Tag Archives: love

Stronger Than Ever

Kneeling on the first step of the stage this morning with my face just inches from the floor, I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down my face. But this cry was different. It was different because I think I felt every single tear.

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I’m not sure what the tears were representative of, but I know they were meaningful. Maybe they were representative of the fifty men I committed to praying for and influencing to Act Like Men (the theme of this morning’s conference)? Maybe they were in some way representative of each struggle and painful experience our family has endured during this season of our lives?

What I do know is that as the tears rolled and every possibility ran through my head, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of complete weakness. Weakness in the fact that as my marriage experienced a struggle yesterday (since completely resolved), I was called upon to pray for and encourage one marriage that was breaking and another that was soon to happen. How could I lead others when I couldn’t lead myself? I also felt weakness in the fact that lately I have struggled to hold it all together yet I am looked at and respected as a pastor (it’s still so weird to even mention that title). I mean, I’m not on the verge of a melt-down or a freak-out but living in a current season of total unknown is weighing heavy. Again, how can I keep others off the edge when I get close at times?

Then Jesus (yup, one of those moments), spoke to me. Not audibly though that would have been mind-blowing, but in a such a way that as I was  on my knees with my face on the ground and tears running down my face, He put His hands around my heart and said:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9

I have heard it so many times before (never from God). I have taught on the verses. I believe it with all of my heart. But this morning was different because Jesus said it. He wanted to impress it on my heart, maybe so this time it wouldn’t be forgotten. And definitely so I could see that it is in my weakness that God can use me greatest.

Yesterday was a tough day but it finished with an amazing, Holy Spirit inspired conversations. My weakness caused me to be completely transparent with the couple I was counseling. The transparency broke down walls that were there and probably unbreakable in my own strength. My weakness drove me to get to that conference this morning when it looked like I wasn’t going. And my weakness brought me to my knees on the bottom step of that stage.

In my own strength, I wouldn’t have given Jesus the opportunity to speak to me when I needed it most. But because of my weakness, His perfect power came through.

And now, I feel stronger than ever!

 


Silence Isn’t Always Golden

“I neither know nor understand what you mean.” Mark 14:68. This wasn’t the last time we would hear of the apostle Peter denying Jesus. And it really got me to thinking that silence isn’t always golden (regardless of what they say in the movie theater).

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For the apostle Peter, he was in great fear of what people would think, or do to him, if they found out he associated himself with Jesus. And that was a crucial time as just a few feet away, Jesus’ enemies had arrested him and were torturing him. Still, Jesus desired that all of His people would proudly proclaim His name. It was such a big deal to Him that in Mark 8:38 He said that being ashamed of Him would result in eternal consequences.

More and more, Christians get real quiet when they talk about Jesus. Not God so much because He is a universal language in many people’s eyes, but definitely the name of Jesus. And the greatest bit of silence happens in the business world.  People try and find secret small groups to join so they can vent their Christian beliefs in relation to their business, or so they can figure out how to wedge Jesus into their business without offending someone else. 

What about you?

Are you a Christian that openly speaks about your faith in Jesus or do you keep in quiet? Look, I don’t think it is appropriate to shove Jesus in everyone’s face. I also don’t think it’s appropriate, or even God glorifying, to shove Jesus into every conversation you have just for the sake of doing it.  But I do think that God has called you to where you are for His glory. God divinely orchestrates every conversation (yup, every one of them). God puts people in places of authority and influence. God allows people to see you succeed and fail. God does all of this so that the people on the receiving end may see some reflection of Him in your words or actions. 

By keeping quiet about Jesus, you are denying God the opportunity to use you in encounters with others and you are claiming shame, not joy in being a Christian.

I am thankful that God see every one of my shortcomings. I am thankful that even when I don’t do all that I can to glorify Him, He still loves me. And I am especially thankful that Jesus, in His infinite grace, will continue to use me to glorify Him anyway.


Live God-Centered

I recently contributed a blog post to the For His Glory Community Church website. If you have ever asked yourself what it looks like to live God-centered, I suggest you follow this link.

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I’m Going on a Missions Trip

Summer is coming and churches everywhere are preparing their teams for missions trips. Maybe it’s a high school
group, a college group, or just a mish-mosh group from church that has a heart to go and reach an impoverished or unreached people group.

The planning and preparation required to go on a foreign missions trip can be so intense. Logistics, finances, passports, and clean bills of health. Who wants to go? Who can go? Will they get together all they need to in the amount of time they have to?

But what about the rest of us? What will we do this summer? Well as for me, I’m excited to say I’m going on a missions trip too. What’s crazy is I’m actually not going out of the country though. I’m not even leaving the state. Most likely, I won’t even be leaving southern California. So how do I claim to be going on a mission’s trip if I’m not really going anywhere? I think Jesus has my back here because He said…

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

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Did you catch that? He said Jerusalem. And He was talking to a bunch of guys in……yep you guessed it, Jerusalem. Now, I am in no way discounting the amazing and overwhelming work that needs to be done all throughout the world. There are people groups all over that have never even heard the gospel. How will they ever meet Jesus if someone doesn’t tell them (Romans 10:14)? We must go to them. It’s not even an option but a necessity. I have gone to a foreign country on mission and it was an amazing blessing. And I will go again too! My heart is for the gospel to go to all the world. But what I am not going to do is miss out on my opportunity to go on a missions trip every day for the rest of my life.

I have family that needs Jesus, I have neighbors that need Jesus, I live in a city with surrounding cities that need Jesus. And others that don’t need to meet Jesus (because they already know Him) still need the love of Jesus. There are people within my local reach that need food, money, and care for the things they are struggling with. I don’t want to miss those opportunities because I’m in my Jerusalem.

What about you? Are you going on a missions trip this summer? If you are, I pray that God provides all you need to get where you want to go and that your trip is a magnificent work of God. But as you prepare, don’t miss the mission that God has you on every day. If you’re not going on a trip, realize that God already has you on mission right where He has sovereignly placed you. He is going to put before you opportunities every single day to be His hands and feet. I encourage you to look for those opportunities always, in everything you do. At home, at work, and at the grocery store.

You never know when your missions trip to the mall ends up being a life changing moment for someone God has divinely caused you to collide with.


Is Enough Really Enough?

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“saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” Luke 22:42-44

Do you ever experience those times when you just don’t want to deal with it (whatever it may be) anymore? I mean seriously, are there things going on in your life right now that have been going on for some extended period of time and you can’t help by cry out to God “ENOUGH ALREADY”? Maybe you are sick and your body is not recovering? Maybe you have been out of work for some time and there are no new jobs in sight? Maybe your spouse has neglected you for too long? Maybe your finances are in despair? Maybe your heartache is just too strong? Maybe a family member is dying? You see, the list goes on and on and at some point, we will all find something we can associate with. Life really hurts sometimes and there are things thrown our way that just don’t make sense. Nobody wants to suffer yet it seems to be a part of who we are as humans.

But look at the verse above in context. Jesus goes up to the Mount of Olives to pray. And while Jesus made prayer a regular part of His life, you get a sense that He had specific purpose behind this one. The weight of what He was facing must have been extremely heavy. I mean think about it. The sins of the world were going to rest on His shoulders. The salvation for multitudes was going to be gained.  It got to be so heavy that Jesus cried out to God, ENOUGH ALREADY!

But He didn’t stop there.

He completed His sentence by saying; but if you want me to endure this trial then I will see it through. We would expect there to be this aha moment where Jesus is burdened, He asks God to take it away, God doesn’t, and then there is great rejoicing. But it doesn’t play out that way, most likely because that’s not how these things practically play out in our own lives. We are hurting, we are struggling, and we want God to take it away so we ask. But God says no or sits silent at times and we continue to struggle through it. This is reality. And this was Jesus’ reality too. He asked God to take the burden (coming crucifixion) away if it was His will and it wasn’t so Jesus knew He would have to continue to endure it. This caused Jesus more agony, to the point of sweating blood. So what’s my point? Well two things really.

  1. When we hurt and struggle it is ok to hurt and struggle. We have feelings. We have desires. Nobody wants to suffer. It feels much better to be in good health with good wealth and have a good relationship with God. It is ok for us to want to feel good all the time but that’s not always reality.  When we don’t feel good, be encouraged in knowing there were times Jesus didn’t feel good either. Just don’t let that suffering control your life or your relationship with Jesus. In His time He will answer.
  2. Even though you may think where your at is enough, God may have different plans. He won’t break you so trust that He has you there for a reason. Could you imagine what would of happened if God’s answer to Jesus’ question in Luke 22:42 was, “ok, I will take the cup from you?” We would all be destined for hell! Thankfully that is not the case. God knew that Jesus had to endure for our sake. There are things that God is having you endure for the sake of yourself or others around you. Trust God. Submit to His will. I can confidently say that He knows much better than we do!

My prayer is that if you are in the midst of suffering right now, you would have someone to practically lean on. If you don’t have someone or can’t find someone then I ask you to follow this link as I would be honored to come alongside you in prayer. The Bible says we are to bear the burdens of one another so never feel scared or ashamed to reach out to others. It’s what God wants!

We know how the story ends with Jesus and it is pretty awesome. As a child of God, your story will end pretty awesome too!


We’re All Good

I think it is easy to assume that the guy that never speaks up, the family that always walks into church with a smile, and the college student who has tons of friends are ALL GOOD.

“We don’t have to worry about that person, he/she is a strong Christian.”

Have you said it before? Or are people saying it about you? You know what happens when we ass-u-me right?

I live a pretty transparent life. I use Facebook, Twitter and even this blog as a sounding board from time to time (ok, most of the time). But I still have people come up to me and wonder what I am doing to keep so happy and so strong. They want to know why my life is so good. REALLY? I usually tell them to just scroll through a few more of my posts, or sit with me for some time so I can share what life is really like. It’s tough and frankly sometimes it sucks! It is only because of Jesus that I can hold it together. Without the Rock as my foundation, I would be swept away (read Matthew 7:24-27).

The real danger in the assumption (not just being a donkey) is this:

What if I was in a massive state of depression? Nobody would know a thing until I was spiraling out of control, or worse yet dead.

What if I was caught up in sexual sin? Before you found out, I had already managed to ruin my marriage and my family.

WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST ASK? WHY DIDN’T YOU TAKE THE TIME TO FIND OUT WHAT WAS REALLY GOING ON?

Maybe it is because we are fearful of being inconvenienced. Or maybe we are afraid to know the truth about people we love. Or maybe, and this a BIG maybe, we may not actually have everything figured out.

The questions start simply. How are you? What has been going on in your life? What can I pray for in your life? How is your job? Your marriage? Your relationship with God? Are you struggling with anything?

I am sure by now you see it, and you either think I’m an idiot for bringing this elementary stuff up or you feel convicted to pick up the phone and send a text to someone in your life right now.

So practically I encourage you to do a few things:

  1. Think about all the people in your life that you care about (family, friends, business colleagues, church members). Maybe even list them out.
  2. Think about the last time you asked that person the hard questions.
  3. Pick one or two of those people.
  4. Don’t assume a single thing.
  5. Ask the hard questions.


Tell It

A few months back, I was blessed to be selected to contribute 4 blogs to 60-Days-of-Second: Please join me on my journey through 4 readings from the new book, Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First. Get the “Live Second” book in stores NOW.

Could you imagine if all you ever heard was Jesus?

There are over 250 million proclaimed Christians in the United States. I’m not going to debate that number (even though I could) but use it to show something quite shocking. Stats on the web show that in order for a topic to trend on Twitter, it needs approximately 30 tweets every 5 seconds. If approximately 500,000 people tweeted once per day something about Jesus, He would never leave number one. Jesus would be the most talked about (trending) topic on Twitter every single day. And that’s only 500,000. Could you imagine if 1 million people tweeted something about Jesus. What if 100 million people tweeted Jesus? Instead of Jesus, we get trending topics like #20ThingsIDontLike or #TheEndofTheWorld #122112. Those are recent topics that have trended on Twitter. Other days, it’s the name of the latest celebrity that got pregnant, the most recent famous couple to get a divorce, or both. For a while it was all politics. Food probably lands there from time to time. It is just ridiculous to think that anything other than Jesus would be number one.

Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, your Savior if you call yourself a Christian. Through none other will you receive the eternal security that you so dearly hold on to.

So how about personally? What do you like to talk about? What trends in your life? As Christians, we are called to glorify God in all we do (1 Corinthians 10:31). Are we glorifying God when we spend so much time talking about the things that we do? I know I’m not.

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Now let me take a breath for a second so I can say that we don’t need to run around saying Jesus with every breath (though that would be cool). God isn’t asking us to only wear clothes from Christian companies, read books by Christian authors, and watch corny Christian movies (ok, that’s a joke). But really, we just need to think about the things we do and what topics are at the top of our life.

So what do I do to make sure Jesus trends in my life?

I try to wake up every morning before my family gets up so I can pray for 10-15 minutes and then I read my Bible. Sometimes it is a specific devotional (like the Live Second book) while other times I just get into a chapter of the Bible and read a few verses.

I use social media as a tool to share about my faith in and life with Jesus. Not every post has Jesus in it, but I want to be transparent in communicating how I live my life so people see the real me and that Jesus is real in my life.

Professionally, I own my own business so I have a little more liberty than some may to share their faith. All my colleagues and business partners know I am a Christian because I tell them so. I’m the guy that doesn’t drink at business functions and doesn’t cuss with the other guys (and some girls) at networking events, not because I’m a holy roller but because I want to set myself apart from the world when it comes to those things. I have a platform to speak to others and do so with the utmost honesty and integrity so God willing, people see Jesus in me.

The Christian life is not easy. Glorifying God in all you do isn’t automatic. It takes full dependency on the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to let Jesus trend on Facebook, Twitter, at the dinner table, in the grocery store line, while on the job or at school. He is definitely worth the placement!

Thank you for joining me as I shared my story. Now it’s time to share yours.

 


After

A few months back, I was blessed to be selected to contribute 4 blogs to 60-Days-of-Second: Please join me on my journey through 4 readings from the new book, Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First. Get the “Live Second” book in stores NOW.

The day after…

“But it is a simple story of what we have seen and heard that people want to hear most.” Live Second, page 78

I really wish I would have read that simple part on August 14, 2006 (the day after I got saved). Instead, I took matters into my own hands and began slashing everything that wasn’t “good” for me. You have to know me a bit to know how true this statement is but to explain it best, when I do something I do it with radical abandonment. Remember my gambling problem in my “Before” story? Yup, go big or go home. So I took that same tact when I became a Christian. No drinking, no friends that were bad influences, no this, and no that. I didn’t want to associate at all with the past. The problem was that I was still at the controls. I could only last so long steering that ship in the storm until I lost control again. I didn’t really have anyone discipling me and was left to what I thought I knew about being a Christian and what I was hearing in church week in and week out. Another part of the problem was that I was in church some Sundays hung over from the night before so I couldn’t hear half of what was being said. I was still blind, leading my own blind self!

That changed shortly before the following August when my wife and I decided to get baptized. God began working in my heart to show me that He needed to lead and I was just to follow. It was a tough concept but one that made a whole lot of sense. If I couldn’t do it before, I couldn’t do it now. I mean that’s why I accepted Christ in the first place.

We enrolled in a new believer’s class at our church and began to learn the foundational aspects of Christianity. I started to see how I could apply what I was learning to my life by letting God lead. We enrolled in another class a few months later to get deeper in the word and prayer. I started memorizing scripture. My radical behavior started being used to pursue Jesus. I was soaking things up like a sponge.

Fast forward to August of 2011 where while sitting in Haiti on an 8 day missions trip, I was presented with an opportunity to pray about planting a church with a pastor I had grown to love (the same pastor that was guest speaking the first day I went to church and got saved).

Fast forward to August of 2012 where  I entered a Biblical theology and pastoral training program with Mars Hill Church in Seattle as I began seeking to answer the calling I believe God has on my life. Just two weeks later my family would embark on a journey to help plant For His Glory Community Church in Claremont, California (www.forhisglorycc.org) where I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve as executive pastor alongside two of the most Godly and amazing men I have ever met.

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What have I learned (and am still learning) along the way?

  • Jesus loved us enough to die for us (Romans 5:8)
  • When God wants us, He will grab onto us and not let go (Daniel 4:35)
  • We must allow Jesus to be Lord over our whole life (Romans 10:9)
  • No matter where we are in life, God’s plans are greater and He will blow our minds (Isaiah 55:8)
  • Jesus loved us enough to die for us (Romans 5:8) YUP, I SAID THAT ONE TWICE

Join me tomorrow for “Tell It”, the next chapter in my story.


The Moment

A few months back, I was blessed to be selected to contribute 4 blogs to 60-Days-of-Second: Please join me on my journey through 4 readings from the new book, Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First. Get the “Live Second” book in stores NOW.

“Those of us who follow Jesus have all had a moment of realization.” Live Second, page 77

In a moment my eternity changed!

It would be cool to say I had an apostle Paul moment (“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me.” Acts 22:6 ESV). I mean seriously! Well I can’t say that happened to me. Actually, there really wasn’t anything tangible about my experience that day. But to give you the best perspective, I have to back up a few days.

The week leading up, I was in Chicago on a business trip (I’m from So Cal). On the last night a big group of us went out and partied pretty hard. We got back to the hotel, went straight to the bar and proceeded to continue the festivities. I was hanging with the guys and flirting with the girls while overindulging in cocktails until the wee hours of the morning. Thankfully I made it to my room solo and crashed for the night. But I woke up to a different sense than I had ever felt. It was as if I knew I needed to change something. A little bit of what my friend Dean had shared with me over the years started clicking. On the plane ride back home, I started asking questions of one of the guys I was on the trip with who was a Christian and lived it well. He was a great husband and father. I asked him what the whole church thing was about and what it meant to be a Christian. You see, I grew up going to Catholic church and made most of the sacraments but I never got it. It wasn’t ever real to me. Darren had a great way of politely sharing things and this conversation was no different. He didn’t lay down the law and tell me give up my junk, he just shared a few basic thoughts and told me to find a Christian church close by my house so I could hear for myself.

The night I got home I shared with my wife that I felt like it was time to check out the whole “church thing”. She agreed and we figured we would go that Sunday. My friend Dean had been telling all about how great his church was and it was close by our house. He shared about how good the pastor was and how laid back the church was. But when I told him we were going that Sunday, he said he had other plans. That could have easily derailed the process as my wife and I were going to have to go on our own but we figured we might as well give it a go anyway.

That Sunday morning we walked into Calvary Chapel East Anaheim and were excited to see what Christianity and the hyped-up pastor were all about only to find out the pastor was out of town. Now for anyone that has invited a friend to church, you never want the pastor to be gone when the new people show up. I mean the guest pastors are never as good, right? Wrong! The Bible says in Isaiah 58 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” God knew exactly what He was doing that morning. The assistant pastor spoke and nobody else had to be in that church that morning. His message was clearly from the Holy Spirit, through the pastor, to me. I heard in a gracious and loving way how everything I was doing was so backwards but in Christ, it could all be redeemed. I heard that it wasn’t too late for our broken marriage. I heard that by accepting God as my Father, I could become the image of Him to my daughter.

There was no altar call.

There was no call to pray a prayer.

But God was calling me to Himself. I could feel it and I had to respond.

In a quiet moment inside my heart on August 13, 2006 I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Join me tomorrow for “After”, the next chapter in my story.


Before

A few months back, I was blessed to be selected to contribute 4 blogs to 60-Days-of-Second: Please join me on my journey through 4 readings from the new book, Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First. Get the “Live Second” book in stores NOW.

“We all have a ‘before’ story. For some of us, that story was before we met Jesus. For others, it was before we took our faith seriously. For others still, that story is the up-and-down journey of a long walk with God. But we all have a ‘before’ story.” Live Second, page 76

Before that Sunday morning in August of 2006, who was I?

Well my mom always said that when I was little I was a “good boy”. I don’t remember getting in a whole lot of trouble other than an occasional reprimand from my grade school teachers for talking too much in class. Oh ya, and I argued with my little brother but anyone that has siblings knows that fighting between them is pretty normal. When I got to junior high, it was much of the same.

High school so a lot of things change. I was still a pretty good kid, but I found myself hanging around a lot of the wrong people and honestly, I became one of them. I did a lot of stupid and shameful things. Things like drinking, experimenting with drugs, getting into lots of fights, messing around with girls and stealing. As I look back on high school, especially my junior and senior years, I thank God that He had His hand on me then though I did not accept Him. There were many instances where I could have died but didn’t. Two of my close friends sit in jail 17 years later for a crime I was almost a part of one summer night. Now I wasn’t all bad. I respected my mom (most of the time), didn’t hit or intentionally hurt women and would do an occasional good deed. But that in no way made up for the hurt I caused others.

I should have learned my lesson after high school but I didn’t. Instead the messes I played in simply changed. I did a lot of partying from 18-28. I was married at 22 to the love of my life and together we had our first child the following year. My little baby girl was such a blessing but I didn’t take the time to appreciate her as much as I should have. Instead of enjoying my wife I chose to complain about every little thing she did. She spent too much, complained too much, didn’t do this, and didn’t do that. I was so busy pointing all my fingers at her that I had none left to point in the mirror. And even if I had a free finger, I wouldn’t have pointed it there anyway. There were times when I flirted with and garnered the attention of other girls. I visited strip clubs, sometimes with my wife and sometimes without which only fueled the fire more. When it came to money, I was making way too much of it and spending even more. Cars, clothes and casinos were at the top of my interest list where my wife and child should have been.

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There must have been someone in my life pointing back in the right direction, RIGHT? Well not really. You see, from the outside looking in I had it all together. Before that day in August of 2006, I wore a great game face. My friends and family saw a 28 year old man with a beautiful wife, a healthy young girl, a successful and lucrative career, a nice house, multiple cars and everything else necessary to live the “American dream”. My friend Dean tried many times to tell me I needed to go to church and drop all my bad habits but I definitely wasn’t listening. I thought to myself, “What could God give me that I didn’t already have?” and “I don’t want to quit having all the fun I am”.

But the week leading up to that day revealed the true weight that was on my shoulders. It was unbearable and I had nowhere to turn. I was destroying my marriage and at risk of becoming a weekend father. I was at risk of losing the two most important people in my life. It was then that I began to realize there had to be something more. There had to be someone who could remove the weight and show me the true sense of joy I sought everywhere but never found.

Join me tomorrow for “The Moment”, the next chapter in my story.