#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.  

#512 - WISDOM FROM GREG POPOVICH

Though I am a very faithful and committed Warriors fan and fully expect the Warriors to beat the San Antonio Spurs tonight to lock in a third NBA Finals appearance in the last 3 years, today, I read an article about the culture of the San Antonio Spurs in which Popovich shared what I believe to be some very wise thoughts. Popovich stated that the primary question in player evaluation for the San Antonio Spurs was...

Has this person gotten over himself?
— Greg Popovich

He would go onto say... 

"He should take pride in the work, but shouldn't be prideful. I have a problem with proud."

Whether you are a leader of a team or a member of a team, I think these are wise thoughts to consider. Here are several questions you can ask yourself to see if you have "gotten over yourself."

  1. Have you placed the mission of the team ahead of the furthering of your career?
  2. Do you desire for the team to win more than you desire to personally succeed?
  3. Can you be genuinely happy for a teammate's success even if it overshadows your contribution?
  4. If the team is advancing, but you aren't receiving the amount of recognition or notoriety that you would like, can you still enjoy being on the team?
  5. Is your primary concern your prominence or the team's effectiveness?
  6. What would you rather be remembered as, a great player or a great teammate?

I think that these are very important questions that we should all be willing to ask ourselves. There are too many examples of "players" who never reached their potential because of an unwillingness to "get over themselves." 

Let's not let that be our story. 

#511 - 3 THOUGHTS THAT MAKE PATIENCE POSSIBLE

I know. You're ready. You were ready 6 months ago. For the business to take off. For the idea to gain traction. For the opportunity to arrive. For the significant other to notice you. For "your time" to come.

I know how you feel.

It always seems like everyone else's time has come. It always seems like everyone but you is operating in the fullness of their gifts and abilities. It always seems like people who haven't worked as hard as you are getting the breaks you know you deserve.   

But here you are, still waiting. I wish I could tell you why you find yourself still waiting but, I can't.

What I can do is share with you three thoughts that encourage me when it seems like God is trying to lodge the lesson of patience deep within my being

1. GOD'S TIMING IS PERFECT.

Whenever God has poured out another measure of blessing, opportunity, or favor in my life, it has always been at the perfect time. It comes right when I need it. It comes right when others can benefit from it. It comes right when God can be most glorified by it. 

If I do not currently have the opportunity, influence, or impact I desire, it is because, right now, it is not in the best interests of myself, those around me, or the Kingdom of God for me to have what I want.

2. MY HEART NEEDS PURIFYING.

Why am I so anxious anyways? Am I not grateful for the opportunities I already have been given? (Ingratitude) Do I think I am more capable than I actually am? (Pride) Do I think time is running out? (Worry) Am I assuming that I know something that God doesn't? (Arrogance)

Nothing more clearly reveals the condition of your heart towards others and towards God than how you respond when you don't get what you think you deserve.

3. IS GOD NOT ENOUGH?

Is His love for me unable to fulfill? Is His grace for me insufficient to satisfy? Is His presence in my life incapable to comfort? Is my view of God's goodness only tied to God's gifts?

If so, this is a problem. If so, I have made an idol of the wrong things. If so, I've got it all backwards. 

The truth is, if Christ alone is not enough for me, nothing ever will be. 

What if God is withholding what He is withholding from you because He wants to strengthen your trust in His sovereignty, purify your heart, and become enough for you? Wouldn't those be great reasons? Shouldn't those be reasons you appreciate? Couldn't those be reasons that give you the willingness to joyfully persevere in patiently and humbly following Him?

#510 - INEFFECTIVE REPENTANCE

You want your repentance to work, right? You want your repentance to be effective in making you right before a Holy God, correct? If so, there is something very important that you need to understand: 

Regret is not repentance.

Regret is primarily sorrow for the pain you've brought upon yourself. Regret is disappointment for how your actions have negatively impacted you. Regret is wishing you would have done something different so you could have experienced a different result. Regret is all about you.

Repentance is something totally different. 

Repentance is sorrow for the pain you've brought upon God. Repentance is disappointment for your sins against God. Repentance is wishing you would have done something different so that God would have been pleased rather than grieved. Repentance is all about God.  

Regret is about your ego. Repentance is about God's glory.
Regret is about your image. Repentance is about God's majesty.
Regret is about your circumstances. Repentance is about God's kingdom.

Regret is all about you. Repentance is all about God.

Godly sorrow produces repentance and reformation, and will end in salvation; but worldly sorrow worketh death.
— Matthew Henry

Regret makes you mad. Repentance makes you humble.
Regret draws you inward. Repentance points you upward.
Regret causes frustration. Repentance births faithfulness.

Regret is an expression of the self while repentance is a work of the Spirit. 

Are you regretful or are you repentant?

Leaning into the former will only bring you grief while committing yourself to the latter will surely bring you grace.  

Choose repentance.

Choose being broken over breaking the heart of God.
Choose experiencing sorrow for bringing God sorrow.
Choose feeling pained by the pain you've made God feel. 

Choose repentance.  

GRACE AWAITS.

#509 - THE TIGHTROPE I DESPISE

Humble confidence. It's not an oxymoron, but it might as well be. It's such a difficult tension to manage and, most times, I end up neglecting one at the expense of the other. Or, I end up emphasizing one at the expense of the other.

In its' most simple terms, the challenge is:  

How does one confidently and expectantly walk in all that God has for them without developing an attitude of arrogance and presumption?

And for church leaders, the stakes are high. Whether a leader can get this right can be the difference between someone being attracted to the gospel or disgusted by it. Whether a leader can get this right can be the difference between high-capacity leaders being drawn to the church or repelled by it. Whether a leader can get this right can be the difference between the reputation of Christians being improved or diminished.

Cockiness or false humility. How can you avoid the danger of falling prey to either of the extremes?

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is currently providing a tremendous amount of insight in regards to how this can be done.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

"Much fruit" (productivity, results, blessing) is a result of living a life connected to Christ. This is where our confidence should find its source. Fruit is a promise. But, apart from Christ we can do nothing. This is where our humility should find its source. Fruit is something only Christ can produce. 

In short, humble confidence can be achieved by being absolutely convinced of both what is promised and who makes it possible...at the very same time.   

Christ promises fruit - walk confidently in this promise! Fruit apart from Christ is impossible - walk humbly in this reality!

#508 - MY WORST NIGHTMARE

Sin has consequences. Some of the consequences are anticipated and expected, others are unanticipated and unexpected. The problem is, certain sins, when committed, have irreversible consequences that can change the course of a person's life forever. 

Though this is true for anyone, regardless of their occupation, this is particularly true for a person in vocational ministry. The number of men and women who I know personally and whom I have seen from afar lose their families, ministries, and influence, within the Kingdom of God, because of a single bad decision is disheartening.

It's not that God doesn't extend grace. It's not that God doesn't forgive. It's not even that people don't forgive. It's just that certain sins committed by men and women in leadership positions in vocational ministry can cause a person to lose their ministerial privileges forever. The consequences of sin, especially for a ministry leader, are nothing to take lightly.  

Being that I NEVER want to experience or endure such consequences, here is a list of all of the things that I can expect to experience if I allow certain sins to get the best of me. (Note: I do not write this list so that I will live in an unhealthy fear, but I do this so that the reality of the consequences of my sin can clearly be before me.)

  1. I will grieve my Heavenly Father who sent His Son to pay for the price for my freedom from the very sin I committed.   
  2. I will break my wife's heart, cause her to question God's faithfulness, and lose her trust in me and my marriage to her.  
  3. I will bring upon my parents a huge amount of unnecessary pain, sorrow, and heartache.  
  4. I will letdown my younger siblings who look up to me and expect me to be an example of godliness and faithfulness.  
  5. I will sadden my extended family members who have believed in me and God's calling on my life. 
  6. I will disappoint the staff I lead and put their jobs and financial well-being at risk. 
  7. I will inconvenience the pastoral team and place them in the extremely difficult position of having to lead the church in the aftermath of my sin. 
  8. I will confuse, anger, and discourage many of the people in my congregation and cause a number of them to have a crisis of faith which cause many to give up on Christ and the local church.  
  9. I will fail the church partners, denominations, and networks that invested in my success. 
  10. I will give an excuse to the skeptics and unbelievers who stay away from the church, because of scandal within the church, to continue to keep themselves at an arm's distance. 
  11. I will tarnish the reputation of the local church in the city of Oakland. 
  12. I will invalidate the ministry of theMOVEMENT.  
  13. I will disqualify myself from pastoring the church I've invested the last four years of my life loving and leading.  

This is heavy. This is real. This is my worst nightmare. And...this is possible

If the "right" sin is committed, the above consequences could, one day, become my reality. 

But, the exercise of writing out a list like this provides me with a deep motivation to be vigilant about uprooting the current sin in my life and guarding myself against the sin that is "crouching at my door."

Writing out a list like this puts me on notice. Writing out a list like this keeps me "woke." Writing out a list like this causes me to take very seriously the consequences of indulging in the desires of my flesh.

My list is written. I am "scared straight." 

Would writing a list like this be beneficial to you? What do you stand to lose if you do not get serious about uprooting the sin in your life?

#507 - HOW WE ARE CREATING A CULTURE OF CORPORATE PRAYER

No pastor or group of ministry leaders would (or should!) ever deny the importance of corporate prayer in the life of a church community. The problem is, if asked what corporate prayer looks like at a particular church, most leaders would say it is relegated to a weekly corporate prayer meeting (if they even have that!) This is not a criticism, it is just what I know to be most church's reality. 

At theMOVEMENT, we are aiming to create a culture of corporate prayer.

We are striving to develop an atmosphere of corporate humility, dependence, and desperation for the hand of God to move in us and through us in only the way that He can. We are on the road to weaving corporate prayer into the very fabric of our organization. 

I will, very likely, write a post in the future about why corporate prayer is imperative, but the purpose of this post is to share with you a few of the ways how we are pursuing this:

1. Monday is our pre-determined day of corporate prayer and fasting. An encouraging video is sent out each Monday morning to the congregation to motivate our corporate prayer efforts and provide direction in regards to the corporate prayer focus for the week.  

2. Monday is also the day of our corporate prayer meeting. (I am obviously not against a corporate prayer meeting, but a meeting alone will not create a culture.) During this meeting, there is a time of brief teaching, equipping us to pray more effectively, and a time of both private and corporate prayer.

3. We have developed a list of 10 Corporate Prayers that we will unite ourselves around and contend for until God answers. These prayers include: 

* Uproot Sin
* Increase Awe
* Renew Oakland
* Spirit Fall
* Save Souls
* Enlarge Territory
* Guard Unity
* Burden Hearts  
* Supply Needs
* Send Laborers

4. We pray one of these corporate prayers in our Sunday service prior to the preaching of the message.

5. We pray one of these corporate prayers in our midweek groups upon the conclusion of that evening's meal and discussion. 

6. We pray one of these corporate prayers in our team meetings every time they gather either to serve on Sundays or to prepare for the future. 

7. We encourage that one of these corporate prayers be prayed in our one-on-one discipleship relationships upon the conclusion of each discipleship meeting. 

8. We pray at least one of these corporate prayers at our membership gatherings that we hold once a trimester. 

9. We pray at least one of these corporate prayers in our pastoral team meetings each time we gather.

10. We pray at least one of these corporate prayers in our staff meetings each time we gather. 

10 corporate prayers. 10 different ways we are pursuing creating a culture of corporate prayer. There are, very likely, many more ways in which this can be done, but we can't wait to see how God honors our efforts to consistently posture ourselves in humility, as a community, before Him! 

#506 - I AM GUILTY OF THIS SIN AND IT IS SHAMEFUL

I have recently had a problem that I am ashamed to confess. Being that I am a pastor who preaches and teaches about the power of God week in and week out and the importance of having faith in that power, for it to be brought to my attention that I am struggling with unbelief is a tough pill to swallow.

I have struggled with believing that the plans that God has for me will come to pass. I have had difficulty with holding onto the promise that Christ will build His Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. I have grown weary in persevering towards the vision that I think God birthed within me. 

But for me, more disappointing than the unbelief (I think everyone deals with doubts at various stages of their faith journey) are the actions I've taken in light of my unbelief

Because of my unbelief I have...

  1. Hesitated to cast big vision.
  2. Allowed disappointment to curb my enthusiasm.
  3. Downplayed what I believe God will do through theMOVEMENT.

And though these actions, on the outside, can be seen as acts of humility, the truth is, even more disappointing than these actions I have taken in light of my unbelief is the reason I have taken such actions:

I am afraid of how it will make me look if God doesn't do what I believe He said He would do.

There, I said it.

The sad reality is, I have been more concerned with protecting my image than I have been with proclaiming my faith.

I'm not casting big vision because I'm humble, I'm not casting big vision because I don't want my ego and pride to be impacted if the big vision doesn't come to pass. I'm not curbing my enthusiasm because I'm humble, I'm curbing my enthusiasm because I don't want my ego and pride to be crushed if what I'm enthusiastic about doesn't materialize. I'm not downplaying what I believe God will do through theMOVEMENT because I'm humble, I'm downplaying it because I don't want my ego and pride to be diminished if God doesn't do what I believed he would. 

All this to say... 

FALSE HUMILITY IS THE NEW PRIDE, AND I AM A GUILTY.

I don't have a strong handle on exactly how I'm going to break free from all of this, but I am confident that being self-aware of the issue will go a long way in me overcoming this very nuanced form of pride. Your prayers for me are appreciated! 

#505 - THE ONE THING PASTORS ABSOLUTELY NEED TO REMEMBER ON SUNDAY AFTER CHURCH

I am writing this on a Saturday evening in preparation for what I know I'll need to remind myself of on Sunday after church... 

Pastor, the number isn't everything.  

The number of people who attended the service.
The number of people who were first-time guests.
The number of people who were second-time guests.
The number of people who went forward to receive prayer.
The number of people who volunteered to serve on a team.
The number of people who "responded well" to your message.

The number isn't everything.

The number of people who didn't show up.
The number of people who were critical of you. 
The number of people who left without talking to you.

The number isn't everything.

The number of tweets from your message.
The number of likes on your church's Instagram feed.
The number of pictures on Instagram from your service.
The number of shares/views from your service on Facebook Live.

The number isn't everything.

What God is doing in His Church cannot be quantified by a number. 
How God is drawing in His elect cannot be tracked on a spreadsheet.
When God will increase His blessings cannot be predicted by an average.

So stop it. 

JESUS IS EVERYTHING.
JESUS IS ENOUGH.
JESUS IS SUFFICIENT.

His love for you is everything.
His approval of you is everything.
His life, lived for you is everything.
His death, died for you is everything.
His resurrection, claiming victory for you is everything.

And the crazy thing is, all of the above is true regardless of what happened in your service today!

And if, on this Sunday, afternoon, following yet another Sunday worship service, He is not your Everything...

You need to take a moment to "smoke" what you're "selling."

#504 - 3 COMPELLING REASONS WHY PASTORS NEED A HOBBY

I have been in pastoral ministry for seven years and over these last seven years I have seen many pastors disqualify themselves from ministry, quit the ministry, and continue in ministry void of any real passion or vision. Though there are many reasons for the "burning out" of pastors, I would argue that one may be, a lack of a hobby. With that in mind, here are 3 compelling reasons why pastors need a hobby: 

#1 - PASTORS NEED ESCAPE FROM THE WEIGHT OF RESPONSIBILITY THEY CARRY

It's heavy. The responsibility for the spiritual well-being of the congregation.  The responsibility to attain financial sustainability for the organization. The responsibility of leading a staff/pastoral team. The responsibility to consistently preach clear, compelling, and convicting messages from the Word of God. The responsibility to discover, develop, and deploy leaders. When each responsibility is taken seriously, "success" in each of these areas can weigh very heavy on a pastor's heart.  

A good hobby, on the other hand, is not heavy. A good hobby is not emotionally draining. A good hobby does not require leadership. Instead, a good hobby provides a momentary release, escape, and outlet for a pastor to experience joy and happiness in an arena that doesn't have eternal consequences! A hobby is not heavy, and, for a pastor, this is healthy

#2 - PASTORS NEED EXPERIENCE WITH BEING PASSIONATE ABOUT SOMETHING OTHER THAN CHRIST

As startling or offensive of a statement as that may be, the reality is, 97% of the people a pastor ministers to are passionate about something other than Jesus Christ and their relationship with Him. People are passionate about work, family, wealth, etc., and if a pastor doesn't have a real-time understanding of being passionate about things other than/in addition to Christ, He will be unable to connect with a majority of the people he comes into contact with. He will be ill-equipped to understand why/how a person could have deep affections for something other than faith. He will be unprepared to speak into, from a first-hand experience, how passions can leave you unfulfilled and wanting more.  

A hobby can give a pastor a taste of why people would invest so much time, effort, and energy into a thing. A hobby can give a pastor a feel for why someone would want to spend their Sunday mornings doing something other than go to church. A hobby can also be a reminder to a pastor, in a very real way (because a hobby can only be so fulfilling), of the sufficiency of Christ! Experience with a hobby, gives pastors empathy for people who are passionate about a hobby and this is healthy.   

#3 - PASTORS NEED EXPOSURE TO NON-CHURCH CULTURES AND NON-CHRISTIAN GROUPS OF PEOPLE

Church can be a bubble. The programs. The people. The priorities. If a pastor is not careful, the church can actually isolate him from the very world he went into ministry to reach! If a pastor leads Christians on his staff, interacts with Christians on Sundays, meets with Christians during the week, and goes to church conferences with other Christians, how will he even be aware of a culture other than his own?!

Whether it is running, traveling, hiking, cooking, etc., every hobby has a culture - a way things are done, a lingo, and a community who interacts with each other around their passion. Exposure to the culture within a hobby as well as to the non-Christians within the culture can give a pastor an awareness of the world that is absolutely necessary to reaching people outside of the church. Not only does exposure to non-church cultures equip a pastor to more effectively "speak the language" of the world, it also can give a pastor ideas of elements of culture that a pastor can "bring into" the church! Consistent exposure to a hobby's culture, pops the bubble of Christianity's culture, and, for a pastor, this is healthy! 

Though there are many "dangers" to a hobby, for pastors who are neck deep into their pastoral duties and overwhelmed by their responsibilities, I'm convinced a good hobby can be a gift from God. A good hobby, properly engaged with, can keep a pastor joyfully and effectively serving in ministry for more years had he not had one.   

How do I know this to be true? Because I have one, and it has been one of the best decisions I have made in my seven years of pastoral ministry. So what is my hobby exactly?

I am a collector of Air Jordans. And most recently, I have focused my efforts on collecting the models and colorways that Michael Jordan wore while playing in the NBA.

To view my "passion project" follow me on Instagram (@AirJCollector) or click here to see a part of my collection!

MAY 2017

5 MEMORABLE MOMENTS (APRIL 2017) 

  1. Celebrated "Last Sevice at Lisser."
  2. Sold car to paydown debt. 
  3. Enjoyed time with siblings in LA. 
  4. Experienced an incredible first "Easter at Elmhurst." 
  5. Started @airjcollector on Instagram and attended my first Sneakercon with cousin and brother. 

4 GOALS (MAY 2017) 

  1. Complete home office set up. 
  2. Begin using Storyline Productivity Schedule for work.
  3. Preach four messages with extreme clarity and deep conviction.
  4. Mow lawn and pull weeds in backyard. 

3 HABITS  

  1. Do devotional with Rebekah 20 times. 
  2. Go to the gym and play basketball/do plyometrics 20 times.
  3. Write 15 blog posts.

2 SACRIFICES

  1. No soda.
  2. No YouTube.

1 COMMITMENT

  1. Do devotional with Rebekah 20 times. 

#503 - MORE THAN FORGIVENESS OF SIN

Good Friday. Today is the day we remember. Today is the day I remember. 

Today is the day that I remember Christ's very real, very humiliating, very excruciating death on the cross...for me. It was through this single act of self-sacrifice that my sins against a Holy God were atoned for and paid for in full. Through faith in Jesus Christ and the events that occurred on this day and the subsequent events that followed, I can be forgiven of my many offenses against the God of Heaven and Earth and be brought into right relationship with Him. Incredible! I am so thankful!

And though the significance of this day is found in much of what I've just stated, this day also provides meaning that extends beyond substitutionary atonement. On this day, not only did Christ pay the price for our sins, He modeled the pattern for our lives. 

Much more was nailed to the cross than body of Christ and the penalty for our sin. 

Christ's will was nailed to the cross.
Christ's pride was nailed to the cross. 
Christ's desire was nailed to the cross.

Christ's influence was nailed to the cross.
Christ's authority was nailed to the cross.
Christ's significance was nailed to the cross.

Obedience to God is death to self. And never again will this be so clearly displayed than on the cross of Jesus Christ.

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Philippians 2:5-8

Paul writes, "Have this mind yourselves..."  

In other words, this act of sacrifice and humility isn't only what we should believe in, but this act of sacrifice and humility is also how we should behave like

The life of a follower of Christ is one in which we, like Christ, are to pick up our "crosses" daily and crucify our will, our pride, our desire, our influence, our authority, and our significance in obedience to God. Our purposes exchanged for His.

Because this was the way of Christ. This is the way of Christ's followers. 

And as difficult and as unfulfilling as "dying to self" may seem and, often times, is, let us never forget...

Everything that Christ willingly and sacrificially put to death, God miraculously and victoriously raised it to life. Everything Christ had seemingly lost, humanity ultimately gained. 

Death to self. Life for others. This is our assignment.

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity." John 12:24-25

  

#502 - 7 YEARS. 7 COMPLETIONS.

This month (March 2017) marks 7 years since I responded to God's call on my life to vocational ministry. The time has flown by so fast, and I could have never known that walking forward for that invitation would have led to the following events that would take place in the ensuing years:

  • March 2010 - Said "Yes!" to God's call into vocational ministry.
  • August 2010 - Hired as the Interim High School Ministry Director at Crossroads Church in Fremont.
  • January 2011 - Promoted to be the Full-Time High School Ministry Director at Crossroads Church in Fremont.
  • October 2012 - Ordained as a Pastor.
  • March 2013 - Transitioned from my role as the High School Pastor at Crossroads Church to the Lead Church Planter/Pastor of theMOVEMENT Church in Oakland.
  • September 2013 - Launched theMOVEMENT Church in Oakland at Mills College. 
  • March 2017 - Prepared theMOVEMENT Church for its first major relocation to Elmhurst Community Prep in East Oakland to take place on Sunday, April 9, 2017. 

Being that in the Scriptures the number "7", many times, represents "completion" and something being" finished," I wanted to take some time to reflect on the things that I am absolutely convinced of after 7 years of serving God in this capacity. If I was ever asked the question, "What has God completed in your life up into this point?", this is how I would answer:

1. MY CALLING IS SURE.

Though there have been many joys over the last 7 years, there also has been much pain and heartache. For me to even desire to continue to be involved in pastoral ministry after some of the rough experiences that my wife and I have had to go through, I must be called to this work! No one in their right mind would subject themselves to the spiritual and emotional weight and responsibility of this type of work if they had the choice to do something different!

2. MY WIFE IS A GIFT.

I could not have lasted seven years in pastoral ministry without the love, support, encouragement, and friendship of my wife through it all. She has celebrated with me during my wins, consoled me during my insecurities, and mourned with me during my losses. My wife is an absolute gift, and if I am ever put in a position where I have to choose between her or the ministry, I will choose her

3. THE GOSPEL IS POWERFUL.

I have no job if there is no Gospel. The good news that Jesus Christ saves sinners is the news that initially saved and continually sanctifies me, and it is the only news that has the power to save and sanctify others. Time and time again I have seen the gospel penetrate the hardest of hearts and set free the most despondent of souls. There is no doubt in my mind that the gospel is the power unto salvation for everyone who believes!

4. GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY IS PERFECT.

Sovereignty to give blessing. Sovereignty to take blessing away. Sovereignty to provide resources. Sovereignty to withhold them. Sovereignty to grow the congregation. Sovereignty to decrease it. Sovereignty to bring workers. Sovereignty to remove them. Though I may not always like God's sovereign decisions, I have learned to trust them. In my life and in my ministry, God's sovereignty is my security because it is His will and His will alone that is worthy of my complete trust. 

5. VOLUNTEERS ARE PRICELESS.

There is no church if there are no volunteers. But more specifically to my role as a pastor, I have no sanity if there are no volunteers! Volunteers not only do the work of the ministry day in and day out, but they free me up to focus on the areas of pastoral ministry that I am uniquely called to: preaching and prayer. Though volunteers may work for free, their contribution is priceless. I am convinced that if appreciating and honoring volunteers is not my priority, frustration will be my reality!  

6. PARTNERS ARE INDISPENSABLE.

From day one, every aspect of my pastoral ministry has been supported by Church partners from all across the country. From the churches I had attended, to my sending church, Crossroads, to the Church partners who have invested in us directly, to the Church partners who have invested in us indirectly through the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program, without Church partners pastoral ministry would be an impossibility. There is such beauty in the unity of the Body of Christ, and I have, without a doubt, been a beneficiary of such unity.

7. THE PAYOFF IS WORTH THE PRICE.

The unchurched falling in love with Jesus and the local Church. The dechurched returning. The overchurched finding their joy in Christ and the local Church again. The city being served. Disciples making disciples. Marriages being restored. Relationships being renewed. Community being formed. Leaders being discovered, developed, and deployed. The payoff of lives changed is worth the price of a life invested.   

Though there is much that is "unfinished" in me and my ministry, it is my hope and prayer that what God has completed in me up until now would remain with me until my life of pastoral ministry is complete and I hear the long awaited words of my Heavenly Father, "Well done my good and faithful servant."

#501 - 10 BLESSINGS EXPERIENCED AND 10 LESSONS LEARNED DURING MY 40-DAY FAST

From January 4 - February 12 my wife and I engaged in a 40-day liquid only fast. Also, from January 22 - February 12, I led our church to engage in a 21-Day corporate fast. In an effort to celebrate what God did in my life and in the lives of the people in our church during this time, here are just 10 of the blessings I experienced:

  1. Attending prayer meetings filled with people who were hungry for God.
  2. Seeing dozens of people who fasted for the first time finish their fast with joy.
  3. Receiving $45,000 in additional financial support from our church partners.
  4. Connecting with the principal of our next potential meeting space.
  5. Increasing my hunger for God and decreasing my hunger for the delights of this world.
  6. Watching God reveal and uproot hidden and avoided sins in many lives within our church.
  7. Participating in a filming of My Giant Life and meeting Alicia Jay.
  8. Being filled with fresh and exciting dreams and visions for theMOVEMENT Church.
  9. Persevering and sharing in the fasting experience with my wife.
  10. Enjoying being honored and appreciated for my leadership by theMOVEMENT Church family at the conclusion of the fast. 

In an effort to capture the lessons that God taught me during this fast, here are 10 random thoughts I have upon the completion of the fast:

  1. My primary pastoral priority must be my personal spiritual vitality.
  2. My personal hunger for God is the thermostat by which the spiritual temperature of theMOVEMENT will either rise or fall.
  3. Fasting, as a spiritual discipline, must be an integral part of theMOVEMENT's discipleship process because it teaches the principle of denying yourself to follow Christ like very few things can. 
  4. Every time I engage in an extended fast, I wait on the Lord and expect the supernatural to occur to a greater degree than I do when practicing other spiritual disciplines. 
  5. If we don't take fasting and prayer this seriously, who else will?
  6. Understanding why we fast is 10 times more important than understanding how to fast.
  7. Providing the leadership, support, encouragement, teaching, and resources to finish a fast is 10 times more important than only providing those things to start a fast.
  8. Pastoral leadership is, first and foremost, spiritual leadership.
  9. Fasting deadens my delight in the trappings of this world and heightens my hunger for the only One who can truly satisfy - Jesus Christ.
  10. In my experience, corporate fasting and prayer creates spiritual momentum in an individual and in a church, in a way that no other church program or initiative can.  

There is so much more that God did in our lives through this fast and so much that God did that we are, very likely, unaware of. There is also so much more that He taught that I am hoping will be revealed in due time! 

If you are interested in abstaining from food for the spiritual purpose of increasing your hunger for God, visit the following page on our church's website.

I encourage you to strongly consider engaging in a fast. God will be honored, His name will be glorified, and you will be blessed!  

FEBRUARY 2017

5 MEMORABLE MOMENTS (JANUARY 2017)

  1. Added Gamma and Bred XI's and True Blue III's to my Jordan collection. 
  2. Dedicated Mateo and baptized Rochelle and Lorena.
  3. Started personal 40-Day Fast and 21-Day Corporate Fast.
  4. Connected with Principal Betlach at Elmhurst Middle School
  5. Enjoyed first Movement Group in our new home!

4 GOALS (FEBRUARY 2017)

  1. Lead myself and the church to finish our fasts well.
  2. Complete Acts 29 Application.
  3. Sell one of our cars to reduce debt.
  4. Start tax revision process with Clergy Advantage.

3 HABITS

  1. Journal to Jesus 20x.
  2. Complete 7 Air Alert 4 Workouts.
  3. Fast (only water), every Monday, from sunup to sundown. 

2 SACRIFICES

  1. No fast food.
  2. No games on phone. 

1 COMMITMENT

  1. Complete Acts 29 Application.

JANUARY 2017

5 MEMORABLE MOMENTS (DECEMBER 2016)

  1. Raised $20,000+ for Be Generous and distributed $10,000+.
  2. Enjoyed our first Christmas Eve service at theMOVEMENT.
  3. Shared the devotional at Rebekah's family Christmas Eve gathering.
  4. Picked up 3 pairs of deadstock Jordan XI's (Space Jams, Legend Blues, Cool Greys).
  5. Facilitated my very first Facebook Live Goal-Setting Workshop.

4 GOALS (JANUARY 2017)

  1. Have conversation with Clergy Advantage.
  2. Complete Acts 29 Application.
  3. Create 2017 Budget.
  4. Lead 21-Day Corporate Fast.

3 HABITS

  1. Post 100 words to edwardpaz.com 20 times.
  2. Pray with Rebekah 15 times.
  3. Write $25,000 Formula for work 12 times. 

2 SACRIFICES

  1. No fast food.
  2. No games on phone. 

1 COMMITMENT

  1. Read/Journal through Read Scripture Bible Reading Plan 31x.

GOAL-SETTING RESOURCES

From 2007-2011 I was the Executive Director of a Non-Profit Organization by the name of Designing Your Best Year Ever! The mission of the organization was to make goal-setting a consistent practice of the majority of people around the world. In the years the organization was in existence, we facilitated goal-setting workshops and began "goal-setting communities" in schools, churches, businesses, civic organizations, and anywhere else people wanted to live a life "by design."

The two tools we primarily used are available as a free download below. Enjoy!

  1. Designing Your Best Year Ever! Goal-Setting Workshop
  2. Designing Your Best Month Ever! Goal-Setting Workshop

#500 - 500 POSTS WRITTEN. 5 WRITING LESSONS LEARNED.

1. HAVING WRITTEN > BEING READ

Though I have yet to develop the writing habit I one day wish to have, I am convinced that the satisfaction that comes from "having written" far exceeds the satisfaction that comes from having your writing read.

Though people's comments on how your writing has impacted them can be fulfilling, it does not compare to the fulfillment of knowing that you have consistently committed yourself to your craft regardless of the size/response of your audience. 

2. QUANTITY > QUALITY

Inspiring, poignant sentences don't just happen. They appear after many uninspiring, bland sentences have been written first. Coherent, cohesive paragraphs don't just happen. They come to fruition after many incoherent, jumbled paragraphs have been written first. Shareable, relevant content doesn't just happen. It gets created after much unshareable, irrelevant content  has been written first.

My best writing has never been a result of me trying to produce quality writing. My best writing has always "risen from the ashes" of the quantity of bad writing I have produced!

3. RE-COMMITTING > QUITTING

I have quit writing more times than I have quit anything else in my life. I have been consistently inconsistent in my quest to become a committed writer. I have fallen short of my writing goals so much so that I'm not even sure if I believe that I am capable of reaching the goals I continue to set for myself. 

But what I have found to be true is this, what makes you a writer is not whether or not you quit, what makes you a writer is your resolve to re-commit  after you quit. What makes you a writer is your decision to start writing even though 3 months have passed without you writing a single word. What makes you a writer is the inner voice that tells you,  "You will try again because if you don't you will be neglecting not a hobby, but your responsibility." 

4. LESS > MORE

When I use 15 words to communicate something that can be effectively communicated with 5, I force the reader to work harder than they should have to.

Use less words. Communicate more clearly.

 (I want to write more about this, but if I did I'd be violating my own lesson!)

5. FOR ME > FOR OTHERS

Though I hope you get something out of this post, I wrote it primarily for me. I wrote it so I could process and synthesize the lessons I've learned through almost 10 years of writing.

I have found that writing "for me" has made it easier for me to write over the years. Writing what I am learning. Writing what I want to remember. Writing in a tone that I am comfortable reading. Writing about experiences am having.

Though this may seem self-absorbed, selfish, or inconsiderate, when I take this approach my writing becomes most natural. It flows. It's real. It's honest.

Every time I become overly concerned with what others will think about what I am writing, I tend to lose my way. I tend to lose myself. 

Write for you. You'll be surprised. It will end up serving others as well because more people are like you then you think! 

 What lessons have you learned about writing? Please leave your comments below. I'd love to learn from you! 

#499 - DEADLINES INDUCE DISCIPLINE

I wish I didn't need them. I wish I was more motivated without them. I wish I could be committed in spite of them. But the reality is, I can't.

I need deadlines. 

Deadlines hold me accountable. Deadlines increase my sense of urgency. Deadlines set the boundaries for how I will invest my time. Deadlines keep me focused. Deadlines force me to prioritize.

Deadlines induce discipline.

The discipline to start. The discipline to persevere. The discipline to finish. Deadlines bring out my most disciplined self.

With that in mind, being that it is December 1, there is a deadline that is hanging over all of our heads: the end of the year.

How will you leverage this deadline to finish the year strong? What disciplines will the deadline of "by the end of 2016" induce? What will you complete by the time the year is up?

I encourage you to write a couple of things down and see if the deadline of the end of the year doesn't add extra motivation to complete something you've started.