Some things in life seem so far apart.
Sometimes it seems impossible to reach from where you are to where you want to be.
How can someone dealing with broken relationships, drowning finances, enslaving addictions, anxiety, depression, sickness, grief, or any other malady imagine reaching far enough to grasp wholeness and healing?
Over the years I've wrestled with the question of hope for the hopeless on both a personal level and in my pastoring role. Sometimes speaking life to an obviously dead situation seems a lot more like willful ignorance than powerful faith.
I see the situation. I see the great chasm between the hope and the reality. No amount of counseling, coaching, or encouragement will bridge the divide. In our own ability it is truly impassable.
Other times it's not a chasm that swallows the hope, but the length of the journey.
They may know they can get through it but the light at the end of the tunnel is too far away to be seen...
Hope deferred makes the heart sick. A sickness so heavy even the strongest can fall along the way.
What can we really give our Pflugerville, Texas neighbors who are struggling for hope, facing a chasm, or a road too long?
He is the answer. He is always the answer.
Not in the funny Sunday School sort of way but in the real, powerful, dynamic, God of the universe sort of way.
When their world is falling apart, it is Jesus who can truly hold it all together.
"He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." Colossians 1:17
When the tunnel is too dark to travel it is Jesus who lights their way.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
As much as our egos may object, there are hurts and hardships to big for us to carry others across. There are experiences to dark for us to guide them through.
In our efforts to love our Pflugerville, Texas community like Jesus, we must always remember we are called to represent Him not replace Him.
Our strength for helping others is directly connected with our ability to lead them to Jesus.
Which is why we only remain effective when we remember that we are called to be guides not gods.
When we do our part we can rest in faith knowing He loves them enough to take care of the rest.
Over the last couple of years, we have become a dog family. The funny thing about dogs is they only know what they know, and they don't let anything else bother them.
Take this giant bean bag for instance...
Here's what they know - it's a great place to curl up and eat a biscuit.
Here's what they don't know - it cost $250.
Pretty spendy dining area for a dog but that goes to the second thing they don't know - it's not for them.
These dogs live with the belief they can use anything we own as if it was their own. They're never worried about whether they're worthy of it or deserve it. They were adopted into our home and living with us includes all of the benefits.
It all makes me wonder how many of God's blessings we miss out on because we haven't accepted them as part of the adoption package?
What if we did away with everything we know - we don't deserve His blessings, we aren't worthy, we shouldn't, we can't, He won't, and every other "n't" we have come to know and accept.
Would it be too presumptuous of us to live as if everything God has is available to us as if everything came with our adoption into His family?
The Bible is pretty clear that we have permission to do exactly that!
"Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won't he also give us everything else?"
We all come to Jesus with a history of living under the rule of an abusive master. The devil promises is a taker. In fact, the Bible says he is looking to "steal, kill, and destroy".
It's easy to bring the same expectation into our walk with Jesus. Don't do it, He has better plans for us!
His plans are to give us "life and life more abundantly".
If you've been living in the corner of God's house afraid to expect anything good in your life it's time to let go of your past experiences with the devil.
Let God be good in your life. Accept His amazing grace and all the abundance He has for you.
Receive the truth of what He's really done for you. When you received Jesus you received everything else He has because He came to bring you life and life abundantly.
Are you afraid to talk to God?
Is talking to your pastor more comfortable for you than talking directly to God through prayer? Exodus 20:19 tells us that the Israelites had the same hang up.
"the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die."
Moses was touchable and tangible. He looked like them and had weaknesses like them. God.. well He was mysterious and powerful. People often fear what they don't understand. The solution, avoid God and just deal with what you know - the middle man.
Don't let the fear of a what you don't know keep you from the experience of who you could know - who you should know!
You don't have to be afraid to talk directly to God. The Bible tells us to come to God with boldness.
"So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most."
Jesus came to earth and experienced life as a human. He fully understands your struggles and your weaknesses. As a pastor, I love to talk with the people God puts in my life but I am definitely not qualified to replace Him. I'm here to help you, encourage you, and show you the way to Him, not to myself.
Don't wander the halls of faith, afraid to knock on God's door and ask for some time alone. God has an open door policy and He's waiting for you to come and see Him.
I met an elderly lady named Terry at a local storage unit.
A small 6 x 10 unit with a half a dozen pieces of mismatched furniture stacked from wall to wall.
An antique table her husband had received from his great, great grandpa.
An antique cabinet they'd had together for decades. All memories of times with her husband. The husband who passed away just over a year ago.
We spent the first 10-15 minutes working out a sales price, each piece worth more to her, for what it was than what it will be to the next buyer. As a follower of Jesus, I felt the prodding in my heart to pray for her.
Of course, I didn't know if she was a praying woman, let alone if she followed Jesus. Still, the prodding continued.
I wrote her a check, loaded her furniture into our truck and prepared to leave. There were a couple of leftover items. I helped her get those into her car. That's when I finally gave in and asked the question - "Are you a praying woman?"
The question caught her off guard so I repeated it while making the universal hand sign for prayer. Placing my hands together I asked if she prays, her answer "Yes".
Next, I asked if I could pray with her for peace since she lost her husband. That's when she burst into tears. It was a short prayer, a prayer for peace which I knew would be answered because He is the Prince of Peace. The short prayer was followed by what seemed like a much longer hug.
I told her Jesus wanted her to know He saw her, loved her and that He was with her. Through the tears, she told me how hard it is to sell "their things" now that her husband is gone and how she had been praying all the way over that Jesus would be with her.
I told her how I'd lost my mom a few years ago and that I know it's hard. Then I told her it sounds like Jesus heard her and wanted her to know that He's with her. That's when we had our second hug. A longer one, a tighter one and thanks to the tears a wetter one too.
Two hugs. A great reminder that He spread out both of His arms, on the cross, to say "I love you" to the whole world; the good, the bad and ugly of us all.
I left the storage unit with half a truck of furniture and an overflowing heart. So filled with thankfulness for the opportunity to pass His love to one of His daughters.
Some people ask "where was God when I needed Him?". The truth is He was likely prodding someone next to you to reach out with His love, comfort, and encouragement. In the hustle and bustle, it's easier to ignore the prodding than to respond to it. Today I made the right choice and now Terry knows Jesus heard her and is with her.
The truth about Terry… there are more hurting people just like her around us every day. If we open our hearts and take action on His prodding they won't ever have to ask "Where was God when I needed him?" - because He'll show up and tangibly love them through each of us.
We look forward to getting to Austin, TX, and wrapping God's arms around those in need of a real life hug from their heavenly Father.
Don't be fooled by things that sound great without checking them against God's Word. This is an interesting quote and it sounds so true. A typical paraphrase of this thought would be, "If I stop living for others I'll feel better. I need to start living for me."
This is where the incomplete advice comes in. Should we live to please others? No, of course, we should not. But if we're not living to please others what should we be living for?
If we live for ourselves we will find ourselves running around the corner only to find the road has led us right back to where we started - social anxiety.
I am a former slave to social anxiety and I can tell you I was far more concerned about myself than others. Yes, I cared what they thought of me. But ultimately I cared because I wanted them to think certain things - in other words, I wanted the world to love me. I wanted the world and others around me to serve my needs for affirmation. On the surface, my thoughts may have been about pleasing others but in reality, it is just another way of being concerned about pleasing me.
I was living for myself and it left me empty and afraid.
Here's a Biblical perspective on how social anxiety can really be overcome.
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear..." 1 John 4:18
Perfect love casts out fear. What is "perfect love"?
The Bible tells us that God IS love. Since He is the love itself than His love by nature would be the perfect love we are talking about. So what does His perfect love look like?
"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
His perfect love is a love that gives. In other words, perfect love thinks more about others than it does of itself.
Knowing God's love in a personal way and truly understanding this principle has freed me from the death grip of social anxiety.
Where I used to walk into a room thinking about how others could serve my need for social affirmation. Now I walk into a room thinking of how I can love or serve the other people who are already in the room.
I have no fear of missing out on their affirmations because I'm not there to get them. I'm there to give affirmation, build others up, and to share the love God has already poured into my empty spaces. He has filled my heart and mind and now it overflows to those around me.
If you struggle with social anxiety I invite you, even challenge you, to take a new approach. Give your life to Jesus, accept His perfect love, and start living to give love rather than to receive it from others.
Not only do the people of Austin, TX, need this love but it will change your life and set you free in the process of giving it away.
This morning as I was getting ready for church and thinking about our Austin church plant when I heard the clear voice of the Holy Spirit, "You won't be able to bring that where we're going."
Whether you have made a big move or just taken a short trip you know what it's like to have to leave something behind. I recently went to California to visit my brother and I had to fit everything into one small carry on. After wrestling with the limitations of my suitcase I settled on leaving my tennis shoes behind. As much as I felt the need to take them with me, just in case, the reality was I wouldn't need them in the hot California sun.
As simple as it seems, there are places God wants to take us which will require us to leave some things, we feel we need, behind.
First, there's the obvious baggage that has to be cut, the "sins" we may cling to because of our own selfish desires.
Even once those have been cut there's often still tough choices to make before we can zip our bag shut and follow His leading to our new destination. Things that give us security, comfort, and reassurance, like my tennis shoes, may actually be really good in themselves but ultimately something we have to leave behind before we can follow.
The Bible is full of these examples; Abraham left his heritage, David left his pasture, Ruth left her homeland, and Jesus left heaven. All of these left something good, for something better. Better for themselves and better for others.
By reading their stories we can see the faithfulness of God in action. When He calls us to let go, it is always because He wants to take us somewhere better, somewhere that our past or present can't get us to - our future. A future full of His promise, abundance, and faithfulness.
Every step forward requires a little more letting go. The path narrows and we have to peel more of the unnecessaries off of our packs in order to fit through.
Over the years I've had to peel off addiction, anger, insecurity, and crippling levels of anxiety. You would think I would have stripped them all off with joy...! But even hang-ups can bring comfort when you are used to living with them.
There have even been times He has asked me to let go of income, dream jobs, or other incredible opportunities and trust Him enough to follow.
Slowly, I have learned to just let go and follow. At times I may feel vulnerable, exposed, or unprepared but in the end, I have just what I need. I have Him and all of the incredible, abundance, favor, and joy He brings with Him on the journey.
If God is calling you to move forward, if He is calling you to something new, I encourage you to read His Word, study the stories of other spiritual travelers and then just let go and follow. You will always have what you need because He will be with you.
Over the last several years I have been praying and asking God to teach me to hear His voice. My dad is a storyteller and full-time evangelist. Now, when I say full-time I don’t mean that he’s paid to be an evangelist. What I mean is that he is literally always evangelizing.
In my dad’s world, a broken down car, a bankruptcy, a trip to the hospital or his son getting shot are all events that lead you to people who God wants to share His love with. I really admire my dad’s ability to allow God to work through him in every situation and he’s the reason that I’ve been asking God to teach me to hear His voice.
I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone but I seem to live with a continual sense that my time is limited. I feel the reality that I will soon stand on the edge of eternity and when I look back on my life I will not have the opportunity to re-live it. As a former addict and horrific husband, I have a deep gratitude for the grace that God showed me when Jesus died for my sins and I’m grateful for His grace in my life. The Bible says that “he who is forgiven much, loves much” and to show God my love by passing His love on to other broken and hurting people.
With the world so heavily addicted to image and self-preservation, I find that the only way to truly touch people’s lives is to follow God’s lead. While I look at the outside of a person, God looks at their heart and He can guide me to the right person, at the right time and lead me to say just the right thing. I don’t want to swing in the dark. I want God to direct me and lead me to people who are open to His love. I want to make a difference, I want to grow His family. All of this motivates me to want to hear His voice and the more I hunger the more I hear.
The problem with hearing is that it requires obedience. You see, if I don’t listen to God then I don’t have anything to obey. My kids know this trick and often try to weasel out of discipline by saying that they “didn’t hear me’. The more I listen to God, the more uncomfortable I get.
I like the gradual approach. When I get in the river, I slowly wade out into the freezing water and torture myself inch by submerging inch. I’m not sure why that’s more comfortable than just diving in head first and getting it over with but I can’t get by the psychological barrier, so until I break that barrier you’ll find me half frozen, inching my way into the deeper water.
By nature, I would tend to work the same way with people. I tend to be socially awkward. If everything worked the way I’d like it to, God would point me to someone to befriend and sometimes months down the road we gradually begin to talk about spiritual things. It usually takes me awhile to get comfortable with people, but God doesn’t seem to have the same problem. Within 24 hours, He gave me the opportunity to pray with two different ladies that I had only just met. Both times God prompted me to pray with them and yes, both times I tried to ignore Him.
The first lady came to a business meeting that I had organized. She sat right next to me and eventually I began to hear God’s voice telling me that I should pray for her. Pray for her? I didn’t even know if she was a Christian, and there were lots of other people in the room. After all, we weren’t at church! We were sitting in a public book store surrounded by business people and bookworms. What if she didn’t want prayer, what if she got offended or worse yet what if she made a scene in front of all of these people? I could hear God, but I guess I didn’t really trust Him, so I just kept talking to her about other things.
Eventually, I mentioned an addiction program that I run through our church and suddenly her eyes lit up! She wanted to know all about the church, she is a believer but she isn’t currently attending a church. She is in a season of some pretty difficult trials and it just so turns out that she needed some encouragement and she needs a good church to come around her and support her. At this point, I finally realized that it was “safe” to pray for her so I took her hand and we prayed. Before leaving she told me that this must have been a divine appointment. If it had been up to my courage this would have been little more than a divine disappointment! Praise God, that He worked through me despite my own weakness. He knows that I want to learn to hear His voice and as a good Father He is being patient with me as I learn to not only hear Him but to actually trust Him enough to obey what I hear.
In His faithfulness, he gave me another opportunity. I was down downtown and walked into a building past the receptionist. On my way back down I felt God prompting me to stop and pray with her. Again I questioned Him, “Pray for her? The only thing she knows about me is that I was looking for a business license and I don’t know anything about her...” I kept walking toward the exit, working quickly to convince myself that God didn’t really expect me to pray with her. Even though I was trying to wiggle out the door, I could sense God telling me to go back. Reluctantly I spun around and walked back toward her desk. I asked her name, introduced myself and offered to pray with her. That’s when she told me about her friend who is dying of cancer and the burden that she feels trying to be an emotional support. As she talked, I listened. One ear was listening to her story and the other ear was listening to God reminding me that He is the one who knows all things.
God wanted to encourage her and the only two things He needed from me were for me to listen and obey. I’m starting to get the listening part down and I have a feeling that, through God’s grace, the obeying part is going to be catching up pretty quickly too.
Austin isn't just the capital of Texas, it is a city full of people God loved enough to send His Son to die for, and a city He loves enough to send us to live for.
Father open our ears and bring your grace. Lead us to the people you have for us, bring us to our divine appointments that the lost may be found, the broken healed, and the dead brought to abundant life in Jesus Christ.
I was opening our store, in Bend, Oregon, and a little old lady came walking in with her backpack. "That wind is cold," she said before she turned and started looking around. Immediately, I heard God say, "I didn't bring her here to get out of the cold, I brought her here so you can pray for her."
I continued opening the store and she continued looking around. Just before she left I asked her what her name was and if I could pray with her. "Kay," she said and, "Why do you want to pray for me." So, I simply told her that God said she needed it. We prayed for a big financial decision she's worried about and then she left.
There was no great healing, no lightning from the sky, and no tears, but when she left God said one more thing, "Her name is Kay." And that's precisely when I started to get emotional. Yes, her name is Kay.
God doesn't see us by our age, accomplishments, financial status, our class, or our past. God sees and knows us by name. He personally and intimately knows each of us. He sees me, he sees Kay, and yes, he especially sees you. His arms are open because his heart is open. Your relationship with him may be strained or non-existent but it doesn't have to be. He sent Jesus to reconcile (repair) the relationship between you and the God who made you. Maybe you don't have parents, don't have a dad or feel you'd have been better off without the ones you had. You can find identity, acceptance, value, and purpose in the arms of the one who made you.
We may not be in Austin, TX, yet but Jesus is already there. His love is already there. Why wait, if you'd like to know more about Jesus and how to live in relationship with God, the one who knows you best and loves you most, please fill out the contact form below. We would love to talk with you and share how the love of Jesus will fill your life and make you whole.
"For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. " Psalms 139:13-16
Ever wonder why God created in 7 days?
He could have done it in an instant. Why a day at a time?
I believe one of the reasons was to teach us new beginnings and change happen one day at a time. In the moment we don’t have to carry the burden of “changing forever”.
In any new way of thinking or living, we just have to make the choice for today. If the temptation for old ways comes back tomorrow, we can make that choice tomorrow.
One day at a time and our whole word can be transformed and brought into God’s order.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
We're coming to Austin, TX with a message of hope. A message of God working day by day to bring new life and new ways of thinking. A message of new and abundant life through Jesus Christ.
When was the last time you closed the door, left the world outside and danced it out with Jesus?
Whether you've been struggling in the duldrums of discouragement or grinding through the challenges of a stressful situation, it may be time to get wild and dance it out with Jesus!
One of the greatest kings who ever lived literraly danced right out of his clothes for Jesus!
King David, a man after God's own heart, danced publicly in his undies with greatfulness to God for all He'd done. Wow, that's some real gratitude! I don't recommend trying it yourself... for two reasons.
First, you're not the King which means you'll likely get arrested.
Second, David's example was calling us to folllow his lead spiritually not literally.
King David took off His robe, the sign of his supremacy and qualification. His example was and is a spiritual call to dance before Jesus without covering ourselves with our qualifications or hiding in our shame.
It's a call to come boldy, freely and humbly before Jesus with praise and worship for all He's done rather. What we've done, good or bad, doesn't matter.
It's about Him. It's about His goodness and ultimately it's about His grace which makes it possible for us to come before Him in the first place.
The first humans, Adam and Eve, walked naked before God. After they sinned and fell into shame they began to hide behind clothes they made for themselves. Ever since this time people have felt the need to cover themsleves with the good things they've done in order to hide the bad things they've done. Some people do the same to cover themselves from the bad things others have done to them.
Do what I did this morning, in my furniture store warehouse - close the door, crank the music and worship like a king because He has made it possible!
He's not waiting for perfection, He's not waiting to judge you, He's not watching critically from the heavens - He is already on the dance floor singing and celebrating His love for you!
Praise Jesus! We need nothing but the grace He brings us through the cross. We can join His celbration and dance before Him with nothing to cover ourselves! Our hearts, our minds and our spirits can dance fully and freely before the one who cleanses us, heals us and loves us. The one who is already rejoicing over us!
"The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17