#539 - WHY LISTENING MATTERS

Listen. To what people are saying. To how people are responding. To when people are silent. To who people are trusting. To where people are turning. To why people are leaving.

Listen. To doubts. To fears. To hesitations. To questions. To concerns. To hurts. To hangups. 

Listen. To hopes. To dreams. To aspirations. To ambitions. To longings. 

Listen. When it's offensive. When it's critical. When it's condemning. When it's personal. When it's accusatory. 

LISTEN.

Not only are people longing to be heard, but they are longing to be spoken to in light of how they feel

#538 - TWO TYPES OF LIFE

Joy that is deeper.
Grace that is wider.
Purpose that is grander. 
Love that is better.
Peace that is quieter. 
Forgiveness that is fuller. 
Strength that is stronger. 
Reality that is better. 
Future that is brighter.

This is the result of a life lived in full submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And, for me, this isn't theory. I have experienced this "better" life.

Unfortunately, I have also experienced another type of life:

Joy that is shallow.
Grace that is limited.
Purpose that is temporal.
Love that is fleeting.
Peace that is elusive.
Forgiveness that is earned.
Strength that is exhausting.
Reality that is dim.
Future that is feared.

This is the result of a life lived in submission to the Lordship of Me. This also isn't theory. I have also experienced this "lesser" life.

The moral of the story is this:

In complete submission to Christ there is freedom. In complete submission to Self there is slavery.

Choose this day whom you will serve.

#536 - THE EXPLANATION FOR SO MUCH THAT IS UNEXPLAINABLE IN MY LIFE

I open doors that no man can open. I create opportunities that you could never have created on your own. I make connections that you could never make.

Who am I?

I bestow upon you gifts disproportionate to others. I encourage you with affirmation from unlikely places. I extend to you training others don't have access to.

Who am I?

I put you in the right place, at the right time, with the right people.

Who am I?

I allow you to be well-received, appreciated, and applauded where others like you aren't. 

Who am I?

You can't create me. You can't control me. You can't command me. All you can do is appreciate me when I decide to show up, and I recommend that you do, because, you have no idea when I will grace you with my presence again.

Who am I?

I AM THE FAVOR OF GOD. 

#535 - A PRAYER OF DESPERATION

Heavenly Father,

For reasons unknown to me, You have graced me with yet another opportunity to serve You in a capacity that is way beyond my current skill, experience, and expertise. And though I'm excited, I'm feeling way in over my head. 

I need Your comfort. I need Your peace. I need Your rest.

Help me to trust that the same grace that has brought me to this opportunity will be the same grace that gets me through this opportunity.  Help me to believe that the same God who opened the door will be the same God who walks with me through the door. Help me to expect that the same Holy Spirit who saved me will be the same Holy Spirit who will speak through me. 

You are God. I am just Your vessel. I am responsible for the natural. You are responsible for the supernatural. I am responsible for the preparation. You are responsible for the power. I am responsible for sowing the seed. You are responsible for making it grow.

I submit every thought, plan, and word to You. Not my will, but Your will be done. Not my words, but Your words be said. Not my ways, but Your ways be followed. 

I pray this in Jesus name (the only One who makes a relationship with You possible),

Amen. 

#534 - A SURE SIGN OF IMMATURITY

Apologize.

Allow the words, "I'm sorry" to come out of your mouth, quickly, without an excuse or a defense. When you've been made aware of your misstep, own it and take responsibility with a timely admission of guilt. 

The longer you wait, the longer you allow for hurt to linger. The more you attempt to explain it away, the less validation you will extend to the offended. The longer you delay, the more time you allow for bitterness to build. 

Apologize, and pay attention.

If you can't remember the last time you extended an apology, this, very likely, is a sign of immaturity. 

Everyone messes up, sometimes. 

You're not the exception. 

#533 - WHY TODAY MATTERS

There will come a day when the opportunity will come.

Your art will be given a platform. Your passion will be given a spotlight. Your dream will be given a chance.

I don't know when that day will be, where it will occur, or who will be there to see it take place. 

All I know, is that when the moment comes, your practice, your preparation, and your planning, will be put on display. For better or for worse, you will be exposed. 

Your work ethic will be exposed. Your dedication to your craft will be exposed. Your potential will be exposed.

And so it is with all this in mind that I encourage you:

Practice TODAY. Prepare TODAY. Plan TODAY. Reimagine it TODAY. Rehearse it TODAY. Refine it TODAY.   

The magnificence, beauty, and awe that you desire people to experience, from your work, someday, is depending on the commitment you put into your work, TODAY

#532 - WE LABOR FOR THIS

Hope is extended.
Grace is received.
Salvation is experienced.
Burdens are relieved.
Lives are renewed.
Friendships are formed.
God is worshipped.
Christ is exalted.
The Spirit is enjoyed.
Wounds are healed.
Marriages are strengthened.
Communities are served.
The Gospel is spread.
The Kingdom is advanced.
God's will is accomplished!

Pastor, these are the fruits of your labor. Don't grow weary. The difference that is being made is worth the price that is being paid.  

#531 - ON CHURCH MEMBERSHIP

Tonight is a very big night in the life and history of theMOVEMENT Church. For the first time in our 4+ year history, following a fairly rigorous, thorough process, we are affirming members into our congregation and committing ourselves to serve and love each other in intentional ways. 

We have been working on and working through this process for about a year, and I have learned a lot. And, in a day and age when church membership and membership “covenants” may seem like an antiquated thing, I think it is wise for me to attempt to articulate what I have learned about what church membership is and what it isn’t.

WHAT CHURCH MEMBERSHIP ISN’T

  • It isn’t prescribed, nor is it very well described in the New Testament.
  • It isn’t a command of Christ.
  • It isn’t intended to create a “higher class” of Christian. 
  • It isn’t for everybody.

WHAT CHURCH MEMBERSHIP IS

  • It is implied throughout the New Testament.
  • It is necessary to follow the commands of Christ. 
  • It is intended to create a higher degree of responsibility between the pastors and the congregation. 
  • It is for everybody with a desire for accountability towards holiness and a willingness to submit to pastoral leadership.

I know myself and our church has a lot to learn as it relates to facilitating and carrying out a membership process, but I am confident that God is honored by efforts! Like everything else we do, we will humbly carry out what we believe God is calling us to do, how He is leading us to do it, until He notifies us differently! Stay tuned!

#530 - I MUST WRESTLE WITH THESE THINGS

Because you don't affirm me, you don't love me. Because you disagree with me strongly, you can't care for me deeply. Because you're not condoning how I'm behaving, you're not committed to who I'm becoming.

Are these statements true?

My convictions are who I am. If you don't love my convictions, you don't love me. They're inseparable. To reject what I believe is to reject me. 

Really?

If you don't accept my choices, you don't accept me. And to not accept me is to exclude me. And to exclude me is to not dignify me. That is inhumane. 

Is it?

These are statements, feelings, and positions that many people have. For real. I need to think critically about them. Not to, is to be insensitive and invalidating.

#529 - THE GIFT WE MUST NOT TAKE FOR GRANTED

We must not lose the wonder of it all. The amazement. The significance. 

To be invited into someone's life, to give our opinion, counsel, advice, guidance, wisdom, correction, encouragement, or insight - it is an HONOR. 

To be trusted. To be sought out. To be heard. This is SERIOUS BUSINESS!

There are plenty of people who have more experience, education, and expertise than we do, yet, people still come to us. This is a PRIVILEGE. And we must remember, we are not owed this privilege, we are gifted this privileged. 

We must cherish the gift. Steward the gift. Maximize the gift. 

Being a voice in someone's life is not our rightIt's our responsibility. 

 

#528 - ALL OR NOTHING

All their sin.
All their shame.
All their regrets.

All of their past.
All of their history.
All of their story. 

All the deep hurts.
All the bad habits.
All the embarrassing hangups.

All of their wickedness.
All of their pride.
All of their rebellion.

All of what is disgusting.
All of what is deplorable.
All of what is disappointing. 

ALL OF IT.

As church leaders we must be willing to receive all that people show up to our doors with. We must be willing to walk with people through all of their messes. We must be willing to apply God's grace to all of their shortcomings.

Why?

Because Jesus paid for it ALL.

#527 - WHAT YOUR JOB ISN'T

There are very few things that are as frustrating as doing a job or attempting to do a job that was never yours to do in the first place. With that in mind. Let me provide both you and I with this very simple reminder:

You can't change the hardened heart. You can't force the truth to be received. You can't cause the advice to be followed. You can't speed up the process of change. You can't control the outcome.

That's not your job.

Your job is to speak the truth in love.

God's job is to transform. God's job is convict. God's job is to reveal. God's job is to enlighten. God's job is to save. 

Our job is the natural. God's job is the supernatural.

Don't mix up the two. Nothing good ever comes from it.  

#526 - THE POWER OF A PROMPTING

This morning, just moments after I had put the finishing touches on my message and finished getting dressed to go to church, I felt a prompting. An inclination. A sense that I should text a particular person - that had been to a church service of ours once before and engaged with us outside of the church on one occasion as well - and invite them to church.

So I did.

That person actually ended up showing up. Not only did they show up, but they communicated to me that this Sunday, in particular, was the anniversary of a very traumatic event in their life. (Of this, I had no idea.) They went on to say that this was a day that they needed to be in church, and it was my text that got them out of bed to attend. Lastly, they also let me know that the message I gave provided an encouragement that they needed.

One prompting. One text. One person blessed.

I'm so thankful that, this time, I had ears to hear. I'm so thankful that, this time, I didn't ignore. I'm so thankful that, this time, I didn't neglect.

On many occasions I have been too caught up in myself to be bothered by promptings and too lazy to act on them. But what I've come to discover is this...  

A prompting is only as powerful as the action that follows it.

Please don't ignore the next prompting you receive. The prompting to text. The prompting to email. The prompting to call. The prompting to write. The prompting to reach out. Act on it.

Someone's blessing, very likely, is on the other side of your willingness to respond.  

#525 - MY SECRET WEAPON AND ITS BENEFITS

Over the last 7 years or so, I have committed myself to engaging in an extended of time of fasting and prayer at the beginning of the year. Whenever people hear that this is a part of my rhythms and routines as a believer they are taken aback and, often times, see it as extreme. 

In an effort to remind myself of why I engage in this "extreme" spiritual discipline and to also possibly encourage others to do the same, here are 10 reasons why I fast and pray:

1. Jesus prophesied that believers would fast. 

Jesus replied, "Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. Matthew 9:15

2. Jesus assumed that believers would fast. 

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18

3. Fasting re-orders my affections.

Abstaining from food for an extended period of time for spiritual purposes gives me the opportunity to place God as my supreme joy and fulfillment rather than God's gifts.

4. Fasting re-directs my hunger. 

Instead of looking for satiation and fulfillment in food, television, social media, or other worldly pleasures, fasting forces me to hunger for and be fulfilled by the only One who can truly satisfy - Jesus Christ. 

5. Fasting increases my sensitivity to the voice of God.

Food and other worldly enjoyments many times numb me to the voice of God and make me less sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. But when I fast, I find myself listening intently to the Bread of Life and Living Water because without Him filling me, I am unfulfilled. 

6. Fasting displays my desperation. 

Because I can't avoid sin. Because I can't lead effectively. Because I can't save a soul. Because I can't meet every need. Because I can't be the husband I'm supposed to be. Because I can't keep things together. Because I can't foresee the difficulty ahead. Because I am weak. Because I am fearful. Because I am ill-prepared. Because I can't do anything of eternal value apart from the power and presence of God, fasting is my way of communicating to God, "This Lord, is how much I need your power, wisdom, guidance, protection, and anointing in my life!"   

7. Fasting initiates self-control. 

On most days throughout the year and in most instances, I eat what I want, I go where I want, I watch what I want, I buy what I want, and I do what I want. This, by and large, is the "American Way." Fasting forces me to practice the type of self-control that is required of the way of Christ! Fasting exercises my "self-control muscle" so that when needed, long after the fast is over, it can be relied upon and activated. 

8. Fasting deepens my appreciation for God's gifts. 

Upon my fast's end, I am always more thankful for the gifts of food and other delights that God has made available for His creation to enjoy. I see God's gifts less as blessings that I am entitled to, and instead I see them more as joys that point to the greatness and glory of God. 

9. Fasting reveals my weaknesses.

Nothing reveals my character flaws like taking away my food! When I do not have the option of numbing my anger, fear, insecurity, restlessness, anxiety, or selfishness with food, when I fast, these things are immediately exposed. My true self comes to the surface. Though this is painful to see, I am thankful for this gift that fasting gives.  

10. Fasting sets an example. 

Lastly, as a pastor of a local church, fasting sets an example for the people I am privileged to lead. It is very unlikely that if I didn't fast, that others would. It is very unlikely that if I didn't see fasting as a powerful means of connecting with God, that others would. It is very unlikely that if I didn't experience the profound joys and delights from abstaining from certain types of food over an extended period of time, that others would. In this sense, I fast not only for my spiritual vitality, but also for the spiritual vitality for those in my sphere of influence.  

Prayerfully, after reading a list like this you would be able to see that fasting, for me, isn't "extreme," it's NECESSARY! As much as I dread the idea of committing myself to one each year, I can't see how I could neglect to do one after clearly seeing what's at stake each time I do!

If you are interested in committing to a fast, leave a comment below and I'll send some resources your way!

#524 - SAY IT

You've gotta' say it. You've gotta' be the one to verbalize it to the person or persons whom you feel a conviction to say it to. You are the one from which the words need to come. 

The encouraging word. The corrective word. The faith-filled word. The disciplining word. The challenging word. The paradigm-shifting word. The supportive word. The oppositional word. 

If you don't, no one else will. 

Say it.

No one else has the insight you have. No one else has the relationship with the person that you do. No one else has the influence on this group of people like you have. 

Say it. 

You abdicate your responsibility as a leader if you don't. You shouldn't be a leader if you can't. You will not be a leader if you won't. 

#523 - WRECKED BY THIS CHARACTERISTIC OF GOD

I get emotional nearly every time I think of the concept. I come to tears nearly every time lyrics to a song communicate the truth. I have both tremendous joy and deep grief every time it takes place. This characteristic of God wrecks me.

God gives and takes away.

God gives life, and He takes life away. God gives friends, and He takes friends away. God gives opportunities, and He takes opportunities away. God gives wealth, and He takes wealth away. God gives influence, and He takes influence away. God gives significance, and He takes significance away. God gives heroes, and He takes heroes away. God gives parents, and He takes parents away. God gives children, and He takes children away. God gives work, and He takes work away. God gives talents, and He takes talents away. God gives blessings, and He takes blessings away.

And though having things given to me and taken away from me both can be very emotional, it isn't the giving and taking away that makes me cry. What makes me cry is that I must bring myself to believe that...

God is worthy of my praise anyways.

What God gives doesn't make Him more worthy. What God takes away doesn't make Him less worthy. Who God IS makes Him completely worthy of all my praise, adoration, and affection!

In health and in sickness, bless God's holy name. In wealth and in poverty, bless God's holy name. In laughter and in mourning, bless God's holy name. In success and in failure, bless God's holy name. 

The "good" that God allow to come into my life shows me that God is good. The "bad" that God allows to come into my life shows me that God must have something better! Praise God's holy name!

May our lives never be most consumed by what God is choosing to give or take away from our hands, but instead may we be most comforted in the fact that it is God's hands that is doing the giving and taking away. 

Whether you find yourself on a "hill" or a "valley" in this first week of 2018, I encourage you to give the song below a listen and worship your way through!

“I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” - Job

"You give and take away. You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name." - Matt Redman

"Father you give and take away, every joy and every pain, through it all you will remain over it all." - Tauren Wells

#522 - THE GREAT DANGER OF CHURCH

Having grown up going to church, volunteering in a church, working for a church, and now having started a church and pastored a church for over 4 years, I have come to discover a great danger. 

Most people go to church, initially, because they are looking for something for themselves: peace, comfort, guidance, forgiveness of sins, community, friendship, belonging, blessing, opportunity to serve, deeper relationship with and connection to God, teaching from the Bible, a place where their kids can learn about God, etc. 

And don't get me wrong, I hope the church that I pastor is a church where people can find and enjoy all of these things and more! I hope that people can discover that a life lived in relationship with God is better than a life lived outside of a relationship with God. 

The great danger of church is that it can so easily become more about you than it is about God.

God and all the religious activities you consume and participate in just become a means to your ends. Instead of God becoming the climax of your religious experience, His blessings are your greatest joy. 

The problem with this is that the purpose of church isn't ultimately for you to be fulfilled, the purpose of church is for God to be praised!

At some point in every person's church attendance and church involvement, a transition must take place. 

God must cease to become a means to our ends and we must begin to see ourselves as a means to His ends - His name being glorified, His name being praised, His name being high and lifted up, His name and His reputation meaning more to us than our name and our reputation.  

Can't you see? If this transition doesn't take place we could spend our entire lives serving God but worshipping ourselves! Attending church for the ultimate purpose of attending to ourselves. 

We exist for God. He does not exist for us.

Before we were, He was.
After we are, He still will be. 

But as insignificant as that may make you feel, what I have come to discover about dying to myself, worshipping God alone, and making myself a means to God's ends is this: it is in living in this way that I am most thoroughly and completely fulfilled

Maybe what John Piper has been saying for all these years is true after all,

God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

#521 - THE GREAT TRAGEDY OF MAN

“I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” Genesis 3:10

Adam and Eve sin. They do the one thing that they were commanded not to do - eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And then, they realize their nakedness and they hide. 

God then confronts Adam with a simple question, "Where are you?"

It is at this point, where Adam blows it. It is at this point where Adam responds in the most tragic of ways, and man has been responding to sin against God this tragically ever since. 

Instead of Adam saying that he hid because of God's power. Instead of saying that he hid because of God's wrath. Instead of saying that he hid because of God's disappointment...

Adam says that he hid because of his nakedness. 

He hid because of his consequences. He hid because of his shame. He hid because of his embarrassment. 

Maybe an illustration will help to explain how tragic this is.

A father tells his son he can have anything to eat in the kitchen except cookies. The son eats the cookies. He gets sick from eating the cookies. So he hides under his bed. When his father comes looking for him and asks, "Where are you?," the son replies, "I was afraid, because I was sick, so I hid myself."

How ridiculous would that be? How ridiculous would that sound?

Shouldn't the son be afraid primarily because he disobeyed his father? Shouldn't the son be afraid because he letdown his father? Shouldn't the son be afraid because of his father's authority to discipline him?

The great tragedy of man is that we don't truly fear God. 

And because we don't truly fear God, we don't humbly repent. And because we don't humbly repent, we don't freely receive grace. And that...is a tragedy.

#520 - ROUTINE. ROUTINE. ROUTINE.

It's gonna' be a great year. 2017 was great, but 2018 is gonna' be even greater. I believe this to be true because I have a one-word theme to guide me. Though I've heard of people using a one-word theme to inspire them during a particular year, I've never tried it myself. But as I sat down to set my goals this year, I knew needed something different. I needed focus. I needed a theme. With that said...  

MY THEME IS ROUTINE.

2018 is going to be the year of developing healthy routines in each of the major areas of my life. Don't get me wrong, I had routines in 2017, but many of them were unhealthy

  • Checking social media first thing in the morning.
  • Checking social media right before I go to bed.
  • Finishing my sermons early Sunday morning. 
  • Throwing my clothes on the floor at the end of the day.
  • Checking shoe websites, daily, looking for deals on Jordans. 

Though there was nothing inherently evil about any of these routines, the fact of the matter is, these routines were counterproductive to me becoming the type of man I am capable of becoming.

These unhealthy routines prevented me from being disciplined in my study of God's Word, self-controlled in my spending habits, excellent on my job, and organized at home. These routines were destructive.  

But today, that all changes. Instead of my routines being developed by default, in 2018 they will develop by design. 

  • Reading the Bible and journaling.
  • Reading a book and writing.
  • Stretching, push-ups, and sit-ups
  • Flossing my teeth and fixing my bed.
  • Praying with my wife.
  • Filling in my productivity planner.

What I love about these routines is that regardless of the political climate, economy, social ills, and craziness that is happening all around me, these are the things I can control. These are the habits I can develop. These are the disciplines that, compounded over time, will result in a great life!

No money is needed. No training is needed. No help is needed. All I need is focus and determination, and on this first day of the year, I have a whole lot of both!

Here's to a great 2018. The year of ROUTINE.