Today is my birthday. I am 29 years old and pumped to start a new year of life in Christ. Psalm 29 talks all about the power and majesty of the voice of the Lord. This year I want to both listen to and be a mouthpiece for God’s glorious voice, like never before. Over coffee this morning I was mulling over God’s faithfulness during the past twelve months and I was overwhelmed. The last year of my life was wonderful. That’s not to say there weren’t trials. There were. But through it all, good and bad, God proved Himself strong.
Here are a few memories that came to mind and brought a smile to my face…
The book of Nehemiah. The lessons that emerged from studying this book significantly changed me as a person and freshlife as a church forever. This series was a defining moment. We went in as cupbearers. We came out as snakebirds. Sanballat and Tobiah be warned–Our God will fight for us!
Daisy Grace. This little girl came into our home and has lit up our lives.
The launch of the Whitefish campus. There was no shortage of drama, opposition and craziness but we held onto the promise that Jesus will build His church and NO ONE CAN STOP HIM and that’s just what He did.
Skull Church 2.0. Enough said. All that’s left is to take this event to the ends of the earth…
Meeting Kanye West. Too bad I didn’t have any skull church invites on me at the time.
The No txt is worth dying for initiative. The cool thing about this project is we will have to wait until heaven to find out what it’s significance was. If it works we will never know about it. There simply won’t be accidents that might otherwise have happened. love it.
All will rise. Church at the Majestic on Easter Sunday was an unforgettable experience.
It’s was a killer year. But the best is yet to come.
Psalm 29:4,10 The voice of the LORD is powerful; The voice of the LORD is full of majesty. The LORD sat enthroned at the Flood, And the LORD sits as King forever.
I intended on writing this blog post yesterday. But I woke up feeling like I had just gone over Niagara falls in a barrel (do people still do that?) and decided it could wait a day. I’ll write a whole different post about it later but I have found that in some ways the day after a significant event can be even more challenging than the days leading up to it. My serious business yesterday included coffee, Scripture, an omelet, and some quality time with my little women, the Lusko ladies. We sought to normalize and regain equilibrium after an adrenaline drenched week.
This past weekend is one I will not ever be able to forget. But before I get into why let me first tell you that one of the BIG things that God has tattooed on my heart is the principle of the empty vessel. It goes like this: Our God is a God who will fill a vessel as long as it is empty and offered up to Him in faith. You can have as much or as little of God working in your life as you want. It’s up to you. I tell my church all the time that God is not reluctant to revive, He is not stingy with His Spirit. He is literally looking to and fro on the earth for those whose hearts are His so He can work in their lives in power. As I cast vision I tell them that is the reason why we must continue to step out in faith to offer Him more of ourselves, more services, and more campuses so that there are empty seats for more people to sit in and hear about Jesus.
The temptation is to limit God based on your ability. To say to Him, “Here are five loaves and two fishes, but what are they among so many?” Instead we must force ourselves to process things through the lens of His infinite ability and simply give Him what is in our hands in faith. He sees the loaves and fish as a feast for a multitude.
God is not limited, He is limitless. Even when we stretch our faith and dream big–He still has bigger plans than we do. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above anything we could ask or even have the guts to think. (Ephesians 3:20)
This weekend we saw that principle in action in a marvelous way. In all 5,143 people crowded into the Majestic Valley Arena for our Easter worship experience! The venue’s parking lots filled to capacity and traffic backed up for 3.5 miles. Eventually people began pulling off the hwy, parking their cars on the shoulder and in fields, and walking as far as 1/2 a mile to get there!. We also had over a thousand people watching the event live on the webcast in addition to those who listened on fresh life radio. Best of all, we saw 136 people make professions of faith in Christ!
I can’t tell you how proud I am of our team. I am inspired by their performance. Unbelievable. Professional. Excellent. They killed it. And I’m not just talking about those on staff. Every one of the 173 volunteers that it took to pull off this event put their hearts into it. It showed. I pinch myself everyday that I get to be apart of this movement of God’s Holy Spirit and that I have the honor of serving alongside such extraordinary people. The Skull Church Band was in rare form and it was awesome to have House of Heroes take part in the event.
I’d love to tell you that I fearlessly breezed through the whole weekend without ever doubting. I’d be lying though. I don’t think I have ever put on an event without at some point wondering–what if no one comes? And this weekend was no exception. I had moments of fear. But I like that. I want to keep doing things that scare me. I don’t ever want to come to a place where there is no faith required. Life is too short to use the cruise control. I am going to keep launching out into deeper waters, offering God empty vessels and trusting Him to fill them for His glory.
Onward and upward!
“Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” -William Carey
You can invite friends by email, tweet about it and rsvp on facebook by clicking here.
One of the most beautiful verses in the Bible is Genesis 29:20 which says, “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.” Is this guy twitterpated or what? I deduce from this, and my own experience confirms, that love makes you crazy. It changes your perspective. When you love someone it’s not work to do sweet things for them, it’s a delight. In the book of Ruth we see Boaz feeding Ruth and he keeps handing her food until she is full and so are her pockets! In the end she is able to feed her mother in law dinner as a result of Boaz’s relentlessness. Maybe Ruth forgot to flip the little sign over at her table like you have to at Brazilian steakhouses.
In that day just about no one in Israel would have been willing to eat with a Moabite like Ruth, much less feed her like a queen. But I bet you that Boaz felt the same way Jacob did, like it was no big deal at all. Wanna know why? It’s because when you love someone it’s not work to do sweet things for them. It’s a thrill, it’s a pleasure. You are just stoked to be around them at all. Love changes everything.
I pray today that right now as you read this, whether you are pumped that it’s Valentines day or can’t wait for this wretched day to end, that you would know that God loves you like Jacob loved Rachel, like Boaz loved Ruth. He loves you! He delights in you! He rejoices over you with singing and dancing! That is why Jesus had joy set as He endured the shame of the cross. What was His joy? You! And that is why He is so excited to do things for you. In Luke 12:32 Jesus said, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Keep this in mind as you pray and as you participate in God’s plans for you today. God is not reluctant to revive, He is not stingy with His blessings. He loves you so it’s not work for Him to do sweet things for you. Love lightens the load.
This realization will transform the way you approach doing the things God has called you to do too. Your love for God, which will grow in response to your understanding of His love for you, will lighten the load of the things you are doing for Him. The more you love Him the more you will find that serving Him and obeying Him is not a heavy burden but a pleasure, an honor, and the joy and passion of your life. You will be pinching yourself because you can hardly believe that you get to serve Him. His love is too good to be true. But it is true. Happy Valentines day!
This weekend at freshlife we rolled out the plan for 2011. Although in some ways we will technically be doing fewer things, compared to 2010, we believe that there is the potential to see God do much more this year. David got to fight a lot at home, he killed both lions and bears, but when he put was in the valley of Elah he only fought one battle. It just so happened to be one fight that really mattered. This year we want to put ourselves in the sweet spot and save our energy for the things that God has called us to. It’s easier, more comfortable and far less scary at home than it is in the valley but life is too short to miss the moment you were meant for.
Often, by nature, we do too much. I know that personally I gravitate towards complexity and have to fight for simplicity. I once heard Andy Stanley say, “In ministry you need to balance additions to your to-do list by being intentional about putting things on your not-to-do list.” There’s only so much time to go around and you can’t do everything.
God put some tremendous dreams on my heart that we hope to see come to life this year, but in order for there to be bandwidth for these things–well, something had to give. You see this in the Bible, Mary had to choose to not fuss over the centerpieces in order to sit at Christ’s feet. There was subtraction so there could be addition. Time is a zero sum game. Killing the sheep-attacking predators was awesome preparation for David, but in light of the anointing on his life remaining at home fighting cougars would have kept him from what God called him to do. If you’re not careful good things will keep you from the best things.
Here’s the plan:
I sat down to think about the year that has just passed. Reflecting on the past 365 days I can only marvel at all the things God has done this year. My spiritual resolution at the beginning of 2010 was to follow the Lord like Caleb, who was a contemporary of Joshua. Six different times in Scripture we are told that he followed the Lord fully. No matter how much Caleb had seen God do in the past, he faced the future at full throttle, desiring new mountains, new challenges; he wanted to see God do more. My desire for 2010 was for God to pump that kind of blood through my veins, that He would ignite my heart. With the year now fully in the rearview mirror I can definitely say that God answered my prayer for new mountains and challenges.
It was a beautiful year. It was a difficult year. It was a phenomenal year. God did exceedingly above all that I could have asked or thought. I used a blank piece of paper to write down my top ten list of memories from this year and was overwhelmed. I ended up with a lot more than ten and had to ferret it down. Here they are:
1. The Birth of Daisy Grace
The happiest baby I have ever met. I love her. (c’mon–is this like cuteness overload or what?)
2. The Release of the iPad
It is the ultimate preaching machine. period. It is also cool that if you google “preaching ipad” the two blogs I wrote on the subject are the top hits. That probably explains why those are by far the most visited blog posts I have ever written. It was also super sweet that the first message I ever preached on it was on the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter. That’s what it’s all about baby!
3. Skull Church.
Everything about it. It is my favorite day of the week. I loved: the bands from this past year (Family Force 5, Charlie Hall, Robbie Seay), the different series (High Fidelity, Spoiler Alert, Forerunner), the energy, the merch (Thanks Hurley!), the text-messages, but ABOVE ALL the hundreds and hundreds of people who have made professions of faith in Christ–that’s what it is all about! I want people everywhere to experience what God is doing through Skull Church.
4. The pregnancy of the Fresh Life Whitefish Campus (specifically the Night of Worship)
The Campus will officially be born in 2011 but the whole process of preparation has filled much of this year (in fact it began in 2009). But it has been one of the most difficult, exciting and adrenaline filled adventures of my life. We have had to exercise muscles of faith that we didn’t know we had. The barriers, opposition, and roadblocks have been MANY. But through it all we have held onto the fact that OUR GOD WILL FIGHT FOR US! We know that the battle belongs to the Lord. End of story. Even the night of worship in preparation for the launch was wrought with hardcore drama and came close to being canceled. But at the end of the day hundreds of people gathered in Whitefish, Montana and lifted high the name of Jesus. Tears fell down my face and my heart was filled with faith as I praised God for what we knew He would do through this campus and the others that we believe are to come after it.
5. Being a part of the Greg Laurie Harvest Crusade in Chicago
Over 220 churches came together to make this event happen. Chicago has a long legacy of evangelistic events with men like D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham having held meetings there in the past. Remarkably, this event was the first time churches worked together to put on a large-scale event like this in fifteen years. Exciting. God has His hand on Greg Laurie’s life and it is an extreme honor to get to host his crusades.
6. Reaching the 50 mile benchmark on my road bike
boo-yah! Next year I wanna hit 100!
7. Rock this City
Giving 3,000 hours of community service to the Flathead Valley through the Rock This City Initiative was awesome. I conquered my fears and gave blood for the first time. take that, Needles!
8. Killing our Youth group.
We decided we haven’t been called to be a church with a youth group but a church that is a youth-led movement. Busting a cap on our youth groups was a little Snoop but it has been awesome. We aren’t having students sit at the little kids table anymore. They aren’t the church of tomorrow, they are the church of right freaking now. No matter who you are, if you come to fresh life you gather in worship experiences, get plugged in through community groups and are unleashed to serve and take part in the action. Best…Decision…Ever.
9. My cheerleaders
Every week, before I preach, my daughters pray for me. Their prayers rock my world. They pray that God would fill me with His Holy Spirit, that I wouldn’t be afraid, and that people will come to know Christ. My three year old once prayed that I wouldn’t fall of the stage! Then they give me a high-five and tell me, “preach the Word Dad!” They are amazing.
10. Watching Jesus build His church
Nine out of ten church-plants fail within the first five years. The average three year old church is 45 people. What we are seeing at fresh life is a lot of things–but it is certainly not normal. I am thrilled, humbled, and blown away to be apart of a move of God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus is doing what He said He would do, building His church (Matthew 16:18) and no one can stop Him. What thrills me even more is the fact that with all my heart I believe that the best is yet to come!
Happy New Year!
Christ was, to quote Charles Wesley,“Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.” For that we have every reason to celebrate, worship and adore Jesus Christ. May this Christmas be off-the-charts special as you give Christ the attention, honor and glory that He is due. From our house to yours–Merry Christmas.
I saw a rerun of an episode of NBC’s show The Office a while back. I can’t remember where I was, maybe a layover or something, but a scene from the show has been playing in my mind the last few weeks. BTW that is one reason why we need to be careful to monitor what we watch–it takes only a few moments to watch something and then it’s in the hard drive of our mind for years to come. I am often amazed at how my mind is able to remember certain things so well and other things so poorly. I can recall every single line of dialogue from movies like The Princess Bride or Home Alone, but names, birthdays, my anniversary, and other vital details often escape me.
But I digress, back to the episode of The Office that I was talking about. The character played by Steve Carell is the boss, Michael Scott. The regional manager of Dunder Mifflin Paper in Scranton, Pennsylvania to be more precise. And for some reason, in this particular episode, he has come to the conclusion that the morale around the office is low, and the only solution is to have a birthday party. Parties make people happy, right?
The problem is, according to the party planning committee, no one has a birthday coming up any time soon. He is not to be deterred. The next closest birthday is a girl named Meredith but it is not for several months. He decides to go on with the celebration anyway and sets the party planning committee to work in the conference room only to reappear moments later to not-so-subtly suggest that an ice cream cake would be a big hit at the party. They let him know that it would be a very bad idea due to the fact that birthday girl is allergic to dairy. Nevertheless, he insists that an ice cream would be delicious and since she (THE BIRTHDAY GIRL) isn’t going to be the only one eating it they should definitely get one.
Later in the show, after a number of unbelievably rude and yet quintessential Michael Scott moments, everyone is milling about at the awkwardly early birthday. Michael approaches Meredith, while stuffing his face with ice cream cake, and wonders why she isn’t having any. When she tells him that she is allergic to dairy he exclaims, “If I was allergic to dairy I’d kill myself!” Epic party fail. I don’t think you could possibly do a worse job honoring someone which, last time I checked, is the big idea of a birthday party.
But what has been rolling around in my head is that what has become the norm for Christmas celebration in our day might just take the cake as far as botching the job of honoring someone on “their day” goes. We have managed to turn the birth of Christ into a selfish, frantic, spendathon that is wracked with debt, grief, anxiety and short tempers (has anyone else been to the post office lately?) When we turn from: generosity, worship and simplicity and we choose: stress, greed and clutter; we need to recognize that whatever else we are doing–we are certainly not honoring Christ. For all practical purposes we are dishing up stuff He is allergic to–wait, did we even remember to invite Him to the party?
I don’t write this to try and make you feel guilty. The whole point of Christmas is that Christ came to remove our guilt by dying our death. And this isn’t a “you naughty American buying your kid an iPod–there are kids in the world who don’t even have a goat.” For the record, Jesus pointed out that when we give good gifts we are acting like our Heavenly Father and showing what He is like. My heart is to inspire a sense of wonder about what Christmas could and should be if we were to plan the party based on the preferences of the guest of honor. Ironically, I write this having just returned from a birthday party where, not tooting my own horn or anything, I definitely did not pull a Michael Scott. We did our research and found out something our friend had been wanting and bought that. I did my best to look for opportunities throughout the celebration to make sure he knew he was valued and loved. That is what birthdays are all about. Christ’s birthday should have more of that element and not less.
So, perhaps we should be asking ourselves the question, what would bring a smile to Christ’s face? What to give a God who has everything? Surely the thoughtful gifts that we give to those we love are meaningful to Him. I think He would be delighted by us making a conscious effort to slow down and be in the moment more, tuning out competing distractions so we can live deeply; drinking in His divine approval of the things that truly matter (people) and showing His love to those around us. Seeing as how there is only one building project that Christ ever began, the church, (Matt 16:18) we should invest generously in His work, giving to our local churches. In so doing we are taking part in His one and only plan for changing the world. But I am convinced the greatest way to honor Him, at Christmastime and every time, is to be still and know that He is God. Laugh. Smile. Worship Him. Thank Him. Adore Him.
Oh yeah, you might want to make sure Fuller goes easy on the Pepsi. 🙂