You Have My Attention: When God Breaks In

image26About 2 months ago, I remember thinking to myself, ‘I can conquer the world!’

I honestly believed there was nothing that could hold me back and nothing that I could not accomplish. I felt like I had the ‘correct’ answers to everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen God do extraordinary things this past year – some of which I cannot even explain! I have been a part of a student ministry that is absolutely flourishing! There is a barely a week that goes by that we do not see students come to know Christ or baptized! Our numbers have drastically increased and our leadership is stronger than I could ever imagine!

On a personal level, 2014 was a challenging year, but also a fruitful year. Our family saw God work in ways that did not make sense – many times when we least expected it. We saw a 3-year debacle over our house on the east coast of Florida end via 2 phone calls over the course of 48 hours. We proceeded to sell the house  for more than we were asking within 4 weeks! We feel blessed beyond measure for the health and joy we have experienced this year!

I truly believe that there is nothing impossible for God, but my pride often gets in the way. I fool myself into believing that there is nothing too powerful for me to accomplish as well. I take the place of God and attempt to accomplish things on my own, ultimately missing what He has for me.

I like to think I am a strong leader – organized, efficient, capable, empowering, and competent. I also tend to think that my character and integrity is most often Christlike. Now, yes, there are those times that my pride and arrogance gets the best of me and, just like Paul, I struggle doing what I know I am not supposed to do and not doing what I know I am supposed to do.

About 3 weeks ago, I was quickly reminded that my ability, my strength, my energy, and yes, even my mind is a blessing from God, the one who gives and takes away. There is nothing I can accomplish outside of who He is. There is no fruit I can produce outside of His love, His character, and His will!

At 1:55 pm on Sunday, December 14th, I came stumbling out of my bedroom and went into a grand mal seizure that lasted about 3 minutes. I tripped over my 4-year old son and ended up falling onto our tile floor. In the process, I also dislocated my shoulder, which is causing me constant pain. As a teenager, I was diagnosed with adolescent epilepsy and was on medication for about 16 years. This past year was the first year that I have not taken any medication, and I was under the assumption I was in the clear – until about 3 weeks ago.

I feel like I have been to more doctors over the past 3 weeks than the past 10 years combined. My wife has become my chauffeur, because legally I am not allowed to drive for 6 months. I am also dealing with the effects of my body getting used to epilepsy medication again, which has caused me to be an emotional basket case on more than one occasion.

It has been a rough few weeks, one that has humbled me and opened my eyes to where my priorities need to truly be. I have been forced to do nothing. My wife even went to the extent of asking me how it felt to have my independence taken away. If it were not for the inability to process my thoughts into words quick enough, I would have responded with some sarcastic comment back at her.

I have realized that I do not have this thing called life figured out. I do not have this thing called leadership figured out. I do not have student ministry, family ministry, or my own relational life figured out. Unfortunately, I have not reached perfection, and if you ask my kids, I still have a long ways to go!

But I do know one thing for sure – God has EVERYTHING figured out!

His love casts out all fear

His grace His sufficient

His mercy is new every morning

Great is His faithfulness

He is MY rock and MY redeemer

He is the beginning and the end

He is the Good Shepherd

He is the great I AM!

And at the end of the day, He has all the answers to all the questions. He has my future in His hands. His purpose for my life far exceeds anything I could ever desire or imagine. I am His vessel, living out the life He has called me to live!

There were several factors that went into me having a seizure and there are still physical, mental, and emotional consequences I am working through. But I truly believe it was God trying to get my attention. I veered off course just slightly and was allowing my pride to take the place of what God had in store for me.

It doesn’t take much of a change in direction to miss what God has for us. For Peter it was taking his eyes off Jesus’ eyes. He was walking on water, with Jesus in his vision, but his eyes were not focused on the Savior’s eyes. For David it was a quick second glimpse off the patio that caused his eyes to lose sight of God’s eyes. For many of us, we feel like we are right there, doing exactly what God is calling us to do, but our pride has caused us to veer just slightly off course. God is in our vision. We believe we are moving towards Him, walking with Him, and living as He has called us to live. But, there is a difference in focusing on the direction of Jesus and focusing on His eyes.

Think of it this way… if I want to drive from Cape Coral, Florida to Buford, Wyoming, simply heading west may not get me to my final destination. Even though Wyoming is constantly in the direction I am headed, getting to my exact location takes more precise accuracy than simply heading west. God is not generic, He is specific. He has a clear plan for each and every one of us that requires us focusing directly on His eyes!

As Christians, we cannot get caught up in our own abilities that we miss the priorities God has mapped out before us. Our first step (or in some cases 5, 20, or 50 steps) often has to be backwards. We must reset our priorities and schedules in order to focus on what is most important.

We have to remain faithful to God’s leading, no matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient that may be. And at the end of the day, we must never forget that no matter what happens, God is in completely control and He has EVERYTHING figured out!

God has my attention, and my prayer is that He either already has or gets yours! We not only need Him, but we must want Him more than anything this world has to offer. I am committed to seeking Him more this year than ever before. My Lead Pastor put it perfectly, ‘Our faith becomes stronger through our intimacy with the Father’

May this year, we grow more intimately in love with Jesus. May He truly remain our first love in everything – every situation, every event, every circumstance, and amongst every relationship!

Speaking Life into Students and Young Adults: Valuable Lessons for 2 Generations

speaking-lifeOver the past 10 years, I have seen firsthand the gap between two very different generations. The ‘Millenials,’ also known as Generation Y, are those born between the early 1980’s and the late 1990’s. Generation Z are those born between the late 1990’s and the mid 2000’s. I have had the privilege of working closely with the individuals and families of these generations. Some of them I call my best friends, some my own family, some leaders, and still some students.

I have seen these generations thrive in ways nobody could ever imagine, but I have also seen them fail to live beyond the low expectations others set for them. Every generation can learn quite a bit from the generation before them. But I am not sure we have ever seen two back-to-back generations that offer as many valuable lessons for each other the way Generation Y & Z have lived out.

I have been their pastor, their leader, their friend, their brother, their counselor, their coach, and their father. I have picked them up when they have fallen. I have cried with them, laughed with them, and yes, even yelled at them. They have challenged me in ways they don’t even know, and I love challenging them in ways they sometimes can’t stand. They have lived in my house, eaten my food, sat at my dinner table, watched my children, played with my dog, and made my wife laugh so hard she peed her pants! I have poured blood, sweat, and tears into their successes and failures. I have walked them through family crises, death, defeat, victory, and success. They have prayed over me, visited my newborn children in the hospital, walked with me through my parents divorce, and given me a sense of hope when all hope seemed lost. I have traveled with them to Kenya, Haiti, Washington D.C., Phoenix, AZ, Ducktown, TN, and many places in between. I love these two generations dearly and pray many of them continually seek God’s face in every aspect of their lives!

I say all of this to reassure you that every word you are about to read is written out of a heightened love and a desire to see Generation Y & Z become the individuals God has called them to be! Based on my experience and observation here are a few life lessons Generation Y & Z can learn from each other!

Accountable Community I love hearing our Millenials share their desire for authentic community. I remember my first few years as a youth pastor. I realized right away that I was never going to be able to fake a message. My students wanted to see me living out what I was talking about before they were fully bought in. I pray today’s middle and high school students never lose sight of the importance of authentic community. At the same time, I hope they raise the bar of community to include deep accountability. Many of today’s young adults want incredible community without the accountability. My prayer is that we see a generation rise up willing to hold each other accountable to the truths of God’s Word!

Commitment to The Church – Generation Y understands what it means to serve God’s Kingdom. I could share story after story of Millenials who haven given of their time, energy, and resources to grow an area of ministry. Many times I have seen them serve up to 40 hours a week without receiving a single penny of compensation! Although at times I feel the local church has done an injustice to our twenty-something’s, I have seen many of them rise above the lack of financial compensation to see God’s Kingdom grow!

I understand that the local church has taken advantage of many Millenials, but I have also seen many of them bounce from one ministry to the next because of the struggle to commit. They get bored, lose interest, and feel like they are not accomplishing what they want to accomplish, so they simply move on. I have seen this happen in the blink of an eye, without any notice! I pray Generation Z understands the importance of committing to The Church, even if it doesn’t mean always being in the spotlight!

Passion, Passion, Passion – Have you ever heard of Passion Conference? How about the Passion Movement? Passion City Church? How about the Passion Worship Band? Every single one of these is an effort to attract the Millenials! While I do not completely agree with their motives, I cannot argue with their success. Their purpose is to unite ‘students in worship and prayer for spiritual awakening in this generation.’ They have seen over 60,000 young adults gather together under one rough!

Generation Y is extremely passionate. I have come in contact with many young adults that could turn the world upside down if they committed to it. They are gifted, talented, knowledgeable, adaptive to change, and they desire to achieve success. But many of them have become so passionate about a variety of things that they really aren’t committed to passionately changing anything. Imagine if these two generations passionately caught Jesus’ call for discipleship! I truly believe they have the voice to turn our culture upside down for the cause of Christ!

Owning your Entitlement – Yes, you read that correctly… I believe Generation Y has taught Generation Z the wrong view of entitlement. Today’s teenagers feel they deserve everything! They want life handed to them on a silver platter, alongside a gold fork and a diamond-studded knife. Let me say this… entitlement has been taught the wrong way. As Christians, we are blessed with the opportunity to experience life to its fullest, not because of who we are, but because of what Christ did for us on the cross! We are entitled to experience life with Him – as His son or daughter. Generation Y has turned that and said, ‘We are entitled to experience freedom!’ Generation Z has taken it a step further and said, ‘We are entitled to whatever we want!’ And their parents and grandparents are all sitting back saying, ‘Sonny, when I was young…’

I believe it comes down to a question of identity. Do you find your identity in friends, sports, school, culture, music, relationships, work, or in who Christ is and what He did for you on the cross? As we grow closer to Christ, we will not struggle with identity crisis. We will not become consumed with what we think we need or deserve. We will own our relationship with Christ and find ourselves entitled to His love, grace, mercy, and faithfulness!

God’s Wisdom versus Man’s Ideas – The Millenials are full of great ideas! Today’s young adults are so passionate about making a difference. They want to experience the latest and greatest idea that will draw emotion in order to create change. But I often wonder, what is the end goal? What should that change look like? Do these two generations truly understand what Jesus meant when He said, ‘Follow Me’? That was more than just a great idea. It was one of the wisest statements ever made! Jesus offered more meat in those 2 words than any butcher could handle in an entire lifetime! My kids do not need the latest and greatest idea. They need the wisdom found in the pages of Scripture. Simply put… they need the truth of God’s Word!

When it comes to wisdom, we must also be willing to trust in the advice of those older than us. Generation Y & Z must understand they are loved, not judged. Don’t take offense when one of us old geezers critiques how you live your life. We may look foolish, but many of us are fairly wise. And beyond that – we have a desire to see you succeed beyond what you can imagine! Trust us, we have been down the block a few times. We may not know what we are talking about when it comes to music or social media, but when it comes to Biblical wisdom and life experience, the older generations can teach you tons!

My heart breaks to see what many students and young adults within Generation Y & Z has to face. Several authors call this the fatherless generation. The hurt caused by broken families is immeasurable. The pain created by a lack of identity and issues of self-worth has caused suicides, school shootings, and self-harm to skyrocket. I have seen the tears, heard the horror stories, and fallen flat on my face at the feet of Jesus, begging Him to take away the pain that so many of our students and young adults bear. I have bore their pain in the midst of life’s most difficult crisis. I have stayed awake many nights revisiting conversations I have had with countless guys and girls within these two generations. My heart breaks as I watch so many of them miss out on the life Christ has called them to live.

Let me wrap up by saying this… If you are a part of either Generation Y or Z, be proud of who you are! Find your identity in an authentic relationship with Christ. Don’t listen to the statistics. Don’t allow culture to shape your generation. Don’t leave the success of God’s church in the hands of the generations after you. Take ownership of your faith and create the revolution that I know you are capable of establishing!

If you are not a part of either of these generations, what are you doing to speak words of love, wisdom, and affirmation into their lives? They are broken and in search of something. Are you encouraging them based on their identity in Christ or discouraging them because of their laundry list of identity issues? Love them. Father them. Spoil them. Invite them around your dinner table. Let them babysit your children. Give them the example that many of their parents failed to give them. Offer them the space to serve and lead. Show them Christ. Treat them to something fun and exciting. Teach them. Speak life into them. And never forget… they could be the ones taking care of you someday!

7 Habits of a Healthy Family

Slide1In Revelation 2 & 3, John gives us a glimpse of what a healthy church should look like. Jesus writes letters to 7 churches, encouraging them for the work they were doing, while challenging them in specific areas of needed growth. I believe we can take each one of these letters and gain 7 habits of a healthy family!

1. Keep your love for Christ at the center of everything – The church of Ephesus had lost their first love! As they persevered and endured difficult times, they lost their passion for who God called them to be. Jesus challenged them to remember and live by who He was and what He endured on their behalf.

There are moments within each one of our families that we are faced with extremely difficult circumstances. As I think through the past three years, I often wonder, ‘what’s next? What else could go wrong?’ We find ourselves standing in the shoes of the church of Ephesus. Although we despise evil, we have lost focus of Christ at the center!

As parents, we must never lose sight of what Jesus did for us! As we continue to focus on who He is, our love for Him will grow, no matter what circumstances come our way! Is Jesus at the center of your family? Does He shine through your words and deeds? Do you react to circumstances remembering how Jesus suffered for you?

2. Trust that God has your back – The church of Smyrna was about to face major persecution. Revelation 2:10 says, ‘Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.’ They had already faced several other trials, including major poverty. Here was a church that understood how to persevere through adversity, yet Jesus challenges them to not be afraid of whatever persecution may come their way.

What difficult circumstances is your family facing? Are you ever afraid of the ‘what if’? Many of us have lived through those ‘what if’ moments – the times that life does not make sense and nothing seems to go right. Honestly, I fear the day something horrific happens to one of my family members and am blindsided by the unimaginable circumstances of life!

The health of a family cannot be based on possessions or circumstances, but in a trust that God has our back no matter what! He is there for us in the midst of the most difficult times! He promises to never leave us or give up on us. His love covers any fear we may have in regards to the ‘what if’ moments. We must rely on Christ for strength in the moments that are easy and in the ones that do not make any sense!

3. Allow God’s Word to influence your family – Jesus’ third letter was to the church of Pergamum, which found itself in the middle of evil Greek culture. They surrounded themselves with idol worshippers and allowed culture to influence them instead of living for Christ in the midst of culture. Jesus promised to fight their battle for them.

What do people see when they look at your family? Do you speak, act, and live differently than families engulfed in today’s culture? We must allow God’s Word to influence the life of our families. Instead of looking solely to culture, Oprah, modern television, or today’s greatest parenting book, we must allow God’s Word to lead us as a family on mission! It cannot be the latest, greatest idea that leads us as parents and families, but the truth of God’s Word!

4. Setup boundaries based on God’s Word – The church of Thyatira was accomplishing great works in the name of Jesus Christ, but lacked boundaries. They fell into Satan’s lies and deceits as they allowed sin to consume their leadership.

Is your family so focused on doing God’s work, that you will extend your boundaries beyond the direction of God’s Word? Our grace-filled freedom in Christ does not give us the right to sin! We must establish boundaries that keep Jesus at the center of our families. Our relationships must be built around Christ, not on the wisdom of the world.

Thyatira’s place of worship had become a center for sexual immorality. I have come in contact with so many families that have been broken because of sexually immoral actions. In order to live as a family on mission for Christ, we must not fall into the traps of Satan! We must solidify boundaries based on God’s Word in order to keep ourselves from sexual immorality!

5. Be vulnerable and real – To the average person within the community, the church of Sardis appeared alive, but on the inside they were dead! Their actions lacked authenticity. They wanted the spotlight, but lacked faith in Christ. The members of Sardis were fooling the community into believing they had their act together!

Is your family great in public, but a disaster behind closed doors? Do you appear to have your act together when around others? Are you serving alongside your spouse, but talking about getting divorced? We may be able to fool those around us and even ourselves, but we cannot fool God! He knows our family’s heartbeat, no matter what others may think or say about us.

As a father and husband, I have experienced growth in the midst of vulnerability. We must be real with those we come in contact with. I understand there may be times we have to put on a good front as we walk through difficult circumstances, but those around us must also see that we are real people in need of God’s grace!

6. Remain faithful in the little things – The church of Philadelphia was blessed with opportunities to impact their community for the cause of Christ! They were forced to rely on God’s strength and trust in His guidance. God was protecting them from trials and holding them tight. Because of their commitment to Christ, their community was going to experience a radical transformation! Jesus did not have anything against this church because of their obedience to Him. He was going to use them through His strength, not because of what they had or could do.

As a family, are you remaining faithful in the little things? God desires to use you in ways you could never imagine! But he first calls us to remain faithful in minor circumstances and rely on His strength for everything. As Christ remains at the center of our homes, God will bless and use us in ways that do not make sense! Remain faithful in the little things and God will come through in mighty ways.

7. Get off the fence – The seventh and final church, Laodicea, was living on the fence. Revelation 3:15 says, ‘I know your deeds: that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either one or the other!’ They were living in shame, with one foot in a relationship with Christ and one foot in the world. They based their relationship with Christ on their riches and possessions. Jesus despised them because they were not truly living for Him!

Too many families struggle because they feel pulled in multiple directions. We have become so wrapped up in our busy schedules and possessions that our faith is wavering around Christ instead of centered on Him! We must not live lukewarm lives!

A healthy family strives to have Christ at the center! As the spiritual leaders of our homes, we must never lose sight of who He has called us to be!