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.

45 Things

Here’s 45 things you might not know about me…

  1. I was born and raised in San Mateo, CA, just 20 miles south of San Francisco.
  2. I trusted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior in August ’80 at Camp Sugar Pine in Oakhurst, CA.
  3. My first official job was at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour in San Mateo.
  4. My first car was a ’67 Volkswagen Bug. Deep red with a sun roof.
  5. I was a DJ at KCSB and KGFT while in college at UC Santa Barbara.
  6. I traveled to the Soviet Union during the summers of ’86 & ’87, in the era of communism.
  7. I was interrogated by the KGB twice, while traveling in the Soviet Union.
  8. I graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a BA in Communication Studies.
  9. I joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ after graduating from college and served with them for 4 years.
  10. I met Jennifer while serving with Campus Crusade for Christ at Sacramento State.
  11. I love to dance!
  12. I was in five productions of the Living Christmas Tree at First Baptist Church San Mateo.
  13. I sang the National Anthem at the Houston Astrodome.
  14. I have been part of the live studio audience for Late Night with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Conan (click Conan link to see me).
  15. I was the first customer at In n Out Burger in Folsom when it opened in January 2009.
  16. I graduated from Western Seminary with Honors in 2003.
  17. I love baseball!
  18. My favorite National League team is the San Francisco Giants.
  19. My favorite American League team is the Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem.
  20. My favorite color is blue.
  21. I wish Seinfeld was still on the air.
  22. My uncle, Billy Hardwick, was a professional bowler and Bowler of the Year in ’65 & ’66.
  23. My middle name in Allen. It was also my grandfather’s middle name.
  24. I love Mexican food.
  25. My weakness is ice cream!
  26. My favorite ice cream is Roselani Kona Mud Pie (only available in Hawaii).
  27. My ’93 Honda Accord has 245,000 miles on it.
  28. I was a traveling sales rep for DaySpring Cards, a subsidiary of Hallmark.
  29. When I need a good laugh, I watch I Love Lucy!
  30. Growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer. I went to college to pursue a career in broadcasting.
  31. My favorite concert of all time was the Amy Grant Unguarded tour at the Santa Barbara Amphitheater.
  32. My favorite section of the Bible is John 13-17, known as the Upper Room Discourse.
  33. My favorite book of the Bible is Romans.
  34. My son Zachary’s name is derived from Zechariah, which means “God remembered,” as we were told by the doctors that we would never be able to have children.
  35. The first president I voted for was Ronald Reagan in ’84. Reagan won every state but Minnesota that year.
  36. I was an early adopter of Twitter, opening my account December 19, 2007. I have “tweeted” almost 3,000 times since then.
  37. I love reading the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis to my son Zach.
  38. My favorite vacation spot is Hawaii! I’ve spent two summers, my sabbatical and celebrated my honeymoon there.
  39. I have a file of encouraging notes and letters I’ve received over the years. I read them when I need a little perspective or encouragement.
  40. I love my wife’s blackberry pie!
  41. I love to BBQ!
  42. I met the entire cast of Leave it to Beaver back in the 1980’s.
  43. I enjoy playing racquetball and golf.
  44. I want to write a book someday.
  45. I love Disneyland!

The goal of this post is to build bridges of commonality and interests. So please take a minute and tell me something unique about you!

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.

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!

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

Good Friday @ SCG

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be part of the speaking team for our Good Friday services at SeaCoast Grace. It was a powerful time as we considered God’s great love for us in going to the cross. What I have especially loved about our Good Friday services is that the pastoral team, as well as the worship teams from the different venues, have all played a part in this service over the past two years. We truly have a talented bunch of teachers and musicians. If you weren’t able to attend the service, I encourage you to see it in its entirety below.

The Painter of Light

Known as the Painter of Light, Thomas Kinkade, spent his life painting landscapes, cottages and churches inspired by his boyhood town of Placerville, CA. He died yesterday at the age of 54 of natural causes. Born at Sacramento’s Mercy Hospital in 1958, Tom moved to Placerville as a young boy. It was in this quaint town of Placerville that his art empire was born after he was commissioned to create a work for the Placerville Library. He came up with a rainy-day painting reflecting the Mother Lode town as he envisioned it looked in 1916. A few years later, a Placerville gift shop began carrying his works. By 1990, that gift shop became the first Thomas Kinkade Gallery.

In another season of my life, I had the privilege of working with the Media Arts Group and selling Thomas Kinkade gifts and stationary as well as the infamous Thomas Kinkade calendar into Christian Bookstores. As a broker for Amcal Arts, I literally had the first hand experience of watching Tom’s artwork gain popularity and spread to a national audience. As Tom’s notoriety increased, my purchase orders for Tom’s gifts and calendars also exponentially increased. In fact for several years, I was the top inspirational salesperson for Amcal, and actually took some of the proceeds of my bonus from the company in 1995 to purchase my first Thomas Kinkade painting, which still hangs on the wall of our living room.

While his sentimental paintings, with their scenes of country gardens and churches in dewy morning light, were widely popular by the general public, they were disdained by the art establishment. And while I’m no art expert, I think some of the downfall of Tom’s popularity with the critics and with the decline of his artwork’s popularity was due to the over-saturation of his work on the market. I have to admit, even I got embarrassed with the over abundance of his art on the trinkets and knick knacks they adorned as I sat with buyers across Northern California.

Regardless of what the critics thought, Thomas Kinkade truly brought light and inspiration to our world and the impact of his contributions will be felt for generations to come.

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

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