#671 - WEEKEND TO REMEMBER (DAY 1)

On the first day of the Weekend to Remember marriage conference I am attending with several other couples from our church, my big takeaway was this:

RESPOND TO FEELINGS WITH FEELINGS AND RESPOND TO FACTS WITH FACTS.

This was a principle given during the session on communication, and I can see how this can be super helpful to how my wife and I communicate moving forward.

If she shares feelings with me, I need to share feelings with her. If she shares facts with me, I need to share facts with her. Nothing is worse than having your feelings responded to with facts, and your facts responded to with feelings!

So simple, yet so helpful!

#669 - A WEEKEND TO REMEMBER

In 2 days we will take 17 couples from our church to A Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference in Burlingame. 

To think that over 5 years ago we started the church with 20 people and now we are taking nearly that many married couples to a conference to invest in our marriages is a blessing. 

I am excited. I am expectant. I am praying. 

I am praying God speaks to us clearly. I am praying the Holy Spirit convicts us deeply. I am praying that Jesus meets us intimately. 

I am praying that during this time away from the normal routines of life that God would give each of our couples a renewed sense of intimacy with and passion for each other.   

I am praying that not only our marriages would be strengthened but that, also, the relationships and bonds between the married couples in our church would be strengthened and deepened as well. 

Marriage is to be a reflection of God's covenant love for His people and His people's covenant love for Him. May the married couples at theMOVEMENT come back from this conference being a more accurate reflection of that love!

Heavenly Father, do a deep work in our married couples this weekend. A work that is marked by the power of your Spirit. A work that transcends conference information. A work that can't be explained by anything else than Your sovereign hand. Do it Lord. In Jesus name I pray, Amen. 

#668 - RUNNING AGAIN

Today, I did a timed run for the first time since I ran my last marathon in December of 2017 in under 5 hours.

3 miles in 34 minutes.

I am not a fast runner by any means, but this was particularly slow for me. (This is what happens when you don't work out for a while! "If you don't use it, you lose it!"

But, with 74 days to go (Sunday, August 12) before the 5th Annual Oakland Half-Marathon, this was a good reality check for me. My goal is to run my fastest half-marathon yet, and to do so, I've got a lot of work to do! 

I'm inspired.

LET'S. GO!

#667 - MEMORIAL DAY

The freedom to sleep in. The freedom to enjoy good food. The freedom to buy new furniture for our home. The freedom to be entertained by NBA playoff basketball. The freedom to enjoy a good movie.

These were the freedoms that myself and many others enjoyed on this Memorial Day.

Honor, respect, and gratitude are due to those who died to make these freedoms possible.

Thank You. 

#666 - THE JOY OF DEVELOPMENT

Today I had the privilege of, once again, sitting under the teaching and preaching of someone who I've had the opportunity to disciple and develop over the last 5+ years. 

I laughed. I cried. I learned. I fell more in love with Jesus.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again...

THERE IS MORE JOY IN DEVELOPING THAN THERE IS IN DOING.

To pass down your love, skills, and motivations to someone and then to be able to watch that person take what they've learned to impact others for the glory of God, in ways you never could, is an incredible feeling. 

So satisfying. So fulfilling. So meaningful. 

There are very few things that gives me a sense of purpose and meaning like developing leaders does. With this in mind, to play a small role in the "shine" of another leader is a thing I pray I never grow weary of doing. 

#665 - A SIMPLE BUT PROFOUND LEADERSHIP SHIFT

Developing Leaders > Recruiting Volunteers

Recruiting Volunteers is an event.
Developing Leaders is a process.

Recruiting Volunteers requires management.
Developing Leaders requires leadership.

Recruiting Volunteers takes care of the present.
Developing Leaders prepares you for the future.

Recruiting Volunteers is more about the organization's need.
Developing Leaders is more about a person's potential.

Recruiting Volunteers is much needed.
Developing Leaders is more necessary.

#664 - THE PASTORAL LEGACY I LONG FOR

"He walked with me."

When I was skeptical...He walked with me. When I was ready to make Jesus the Lord of my life...He walked with me. When I was hesitant about being baptized...He walked with me. When I had trouble understand the Bible...He walked with me. When I grew weary of believing...He walked with me. When I committed one of the most shameful sins of my life...He walked with me. When I was ready to repent...He walked with me. When I sinned again...He walked with me. When I didn't want to repent...He walked with me. When I repented again...He walked with me. When I began to enjoy some of best days as a follower of Christ...He walked with me. When I began serving in ministry...He walked with me. When I contemplated marriage...He walked with me. When I started a family...He walked with me. When I struggled in my marriage...He walked with me. When I got a life-threatening illness....He walked with me. As I found myself on my deathbed...He walked with me.

May my pastoral legacy be, walking with others, in the same way, Jesus Christ - the Good Shepherd, walks with me.    

#663 - THE BENEFITS OF NOT PREACHING

Due to someone else preaching this Sunday, a cancelled service next Sunday, and the week after that me being out of town to officiate a wedding, I am not going to be preaching for the next 3 weeks. 

Though I absolutely love to preach, four days into the week, I'm already starting to see the benefits of getting a preaching break. Here are a few:

  1. I can focus my thinking and work on other aspects of pastoral ministry. During any given week my thoughts and energies are on my upcoming message for at least 30 hours. I am so grateful that this week I am going to be able to spend many of those 30 hours thinking through and working on our leadership development process - another very key element of growing a healthy church! If I didn't take a preaching break, where would I have found the time to put this much intentional thought into such a critical piece of the pastoral leadership pie!
  2. I can give others who are gifted and called to preach the opportunity to do so. Though it may seem obvious, it must be stated: If I don't ever take a break, when will others get the opportunity to take a turn?! I love that taking a preaching break doesn't only give me rest, but it also frees up the platform for others to step up and into what God has called them to do!
  3. I can experience a Sunday from the vantage point of someone who attends. This Sunday I look forward to sitting in our service to experience and enjoy it without the thought of preaching on my mind. I look forward to singing without worrying about preaching. I look forward to interacting with the others who attend. I look forward to receiving from the preaching. It's gonna' be great!

I praise God for the blessing of serving alongside other gifted communicators of God's Word! Not every pastor has the luxury of feeling comfortable with other people in their church preaching on a Sunday, but that's not me! I. AM. BLESSED!

#662 - NEW FRIENDS

Tonight my wife and I had the opportunity to go on a double date with a couple from our church. We went to the Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco and had a great time. We then shared a meal together at a ramen restaurant close by and it was delicious. 

As I reflect on the events of the night, a few things comes to mind:

  • One of the ongoing joys that my wife and I get to experience as a result of starting theMOVEMENT Church is meeting so many great people from various walks of life with various stories and various backgrounds. If we never took the step of faith to start the church, we would've missed out on meeting so many awesome people!
  • Shared experiences (especially new ones) are strong catalysts for developing new friendships. The laughs, the memories, the conversations that take place over a meal - all go a long way in strangers becoming friends. But, this requires intentionality. This shared experience happened as a result of us reaching out for this couple to join us. Very rarely do strong friendships develop on accident. 
  • Because my wife and I have developed friendships with people in our church before who have gone onto leave us (and sometimes hurt us in the process), there is a certain hesitancy about investing in new ones. I hate that hesitancy and hedging is present, but I'd be lying if I told you it wasn't. But, I can't stop trusting people with my time, effort, and emotions just because others have abused it in the past. I must continue to trust that long-lasting friendship with others is possible. Never trusting again is never a good idea. 
  • God is faithful. He gives us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. My wife and I needed a good time out with people who we could be ourselves with. And we got it. God is good.

If you are a church planter in particular, I recently wrote a related post entitled: 5 Relationships Every Church Planter Needs to Thrive. 

#660 - A PRAYER PREACHERS SHOULD PRAY

Heavenly Father, please give those of us who have the honor and privilege of preaching your Word insight beyond our intellect, anointing beyond our ability, and power beyond our preparation. A move of YOUR Spirit is what we long for!

A few thoughts on why you should pray this prayer...

Pray for insight beyond your intellect because interpretation of the Scriptures is a spiritual endeavor. Our intellect is physical, therefore it is limited. Insight from above can transcend what our intellect can't comprehend. 

Pray for anointing beyond your ability because like intellect, ability is physical, therefore it is also limited. Anointing on the other hand, can cause ears to be opened that otherwise wouldn't be. Anointing can cause walls to be broken that otherwise couldn't be. Anointing can cause miracles to take place that otherwise shouldn't be!

Pray for power beyond your preparation because no matter how thorough you are in your preparation, preaching void of the power of the Holy Spirit is merely a speech. Both believers and unbelievers alike don't need another well put together talk, they need a powerful one!

#658 - BOWLING

Today I bowled for the first time in a while. 

124. 137. 158. 169.

I was definitely reminded of how much I love it, but then I was faced with a bit of a dilemma. I want to "get back into it." There is a deal right now for 3 free games every day from now until mid-September for only $40! There would be no better way to improve my game than by taking advantage of that deal!

But, I don't have the time. 

Unfortunately, bowling doesn't provide very much exercise, and I need to exercise! If there is anything I should be doing with my spare time, it's starting to run again. 

I have the type of personality that if I get into something, I go "all-in." I can't just bowl every now and then. If I start bowling again, I'll want to take it seriously and get better. Same with running. I can't just run to run. When I start running again, I'm going to be working towards running my fastest half-marathon time yet. 

These are all thoughts you probably don't care about, but I find it interesting how my brain works in this way!

Do I bowl? Do I run? Do I do both?

Or do I just come to the realization that time doesn't always allow you to go "all-out" in everything you do?

#657 - FLEE

Pastor, leader, husband...this is for you. This is for me. This is for us.

When certain temptations come your way (you know what it is for you), you shouldn't "hang around." You shouldn't "wait and see." You shouldn't "stay just 10 more minutes." You shouldn't "be nice." You shouldn't "try not to be rude." 

YOU SHOULD FLEE. IMMEDIATELY. 

Get in your car and leave. Ask for a ride home. Leave. Run. Get out of there.

Staying, could cost you everything. 

#656 - GRACE AND GRIT

Ministry requires so much grace.

Grace to forgive. Grace to love. Grace to lead. Grace to discern. Grace to preach. Grace to confront. Grace to ignore. Grace to promote. Grace to decrease.  

But it also requires a helluva lot of grit. 

Grit to persevere. Grit to push-through. Grit to overcome. Grit to endure. Grit to last. Grit to show up even when you don't feel like showing up. Grit to engage even when you don't have the emotional energy to engage. Grit to lead even when you don't know where you should be leading!

For me to do a 30 year run (which is my goal) as the Lead Pastor of theMOVEMENT Church in Oakland, I am convinced...

GOD'S GRACE MUST BE PRESENT, AND MY GRIT CAN'T BE ABSENT.

But as daunting and exhausting as that may seem, I am also thankful of this:

Even my grit is a gift bestowed upon me because of His grace!

So in the end, it's ALL grace.

#655 - GOD DID IT AGAIN

For over 5 years now, God has brought EXACTLY the right person at EXACTLY the right time to fill the EXACT need that theMOVEMENT Church has had. 

  • When we needed an infusion of fresh leadership He sent Bekah, Brook, Melissa, and Chris.
  • When we needed additional pastoral leadership and design help He sent Christopher.
  • When we needed a drummer He sent Haig.
  • When we needed a Principal to catch our vision for serving schools in Oakland He sent Kilian. 
  • When we needed help with service programming He sent Tawnee.
  • When we needed a Worship Pastor He sent Alex.

Well tonight, as our church is in the middle of working towards a complete re-brand of our organization, for our 5-year anniversary, I believe God has done it again. God has sent EXACTLY the person we need to help us see our re-brand vision come to fruition.

Though I do not know exactly how this particular story will end, I am very optimistic. 

God has done it before, and I am convinced that He's done it again!

The right person.
With the right gifting.
With the right heart. 
In the right place.
At the right time.

GOD. IS. FAITHFUL.

#654 - A FRESH PERSPECTIVE ON GOD'S LOVE

God loves you.

Just like anything else, when you hear something over and over again, it can tend to not have the same effect on you that it once had.

But the other day, as we were talking about the holiness of God in our prayer meeting, a few thoughts about God's love dawned on me that has given me a much deeper appreciation for the love that God has for me!

God’s LOVE for you isn’t just a by-product of His GRACE, it’s an extension of His HOLINESS. In other words,

GOD'S LOVE FOR YOU ISN'T PITY, IT'S PERFECT. 

God loving you isn’t the NICE thing for Him to do, it is the RIGHTEOUS thing for Him to do.

This is key in our understanding of God’s love for us because it has a direct impact on our ability to respond to His love. Remember, NICE love doesn’t cast out fear, PERFECT love does!

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18

#653 - AN UNEXPECTED ASPECT OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY

Tonight as we were in our prayer meeting, it hit me. As I was praying, an element of spiritual maturity dawned on me, and I had never thought about it in this way before.

It wasn't Bible knowledge. It wasn't church attendance. It wasn't evangelism. It wasn't giving. It wasn't serving. 

ONE OF THE GREATEST INDICATORS OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY IS CHILDLIKE FAITH.

This hit me while I was praying because I realized that I do not pray as audaciously as I should because, over the years, in some ways, I have lost my childlike faith in God. 

Why do I believe in Him for salvation, but I do not call out to Him for healing? Why do I trust in Him for forgiveness, but I do not petition Him for revival? Why am I sure that I am justified, yet I am unsure of whether or not He can still perform miracles? Why am I confident that He will return, yet I am hesitant to ask Him to do the supernatural in my midst.

It almost seems as if, over the years, as I've grown in my ability to explain God, I've lost my ability to believe God. What a tragedy!

Here are three ways that I know my faith has shrunk that I hope to reverse and I pray you'll avoid!

MY PRAYERS WOULD BE BEST DESCRIBED AS ACCURATE RATHER THAN AUDACIOUS.

One indicator of this might be if you always feel the need to say in your prayers, "If it's your will..."  Only you know whether or not that is a necessary statement in your prayers or if you are using it as a way to guard your ego if the prayer is not answered. Audacious prayers requires childlike faith.

MY PREACHING WOULD BE BEST DESCRIBED AS PRACTICAL RATHER THAN PROPHETIC. 

Did God call me to preach just so that people would have a few "to-do's" to try during the week? I don't think so. God called me to preach so that His truth would be proclaimed. He called me to preach so that darkness would be exchanged for light; so that death would be exchanged for life! Prophetic preaching requires childlike faith.

MY LEADERSHIP WOULD BE BEST DESCRIBED AS CALCULATED RATHER THAN COURAGEOUS.

The local church doesn't need another calculated leader. That might be what a business looking to turn a profit needs. But, the body of Christ needs a courageous leader who will boldly follow the leading of the Holy Spirit regardless of the cost. Courageous leadership requires childlike faith. 

Now don't get me wrong. There is nothing inherently wrong with accurate prayers, practical preaching, and calculated leadership. It is when these things come at the expense of childlike faith where I believe one's spiritual maturity must come into question. Enough is enough.

Would you join me in maturing our ability to believe God like a child?

"For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom." Matthew 18:2-4 (MSG)

#652 - A WORD TO MY MOM ON MOTHER'S DAY

So much of my strength. So much of my stability. So much of my sense. So much of my discernment. So much of my faith. So much of my honesty.

So many of the positive character traits I have as an adult, are a result of the investment my mother made in me as a child. 

The older I get, the more I am convinced -

I AM NOT SELF-MADE; I AM MOM-LOVED.

Time. Money. Effort. Prayers. Discipline. Encouragement. Challenge. More discipline. For over 35 years, my mom has loved me deeply and thoroughly. 

And what I am most thankful for in this season of my life is that she has not allowed my becoming an adult to stop her from continuing to be my mom. She still asks hard questions. She still makes sure I'm ok. She still encourages me. She still wants me to be wise with my money and kind to my siblings. She still expects me to and drives me to be the best man of God, husband, and brother, that I am capable of being. 

God has been so gracious and kind to me in this way.

I must not take it for granted.
I must not forget why I am who I am today.
I must not cease giving thanks.

I must become a great return on her investment. For her joy and God's glory. 

I love you mom. Happy Mother's Day.