homeless for the next few nights, providing a place to come in out of the frigid cold. I remember praying, "Lord, bless and use these churches and people! Please keep those people without shelter safe tonight." Suddenly I was struck with the thought: I wonder what a homeless person would think about my tweet? I wonder what someone fighting for their life to get out of the cold would think about my horrific dilemma with waiting on the car to heat up? It got me thinking: I wonder what a homeless person would think about half of the things we tweet or post on Facebook? And for that matter, what would it sound or look like if a homeless person started tweeting? Let's compare one of their potential tweets with mine from above:

Got to shelter. Stood in line outside 2 hours. Plate in my hand, they ran out of food. GONE! Feels like my stomach is eating itself. #annoying

I wonder if we ran our thoughts, complaints, grievances, and annoyances through the filter of WHAT WOULD A HOMELESS PERSON THINK ABOUT THIS? if they might not sound a bit different. 

Would we complain a little less?
Would we hold a few less things over other people's heads?
Would we be a little - or maybe a LOT - less annoyed with our petty, materialistic list of wants?

I wonder if we actually spent more time with our brothers and sisters who are homeless and hungry - meeting their needs, hearing their stories, loving them with our actions - if some of our petty thoughts, complaints, grievances, and annoyances would not only sound different, but would completely disappear.

What do you think?
What would a homeless person tweet?

January 6, 2014

Your Words Have Been Heard

When you read the Book of Daniel, you realize that one clear characteristic of this man's life - when he was both young and old - was that of fasting and praying. He passionately sought the heart of God, wanting to know the steps that the Lord was ordaining for him, but more importantly wanting to know the One who was ordaining those steps. He wanted to KNOW GOD! He wanted his people to KNOW GOD - to return to Him with their whole hearts. And he tirelessly, persistently kept on asking the Lord for these things.

We see this powerfully displayed throughout Daniel 9 & 10. Specifically in Chapter 10, as Daniel tells us he "was mourning for three weeks" (he had been fasting and praying), he has a vision. The men who were with him didn't see it, but they experienced the presence of God and it sent them running to hide. Daniel himself was afraid as well, even trembling.

When was the last time you were overcome by the presence of God?
Can you remember what it felt like to be overwhelmed by who God is?

At that moment, Daniel experienced this. 
And I love what the messenger of God tells him:

He addresses Daniel as "man greatly loved". This stabbed me in the heart this morning as I read it and was reminded of the indescribable love the Father has for me as His child. Amazing!

After he tells Daniel to "stand upright", this is his message:

"Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled youself before God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words." (Daniel 10:12)

Have you poured out your heart before the Lord, longing to know Him more?
Have you lifted up that person you love, longing to see them surrender their heart to the Living God?
Have you asked the Lord for wisdom & discernment in your life, to follow Him wholeheartedly?
Have you begged God to do things in & through your life that only He can accomplish?
Have you been tempted to think - even for just a second - that your prayer is insiginificant? Unimportant? Unheard?

Think again.

From the first day that you asked for wisdom...
from the first moment that you begged for intervention...
from the first breath you uttered on behalf of someone else's salvation...
your words have been heard.

Don't lose heart. Don't give up.
God's ways and His timing and His plan are much bigger and better than ours.
And He's always working for your GOOD and for His GLORY!

Isaiah 55:6-9
Matthew 7:7-11
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

January 3, 2014

Multiply Or Die

Small Groups.
House Huddles.
Missional Communities.

Call it what you like. At the end of the day, if the driving force and foundational principle is not sending, thrusting, and propelling Christians OUT toward those who are lost and in need of Christ, eventually...it will die. Once in awhile, it may be a sudden execution. Most often though, it dies a long, slow death. And it's painful; to experience and to watch.

If you're not involved in the community of the Church, then you cannot fully or effectively be walking with Christ. You can't just be "going to church" and simultaneously answering the call of discipleship. And when I say discipleship, I'm referring to other Christ-followers pouring INTO you and you being poured OUT into the life of another. It's the Apostle Paul saying, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ." (1 Cor. 11:1) It's what the crazy church growth folks, small group gurus, and missional community pastors refer to as "multiplication".

No good at math? Me neither. 
Thankfully this multiplication we speak of requires no Algebra.

Going back to the point - if the driving force and foundational principle is not sending, thrusting, and propelling Christians OUT toward those who are lost and in need of Christ, eventually...it will die - this is part of multiplication. If the community of the Church is not feeding, nurturing, and growing this multiplication, it's luring and leading people to a long, slow, self-centered, gospel-forsaking death.

The mantra of our calling - both as individuals & as the Church - can be summed up this simply: MULTIPLY OR DIE

NOW is the perfect time to to resolve - to commit with unwavering determination - to give your life away. To be spent for the sake of the Kingdom. To embrace that the Good News of the Gospel is not meant to be hoarded or kept, but carried and delivered to those who are lost. To have the courage to say to someone, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ." To MULTIPLY.

How are you intentionally aiming to MULTIPLY?
How is Jesus using your life to reproduce His life in someone else?
Who has He placed in your life right now that you can be pouring into?

Luke 19:10
Matthew 28:18-20
Romans 10:9-17
1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1
2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2

January 1, 2014

Time to Make Memories

January 1, 2014
Today, I ran into the ocean.

I'm here in Charleston almost every New Years Day. It's a great place to start the New Year. One of the great traditions here in the area is the Polar Bear Plunge. On Sullivan's Island, Dunleavy's Pub hosts this crazy event to raise money for Special Olympics. Last year they raised $60,000! And today, Nathan, Libby, and I took the plunge. It was crazy! Many people have asked me, "What in the heck were you thinking? Are you nuts?" While the answer to that second question is not necessarily up for debate, I want to tell you WHY I decided over 2 weeks ago that on January 1, I would be running into the Atlantic Ocean.

I don't think everyone should do this. Some folks would probably have a heart attack.

I'm not really a daredevil or adventure junky. Although I do like cliff jumping.

No one dared me, bet me I wouldn't, or even paid me to do it. I wish.

Quite frankly, it's a whole lot easier to just stay inside, kick your feet up, and relax in the warmth of the glow of the 55" flat screen with football endlessly numbing your mind. Every year up until now, that's exactly what I did. And that's why this year I decided it was time for a change. It's time to stop automatically taking the easy route.

It's time to stop talking about memories and start making some with my kids.

It's time to stop defaulting to easy, lazy, clean and tidy. It's time to get dirty.

It's not about doing the opposite of what you always do. It's more about prayerfully examining WHY you always do WHAT you always do. And for me, beginning to ask that question and kick it in the teeth meant running into the freezing cold ocean on New Years Day. And if I'm being honest, it was awesome! Now my question is, what does that mean for you?

What's going to be different this year in your life?
What are you going to determine to change?
What memories are you going to make?
What are you going to do NOW to determine that it happens THEN?
Let's hear it. How are you going to make 2014 extraordinary?

Happy New Year!