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TO BE OR NOT TO BE... A BLOG

Wednesday
Jul222015

The Traveling Vagabond

I write this sitting on the west coast.  Yesterday I spent they day strolling Laguna Beach with Michael Bischof, a dear friend and wise beyond words.  He is the founder of Soulleader, a holistic leader coaching network.

Today I am at Fuller theological seminary.  Why?  I really don’t know.  Sure I had some books to return, but I could have mailed them.  I just wanted to sit in the place that changed my life so much.  Earlier I found myself in the library thumbing through my dissertation.  I then spent time reading though my Uncle Thom’s dissertation as well as his and his wife Marcia’s books. Currently I write this from the prayer garden. 

Over the next month I will drive across country and will eventually standing on the shores of Virginia Beach.  I will have the privilege of making this cross country journey by car with my son Levi.  Terri and Caleb will spend the bulk of that time in the Dominican Republic with Pastor Esdras Ellen and their family.  Santa Rosa / Bani is in the heart of the island and where we have done mission work for over 10 years.  We love them dearly.  When we first went to the DR, we were serving a mission trip.  Now it is just like visiting family

We are closing up our time in Las Vegas.  I have nothing but positive things to say about our time here.  The Crossing has been wonderfully supportive as we have been in search of where God has us next.  We are moving out of our home in a week and at that point we will become Vagabonds.  We have lots of family and friends that love us, God is using them to help us in this transition.  

I have decided to blog during this season.  I have asked the following things of God:

  • Transform the desires of my heart, then give me the desires of my heart
  • For God and I to be in active dialogue throughout the day, listening and to be in regular conversation.
  • That each day He will guide my steps, as I am highly dependent upon Him
  • Each day He would give me nuggets of wisdom
  • For peace that surpasses all understanding because of a rooted confidence that God is in control

As much as I can, I will share those nuggets of wisdom I gain with anyone who cares to read.

Friday
Apr172015

SELF AWARENESS

Do you know who you are?  Do you really?  I am continuously surprised about how people who are followers of Christ have no idea who they really are.

We are all called to the ministry of reconciliation (another blog post) One of the four areas we are reconciled unto ourselves in is: reconciliation to self.  When we build our identity in Christ, we discover what our created intent is, how God want to use you in a powerful way

Ephesians 2:10 says that you are God’s masterpiece.  The dictionary defines a “masterpiece” as “a person’s greatest work of art,” or a “consummate example of skill or excellence.” Now, when God’s Word describes you as His masterpiece, what comes into your mind? Do you accept His assessment, or do you think, Well, He must be talking about someone else…if He really knew me, He wouldn’t think that!

Unfortunately, Your personal identity—how you see yourself—is often shaped by your early experiences in life.  Yet the apostle Paul teaches in Colossians 1:27 that my joy—and my identity—had to be found in Christ alone.

Does that mean life was created to be smooth sailing?  Hardly.  In fact we learn in Ephesian 6:10-18 that we need to put on the armor of God.  Why?  Truth is that life, and the evil one himself, is going to throw a lot of crap your way. 

You would think as a pastor and church planter I would have it easier because the very nature of my job is to serve God all day!  Truthfully, while every believer faces temptations, those who step out with the armor of God on become targets.  The temptation of escape with things like porn, or the hunger for power, the discouragement that comes when your family is attacked, or the pressures of lack of resources, or the pressures on your marriage, or the temptation to take short cuts… and much more – is all intensified.

Why would any sane person sign up for that?  How can there be any good in this at all?  Where is God in all of that?! 

If you are going to sign up for a big boys game, you have got to be deeply intertwined in the bigness of God.  You are God’s masterpiece and He is willing to be in step with you!  He wants to change the world and you get to be a part of that!  When I become self focused though, throw myself a world-class pity party – life plows me over.  When I build my identity in Christ, though, when my self-awareness understands who I am in Christ – even in the crazy mess the evil one throws my way:

“The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7)

 

Saturday
Mar212015

Tackle Tough Topics With Grace

It’s funny how the more a church grows, the more the temptation of “fear” starts to set in within her leaders.  Churches start out with a good cause: to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom and to spur on Kingdom living.  The ramifications grow though, when the church grows.

Kingdom living sometimes involves having tough conversations.   If we truly love each other, we need to be honest about each other’s dysfunctions.  If we truly love each other, than we would be troubled when someone makes decisions that are hindering their own walk, or worse leads others towards unhealthy living or pain.

But that that kind of love is uncomfortable 

Some deal with this discomfort by being bullies.  They hold on to truth, but if they can dehumanize someone, than it is easy to judge them or categorize them.  Other go the opposite route in being “nice”, masking their insecurity by avoidance in the name of, “lets all just get along”.

Ironically, church leaders can be the worse at this.  Honest healthy living, along with honest healthy conversations, can have a severe impact on numbers.  You see, most people really don’t want to hear truth about themselves, so confrontation means attendance can go down. Even giving goes down if you tick of the wrong person!  So some church leaders live a life of avoidance to keep weekly numbers up.  Other church leaders can go the opposite extreme and become legalist (bullies).  By being strict there are actually large numbers out there that will attend because surely the church is standing for truth and that is Kingdom living – right?

Kingdom living means handling tough topics with grace, but also is courageous in truth. To honestly teach what the bible teaches on the subject, but to find yourself at the same time deeply loving and caring for this hurting person.  That’s grace, honesty must always go hand in hand with deep compassion and desire for long-term health.

Of course in the long run, even worse case scenario, if the numbers go down and stay down, what do you think: What appeals to Christ more: a large crowd that talks of Kingdom living but ignores an underline dysfunction OR half the crowd doing their best in being like Christ?

Saturday
Mar212015

Do You Want To Get Well?

 In John 5 Jesus, early in His ministry, leads His disciples to a place called, “Pool of Bethsaida”.  This was a natural spring that periodically would rise up and start bubbling up like crazy.  There was a mythical belief that the first person who jumped in the bubbly water would be healed of what ever aliments they had.  As a result, in a culture where the disabled were discriminated against, were abandoned by the pool being told, in effect, get well so you can come home and be productive.  A side note, this was by the “sheep gate” which would have been a dirty foul area to spend your days and nights (not to mention the aroma of a bunch of neglected sick people)

One dude had been dropped off 38 years earlier.  His disability did not allow him to get down to the water, much less be the first.  Can you relate to this guy?  At first glace perhaps not, but think again.  Do you have an area in your life that has been a physical, emotional or spiritual issue for a very long time?  Do you have an unhealthy habit that you know holds you back more than helps you? Do you have a pain, a memory or a regret that haunts you? 

Back to Jesus, He and His 12 apprentices go to this nasty part of town and Jesus marches up to that dude and ask what would have seemed like a really dumb question.  I mean seriously, are you ready to hear this question that might have caused his followers to say, “Ut oh, mother was right, this guy is a tad off!”  So Jesus approaches this disabled guy who has spent most of his life trying to get to the healing waters and ask “Do you want to get well?”  Weird right?  Can anybody say, “Duh?”

Yet over the years I have determined this to be quite a profound question. 

I find that most people who come to my office for help don’t take to practical spiritual wisdom.  They like the idea of being well, they talk about it, they long for it, they blame others for not having it, or even God… yet the thought of making the change evidently is too much.  Perhaps what was once a curse in their life has become so familiar they cant imagine life without it.  Perhaps they are filled with fear that as bad as the negative is, even anger as an example, it can provide a temporary source of comfort and they might loose that.  Perhaps they don’t feel worthy.  Perhaps they really don’t trust the God they proclaim to follow.

How about you?  Think of the thing that has beat you up the most over the past several years. For just a minute push aside all of your explanations or even blame.  On a very serious note, do you really want to get well?

Friday
Feb272015

Discover Your Spiritual Wiring 

Author, Speaker and leader in the Missional Movement Alan Hirsch developed an assesment based upon your spiriutal wiring.  The tool is based upon Ephesians 4:7,11-12 where the apostle Paul lays out five core way God gifts people to advance the Kingdom of God.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it...11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors (sheperds) and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up"

This tool helps you determine how God has wired you to be live out your purpose in Him.

I think it is a great tool and suggest everyone to take it!  Go to THE FORGOTTEN WAYS

HERE ARE MY RESULTS:

Apostolic + Evangelistic

The Apostle Evangelist’s impact on others comes through their expansive view of the Gospel message and it’s application individually and corporately. This is one of the tasks driven of the ministry styles. The AE has a great sense of urgency and sense of knowing what they must do. The AE seeks out committed individuals and recruits them into the movement. As a big risk-taker and innovator, the AE engages people by inspiring them to take relative risks for the cause. The ultimate motivation of the Apostle Evangelist is for individual commitments to spread the Kingdom of God.

 

Friday
Feb272015

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

 In the first thirteen verses of Luke 13 Jesus is tackling the age-old question, “When bad things happen is it because our Good God has to punish us for our bad past behaviors OR is God simply not good because he allowed bad things to happen?”

Think about how many times we tend to give up on God because we could not reconcile a negative experience. Other times we tend to judge others/ ourselves because surely God got fed up with him/her/me, surely the messy situation that came out of nowhere must have come from God.

Carrying this logic further, it is easy to assume that we will not receive God’s blessings because God knows you/ I don’t deserve God’s blessing.  Grace is a great philosophical concept, but it can’t apply to me because of my past.

Carry this logic further; if we get a lot of extra cash, we believe we have been blessed by God. Yet we look away from the reality that there are many wealthy amongst us who are far from Holy people. We believe that large numbers means that God is at work; in contrast the lonely missionary who is dealing with a tough region presumes he/she is a failure.  Ironically, while I am blessed to be a part of a healthy mega church, there are many mega churches in our country have some pretty screwed up theology.  Also when someone is healed we say, “This is evidence that God is good!” Yet what are the implications for the many that don’t have positive physical results?

 

Jesus dealt with these type assumptions in Luke 13

  •  Where was God when perfectly good religious people, in the middle of church service, were murdered and their blood was poured over everything sacred in the church?
  • A whole group of people, eighteen to be exact, was in the wrong place at the wrong time and skyscraper toppled and killed them all.  Is this evidence that that while all of us have issues, they must have been pretty messed up for God to have allowed this – right? Clearly God was punishing them for previous bad behavior?
  • Then a parable to ask: If you are not seeing the results out of someone you want to see fast enough, is it fair to assume they are useless for the Kingdom so prune them into good riddens?
  • Then there was the sick woman for eighteen years; surely she is someone God did not see worthy of His attention?
  • If someone who breaks out of our understanding of spiritualty, like Jesus was being accused for breaking the rules, is that someone you cant take seriously?

 Not all that different from many conversations I had this last week alone.  Here is a sampling:

  • Counseled a person in the witness protection program who had a brutal past.  (Keeping this very generic for this person protection).  Grew up with perfect church attendance and lived a better life then most. Got caught up in a bad situation, endured unimaginable acts and now has to live life far from home with an alias.  Did God abandon this person?
  • Buried a middle age man who died of a rare brain cancer. In his past there are some pretty bad things, yet for the last few years he we really turning his life around for God. Upon discovery of his disease there was miracle after miracle that blew away just about every doctor.  His new wife and himself were gladly and boldly giving God all of the credit.  Lined up to begin a highly successful world-renowned treatment, excitement was high and again God was getting all of the glory!  The night before something went terribly wrong on his hospital bed and he died.  Is he being punished?  Did God abandon them?
  • Worked with a group of lay church leaders who were firing on all four cylinders and was really doing a lot of things right.  Targeting a known need; prayerfully moved forward and used high level leadership skills.  Yet attendance was disappointingly low.   People trying hard to serve God well, yet it appears as if God did not show up.
  • A woman’s fiancé called me and he asked me to visit her in the hospital.  She went in for a basic hysterectomy and when the surgeon opened her up he discovers cancer all throughout her body.  Upon visiting her she ask me, “Am I that bad of a person?”
  • Something very painful that hurt my family very badly some year’s back was brought back to surface in some social media post, it appears that those who acted in such harmful ways still have not changed.  They even take on the role of victim, ignoring their bad behaviors.  Out of God’s grace my family have gone through much healing, restoration and renewal.  Yet when does God bring justice?

 

What Jesus Says:

The answer He gives then is the answer for today.  Ironically, he never really answers the questions.  He is God after all; He could have nailed the answer with pinpointed accuracy.   Instead, he answers a different question.  The clear implication is that when bad things happen we tend to ask bad questions. 

So, what was His reply to all of these difficult questions?  1) No to the bad assumptions, but 2) the right answer is yes to God.

Jesus could have answered the questions, but the implication would have been that God always owes us answers.  Like a child who is getting a sharp needle jammed in his arm by a complete stranger in a white outfit, while mom holds him down, seems like such a violation of trust and safety.  Mom could explain all day long about vaccinations and their health benefits, but in the end the child would not only not understand, he really wants to know, mom are you safe?  Tell me I can still absolutely trust you.      

 

What this means for us

Sometimes bad things that happen are allowed by God, other times they are just unimaginable acts that are the consequence of a free choice of a fallen world.  Either way, the answer is the same.  LEAN INTO GOD.  In the end, no matter what the question, this is the answer.  Have you ever gotten so caught up in the questions that you miss the answer? 

 

Tuesday
Jul162013

Refresh: Restoring The Soul Of A Leader - JOSHUA

Below is an outline of what i shared this past Sunday evening's Mezzo with the new series: Refresh: Restoring The Soul Of A Leader.  This week was a focus on Joshua.

It was not my plan to hand this out in written form, as it was written for notes to speak from.  Thus i hesitate to print it.  Yet I was asked by so many people if they could have a copy of the notes, hence here they are.

Therefore, offer me grace as you read below, I have not had time to do a rewrite on them.

Thank you for letting me journey with you.

Bruce

 

Refresh: Restoring The Soul Of A Leader - JOSHUA

Coffee Cup story - Old Professor

When you are trying to make big decision in your life how do you know the difference between reality and fantasy.  When do you pull the trigger.

What is true geographically is true spiritually

Younger Bruce had a special gift that the older Bruce no longer had: The gift of being naive.  The upside of being naive is that it is easer to trust people and yourself.  The downside is the you can be way to cocky.  

God in this passage was talking to the older Joshua

Joshua 1: 1-10

The Wilderness Was Necessary  (Exodus)

 

  • A place of healing
  • A place of readjusting
  • A place of rest
  • We always way underestimate how long we will be in the wilderness 
  • Just because you are in a desert experience does not mean you get to escape leadership…

 

Embrace Your Current Reality (2a)

  • Some your mentor died
  • Some you have had your dream die
  • Some of you are tired
  • Some have lost what they once had
  • For young leaders it might be experiencing - but learning to carry the weight of responsibility
  • Some have hit a plateau – time to lay the old you are on to road to rest
  • Some have had a major change and new world
  • You may be a place where no one knows your past accomplishment
  • Could be a good thing a job promotion – but now it is time to figure out where you are going with it
  • Guard against denial
  • Fight against doubt – our minds play tricks on us
  • Accept what needs to be left behind – you have to break free of where you are,-  to get where you want to go
  • You cant get to where you need to go if you don’t know where you are  - (mall map) 
  • Challenge – journal and meditate on that – you might be overwhelmed for that very reason

God Can Do More With Those Who Move Than Those That Wallow  (2b)

  • This is not to minimize the desert experience – but you still had to move

The God Who Has Done Miracles In Your Life In The Past Is Ready To Do Miracles In Your Future (3-4)

Because let me tell you something:

THE GOD WHO HAS DONE MIRACLES IN YOUR LIFE IN THE PAST IS READY TO DO MIRACLES IN YOUR FUTURE (3-4)

  • To believing leader – think back on cool stuff God has done in your life, and ways you have seen him work for your “Moses’s” – It is the same God

Don’t Let Fear Debilitate You (5)

  • Jesus spent a lot of time teaching about not worrying you
  • Chinese word for crisis. In the traditional Chinese characters the word crisis has the same meaning as opportunity; thus, how you view the situation will determine how you respond to it. Often times it’s the responsibility of the SPIRITUAL leader to give perspective to his or her followers so they assume the perspective of God.

Discover The Un-Anxious Confidence That God Offers (6)

  • Vrs 6, 7, 9, 18 all 4 verses say the same thing: BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS 
  • God says it one time –serious, 2xs very serious 3 xs he means business 4xs which is very rare – it is something you should memorize and reflect on for the rest of your life. In fact memorize this week and meditate on it
  • Being strong is a matter of who you are a matter who you are - character  - courage is a matter of what you do, a matter of responsibility – starts out as a deep belief…

What Success Looks Like (7-9ff)

  • Again, Place Your Confidence In God
  • Be Faithful To What You Know
  • Debilitations: Distractions, Anxiety And Discouragement
  • Maintain Intimacy With Jesus (everything points to the cross - hence the Jesus reference) (Be careful not to reduce intimacy with Jesus down to a just a Sunday morning shot - like drinking a Red Bull)
  • Live a life that: Anticipates God’s Blessings 9
  • Get Up And Go 10ff

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts" Winston Churchill

 

SMALL GROUP QUESTIONS

 

  • Name something positive that came from you previous (or current) wilderness experience
  • What fears/ distractions do you find that hold you back?
  • “Be Strong and Courageous”:
    • * What areas of character do you need to work on to build your strength in God?
    • * What risk of faith do you need to take to grow in courage?
  • Describe what your life would look like if you increased your intimacy with Jesus.  What specific action steps are you going to take?
  • What can this group be praying for, when it comes to refreshing your soul as a leader?

 

 

 

Thursday
Jan242013

Being Your Kid's Life Coach

This is a video i used in a teaching seminar I did at my church

 

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