Tell Your Story

tumblr_m4kwqpURcm1rwoq6lo1_500Who doesn’t love a good story? Whether it’s a story told on a riveting television show, the big screen, or a page-turning book, we all love a good story—especially one with a happy ending!

For me, I love to hear the stories of changed lives! In fact, it’s one of the things that motivates me as a minister. And it’s one of the reasons why I love “testimony night” at Celebrate Recovery! I love hearing the stories of how people overcame their hurts, habits, or hang-ups. And in hearing the stories, I believe we all glean insights into our own journeys toward wholeness, as we identify with their struggle and find the hope and courage necessary to face our own character defects.

There is power in the story of our lives. And in telling our story, our hearts become full of gratitude, as we recall God’s faithfulness in the land of the living. You see, while most of our stories include a period of hopelessness, trauma, or addiction, they usually have a ‘redemptive ending.’ That doesn’t mean that our lives have become rosy or problem free. Instead, the stories remind us of the journey we’re on, recalling that it’s about progress, not perfection.

We all have a story to tell! And when we share our story for His glory, something amazing happens. It offers a powerful witness to those who don’t yet know Christ, and brings hope and inspiration to those who call Jesus their Savior. So tell your story often and tell it well, for you may never know the impact it can make in the life of another.

Healthy Things Grow

growBack in August, following an almost unanimous vote by our church to merge with Hillside Christian Church, I gathered our group leaders and shared a phrase I hoped would be helpful to our them as we began a season of change. The phrase was, “Healthy things grow. And growing things change. And change challenges us. Challenges cause us to put our trust in God. Trust breeds obedience. And obedience makes us healthy.”

As I look back at that statement, I never realized how many times I would quote that phrase as I pondered decisions and talked to others. And in praying, meditating and considering the truth of this statement, here are some of the things I have learned along the way…

Healthy Things Grow
Have you ever noticed that healthy things grow? Plants, children, our emotional lives, our relationship with God, and even our relationship with others all grow. If these things are healthy, they are progressing, moving forward and changing. In fact, in the last month, my son shot up a whole inch. While that was tough on the pocketbook, we rejoice that he’s healthy and growing. That’s because healthy things grow.

Growing Things Change
If it wasn’t for change, we wouldn’t have seasons! Or butterflies! Or progress! In fact, we might still be living in the dark ages. As I look back on my life, I am grateful for change. Change in my preferences. Change in my attitudes. Change in my behavior. And even change in my clothing styles. You see, this is how we know things are growing. They change and are different from when we last saw them.

Change Challenges Us
Mark Twain once said, “The only person that likes change is a wet baby.” As humans, we like things to stay the way we like them. We are creatures of habit and comfort. After all, why mess with a “good thing”? But let’s face it! What if the “good thing”, could be better? The challenge that comes with change, is that it leads us into unknown territory. So we resist it. We like the familiarity. Even if the familiarity is unhealthy. As humans, we prefer the path of least resistance. That’s because change challenges us to make adjustments, take risks, and trust God for an uncertain future.

Challenges Cause Us to Put Our Trust in God
Here’s the reality! Challenges cause us to dig deep and depend on God more fully. Yet when presented with a challenge, many of us choice  to remain comfortable, knowing that change may require something of us. When I officiate a wedding, I often use this phrase, “May God give you enough tears to keep you tender, enough hurts to keep you compassionate, enough failure to keep you humble, and just enough success to ensure that you stay dependent upon Him.” You see, God knows exactly where to apply the pressure to cause us to turn to Him in faith. God wants us to grow in faith, and challenges force us to trust in Him.

Trust Breeds Obedience
Remember that old hymn, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey”? The antidote to fear is not safety and security. It has always been trust that leads to obedience. If we truly trust the Lord, He will reveal His will to us and show us what to do. Thus, trust breeds obedience.

Obedience Makes Us Healthy
Let’s look at it this way. Obedience takes trust! Trust creates expectancy! Expectancy breeds faith! Faith pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). In life, there will inevitably be something that forces us to trust God in a new way. And this is the great adventure of living with Jesus!

We Are God’s Handiwork

ephesians-2-10“You don’t have woo!” That’s what I heard from another church, a few years ago, as they explained their decision not to hire me. I had three of the four things they were looking for, but I didn’t have woo!

What is “woo”, you ask? Well “woo” is the supernatural ability to win others over. Did I just say, “supernatural”? Perhaps that was a little tongue in cheek. I guess it would actuality be more of a personality trait than anything. But some seem to elevate it as more important than a “spiritual gift” and a lot of churches seem to want leaders who have it!

Really, I’m not bitter! I am quite content that I don’t have “woo”! And in the case of the church that turned me down, because I didn’t have it…well they appear to be having their own set of problems, in their search for it! So, God actually used it to protect me, and for that I am grateful.

So what am I trying to say here? I guess I can try to manufacture it, which wouldn’t be true to who I am. Or I can be who God made me to be!

Believe me when I say, I am glad for those who have woo! We really need people like them in the kingdom! And truth be known, I am actually drawn, like many others, to people who have woo. But instead of trying to be something I’m not, I’ve gotta be who God created me to be. And in truth, by being who God created me to be, I will actually win others over, instead of trying to be something I wasn’t created for. Yes, people can see right through the fabrication.

So, I don’t have woo! But I have a lot of other God-given traits and gifts that are just as important to the body of Christ. As the Scriptures declare in Ephesians 2:10, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Each of us has a role, a part, in the grander plan of God. We were shaped by God, for God. He made no mistakes. And each of us, if we play our part in the kingdom of God, will sense God’s pleasure and fulfill God’s purpose here on earth.

I don’t have woo!

There I said it! Perhaps I will sleep a little better tonight having acknowledged that! Yes, I am at peace with who God created me to be. No mistake about it.

The E’s of Decision Making

4260399_300x300While the Scriptures give us a lot of direction for life, there are a lot of issues we face that don’t seem to have a direct scriptural response. In other words, the Bible seems silent. But in actuality, the Scriptures are not silent on these matters. Instead, the Bible gives Christians the liberty to make God-glorifying decisions based on their convictions and principles from God’s word.

As followers of Jesus, God desires us to reflect his character, conduct and commitments, yet each day we are faced with lots of choices that the Bible seems unclear on. In other words, what does the Bible say about the movies we watch, the music we listen to, and the activities we engage in. Well, below is a list of questions, based on the principles of God’s word that can help guide you when making choices, in what I call the grey areas of life:

  1. Expedience: Will it be spiritually profitable?
    “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.  – 1 Cor. 6:12
  2. Edification: Will it build me up?
    “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.  – I Cor. 10:23
  3. Excess: Will it slow me down in the race?
    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1
  4. Enslavement: Will it bring me into bondage?
    I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. – 1 Cor. 6:12
  5. Equivocation: Will it hypocritically cover my sin? Does it give me a license to sin?
    You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. – Galatians 5:13
  6. Encroachment: Will it violate my conscience?
    He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin. – Romans 14:23
  7. Example: Will it strengthen and help other Christians by example?
    Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. – Romans 14:13
  8. Evangelism: Will it lead others to Christ?
    Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved. – 1 Cor. 10:32-33
  9. Emulation: Will it be consistent with Christ-likeness?
    Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. – I John 2:6
  10. Exultation: Will it glorify God?
    So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.1 Corinthians 10:31
  • So what questions do you have? Run them through the principles above. And remember what is good for me, might not be good for you. So be careful not to judge, but hold true to your own convictions.
  • As a people charged with the task of being salt and light (Matthew 5:13–16), a “royal priesthood” called out of darkness and into light (1 Peter 2:9), we must consider how our choices contribute or detract from our calling.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Thanksgiving IstanbulPraise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5

Dear heavenly Father, we join King David, on this Thanksgiving Day, in rehearsing just a few of the multiplied reasons why we love being your children—why we love being loved by you. By your Holy Spirit, free us over the course of these next several hours to abound in gratitude and overflow with thanksgiving, that we might offer you the heart-filled praise of which you alone are worthy.

Father, here are a just a few of the way-too-easy-to-forget benefits that you give us so richly and fully in Christ:

We praise you for being the God who forgives all of our sins. Because of what you’ve done for us in Jesus, all of our sins—past, present and future—sins by our words, thoughts and deeds, all of them have been forgiven. When we trusted Jesus, you didn’t give us a clean slate and a second chance at life; you gave us a new heart and your robed us in Jesus’ perfect righteousness. Hallelujah, for such a standing in grace!

We praise you for being the God who heals all our diseases. Everything about us is broken—everything about us bears the effects of sin and death, but you are the God who is making all things new through Jesus—all things. In this life, the healing journey has begun—a story with a guaranteed ending of whole-being health—in body, heart and soul. We will be healthy forever! Hallelujah, for such a living hope!

We praise you for being the God who redeems our lives from all kinds of “pits”—from the pits into which we have aimlessly fallen in life; from the ones into which we are thrown by our enemies; and from the ones into which we foolishly jump. Nothing will ever separate us from your sovereign and sufficient grace.  Hallelujah, your name is Redeemer!

We praise you for crowing us with love and compassion. You have taken our garland of guilt and shame and have crowned us with the victory of your beloved Son, Jesus. He has triumphed over sin and death for us. Hallelujah, your banner over us is love and your rejoicing over us is loud!

We praise you for satisfying our desires with good things—partially in this life, and fully in the life to come. You freely give us all things to enjoy, and to share with others. May that be evidenced today, as we gather as family and friends—all in need of your daily mercies and steadfast love. Hallelujah, for intending our joy and for renewing our strength! May everything within us bless you holy and grace-filled name! So very Amen we pray, with gratitude and hope, in Jesus’ name.

Courageous Conversations

This past weekend, I had the honor and privilege of speaking at SunHills Church, in El Dorado Hills. I spoke out of 2 Samuel 11, unpacking the story of David and Bathsheba and how this story could have had a different outcome, if some folks in the story, including David, would have had some courageous conversations. I invite you to have a listen…

Humility

9.1.ChristLikeHumility_610947592Ran across this great clip from Erwin McManus on humility from his book, Uprising. Thought it was worth a post.

Humility’s closest attribute is honesty. Humility doesn’t require us to be self-deprecating. Humility is not about having a low self image or poor self image. Humility is about self awareness. Is important to be self-aware in relationship to our gifts, talents, skills and intellect. But in regards to our spiritual health, it is far more essential that we be self-aware in the arena personal character. If you see yourself for who you are and embrace it honestly, humility is the natural result. God isn’t asking you to say something about yourself that isn’t true. God is asking that we take a good, long look in the mirror and see yourself for who we truly are, and then after that, to have the courage to ask for help.

Our humility allows God’s intervention. The word humble comes from humus, which is simply translated “earth” or “dirt.” Humility is about coming to grips with our humanity. The Scriptures describe a proud person as one who is “puffed up.” Pride is the determination to be seen as bigger than we are. When we are humble, we are down to earth. No energy is wasted on pretension. A humble man can be taken at face value. It is ironic that the imagery of being humble is one where we never lower ourselves. Humility sees nothing as beneath it in terms of servanthood. It is in this position that God finds delight in reversing the order. When we lower ourselves, God is eager to lift us up. Only for the humble is there a promise from God of being exalted. Only to the lowly will God leave a legacy of greatness.

How God Molds a Man

hands of a potter, creating an earthen jar on the circleLove this poem about how God molds a man to play the noblest part in His kingdom. There’s a lot of truth in these words…

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him

Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.

– Anonymous

20 Quotes from Spiritual Leadership

indexSpiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders is a literary classic and is acclaimed as one of the greatest leadership books in print today. Offering a depth and breadth of biblical wisdom and practical application, Spiritual Leadership get to the heart of the matter with an emphasis on the character and qualities of the leader, for leadership flows out of who we are, not just what we do.

Below are some of the memorable quotes from the book during my most recent reread…

  1. True greatness, true leadership, is found in giving yourself in service to others, not in coaxing or inducing others to serve you.
  2. Spiritual leaders are not elected, appointed, or created by synods or church assemblies. God alone makes them.
  3. The spiritual leader must be clothed “with humility” (1 Peter 5:5).
  4. Before we can conquer the world, we must first conquer the self.
  5. Many who aspire to leadership fail, because they have never learned to follow.
  6. A leader must be able to see the end results of the policies and methods he or she advocates. Responsible leadership always looks ahead to see how policies will affect future generations.
  7. The spiritual leader will not procrastinate when faced with a decision, nor vacillate after making it. To postpone decision is really to decide for the status quo.
  8. People who are skeptical of prayer’s validity and power are usually those who do not practice it seriously or fail to obey when God reveals His will. We cannot learn about praying except by praying. No philosophy has ever taught a soul to pray. The intellectual problems associated with prayer are met in the joy of answered prayer and closer fellowship to God.
  9. If a man is known by the company he keeps, so also his character is revealed in the books he reads.
  10. Life’s value is not its duration but its donation – not how long we live, but how fully and how well.
  11. Procrastination, the thief of time, is one of the devil’s most potent weapons for defrauding us of eternal heritage.
  12. Those who lead the church are marked by a willingness to give up personal preferences, to surrender legitimate and natural desires for the sake of God.
  13. The true leader is concerned primarily with the welfare of others, not with his own comfort or prestige. He shows sympathy for the problems of others, but his sympathy fortifies and stimulates, it does not soften or make weak. A spiritual leader will always direct the confidence of others to the Lord.
  14. Lowering standards is always a backward step and compromise nearly always requires it.
  15. More failures come from an excess of caution than from bold experiments with new ideas.
  16. God will defend the leaders he has chosen. He will honor, protect, and vindicate them. Leaders need not worry about defending their rights or their office.
  17. To succeed in getting things done through other leaders is the highest type of leadership.
  18. Indeed, no man, however gifted and devoted is indispensable to the work of the kingdom.
  19. Faith builds faith. Pessimism dismantles faith.
  20. Willingness to concede error and to defer to the judgment of one’s peers increases one’s influence rather than diminishes it.

Which quote from Sanders book challenges you or gets you thinking about leadership in a different way?

More Is Caught, Than Taught

Big Things Happen in Small GroupsA few days ago, I was giving some thought to a question posed by one of our small group leaders at Adventure. We were discussing the benefits of using written curriculum in a small group or just allowing the group to have a wide open discussion on a given topic or text. As we discussed both options, he asked, “What do you think is the more effective way to lead a group?” He’s what I said in response…

If we’re about making disciples and reproducing leaders, then it would make sense to model effective leadership and help people see just how easy it can be. Therefore, to multiply groups and leaders, we need to help people see that there are resources and tools to help them as they step out in faith. So, here are three great reasons why I believe its best to use curriculum:

  1. First, it keeps people on track and going in the same direction. While most studies tend to direct the conversation in a certain direction, a complaint of some, they do facilitate a process of discovery for the members of the group. Using curriculum also leads to deeper conversation around key points, eliminating rabbit trails.
  2. Secondly, using group curriculum leads to application. James 1:22 states, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” In other words, application, not information, is the goal of all Bible study. Without curriculum, most people tend to overlook this important step in the study of God’s Word. By using a well written curriculum, you will help people integrate truth with life.
  3. Finally, using curriculum is reproducible. By not using curriculum, people may think, “I could never do what they do” and therefore never aspire to lead. But when they see that they don’t need to be a Bible scholar or come up with their own questions, then they are more likely to give it a shot, because you have effectively modeled it for them.

If you want to help others become all they were created to be, model effective ministry before them. After all this was Jesus’ strategy, modeling a ministry marked by visible, memorable symbols and behaviors before his followers, because he understood the principle that “more is caught, than taught”! Jesus used everyday situations to teach life changing principles for the ultimate end of ushering in his Kingdom and we would be wise to follow his example. After all, big things happen in small groups.

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