#517 - THE DEPTH OF PAIN

I lived in a suberb. I grew up going to church. I attended a private elementary/middle school. 

This upbringing sheltered me from a lot. 

Violence was foreign, abuse was unheard of, and pain was an emotion I had never really experienced. 

Though I would attend a public high school, go on to attend UC Berkeley, start businesses, and work different jobs that would expose me to many walks of life, at age 27, when I was offered my first job as a pastor to high school students and young adults, my worldview was still small and my understanding of people and pain was still very shallow.     

But one conversation changed everything. One conversation shifted the way I viewed my role as a pastor forever. One conversation opened my eyes to what I had been naive to for so long.

She was only 20. Yet, she had already experienced more hurt, pain, and suffering than anyone else I knew.

Rape. 
Verbal and emotional abuse. 
Sexual promiscuity. 
Multiple abortions. 
Self-harm. 
Attempted suicide.  

I was stunned. Saddened. Speechless.

Not only was this really her life story, but she had chosen to trust me with it.

I can hardly remember the counsel I gave in return, but I can remember the lesson that God impressed upon me that day as I walked out of the Starbucks where we had met. Unfortunately, in hearing many stories similar to hers since, it is a lesson that I am reminded of all too often:

Pastoral ministry is an invitation to join someone in their pain (no matter how deep it is) and journey with them as God redeems their pain (no matter how long it takes).

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ." 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

"Behind every beautiful thing there's been some kind of pain." Bob Dylan

#516 - THE LEADERSHIP TOOL YOU CANNOT LEAD WITHOUT

So much has been said about it, but its power cannot be underestimated. So much has been written about it, but its impact cannot be under appreciated.  Though it has often been criticized, its utility cannot be undervalued. 

For a leader to be effective, a compelling vision is a must.

But how do you know if you have one? How do you determine if its valid? How do you decide whether or not its worth giving your life to?

As I find myself in a season of being absolutely infused with fresh vision for my life and my ministry, here are a few ways I know a compelling vision has been given to me.

THE IMPACT A COMPELLING VISION HAS ON YOU

  1. You get excited considering it.
  2. You get energized believing it.
  3. You get motivated casting it.
  4. You feel morally responsible to do it.
  5. You feel spiritually accountable to pursue it.  
  6. You feel physically unable to ignore it.
  7. You're willing to risk your reputation for it.
  8. You're willing to sacrifice your comfort for it.
  9. You're willing to surrender your ego for it.
  10. You can see the fruit it will bear.
  11. You can feel the impact it will have.
  12. You can taste the joy it will bring.
  13. You have the vision and then the vision has you.

THE IMPACT A COMPELLING VISION HAS ON OTHERS

  1. People are inspired by it.
  2. People are invigorated by it.
  3. People are enamored by it.
  4. People give money to it.
  5. People sacrifice time for it.
  6. People contribute talents to it.
  7. People come together for it.
  8. People set aside differences for it.
  9. People collectively cooperate for it.
  10. People awaken to their purpose by pursuing it.
  11. People rediscover their joy by participating in it.
  12. People find their fulfillment by connecting themselves to it.
  13. The vision is cast to them and then they cast the vision to others.

A compelling vision is powerful

The question that remains for you is simply this:

Are you being driven by one?

#515 - THE ANTIDOTE FOR ENVY

In this age of being able to see, through television and social media, the luxuries and lives that people enjoy everyday, it is very easy to begin to not appreciate and even despise the life that you are privileged to live.

It's so easy to desire the circumstances of another. It's such a temptation to long for the success of a peer. It's seems inevitable that, in light of what everyone else has, envy must be our reality. 

But as I found myself recently thinking of all that I "lacked," the following thought crossed my mind...

When you think about how many people, around the world, who would kill to be you, it should kill your desire to be anyone else. 

The antidote for envy is PERSPECTIVE.

Do you know how many people would give everything to...

Have the bed that you have? Have the home that you have? Have the family that you have? Have the influence that you have? Have the clothing that you have? Have the education that you have? Have the occupation that you have? Have the opportunities that you have? Have the Wi-Fi connection that you have? Have the freedom of religion that you have? Have the access to food and water that you have?

YOU. ARE. BLESSED.

Don't allow yourself to be frustrated by the life you wish you could live, but instead, be fascinated by the life you are living. 

When what you want becomes the thief of what you already have, you are left with neither.

#514 - WHAT HOSTING MAYOR LIBBY SCHAAF TAUGHT ME ABOUT GOD

This past Sunday, our church had the privilege of welcoming the Mayor of Oakland - Libby Schaaf, into our Sunday service. Above and beyond her just joining us for service, we also had the opportunity to hear about some of her goals for the city and how we can pray for her as she endeavors to do the same thing that we as a church are endeavoring to do: overwhelm Oakland with love.

But as great of an opportunity as hosting the mayor was, I think even greater were the lessons that hosting the mayor taught me about God:

1. GOD CAN BLESS IN AN INSTANT.

We got the call on a Monday. She was sitting in our service the following Sunday! The crazy thing is, this was not an opportunity our church was pursuing! This was not an opportunity I had been seeking. This was not a goal our staff had set out to accomplish. But, God can bless in an instant.

Regardless of whether or not a blessing is in your plans, when a blessing is in His plans, it can happen instantaneously! 

God can create more momentum, favor, and blessing in a moment, than we can create in a lifetime. The question this forces me to ask myself is this: Do I live my life with an eager expectation of the next instantaneous blessing of God?

2. GOD'S WAYS SUPERSEDE OUR WISDOM.

From the moment we arrived in Oakland, having a positive impact on the city was our desire. Having favor among the civic leaders was our hope. Being known as a church who was in the city, for the city was our aim. But, our knowledge on how to make that happen was limited. Our connections were few. Our influence was small. On our best day, we could have never positioned ourselves to have the mayor of Oakland be interested in our church! But, God's ways supersede our wisdom.

God can have a "way" about causing His plans to come to fruition, that far exceed any idea or plan that we can even conceive!

Not only was the visit of the mayor an instantaneous blessing, but after getting off of a phone call with her office this morning, I am seeing how it was also a connection that will lead us to more opportunities to serve the city than we could have ever created for ourselves. The question this forces me to ask myself is this: Am I limiting how God will accomplish His purposes through me to my wisdom or am I humbly seeking His ways?

3. GOD IS HONORED BY HONOR.

Regardless of the mayor's political positions. Regardless of the mayor's religious beliefs. Regardless of the mayor's policies. (Most of which I am not very well acquainted.) We thanked her. We applauded her. We listened to her. We prayed for her. Why? Because, God is honored by honor.  

Honor is not something that people in positions of leadership have to earn. Honor is something that followers of Christ are privileged to give. And God is pleased when we do.

And as we were honoring the mayor, I felt the pleasure of God on our church. I knew we were doing the right thing. I was convinced that extending honor is honorable to God. The question this forces me to ask myself is this: Who am I dishonoring?      

God can bless in an instant.
God's ways supersede our wisdom.
God is honored by honor.

Is the way we are currently living our lives reflecting our belief in these three truths about the nature of God?

#513 - LOVE AND LEAD WITH THIS IN MIND

Over the last several weeks, I have been convinced of a sobering reality that, if I allow it to have the impact on me that it should, I am confident will improve my ability to love and lead more effectively.

The sobering reality is this:

Most people have a smile on their face that is not an accurate reflection of the heaviness of their heart.  

The pressure at work is heavier.
The challenge of parenting is harder.
The difficulty in marriage is higher.

Love and lead with this in mind. 

The pain from the past is deeper. 
The confusion about the present is stronger.
The fear about the future is greater.

Love and lead with this in mind. 

The lies of self-doubt are louder.
The voice of God is quieter.
The ability to see truth is cloudier. 

Love and lead with this in mind.  

The journey through life that most people are traveling has way more struggles and difficulties than they ever imagined having to face. 

They are more tired. They are more weary. They are more discouraged. They are more frustrated. They are more hopeless. They are more confused. They are more "over it." - than they have led you to believe. 

Don't allow the facade to fool you. The level of brokenness that exists in the people that we interact with day in and day out is much more real than we think.    

Love and lead with this in mind. 

It may make all the difference in regards to whether or not your love and leadership in their life can make a difference.