Spiritual Formation

The Power of a Question

When’s the last time someone challenged you to step out of your comfort zone and to make a difference? Think about it! Seriously, when was the last time you pushed the limits of your comfort and you truly had to depend on God to do his wonders through you? Whether for personal gain or for God’s eternal glory, the idea of stepping out of our comfort zone is often met with excuses, rationalizations or indifference.

As a pastor and Christian leader, challenging men and women to follow God’s call to step out and serve others is part of what I do. I know that life is best lived in following God’s principles. And to speak into people’s lives and challenge them to become the person God designed them to be is a privilege. I absolutely love it when the light goes on and they get that God wants to use them to make a difference in our world.

Many years ago, I asked a college student to consider giving himself to serving God for one summer before giving the rest of his life to serving in the corporate world. It took a great deal of courage and faith, but that soon to be college graduate, believed that God was up to something and trusted him to overcome some big obstacles in order to spend the summer working with international students at UCLA. That summer God did something amazing in this young man’s life and today Steve Hong serves as the Fund Development Director for Epic, a ministry of Cru, helping other Asian Americans overcome their own obstacles and live radically for Jesus.

Recently Steve retold some of his story for a video to be used by Epic. In the video below, Steve talks about how he took baby steps to follow God’s leading in his life and what he saw God do! He shared the video link with the “disclaimer” that everything in the video is accurate, with the exception that the person who plays me is Asian. Had to laugh.

In watching the video, I am reminded of the power of a question! And I’m thankful to have made a difference in Steve’s life and for those who continue to challenge me to live in absolute surrender to God’s plan and purposes.

Change Your Life

It’s been said that the two biggest life change factors in your life are: 1) the people you hang out with; and 2) the books you read. God’s been reminding me lately that this is so true in my life, and that this truth has so many implications:

  1. This is why our personal time with God is so important. Spending time reading God’s word and in prayer can be the biggest catalyst for change in our lives. I am always at my best after spending time with Jesus!
  2. This is why we need to constantly assess who we’re hanging out with and make sure we’re rubbing shoulders with people who are wiser, smarter, more successful, and closer to God than we are. Lately I’ve been reminded that you can only take people only as far as you have been. So I’ve been seeking out those who are further along in the journey than I am and the result is that I’m being uniquely challenged in my leadership as well as in my walk with the Lord.
  3. This is why we need to be even more diligent and systematic in our personal reading and leadership development time. I read quite a bit, but not as much as I need to. Right now, I’m reading: Move by Greg Hawkins & Heaven by Randy Alcorn, but there are still plenty of unread books next to my bed that are begging to be cracked open. Leaders are readers.

So, who are you hanging out with? What are you reading? If you tell me the answers to those two questions, I’ll tell you what you’re becoming.

Empty Promises

If you’re looking for a good book to read, I want to encourage you to read the newest book from Pete Wilson, Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing, which released yesterday. While I haven’t read it yet, I have read some of the reviews, watched the trailer and thoroughly enjoyed his last book, Plan B. Even American Idol contestant Colton Dixon tweeted yesterday about the book saying, “I’m reading Empty Promises right now on my Nook, it’s amazing. can’t put it down!”

Here’s what Pete Wilson has to say about it…

This book is incredibly important to me because I think one of the biggest problems in Christianity today is that we mainly focus on “sin management.” We want to edit behaviors instead of change hearts, but I think Jesus made it clear that he wasn’t interested in us spending our time trying to perfect external Christianity.

We want to pretend like God just wants to rearrange a little furniture in the house or maybe dust it up a bit. But if you look out the window there’s God with a wrecking ball. You see the issues we face in our life go down to the very foundation.

Sure we can tell you…don’t be greedy, don’t be self preoccupied, don’t be sexually promiscuous, don’t be power hungry, don’t be addicted to approval. But what if we asked what it is about your heart that makes you want to chase after those things?

This book is not just about sin. It’s about the sin beneath the sin. It’s about what’s fundamentally broken in the human heart and how all of that can be healed in and through the person of Jesus.

Sounds like transformational stuff! I can’t wait to read it and hopefully you will to. You can also check out this video trailer about the book as well.

Living In Grace

  1. The Law says, “Do this and you will live.”
    Grace says: “Live and then you will do.”
  2. The Law says: “Pay me what you owe me.”
    Grace says: “ I freely forgive you all.”
  3. The Law says: “Make yourself a new heart and a new spirit.”
    Grace says: “A new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you.”
  4. The Law says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
    Grace says: “Here is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
  5. The Law says: “The wages of sin is death.”
    Grace says: “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
  6. The Law demands holiness.
    Grace gives holiness.
  7. The Law says: “Do”
    Grace says: “Done”
  8. The Law makes blessings the result of obedience.
    Grace makes obedience the results of blessings.
  9. The Law says: “If…”
    Grace says: “Therefore…”
  10. Under the Law, salvation has wages.
    Under Grace, salvation is a gift.

by Hannah Whitall Smith

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

Shame & Vulnerability

Vulnerability is something that church leaders have to lead the way in modeling. If church leaders aren’t willing to make themselves vulnerable, it’s hard to expect that those we lead, will feel the freedom to be vulnerable as well.

I was introduced to this talk from Brene Brown by my friends from the Small Group Network. In a poignant, funny talk at TED Houston, Brene shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. It’s a great video for any leader who seeks to develop community and help others move beyond their shame and experience what God intended in our relationships with one another.

Being that this was a secular talk, there is a slight bit of offensive language. I hope you’re able to look past the offensive language to internalize the message that Brene gives.

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.

Standing Out in the Crowd

Tired of my promotional screen shots getting lost in the crowd of pre-service announcements, I decided to create some creative and thought-provoking stand outs to promote Small Groups at SeaCoast Grace Church. The result has been very positive. In fact, I’ve received many more comments and inquiries from these slides, which are rotated from week to week, than I ever did from any previous announcement slides.

In marketing, less is usually more! Therefore, we need to clear the clutter and make the message matter. That’s what I’ve tried to do with these pieces. What do you think? What’s your personal favorite?

 

Serving Along the Journey

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be part of our speaking team during the services at SeaCoast Grace Church. For the last couple of weeks we’ve been on The Journey to Easter, talking about how to prepare our heart and mind for resurrection by discussing the purposes of Lent. This weekend we concluded our series, by talking about acts of service. As a pastoral team, we each unpacked amazing stories from those at SCG who have picked up the towel to serve the needs of those around us.

I invite you to grab a cup of coffee, sit down and be inspired by the faith of God’s people who saw a need, took a risk, assessed their gifts, resourced a need and told the Story.

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