How to discern a call from God (sermon supplement)

Here are some helpful thoughts and ideas that will hopefully help your understanding as we look at the life of Paul on April 8, 2018 and allow me to keep my messages focused on applicable content and shorter:-)

1. Timeline of Paul’s conversion. (Source: Paul the apostle by Robert E. Picirilli, pg. 52)

  • 33/34 AD conversion
  • 33/34 AD days in Damascus Acts 9:19-21
  • 33/34-35/36 AD time in Damascus Galatians 1:15-17
  • 36 AD ministry in Damascus Acts 9:22-25
  • 36 AD first return to Jerusalem Acts 9:26-29; Gal. 1:18-20
  • 36-42AD ministry in Tarsus Acts 9:30-31, Gal. 1:21-24
  • 42-43 AD ministry with Barnabas at Antioch, Acts 11:19-26
  • 44 AD second return to Jerusalem, for famine relief, Acts 11:27-30; 12:25 (Gal. 2:1-10)
  • 45-46 AD first missionary journey Acts 13:1-14:28

2. Paul’s hometown: Tarsus

A close look of the ancient city of Tarsus reveals that Paul’s hometown was no small town, middle of nowhere, but a busy metropolis of diverse culture and international commerce. Its strategic location explains its significance and success. It was a port city, yet also a favorite vacation spot for Roman dignitaries.

God shaped Paul’s mission to the gentiles through his upbringing in Tarsus. It was a bustling metropolis where many different cultures interacted. Paul’s parents likely were well off, yet strived to raise Paul according to the Jewish law. They likely sent him to Jerusalem when he was around 12 years old. He sat under Gamaliel for around 5 or 6 years. Gamaliel was the Grandson of Hillel, who was one of the most famous Jewish rabbis that ever lived. Paul would have learned the scriptures thoroughly and learned to debate in the question and answer style known as the “diatribe”.

3. Paul’s conversion and the death of his dreams.

I believe that one of the many things Paul would have wrestled with during his time in Arabia is the loss of his personal dreams. Paul was working his way up the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court. He was gaining influence in Jerusalem and on the fast track. His conversion meant he would no longer pursue the dream he likely had since leaving Tarsus around the age of 12 years old to study under Gamaliel.

God makes trees, not tables.

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.- John 1:3

I heard TD Jakes make this statement the other day and it made me smile. I love the fact that God allows you and I to use creativity, even though we cannot truly create anything. Everything we make was given to us in raw materials, yet those raw materials call to us to create. God made the tree not the table. The table is yours to build!

Every thing you make glorifies God who gave us the materials. Every idea glorifies God who gave you a brain.

This is church

In Bill Hybel’s great book, “Axiom”, he wrote a chapter called “This is church”. In that chapter, Hybels describes how there is the jobs or tasks that a pastor does, but the defining moments are the interruptions- the husband who needs marital counseling, the mourning mother, or the child who asks a simple question about God. In the heat of the moment, a pastor is tempted to view such detours from budget proposals, sermon writing, or even leading a meeting.

Lately I have had many of these moments, whether they were conversations over lunch, discussions following a sermon, or even surprise interruptions. Each time I’ve heard the whisper of God saying, “THIS IS CHURCH”. What a privilege it is to be interrupted by the will of God!

Perhaps you too have been at work and had this privilege. What seemed like an inconvenience becomes the point of your entire day. A simple interruption turns you into the hand, feet, and even mouthpiece of Jesus. This week I challenge you to anticipate these moments and instead of feeling unproductive or distracted, say to yourself, “THIS IS CHURCH!”

The Wooly Mammoth is back

In an effort to become a better writer and to process some of my current thoughts on the Christian life, I thought I’d start writing here again. My main goal will be to write something interesting on each post.

Today I thought I’d write about a book I just checked out at the library. It is called, “Wooly- The true story of the quest to revive one of history’s most iconic extinct creatures”. Yup. Jurassic Park is real. At this moment, Dr. George Church is attempting to bring the Wooly Mammoth back from extinction. I’m about half way through the book and I’ll spare you the technical details. Here is a quick summary of what I’ve read so far: 1. Dr. Church is wicked smart. 2. Scientist have mapped the DNA of the Wooly Mammoth. 3. Asian Elephants are the closest relative to the Wooly Mammoth.

As I read this book, I have thought a lot about the theological implications, the moral implications, and the practical implications. One of the most interesting theories that the book proposes concerns global warming. Most people believe that global warming caused the extinction of the wooly mammoths. This book flips it around and says that it is possible that the mass extinction of the mammoths caused global warming (back then). In essence, the presence of hundreds of thousands or even millions of large animals walking in Siberia would cool the ground several degrees. As man began to hunt the mammoths to extinction, the ground began to warm. As for what actually happened, who knows? I love to see scientist who openly challenge the accepted views of other scientist.

This book has spurred on many theological thoughts in my mind, but most of all it has drawn me back to the awesomeness of God’s creation. The amount of information in a strand of DNA to the uniqueness of man’s intellect. God is an amazing designer. Some people might be put off by the topic, but I am intrigued. I once heard TD Jakes say, “God makes trees, not tables.” It is amazing what man can do when he examines everything God has given him in this world!

Thoughts from a serial fundraiser: When is it ok to ask for money?

The first time I ever stood in front of a group or an individual and asked for money, I felt ashamed.  I felt as if I was begging someone to do something they shouldn’t have to do.  I felt like a panhandler.

In 2006, I asked my family and friends to give so that I could start a church.  I felt ashamed, but something crazy happened–> we started a church!

In 2010, I asked my family and friends to give money to start another church.  This might have been a silly thing to ask, after all, they had already given me money to start a church.  Only this time it was different.  I felt as if God had put a vision of a church on my heart that needed to be started.  So I asked and people gave.  And our church has led hundreds of people to Jesus in America and Peru.  We’ve seen God do great things because people give.

Each year I ask people to give towards the vision of our church and towards me personally as I go on mission trips.  I’ve learned the secret to fundraising is to have something that is truly worth giving to.  Instead of just asking for money, I now understand that I am really asking people to join me on a journey.

Fundraising is an opportunity. When someone gives towards a mission trip, they are going on a mission with me.  When someone gives towards the vision of our church, they are building the church with us.  God has given some people a spiritual gift for generosity.  They have money and love using it to further God’s vision.  If I don’t invite them to give with me or come on this journey with me, then they’ll never be able to do what God has called them to do.  And if they aren’t called to give, then I should respect and accept that too.

I’m not sure there has been one worthwhile ministry endeavor that I have accomplished in which someone didn’t join in with me financially.  We win together.  I succeed only when people join in my journey and vice versa.

So here is the short answer:

Never ask people for money, always invite people on a mission!

Many people are called to give to different things, but I’ll never be ashamed again to invite people to give towards something I am passionate about and I’ll never get offended if someone asks me to give to something that they are passionate about.  The only thing that truly offends me when people ask me to give towards something that they aren’t willing to give towards; something that they aren’t passionate about.  That is truly a shame.

For me, I am so thankful for the many people that have invested in God’s mission by investing in me!

 

Why are you not happy today?

Everyday I meet people that seemed overwhelmed by problems in life.  I talk with people that feel trapped by decisions that they’ve made, yet they feel powerless to make new decisions.  So my thoughts this morning focus on how blessed we really are in this life.

Here is a quote that captures my mood this morning:

“Concentrate on counting your blessings and you’ll have little time to count anything else.”  – Woodrow Kroll

As a born again Christian, I am overwhelmed by the grace of God everyday.  I have had rebellious thoughts and actions almost every day of my life, yet God still loves me.  He has and will forgive me.  I struggle to see any reason to view my life as anything but blessed beyond measure.  My blessings flow not from my circumstances, which go from good to bad, but from my heart, which is renewed every morning through prayer, meditation, and scriptures.

When I was a teenager, I was good at focusing on the troubles in life.  I would see pain in almost everything.  I am fully aware of the struggles in the world and dedicate my life and ministry to serving those in need.  I cannot, however, understand the plight that I see so many people who live where I live, drive the streets where I drive, make way more money than I make, yet miss out on this grace and freedom that God has shown us.  

My daughter’s Ethiopian name is Ediliwit.  It means “the lucky one”.  In essence, it means blessed.  It encompasses how I feel about life.  Her entry into this life was a hard life.  I would not wish it on anyone.  Her first year of life caused struggles that remain to this day and will be a challenge for her always.  But she is still blessed.  God has given her every opportunity to sieze.  If she becomes trapped by her decisions, she will have the freedom to make new ones.  Today is a great day and we truly are blessed.  

This morning I awoke early to spend time with God and thank Him for all that He has given me. 

I’m a bad dad.  (A short example of why I need grace)

This morning I woke up my kids to get them ready for school.  After sending the first two off, I headed home to wake up my teenager.  He’s notoriously hard to rouse in the morning.  After repeated attempts to get him out of the sack, I told him, “The next time I come in here, I’ll be pouring a glass of water on your head.”  

10 minutes go by and nothing.

So I get a glass of water and head to his room.  As I pour it on his face, he spryly jumps out of bed and tries to take a swing at me as I laugh.  Then he said something that made me feel awful…

“Dad, I don’t have to go to school this morning. I am going to the Endocrinologist office this morning and this was a chance to sleep in.”

Sometimes I suck as a dad.   I thought about telling him he needed to get up anyway, but instead I appologized and bargained with him to make it right.  He forgave me and I’ll be taking him lunch tomorrow.

When Did Six Flags get rid of that Ride?

Last year, my family had season passes to six flags.  Each time I would go, I would think about a different ride that I remembered or had heard about.  I always felt as if those rides had only recently been removed.  So, I did some random research out of curiosity to find out when my favorite Six Flags over Texas rides were removed. It made me feel old.

Spindletop- RIP 1989.

Spindletop-1978-1The Spindletop was removed in 1989.  The Spindletop was a ride that you would enter into a vertical tube and it would start spinning.  Eventually, the floor would drop out and everyone (and everything would stick to the side).  I fondly remember a guy emptying his pockets on the wall and seeing his wallet and cigarrette pack stick to the wall.  Another favorite activity was to try and climb the wall so that you would fall when the ride stopped.

Spinakker- 1995

spinnaker_a_117Added in 1977, the Spinakker was a ride that would start out spinning horizontally and rise to spin vertically.  Apparently, Linda Carter was there to sign autographs when it was opened. It was among the many “rite of passage” rides.  As a child I was scared of it, but took a step towards manhood when I finally rode it.  The Spinakker was moved to Fiesta Texas and renamed the Wagon Wheel.

Chevy Show-RIP 1984

The Chevy show was a ride that wasn’t a ride.  It was just a closed in pavilion that showed a movie from the 1st person perspective.  It would make you dizzy as you “rode” down the roller coaster or flew in a plane.  It is also well rumored that older kids would make out there.  All I know is that it offered air conditioning on a hot day.

Casa Magnetica- 

 
One of my favorite attractions was a tour through Casa Magnetica.  It was a house that was one big optical (and every other sense) illusion.  Fruit seemed to roll uphill and people stood sideways.  This place facinated me.

I don’t know exactly when this was closed. I assume the early 90’s or late 80’s. It was briefly reopened in 2011 for the 50th anniversary of Six Flags.

http://www.guidetosfot.com/attractions/rides/casamagnetica/

 There are several more memories, but those are the big ones I think of when I go to the park.

We did what they said couldn’t be done!

In the past week, we’ve had a number of contractors or people come into our new church space and ask, “When will you guys move in?”  Each time we told them, “This Sunday”, they immediately laughed or looked at us with disbelief.  

But we did it.

And by we, I mean our awesome church members, who volunteered late hours and every Sunday in January and February to make it happen.  It has been incredible to watch so many people work together on various projects.  

   

  

  

  

  

Connection Point Church is (soft) launching this Sunday

This past Sunday was our largest non-holiday attendance at CPC.  It was also the last Sunday in our current space.  This Sunday we are moving into our new, larger church space.  Our new space is more than double our current space and will allow us to grow beyond our current capacity.  

A soft launch means that we are moving into the new space, but we do not consider it 100% complete.  

The lobby will be missing some furniture.  Many of the new signs and details are not quite ready.  We consider it a soft launch because it allows us to work out the Sunday kinks in our new space.  We are making many upgrades to our church.  We are tweaking how we check people in, how we do kids ministry (now that we have more rooms), and how we communicate our vision.  

Our Grand Opening Day will be on Easter Sunday, March 27th. 

 

Here is a rendering of our new sign, which should be in place by Easter Sunday
 
So what can we expect this week?

A great service in a great new space!  Our worship team will be leading us in some awesome worship from a great new stage with added lights.  My wife and I will be continuing our sermons series called, “LOVE DOCTOR”.  This week we will be tag team preaching on the topic of marriage.  

I hope you will pray for us and even stop by this Sunday.  Jesus is doing great things at Connection Point Church!

The four biggest secrets to a great marriage (part 1)

I just started preaching a marriage series at our church.  This series is basically the result of more than a decade of counseling others in their marriages, preparing new couples to be married, and from my own Marraige.  These are (in my opinion) the most important keys to a successful, lifelong marriage.

#1- Understand the real definition of love- COVENANT

Imagine how your decisions would change if you knew you would never leave your current job.  You would not be promoted and you could not be fired.  That knowledge would affect your decision making.

Perhaps you would decide-

  • “I’m going to start treating everyone better because I’m stuck here.  I might as well enjoy where I’m at.”
  • “I’m going to stop looking for ways to put myself ahead of everyone, I’m just going to try and do my job to the best of my ability”
  • “If I’m going to be around these people for the rest of my life, I’m going to see if we can all be happy”
  • “I’m not going to engage in this fight because even if I win, I’m stuck with this person tomorrow.  I might as well make peace.”

or perhaps you would decide-

  • “I hate these people and I just don’t care anymore.  I’m going to just be miserable forever”
  • “I’m stuck here, I might as well get as much as I can out of this- I’ll cheat, lie, steal, and hurt whoever I need to make sure I’m good.”
  • “I’m stuck around these people for the rest of my life, I might as well make sure I’m happy and just tune them out because they don’t matter”
  • “I’m going to win these arguments and let everyone know I’m right, even if it means we won’t talk to each other for months.”

 

 

 

 

 

God defines love as a covenant, not a feeling.


The Bible defines God’s love for us as a Covenant.  A covenant is the strongest promise that can be made.  A marriage covenant is this strong promise aimed at a spouse and equally bound to God.  That’s right.  When we get married, we are bonding ourselves to God that we will never abandon this promise.  Even if our spouse deserves it.  Our promise was to God, not simply a person.

So if it a commitment for life, then your perspective should change.

If I’m committing to marriage for life, I should make wise choices.

(I preached on this topic Sunday.  You can listen here)

The investment is paying off!

Over the past few years, I’ve tried to take my (almost) teenager to breakfast (almost) every week.  Most of the time, I am not sure it is making any difference.  I try to have one key quality that I hope to instill in him and talk about that over breakfast.  Lately we’ve been talking about the Golden Rule and empathy.  (Something that I don’t think most people, let alone teenagers grasp). 

This past week, he came to me and confided in me a decision he was considering.  I was so proud that of him in many ways. I was excited that he had considered different perspective.  I was excited that he came to me BEFORE he made the decision.  I was excited that he trusted me enough to know I would guide him and support him, not try to control him.

My big takeaway from this is that I need to continue to intentionally pour into my kids, even when it doesn’t seem to matter.

The Art of Spiritual Conversations

As we prepare to move into our new space next week, I am excited at the idea of my new office.  It has been years since I have had an office to call my own.  I haven’t had a functional bookshelf to house my many books in almost 10 years.  I’m even trying to decide what our office hours policy will be.  

One of my convictions is that I won’t completely abandon my coffee shop study, however.  Last Wednesday is a perfect example of why.

As I was examining some financial minutiae, one of my friends that I met 4 or 5 years ago at a coffee shop came over to say hi.  Although we usually say “hello” and chat for a moment, this conversation quickly transformed into me sharing the gospel with him (not the first time nor will it be the last).  As I was talking with him, I was amazed at this conversation because sharing the gospel in a coffee shop (it’s cliche, I know) was not on my radar today.  I had stuff to do.  I was quickly able to rejoice in my heart as I told him why I love Jesus.  He told me some of his convictions, namely that he doesn’t worry about anything beyond this life.

He said, “You are the only friend I have that I can have a conversation like this.  Everyone else gets so defensive”.  It was this comment that I think is at the heart of having a sincere spiritual conversation with someone who isn’t a Christian.  I don’t want to come off as someone who shares the gospel everyday in a coffee shop, but I do try to keep my eyes open for opportunities, especially when I’m talking with people that I’ve been praying for or trying to talk with about Jesus.

If you’ve ever said, ‘I’m not good at sharing my faith or having spiritual conversations’, I offer you one suggestion.  Don’t have an agenda.  Simply get to know people.  Eventually the conversation will get spiritual if you are truly a Christ follower.  Usually this happens when the person makes a claim that doesn’t fit my beliefs.  When someone makes a claim that I disagree with, instead of confronting them, I simply tell them what I believe.  I don’t have to change their mind.  I simply tell them what I see through my belief in God or my Christian worldview.  

Here are a few things I’ve noticed about starting a spiritual conversation:

A spiritual conversation should be easy to start.  It shouldn’t feel awkward to tell someone my beliefs, especially if I really believe those beliefs.
A spiritual conversation should be an easy conversation, not a debate that must be defended at all costs.  There shouldn’t be a loser in a conversation.

A spiritual conversation should flow out of my existing thoughts and beliefs.  If I haven’t taken the time to form coherent beliefs and how to articulate my beliefs, I will always struggle in a spiritual conversation.  I will become defensive or at the very least, uninteresting.  The key to a spiritual conversation (or any conversation, for that matter) is to have something to say.  I form my beliefs through personal study in the mornings, listening to others, and most of all- conversing with other Christians.  If I never study, listen, or converse with Christians about my beliefs, I’ll never be able to articulate them with others.

That’s just my two cents….

I’m going back to Peru (and you can too!)

 I am headed back to Peru this Summer!  Since 2012, we have started 21 churches in Peru and seen over 1475 people enter into a relationship with Jesus!  

If you’d like to support me, you can do so here!

Here is a recap of some of our work in Puno:

The hospitality of the Quechua people is unmatched!
  

Juliaca City is the epitome of a small town airport!
  

We were rockin’ the old school tech. And this wasn’t the Holiday Inn!
  

The fellowship of the team is one of my favorite parts of a trip!
  
Pastor Rene oversees the churches in Puno. I talked with him a few days ago
  
What do you do when the cops come? Tell them about Jesus!
  
  I love hearing the Quechua language being prayed!
One of the small churches we helped to start and strenghten.
  
Leading people to Jesus in a beautiful city!
  
  

    

The hospitality of the Quechua people is unmatched!