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.

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!

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.

Is This the Next Susan Boyle?

Remember when Susan Boyle first walked on stage at the Britain’s Got Talent auditions and proved that looks can be deceiving? Well it happened again last week!

This time it’s in the person of Jonathan Antoine, a shy 17-year-old who has suffered years of bullying in the school yard on account of his weight. At his side was Charlotte, his loyal friend who has made it her business to stand by him whenever she can. When asked afterwards if this was a life-changing moment for them, Jonathan smiled and said “yes”, while Charlotte looked at him with a smile and said, “Yes, I think for you!”

Watch the life-changing moment in the video below and share your thoughts…

Questions to Ask Before Making a Move

Life is full of change! Seasons change. Trends change. Technology changes. Relational connections change. With all this change, it’s hard to keep up with it all. However, we don’t have to live the crazy life of change that our family, friends or society say we should. Instead, we can live out God’s design, by following our God-given passions and interests in the pursuit of God’s best for us.

As a pastor, I am often asked how to determine God’s will in the big decisions. My answer is usually, “by applying the “sound mind” principle of Scripture.” In 2 Timothy 1:7 the apostle Paul writes, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” In employing the sound mind principle, you evaluate the talents that God has given you and make a list of the most logical ways through which your life can be used to accomplish the most for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). In other words, you list the pros and cons of each opportunity as you seek to understand how the Lord Jesus Christ can accomplish his continuing work in you and through you.

I have a few friends who are considering some big moves in their life. And they are asking a lot of questions of themselves and others before making the move. So to help them in the journey, I wanted to give them some more questions to consider as they seek to discover God’s perfect will in their life. These questions come from Bob Biehl and the Masterplanning Group in Laguna Nigel.

  1. Why am I thinking of this change? What is my real motive?
  2. What is the real price or loss that comes with this change?
  3. What do my 3-5 closest friends advise about the possible change? My spouse?
  4. If I knew I wouldn’t fail, what would I really do?
  5. What questions are lingering in my mind, that should be asked before I make the final decision?
  6. What facts should I really seek before making the final decision?
  7. How will this change affect my spiritual development? Physical development? Financial situation? Personal development? Social life?
  8. What do I see to be the major disadvantages of this move?
  9. What 3-10 things do I most like to do? Will this opportunity afford me those opportunities to do what I enjoy?
  10. Do I have a peace of mind about a yes or no answer as I pray about it and look at the decision from God’s perspective?

Great questions to consider! What questions might you add to the list?

Bible Apps

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 79% of American church goers are internet users and 86% are cell phone users. These numbers are actually higher when compared with those of non-church goers. Yes, we truly live in a digital age and there is an app for much of what was once print. The same is true for the Bible. In fact, there have been over 40 million downloads of the YouVersion Bible App since it’s inception, allowing millions to read the Scriptures on their smartphones, iPads and other digital devices.

I have to admit that it’s been hard for me to read the Bible digitally, but I have to say that I have enjoyed the tremendous resources that a Bible app brings. From reading plans, to the availability of different translations at the touch of a finger, to my recent discovery of the audio playback function, I have begun to slowly adapt to its use in my day-to-day life. And I believe I’m just skimming the surface, when you compare the free resources available for on-the-go Bible reading.

If you haven’t downloaded or discovered these amazing apps yet, here are a few to check out:

YouVersion: Created by LifeChurch.tv to be a free resource that gives people a tool to integrate Bible reading into ones mobile lifestyle, YouVersion offers a great variety of translations, languages and Bible reading plans. In addition, there are integrated platforms to bookmark favorite verses, take notes and integrate your Bible reading into social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

 

Bible360: This amazing new app combines resources from the Glo Bible, Zondervan and Survivor producer Mark Burnett. Featuring the NIV translation, it offers 360 degree virtual tours and animated maps, as well as a journal option and integration with social media.

 

 

Bible.is: Featuring video footage from 61 segments of The Jesus Film Project, Bible.is also includes daily Bible reading programs, interactive tools and the ability to take notes as well as share socially.

 

The Cure

Some of my favorite books over the years have been on the topic of grace. However, none has offered the profound insights in such a quick and engaging read as The Cure. In this book, the authors paint a beautiful picture of grace that is greater than all our sin. And it’s the way the authors unpack this subject that gives the reader the freedom to drop their masks, destroy their illusions and simply trust that our life and identity in Christ is enough.

Here are just a few of the nuggets in this life changing book…

    • We will never please God through our efforts to become godly. Rather, we will only please God and become godly when we trust God.
    • God is not interested in changing you. He already has. The DNA is set. God want you to believe that he has already changed you so that he can get on with the process of maturing you into who you already are.
    • God’s ultimate goal is maturing us into who he says we are and releasing us into the dreams he designed for us before the world began.
    • Trusting God’s perfect love for us pushes away our fear and teaches us to embrace the love that heals our wounds.
    • In the Room of Grace no one is above anyone else. No one brags about his or her accomplishments. No one keeps score. No one is shunned. No one can lose membership for blowing it. The room is not a utopian ideal. It is a home where people live together.
  • Chalk full of rich biblical truths, this book is a gem! In fact, I would say this is probably one of the best books I have ever read! So get one for yourself. Get one for a friend. And let some of the gems in this profound book transform you and those you love.
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