China Bound

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Tomorrow morning at 3:30am, I begin the long voyage to China. I’m excited to see a new land, one which I’ve read so much about. But I’m sad to be leaving my family, and will miss deeply.

For the interests of security, my mission will remain simply that I’m going to encourage leaders dedicated to shaping China’s future.

I’ll be back on the 24th, eager to see my wife and kids, and to share all the exciting news from the trip with those nearest me.

“Souls or I die.”

–William Carey

Thanks for lifting me and my team up.

ch:

Starting Out Right

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This shot of “new believers cards” collected during tonight’s altar call at the BCY event in Syracuse, NY says it all for me.

All I desire for 2013 is more souls won to Jesus. Keeping that at the forefront helps put everything else in perspective.

I was honored for the opportunity and privilege of sharing the Gospel with some amazing teenagers who heard heaven’s call to wake up and walk into the light.

Happy New Year everyone. Let’s endeavor to esteem and promote Jesus this year more than ever before.

ch:

The Process (Message)

This morning I preached out of my pain. I can’t explain it any other way. It was God appearing strong in the midst of my weakness. And I was humbled to be used.

I was also the first among the congregation to be convicted of the core content – essentially preaching to myself. In need of renewed perspective, in need of renewed motive.

I promised to put my notes on my website after a few people asked for them. If you’d like to watch the message, our wonderful production team has made it available here.

For his fame. ch:

The Process

• Life very often seems to be composed of one pressure after another. But what if these pressure had far less to do with Satan, sin, and ourselves than we thought?

Luke 19 • The Parable of the Ten Minas

11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.[a] ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’
15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’
19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

The Process: Pressure Points

20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

• The pressure of the Master’s hand was meant to qualify his servants for greater responsibility.

• Instead of rising to the challenge, we often will blame our Master as the cause of our irresponsibility.

• Don’t put off your future fortunes by failing to miss the point of your present pressures.

The Process: Getting Qualified

Genesis 37-50 • Joseph: from the pit, to the prison, to the palace.
Luke 22:41 • Jesus: embracing the will of his father

• The Father is not nearly as interested in our happiness as he is in our fulfilling of his purposes for us. Joseph could not be entrusted to bless Israel until he could be proven to serve Egypt. Jesus had to be faithful to the Father before he became faithful to the Cross.

• If the Lord is truly sovereign, then he’s intimately aware of our circumstances, and not only knows the way out, but knows why we’re in.

2 Timothy 3:1,2a,4b

1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2a People will be lovers of themselves, 4b lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

• For Christians that love pleasure, circumstances dictate happiness.

• For Christians that love the Father, only relationship provides satisfaction.

The Process: Born to Resolve

Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson

• The very things that try to destroy us are refining us to tackle the issues we were born to resolve.

The Process: Accepting A New Perspective

• If life was about making us happy then he would have to make our wills superior to his.

• Our greatest lessons are not learned in our successes, but in the trials that lead to our success. God is far more interested in the process of developing us for future usefulness than he is getting glory for “blessing you” in the present.

• This kind of Kingdom perspective can only come through adoption and impartation: adoption by choosing to embrace the perspectives of Christians more Godly than you are; impartation by meeting with God and letting him deal with our hearts.

The Process: Meeting With God

Realign your motives:

1.) If you’ve been more focused on resolving frustrations than you have finding contentment in God within your frustrations.

Realign your perspective:

2.) If your perspective is more temporal than eternal.

• What if you only came into your inheritance on the other side of this life? Could you wait that long?

Psalms 84:10
10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

Are You Being Difficult? (Message Notes)

20120329-062943.jpg[Photo courtesy of Costa Deir]

When I get enough requests for the notes of a message after I preach it, I put it online because a) it’s easier than remember all the people I’m supposed to email, and b) there are probably more people that wanted it than asked (and some who weren’t there that would probably be encouraged by it).

These are my notes from last nights message given to 33 Live at New Life Christian Church in Watertown, NY. ch:
____________________

Are You Being Difficult?

1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.

2 Timothy 3
[The New International Version]

1-5 Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.

6-7 These are the kind of people who smooth-talk themselves into the homes of unstable and needy women and take advantage of them; women who, depressed by their sinfulness, take up with every new religious fad that calls itself “truth.” They get exploited every time and never really learn.

[The Message]

• In this passage, days aren’t made difficult because of Satan, the Church, or your parents. They’re made difficult because of peoples’ conscious behavioral choices.

Three just ways, pulled from the list above, that you may be making life difficult for yourself and those around you:

1.) Disobedient to parents: utter rejection of basic authority.

RESULT: We disqualify ourselves form sitting in places of authority.

• A CiCi’s Pizza employee with a great idea but a bad work ethic doesn’t get heard. Their immoral treatment of time and property overshadows their perceived insight.

• Obedience precipitates promotion. If you want to be heard, you need to be teachable.

2.) Rash: making decisions quickly based on what we feel instead of what we know is right.

RESULT: The Lord cannot entrust us with valuable people or valuable decisions.

• It seems some teens in America are allergic to hard work, and hardships. As Christians we begin to question the “God said…” moments in our lives the moment things get tough.

• It’s in the trials of fire that we most grow.

3.) Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God: choosing what feels good to ourselves rather than what pleases God.

RESULT: God’s will becomes an after thought, and we base our theology and methodology on whatever is most popular.

• Refunding shipping on my XBox games sold on eBay.

• Accepting the general A-moral view of what the world says about homosexuality.

How to be the answer for difficult people:

Kingdom-minded Christ followers will be lovers of others, constantly generous, boastful of Jesus’ works, humble, deferring, obedient to their parents, grateful, holy, 3 full of love, forgiving, encouraging, full of self-control, gentle, lovers of the good, 4 transparent, patient and wise, consumed with the welfare of others, lovers of God rather than lovers of pleasure— 5 behaving with Godly actions and demonstrating His power. Have everything to do with such people.

6 They are the kind who never take advantage of people or situations, and who help ease the burdens of those who are loaded down with sins, and help those swayed by all kinds of evil desires get pointed toward Jesus. 7 They are always learning because they chose to come to a knowledge of the truth.

[CH's Inverted Version]

• The people that are most like Jesus are the most fun to be around. So make sure you’re surrounded by them, and let them rub off on you until you’re resolute enough to rub off on others.

• Let the Holy Spirit sift you through circumstances. He loves to use them to make you more Christlike.

• What are you going through right now that is challenging you in one of these areas? Don’t run from the situation or resist God’s desire to make you more like him.

• The very things that try to destroy us are refining us to tackle the issues we were born to resolve.

• Don’t put off your future fortunes by failing to miss the point of your present pressures.

• If you’ll allow the Holy Spirit to have his way in you, you’ll start to be very difficult indeed – for the Devil.

GO BE DIFFICULT!

The Bumblebee and Qualifications

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Yesterday Luik accompanied me to Jefferson Community College in Watertown, NY where I addressed the Intro to Business class. Having him beside me was a great encouragement (and let us have a Daddy/Son date to CiCi’s afterward, followed by some indoor rock climbing at Black River Adventures).

During the final Q&A section of my “lecture” (how tedious sounding!), I addressed a question that lead into the subject of what makes us qualified to do what we’re doing.

Certainly, I want my doctor to have gone to school and be qualified to operate on me.

But often the people that accomplish the most in life are sometimes the least “qualified.”

In my address, I mentioned Igor Sikorsky – father of the modern day helicopter – and his famous if not endearing quote about doing what we should not be able to:

“According to the laws of aerodynamics, the bumblebee can’t fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know anything about the laws of aerodynamics, so it goes ahead and flies anyway.”

Most of what I’m doing today I’m technically unqualified for. I’ve never been to college for music, art, pastoring, film, design, literature, creative writing, business development or franchising, let alone fathering or parenting. By all secular accounts, I shouldn’t even be allowed to operate a candy bar stand.

But I don’t know that I shouldn’t be able to do this stuff, so I just keep doing it anyway. (Thanks Igor).

This is certainly not a cop-out for getting an education; but an education should also never be a cop-out for hard work and diligence. (Nor is entering into a mammoth amount of ambiguous debt my recommendation either).

Qualification has far more to do with experience than it does with approval. Test results and certificates approve us, but only time and our capacity to embrace correction truly qualify us. ch:

BCY Winter Retreat: Day 3

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Why is it that good things go quickly, and the mundane inches along?

Our final day at Camp of the Woods was bittersweet. In a little over 36-hours, all of us had formed new friendships, spent powerful times in God’s presence, and been challenged to love people like Jesus.

My final message was on Daniel’s call to faithfully serve a totally godless king and culture. The cost was often his silence, and potential death. He also put his own desires to rest, including the tendency we have to rejoice when wicked people meet their demise, as well as not trying to usurp those over us especially in their absence.

Instead, Daniel was responsible for leading the Bible’s most demonic and egotistical king to the Lord when the king returned from insanity.

Are we that faithful to serve people above self-righteousness?

When it was finally time to leave, little Evangeline had the hardest time; she has her father’s gift of making fast friends and getting attached. She sobbed for a good 30-minutes despite our best efforts to calm her down.

I feel extremely honored to have been a very small part of a powerful weekend where God clearly showed up and breathed life on all of us.

It’s a privilege to serve Jesus no matter what the context; make sure you relish the invitation to act – it will go quickly. ch:

BCY Winter Retreat: Day 2

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Yesterday was quite possibly one of my favorite days of 2012 yet.

When you see God do so much, and you have the privilege to experience so much with your family, you can’t help but feel blessed.

It went down something like this:

Breakfast.

Worship.

Quiet time with God.

Jennifer speaking to girls; me speaking to guys.

Air hockey, 1980′s arcade games, and soccer in the rec center.

Snow tubing at Camp of the Woods.

Lunch.

Indoor rock climbing.

Snow tubing at Oak Mountain.

Swimming.

Dinner.

Worship.

I preached on what it takes to contend with God for souls, and Jesus’ ultimate example of forgiveness. Pastor Rich Ryfun held an powerful altar call for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

And then I collapsed in bed. ch:

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And Out of Season

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Sunday morning I did a very bad thing.

It was the final keynote address to the teens gathered at the Watson conference and I introduced Pastor Joseph Gilchrist as the speaker.

Why is that so bad?

Because he found out he was speaking as I introduced him.

While Joseph is a dear friend and brother in the Lord, he’s also someone I mentor. And as such putting him in safe but precarious situations is part of my job.

There is no teacher like experience.

We can prepare, practice, and plan all we want, but we as humans learn things faster and more deeply in moments of real-world, first-time pressure than we do in any classroom.

God understands this too. That’s why we normally don’t get a heads up when testing comes. It simply arrives. And how we respond under pressure is who we really are. (Thanks to Joseph’s dad, Pastor Kirk Gilchrist, for burning that one into my head).

God is after our authentic response and our genuine growth. He’s not into the superficial, the temporary, or the transient. He wants long-term development enough that he’s willing to risk short-term setbacks.

So how did Joseph handle it? After a minute of humorous shock – which he played very well – and a brief moment of strategizing, he pulled it off in style and shared a powerful message on one of his trademark themes “Going Public” for Jesus. Everyone was inspired and challenged to resist the fleshly urge to remain selfish with the Gospel.

I’m very proud of him and believe he’ll make a better Youth Pastor than I ever was.

Be on your guard, you’re probably “out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2) in some area that’s about to get called on. ch:

Expanding Our Dialog

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Last night was more than just a good opportunity to serve a wonderful youth ministry in a sister city; I love me some BCY in Syracuse.

It was a great opportunity to keep the ball rolling.

I see bold youth ministries across the country stepping up to the plate of addressing the topics of sex, homo-and-trans-sexuality, and marriage, like never before.

If your ministry isn’t, it must.

The conversation has already started. If you’re not talking to a teen about these subjects, you can guarantee someone else is.

And if anyone should, shouldn’t it be Christians who are directly connected to the Inventor of sex and marriage in the first place?

I love just how much God has to say about the subject, and I’ve made my notes available as a free PDF download in yesterday’s post. Communicating truth that’s utterly, painstakingly drenched in a long-term demonstration of love is essential toward rescuing broken, disenfranchised teens and restoring their identity.

I also have some guest bloggers coming up that I believe will be incredibly poignant.

When we do things God’s way, we always get the best results.

Keep talking; keep learning. ch:

Sex

As per my promise to the students of Believer Chapel Youth (BCY), I’ve made my notes on tonight’s message on “Sex: What They Don’t Tell You” available as a free PDF. My prayer is the information within strengthen’s your resolve to honor and guard God’s desires for your body, and fuels your passion to live as an example for a generation that needs rescuing. ch:

Download Free PDF: “Sex”

Strength is Often a Who

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Jennifer and I had our final night of ministry here in Switzerland last night. I walked into it knowing my body was failing, and I’d have no voice by the end, so I asked Jenny to be prepared.

The band played amazingly well, and this was the most I’ve seen the Swiss dance yet! But sure enough, my fever, cough, and soar throat took their toll, so by the time I finished our 1.5-hour set, I could barely speak. I managed to squeak out a few lines for the expected message, and then passed the mic to Jennifer.

What followed was about 20-minutes of profound encouragement on the pursuit of intimacy with God and being more concerned with his heart than the condition of our own. You had to be dead not to be moved.

Like Paul, I’m slowly learning:

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. [2 Cor. 12:10]

Sometimes the strength we’re looking for is the gift found in other people afforded only when we step aside.

Continued prayers are greatly appreciated as we fly for Madrid, Spain this morning. This is the first trip in years that Jennifer is at 100%, and Levi is rocking Europe like a champ. I, however, am far from being on top of my game.

Thanks for all your encouragement and prayer. You are the best readers ever. ch: