THIS HAPPENED TO ME. I HOPE IT NEVER HAPPENS TO YOU.

I'm so disappointed in myself. How could I let this become my reality? Shouldn't I know better? Wasn't I raised to know better? With all the material I consumed on the topic and with all the material I created and taught on the topic, How could I let this happen to me?

How did I ever allow myself to stop dreaming?

At what point did I stop envisioning my preferred future? At what point did I stop writing down long-term goals? At what point did I stop believing that God could do the impossible in and through my life? 

Maybe because it was because I got older. Maybe because it was I saw certain dreams go unfulfilled. Maybe it was because I just lost faith.

Though I like to tell myself I was just "surrendering my future into God's hands." Though I would like to believe I was just "being faithful when the amounts are small." Though I would like to argue I was "seeking God's will and not my own." I don't think that was really the case. 

Here's why. 

When I stopped dreaming, I became cynical. I became pessimistic. I became fearful. I became jaded. I became unresolved. I became a "realist." If I was truly seeking "God's will," I don't believe I would've taken on these negative character traits. 

 Well, today, all of this ends.

Today I start dreaming again! Today I start imagining again!  Today I reignite my childlike faith!

Because though I may have grown older, this childhood lesson I have not yet forgotten, 

Without faith it is impossible to please God.    

 

THE STAFF TEAM I SEE

"Develop a right hand TEAM not a right hand PERSON." Craig Groeschel

During the first two years of theMOVEMENT's existence, unfortunately, I have already had several people transition off of our Staff Team.  I am very aware that I have made many leadership mistakes that have led to these transitions, and I want to get better.

Therefore, as I enter into a season of developing a new staff team, in an effort to become a more effective leader, one of the things I'm doing is investing time envisioning the type of Staff Team I'd like us to become. Instead of developing a staff culture by chance, I'd like to do my best to develop a staff culture by design. Here's what I have so far. The Staff Team I See...

1. LAUGHS

We laugh. We laugh at ourselves. We laugh at each other. We laugh at our mistakes. We laugh at our circumstances. Though we will take God and the mission of the Church very seriously, we will not take ourselves too seriously. And if we find ourselves short on things to laugh about, we will always take time to laugh at the absurdity that God actually choose us to lead His Church!  

2. LEADS

We lead. We are not "Yes Men" and "Yes Women." We take initiative in our roles and do not wait to be told what to do. We lead ourselves. We lead our teams. We lead the church. We are extremely aware of the fact that the health and strength of the church rises and falls on the health and strength of our leadership. 

3. LISTENS

We listen. We listen to God. We listen to each other. We listen to our members. We listen to our guests. We listen to the community. We understand that we can learn more about each other and the people who we've been called to serve by listening. We understand that we can meet needs best by listening. We understand that we can avoid and resolve conflict and frustration by listening. We understand that if we don't listen, someone else will, and opportunities will be lost.    

4. LEARNS

We learn. We learn from the Scriptures. We learn from other churches. We learn from each other. We learn from people both inside and outside of the church. We learn from both our fans and our critics. Conferences. Books. Podcasts. Vodcasts. Blogs. Vlogs. Mentors. We have an ever-increasing appetite for learning because we understand that not all learners are leaders, but all leaders are learners. 

5. LASTS 

We last. We last through ups and downs. We last through good times and through bad. We last through triumphs and transitions. We understand that every great team and every great organization has at its' foundation a group of people who have committed to last. We understand that for our mission of Overwhelming Oakland with Love to become a reality, longevity must become a necessity.   

THE REASON WHY HATERS HATE

You ever wonder why people take the time, effort, and energy to criticize, make fun of, and put down other people? Out of all the things that they could be doing with their brain power, they use it to bring someone else or a group of people down...WHY? Don't they have better things to do? Don't they have more productive ways to invest their time?  

Haters of organizations. Haters of companies. Haters of people groups. Haters of products. Haters of religions. Haters of initiatives. Haters exist for everything and everybody!

And this doesn't only have to be people who are outspoken about their hate. I know plenty of people who are "undercover" haters and critics. They might not be well known for their hate, but if they were to be honest with themselves, they would say that the conversations with themselves and with others that come easiest to them are more destructive than constructive. 

Why is this? Why do so many people live their lives in this way?

Well, being that I am someone who has hated on others and am also someone who has been hated on, I have come to the conclusion that...

Haters hate on others as a way to avoid dealing with the things that they hate most about themselves. 

It's hard to deal with your character flaws. It's hard to focus on your shortcomings. It's hard to break your bad habits. It's hard to overcome your fears.  

So, instead of changing themselves, haters spend their time mouthing off about what should be changed in others. 

Some people eat to avoid. Others spend money to avoid. Another group of people drink to avoid. There are a million different things people do to avoid dealing with their issues. 

Haters hate.  

And this hate hurts, humiliates, and harms people each and every day.

But even worse than that, it results in the hater being distracted from the very thing that they should be focused on changing...themselves.

THE ONE LIST THAT'S GOING TO HAVE THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON MY LIFE IN THE NEXT 30 DAYS

"There's usually about a half-dozen things that makes 80% of the difference. Keep looking for the few things that makes the most difference...then spend most of your time working on those few things. Don't spend major time on minor things." Jim Rohn

As I endeavor to make this next year of my life the best year of my life, I am determined to invest my time in, what Jim calls, "the few things that make the most difference." I want to focus my efforts and my energies on the half-dozen, simple disciplines that, compounded over time, will produce the results in my life that I desire.

With that in mind, after much thought and consideration, I have identified the following "daily disciplines" that I will commit to and re-commit myself to for 30 days at a time. 

  1. I desire an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, I commit to reading the Word and journaling to Jesus daily.
  2. I desire a "connected" relationship with my wife, I commit to praying with my wife out loud daily.
  3. I desire a healthy body, I commit to exercising for 30 minutes and eating less than 2,000 calories daily.
  4. I desire to be a proficient writer, I commit to writing a 250-word blog post daily.
  5. I desire to be a caring pastor, I commit to making 3 pastoral calls daily. 
  6. I desire to be disciplined, I commit to being in bed by 10pm and to being out of bed by 6am daily.

Though these half-dozen things are easy to do, they are also very easy not to do. Therefore it will be the very pointed words of personal development expert Brian Tracy that will keep me focused on executing these disciplines each day. 

Successful people are simply those with successful habits.

Though I wish leading a successful life were more complicated than that, it really isn't!

So with all that in mind, the key question for you is, What are your half-dozen things?

THE MOST HELPFUL PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL PRODUCTIVITY ADVICE EVER

What do you do when there's too much to do? What do you do when you're overwhelmed? What do you do when you don't know what to do first? What do you do when you find yourself overly discouraged by your inability to get anything done?

WRITE. A. LIST.

Or for the millennials...type. a. list. 

Of every task. Of every responsibility. Of every objective. 

Write a list of everything that needs to get done. 

This list will take the abstract and make it actual. This list will turn your frustration into focus. This list will help you to identify the necessary from the unnecessary. This list will help you to determine what must be done by you and what can be delegated. This list will reveal what is urgent and what can wait.

This list is a key to let you out of your prison of laziness. This list is an antidote for your sickness of apathy. This list is a life preserver to save you from drowning in a sea of neglect. (You may think that's a little strong, but anyone who has been unproductive for any length of time knows the feeling.)   

This list will be the initial step that you take towards a life of greater self-leadership. This list will be the visual representation of all that you must accomplish. This list will be the physical evidence that you are moving in the right direction. 

Write this list. Today. 

A higher experience of focus and productivity await you. 

33 - PART TWO

As I mentioned in my previous post, this last year was quite challenging, especially as it related to my role as the Lead Pastor of theMOVEMENT. I went through some experiences as a pastor and a leader that I would wish upon no one!

But, instead of dwelling on the difficulty of the situations, I think it would be most wise to reflect upon the lessons learned from the situations. Here are three lessons that I learned this past year that I hope to hold on to for many years to come! 

1. BE SILENT. GOD IS YOUR DEFENDER.

"The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent." Exodus 14:!4

Over the last several months, the above verse has been an absolute lifeline for me! Slowly but surely I am getting it through my thick skull that there are certain battles that I was just not meant to fight. One who is wise discerns which battles those are and allows God to fight them on their behalf...all while keeping their mouths shut.  

In certain "battles," when I feel I need to to convince, I need to be silent. When I feel I need to convict, I need to be silent. When I feel I need to clarify, I need to be silent.  In these battles, when I feel I need to speak up, I probably need to shut up!

And when the time is right, in the areas that God chooses, He will convince for me. He will convict for me. He will clarify for me. He will ultimately defend me. My job is to keep me and my words out of the way!   

2. BE CONFIDENT. THE CHURCH IS RESILIENT. 

"Through various seasons and transitions, the church is resilient." Brian Houston

In the midst of the difficulties that I have experienced this past year, I have come to discover that when the Church of Jesus Christ takes a hit, like a punching bag with a weighted bottom, it gets back up again! Every. Single. Time.

For over 2,000 years the "Big C" church has faced difficulties from both outsiders and insiders and for over 2,000 years the Church has advanced through those difficulties! I am just so thankful that theMOVEMENT church in Oakland, CA is no exception!

Resilient through change. Resilient through disappointment. Resilient through loss. Resilient through pain. Resilient through difficulty. The Church of Jesus Christ is resilient, and it is this newly experienced resilience that gives me the confidence to keep moving forward! 

3. BE HUMBLE. PRIDE WILL DEBILITATE YOU.

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom." Proverbs 11:2

"Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility towards one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" 1 Peter 5:5

The consequences of unhealthy pride are devastating. This past year, I've seen it in my own life and I have seen it in the lives of others. Pride will keep you from confessing your sin. Pride will deter you from fulfilling your purpose. Pride will discourage you from developing your relationships. Pride will distract you from growing your faith. Pride will prevent you from trusting your God. 

Pride has been at the root of all of the most challenging situations I have faced this year. With that in mind, I am desperately in need of the Holy Spirit to bestow upon me a supernatural portion of humility.

Humility to forgive. Humility to reconcile. Humility to extend grace. Humility to confess. Humility to obey. Humility to love. Humility to persevere. In my 34th year of life, humility will be the character trait I will be committed to developing most because I am convinced more than ever of the following truth, God stands on the opposite side of those with pride.    

 

33 - PART ONE

Today I turn 33 years old, and though it has definitely been one of the most challenging years of my life, in many ways, it has also been one of the best. In an effort to reflect upon and recount God's blessings in my life from the past year, here are some highlights of the 32nd year of my life.

  1. Celebrated 10 years of marriage to Rebekah Paz by traveling to the Dominican Republic! Celebrated the 1-Year Anniversary of theMOVEMENT. (September)
  2. Ran the San Jose Half-Marathon in under 2 hours. Watched the San Francisco Giants win their 3 World Series in 5 years! (October)
  3. Preached the first "Money Series" at theMOVEMENT and saw giving increase dramatically! (November)
  4. Raised over $25,000 through Be Generous campaign. (December)
  5. Awarded a scholarship to attend Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and began attending to pursue a Master's Degree in Theological Studies. (January)
  6. Re-Connected with my old students from Exchange at THE REUNION. Experienced my first hot air balloon ride with Rebekah on Valentine's Day. (February)
  7. Started consistently playing basketball again. (April)
  8. Attended the Drive Conference at Northpoint. Enjoyed watching my sister graduate from Life Pacific College! (May)
  9. Completed 10 units at GGBTS with a GPA of over 3.0! Watched the Golden State Warriors win their first championship in 40 years! (June)
  10. Experienced an awesome family reunion in Orlando, FL. Participated in theMOVEMENT's 2nd Annual Serve Our City week. Preached at Crosswinds' High School Houseboats Trip and saw God move powerfully! (July)
  11. Finished a Half-Marathon with my dad and two brothers. Celebrated 5 years in Vocational Ministry! (August) 

I am so undeserving of the moments, outcomes, and joys that God allowed me to experience this past year, but because God is a gracious, faithful, and good Heavenly Father he pours these blessings out on my life anyways. I am so THANKFUL!

WHY DOES GOD USE THE POWERLESS?

What has me in awe of God lately? What has me amazed? What has me encouraged? It’s simply this:

God works through people not because of who they are but in spite of who they are. 

Why does this mean so much to me at this particular stage of my life?

Because I am more aware, than ever before, of how irresponsible, ineffective, and inconsistent I can be. I break promises. I forget deadlines. I miss opportunities. On many days, it feels like I do way more wrong than I do right.  

You may think I am being too hard on myself, but this is all very true. The gap between what I know I should do and what I actually do is so wide it’s embarrassing. 

But with all of my faults, shortcomings, and inabilities in mind, the crazy thing is this: God has been working through me anyways!

Working through me to reach people who are far from Him. Using me to renew people who are disillusioned with Him. Empowering me to release people who want to take steps of faith for Him. 

God is working through me in spite of me, and it is one of the most awe-inspiring aspects of His love that I have ever discovered.

Qualifying the unqualified. Using the unusable. Producing through the unproductive.

Why would God do such a thing?

It is at this point where I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the church at Corinth:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

God uses the powerless to reveal that He is powerful. God uses the broken to reveal that He is beautiful. God uses the weak to reveal that He is worthy.

God’s glory is the end. Earthen vessels are just the means. 

I’m just in awe of the fact that my broken and busted being gets to be a part of the whole ordeal! 

THE CURE FOR RESTLESSNESS

Lately, I’ve been a little restless, and before taking the time to write these words, I wasn’t sure why.

My relationship with my wife is great. The church I am privileged to lead is getting stronger by the week. I just started Seminary and I’m super excited about the opportunity I’ve been given to learn at the graduate school level. My financial situation is better than it has ever been, so much so that I just got a “new-used” car! 

Though I may have put on a few pounds over the last couple of months, my health is fine. I’m not struggling with any particular sin. I find myself in awe, daily, of what God has done for me through His Son Jesus Christ. The San Francisco Giants just won their third World Series in five years and the Golden State Warriors have the best record in the NBA at the All-Star Break! What’s my problem?

Why do I feel restless? Why do I feel like something is missing? In the midst of so much good going on in so many areas of my life, why do I feel unfulfilled?

It’s quite perplexing. 

For the first time in my life, there is very little that I find myself wanting, yet I find myself wanting. There is very little that I find myself waiting for, yet I find myself waiting. I am so fulfilled, yet I find myself so unfulfilled. 

As I think through this current state of restlessness, I can’t help but be reminded of these words from the classic work Mere Christianity, by the late C.S. Lewis:

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

Though I have come across this quote many times in the past, its’ meaning impacts me more today than it has ever impacted me before. 

The truth is, up until now, I have been pursuing desires that I thought would satisfy. Wealth. Comfort. Love. Travel. Notoriety. Influence. Leadership. Entrepreneurship. Pastoring. Jesus.

And though all of these things have satisfied to varying degrees (my relationship with Jesus satisfying me the most), none have done so completely, and now I think I know why.

As Lewis would say, I was made for another world. 

In his essay entitled The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis expands his thoughts on this “longing” by writing:

We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we wanted before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.

According to Lewis, this desire for “another world” is the “secret signature of the soul.” What I realize now, is that there is something within me that has always longed for more, I just have never been dissatisfied long enough with the things of this world to be aware of it. 

I wasn’t created just to be loved by God, I was created to be loved by God in the presence of God. I wasn’t created just to worship God, I was created to worship God in the presence of God. I wasn’t created just to enjoy God, I was created to enjoy God in the presence of God. 

I was created for heaven. 

I was created to experience unbroken relationship with Almighty God not only spiritually, but physically, in both time and space. 

This explains my restlessness. This explains your restlessness. 

Though we can look forward to many moments of great joy and satisfaction in this life, the bottom line is this: until we enter into eternity, restlessness will be our reality. 

But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him. - Philippians 3:20-21 (The Message)

OBSTACLE TO AWE #1 - FAMILIARITY

Like the married couple who’s celebrating their 25th Anniversary, but find themselves sitting across from each other at a fine restaurant with nothing to say. Like the factory worker who can do his job without even thinking because he’s done it so long, but yearns to find another career. Like the young woman who has a closet full of clothes, but, every morning, finds herself saying, “I have nothing to wear.” Familiarity breeds contempt.

Or in other words…

Time with, threatens appreciation for.

And I found this to be true with my relationship with God.

After participating in a countless number of services, Sunday School classes, Bible Studies, Summer Camps, Winter Retreats, and every other church activity you could think of, everything became so familiar.

The songs — Amazing Grace, Nothing But the Blood, How Great Thou Art, Refiner’s Fire, I Could Sing of Your Love Forever, Mighty to Save, Hosanna…the list goes on and on. I was familiar with them all.

The stories — Adam and Eve, The Exodus, Joseph, David and Goliath, Jonah and “The Whale,” Samson and Delilah, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, The Walls of Jericho, The Birth of Jesus, The Prodigal Son, The Crucifixion, The Resurrection…so many stories. So much familiarity.

The verses — “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…,” “For God so loved the world…,” “For the wages of sin is death…,” “The Lord is my shepherd…,” “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God…,” “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…” I had to memorize so many! And with memorization came even more familiarity.

And then I started organizing services, teaching Sunday School classes, facilitating Bible Studies, speaking at Summer Camps, and planning Winter Retreats, and leading every other church activity you could think of. This brought the familiarity with the songs, stories, verses, and all of the other things connected with church culture to a whole new level!

But if the truth be told, in the midst of it all there was very little awe.

Don’t get me wrong, there were moments of awe, but because of my familiarity with the content there was very little amazement, wonder and appreciation for the content.

My familiarity with the lyrics to the songs, many times, resulted in me singing without experiencing the life in the songs.

My familiarity with the practical applications of a Bible story, caused me to miss out on many of the powerful implications the story should have on my life.

My familiarity with all the things that Jesus said, led me to very rarely think about all the things that Jesus actually meant.

My familiarity with how to put on a service, very often, prevented me from participating in a service.

In hindsight, I realized…

As the things of God became more familiar, one’s awe of God can become unfamiliar.

Does your awe of God need to be rescued from familiarity?

HOW TO PUT INSECURITY TO DEATH PERMANATELY

For many of my teenage and young adult years, I found myself pondering upon the following questions for significant lengths of time.

Are my parents proud of me? Do my siblings look up to me? Do my old classmates perceive me as succesful? Do my current friends respect me? Do my mentors think I have what it takes? Do my peers take me seriously? Does my boss value me? Do my teachers believe in me?

The reason I spent so much time thinking about these things? Insecurity.

I was so unconfident in my abilities. I was so unsure of my calling. I was so uncomfortable with my lack of experience.

As a result of my insecurities, I found myself constantly trying to prove myself. To my friends. To my family members. To everyone.

Though I would have never admitted it, most of the motivation for doing the things I did came from my desire to gain the acceptance and approval of those around me.

And if you’ve ever been heavily motivated by the desire for affirmation from others, you know, it’s elusive and exhausting.

And then, I discovered the gospel.

More specifically, 2 Corinthians 5:21:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Through faith in Jesus Christ, His righteous record is my righteous record. His sinless life is my sinless life. His perfect performance is my perfect performance.

Through faith in Jesus Christ, his complete fulfillment of the righteous requirements of the law is credited to me!

This means, through my faith in Jesus Christ, I stand eternally justified before Almighty God. Eternally approved. Eternally accepted. Eternally affirmed.

There is no amount of good that I could do to make God love me any more and no amount of bad that I could do to make God love me any less!

When this all finally clicked, and I fully received the truth that Christ’s righteousness was my righteousness, insecurity no longer had any place in my life. 

When you know that the God of the universe accepts you, the affirmation and approval of everyone else really becomes a non-issue. And when your need to be accepted by others is put to death, true confidence can come to life.

MY FRUSTRATION AND MY HOPE

For far too long…

Our message has been unclear. 
Our mission has been unfocused. 
Our methods have been ineffective.

And the results are damning.

Oppression and control of insiders. 
Judgement and hate towards outsiders. 
Pressure and manipulation of inquirers.

Hope has been lost. 
Faith has been questioned.
Lives have been destroyed.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Abuse and misuse of finances. 
Waste and misappropriation of resources.
Lack of accountability and transparency with actions.

Too many people have been lied to.
Too many people have been been confused.
Too many people have been taken advantage of.

And as a result, our reputation has been smeared. By and large the people within the church of Jesus Christ are seen as…

Hypocrites. Holy Rollers. Haters. 
Judgers. Jesus Freaks. Kill-Joys. 
Legalists. Left-Wing opposers. Lovers of money.

My heart has been broken.

This is not the vision for which God created.
This is not the intent for which Jesus sacrificed.
This is not the outcome for which the Spirit was sent.

This is not how it was supposed to be.

But by the grace of God and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, this is not how things are going to stay!

The message will be clarified.
The mission will be focused.
The methods will be effective.

We will proclaim a Heavenly Father who loves and wonder will return. We will announce a Savior who sacrificed and gratitude will follow. We will declare a Spirit who empowers and amazement will ensue. We will describe a future when all things are made new and hope will live again.

Individual awe will be rescued. 
The church will be transformed.
And the world will never be the same again. 

HOW YOUR "SINGING TIME" CAN MOVE FROM DUTY TO JOY

For the longest time, I didn’t really understand why we sang songs during a church service. Because I grew up going to church and experienced this “song singing” from a very early age, the act was just second nature to me. I never really thought about whywe actually did it.

I guess I just figured, this is what Christians do. I guess I just assumed, this is how Christians show they love God. I guess I just determined, the music is the prelude to the message.

The problem with this type of thinking was that it lead me to connect very little to the “singing time” of a church service.

Instead of participating, I found myself watching those around me. Instead of enjoying, I found myself evaluating the band. Instead of wanting the singing to continue, many times, I couldn’t wait till it was over.

And then, I discovered the gospel.

Four aspects of the good news of Jesus Christ, in particular, had a profound impact on my view of “singing time.”

  1. On the cross that Jesus died, the wrath I deserve is satisfied. (Propitiation)
  2. On the cross that Jesus died, the stain of my sin is purified. (Expiation)
  3. On the cross that Jesus died, my approval from God is solidified. (Justification)
  4. On the cross that Jesus died, my place in God’s family is verified. (Adoption)

Wow! God loves me so much that He sent His one and only Son to achieve all of this on my behalf!

Because of propitiation, I can live with peace. Because of expiation, I can live with joy. Because of justification, I can live with confidence. Because of adoption, I can live with security.

Where else in the world can I find such great gifts? Who else in the world can be such a great Giver? How can I be chosen to receive these gifts when I feel like such an unworthy recipient?

It makes so much sense to me now.

Singing isn’t something I have to do to show God how much I love him. Singing is something I am compelled to do when I realize how much God loves me!

HOW TO STOP WASTING AWAY IN WORRY

So many waking hours of my life were wasted worrying.

And the area of my life that I was most proficient in worrying about was my finances.

What can I do to make more money? Where can I borrow money from next? When will my financial situation ever improve? Why did I make such foolish decisions? How can I explain to my wife that it’s not going to be like this forever?

These questions, in and of themselves, were not bad. What was most detrimenal was the stress and anxiety that came as a result of dwelling upon these questions for prolonged periods of time.

Allowing myself to be overly concerned with things that were not under my control was frustrating. Allowing myself to be overly anxious about the next source of provision was taxing. Allowing myself to feel overly guily for the past financial mistakes I had made was shameful.

But then, I discovered the gospel.

I discovered the good news about a provision that I could never obtain for a problem that I could never fix.

God has provided, a Savior for my sins.

A spotless life to earn my righteousness. A willing substitute to pay my penalty. God has provided a way for me to have a relationship with Him not on the merits of something I have yet to do, but on the merits of something Jesus Christ has already done.

God has provided a way for me to escape His punishment and, instead, enjoy His presence. God has provided a way for me to stop running from His wrath, and, instead, fall to my knees in worship. God has provided a way for me to avoid isolation from Him and, instead, experience intimacy with Him.

And it is when I am most aware of how God has already graciously provided for my greatest spiritual needs that a confidence rises up within me to trust Him to provide for my physical needs.

It is when I dwell upon God’s goodness in providing for me a Savior that my worries, anxieties, and fears fade away and make space for an experience that no amount of money can purchase…peace.

HOW YOU CAN KILL PRIDE BEFORE PRIDE KILLS YOU

I never wanted to be prideful, but it just came so easily to me.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not talking about the healthy type of pride that is key for maintaining a proper sense of confidence and morale. I’m talking about the unhealthy type of pride that overemphasizes your self-worth at the expense of the self-worth of another. I’m talking about the type of pride that drives one to believe that they are, in some way, inherently, “better” than someone else.

It came so easily to me to look down on those who didn’t have the financial resources, educational opportunities, and family structure that I had.

Scoffing at those who struggled with addiction, depression, and anxiety was second nature. Dismissing those without discipline, self-control, or drive was automatic. Being frustrated with people who didn’t “have it together” was the norm.

There’s no doubt about it, I was a prideful punk.

And then, I discovered the gospel.

I discovered good news which was only made better by the bad news that preceded it.

The bad news is, my inclination to turn my back on God through selfish behavior, sinful habits, and shameful thoughts, is deserving of God’s judgement and wrath. The bad news is, my propensity to fall short of God’s perfect standard has earned me eternal separation from God. The bad news is, my pride that I mentioned above is “cosmic treason” towards a holy and righteous God that must be punished.

And to make this bad news worse, there is no amount of good I can do to change this outcome. None.

The good news is, God did something good to change this outcome. The gospel declares that God gave, His one and only Son, Jesus Christ to live the life I could never live and die the death that I was supossed to die. The good news is, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, I can escape the wrath of God and enjoy perfect intimacy with my Heavenly Father.

But just in case you missed it, what makes this work of salvation possible is GOD, by GRACE, through FAITH, in CHRIST.

My name appears nowhere in that equation.

There is just no room for pride. As the old saying goes, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.” I need God’s grace to rescue me from the same amount of sin as the least “put together” person that I have ever pridefully judged - all of it.

And it is when this truth sinks into our hearts, that only one thing should seep out of our lives…humility.

HOW YOU CAN MAKE YOUR DISSATISFACTION DISAPPEAR

For the majority of my life, my attention and affection was given towards things that never had a chance of completely satisfying or fulfilling me. Pursuing and obtaining such things was never enough. They always left me wanting more.

If my team was winning, I wanted them to win more. If my yearly salary was growing, I wanted it to grow more. If my influence was expanding, I wanted it to expand more.

Attention from the opposite sex, I wanted more. Air Jordans, I wanted more. Approval from my parents, I wanted more.

I could go on and on about the various things I gave my energies to in hopes of them satisfying me, but the point is simply this, nothing truly satisfied me.

And then, I discovered the gospel.

I didn’t find church. I didn’t find religion. I didn’t find “God.”

Through a series of events, messages, people, books, and, most importantly, the power of the Holy Spirit, my eyes were opened to see and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The relieving declaration that God saves sinners. The glorious announcement that I could be reconciled to God through faith in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The beautiful proclamation that I could be seen as a just in the eyes of a Holy God. This is the gospel. This is the good news.

The encompassing pronouncement that through faith in Jesus Christ, the penalty of my sin could be paid, the stain of my sin could be cleansed and the righteous requirement of the law could be fulfilled. This is the gospel. This is the good news.

And as a result of my continual affirmation and reception of this good news, I now find myself living in a reality that had eluded me for over 25 years. I am content.

YEAR ONE REFLECTION

On September 14, 2014, theMOVEMENT church celebrated it’s 1-Year Anniversary. Which means, one year has gone by since the day a group of 20 committed individuals (Our Core Team) and a group of 50 sacrificial volunteers (Our Launch Team) planted a church in the city of Oakland with the mission to Overwhelm Oakland with Love.

A few of my favorite memories of our very first year include:

1. Serving a carne asada taco lunch after our launch service to our over 200 attendees. (Experiencing the excitement, energy and enthusiasm following our first service was a huge encouragement!)

2. Raising over $12,000 during our very first “Be Generous” giving campaign to provide for individuals and families with financial needs in our church community! (Delivering the checks with my wife to the various families was an experience I will never forget.)

3. Holding our service in a venue with no heat during a couple of very frigid weeks in December. (Preaching to a group of people bundled up in scarves and big coats is pretty funny!)

4. Baptizing 13 people! (Waching Un-Churched, De-Churched and Over-Churched individuals tell their story and go public with their faith in Jesus Christ is one of my greatest joys.)

5. Seeing the 2-Pac version of myself during one of Josh’s messages! (Being able to laugh at myself and enjoy a message that I wasn’t preaching is always a treat!)

There are so many more memories that I could share, but for the sake of brevity, I want to take a moment to reflect upon a few things that I hope to never forget.

My Major Mistake — Hiring too fast. Firing too slow.

The lesson is pretty self-explanatory. I brought someone onto our team with not enough thought, prayer and consideration and allowed that person to stay on our team with too much thought, prayer and consideration. Moving forward I must take the totally opposite approach. Hire slow. Fire fast.

My Major Surprise — The Gospel is Powerful.

Not that I didn’t think that the gospel was powerful, but through this last year I was pleasantly surprised to witness how powerful it actually is. If I’m being honest, seeing people surrender their lives to Christ in response to the message that “Christ saves sinners” without having to use tactics or force…surprising. Seeing long-time “Christians,” by the power of the gospel, mature their motivations for their good deeds…surprising. Seeing “atheists” confess Jesus is Lord, without all of their questions being answered…surprising. Seeing myself love people where they are, in light of the fact that the gospel says that “While I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me”…surprising.

I must remember, our marketing has no power, our musicians have no power, our methods have no power, and I definitely have no power. The gospel is the power unto salvation! The only question is, “Will I trust it?”

My Lasting Lesson — Jesus builds His Church.

I may be shepherding. The congregation may be serving. Guests may be attending. But Jesus is the one who is actually building the church. I may be preaching, but Jesus is saving. The congregation may be participating, but Jesus is transforming. Our guests may be checking us out, but Jesus is softening their hearts. We do the work that is natural. Jesus does the work that is supernatural. We do the work that is physical. Jesus does the work that is spiritual. We do the work that is temporary. Jesus does the work that is eternal.

Does this devalue the work that we do? Absolutely not! By God’s grace, Jesus is doing his supernatural work, through our natural efforts! Jesus is doing his spiritual work through our physical contribution. Jesus is doing his eternal work through our temporary gifts.

At the end of the day, what I must remember is this: Jesus is the one doing all the heavy lifting, we’re just the ones handing him the boxes.

32

Throughout the years, my birthday has always been a day when I take the time to reflect upon God's goodness and grace in my life during the past year. But this year is a little different. 

As I get older, I am more and more aware of the uncertainty and brevity of my life. I am more and more aware of what truly matters and what doesn't. It is with that in mind that I wanted to take a moment to think about 3 lessons that I've learned during my life that, if I was on my deathbed, I would want to communicate to those that I love. 3 lessons that I hope to embrace for as long as God would give me the privilege to live. 

Here are those 3 lessons. I hope they encourage and they serve you well.

1. God's Grace is Sufficient.

For 32 years I have fallen short of God's perfect standard. I have, on many occasions, not loved my wife like Christ loved the Church. I have not been the best brother to my siblings. I have not been the best son to my parents. I have not been the best leader/pastor to those who have graciously looked to my leadership. I have not been the best friend to those who have called me friend. I have made promises I didn't keep. I have had selfish motivations. I have not loved and served those around me like I could have and should have. 

But, in the midst of my daily struggle with sin, the first lesson I have learned is that God's grace is sufficient. God's grace is adequate. God's grace is enough. God's grace is plenty.

For 32 years, God's grace has been there every time I have fallen. God's grace has been there every time I have felt distant. God's grace has been there every time I have felt unworthy. The truth is, I have been aware of God's grace the most, when I have deserved it the least. 

And it is this amazing grace of God that does for me what nothing else can do for me:

It picks me up right where I fall.
It makes me whole right where I am empty.
It pushes me forward right in the direction that I need to go next.
And it does this for me, day after day, without fail. 

But here's what you need to know about God's grace - it's all made possible by Jesus.  I don't receive this grace because I deserve it, I receive this grace because Jesus earned it.

Through my faith in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not only is the penalty of my sins paid for, but the righteous requirement needed to have a relationship with God is fulfilled. Because Jesus lived the perfect life that I need to live, because Jesus died the death that I should have to die, through faith in Him I can have an unbroken relationship with God, despite my ongoing struggle with sin. This is the gospel of grace. My only responsibility is to trust it. 

This grace is sufficient for me and, through faith in Jesus Christ, it can be sufficient for you.

2. God's Will is Perfect.

For 27 years, I wanted to do it my way. I wanted to pursue my plans. I wanted to pursue my purposes. 

And then, when I did "surrender" to God's will for my life, I wanted to do God's will my way. I wanted God's will to happen in my timing. I wanted God's will to happen under my circumstancesI wanted God's will to produce my results. 

But, at about 28 years old, the best way I knew how, I surrendered completely to God's will for my life. Every plan, every dream, every ambition, every hope, every desire. I came to a place where I wanted what God wanted for my life, in EVERY area of my life, more than I wanted what I wanted for my life. And it is through that act of surrender (and many acts of surrender since!) that I can, with conviction, say that God's will is perfect.

Without mistake. Without error. God's will for my vocation...perfect. God's will for my provision...perfect. God's will for my position...perfect. God's will for my results...perfect. God's will for my connections...perfect. God's will for my abilities...perfect. God's will for my suffering...perfect. God's will for my inadequacies...perfect. God's will for my pain...perfect. Whether in my eyes it's good, bad or ugly, God's will done God's way is perfect. My only responsibility is to trust it. 

By experience, I'm convinced, God's will is better than my will. God's will is more fulfilling than my will. God's will ismore robust than my will. God's will is more long-sightedthan my will. God's will is more life-giving than my will. God's will is perfect.

One more word on this. If you may be wondering, "What is God's will for my life?" I would encourage you by saying:

God's will for your life is your moment by moment obedience to the things He's leading you to do. Just do the last thing He's led you to do. Then and only then will He reveal the next thing. Do these things without fear or hesitation. Why? Because they'reperfect.


3. God's Hand is Not Short.

For 32 years, I have seen God provide exactly what I need, exactly when I needed it. He has provided things I knew I needed and He has graciously provided things I had no ideaI needed. And it is through years and years of God providing financial resources, relational resources, spiritual resources, emotional resources, and physical resources that I can, without a doubt, proclaim...God's hand is not short.

For many years, I've believed in faith that...

If it's God's will, it's God's bill.
Where God guides, God provides.
What the King wants, the King pays for. 

But it's only after the last 10 years of experience that I can say...these things are absolutely true! 

God will provide for His purposes.

When I needed people for God's purposes...God provided. When I needed a platform for God's purposes...God provided. When I needed money for God's purposes...God provided. When I needed insight for God's purposes...God provided. When I needed understanding for God's purposes...God provided.

It may have been at the last minute. It may have been just enough. It may have not come in the form I thought it was going to come. But God always has provided for His purposes.  

And because God is no respecter of persons, there is no doubt in my mind that God will provide for all of the purposes He has for your life as well. Your only responsibility is to trust Him.

God's grace is sufficient. Trust Him. God will is perfect. Trust Him. God's hand is not short. Trust Him. 


In 32 years of living, I have not regretted a single day that I have lived in complete surrender and trust in God. In the greatest act of love every recorded in human history, God gave His one and only Son, Jesus Christ...for me and for you. How could you not trust a Heavenly Father who loves you that much?

-------------

Thanks for taking the time to read through these three lessons. If they've been an encouragement to you and if you think they may be an encouragement to others would you please click the "SHARE" button below? Thanks!

THE REASON WHY I'M RICH

You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. - 2 Corinthians 8:9

Jesus was bruised and beaten so that I could live whole and healed.
Jesus experienced a brutal death so that I could enjoy a beautiful life.
Jesus left the comforts of Heaven so that I could be comforted on earth.
Jesus gave everything He had so I could, one day, enjoy everything He has.
Jesus was condemned by God once, so that I could be approved by God forever.
Jesus was declared guilty before men so that I could be found innocent before God.
Jesus was forsaken by God, for a moment, so that I could be embraced by God, for a lifetime.
Jesus took the punishment for my sin so that I could inherit the blessing of his righteousness.

In the final analysis, Jesus became poor so that I could become rich!

But unless what Jesus did for me is profoundly impacting how I treat others, what He has done for me has not accomplished its' purpose completely.

Jesus loved lavishly so that I could lavishly love.
Jesus forgave freely so that I could freely forgive.
Jesus gave generously so that I could generously give.
Jesus sacrificed selflessly so that I could selflessly sacrifice.
Jesus persevered patiently so that I could patiently persevere.

But Jesus didn't do these things just to be another source of inspiration, He did these things so that He might become the power behind my transformation.