#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. 

#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. 

#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?

#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.

#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. 

#651 - SICKNESS

Sickness sucks.

It's Saturday night, and I have never felt this under the weather before having to preach. Ever. I have been in bed all day trying to sleep it off and recover, but it just doesn't seem to be going away.

Feeling this way reminds me of how important taking care of my body is. No matter how many dreams, ambitions, goals, plans, and aspirations I have, if I do not have my health, none of these other things can become a reality. 

Health truly is the first wealth.

Heavenly Father, please heal me as I lay my head down to sleep tonight. Give me the strength to serve You and your people well tomorrow morning. I trust you. In Jesus name, Amen. 

#650 - WHY I PRAY

In addition to preaching and developing a team of preachers, my secondary responsibility, as the Lead Pastor at theMOVEMENT Church, is to develop a culture of corporate prayer. 

It was about a year ago when I added this to my list of roles and responsibilities on my job description and it hasn't been easy. Though the "prayer temperature" at our church has definitely gone up a notch, maintaining momentum in the area of corporate prayer has been difficult. 

Very often, I feel like if I don't continue to make corporate prayer a priority, nobody else would see it as both beneficial and necessary. Prayer meeting attendance has been down. Energy around praying our corporate prayers has been low. And I have been discouraged.

With that in mind, prior to attending the corporate prayer meeting this past Monday (only 2 other people showed up), I had to re-visit why prayer (and corporate prayer more specifically) is a priority for me and why it should remain a priority for our church. Because motivations matter, I had to re-visit my "why." I came up with two compelling reasons.

GOD IS WORTHY.

God is worthy of our prayers. God is worthy of our praise. God is worthy of our adoration. God is worthy of our thanksgiving. God is worthy of us investing the time to, every time we gather, call out to Him to praise Him for who He is and to petition Him for what He has yet to do.

God is worthy of the time, effort, and energy that it takes to pray. God is worthy. 

I AM WEAK.

I am unable to move the mountains in my life apart from the powerful hand of God. I am unable to be the husband, be the son, be the pastor, be the preacher, be the leader, and be the man God has called me to be apart from God's strength bestowed upon me.

Apart from the mighty hand of God, I am unable to accomplish anything of eternal significance for the glory of God. I am weak.  

One final thought. I am compelled to continue to lead myself and others towards a lifestyle of dependance on God, evidenced by a strong prayer life, because of what it communicates to a watching world if prayer is absent...

ARROGANCE.

Arrogance that believes I am responsible for my blessings. Arrogance that has bought into the lie that I am entitled to what I see God doing in and through me. Arrogance that has forgotten that every good gift comes from above. Arrogance that assumes that apart from God's hand I can actually bring God's Kingdom to earth. 

Arrogance will not be the prevailing characteristic of my life or my church. Humility will. 

But, for this to be true, I must not grow weary in leading us to pray. I must keep believing. I must keep leading by example. I must keep the following thought in the front of my mind and in the front of the church's collective conscience:

GOD IS WORTHY AND WE ARE WEAK. THEREFORE, LET. US. PRAY.

#649 - WHY PREPARING SERMONS EARLY IS WISE

Today I finished 90% of my sermon for this Sunday. Not only have I thought through the message from start to finish, I have already created my Keynote slides as well.

Though I hate to admit it, I am never done with this much of my message by Thursday. But I need to be.

With the majority of the message done with 2 full days to go before I have to preach it, my mind is freed up from thinking about what I am going to say to how I am going to say it. 

Though I am confident that God has been faithful to use the messages that I have finished preparing just hours before they are preached, I also know He is honored by me not waiting till the last minute to finish them. God is honored by me stewarding my time more wisely. God is honored by me being more diligent in my study.

The big idea is this:

THE MORE I HONOR GOD IN MY PREPARATION, THE MORE LIKELY GOD IS TO BE HONORED IN MY PREACHING

#648 - WHAT MY LATEST DENTIST APPOINTMENT REMINDED ME ABOUT LIFE

Today, just one hour before my dentist appointment, I flossed my teeth for the first time in a long time 

Why is this significant?

It reminded me of a very important lesson that can be applied to many areas of life, not just flossing your teeth.

YOU CAN'T MAKE UP IN ONE DAY SOMETHING THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE DONE EVERYDAY. IT DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY.

#647 - THE NEXT GOAL

January - Beginning of February: Intentional extended fast.
End of February - Early March: Intentional 9 days in Georgia.
March - Mid April: Intentional 40 days of ministry.
April - Early May: Intentional 20 days of travel/ministry.

This has been my year in a nutshell. Starts and stops. Running then resting. 

Before my summer break from June 25 - July 29, there is a nearly 50 day stretch that remains. 

In addition to my work responsibilities, maintaining my routine of writing daily, my next goal during this 50 day stretch is to be intentional about developing a routine of exercising daily for at least one hour

I must make my health a priority in this next season. No excuses. 

Taking care of my health is an issue of stewardship. I will be held accountable. 

#645 - THE PRIVILEGE OF PREACHING

That people would get up early on a Sunday morning. Get themselves ready. Get their kids ready. Drive to the church. Walk to the church. Take public transportation to the church.

PREACHING IS A PRIVILEGE.

That many volunteers would get up early on a Sunday morning. Set up classrooms. Set up lights. Set up environments so guests would feel welcome. Play instruments. Sing songs. All so that hearts could be prepared to receive the Word of God.

PREACHING IS A PRIVILEGE.

That people would open their hearts to what God would have to say through me. That people would open their ears and their minds to consider the words that are coming out of my mouth. That people would pay attention. That people would allow themselves to be influenced by my voice.

PREACHING IS A PRIVILEGE.

That God would call me. That God would equip me. That God would fill me with His Spirit. That God would gift me. That God would use me in spite of my brokenness. That God would place words in my mouth that would impact people for their good and His glory. 

PREACHING IS A PRIVILEGE.

I am undeserving. I am ill-equipped. I am in over my head. May the Holy Spirit always keep me sober-minded enough to know that....

BECAUSE PREACHING IS A PRIVILEGE, PREACHING IS NOT MY RIGHT.

I am not entitled to do it. I am not entitled to anyone listening to me do it. I am not entitled to anyone responding to me do it.

PREACHING IS A PRIVILEGE.

And as long as God grants me this privilege, I will humble carry out the task to the best of my ability. 

#643 - RENO DAY 5

Last day away from home.
It's been a long trip.
Finished off-site with team from 9a-12p.
Though future planning can be arduous, it saves us future headaches.
Long drive home.
Before home, haircut.
It's amazing how good a fresh cut makes me feel!
In bed by 8:30pm.
Thankful for the opportunity to travel.
More thankful for a home to come back to.

#642 - RENO DAY 4

Brought staff Chick-Fil-A breakfast to get off-site started off right.
The primary word God gave me in terms of how to lead this off-site was to pray.
Found out it was the National Day of Prayer.
Spent first 2 hours of off-site in corporate prayer.
Prayer each element of Lord's Prayer with team.
So convinced that prayer is the work.
Spent next couple of hours listing how God has moved in our church over the last four months.
God has been so good to theMOVEMENT Church.
So much grace. So much favor. So much activity. So much transformation. 
We are in the MIDDLE of a movement!
Shared some ideas around what our next Thematic Goal should be.
Recorded a video testimonial for Living Stones Church. So thankful for their partnership and faithfulness in investing in church planting. I pray our church can support church planting to the depth that they do one day. 
Enjoyed lunch with staff at Cane's. Absolutely delicious chicken fingers.
Spent the next 6 hours of the day breaking down our goals for the next 4 months.
So thankful for Brook, Bekah, and AJ. 
The compound effect of working together with them every week over the last 2+ years is starting to show itself.
One of the evidences of God's favor in my life is the staff He has blessed me with.
Our church is blessed to be served by such committed staff members.

#641 - RENO DAY 3

Session 5 - Harvey Turner on Diversity. Love his pastoral heart. He's one of my favorite leaders and pastors. Hands down.
My wife was brought up in front of all 650+ attendees to be honored for her hard work and excellence in putting together the conference. I am so proud of her. So excited for how God is using her gifts to serve the big "C" Church. So glad she is getting the recognition she deserves. She is a real. deal. leader!
Session 6 - Michael Crawford on boldness, courage, and moving away from being a "domesticated" Church! Truly prophetic talk. So inspired. So encouraged. So committed to doing "hard things" for Christ's sake!
Ate all you can eat sushi with the team to debrief conference and enjoy one last meal together.
Church conferences are so much more enjoyable when a hungry (both physically and spiritually!), dedicated team joins you!
Cancelled evening off-site session with staff. My brain was fried. We'll get an early start tomorrow morning instead.
 

#640 - RENO DAY 2

Woke up early.
Session 3 - Brian Howard on Evangelism. Super practical.
Workshop 1 - Art Azurdia on Killing Ministry Jealousy/Envy. Hands down, the BEST workshop/breakout session I have EVER attended. No exaggeration. 
Lunch with the Acts 29 Bay Area Lead Pastors and Team Members. So blessed to be a part of this particular group within the US West. Looking forward to what God is going to do through us cooperating to plant churches in the Bay Area!
Session 4 - Eric Mason on Diversity. Anointed. Inspiring. Proud that we are seeing aspects of this type of diversity at theMOVEMENT!
Facilitated a workshop during workshop 2. // When the Church and the LGBTQ Community Collide - 5 Questions We Must Answer to Increase Our Capacity to Love.
In awe of the opportunity. Blessed to be able to serve the Church in this way. Thankful to be able to provide some practical handles for people truly desiring to love the LGBTQ community well. 
God is so gracious to me. I don't deserve to be used by Him in this way. God. is. good.
Enjoyed spending the evening with my church family.
Ate pizza. Lots of laughs. Played Laser Tag. More laughs. 
Watched the end of Warriors vs. Pelicans. Warriors win. STEPH IS BACK!
Going to sleep overwhelmed by God's goodness in my life. OVER. WHELMED.

#639 - RENO DAY 1

Took Merritt to doggy day care in Reno. 
So glad she's with us, and glad to be reunited with my pup!
OFFICIALLY LAUNCHED MY PASSION PROJECT - CALLEDTOPLANT
Attended Acts 29 US West Area Leads meeting.
Still can't believe I get to sit around the same table as such great pastors and leaders!
Attended Acts 29 US West Lead Pastor's Meeting. 
So blessed to be a part of such a great network!
Was recognized as one of the 15 church plants our network is supporting this year. GRATEFUL.
Session 1 - Ryan Kwon on Holiness and Humility. So good.
Had to miss Session 2 (Art Azurdia) to pick up Merritt from day care.
Definitely have to listen to audio. Heard it was FIRE.
So proud of my wife who has done an absolutely fantastic job coordinating all the logistics for this conference. Watching her thrive is a great joy!
Subway for dinner.
Finished up workshop handout and slides.
Tomorrow is going to be a good day. I'm nervous, but excited.