Just reel it in!

I’m not good at fishing but some of my favorite childhood memories involve trying to catch fish. Growing up, my dad would take my brothers and I on excursions where we would camp and fish. These “manly man fishing trips”, as they were called, involved a lot of laughter and running around in the woods but I don’t recall all that many fish actually being caught. Maybe that’s because my dad hardly ever got to drop his line in the water because he was too busy untangling our rods from the tangled mess we had inevitably gotten them into because we hadn’t listened to him.

I had a mickey mouse fishing pole and I vividly recall my dad doing everything for me. He would set it all up: hook, bait, weights, and even cast it out, telling me to sit still (so as to not scare the fish away) and keep my eyes on the bobber. That was it. I just needed to not be hyperactive and when I saw the bobber bounce just slowly reel it in. When ever a fish was caught he would even take care of getting the hook out of it’s throat and do the dirty work of cleaning it. All I had to do was reel it in. He took care of everything else.

The cool thing is that I have discovered when you follow Jesus’ instructions and go fishing for men it works the exact same way. God takes care of everything! He is the one who nailed our sins to the cross making it possible for us to have a relationship with Him. He is the one who works in hearts, drawing people to Christ and giving them the option to respond to Him, He is the one who sets up situations where we can invite people to church and share the gospel with them, and He is the one who knows whether someone is genuinely saved or not. All we have to do is to be faithful to cast out the net and reel it in.

As we preach the gospel and bring people with us to hear the gospel we must not trust in ourselves. For all practical purposes, we are like me as a little boy, sitting there on the dock with my mickey mouse fishing pole. But just like I have a great dad, we have an amazing Heavenly Father who sets everything up for us and, even though we often get things tangled up and make it more complicated than it needs to be, He loves us and allows us to play a part in the ultimate fish story!

Matthew 13:47–50 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away. That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

By the way, there is an opportunity for you to go on a fishing trip tomorrow night! Skull Church is the first wednesday of every month and for the month of May that is tomorrow night. After music by the skull church band and our guest artist we are going to be casting the net and dragging it in. Is there someone you could invite to come with you (if you live in this neck of the woods) or to come over to your house to watch the webcast with you? It all starts at 7pm MST and streams in HD at www.skullchurch.com.


PMS

This is going to be a blog about how to deal with PMS. Now that I have your attention, let me assure you that this has nothing to do with “that time of the month,” I might only have 7 years of marriage under my belt but I know better than to go there–something about hell hath no fury… This is actually about dealing with “that time of the week.” And though it is not guaranteed to always occur, it is something that every pastor is going to deal with to some extent or another. I’m talking about POST MESSAGE SYNDROME.

Now there is also a lot to be said about PRE MESSAGE SYNDROME, because both the spiritual warfare and the nervous energy ramp up as you prepare to speak. I have found this is especially true as you prepare to preach the gospel in an evangelistic outreach. But in my opinion the period directly after a time of intense ministry can be even harder to deal with than the period leading up to it so that is where I want to throw down some one’s and zero’s in this post.

It’s not that I think there is more warfare afterwards, that’s not necessarily the case, but as you go into it you know you are at war so you are taking appropriate countermeasures. You are on your knees, putting the armor of God on in your mind. You know you need to be sober and vigilant, and you are. Heck, you are ready to pull a Martin Luther and throw an ink bottle at the devil in the night if he even thinks about showing up. Furthermore, during this time you (hopefully) have a team of armor bearer types around you who are holding up your arms and praying for you, keeping you free from distraction so that you can get your game face on.

I’m not trying to make light of this, or to suggest that even when you know it is coming, the spiritual warfare isn’t incredibly difficult to deal with. It is. Yet, when things go wrong before a message you’re reaction is going to be to filter it through the grid of what you are doing for the Lord. You’ll be like, aha! I’m getting attacked, this must mean we are on the right track! Surely God is going to save the entire city now because I got a flat tire. Praise God! I’m being persecuted for righteousness sake. The devil targeted my tire to keep me from preaching the gospel–but it will never work, I will drive on my rims over a road covered in flaming scorpions if I have to!

Now, maybe Lucifer blew out your tire or maybe it was a pot-hole. But I’ll tell you what, you get that same flat tire driving home from church on Sunday after you give the message and you’re gut-level reaction will be different. It will probably be more like, seriously? after I poured myself out all day trying to help these dang people come to know you? what the heck?! Are there no breaks in this world for a man of God? stinking, lousy tire and stupid awful roads. Lord, can I call down fire from heaven and blow up this wretched highway? Why did you call me to a town with so many pot-holes anyway?

All right, I was probably being a little melodramatic there but you get the idea. And if someone is reading this who holds ministers to unrealistic standards and you are appalled at this–please remember, pastors are people too! And this is nothing new either, didn’t the pouting prophet Jonah want to die when the worm ate his shade plant just hours after he gave his sermon to the Ninevites? Didn’t Elijah curl up in the fetal position and get emo after the showdown at Mt. Carmel?

This funk can strike differently at different times. Maybe you will be discouraged because it didn’t go very well, not as many people came as you hoped, or your delivery was off. Or maybe you will be discouraged even though it went really well. Last time I checked Jonah had a pretty good response to his preaching in Nineveh. And Elijah’s ministry on Mt. Carmel couldn’t have gone better. They still got bummed out. I have had times of ministry that exceeded my wildest expectations and yet I found myself full of melancholy for no apparent reason.

I don’t know why this happens. Maybe it’s to keep you humble, perhaps it’s because you’re tendency is to let your guard down when the bell has rung for this round. You are sitting there on the stool with your eyes closed trying to catch your breath, and that’s when the sucker punch comes. Neither your flesh nor the enemy play by the rules. Part of it is biologically understandable, there is no way for there not to be some kind of an emotional crash when the adrenaline, preparation and excitement that has gone into an outreach or a big service like Easter Sunday gives way to reality and the endless stream of Sundays that are coming. And love it or hate it, ministry in the past is like toothpaste–once it’s out of the tube there is no going back.

Some weeks it’s clean and simple and you move right on. Other times you agonize over it for a day and a half. If it was a really bad message you think, I made a mistake, I shouldn’t have quit my day job. If it was killer, you think I peaked, I can never do better than that, and next Sunday they are gonna be back with friends. You inevitably drive home playing the game tape over and over in your mind, sometimes wishing you could get in a time machine because you just thought of something you should have said…it’s quite maddening.

Of course the solution to all of this is to get your eyes off yourself, and give it all to the Lord because it was never about you, it was always about Him. And you have to keep telling yourself that lest you sink into self-adullation or self-flaggelation. Both are mistakes. It’s all about Jesus, not you.

The best advice I have ever got on dealing with this came from reading Greg Laurie’s autobiography Lost Boy. He describes the process of coming down from a crusade and how he learned from Billy Graham to not strut around like an exultant quarterback who has just thrown a game winning touchdown. He said the best thing to do was to normalize as quickly as possible, get some food, respond to some emails, get on with it. He described a time where he hung out with Billy after preaching and Billy was wearing pajama pants with loafers while eating dinner in a hotel room. It’d be difficult to get a big head wearing an outfit like that! With that in mind I try to move on quickly: erasing the glass whiteboard in my office where my message had been brewing in different colored markers, clearing off my desk, playing with my kids, watching a movie, taking a nap, reading a novel, going for a bike ride. That stuff is the preacher equivalent of midol.

Sure there are things that are going to come into your head that didn’t go well at the event. That’s bound to happen. I used to call everyone up whose dept misfired and have it out right then and there. I have learned to take notes in a moleskine and save them for the debrief, unless there are immediate ramifications. And I have also been challenged by the reality that regardless of how you feel you have to celebrate what the Lord did, not just for your sake but for your team’s sake. (read 2 Samuel 19:1-8 to see this in action)

Above all things when you come out of a battle, don’t let your guard down. Expect the attack as you come down from the mountain. And keep praying! I hope this has been helpful for other pastors who will read this, even if it’s just to let you know that you aren’t crazy if you have been experiencing stuff like this. You are not alone! Take heart.


Things are not always as they appear

How well do you know the enemy of your soul? The Bible says we are not to be ignorant of Satan’s devices. He has a bag of tricks that he has found to be extremely effective in tripping God’s people up. If we are aware of how he operates we can avoid being caught off guard when he comes against us with these wiles.

I think the attack we are usually waiting for is the direct one. Where he comes charging at us like a roaring lion, teeth bared, blood on his mind. It happens. But we need to remember that he also loves to show up as a slithering serpent. I think this is a far more effective tactic. Because while a direct attack causes us to brace ourselves for impact, when he comes incognito as “an angel of light” we are lulled into complacency and then set up for a sucker-punch.

We see this in action in the Old Testament book of Joshua. Moses had died. Joshua was leading God’s people into the Promised Land. Army after army came against them in battle and each time in the end God’s people came out victorious. But then they were bested by the men from Gibeon. This defeat didn’t take place on the battlefield. There was no actual battle. The Gibeonites won by taking off their weapons, taking a trip to The Salvation Army and digging through the trash behind their local bakery.

It sounds more like an episode of LOST than a story from the Bible, but that’s exactly what these original “others” did. Even though they actually lived 25 miles away they made themselves look like they had traveled hundreds of miles. They made a great show of telling Joshua that they had set out with piping hot bread and brand new clothes, but now their provisions were rotten and their clothes were all old and used. They knew that God’s people were not allowed to make a treaty with a nearby enemy, but they were allowed to do so with a people that lived far away. It worked.

Despite the fact that God had instructed them to take out all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan,Joshua signed the peace treaty promising not to fight with the Gibeonites. You can imagine how surprised and angry Joshua was when he discovered they had deceived him. But there was no going back, he had to honor the truce–he had given his word. As a result they forfeited a portion of what God had promised to them.

You need to understand that in the spiritual battle that you are in today your enemy might try to use this strategy. There could be a Trojan horse that is being readied even as you read this. It might already be inside your gates. Not everyone who seems to have your best interest in mind actually does. There are wolves that wear sheep’s clothing, snakes that will try to make you doubt God’s word. Very friendly people who will do their best to separate you from all the promises that God wants you to walk in. Be careful! Don’t let your guard down. Gird up the loins of your mind and stay alert. According to Joshua 9:14 The reason they fell for this trap was, because, “the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the LORD.” We must walk by faith and not by sight.


Engage your inner shock absorbers

When our second daughter was born, my wife and I were given a fancy double stroller as a gift. It has practically every feature you can imagine. I’m not kidding, this thing can do just about everything besides pull you a shot of espresso. One feature that is pretty great is the shock absorbers. The designers made it to where if you are cruising along and one of the two babies on board have a hankering for some off-road strolling, with a flick of your wrist you can engage the shocks and boom! it transitions from race car to 4×4. The travel in the shocks eats up any unevenness in the ground allowing for a smooth ride, even on a bumpy road.

I think about this every so often when I am going into a meeting, situation or interaction that I know will bother me. I’d love to tell you that I never get ticked off or irritated. But I would be lying through my teeth. When I walk away from situations where I have responded poorly to something that has been in my path, I try to analyze what it was that got my goat and remember it. The next time I spot similar terrain coming I intentionally try to prepare myself, asking God for grace and humility that will function as an inner shock absorber so that I can properly respond to the bumps that I am about to go over.

I see this in action in Colossians 3:12. Paul says, Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; (emphasis added) Those characteristics will help smooth out potholes and dips in life but notice, he says we have to put those things on. They don’t just become a part of our daily lives by themselves, they have to be prayerfully engaged. What situation today is going to require you to be a Jeep and not a Ferrari? Engage your inner shock absorbers!


get moving!

Often times when we are trying to discern the will of God our inclination is to wait. Hold tight. Sit still. Do nothing. Maybe we are freaked out that we will make a wrong decision or perhaps we are waiting for a bush to spontaneously catch fire and tell us what to do, but until we are 100% certain we aren’t budging. I think that oftentimes what we need to do is exactly the opposite. Step out in faith and trust God to either give us favor or close a door.

I think of the computers that are on treadmills and exercise bikes at the gym. The screens stay blank until you start pedaling. You can stand there all day pushing buttons, trying to start a program, but until you start to power it with movement, there is nothing on the display. I think that oftentimes God’s will is powered by motion. When we step out in faith, guided by the instruction He has already given us in His Word, often that is when we begin to get readouts. Stand still for too long and it’ll go blank.

I’m all for waiting on the Lord, taking time to pray, seeking wise counsel, asking God for a sign. But as I read scripture I see a whole lot of stepping out in faith with pretty low levels of certainty as to the outcome. Paul would set out for one city or seek to go to another country with little more than a desire, a hunch. He knew the gospel would “work” in one place as well as another and I don’t see him waiting for a “thus saith the Lord” before moving on. Every once in a while something special would lead him, like a dream, but most often he seemed to follow his gut. Sometimes it worked, other times he got shutdown. Big time. Are we to think he was out of sync with the will of God? If he was, than I’m in big trouble!

I think that it’s possible to miss out on God’s will for our lives because we are sitting on the couch waiting for it to be handed to us on a silver platter instead of getting out and moving towards it. In Genesis 24 Abraham charges a servant with finding a wife for his son Isaac. He had the fate of the entire Jewish nation on the line. No pressure or anything. He could have been seriously stumped by the assignment. Sat at home praying for God to give him a vision of the woman he was to find. Or lead her to him. Instead he got moving. And after he found the perfect bride for Isaac he praised God with these words:

Genesis 24:27 And he said, “Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. As for me, being on the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”

The key to me is the phrase, “being on the way.” Even though he wasn’t certain who he was looking for, he got moving. He started mashing on the pedals and trusted God to guide his steps. He didn’t know which girl he was looking for, but He knew what country he was supposed to start looking in, so he headed there. And God, in His providence, brought him straight to Rebekkah. The screen flickered to life only after he had been putting one foot in front of the other in the dark. I think in our times of uncertainty we should follow suit.

We might not know where He wants us to be ultimately, but we can step out in faith towards what might be His will. Will we take wrong turns? Come to confusing forks in the road? Get turned around? Probably. But I believe that God is capable of using these to bring us to where He wants us. Remember, it was not being able to get into Asia that ultimately brought Paul to Philippi. Looking back, I can say for certain that God has lead me, even though many times I set out in a fog of uncertainty with little more than a sanctified hunch guiding my voyage.

Proverbs 16:9 A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.


Highly Concentrated Truth

There is no doubt in my mind that some of the worst commercials on tv currently are the ones for 5 hour energy drink. I am pretty sure they round up individuals to be actors off the street and give them no time to rehearse before they start shooting these spots. Each one is a variation of the same story. A bleary-eyed individual bemoans how long it takes to make a pot of coffee/how quickly the spike from a can of soda will wear off before they joyfully discover a vial that will solve all their problems, 5 HOUR ENERGY. After consuming a bottle they perk up and go about their day with bright eyes and a bushy tail.

Every time I see one of these commercials I want to light something on fire or stab my eyes out or both. Maybe I am overreacting a little but they are bad and they seem to come on every time I turn around. Also, they haunt my dreams. With all that being said I do want to make a spiritual comparison–to the product itself, not the campaign because I assure you nothing good could come from that. You see what they have done is taken an entire energy drink and condensed it down to the size of a shot glass, 2 ounces. Because it has no carbonation it can be consumed quickly and on the go. You get the equivalent of a cup of coffee or a redbull in just a sip or two.

We just underwent something similar at freshlife. At the end of last year I challenged the church to read through the New Testament in 30 days starting January first. We also decided to give the first day of 2011 to the Lord in prayer and fasting, specifically in preparation for the launch of our Whitefish campus, but also as a way of giving God the firstfruits of our time in the new year. It was all an initiative added on to the Winter of our Discontent series. Yesterday was the last day of the NT challenge and having crammed so much truth into one small window of time was intense and invigorating. It was a rush to have been in Matthew just 4 weeks ago and to have finished Revelation yesterday. One day our reading assignment was the whole book of Hebrews–talk about high-octane!

Considering our speed (roughly 9 chapters a day) it definitely wasn’t a notice every detail kind of a journey, but covering all these books so quickly you were able to appreciate the forest and the big picture of the greatest story ever told. There are benefits to both scrutinizing and surveying when it comes to going through the Scriptures. My wife and I tried to do half the reading each morning and the other half later in the day to avoid the fatigue where you are no longer processing what you are reading. (shoutout to the staff members I heard about who got behind and were reading 30 chapters a day the last couple days to try and catch up–aka getting nothing out of it.)

I have heard several people say that they are sad to see it end and that they have enjoyed having so much of God’s Word pumped into their veins each day. A few people have asked if they can do it again. Ummm? Yes! Totally! Rock it in February. See how many times you can make it through this year. Or bust out the Old Testament in the next couple months and turn it into a 90 day challenge. My wife and I are going to do the New Testament again but slow it down to 60 days to make it more bite size. Whatever you do, keep carving out a daily time to systematically work your way through God’s Word! While I can’t promise that you won’t have a 2:30 feeling, but you will definitely have more spiritual energy and it will keep you from crashing later.
🙂
God’s Word doesn’t return void!

Psalm 19:7–11 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.


Inconceivable

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. 🙂


you smell like Jesus

If there is one thing in life you need to be careful with it’s cologne. I’m personally not a huge fan, probably because of all the abuse I have experienced in this area. If you do rock it, I’m not here to steal your liberty in Christ but please, as a favor to the rest of us, take this caution: a little goes a long way. Some guys wear enough to be technically classified as a threat to homeland security. I’m serious. It can be toxic. Just walking past someone who had their daily bath in Polo Sport can be a full on nasal assault. And if you hug them? Forget about it, the olfactory war has been lost. The transfer will stay with you all day, maybe longer.

The absolute worst is the dude who works out at his lunch break but doesn’t take the time to shower, instead he just puts an extra dose of cologne on—now you have a base layer of sweat with an outer edge of Old Spice. It could raise the dead, or kill the living but it’s not ok. I remember back when I was a student pastor and I swear, all the junior high boys collectively wore enough axe body spray to baptize a moose. Stepping one foot on their bus on the way home from winter camp could be the last mistake you ever made. I’m sure in their minds it would attract all the ladies. You just didn’t have the heart to tell them that the only ladies they were going to attract smelling like that would be lady raccoons.

All right, now you know about I am a little bit neurotic nasally. Did you know that there is a scent that, as Christians, we are all to wear? It’s true. And there is no way you can put on too much. It is called, eau de Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:14–15 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.

God wants us to smell like Jesus. Spiritually speaking of course, but the analogy makes sense. You see, scent is one of the most powerful forces we experience. It influences people, triggers memories and can instantly make you at ease or extremely uncomfortable. Our sense of smell is directly linked to the emotional and memory centers of our brains. Consequently, companies put a lot of thought and money into how their lobbies and locations smell. They use machines that diffuse just the right amount of a carefully selected odor into the air so that it isn’t overpowering but pleasant and subliminally inviting.

And it’s not just magazine ads and storefronts anymore. This summer America’s first odor infused billboard was erected on a highway in North Carolina and smelled like grilling steak. (I’m not kidding) I can’t imagine how much vegetarians hated driving by! And recently an ice-cream shop in Florida put up a billboard that smells like waffle-cones. One blog that I came across boasted that as far as the business world is concerned, “Scent is the new black.”

The reason God wants us to smell like Jesus, to diffuse through us the fragrance of Christ, is also an issue of advertising. Neuroscientists say that aroma accounts for 80 percent of taste. Just getting a whiff of a fresh waffle cone makes you start salivating thinking of how great an ice cream cone would be. Similarly, God wants people who are around us to begin to become thirsty for Living Water, to begin craving the Bread of Life that comes down from heaven. God wants people who bump into you, watch you suffer, work alongside you to begin to see and savor the risen Lord who is alive inside your heart.

If we are keeping our walks with God fresh that will be just what will happen. People will want to be around us, they will want what we have. If not, those around us will smell the stench of the flesh. And no amount of cologne can cover that stench up!

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.


unstoppable

I went to sleep last night rejoicing, we had just spent a very special evening celebrating with the fresh life team at our annual staff Christmas party. A phone call, however, jolted me out of a dead sleep first thing this morning. Half awake, and still very much uncaffeinated, my brain was slow to process the information I was receiving. We had just been notified that, despite having a signed contract, the venue set to host our night of worship in Whitefish was no longer going to be available for us. I was fully awake all of a sudden. We are launching a campus on January 9th in Whitefish and, even though that is very much still on, as far as tonight was concerned, we were suddenly without a home.

The purpose of tonight’s event is to celebrate and praise God in advance for what we believe He is going to do through this new venture of faith. We immediately began praying for favor and negotiating, to no avail. Without a venue and hundreds of people expected in just a dozen hours the obvious thing to do was cancel the event. How in the world would we find a new place, for tonight?

But something in my spirit was provoked. I felt that it was exceedingly important that we lift high the name of Jesus in Whitefish tonight. I told my team that I don’t care if we have to bring a generator and set a stage up in a field. I don’t care if it’s 24 degrees out and we have to wear snowsuits–we will gather together with one voice and exalt the name of Christ until we are freezing and our fingers are bleeding on our guitar strings! Everyone resonated and rallied with that vision.

The troops deployed and began seeking a venue that would accommodate us…a week before Christmas…with just hours to go. I honestly wondered if anything would pan out. But God. He went before us and exceeded our expectations. We wouldn’t have to gather in a field, and no one’s fingers needed to bleed. We had found a facility–one far nicer than I even had faith to hope for. The extremely beautiful Lodge at Whitefish Lake informed us that they had space and would be delighted to open the doors of their Grand Ballroom and host our night of worship. This hotel is supremely beautiful, it overlooks Whitefish lake, and is going to provide an elegant and inspiring platform to make Jesus famous tonight. The capacity is larger than the original location, so it seems like God has even bigger plans for the night than we did!

Despite the setbacks, I am filled with faith and courage. I’m excited to see what God will do tonight. The Skull Church band will be there to lead us in worship, I will be sharing the vision for this new chapter in our history and we will pray for the launch of the Whitefish campus. I am inspired by Christ’s promise in Matthew 16:18. He said, “I will build MY church and the gates of hell will not be able to prevail against it.”


The Winter of Our Discontent

We began a new series this weekend at fresh life that is aimed at cultivating a sense of deep dissatisfaction in our hearts. Not that we would grumble and complain because our tv is a LCD and not an LED or because we don’t have the newest model of snowboard. That’s just lame.

The discontent that we are seeking to foster is one that springs from a distaste over the progress we have made in our Christian lives compared to our vast and unlimited potential in Christ. It’s realizing how far we have to go, (the finish line is becoming just like Christ) how much we have been given (All things pertaining to life and godliness 2 Peter 1:3) and how little time we have. (Life is a vapor) And then letting that divine dissatisfaction fuel our forward motion.

Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, put it this way, Self satisfaction rings the death-knell of progress. There must be a deep-seated discontent with present attainments, or there will never be a striving after the things which are yet beyond.

Contentment is the enemy of growth.

I hope and pray that you will join us on our journey this winter, even if you live in a warm climate, as together we seek to go further up and further in!