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Mar 5th, 2014

Just Keep Swimming

The only way to get to victory is to be willing to fail on the way there. True overnight successes are rare. Far more often you have people who kept showing up day in and day out until the hard, unglamorous work added up and paid off. It’s easy to misunderstand what you are seeing when you look at people who are taking a victory lap or receiving attention or promotion. What is happening there in that moment is only the tip of the iceberg. Invisible to your eye is what’s under water —the hell they went through on the road to success.

I recently read a story in the news about Kristen Anderson-Lopez that was powerful. She (along with her husband) wrote the song “Let it Go” from Disney’s “Frozen.” As the father of four daughters there are very few Disney princess movies I haven’t seen, and like many of you, we have not only seen this film multiple times but we own the soundtrack as well. (And no, I would not like to build a snowman.) The song “Let it Go” is not just a great song, it is literally the best. It won an Oscar for the best song in a motion picture. It was so good that it changed the course of the movie. Apparently Elsa, a character in the movie who freezes everything, was originally going to stay evil, but when they heard “Let it Go”, the song caused them to rewrite everything so Elsa could sing it and be redeemed.

That’s powerful in and of itself, but the best part of the the article was where it said that Kristen also wrote 17 songs that weren’t included in the movie. SEVENTEEN times her songs weren’t right. SEVENTEEN times she heard “no.” Most of us would consider ourselves a colossal failure to be shut down five or six times. It would be difficult to keep pressing full steam ahead after being rejected a dozen times. But she continued writing and creating and inventing and putting herself out there SEVENTEEN times. Let that sink in. Songs #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14,15, 16, and 17 weren’t good enough for the movie. Attempt number 18 was a different story. This time the movie, as it was currently written, wasn’t good enough for the song.

The point is, to envy someone’s success is to completely misunderstand the nature of it. To covet the limelight and the accolades is to focus on the wrong thing. Yes, there are those who are given every advantage and people who are raised with a silver spoon in their mouth, but far more often the recipe for success is simple and unpleasant. You persevere through difficulty, bad ideas, bad days and bitterness again and again and again until something clicks. It’s not sexy, but it’s true. What you were willing to do in secret is responsible, so often, for what happens in public. It would be nice to crank out a hit on your first attempt, but those unlucky enough to do so often end up unable to replicate their accidental success. Far better to be ok with writing some duds and be able to just keep swimming.

1 Chronicles 28:10 “…be strong and do the work.”

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Feb 13th, 2014

O2 Florida Recap Video

2014 is a big year for the O2 Experience as it marks 10 years since we began putting on these events. It was thrilling to kick off this year by departing from our usual rhythm with a wintertime tour in addition to the one we have coming up this summer. We were also stoked to be on the east coast for the first time. We put together this little video to celebrate the great things God did.

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Jan 30th, 2014

O2 in Florida

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We just got home from a very, very special trip to Florida for a series of O2 Experience events. Each and every time we get to look into someone’s eyes and tell them that they are made in God’s image and that they have value and that Jesus loves them and no matter what they have done, today is a new day, and He wants to turn their brokenness into beauty and their sorrow into strength–which is what the O2 Experience is all about–it is special; but this trip was unique. For one thing, 2014 marks 10 years since we first felt the call to start this ministry. Jennie and I had just gotten married and the Lord stirred our hearts to call this generation out to sexual purity. We had no idea what we were in for, but we obeyed. To have reached the 10 year mark and to have done these events all over the country since then is absolutely amazing to me.

Another reason this trip was unique was because we have never done an O2 run outside of the summer. Wintertime presented some unique challenges for a team that is headquartered in Montana. Exposing our pale and pasty selves to the Florida weather we knew there was the inherent risk that some members of our crew might begin worshipping the sun, or never come back home. There was also the 108 hour round trip drive with a 30-foot trailer for the guys who bring the gear…yeah, that happened.

It was worth it. Never have we seen the floodgates opened like we did in these three events. We saw over capacity crowds at two of the events. In Ft. Lauderdale once the enormous worship center filled to standing room only, people cascaded into six different overflows! In Miami we broke fire code (In Jesus’ name) in the sanctuary, turned to an auxiliary gymnasium, then filled every nook and cranny of the building, and eventually projected what was happening on the platform on the outside of the building and hundreds STOOD in the parking lot, many coming forward to the projection to indicate their profession of faith in Jesus!

The Melbourne event was a wild-card. I had never set foot in the city, am not on the radio there, and have no ministry connections that would typically help an event gain momentum and exposure. It was also on a Tuesday night. A school night. Really, the event had everything going against it. Jesus did His thing. Thousands showed up, and there was such a sense of spiritual hunger and the presence of God was felt. In response to the invitation the front area filled up instantly, people literally ran forward, and soon they backed up the aisles indicating they were giving their lives to Christ. We actually saw such great response in Florida that we ran out of New Believer Bibles after the second event and had to have more shipped in for the final night!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. In the midst of all of this I was struggling with voice problems all week long, spending as much of each day as I could on vocal rest so that I could speak each night. Brutal. But in our weakness God’s strength is made perfect. Regardless of how much it scared me or how difficult it was, the Holy Spirit provided the power that was lacking. We were carried on eagles’ wings. I love all of this so much. Seeing young girls tear up as we tell them they are valuable and precious and worth waiting for, watching people put their signed commitment cards in their wallets, hearing the stories of what God has done, and through it all our dedicated team serving with excellence and passion. AMAZING.

Here is the Florida O2 run lookbook:

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Jan 14th, 2014

Seven years of Fresh Life

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Today is the birthday of Fresh Life Church, but it’s not just any birthday, it’s our seventh. That makes it extra special because seven is a great number. It’s always been my favorite, but like I tell my daughters, I am pretty sure it is God’s favorite number too! If it’s not, it’s certainly up there because He sure uses it a lot in the Bible.

Plus think about this, Fresh Life started on January 14, 2007. On that Sunday morning 14 people showed up to our first service, and it was 14 degrees outside. Now that seven years have gone by since 2007, in the year 2014, we are seven! If that doesn’t make this a special birthday for us I don’t know what would. How about the fact that we have seen just under 7,000 people (6,920) make decisions for Christ in these seven years! That’ll about do it.

But my favorite thing about the number seven is that it is a number of completion. A number of fullness. It’s an ending, and after seven comes eight. A number of new beginnings. Even as eight people came out of the ark, eight signifies the start of something brand new. Fresh. Something bristling with potential. As we enter this eighth year of ministry that is our mindset. Glory to God for all He has done! This is just the beginning.

For our birthday we are streaming the fresh life story (a documentary we made about how the church began) all day long for free here.

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Jan 13th, 2014

That time I went to China

On the Great Wall

One of the standout moments of last year was a quick trip I took to China. There is technically no such thing as a quick anything when travel from Montana to China is involved, but I was only there for a short time. Regardless of how much of a whirlwind it might have been, it was certainly an amazing experience.

The trip was put together by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and lead by Franklin Graham. The purpose of the trip was to encourage dialogue and relationship between the Protestant church here in America and in China. Pastors and Christian leaders from both nations spent several days talking on the subject of reconciliation and the Gospel. Billy’s wife Ruth was born in China and the country has always been a place near to his heart and a focus in his ministry.

I was, by far, the youngest American pastor on the delegation. (I can’t even spell delegation.) Most of the others were not just leaders of individual churches but heads of whole denominations or presidents of seminaries. I assumed it was a clerical error that I was invited to be a part, but I didn’t ask any questions fearing the mistake would be discovered and corrected. Fortunately I have been watching Kai-Lan (basically Chinese “Dora the Explorer”) with my girls so I knew enough of the language to say “hello,” “please” and “thank you.”

We spent time in Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai. We made our way across the country, in between these cities, on bullet trains that fly along at 200 mph. I have traveled to Asia a number of times but this was my first trip to China and I loved it. It is an amazing country. So cool. The fact that it is home to 1.3 billion people is astounding. Getting to spend time with Chinese pastors was a genuine pleasure. Hearing what the Lord is doing in and through their churches blessed me greatly. There are somewhere over 23 million registered Christians in the state-sanctioned Protestant church. It is estimated that the true number could be over 100 million if you include those who are a part of house churches.

In Beijing, we were hosted for two formal, 14-course dinners. One was put on by the State Administration of Religious Affairs. We visited their headquarters in a building the emperor’s father used to live in (the movie “The Last Emperor” was filmed there) before eating at a hotel that 10 years ago only state guests could enter. The second was at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, a place that is their version of Camp David, where we were hosted the former Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations and to the United States. Ambassador Li Zhaoxing told us that he has hosted every American president from Nixon to Obama right there. Amazing. He also told me that he has visited every state in America and he loves Montana.

With our very limited downtime we explored, walking through the iconic narrow Hutong alleyways, watching random groups of people dance in the streets (it would be hard to get noticed doing a flash mob over there), walked on the Great Wall of China, and visited Tiananmen Square. I took advantage of being in these spots and captured some messages that we used for our seven year anniversary at Fresh Life. (Check it out here.) It’s not everyday you find yourself in China on the verge of a new year — the Chinese “Year of the Horse” — but when you are, and you are all about running with horses … well, you gotta do what you gotta do.

More than anything, the trip intensified my desire to get the Gospel to as many people, in as many places as I can before my time on this earth is done. It’s a big earth full of souls and Jesus loves and died for each and every one of them. We must do what we can to share His love and get His Word to the ends of the earth!

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Tiananmen Square

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Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing

Shanghai

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