Thursday, July 24, 2014
There are songs and hymns that express our hearts' desires for His presence and His reign in our lives. This song, Build Your Kingdom Here, by Rend Collective is one of those songs for me. I don't really sing it, I pray it. It gives me words that I can bring to God. My hope is that it would lead you to pray for God's Kingdom to come as well.
Friday, June 6, 2014
|Photo by Tony Alter|
A few weeks ago I went on retreat so that I could spend some quality time with God. Around mid-morning I went for a walk outside with God. The prayer on my heart was simple: Lord, I am here and I am listening…what would You most like to show me?
As usual, God spoke.
I was walking on a piece of property that was owned by the town as open space. It was glorious, full of life. I was reminded of David’s words in Psalm 19 when he was reflecting on God’s creation: “God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon” (Psalm 19:1, The Message).
Walking through the property, I learned that it was, for a time, someone’s residence (the house burned down in the early ’90s) and before that it was a farm in the early 1900s.
As I looked at the foundation of the old barn, I heard God say to me: I am making all things new.
Then, He spoke again, as to how He could do it.
As I was walking back through the woods, I noticed a Japanese maple that was starting to grow. There were no other Japanese maples in the area. Somehow, someway, God planted a seed and it’s growing.
I was drawn to Isaiah 43:19-21, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”
I am making all things new.
Well, here I am, Lord, do Your new work in me and through me. Let Your Kingdom come.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Yes, I am still thinking about our time with Shodankeh Johnson. More specifically, I have been thinking about his call for us to be like Elijah in our lives.
I want to be like Elijah in my passion for God and for the salvation of others. I want to be more obedient and prayerful. I want to make disciples. I want to be used by Him. I know many of you desire to be an Elijah as well.
A few days ago, I was with my son Elijah. Through my time with Elijah, God helped me understand how God strengthens and encourages us to live fully for Him.
For quite some time, we have been trying to encourage Elijah to ride his bike without training wheels. Every time we asked him, he refused. Eli was scared. He didn’t think he could do it. That fear crippled him.
As a Dad, I knew Eli could do it. He had the balance down. I just needed to get him going. I knew he could do the rest.
The other day, I finally got him on that bike. Two minutes was all he needed before he was riding on his own. He had an absolute blast.
Too often I notice we think we can’t do what God asks us. Fear cripples us. We think we will fail. We think it will be too hard. We come up with every excuse.
Yet our Father knows we can. He has given us everything in His arsenal for us to be victorious in what He asks us to do.
We can do it. We can be like Elijah. God knows we can.
We just need to get on the bike.
Friday, April 4, 2014
It was such a joy being with Shodankeh Johnson this past weekend. I think all of us were moved by his faith. Shodankeh has that type of faith that can move mountains.
His faith is straightforward. He believes God will deliver on His promises. He believes God wants to do what He says. Furthermore, He believes God has the power to do it. Nothing can stand in His way.
It seems so simple to say that. Of course God will deliver. We all believe that.
That being said, why is it so hard to live it out? Why is it only the Shodankehs of the world who have this type of faith?
Why don't we have faith like that?
We find it is easy to believe the promises of God in our heads. But trusting those promises and stepping out into an unknown, that's a completely different matter.
It amazes me the number of excuses and fears that we use in our life to rationalize away our trust in God to work: That can't happen here! Maybe tomorrow, God. Someone else will tell them about Jesus.
Shodankeh's faith humbled me. My faith got exposed. If Shodankeh has faith, what do I call what I have?
Shodankeh's faith didn't discourage me, though. It inspired me. It gave me hope that God could give me that faith. It brought me to my knees.
As I was praying, a Scripture text came to mind that gave voice to my yearning. It was a prayer that the disciples had when they realized their faith didn’t stack up. It was a cry to Jesus: “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)
Yes, Lord. Yes. Increase my faith.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
|Photo by David Gilbert|
This morning, my daily Bible Reading program had me reading John 16, where Jesus is speaking to His disciples on His last night. When I got to the end of the passage, I stopped and shuddered.
Jesus is actively loving His disciples to the end (John 13:1). He is not holding back anything. He’s preparing them for His death and departure. He’s hours away from His death and He is still thinking of them instead of Himself.
What’s even more amazing is that He is loving them even though He knows they are going to abandon Him in His toughest moments. He says is John 16:32: “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave Me alone.”
Incredible. He keeps loving those who would abandon Him.
His solace is that His Father is with Him. He goes on to say in the same verse: “Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with Me.”
He can keep going because His Father is still with Him. I still have My Abba. He’s there for Me. He’s always been there for Me.
Not for long.
Pretty soon, His Father would leave Him as well. He would step away so that He could pour out the wrath meant for us on His beloved Son.
Amazingly, He keeps loving those who would abandon Him, even knowing that His Father would have to abandon Him as well, at the cross.
Friday, January 31, 2014
This week we say goodbye to a legend—Don Morgan. I am indebted to him. My ministry has been clearly influenced by Don Morgan. It’s not because I go into a house that is named after him or because I have meetings in that same house with his picture hanging on the wall. I never got to sit under his ministry. I never watched him lead the staff. I never had the opportunity to hear him preach live.
In spite of all that, his influence is there. I was blessed to sit with him in his condo in Rocky Hill, where you quickly learn that you have to earn the trust of his dog, Shelly. It was during those conversations that my admiration grew.
Yet it wasn’t what he said to me that influenced me. His influence is even greater than that. It’s who he was and what he did over his time at First Church that has inspired not only me but countless other pastors as well.
Don did something that only a few people have done. He turned around a church. To an outsider, it might not seem like much, but Don was legendary in this regard. It is very hard and painful to do what Don did.
What Don did doesn’t happen everywhere. Not every church grows like First Church did under Don’s ministry, not even every church that Don served. Obviously, God is behind every turn around, but what makes this so unique is not just the pastor but the church as well. The people of the church have to be willing to follow God’s lead and stretch themselves to walk boldly into God’s glorious yet unknown future. The people of First Church did just that and more—they were willing to follow and partner with Don, their pastor. They trusted his leadership.
Don was a leader. There is no doubt about it. Very few churches have seen a leader like Don. He understood that to be a great leader, he needed a great team. He knew the truth: no leader can do it alone. He did what he wrote: Share the Dream, Build the Team. That team, headlined by his wife, Grace, helped him reach out and care. The team extended the dream of what God wanted to do. It helped transform the church to be what it is today.
Many churches have great teams and great people, but what made Don that special person was his leadership. Henry Blackaby states that leadership is about moving people onto God’s agenda. Don was a visionary. He saw God’s agenda for First Church before others did. He communicated it with passion. Don loved to preach the Gospel, and he did it with an excellence rarely seen.
Don was also bold. I can’t tell you how much I admire his boldness. He saw God’s agenda and he boldly moved people towards it. He made the hard decisions even when they were not popular. He was questioned and criticized, yet he continued to show courage in the midst of tough times. He used all the gifts God gave him to influence the church to say yes to God’s vision.
Ultimately, leadership is primarily about being rather than doing. It is about character and who you are. Don was all of that. He was a great leader because he was a great man of God. He was willing to grow and learn. He was willing to get up when he got knocked down.
Yes Don saw amazing success, but what I admired was what He did when things didn’t go well. Don did get knocked down at times. He did suffer through pain and hurt. Very few would understand the burden that he carried as a pastor. The pain at times can be overwhelming. Some give up because of it. Others lose their fight. It is hard to watch loved ones you pastor die. It’s hard to be blamed for something you didn’t do. It’s excruciating when others question your character or motives. It takes courage to share a tough message. Don did all of that. He carried the responsibility and burden God gave him with a strength that is rare. He trusted in God’s love and goodness and walked forward believing God would give him the strength and grace to do His desires. He surrendered himself to God and said the words of the song, Here I am, Lord:
Here I am, Lord, is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
We need lion-leaders like Don today. We need those who are willing to say yes to God’s agenda and lead with vision and boldness despite the pain.
I am truly honored to have the opportunity to lead the church that he once led with great success. Don, in his humility, might say it another way—both of us have had the privilege of leading a fabulous church following a long line of faithful and inspiring pastors. My hope is that I can be faithful to serve this people and lead it forward for God’s glory.
Don, you have taught me more than you will ever know. I have much more to learn. Thank you for your faithful service.
Friday, December 6, 2013
|Photo by Niall McAuley|
At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke tells us about Zechariah meeting the angel Gabriel. Gabriel told him he would have a special son who would announce the coming Messiah.
God could have chosen any of numerous ways to announce His Son’s coming, but He chose the extraordinary way of partnering with Zechariah.
In the same way, God chooses to partner with us in bringing about His Kingdom. He has the authority and the ability to bring about His Kingdom any way He wants. His choice is to include us in His work.
We might not be greeted by an angel, but how do we respond when the Almighty Lord of the Universe meets us and asks us to take a personal and significant part in announcing and bringing about His Kingdom?
Are we ready to jump in and say yes, willing to do whatever our King asks? Or are we like Zechariah, who was afraid and doubted?
When told that he and his wife, both in their old age, were going to have a son, he responded, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Luke 1:18).
In other words, Lord, are you sure you want me? I have a lot of questions.
I think many of us have similar questions when God approaches us.
Like Zechariah, we often have a poor view of ourselves. We come up with a whole host of excuses that try to hide the real reason underneath—we don’t believe we are worthy to be asked.
Like Zechariah, we lack the faith to trust that God can do this. We fall into the trap of thinking only of ourselves in the relationship. We think it will fall only on us and we minimize God’s part. The truth is I am a terrible cook, but if I cook a meal with Emeril it’s going to be fabulous.
Finally, like Zechariah, we are scared. Fearful of stepping into the unknown. Scared that we might not do it or God won’t show up.
All of us seem to say, “If I were visited by an angel, then I would definitely say yes!” The truth is, we probably respond the same way Zechariah did.
How can we move forward and accept God’s invitation, like Mary, and say yes instead.