Plan B

On Sunday we are starting a brand new series called “Plan B”.

pete_wilson-plan_b-coverFor the summer we are going to be using some of the themes and thoughts from Pete Wilson’s book Plan B to structure our sermons. This way if you miss a sermon, you can catch it online, and read about the same theme while you are sitting at your cottage, deck, beach, or wherever you may be. It will help us to move in the same direction even as we have holidays, and getaways.

So the whole point of the series is this: what do you do when God doesn’t show up like you thought he would? What do you do when things fall apart? What do you do when plan A fails and you’re in plan b, c, d, e,…..or q. How do you get through the difficult times? How do you find God’s voice and direction during plan b’s? What do you do when things go bad?

So that’s where we are going for the summer, and we’re starting in on Sunday by looking at the life of David in 1 Samuel 16-19. So if you get a chance why not read it over and see how David’s life is a lot like ours: with ups, downs, doubts, and God’s faithfulness.

And lets discover over the summer how to make it through the Plan B’s of life because the truth is this: if you’re not in one now, one will probably come around. So we might as well prepare for the Plan B’s.

Learning to Eat Frogs

1059950_13941892I don’t know where I heard this analogy but I often think of it. And by often I mean all the time. I actually have a list called “Frogs to Eat” on the top of my monthly goals. And that heading will make sense in a moment.

But here is the idea. Leadership is like eating frogs.

There are things each of us has to do to be an effective leader that we might not want to do. And this changes for each person in each role. The point is that leadership entails doing things that we might rather not do. For example we might need to make a tough phone call, to do that admin we’ve been procrastinating on, to take that leap whatever. We all have things we need to do that we don’t want to do, that’s eating frogs.

Frogs are the weekly tasks that for whatever reason seem annoying, distasteful, or unwanted – but are needed to be done. And that’s key.

So here is how it works: Each week you have a certain number of frogs you need to eat to move forward. If you don’t the next week, the number of frogs you have to eat just multiply, and the frogs grow bigger as well. Time never makes a hard decision easier. Each time you delay doing that thing you need to do, the number and size of the frogs grow.

So leadership is learning to eat the frogs before they grow and multiply too much. That’s the idea.

Each month then I line up and think through what are the frogs I need to eat. Things I’d rather not do, but that are crucial to do; things I’d rather delay than decide on. Then I try to eat those frogs. It’s not the fun part of leadership, but it a crucial part of it.

So here is my question for you today: what frog do you need to eat?

How Hudson Reminded me of What Resurrection Means and Why It Matters

30026_10150185277700328_2981872_nYesterday was the anniversary of my dad’s death. I say death, and not passing, because death sounds like a harsher word. And it is a harsher word; it speaks the hurt that happens because of it.

Since I was feeling quite down, I thought the best thing would be to talk to my sons about why I was feeling sad. I didn’t want them to think it was about them, and thought I could share a bit about their grandfather with them.

So Hudson sat with me and I told him that I was feeling sad because my dad, his grandpa, died on this day a few years ago.

Hudson didn’t know quite what to make of that. So he tentatively asked, “He…died.” I said yes he did. He said, “Like this”, and proceeded to make a face with eyes closed and tongue stuck out. I said yes like that, and thought maybe having this conversation was a bad idea.

The next 10 sentences we shared together I doubt I’ll ever forget. They sound made up, but they were true and unforced and untouched. I believe God can speak to us through anyone, and I think he chose to speak to me through my son. And this is what he told me, and why I think sometimes 4 year old are closer to God than anyone.

He said, “It’s okay dad to be sad, but just for a little while. I miss grandpa too. He loved me, and loved to scoot me around and he loved you. Grandpa told me I was special. I miss him too. So you can be sad because he died but just for a little while.”

I asked him why just for a little while. And this is what he said, “Because daddy, Jesus died too right? (I said yes he did). But Jesus is here now. He’s alive. He told me so, and so did you. So grandpa is with Jesus now. He died and is living just like him. He’s here too, and he loves us daddy. So its okay to miss him, but it just for a little while because he’ll be back again right…just like Jesus”

And I said the only thing I could think of, “Of course you’re right Hudson”

Hudson then gave me a big hug, and said “I love you daddy, and I love grandpa too” And then because he is also a four-year old he asked if we could play trucks tomorrow, and if Jesus had wings, which we then talked about.

I write all this because sometimes in the hard times, you just need to be reminded of what is true. And sometimes that takes a 4-year old who remembers what you teach him, so he can remind you of what matters.

Death, Darkness, and “Good Friday”

Today is Good Friday.  But that is a really bad name, for a very terrible day. “Good Friday” is only a day that is only good in hindsight, and even then it’s obscured through darkness, pain and difficulty.

Today is the day that Jesus entered fully into our darkness to provide a way out. Today is the day the light of the world was snuffed out. Today is the day that darkness seemed to win. Today is the day that the Messiah died.

It’s today that when we look upon Jesus and his sacrifice we realize how unable we are to make our lives work as we would want. We see our struggle for coherence, meaning, and power. We see in Jesus’ naked body nailed to the cross our own betrayals of friends and family. We see how our desire to create empires of meaning and worth are empty, and filled with dust and dirt. We ask ourselves “what have we become”?

Bruce Springsteen once sang,

Fear’s a powerful thing, baby
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
And fill it with devils and dust

And on this day so many years ago – the disciples hearts were filled with devils and dust. Their God-filled soul, seemed empty, as they watched the Son of God die on a piece of wood. The point is that today is not a “good” day.

For three days doubt, darkness and death reign.

So today is not an easy day. Today is not a good day. Today is though a necessary day.

Today, like on a day many years ago Jesus’ body was broken, like bread, so that we might be made whole.  Jesus poured his life out, like wine, as a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus gave up his life so that we might find it.

This is the message of today: life, breath, blood and brokenness all mix together so that in the end death might be beaten. But on this day we remember that before death was beaten, it seemed as if it had won. Before darkness lost its final battle, the light of the world was lost. So today we remember that before light and love burst forth…they went through death and darkness…

Learning to Trust in the Dark Times

Have you ever noticed that difficulty seems to come all at once? Where health challenges, a death, a major car bill, an unexpected family fall out all happens in the same week.1418812_77341743

So the question I want to look at is how do you get through a really difficult week, month, or even year? How do you get through a time where all sorts of crisis happen all at once? Yes of course, as a pastor, the answer is Jesus, but what does that actually mean?

Well what I’ve learned over the years is that the way to get through difficult times is to invest in trust – trust in Jesus, others, and even ourselves.

The first person I try to place my active trust in – is God. I want to be specific what that means for me. For me it means reminding myself that Jesus is good, true, faithful, and loving. When difficulty happens it can so easily take all of our focus and we forget that God is still good and in control. So I seek to remind myself that God is not caught off guard, God is not unmoving up in heaven. Our God is active, caring, loving, and faithful. God will lead me through whatever I am facing, and I seek to place my trust in him.

I also try to trust in my friends. By this I mean those people who God has placed in my life and have been walking with me. Jesus so often shows up in a difficult week through the actions, words, and encouragements of my friends and family. A wife who does something special, a friend who texts to say they are praying for me out of the blue, or some produce from a neighbor. This is how Jesus often shows up in practical ways through other people giving their time, support, and encouragement. This is something I’ve been learning to lean on and even ask for in a difficult week. Ask for care, ask for support, ask for prayer and trust in those God has placed around you.

And lastly, I try to trust in myself. This seems at first rather self-centered so let me clarify what I mean. I seek to trust in who Jesus has called me to be, and how he has been working in my life. What I try to trust in – is the God who has been shaping me, forming me, who is within me, and who will lead me. So when I’m tired, and unsure what to say or do I trust that God will use me. I trust in the abilities he has given me, and the promise that if I’m willing he will use me. I think we need to do the same to trust that God wants to use each and everyone of us. To trust that as followers of Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit within us, and Jesus wants to use the gift and abilities we have to get through a difficult time.

So if difficulty sneaks up on you, or crisis surprises you, this is how I’ve been learning to make it through. Trusting in the goodness of Jesus Christ, trusting in support he’s placed around me, and trusting in who he has called me to be.

So that’s me. What about you? What has helped you get through a long week? Do you have friends or family you can rely on? If not, do you have a church that you can call for support? Are you remembering that God is good and his purposes for your life is good? Are you trusting in what he is doing in and through you?

In essence are you trusting him?

And I hope you are, but if today for whatever reason trust is low here is my prayer for you today:

That God would prove his trustworthiness in amazing and ordinary ways to you this week. That you would sense his provision, his goodness, and his grace. That friends would surprise you with support, and God would assure you of his care. That your trust would grow. Grace and peace.

Learning to Leave the Desert

1412359_51543500How do you leave the desert?

I mean honestly. When your life is feeling dry, distant, and you feel alone – how do you leave that place? When you feel like you are wandering around in circles, when life has passed you by, when you look back and regret decisions wondering – how did I end up here? How do you leave “here”? How do you find a place with life, hope and grace? How do you leave the desert?

I don’t know if you’ve been there but I have. I have been in a place that once was good but got drained of life and was draining me. I have been in a place where all of a sudden I felt alone, distant from God, and wondering where I was. I have been in a desert staring at the empty world around me wondering how I will ever find my way out. And maybe you’ve been there too. It is a difficult place to be. The trouble is that life seems to take us to the desert.

The question is how do we leave? How do we find new life again? How do we find hope again? How do we find a land flowing with milk and honey?

That’s what we are exploring on Sunday how to leave the desert and find new life. We are going to be exploring a pretty well known passage with some pretty not-so-well-known conclusions.

Come Sunday we’ll explore how to find your way out, which not so surprisingly, begins with God finding you.

But that’s Sunday, what about today? What if your desert is so difficult, and oppressive that you can’t wait till Sunday to start leaving it?

Well I’ll give you a hint of where we are going on Sunday. It doesn’t begin with you. It doesn’t begin with you forcing or finding your way out. It begins with God finding you and leading you out.

So today why not make yourself easy to find. Why not take some actual time, sit in space with God, ask him to direct, and to wait on him. Give him time to speak to you, give him your attention, and wait patiently on him. This, of course, isn’t easy, but it’s a lot easier than languishing in the desert.

So come Sunday we’ll explore how to find your way out in more depth, but it does begin with God. So no matter how your life has been these past few weeks, days, or even years why not let yourself be found by God. Don’t fill your weekend so full of noise, business, and stuff that he can’t break through to you. Sit still, stop, and listen. And who knows maybe God will show up in a burning bush and lead you out…

How Did This Happen?

1236829_46998155There is a question that everyone asks at some point in life. It’s this: “How did this happen?”

You might ask this question when you see a marriage that was strong…shatter. You might ask this question when you see a family fall a part, or when you see a church split. Often in the aftermath of deep loss and tragic fractures we ask “How did this happen?” Things looked to be going well and all of a sudden there was a divorce, a break, a fracture, or a split.

This is the question we’ll be looking at on Sunday. How do these things happen? How do relationships fall a part? Why do churches falter and fail? Why do some marriages that seem healthy end in so much hurt?

And most importantly, while we’ll be talking about how these things happen, we want to ask a second question. We want to ask an even more important question, “How do we keep these things from happening”. So on Sunday we’ll discover what Jesus has to say about this.

But before we get there what do you think? How do you keep a relationship whole? How do you keep a relationship fresh? How do you ensure that difficulties don’t turn into fractures and breaks? What is it that you do with in your marriage and friendships to prevent decay and difficulty?

Because I think the reality is that making relationships work is harder than we often think. It’s easy for things to slip and break. But on Sunday we’ll discover how keeping things together has a lot to do with staying awake…

Overcoming Obstacles and People Named Sanballat

On Sunday we talked about how to overcome the “Sanballat’s and Tobiah’s” in your life. These are the people who seek to hurt, harm, and wreck your God-given and driven dream. These are the people who when you share, “I feel called to….” immediately say “You?” You can’t do that, you’re not ready, you’re not the right person. We saw how in Nehemiah 4 they attack Nehemiah’s person, purpose, and progress. And ultimately when that doesn’t work they actually try to personally destroy him by sending an army against him to kill him.

The question is how do you overcome people who attack you, seek to destroy your vision, and oppose you?

Well, what we learned from Nehemiah is to first pray. Rather than wasting energy arguing with your enemies, take your hurts, anger and emotions to God in prayer. Nehemiah goes to God in prayer, and then gets back to work on God’s vision. He doesn’t let his enemies suck up his time, energy and emotions.

Next he prepares for the future challenges. Nehemiah knows that each great story has conflict in it. He doesn’t expect God to save him from experiencing the conflict; he expects that God will get him through the conflict. Nehemiah knows that all those who chase after making a difference in the world are not exempt from challenge, but will encounter challenge. So Nehemiah takes his responsibility seriously and plans and prepares for the challenge believing God will use him to get him through it. Donald Miller writes: “Somehow we realize that stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master story-teller”.  Nehemiah though embraces the fact that God is a master story-teller and begins to prepare for God to use him.

Lastly, Nehemiah trusts in God. Once he has learned that enemies are going to swoop down and kill him he says to the people, “Remember the Lord”. He is trying to remind the people that God is in it with them. He is trying to remind them to trust in the God who gave them the vision because he is the one who will ensure its completion.

So how do you get past the Sanballat’s and Tobiah’s in your life? Simple – pray, prepare, and trust in God. Pray to God for faith in the difficulty, prepare for ways to push through the challenge, and trust that God will get you there. That’s what he did with Nehemiah and he wants to do the same with us!

Adult Discussion Questions:

When have you had someone attack your person or dream? How did it feel? How did you respond? What is your personal vision you are chasing after? How can you prepare for some of the future challenges that will come? Why do you think “Remembering the Lord” is so important? Can you trust that God will get you through the difficult times? What helps you to trust in the difficult times?