Don’t Wait for the Movie

According to polls conducted by Gallup, nine out of ten Americans have at least one Bible in their home, but nearly half of these Bible-owners rarely or never read the Bible. In fact, forty-one percent of all Americans polled indicate they have never read the Bible. That’s about 117 million people! And outside of the United States, the figures are even more dismal.

So for the season of Lent, we’re bringing special emphasis to the reading Scripture at SCG. The Bible is our blueprint for living and in reading it, we attempt to learn, live, teach and inspire from its rich history and insightful truth. So we’re challenging everyone at SCG to read through the gospels over the next 40 days in preparation of Easter.

When you break it down, it’s actually very simple:

  1. There are a total of 89 chapters in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
  2. To read through the gospels in 40 days, all you need to read is approximately 2.23 chapters a day.
  3. Reading 2.23 chapters a day will take you about 6.5 minutes.
  4. On average, we’re awake 960 minutes in a day and reading 2.23 chapters a day will take less than .006% of your day.
  • Download our 40 Day Bible Reading Plan and rediscover the story of Jesus’ life and journey to the cross as we prepare our heart and mind for resurrection.

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!

Remembering Whitney

Let’s begin by saying that I am not, nor have I ever been a Whitney Houston fan and prior to her passing on Saturday, February 11, I didn’t even own one of her songs or albums. However, as a music enthusiast, I admit that I was very well acquainted with her music and understood the impact of Whitney Houston upon American pop culture. She was a diva, a pop sensation and inspired a whole new generation of singers, like Alisha Keys and Jennifer Hudson, who admired her voice and her contributions to the music industry. So when someone like this passes, as a pastor you pay attention to see how the culture will respond and remember her. And I must confess, I somewhat got caught up in all.

My heart was heavy for her loss and I resonated with a tweet that Barbara Streisand sent that evening, “It is heartbreaking that she, in the end, could not find the joy in her life that she gave to millions of people with her music.” Such a beautiful woman, with an amazing gift of song, but who in the end, couldn’t find victory in the earthly struggles of her flesh. But I also knew Whitney to be a woman of faith, whose mother, the great gospel singer Cissy Houston, raised in church, and whose friends, especially the Winans family, continued to shape and form her faith as she became a superstar. And while she wrestled with drugs and had her moments in the spotlight, I was comforted in the fact that my God keeps his promises, and has told us that our salvation is not based on what we do, but upon what Christ did at the cross and that once we receive Jesus’ free gift of grace through faith, we are secure in Him.

What I was not prepared for though, was how God would so quickly use this tragedy for His glory, as millions of people throughout the world would get to experience church because of the four hour nationally televised service for Houston from her home church in Newark, NJ. At first, I was put back that her services would be televised at all, but then I understood. I got it. So for “research” sake, I tuned in this past Saturday to experience it, and found myself completely blown away and blessed by the fact that no one compromised the message or the design of the service for the sake of the multitudes and in turn brought “church” to the world. Yes, though Whitney’s own life saw its share of darkness, her passing set a stage for the sharing of God’s light and love to others. And what I saw was beautiful!


They say in recovery that “you’re only as sick as your secrets,” and as a pastor, I too often see the damage that comes from keeping secrets. Whether it’s the husband that lies to his wife about where he’s been or what he’s up to. Or the daughter that keeps her pregnancy a secret from the family. All of us at times are tempted, to hide because of our own guilt and shame. But, the secrets we keep, don’t make life better. Instead they lead us into isolation, rather into the community and connection we need. For only in community, will we truly find the acceptance and healing for the brokenness of our soul.

James 5:16 instructs us to, “confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” There is something powerful that comes when we release the secrets that are holding us captive in authentic biblical community. In doing so we move out of darkness, into the light. And it’s in the light that we discover that honesty really does bring hope and healing as we experience the love and acceptance of a trusted friend, spouse or parent. Yes, in some cases honestly will be hard and may lead us into a painful or fearful journey, but in the community of God’s people, you will find greater strength than you would trying to tackle whatever it is you are facing alone.

In life, so much can be saved or redeemed if only we could learn not to hide and instead speak truth to one another. Jesus said it best in John 8:32, when he said that “the truth will set you free.” Having the courage to meet the demands of reality shows strength, character and ultimately brings healing to the soul. I pray that we can live in the truth, by being honest with ourselves, God and others. In doing so, we will truly be free to experience all that God means for us to experience.

How Great Thou Art

One of the great blessings of being on staff at SeaCoast Grace Church has been getting to know an amazing community of musicians and vocalists. Our talented team is as good as they come. They have fun together. They do life together. And they lead each week with passion and excellence!

This past week one of our vocalists, Stevie Mackey brought us a beautiful rendition of How Great Thou Art, complimented with a amazing guitar solo by Ken Song! Stevie and I have done many a service together, and after watching this video, you will better understand why I don’t like following Stevie on stage!

43 Things I Love About Jennifer

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would share 43 things I love about my wife Jennifer…

1. Her love for God.
2. Her smile.
3. Her gentle spirit.
4. Her tireless devotion to our family.
5. Her love for God’s Word.
6. Her faithful prayers for me and our family.
7. Her cooking!
8. Her frugal ways.
9. Her love for baseball.
10. Her optimism.
11. Her good looks.
12. Her incredible ability to lovingly keep me in line.
13. Her love for our son Zach.
14. Her love for the San Francisco Giants.
15. Her commitment to help build a ManCave in our home.
16. Her love for Trader Joes.
17. Her growing passion for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
18. Her brown eyes.
19. Her picture perfect teeth.
20. Her stubborn personality.
21. Her sense of humor.
22. Her loyalty to others.
23. Her willingness to be on God’s adventure with me.
24. Her love of nature.
25. Her passion to read.
26. Her selflessness.
27. Her thoughtfulness.
28. Her willingness to come alongside a friend in need.
29. Her sacrificial ways.
30. Her family.
31. Our friendship.
32. Our ability to laugh at each other.
33. That she can speak to me without saying a word.
34. That she makes our house a home.
35. That she listen to my rants without judging me.
36. That she loves the simple things of life.
37. That she isn’t pretentious. What you see is what you get.
38. Her hugs & kisses!
39. Her hospitality.
40. That she never talks bad about others.
41. That she said “yes” to me 19 years ago.
42. That she still sends chills down my spine.
43. That she is my one true love.

Yep, that’s one thing I love for every year of her life. I love you sweetie! I am truly blessed to be able to share life’s journey with you. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Recalling God’s Faithfulness

Tomorrow marks our three year anniversary in Southern California! Yes, three years ago, on February 13, we closed on a new home and moved in the last of our boxes and furniture just seconds before a torrential down pour. There are so many crazy God stories that got us to that eventful day. We sold our home in El Dorado Hills in a down economy, just days after Christmas! We managed to have our home in Cypress remodeled during the escrow process. And Jennifer successfully navigated a drive down the I-5 in the pouring rain all by herself with Zach, Maggie, three goldfish and our hamster Minnie in tow.

Three years later, our family looks a little different. Zach is now in 4th grade. And two of our three goldfish, Humu and Nuku (named after the state fish of Hawaii) are still amazingly with us. However, Maggie, our sweet companion of 14 years, along with our hamster Minnie and one of our goldfish have passed on.

We have enjoyed all that SoCal living brings! After all, we only live 8 miles from Disneyland and 6 miles from the beach. However, amidst all the fun we’ve had taking in the sights and sounds of Southern California, we’ve learned some incredible things about God, ourselves and life. Lessons that we probably wouldn’t have learned, unless we were willing to follow the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life.

While we’ve certainly experienced some of the challenges that come with uprooting and leaving the proximity of family and friends, we’re grateful for the lessons we’ve learned. Lessons in courage, contentment, community and closure. Throughout the Scriptures, God invites his people to remember. In remembering, I see just how faithful God has been, which in turn gives me faith to depend on him in the present and trust him for the future.

I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
– Philippians 1:6, NLT

Huts of Refuge

In Nantucket, Massachusetts there’s a museum devoted to a volunteer organization, formed centuries ago called the Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum. Back then Nantucket was the center of the whaling industry and in those days travel by sea was extremely dangerous. Given that storms in the Atlantic quickly come and go, and given the treacherous coastline of Massachusetts, where many lives would be lost within a mile of the shore, a group of volunteers decided to go into the lifesaving business. It wasn’t their job — they had other jobs – but, as volunteers, they banded together to create The Massachusetts Humane Society. They built these little huts along the shoreline and they called them Huts Of Refuge. In fact, there are still a few of these huts in existence today.

These volunteers watched the seas, watched the water; all the time looking for people in distress, looking for ships to go down. Looking for somebody; anybody that needed to be rescued. Whenever a ship went down, word went out. Signal flares were lit, and everyone would do everything that they could to save the ship, and those aboard. They didn’t do it for money, they didn’t do it for recognition.  They did it because they realized that there is something precious and valuable about life, about human life. To remind them what was at stake, they adopted a motto: “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come in.” Now that’s a recruiting slogan, right? Now, that would not motivate me, yet that was the Humane Society’s motto!

However, over time something interesting began to happen. The US Coast Guard began to take over the task of lifesaving. For a period the US Coast Guard and the Lifesaving Society would work side by side. But, eventually the volunteers began to think “well they’re the professionals, let them do it,” so they kind of gave up the lifesaving business. And, over time volunteers stopped manning their little huts; they stopped searching the coastline for sinking ships; they stopped sending teams to rescue drowning people.

But it is interesting. They couldn’t bring themselves to disband, so the Lifesaving Society still exists today. They meet every once in a while in Boston, and have dinners and sometimes hand out awards for those that did community service. They enjoy each other’s company, and have great fellowship together. They just are not in the lifesaving business anymore. They meet, they sponsor programs, they get together, but they don’t have the thrill of risking their lives to save some else.

It happens all the time, it doesn’t happen in a day, or a month, or a year – but over time a church forgets that it’s in the life saving business. And it usually doesn’t disband, at least not right away. People still meet, they still enjoy each others company, they have good fellowship, they enjoy dinners together, they have services and programs. They may even be involved in some community activities together. But, they don’t send out people as teams anymore for going out and saving lives. Nobody’s watching. Nobody’s out scouring the neighborhoods. They forget that Jesus put his efforts into rescuing or lifesaving. They have buildings, budgets, staffs and meetings. They are just not in the lifesaving business anymore.  It can happen to a church, it can happen to a small group, it can happen to a person. Whether or not we stay in the lifesaving business depends upon us. It depends upon the church of Jesus Christ!

Jesus was in the lifesaving business. He desired to not only build a community, but to reach a community. He shared this desire very clearly in the Upper Room discourse, when he said, “by this all men will know you are my disciples by the love you have for one another, so that the world may know Him who sent me” (John 17:23). The church is in the lifesaving business. We are a hut of refuge, and the goal of the church is to have little huts small groups all over their communities. Huts of people who do life together, who share what they have in common – by serving one another, by speaking truth to one another, by comforting one another, by encouraging one another, by praying for one another – so that the world might believe. God designed us for community. He called us to community, and he has  commissioned us to reach a community.

Remind Who I Am

Back in 2007, I happened upon a new release from an artist named Jason Gray. I was looking for some fresh music, as well as for something that could inspire me as I wrote out my God story. The title for Jason’s debut release, All the Lovely Losers, had appeal to me as I considered my journey and experience with God’s grace, as did the other song titles on the album. So I took a chance on a $15 disc, and purchased it without even listening to the demo or previewing a song on iTunes.

That night, I was blown away by the depth, authenticity and musicality of the songs on the CD! As I write, I can’t even begin to describe how I connected with these songs, but they in turn gave me courage to write my story of brokenness and prepare to share it with others. Later, as I got to know Jason’s story, I invited him to come and share his story at an outreach event back at Lakeside Church in January 2008. It was a terrific evening and through that encounter, I was able to meet this incredible singer/songwriter whose music continues to reach to the depths of my soul and help connect me with my Savior in fresh and powerful ways.

Four years later, Jason is finally getting the recognition he deserves, and his recent release Remind Me Who I Am from the album, A Way to See in the Dark, has been consistently in the Top 10 of the iTunes and CCM charts these last several weeks. Since I have been posting on the theme of our identity in Christ this week, I wanted to share with you this powerful song that reminds us all of where our worth truly rests. I am thrilled for Jason and hope you will take a listen to his music as well as enjoy it as much as I do.

Best Commercial of Super Bowl XLVI

Super Bowl commercials are almost as much of a tradition as the game itself. Given the $3.5 million price tag for a 30-second spot, companies put a lot of creative energy into these commercials to make their ad buy count. Some inspire, some entertain, some flop and leave us wondering why?

With everyone seeming to preview their commercials prior to the Super Bowl, I have to admit this years selection of commercials were a little anti-climatic and I missed some of the fun that comes with seeing them for the first time during the big game. But it was fun to interact with friends and family on Twitter and Facebook about who we thought deserved the crown for best commercial of the game.

While I didn’t select it as my overall favorite, I was thrilled to see Sling Baby win as part of the Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl Contest, since my buddy Bob helped edit that piece. In my book, Sling Baby ran a close second, and definitely had the IT factor on a much smaller budget. However, with the 70 or commercials that ran during Super Bowl XLVI, the Volkswagen commercial was my overall favorite! What was yours?

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