When Options are a Bad Thing

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Most of us love options. It makes us feel like we are in control of things and that we aren’t missing anything. This is why churches offer a ton of programs and why we love going restaurants with huge menus (think the Cheesecake factory). Studies show that, the more options you have, the less likely you are to buy. The more options a church has, the less people plug in. They don’t know what is most important and what they should give their time to.

I love the message version of James 1:5 – 8. It says: If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

That last phrase is crucial.

Many times when we pray, when we seek God’s direction, we don’t fully commit or move forward with God. We keep our options open.

We don’t fully invest in generosity, holding back just in case it rains and God doesn’t provide. We don’t fully commit to community or what He has called us to, just in case we got it wrong. This leaves us feeling in control, but it also keeps us from fully experiencing the life God has for us and has called us to.

Besides control, one of the other reasons we keep our options open in life and with God is boredom. We are creatures who fear boredom, who fear down time. Think about the last time you just sat on your couch. What do you do when life is quiet and nothing is happening? You probably grab your phone and scan twitter, Facebook, pinterest or instagram.

We train ourselves to wait to the last possible minute in life to make a commitment. We tentatively plan on being somewhere, but only if nothing better presents itself.

We keep our options open.

We do this with God. We read something in the bible, hear a sermon and see something we should change, but we wait. What if it wasn’t God speaking? What if there’s a way around this passage? I know the bible says this, but what if I do that?

All the while, we keep our options open.

We want to pray for something, like James tells us, but we don’t. A piece of us doesn’t want God to answer our prayers because that would call us to have faith, to trust, to wait on God and give up control. Instead of pushing all our chips into the corner with God, we hold on to one so we can keep our seat at the table if it doesn’t work out.

And then.

We miss out.

We go adrift. We are tossed around.

If your life feels like it is being tossed around. If you feel like you are being bounced and can barely hang on, there is a moment when you realize, you’ve kept your options open and you aren’t fully trusting God. You haven’t fully trusted His way, you’re still holding on to a piece of yours.

When that happens, James tells us that we don’t just miss out on a small part of Jesus, we miss out on the whole thing. We don’t get anything from the Master. 

We miss it all.

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Monday Morning Mind Dump… [Afternoon Edition]

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  • Just now getting this up.
  • I spent all day working on my computer as it decided to not work this morning.
  • Which now puts me about 7 hours behind schedule on Easter week.
  • Not cool.
  • As Katie and I often say, “I’m practicing sovereignty.”
  • Got to spend some extra time praying today and being reminded that God is in control of all this.
  • I continue to be overwhelmed by God’s grace to Revolution Church.
  • We continue to grow every week.
  • I looked out yesterday and thought, “Where did all these people come from?”
  • This week, we are going to put out every chair we have available.
  • Praying we run out.
  • Wrapped up our All In series yesterday and taught on the great commission and how Revolution does church.
  • I think most people want to know that their church has thought through why they do things.
  • Anyone who told me yesterday they don’t like something about Revolution, they followed by saying, “But it makes sense why we do what we do.”
  • I love talking about the vision of Revolution.
  • If you missed it, you can listen to it here.
  • Blown away by all the people praying for Revolution Church this week and for other churches in our city.
  • Praying that it causes people to see their prayer lives go to new levels.
  • After so many weeks doing topical sermons, I’m so excited to kick off our series on Galatians on Sunday.
  • Expository preaching definitely is our bread and butter.
  • We’re also celebrating baptisms on Sunday.
  • Not to late to sign up if you want to take that step (you can do so here).
  • Spent the weekend reading the new book Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches.
  • So many great things for pastors to think through and how to protect their church from drifting.
  • Yesterday was Judah’s birthday.
  • Hard to believe we only celebrated his first birthday with us.
  • It was super fun and he was totally overwhelmed.
  • Hope he felt our love in it.
  • I’m also going to write his birthday letter this week.
  • Lots of emotions in that.
  • If you haven’t made plans yet, make plans to join us at Revolution on Good Friday for The Stations of the Cross.
  • It is powerful.
  • We’re doing a Seder this Thursday with our MC.
  • Expecting to be stretched as an MC.
  • I haven’t done one since I was in Jerusalem 14 years ago.
  • Also excited to go see Captain America this week with the guys from my MC.
  • Definitely needed this week.
  • I’m behind, so back to it…
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One Thing I’m Excited about this Week

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Last week, I challenged our church to pray for 30 minutes each day this week for Revolution Church, the city of Tucson, those who will be our guests this Sunday and for other churches.

Each day, I am sending out a short email with a verse on prayer, some specific things to pray for, a list of names (we collected the names of people who don’t know Jesus who will be invited this week and are praying for openness to an invitation and the gospel), along with 2-4 prayer requests from other churches that I contacted and asked “how can we pray for you this week.”

Here are some things I learned:

  1. I don’t personally pray enough. 30 minutes a day is a long time, but I spend time in the car, working out, reading Facebook, staring off into space. I have all kinds of time to pray, I just don’t. The same is true for most Christians. We don’t pray enough, we feel guilty about it, but we aren’t sure what to do. One of our hopes with this prayer challenge is that people will begin to see how prayer changes things, how they can make prayer a bigger part of their day and have their faith expanded.
  2. Christians need to pray more specifically than they do. It is almost like we are afraid to ask God for things. We don’t pray big, audacious, impossible, specific prayers. We pray in general terms, hoping God will answer a vague prayer request and when he doesn’t, we get frustrated. We do this to protect our heart and our faith, but we sell God short.
  3. Your church will pray if you give them something to pray about. Many pastors lament that their church doesn’t pray or people don’t step up. Most of that is on the pastor and not challenging his church. We have almost 100 people praying this week, that is incredible.
  4. Pray is how God moves. If you are a pastor, you know this. Prayer is how God moves. God wants us to pray, He wants us to ask. There are verses all over the Bible, calling us to ask and ask big.

If you want to be a part of it, send an email to Ciara Hull and we’ll add you to the list.

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Boldness, Community and How God Moves

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Sunday I’m preaching on Acts 4 and the boldness that the disciples had. One of the things that struck me about their boldness was how closely it went with generosity and community.

Boldness → Generosity → Community

Something in us knows the connection between boldness and community. Something in us also hates this connection. When we are hurting, we want community, but the last thing we want is to be bold to get it. We want it to fall into our laps, for someone to just show up and be a shoulder to cry on, but how can they help if we don’t ask?

Think for a minute, do you need community right now? Do you need someone to walk along side of you right now? What is keeping that from happening?

Boldness. 

You are sitting on the sideline waiting for it to happen.

It’s the same with generosity. In Acts 4, as the church is bold, their generosity increases and they see God add to their number.

This is not an accident.

Boldness → Generosity → Community → God Moving

But it all starts with boldness. It all starts with a step.

Boldness to drop the pretense and be real.

Boldness to ask for help.

Boldness to be weak.

Boldness to open yourself up.

In that moment of boldness, others have the opportunity to be generous, to be community and in our weakness, in our humility, we stop trying to be God so we can see God be God.

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This Weekend @ Revolution Church: How God Answers Prayer

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Ever feel like your prayer life is lifeless? Like your prayers leave your mouth, float up to the ceiling and fall right back down next to you? Unanswered. 

This week, as we continue our series All In we will look be looking at Acts 4:1 – 35 and seeing how to ask for it all in life.

One of the reasons many followers of Jesus never see God use them to the extent He could, never see miracles happen, never see mountains move is because they don’t ask. Or, if they ask for anything, they ask for the wrong thing.

Our prayer life reveals everything we believe about God and his power. 

And the person that goes all in sees prayers answered in ways that others do not. And there is a reason for that. There is something in their prayers, in their hearts that is not in the prayers and hearts of others.

If you or someone you has struggled to see God move in their life, struggled to see God answer their prayers or struggles to see how God could use them, this is a great week to bring them to Revolution.

Remember, we meet at 10am on Sunday mornings at 8300 E Speedway Blvd.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Charles Stone on 8 ways pastors can refresh their tired souls.

The degree to which you love yourself corresponds to the degree to which you love others. Caring for ourselves was difficult for us to do without feeling guilty. We unwittingly thought that dying to ourselves for the sake of the gospel meant dying to marital intimacy and joy in life. We had died to something God had never intended we die to.

J.D. Greear on 4 things you should pray for your pastor.

One of the greatest joys in my life is serving as pastor. But ministry can be both messy and exhausting. That’s why I am so thankful for the prayer warriors in our congregation. I truly believe that one of the main reasons the Summit has grown is simply that God has answered the bold prayers of those in our congregation. The most important ministry anyone in our church can be involved in is that of prayer.

Why most churches are not reaching unchurched 20-something’s.

We want to ask questions.
Voice our doubts.
Explain our struggles.
Confess our sins.
Confide our fears.

And we want the church to do it with us.

Ryan Huguley on Sweat your sermon intro.

The first pastor who really taught me about preaching once told me, “If you open strong, close strong, and hit your transitions, your sermon will take care of itself.” While it’s a bit more complicated than that, he was largely correct. Many sermons fall apart before they even start, crash and burn because of an inability to “land the plane”, or lack clarity due to confusion in transition.

David Murray on The 10 types of church leaders.

The case for fewer friends.

When it comes to friendship, quality matters more than quantity.

Peter Leithart on Are Christians obsessed with Sex?

Are Christians obsessed with sex? I would ask, “Compared to whom?” Peter Leithart argues, “Faced with these charges, we get defensive and protest that we are equally concerned with other things – with economic evils, with militaristic violence, with the degradation of the environment. We shouldn’t be defensive. We should say that we’re concerned about sexual behavior and norms precisely because of the effect they have on the poor, the way sexual immorality is linked with violence. We should say that we guard God’s commandments regarding sex because violation of those commandments will produce social chaos. Sexual behavior and sexual norms are a key barometer of social health. If things are disordered in our bedrooms, they will be disordered in boardrooms and cabinet offices.”

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One of a Pastor’s Most Important Public Tasks

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Every Sunday morning around the world, churches gather for community, equipping, communion, singing, prayers and preaching. The pastor is involved in many of these things and leads many of them.

From up front.

Yet, one of the most important tasks a pastors does is public and yet it does not happen on the stage. It happens while he is surrounded by his church, during the singing.

Why is this so important?

The pastor sets the tone for the church. The church becomes a reflection of the pastor

If you look around and see that people are not engaging in worship, there are a few reasons that is happening, but one of them is the leader is not engaging (the leaders on stage and the leader in the congregation, the pastor).

Is it that simple? No.

But I often see pastor’s looking around, not singing, checking their notes or even not in the room until it is time for them to preach.

These things communicate.

Loudly.

They tell your church, the corporate singing and prayers are not the most important thing we do, because I’m not participating. I’m not even here for it. I’m looking at my notes for the important part.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Preaching is incredibly important. Personally, half of my week is spent on preaching.

But pastor, come on. You have all week to prepare your sermon. Looking at your notes for 10 minutes right before you go up to preach is not going to make a difference.

There is another reason this matters.

This gets to the heart of the pastor and how prepared he is to worship. Is he scatter brained when he walks into church? Has he prayed his heart up so he is ready to enter the presence of God? Is he ready to be fed in worship?

I know this is hard. It is hard to connect in worship in your church as a pastor, when you are about to preach, but when you do, your sermon connects in a way it doesn’t otherwise. You are also modeling to people how to worship as many of them don’t know how to connect with God corporately. Men are wondering, why do we sing? Why do people close their eyes? Why do they raise their hands?

And worship leaders, for the sake of your men, stop singing love songs to your boyfriend Jesus.

This task of being a lead worshiper in the congregation is one of the most important tasks a pastor has on Sunday morning. It impacts things you don’t even see and sets the tone for things you wished would go better, like the response of your church.

So pastor, this Sunday. Lead from the congregation. Help get things moving. Sing loud. Raise your hands. Clap along. Help lead from off the stage.

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How to Not be Bitter When Your Prayer Isn’t Answered How You Like

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On a regular basis, either in my life or in a conversation with someone the idea of prayers come up, specifically prayers not being answered in the time we set forth or the way that we want.

This is a crossroads everyone gets to. Maybe you pray for something to happen in your spouse, to get a spouse and nothing. It might be a child and you see no movement. A pastor prays for his church to grow and it is shrinks.

These are difficult moments.

They remind we aren’t in control.

They also lead us to a choice: will we continue to trust God or will we become bitter.

There is an interesting verse in the story of Samson in chapter 14:4, it happens so quickly that you can easily read right past it:

His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.

Samson was sinning and doing the exact opposite of what his parents wanted him to and he was breaking God’s law. This is so heart wrenching to watch when a loved one wrecks their life. You feel helpless.

There is a crucial phrase that we can miss, that Samson, his father and mother were unaware of what God was doing and how God would work in this, in spite of Samson’s sin.

One author said, “What we don’t know may prove to be our deepest comfort.”

Maybe the prayer you are praying is not ready to be answered the way you want. Maybe it will never be answered the way you want. That doesn’t mean God is not listening or God does not care. Often, I find that when prayers are not answered how I want, it causes me to grow in ways I would not have chosen.

At that crossroads, we still have a choice: will we continue to trust God or will we become bitter.

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Denny Burk on Beware of self-appointed pastors.

The pastoral office is reserved for those who are gifted for the ministry and who meet a defined set of character qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The men who meet these qualifications are not self-appointed. The church is to recognize and set these men apart for the ministry (1 Tim. 4:14). The issue is not whether one recognizes his own giftedness and qualification. The issue is whether the people of God recognize it as well.

Tim Challies on Don’t pray in circles. (Katie and I appreciated Batterson’s book for the way it challenged our prayer lives, but Tim is spot on with this.)

Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus as simply and clearly as they could: “Teach us to pray.” When Jesus taught his disciples, he said nothing about prayer circles; if anything, he said the opposite when he told them to pray privately and in a quiet place. When Paul wrote to the people he loved, he often told them how and what he was praying on their behalf, and he said nothing about prayer circles. Praying in circles is absent in any and every form.

Matt Chandler on Being engaged in the battle over abortion.

When I begin to have conversations with some of my aunts and uncles and how they wish they would have marched with King but they were just indifferent, they just thought it would work itself out. How they wish they could get back into time and fight the noble fight. Instead, they were quiet… I think [abortion] is going to be one of those issues for us. Science is already pushing the ball forward rapidly. In 1973, when Roe v. Wade occurred, there was no sonogram. We can see our babies in the womb now. There are studies now showing the baby is dreaming in the womb. Science will eventually, I believe, turn over Roe v. Wade. It will only be a matter of time.

Shane Blackshear on 5 ways to be unsatisfied with your church.

“There is no perfect church, and if you find one, don’t join it because you’ll ruin it.” I don’t know who first said that, but it’s true. All churches are strong in some areas and weak in others. Hopefully churches are always working on those weaknesses, but if we can’t settle for anything less than perfection, then we’re in real trouble.

Brian Howard on The power of positive leadership.

Have you ever given thought to how much positive vs. corrective feedback you give to your family or team? Perhaps if we focused more on teaching and encouragement rather than criticism we would see completely different results than we are used to seeing.

Carlos Whittaker on Megachurch myths.
Myth: Mega-Churches should spend their money rescuing orphans with all their dollars instead of building fancy buildings. Truth: They should rescue orphans. They should also rescue Bob the 38 year old banker who lives off of Tower Place Drive in Buckhead.
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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like.

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Pray For Your Daughter – Mike Leake is beginning a 31-day pray for your daughter challenge. It kicks off January 1.

Steven Furtick on Point the way, clear a path.

Ultimately, there’s nothing we can do to force people to grow in Christ. Nothing. So whether we offer a 26-option discipleship program or a 4-option one really doesn’t matter. If someone really doesn’t want to grow, they’re either going to say no 4 times or 26.

Breaking the 7 barriers of leadership.

Leaders desire what they don’t have and reach for what they haven’t reached. Unfulfilled passions frustrate. Drive encounters barriers. Barriers block the future and frustrate the present.

Marshall Segal on Are you pastoring your pastor?

Some of the least pastored people in the world are pastors. These men work long, unpredictable hours, addressing every physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual issue under the sun, sacrificing their schedule, comfort, and a thousand other things, all without being relieved of their own personal, individual needs.

The pride of pastors.

My church is better than your church.  Our way is better than your way. We’ve figured out something you need to know. But pride is a deadly force.  It will lift you up on platforms and pedestals, setting you up for shame and mockery when you fall.

Christmas at Elevation 2013 (so powerful)