Community

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.

How to Stay Anchored

anchoredKnowing that life is full of up and downs as the waves of life pound our way, here’s three things we need to do in order to stay anchored in Christ…

  1. Know Your Captain – One of the things that causes us to drift from God, is our own worry/fear or indifference. We have a hard time trusting God, so we take things into our own hands or say that we really don’t care. However, it’s our level of faith and understanding of who God is, that will determine how far we’ll drift or the degree to which our faith will be shaken. As it states in Hebrews 6:19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Therefore, if you want to stay anchored in the midst of life’s storms, you need to get to know the Lord, understand his character and remember his promises.
  2. Know Your Commission – When a yacht or vessel is commissioned, it means it has received and passed a sea trial, whereby a complete and through inspection of the vessel has taken place and determined that it is seaworthy. So a commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service! The same is true in Christ. Once we come into relationship with God…we are commissioned into service (Matthew 28:18-20). Part of knowing our commission, is living out our identify in Christ. Remember, Jesus doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called. And because he has called you, he will equip you. As it says in Ephesians 2:10, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” You have been commissioned and knowing that commission will help you not to drift.
  3. Know Your Course – Hebrews 12:1 states, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” What is the course that God has marked out for you? Well the course is part of God’s plan for you. These are the “good works” that Ephesians 2:10 refers to. But if you don’t know the course, you’ll end up never knowing where to go, or how to get there! You’ll drift. In the book, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby discusses that if you want to know God’s will, you must respond to His invitation to love Him wholeheartedly. That goes back to knowing your captain! As you get to know your captain and your commission, I believe you’ll discover your game plan. But beware, if you don’t have one, then you will drift!

Anyway

line-1Back in 1968, Kent M. Keith wrote the Paradoxical Commandments as part of a booklet for student leaders. These commandments, as penned by Keith, were rumored to have once hung on the wall of Mother Theresa and inspired a blockbuster song for Martina McBride.

I love the wisdom in these words! For in this life people are going to hurt us, disappoint us, and even betray us. But in those moments of pain or anger, we can rise above the circumstances and choose to love, forgive and extend grace, even if its undeserved. That’s a tough assignment at times, but with God’s help, it is possible. Because, instead of being consumed or paralyzed by what someone thinks or their selfishness behavior, we choose instead to live in the flow of the Spirit, and in doing so, experience love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5:22-23). So consider these words and don’t let your disappointment in others lock you into an unhappy past, when God has a joyful future for you.

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

Resurrection

fastTomorrow we celebrate resurrection! Resurrection is the great announcement of the momentous fact that Christ has finished the work He came to do. Resurrection brings tremendous hope, not only because it proves Jesus’ deity, His power over death, and His victory over Satan, but it’s a grand announcement the each one of us can experience that same resurrection power in Christ. You see, on Easter Sunday, we celebrate the greatest comeback in the history of mankind and we celebrate the hope that is our in Christ!

As some of you know, I dedicated the last 40 days, the season of Lent, to fast from Facebook. In actuality, I never broke the fast on Sundays and really fasted for 46 days. The announcement of my fast was the third most read post in the history of my blog. It generated discussion and it motivated others to consider fasting from it as well. And while that is all great stuff, the greatest thing the fast did, is what it did for me. You see, this Facebook fast sparked in me a sort of resurrection of my heart.

As I said in my announcement, I imagined that I would have more time, more joy, a deeper conviction with God, become more connected to friends, be more present with family and be more content. And all that is true. However, deeper than that, I felt something lift within my spirit, that I haven’t felt for a long time. Perhaps it was the joy and contentment I felt I would experience, but I know it wasn’t a circumstantial feeling. It was much deeper than that. And I remember telling a friend, “I feel alive again” in the very early stages of this fast and wondering if it was simply the entrance of spring or the fast. I choose to give credit to God’s work in my life, as I practiced this spiritual discipline in my life.

This past week, as my son Zach and I were rounding the corner to our home, he asked me if I would continue my fast from Facebook. When I asked why, he stated that he “enjoyed spending that extra time with me” and that “he didn’t want it to end.” And while I didn’t make the promise that my fast would continue, I did promise that my management of Facebook was going to significantly change. You see, while I currently plan to keep my account, my plan is to keep it simply as a tool of communication and significantly limit the amount of time I spend on it. But if I see my moods and behaviors shift, well then I will need to reevaluate this decision all together and perhaps pull the plug for good.

Resurrection gives hope! It signals that we get a new start. It reminds us that the victory is ours in Christ. I am grateful for resurrection. And I am looking forward to relating to Facebook in a new way because of the renewed sense of God’s resurrection power I have experienced in these last 46 days. To God be the glory!

Ministry is Messy

oxenWithout oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest. – Proverbs 14:4, NLT

Ministry is messy! I’ll never forget where I was when I heard this ministry axiom for the first time. I was a brand new intern at Lakeside Church, attending a leaders event at the Lake Natoma Inn in Folsom, when our Senior Pastor Brad Franklin shared these wise words from the wisest man in the world, King Soloman. Even though I was new to the staff of Lakeside Church, I wasn’t new to ministry and I remember wanting to shout, “Amen!”.

You see, there is often a collision that happens in ministry between those that want everything neat, orderly and predictable and the oxen who make messes. In the church world, these collisions usually occur between administrators and leaders, but these collisions can also be the result of different personalities as well. However, as the proverb implies, much is accomplished by the strength of the ox. And when you have oxen in the stable, it’s not as clean as you want it to be. That’s because, ministry–real person-to-person, life-to-life, broken vessel-to-broken vessel ministry–is messy!

In my years in ministry, I have worked with a lot of oxen. Truth be told, I prefer working with oxen. They accomplish things. Even back in in my days as the Executive Pastor at Lakeside Church, I often felt as if I was the “pooper scooper dude” at the zoo! But, like the optimistic kid in a room full of manure, I knew that that there had to be a horse (or in this case an oxen) in the room! In fact, the more productive the leader, the messier things sometimes got. These are God’s words and should remind us to give the oxen the benefit of the doubt when much is being accomplished. The mess is usually not intentional, it’s usually a by product of their strength.

In looking at the Scriptures, it was the messy people who Jesus preferred to work with. He loved the unlovely. He touched the untouchables. He blessed the broken. But remember, it was the religious people that wanted things orderly, that Jesus had issue with.

Jesus certainly knew that ministry could get messy. He performed amazing miracles, like healing the sick, and got criticized for it by the religious leaders. But what was Jesus’ response? He had compassion. He took abuse and mockery from the Roman soldiers and willingly let himself be nailed to the cross. All because he understood his purpose and knew that ministry was messy, but also so worth it.

I guess the question for us all is…will  we welcome and serve the ones whom God loves, even when the work is messy? Even when it means our plans might not go as planned? Or something didn’t happen exactly as we had hoped? May we never forget that we, too, stumbled into his courts naked and blind, wretched and poor. And may we never forget that God takes the messes of our lives each day and makes something beautiful.

Why I’m Leaving Facebook

fastI joined Facebook in 2008. I don’t think at the time, I really understood the implications of this platform. It was new. It was fresh. Everyone was doing it. I joined the craze.

I wanted to buy stock in Facebook when it went public in 2012. I’m glad I didn’t.

But in 2014, I have decided it’s time to leave Facebook! Well at least for a while. You see, I’m giving it up for Lent.

Lent is the 40 days before Easter in which Christians pray, fast, contemplate and engage in acts of spiritual self-discipline. According to my friend, David Timms, professor at William Jessup University, “Lent provides a prayerful rhythm for our lives. It invites us to fast from something that is significant to us, and a regular part of our lives. And our fast is a trigger for prayer. Every time we think of (or desire) what we’re fasting from, we are to pray instead. Not necessarily lengthy prayers, but breath prayers. In short order we find ourselves praying more often throughout the day and living with a heightened sense of God’s presence.”

So for the next 40 days, I am going to be fasting from Facebook! But during this time, I’m really going to pray about leaving Facebook all together. Or at the least, create new rhythms in my life, whereby I am less attached to it.

Facebook was a significant way to connect with friends and family when we lived in Southern California. In fact, it helped us bridge the distance in incredible ways. However, over the last couple of years, Facebook has become a huge distraction and terrible time waster for me. So with that, I am going to test the waters and see how life is different without it. And here’s what I imagine is going to happen…

I will have more time!

I will have more joy!

I will have a deeper connection with God!

I will be more connected to friends!

I will be more present with my family!

I will be more content!

So if you want to catch up with Bryan, I suggest you visit my blog. I’m looking forward to the journey. Perhaps you might even consider joining me.

A New Tradition…Remembering

P1000083My wife Jennifer recently wrote this article and I thought it was a wonderful read worth repeating on my blog…

You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done.  – Psalm 92:4 (NLT)

Well, whether we’re ready or not, 2014 is here! It’s hard to believe that 2013 is over! Time goes by so quickly and the blessings of the year are often so easily forgotten. The arrival of the new year is a great time to start tracking God’s faithfulness and a fun and simple way to capture God’s blessing throughout the year is to create a memory jar. To start the fun, take a large jar (or other container) and place it somewhere your family can easily access. Whenever you have a blessing you want to remember, a prayer that is answered or an event you want to capture, simply jot it down on a small slip of paper and add it to the jar. Encourage every family member to participate and contribute. At the end of 2014, on New Years Eve perhaps, gather the family together and read those slips of paper. Not only will this be a great walk down memory lane, but it will give you the opportunity to focus on God’s faithfulness and unfailing love.

Memory Jars, and memorials in general, are not new concepts. In fact, memorials are God’s idea. Over and over again in Scripture, God instructs his people to remember His goodness, power and provisions. Start a new tradition this year and thrill in the Lord as you remember what He has done.

Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever. – Joshua 4:21-24 (NLT)

Something More

One man’s life changed the course of history for billions of people across the globe. He is both revered and reviled, famed and feared and you know who he is without a single mention of his name. His name is Jesus! Do you know Him?

Let’s Show Some Respect

cell-phoneCall me the Police of Mobility if you want, but I’ve had enough and I’m beginning to be a big proponent of cell phone etiquette. Yes, I’m guilty of breaking some of these over the years. However, after some recent experiences, I have to say it’s time we really consider how we use our cell phones and realize they are a tool of communication that were never meant to enslave us. So when using your mobile device, please consider these…

8 Ways to Respect Others When Using Your Cell Phone…

1. Let the call go to voice mail! Unless someone is dying, is your call really more important than the person you are talking with? If the call is really that important, they’ll leave a message and you can call them back in a few minutes. Your first priority should be to the person you are with. If you do take a call, be respectful and ask permission of the people with you.

2. Keep your conversations private! Nobody else wants to hear about your private problems and conflicts, so pay attention to the surrounding audience. Go outside to take a call. Create some space between you and others. Find some privacy. If you can’t find a more private situation, use your text or email function to relay messages.

3. Speak softly. You do not have to yell to be heard. Mobile phones are designed for conversation at normal volume levels. Talk as you would talk to other people or on a land line phone. The person you are talking to even has a volume button on his or her phone. You can keep your voice low and discreet by directing your face down and slightly into your chest. If you are not sure if you are too loud, watch the reaction of people near you.

4. Avoid loud and obnoxious ring tones. This is for the lady in the elevator whose cell phone ring tone almost sent me through the roof. Do you really need to have a psycho scream or a police siren to let you know someone’s trying to reach you? Also, keep the ring tone at a reasonable volume, so as not to startle people.

5. Obey cell phone rules. Where there are rules about switching mobile phones off, please obey them. In hospitals and in airplanes, the signals can interfere with equipment. Or so they say. Place your phone in the silent mode or vibrate at church, in libraries, restaurants as well as theaters. And please use hands free Bluetooth devices when driving on the road.

6. Don’t try multi-tasking. Multi-tasking isn’t cool and you really can’t do it properly and safely anyway. Pay attention to what you are doing as multi-tasking can be hazardous, rude and inefficient. The person you are talking to deserves your full attention. So put the phone down, turn off your phone, call back later and concentrate on what you are doing. Your phone conversation can wait, and in doing so you will not inconvenience those around you.

7. Consider your surroundings. Seriously, must you really talk on the phone while in the loo? Especially a public restroom? Not only is this totally inappropriate, it’s an outright invasion of privacy. Be considerate of others who want a little privacy while doing their business.

8. Be present. Don’t prioritize your phone over the people you are with. When we first got Web browsing on our phones, it was fun to answer all questions that emerged during conversation by launching a Google search. The novelty has worn off, and it’s now considered rude. Enjoy the company of those you’re with and let them know they’re more important than your phone or Facebook comments.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8  Scroll to top