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:

Ode To The Common Heroes

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The earth is impregnated with heroes.

They love the land others think is cursed.

Their eyes aren’t on fortunes or fame, unless having to do with increasing their King’s, as His fortune is measured in souls and His fame established in grace. Grace that’s invited the sickest, murdering pervert among them to dine at the Father’s table – realizing they had all been branded the same for executing the Father’s son with their sin. Sick, murdering perverts who found grace.

They have the audacity to think they can impact their region; having themselves been touched by the life altering presence of God, they do not think it a stretch to believe that that same presence can change those around them.

They get frustrated with other Children of the Light who unwittingly mimic the lies of the Enemy over territory marked for the King, but remember they would be in the same depraved condition if it weren’t for divine perspective.

So they move in grace for the saved and the unsaved alike.

They are dispensers of mercy, not holding people to the fates they deserve; dispensers of grace, looking to give to people that which they do not merit.

Their culture is upside down. Unusual. Deliriously different and yet definitively divine.

They see their cities and towns and villages through heaven’s eyes, ever aware that there’s a better way to live for those struggling to feel better about the way they’re living.

They’re dreamers. Warrior poets. They make music with their inventions, create positions with their endeavors, generate monies with their pursuits, and forge converts with their humility.

All the while reminding the Enemy he only has control over regions of the earth where no Christ-followers live: if they aren’t there yet, Devil, they’ll be there soon.

You can attack them, frustrate them, discourage them, shove them, marginalize them and tempt them, but you can not defeat them. Because the epicenter of their earthquake causing, ear drum rupturing, heart stopping power is the Mercy Seat of Jesus Christ.

Kill one and you’ve invited heaven to your house, indeed doing God a favor in designating a place that’s in need of mercy. Kill them all and they’ll only be replaced by more; for the Creator has an endless supply of resources with which to fashion an army capable of representing Himself, embodying his love, and serving those in deepest darkness into light.

Their sleeves are rolled up. Eyes are on the horizon. Faces set like flint.

Yet they look common on the outside.

And this, the beauty of it all.

For when the Enemy least expects it, he’ll have lost another soul, another town, another nation to some unsuspecting vagabond that reeks of the divine, sounds like the crucified, walks with a limp, and has eternity in their eyes.

ch:

Finishing Strong

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We concluded our 10-day tour last night with a concert in Brunete.

Yesterday morning’s church service was a powerful reminder of just how important the individual is: Alex, pictured with me above, was saved in the service I preached in two years ago – today he is a leader in the church who’s said, “I am a totally different man.”

And last night’s concert was a beautiful gift to the people of the town that God is crazy about them, as is his church. Special thanks to Codigo Eterno from Honduras, Gospel Choir Christiano Centro, and Moise Cayuela my sound engineer.

Jennifer and I are flying home today. I appreciate your continued prayers for health and safety as I recover. ch:

[Pictures by: Jennifer Hopper]

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116,229

I worked out for the second time last night. I almost threw up. I’m no longer at a place where my squirrel-like metabolism affords me the choice of whether I work out or not: I have to work out.

Some people there where working out because their doctor told them to or else they’d die. That’s a pretty powerful motivator. Others because they’re clearly cross training for some Olympic sport.

But I wager that no one there last night saw “going to the gym” as their ultimate goal.

Professional athletes train for one purpose:

To win.

Good business people are constantly assessing their role in a simple formula:

Create a good or service that benefits people and generates positive cash flow.

Diligent students want to graduate with honors; successful musicians want to have people pay to hear them play; writers want their words in as many hands as possible.

Goals are not only a noble pursuit, they help us stay focused. They anchor us with stability in the midst of personal shaking; they give us a clear path forward when we’re presented ulterior options – options which would undermine success.

As a Christian, what are your goals?

I find much of what’s presented to us, much of what’s expected, to be well meaning but tepid, good natured but nauseating, and having some level of virtue but ultimately emasculating.

Is my sole pursuit as a Believer in Christ simply to read my Bible until I know more than someone else, or pray until others notice God hovering over me, or be such a good husband that other wives point me out to their husbands, or such a good father that other families’ kids would prefer living in my house, or tithe so faithfully and fully that most church salaries and projects are covered by my giving?

Such goals sound silly. Yet those are all very real conversations I’ve counseled people through – our been counseled through myself.

A noble vision without heaven’s backing becomes a fruitless pursuit.

So how do we attract the eyes of heaven?

116,229 people live in my Jefferson County, NY. Last night, our church board sat around and discussed a simple yet profound truth: what we’re stewarding now is incredible, but it’s nothing compared with where we need to go. This is a great corporate vision, yet I was struck on a personal level.

What am I doing to personally notify, navigate, and nurture those 116,229 people into a relationship with Jesus? What are my wife and I doing? My children?

How many of the 116,229 are the Hopper’s goal? Our part may be to reach 23, yours is 54, but the Bride is commissioned with reaching all of them, nothing less. And I’m a part of the Bride.

If heaven considers me a successful Christian, a Christian that has a goal, how does it measure me?

My findings suggest it’s by how much my value of people provokes active compassion, especially toward those living the furthest from his grace.

Do not confuse disciplines and goals. No good athlete looks at the weight machine and says, “I want to do more reps than anyone in the world.” They say, “I need to condition myself to go out there and win.”

Don’t confuse your Christian disciplines with your heaven-backed goals. All the “gym time” in the world won’t touch a single life if you don’t get out there on the field and start playing to win.

Ah, there goes another one. 116,228 and counting. ch:

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The reward for boldness

(If you read nothing else, the AUTHOR’S NOTE at the bottom is worth this entire post).

GOLD, ANYONE?: Many times, when we think of a reward–like for answering a lost dog poster with the mangy mutt in question–we see a check. Or an accolade, even if it’s not a public one. A simple thank you would suffice.

GOLDEN ARCH PRAYERS: I was in McDonald’s yesterday at the request of my wife for a last minute, impromptu lunch with my darling children and my hott wife. (Yes, hott with two t’s). I love having the luxury of being able to slip out for such events. Lord knows I can’t resist french fires of any sort.

While standing in line, I noticed the man in front of me. His left hand was severely crippled, fingers gnarled. Before I could let my mind convince me otherwise, as it has the habit of doing, I put a hand on the big dude’s shoulder, introduced myself, and asked if I could pray for his hand. Surprisingly he said yes. I prayed a quick, “be healed” type of prayer as one might in a McD’s lunch line, and then bought the guy’s milkshake. Later, I found him in his chair, explaining further that Jesus desired and would in fact heal him.

“But I’ve had this condition for a long time,” he explained. “Since I was a little boy.”

“You know, that’s nothing for Jesus.”

I gave him an encouraging smile, explained that all he needed to do was put his hope in Jesus. And let him be.

Five minutes later, while eating my Filet-o-Fish in the playground room, I noticed a guy in his 30′s limping with the use of a cane. I felt the same quickening in my spirit and decided, once again, to act before my rational self got in the way. “Excuse me, sir, but what’s up with your leg?” A former US Army soldier, he explained it was his lower back, injured during training. Figuring I had nothing to lose and he had everything to gain, I asked if he’d like prayer. Yes, again. I placed my hand on his back, asked him if he believed Jesus could heal him, and then prayed for a creative miracle.

BMX IS BACK: I didn’t see either man healed on the spot that day, but as I drove back to the church, I found a pro-biker for GT Bikes in our back parking lot, looking for a place to park his massive bike-ramp/sponsor-trailer for a few weeks. Being an X-Games nut, I was only too happy to explain that his wish would be granted, and I’d love for him to do a demo for our Rock The Summer event on the 17th. I was able to sow a few seeds into his life, and I’m stoked that we’re going to get to love on this guy in two weeks…a total set up.

GUITAR SALVATION: Then, as I walked back into the church lobby, there was a man sitting in our coffee area playing guitar. I had never seen him before, so I struck up a conversation with him, and within minutes we were sharing songs with each other. In less than twenty minutes this guy, who looked rather bedraggled, explained that his mother had just died, his girl friend had left him, and he was going no where.

“But I don’t want to come to God just because everything in my life is a mess. I want to come because I’m making a real commitment.”

“An honorable notion,” I replied. “But seeing as how your life will never truly get better without him, it’s a flawed notion.” By 2:30pm I had the chance to lead Gary to the Lord and we’re helping him start a new life in Jesus.

SO, NO GOLD?: What does any of this have to do with reward? As I sat back down in front of my iMac, I felt as though I was floating. Joy. Pure, untainted joy. Not a pay check. Not a thank you card. Just joy.

The Father placed such a high price on joy that it was the single reward for Jesus’ obedience to the cross (Heb. 12:2). I’m convinced it is the single most important heavenly commodity in the life of the Believer. No matter the country, the financial condition of the economy, the plight of the people, or the severity of the government, there is one great reward that is universal in all the earth, sought by those who truly know their Lord. Joy.

And then I realized that boldness is not so much some overwhelming feeling as it is me obeying the Holy Spirit before my head figures out what I’m about to do. I’m just trying to train it to realize that joy is the reward. I healthy addiction, I think. ch:

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: It’s worth noting that in the time it took me to edit this post (10pm EST), I heard some boys yelling on my dirt road, a gun shot, and then a whole bunch more yelling. I jumped in my truck, peeled out, and pretty much freaked them out as they had no idea someone lived “way out here.” After helping them through their puppy-dog lie of, “yeah, we heard that gun shot, too mister, but don’t know who did it,” with a simple question of who else they saw exactly on this 5,000 acre nature conservancy dirt road at 10pm, they finally confessed to accidentally hitting and then shooting a porcupine on my property and getting their truck stuck. Then one of the kids noticed me from speaking at his high school and I made them make a deal with me: “I get you unstuck, you come to our youth group.” I got their names and all three boys shook on it.

Sometimes being bald, bold, and driving a big truck can bring you some joy; and being quick and making a deal with three young guys to come to your youth group is pretty cool, too. I give them to the end of the month before they’re saved. (They don’t have a chance). Reckless youth beware: you might just get saved in the process of being stupid.