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12 Quotes from Abba’s Child

img_4539Many Christians have bought into the lie that we’re worthy of God’s love only when our lives are going well. If our families are happy, our careers successful and our life is good, then God loves us. But when life gets hard, and our sins threaten to reveal our less than perfect self, we scramble to present our good self to the world and God, as if God’s love for us is conditional.

Yesterday, in watching the movie Ragamuffin, the story of contemporary Christian recording artist Rich Mullins, I was struck by the depth of God’s love and how He accepts us just as we are. And I was also reminded of the teachings of Brennan Manning, whose words have inspired me over the years to freely accept my identity in Christ, as a beloved child of God.

Deeply affected by God’s extravagant grace, I spent the morning, pulling out some of the nuggets from Brennen Manning’s book Abba’s Child. And to reinforce some of those ideas, I thought I would post 12 of my favorite quotes from the book to challenge us to embrace our acceptance in God’s eyes.

  1. Jesus says, “Acknowledge and accept who I want to be for you: a Savior of boundless compassion, infinite patience, unbearable forgiveness, and love that keeps no score of wrongs. Quit projecting onto Me your own feelings about yourself. At this moment your life is a bruised reed and I will not crush it, a smoldering wick and I will not quench it. You are in a safe place.”
  2. Self rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that call us the “Beloved.”
  3. In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.
  4. Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.
  5. The pharisee within usurps my true self whenever I prefer appearances to reality, whenever I am afraid of God, whenever I surrender the control of my soul to rules rather than risk living in union with Jesus, when I choose to look good and not be good, when I prefer appearances to reality.
  6. To open yourself to another person, to stop lying about your loneliness and your fears, to be honest about your affections, and to tell others how much they mean to you – this openness is the triumph of the child of God over the pharisee and a sign of the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit.
  7. Feelings put us in touch with our true selves. They are neither good nor bad: They are simply the truth about what is going on within us.
  8. In my experience, self-hatred is the dominant malaise crippling Christians and stifling their growth in the Holy Spirit.
  9. Quit keeping score altogether and surrender yourself with all your sinfulness to God who sees neither the score nor the scorekeeper but only his child redeemed by Christ.
  10. Genuine faith leads us to knowing the love of God, to confessing Jesus as Lord, and to being transformed by what we know. 
  11. God is love. Jesus is God. If Jesus ceased loving, He would cease being God.
  12. Through His passion and death Jesus carried away the essential sickness of the human heart and broke forever the deadly grip of hypocrisy on our souls. He has robbed our loneliness of its fatal power by traveling Himself to the far reaches of loneliness (“My God, my God, why have You deserted Me?”). He has understood our ignorance, weakness, and foolishness and granted pardon to us all (“Forgive them, Father, they do not know what they are doing”). He has made His pierced heart a safe place for every defeated cynic, hopeless sinner, and self-loathing derelict across the bands of time. The Cross reveals that Jesus has conquered sin and death and that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of Christ.

Healthy Things Grow

growBack in August, following an almost unanimous vote by our church to merge with Hillside Christian Church, I gathered our group leaders and shared a phrase I hoped would be helpful to our them as we began a season of change. The phrase was, “Healthy things grow. And growing things change. And change challenges us. Challenges cause us to put our trust in God. Trust breeds obedience. And obedience makes us healthy.”

As I look back at that statement, I never realized how many times I would quote that phrase as I pondered decisions and talked to others. And in praying, meditating and considering the truth of this statement, here are some of the things I have learned along the way…

Healthy Things Grow
Have you ever noticed that healthy things grow? Plants, children, our emotional lives, our relationship with God, and even our relationship with others all grow. If these things are healthy, they are progressing, moving forward and changing. In fact, in the last month, my son shot up a whole inch. While that was tough on the pocketbook, we rejoice that he’s healthy and growing. That’s because healthy things grow.

Growing Things Change
If it wasn’t for change, we wouldn’t have seasons! Or butterflies! Or progress! In fact, we might still be living in the dark ages. As I look back on my life, I am grateful for change. Change in my preferences. Change in my attitudes. Change in my behavior. And even change in my clothing styles. You see, this is how we know things are growing. They change and are different from when we last saw them.

Change Challenges Us
Mark Twain once said, “The only person that likes change is a wet baby.” As humans, we like things to stay the way we like them. We are creatures of habit and comfort. After all, why mess with a “good thing”? But let’s face it! What if the “good thing”, could be better? The challenge that comes with change, is that it leads us into unknown territory. So we resist it. We like the familiarity. Even if the familiarity is unhealthy. As humans, we prefer the path of least resistance. That’s because change challenges us to make adjustments, take risks, and trust God for an uncertain future.

Challenges Cause Us to Put Our Trust in God
Here’s the reality! Challenges cause us to dig deep and depend on God more fully. Yet when presented with a challenge, many of us choice  to remain comfortable, knowing that change may require something of us. When I officiate a wedding, I often use this phrase, “May God give you enough tears to keep you tender, enough hurts to keep you compassionate, enough failure to keep you humble, and just enough success to ensure that you stay dependent upon Him.” You see, God knows exactly where to apply the pressure to cause us to turn to Him in faith. God wants us to grow in faith, and challenges force us to trust in Him.

Trust Breeds Obedience
Remember that old hymn, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey”? The antidote to fear is not safety and security. It has always been trust that leads to obedience. If we truly trust the Lord, He will reveal His will to us and show us what to do. Thus, trust breeds obedience.

Obedience Makes Us Healthy
Let’s look at it this way. Obedience takes trust! Trust creates expectancy! Expectancy breeds faith! Faith pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). In life, there will inevitably be something that forces us to trust God in a new way. And this is the great adventure of living with Jesus!

We Are God’s Handiwork

ephesians-2-10“You don’t have woo!” That’s what I heard from another church, a few years ago, as they explained their decision not to hire me. I had three of the four things they were looking for, but I didn’t have woo!

What is “woo”, you ask? Well “woo” is the supernatural ability to win others over. Did I just say, “supernatural”? Perhaps that was a little tongue in cheek. I guess it would actuality be more of a personality trait than anything. But some seem to elevate it as more important than a “spiritual gift” and a lot of churches seem to want leaders who have it!

Really, I’m not bitter! I am quite content that I don’t have “woo”! And in the case of the church that turned me down, because I didn’t have it…well they appear to be having their own set of problems, in their search for it! So, God actually used it to protect me, and for that I am grateful.

So what am I trying to say here? I guess I can try to manufacture it, which wouldn’t be true to who I am. Or I can be who God made me to be!

Believe me when I say, I am glad for those who have woo! We really need people like them in the kingdom! And truth be known, I am actually drawn, like many others, to people who have woo. But instead of trying to be something I’m not, I’ve gotta be who God created me to be. And in truth, by being who God created me to be, I will actually win others over, instead of trying to be something I wasn’t created for. Yes, people can see right through the fabrication.

So, I don’t have woo! But I have a lot of other God-given traits and gifts that are just as important to the body of Christ. As the Scriptures declare in Ephesians 2:10, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Each of us has a role, a part, in the grander plan of God. We were shaped by God, for God. He made no mistakes. And each of us, if we play our part in the kingdom of God, will sense God’s pleasure and fulfill God’s purpose here on earth.

I don’t have woo!

There I said it! Perhaps I will sleep a little better tonight having acknowledged that! Yes, I am at peace with who God created me to be. No mistake about it.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Thanksgiving IstanbulPraise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5

Dear heavenly Father, we join King David, on this Thanksgiving Day, in rehearsing just a few of the multiplied reasons why we love being your children—why we love being loved by you. By your Holy Spirit, free us over the course of these next several hours to abound in gratitude and overflow with thanksgiving, that we might offer you the heart-filled praise of which you alone are worthy.

Father, here are a just a few of the way-too-easy-to-forget benefits that you give us so richly and fully in Christ:

We praise you for being the God who forgives all of our sins. Because of what you’ve done for us in Jesus, all of our sins—past, present and future—sins by our words, thoughts and deeds, all of them have been forgiven. When we trusted Jesus, you didn’t give us a clean slate and a second chance at life; you gave us a new heart and your robed us in Jesus’ perfect righteousness. Hallelujah, for such a standing in grace!

We praise you for being the God who heals all our diseases. Everything about us is broken—everything about us bears the effects of sin and death, but you are the God who is making all things new through Jesus—all things. In this life, the healing journey has begun—a story with a guaranteed ending of whole-being health—in body, heart and soul. We will be healthy forever! Hallelujah, for such a living hope!

We praise you for being the God who redeems our lives from all kinds of “pits”—from the pits into which we have aimlessly fallen in life; from the ones into which we are thrown by our enemies; and from the ones into which we foolishly jump. Nothing will ever separate us from your sovereign and sufficient grace.  Hallelujah, your name is Redeemer!

We praise you for crowing us with love and compassion. You have taken our garland of guilt and shame and have crowned us with the victory of your beloved Son, Jesus. He has triumphed over sin and death for us. Hallelujah, your banner over us is love and your rejoicing over us is loud!

We praise you for satisfying our desires with good things—partially in this life, and fully in the life to come. You freely give us all things to enjoy, and to share with others. May that be evidenced today, as we gather as family and friends—all in need of your daily mercies and steadfast love. Hallelujah, for intending our joy and for renewing our strength! May everything within us bless you holy and grace-filled name! So very Amen we pray, with gratitude and hope, in Jesus’ name.

Courageous Conversations

This past weekend, I had the honor and privilege of speaking at SunHills Church, in El Dorado Hills. I spoke out of 2 Samuel 11, unpacking the story of David and Bathsheba and how this story could have had a different outcome, if some folks in the story, including David, would have had some courageous conversations. I invite you to have a listen…

20 Quotes from Spiritual Leadership

indexSpiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders is a literary classic and is acclaimed as one of the greatest leadership books in print today. Offering a depth and breadth of biblical wisdom and practical application, Spiritual Leadership get to the heart of the matter with an emphasis on the character and qualities of the leader, for leadership flows out of who we are, not just what we do.

Below are some of the memorable quotes from the book during my most recent reread…

  1. True greatness, true leadership, is found in giving yourself in service to others, not in coaxing or inducing others to serve you.
  2. Spiritual leaders are not elected, appointed, or created by synods or church assemblies. God alone makes them.
  3. The spiritual leader must be clothed “with humility” (1 Peter 5:5).
  4. Before we can conquer the world, we must first conquer the self.
  5. Many who aspire to leadership fail, because they have never learned to follow.
  6. A leader must be able to see the end results of the policies and methods he or she advocates. Responsible leadership always looks ahead to see how policies will affect future generations.
  7. The spiritual leader will not procrastinate when faced with a decision, nor vacillate after making it. To postpone decision is really to decide for the status quo.
  8. People who are skeptical of prayer’s validity and power are usually those who do not practice it seriously or fail to obey when God reveals His will. We cannot learn about praying except by praying. No philosophy has ever taught a soul to pray. The intellectual problems associated with prayer are met in the joy of answered prayer and closer fellowship to God.
  9. If a man is known by the company he keeps, so also his character is revealed in the books he reads.
  10. Life’s value is not its duration but its donation – not how long we live, but how fully and how well.
  11. Procrastination, the thief of time, is one of the devil’s most potent weapons for defrauding us of eternal heritage.
  12. Those who lead the church are marked by a willingness to give up personal preferences, to surrender legitimate and natural desires for the sake of God.
  13. The true leader is concerned primarily with the welfare of others, not with his own comfort or prestige. He shows sympathy for the problems of others, but his sympathy fortifies and stimulates, it does not soften or make weak. A spiritual leader will always direct the confidence of others to the Lord.
  14. Lowering standards is always a backward step and compromise nearly always requires it.
  15. More failures come from an excess of caution than from bold experiments with new ideas.
  16. God will defend the leaders he has chosen. He will honor, protect, and vindicate them. Leaders need not worry about defending their rights or their office.
  17. To succeed in getting things done through other leaders is the highest type of leadership.
  18. Indeed, no man, however gifted and devoted is indispensable to the work of the kingdom.
  19. Faith builds faith. Pessimism dismantles faith.
  20. Willingness to concede error and to defer to the judgment of one’s peers increases one’s influence rather than diminishes it.

Which quote from Sanders book challenges you or gets you thinking about leadership in a different way?

More Is Caught, Than Taught

Big Things Happen in Small GroupsA few days ago, I was giving some thought to a question posed by one of our small group leaders at Adventure. We were discussing the benefits of using written curriculum in a small group or just allowing the group to have a wide open discussion on a given topic or text. As we discussed both options, he asked, “What do you think is the more effective way to lead a group?” He’s what I said in response…

If we’re about making disciples and reproducing leaders, then it would make sense to model effective leadership and help people see just how easy it can be. Therefore, to multiply groups and leaders, we need to help people see that there are resources and tools to help them as they step out in faith. So, here are three great reasons why I believe its best to use curriculum:

  1. First, it keeps people on track and going in the same direction. While most studies tend to direct the conversation in a certain direction, a complaint of some, they do facilitate a process of discovery for the members of the group. Using curriculum also leads to deeper conversation around key points, eliminating rabbit trails.
  2. Secondly, using group curriculum leads to application. James 1:22 states, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” In other words, application, not information, is the goal of all Bible study. Without curriculum, most people tend to overlook this important step in the study of God’s Word. By using a well written curriculum, you will help people integrate truth with life.
  3. Finally, using curriculum is reproducible. By not using curriculum, people may think, “I could never do what they do” and therefore never aspire to lead. But when they see that they don’t need to be a Bible scholar or come up with their own questions, then they are more likely to give it a shot, because you have effectively modeled it for them.

If you want to help others become all they were created to be, model effective ministry before them. After all this was Jesus’ strategy, modeling a ministry marked by visible, memorable symbols and behaviors before his followers, because he understood the principle that “more is caught, than taught”! Jesus used everyday situations to teach life changing principles for the ultimate end of ushering in his Kingdom and we would be wise to follow his example. After all, big things happen in small groups.

Global Leadership Summit 2014 – Day 1

TGLS2014MountainEvery year since 2003, I have attended the Global Leadership Summit, with the exception of 2012. It’s been a shot in the arm for me, as I gear into the fall and take time to learn from some of the best leaders in the nation. It’s been my practice over the years to recap the day, either by blogging or writing down the leadership nuggets for the day. So here is my recap from Day One of the 2014 Global Leadership Summit:

“Every single decision you make as a leader has an effect on the spirit of those you lead.” — @BillHybels #GLS14

“Everyone wins when leaders get better.” — @BillHybels #GLS14

“You can live and lead small, live and lead safe, live and lead selfishly, or you can pursue a grander vision.” — @BillHybels #GLS14

“Humility enables us to learn from each other.” — @BillHybels #GLS14

“God treasures people even more than vision.” – @BillHybels #GLS14

“The highest call of leadership is to call out the potential of others.” – @CarlyFiorina #GLS14

“Bureaucracy crushes potential.” –– @CarlyFiorina #GLS14

“True leaders approach a task with a servant’s heart.” –– @CarlyFiorina #GLS14

“As a leader you’re in the business of giving people confidence.” –– @JeffImmelt #GLS14

“Solitude is a precious commodity we must restore in our organizations.” – @susancain #GLS14

“Your vocation can become a viable venue to advance the meaningful things of life.” – @bcloritts #GLS14

“First most dangerous mistake to make as a leader: becoming a leader for the wrong reason.” – @patricklencioni #GLS14

“Don’t fail to embrace your vulnerability.” – @patricklencioni #GLS14

“Jesus introduced humility as a virtue and in doing so he perfected leadership.” – @patricklencioni #GLS14

What was your favorite line or insight for the day?

Cloud of Witnesses

cloud of witnessesHebrews 12:1-2, is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. On the heals of what is known as the Hall of Faith, which records a long list of men and women who were “commended for their faith,”the writer exhorts the reader with these words…”Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” The “cloud of witnesses” in this verse, refers back to the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. The imagery I get from this verse is one of a sports event. As believers, we are in a great stadium, surrounded by these men and women who have gone before us and they are the ones in the stands, cheering us on in the race of faith.

As I look back on the last 34 years of my life as a Christian, not only do I have this “cloud of witnesses” surrounding me in the race, but I have also have been blessed to have a physical “cloud of witnesses” who have cheered me on as well. These men and women, who I have known, served with, been blessed by, have greatly encouraged me in the journey. They have prayed for me, equipped me, spoken truth to me, demonstrated God’s love to me and generally lived out the one another commands of Scripture.

So over the coming days, I would like to introduce some of these “cloud of witnesses” to you. These are my heroes of the faith. And I am what I am in large part because of what they did to invest in me.

Remembering Sandra

Charles & Sandra Capitol Hill 1It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since God, in His infinite wisdom, took our dear friend Sandra, to go and be with Him. At the age of 42, Sandra left behind her husband Charles and their three boys, Michael, Matthew and Christian, after a three-year battle with ALS.

ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease is a terrible disease that attacks brain cells called motor neurons. As the motor neurons are attacked, a person with ALS loses the ability to walk, move, speak and eventually breathe. And there is no known cure. In her early stages with ALS, we didn’t know what was happening to Sandra. All we knew was that something wasn’t right as she found herself beginning to lose the ability to do normal things for no apparent reason. We prayed for miracles, she sought medical advance, she tried acupuncture, but nothing seemed to work. When she was officially diagnosed with ALS, we stood in disbelief, not really understanding the implications of it all. And while God choose not to heal Sandra, this side of heaven, He did answer so many of our prayers along the way.

Through her battle with ALS, Sandra remained strong. Her faith in God was unwavering. She inspired us all. And in the end, she gave us an example of what it means to finish the race of life well.

Sandra was one of the most generous persons I’ve ever met. And today, I find myself reflecting on her life, her faith, her courage, as well as on her love for God and family. She is missed by so many. But we all rejoice knowing that this life is not the end and that one day we will see her again.

Today, I pray for my buddy Charles, who carries on her memory and legacy to their boys, but who also grieves his wife’s absence on the one year anniversary of her passing. If you would like to get a glimpse of this incredible woman, I encourage you to watch her memorial service below. You can also hear my remarks about 40 minutes into the service.

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