The Power of Focus

Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who boxes the air. - 1 Corinthians 9:26

There is a HUGE difference in the kingdoms when it comes to this word "focus". Focus in our world is something lacking, if not completely lost. Today millions will thumb through their cellphones, mindlessly gazing at a post from the NBA or from their favorite celebrity. We will roll out of bed daily, showering and doing the morning routine, then drive to work in a haze. We will punch the clock, drive home, and as we check out in front of the television we will wonder why in the world we are so zapped of life.

You see a lack of focus doesn't just steal your gaze. Really, it steals your momentum. Your drive. Your lively LIFE. 

And yet, today millions of us will complete our day the way we started it: checked out.

If I had to guess, Satan loves me BEST when I'm distracted. When I'm unfocused and untethered. When my thoughts wander from "did I RSVP to that thing?" to "where are my favorite pants?" to "what's CNN writing about Trump today?" I'm a sitting duck of inactivity. A void of space that breathes and "shows up" to work or to my family, but nothing more. If I had to guess, I think Satan LOVES me BEST when I show up this way. I'm as unthreatening as someone napping. I'm as effective as an untrained fighter. I'm as far from the works I was created in Christ Jesus to accomplish as I could be.

A lack of focus isn't just a mind gone on a leisure stroll. A lack of focus is death to our purpose. A clever trick to take us dangerously off course.

It's not enough to show up. Jesus wants your full heart and attention for His kingdom. 

In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul writes about the race within God's kingdom. He asks a question to the readers: "Don't you know that lots of people run the race, but are you aware not EVERYONE wins a prize?" He's setting up a thesis here. He's saying - it's not enough to just come to the race track. It's not enough to just show up to work. It's not enough to just RUN. If he were to say this in 2016 he would probably say: "Look, see? Everyone is running. To nowhere. For no reason. Everyone is busy being totally and completely unfocused." 

Then he says this: "when I run, it's NEVER without aim. When I box, I plan on doing damage with my hits."

It's not ENOUGH to run. You want to run to win at your purpose and at your call.

So how do we run our race for the kingdom with focus?

  1. Right Your Routine: Scientists and the Bible alike tell us that a life without routine (going to bed on time, waking up on time, having a ritual of reading the Bible, eating good sustaining food,) is an unfocused and chaotic life. Do you feel pointless right now? Out of step? Purposeless? Start with simply trying to establish a rhythm in your day. Work out at the same time. Read a book and don't stop till it's finished. Focus your energy and mind on what God has placed in front of you that day. Make lists. Do what you have to to discipline your day into your plans. Otherwise life will make plans for you.
  2. Set Your Mind: Find a set time in your morning to set your focus. Turn off outside noise for a few minutes, and whether in front of your Bible or in front of prayer, simply check in with Jesus. Take your thoughts that are wandering captive, and present them to God. Ask the Lord what he would like to accomplish in and through you that day. Let God minister to you about your purpose, how much he loves you, and who you are in Christ. Find a way to do this as a part of your routine: do it in your morning commute, in your morning devo, with your morning cup of coffee, with your morning shower. Even if you aren't "feeling" it, Jesus can do wonders with someone who just shows up to his throne. He has GOOD things for you and for His kingdom EVERYDAY. Set your mind on that truth and watch your day click into focus.
  3.  Remind Yourself of Your Role: Most of us become distracted because we honestly believe our time, talents, life, or investment DOESN'T matter. We can lose focus because we lose heart. The truth is, each disciple of Jesus has immense value for His kingdom. I remind young adults all the time that "only you can do what you can do." If you are an engineer at a firm, only YOU have the brains to work there, the heart to share Jesus with other people and the tenacity to carry out both with excellence. If you are a teacher, only YOU have access to that class and those students day in and day out to impact them in a way that could literally transform their eternities. If you are a stay-at-home daddy, only YOU can speak life over your kids the way you do. Truly, there is no one else. Only you can do what you can do. Remind yourself of how crucial you are, and check in today to focus on what Jesus has.

Today may you run with incredible aim, fixing your eyes on Jesus your author and perfecter of your faith. And may you box as someone who knows they are called, loved, and assigned.

May you feel new life as you gain new focus. In Jesus name. Amen.

Did Someone Swipe Your Courage?

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. - Galatians 6:9-10 The Message

There are times, seasons, circumstances in life that can bring us to our knees in discouragement. We feel hard-pressed, like our work has come up void, our that the set-backs are never ending. Discouragement comes in like a black cloud. It keeps us up at night and steals our joy.

Discouragement is rooted in the two words "Dis" - to take, to remove, to lack, and "Courage" - the quality of mind or Spirit that lets us face challenges without fear. To discourage someone is actually a terrible and nasty offense: It is "To make someone less determined, confident, or hopeful." I'm not sure about you, but upon reading this in Merriam-Websters definition I thought, "well isn't that just like the devil."

Discouragement isn't just the byproduct of a day gone wrong, or a plan not coming to fruition. Discouragement is the enemy's way of stealing your courage. Making you less determined. Less confident. Less hopeful. Discouragement is the ultimate way of distracting you from your destiny. Taking you off course. Halting your progress. Paralyzing you from realizing your goal. 

God promises that your harvest and your victory is around the corner - if you don't give into discouragement. 

If you are feeling discouragement today, it is because you are well on course to your destiny, and the enemy is pulling out all the stops in order to trip you up.

Someone is attempting to steal your COURAGE. The question is - are you going to allow it? Or are you going to press forward in faith?

Today, when discouragement comes knocking - don't allow it to distract you from your destiny. You have a faith fight to fight, a harvest to reap, a God to glorify. And you will see victory if you don't GIVE UP.

Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you. - Deuteronomy 31:1 The Message

Clean Slate

I love lists. I make lists for my work days and my days off and the days I'm trying to get lots of important things done and the days I'm trying to get insignificant things done. For 2016 I have already made a bunch of lists. Lists of family adventures we need to take. Lists of goals. Lists of prayers.

New Year's is the perfect time to make lists of everything you want NEW. Changed. Different.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if all the lists, resolutions, vows to "do" something different are really just a longing to BE someone different.

I recently read an article about Justin Bieber, and his relationship with Carl Lentz and Christianity. It's a great read, and I won't do it justice here, but one evening, Justin came to Carl in desperation. Unlike the Justin we see on MTV and at the VMAs, this Justin wasn't confident. Wasn't impressed with his fame. Wasn't happy with his success. And he wanted out. Not of what he was doing. But out of himself. He wanted to be baptized. He wanted to be someone different. And he wanted it immediately.

He didn't need a new album, a new tour, a new wardrobe, a new ride, a new girl. He needed a new Justin. He needed a new "me".

I think I can relate.
I think you can relate.

In all of the New Year's effort to lose weight, to look good, to start a new habit, to end an old one, to get a date, to lose a date, to find a new job... it's really about something much deeper than that. We don't just need clean slates. We need clean hearts. We need that incredible peace, emotion, inner rest, satisfaction and glory that comes from being made new.

Colossians puts it this way: "You have taken off your old self, with it's practices and have put on a new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge of its Creator." In the New Year maybe we don't need new make-up, haircuts, or shoes. Maybe we don't need new work-out regimens, eating habits or trainers. Maybe we don't need a new project, vacation or life experience. Maybe we just need freedom on the inside. A flag of glory waving as Christ is the center of our lives, the joy of our hearts, the blood-life of our days and the focus of our admiration. 

This New Years may you:

Put off vanity and put on the glory and beauty of Christ.
Put off selfish ambition as you put on the hope of Christ.
Put off worldly lusts as you put on the mind of Christ.
Put off comparison as you put on contentment in Christ.
Put off resolution to "do" a few things different...

And put on Christ. Who will make you truly new.  
 

Pray for Miracles.

I have seen miracles.

This year alone I have seen people far from God reach for his hand. I have seen a marriage all but destroyed be rekindled again in God's love. I have seen cancer shrink, and cancer give way. I have seen the miracle a child walking, the miracle of a a family being knit together. I have seen the miracle of dreams coming to fruition, not seeming large enough, and the challenge to dream bigger, grander, more glorious.

I have seen the miracle of God moving in a generation. (To catch a glimpse watch this video of our 2015.)  And I believe God is just getting started.

And it is my belief that 2015 was miraculous, and different from every year prior because this year I changed the way I prayed. 

In years past I prayed the way most of us do: I prayed for safety and for provision. I prayed for the weather, for my day to be productive. I prayed for my family to be healthy, and for my dreams to come to pass. I prayed for comfort.

Then, in 2014, something dramatic shifted within me. At the birth of our first born I suddenly became aware that my prayers were self-focused, my dreams self-centered, and my ambitions not nearly beautiful enough to pursue in light of stewarding a new life. And so I began to pray a new way:

"God, what is it that you dream about? I pray in 2015 I get to be a part of your dreams coming to fruition, and that you use my life for your ambitions?"

My dreams were crushed under the weight of his kingdom. My hopes bowed low before the promise of his hope. My ambitions gave way to a heart for his people, and a love for his Church. And just like that, my world was flooded with miracles. 

So what about you? What are your hopes for 2016? Are you tiring of your prayers? Of your selfish ambitions and half-hearted goals? Then may I invite you to pray a different way in 2016:

"God, what is it you dream about? What do you care about God, and can my life be used to bring your dreams to fruition?"

May 2016 for you be a new start to a new way of life: to pursuing his dreams, taking up his heart, and being a part of his kingdom's miracles. 

Waiting in The Wings

One of God's favorite names for Himself in the bible is "Elohim". It means "God", simply. In a world that is waring within itself to discover who or what is top dog, and whom or what has top authority, God lays claim to it here with His name. Elohim comes from the root Hebrew word "strength" or "power". In Genesis it is out of the power of God that the world was created, and by His power that it moved and turned and spun around the sun. When the storms are calmed in the Bible, it is by the power of God - Elohim.

Have you ever caught yourself trying to be Elohim in your life?

If the storms are going to calm - if the world is going to slow down - it's up to you. You try to exercise power over your world.

The other day my 1 1/2 year old was climbing on a larger step stool we have in the kitchen. She is a climber at heart, a monkey of sorts, constantly trying to crawl up, over and on top of objects. Most of the time I let her go for it. She's a toddler after all, and toddlers should adventure.

When she gets on the step stool though, I stay close. It's tall, and larger than most the things she scales. I wait close by. Not interfering but waiting... just in case.

The other day she climbed and got to the top step, threw her leg over the railing at the top, and attempted to sit up there. Immediately her weight shifted and she started to slip. "Hep! Hep!" She cried, (which is toddler speak for "HELP! Ma!") I swooped in and grabbed her, kissed her and set her back up to adventure some more.

It dawned on me in that moment that this is Jesus in our lives. Ever patient, and ever delighting in our adventuring, but fully aware that we aren't Elohim, and the authority and strength is not our own. He watches us play, watches us live our lives, smiles as we climb,

Just waiting in the wings.

A moment may come where we try to scale an obstacle in our own strength, or calm a storm in our power. It suddenly dawns on us, "the waters are too high. We need help." And we cry out. How comforting that the moment we call on the Lord he responds. Never pushy in His moves to aid us, the Holy Spirit ONLY goes where He is invited - and brings calm. Peace. Strength. Victory.

Today may you be wise enough to call out when you are in need, to admit surrender when the climb is too high, to reach for the TRUE Elohim when your strength gives way.

He's ALWAYS waiting in the wings. 

I Am A Slave To _____________ Without Jesus

Freedom to me has always been this ambiguous concept.  I have always had this fascination with freedom and the idea of living a free life. I remember when I was little; I asked my mom what does freedom mean. And I was taught words like liberty or justice, the statue of liberty, America, Washington DC.

We are in a time where our nation clings to this idea of freedom. Ideas that scream you are free if you do what you want, when you want it, how you want it.  Freedom equates to surplus of time, money, success, status, sex, or fame in your life.

What if I told you that Jesus had a better way?  What if I told you that he authored freedom? What if I told you that Jesus recognizes your desire to be free and responds?

John 8:31-38:      
Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in Him. "If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you." Surprised they said, but we are descendants of Abraham. We’ve never been slaves to anyone. How can you say, “the truth will set you free?” Jesus said, "I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is transient, who cant come and go at will. The SON, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the SON sets you free, you are free indeed.”

THE CALL: Jesus is calling upon believers.  Jesus is talking to Christians that believe in His authority.  He calls them to a life of holiness, by living out what he has spoken.  He then makes the charge that only TRUTH will bring freedom. TRUTH WILL BRING FREEDOM.

God tells us all throughout scripture, TRUTH is the word of God.

THE RESPONSE: When Jesus confronts this issue of freedom head on, the people respond out of their own bondage. They say things like, “I’m not a slave to nobody or nothing.” “Do you know who I am?”  “How dare you say that to me?”

Have you had reactions like this when a close friend or family member points out an area of bondage in your life? Your immediate response is defensiveness to a sin pattern in your life?  My hand is up on this one.

THE ACTION: So what do we do? How do we move into freedom in our lives? Jesus drops the bomb that the word of God can bring freedom.  Take a good look at your life.  The things that you think have no effect on you- maybe that is bitterness towards a family member, anger against your absentee father, or abuse of your choice drug on the weekends.  Jesus says that you are in fact a slave to those things.

If you never let truth into those areas of your life, you will always be a victim of slavery. 

Hebrews 4:12 says,
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”

I AM A SLAVE TO _______________ WITHOUT JESUS.

True freedom comes when you subject your life to the gospel and when you allow God's WORD to rule in your innermost thoughts and desires.

5 Ways To Get Closer To Your Call

More than any other question, this is the one that dominates the conversations I have with 20-somethings. "What's my purpose?" "What am I on earth to do?" "What is my call?" However, it is my belief that your call is not "out there" but rather "right here". Here are a few thoughts on a Sunday to help guide you closer to your call. 

1. Steward The Time God Allows You.

Time is the universal equalizer. No matter what background you came from, what education level you have, how privileged or not your family was, everyone is given the same hours in the day. I get asked sometimes how I can manage the life I have, or when I have time to do the things I do (be a mom, a preacher, a boss, a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter, an author...). For a while I didn't really have an answer. I live my life similar to most people with lots of flaws and lots of failures.

One thing I could point to though, is I'm aggressive with my time. 
"Teach us to number our days," The Psalmist writes, "So that we may apply our hearts with wisdom." - Psalm 90:12

The way we spend our minutes is the way we spend our days, the way we spend our days is the way we spend our years, and our years - the way we spend our lives. The Psalmist knows what few American's do - that the clock is ticking, and every moment matters. Numbering our days, and making the most of our moments will propel us more quickly into our callings. Choosing prayer over Netflix, writing over Snapchat, working hard over lazily passing hours, chatting with our spouses over zoning out in front of ESPN, sleeping restfully over reading WebMD. These small choices will lead to fuller minutes. And fuller minutes fuller days. Until we are living huge, full, and purposeful lifetimes.

2. Love The People God Places Around You.

We all have people in our lives that are difficult to love. They are rude, untrustworthy, hurtful or annoying. The New Testament throws a huge wrench in our self-protecting, people-avoiding desires, though. God is almost pushy about the way we are to treat people who are difficult to love:

"If you don't love well you don't know God." - 1 John 4:7-8 (My Translation)
"If someone mistreats you, let them - and give them the option to do it again." - Matthew 5:39 (My Translation)
"If someone is bold enough to ask for your favorite jacket, give them your favorite shoes, too." - Matthew 5:40 (My Translation)
"If you have a valid complaint against someone, don't rub it in their face, but forgive them." - Colossians 3:13 (My Translation)
"Love your brothers." - Hebrews 13:1 (My Translation)
"Try to out-love, out-serve, and out-honor everyone." - Romans 12:9-10 (My Translation)
"Love people. Love people. Love people." - 1 Corinthians 16:14 (My Translation)

God, in my opinion (and I'm just one of many), cares mostly about two things: His glory and His people. If you care for his people well, love them, be gracious to them, treat them with honor, you will be aligning yourself with the Kingdom's purposes.  If you care for people who offend you, love those who hurt you, and lift up those who don't or can't life you up, you are doing the will of your Father. You will be one step closer to God's heart, and one step closer to his purposes. 

3. Sweat In The Uniform God Gives You.

Most people are less than satisfied with the job, role, work suit or uniform God initially gives them. They would prefer a position with more status, more money, more authority and more respect. But if you read scripture, there is never a BIG call without some serious sweat. And the season of sweat is one with little status, little money, little authority and little respect. The greats of the faith that I value the most: Moses, David, Esther, Joseph, Elisha, Ruth, Joshua, Peter, Paul, and Timothy had large stretches of time of sweating in clothes that weren't king's robes, leader's shoes, queen's gowns, prophet coverings, or preacher's suits. For decades they worked hard, they sweat, they toiled, in the season God gave them. They did it with faithfulness, joy, and fortitude. 

And because of that, by the time they put on the king's robes or preacher's suits, they had sweat out all of their selfish ambition, their pride, and their fleshly tendencies. Work what God gives you, and God will make the sweat worth it.

4. Give The Money God Loans You.

Contrary to popular belief, God LOVES to bless his kids. But also contrary to popular belief, God blesses his kids so that they can bless others. This lesson came late for me, as Jon and I really started giving and giving big a few years into our marriage. When people are worried about their life, their future, their goals, I always ask them if they tithe. Not, "do you give the homeless guy $5?", although that's amazing. Not, "do you sometimes give when you feel like it?". But do you consistently give a tithe (a percentage) of your money to a house of God? It's amazing how not having your money under God's authority can lead to a place of distrust, confusion or lack of direction. 

God promises that when we give, and when we refresh others, we ourselves are refreshed. Moreover, obedience with our money shows God that we're ready for the big leagues, that he can trust us to be faithful and giving with more, because we have been faithful and giving with the present.

5. Walk By The Spirit God Put Inside You.

When life gets hard, or the path that God has you on seems stagnant, its important to remember what God has placed in you. "Greater is he that is in you than he who is in the world," writes John. Because of this, we overcome. Every time. But walking by the Spirit is a choice, and stewarding your heart so that you walk by the Spirit and not after the flesh is of utmost importance. This means choosing the fruits of the Spirit in your life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, long-suffering, and faithfulness. And it means avoiding fruits of the flesh: conceit, anger, envy, malice, provocation, dissension, factions, jealousy, and selfish ambition. 

God gives us the Spirit of Christ. But it is up to us to walk by it. In walking by the Spirit God promises peace, forward motion, blessing and protection.

Today may you steward ALL that God has given you. And may you be that much closer to ALL he has called you to. 

The Cost of Grace

The concept of grace is a funny thing.

It’s hard for us as a people to understand it. We wrestle with the idea of receiving grace when we have wronged someone, and then turn around and wrestle with the idea of giving grace when we perceive we have been wronged. Sometimes grace mends friendships and marriages, restores joy to the depressed and heals a broken heart. Sometimes feelings of guilt or shame are associated with grace, knowing that our transgression have wronged someone with no cost to us.

I think that’s the biggest problems that we as a people have when we are confronted with grace. It’s free to us. It’s free, so we minimize the cost of grace because we don’t feel the repercussion of it being given. When a wife shows grace to her husband who has had an affair, there is a price to that grace. The thoughts that haunt the mind of someone betrayed in marriage take a toll. However, it’s free to the transgressor, and that’s beautiful. It’s amazing when grace is shown. The freedom that comes from your wrongs being made right with no effort of your own is something that every person struggles understanding. It’s nothing short of a miracle. A miracle with a price. And I believe that is where we have forgotten the cost of grace.

Isaiah 53 is one of the most famous passages in scripture about the coming Messiah. It was written roughly 700 years before Jesus’ birth, and gives excruciating detail about what Jesus would go through for our salvation. However, there’s always one verse that jumps out at me whenever I read it that almost brings me to tears every time.

“But the Lord was pleased to crush him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors. ” ­ Isaiah 53:10­12 NASB

Notice two things here. Our grace had a price. It took crushing the King of the Universe, torturing him with whips and beatings, being spat on, mocked, and slapped, nailed to a cross which would take His life for our free grace. The freedom which we experience when God pursues us and calls him into relationship with Him is priceless in every sense of the word. It costs us nothing, but cost Him everything. 

Secondly, it pleased the Father to do this. So often there’s a twofold way that grace is taken advantage of. We think of it costing nothing because we receive it freely, or we walk around with self righteous attempts to punish ourselves because of the guilt we feel. If the goal of our life is to walk in obedience to the Father, and bring Him joy and glory, we must remember that it was for His joy that Jesus was sent to the cross. It pleased God to sacrifice the 2nd person of the Godhead for you and for me. It pleased Him to pay a price so that we may freely have grace.

Praise God our Father for his relentless love for us.
Praise Jesus Christ His son for paying the costly price so I may have grace.
Praise The Holy Spirit who instructs and encourages me to walk in that grace daily.
Our freedom and grace has a cost: Jesus Christ. And it was for His joy that he paid it, so
that you and I can be made white as snow, and have a relationship with Him now and forever. 

What Does God Dream About?

I'm a dreamer at heart. I have been since the 2nd grade when I decided I wanted to either write screen plays for movies, or act in them, or both. A product of the 80's, I believed and still believe that anything is possible for those who dream.

Have you ever thought about what God dreams about? Like, what keeps him up at night? What his mind wanders to, what preoccupies his thoughts? A few years ago I started to wonder about this question. What does God think about? What, if anything does he desire? 

In studying scripture, and found one passage that has changed the way I do life:

"(God)... who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." - 1 Timothy 2:4  

This is what God dreams about. This is what captures his attention - his people being saved, his people knowing truth. God dreams about his people.

God cares so much for our wounds, hopes, dreams and fears. And I believe that he looks on earth for people who decide that they will care about his dreams too.

Today as you grind your 9-5, begin to allow God's love and desire for his people well up within you. Instead of spending the majority of your time thinking about your dreams, goals and ambitions, allow Jesus to fill you up with his. And may these thoughts and heart rhythms dictate the way you love, the way you prioritize and how you work your gifting. 

May you do it all for his glory. May you do it all for the sake of his dreams.

From Pointless to Purpose

There is no emotion more paralyzing than that of pointlessness. 

Believers in moments of weakness entertain the lie - the Enemy comes quietly into your camp, and whispers: "what in the world are you doing? Surely all of this has no purpose. Surely YOU have no purpose." Millions of Christians begin to run a race well, only to be sidelined by such lies.  Just like that - their hearts are dashed easily into the rocks of the shore of purposelessness. 

For many Believers, this is the biggest obstacle that they face in life: pointlessness. That nagging feeling that there is no purpose for you. There is no future for you. God has plans for everyone else maybe, but yours is lost somewhere in God's storage shed. Whether through upbringing or past failure, a tendency towards depressive thoughts or just not understanding God's word, Believers can spend months, years, lifetimes on the shore of purposelessness.

But in God's Kingdom, there is no end to the amount of work to be done. Literally. There is NO END to what needs to be done. Jesus, seeing a generation of people who were lost, in need of care, healing, and leadership said: 

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

If Jesus were sitting across the table with a Believer facing purposelessness today, he would probably say something like this. "Look, Beloved. There is a field prepped and waiting for you to engage. There are people that need real hope and Godly love. Please don't waste time wondering if there is a plan. There's too much to do! And too few men and women who willingly do it. I would love for you to join me here."

The great thing about God's kingdom is you don't need to come up with a plan of how to make your life matter. How to live a life that has impact. Jesus is the CEO of this organization and his plan is already there (and it's incredibly effective). The field is already arranged. You just simply need to be available and ready to labor. 

Jesus would love for a generation of Believers to put away thoughts of purposelessness, take up a plow, and begin to work their field they have been given - right where they are. This is where we will find our greatest revivals, and our greatest feeling of satisfaction and cause. 

This Labor Day, may you trust fully that you are wanted. That God has a plan. That you are welcomed to be a part of it. The harvest is plentiful, and Jesus is simply waiting for you to say "yes" to laboring in it.

Humble Success or Proud Failure

"You can have a humble success, or a proud failure." - Scott Bruegman, Staff Pastor of Red Rocks Church

In my 27 years of life no singular phrase has echoed across my brain more than that phrase. I remember sitting in the office of my campus pastor/boss during my internship at Red Rocks Church in hopes of impressing him with my “eagerness” to learn and be taught. I wouldn't say that it was completely an act. I had a ton of respect for the church God had allowed him and his friends to start and pastor. I would say that it was more half hearted. I did want to learn from him, but I also wanted to secretly impress him with insight and wisdom I had picked up in my few short years in ministry. How often has that ever worked out?

If i’m being honest I don’t remember much of that conversation. There was one phrase he said to me about 20 minutes into our hour long meeting that struck my heart with such a gracious conviction that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt God had just spoken to me. “You can have a humble success, or a proud failure.” As I walked out his door and back to my office I wrestled with the conviction of knowing exactly where God was asking me to let go, and trying desperately to convince myself that holding on to my selfish ambition was a noble thing. It was painful. It was scary. It was humbling. And to this point in my life, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I have always been interested in starting things. As a kid I would play Madden or NBA2K and love to do franchises and barter, draft, and trade to create the right team at the right price that could make a run at a fictional championship. Once I felt a call from God to dedicate my life for His Kingdom, that same ambition carried over. I remember sitting in the Tattered Cover bookstore in early 2012, reading Sun Stand Stillby Steven Furtick when I felt a strong desire to start a church. I had tossed the idea around in my head before, but this time I knew it was something God was etching in the DNA of my heart. It was what most people would call a “God Dream.” Funny thing about “God Dreams” is that it takes GOD to make them work. God’s not handing you the reins and letting you loose. It’s God’s Dream for you, for His glory, with His people, for His purpose, during His timing.

I scheduled that meeting in hopes of having my pastor affirm the call that God had given me and that Ihad ran with. I hoped he would applaud me for wanting to take off on my own, start a church like no one’s ever seen before, reach 100,000 new believers, preach gospel centered messages, etc. What I got was the most loving and grace filled caution I’ve ever received: “You can have a humble success, or a proud failure.” It’s hard to explain what that phrase did to me in that moment. The best way I can put it is that it slowly began opening the tightly closed fists I had made, holding on to my version of God’s dream for me. It chipped away at the idol I had made of pastoring and church planting, and reminded me about who had called me to this in the first place. My version of God’s dreams slowly died, and now God’s dreams are beginning taking hold of my heart.

That message wasn’t just spoken to me, but it was lived out through the life of my pastor. He has an amazing story and with his permission one day I’ll share it. But here’s the point. So often God etches a purpose into the DNA of our heart and then we mold it into whatever we want it to be. We come to God with open hands in hopes to receive something good from Him, but then refuse to let Him shape it and form it into exactly what He want’s it to be.

The posture of open hands is twofold. One is to receive, and the other is to let go. We think that we are blessed most when God is giving us something. We kneel in prayer with our hands stretched high, palms toward the ceiling in hopes of receiving. But I think the more powerful posture is to kneel in prayer with our hands stretched high, palms toward the ceiling saying, “God whatever you’ve given me is Yours. Take it and do with it whatever you please.”

If you’re reading this, more than likely God has given you a dream. And with that dream comes two options: humble success or proud failure. Throughout your life you will be tempted to take a road leading to a proud failure. A road where you mold and shape your dream in a way that you will receive the most recognition and praise for your talents and gifts. But, if you’re one of those who can take the road of humble success, you’ll see God do more with the dream He’s put inside of you than you could ever have imagined. 

Tell The Gates Of Hell You're Coming

A few months ago I had the privilege of hearing Christine Caine preach live for the very first time. I have listened to hundreds of her messages. She inspires me a reminds me of Jesus in a way few others do. Greek in birth and Australian in upbringing, she is short, funny, extremely passionate and a world changer. In the last two decades of her life, she has written a handful of books that inspire, preached globally without ceasing, started 3 ministries (one of which is one of the most prominent sex trafficking organizations in the world) oh, and been a rad wife and mommy.

Listening to her live was more than I expected, she had a fortitude and a presence on stage that can only come with years of hardship, perseverance, and victory over darkness. 

Mid-message Christine spoke about a recent battle with cancer she had had. The cancer was a tumor that had attached to her vocal chord. I almost laughed. Here is a woman who God has set apart to share his good news with her voice, and change the world with the stage He provides. And wouldn't you know it, the enemy fires back - in the most obvious way possible.

What encouraged me - and I hope it encourages you - is Christine was seemingly unfazed by the ordeal. She got treatment, but meanwhile was launching her 3rd ministry, taking just a small break from preaching and continuing her efforts with A21, her sex trafficking organization. She just kept trucking. "This week," she continued, "15 girls who were trafficked were rescued into our program at A21," she beamed. The crowd went nuts. And then she nearly screamed:

"And I bet the devil regrets the day he messed with ME."

As Christians we are called to stand as light bulbs on dark corners of our streets. To set free captives. To bring sight to the blind. But if we do this, you better believe that the enemy will try to steal your ambitions for Christ, kill your hopes of a future, and destroy you. If you are feeling discouraged today, maybe it is because you have become more threatening in your walk. Maybe it's because you are pushing God's kingdom forward, and you are met with opposition. If you are feeling push-back today, perhaps it's because you are Jesus' child, workmanship and champion for the gospel. Pay no mind.

Instead, today tell that discouragement that you are loved by Christ, set apart for a purpose, daily being renewed in your inner man - and that you aren't stopping. And then tell the enemy and the gates of hell that you're coming for them.

For His Kingdom,

So You Want To Change The World?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be on Colorado Christian University's campus for a church and opportunities fair. The place was teeming with freshmen students, bustling around the booths to meet churches, ministries, other students. The thing I love about my generation of believers is we literally believe anything is possible. Far from what some folks would judge about the millennials, (that we are lazy, self-absorbed, ill-fitted for the 'real world',) I believe this generation may be the most entrepreneurial, idealistic, focused, and service-oritientied posse to have graced the earth yet. 

Our energy is infectious. Our plans are passionate.
We are pursuing our dreams.
We want to change the world.

Three years ago, though, my personal desire to change the world, with my personalized plan with which to change it came to a screeching halt. I realized deeply and earnestly that my dreams weren't enough. My plans weren't incredible enough and ingenious enough to do it. I may want to change the world, but my ideas and dreams for how to do it fall flat. They are, like me, riddled with fallenness. 

And that's when I realized, God wants to change the world too.

More than you do. More than I do. He is relentless about changing it. And He has a perfect plan. The way He intends to do it is through His people, by His Son, and for the Lost. God wants to change the world by taking broken people, redeeming them, and then sending them out to find more broken people. This plan repeats, as God "desires all men to be saved". 

God has a plan, it includes us, and according to scripture: the gates of Hell can't stop it.

A few years ago I heard a story about the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs. Apparently, during the early years of Apple, Jobs was looking for a man to fill a pertinent role in his company. He found the man he wanted, the president of Pepsi-Cola, John Sculley. Pursuing him in his office, Jobs relentlessly tried to lure Sculley to join the Apple team. Jobs, sure of his plans to grow Apple, and resolute of what the company would become in the next few decades, he asked Sculley pointedly:

"Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?"  

According to legend Sculley left Pepsi soon after, and joined Apple for the next decade to see it grow into the powerhouse of innovation and technology that it is today.

I love this story. I love this story because this is what God says to you and I. Sure you have a job. Sure you have your plans. Sure life is good. Afterall, you're making your life's version of sugar water. Not a bad gig.

But I believe God comes to us and asks us pointedly:

"Do you want to follow your plans for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?"

See, God already has a plan to change the world. He doesn't need ours. What he would love, though, is for us to join him in his operation. For us to bend our lives around his plan. For us to bend our wills around his. For us to look at our jobs, schedules, calendars and priorities and say: "You got it, how can I bend my life into your plan, Jesus?"

May this be your simple prayer today: "Jesus, I desire wholeheartedly to change the world. But I know your ways are above my ways, your thoughts above my thoughts. I realize fully that I may make my plans, but it's you Jesus that directs my steps. Show me more fully what your plan is and how I can bend my life around your desires. In Jesus name. And so it is.

 

His Kingdom And It's Goodness

A month ago Jon and I boarded a plane to head home to Denver from a fun trip in Houston. We were there with the Red Rocks Young Adult staff, chilling at an incredible conference put on by Lakewood Church. The plane got chilly about half way into the flight, and being the "anything below 75 degrees is freezing" chick that I am, I asked our nice attendant if I could have a blanket. She brought me their blue blanket and I thanked her.

I unfolded the blanket though, and realized that this was more of a glorified napkin I was going to put over me. I snuggled as best I could under it but it was a no-go. It felt scratchy, not warm, but maybe if I moved under it just right it would feel like a blanket should.

Like a blanket should.

Have you ever thought about the question, "is this how things should be?" I'm being serious. Have you ever paused and taken a moment and thought, "is this the way the world should be?" Looked around the world, your news, your grocery store, your hometown, your neighbors teenagers and asked - is this it? Is this as real as it gets?  Like, this world - is this the deal? 

But then there are other times, aren't there? 

Times where you catch a glimpse of glory in an act of service. Times when the house is quiet and you can sense your God swooping close. Times where you are in church, the chords strike something deep within you and you long for another place. You long for another world. A true kingdom.

The problem is, though, that most of us spend our lives attempting to build upon our kingdoms.

You see, while our world is good, and believe me I think it is, it's to God's kingdom what an airplane blanket is to a heavy cashmere throw on a cold fall night. God's kingdom outweighs ours. It condenses ours. It is so much grander, fuller, more colorful more right. In scripture, Paul writes about God's kingdom, and says that what we experience is just a shadow of the genuine Kingdom. It's so good, His kingdom. It's about Christ, and His people. It's about His glory, and His light.

The problem is, though, that most of us spend our lives attempting to build upon our kingdoms. We work tirelessly 9-5. Or 7-7. We go to school then go to school again. We build a house. Build a 401k. Build a "life" for ourselves. None of this is bad, mind you. But it's our kingdoms. And our kingdom's pale in comparison to His. 

And so what if we began to take our talents, dreams, ambitions and goals and simply BEND those dreams around Him, and His kingdom. To ask God what He desires for His kingdom, and to bend our dreams accordingly. Does God want to care for "the least of these"? Why yes He does. Then bend your dreams towards that. Does God want to see people saved and redeemed? He does indeed. Then bend your dreams towards that. Does God desire to be glorified? Yes. Then bend your dreams towards that.

What is outrageous is the moment you begin bending your dreams around Jesus is the moment your dreams actually come alive. I have first-hand experience in this, and can't wait to share more.

The goal of Kingdom Bend is to empower a generation of believers to begin seeking to build His kingdoms above their own, and desire His glory before their own.

The goal of Kingdom Bend is to empower a generation of believers to begin seeking to build His kingdoms above their own, and desire His glory before their own. And Jesus, in his goodness promises that if we seek His kingdom first, all other things will be added to us.

Check back periodically, pray daily for His will, and perhaps today, bend your life towards Jesus' ambitions.

With Grace,

 

Go Ahead, Fall in Love (With His People)

Today we set out in The Highlands (or LoHi, as it's known in Denver) to spread fliers for the upcoming Meet Up event for RRYA. The Meet Up is an event we tried last year, where we asked RRYA to bring their buddies who don't know Jesus for a night of food trucks, games and food. And maybe (hopefully, praying YES, God) they would receive Jesus.

That night 2 sweet souls got saved.

So this is year two. 

And the prayer is the same.  "God help us bring your people home. Help us to have YOUR heart for YOUR people. Amen."

At the end of handing out fliers, we stopped to get ice-cream.  Kelly, a beautiful young gal from YA walked up last. "How was it?" We were all catching up about the fun/awkward/exhilarating conversations we had just had about Jesus. 

Under her sun glasses I could tell Kelly was fighting tears. 

"I was talking to these kids playing basketball," she said. She breathed in deep, tears building. "I kept thinking that's somebody's kid. That's somebody's kid." She cried then. "You know?? That's someone's little kid."

"I get it," I smiled. "They're Jesus' kids." I smiled, "And he's CRAZY about them. Like absolutely head-over-heels in love with them." I hugged her for letting her heart open wide.

"Now you are too."

It's a dangerous prayer. Asking for a heart for His people. Asking to view your neighbor the way Jesus viewed His. Asking God to show you His heart for the hurting, lost, broken, downtrodden, forgotten and disgraced. It's dangerous because suddenly your heart is exposed - vulnerable to feel deeply for people you don't totally know. You would cross the street to say hi. Stop suddenly to ask if they need help. Cry when you sense their pain.

But this is what Jesus wants. For all of us. To have a heart JUST LIKE HIS for His people.

Pray today to have His heart. And watch. As you fall in love with His people.