I just launched the “BAGGAGE” series at Parkview Christian Church. Parkview is a multi-site church of 9,000 weekend attenders in the Chicago-land area. I am honored to be part of the teaching team and find myself traveling from Huntington Beach, California to be with the Parkview crew 12-15 weekends a year.
In the first 10 minutes of this message I littered the stage with about 50 FOLDERS and I told a story of an event that occurred 8 years ago and changed the rest of my life. The bottom line …
WE ALL HAVE FOLDERS!
We all have crap in our past to get past.
So how do we do that?
In this message I talk about 4 safe places to admit your junk.
Check it out.
The question today is …
Can Jesus Christ and Santa Claus co-exist?
What part should Santa play in a Christian’s Christmas?
Would Jesus take a “selfie” with Santa?
I believe the answer to that question is …
More than ever this Christmas season we are omni-aware.
We are, like no other time in the history of humanity, aware of all the good and all the bad in the world the moment it occurs.
Think about that …
We see every heroic act immediately …
creating all kinds of unintended heroes.
We see every violent act immediately …
creating all kinds of super villains.
And we have to metabolize and make sense out of all of it.
What I want us to realize is that it has not always been this way.
For instance, in 1989 I was on a bus with a soccer team from the United States sitting at the Olympic training center in Hong Kong. We were on our way into China to play a match against their national team. We sat on the bus for several hours without moving and finally were told to get off and go back into the training center. That afternoon we sat and watched uncensored television video of the tanks rolling down Tiananmen Square.
What is crazy is that what I saw in “real time” that day, much of the world did not see for days because of the censorship of television at that time.
That is not the case today … we do not even need television to be aware today.
As Leonard Sweet says, “We are living in a T.G.I.F. Culture!”
Twitter. Google. Instagram. Facebook.
These mobile technologies have made us instantaneously omni-aware of all the good and bad, evil and heroic moments that happen. And we experience all of this in real time all around the globe.
In any given day we will digest …
- An airstrike in the middle east
- A Tsunami in Asia
- A fire at a concert that kills 40 young people
- A dad who saves a boy from drowning
- A police officer who risks her life to save children at a pre-school
- A police officer that shoots an apparently innocent man
- Children who are being trafficked
- Parades for World series baseball teams
- New diseases from mosquitos
- New iPhones from Apple
When I think about our current culture, it feels like we are living in a comic book because we are globally aware of heroes and villains like never before.
And what often happens to Christians when we get a real-time look at the world is that we get depressed because it often looks like the Church is losing.
From our perspective, things do not look good for the Church.
So I give you this true story to offset the omni-aware moments.
A few years back CNN did a special from France about the 50th Anniversary of the allied invasion of Normandy. This battle marked the beginning of the end of World War II. In this interview CNN interviewed two elderly men who had been young soldiers and participated in the Normandy invasion.
The first interview was an infantry soldier, “We landed on the beach and I made my way through dead body after dead body … I saw my whole unit killed! I fought hand-to-hand combat paying a high price for every foot of territory. I looked all around me at all the dead bodies and I fell to my knees in defeat and I said to myself … there is no way we can win.”
The second interview was a reconnaissance pilot, “It was my job to fly over the entire area of the battle and then report back to the allied command everything I could see from my aerial perspective. And as I flew over the battle field with every hour I became more and more confident with what I saw and I said to myself … there is no way we can lose!”
As we continue to make efforts to make sense of this omni-aware world from our perspective I believe all heaven is looking down upon us saying, “If you could just see what we see! If you could see this world from our perspective you would see that the message of Christ is advancing every single day. And there is no way we can lose!”
I believe it’s our job as followers of Jesus this Christmas
to remind people about God’s view.
It is our job to help people who get to see ALL the good & ALL the bad instantaneously … to realize that God is still in control!
Yes, our world is taking on a different shape,
but God is the one shaping it.
The omni-awareness of this culture this Christmas gives us the opportunity to not only hear the “bad news” but also be a part of spreading the Good News of Jesus.
As I watch the debate tonight I see a difference that I have not seen in other debates leading up the Presidential election this year. Continue reading “One big lesson from the first Presidential Debate”
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
I 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.
I 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
(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.
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. 🙂
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.
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.
Make people curious.
Make Jesus more famous.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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 …
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!!!