It seems that every couple of months another leader or celebrity athlete is disavowed because of a lack of character. When the recent scandal with Lance Armstrong began, I didn’t believe it because he seemed like such a “good guy” and an example for overcoming adversity. But when the truth came out and his character was exposed, another hero was taken off the pedestal.
Perhaps the most troubling is when it’s a Christian leader. Every time a pastor or TV evangelist falls into sin, the media has a field day, and there are so many negative comments about the church and Christians. Upstanding character isn’t just for leaders or public figures though; God has designed for every Christian to grow to become more Christ-like in their attitudes, motivations, and behaviors. One of the realities is that many people base their perceptions of God on our character! When they observe a lack of integrity or an attitude of always complaining, we misrepresent what it means to live a life of faith in our amazing God.
Jesus put it this way: “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NIV)
What kind of life have you been shining before others lately?
There’s a great passage about our growth in godliness that at first glance seems like a paradox, but as you dig deeper, you’ll see that there is a divine partnership between God and us. Take a few minutes today to read 2 Peter 1:3-9. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20peter%201:3-9&version=NIV
To dig a little deeper, grab your journal to record your thoughts on these questions:
- Read 2 Peter 1:3-4: What do these two verses promise? What is God’s role in our growing in godly character?
- Read 2 Peter 1:5-9: What is our role in growing in godly character? What might hinder you from that growth?
Verse 8 gives a promise that I think every Christian wants a piece of:
“For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In other words, growing in the character qualities listed in that passage will give you an effective and productive Christian life. That’s the kind of life that I want to live! Let’s make every effort to grow in the godly character qualities that Peter listed, and let’s give God thanks for being at work in us, giving us EVERYTHING that we need for life and godliness!
Community Group Pastor
We’re almost two weeks into our 40 Day Fast, and if you’re like me, when those hunger pangs hit I ask myself, why am I doing this? I can think of about 10 favorite foods that I’d like to eat today, but have chosen not to for a higher purpose. For me, one of the main things that I’m asking God to do during this fast is to bring a fresh touch of spiritual renewal into my life. I want to be more fully surrendered to God and his plan for my life, and to be more led by the Holy Spirit moment by moment.
Another thing that I’m asking God for is that my kids would fall more deeply in love with Jesus and that they wouldn’t be ensnared by the traps of the world or Satan. Let’s take a look at a passage in the Old Testament book of Ezra that talks about fasting and deliverance from attack.
Some background: Ezra called together a band of exiles remaining in Babylon to make the journey back to Jerusalem. There were almost 2000 men, plus their families, who gathered with Ezra on the banks of the river Ahiva. The 700-mile journey would be long and arduous, and the tons of silver and gold they carried made them far more at risk of attack along the way. Ezra was ashamed to ask the king for an armed escort, because he had told the king that God showed favor on those who seek him. The king and others had given 25 tons of silver and almost 4 tons of gold! The risk was not only of losing the treasure they carried, but their lives and the lives of their families as well. [Read the whole chapter here]
“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.” (Ezra 8:21, ESV)
I see a spiritual parallel to our lives in this story. We are on a journey from Babylon to the heavenly Jerusalem, and there is an enemy who is seeking to pillage and plunder our lives, families, and spiritual possessions. Many Christians fall prey to the ambushes that Satan sets and become casualties. During the teen and college years our kids are especially vulnerable to being deceived into trading in the journey for the temporary pleasures of the flesh and the world: relationships, sex, popularity, partying, and by embracing worldly philosophies.
Ezra 8:31 records that Ezra and the travelers made it to Jerusalem safely,
“The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way.”
Perhaps ambushes were set for them, and enemies tried to attack, yet because the hand of God was upon them, they were delivered safely through their valley of the shadow of death.
I believe that we as parents should not only pray for our children, but like Ezra, we should fast, asking God for safety from the evil one in our spiritual journey. Let’s together seek God for a safe journey for ourselves, our “little ones”, and our spiritual possessions. We can’t be the armed guard for our children like God and his heavenly hosts can be!
May you draw closer to God during this time of fasting, and may he perform his miracles in your life and in those you are praying for!
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a, ESV)
Community Group Pastor
Two of the best kids on planet Earth…just sayin’
So I’m a very late bloomer. I’ve heard about Crazy Love written by Francis Chan for years. I’ve seen the adds for it’s Community Group videos and heard quotes from Chan periodically. I even read Forgotten God which was written after Crazy Love, but had not yet read this best seller which had spoken to the hearts of so many…
It was the same when the Passion of the Christ was released in theatres. I was a hold out for two years. I couldn’t imagine watching my Lord in the last few days of his life, so I kept putting it off. I even bought the DVD when it was released and waited another year to actually put it in and hit “play.” Hitting play for me, I thought, was willingly walking into a dense cloud of conflicting emotions. Feelings of deep gratefulness, sorrow, flaming anger- all of it. I’ll never forget the flight where I finally pressed play and with a “quivering lip” cried like a baby for the next two hours.
Chapter nine and ten of Crazy Love was the perfect conclusion to an amazing book. It called me to a higher level of sacrifice and a higher level of obedience to God. For me, the book’s summary could simply be that one day we’ll stand before the Creator of our Lives and may he be inclined to say, “Good and faithful servant…”. But is the life we’re living now WORTH the sacrifice Christ made on the cross? Is it worth the crazy love he has showed to us and the cost of this free grace we have been given?
Throughout the book Chan is in a wrestling match with the rich and selfishly apathetic nature of Western Christianity. We know that this isn’t always the case, but it’s undeniable and a blaring weakness of our culture. He does a good job of bringing light to this and calling it out through scripture and love.
When my wife Nicole and I were weeks away from our wedding she had a stroke because her body was filled with blood clots. After six weeks of bouncing from the ICU unit to the neuro-step down unit, and then back to ICU, we came face to face with death on three very real occasions. I hung a sign in our hospital room that read, “When you don’t understand God’s ways, trust his heart.” We reminded ourselves of his heart on a daily basis. When we finally came to the day she was to leave the hospital Nicole felt the Spirit of God say to her, “Nicole, I gave you today. What are you going to do with it?”
I’m reminded of a quote my Uncle Eric shared with me at 15 years old. He said, “Chad, my greatest fear is not that I won’t succeed, but that I will succeed at something that doesn’t really matter.”
If you haven’t already, I pray that today, in this moment, you will get on your knees and experience the crazy love that God offers to you. If you have, I pray that you will join me on my knees and thank him over and over for the grace he has given us.
“You are awesome and words fall short as we seek to describe how wonderful you are. Thank you for saving us. Thank you for bringing us into relationship with you. Thanks for filling us with life. Thanks for the opportunity to share you with others. Help us to live a life worthy of your cross. We need you. We need your help. Help us to love you like we want to. Fill us with more of your spirit. Help us to see the world through your eyes. We want to love you more. Amen.”
TIME OF FASTING & PRAYER
8/15 to 8/21: 7 Day Fast
Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke?
Day 1: Wednesday August 15, Fruit and Vegetables today, pray for the Church body,
Rock Academy, Our families, Pastor Miles, Rock staff and our community.
Philippians 4:6&7, Colossians 3:12-17
Day 2: Thursday August 16, Fruit and Vegetables today, pray against the devil in Jesus
name, against the author of lies, the deceiver and accuser of the brethren, a roaring lion
seeking whom he may devour. Ask God to surround us with His heavenly host, rebuking
the devils plots, plans and schemes in Jesus name. Amen.
1 Peter 5:6-8, James 4:7&8
Day 3: Friday August 17, Juices and water, pray for a focus on Jesus, the just shall walk
by faith, super natural Holy Spirit filled men, women, and children.
John 15:5, Romans 1:17, Galatians 5:22-26
Day 4: Saturday August 18, Juices and water, pray for protection of our children,
protection of our marriages, protection of our businesses and work places, protection of
our Pastor and his family, that God would open our eyes that we may see His Angels,
horses, and chariots of fire surrounding and blinding the enemy.
2 Kings 6:16-18, Psalm 91: 1-4, John 14:13-14
Day 5: Sunday August 19, Juices and water, Pray for the Holy Spirit to move in a super
natural way, For God’s ministry and His people, an out pouring of super natural wisdom,
knowledge, understanding, discernment and Holy Spirit filled counsel.
Proverbs 3:5&6, Romans 15:13
Day 6: Monday August 20, Juices and water, Pray for unity, people of one accord, like-
minded in Christ Jesus.
Romans 12:1&5, Romans 12:9-21, Philippians 2:1-8
Day 7: Tuesday August 21, Fruit and Vegetables, Pray believing and trusting God all
knowing, all powerful, protector of His people, knowing what the devil means for bad
God All Mighty turns to good, He provides the strength, perseverance, to endure and
overcome the attacks from the enemy Satan himself, by the power of the Holy Spirit in
you pray Satan would be bound in the name of Jesus Christ our LORD. That God would
use the Rock Church as His vessel to save the lost, equip the saints and send out disciples
in Jesus name. Glorifying our Father in Heaven that His will be done on earth as it is in
Heaven. Amen and Amen.
Daniel 6:26&27, 2Samuel 22:2-4, Psalm 113:1-5
Why do we think our lives are all about us? Isn’t it true though, like we are the main character in the movie of our lives? I find the thought of that very, very convicting. At times, I think first of ME being fulfilled, MY dreams, ME being happy, ME being used by God the way I want him to use me. I’ll never forget sitting with Bill, a Professor at Vanguard University, and over a Vegan lunch at the Anti-Mall he explained what it means to be “obedient” with our lives to God. As I sipped my lentil soup he unpacked who should be in the center of our lives and what it actually means to be a follower of Jesus. Convicted deeply, I realized how often I expect the God of the universe to follow me rather than me follow the God of the Universe.
This morning I read this excerpt from CRAZY LOVE written by Francis Chan. I hope it speaks to you as it has me- Enjoy!
Now consider the movie of life… God creates the world. (Were you alive then? Was God talking to you when he proclaimed, “It is good” about all He had just made?) Then people rebel against God (who, if you haven’t’ realized it yet, is the main character in this movie), and God floods the earth to rid it of the mess people made of it. Several generations later, God singles out a ninety-nine-year-old man called Abram and makes him the father of a nation (did you have anything to do with this?). Later, along come Joseph and Moses and many other ordinary and inadequate people that the movie is also not about. God is one who picks them and directs them and works miracles through them. In the next scene, God sends the judges and prophets to His nation because the people can’t seem to give Him the one thing He asks of them (obedience). And then, the climax: The Son of God is born among the people whom God still somehow loves. While in this world, the Son teaches His followers what true love looks like. Then the Son of God dies and is resurrected and goes back up to be with God. And even though the movie isn’t quite finished yet, we know what the last scene holds. It’s the scene I already described in chapter 1: the throne room of God. Here every being worships God who sits on the throne, for He alone is worthy to be praised.
From start to finish, this movie is obviously about God. He is the main character. How is it possible that we live as though it is about us? Our sense in the movie, our brief lives, fall somewhere between the time Jesus ascends into heaven (Acts) and when we will all worship God on His throne in heaven (Revelation). We have only our two-fifths-of-a-second-long scene to live. I don’t know about you, but I want my two-fifths-of-a-second to be about my making much of God. First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” That is what each of our two-fifths-of-a-second is about. So what does that mean for you? Frankly, you need to get over yourself… The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His. It is His movie, His world, His gift.
CRAZY LOVE, Francis Chan Pg. 43-45
Chad Furlong (email@example.com)
Danny Quimlat is one of the Pastors at the Rock and recently shared this story with us at a Staff Devotion:
In the Civil War days before America’s slaves were freed, a northerner went to a slave auction and purchased a young slave girl. As they walked away from the auction, the man turned to the girl and told her, “You’re free.” With amazement she responded, “You mean, I’m free to do whatever I want?” “Yes,” he said. “And to say whatever I want to say?” “Yes, anything.” “And to be whatever I want to be?” “Yep.” “And even go wherever I want to go?” “Yes,” he answered with a smile. “You’re free to go wherever you’d like.” She looked at him intently and replied, “Then I will go with you.”
DOERS are people who know how to work. They get things done and in itself, that’s not a bad thing at all! I love being around doers because they tend to be people to rely on, and are devoted to the task at hand. They make great teammates.
But LOVERS, wow, they are in a class all of their own. They don’t only “do”, but their doing comes from a deep sense of gratitude, or better yet, love. When all roads converge to a single point, and we come to a realization of not “self” but of “God”, we then say- “Anything Lord. I love you so much. Ask anything of me. With joy I serve you. I’m ready to begin serving you even now!”
Lovers accomplish more than doers any day of the week. And regarding tasks, does God our Father care more about the items we are accomplishing or the son or daughter he is shaping? He is calling us to be LOVERS, not only DOERS.
Listen to these beautiful thoughts by Paul the Apostle:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-22)
And in the same spirit, may you and I have the spirit of Jesus in us as LOVERS of the living God. I pray for us both that in the weeks to come we will mature even more into the men and women God would have us to be. And to HIM be the glory forever and ever, Amen.
This photo is of Tom & Heidi Lonsdale who moved their family to Mazatlan, Mexico six years ago to start a cafe and share the love of Jesus to the community. They’ve “put themselves out there.”
Recently I took the TWELVE students to a monastery in Oceanside where we gave ourselves to a vow of silence for 24 hours. I gathered the team and said, “24 hours from this time we will get back together at this very spot. Ready!? It starts… now.”
This is the second time I’ve been on a monastery in this way. At first it’s a bit awkward. No eye contact during hallway passing is a bit weird. There’s of course the hours of solitude in gardens with no words. That’s truly amazing, but, most awkward are the uncomfortable meal times when you’re sitting across from others trying to temper the awkwardness by staring into your plate.
If we put ourselves “out there” with God, there is a point in our journey when everything changes. We let go of hurts and stresses, and grab hold of the overwhelming Creator of the Universe. We become alive and present with him. My goal is not to learn or attain anything in these endeavors. My goal is to simply “be” with the Creator and everything I need to learn or hear from him will happen from that place.
As I write this I am in Mazatlan, Mexico serving my missionary friends Tom and Heidi Lonsdale through their café called the Looney Bean (http://looneybeanmaz.jimdo.com). We’ve been ministering all over the city but our hearts have been left in the dump area. We helped mix concrete with shovels and built an extension off the house of an elderly woman who was hit by a car last year.
When the trucks arrive, families at the dump need to be close so they can gather anything of value from them when they drop material. They will take plastic, copper, and the gold in computer equipment or anything else that can be sold. Because the families need to be close to the action, they actually live in the dump. There is no electricity or running water and their homes consist of plastic or wood and metal all tied together to provide shelter. Their water is contaminated, stored in barrels. Tom and Heidi moved their family here to build a business that would give back to the community. They put themselves out there in a way most people wouldn’t even consider.
Families in the dump wash in and and drink the contaminated water. I watched a mom dunk her 3-month-old baby in a 5 gallon bucket for a bath. The kids are happy, even though they are likely to be hit by a car or get sick. The older mothers I talked with had lost at least half of their children for various reasons.
It’s critical that we set ourselves apart to God for him to speak to us and use us in any way he wishes. I told our team before we started, “God may choose to use us in big ways or small ways, but we are just a tool in his hand to be used how he wishes.” Putting ourselves out there may look small in the eyes of man, but trust me, it’s big in the eyes of God. And that’s all that matters.
This is a trip that will forever change the direction of my life. It’s one of those defining moments that would have never happened if I didn’t put myself out there. So today, wherever you are, put yourself out there. Give something to God that costs you something. Decide to go on a missions trip or reach out to the poor in your community as Jesus did so often. Or send a few emails of encouragement written in the love of Christ and see what God chooses to do with it.
Put yourself out there. Be dedicated to him, and be willing to do something that may be a little crazy. Just see what God will do! Watch the joy he will put in your heart.
If you’re interested in supporting the Looney Bean or learning more about Tom and Heidi and their family, visit http://looneybeanmaz.jimdo.com/.
I have often believed that Leadership is not for sissies. As a matter of fact even the strongest most effective leaders will have their moments of shaking in their boots at a certain point with the challenges that lie before them. In my own life, leadership is one of areas that has challenged me and caused me to grow the most.
In Joshua 1 we see the call of Joshua to lead the people of Israel after the death of Moses. As you read the narrative there are several striking observations. Joshua 1:6 says “Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them.“ The call to be “strong and courageous” is repeated two more times, once in verse 2 and a third time in verse 9.
Why did God instruct Joshua to be strong and courageous? Probably because he knew there would be many challenges in taking the land and some of them would strike fear in the heart of Joshua. As Joshua lead the nation to take possession of the land and root out its giants I am convinced there were many things to be afraid of for Joshua. But Joshua found courage in God’s command to him and moved forward in obedience to what he had been called to accomplish.
It has been said that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to move ahead in spite of fear. I like that because it puts a very human face on courage, and brings it within my grasp. One of the ways I find courage when I am facing a leadership challenge is what I call the rearview mirror. It seems in my ministry life the challenges continue to grow bigger and more complex. When I am facing a new giant that needs to be slain and I find myself afraid, I have found my courage in the rearview mirror.
What is the rearview mirror? It is a spiritual analogy that I have found very helpful. When the road ahead is dark and cloaked in fog, your headlights reflecting back and making it even harder to see, look in the rearview mirror, the mirror of God’s faithfulness through out your life and ministry. When I lack courage (the ability to move ahead in spite of my fears), I look back at all of the times in the past where God has been faithful, where he has provided a solution or a resource and my faith is bolstered. Looking in the rearview mirror is where I often find the “courage” to move ahead with God’s Call and lead His people.
If you find yourself in a leadership challenge and needing courage, take a look in the rearview mirror.
“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Pastor Rick Dunn
Chief Strategy Officer
Serenading Sunsets, Chad Furlong
Psalms 113:3 “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.”
Psalms 34:1 “I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise will continually be on my mouth.”
Last week I took this picture while sitting on the sand at Pacific Beach. I was waiting for the sun to set, trying not to be distracted by the potential biting of bugs, and soaking in the extravagance that was all around me. It was beautiful. A bit overwhelming actually as kids were laughing and couples were walking hand in hand. The richness of life was at high tide as the sun raced toward the horizon. Ahh, these are the moment I live for!
A man walked passed me with his guitar in hand. He looked homeless, or maybe not. Perhaps a struggling musician, but he wore the wrinkles of a person with a story. Facing the sun he walked up to the edge of the water and unzipped the guitar from its case. He began to play to the setting sun. He bounced around like he was at Woodstock. It was as if he were playing before thousands of people, or no one at all. He was fully alive and present in that moment. He was serenading the sunset.
A prayer rose up in me. “Father of all creation, thank you for this moment. I let go of all that happened today. I accept that it is now over. I praise you and thank you for it. And with all of my heart, I receive the gift that is tomorrow. I love you.”
Regardless of whether I want them to or not, seasons end. That last heavenly bite of Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream- Nooo!! My daughters leaving childhood- My oldest daughter will soon enter her teenage years… Ahhh! Sometimes I feel like I’m losing grip of that heavy rope as it slips in my hands. I have to let go, and praise God because he is good.
To my TWELVE team whom I love incredibly; we are rounding the last corner and heading into the finish line. Thank God for what he’s done, for whom he is, and welcome the beginning of a new day.
To you reader; the day is over. God was kind and good and will be tomorrow as well.