Saturday, July 31, 2010

Like Filthy Rags?

"We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.  We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." — Isaiah 64:6, ESV

When I begin to get arrogant in my self-righteousness, this verse brings me back to reality.  Quickly.  The writers of most translations are very polite with their translation of "polluted gardments" and "filthy rags."  In the original language, it actually says that our righteous deeds are like used menstrual rags.  God just has a way with words,doesn't he?

When we begin to think that we really are that impressive and the growth that we have seen in ourselves over the years is because of our own abilities and personal wisdom, we need to be brought back to this truth: without Jesus we have nothing.  No amount of good things will measure up to God's perfect standard.  For Christians, we do not work to gain heaven but rather because we already have it.  We don't do good things to be saved but rather good things spring from our lives proving that we have been saved.

So if you've become arrogant in self-righteousness and irritated by those who don't know Christ, remember what your righteous deeds look like when compared to the holy and perfect standard of God.  And then thank God for his grace.  And then share that grace with others.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hey Next Gen: BE ENCOURAGED!!!

A couple of days ago, I wrote an update on what God did this past Wednesday night at our evening worship service at PFB (click here to read the update).  I posted and went on to the next task at hand.  Yesterday, a member from our church who has been attending Wednesday nights at PFB wrote the following:

"Brian, Josh, more adults need to come and experience the beautiful praise music, then the preaching time is very special. I hear and see more young people moving the pages of their 'Open Bibles' then some of the morning services. God is moving in a mighty way on Wednesday and for the few weeks that I have been attending and communcating with the both of you. I am blessed and seriously learning and growing. Praise God. I will continue to pray."

I was so touched by his words.  I asked if I could share it on my blog.  Here was his response:

"Go for it. I do believe it. To me the youth at the Wednesday Night Service are impressive. Just watch them praise in front with the praise music. No inhibitions about praising God. That's a great thing."

This kind of encouragement pumps me up so much that I feel like I could charge hell with a water pistol.  Let's keep on going!!! We've only just begun.

And if you want to be friends with Bob Smith on Facebook, click here.

Amazing Grace - It Truly Is!

"Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.  For the LORD is a God of justice, blessed are all those who wait for him." — Isaiah 30:18, ESV

GOD WAITS TO BE GRACIOUS! I picture this as God playing hide and seek.  He is hiding, just waiting to jump out on us and show us grace.  He is not creeping behind the door waiting to shame and guilt you, but rather is waiting behind the door ready to jump out and shock you with grace.  He exalts himself so that he can show us mercy.  Grace and mercy — these are the things that God cannot wait to give to us and show us.

So our job: wait for him to shock us.  Wait for him to jump from around the corner and remind us of his grace.  And believe me: I have forgotten about this truth so often (even today), but what an amazing reminder it truly is when God reminds you of his amazing grace.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Update from Wednesday Night

OH MY GOODNESS!!!! Seriously. I can't explain what is happening.  It's the middle of summer and God is growing this ministry and exploding the worship services on Wednesday night.  Believe it or not: people are coming.  And they are bringing friends who are getting all jacked up about it.  And as God's Spirit continues to gear us up for what next, I am excited to take the people of Wednesday nights and let them loose on the surrounding communities.  I was talking to my buddy Ryan Hall today, who led worship last night, and he told me that he has never heard the people bring it in praise and worship like they did last night.  In fact, he said that at one point, the people were singing so loud that he heard them over his speaker monitor.

I taught on the topic of demons: what the Bible says about them and our response to them.  Honestly, I felt like there was so much information to try to pass on in such a short amount of time that I wasn't too excited about how the message came out.  However, it's at those times that I have to trust that God's word went out and accomplished exactly what he wanted it to accomplish (Isaiah 55:10-11).

I will continue to try to explain what is happening on Wednesday nights the best that I can.  However, if you can make it, join us on a Wednesday night at 7pm and see for yourself.  Thank you for praying.  Please keep it up.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

So What's My Excuse?

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence." — 2 Peter 1:3, ESV

It is much easier to make excuses as to why it is too hard to truly live for Christ or we can understand this: God supplies all that we need to live the life that he has called us to live. That's it.  That's the truth of the matter.  He does not expect us to surrender our lives to him and then prove that we can handle it.  Rather, our surrender is proof enough that we can't do it without him anyway.  So here's the truth: I have the power of the Almighty God at my disposal to live a life that is godly and according to what Christ has called me to.  So what's my excuse? What's yours? I understand that we will fall into temptation and mess up.  Our struggle with sin will continue until the day that God calls us home.  However, many of us spend a whole lot more time and give a whole lot more effort to our physical workouts while completely neglecting our walk with Jesus.  We'll pump iron and run miles but neglect time with Jesus in his word and in prayer.  And because of that, when the fall comes, it is much easier to blame God rather than to confess and accept the laziness that has been lived out with regards to Christ and our relationship with him.

We need to have a different attitude.  As much as we "bring it" in other areas of our lives, it is with that attitude (and more) that we should live for Christ.  The difference: rely upon Christ and then "BRING IT" according to that which he gives to help us walk as he wants us to.  No more excuses.  If we screw up, we take the responsibility, get up, rely on Jesus and get going again.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Please Be Praying...

It's going to be a busy week teaching again but I'm so stinkin' pumped. Please be praying for the following:

1). I will be teaching this afternoon at New Community, our after-school program for junior high and high school students here at PFB. I'm so excited. It's been a while since I've been able to go in and teach these kids.

2). I'm teaching tomorrow night at Wednesday at PFB worship on the topic of demons. I spent about three hours studying yesterday and felt dirty afterward. :) Please pray that God shares the truth about demons and our victory over them in Jesus.

3). I'll be performing a wedding ceremony on Saturday evening. I'm very excited to get to be part of this couple's happy day.

4). I'm continuing to go through the book of Philippians with our high schoolers this Sunday morning.

Thank you so much for continually praying for me. You all mean so much to me.

Heaven Is Making Some Noise Again

Did you hear it? Did you hear the excitement of heaven last night? If you're wondering why, here's why.

Last night I met with a couple that I am marrying on Saturday. I met them through a couple of my staff members and they have been attending the Wednesday night worship service at PFB for the past few months pretty regularly. She made a decision for Jesus a few months ago and is getting baptized next week at PFB, but I knew that he hadn't. So when I finished going through the pre-marital stuff, I looked at him and asked where he was at in this whole journey with Jesus. We had a great chat. I explained to him God's size and sovereignty, his grace, mercy and love. And then I asked him, "Do you want Jesus? Do you want this relationship with God?"

He nodded and said yes. I explained it in more detail and he confessed Jesus as Lord and said that he believed that Jesus rose from the dead.

I WAS PUMPED!!! His fiance was crazy pumped. Such an incredible moment.

I wanted to share that Jesus is still on the move. This short blog will not give justice to what really happened but I at least wanted you to join in on the celebration.

Monday, July 26, 2010

What God Won't Delegate

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  To him be the dominion forever and ever.  Amen." — 1 Peter 5:10,11; ESV

It has taken me 17 years of doing ministry to finally understand the need to delegate those things that either I'm not very passionate about or am not good at.  I always felt the pressure to be amazing at everything because, 1). I got paid, and 2). I got paid because I'm the expert.  Now, I still get paid, but I can admit now that I am more clueless about ministry than ever before.  However, there are certain things that I will not delegate off to anyone else because those things are most dear to my heart.

You're the same way.  I heard a statement once that I believe rings true: "You will always find time for that which is most important."  There are certain things that I will not delegate off to anyone because of the fact that those things are most precious to me.  And in this passage we see those things that God will not "delegate" off to anyone.  Did you see the four things that he himself will do for those who are being afflicted?

1).  Restore - return (someone or something) to a former condition.
God himself will restore those who have been broken by affliction.  God will not leave a person to sit and wallow in their pain and suffering.  He will restore.  Now I completely understand our difficulty in accepting this because we are such a "now-driven culture", expecting everything to happen quickly for our benefit.  However, God's restoration is according to his time-frame.  If it were up to our timetable, we would probably jump from one broken situation to the next.  God actually wants to restore completely.

2).  Confirm - make more able.
As I'm facing the affliction, God himself is the one who is "making me more able" to endure.  He is not expecting me to just BRING IT all by myself.  Rather, he has provided his grace (which is sufficient) for all things.  The only reason that I can get through affliction is because God is confirming me to do so.

3).  Strengthen - establish in a place
If I'm going to stand firm under affliction, I need the strength to stand firm.  I know that I don't have it, but Jesus does.  God himself strengthens me so that I may stand firm in any and every situation that I face.

4).  Establish - lay a foundation; establish belief
From start to finish, it is God with me.  It is God providing and enabling me.  He starts with a sure foundation (himself) and leads me on from there to that which is the greatest good (himself).  The journey along the way comes with good and bad times.  However, in all things, God receives glory and I become more and more like Jesus in the process.

If you're feeling alone, go with what you know to be true as revealed to you from God's word instead of what you are currently feeling.  From start to finish, he provides all that is needed to truly live for and with him.  What a mighty God we truly serve.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Benefit of Belonging

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine." - Isaiah 43:1, ESV

Just break this down and be blessed:

1).  Fear not. Don't be afraid.  There is not a lot of benefit to being afraid.  It doesn't seem to be the emotional state that most people seek after in order to continually experience.  And yet, for many, this is the emotion of choice.  And I say of choice because we have a choice.  I'm not speaking of a chemical imbalance that may be occurring in someone's brain (my heart aches for those who much struggle through this).  I'm speaking of the fear that constantly bombards us because of the "what ifs" of life.  So much of our fear comes from the what might happen rather than the what is happening.  But when the "what might happen" actually does invade reality, there is a God in heaven who cries out first thing to us: Don't be afraid.  By why not?

2). For I have redeemed you. I have been bought by Jesus.  I belong to him.  Christian: you belong to the God of the universe.  He paid for you by Christ's sacrifice.  There isn't a payment more precious than that.  This payment, willingly payed, should show you the heart that God has toward you.

3).  I have called you by name. I'll be honest: I am not good at remembering names.  I just am not.  I try.  I meet someone and repeat their name many times while talking to them.  And then the next week, I forget their names.  I'm trying to improve at this because I understand the value that comes to a person whose name I remember.  Rather than just being a person in the crowd, to remember a person's name means that you remember them as a person.  I have been called BY NAME.  God knows my name.  He knows your name.  There are 6.5 billion people on this planet and yet he knows your name.  You are a person, not just a person in the crowd.

4).  You are mine. I belong to Jesus.  This is the truth that stopped me in my tracks this morning.  I BELONG TO JESUS! And what does he think about those who belong to him? "Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you" (Isaiah 43:4, ESV). Are you kidding me? I am precious to Jesus.  I am loved and honored by him.  ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE!!!

Be blown away today by the heart that the Father of heaven has toward you.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

God is WHAT?

"Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." — Isaiah 41:10, ESV

God is with me? This morning the thought of this truth overwhelmed me a bit.  The God of the universe is WITH ME.  What am I supposed to do with that? FEAR NOT! This is the first thing that God reminds us of when we face the tough stuff in life.  He points us to the fact that he, the God and ruler of all things, who measures the universe with the span of his hand, is with us.  This should bring a peace that truly does surpass all understanding (Philippians 4:6,7).

And not only is God with me, but he is MY GOD.  There is a relationship that I have with God that should impact my life.  He is not this God out there somewhere doing something for someone.  Rather, he is MY God who is with ME and is helping ME.  And as I write "ME" and "MY" so often, I feel like I'm being selfish, like I am hoarding him to myself.  However, he is the one who says that he is with me.  It is his pleasure to be there with me.

And then notice what he does:  1).  He strengthens me. He gives me the strength that I need to get me through what I face.  This means that God understands that I will become weak.  He knows that I will get drained and overwhelmed.  So he strengthens.

2).  He also helps me. He gives me strength, but then he continues to help me with what I'm facing.  I picture it like a mentor craftsman giving his students the tools necessary for the job, but then he stays right there with him as he works through the process.

3).  He holds me up. There are times when collapsing isn't an option but a reality.  During those times, the only reason that we continue on and move forward is because it is God who holds us up by the hand.  So often we take the credit for it but God knows the truth.

May this bless you today as it blessed me.  May God be so real to you today that you are completely transformed and your perspective is forever changed because of the fact that God is with you.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wednesday Nights in Colombia

Hey everyone involved in Wednesday Nights @ PFB.  I just wanted to pump you up.  I received the following message on Facebook from a sister in Christ in Colombia.

"Nice to meet you Pastors. Yeah, Im in Colombia south america. I have been seeing your site in the wednesday, in live!!! Is so good! I like. My english nots so good but I can understand a bit. Ok Pastors, one hug from Colombia. Bye!"

We are taking Jesus to all the world.  Be pumped!!!! I am.  See you on Wednesday night.

The Beauty of Belonging

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." — 1 Peter 2:9-10, ESV

Before Jesus, I was lost.  I had no true identity.  I was alone.  BUT, then it happened.  Here's the identity that describes me now since Jesus took over:

1.  Part of a chosen race
2.  A priest in the royal priesthood
3.  Part of a holy nation
4.  A person of God's own possession.

And that's when it hit me.  And then Peter continues on in 1 Peter 2:10, stating that I used to be totally alone, but now I am part of God's people.  I BELONG TO JESUS!!! I am his. I've experienced his mercy in my life.  I've received his gift of salvation.  I've surrendered to him as the Lord of my life.  My job now: "...that [I] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." I'm supposed to brag about the one who has me.

If you have Christ, you have everything.  The crazy thing is this: I'm beginning to wonder if he thinks the same thing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

You're The God of This City

"Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it.  By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD.  For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David." — Isaiah 37:33-35 [ESV]

Judah was about to be attacked by the Assyrians.  The king of Assyria sent a message to the people of Judah mocking Hezekiah's leadership and his trust in the LORD.  But then, the king of Assyria sent a message to Hezekiah mocking the LORD.  And when this happens, it does not seem to sit with the LORD.  The above is the promise that God made to Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah, promising that he himself would be protecting the city.  And he would be protecting the city for his own sake and for that of his servant David (and to see how he backed up what he said he do, read Isaiah 37:36-38).

As I read this passage, I made this prayer: "God, what you have begun in this ministry to the next generation at PFB and in the surrounding community, I pray that you would protect it as you perfect it.  I pray that you yourself will protect what it is that you have started in order that it will become and accomplish what you desire."

God's promise to Hezekiah pumped me up.  It reminded me that what God starts, he finishes.  What he wants he gets.  And honestly: there is not a force on the planet earth or in all of the universe that will stop God's plan.  This truth brings me peace.  This truth brings me back to my inability to truly accomplish anything in and of myself, but rather to cast all of my cares on Jesus, because of the fact that he truly cares for me beyond my ability to comprehend.

God is on the move.  Are you still just sittin' there?

Update From Wednesday Night...

I think this best sums it up.  This was written by a just-graduated senior in high school who sent this to me on Facebook last night after the worship service:

"OH MY GOSH BRIAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! JESUS WAS CRAZY TONIGHT! I haven't gotten that excited in a while!!!! He REALLY used you tonight! At least to get to me that's for sure! I feel like I took Jesus drugs cause I have SO much energy right now and NOTHING seems impossible cause I've got Jesus and Satan's got nothing! It's INSANE when you actually understand that!!! Holy MOLY!" - Elise

There were so many of us there last night worshiping Jesus together.  We also spent time looking at what the Bible tells us about Satan as we started our new series last night ("THE RESISTANCE").  Great start to this series.  Next week we look at what the Bible says about demons.

The Holy Spirit did some stuff last night.  It was outstanding.  In fact, here are couple more things that students said about what Jesus did:

"It was awesome" - Kyle
"It was amazing!!! Even though we were talking about Satan, and we HATE that guy, I just thought it was so encouraging that we should not fear him, but be aware! And the song at the end, "Tear Down the Walls," really hit me and made me think of the people in MY life that need Jesus and seem to be having Satan luring them farther and farther away from God." - Lizzy

Monday, July 19, 2010

Please Be Praying...

Well it's been a long week and a half but I'm finally back home.  God did some great things over those last 10 days.  Now I'm excited for even more.  Please pray for me this week for the following:

1).  Pray for me as I prepare to teach a new series starting this Wednesday night called, "THE RESISTANCE."  The first topic: SATAN (I hate that guy).  We are going to look at what Scripture actually teaches us about Satan and what our attitude and response should be toward him.  Please pray for the prep for this message and that the Holy Spirit would anoint me when I teach it.  Please pray for people to be freed this Wednesday night from whatever bondage they are in.  Please pray for salvation to happen.

2).  Pray for me as I teach our high school students and the students from China this Sunday morning at 9:45.  I want to teach Jesus' message of hope to these students in a way that they get and understand.

3).  Pray for me as I teach on Sunday morning at the 11:11 service at PFB.  Please pray for God to reveal his topic for that service to me and to bless my prep time and to anoint the message.  Again, I want to see people surrender to Jesus.

Thank you for praying.  Over and over I tell you how much you mean to me and the ministry that Jesus has called me to, so I hope you know it by now. :)

It May Sound Lazy...

"Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth." — Psalm 46:10, ESV

Be still? Are you kidding me? Does God understand how busy I am? Does God understand how this culture works? Does God understand that society does not allow me the pleasure of being still? I have to GET IT DONE!!! I have to make it happen.  I have to keep going or else I will fall too far behind and never be able to catch up.

Here's the thing: The attitude explained above is the expression of the person who does not truly grasp the reality that God is God.  To freak out at the first sign of trouble reveals the practical atheistic tendencies that still show themselves in all of us when we forget that GOD IS GOD!!! To constantly be in a state or worry and anxiety is to say to God that I don't believe him.

Notice there is a key word that is repeated two times in this verse revealing God's ability and certainty.  Will. He will be exalted among the nations.  He will be exalted in the earth! He is not guessing at anything.  He is not hoping that his plan will work.  Rather, he KNOWS that it will work because he is God.

What are you facing? What are you having to walk through? First step every single time: be still.  How can you do this? Because you know that he is God.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Actions REALLY DO Speak Louder Than Words

"So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead... For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead." - James 2:17, 26

"I believe in God."  Wow. Awesome.  Here's what God says about that: "You believe that God is one; you do well.  Even the demons believe—and shudder!" It's kind of convicting when demons have a greater response to the reality of God than those who simply believe in God.

Christian: our works validate our salvation.  Please understand me here.  I am NOT saying that we are saved by works.  Scripture teaches that we are saved by God's grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We do not do good works (Ephesians 2:10) so that we can get to heaven but rather because we already have heaven.  Because I have truly encountered Christ and surrendered to him, my life is different.  I am called to follow and to live the life that Jesus calls me to.

If others can't see your faith, it's probably because you don't have any.  Faith is so different than belief.  Now let's live out our faith so that others can see our Jesus.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Last Call. Yep. He Answered!

I finished up teaching at Mt. Hermon tonight. I spoke on the need to prepare for life as they leave the experience of the mountain top here at camp (read Matthew 17:1-8 and answer the question, "Is Jesus enough for me."). As I was praying to close the night I felt like I needed to offer a relationship with Jesus one more time for those who hadn't done it. Well, Jesus waste finished because between 8-12 junior higher stood up tonight to surrender to Christ. The place went bonkers. It was awesome!!!

Thank you for praying. Jesus heard and he did some serious Satan-smashing work tonight. Listen. Can you hear that? That's heaven throwing a party. I think we should join it. What do you think?

More Reliable Than the Experience

"...we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place..." — 2 Peter 1:18-19

Peter is reliving his "Transfiguration Experience" in this part of his epistle. He is sharing how he had been on the mountain with Jesus, being a first-hand witness of Jesus' transfiguration, seeing him speak with Moses and Elijah, and to hear the voice of the Father say, "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him." He experienced it all, and yet he had this to say: "And we have something MORE sure, the prophetic word..." As amazing and life-changing as that experience was on that mountain, Peter was grounded in the word of God.

We will have experiences with Christ as we walk with him. That's a blessing from him. And when we have those experiences, we need to enjoy and cherish them. However, the foundation of what we do and how we follow our Savior needs to be based on more than an experience. It must be based on what it is that God has revealed to us. He has revealed his truth to us through his written word. It is reliable and can be trusted. So we should long to experience Christ. We should long to experience the reality that is knowing Christ in an intimate and passionate way. But every experience must be weighed against Scripture so that we can be sure of what it is that Christ is truly doing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The High Calling of Reminding

"Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder,..."— 2 Peter 1:12-13, ESV

Remind. When I really think about my calling as a pastor/teacher, I am confronted with this truth: I am called to remind. In fact the majority of my job as a pastor/teacher it remind. Of course there are people who have never heard the gospel of the things of God, and to them it is brand new. But for the rest, I am called to continually bring before Christians what they have already heard and for many what they are already doing. Of course it is a journey to dive in Scripture as God takes you deeper and deeper, but there's nothing new under the sun. So three thoughts come to mind here:

1). Creative reminders are helpful. Just because I'm reminding doesn't mean that I have to do it the same way. Of course the key to the reminder is the message. Once creativity alters the message in any way, the creative process needs to stop so that the pastor/teacher embraces the true message once again.

2). Passionate reminders spur on passion in those you remind. If I remind in creative ways but not in ways that show my passion for the message, it's pointless. It could be the most creative explanation of a specific biblical concept that has ever hit this planet, but if it doesn't seem like I have bought into it, no one else will either. If I haven't bought into it, I can't lead anyone to follow because I'm not going anywhere either.

2). Remind instead of reinvent. There is such a temptation for pastors/teachers/professors to find the "new stuff" that no one else has found so that others are blown away with their insight. I mean that's how one gets an amazing book deal. The only problem is that for many times God's message is reinvented in such a way that the true message is manipulated for someone else's benefit. The goal in teaching Scripture is to relay the original message of God as he wrote it and then apply that message to a 21st century culture that isn't the same as the culture that Jesus walked around in. We must be true to the message, open to other ideas and opinions, but always staying true to the main things. To not be true is "stretch the truth". Stretching the truth is just a nicer phrase for lying.

So a teacher who is able to remind in a way, that captivates the audience and moves them to respond (all of this a working of the Holy Spirit of course), is a faithful witness and reminder of God's truths. Pastor/Teacher: don't grow weary. If you've ever said, "I know you've heard me say this before...", then realize that you are doing exactly what Christ has called you to: remind.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Not Just Another Walk In The Park

Today I went to a park right outside of Mt. Hermon in Felton, CA. I grabbed by backpack with my bible in it and took off to find the perfect place to get alone with Jesus. As I walked around someone was sitting in every place that I would have liked to sit. So I just kept walking.

As I kept walking, I came across this huge wooden bridge that looked like a barn. So, of course, I walked across it. As I walked I had this sense of God trying to get my attention. With some transitions happening in the next generation ministry at church I knew it was time to listen. As I kept walking, I felt like God began to speak to me on that bridge and asked, "Are you ready to cross over to what I have planned?" Oh dang! I started to walk slower. I felt like getting to the other side was me accepting what's next for the next generation at PFB. So I slowed down a bit and kept listening. As I listened, the thought came up again - "Are you ready to cross over to what's next?" So, I kept walking and crossed over to the other side.

But it wasn't over. I then felt like Jesus was asking, "Are you really about people coming to know me or are you about teaching them about me?" Some may look at that and think that it is the same thing. Not really. If my life is about me teaching, I will be content with people showing up to a worship service to hear me teach. However, if I'm about people coming to know Jesus, I will never be content with how many are showing up to a worship service. I answered: "I want people to know you, Jesus." And then I felt (and I know that this may sound weird) like God said to me, "Then knee down." It took a little bit for me to do this. What would people think if they saw me kneeling down in the middle of the dirt? But, I knelt down. I stayed down there for about 10 seconds and got up.

I walked across the bridge looking for a quiet place to continue my time with Jesus. However, every place was taken. So, I started to walk and came across a bench with a man sitting there. Realize this, I never share a bench. I like my space. However, when I walked past this man I noticed he had a journal. Then the commitment that I made on the other side of the bridge came back to my mind. So, I walked up to him and said, "Do you mind if I share this bench with you?" He motioned me to sit and I did. We started chatting about his journaling and what he likes. I introduced myself to him and he told me his name (Mike). He told me how he had moved to this area and moved in with his homosexual brother and his boyfriend. I told him that I was from out of town. He asked me where I was from and why I was up here. I started into sharing about where I'm from and what I was here for, and he interrupted me and had to leave because his brother showed up. I was bummed because I missed that opportunity.

I kept sitting there. All of a sudden a woman named Tommy sat right next to me, watching her daughter playing on the playground. We just started chatting. I don't even know how we got on the topic but spirituality came up. I shared with her about Jesus. I asked her, "Have you ever met one of those jerky Christians?" She said, "Yes. In fact that's what kind of pushed me away from Christianity." That hurt my heart. I asked if she had any questions about Jesus and she said no. So I asked if it was okay for me to share the core of the gospel. She sat and listened to me as I explained the gospel to her. She then shared with me how she had moved out from Colorado in the past 5 days with her daughter. She told me that while she was driving here, all of a sudden it started to rain when there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Then all of a sudden a song played on the radio (which she thought was on a Christian station) talking about how "he would be here for you." She told me that she had to pull the car over so she could cry. I heard enough. I looked at her and said, "Are you worried about the future?" She told me that she was - that everyone was. I told her, "I feel like God has given me this verse to give to you." I then told her Jeremiah 29:11. I asked her if she had a Bible. She said that she did not. I reached in my bag and pulled out a Bible and made her promise that if I gave it to her that she would read the book of Mark. She took it and promised to read it.

After a few minutes, I asked her if I could tell her about the core of the gospel. She listened as I explained. She was wiping tears away as I told her. She then got up, apologized for having to leave after our chat, and left. She did not surrender to Christ when I was talking to her, but I believe that she is on the road to salvation. I looked at her and said, "Tommy realize this: God is wooing you."

Please be praying for Tommy to come to Jesus. And PFB, be prepared because the best is yet come.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

God's Grace

Tonight I taught Ephesians 2:8-10, explaining in detail what every key word in that passage meant. Grace. Saved. Faith. Works. I'm convinced that so many Christians know this verse but totally miss the meaning behind this verse because we don't have a good grasp about what these words actually mean.

Please be praying though. As I was typing this blog, a staff member came in to tell me that her campers were missing the point in the stories that I share. That is not my goal at all. I want the stories that I use to enhance the point and so I need to make sure that I am explaining in detail the key points so that junior highers get it.

Thank you for praying.

Is Consciousness Too Much To Ask?

"And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?'" — Mark 14:39-40, ESV

I'm up at here at Mt. Hermon in Santa Cruz, CA. I know, I'm picking up my cross and following Jesus. It's sunny and about 75 degrees outside. Absolutely gorgeous. But that's not important.

I'm speaking to about 200 junior high students this week. I'm used to speaking twice every day at camps but at Mt. Hermon I only speak in the evenings, so it makes me feel really lazy the rest of the day. I taught last night on the size and glory of Jesus. I preached my heart out. Even though I felt like the message fell somewhat flat, two kids stood to surrender to Jesus. I was pumped.

So this morning I hung out with students at breakfast, getting to know them now that I have a connection with them. I met up with them at chapel where I watched the drama that the students watch every morning. When it was over, the students grabbed their stuff to head off to their small groups. It was loud. Junior higher have a lot of energy that seems to leak from their mouths. So I just heard voices but nothing distinct, UNTIL... I heard a guy say, "The speaker last night..." I don't know why that caught me but it did. Then I heard this: "Yeah, I fell asleep last night." The girl he was talking to seemed to agree. And honestly: I was a little deflated. I'm fine with not having any 11-year-old friends. That's not it at all. I just know that I brought it and gave everything that I had last night in that message If you've ever poured everything into something, you can understand why this would sting just a little.

Jesus asked these three disciples—Peter, James, and John—to join him in the garden to pray. And while Jesus was in his most painful time they FELL ASLEEP. He came back and checked on them three times, and each time they were sleeping.

Why bring all of this up?
1). Because I made a commitment to Jesus over the past couple of days to be honest in my blog instead of portraying everything as amazing. The Apostle Paul boasted in his weaknesses so that Christ's power was made perfect in his weakness. Yet, it seems like so many Christians portray themselves as always doing amazing (myself included). The only problem: I'm seen as doing fine rather than Jesus being shown as amazing.

2). The call of God on my life is to be faithful, no matter what the response may be.

3). God's word does not return void. I am convinced that Jesus accomplished exactly what he wanted to accomplish last night.

4). I feel like I'm in good company when someone falls asleep during my preaching. Even Paul had someone fall asleep while he was teaching. The man fell asleep, fell out the window and DIED. The difference: Paul went and prayed over the man and brought him back to life. So I'm praying the same thing for the students: some will fall asleep during the message. My prayer: that they are woken up and brought back to life by Jesus.

CHRISTIANS - Don't ever get discouraged in doing good. Keep going. It's all for Jesus. Strive for his applause rather than the applause, or the consciousness, of others.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Party Has Begun

Yep. The party has begun. Look out. Tonight I taught on the massiveness and hugeness of God. When the message was coming to an end and it was time to call kids to commit, a flippin bat flew in the chapel and made his presence known. I wasn't surprised. :)

I called kids to stand up if they were surrendering to Jesus and two kids stood up. Two kids surrendered to Jesus on the first night. OH MY GOODNESS!!! God is on the move. As God keeps bringing it, I'll keep bringing you the updates.

Prayer Update...

Well, it has been a crazy week already. We finished Bass Lake yesterday and everyone got home safe and sound. God began a new work in the high schoolers that we now get to work with. Two decisions to totally surrender everything to Jesus and strive for true intimacy with him. Two baptisms. Relationships formed. Community started. Now it's time to get to work.

Here is how you can pray for me this week:

1). Tonight is the first night of me teaching a group of about 200 junior high students up here at Mt. Hermon in Santa Cruz. The camp is already exploding with excitement, so now I am even more pumped to speak tonight. The topic for the whole week is God's faithfulness.

2). Yesterday I had an amazing time with Jesus at Bass Lake after the students left. I so needed it because it had been a while since I had gotten truly alone with Jesus. He healed me of some things that I have been struggling with and revealed his grace and mercy to me in a new and fresh way. I have made a commitment this week to truly seek after him instead of being the camp speaker.

3). On Sunday I will be teaching our high schoolers back at PFB.

I can't thank you enough for all that you do for me by praying.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

It's Back to Bass I Go

After I finished the last blog regarding Bass Lake, 2010, I started to head to Mt. Hermon in Santa Cruz. As I got just outside of Oakhurst, it was so strong on my heart to go back to Bass and hang with Jesus. Earlier, before I left, one of my volunteers told me about a dream last night that he had where I had an integrity issue that I needed to deal with. So he asked me if there was something that I needed to come clean about. I told him that I had been blunt honest with my accountability partner about everything going on and couldn't think of anything. That was that, but my mind kept wondering if there was something that I just didn't know about. So I kept asking. Nothing. So I left.

Then we fast forward to all of the students being back on their way to the church and I'm sitting at our campsite with my Bible striving to hear Jesus. Nothing was coming to mind. I kept sitting and then began to pour my heart out about the many struggles that I face and strive to overcome. And then I sensed the voice of Jesus say, "I just wanted to meet you with you at Bass before you left." Here's the thing: I had challenged my high schoolers to really seek Jesus while at Bass. I confessed how I had been feeling disconnected from Jesus lately and was going to also be using my time at Bass to seek him. The thing is, I never did. I was so "busy" getting things done that I didn't. I told the kids that I would and I didn't.

That was the integrity issue that my friend brought up. I said I would seek Jesus at Bass and I didn't. I may have forgotten about this, but Jesus didn't. He took it very seriously that I would be seeking him while at Bass. I sat there and poured out my heart about struggles and feelings and what-not. His response: grace. I kept hearing the word "grace" over and over again. I asked him why he loved me. The answer: "just because." :) That is always enough for me.

I was blessed to go back to Bass and hear from Jesus. I thought it would be another year before I did, but Jesus was definitely interested in keeping me to my word. I guess he likes our time together that much.

Last Updates from Bass Lake

First of all, I'm sorry I didn't get this out until today. I tried to update my blog regularly from Bass Lake but the slow internet connection on my phone wasn't always the most reliable. Now, that I'm sitting outside of Starbucks using free wifi, here it is.

Friday night, we looked at the topic of being true children of God. John 1:12,13 tells us that not everyone who is created by God is a child of God. I know that this isn't a popular thought today but it's true. John tells us that those who receive and believe are given the right to be children of God. Then we switched over to John's first epistle where he refers to Christians as "little children" of God. I asked the students: have you settled for a "relationship with God" that is void of any true relationship with Christ? It is so freeing to grasp and hold on to the truth that we truly are children of God. The intimacy that is offered to us by God through Christ to be his kids liberates us from condemnation, for it is then that we truly embrace that we are loved by God as a father loves a child.

Two students on Friday night admitted that they were wanting true intimacy with Christ instead of settling for what so many people settle for. Oh how I pray that if you're reading this, that you too never settle for the religion of Christianity that is void of the intimacy that Christ paid for us to enjoy with him, because in reality, a Christianity without Christ is a false religion like every other one out there.

Saturday after lunch I had the privilege of baptizing two of our high schoolers in the waters of Bass Lake. This truly is the highlight of Bass Lake every year for me. One of them was a young man who surrendered to Christ at our Wednesday night worship service about three months ago. The other was a young lady who was making it a re-commitment baptism, stating that when she was first baptized that she didn't really understand what she was doing, but now that she has a better grasp of the call to be a true follower/disciple of Christ, she wanted to be baptized. It was AWESOME!!! I never get used to that.

Saturday we looked at our call to be on ONE mission for Christ. Our vision in the next generation ministry at PFB is this: to exalt Jesus as the greatest, one life at a time. How do we know when we are fulfilling this? When everyone in our ministry is worshipping God daily through a life of mission. I challenged them to continue striving to create true community with each other when we get back while we strive to fill the worship center on Wednesday nights with 2,000 next generation worshippers who are truly making a difference for Christ's kingdom on a daily basis.

Thank you for praying for us all week. The students are on their way back to the church while I am on my way to Santa Cruz, CA to speak to about 200 junior high students at Mt. Hermon. Please pray for the students' safety as they travel home from Bass, for the Holy Spirit to continue the unifying work that he began at Bass Lake, and to anoint me for his service at Mt. Hermon this week. Thank you so much.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Deer God...

What a great day it was. Seriously. It started off with breakfast, worship, and individual quiet times. Then, boats. Boats all day. It was so much fun.

After dinner it was time for chapel. Tonight I walked down there knowing that I wasn't supposed to be teaching any more of the messages that I had planned for this week, but clueless after that. I sat there during worship asking God what he wanted me to teach. As I was sitting there I noticed a bunch if our students looking behind me in the distance. I looked back and there running across the field was a buck deer. It was awesome. And then it hit me: "As a deer pants for water so my soul longs for you.". That was God's message for us tonight: to be people who actually long and thirst for God rather than merely being satisfied with the do's and don'ts of Christianity. A great night.

Thank you for praying. Please keep it up. More updates to come.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Are You A Disciple?

Well, we are up and running at Bass Lake this year. It's been a great start. After a year of incredible growth in the ministry, we are really looking forward to building some tight community. We all arrived here at about 4:00pm. After all of the tent setting up and kitchen prep, the kids jumped in the water and played. It was very fun to see. After dinner, we had a time of worship and study on the beach of Bass Lake - one of my favorite places to worship. Melody Doo is our worship leader this year for Bass Lake, and she is absolutely incredible. She is first and foremost a worshipper of Jesus. That causes us to join her in worship as she enjoys herself at the foot of the throne of Jesus.

Tonight I spoke on this topic: No Christians Allowed. There is a major difference between believing in God and being a DISCIPLE of Jesus. The key things that disciples of Jesus will do are:

1). Touch Lepers - they will touch and reach out to "The Living Dead" - those that everyone else seems to ignore.

2). Befriend "sinners" - they will look to befriend "sinners" rather than condemn them. It is not a license to engage in sin, but rather love Jesus more than anything and therefore reaching out to those that he loves but don't know him yet.

3). Tick-off Pharisees - There will be legalists who call themselves Christians who will not like us reaching out to the "sinners" because of personal preference. However, we are in good company if we tick off the Pharisees because that's exactly what Jesus did.

It's a good start. It was hard-hitting, but these students are used to straight-up teaching and handle it amazingly well. They were left with having to count the cost of truly following Jesus. We'll see what types of decisions are made before the week is done. Thank you for praying. Keep it up.

All Safe and Sound

I just wanted to send a quick update letting you know that we made it to Bass all safe and sound. Now please pray daringly that Jesus would speak to us dangerously this week so that lives are changed. Souls saved. Disciples committed. Followers passionate. Christians empowered to change their world for Christ. Thank you so much.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Prayer for This Week

I need your prayers this week. It is a crazy week this week. Please pray for the following:

1). I am officiating a funeral service today. I always love the opportunity to preach at funerals but they are always tricky. Please pray.

2). I'm leaving this Wednesday for Bass Lake for our high school retreat. It's always such a great week but we need to pray for the Spirit of God to lead this retreat once again. Life change is what I want to see happen as well as to see tighter community within the high school ministry.

3). On the Sunday when students are coming back home from Bass Lake, I will be driving out to Santa Cruz to speak to junior highers for a week. Please pray for God's anointing as I teach.

Also, please pray for me. I'm feeling spiritually attacked right now which I see as a huge compliment because the Enemy only messes with those who are messing with him, but it is always a battle nonetheless. Thank you so much for how you care for me through prayer. It truly makes all the difference.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Update from Sunday Morning

This morning was OUSTANDING!!!

In my mind I had it set that it would be a low morning at PFB because of it being July 4. Honestly, attendance proved my right, but the people who did come BROUGHT IT! "Elevate" was great. It was low in attendance but praise and worship was led by Melody and an amazing worship team that she put together. They were outstanding and I know that Jesus was pleased. And the students worshipped. So encouraging to see. We looked at the beginning of Philippians 3:1-11 but didn't get to finish because we ran out of time.

Then I preached in the 11:11 service out of Lamentations 3, with the title of the message being, "Time To Experience Freedom." OH MY GOODNESS!!! Jesus definitely had some work he wanted to accomplish today. At the end, two people raised their hands to make public decisions for Jesus. THIS NEVER GETS OLD!!! And then at the end of the message, people "brought it" in praise and worship. So amazing!! Thank you for praying. What a truly amazing day to watch people freed by Jesus. That is true liberty!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Update from Wednesday Night

We had a great time last night at PFB as we continued on with the series, "GRACE." A powerful night of praise and worship and a message that confronted us with our need to use the gifts that God has graciously given to us to show God's grace to others. Thank you so much for praying. Keep it. Thank you so much.