Remembering Sandra

Charles & Sandra Capitol Hill 1It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since God, in His infinite wisdom, took our dear friend Sandra, to go and be with Him. At the age of 42, Sandra left behind her husband Charles and their three boys, Michael, Matthew and Christian, after a three-year battle with ALS.

ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease is a terrible disease that attacks brain cells called motor neurons. As the motor neurons are attacked, a person with ALS loses the ability to walk, move, speak and eventually breathe. And there is no known cure. In her early stages with ALS, we didn’t know what was happening to Sandra. All we knew was that something wasn’t right as she found herself beginning to lose the ability to do normal things for no apparent reason. We prayed for miracles, she sought medical advance, she tried acupuncture, but nothing seemed to work. When she was officially diagnosed with ALS, we stood in disbelief, not really understanding the implications of it all. And while God choose not to heal Sandra, this side of heaven, He did answer so many of our prayers along the way.

Through her battle with ALS, Sandra remained strong. Her faith in God was unwavering. She inspired us all. And in the end, she gave us an example of what it means to finish the race of life well.

Sandra was one of the most generous persons I’ve ever met. And today, I find myself reflecting on her life, her faith, her courage, as well as on her love for God and family. She is missed by so many. But we all rejoice knowing that this life is not the end and that one day we will see her again.

Today, I pray for my buddy Charles, who carries on her memory and legacy to their boys, but who also grieves his wife’s absence on the one year anniversary of her passing. If you would like to get a glimpse of this incredible woman, I encourage you to watch her memorial service below. You can also hear my remarks about 40 minutes into the service.

How to Stay Anchored

anchoredKnowing that life is full of up and downs as the waves of life pound our way, here’s three things we need to do in order to stay anchored in Christ…

  1. Know Your Captain – One of the things that causes us to drift from God, is our own worry/fear or indifference. We have a hard time trusting God, so we take things into our own hands or say that we really don’t care. However, it’s our level of faith and understanding of who God is, that will determine how far we’ll drift or the degree to which our faith will be shaken. As it states in Hebrews 6:19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Therefore, if you want to stay anchored in the midst of life’s storms, you need to get to know the Lord, understand his character and remember his promises.
  2. Know Your Commission – When a yacht or vessel is commissioned, it means it has received and passed a sea trial, whereby a complete and through inspection of the vessel has taken place and determined that it is seaworthy. So a commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service! The same is true in Christ. Once we come into relationship with God…we are commissioned into service (Matthew 28:18-20). Part of knowing our commission, is living out our identify in Christ. Remember, Jesus doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called. And because he has called you, he will equip you. As it says in Ephesians 2:10, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” You have been commissioned and knowing that commission will help you not to drift.
  3. Know Your Course – Hebrews 12:1 states, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” What is the course that God has marked out for you? Well the course is part of God’s plan for you. These are the “good works” that Ephesians 2:10 refers to. But if you don’t know the course, you’ll end up never knowing where to go, or how to get there! You’ll drift. In the book, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby discusses that if you want to know God’s will, you must respond to His invitation to love Him wholeheartedly. That goes back to knowing your captain! As you get to know your captain and your commission, I believe you’ll discover your game plan. But beware, if you don’t have one, then you will drift!

Anyway

line-1Back in 1968, Kent M. Keith wrote the Paradoxical Commandments as part of a booklet for student leaders. These commandments, as penned by Keith, were rumored to have once hung on the wall of Mother Theresa and inspired a blockbuster song for Martina McBride.

I love the wisdom in these words! For in this life people are going to hurt us, disappoint us, and even betray us. But in those moments of pain or anger, we can rise above the circumstances and choose to love, forgive and extend grace, even if its undeserved. That’s a tough assignment at times, but with God’s help, it is possible. Because, instead of being consumed or paralyzed by what someone thinks or their selfishness behavior, we choose instead to live in the flow of the Spirit, and in doing so, experience love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5:22-23). So consider these words and don’t let your disappointment in others lock you into an unhappy past, when God has a joyful future for you.

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

Attitude is Everything

attitude_is_everythingAs John Maxwell once said, “Your attitude determines your altitude.” In other words, attitude is everything. In fact, our attitude can be the most important thing in determining our future. The good thing about an attitude, is that it is your choice how you wish to look at life. It is within your control at any moment in your life. So, here’s why a proper attitude matters…

  1. Attitudes Are Contagious – In 1 Cor. 15:33, Paul points out, our attitudes can either have a negative or positive impact on other people. A negative attitude only poisons the well and distracts, derails and depletes others on the team or within the organization. If you’re constantly mixing with people who talk about how lousy life is; you’ll be unconsciously thinking the same because these people form your reality. So be careful about what you allow in your head; these things unconsciously shape your worldview and eventually your attitudes toward life.
  2. You Become What You Think – Believe it or not, your tomorrow is determined by what you are thinking today. Whatever thoughts consume you about your life, will eventually be seen next week or next month or next year. Our emotions are rooted in our thinking, not the other way around. Do you really want to be a bitter, jealous and angry person six months from now? If not, start thinking differently today! I’ve never met a bitter person who was thankful. Or a thankful person who was bitter.
  3. Attitude Is Connected To Productivity – Dr. Jan Stringer from the National Business Research Institute says, “An employee with a positive attitude usually enjoys the work that they do and feels empowered and recognized for their contributions…An employee that is complacent and does not really enjoy their work, but is simply there for a paycheck usually does not produce at a high level, develops a bad attitude and generally drags a team down.”
  4. Attitude Impacts Your Physical Health – Proverbs 14:30 states, “A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body, jealousy is like cancer in the bones.” And science supports what the Bible states. In fact, ABC News reported, “Researchers found that having a positive attitude and a sense of humor could play a role in living a longer, healthier life.”
  5. Attitude Helps You Succeed – The reality is we all face challenges in life, be it a strain in working relationships, or an external challenge that is testing the survivability of your organization. But a positive attitude is always hopeful about solving problems and it allows you to persevere longer than your contemporaries. When others give up, the person with a positive attitude is forced  to be creative in order to achieve their goal. Lots of people can tell me why something isn’t working, but few can tell me how to fix it. People with a winning attitude make themselves part of the solution, instead being part of the problem. As Nick Vujucic has said, “Defeat happens only to those who refuse to try again.”

Resurrection

fastTomorrow we celebrate resurrection! Resurrection is the great announcement of the momentous fact that Christ has finished the work He came to do. Resurrection brings tremendous hope, not only because it proves Jesus’ deity, His power over death, and His victory over Satan, but it’s a grand announcement the each one of us can experience that same resurrection power in Christ. You see, on Easter Sunday, we celebrate the greatest comeback in the history of mankind and we celebrate the hope that is our in Christ!

As some of you know, I dedicated the last 40 days, the season of Lent, to fast from Facebook. In actuality, I never broke the fast on Sundays and really fasted for 46 days. The announcement of my fast was the third most read post in the history of my blog. It generated discussion and it motivated others to consider fasting from it as well. And while that is all great stuff, the greatest thing the fast did, is what it did for me. You see, this Facebook fast sparked in me a sort of resurrection of my heart.

As I said in my announcement, I imagined that I would have more time, more joy, a deeper conviction with God, become more connected to friends, be more present with family and be more content. And all that is true. However, deeper than that, I felt something lift within my spirit, that I haven’t felt for a long time. Perhaps it was the joy and contentment I felt I would experience, but I know it wasn’t a circumstantial feeling. It was much deeper than that. And I remember telling a friend, “I feel alive again” in the very early stages of this fast and wondering if it was simply the entrance of spring or the fast. I choose to give credit to God’s work in my life, as I practiced this spiritual discipline in my life.

This past week, as my son Zach and I were rounding the corner to our home, he asked me if I would continue my fast from Facebook. When I asked why, he stated that he “enjoyed spending that extra time with me” and that “he didn’t want it to end.” And while I didn’t make the promise that my fast would continue, I did promise that my management of Facebook was going to significantly change. You see, while I currently plan to keep my account, my plan is to keep it simply as a tool of communication and significantly limit the amount of time I spend on it. But if I see my moods and behaviors shift, well then I will need to reevaluate this decision all together and perhaps pull the plug for good.

Resurrection gives hope! It signals that we get a new start. It reminds us that the victory is ours in Christ. I am grateful for resurrection. And I am looking forward to relating to Facebook in a new way because of the renewed sense of God’s resurrection power I have experienced in these last 46 days. To God be the glory!

What Would I Have Seen?

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to share a brief devotional, along with an incredible team of teachers, on the events of Palm Sunday, from the perspective of the crowd. Each of us got 5 minutes to unpack Jesus’ journey into Jerusalem. It was a powerful service. Feel free to watch the whole service or just dial in about 34 minutes into the video to catch my part.

Ministry is Messy

oxenWithout oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest. – Proverbs 14:4, NLT

Ministry is messy! I’ll never forget where I was when I heard this ministry axiom for the first time. I was a brand new intern at Lakeside Church, attending a leaders event at the Lake Natoma Inn in Folsom, when our Senior Pastor Brad Franklin shared these wise words from the wisest man in the world, King Soloman. Even though I was new to the staff of Lakeside Church, I wasn’t new to ministry and I remember wanting to shout, “Amen!”.

You see, there is often a collision that happens in ministry between those that want everything neat, orderly and predictable and the oxen who make messes. In the church world, these collisions usually occur between administrators and leaders, but these collisions can also be the result of different personalities as well. However, as the proverb implies, much is accomplished by the strength of the ox. And when you have oxen in the stable, it’s not as clean as you want it to be. That’s because, ministry–real person-to-person, life-to-life, broken vessel-to-broken vessel ministry–is messy!

In my years in ministry, I have worked with a lot of oxen. Truth be told, I prefer working with oxen. They accomplish things. Even back in in my days as the Executive Pastor at Lakeside Church, I often felt as if I was the “pooper scooper dude” at the zoo! But, like the optimistic kid in a room full of manure, I knew that that there had to be a horse (or in this case an oxen) in the room! In fact, the more productive the leader, the messier things sometimes got. These are God’s words and should remind us to give the oxen the benefit of the doubt when much is being accomplished. The mess is usually not intentional, it’s usually a by product of their strength.

In looking at the Scriptures, it was the messy people who Jesus preferred to work with. He loved the unlovely. He touched the untouchables. He blessed the broken. But remember, it was the religious people that wanted things orderly, that Jesus had issue with.

Jesus certainly knew that ministry could get messy. He performed amazing miracles, like healing the sick, and got criticized for it by the religious leaders. But what was Jesus’ response? He had compassion. He took abuse and mockery from the Roman soldiers and willingly let himself be nailed to the cross. All because he understood his purpose and knew that ministry was messy, but also so worth it.

I guess the question for us all is…will  we welcome and serve the ones whom God loves, even when the work is messy? Even when it means our plans might not go as planned? Or something didn’t happen exactly as we had hoped? May we never forget that we, too, stumbled into his courts naked and blind, wretched and poor. And may we never forget that God takes the messes of our lives each day and makes something beautiful.

Palm Sunday Reflection

palm-sunday-title-slide053I’m not sure how the word spread, but as Jesus was preparing to enter Jerusalem, the people of Israel gathered and awaited his arrival. Now up to this point, the Jews knew of the miracles that Jesus had done, and that he was a remarkable teacher, but this great gathering wasn’t about celebrating what Jesus had done, rather it was a greeting of hopeful expectation of what Jesus was about to do! You see, all along Jesus had been teaching that the Kingdom of God was at hand, and for some reason the Jews believed that the long awaited Messiah, the future king of Israel was about to present himself and liberate the people from the oppression of their Roman rulers.

So the city was wild with excitement and I imagine that as they waited the people imagined what this moment might look like. Perhaps they pictured a military King who would ride into town on a stallion prepared for battle. Or they imagined a mighty King who would bring soldiers with him, perhaps even some chariots. Or they thought about a powerful king who would finally take his rightful thrown as the King of the Jews.

But as soon as Jesus came into plain view, there was no stallion for this Messiah, just a donkey on loan. There was no army for this Messiah, just a small band of common fisherman. And this Messiah was no defeater of Romans; he was just a Galilean carpenter.

Now I imagine that if we were to find ourselves in the crowd today – yelling and cheering and waving our palm branches as Jesus enters into Jerusalem, that we like the Jews would probably be caught up in the emotion of the moment, so excited that the moment of liberation had finally come! And yet, as Jesus turns the corner, something within us balks as Jesus approaches on a donkey, and our grasp around our cloaks begins to tighten, and we ask, “Is this really the Messiah?”

And just like the Jewish people in this story had to do, we have to lay down our cloaks before Jesus, setting aside our assumptions, our hopes, our plans AND worship Jesus for who He is, not what we want Him to be. You see the Jews wanted a reigning king and instead welcomed a suffering servant! And while Jesus wasn’t going to bring the political liberation they were hoping for, I imagine that there were some who got a glimpse of Messiah for who is truly is and what he longs to do in our lives…bring us true spiritual liberation!

So I think the questions for us this day is: What kind of king do you prefer to follow? What’s stopping you from laying down our cloaks before Jesus? Why are you holding on so tight? And would it really be so bad if we let go? Would it really be so bad if we trusted God more than we trusted ourselves? I think if we’re able to do that – we’ll be one step closer to experiencing the liberation that Jesus came to bring.

Heaven is For Real Movie Review

MV5BNjc3MzYzMTUzNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTYzNzI2MDE@._V1_SX214_I just returned from having the opportunity to see an advance screening of the movie, Heaven is for Real, which releases nationally on Wednesday, April 16. In case you missed the book’s national prominence, Heaven is for Real, is the true story of a four-year old boy named Colton, who experiences heaven during an emergency surgery. After his near death experience, Colton talks about looking down to see the doctor operating on him and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family doesn’t know what to believe about Colton’s experience, so they doubt, but soon the evidence is clear.

Having not read the book, I didn’t know what to expect. But I was pleasantly surprised. Overall, I felt that the film delivered an entertaining, moving and inspirational perspective on the topic of heaven. In fact, I would say it was probably one of the most professionally done “faith-based” movies I have ever seen. The cast is solid, the acting stellar, and Connor Corum, the 4-year-old boy who plays Colton, is simply adorable. In addition, Greg Kinnear turns in a very emotional performance as Todd Burpo, the father/pastor who is faced with whether or not to believe his son’s account of “Heaven.”

While I appreciated the authentic portrayal of a pastor who struggled with doubts, how to pay the bills, and his own sense of pride, I did feel that the producers muddled the message about heaven, most likely to make it easier for the non-Christian community to swallow. However I will say this, there was no compromising of the message that heaven is the place where Jesus resides!

Although I did have some issues with the film, I believe that the film will serve as a great conversation starter to get people talking about God, heaven and the afterlife. And that’s what director Randall Wallace and the producers likely had in mind. I also believe that the movie can prove to be very healing and hopeful for those who’ve experienced loss and need to be reminded of the fact that heaven IS for real! Therefore, I would encourage you to go and see it.

Why I’m Leaving Facebook

fastI joined Facebook in 2008. I don’t think at the time, I really understood the implications of this platform. It was new. It was fresh. Everyone was doing it. I joined the craze.

I wanted to buy stock in Facebook when it went public in 2012. I’m glad I didn’t.

But in 2014, I have decided it’s time to leave Facebook! Well at least for a while. You see, I’m giving it up for Lent.

Lent is the 40 days before Easter in which Christians pray, fast, contemplate and engage in acts of spiritual self-discipline. According to my friend, David Timms, professor at William Jessup University, “Lent provides a prayerful rhythm for our lives. It invites us to fast from something that is significant to us, and a regular part of our lives. And our fast is a trigger for prayer. Every time we think of (or desire) what we’re fasting from, we are to pray instead. Not necessarily lengthy prayers, but breath prayers. In short order we find ourselves praying more often throughout the day and living with a heightened sense of God’s presence.”

So for the next 40 days, I am going to be fasting from Facebook! But during this time, I’m really going to pray about leaving Facebook all together. Or at the least, create new rhythms in my life, whereby I am less attached to it.

Facebook was a significant way to connect with friends and family when we lived in Southern California. In fact, it helped us bridge the distance in incredible ways. However, over the last couple of years, Facebook has become a huge distraction and terrible time waster for me. So with that, I am going to test the waters and see how life is different without it. And here’s what I imagine is going to happen…

I will have more time!

I will have more joy!

I will have a deeper connection with God!

I will be more connected to friends!

I will be more present with my family!

I will be more content!

So if you want to catch up with Bryan, I suggest you visit my blog. I’m looking forward to the journey. Perhaps you might even consider joining me.

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