#519 - THE POWER OF GOD

The date was August 16, 2013. The location was the Starbucks in Hayward, California off of Industrial Parkway.

theMOVEMENT Church was a month away from starting weekly Sunday services, but we had already held two "Preview Services" - one in June and one in July.

One of our first-time guests at our July service was a non-Christian, young professional who requested to meet with me.

Our conversation that day covered topics like football (He is a HUGE Seattle Seahawks fan), dinosaurs (He wanted to know the real deal behind them), Adam and Eve (Are they how this whole thing really got started?), and various other questions around Jesus and faith.

After sharing the gospel (the good news that Jesus saves sinners) with him, I asked him, "Do you believe this?" To which he responded:

Can I text you, later, when I make a decision on what I believe?
— Unbeliever

At this point in the conversation, I had a critical decision to make. Would I "twist his arm" by asking him, "What if you get hit by a car, when you leave here tonight, and die? Do you know where you would spend eternity?"

Or, would I trust in the Holy Spirit of God to reveal Himself to this young man when the time was right. 

By God's grace, I chose the latter. 

Though he was not ready to put his faith in Christ, we continued our conversation at the Starbucks. I continued to answer his questions (the best I could) and explain the benefits of Christ's life, death, and resurrection on our behalf. 

Then, less than an hour after letting me know that he wanted to text me his decision, he looked at me, with tears in his eyes, and emphatically said:

I want to place my faith in Jesus Christ.
— Believer

I was stunned, but it wasn't because he wanted to become a Christian. It was because though I had let go of trying to convince him to become a Christian, he was still desiring to place his faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins!

We ended that night with much more conversation, a delicious burrito dinner, and the beginning of a friendship that lasts till this day. But, it is the lesson that God taught me that evening that I am most thankful for:

God saves. Well articulated sermons don't save. Engaging Sunday services don't save. Altar calls don't save. Manipulation and coercion doesn't save. Strong friendship doesn't save. God alone, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is the only One who can cause a hard heart to be softened towards Him. Our job is to BELIEVE He is powerful enough to do it!

"The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18

"Every element of our own self-reliance must be put to death by the power of God." Oswald Chambers

#518 - THE HEIGHT OF JOY

When I set out to plant a church, I had no idea that this level of joy even existed.

I expected to experience the joys of attendance growing, giving increasing, community forming, and, most importantly, Jesus saving, but I never saw this coming.   

It was almost as if I had assumed that I knew what every joy in pastoral ministry could and would feel like. Except, I didn’t.

The day I ordained another pastor into ministry, I was gifted a sense of happiness and fulfillment that no other moment in ministry had given me up until that point. 

Maybe it was because I had been through so much with this young man already:

Leading him to Christ. Baptizing him. Introducing him to how to preach. Officiating his wedding. Counseling him through many of his major life decisions. To ordain him into pastoral ministry was a “culmination” of many hours of discipleship and investment into his life. 

Or maybe it was because the moment he finished preaching his first sermon, immediately following his ordination, I was convinced that my primary ministry wouldn’t be the messages that I would preach, but the messages I would empower others to preach.

Or maybe it was because I do not have any children of my own, ordaining this young man into pastoral ministry made me feel more like a father than anything else ever had.

Though I may never fully understand why I was filled with so much joy and satisfaction on that particular day, the lesson behind the experience is one that I hope to be sure to hold onto for many years to come.

There are great joys that God has in store for those who are faithful to His purposes that go far beyond anything you can currently anticipate or comprehend. 

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”  1 Corinthians 2:9

"Joy is the serious business of heaven." C.S. Lewis

#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.