Thursday, December 1, 2011

Because of the Cloud

2 Chronicles 5:13-14
"The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang:
'He is good: his love endures forever'
Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God."

The people of God had long awaited this moment. David wished he could see it, the people sacrificed for it, Solomon was the mastermind commissioned to build it. However, something happened that no man could contrive or conspire on his own accord. The glory of the LORD filled the temple of God. Everything was in place, the temple furnishing were brought in, glorious colors and precious gems decorated this moment. The Ark had been brought to its place. Everything was ready and prepared. Then IT happened. God showed up, the manifest presence of God Almighty in a cloud!

The scripture uses this powerful phrase, “Because of the Cloud…” Because of the Cloud. Because of the presence of God. Because His presence was so thick the bible says that not even the priests could perform their duty. Everything stopped. Their world stopped spinning, their praises became a whisper and everything became still before the LORD Almighty.

This Cloud, His presence changed everything. He was now with them. He would be amongst them, He would lead them, He would guide them and instruct them. He would protect them and provide for them. His love would become real to them. His presence changed everything.

Because of the Cloud... today His presence still changes everything. His presence heals marriages, restores brokenness, brings the prodigal home, convicts the sinner, brings the power to change, and infuses jubilation beyond description.

Are we seeking His presence? Is there evidence of The Cloud? Could people look at your life today or your church today and say, “Because of the Cloud”?

I want to lead a life, a family, a church, and a movement that can only be described by saying, “Because of The Cloud, Because of the manifest presence of God.” Let’s seek Him like we never have before. Let’s trust Him and beg Him to show up!

Because of the Cloud.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A few extra days in Addis

Last night (Monday night) we arrived at the airport in Addis, Ethiopia to make the trip back to the states. Over the last eight days we’ve had a wonderful time here with Compassion International and our church partners in Nazaret, ET: Nazaret Emmanual United Church. God answered our prayers to put vision in our hearts for our partnership with Emmanuel and for our work with Compassion. It was a wonderful trip. Which leads me to the trip home…

As we walked into the airport I noticed that the first leg of our trip to Frankfurt was not showing up on the monitors. My suspicion was brought to confirmation as we walked up to the Lufthansa Airlines desk and discovered that an earthquake caused a volcano to erupt and spread ash over east Africa. We aggressively tried to reconnect with the Compassion staff in Colorado Springs. We were unable to get the Internet in the airport to work and the local payphone would not recognize an American credit card or an American phone number. Finally we were able to borrow the cell phone of a local person and get in touch with the Country Director for Compassion. For the sake of brevity I will spare all of the details, but it took about two hours to get a hotel voucher and confirmation for a flight the following night (which is now cancelled).  In order to get all this arranged we walked back through customs, out of customs, through security, out of security and waited in a few lines to say the least. By the grace of God we were able to get vouchers for an “Ethiopian Four Star Hotel.” By the time we walked out of the airport the Compassion Int. drivers were waiting for us. They transported thirty minutes across Addis to the Four Start Hotel, the Riviera. When we walked up the hotel lobby was filled with smoke from all of our German friends who had also been displaced and replaced into this hotel. We were the last group to arrive.  Unfortunately, there was no room in the inn for our team.

We were then shuttled to another hotel, The Panorama Hotel. So after traveling over an hour in Addis we reached our destination. They had anticipated our arrival and arranged individual rooms for each of the eight of us traveling in the group. We have two different churches, South Bay Church and Rockbridge Church from Dalton, GA.  I located my room, dropped off my bags then headed back to the lobby to try and make connection with Stacie. It took me almost two hours to get connected, send her an email and get a reply. I finally retired for sleep at 2:30am.

After watching the news I’ve discovered that there are thousands of other displaced people all over the world. Many of them are stuck in airports, sleeping on suitcases. While I’m very disappointed that it may be a couple of extra days before I see Stacie and the boys… I have so much to be grateful for.  A warm shower, a great bed, clean water, electronics that can be charged (ipad, iphone and laptop), books, journal, the bible, and friends here to connect with.  

As I finish this post it’s Tuesday at 4:00pm in Addis, 6:00am back home in California. Our flight for tonight has been cancelled. I don’t know when we will be rescheduled. Compassion has a staff back home working to try and reroute us through other cities. Personally, I’m praying that we get to go through Dubai, but I am left at the mercy of God, the volcano and the airlines. In the midst of my circumstances today, I have a great opportunity to choose gratitude and live in joy.

Please pray that God would help me keep proper perspective and that he would strengthen my wife as she is on day 8 of caring for the boys by herself! Pray that God would protect her and the boys physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

PS, tomorrow is my 30th birthday. This has the potential to be the most exotic birthday of my life!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Increasing Radiance

Psalm 92:12-15, The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh & green, proclaiming, 'The LORD is upright, He is my rock, and there is no wickedness in him."

Proverbs 4:18, "The path of righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shinning ever brighter till the full light of day."

I turn 30 years old in less than a month. I know I am still barely an adult, but I'm almost the age Jesus was when He started His public ministry. It's kind of interesting to notice how people change as they get older. I promise you I have a few new gray hairs every week. I'm on my way to a white head of hair by the age of 40. I'm cool with that. It's much better than going bald. I've also noticed that it gets harder to stay in shape and things start to sag. Maybe not at 30, but you get the idea.

Here is the other thing I'm evaluating with my life as I turn into a new decade. People don't always age well when it comes to their character. Many people flame out or have a moral failing in their 30's. They live with passion in their 20's, but then they lose heart. The trials, disappointments, and failures of life begin to produce bitterness and selfishness. Ahh, I hate that.

Increasing love for God is not guaranteed. I deeply desire to live a life that is marked with increasing radiance. I want to live a life that grows in impact and fruitfulness. I'm committed to finishing this next decade strong. I want to be running harder after Christ on the day I turn 40. I want to be more holy, a better leader, a more intentional father, and a more selfless husband as the days, years and decades turn. I want to stay fresh and green, I wanted be planted in the house of the Lord and flourish with Him as my source of life.

You have to fight for the life God is asking you to live my friend. You will not drift to His best for your life. It's going to require lots of repentance, lots of soul searching, and hard running after Him. You will fall at times, but the beauty is that God has His eye on you. He sees your heart. If you make Him the passion of your soul, He will make you live with increasing favor, increasing radiance and increasing fruitfulness.

Monday, May 23, 2011

When God Looks at You!

Judges 6:12, "When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, 'The LORD is with you, might warrior."

Why does God call Gideon a mighty warrior? Gideon is everything but a warrior. He is hiding in a winepress and living in fear of the Midianites. I know God goes on to use this man in great ways, but at this juncture in chapter 6... Gideon is a coward! Immediately following this interaction Gideon seems to question everything God asks Him to do until Gideon's only option is to obey.

Packed in this verse is a very powerful principle that applies to our lives in the 21st century. When God looks at you, He sees who you are becoming and calls out your potential! God is the master of taking us from where we are to where He wants us to be.

When God looks at you He sees: a courageous husband, a wise leader, a humble servant, a selfless wife, a focused student, a strategic business man, and a loving co-worker, a disciplined person. He sees where you are going and who you are becoming.

Not only does God see where you are going but He speaks to you as though you are already there. God is calling you out today to challenge you and encourage you to step into who you will one day become.

Let Him speak to you and walk in who He has called you to be. Let your head be held high with confidence. Walk in your freedom. You are a child of the King, you are forgiven, you are loved, you are His.

Oh, one more thing... God is with you. If you are in relationship with Him, He places His Spirit upon you to help you become the person He is calling you to become.

If that doesn't make your day, go get back in bed and roll out on the other side!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I Need 2 Change

Recently I've been reading through Howard Schultz's new book titled, "Onward." I'm about 1/3 of the way through with the book and it's a fascinating read. Basically the book is the story of the decline of Starbucks, his return to CEO and the turn around of the company.

There is one key learning I'm gleaning from the book.

One primary job of a leader is to determine the strategic changes that need to happen at any one given time and then empower a team to see these changes through.

Great leaders are able to discern the changes that need to happen and then execute no matter what the cost.

Here are some of the challenges I feel when it comes to making this happen...
* At any one given time there usually about 10-12 major changes that need to happen in my life and in our organization. How do I determine the most important change?
* The day to day demands of leading an organization can really cloud my ability to get "above the fray" and see what changes need to happen.
* Major changes do not automatically and require a great deal of organizational energy.

So here are some keys I think to help ensure that I'm leading properly when it comes to organizational change...
* I need to make sure that my time alone with God... prayer/bible study is guarded so that I'm hearing from God about the vision for our church.
* I need to make sure that there is time in my schedule (at least one day away away from the office each month with no operational agenda) to think creatively.
* I must engage the key leaders of our organization into this process because they see things I don't see and in most cases will be the ones to execute the changes.
* I must have the courage to make the change when I believe God is leading us to make them... no matter what the cost.

Here are a couple questions for you to consider:
* If time and energy was not a limiting factor what changes would you make in your life/organization?
* What are the things that you are currently doing/responsibilities that you have/relationships you are in, that if given the chance you would not start up again?
* What is the change you know you need to make, but you lack the courage to execute it?
* What are the key habits in your life that are contributing to the momentum and success you are currently experiencing? How can you maximize these habits for greater impact?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Addition From Sunday

Yesterday I did a message titled, "Regret Free Risk." I taught from the story found in Joshua 3 where Joshua leads the nation of Israel across the Jordan. My main point was this... A life of extraordinary faith begins with a small step of courage.

Here are four areas where God leads us to have courage-
1. The courage to step out.
2. The courage to hold back.
3. The courage to prioritize.
4. The courage to surrender.

There is one addendum that I wanted to add on to my message. I only have 30 minutes to communicate the message so there is stuff I have to leave out...

I wanted to give you a few questions to assess risk and determine if God is leading you to take the steps...
* Do I have a clear leading from God in this direction?
* Are there biblical principles that I would violate in taking this step?
* What do godly men and women advise in this instance?
* Is this the right season to take this step?
* Am I being motivated by fear or faith?

After running a decision through this grid, I usually get about 70% of the way on big decisions and then I take the the next step I believe God is leading me to take. This includes decisions like: starting a 2nd/3rd service at South Bay, beginning a capital campaign, hiring a new employee, family decision to adopt, etc....

I hope this helps!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Guest Blogger: Stacie Wood

OH. MY. GOSH! You have got to try that! Skydiving was perhaps the most fun and exhilarating thing I have ever done. SO worth it. Even if you are scared, just have someone push you out of that plane, and I promise you that you will not regret it once your feet land back on the ground. It is crazy exciting!

Here's the video I took of Andy as he discovered that we were going skydiving yesterday:

He seems pretty calm in the video, right? What you don't see is after the camera stops rolling he immediately started checking his pulse and telling me that his heartrate was through the roof! He sat in a chair in our living room with his iPhone and didn't move for about 20 minutes. I asked him if he was okay and found out that he was reading articles about the risks factors in skydiving! He found out that you're more likely to die in a car accident over the course of a years time than you are by skydiving. That helped a little. :-)

It was so great that Jennalene, Jack, and Archie went with us. That really relieved a lot of the stress and made the day more lighthearted and fun.

Andy was scared, but not so scared that he couldn't even enjoy it. By the time I landed on the beach, he and Archie were already talking about when they could come back to do it again! I knew he would love it!! :-)

We have so many good pictures...I think there's close to 500 total. So it's hard to find my absolute favorites. But I'll share a few really cool ones.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We live and risk all for the King and His Kingdom

Guest Blogger: David Hibiske, Family Pastor, South Bay Church.

One of our core values at South Bay Church is, “We live and risk all for the King and His Kingdom.” We strongly believe that we are to live with a sense of complete abandonment for Jesus. This simply means that we are willing to abandon our comfort, will, and even desires to obediently follow Him. We are willing to lay it all out on the line for Jesus and we seek to expand His Kingdom not just our organization.

This past week I was reading in Luke 9 when I was struck with a verse that immediately brought this value to mind. In Luke 9:23-27, Jesus is describing the cost of being one of His followers. He just told the disciples He will one day be killed and if they want to follow after Him they must even be willing to face death. Jesus literally tells them you must deny yourself and take up your cross daily. In case you don’t know when someone took up their cross it meant they were carrying it to the place where they would be nailed to it and crucified! Can you imagine the weight the disciples must have felt at the words of Jesus?

However, Jesus continues by saying, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.” Wow! Think about this… Jesus is saying if you try to save your life you will ultimately lose it! What He is saying is this: If you are trying to save your earthly life by denying Him or seeking to be comfortable then you will end up losing both your earthly life and your eternal life. By seeking to save your life here on earth you forfeit eternal life with Christ in heaven for eternal condemnation in hell! We know this because Jesus goes on to say, “What good is it to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self (soul)? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and in the glory of the holy angels.”

We live and risk all for the King and His Kingdom because that is what Jesus demands from us as His followers. We must not be ashamed or afraid to follow Him, but we must be willing to follow Him even to the point of death. Obeying Jesus, the King, and seeking to advance His Kingdom is so much more important than anything else we could ever give our lives for.

Are you trying to save your life, or are you laying it all out on the line for the King and His Kingdom?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Easy Pill

Do you ever wish you could just swallow a pill to make life a little easier? I'm going to be honest... I do. At times I wish I could swallow a pill and make parenting two young boys a little bit less challenging. I wish I could swallow a pill and all of a sudden become the husband God has made me to be. I'd love to snap my fingers and immediately be the leader that I will one day become. There are moments when I wish I could swallow a pill and make my current challenges and struggles go away, but then I read the bible and I realize... that's pretty stupid!

I ran across this verse in my bible reading time this morning.

Proverbs 12:11, "He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgement."

In other works, there is no easy pill or short cut to a fruitful life. Abundance and effectiveness involves working the difficult soil of our lives, planting seeds that are worth harvesting, praying for rain, plucking out the weeds that cut away at health, waiting for the fruit and then walking through the difficult work of harvesting.

This principle holds true for every area of our lives... marriage, parenting, relationship with God, our career, ministry, and friendships.

When we chase the easy pill we end up making all kinds of dumb decisions. Don't get me wrong... I'm not advocating un-neccessary work. That is just as foolish as chasing fantasies. We must work with wisdom and efficiency, but we must realize there is no short cut to success in fruitfulness in any other area of life or ministry. Water, plant, work, pray, and harvest. Be diligent in these matters and you will have fruit. Swallow the easy pill and you will suffer the consequences.

What "fields" has God called you to work today? Are you sowing seeds of forgiveness or seeds of bitterness in your relationships? Are you investing time and energy into the life of your kids and spouse or are you expecting someone to nurture them to vitality? Are you working faithfully when you clock in, or are checking facebook half of the working day? Pastors are you sowing seeds to reach beyond the walls of your church or are you looking for that next fad you can ride?

Spit out the easy pill and work your fields.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Power of Your Invite!

This Sunday is going to be the greatest day in the history of South Bay Church. We celebrate the fact almost 2,000 years ago Jesus disciples walked up on Easter morn to find an empty tomb. His resurrection gives us hope and forgiveness. We have a great opportunity to spread this good news of God's love this week.

There is no greater way to spread good news than through word of mouth. If you are a part of South Bay Church I want to ask you to join me this week as we spread the word about our Easter Services. (8:30a, 10:00a, 11:30a, 1:00p) Our whole goal is to reach our community with God's love. Would you take a few minutes to invite your friends, a family members, a co-workers, and neighbors! We are prayin that many lives are touched and changed through this Sunday's services.

All the resources you need are right here!

FACEBOOK: Spread the event to your friends. Change your profile picture.
TWITTER: Change your profile picture. Retweet SB's invitation to Easter.
E-VITE: Easter evite | Hunt evite
EMAIL: Easter email invite | Hunt email invite

PS, Here is a short promo video for the message series that kicks off this Sunday.

One Life- No Regrets. from South Bay Church on Vimeo.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Do You Have To Let It Linger?

Hey, you remember that song... "Do you have to, do you have to, do you have to let it linger?" That's about the extent of what I remember, but those words stick, don't they? I was wondering the other day how many unnecessary problems linger around in my life and create extra headaches and weight on my shoulders.

How many things stick around that could be eliminated with just a few seconds or minutes of attention. I had this thought the other day... "Every person and organization has problems, ordinary organizations and leaders let the problems linger, great leaders and great organizations find solutions quickly and do not let problems or headaches linger." I'm not talking about applying the wrong solution to a problem. I'm talking about the fact that most problems in your life and organization can be solved in less than a week! I think that part of the "problem" for most of us lies in the reality that we don't have solid mechanisms for solving problems. We don't evaluate our lives and we don't evaluate our organizations and consequently the problems don't get solved.

Here is an idea: evaluate your life... What's working? What's not working? Then brainstorm... What are 4-5 possible solutions to this problem? What's it going to cost to solve this issue? Then assign responsibility, set a deadline and get cracking.

Here are a few examples... If you have multiple services at your church, evaluate in between services and make changes that can be made before the next service. If we have a microphone cable that keeps cracking on Sundays at church... How long does it take to order a new cable? Another example, we had some wires that weren't getting taped down. Archie our Worship Pastor printed pictures of what it looks like taped down and gave it to the appropriate volunteer. When you have equipment that doesn't work, how long does it take to get a new copier or a new modem? How long does it take to get a new computer? You have an employee that's not showing up on time for work, call them in your office and talk to them about it. You have a communication issue with a spouse or a kid... set aside a few minutes to get to the core of the problem. Ask why is it not working? What do we need to fix that problem. Not rocket science, just mental energy!

Some problems are complex and require laboring over a solution, but the majority of our problems have a simple solution and can be solved within a few hours or days!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Reflections on "Church Planters Think Tank"

Earlier this year our team sensed God leading us to do an event to invest in other new churches. Nothing flashy just a day of pouring in what we've learned and some of the things God has done at South Bay over the last two and a half years. I honestly just wanted to do something Bay Area and was praying that 50 people showed up. We were blown away when we ended up having over 120 kingdom leaders from churches all across the West Coast! Unbelievable. Our staff and some of our key volunteers pulled together in awesome ways. I never cease to be amazed by the capacity and work ethic of our team. They showed their hearts by giving to bless others. It truly was just an opportunity to pour out and be a blessing for others. Also, a special thanks to Westgate Church for hosting the event.

Here are a couple of insights from the event:
* Church leaders need practical ministry training. The day to day nuts and bolts is where most people get stuck!
* Conferences are a lot of work and require a team. More work than I anticipated.
* God is up to something big here on the West Coast and in the SF Bay Area.
* We will do this again!

Here are some pics! Thanks to all of you who came and served at this event!


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Assign Responsibility!

"Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall." Psalm 55:22

Recently I was feeling very overwhelmed by several ensuing problems and challenges. The more I thought about these problems the more I became stressed out. I thought through solutions and scenarios of how to solve the problem and I was hitting my head against a wall. The more I thought about the problem the more I realized I was not going to be able to solve it in my human strength. These were problems that only God could solve. Everyone of us faces problems that seem insurmountable... a marriage that is hanging by a thread, a child that is unresponsive to our love, a burden financially, a job that is sucking the life out of us. Often times in the middle of a crisis the solution is illusive. Sure we can keeping taking steps in the right direction, but only God is going to make it work and bring the solution.

That's when I came across this verse above. Give your burdens to the Lord. In essence, assign responsibility to God for your problems. I was thinking about it like this... After our weekly staff meeting for South Bay Church everyone on the team walks away with a set of tasks to be accomplished in the following week. They are assigned responsibility. I feel a sense of relief when I know a responsibility is placed into the hands of a competent staff member, I no longer have to worry about the task getting done or the problem getting cared for.

I thought, what if I make my morning time alone with God more like a staff meeting and assign the responsibility of these problems to Him. I will write out a list of what I can take responsibility for, the things I can do that day to get the ball down the field and then I will assign responsibility to God for what only He can do.

My stress goes down and my confidence goes up and He carries the weight! I know it's easier said than done, but this little practice and prayer is helping me a ton!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Servolution Kicks Off This Sunday!

Don't miss out on the kick off of this brand new series on Sunday! I'm super excited to talk about starting a servolution!

Servolution is not an event; it is a revolution ignited through serving. As we begin opening our hearts, hands, and time to serve, not only are we part of changing the lives of others, we also experience change in our own lives.

A beautiful perspective is found when we take the time to actually see world through God's eyes. When we stop to actually look around and ask ourselves, "How can I serve someone today?" we will be transformed by the idea of living beyond ourselves.

March 27- Pick up the Towel
April 3- Ignite a Revolution of Kindness
April 10- Get Your Gifts On

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ramblings For Husbands and Dads...

I'm going to be honest. Being a good dad and a good husband takes a ton of work for me. I watch some guys who seem to have "it" so much more naturally than I do. They are more tender, more aware, more compassionate, etc... You get the idea. I've realized that this is a weakness for me so I have to compensate with extreme discipline. This means several things: i invest 2-3 hours every saturday with my boys (boy's club), i have a date night every week with my wife (friday nights), i have a day off on Friday which we call family day, i hang with the boys one night a week so that stacie can invest in the lives of ladies from our church or just chill if she wants to. When I slack on my disciplines my relationships suffer.

Now there are two recent modifications to these disciplines that are impacting me... and hopefully my family.

Stacie and I are doing p90x together, trying to get in beach ready form for family vacation in May. :-) We are waking up at 5:30 together and then are finishing up at like 6:30/6:45. This gives me 45 minutes to make the boys breakfast and interact with them until 7:30a when I hop in the shower. I've started aiming to leave the house by about 7:55 so that I can do my time alone with God before starting my work by 9:00am. I shoot to by home 5:30p which gives me a solid 8.5 hours and then maybe an hour or so after the boys go to sleep in the evenings.

With this being said...

My modification of spending this morning time with the boys has given me another opportunity to invest in them and engage them before heading out to work for the day and it gives Stacie and extra 30-45 minutes to shower and get ready for the day.

Here is another big learning...

I still have to fight to be engaged with the boys when I am with them. I want to check my phone for messages, etc... I am striving with the help of God to make a concerted effort to be fully there with them. This maximizes the disciplines. What good are all these disciplines if I don't pour my heart into them. It's like going to the gym but not working out. It's like paying to go to a movie, but sleeping through it.

The bottom line...
Husbands, discipline yourself. Put your phone away or give it to your wife for that matter. Tell your work how far it can come and then give yourself to your family completely. Shift your mindset from I go to work and then I come home. Make your mindset "I go to the office to work on my job, I come home and work on the health of my family and my relationships." Put that husband and dad cap on when you walk in the door and engage your wife and kids! I promise your life will be better for it, and you will suffer if you neglect. I know from experience on both sides.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My God Is Not Limited!!!

Last night on my couch I had a sackcloth and ashes moment of repentance. I have been really wrestling through some areas of leadership where I feel very limited by our circumstances. We are trying to get into a more permanent facility as a church. We are working very hard and doing everything in our power. We keep running into barriers and what seem to be like closed doors, zoning issues with our community, problems in negotiations, etc.. On top of all this I feel great responsibility before God and our people. Our people have given so sacrificially so that we can find that right place and we are out growing our current facility and running out of prime hours to keep adding services.

I was kind of complaining to God about all this. Don't you see, don't you care. Thank you for letting me be honest. I was reading through a book called, "The Life God Blesses" by Robert Morris. He was spending a few pages on 2 Corinthians 9:6 which says, "And GOD IS ABLE to make ALL grace about to you, so that in ALL things at ALL times, having ALL that you need will abound in EVERY good work."

In essence, I heard a very clear whisper from God. Andy, "I'm not limited by your circumstances. In fact, I am giving you this limitation for a reason... So that on the other end you will know just how powerful I am." I spent a few minutes crying, repenting and saying I'm sorry for thinking that you are limited.

So today this song is ringing in my heart... MY GOD IS ABLE and HE IS NOT LIMITED BY MY CIRCUMSTANCES!! Amen?

What is your limitation today? Where is your back against the wall? Where do you feel the pressure? Your God is able. A marriage that is suffering, finances that are falling apart, a leadership situation that desperately needs hope? Let your heart be reminded today that God wants to help you abound in every good work. He is looking for a life that He can bless and flow through. Don't embrace your limitation, embrace God's limitless power that is greater than your limitation!! On the other side you will have a miracle story to tell of His provision and faithfulness.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Take The Plunge This Sunday!!

This Sunday March 13 we have a baptism celebration at South Bay Church. If you've yet to be baptized as a follower of Christ, why not take that step this weekend? I'd love for you to take the challenge. Just shoot us an email at in the subject line put "baptism" and we'll follow up with you and give you all the details. It's going to be an awesome day that you don't want to miss.

Baptism Video from South Bay Church on Vimeo.

Click here for a link for more info on baptism and a link to a message I recorded last year.

PS, Make sure to set your clocks forward one hour this Saturday night!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Everybody Has an Opinion

Dear Pastors,
Okay, I know that my title is an overstatement. Most people have opinions. Especially about your church. They have a vision and a direction that they think your church should go. Whenever you get two visions in the house, you ultimately get di-vision. Now, I don't want to give the impression that I think leaders get it right all the time. We need to stay teachable and humble before God recognizing that we might not get it right all the time. But, vision flows from God into the heart of a leader and then is fleshed out in the context of a team who resonates and embraces the vision.

But, I'm learning something about leadership and vision. Five years ago when I met with someone from our church who had a different vision than the one God had already given, I would listen to their ideas and lead them to believe that the church would become more of what they wanted it to become. (*There is that evil people pleasing side of me that wants to be liked.)

So, I would have that conversation and then 3 months later the person would come back to me and they would be frustrated. They'd say, "I thought this was going to change!" In essence, I ended up wasting their time and my time. They were disappointed and I was angry. So now, I've found a solution that is more biblical and still teachable.

When someone comes to me with a point where they think I/we might be a little off with the vision, I acknowledge that it's possible that I might be off. I take good notes... then, I honestly acknowledge that I will spend time in prayer and seek God about this. At the same time, I want to make sure that this person understands the vision of our church. I clarify that they should expect that our vision is not going to change. The direction of our church, the values God has given and our mission is not going to change... And our strategy will continue to unfold as we move forward. If they are going to stay at our church they must understand this and not feel the need to come back with the same issue over and over. If they make the assessment that this church is not heading the direction they want to go... they have 3 options... stay and be frustrated, find a church where they agree with the vision or start a church of their own.

I hope you understand. I'm not at all bitter. I am hungry to keep learning and growing. I am no where near perfect. I have flaws and don't get it right 100% of the time. At the same time, I am honestly seeking God. I am striving to follow Christ with radical obedience in my marriage, in my parenting and in my leadership. I believe I have heard him from Him regarding the vision of South Bay Church. I believe He is confirming that in our team, I believe He is rewarding that with genuine fruit and evidence of His approval.

What I am saying to you leaders is this:

Be teachable and moldable, but be firm in the vision God is giving you. This is the tension. Let God speak to you about advice/counsel. If it is from him, repent... If it's not keep on trucking my friend. At the same time, do not have multiple meetings with people about the same thing. I have done this... It never solved the problem. This is called, "distraction." Just like Nehemiah you have to stay on the wall. There are people to be reached, a kingdom that must be advanced, and a vision that must be executed. Your church, your staff, your family, your community, they all need you stay focused leader!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

There's a Reason Why...

There's a reason why some marriages fail and some marriages succeed. There's a reason why some business get stuck and other businesses grow exponentially. There's a reason why some families live in joy while other families despise one another's presence. There's a reason why some people overcome addictions to porn, alcohol, and other forms of substance abuse and a reason why others stay stuck in the same sin for decades. There's a reason why some churches never get over 50 people and others grow to over thousands in just a few short years. There's a reason why some leaders draw the best people and others can't even attract 1's. There's a reason why some people make millions in a down turned economy and others suffer to pay their bills. There's a reason why some people are grossly over weight and others look like Tony Horton. There's a reason why some people soar and others sink. There's a reason why... You get the idea.

Why do some people think they can violate wisdom? If this path has led to a destination for almost everyone else in the world. Chances are... it's going to lead to the same place for you. I had this thought the last month or so at two conferences. Some people will leave this conference and their churches will be exactly the same one year from now. Others will leave this conference and reach 1,000 new people for Christ in the next 12 months. Why do some people soar and others stay stuck?

Here's a gut check. Have the humility to ask people who are succeeding in any area of life or ministry where you are failing and find out what's different between your life and decisions versus theirs. What do couples who are more in love 60 years down the road do on a week to week basis? What do pastors of the fastest growing churches do with their time? How do they make decisions differently? How do people who are winning with their finances make their decisions? What do parents with godly kids do differently than those who raise hellions? Apply your heart to wisdom and then implement it.

God does not seem to violate the principles of wisdom that He has set in place. Don't be foolish and continue to do the same things expecting different results. You have to change your input. You have to change your choices. Optimism and hope does not lead to a destination of fruitfulness. Wisdom combined with courage consistently over a period of time will yield fruitfulness in your life, your marriage, your relationships and your ministry.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wisdom and Courage

Joshua 1:6-9 says "Be strong and courageous, for you will lead my people to possess all the land I swore to give their ancestors. Be strong and very courageous. Obey all the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away from them, and you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed.

Success requires both wisdom and courage. Notice how Joshua is challenged to study the book of the law so that he could have wisdom in regards to the truth. At the same time God challenges him to have courage and obey what He knows to be true. Moving forward in marriage, in ministry, physically, spiritually, emotionally and in every other area of life requires both wisdom and courage. Wisdom is knowing the right decision, but courage is having the "balls" to go for it. I've noticed that people tend to camp on one side or the other. I see a lot of younger leaders who have courage to go for it in life, but lack the necessary wisdom. I see others who have been around the block for many years and know why a plan won't work and all the holes in your strategy. Yet, when it comes to courage... They lack the willingness to take the risk. I'm challenged a ton recently that going to the next level in my life, in my ministry and in my family is going to require the wisdom to find the right strategy and procedure, but also the courage to keep leaping forward in faith. May God grant us both wisdom and courage! May we stick close to God's commandments and principles so that the path is clear and may we stay close to God's Spirit so that we are filled with courage to follow His wisdom! That's my prayer.

PS, this is why I think cross generational relationships are so essential in life. The maturing generation has so much wisdom to offer, the emerging generation has so much courage to bring to the table.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy, Happy Birthday

This Sunday, February 13 at South Bay Church we celebrate our 2nd anniversary as a church. It's kind of hard to believe that we have been going for two years now. I remember the week leading up to our Grand Opening like it was yesterday. I remember hardly sleeping wondering if people would show up, ;-) praying my guts out asking God to move, working diligently with staff to get everything lined up, and then bang... On that day 225 people from our community showed up. By our great leadership over the next 6 weeks we grew the church down to 125 people in regular attendance. Since that point God has absolutely blown us away with the transformation of people's lives, growth of the church, responsiveness of our community and so so much more.

Last Sunday we had one of the best days in our history with 580 people in worship. God is changing so many individual lives and that's what it's all about! It's unbelievable to consider what God has accomplished in 2 years, and then in the same thought to consider what the next 5, 10, 20, 30 years will hold!!! I want to keep believing Him and serving faithfully with the people of South Bay and watch God use us to change this region with His love.

I'm more excited today than I have ever been about the future of our church. Let's keep pressing forward knowing that the best of what God has in store is ahead! Happy Birthday South Bay Church.

Hope you'll be there this Sunday, February 13 to celebrate with us!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Write It Down!

Habakkuk 2:2
Then the LORD replied: "Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it."

I am constantly looking for ways to improve my efficiency and effectiveness in life. My desire is to be faithful, focused and fruitful. Some days I do way better than others. After Sundays when I preach, Monday is typically really bad for me. I catch my stride on Tuesday and have some systems that when executed increase my effectiveness by at least 80%. (72% of stats are made up on the spot).

One of the best tools I've found is to have a daily task list. I try to write out a list of my top 10-12 tasks each day and then label them based upon A, B, C priorities. I eliminate all tasks that can be delegated to someone else on our team and labeling them D for delegation. In addition to this, I have a master list that I work from each week. I print out this weekly list on Monday's and it has all that I'd like to get accomplished for the week. This weekly list I place inside of a black book that I carry with me, tearing off the front page each day and putting a fresh list for the day.

This is in conjunction with a moleskin that I carry around to capture thoughts, dreams, conversations, lessons, things I sense God speaking to me about, etc... I review this moleskine consistently to make sure I'm getting items to my weekly and daily task lists. This also is supported by an annual list of goals and a six week project list that all narrows into a daily focus on task execution.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It sounds kind of anal doesn't it. Your personality may be different than mine, more artistic, less structured, etc... I would exhort you no matter what your personality is, find a system that works for you and make sure you are writing things down. The more consistent you become in writing thoughts and ideas down the more you will find your effectiveness increase. Make sure to prioritize. Figure out what only you can do, work towards a vision and watch God do more with your life in a day, week, month, year than you ever imagined.

PS, Now I can go cross off, "Write Blog" from my task list.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Check the Destination

About six months ago Stacie and I were traveling home from Ethiopia. We had just spent 5 hours in Chicago O'Hare, prior to that 12 hours in Frankfurt. We were ready to be home. As we boarded the plane for the last leg of our flight we discovered that we were on the wrong plane. If we stayed on that plane we would have ended up somewhere in Kansas. To be honest I didn't want to end up in The Heartland. I wanted to go home! No matter how much I wanted to be in California, if I'd stayed on that plane I would have ended up at the wrong destination. Good intention. Wrong destination. Just like a plane has a destination, our thoughts have destinations.

The Apostle Paul says it like this…Romans 8:5, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what that Spirit desires. The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”

When my mind is set on what God desires for my life, I will experience life and peace. When I let my flesh control my thoughts, the results will be destruction and the death of God’s best for my life. Part of the problem is that so few of us are aware of what we think about and meditate upon. It’s like someone trying to get control of their finances without knowing what they spend. You must do an analysis of your thoughts first.

This Sunday at South Bay I’m going to give a challenging message on getting control of your thoughts and experiencing rest in your mind. I hope that you’ll join us as we kick off our “Stress to Rest” series and start new service times at 9:00, 10:15, & 11:30a. Bring a friend and join us this Sunday.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dream Big

Recently I've been reading several books that have challenged my thinking. Amazing Faith, which is a biography of Bill Bright's life and Exponential written by Dave and Jon Ferguson. I have 5 major prayers for 2011... one of which is, "God give me bold faith."

Here is a little paragraph from the book Exponential that really challenged me,
"A person who has pushed me to dream big is Lyle Schaller. He is one of the most prolific writers on church life... Over and over again he will rib me by looking me in the eye and saying, 'Dave, your biggest problem is that I have a bigger vision for your church than you do!' And strangely enough, every time he says that, my dream gets bigger!
Right now I'm thinking about what it will take for us at Community to be a church of two hundred sites in Chicago with one hundred thousand "3C" Christ followers. And when Jon (Dave's brother) and I get together to talk about our vision to be a catalyst for a movement of reproducing churches, we try to dream big! We start these dreaming conversations strategizing about how to reach one billion people." (p. 46)

He goes on to say that BIG DREAMS change your questions, the bigger the dream the more profound questions you will ask. Not only do BIG DREAMS change your questions, they change your prayers. God has so much in store for our lives that we can't even fathom. My thinking is way too small. I hope that as I align myself more with God in 2011, He will inspire in me God sized dreams that only He can accomplish.

Questions to ponder:
* How big is your God? Go back through the bible and start researching His character.
* When is the last time you asked God to give you a "God sized dream" that only He could accomplish?
* What fears need to be faced in your life in order to start attempting the dreams that God placed in your heart?
* With God's help... where can you put your skills, talents, personality to work to make a significant impact?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Protect Your Heart

Last Monday a friend in ministry sent an email informing me that he had a moral failing. I literally read through my friend's email 4 times. I wanted to make sure that I was reading correctly. This friend mentored me, he invested in our church, he was a co-laborer in the kingdom. Ugghh!

It is a sad reality that these situations happen way too often. I hear too many stories of pastors committing ministry suicide. Every time I hear these stories it serves to me as a fresh reminder of the weakness of the human flesh and the aggressive strategies of the enemy to bring destruction to kingdom leaders.

One week after receiving the news I wanted to give a little reflection to moral failings: (*not all of my reflections are based upon the situation with my friend)
* None of us are exempt from a fall. Our flesh can end up ruining our lives if it goes unchecked. When we think we are above a fall we are "cruisin for a bruisin."

* A fall does not happen over night. It begins when we stop protecting our heart. Boundaries are very important and you must have them in place, however it's important to remember that a fall comes from the human heart. It is not simply a result of a life without boundaries. Boundaries keep the heart in check, but the heart is the source.

* Ministry is exhausting. The toll and cost is great emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Pastors and ministry leaders are susceptible to a fall because of this reality. We must make sure to fill our tanks with honorable sources of life.

* Teachability and humility keep your feet grounded. We need people to tell us if they cease to notice a hunger and passion to keep growing and learning. If you stop asking questions or stop pursuing growth, this is a big red flag.

* We must guard ourselves in relationships with people of the opposite sex. I know this goes without saying right? Here's the deal, it's easy to become too comfortable with people of the opposite sex. Your familiarity in a business context can cause you to allow your guard to fall down and you stop communicating in a protected way.

* The best antidote to sexual temptation is a great sex life with your spouse. When your marriage suffers it makes you more open to other relationships that might provide a quick fix. My spouse is the only legitimate source of intimacy in my life, I must embrace that.

All this being said, no one sets out in ministry wanting to be a statistic. It just happens to so many who stop protecting their heart. I love my friend and I grieve for him and his family during this season. I pray that God would bring healing and deep repentance to his heart and to his family. I pray that he would find grace from others as he showed grace to so many. I pray that I would continue to find these situations as warnings to protect my heart and the heart of others.