What’s Your Story

Thanks to Donald Miller’s book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, I’ve been thinking a lot about story. What is the story of our life?

What’s the climax?

Who’s the narrator?

Where does the arc begin?

Who’s the protagonist?

Some of these may have answers. While for others, we may never. But let us not fool ourselves, we are all in a story. The choice we have is whether we choose to enter into it and make it the best we can or sit and wonder what our story could be like.

Too often we allow comfort to set in and we never take a chance. I think, how would Jesus’ disciple Peter’s narrative be different if he never stepped out of the boat to walk upon the water (Matt 14). What would the world look like if Dr. Martin Luther King never dreamed of equality and took a step? How many generations would be stuck in hopeless abject poverty if not for an immigrant braving oceans and deserts with all but hope?

The problem being, so often we need an upsetting moment to push us out of comfort into the story we were born to live. For Peter, it was the storm. For Dr. King, it was the brutality of racism and hate. The immigrant, it is loss, governments, and desperation.

Miller writes,

“Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they won’t enter into a story.”

Comfort is just that, comfortable. While comfort is vital from time to time, it can also be like a pot of cold water with a frog upon a stove (not that I have ever eaten or cooked frogs… yet). The water is cold, and the frog is content and comfortable, but slowly the heat is turned up until it’s dead in the water. However, if you put it in hot water, it knows it needs to escape. You might say it knows that the meal it’s being prepared for isn’t the type of story it wants to live.

While comfort can be great in a moment or even a season, it can be a dangerous trap that pauses the story of our life.

As I write in Hidden Faces: Discovering our True Identity in Christ,

“It’s easy to be crippled from starting the journey God has for us. It can feel daunting. It’s hard when it can mean leaving the secure job or disappointing a friend or family member. Too often we have to lose the job or the family member or have a health scare to take the step we should take. I know that was what happened to me. It was not until I lost a job that I took steps. It’s easy, especially when you have a young family, to play it safe instead of braving the oceans of discovery that lie before us.”

What is it that your story is waiting to write?

You may not even know. The problem being is that comfort is of no help. If we always escape the uncomfortable, we will never learn what it can teach us.

What if…

we decided to try something new?

we went on that trip we always longed?

we sacrificed and took control of our finances instead of the comfort of excess?

we risked our heart and entered that relationship?

Who knows what it is? Well, maybe you do or perhaps not yet. As long as we choose the “Kingdom of comfort where [you] are king[/queen]”, to quote Delirious, you will forever live in wonder.

There will never be an arc.

You will never reach the climax.

You will never know what it’s like to be the hero/heroine.

You will be a frog slowing cooking in your comfortable pot of slowly warming water and your juices.

Now, doesn’t that sound lovely…. not so much.

Jeremiah declared the words of God Judah and Jerusalem a truth that I believe also applies to us.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future… You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and I will bring you back from captivity.”

Jeremiah 29:11, 13-14

Let’s seek the discomfort of God and allow Him to release us from the captivity of comfort. Let’s step into the plan, destiny–braving the ocean and stepping out of the boat.

Where do you find comfort?

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Grace ≥Forgiveness

One of the revolutions that Jesus taught us was the power of forgiveness. During a time of revenge and equal compensation, Jesus flips everything on its head and says, “Forgive.”

The problem is forgiveness is hard!

Yet it is freeing.

Sometimes freedom is hard. Sometimes freedom is a push. But when you taste freedom, you realize just how worth it, it is. As Cook and Baldwin point out in their fantastic book Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness, “Forgiveness is not compromise.” However, when is enough, enough?

One day Jesus has a little powwow with his disciples. They are talking about so many of life’s issues. Greatness, sin, hurt. It is here when Peter, whether it be that he takes exception or just requires a little clarity, asks an important question that we have probably all asked.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Matt 18:21-22

When confronted with how many times we are to forgive the repentant a person Jesus answer is, always. While Peter wants to quantify the number, Jesus states that true repentance’s response is continual true forgiveness. As Russell Brand points out,


“Forgiveness means letting go. It means being willing to accept that we are all mortals flawed and suffering, imperfectly made and trying our best.”

This doesn’t mean that there are no boundaries or consequence. It just means that both parties choose to live free of the infraction. Jesus articulates one of these critical boundaries as he explains what forgiveness is supposed to look like in our lives.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Mt 18:23–35

What becomes clear is that the reason we are to forgive is that we have been forgiven. No matter how many times we fall at the feet of Jesus confessing our wrongdoing, admitting that we can do nothing to make it right, Christ welcomes us. Again, Brand rightly points out,


“How can I expect forgiveness if I am unwilling to forgive?”

Though we live and fight the double standard that seems natural to us, Christ calls us to forgive just as we have been forgiven.

However, if we think forgiveness is all there is and you are waiting on the sidelines holding that grudge, waiting to forgive that person when they finally ask for it, you might have a rude awakening. While Jesus talks about the power of forgiveness, the reason that you can forgive is that we have done something first—we have extended grace.

So what is grace? To this, I look to people who are much smarter than me. Bell and Bell write,

“Grace doesn’t brush over our sins and failures and faults—it sees them clearly in all their Technicolor mess.”

Grace isn’t about ignoring what has happened. It sees it in its fullness. It considers the immense brokenness in what has happened. Brennan Manning points out,


“The gospel of grace announces, Forgiveness precedes repentance.”

Grace goes before. It is the first move. Grace says, whether you repent or not I’m going to be free and I’m going to free you. They may choose, and we often to do, to remain captive, but we refuse to and refuse to put them in the cell.

But why? Shouldn’t we want justice—for things that were wrong to be made right? Yes, we should. However, it is knowing that God is the perfect judge and choosing to say, in the words of Sting, “I could be you in another life, in another set of circumstances.” The apostle Paul explains grace to the church in Rome like this

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Rom 5:8

While we were still opposed to who God is—while we even walked our own direction—while we still admitted no wrongdoing, Christ gave his life for us. The day of the crucifixion, Jesus could have taken himself off the cross and said, “forget about helping all you ungrateful people.” Or while in the grave, as we waited for Saturday to end said, “well, they abandon me in a minute. They don’t really believe. Peace out.”

Though we didn’t deserve it, God showed us, love. He made the first move. This is the picture of a desperate Father running to his kid. Augustin writes,

“He did not delay, but ran crying out loud by his words, deeds, death, life, descent, and ascent—calling us to return to him.”

God knew we couldn’t do it on our own. That’s what the law was all about. God stoops his ideal to reach us. However, He knew we could never do it, that is why the law is proceeded with, “when you fail.” Though we had no power to pick ourselves up out of the muck of life, Christ can. If we back up from verse 8 to 6, we God’s love shining through. The Message puts verse 6 like this,


“Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway.”

Ro 5:6

If asking forgiveness is putting the power into someone else’s hands, then grace is God saying, I will put the power back in your hands. However, this isn’t power so you can lord over others. This is the power that allows you to step out of the prison cell Christ has opened for you.

This power Christ puts back in our hands is the power of humility. It’s the power to say, I can’t do it on my own, I need the eternal God. While forgiveness can create superiority, us waiting for someone else to look up and say I’m sorry. God gives grace. Grace lifts the other up and admits you are not superior, we are all the same. We all make bad choices, some more destructive than others, but we are always one decision away from finding ourselves in the same shoes. Grace is saying, but for God, I too would be lost to the eternal consequences of my misdeeds.

Grace is always greater than forgiveness

Check out the resources used in this post

Your churches prognosis doesn’t have to be a diagnosis.

Just because you have been pronounced dead, it doesn’t mean that is the end.

Sure, death seems final. After all, the lungs and heart are no longer pumping, and the brain is no longer firing. Yet, I’ve heard of people coming back to life.

My father is in the military and has had the opportunity to meet some exciting fellows over the years. One time he invited his friend who was in the Australian special forces over for dinner. He began to tell us stories of grand adventures as if they were pulled straight out of a Robert Ludlum book. Amid these stories I presume to be true due to their wild nature––without revealing too many details (after all, if he told he would have to kill me…)–he stated that three times he awoke with a priest over him pronouncing his last rights.

Clearly, death is not the final note!

Just because someone else has pronounced you dead that doesn’t mean you are. You aren’t dead until you decide you are, not until you give in to death (which isn’t necessarily a bad–a natural life cycle has death at the end).

What I am alluding to isn’t the death of the physical body, although this may certainly apply. What I am thinking of is all the talk of the cycle of an organization or a church. Whether it is Les McKeown’s wheel of Predictable success or a someone like Paul Borden’s life cycle of a church, an organization can find themselves pegged on the wheel and deem themselves to have no hope. These are not to tell you to roll over and die. No! These tools are to help you diagnose symptoms. Whether in business or the church, these resources are meant as a prognosis, not a diagnosis. Yet, big and small churches alike confuse the two and accept a lesser fate then they should.

Congregations all across the world have been pronounced dead by communities, politicians, philosophers, and most shockingly, other church leaders. While it may be true that these congregations are operating in a “death Rattle” (to use Les McKeown’s phrase, until the congregation either gives up or in, there is always a chance that there can be life again.

In the vein of Jesus, many parables about plants (mustard seeds, scattering seeds, and vineyards). I would like to tell you about my orchid.

Two years ago on a Mother’s Day (or was it anniversary…or maybe it was Valentines), I bought my wife an orchid. I had heard on an episode of Stuff You Should Know that they were a pretty resilient flower, which is perfect for my wife. Let’s just say my wife is the place plants go to die. My wife tended the plant while it was in bloom, but as soon as the petals fell, she pronounced it dead. Yet, we couldn’t bring ourselves to throw it away. It didn’t have flowers or buds. Just the stem was sticking up from green leaves.

The green leaves should have been a sign to us that life was possible. We just figured that there was no hope that the leaves and the stems were merely signs of past life and not the present.

The plant stayed in this state for over a year.

Over a year of no flowers–no buds.

Our neighbour is one of those weird plant people. What I mean is her plants live… When she saw our plant, she just couldn’t help but perform her plant voodoo on it.

She explained how the orchid wasn’t dead. She did this water and drain thing and told us to only give it a little water once a week.

Now that is my kind of plant.

We watered once a week.

Just over two years after this plant had lost its last flower, it now sprung life. Currently, multiple buds are ready to bloom.

Just because things seem dead, it doesn’t mean they are. Sometimes we just need an expert to give us a little nudge on in the right direction, on how to foster life.

It is recorded that Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me?

Jn 15:1–4

What we first must do is yield to God and allow Him to prune our life. We also need him to prune the branches in our churches. Trimming the dead branches off, God brings the plant back to life. The sacred cows get thrown away, selfishness departs, and desire to see people encounter the risen Christ remains and grows.

We can also learn a little from our neighbours. Like my wife and I did about our orchid. Authors like Thom Rainer, Rich Birch, Daniel Im, or Nelson Searcy have great resources for you to begin to trim branches, see the prognosis, and foster life.

Just because you have been pronounced dead, it doesn’t mean it’s the end. There could be new life right around the corner, you just need the knowledge and tools to make life happen.

We must yield the gardener, God. We must be willing to hear the advice of those who have travelled this road before. We must see the prognosis is not always a diagnosis.

Where have you seen a prognosis be accepted aa a death sentence?

Check out the resources used in this post

Prayer isn’t a strategy; it’s communication

The other day I was listening to a two church leaders talk about all the different strategies to help your church grow. The guest, while speaking of the different strategies they utilized and put resources together for, the guest referenced their resource for strategic prayer.

Prayer is a great strategy.

Saying this, I am unsure if we should be totting prayer as a strategy. What they were referencing are strategic prayers that will help grow your church.

Is prayer important? YES!

Does God want more people to attend your church? Probably (if it’s dysfunctional, God wants function then growth).

It just doesn’t sit right.

After all, prayer is a conversation between the Almighty God and the people whom he loves.

Prayer denotes intimacy. It isn’t the cloud downloading knowledge, it is fostering a relationship.

Imagine you’re happily married (maybe you don’t have to, perhaps it’s just the happily part… for another blog). Now pretend that you had strategic conversations with your spouse. This conversation would be to help your interests.

But you’re not to have your own interests. Marriage is a partnership.

We need to pray that the Holy Spirit prepares hearts. We need to pray for strength and diligence to tell of the Good News of Jesus’ incredible love. However, prayer isn’t a strategy to increase your platform or increase your metrics. Prayer isn’t a strategy; it’s communication with God.

What do you think? How have you seen prayer used?

3 Things you Should do Before Leaving a Church

“I need a church that meets my needs” as if we’re a pre-teen relationship and not the body of Christ, people leave the churches they attend all the time. Where I live, there’s a known circuit, with a few new churches entering the loop. This is not unique to where I live.

With all these people going from one church to another, we need to ask ourselves, What are the steps we should take before we head for green pastures (or pastors).

Here is my take on the three steps you should take

(1) Is it personal or theological? Evaluate.

Personal issues can happen in various ways. Some are serious, but usually, they are not. Whenever you are in a community of people, there will be personality clashes. We see it on sports teams–we see it in the workplace–we see it in church. Chester and Timmis write,

“Community may sound exciting in theory, but in practice it is also painful and messy. When you share your lives with people, you can be sure you will annoy one another! But grace makes us humble.”

The church is called to live in the community it is designed for, but as these authors point out, it is difficult. However, as they also note, grace becomes a powerful tool. Most times, when something gets “personal” in a bad way, and we want to leave a church, it is for a minor issue. Usually a different opinion, an offence over a statement, or perception about a situation.

Way too often, people are easily offended and leave a church, not reconciling the relationships nor feelings.

This is not how we have been called to act!

We are called to love one another! Jesus stated in the book of John, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Community isn’t our calling. It’s to love each other. Community is the result of the love. “Those who are in love with community, destroy community;” writes Bonhoeffer. “..those who love people, build community.” We need each other. If we throw away relationships like used paper towel, we are left alone with a mess and no one to help us clean it up. As the old Italian proverb says, “The one who drinks alone, chokes.”

Personal issues are just that–personal. Usually, it has something to do with you. If it does have more to do with the other person, then you talk about it. {spoiler alert}

The Church needs different personalities. That includes the weird and difficult ones. Plus, how do you know you are not the weird and difficult one? Just because your friends tell you you’re not doesn’t mean a thing (who is to say they don’t fall in the weird and difficult category too!).

I believe there would be a lot less movement from church to church if we all gave each other a little grace. What if instead of leaving we were part of the solution. What if God wants to use you as an agent of change towards His grace and love?

The second part of this is theological. Just like personal, so much of this is your interpretation. We need to weigh whether the theological issue is a small issue or a significant issue. Paul told Timothy that the church was not to “argue about words.” Churches argue about some of the most foolish, small, unimportant theological issues. We should be able to have disagreements on matters without it meaning splitting a church. After all, we are to be known by our love.

Yes, of course, there are significant differences. Egalitarian vs. Complementarian–Calvinist vs. Arminian/openness–sola Scriptura vs. traditional readings. Such differences can make it hard to find theological unity. They can tend to be distractions to our growth in Christ. So while we are to love each other in Christ, we can grow deeper in our faith when we can find agreement on significant issues.

There are also small issues. Who wrote 2 Peter? Is Job or Jonah a parable? Was Jesus born on Dec 25 or not? (idk). No need to fight! These are nothing to trifle over. These are insignificant, and it is only your pride stopping you from growing together.

We must allow different opinions to spread their wings. If not, we are saying that our interpretation of God and the Scripture are infallible. I hope we all know that that isn’t true for any of us.

(2) Pray. And then pray some more.

Before you pray about whether you should leave a community or not, you should be praying for the people/pastors/deacons/elders who you have an issue with.

Whether it be a personal issue or theological issue, our humanity can get in the way. We can be set off by a comment, opinion or body language, and it can skew our whole entire thought process. I love what Andy Stanley says about other’s words,

“When someone’s words stir something inside of you, remember, it’s inside you. That makes it a you issue. You need to own it.”

Yes, they may have issues, but what is happening in you at that moment is “a you” thing, and you need to take it to God. Often we react when things begin to stir. While accountability and understanding are essential, they need to happen within the context of love. In the words of the Apostle Paul, we are a body. We want the body working in wholeness.

There is a caveat though. Your temptation will be to pray for God to change their mind/attitude/heart. That’s normal. After all, you are the offended or the one in the right, and God clearly needs to work in their heart…..

Not so fast.

Don’t be so self-righteous. We are all broken people who are addicted to our selfishness.

When you pray for them, you need to be praying that God blesses them and pours His amazing love upon them. After all, Jesus did say to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. I believe your heart will begin to be changed, after all, that is all you can control.

When you pray for them, it helps you see them for who they are–a child of God. It helps you push past the issue and see a God-loved-child who is a part of the body of Christ. It will also help you see that your battle isn’t against that person or their opinion/worldview but,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Ephesians 6:12

The Pastor isn’t your enemy. Dorthy, the worship leader, isn’t your nemesis. Just because Tom has an opinion about everything and feels free to share it despite how it makes others feel, that doesn’t mean he’s the villain. Our enemy is the brokenness from Hell itself that is ravishing each and every one of our lives, the brokenness that God has come to break.

Pray blessing on the person or church and ask God to increase your love for them. Do it until it happens. Only as your love increases to a burden are you ready for step three.

(3) Have a responsible, adult conversation. Not an email, text or facebook message.

If we never talk about our issues and each other’s issues, we can never be iron sharpening iron. If you never talk about what is on your heart, don’t assume the other person knows. Living as a body is hard. Just look at your own body. You need to exercise and to eat right as a whole unit, or there will be problems. Talking with each other in loving, responsible, and sensible ways is all a part of the exercise. To wait until you are in crisis is neglecting the body. It is like the person who never takes care of themselves and is then surprised when they have a significant health issue.

This conversation shouldn’t be one where you say that you are leaving nor you threatening to leave. The discussion should be about the health of the relationship, and that person should be the prime directive. After all, now that you have prayed and have a burden for all parties, you should be more concerned about the health of the person and church to which there is an issue.

If your first time discussing the issue you have is when you are wading a threat or say that you are leaving, that is your wrong, and you need to repent. Remember, you can only control your heart.

If you have thought it through, prayed for, and discussed, only then is it appropriate to consider leaving and that discussion needs to be filled with love and care, even if it is only on your end. It is also a discussion that needs to happen face to face. It will probably hurt, but it is the most healthy way to experience an amputation (after all, we are a body).

There are a few other steps that could be added. However, I believe if you follow these three basic steps, you will be along the road to help yourself and our churches be a much healthier place.

What are some steps that you would add?

Check out the resources used in this post

GUEST BLOG: When anxiety is a narrative …

Written by Sarah Trombley

Most of my life has been filled with fear of impending doom.

Ok, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but I guess you could call it anxiety.

I haven’t been diagnosed or anything, and for the most part, it’s manageable, but I spend a lot of time contemplating the worst-case scenario, waiting for rejection, betrayal, and the poop to hit the fan. It’s not fun, and sometimes the fear can be debilitating. Not in a physical way, but I find myself stagnant with the narrative of anxiety over my life. Afraid of letting people in, and being hurt. Fearful of trying and failing. Getting hopeful, about what God has next and in an instant, worrying and ruling myself out. What I’m left with is isolation and the status quo.

I know that that’s not what I’m called to. I know that my fears are the enemies lies, but here I sit, on my couch, analyzing every conversation, wondering if good things will come to an end and if I’ve failed once again.

This past week I was reading a message I had written many years ago, and I was a little annoyed. You see, anytime I speak at church, I seem to be drawn to the same scriptures. It all just seems cliche, I thought. Doesn’t God have anything more to say to me?

Today I was reading What is the Bible? by Rob Bell, and I came across this quote,

“… it’s easy to spend – or more accurately, waste – an extraordinary amount of time and energy on things that we can’t control. Worry is lethal to thriving because it’s a failure to be fully present. Worrying about something means you’re there, not here — stuck ruminating on the future, not enjoying the present. Jesus teaches us to be fully present in this moment, not missing a thing right here, right now.”

These words spoke to me, a message that is not new to me but is still so needed. While soaking it all in, my fears of the “what if’s” starting creeping back and in that moment God reminded me of the verse that he often speaks over me, you know, the one that’s so cliché,

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

This is indeed a familiar lesson for me. That God is in control, he has good plans, and I don’t need to be afraid. If you’re like me, you’ve heard it a thousand times before, but today I needed to listen to it, and it was fresh and new and powerful. See when you’re like me, and you struggle with anxiety and fear, you need to be reminded that God is in control. He loves us, and he wants what’s best for us. Even when life seems messy and doesn’t make any sense,

HE HAS A PLAN.

In my fear, I keep people at bay, I stay in my comfort zone, and in vain, I try to control. I sometimes joke that I have a fear of missing out (FOMO). Seriously though, in my anxiety or fear of missing out, I miss out on the plans God has for me. I rule my self out or tell myself I’m just not ready yet. How much time have I wasted waiting for doomsday, how much have I really truly missed out on just worrying my life away?

So here I am, having God whisper the same passage to me, but it’s not cliche, it’s relevant–true–necessary. He is faithful, he is in control, and he’s got some awesome stuff in store for me.

I’ve gotta start letting my guard down, and taking some chances, come what may! And yes, I’ve heard all before, but I’m stubborn, and some lessons take a long time to sink in, and that’s ok.

Why you shouldn’t plant a church

It seems like everyone is doing it! Pioneering a church. Did you know that the average church plant closes within the first three years? It is a tough business! The only thing that is tougher is the restaurant business.

Before I get too far into this, I believe we need more new churches.

But if you think you are starting the next Elevation, do yourself and those you serve a favour and don’t!

If you pioneer a church, I hope it explodes! (not literally, that would be awful). I hope you reach billions for Christ.

However, if you only reach a few, would it still be worth it? I hope it would. If you are going to shut things down because you don’t have the numbers you want or the finances aren’t good enough, or life is just hard, please don’t. You need to have tenacity!

There will be struggles in the church. Whether big or small, it is a certainty (about the only certainty).

The hardest part, though, is what happens in your life personally. They are things that no one really cares or thinks about. They are things that will dramatically affect how you do ministry.

I started Life Boat Church 4 years ago. Before planting, there were a ton of things that happened to my wife and me before deciding to move to start a church. However, they were from the outside.

In the vein of 2 Cor 11, here’s my list of things of all that has happened in the last four years.

The gift of blessing, our daughter was born. You’re thinking what, that’s not a difficulty. You’re right. But you’re wrong. Context is everything. At the time, we were living with my parents, which meant 8 people in a house. My parents, me and my wife, our 4-year-old, 3-year-old, and 1-year-old. And now, a newborn. We love our kids. But we also love sleep. Two months before our church launched our beautiful daughter was born, we started a church. We were barely sleeping (even now it can be a struggle). But this was just the tip of the iceberg.

Bedbugs! We presume they came from the hospital. As I laid on the bed after our second pre-launch service, I saw a bug crawl across the bed. FLICK! It exploded–full of blood–all over the sheets. Do you know what it is like calling everyone on your launch team and tell them that they need to check their houses just in case I had transferred some to their homes? Added to the sleepless nights, this meant paranoid sleep (I don’t want to recount the memories).

February, as I did a shoulder press with my oldest son, POP. I tore the labrum in my shoulder (it’s the cartridge) and the nerve in the shoulder that goes up the neck and through the back, somehow, got wrapped around the ball of my shoulder. I was sleeping very little due to the newborn, the bed bugs, and now the excruciating shoulder. While I experienced healing with the nerve, I suffered from this for two years. Two years of sleeping 3-4 hours a night… You try being nice! Of course, when you have a portable church, and you can’t pick up heavy stuff–it doesn’t go over well. People don’t care that you’re in severe pain, haven’t slept, and irritable because of it. They care about the fact that they have stuff going on in their life–parents, work, kids. Real things. They’re hurting. They can’t carry yours too.

The next December right before our big Christmas Eve event my daughter, the one who was born the year before, got sick. I mean like really sick. Pneumonia, strep A, sepsis, fluid in her lung. Literally, she almost died. She was in the hospital for twelve days and had to get a chest tube. It was a terrifying scene. My wife stayed in the hospital with her while I watched the three boys while trying to get ready for our Christmas event. I had some fantastic help during this time. However, as much as the support is appreciated, it was only a mild aid to the extreme stress. It was during this time that I wrote the song, Invite You To Move (which is in my blog on May 24, 2019).

We luckily had a little break, other than my chronic shoulder pain and the odd emergency room visit due to the kids breathing and allergies (3out of 4 have anaphylactic allergies. 2 at of 4 have asthma).

Then came 2018. As I spoke about in my blog “What I learned in Africa…and it’s not what you think” (June 24, 2019, where I go into more detail), I was dealing with a lot of stress due to difficult situations with the church. This was when I ended up with shingles. Stress-induced shingles. I was confined to bed for nearly two months, except for Sunday mornings and important meetings.

You might pause, as I did and reflect on if this is for you, again as I did. Thoughts of something different. Maybe a position with more security and with less stress.

We determined that we had to be faithful to what God called us to. In fact, this was an opportunity to learn to be more dependent upon God–to learn what He wanted to teach us in the midst.

This was when we had a fantastic Summer and Fall. I felt refreshed. I had learned so much about my self and what needed to be changed in my life to be more like Christ.

Then came January 2019…

First, my daughter rolled out of her bed as she slept and landed awkwardly on the ground, breaking her collar bone. It happens to lots of kids. It’s a thing; however, it’s not that big of a deal. Yet, this was the beginning!

9 days later…

I joined a basketball league to get to meet some people. After all, my shoulder, after two years, just started to be pain-free. Seemed like a good idea. Noticing that I was the oldest on the court should have been a warning sign. While guarding a guy 10 years younger than me POP… I ruptured my Achilles. If you weren’t aware, this is a 12 month recovery period. I am currently approaching the halfway point, and it has been a long road. I’ve been worn down physically and drained me emotionally. It has also played tricks on me mentally. Yet it has caused wonderful opportunities for spiritual growth.

February was filled with doctors, appointments and physiotherapy.

Then March… my two oldest kids became very ill. They missed a week of school they were so sick. That’s when I heard my wife scream…

I grabbed my crutches and hobbled as quickly as I could to see my 8-year-old as stiff as a board, eyes rolled back, frothing at the mouth, and a deep moan/groan like sound. He was having a seizure. It was scary. VERY VERY Scary. We called the ambulance.

A couple days later, my middle son could barely breathe. He was admitted for four days with a severe asthma attack.

One child can’t lift their arm, I’m on crutches, one son is seeing the neurologist, and one sitting in a hospital bed hooked up to a ventilator.

It would be really easy to hand in the towel. Life is hard.

Just because life is hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be faithful. Just because things are difficult doesn’t mean you get to redefine how God’s calling is manifested in your life.

We need more churches, but if you are going to fold just because things are hard, that’s a good reason why you shouldn’t plant a church.

Starting a church can be hard. Many struggles will arise from within the new fellowship. They can be hard. If you think the battle stops there, you will be disappointed. Satan will stop at nothing to squash the God-dream in your heart and the amazing work you will do.

It is hard, but it is worth it! So so so worth it.

If you were to start a church, where would it be?

Is God Mother or Father?

There has been a lot made in the last little while about the gender of God.

Is God our mother or our father.

For some, hearing “mother” in front of God sends a liberal shiver down their spine. They can only see God as a strong and mighty warrior.

For others, they might say, this is an old conversation. It’s old news in many circles to whom evangelicals and many mainline churches might call “liberal.”

However, this question is not something that should be pushed aside.
What do we do when someone cannot see God as a father due to a damaging relationship with their own? Or how about the person who had a toxic mother and knowing that there is a perfect mother in God is restorative? Maybe there is someone who never knew either parent, are we supposed to say God is only a mother or only a father?

There is a lot to this, and it is vitally important that we understand the question of God being a mother or a father. So, which one?

To which I would answer, YES!

(Some of you just hit the x on your browser.)

In Genesis 1, it states that both Male and Female are created in the image of God. I have known many women and some men who have struggled with this concept because of how God is spoken of in male language. Is God more concerned with them being able to refer to “Him” in a masculine tense than “He” is with them being able to connect?

We understand language has its limitations. When that language is coming from a patriarchal dominated society, those limits can become baggage. What we see as we look through the Scripture is a personal God, and thus a Gow who relates to us in a personal way.

As I look through Scripture, I can’t help but see a God who is more concerned with you being able to relate, than a God who has to be seen as either mother or father, as if the genitalia is an essential part of God.

I would argue that if you are dogmatic about God being either mother or father, that the problem isn’t the other side, it’s you.

The Scriptures paint the picture of a God who is more concerned with us being able to see him/her in our limited capacity than portraying him/herself as something so that we cannot see God at all. After all, any picture we do have of God is limited by our knowledge and experience. What God does is reveal him/her-self to us, and as we grow in the relationship reveals more. Isaiah writes, “Can you picture me without reducing me?” Isaiah 46 (MSG)

No, we can’t!

Whatever picture you have of God, it’s incomplete.

Yet, we must relate to God. So, is God Mother, Father, or both? Here are a few verses.

“like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.”

(Dt 32:11)

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103:13-14

As a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.

(Is 66:13).

“Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, The mighty in battle.”

Psalm 24:8

He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.”

(1 Ki 19:4–9).

Maybe God’s a Nonna?

“Going a little further, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass for him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

(Mark 14:35-36

“I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.”

Ho 11:4.

God is both our perfect Mother and Father. However, he is not limited to either. John 4 tell us that God is Spirit!

If you can’t relate to God as Father, try Mother on until he can heal the wound. If you can’t refer to God as Mother, try Father. God would rather you be in a relationship than not. It is only as we begin our relationship–allowing God to heal our hearts–that God is willing to meet us at where we are at, in order to reveal His/Her character in fullness so that we may know abounding grace and love.

Most importantly, know that we have a heavenly mother/father who loves you and wants you to know him/her intimately.

How do you see God, Mom or Dad….or Nonna?

I wish there was a command Z for life

Have you ever wished you could just hit command Z (or ctrl Z for those other “people”) for life?

Let’s say you have half a dozen you could use in your lifetime. Maybe you wouldn’t have dated someone. Maybe gone, eaten, drank, or wore something. It could be you want to hit command Z on the leftovers you ate last night.

More than likely there is some pretty serious stuff you wish to hit command Z on. Even in my not so much traumatic life, I have stuff.

I wish I hadn’t said that.

I wish I hadn’t indulged.

I wish I hadn’t made that decision.

Yet, in the words of The Tragically Hip, “No dress rehearsals, This is your life.” We have to live with our choices, others have to live with our choices, and we have to live with others’ choices.

Even when typing this, it is so freeing to be able to hit command Z and be able to go back and type something different. Life, however, doesn’t offer us such luxuries.

We must live with the pain, choices, and consequences, it is that certain, but what do we do with it is not. This is the crux of it.

What do you do with the things you wish you could hit command Z on? This is the question we must ask ourselves.

Avoid?
Face?
Own?
Distract?
Fight?
Justify?

So many options.

I believe there is a “best option.” When we own it, that is what changes our life. Yes, there may be consequences, but what’s the other option?

Russel Brand writes,

“By maintaining a personal museum of resentments, we imprison ourselves within it.” Whether that resentment is directed toward others or ourselves, it’s not a way to live.

I believe the best and only real option that brings relief is to own it.

But what then? For me owning it means admitting that I am fallible but that those fallibilities do not define me.

What defines me is Christ.
Not my past.
Not my choices.
Not the consequences.

When I can admit that I am weak and make mistakes, it allows God to come and heal. As the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Corinth,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2 Co 12:9–10)

There is a strength in vulnerability. You’re not hiding–you’re not worried about your secret being found out–you’re not trying to contain the confession that could relieve your soul.

When I can admit my wrongs openly, it makes room for Christ. Christ can’t be king if we have propped ourselves up in the position. Christ can’t lead us through if we have clenched the reigns.

In my weaknesses, He is strong. What a great comfort, for I am more than weak. As much it would be great to be able to hit command Z from time to time, I would hate to deprive myself of the strength Christ has given me. I would hate to sacrifice the lessons that I’ve learned. To surrender the character that has been developed by the mud and mire of life.

Sure, command Z would be helpful, but at what cost? No, thank you.

I’ll take Christ any day.

What’s one thing you wish you could hit command Z on?

Check out the resources used in this post