Fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Romans 12:2 MSG

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Resurrection Faith

The church community will shine the brightest and best when all unite as the body of Christ.  The resurrection of Jesus is to be the vision that unites all people.  

The Apostle Paul talk about being united in ministry.  Most of his letters to the various Christian communities were based upon that one fact….we are made to join around the vision of Jesus for the sake of the world.  Whatever the world throws at us that seeks to dimish, divide, or conquer us needs to be removed from our lives.  Jesus even talked about being ONE as the Father and he were one.    

May all be one (Greek: ἵνα πάντες ἓν ὦσινinapantes hen ōsin) is a phrase derived from a verse in the Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John (17:21) which says: that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Those first disciples of Jesus were contagious!  They were fired up but the Spirit of him.  They were one with Jesus and one with each other and one for the world.  

Will you allow God to do this with you?  Will you dream big and boldly?  Will you fling wide thedoors and draw all people together to be the church that God has in mind?  This is solely up to you and the power of God that needs to be lived within your lives.  Disciples of Jesus cannot look backward.  Disciples of Jesus cannot relive the past.  Disciples look to the future.  They create anew.  All are freed to create anew.

One of those prayers that Susan and I pray often is from Ephesians 3:14-21:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Just think on these words:

Every family……Jesus is for every family….everychurch….every people.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, but all are one in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

He may strengthen you…..he is the power source….he is the light….he is the transformer….the electricity…..for your life.  Count not on yourselves but count solely on him.  

Inner being… have an inner being….a soul…..a spirit…that needs to be nurtured and loved.  God gives us the church to do that for each other.  

Dwell in our hearts through faith….Christ dwells in us.  Christ grows us.  If we hold on to tightly to the past – to our own ideas – then we are limiting what God can do.  Laying down our life…..our jobs…our identities… up our selves… the beginning of new life.  Those who lose their life for Jesus sake will find their lives!  Losing is winning in Jesus.  Totally counter to the world’s story but we are made for more than this world!   

Pray to be rooted and grounded in love…..a tree has roots – the roots are often larger than what you see above the surface…the roots span outunderground….a network of roots to make the tree strong….to withstand the wind….the trials…the storms…..Prayer does that for the church….praying for each other…praying for the world…..praying for our church…..we need God and God needs us….we are made to do life together.  

The power to comprehend the love of Jesus… is hard to imagine…but it is not impossible to believe.  The love of Jesus is so vast….it is to draw us together.  That love when shared shapes and defines everything else.  Without love in our faith lives we are a noisy gong and a clanging symbol…but with that love the church experiences life.  May your minds be stretched to imagine the infinite God possibilities for us and for the world.  

Be filled with the fullness of God……imagine your life overflowing with God…what would that look like?  What would a life like that be able to do?  That to me is a vision of heaven on earth…I want that full life…that meaningful life….that purposeful life in all that I say and do.  This means being more tomorrow than we are today….and more the day after the next…always growing and living into the people that God has created us to be.  Be not full of yourselves.  Be not full of anxiety and fear.  Be full of God.   

God will do immeasurably more than we would ask for or imagine…..WOW!  Just think…not with your head…but your heart.  Dig into your soul and be blown away by the fact that God will do greater things with us than we think possible.  The challenge…do we really believe that with God all things are possible?  Do we really believe that God is capable of producing an abundance in us?  God believes in us!  God believes in us!  Make plans…..and then make them bigger than that…because that is our God.  If God were fully in charge of shaping our communities and world what could that look like?  If God were shaping aworldwide vision what would that be?  Nothing is off limits for God.  Be bold in believing in this!  And then give yourselves to this brand new life that is to come!

All generations…..we live not for ourselves…but for those who come after us.  Will our children experience faith and life and hope because of our trust in Jesus?  Will they see Jesus in us?  The only chance they have for a living faith is to see Jesus alive in us!  May it be so.

Jesus came to his disciples after his resurrection and he showed them the wounds on his hands and his side.  He did not come back whole.  He came back wounded.  Jesus teaches us that in our weaknesses we are made strong.  Our wounds are ever present but our new life is even stronger than that.  Jesus commissioned them….do not stand here….but go…get out there into the world….and create….stir up life….be my people….be radically joy-filled….be contagious in faith….be an empty tomb people.  

If Jesus has been raised from the dead…..then we need not fear.  Life and love are going to win.  I am confident of this.  Life and love are going to win.  

As a pastor I have been challenged.  I have been broken.  I have been disappointed.  But never have I doubted the ability of God to raise up a people for resurrection living in this world.  I see it in your eyes.  I see it in your hearts.  I see it in the journeys that you have been through.  God is here – alive and well in each of you.

Do not let the voice of the devil get into your heads and tinker with your minds.  Jesus says I will not leave you orphaned….I have sent you an advocate….and the one who will always be with is goes by the name….Holy Spirit.  You got that Spirit…yes you do!  You got that Spirit …yes you do.  

None of us can ever fully know what the future holds…..but we know the one who hold the future…his name is Jesus. And it does not matter whether we are in the right hand or left hand of God, all that matters is that we are in God’s hands.  This is resurrection faith!  

May the Lord bless you and keep you. 
May the Lord make his face shine upon you.  
May the Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.
Alleluia.  Alleluia.  Amen.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Rising Strong

Brene Brown is an incredible writer and one that I often look to for words of encouragement along life's way.  

The following are a few excerpts from her book Rising Strong.

"The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness and even our wholeheartedness, actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls."

"Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to live our values rather than simply professing them."

"Love and belonging are irreducible needs of all people.  We're hardwired for connection.  It's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.  The absence of love, belonging, and connection, always leads to suffering."

I find strength in each one of these musings.  

Who likes to fall or fail?  No one that I know and certainly not myself.  A reminder that in order to be whole it takes all the pieces and parts, the successes and failings, of this life journey.  We are invited to be whole and well in this life.

Practicing courageous leadership often proves costly.  The cost often stings deep within the soul.  That sting runs much deeper and lasts a whole lot longer than simply being tazed (as I witnessed this afternoon at Leadership Austin).     

In a fast paced and often superficial world, there is a great absence taking place within each of us.  We are relationally suffering.  Can we be connected in purposeful and living ways?  Of course.  Am I and are you ready for that type of hard work that produces meaningful life? 

Rising Strong.....more than a good idea!

Pastor Chad 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Practice Resurrection Now

Richard Rohr, in his book Immortal Diamond, identified twelve ways for us to practice the resurrection right now. As I read each one I shouted a loud Amen! to this God of life that we are called to serve. 

1.   Refuse to identify with negative, blaming, antagonistic, or fearful thoughts (you cannot “stop” having them).
2.   Apologize when you hurt another person or situation.
3.   Undo your mistakes by some positive action toward the offended person or situation.
4.   Do not indulge or believe your false self – that which is concocted by your mind and society’s expectations. 
5.   Choose your true self – your radical union with God – as often as possible throughout the day. 
6.   Always seek to change yourself before trying to change others.
7.   Choose as much as possible to serve rather than be served.
8.   Whenever possible, seek the common good over your mere private good.
9.   Give preference to those in pain, excluded, or disabled in any way.
10. Seek just systems and policies over mere charity.
11. Make sure your medium is the same as your message.
12. Never doubt that it is all about love in the end.

May Jesus lead us to live into his resurrection hopes for the world – where lives are transformed and changed – where we experience victory even in the midst of suffering!

Pastor Chad

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Lent is...

I can’t remember where I read the following…credit goes out to whoever it was in this universe that wrote these powerful words…I needed to hear them…I think we all do.
·      Lent is a 40 day season dedicated to repentance, fasting, and prayer.
·      Lent is the season of interior descent, examination, and reflection.
·      Lent is forty days because Jesus was tested for forty days in the wilderness. It takes intentional time and focus to deconstruct our denial, pretense, and posturing.
·      Lent is the season we die to our hopes, our dreams, and our agendas, to empty ourselves out that we might be filled with new life, see with new eyes, live with a whole heart, filled with God’s strength to live an abundant life.
·      Lent is the season you come clean.
·      Lent: It’s time to get real with God, to Fast, Pray, Weep, Morn…to let go and let God be God in our lives.
·      Lent is the season where we might be laid bare to God’s grace, mercy, and light. We are naked before God.
·      Lent is the church season dedicated to falling apart.
·      Lent is the time we rip our clothes, throw dust into the air, and cry, "Oy Vey." Seriously, we live in a culture of denial. We will die.
·      Lent is dying before we die, so that we might live.
·      Lent is when we lay things down, to recover those things which should never have been forgotten.
·      Lent is when we die to the spirit of this world, so we can plug into the Spirit of God.
·      Lent is the season for cleaning out the springs of our heart.
·      Lent is the season for spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical detox.
·      Lent is the season to Reboot.
·      Lent is a trust fall into the arms of God.
·      Lent is the divine interrupt you’ve been waiting for.
·      Lent is deconstructing into wholeness.
Come and be marked with the Ashen cross on your forehead on Wednesday night. Come be the dust you were created to be. Come dive into Lent and receive a New and Right Spirit!
Pastor Chad

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Being Healed

We hear powerful words from the writer of Isaiah…..

“Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.”

The creator cares for the powerless. The Lord lifts us up. I don’t know about you but those words bring light and life into my soul. It’s like a drink of water for the thirsty. Good, good news for those wondering about God’s work in this life. God lifts us up! Jesus lifts us up. The Spirit lifts us up.

The Gospel begins with that Good News for Peter’s mother in law. Jesus is making Peter a champion! “Hey mother-in-law, I brought my friend Jesus over, he’ll heal you!”  And boom…..Jesus does. It says she immediately got up and began to serve. Wow, right?

And Mark goes on to say that these kinds of events go on all around Jesus because the word on the street is that Jesus is active in changing people’s lives. An encounter with Jesus….and you are changed. You are not the same as you were before meeting him. Not because you did something great or filed the correct request……I believe it is because Jesus simply desires to lift you up, to free others to be whole and well, to get them back to real living for the sake of the community and world. The God of Jesus desperately wants us to be whole and well. 

And Jesus…so busy raising people up….does exactly what he needs to do in order to continue to bring about life….he prays…and he prays…and he prays. Over and over again…the disciples are wondering, “Hey, where’s Jesus?” “Oh look, he’s over there praying again!” Yes Jesus is predictable! He wants to raise us up and he prays a lot! He wants to raise us up and he prays a lot!

I believe he prays a lot because raising up people is hard hard, hard work! Getting a human being to the point of soaring in life… hard hard work. Getting an infant to the point where they can finally walk….hard hard work. Getting a soul that is so burdened and weary by the ways of the world to not feel faint….is hard hard work. Talk to our doctors and nurses at Mayo. Curing and healing is hard hard work. Talk to our teachers and cooks and janitors and administrators in our schools. Raising up kids is hard hard work. Talk with people beaten battered and abused in life…work on feeling safe and trusting again…..hard hard work! 

Church….we are called to be about the hard hard work of raising each other up! Wherever that needs to happen….here…there…everywhere….raising people up! And we need to pray all along the way!

Peter’s mother-in-law is healed….not just for self…but healed into community. She is restored to the whole. It is a beautiful scene for sure. 

And sometimes it doesn’t look like that! Sometimes it looks completely different – completely chaotic – completely and utterly despairing. Sometimes healing doesn’t happen how we want it to.

That was true with my mother back in 1997 and 1998. She suddenly collapsed in our yard. Dad drove quickly to the emergency room. Within hours mom was diagnosed with a stage 4 cancerous brain tumor. She endured an extensive surgery just hours later. The next morning, about 6 am, the doctor informed my mother that she only had months to live. I had to tell each of my family members this news when they arrived later that morning. We were devastated.

Where was God in the midst of this? We weren’t soaring…we were despairing. We weren’t walking…we were fainting. What do prayers mean when this kind of news is handed to you?
Surrounded by the love of community….we did what we were called to do. We fought lovingly. We went to physical and speech therapy. We went to radiation. We went to chemo. We did special cancer diet programs. We got 2nd 3rd and 4thopinions. We cried. We laughed. We prayed. We questioned. We trusted God to lead the way.

Susan and I got married ten months after the diagnosis. My mom was there. She had beaten the 6 month prediction. Two weeks later, however, my mom passed away. The longest walk of my life thus far was from that hospice room to our car…I still remember the sights, sounds, and feelings of that day.

One of the many changes we experienced during that time with my mom….our prayers changed. Our prayers changed from cure my mom to heal us all…..cure my mom to heal us all.  This video illustrates what I mean by that……
Yes I too believe it is possible to not be cured….but healed. My mom and so many others have taught me how to fight to be cured, but even more so to be Healed Into Community. To be restored altogether differently. To see Jesus as the One who so yearns to raise us up that he goes to the greatest of lengths to show us that life and life will win…that death will not have the last word….that the church will always be the resurrection community that sings an Hallelujah! Even if…we can’t sing it ourselves. Even if….we stopped praying.

Jesus will not stop…Jesus will not stop…..May we never stop……May we never stop…..until all are healed…both here in this life and in the life that is to come. 

“Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.”

God lifts us up! Jesus lifts us up! The Spirit lifts us up! May we the church lift each other up! Alleluia Alleluia Amen.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Walking On Water (not on ice)

The words found in the 14th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew tell a story of Jesus walking on the water and commanding Peter to do the same. As Peter tries that defying task, he is successful for but a moment before sinking. Of course Jesus reaches down to save him and restore him to a place of safety, the boat. We can muse over the audacity of Peter to think he could do such a thing, the crazy talk of Jesus in encouraging someone to do such a thing, the other disciples for not trying themselves and for letting Peter attempt what seemed impossible by himself, and the sheer grace and power of Jesus and his ability to do what seems so incredible and against all odds. As our minds wander between these thoughts and questions, the one vision is clear. Jesus believes that Peter can do this, and because Jesus believes in him, it can be not just probable, but God-inspired possible. The ancient saying rings true, “With God all things are possible.” 

I have often mused over this story in trying to figure out all that Jesus is teaching us. At this point in the life of this congregation and with the momentum for missional living that I see taking place, four words come to mind in light of this text. Those words are: Poise, Power, Passion, and Perspective. 

When Jesus believes in us, our Poise can be strengthened. I am not talking about physical ability, but rather the poise that comes when our faith and confidence in something beyond ourselves is imagined and held onto. Certainly, without Jesus, Peter would not have come to the conclusion that he could walk on water, but with Jesus, the idea ushered forth from him was possible. The poise of faith that I have seen grow in people when serving others is nothing short of God-inspired. Thank you to those who step up and out to serve! 

When Jesus believes in us, our Power can be increased. I’m not talking about muscle, might, sheer brute strength, but rather the power that comes from the inside out. A spiritual power that is greater than one, and exponentially increased with each Christ-like relationship. Our power comes from God, our power comes from the living Christ, our power is generated by the fiery Holy Spirit. I see this in Peter in his first steps, and I have seen this in the active participation of so many in the acts of love that provide life. Power is grown in all and for all.

When Jesus believes in us, our Passion can be multiplied. I am not talking about passion as love for football or your favorite pair of jeans or for more stuff, but a passion that multiplies and grows with each passing day as we live out our faith callings. Peter was called to walk on the water. What are we all called to be about in our world? What is the voice of Jesus crying out to us? Does love, hopefulness, joy, need an increasing place in our world? I believe they do. We are the ones in whom this passion can be witnessed and through us living out passionate faith-filled lives we can bring that passion to bear in all things. I have been witness to an ever increasing passion within those who find themselves investing in their faith lives and others' faith journeys.

When Jesus believes in us, our Perspective can be clearer. When Jesus first called out to Peter, he squinted into the storm. So he asked again. Only then in hearing His voice could he take those first steps. The same is true for us. We need a Jesus perspective. We need his lens, his viewpoint, his desire, his vision, to be ours. Jesus seeks to give that to us. It is why he empowers us with each passing moment in his life. It is why God continues to come and dwell among us today. With a Jesus perspective, we can cast off that which holds us back or down, and we can be free to step out in faith and really live. 

We all are invited into a faith-filled journey of growing ourselves and this entire community in a discipleship faith. You cannot do that on the sideline. You cannot do that by yourselves. You cannot do that by staying the same. We do this together. We, like Peter, are invited to step out in trust and watch what God will do. I can say with confidence that you will be blessed with a strengthening poise, an increasing power, a multiplying passion, and a clearer perspective. What a gift that will be!

Step out…...Step up…...Step forward…...and trust Jesus to do the leading.
Pastor Chad

Friday, January 26, 2018

A Living Testimony

So many questions. The world is filled with them. It seems the more we know the less we know. 
Of utmost importance, when it comes to Jesus, what do we say and how do we respond to the following: 
I love you Lord because…
I need you Lord because…
I praise you Lord because…
I obey you Lord because…
I thank you Lord because…
I hope in you Lord because…
I trust in you Lord because…
I find joy in you Lord because…
I find peace in you Lord because…
We are made to be in relationship with Jesus and one another. How we articulate that relationship to others is very important. 
One key piece of every wedding that I am invited to preside over is to invite the couple to write a love letter to each other. I share snippets of those love letters during the wedding ceremony. In the love letter I invite them to address the following, “Why do you love each other so much? What are your hopes and dreams for your marriage relationship? What made it possible for you to give your lives to each other?” While challenging to do, the couples later express the meaning this brought to their wedding day. 
You have heard the phrase, “Keep the main thing the main thing!” Jesus is the main thing. Agape love is the main thing. Relationship is the main thing. 
God give us the words to express our love for you and the purpose you have for our lives.
Peace and Hope ,
Pastor Chad