Encouragement

Cultivating True Humility

IMG_5420In 1995, God used a message from Nancy Leigh DeMoss to bring about a spirit of true repentance at the National Staff Training of Campus Crusade for Christ, now called Cru. I had just left the staff of Cru two years earlier, but my friends were calling me to share that God was doing a mighty work at the training in Colorado and I couldn’t wait to listen to the message as it was made available to alumni. It challenged me 20 years ago, and today, I was reminded of this message and spent this evening listening to it again, as I asked God to search my heart and break my heart for the things that break His.

In the message, Nancy talks about the characteristics of pride, which are rooted in arrogance and insecurity versus true humility, which is rooted in authentic brokenness. In the message, she challenges the church to be broken before the Lord, for God wants to unleash his power through broken people.

Here are the differences she shares between proud and broken people. In reading these characteristics, let’s confess those characteristics of pride that God reveals in us and let’s ask Him to restore the corresponding quality of a broken, humble spirit within us.

Proud people focus on the failures of others.
Broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.

Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope.
Broken people are compassionate; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.

Proud people are self-righteous; they look down on others.
Broken people esteem all others better than themselves.

Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit.
Broken people have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for others.

Proud people have to prove that they are right.
Broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.

Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit.
Broken people yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.

Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation.
Broken people are self-denying.

Proud people desire to be served.
Broken people are motivated to serve others.

Proud people desire to be a success.
Broken people are motivated to be faithful and to make others a success.

Proud people desire self-advancement.
Broken people desire to promote others.

Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated.
Broken people have a sense of their own unworthiness; they are thrilled that God would use them at all.

Proud people are wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked.
Broken people are eager for others to get the credit; they rejoice when others are lifted up.

Proud people have a subconscious feeling, “This ministry/church is privileged to have me and my gifts”; they think of what they can do for God.
Broken people’s heart attitude is, “I don’t deserve to have a part in any ministry”; they know that they have nothing to offer God except the life of Jesus flowing through their broken lives.

Proud people feel confident in how much they know.
Broken people are humbled by how very much they have to learn.

Proud people are self-conscious.
Broken people are not concerned with self at all.

Proud people keep others at arms’ length.
Broken people are willing to risk getting close to others and to take risks of loving intimately.

Proud people are quick to blame others.
Broken people accept personal responsibility and can see where they are wrong in a situation.

Proud people are unapproachable or defensive when criticized.
Broken people receive criticism with a humble, open spirit.

Proud people are concerned with being respectable, with what others think; they work to protect their own image and reputation.
Broken people are concerned with being real; what matters to them is not what others think but what God knows; they are willing to die to their own reputation.

Proud people find it difficult to share their spiritual need with others.
Broken people are willing to be open and transparent with others as God directs.

Proud people want to be sure that no one finds out when they have sinned; their instinct is to cover up.
Broken people, once broken, don’t care who knows or who finds out; they are willing to be exposed because they have nothing to lose.

Proud people have a hard time saying, “I was wrong; will you please forgive me?”
Broken people are quick to admit failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary.

Proud people tend to deal in generalities when confessing sin.
Broken people are able to acknowledge specifics when confessing their sin.

Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin.
Broken people are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin.

Proud people are remorseful over their sin, sorry that they got found out or caught.
Broken people are truly, genuinely repentant over their sin, evidenced in the fact that they forsake that sin.

Proud people wait for the other to come and ask forgiveness when there is a misunderstanding or conflict in a relationship.
Broken people take the initiative to be reconciled when there is misunderstanding or conflict in relationships; they race to the cross; they see if they can get there first, no matter how wrong the other may have been.

Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor.
Broken people compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for His mercy.

Proud people are blind to their true heart condition.
Broken people walk in the light.

Proud people don’t think they have anything to repent of.
Broken people realize they have need of a continual heart attitude of repentance.

Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they are sure that everyone else does.
Broken people continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.

© Revive Our Hearts. By Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

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.

A New Twist on Accountability

iron-sharpens-ironOne of the members of my Groups Leadership Team recently provided his Men’s Accountability Group with a different perspective on their weekly eleven questions that some of them had been using for approximately four years. I loved it so much, that I asked him if I could post it to my blog, which he agreed to.

So what’s the new twist he provided? Well he rewrote the questions and turned them around from what they confessed NOT to be doing, to what they actually HAVE done in that particular area of discipline in their lives. In other words, they turned the negatives into positives and refocused the questions in order to show righteousness, help others and grow closer to God in the obedience of the Holy Spirit. What they have experienced with the new questions has been transformational as they focus on righteous deeds and are engaged in deeper conversation, avoiding the obligatory “yes” or “no” questions.

Here are those list of questions, both the old and the new…

Old Questions:

  1. Have you been with a woman this week in such a way that was inappropriate or could have looked to others that you were using poor judgement?
  2. Have you been completely above reproach in all your financial dealings this week?
  3. Have you exposed yourself to any explicit material this week?
  4. Have you spent time daily in prayer and in the scriptures this week?
  5. Have you fulfilled the mandate of your calling this week?
  6. Have you taken time off to be with your family this week?
  7. Is there anything in your life competing with the Lord?
  8. What are you now or becoming addicted to…coffee, food, sex, pornography, sports, alcohol, toys and possessions, work, power, position, title, prestige, solitude, retirement, money?
  9. Have you just lied to me? Have you been honest in all of your dealings this week?
  10. Are you living in self-sufficiency?
  11. Have you done anything in the last two weeks that took courage?

New Questions:

  1. In what ways did you look for an opportunity to treat or view a woman in a Godly way this week according to Scripture?
  2. In what ways did you redirect God’s financial blessings to you this week toward others, His church or His work?
  3. What positive actual steps did you take this week to keep yourself pure?
  4. What specific things did you do to become more relationally intimate with God this week?
  5. How were you able to hear and how did you respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit this week to live beyond your own needs and desires?
  6. What positive actions did you take this week to show that your priorities are in alignment with God’s priorities as a husband, father, brother, uncle, son, church body member, co-worker or neighbor?  How were you intentional about this?
  7. Where did you actually spend your time last week? Why? How have you shown with your time and deeds that I desire Christ above all else?
  8. Explain what you have actually done this week to bring your mind, body and spirit into submission to Christ?
  9. In what ways have you shown your Savior and others that you were living in the Truth this week? In what ways do your actions and intentions match or misalign with your beliefs?
  10. Explain how you totally depended on God this week in work, relationships, marriage, finances, health, ministry, salvation, state of mind, well-being, past, future.
  11. In what ways in situations and circumstances did you operate in your own strength and skill instead of asking God to intervene with His strength and wisdom with courage to speak? Courage to remain silent? Courage to defend? Courage to act? Courage to ask questions? Courage to face lawlessness and death? Courage to believe the unpopular and unseen? Courage to believe by faith? Courage to start new or over again? Courage to admit wrong and ask for forgiveness? Courage to believe that you are valuable and worth dying for?

When you look at the difference in these questions, you can clearly see the power of a good question. Can’t wait to see how this group goes deeper in their walk with Jesus by asking such focused and God honoring questions!

The Tale of Two Seas

11934625_1620979234832173_649298077_nIn Israel there are two major bodies of water. One is the Sea of Galilee, a beautiful lake 13 miles long and 7 miles wide, filled with fish and surrounded by lush foliage. It is Israel’s largest fresh water lake and absolutely picturesque. The other body of water is the Dead Sea, 50 miles long and 11 miles wide and it’s shoreline is 1300 feet below sea level. I have been told that seven million tons of water evaporate from the Dead Sea every day, and the saline or salt content of the water of the Dead Sea is 10 times saltier than the oceans of the world. The Dead Sea definitely lives up to its name. No seaweed or plants of any kind live in or around the water. There are no fish or any kind of swimming, squirming creatures living in or near the water. And fish accidentally swimming into the waters from one of the several freshwater streams that feed the sea are instantly killed.

Both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are fed by the Jordan River There is really only one difference between these two bodies of water, really only one thing that causes the Sea of Galilee to be beautiful and alive while the Dead Sea is barren and lifeless. The difference is that the Sea of Galilee takes water from the Jordan River, and then it gives water. The water simply passes through. As a result, the Sea of Galilee is full of life and beauty. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, only takes water, but it gives nothing back, and as a result it sustains no life. Those two bodies of water bear witness to a truth of human life. It is in receiving and then giving back that life and hope are sustained. In other words, The Sea of Galilee is a conduit, The Dead Sea is a container. The first is full of life, the second is full of death!

The same is true in our spiritual life. If you and I have spiritual input but no spiritual output, we will become stagnant, lifeless, bitter, and caustic. However, if we like the Sea of Galilee are receiving and giving back, we become vibrant, healthy and life-giving. No wonder Jesus did much of his ministry along the shores of the Sea of Galilee! Because God never designed us to be like the Dead Sea; we are designed to be like the Sea of Galilee. This is the wisdom and reality of Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.

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.

Tell Your Story

tumblr_m4kwqpURcm1rwoq6lo1_500Who doesn’t love a good story? Whether it’s a story told on a riveting television show, the big screen, or a page-turning book, we all love a good story—especially one with a happy ending!

For me, I love to hear the stories of changed lives! In fact, it’s one of the things that motivates me as a minister. And it’s one of the reasons why I love “testimony night” at Celebrate Recovery! I love hearing the stories of how people overcame their hurts, habits, or hang-ups. And in hearing the stories, I believe we all glean insights into our own journeys toward wholeness, as we identify with their struggle and find the hope and courage necessary to face our own character defects.

There is power in the story of our lives. And in telling our story, our hearts become full of gratitude, as we recall God’s faithfulness in the land of the living. You see, while most of our stories include a period of hopelessness, trauma, or addiction, they usually have a ‘redemptive ending.’ That doesn’t mean that our lives have become rosy or problem free. Instead, the stories remind us of the journey we’re on, recalling that it’s about progress, not perfection.

We all have a story to tell! And when we share our story for His glory, something amazing happens. It offers a powerful witness to those who don’t yet know Christ, and brings hope and inspiration to those who call Jesus their Savior. So tell your story often and tell it well, for you may never know the impact it can make in the life of another.

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!

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.

Global Leadership Summit 2014 – Day 2

TGLS2014MountainBest of the best of day two of the Global Leadership Summit:

Anytime you find yourself stuck, stop and ask: “What crucial conversation are we not holding or not holding well?.” – @josephgrenny #GLS14

“If you don’t talk it out, you will act it out.” – @josephgrenny #GLS14

“Your job as a leader is to model, teach, coach, and measure crucial conversations in your organizations.”- @josephgrenny #GLS14

“You can tell a lot about the health of a team by identifying what is undiscussable.” – @josephgrenny #GLS14

“Crucial conversations are either a pit or a path in our organizations.” – @josephgrenny #GLS14

“The myth that we have to choose between telling the truth and keeping a friend is at the heart of dysfunction.” –@josephgrenny #GLS14

“Sometimes telling hard truth and telling it lovingly is the right thing to do.” – @ericaarielfox #GLS14

“Leaders are often truthful and not graceful, or graceful and not truthful.” – Don Flow #GLS14

“Leadership flows out of who we are, not just what we do.” – Don Flow #GLS14

“God doesn’t see the walls between church and business; we have built them.” – @CG_URA #GLS14

“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles.” – @PastorChoco #GLS14

“People have great respect for you when you respect their time.” – @tylerperry #GLS14

“I’ll pass over the qualified person with the wrong attitude for the person with the right attitude.” – @tylerperry #GLS14

“Rather than focus on your critics, focus on the people who are impacted by your work.” – @tylerperry #GLS14

“People may forget what I said or did, but I hope they won’t forget how I made them feel.”- @tylerperry #GLS14

“The doorposts to the Kingdom of God are humility and honor.” – @louiegiglio #GLS14

“The biggest idea of my life is that Jesus’ fame is the biggest fame in time and eternity.” – @louiegiglio #GLS14

The Early Heroes

indexThis is part of a series, celebrating those who have cheered me on in the race…

What motivates someone to invest in the life of a teenager? It certainly can’t be a paycheck, as teachers and youth pastors are some of the most underpaid workers in the marketplace. There has to be something of greater significance and purpose for these unsung heroes who give sacrificially to make an investment in the life of a teenager.

For those early “heroes” in my journey of faith, I believe it was their love for God and love for others that motivated them to make an investment in me. Now, at the time, I had no realization what they were doing, but through their investment of time and friendship, they served to lay a solid foundation of faith on which I was able to build upon in my life.

As a teenager, I was incredibly blessed to be part of one of the largest youth programs of its day, Campus After Dark. It had an incredible presence on the local high school campuses and an incredible bunch of youth interns and workers. The youth staff was fun, well liked and cool! We played wacky games, learned about God and served our community. And in my humble opinion, we had one of the best youth pastors in the nation, Mike Maples.

Through Campus After Dark, I learned about character, leadership and life. But it was the relationships that I formed that helped those spiritual truths become reality, as they lived the Christian life in front of me. Two of those stand outs were, Dennis Bennett and Dan McElroy. While I can’t pinpoint the first time I met these guys, they shaped my view of God and their encouragement helped me through the difficult teen years. They took a genuine interest in me. One that went beyond the confines of our youth program. They shared their struggles, their ambitions and what they were learning as a follower of Jesus. They also took me to ballgames, concerts and bought me pizza!

I remember one night when Dennis and I went to a San Francisco Giants game at Candlestick Park. It went extra innings and we got the “Croix de Candlestick” button at the conclusion of the game. As a teenager, that was pretty cool, especially given that it was a school night. Dennis and I also played racquetball together. Those moments of fun, allowed me to hear truth from Dennis, because I knew he wanted the best for me. So when the hard conversations came, I listened, especially when he spoke from his own experience.

It was Dan’s eclectic taste in music that connected us together. But his influence went far beyond music and I will never forget a talk we had right before I headed off to college. His “make it or break it” talk motivated me to go the distance in my Christian faith. In fact, since that talk, the number one hope for my life has been to “finish well” the race that God has called me to. But the immediate application of that talk, was to plug into a church and a Christian group at UC Santa Barbara as soon as I got there. That advice served me well in college, but Dan also made sure I stayed the course in college, often checking in with me, sending me money for pizza and praying for me behind the scenes.

So what’s the purpose in all this? First, it’s an expression of gratitude from a grateful heart and a way to say thanks to God and to those he put in my life. Secondly, it’s a reminder that the Christian life is one that is given away. It is meant to be shared with others. This was Jesus’ exhortation in Matthew 28:18-20 when he told us to “go and make disciples of all men” and Paul’s expression in 2 Timothy 2:2, when he told Timothy, “the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Finally, it’s my way of recalling God’s faithfulness in my life, as I recall His goodness in the land of the living.

So, Dan and Dennis, thank you for making a difference in my life! I am grateful for your influence and for being among the “cloud of witnesses” in my life.

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