Community

All In

Do you remember the Hokey Pokey? That catchy little kids tune, where you sing, “you put your right foot in, you put your right foot out, you put your right foot in and you shake it all about?” Then you “do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around, because that’s what it’s all about!” Well through the stanzas of the song, all the various body parts get put in the circle, and then it ends with putting your whole self in, and putting your whole self out!

When I think of the Holey Pokey, I’m reminded of another instruction from the Apostle Paul, when he writes: “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1). “To present your bodies” is Paul’s way of saying, put your whole self in and be all in for Jesus.

Present Your Bodies as a Living Sacrifice

To be “all in” for Jesus, means that we present our lives to Jesus as a living sacrifice. In some ways, it’s like Paul is calling out the last stanza of the Hokey Pokey, “You put your whole self in!” Not just an arm, or a leg, or an elbow. In other words, you’re all in. Meaning that you’re committed to do whatever God wants you to do, in every area of your life.

In Galatians 2:20, Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I live by faith, I live for Christ, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Paul clearly understood the commitment it took to follow Jesus, and he was willing to risk his very life for the sake of the gospel.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of baptizing a woman who converted from the Muslim faith to Christianity. When I asked Anahita, what her baptism meant to her, she said it meant that she was “all in”! Then she went on to explain, that in her county she could die, for publicly declaring her faith in Jesus. To be a “living sacrifice,” begins with a decision to give God permission to lead and guide our lives according to His purpose and plan, not my own. Even at the risk of losing friendships, or life itself.

See Jesus As Your Lord, not Your Consultant

Ask yourself this. Do you want Jesus as your consultant or as your Lord? What’s the difference you ask? Well when a consultant gives you advice or direction, then you have the opportunity to follow the advise or not. But, when Jesus is your Lord and says jump, you ask, “how far?”

A few years ago, I was addicted to the show The Profit. In the show, Marcus, a successful small business owner, would consult with the owners of struggling businesses, offering them feedback and suggestions for turning around their business. Many of the owners, would agree in theory the  suggestions Marcus would make, but many would refuse to implement his strategies and as a result fail in their business ventures.

Unfortunately, this is how many of us operate with God. We read His Word, we listen to messages, we may even be in a small group, but we fail to integrate His truths into our lives. That’s because we see Jesus more as a consultant, and often think we know better than God when it comes to the decisions in our lives. Unfortunately, most times that is a recipe for disaster, because we are not God nor do we have the perspective God has.

Don’t Conform to the Pattern of this World

To “not be conformed to the pattern of this world,” means that, I don’t take my values, my standards, my priorities from the world around me. It saddens me that we have developed a kind of selective Christianity that allows us to be deeply and sincerely involved in worship and church activities, and yet almost totally pagan in the day to day activities of our lives. And what is even more troubling is that most of us never realize the discrepancy.

In order to not be “confirmed to the pattern of this world” we need to determine what we expose ourselves to. Input always determines output. So, ask yourself, what do you watch? And what do you read? Are they helping or hurting my spiritual life? Who do you hang with? As Proverbs 13:20 says, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Finally, who are you trying to impress? So often we compromise our values, because we are trying to impress someone.

There have been times when I have had to take a break from social media because it just hasn’t been good for my soul. You know how it goes. Trying to impress people through posts or finding yourself jealous of a friend or a relative who always seems to go on extravagant vacations.

Whatever the temptation, we’re exhorted to no longer follow the pattern of this world. As Christians, we live by a different standard.

Renew Your Mind

Finally, in Romans 12, if we’re to be all in, we need to renew our minds. In other words, we’re to align our thoughts, values and priorities with God’s viewpoint. Our part in renewing our minds is to flee what’s harmful, and feed on what’s helpful.

For me, the practice of renewing my mind, means that I memorize a lot of Scripture. That I hang with people who motivate and encourage me. That I watch what kind of movies I see. That I meditate on God’s Word. And as a result, I can test and approve God’s good and perfect will.

So, are you ready to do the Hokey Pokey for God? To put your whole self in. To offer yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him? If so, I pray you will experience the joy and wonder of what Romans 12:2 promises, that “you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

How We Grow

A few months ago, our Celebrate Recovery program celebrated 5 years at Bayside Adventure. Even in the midst of several church transitions, this forever family stayed faithful to the call and commission, God placed in their hearts.

The road to recovery, is not an easy journey. But for those who stay the course, it’s a rewarding one. That’s why they say in recovery, “don’t give up before the miracle.”

As I have observed the miracles of healed marriages, restored joy, victory over substance abuse and families changed, I have noticed a few characteristics that are necessary for working a successful recovery program. Spiritual transformation is not about trying harder, but about training wisely. God calls us to come as we are, but there are some key things that we need in order for us to effectively grow in Christ. Here they are…

Courage

In order for us to grow in Christ, to be transformed, and be successful in life, we must have courage to meet the demands of reality. This ultimately means coming to a point in our life and admitting that “we are powerless” over our sin and compulsive behaviors. It takes courage to express weakness. But admitting that we have problems, doubts, fears, insecurities, and trouble, is the first step to healing.

I remember my first Celebrate Recovery step study. We were 6 months into the journey, when one of our members, finally found the courage to admit that he had been lying to the group the whole time about his sobriety date. Crippled by fear, not wanting to lose his leadership role in our program, nor disappoint his wife, he lived a lie and was gripped by shame and guilt. But finding the courage to be truthful, brought greater healing in his life, as he came to experience the love and grace of God. The acceptance and love of the group ultimately gave him greater freedom months later, when he courageously turned himself into the authorities, who had a warrant out for his arrest. Again, in this situation, God honored his courage by giving him favor with the judge who just assigned him to community service, rather than time in jail.

Courage to stand for truth, to speak up for others, or to share our faith with a not yet follower of Jesus, allow our faith muscles to grow. And as our faith grows, we find greater courage to say or do the right thing, for the right reasons.

Commitment

I believe that many of the problems in our society are due to a lack of commitment. A lack of commitment to our beliefs, a lack of commitment to our families, a lack of commitment to our friends, a lack of commitment to our churches, etc. We live in a world where we fear commitment. We don’t make commitments, or we wait until the last minute to commit, because we fear that we just might miss out on another opportunity. Or we fail to follow through on our commitments because it’s too hard, or too painful.

In observing those who received the miracle, their lives were marked by commitment to being truth tellers, to working hard, to reliving some painful moments and not giving in before they received the miracle. That takes dedication, discipline and determination. It takes commitment. Nothing is ever easy in life. As they say, no pain, no gain.

Community

Life is better together. The success of recovery programs and why God has called us into connection with each other, is because two are better than one. The success of any recovery program is in community. As people come alongside us, guide us, encourage us, speak truth to us and to use their stories to inspire us, we find hope.

I often hear in recovery circles, “I thought I was the only one experiencing this.” That’s a lonely place to be. The reality is, we are all sojourners in need of hope and healing. Remember this, “all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And therefore, none of us are perfect.

So often we come to God in our brokenness and need for God, but once we trust him as our Lord and Savior, it’s like the struggle disappears. Not so, my friend. We live in a broken world, and we need the community of fellow believers to spur us on to love and good deeds. For it’s in community, we find connection, we find acceptance and we find hope.

Christ

For the Christ follower this is obvious, and some may argue that I should have put this down as the first characteristic. But I put it down at the bottom of the list, because I believe Jesus is the foundation for all things. Without Christ, without the forgiveness He offers, without the Church He established, our world would lack meaning and purpose.

You see, we were created by God, to live in community with each other, for the express purpose of knowing Him and making Him known. And without Him, we would not know the grace we need to be courageous, the power He gives us to follow through on our commitments, or the beauty of biblical community to offer us hope.

Jesus is the cornerstone. And as the cornerstone, our lives need to be built on Him. As we build our lives on Him, He promises to grow and mature us into His likeness, until that day in which we will be fully complete in Him.

Life is Too Short to Go It Alone

According to a Time magazine report, every 60 seconds on Facebook is packed with a lifetime’s worth of social interactions! For example, in the next 60 seconds, 500,000 comments will be posted on Facebook and 350,000 posts will be liked. In addition, 250,000 messages will be sent, 135,000 photos will be added, and 100,000 statuses will be updated! That’s a lot of information! While I am not convinced that things like Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets have helped our sense of connection, it’s not surprising to me that Facebook is now the #1 most visited site on the internet.

You see, as human beings we have an innate desire to connect with one another in meaningful ways, and the reason we have this innate desire to connect with one another is because God created us with this innate need for community! In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make man in our image and our likeness.” I don’t know if you ever noticed the plurality of that verse, but in those 10 words, there are three references to God’s very unique nature. The words “us” and the word “our” proclaim the core doctrine of the Trinity, referring to the fact that God himself exists in community. Yes, the creation account provides us with an amazing window into the very nature of God, in whose nature we are created. And since we are created in God’s image, we are therefore created for community!

The need for relationship was part of God’s created order. It wasn’t the result of the fall, as some might believe. In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone, so I will make a helper suitable for him.” From the very beginning, the creator of the universe realized we could not live on our own, so he made a way for us to connect to others in order to survive.

If you remember the movie, Cast Away with Tom Hanks, his character, Chuck Noland, is stranded on a tropical island, and he had to give up everything he once knew to learn how to survive both physically and emotionally. In order to keep his sanity, he made a make-believe person named Wilson out of a volleyball. During his four years of being stranded on the island, Wilson and Hanks character weather many storms together, but when a big tropical storm comes upon the island and Wilson is blown off to sea, Chuck breaks down emotionally.

Cast Away is a fascinating movie which so accurately displays our need for connection, which has been hard wired into our DNA. But unfortunately, as humans and even as Christ followers, we try to do life alone and we isolate, because of shame, guilt, discouragement, and fear of rejection. Yet God calls us out of the isolation and invites us into community. He gives us an example of what this community looks like in Acts 2:42-47. It’s an amazing ideal of what the church can and needs to look like.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Looking at these verses, it’s clear that if you want to experience life as God intended it, and experience the ideals of our faith in Christ, we need to commit to be with others. There are a lot of things we can do alone in life. We can drive a car, play solitaire, or read a book. But we cannot experience the joy of knowing and being known outside of community, because it’s in community that we will experience all that God has for us. That’s why there is so much instruction in the Bible about how we are to live out our faith with one another. In fact, there are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament! These Bible passages help us to understand how much emphasis the Scriptures place on our obligation as Christians to love and care for one another in relationship in order to experience the fullness of all God has planned for us.

Life is all about relationships! So, I invite you to get off your electronic devices and connect. Start taking some risks to be vulnerable, and experience the reality that life is better together.

The Danger of Comparison

We do it everyday. Consciously or unconsciously, we size one another up. We measure others by their looks, the type of car they drive, where they live, and by the type of job they have. We use comparison like a measuring stick, assessing our own worthiness based on how many friends we have on Facebook and how many likes we have for our posts on Twitter and Instagram. But the sin of comparison is robbing us of our joy and contentment.

The problem with comparisons is that they lead us to make judgments – toward ourselves and toward others. And comparison also causes us to show partiality toward others or ourselves.

As human beings, we often use conscious or unconscious measuring sticks to try and rank others. But the problem with that is that we are all created in God’s image and likeness. Therefore there are no “better people” or “worse people” – there are only people created in the image and likeness of God.

Comparisons get us into trouble for at least two reasons:

1. They can make us feel better than the person we are comparing ourselves to, leading to pride. Remember the man who thanked God that he wasn’t a sinner? The enemy of our souls loves it when we struggle with pride. After all, it was his downfall.

2. They can make us feel worse than the person we are comparing ourselves to, leading to low self-esteem, which still keeps our focus on ourselves. Although it says in James that God is not a respecter of persons, we do not believe this if we believe God is withholding something from us that is rightfully ours.

In other words, when we compare, we’re essentially telling God that what He created wasn’t good enough. And we miss the opportunity to see the beauty of God in ourselves and in others.

The Bible says satisfaction comes from doing your best, not comparing yourself to others: “Let everyone be sure to do his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work done well and won’t need to compare himself with someone else” (Galatians 6:4 LB).  In other words, you can’t focus on your purpose and find contentment while looking at other people.

So here are four ways to stop comparing yourself to others and rediscover your joy and find contentment:

1. Remember that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Psalm 139:14, the psalmist tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” In other words, you are God’s unique creation. If you ever consider yourself unremarkable or even ordinary, you’re not seeing yourself God see you. But when we discover the truth that we are God’s unique design, it is overwhelming and empowering. So when you begin to feel inadequate and feel the temptation to compare, quietly whisper a prayer of thanks to God for making you the way you are.

2. Realize we all have different strengths and weaknesses. 

The reality is that there will always be someone thinner, richer, and better looking than us! No matter how hard we try, someone will always be better at something than we are. So when we start feeling the need to compare, we must recognize our opportunity to practice humility and recognize the beauty of God in His creation. This past week, at a Night of Prayer for our church, the different gifting and talents of our church staff struck me. And I thought about how each of those staff members’ gifts and talents are needed for the church to function well. God in his sovereignty has given us each a set of gifts and talents to accomplish His kingdom purpose.

3. Choose compliments over comparison. 

Instead of being people that compare ourselves to each other, we need to be people who champion each other. So whenever you find yourself comparing yourself to another, why not go right up to that person and compliment them about the very thing you are comparing yourself with. Jealous of someone’s great hair, his or her nice car or beautiful home? Tell them how beautiful you find those things! Instead of comparing your accomplishments to the accomplishments of a coworker, why not send a note congratulating them on their achievement? When we turn our comparisons into opportunities to champion each other, the devil loses and God is glorified.

4. Rely on God’s opinion rather than the opinion of others. 

Truth be known, it’s often our own insecurity that causes us to compare ourselves with others. But what if you and I relied on God’s opinion of us, before we had a chance to listen to our own, or another’s opinion of us? Not only are you and I fearfully and wonderfully made, but Scripture also reminds that those in Christ are loved, forgiven, accepted and complete. That means we must use God’s measuring stick, not our own or that of others to live by.

So when it comes to comparison trap, God asks one thing of you: Be who He created to be!

20 Things I Learned from My Mom

In honor of my mom this Mother’s Day, I wanted to share some of the life lessons I learned from her, either by her words or by her example…

  1. Believe in yourself. You can do anything you set your mind to.
  2. Don’t expect things to be handed to you. Work for them.
  3. Don’t give up. When you encounter roadblocks or hurdles, figure it out and move on.
  4. Keep your commitments. If you say you’re going to do something – do it.
  5. As long as you try your best in everything you do, you’ll never fail.
  6. Be respectful to those around you.
  7. Education is worth pursuing. Plan and save for it.
  8. Work smarter, not harder. Do it right the first time.
  9. Spring cleaning is good. Don’t hang onto junk, throw it out.
  10. Age is a state of mind.
  11. Be responsible with your money. It doesn’t grow on trees. (Okay, maybe I heard that one from my dad!)
  12. Getting organized will help you get the important things done.
  13. Prioritize vacations. Work hard. Play hard.
  14. Try new things. Life should be full of experiences.
  15. It’s important to remember special days in people’s lives.
  16. Be dependable.
  17. Honor family traditions. They’re fun and create memories.
  18. Always send thank you cards!
  19. Take care of the things that matter most.
  20. Stand your ground. Sometimes it’s okay to go out and play, even though you didn’t eat your liver!”😀

Happy Mother’s Day Mom! Thanks for who you are, all you do and everything you’ve taught me. I love you!

Flourish in Relationship

relationshipsGod made us to flourish! And as God’s created handiwork, we are made to flourish with him and with others in relationship. Therefore, in order to become God’s best version of ourselves, we need to be connected with others, specifically seeking to build and cling to these four important relationships in our lives:

God…

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” In this passage, Jesus tells us that there is no other relationship of greater importance; there is no aspect of life any more important, than to know and to be in relationship with God. A healthy relationship with the Creator and a willingness to allow God’s Word to guide our actions, activities, and govern how we act towards others will allow us to experience the promise of this verse.

In my life, none of my other relationships work well if my relationship with God is out of whack. I can tell when I have neglected time with Jesus, as I get weary, become less patient and less present with others. And sadly this state of mind rubs off into my relationships with my wife, my son and with those I work with. But as I seek first God’s kingdom, and prioritize my relationship with Him, everything goes much better, as I experience His presence and power!

Friends…

Everybody needs a few close friends they can laugh with, cry with, have fun with, or do life with. And there is such power in connectedness. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us that, “Two people are better than one, because they get more done by working together. If one falls down, the other can help him up. But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls, because no one is there to help.”

Zig Ziglar used to tell a story about how Belgian horses are trained to work together—and how it made these incredible animals so much more effective. Belgian horses are huge, powerful animals. In fact, one Belgian can pull more than 8,000 pounds. That’s one strong horse! But the amazing thing is that if you put two Belgian horses together, who are strangers, they don’t just double the amount they can pull; they actually triple it to 24,000 pounds. And if you spend some time training them to work together, that unified pair can pull a whopping 32,000 pounds. That’s four times what a single horse can do alone!

That story reminds me that connections are powerful. And just as Solomon reminds us, people need healthy relationships to win at life, too.

Wise Counselors…

Life can present us with challenges and decisions that are not easy to make on our own. We may pray about the situation and read God’s Word for guidance, but could still feel confused and uncertain about the direction we should take. It’s in these times, that it can be helpful to seek the counsel of other wise and godly people.

I believe that everyone needs a mentor in his or her life. To cultivate a relationship with those who have already been where we are or who are a little further along on the journey. A wise counselor is someone in which you can bounce ideas off of, gain wisdom and get perspective from.

Proverbs 15:22 states, “Plans fail without good advice, but they succeed with the advice of many others.” Seeking wise counsel is a sign of maturity and humility and some of the most successful people in life have surrounded themselves with wise counselors.

As a pastor, I have come into contact with many great Christian leaders like Bill Hybels, Phil Vischer, Dave Ramsey, and Rick Warren, and what strikes me about their leadership is that they are always asking questions. In my conversations with these men, they don’t seek to impart with me their wisdom; they seek wisdom by asking lots of questions. And I believe it’s this humility and perspective on life that God blesses.

A Close Confidant…

Finally, I believe we all need a trusted friend who you not only enjoy being with, but who speaks truth into your life and with whom you feel safe enough to be real.

Jesus called twelve guys to do life with him, but within his circle of twelve, he had an inner circle of three comprised of Peter, James, and John. These were his closest friends and confidants. And in following Jesus’ example, we need to circle ourselves with a few people that truly know our story, our struggles, our insecurities and our fears.

It’s these types of friendships that shape who we become and truly affect where we go! Having these sorts of relationships will not only help us run the race that God has called us to, but will also help us to experience joy and encouragement along the way.

Yes, life is all about relationships! So get connected, start taking some risks to be vulnerable and get connected by pursuing these relationships in your life. Until next time…

Post written as a contributor for Principles to Live By

Reflections on Turning 50

football-50Today I turn 50 years old. That’s right, the Big Five-O. Yep, it’s my birthday and I’m thrilled to be given the gift of turning 50. As i embark on this new decade of life, I’m filled with joy, gratitude and wonder. And instead of complaining, or making jokes about being over the hill, I’m celebrating the gift of reaching this milestone day.

These past 50 years have been an amazing ride for Bryan Hardwick, and I have the scars, age spots, wrinkles, gray hair as well as the AARP card to prove it. And at 50, I think I look pretty good and can probably still make your head spin on the dance floor. But, I have to admit, embracing this milestone day has been a journey for me. And as this day has approached, I have truly wondered if my best days are behind me or before me. Yet in recalling God’s faithfulness over these past 50 years, and in understanding God’s character and promises, I have come to embrace that the best days are truly ahead.

In considering the stories of the Bible, I learn that many men of the Bible experienced greater fruitfulness and blessing in their ministry in the second half of their life. Moses and Aaron were chosen to lead the Israelite’s out of Egyptian at the ages of 80 and 83. Joshua was given the charge of leading the conquest of Canaan, during the last thirty years of his life to which he lived to 110. Daniel was well over 80 when he served as one of three governors over the kingdom of Babylon and was thrown into the lion’s den. So until God takes us home, our mission is not done, and each moment is to be treasured until we are called home.

The last 50 years have been great ones…I have an incredible family who I love and who loves me. I have been blessed to spend the last 25 years of my life with this most amazing woman of God who loves me unconditionally and who is an incredible cook and mother to our son Zach. I have an amazing son, who is our miracle from heaven. He’s thriving in his freshman year at Rocklin High School and I am so encouraged by the young man he’s becoming. I have a career that I truly love! Yes, it’s complicated at times, especially over these past couple of years, but it is truly an honor to come alongside others to help them experience God in fresh ways. In addition, I have been blessed by some awesome friends and mentors who have walked through some amazing seasons with me. I could go on and on, but special thanks go out to Dan, Dave, Mike, JP, Todd, Brad and Michael for believing in me and making a difference in my life.

  • Yes, it’s been an amazing 50 years and by God’s grace I have learned to take myself less seriously, worry less, and to accept and even love my imperfections. To embrace that I am perfectly imperfect. That I am flawed, and that I make mistakes. Yep, I bump into walls and I stumble and fall. But I have learned that in embracing my imperfections, I embrace God’s love and grace in my life. And for this recovering perfectionist, this has been one of the greatest gifts I have experienced.
  • So, thank you God for the gift of another year! Today, I own my age and I wear it proudly. I am 50! WooHoo! And I’m praying that this will be the best year ever. I am filled with anticipation of what this next phase of my life will bring and I welcome it all.

Effective Leaders Build Trust

1901ed3The heart of a great relationship is trust. It’s also the first, and most critical piece for building strong teams. Lately I have been giving a lot of consideration to this topic and I have come to the conclusion that trust is empowering. It enables me to be more. It opens me up to grow and learn. It allows me to collaborate, gain feedback and do better work. It allows me to be human. And it allows me to develop significant relationships with others.

However, I have to admit, trusting others is not something that comes natural to me. So I have been giving consideration to the factors that allow trust to flourish within me, and came up with this list of how leaders can build trust with others.

In a nutshell, leaders who build trust with others are…

  1. Vulnerable – As a leader, they model vulnerability. Usually they are the first to “open up” and extend trust to others. As Ken Blanchard says, “vulnerability…engenders trust.” The best leaders are vulnerable, not invincible.
  2. Self-aware – Leaders who establish trust with others pay attention to their words and actions. They don’t commit what they can’t control, make promises they can’t keep, or fail to own their mistakes or shortcomings.
  3. Caring – They operate with a compassionate heart. They see people as individuals, not as someone who helps them look good or serves their agenda.
  4. Encouraging – They bring out the best in others, help them apply and develop their strengths and reach their goals. They speak highly of you in front of others and help provide challenges and opportunities to help you go where you want to go.
  5. Listeners – Leaders who build trust don’t listen so they can talk; they listen so they can learn. By withholding their judgment, being present, and engaging real dialogue, they embrace differences, create openness, and facilitate connection.

I recently had lunch with a leader who modeled all these characteristics and I found it so refreshing. And it inspired me to be a better leader myself. At its simplest, trust is a catalyst for our organizations and businesses to be more: more nimble, more efficient, more effective. It’s like oxygen for a successful team or a thriving relationship and one simply can’t exist without it.

God Uses Broken People

5180924ce78db2ca9c21fd153be59021I ran across this devotion that my wife Jennifer wrote a few years ago and felt it appropriate to share in light of some recent posts and conversations. I love her wisdom and heart on this…

We all have something to offer someone. We all have a story, past experiences, successes and failures that God could use to strengthen someone else.

During the Passover Celebration, Jesus was teaching and exhorting his disciples one last time before his death. He speaks of his suffering, his betrayal and the life of service that was ahead of them. Then Jesus says to Peter “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat.  But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”  Luke 22:31-32 (NLT)

I was blessed by Jesus’ words to Peter. Maybe not the “Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat” part, but the remaining words in these verses. First, I love that Jesus prayed for Peter. Second, I find it hopeful that Jesus used the word “when” and not “if” you repent. And finally, I love Jesus’ exhortation to Peter to strengthen the brothers.

Jesus told Peter that his faith was to be tested and a few minutes later Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him three times.  “But Jesus said, ‘Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”  Luke 22:34  And we know how this part of the story ends… “At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.  And he went outside and wept bitterly.”  Luke 22:61-62

We see here in Luke 22 and other portions of Scripture that Peter really blows it, but Jesus doesn’t condemn him or release him from his future ministry opportunities. He isn’t sidelined for a bad choice or a season of bad choices. Instead, Jesus said “so when you repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus knew that Peter would deny him, he also knew that after he repented he would be better prepared to serve Him and serve His church.

God is our great redeemer and restorer. Just like God used Peter, failures at all, he can use our story, our times of rebellion, our desert seasons, our trials, and our victories to encourage and strengthen others. What a blessing it is to come alongside someone and encourage and strengthen them with the truths and lesson we learned from the Lord during a difficult or victorious season. God can use a willing individual’s different experience, negative or positive to strengthen others. So lets step up, shed the belief that we have to be perfect to serve God and start serving others.

Author Philip Yancey said in a magazine interview that “God doesn’t custom design Superman characters and plant them down here (to do His work). He deals with the talent pool available.” That’s us! The talent pool available. What a privilege to be used by God.

For further conversation about Peter’s life and ministry, click over to http://bryanhardwick.com/lessons-from-peter/

In Memoriam 2015

InMemoriamHere’s my tribute to some of the influential people in my life who passed on in 2015…

Al Ladendorff – One of my favorite teachers, Al Ladendorff, died March 20 at the age of 93. At Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, Calif., he was known as “Big Al.” He was actually my mom’s government teacher back in the 60’s, and later became my American history and government teacher, as well as my yearbook adviser for two years in the 80’s! A rare gem in the educational system, he was the first teacher who really taught me to think for myself, as well as to believe in myself. Although he frustrated me at times, Mr. Ladendorff never let me settle for mediocre. And whether in a government paper or in an article for the yearbook, he kept pushing me towards excellence. One of Mr. Ladendorff’s favorite axioms that has stuck with me all these years is a quote from George Santayana, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.” Over the years, that axiom has proven to offer me a lot of wisdom on life and in ministry. Upon graduating, I continued to stay in touch with Big Al and his wife Zelma, and enjoyed reading his annual Christmas letters about life in Modesto, his gardening adventures and his thoughts about modern culture. I owe a great deal of gratitude to this man and I am so thankful for his input and encouragement in my life so many years ago.

Charles Simmons Warfield – My father in law Chuck Warfield, suddenly passed on December 2 at the age of 84, due to complications with pneumonia. A devoted husband, loving father and wonderful grandfather to 16 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren, Chuck was one of the most giving men I have ever met. I met Chuck when I started dating his daughter Jennifer back in 1991. A well-loved school principal in the Dixie School District of Marin County, Chuck was already retired when we met and was beginning to pursue questions about faith. And in response to the prayers of his family, he committed his life to Jesus before Jennifer and I got married in 1993. A humble man, Chuck truly reflected Christ’s character, conduct and commitments and often sacrificed his own comforts in order to give to those he loved. As a woodworker, he would see a need and over the years responded to those needs by building us an armoire, bed side table, secretary’s desk (no small feat) as well as an entertainment center. He also helped us build an overhang and put in our french drains in our first home in Woodland. He loved his family and welcomed me with open arms, treating me as one of his own. And over the last 22+ years, he taught me so much about loving God, loving family and enjoying the simple things. I am truly going to miss this man in my life.

Vonette Bright – Vonette Bright, who with her husband Bill, co-founded Campus Crusade for Christ at UCLA in 1951 and built it into one of the world’s largest Christian ministries in the world, passed on December 23. 89 years young, Vonette and her husband Bill were very influential in my life as a student at UC Santa Barbara and later as a staff member with Campus Crusade for Christ (1988-1992). I remember first encountering Vonette through my involvement with Expo 1985 and later would be able to spend the summer of 1988 with the Bright’s as they shared their heart and vision for the Great Commission at our staff training at Arrowhead Springs in San Bernardino. She always had a contagious smile, a warm presence and a sincere faith. A great partner with her husband Bill, she was a woman of prayer and inspired us to men and women of prayer, who loved Jesus deeply. Her deep faith was an inspiration to me and I am thankful for the ministry that she and Bill started, as Cru laid a deep foundation of faith for my life and shaped much of my philosophy of ministry. I will forever be thankful for the Brights and how they beautifully reflected Jesus’ heart and passion for the lost.

Hebrews 13:7 tells us to “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Each of these men and women challenged me to live differently and I pray I continue to imitate their faith. I am so thankful that God used these men and women to ignite the God honoring passions and desires of my heart.

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