Encouragement

Celebrating 19 Years of Marriage

Today is Jennifer and my 19th wedding anniversary! It’s a day, I’ll never forget! Not only did I marry my best friend, but it was an incredible day surrounded by our friends and family. 19 years later, I’m still madly in love with this incredible woman and thankful for the incredible journey we’ve shared.

Over 19 years, we’ve truly had a lot to celebrate. So in celebration of our anniversary, here are 19 wonderful memories that I’m thankful for, in the years that they happened…

’93 – Marrying my best friend and a honeymoon in Hawaii!
’94 – Eliminating our debt!
’95 – Buying our first home in Woodland.
’96 – Bringing home our first puppy, Mickey.
’97 – Adopting our sweet Maggie Mae at Christmas.
’98 – Reliving our nation’s history in Washington DC.
’99 – Getting cultured in theater at Music Circus.
’00 – Moving to El Dorado Hills and our vacation in New York!
’01 – The birth of our son, Zachary Bryan!
’02 – Cheering the SF Giants through the season, onto the playoffs and into the World Series!
’03 – Celebrating 10 years of marriage in Lake Tahoe and sharing in the joy of my graduation from Western Seminary!
04 – Leading our small group through two life transforming studies.
’05 – Vacationing at Walt Disney World in Orlando to celebrate my ordination.
’06 – Hiking Rock Lake with our 4-year-old son Zach, who made the 2.5mile hike up the mountain on his own.
’07 – Enjoying a sabbatical in Hawaii! One of the highlights of our life!
’08 – Our best camping experience in 15 years of our family tradition at Plumas Eureka State Park.
’09 – Moving to Southern California!
’10 – Celebrating our SF Giants World Series victory! What a thrill!
’11 – Being season ticket holders for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
’12 – Being with family at the wedding of our niece Jessica, who was a flower girl at our wedding 19 years ago.

Wonderful memories with my wonderful friend. Here’s to many more incredible years, celebrating life together! I love you Jen!

A Tribute to My Mom This Mother’s Day

For Mother’s Day, I rewrote a popular poem, to say thanks to my mom for all that she’s done for me…

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you feed and care for all the stray pets I brought home, and I learned that it was good to be kind.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favorite meal for me, and I learned that it’s the little things in life that matter the most.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you take care of our house and everything in it (perhaps a little obsessively) and I learned how to take care of the things that I’m blessed with in this world.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn’t feel like it and I learned what it meant to be responsible in life.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come from your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but that it’s okay to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I felt you kiss me goodnight and I experienced first hand what it was like to be loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw how proud you were of me as you talked to your friends and it motivated me to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you playing Santa Claus one Christmas Eve night and I saw in your face the reality of Jesus’ words,”It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked at you and wanted to say “Thanks for all the things I saw you do, even though you thought I wasn’t looking.”

Yes, when you thought I wasn’t looking, I learned a lot of life’s lessons that I needed to know, in order to become the man I am today. So thanks mom for being you, even when you thought I wasn’t looking!

I love you mom!

Happy Mother’s Day to you and to all the wonderful moms who make this world a better place!

Refuel

Today I was talking with a pastor friend of mine about the need for Christian leaders to refuel themselves in ministry. Ministry responsibilities can be hard work, resulting in long hours and challenging days. In 1 Samuel 30:6, we read how “David strengthened himself in the LORD his God,” during an emotionally difficult season in his life. In looking at David’s example, it’s important that those who are in ministry, either vocationally or as a volunteer, take time to fill their tank, so that ministry is the overflow of an emotionally healthy self.

Over the years, I have gotten better about taking time to refresh, rejuvenate and renew. Each person rejuvenates differently, but here are six things I have found that fill my tank and inspire me in the race that God has called me to…

  1. Listening to music – Nothing uplifts my soul like an inspiring or upbeat song.
  2. Practicing spiritual disciplines – Time spent with Jesus in prayer and Bible reading gives me perspective, hope and principles for living.
  3. Reading – There’s something very inspirational to me about reading a good biography or Christian living book.
  4. Hanging out with inspiring people – I love to hang out with visionary leaders who want to impact the world as well as hear the amazing stories of God’s redemptive work in others lives.
  5. Enjoying hobbies – I love capturing the beauty of God’s creation through the lenses of a camera! And I marvel in the strategy behind a great baseball game.
  6. Getting away – Unplugging and getting out-of-town, even for a few days, clears my mind and helps me refocus on what’s really important in life.

By being a healthy leader, you motivate others to live a healthier life as well. So take time to refresh. In doing so, you give yourself and those you lead a great gift.

Rising from the Ashes

Last Tuesday morning, a fire erupted at the offices of Flood Church in San Diego, causing an estimated $1 million in damages to the building and to the churches resources just days away from the celebration of Easter! My buddy Matt Hammett is the Lead Pastor of Flood Church, a church he founded 12 years ago. Matt and I have been friends for over 20 years and as I watched this story unfold over Facebook and through the media, I have to say that I am proud to know this man and to see how this church triumphed in the face of adversity.

When I first found out about the news of the building on Tuesday, I immediately texted Matt and told him that I was confident that God would bring beauty from the ashes. Confident in God’s ability to do something wonderful in the midst of this loss, I was so encouraged to learn what God did over the last week.

Here’s a few of things that God did through his people:

  1. The sister of church of Flood, College Avenue Baptist Church, immediately opened up office space for Flood to take up temporary residency and to continue in its operations.
  2. The church had a tremendous outpouring of volunteer support and the Easter services went on without a hitch.
  3. Flood had it’s largest gathering in it’s 12 year history, with over 2,500 people celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.

In addition, as I read emails from Matt, watched video blogs, and read articles in the news, I was so encouraged by this churches priorities. The message was clear, the church is not about a building, it’s about God’s people. Their was no saddness in their message or tone. They weren’t living in the past. They were forward thinking. Even still prioritizing their plans to put together care packages and send financial resources to their church partner in Haiti this next weekend.

God truly does “give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair” (Isaiah 61:3). Way to go Flood Church!

God’s Love Letter

You may not know me, but I know everything about you…Psalm 139:1
I know when you sit down and when you rise up…Psalm 139:2
I am familiar with all your ways…Psalm 139:3
Even the very hairs on your head are numbered…Matthew 10:29-31
For you were made in my image…Genesis 1:27
In me you live and move and have your being…Acts 17:28
For you are my offspring…Acts 17:28
I knew you even before you were conceived…Jeremiah 1:4-5
I chose you when I planned creation…Ephesians 1:11-12
You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book…Psalm 139:15-16
I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live…Acts 17:26
You are fearfully and wonderfully made…Psalm 139:14
I knit you together in your mother’s womb…Psalm 139:13
And brought you forth on the day you were born…Psalm 71:6
I have been misrepresented by those who don’t know me…John 8:41-44
I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love…1 John 4:16
And it is my desire to lavish my love on you…1 John 3:1
Simply because you are my child and I am your Father…1 John 3:1
I offer you more than your earthly father ever could…Matthew 7:11
For I am the perfect Father…Matthew 5:48
Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand…James 1:17
For I am your provider and I meet all your needs…Matthew 6:31-33
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope…Jeremiah 29:11
Because I love you with an everlasting love…Jeremiah 31:3
My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore…Psalms 139:17-18
And I rejoice over you with singing…Zephaniah 3:17
I will never stop doing good to you…Jeremiah 32:40
For you are my treasured possession…Exodus 19:5
I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul…Jeremiah 32:41
And I want to show you great and marvelous things…Jeremiah 33:3
If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me…Deuteronomy 4:29
Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart…Psalm 37:4
For it is I who gave you those desires…Philippians 2:13
I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine…Ephesians 3:20
For I am your greatest encourager…2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles…2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you…Psalm 34:18
As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart…Isaiah 40:11
One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes…Revelation 21:3-4
And I’ll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth…Revelation 21:3-4
I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus…John 17:23
For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed…John 17:26
He is the exact representation of my being…Hebrews 1:3
He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you…Romans 8:31
And to tell you that I am not counting your sins…2 Corinthians 5:18-19
Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled…2 Corinthians 5:18-19
His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you…1 John 4:10
I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love…Romans 8:31-32
If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me…1 John 2:23
And nothing will ever separate you from my love again…Romans 8:38-39
Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen…Luke 15:7
I have always been Father, and will always be Father…Ephesians 3:14-15
My question is…Will you be my child?…John 1:12-13
I am waiting for you…Luke 15:11-32

Love, Your Dad
Almighty God
www.fathersloveletter.com

Lessons from the Cross

One of the most prevailing approaches to modern life, if not the predominant one, is the desire to avoid suffering. So much of our lives are focused on trying to avoid physical and emotional difficulties that are ultimately inevitable. Evidence of this can be found in everything from the hundreds of types of pain relievers to the bogus advertisements for miraculous weight loss benefits without exercise.

Of course, this is understandable. Right? None of us seeks out opportunities to suffer. And none of us is immune from the temptation to avoid it. However, our inability to understand the inevitability and necessity of suffering has its costs. For our distaste of hardship and suffering makes it difficult to benefit from the fruit that it yields, especially when we emerge on the other side.

In speaking of Jesus, the writer of Hebrew states that, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8, 9). Did you catch that? Jesus was made perfect in his sufferings! So, if God is going to complete his good work in us, who are we to think that our life will contradict that of the cross?

In considering the cross and the sufferings of Jesus, we are taught some very powerful lessons: That life is gained through death. That glory comes through humility. That success comes through faithfulness. Yep, all of this is contrary to what the world teaches us, which is why it’s so difficult for us to understand and accept.

This Easter, as we remember the cross, may Jesus’ example serve to remind us that there is a purpose in our suffering and that God understands our pain and struggles. In this life, we may never get the answers to our many questions. Like the disciples on the morning after the crucifixion, we don’t yet see the whole picture. But because of the resurrection we do have hope, and we can trust a God who understands.

A Lesson on Perseverance

Zach is learning about the Presidents of the United States in school this year. In fact, he recently learned and performed a rap of all the presidents names at his school concert this past week. In his study of the presidents, Zach asked me who my favorite president was. Without question, I said, “Abraham Lincoln!” There’s no question about it. Even one of my most favorite attractions at Disneyland is Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. However, for all his accomplishments, I believe our 16th President was able to lead through a turbulent time in our nations history, because his character had been forged through the adversity of his life.

I love this piece from Chuck Swindoll in his book Growing Through the Seasons of Life that summarizes it all…

“There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen . . . [and] now he belongs to the ages.”

Of whom was this said? One of the Caesars? No. Napoleon? No. Alexander the Great? No. Eisenhower? Patton? MacArthur . . . or some earlier military strategist like Grant or Lee or Pershing? No, none of the above. How about Rockne or Lombardi? No. Or Luther? Calvin? Knox? Wesley? Spurgeon? Again, the answer is no.

Well, it was no doubt said of a great leader, a powerful and persuasive personality, was it not? Certainly one admired for his success. That depends, I suppose.

When he was seven years old, his family was forced out of their home because of a legal technicality. He had to work to help support them. At age nine, while still a backward, shy little boy, his mother died.

At 22, he lost his job as a store clerk. He wanted to go to law school, but his education was not good enough. At 23, he went into debt to become a partner in a small store. Three years later his business partner died, leaving him a huge debt that took years to repay.

At 28, after developing a romantic relationship with a young lady for four years, he asked her to marry him. She said no. An earlier youthful love he shared with a lovely girl ended in heartache at her death. At 37, on his third try, he was finally elected to Congress. Two years later he ran again and failed to be reelected. I should add it was about this time he had what some today would call a nervous breakdown. At 41, adding additional heartache to an already unhappy marriage, his four-year-old son died.

The next year he was rejected for Land Officer. At 45, he ran for the Senate and lost. Two years later, he was defeated for nomination for Vice President. At 49, he ran for the Senate again . . . and lost again.

Add to this an endless barrage of criticism, misunderstanding, ugly and false rumors, and deep periods of depression and you realize it’s no wonder he was snubbed by his peers and despised by multitudes, hardly the envy of his day.

At 51, however, he was elected President of the United States . . . but his second term in office was cut short by his assassination. As he lay dying in a little rooming house across from the place where he was shot, a former detractor (Edwin Stanton), spoke the fitting tribute I quoted at the top of this column. By now you know it was spoken of the most inspirational and highly regarded president in American history, Abraham Lincoln, the man whose birthday we soon will celebrate.

What a strange lot we are! Enamored of the dazzling lights, the fickle applause of the public, the splash of success, we seldom trace the lines that led to that flimsy and fleeting pinnacle. Bitter hardship. Unfair and undeserved abuses. Loneliness and loss. Humiliating failures. Debilitating disappointments. Agony beyond comprehension suffered in the valley and crevices of the climb from bottom to top.

How shortsighted! Instead of accepting the fact that no one deserves the right to lead without first persevering through pain and heartache and failure, we resent those intruders. We treat them as enemies, not friends. We forget that the marks of greatness are not delivered in a paper sack by capricious gods. They are not hurriedly stuck onto skin like a tattoo.

No, those who are really worth following have paid their dues. They have come through the furnace melted, beaten, reshaped, and tempered. To use the words of the teacher from Tarsus, they bear in their bodies “the brand-marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). Or, as one paraphrases it, they carry “the scars of the whippings and wounds” . . . which link them to all mankind.

Small wonder when such people move from time to eternity they “belong to the ages.”

Funny how we don’t remember Abraham Lincoln for how he started. Reaching God’s potential for you is never about how you start. It isn’t even about having the most talent or having the most opportunities. And it sure isn’t about luck. It’s all about staying the course, working hard, and finishing well. In fact, finishing well is more important than starting well. Whatever you are discouraged about today, may this provide a little inspiration for you to stay the course and never, ever give up!

The Blame Game

If you remember the 2003 National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins, the Cubs were just five outs from advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1945. However, in a fly ball out to left field, Steve Bartman tried to grab a foul ball, preventing outfielder Moises Alou from catching it. That moment shifted the momentum of the game and helped the Florida Marlins rally for an 8-3 victory to tie the NLCS. The 26-year-old Bartman, a youth baseball coach, was escorted by security guards from Wrigley Field after he was threatened by angry fans and pelted with debris.

With his life threatened by angry fans, a police guard was posted outside his suburban Northbrook home that evening. Bartman issued a public apology to Cubs fans saying, “I am so truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan’s broken heart.” He would go on to ask that, “Cub fans everywhere redirect the negative energy that has been vented towards my family, my friends, and myself into the usual positive support for our beloved team on their way to being National League champs.”

His wishes were unanswered. The Marlins would go on to win Game 7 and advance to the World Series thereby cementing Bartman’s gaffe as a key moment in the Cubs’ history. Angry broadcasters castigated him. Thousands of people blamed him for playing a role in the Cubs’ loss.  Can you imagine an entire major metropolitan area blaming you for the loss of your team’s ability to go to the World Series. Even worse it wasn’t really the guy’s fault. One fan didn’t blow the game. It was the eleven other goofs and blunders on the part of the Cubs that cost them the series. Furthermore, the loss of the sixth game just tied up the playoff. The Marlins beat the Cubs without fan interference in the seventh game.

In one degree or another, I guess we all operate like Cubs fans, looking for someone else to blame. Blaming makes us feel better about ourselves, so that we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions, and no amount of truth to the contrary will convince us. Yes, in playing the blame game, we hope to exonerate ourselves by making sure that the person, who we believe has failed, is properly identified and punished.

Those who play the blame game set themselves up as judge, jury and dispenser of punishment. And it’s a nasty little game that God absolutely demands we forfeit, because he has a different intention for us. Instead he wants us to stop blaming others and learn to accept ourselves in spite of our imperfections, knowing that our worth is not dependent on our performance, but on what God says is true of us. For living in the reality of what God says is true of us, gives us the freedom to extend grace and compassion to ourselves and others, in the same way that God extends grace and compassion to us.

Living a Life of Significance

I’ve been recently contemplating this quote from the movie, Akeelah and the Bee, which originated from Marriane Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

It’s a pretty powerful reminder of the biblical encouragement that comes from the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:10, For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. In considering this, my prayer has been that we as the church would awaken to the hopes, dreams and possibilities that God has deposited within each and every single one of us, in order that we would live a life of significance that brings glory to God and blesses others. After all, this is the life we were meant to live!

I Believe God Will Guide Me

In Your unfailing love You will lead the people You have redeemed. In Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling. Exodus 15:13 NIV

I believe my life is in God’s hands and keeping. I believe He has a plan and purpose for my life and that He is leading me in a path that will fulfill that plan and purpose. I believe it is a good plan, a right plan, and the best plan. I believe there is not a better, higher, or wiser way for me to live or way for me to follow. I believe God knows exactly what He is doing and that He will bring things into my life at the exact time they are needed. I believe He wants me to follow Him with praise on my lips for who He is, with thanks in my heart for what He does, and with obedience in my steps for what He asks me to do.

-Roy Lessin, DaySpring co-founder and writer

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