The Greatest and Suckiest Day of the Year

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One week ago we dropped off our oldest child, Ruby, at college in Southern California.

One of my close friends was also dropping off his daughter, and I love his description of the experience …

I knew that dropping off Ruby at Hope International University would be an emotional experience, so in the week leading up to the “drop off” I asked several friends who have been through this already how to navigate this emotional moment.

The following are some amazing bits of advice from friends and also a few that God taught to me along the way …

1. Buy stock in kleenex. @DaveStone920

Dave’s advice meant I could count on some tears, but what I didn’t count on is how, why, when and from where the tears would come. When standing with Ruby in her dorm room, I really thought that would be THE moment!  But I didn’t have to reach for the kleenex until listening to a faculty member I’d never met talk about how “your kid is growing up.”

I also had more tears in the precious seven days leading up to the drop off than in the last seven days since she has been out of the house. I guess that brings two pieces of good news to parents …

  • The anticipation is the toughest part in some ways.
  • Things do get easier as the days go by.

Tears are important.

I am pretty sure that we do not grieve or celebrate as much as we should. Life goes so fast, and there is always something coming “next,” so we bulldoze our emotions to get rid of both the highs and lows in order to maintain our composure.

All this does is leave us with < experiences.

And less than experiences lead to weak memories in the long run because we have not really lived in the moment.

So embrace the tears and realize they signify your presence in the moment.

2. Don’t try to fix every problem. @Drew_Sherman 

From the moment we arrived at Ruby’s dorm room everything did not go as we planned or dreamed. The girls were trying to figure out the layout of the room with four roommates while getting input from all the parents as well, and it turned into a stressful situation.

As time passed, the parents were getting more upset, and the girls were getting more anxious.

Then the greatest thing happened …

The parents (and 7 younger siblings) were all challenged to LEAVE THE ROOM and let these four girls work things out. So we did. We all went out and sat in different parts of the lobby. And it took the roommates about 15-20 minutes to work out what the parents could not work out in two hours!

Parents …

  • We want our kids to grow up and mature at college.
  • We need to let them fix their own problems.

3. Write letters.

In a digital world letters seem so old school. But that is exactly what makes hand written letters so valuable and prized.

I wrote Ruby three letters with the following dates, and I put them under her pillow:

  • Letter #1 – Open tomorrow morning … after you have made it through the first night!
  • Letter #2 – Open one week from today.
  • Letter #3 – Open one month from today.

Sitting and writing these letters before Ruby left allowed me to process how I might be feeling and actually gave me confidence and balance to lead in the drop off moment as I had already spent some time processing and handing the future to God.

I also am certain that these letters gave my daughter good moments of “future anticipation.” There are words coming from her dad tomorrow that somehow help provide dexterity for today.

I also trust that the words I wrote 1,7 and 30 days in advance will come into Ruby’s life at just the right time.

Parents …

  • Your words matter.
  • God will use your imperfect words for His perfect purposes in your student’s life.

4. Say everything you want to say and have the magical moments before you get there. @GeneAppel 

My friend Gene advised that their “on campus” drop off time was not full of magical, perfectly emotional, life altering moments. He advised me to go ahead and make space the week before the drop off for magical moments and conversations to happen.

Such good advice.

When we got to the day of the drop off our anticipation was at an all time high.  Much of the anxiety melted away as we watched our daughter come alive on the college campus.  We stood in a long line for checking in, getting keys, obtaining a parking pass, lugging boxes, hanging pictures, setting up printers, excursions to Target etc etc etc …

The drop off is not a moment full of margin … it can be chaotic.

Therefore, the advice to make room for magical moments before the day of the drop off is so wise.

One of the things we made room for is a family dream session. We have done these together for the last 7 summers. (You can read all about leading a family dream session here.)

Here is a picture of the top of our paper. It’s not rocket science or artistic! It’s just an extremely effective way to get the family talking and dreaming.

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We spent two hours sharing …

  • An emoji that describes how we feel right now.
  • Our spiritual and relational goals.
  •  Our dreams.
  • A personal word that we want to describe this semester.
  • A family word that we want to characterize our family this semester.
  • And words we would use to describe the other members of our family.

This is where the margin was created.
This is where the tears flowed.
This is where the happy, sad and meaningful words were spoken.
This is where we laughed.
This is were we prayed.

This is where we got the magical moments and margin we needed that were not going to happen at the drop off.

5. Do something immeasurably fun ASAP!  @preacherwalling

We drove from the campus of Hope International University to a Coldplay concert!

This was good for our family because it kept us from going home and sitting on the couch and being sad about an incredibly happy thing! We were glad for Ruby. This was an amazing day that we had been working toward as parents for 18 years! If she was not moving into this season of life, we would be sad and concerned.

So as she celebrates … we celebrate!

You obviously don’t have to go to a concert, but do something to celebrate.
Do something that makes you smile.
Do something you enjoy.

Parents …

  • If you still have another child or two at home … do something they love.
  • For the past few weeks the focus has probably been on their college-bound sibling. Let the focus for the next few hours be on them.
  • Do what they want to do.
  • See what they want to see.
  • Remember what lights them up, and then save up and make arrangements to make that happen.

For our son, Cole, that was Cold Play at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

 

After an exhausting day on the college campus and hours of sitting in traffic, it was rejuvenating to see Cole light up as Coldplay took the stage, and we celebrated together.

I am thankful for good friends who offered helpful advice for one of the greatest and suckiest days of my life!

3 Differences Between Powerful And Perfect Talks

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Over the past six months, I have consulted with churches and communicators about the effectiveness of their messages.

Some messages are incredibly powerful, and some are not, which leads to the question, “What is the difference between a perfect message and a powerful message?”

Let me answer this question through these lenses:

  1. My experience in preaching
  2. My experience in coaching communicators
  3. How a congregation of people accepts a communicator and his/her content

– A powerful talk comes from a consecrated life. 
– A perfect talk can come from either a pure or polluted life.

 

Anyone can give a perfect talk with enough practice and content development. And I have seen this happen: A perfectly crafted talk from a very experienced and sadly polluted and unconsecrated communicator. A perfect talk comes across very pleasant, entertaining and polished.

It carries information but does not lead to transformation.

I’m not saying that every apparently perfect talk is being delivered by an unconsecrated and polluted communicator. There are many very gifted, surrendered, consecrated communicators who deliver perfectly timed talks.

It’s strangely possible for a talk to be perfected either by our own human ingenuity and/or through God’s divine presence and power.

A powerful talk on the other hand comes from a consecrated life. This is a person who is working to present themselves as pure, not perfect, as they stand on the stage. When this happens I believe there is a mystical and intangible thing that occurs:  God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, causes people to trust the communicator.

And this “trust” trumps content and a perfect presentation.

In other words, the talk does not need to be perfect when God is in it.

The interior world and life of the communicator is just as important as the depth and relevance of the content.

– A powerful talk comes from the inside.
– A perfect talk comes from the outside.

 

It’s all about where the message originates.

If the message from a communicator is fully “borrowed” from another communicator, it often lacks authenticity. It is a message that comes from outside their own world. It may appear perfect in the moment but it often lacks long term power.

If the message delivered is from inside a communicator’s world, there is typically an originating moment that birthed the message, and this brings conviction and power.

That is not to say one can’t borrow the message of another and experience power. But I would say that any message that you hear that affects you deeply should be lived with for months or possibly years. It should be digested and metabolized into your own life before sharing it with others.

I am a firm believer that when it comes to messages …

A good illustration from your own life will always trump
a great illustration from someone else’s.

Our lives as communicators should be so authentic and real that we have relevant and recent material from our own lives to share with others.

If our most recent stories of God working are from someone else’s life or our lives 3 -4 years ago … we might need to rethink the vitality of our everyday lives.

– A powerful talk is often lightly rehearsed.
– A perfect talk is often overly rehearsed.

 

I have a confession to make …

I spent more than 5 years of my life overly rehearsing the messages I preached. I would preach the weekend message 8-12 times before I ever got up to preach the message live to the congregation.

Over time this brought about two undesirable consequences …

  1. I was already bored with the message LONG before I preached it.
  2. I was no longer trusting the Holy Spirit to empower the message because frankly I had the message memorized and perfected.

Today I study, prepare and pray very hard
and preach my message one time before I go on stage.

This rhythm works for me as a communicator, and it insures that I am not presenting perfection.  

I am stepping on stage prayed up and prepared but also DESPERATE for the power of God to inhabit and bring power to the message.

My minutes right before I go on stage these days sound something like this …

“God, you better show up today! Thank you, Father, for this opportunity to speak to these people. Thank you for giving me time and energy to prepare … But God, if you do not show up and empower this message … I am sunk. God, change whatever you need to change and please bring your power to this presentation. Let these people remember You not me.”

I would rather experience a powerful message over a perfect message any day of the week.

The battle inside me as a communicator is to surrender my own desire to be perfect for a message that is powerful.

3 Tips For Transitioning Pastors

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In the past few months both Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant have announced their retirements. Peyton Manning, in his press conference, referred to the number 18 he has worn on his back for the past 18 seasons. “There’s something about 18 years – 18 is a good number,” said Manning. He also uttered the words that everyone already knew …

 “You don’t have to wonder if I’ll miss it. Absolutely I will.”

Today I spend much of my time coaching pastors in transition / succession seasons of life in ministry. It is a tough season indeed, and eyes often get wet like Peyton’s did as he talked about stepping away from pro football.

Several pastors who have been at a church for 25-35 years have asked how I can possibly understand what they are going through. I then share with them my story of launching, leading and then handing off Discovery Church in Simi Valley, California.

Four years ago I transitioned away from a church that I had launched and led for ten years.  It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life.

I often ask pastors … “Is it easier to hand off a 10 year old kid or a 35 year old kid?”

And the answer is … they are both hard!

It is very difficult to come to the realization that one day we will all step away.

No NBA guard position is permanent. 

No NFL quarterback position is permanent.

And though Peyton and Kobe can still continue to be involved in the game in coaching, team office, ownership or television, their  role on the team changes dramatically.

It is the same with ministry.

No lead pastor position is permanent.

And though a pastor can continue to be involved in the church as an associate, consultant or lay leader, the pastor’s role on the team changes.

This is a difficult season indeed in the life of a player and in the life of a pastor.

As fans of Peyton Manning, many of us are glad he decided to step away from his role when he did. And though it was not easy, many would say it was the right move for him.

Here is Peyton’s emotional retirement speech.

In the church world I have seen lead pastor after lead pastor have real problems with transition.  I have great sympathy for them, and I do not judge.

But in my case I have personally transitioned away from a church where I invested more than a decade of my time, energy, money, life and family.

And because of that decade of my life … I get it!

It is incredibly difficult to end well.

Here are three things that make it difficult for pastors to transition well:

 

  • Identity Theft

Every pastor I have ever known, myself included, has wrestled with misplaced identity:  the notion that I am a “pastor” more than anything else in life. And if I lose that position of “pastor,” I lose who I am.

But the truth is, long before you were a pastor you were a child of God.

This is your identity.

And besides being a child of God, you are also a friend, neighbor, co-worker, parent, spouse, sibling and child yourself.

You were at least 7-8 things long before you were a pastor.

Your true identity is not about who you are but whose you are … a child of God.

  • Not Knowing What’s Next

Human nature says, “Do not let go of something until there is something else to grab.” Like this trapeze artist.

The reason so many pastors do not “let go” is they don’t know what’s next.

When you have “no next” human nature says, “Don’t let go.”

Conversely, when you know what’s coming tomorrow, it’s easier to let go of what you’re holding onto today.

And the greatest way to discover what you might like to do in the future is to look at what you have enjoyed in the past. Is there a way to leverage all your years of experience, knowledge and wisdom in the church world in a different role serving God’s Church?

My words to pastors facing transition would be to take heart.

God is not finished with you yet.

God has a great next in mind for you if you will just be ready and willing to listen, let go and jump!

  • Saul’s Armor Syndrome

Pastors in transition seasons of life often cannot fathom how their successor could possibly succeed wearing anything but their armor.  This is a centuries old issue. One that I have experienced first hand.

It is Saul trying to force his armor onto David.

There was a generational gap that caused Saul to see David’s leadership decisions as incomprehensible and even weak.

Even though Saul couldn’t see it…

David would lead.
David would fight.
David would succeed.

But he would not do it the way it had always been done.

One of the biggest hindrances to pastors making a good hand off is a faulty view that their “armor” of methods, techniques, philosophies, systems and strategies that have worked in the past will also be what is bound to work in the future.

The truth is this issue of “armor” is a generational battle in which the successor does not want to be weighed down by unnecessary encumbrances from the past.

This is not cockiness.

This is holy boldness.

This is the next generation leading God’s Church forward in faith.

It takes just as much faith for David to lead forward with a sling as it did Saul with a sword.

Pastors in transition … don’t be surprised when you don’t understand the methods of the next generation.

Make sure the person to whom you hand the baton of leadership has surrendered his or her life to the leadership of God.

Take a look at the previous victories God has allowed in your successor’s life.

Consider the lions and bears that have been slain with tools and methods that defy the conventional thinking of this world.

Consider the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in this person’s life.

And then be your successor’s biggest fan.

Be willing to watch and cheer the victory as your successor fights the devil with a sling.

And as you take off your armor … be thankful for the victories you’ve won and the protection it provided.

May God bless you, friends, as God leads you into new seasons of life and Kingdom building.

 

4 Things To Think About When Leaving Places & People

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As our family makes final plans to move from Phoenix, Arizona to Huntington Beach, California this week I have used some of this weekend to consider what it means to leave a place and people well.

  • How you leave is how you are remembered. 

You can have an incredible season of life in a place serving people and still completely blow it in the end. I can tell you from experience … it could be five or ten years of faithful service, friendships and memories … but make no mistake:

Just like preaching and public speaking … whatever you say last is usually what people remember most.

It is the same with life.   

Your words and actions are amplified 30X in your last 30 days in a place.

How you act and react determines how you will be remembered.

This a sobering truth and reminder to …

  • Make peace
  • Assume positive intentions
  • Speak well
  • Be honest
  • Be loving
  • Be patient
  • Be generous

… as you leave.

  • Understand not everyone will understand.

Especially if you are a follower of Jesus … not everyone will always understand how, when, where and why He is leading you.

You will not always understand how God leads you!

And in a crazy way it’s not actually your job to understand everything God is doing or leading in your life. It’s just your job to be obedient. In addition, it is not your job to make sure everyone you know understands or agrees with God’s leading in your life and family. It is your job, however, to do the best job possible when discerning God’s plans for your future.

For most of us one of the major things that keeps us up at night is worrying about what’s next … what is coming tomorrow, next week, next month and next year.

The good news is there is Good News in the Bible.

Jer. 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

This verse states clearly that God knows the plans He has for you. And that’s great news!  That is great that GOD KNOWS His plans for you.

But what keeps most of us up at night is wondering how do I KNOW God’s plans for MY FUTURE?

Is it even really possible to know God’s specific plans for your life?

Here are three questions you can ask when trying to discern whether a direction is really from God:

  1. Have I taken time to pray, or am I rushing into things?

Sometimes we rush into decisions thinking …

  • If I don’t take this job
  • If I don’t marry this person
  • If I don’t make this move right now

I will miss this incredible opportunity.

And here is what I learned many years ago …

If God is in it … it can wait a minute!

 God is not sitting in heaven saying, “If you don’t hurry up and take this job, buy this car, marry this person or make this move – you are going to miss out … I can’t hold this together forever!”

So … slow down and take time to get away.  Be alone and pray.

  1. Do my friends and family agree, or do they think I am foolish?

Anyone who thinks they don’t need the advice of others is foolish.

When you are trying to discern God’s plans for your future, you should seek and listen to the advice of your friends and family.

However, here is what often happens …

Many of us will keep seeking advice until we find the advice we are seeking.

We must be willing to seek and LISTEN to advice even if it is not the advice we are seeking.

  1. Does this plan agree with scripture or contradict it?

God will never guide you to do something in the future that is opposed to what He has already said in the Bible in the past.

So, if you really want to know God’s personal plans for your future, here is the key …


Saturate yourself with Scripture.

And don’t read it and debate it.

Read it and obey it!

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 10.59.31 AMHere is a video (click on image to watch) from a message that addresses “Worrying About The Future” that I preached recently at Parkview Christian Church in the Chicagoland area.

  • You never show your own character so clearly as when you describe another’s.

When leaving places and people there will be those who take cheap shots at you.

Just be ready for it.

It usually has far more to say about the other person than it does about you. It is not easy for the people who are being  “left behind” even when they are very good people. And it is certianly never easy for comfortable and complacent people to watch others chase God’s dreams, be brave and live curiously!

It is far easier to stay in a safe place and critique
than it is to push away from the dock into some deep waters and create.

This is especially true in our socially connected world. Social media is like a petri dish for criticism, comparisons and commentary on the actions of others.

And there will be those who once stood by you who now want to grab your leg and trip you up as you try to step away.

Just remember … the way you speak about others says far more about you than it does about them.

Do not sell out your own character to publicly or even privately take someone down a notch.

One of my mentor pastors from years ago said …

“When you wrestle with a pig you both get muddy, and the pig likes it.”

Stay out of the mud.

Rise above.

Do not let a rough season of life characterize you for the next two months or years!

And realize the high road will never be the easy road.

  • Be thankful looking back and brave looking forward.

I am a nostalgic futurist.

Which means I am simultaneously looking back and dreaming forward.

When you prepare to leave places and people, take some time to look back.

Remember how good God has been to you.

And take some time to dream forward.

Remember that God has a perfect track record of faithfulness …
and He is not going to blow it on you!

 

What’s Next For The Clark Crew?

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It is with much sadness but extreme peace that I share with you that God is calling the Clark family to transition away from Christ’s Church of the Valley. It has been an adventurous season of life as we wrap up 3 1/2 years of ministry at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Phoenix, Arizona.

CCV has been an amazing experience for our family as we have watched God work in supernatural ways. 

Thank you for accepting and loving our family.

We are thankful for the time God has let us share together.

We have been inspired, stretched and made better by so many of you!

It has been a true honor to be part of the executive team, leading, preaching and serving God’s Church.

This June we will be moving to Huntington Beach, California.

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Ruby will be attending Hope International University. She will place herself in an environment where God can grow her heart for people and challenge her comfort zones.

 

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Cole will be attending Huntington Beach High School.  There he will be able to attend an amazing public high school and also an arts school where he can learn music, theater and journalism.

 

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Rene will be taking care of all of us. She will also be launching a new blog and taking her “Bible Boot Camp” to the beach!

 

 

I will continue to serve God’s Church and people in a curious way.  I have always been a bit of a divergent personality … even before the movie. (You can read more about that in this blog post from a  few months ago.)

In this next season of life, instead of putting all my eggs in one basket, I plan to put eggs into three different baskets. These areas of service are all very important to me, and they all leverage my one and only life to grow God’s Kingdom and Church!

Here are the three baskets that I will be putting my eggs into over the coming months …

The Preaching Basket.

mepreachI will no longer be preaching at CCV, but I will continue to consult and preach on a regular basis at many amazing churches.  You can see a list of those churches on the Speaking tab of this blog site.

In addition, in this new season of life, my wife Rene and I really desire to do more ministry together.

We will be seeking opportunities where we can speak, write and serve God and His Church as a team!

 

The Leadership Basket.

logo-blackI will be leveraging my previous 25 years of church experience to serve the Church in the future. I will be doing this primarily through the Slingshot Group. I am leading the senior division in coaching and staffing with teaching pastors and lead pastors.

This gives me the opportunity to be a “strategic confidant” to pastors and coach Next Level Leaders and place them with Next Level Churches.

If you are not familiar with Slingshot Group, you can learn more about this amazing organization here.

 

The Art Basket.

EALogo-artfullyI launched Eat Art roughly 5 years ago, and it is never far from my heart. Eat Art is a non profit organization that is committed to Artfully Ending Hunger. Over the past 5 years we have been able to send hope and over 300,000 meals to hungry kids through the sale of photography.

I believe with everything in me that we can send 1,000,000 meals a year to hungry kids!  

In Huntington Beach there is an art fair on Friday nights on the pier. We will be seeking to secure an opportunity in that environment where people can purchase art and partner with Eat Art.

You get the art and the kids get to eat!

Friends at CCV … we love you!

May you continue to live a curious life for Jesus.

A life that stands out and points people to HIM.

 

3 Things That Could Sabotage Your Future Self

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You are the most important and difficult person you lead every single day.

That being the case, here are three ways you can completely sabotage your future self.

1.Caring too much about what others think about you.

 

If you are doing big, adventurous, faith-filled and curious things, there will always be people who feel small around you. Your desire to live a curious life that is full of faith will illuminate some people’s desire to live a life characterized by safety. And they will belittle you as a result of their own insecurities.

Do not take this personally. This is often more about them than it is about you.

Not everyone has the same level of risk tolerance, and not everyone is at the same place in their faith.

Take careful inventory of your words.

Ask God to protect your heart and continue to bring clarity to you as you lead and leverage your one and only life.

2. Caring too little about what God thinks about you.

 

From heaven’s perspective you are a magnificent creation of the most high God. And there is no doubt that God has woven abilities, talents and gifts into your life that you have not even come to realize yet!

Little stuff that other people never even notice are things that God notices because He made you on purpose.

God recognizes and keeps track of every detail of your life.

One of my favorite stories to illustrate this truth is of the Statue of Liberty.

Oscar Hammerstein had seen a picture, a photograph of the top of the Statue of Liberty from a helicopter. And he said, “This picture reveals the intricate detail that has been sculpted on Lady Liberty’s head, her hair and her crown and all of those things at that angle which no one could ever see,” and he said, “I got to thinking that sculptor must have realized that never will anyone see the top of the Statue of Liberty’s head, since there were no airplanes or helicopters when the statue was set in place. But he spent the same kind of detail and care and painstaking craftsmanship on the top of Lady Liberty’s head as he did down at the feet and everywhere else that would be seen by everyone.”

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God has carved things into you that only He can see.

You were created by the oldest, most famous, skilled, loving Creator in the history of the world.

Believe what God says about you and don’t get fearful and fail to fulfill the purpose and plan for which you were created.

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

3. Living in the future and neglecting the now.

 

Leaders are built for the future.

But our faith, friendships and family are all requesting that we live in the now.

I can tell you from personal experience that one of the quickest ways to sabotage your future self is to live constantly in the future.

I would say to leaders that instead of “living” in the future you should be content to “visit” the future … but continue to live in the now.

 

The Up & Downside of Anger

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Did you know that it’s not wrong or sinful to get angry.

You will have moments of anger enter your life. It is normal.

The command, specifically in the Bible, is not don’t ever get angry.

Paul says in Ephesians …

Eph. 4:26-27 – “In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

The command is “in your anger” do not sin.

Anger is a neutral emotion.

Anger, of course, can be negative.

You are waiting for a parking space in the parking lot and you see a car with its taillights lit up! And you pull up close and put on your turn signal and wait and wait and wait.

“What are they doing in there?”

Finally, as they are pulling out and you are preparing to safely pull in … another car swoops in and steals your space.

And you lose it!
In the car … with your kids watching!

Anger can obviously be a negative emotion.

But anger can also be positive.

For instance, the Super Bowl is coming to the Bay Area of California in a few weeks. And did you know that experts say that many hundreds, or some would argue thousands, of young girls are being brought into that city for the sex trade industry.

That should make you angry.

Several years ago, in 2011, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told USA Today pertaining to the SuperBowl … “It’s commonly known as the single largest human trafficking event in the United States.”

There is what the Bible calls a “righteous” anger…

  • Children being mistreated and abused.
  • Poor being oppressed.
  • People misusing God’s name.

Friends, it is not wrong or a sin to get angry.
HOWEVER …

It is wrong and a sin to stay angry.

Eph. 4:26b – Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,

The application we usually hear with this verse is in the context of married people not “going to bed angry.”

It is a good thing to stay up late and talk and resolve issues …

But there are also some issues in our lives and marriages that you cannot resolve in a few hours.

Because the anger a person feels at night is often not directly related to something that happened that day.

Here is something I have learned about anger in just the last few years …

Anger is a secondary emotion.

Anger is always a result or re-action to something else that has occurred in your life – it’s a secondary emotion.

Anger is like an iceberg where other emotions exist “below the water line.” They are not immediately obvious to you or other people. So what you are visibly angry about today … may have actually occurred days, weeks or many months ago and it’s just now coming to the surface.

You may have been “ignored” by a friend at school three weeks ago and it is just now coming to the surface today.

Your mom or dad may have “abandoned” you a decade or two or three ago and because of factors in your family, career or finances it is just now rising to the surface of your life.

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So when Paul says “do not let the sun go down still while you are still angry”

He is saying … do not let today’s anger carry over into tomorrow and do not allow yesterdays anger to carry over into today.

Carry your anger as short a time as possible!

WHY????

Eph. 4:27 – and do not give the devil a foothold.

When we allow anger to exist unresolved in our lives and when we carry it over from day to day, month to month and year to year these bites can turn quickly turn into bitterness.

And Paul says that we end up giving the devil a “foothold” in our lives …

The word “foothold” in the Bible is the Greek word “topos.” And it means to stake out a claim.

When we allow anger to exist unresolved in our lives … the devil stakes out a claim in our lives.

The devil owns part of your heart.

That is why Paul goes on to say …

Eph. 4:32 – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

I understand that this is not easy to do. There are some of you who have experienced horrific things in your life. It is incredibly difficult to forgive. And I would suggest the only reason you can even consider forgiving others … is because God has already forgiven you through His Son Jesus!

We have all been forgiven much.

And it is forgiveness that breaks the power and grip of anger in our lives.

Realize friends the Ups & Downs of Anger …

Anger is neutral, secondary emotion that is not sinful to have, but is sinful to harbor.

Would You Loan It?

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As we begin a New Year I wanted to play a quick game of …

Would You loan It?

 

Let’s start with students … let’s say you have one of these hover boards, and it is amazing! You tell all your friends at school about it for several weeks, and then one day one of your friends tells you her family is going on a weekend getaway trip … and your friend wonders if she could borrow your hover board.  Would you loan it?

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Or ladies … let’s say you have one of these Louis Vuitton handbags. This is the large size bag, and it’s from the “delight” collection. It is exactly the one you have been hoping and praying to receive. You take this bag to work for the next several weeks, and then one Friday morning one of your co-workers says she and a few of her friends are going on a “girls getaway weekend” to San Deigo. And she knows it sounds crazy … but could she borrow your new Louis Vuitton bag? Would you loan it?

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And gentlemen … let’s say you have a set of brand new Ping golf clubs. You are out in the front yard examining all the clubs and chipping a little with one of your wedges, and one of your neighbors comes outside. He sees you and your clubs, and he comes up to you and says, “Wow, those are some nice new clubs. You know … I have been thinking that maybe I would like to learn how to play golf this year! Is there any chance I could take your new Ping’s out a time or two this next week to learn to play?”  Let me ask you something, men … would you loan it?

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I know this is going to sound crazy, but if you can’t loan it …
you don’t own it.

“It” owns you! 

“It” already has your heart. 

And the reason this is such a big deal (especially for those who follow Jesus) is because God knows that if we are not careful … we can quickly move from owning stuff … to our stuff owning us!

We want to possess things, and then we discover that things possess us.

We find that our heart is attached to our things, rather than God.

Wherever your money goes … your heart follows. 

The reason I can say that with 100% confidence is because that is what Jesus says when He is talking about money in Matthew 6.

Matthew 6:19 – 21  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Our hearts and money travel together.

The reason God is concerned with your money and your stuff is because He is concerned with your heart.

Your stuff is temporary … loan it to others.

Your heart is eternal … give it to God.

Jesus, Santa & VW Buses

photo by Joe Johnston
(Photo by Joe Johnston)

I fell in love with Santa before Jesus.

I can remember the smell of pine and the glow of the Christmas tree covered with about 80 pounds of tinsel. The smell of cinnamon wassel on Christmas Eve, cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. And presents! It was easy to fall in love with Santa.

I knew who Jesus was all through my Elementary School years, but I didn’t really outwardly love and talk about Jesus until my High School years. There were many times during High School I had to remember …

I did my best to be a good reflection of Jesus in High School, but I am afraid I fell far short. There are still days where I look through my yearbooks from two decades ago and wish I had been more obviously passionate and outspoken about Jesus. He was my constant companion who gave me dexterity and got me through High School. I should have been more outward about my allegiance to Him. Then maybe others would have been curious. 

It was in my early 20s that I fell in love with VW buses.

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I bought my first VW Westfalia camper bus when I was 26 years old and a youth pastor in Indianapolis, Indiana. I loved that bus. And when it wasn’t running just right, I actually took the motor out of the bus one Thanksgiving, put it in my garage and attempted that winter to rebuild it. I can still remember the smell of gas, grease and propane heaters. I bought a Chiltons VW manual and gave it my best shot. To make a long story medium length – that bus never ran again! The guys who bought it from me had to tow it out of my driveway. Since then I have owned three more camper buses. Including this latest camper I just purchased in June of 2015. Her name is Jetty. She’s a 1962 SO 23. 🙂

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These days I don’t talk about Santa much, but I talk about my love for Jesus and VW buses pretty much daily!

You are possibly wondering why this trilogy of stories? And what do they all have in common?

 

Here is what I have learned …

As we head into 2016 … don’t be afraid to admit what you love and what you are passionate about.

 

Too many people in this world are sour.

Everything sucks.

And they suck … … … … the joy out of life and don’t appreciate all the good things God has given us.

Here is my simple challenge to you this Christmas season and this New Year …

Spend more time proclaiming what you are for rather than what you are against.

What you love is far more compelling
than what you hate.

Stand up.

Stand out.

Live passionately.

Make people curious.

Make Jesus more famous.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Christmas At The Movies: ELF

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How do we experience joy in such a crazy, hectic, often lonely and sad season?

On the weekend of December 5/6 I kicked off our “Christmas at the Movies” series at Christ’s Church of the Valley.

The following is a full HD message about the movie ELF and the topic is JOY!

Since its release in 2003, ELF has become an instant classic.

The movie is about Buddy the Elf, who as a toddler in an orphanage crawled into Santa’s bag of toys and got transported back to the North Pole, where he was raised by Papa Elf.

As Elf grows up it becomes more and more obvious that he is not an elf. He is in fact a human, and his real father, who doesn’t know him, lives in New York City. So, Buddy the ELF, played by Will Ferrell, begins a journey of finding his father and ultimately saving Christmas by convincing people Santa is real.

Buddy the Elf tells everyone he sees that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!

That sounds great – but unfortunately many people don’t experience much joy or cheer this time of the year.

Christmas joy is often buried under busy calendars, wrapping paper, strained relationships and credit card statements.

As David Crabtree wrote, “Christmas Eve will find us lifting up our weary voices to sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” Then we rush from the service to get one last gift, or visit one last party. So soon it is over. We save the bows, burn the wrappings, strip the tree, and labor over our New Year’s resolutions. Too often we have missed the point. We’re like the man who goes to the coast but never sees the ocean. The threat of a holiday hijacking is all too real. Unless we engage our hearts in a true celebration of Christmas joy, we are easily caught up in a pointless and mindless holiday.”

Here is the truth …
Christmas can actually be more stressful than joyful if we are not careful.

Maybe your stressful circumstances are …

  • Physical.
  • Relational.
  • Financial.

Your Christmas season could be void of joy for any number of reasons.

I want to remind you today of two truths about joy from the Bible and the movie ELF.

1. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be joyful.

Buddy the Elf does not have a perfect life.

– He does not fit in at his house – literally.
– He feels lonely.
– He is made fun of.
– He is misunderstood.

Maybe you have been there or you are there … you don’t feel like you fit where you are. You feel lonely, misunderstood or made fun of. You don’t feel “happy” during this time of year.

Even if you don’t “feel” happy, you can still experience joy.

Happiness and joy are two very different things.

Happiness is external
Joy is internal.

Happiness hinges on what happens.

Happiness = “happenstance”

I’m happy because everything seemed to work out. Happiness is a volatile and temporary state because it depends on what happens.
In this world we live in, we will not always be happy.

I believe that’s why God also created us with the capacity to experience joy.

Joy transcends the external circumstances of our lives.

Happiness is dependent on the flesh.
Joy is dependent on the Spirit.

Joy is a gift from the Holy Spirit of God.

Gal. 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

This passage is not a “to do” list … this passage is a “result” list. This passage is a picture of what walking with the Spirit can look like.

These are not the fruit of …
– The person raised in a Christian home.
– The person who comes to church every week or leads a small group.
– The person who never drinks, swears or loses his temper.

These are the fruit of the SPIRIT – you don’t earn – pull off – conjure up or produce this fruit on your own!

In order to experience joy in the midst of challenging circumstances you must allow the Holy Spirit to control your life.

If you want to move from happiness to joy –
you must move from your own flesh to being controlled by the Holy Spirit of God.

You can’t do it on your own!

The good news is that God can do it in you … the Joy of God can actually transcend the #SuckyCircumstances of your life.

When we look at the very first Christmas …

Mary the mother of Jesus did not fit in; she was certainly lonely, misunderstood & likely made fun of.

Mary’s circumstances were far from perfect. She was a teenager, somewhere between 12 & 17 years old.  She was in love & engaged and pledged to be married – yet before the wedding day came, Mary became pregnant! And it wasn’t her soon to be husband Joseph’s baby. The baby was from the Holy Spirit of God. I can promise you this is not what Mary had dreamed. This was stressful, and she had a lot of explaining to do with Joseph and others. Yet she was in tune with the Holy Spirit of God, so she was able to rejoice even in a difficult and uncertain season of her life.

Luke 1:46-49 – And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.

Your life doesn’t have to be perfect to be joyful!

2. Joy comes from knowing “Him.”

To everyone else at the department store, this Santa looked just like another holiday hired hand. They knew every other department store would have a similar – cookie cutter – red suit – white bearded Santa. However, Buddy the Elf is not talking about just another Santa when he says, “I Know Him!”

He is talking about the REAL Santa …
– Who lives in the north pole
– Who has a real workshop
– Who helped raise him

Buddy actually knows the real – original – famous – Santa!

Which leads me to this HUGE truth today … do you know what will really bring JOY to your life this Christmas season?

Getting to know HIM!

Getting to really know Jesus this season is what will bring JOY to your life. No matter your circumstances.

You can come to know Jesus today!

Romans 10:13 – Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Romans 10:9 – If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

So the question, my curious friends is … Do you know Him?

Watch this short video that presents one of the greatest descriptions of who Jesus is that you will ever see!

And realize you can know Him!!!