don’t give up

There is a good chance that one of the reasons we don’t see more of our prayers answered is because we give up on them too early. Prayer is an exercise that is intended to stretch our faith as much as it is a vehicle to accomplish God’s will on earth. As such it isn’t meant to function like a genie granting three wishes–often it doesn’t happen right away. Spoiled by fast food, fast trak passes at Disneyland and Instant Google searches we give up way too easily. There are potentially prayers we have abandoned that were on the verge of being answered when we quit. God will accomplish His work through another, but who knows if you weren’t called to pray for such a time as this!

Luke’s gospel opens up with God answering a prayer. In the first Word from heaven since the prophet Malachi and Nehemiah had ministered four hundred years previously, the Angel Gabriel told a man named Zacharias that his prayer had been heard. He and his wife were going to have a baby. The crazy thing is that this was a prayer they had been praying for a loooooong time. Zacharias and Elizabeth were “advanced in age” (they were super old) and had probably been praying that prayer since they were first married. In that culture everything hinged on having children and their infertility would have been a bitter pill to swallow. In time, added to their infertility, there was the reality that Elizabeth’s body was no longer even able to handle a pregnancy. Most would have given up years ago. They kept praying. And one day their prayers were answered. They would rock a baby bjorn and a walker at the same time!

F.B. Meyer captures the emotion that would have marked that moment, “It must have been like hearing news that a ship, long over due and almost despaired of, has suddenly made harbor.” The angel Gabriel told them, “Your prayer has been heard.” And by that he meant God had heard every prayer, going all the way back to their first year of marriage and beyond. The reality is that God hears every prayer. Scripture presents them to us as rising to heaven like incense from a golden bowl that is before the Throne. Matthew Henry once said that, “Prayers of faith are filed in heaven and are not forgotten.” They are all heard and will be answered in God’s perfect time.

The difficulty for us is that we operate on MST (Me Standard Time) and we need to need to learn to set our spiritual clocks to God’s time zone. His timing is perfect. And we need to have our eyes opened up to the fact that even if we don’t see a prayer answered in our day or our lifetime that doesn’t mean God won’t act. There could be prayers that are answered long after we ceased to pray, forgot that we have prayed or even after we have left the earth and gone to heaven. We also need to remember that “no” and “wait” are answers just as “yes” is. Zacharias had persisted in praying through decades and decades that must have felt like he was hitting a wall, but faith lingered in his heart and he pressed on.

Why would God do this? Why would he put them through all that? I don’t know. I can speculate that they grew in ways they never would have had they not had to live a lifetime of faith in a child they felt God wanted them to have. Additionally, by waiting until there was no possibility of conception, humanly speaking, there would be no doubt God had performed a miracle. The story also illustrates how God is accustomed to do exceeding abundantly above all that we could ask or think–that’s how He rolls. Whatever the reason, I guarantee you that when they held baby John in their arms all the waiting and praying and trusting was worth it. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.”

What have you given up praying for because it didn’t seem like anything was happening? Don’t give up. As a homework assignment–yes, I am about to assign you homework off of a blog post–read Luke 11:5-10. Then grab a dictionary and look up the word importunity because that is the word in vs. 8 the KJV uses instead of persistence. It is a much cooler word too. Hopefully this will open your to see the tenacious way that God wants you to pray.


Happy Thanksgiving


Setting Goals

One of my goals at the beginning of the year was to work my way up to a fifty mile bike ride and another was to read through the Bible on my phone. My wife and I made the second resolution together and we kept in sync through out the year. It was a lot of fun staying on the same page…I mean…screen with her, even when I was out of town we would communicate about that days digital reading assignment. And it provided plenty of rich opportunities to talk about God’s Word together.

This summer I clawed my way to the end of a brutal 53 miler. I know a ton of people that would view that as a warmup but for me it was a big deal. There were a few points in the ride where I felt like I wasn’t going to make it, but I survived! (and then I rushed to find a cheeseburger.) The hard thing about accomplishing that goal was that my training was interrupted by an accident where I broke a facial bone and sprained my wrist (FYI trying to answer your phone while riding a bike is a bad idea.) I couldn’t ride for two weeks and figured the season was over. At that point my longest ride was 36 miles. Fortunately my doctor gave me the ok to ride with enough rideable days left in the summer to make it to the 1/2 century milestone. It felt great.

Reading through the Bible on our phones was a lot less dramatic. There were no trips to the ER and we were able to chip away at it no matter what the weather was like outside. This past week my wife and I finished the book of Malachi. We started in the New Testament, we had challenged Skull Church to read through the 27 NT books in 90 days, and then began the Old Testament. Speaking of Skull Church and the end of the Old Testament, this week I will be beginning a brand new series that focuses on a person that Malachi prophecies about at the end of his book.

I was thinking about it and realized that I haven’t always been so successful in rocking my resolutions. There have been many years where I didn’t accomplish the goals that I made at the beginning of the year. There have even been times where I didn’t remember what my resolutions were by the end of the year. I think what made the difference this time was two very simple things.

First of all, I was specific. A lot of times we make vague and general goals like, “I just wanna be healthier” which is nice, but how will you ever know if you get there? What does healthier mean? That’s a slippery slope. But when you say “I want to run a marathon this year” or “be able to do 200 pushups,” that’s pass or fail dude. Either you do it or you don’t. Don’t say, “I want to go to the gym more” instead say, “I want to go to the gym 2x a week.” Make it concrete. Instead of saying, “I am going to be a better spouse,” make a goal like, “We will take a weekly date night a minimum of 3x a month” or, “we will spend 20 minutes a day without distraction, just talking.” That is a goal that you can know whether you have kept.

Secondly, I involved accountability. My wife was not only aware but a part of my reading, and I had a whole crew of dudes that I went out riding with. They pushed me farther than I would have gone on my own. Ecclesiastes 4:10 says, If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Plus, riding with others is so much better, funner, and safer than riding alone.

So what needs to change in your life? You don’t have to wait until years end to set some goals. And whether it’s spiritual, physical, or relational, be specific and involve someone else who will keep up on your progress or share in it with you.


Rock This City Behind the Scenes

I like to do these behind the scenes video blogs whenever I finish a series to sort of debrief and decompress. Here are my thoughts after spending 4+ months teaching through the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. The Rock this City series was, without a doubt, one of the most helpful and inspiring studies I have undertaken as a pastor. You can listen to and download all of the messages from the series here.


Whitefish Campus

This weekend at fresh life we announced a new campus that we will be launching in Whitefish, Montana at the beginning of 2011. We are stoked on this venture in faith that the Lord has us taking and are praying that many people meet Jesus through it!

Please join with us praying:
For many people, who live in the North end of the valley and attend fresh life, to view this as their home church and be apart of the mission and community of this campus.

That God would continue to bless the awesome churches that are already making a difference in Whitefish and that we would have the opportunity to be a blessing to them.

For God to raise up an army to accomplish all that will be necessary for this to happen; and for those who will leave ministry holes behind in Kalispell–that God would raise up new people to step up to the plate.

For those who see and believe in the vision to continue to give generously as we advance the cause of Christ.

That we would find ways to reach the tourists and visitors who come to the Valley to ski, vacation and visit Glacier.

For protection from the enemy who would love to keep Jesus from building His church…but can’t!

For many to find life and liberty in Christ as we seek to make Jesus famous!


Amazing weekend in Seattle

There is no sound on earth I love as much as the sound of people praying to ask Christ to come into their hearts. This weekend I had the chance to listen to thousands of voices doing just that after Greg Laurie preached the gospel and called people to respond to it at a three-day Harvest Crusade. To make it even sweeter, this all took place in Seattle, a city that is known for a lot of things: coffee, technology, recycling, dog lovers, hybrid automobiles, music etc; but a love for the gospel is not usually the first thing that comes to mind. In all 4,225 people made professions of faith over the course of the weekend!

I have been serving with Greg Laurie and the Harvest team for a number of years and it is a huge thrill to be apart of these awesome evangelistic outreaches across the country. Unless you have been to one, there aren’t words that can do it justice–it just blows me away to watch God moving in such a huge way, in so many people’s lives at one time, as the powerful message of the cross goes forth. One thing that made this particular crusade extra fun was the fact that since it took place in the NorthWest, a team from fresh life was able to load up on a bus and participate in the event. They passed out thousands of invites, served as ushers, new believer counselors and did whatever they could to help support the weekend. Several staff members from the Harvest Crusades complimented me on how awesome the team was. I wasn’t suprised–Fresh Lifers are hard core!

The crusade took place at Key Arena, right underneath the Space Needle, here is a shot I grabbed, on my phone, one night while walking out of the venue.

On Friday night I had the opportunity to interview former NBA player, and current head coach of the University of Washington Huskies mens basketball team, Lorenzo Romar during the crusade. He is the Pac-10 Conference’s longest-tenured coach and widely respected throughout collegiate basketball. Currently the Huskies are 17th in the nation. He talked about how despite his success, he was empty on the inside until he realized he needed to be born again and have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

It was a lot of fun meeting and interacting with a few of the different pastors from the 300+ churches that came together to support the event. It was especially great to meet Judah Smith from the City Church. I have watched his teachings before and appreciate his ministry.

And of course, being in Seattle lead to the consumption of TONS of great coffee…in addition to hitting up Peet’s (one of my faves) it was fun to try the Clover brewed coffee from Starbucks. These Clover machines are like french presses in reverse and rely on gravity to brew. They cost 10,000 bucks apiece and are only in a hundred or so locations. They definitely make a great cup of coffee.

It was also fun to visit Mars Hill’s Ballard campus on Sunday morning and go to a church service where I wasn’t preaching. During the service Mark had Greg come up on stage and they talked about the event. Their worship band was phenomenal and the message from Mark Driscoll was super refreshing. He taught out of Luke 12, about why we shouldn’t worry. The big takeaway truth was that “God doesn’t want to take your stuff, He wants to take your stress.” It was definitely a trip to be sitting in a church service in Seattle while simultaneously preaching the first Soldier On message in Montana via video. I heart technology.


Soldier On – A Faith Worth Fighting For

This weekend at fresh life we began a study of the New Teatament book of Jude. We are being challenged to contend for the faith, to Soldier On! Our creative dept always does a great job setting the vibe and the mood of the series, but I couldn’t believe what they came up with this time…amazing.


Charlie Hall at Skull Church

Last night we were super blessed to have Charlie Hall and his band lead worship at skull church. It was awesome. They not only played during the service but also at the after party where we celebrated all that God had done in the lives of those who made professions of faith, in person and online.
Charlie Hall Band

We sing many songs at fresh life that he has written. Killer songs like: “You are God”, “All We Need” and “Into Marvelous Light. I was telling him that in particular his song “Center” means a lot to me as it became the theme-song of our Nucleus series through the book of Colossians.

What I love about Charlie Hall, and all the worship leaders in the passion movement for that matter, (Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill etc;) is the way that as they lead their songs turn into anthems, sometimes it’s almost a war-cry. You can’t help but sense a revolution in the air beckoning you to live for Christ’s fame as you sing along with them. I love it.
Charlie Hall Band


New Series

This weekend, at fresh life, we are beginning a brand new series going through the New Testament book of Jude. Despite the fact that this little book doesn’t get a whole lot of play, it has a LOT to say. Make sure to join us at the Strand or Liberty theatre, on fresh life radio or on the webcast, which is now in HD at freshlifechurch.com!
soldier on


leadership

I am fascinated by the subject of leadership. I am almost always somewhere in the middle of one or two books on the subject that I either downloaded from Amazon to check out for the first time, or pulled from my shelf to go through again. Whether spiritual or corporate; new and outside the box or time honored and classic in it’s approach, I find it interesting. I especially love books about entrepreneurs who start companies that lead to revolutions in their industry and beyond. People who are gutsy enough to challenge the status quo and take steps to change the world.

The themes of: culture, vision casting, implementing systems, brand and identity, communication and maintaining momentum get my blood pumping and fill my moleskines up time and time again. God has revealed flaws in my leadership skills through books written by bank presidents and heads of software companies just as He has through books written by pastors and Christian leaders.

I just finished reading Transforming Church in Rural America by Shannon O’Dell and am currently reading Church Planter by Darrin Patrick and What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith and I have gone through another half-dozen or more on the subject this year.

But, hands down, the best leadership book I have ever read is the book of Nehemiah. Yesterday I wrapped up an 18 week long study through this Old Testament book and from beginning to end I was blown away by the leadership lessons it contains. Long before Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Fred Smith or Henry Ford, Nehemiah was someone who took on a project big enough to change the world and though many thought he was crazy, that was exactly what happened–he changed the world. He took radical steps to live out the dream that God put in his heart, regardless of the cost or consequences, and never gave up.

He looked at the world and didn’t see what was, he saw what could be. And when he spoke of the future he saw others followed him there. Not because he had a great plan (though he did) but because he had a great vision. He inspired people. And he drew out the best in them, pushed them to be all that God had called them to be and empowered them to do all that God had called them to do. In fact, I think his building up of the people around him was potentially a greater accomplishment than the walls that he is remembered for building.

It wasn’t all roses and rewards for Nehemiah, it never is for those who will change the world. He knew full well the truth of the statement, if you want to lead you must be willing to bleed. He faced criticism, opposition, danger, and betrayal. And perhaps nothing caused him more pain than the prospect of his greatest accomplishment, the spiritual health of the people he loved, unraveling at the seams as they headed into an uncertain future. But no matter what he faced, he kept the vision God had given him front and center and refused to budge.

I found myself applying principles gleaned from Nehemiah to every area of my life. From the way I lead in my home to the way I lead at fresh life, even the way I write on this blog! The book of Nehemiah was basically just Nehemiah’s blog that God chose to include in the Bible. I am thankful that he took time to write down the things he was learning and living and hope to encourage others by doing the same.

I can’t wait until I get to meet Nehemiah in heaven and thank him for his example. Until then I plan to follow his lead and serve the Lord with a sword in one hand and a shovel in the other!