#Sundaysmatter Pt.3 Take 10

Most often your experience with God at church isn’t decided on Sunday… Its decided on Saturday night. Its decided when we choose to stay up until 2:00am watching reruns of Walking Dead. Its decided when we choose to let that argument with our spouse or our parents stay unresolved. Its decided when we choose not to prepare for what is coming tomorrow.

One of the single biggest reasons we don’t take from church all that God intends for us is because we haven’t prepared ourselves to be in the presence of God!

We prepare for the things we value! I have been to a lot of weddings… I have yet to see a bride walk down the isle having forgotten to do her hair!

I remember the night before state soccer finals in high school I had a big dinner, went to bed early, made sure I was hydrated and did everything I could possibly think of to make sure I had prepared myself for that game!

The key to igniting the power church plays in your live is as simple as taking 10 minutes on Saturday night and 10 more minutes on Sunday morning to make sure you are ready for what is to come!

Take 10 minutes Saturday night and…

1. Pray over your week. (What are you thankful for? What sin needs to be confessed? Is there a relationship you need to make right?)

2. Look over the notes from last week. Refresh and re-engage your mind with God’s Word

3. Ask God to prepare your heart for tomorrow!

Take 10 minutes Sunday morning…

1. Get to church 10 minutes earlier. When you roll in 3 minutes late with 2 kids in your arms and haven’t had your coffee yet, you are not exactly setting yourself up for success!

2. Allow yourself a few quite moments with God before worship begins.

3. Have a meaningful conversation with someone at church.

All of these things will dramatically change the impact church has in your life and you will experience God in powerful and fresh ways if we simply take the time and prepare for Sunday mornings like we believe the King was alive and we were going to encounter His presence!

#Sundaysmatter Pt. 2 The Power is in the Combination

I know very little about cars… But what I do know is that cars require both gas and oil in order to run.  If you faithfully change your oil but never fill your car up with gas you are in trouble and if you faithfully fill your car up with gas but never change your oil your car will eventually break down.

Church works the same way!

Most of our churches have 2 consistent elements each week… 1. Corporate Worship (songs, prayer, poetry, and hopefully not interpretive dance!) and 2. Preaching (hopefully from the Bible!)

It is our natural tendency to want to elevate one of these elements over the other based on personal preference.  I have had many conversations with people arguing “just give me The Word… I want truth, I am not a big fan of singing songs.”  And I have also witnessed many people passionately worship only to mentally disengage as soon as the final song is over… staring blankly at the wall or refreshing twitter for the 1000th time that hour.

The sad truth is that if we have this mentality we will miss out on what God wants for us and we will not experience Him like we could!

The life changing power of church is in the combination of worship and preaching!  We need both!

Worship is Christians coming together to declare Christ’s worth to us… could there ever be anything more important or beautiful than the redeemed lifting up their savior? (I have always found it funny that the “I only want preaching guy” fails to understand how over and over and over again in scripture God says he desires us to worship him passionately and loudly)

When God’s Word is proclaimed God is speaking directly to us…  could there ever be anything more important or worth giving our best attention to?

When we give 100% of ourselves to both worship and the preaching of His Word, God WILL transform us each and every time!

So if you find yourself leaning on the side of not loving worship here would be my encouragement to you:

1. Familiarize yourself with the music your church sings – the more you know the songs the more they will mean to you as you worship!

2. Commit yourself to be in the service for the entire worship set – don’t be the guy who hangs out in the cafe until the preaching

3. Understand its about who you are worshipping!  Christ is worth us occasionally laying down our preferences!

 

And if you find yourself leaning on the side of struggling to engage in the sermon here would be my encouragement to you:

1. Real Bible, real pen, real highlighter – there is something to actually holding a Bible… and note-taking is infinitely more effective!

2. Turn off your phone – eliminate the distractions!

3. Pray that God would speak directly to you – God has you here for a reason, ask him to reveal what He wants you to hear!

 

If we get this right, Sundays will be dramatically more impactful!

#Sundaysmatter Pt.1 Experiencing The Supernatural

God designed church to be life changing!

God designed church to be energizing!

God designed church to radically transform our lives each and every Sunday!

God designed church to be the best and most important moments in our week!

Unfortunately far too often that is not our experience!

God never wanted church to become stale, or rote, or something simply done out of religious habit.

Life is full of regret, looking back and thinking “I wish I would have made more of that opportunity”, “I wish I would have invested more time into that relationship”, “I wish I would have engaged more and learned more in that class.”  And with everything in me I don’t want regret the time I spent in the house of the Lord and wish I would have engaged on a deeper level!

There is something that is supernatural and magical that happens when God’s people come together and lift high the name that is above all names, the name of Jesus, the risen and coming King!  There is nothing else like it on this side of Heaven when in that moment we are living out our created purpose to sing the praises and glory of our God!

And there is something life-changingly powerful when God’s Word is opened, proclaimed, and woven into our hearts!  God’s Word is alive, it is ceaselessly powerful, and our souls need it more than we need air, or bread, or water!   God’s Word never returns void and there is nothing else in history, written or spoken that has the power to transform lives like the very words of our God who is alive and moving in our hearts and communities and churches!

My heart is stirred to say I want to experience a life-altering, world-changing, heart-moving encounter with God every single week I am at church!  I desperately want that for me, I desperately want that for my family, I desperately want that for my church, and I desperately want that for you!  That we would experience the Lord more deeply and that would cause us to never be the same!

God wants that for you!  Do you want that for you?

This week I will share 3 very practical ways we can pursue making the absolute most of our Sunday encounters with the living God in His church!

3 (Purposefully Belated) Ferguson Thoughts

My master plan last night was to hang out with my friend and fellow pastor Brian Bement and watch a combination of the bulls game and Monday night football (pretty amazing night huh!).  What actually happened that night was a lot of watching a combination of CNN and Fox News coverage of what was happening in Ferguson and a lot of us trying to wrap our minds about what we were watching from a biblical/gospel perspective.

Much has been said and much has been written on what has been in many ways a defining issue for America culturally and I needed 18 hours to pray/digest/think about how I felt before trying to enter into the dialogue… One of the biggest tragedies of social media is that almost all content and insight is instant and without thought… That doesn’t usually prove to be overly helpful!

So here are my 3 brief thoughts on last night and moving forward

1. America is more broken racially than we realize.  One of the realities of Ferguson is that we cannot ignore our countries brokenness… There is deep distrust and real animosity between groups of people in our country.  What we don’t need are leaders and people who use this as a platform to stoke the fire and promote anger… we need to prayerfully consider what Paul says when he talks about Christians being ministers of reconciliation and laying ourselves down out of love for the benefit of others… Only then will real healing begin.

2.  Proverbs 18:17 says “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”  This has been a textbook case in why it is important to hold our judgement and to shut our mouths until we know actually happened.  The truth is the first version of what went down in Ferguson with Michael Brown simply wasn’t accurate… and there are a lot of people, some whom I deeply respect who made themselves look ignorant because they responded too soon to a narrative that was simply false.  This is a great lesson on the practical wisdom of less reacting…more understanding the truth.

3.  I have had the pleasure of knowing a handful of policemen and ALL of them have been honorable men who are much braver than I am, and who selflessly put themselves in harms way so we can live safe lives and not have to think about the brokenness of the world we live in.  Our country has many issues…our police force is simply not one them.  We need to end the “cops kill whoever they want with no retribution” narrative.  Its reactionary, false, lazy and fails to give the honor due to many great men and women who keep us safe.

My Mark Driscoll Story

If you have been on Facebook, read blogs, followed social media, or even pay the smallest attention to what is happening in Evangelical Christianity in America you know the dominating storyline for the past few months has been the drama surrounding Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill church in Seattle.  Every day there seem to be new charges brought against him and many people have made it their mission to see his church and ministry be ripped away from him.  Mark has faults, and has admitted many, he has hurt people, made poor decisions, and publicly repented… I don’t want to talk about any of those things but I do want to share with you the interaction I had with Pastor Mark when I first met him.

In early 2010 an earthquake ripped through Haiti leaving many dead and countless devastated.  My dad, who had just stepped in as CEO of International Aid, was able to secure a plane and flew to Haiti 2 days after the earthquake with a few doctors, supplies, and James Macdonald (Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel) and Mark Driscoll who had quickly partnered together and started an organization to try and raise money to help the church in Haiti.  It was on that trip my dad was first introduced to Mark and at some point during that trip had thanked Mark for the impact his ministry had on me and many other young pastors.  Mark responded humbly and graciously.

During this same time in 2010 my wife and I had also been rocked by a miscarriage.   I was serving as the youth pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel Orlando and my wife and I had been so excited to be pregnant and we were mourning the loss of our first child even though we had never met him/her.  One night while we had some of Mary’s family over I checked my cell phone and I had a message on it from a blocked phone number.  I assumed it was a telemarketer and I saw they had left a message so I reluctantly checked my voicemail.  What I heard SHOCKED me!  I instantly recognized the voice of Pastor Mark on the other line and he left me this message:

“Hey Calvin, this is Pastor Mark from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, I just heard that you and your wife are going through a tough time and mourning the loss of a child and I was just hoping to be able to talk to you, encourage you, and pray with you.  Thank you for serving Jesus Christ with your life, I am so thankful for young men who love Jesus and want to honor him in ministry.  Sorry I missed you, I hope to be able to speak to you soon.”

After I literally picked my jaw up from the floor I ran downstairs and shared the message with my wife and our guests and kicked myself for days for not being there to answer the phone!  A week or so later my wife and I received a package in the mail from Mars Hill Church and in it was a signed copy of every book he had ever written!  I was so blown away by his thoughtfulness and kindness towards me.

Over the past few months I have heard people say that Mark Driscoll is a bigot, misogynist, arrogant, disingenuous, misunderstood, a martyr, anything you can think of… Here’s what I know… Mark Driscoll was a mega church pastor whose church was the fastest growing in America in 2010 and he reached out to a young youth pastor across the country whom he had never spoken to or met for the sole purpose to encourage me, pray with me, and show me the love of Christ.  For that I will be forever grateful!

The truth is nobody can withstand total scrutiny… we are all sinners with flaws, failings, and things we are ashamed of… I am thankful that we don’t need to be able to stand up to scrutiny…thats what Jesus is for!  He did it perfectly on our behalf!  I am also thankful to Mark Driscoll who loved and took time for a lowly, non influential, insignificant youth pastor across the country simply because he cared and wanted to have an impact in my life!  It had a larger impact on my than you may ever know!  Thank you!  Please Pray for Pastor Mark and his family in the coming weeks!

14 quick thoughts on Camp Harvest ’14

cal and seth

1. Bus companies are less than reliable!

2. 103 students went to camp and 103 came home safely!  Thats a good thing!

3. Is it just me or are freshman getting smaller and smaller every year?

4. It is an amazing thing to see students from 7 different churches come together and love one another and make friendships so easily!  This is something that adults could take notes on 😉

5. The camp staff is the perfect blend of fun, crazy, loving, mature, discipling, Jesus following, and competent!  Seriously, are kids are looked after by a world class camp staff!

6. Had the privilege of watching my college roommate Landon Macdonald deliver the word to our students!  That guy’s love for Jesus is fierce and his giftedness is scary!

7. One of the guys in my cabin ate a lime green tomato worm and its lime green guts came spewing out of his mouth… enough said!

8. 63 salvations + A huge outdoor dance party + glowsticks + an Aerosmith slow dance = an incredible night!

9. I know I am biased but I have the best leaders ever!  They love the students so selflessly and make camp more enjoyable for everyone!  I love knowing that in cabin time our students are being cared for by the best!

10.  The HBCSL worship team killed it at camp!  I hope you realize just how talented the people are who serve us week in week out at our church!

11.  It is a joy to hang out with other youth pastors and build friendships, encourage each other, and learn from one another.  That is a very good thing

12.  Harvest Mingle happened!  I know of at least 2 budding relationships coming out of camp!  Camp Harvest: Where love happens!

13. I got to see students destroy phones, makeup, and razors they used to cut themselves with because Jesus is changing them and they are finding their identity in something Greater!  So powerful!

14. Jesus is alive, winning, and saving lives!  Camp Harvest…. Best Week Ever

15. (bonus round) I am so thankful this next generation of Christians will not be defined by worship wars and battles over preferences… But will be defined by passionate worship, action, and humility… the Lord is doing something amazing in the lives of our young people!

From Understanding to Action

I had a friend ask me this question this week: How does understanding move to action?  The idea is that often times there is a massive disconnect between what we know to be true (God, ourselves, our sin, our relationship with Christ) and us living in that truth and in that freedom.  Why do men who know that pornography is sinful, harmful, and damaging to themselves and their relationships find themselves choosing to run back to it in moments of temptation even though it continuously  devastates their lives?  Why is it that even when we know that pursuing a deeper relationship with Christ is the best thing we can do with our lives, we never seem to pray or pursue God’s Word… there seems to be a massive chasm between our heads and our hearts.

Here are 3 thoughts I have on turning knowledge/understanding into action/transformation

1. See Clearly

The first step is you need to see yourself how God sees you.  First understand that you have been loved, bought, adored, pursued, chased, forgiven, redeemed, made new, and are delighted in by God, who by the way gave everything to be in relationship with you, who also doesn’t need you and gains nothing He doesn’t already have by your love and obedience…pretty incredible!

We also need to see our sin clearly.  What does our sin say about our thankfulness to God?  What does our sin about who we love most?  I find it helpful (especially with young men and porn) to have them make a pro’s/con list of how that sin plays out in their lives, so they can physically see how damaging the sin is in their lives and relationships… Wisdom is seeing clearly the consequences of our decisions and fighting for what is best rather than what is simply right now!

2. Take Dramatic Action

I love how in the story of Jonah when the Ninevites are confronted with their sin and God’s impending judgment, immediately the people of Nineveh fast, cover themselves with sackcloth and ashes, and repent and turn from their sin, and cry out to God for mercy.  And whats amazing is that this immediate and dramatic action moves God’s heart and he spares the city.  I find that people are ready to have victory when their attitude is “I will do whatever it takes to beat this sin/follow God in this area in my life.”  “If I have to get rid of my computer and phone, so be it!” “I am convicted I need to share my faith with my cousin, so I am calling him today and we are meeting tonight to talk about Jesus.”  When we are only willing to take half-measures in following Christ, that means we are not really broken, not really ready to change!

3. Love Discipline

Think about it… having victory or being great at anything in live ALWAYS TAKES DISCIPLINE!  From work, to athletics, to looking good, to video games, relationships… you never back into success.  Discipline yourself to spend 30 minutes in God’s Word every day… and be disciplined enough to continue in 4 days from now when you don’t feel like it!  Here is the amazing thing that isn’t talked about enough when it comes to discipline: Discipline leads to Desire, Desire leads to Delight…. the end of discipline is delight!  Nobody loves running for the first time when they are out of shape…but talk to disciplined runners and they love nothing more than running!  Same works with prayer and God’s Word!  The way you get to delight is by having faith that way to delight is through discipline!

Hope that helps, let me know what you think!

3 Ways to Survive The Dry Season

As a follower of Christ nothing beats the seasons of life when your walk with the Lord is fresh, vibrant, and full of life and joy!  We remember these times so fondly and there is something in all of us that longs to live in those moments!  We know what its like to be Peter during the transfiguration (when Christ revealed his full glory to a few close friends) wanting to stay in that moment forever!  Unfortunately that is not were most of us live!   Our lives are marked my seasons of spiritual drought and valleys and sometimes it feels as if we are wandering around in the dessert!  I recently found myself in one of these seasons in my walk with Christ and I want to share 3 things that really helped me during this time:

1. Be honest about it.

The worst thing you can do when you are walking in a season of spiritual dryness is to pretend like everything is fine.  For me, the first step out of the dessert for me is simply to be honest about the fact that I am not doing that well.  For me that involves sharing it with someone (my wife, small group, close friends ect.) asking for their prayer and encouragement, asking them to reveal sin they might see in me that I am unaware of, and to help keep my eyes focused on Christ, the Perfecter and Keeper of my salvation!  THERE IS NOTHING DUMBER THAN PRETENDING TO BE FINE WHEN YOU ARE NOT FINE!

2. Intentionally Fill Myself

What fills you most in your walk with Christ? God’s Word? worship music? sermons? poetry?  journaling? prayer? being outside? Take the best time of your day, when you are most focused and alert and use that time to pursue what fills your heart most.  Also, during that time talk to God, seek his help, repent of sin that is damaging your intimacy with God, thank Him for Jesus and his love for you, ascribe to him his worth and greatness, ask the Holy Spirit to move in your heart in a fresh way!

3. Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

Paul says in 2 Corinthians that it is  “The love of Christ” which compels us to love God and walk with Him.  When I lose focus of Christ and make my walk with him about anything other than His awesome love for me (circumstances, my performance, how i am currently doing, ect) the life gets sucked out and I find myself back in the dessert.  Trying hard will never be enough to sustain you!  It is God’s awesome love for an often unlovable sinner which moves me towards God and the result is my joy and delight!

Hope that is helpful!

The Part Everyone Hates

“I think I deserve”  is one of the most toxic statements in your life.

I find in my own life, as well as in the church that people are very excited about following Christ until it costs them something.  In an extremely entitled society “laying down your rights” is a dirty phrase.  We want justice, we want what we want, we want what we think we deserve.

I John 3:16 “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

As followers of Jesus Christ, a rhythm of consistent and continual laying down of our rights should permeate our every day lives, as it turns our Jesus Christ laid down some pretty significant rights for us (Heaven, position, authority, communion with God, worship, honor, praise, glory, act) so he could come, be broken, and die for our sin!  This was an all the time every day reality for Christ…laying down what was rightfully his!

Here is where this is hardest…. in conflict!

One of the greatest ways we can tangibly show the love of Christ is when we lay down our rights for the sake of reconciliation!  You may deserve an apology and not get it…. who cares!  You may deserve for everyone to know the whole story…. you’ll live!  Lay down your rights, choose to love, choose to forgive, choose to lean in on Christ, who faced his accusers and was silent!

 

Lets less about what we deserve and more about laying down our rights and thanking God we didn’t get what we in-fact do deserve!

 

Loving like Jesus will ALWAYS include laying down what we think we deserve!