Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hardboiled

I'm a different me than I was 6 years ago when we first attended LifePoint. Some of you know that. Some of you saw me sitting in the balcony, coming straight in and to my seat. Not interacting with anyone if I could help it.

That all changed 5 years ago this week at C3.  Matter of fact it was 5 years to this day that I woke up with a new heart.

It was a great start and it took some time to shake some of the things I was indoctrinated in from my one time denomination.

It took a while to go from legalism to "lovelism"

To realize the difference between my pet issues and salvation issues when it comes to other people.

No, the me you met those years ago is gone now.

What is amazing is the me you met a month ago is gone too.

Sure its not as noticeable as a complete flip but its there.

Everyday I read and I pray and I grow and if I've done my job then the me that goes to bed each night is different from the me that wakes up every morning.

This walk isn't a quick one I've found. It's not about feelings.  It's about change. It's all about change.
Jesus accepted me exactly as I was and he loved me. He would have loved me just the same had I not changed. However in the light of His grace how could I not?  How could I continue in ways that grant his ways?  In ways that would make him sad or disappointed in me. So I changed.

These changes aren't always visible.  Like a boiled egg looks the same as a fresh egg, on the outside. On the inside though it has changed.  It's not a gushy mess anymore able to go this way and that.  The very heart of it has been shaped and solidified.  Still soft enough to be molded but firm enough to stand alone if the shell is broke.

I hope you are growing. In this year as a church that we are looking to grow "Stronger".

I hope you have found a mentor.

If no one has asked you to be theirs yet then I pray you go seek out someone to mentor.  Find someone to grow from the things God has taught you.

It has been an amazing 5 years.

Thank you for your love and support and as always

thanks for reading.

Alan

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Better Nights Sleep

 This is another one of those cases where I wrote a whole lot and then rewrote, edited and wrote again.
I played with turns of phrase. I looked for a through line maybe a catch phrase that would help someone that read this remember it better.
It was long, flowery and decently written. It took over an hour to craft and I just deleted it.

Why?

Well the more I wrote the more I realized I was taking the long way of letting you know what was on my heart tonight.
A simple thought.

Forgive completely.

Holding onto anger or bitterness does nothing to anyone but yourself.

It only serves to effectively immunize you from blessings God wants to give you.

Matthew 6:14 "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you."

You'll also sleep a lot better.

Thanks for reading
Alan

Monday, January 30, 2017

Get more out of Your Game

I was talking to my friend Bethany last week and she gave me an analogy for the Christian walk that had never occurred to me before and I wanted to share it with you and extrapolate a little as well.

When I was a kid I played a Mario video game.  Mario games prior to 1996 were side scrollers. The hero proceeded in a straight path towards the right of the screen. You encountered obstacles to jump over. Coins and things to collect plus secrets to discover but always to the right and always forward for progress.

You might discover a warp zone and be able to skip a few middle levels if you were lucky. You might have a friend that had been there before you and could give you some help. No matter the path your goal was always to get to the reward at the end of the game.  

I had friends though that played the game differently than I.  They wanted to learn its secrets. To know the game better, to understand the person that created it in hopes to gain insight. They didn’t want to skip a level. It didn’t matter if the level was hard or not. They wanted to get as much out of the game as they could.  They knew where all the coins were. All the side games and warp zones.  Their knowledge and appreciation of the game was far beyond mine because they played it differently. They spent way more time with the game than I did. 
They enjoyed the game on a deeper level and had a way more satisfying experience than I did.

If I got stuck I could always call my friends and they would tell me a little more about the game. Where to go, what to do so I could get just a little farther. Believe it or not I even had people that would call me or talk to me at school about their game and I would help them get farther.

No matter how we played the game though we all found ourself at the same place and with the same result when it was over.

That is a great way to look at the Christian walk.  Once you accept Christ your ending is the same.  If you truly believe and put your trust in Him then we are going to the same place. The end of the game is gonna be the same for me that it is for you. 

Those that will quit the game or choose to play a different game will ultimately end up somewhere totally different than us.

As a Christian though we play the the original game the best game. The game everyone was built to play. The game that came with the system. 

Yes sometimes it glitches and sometimes we have to blow into the cartridge to get it to work the way we think it should but its the way its supposed to be. 

How will you play the game?  Will you just try to get through?  

Or will you play to learn more about the game and the creator of it.

Get more out of your game, put more into it and get stronger in 2017.

Thanks for reading

Alan







Monday, January 16, 2017

The Roommate

I really enjoyed the message pastor Kelly brought yesterday.  If you want to hear it for yourself you can check out the video here.

Speaking out of Revelation chapter 2 he spoke about how it’s easy to get comfortable and to lose the fire you once had.  In Revelation chapter 2 writing to the church at Ephesus John tells them that “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!  Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.”

The people had gotten comfortable and stopped doing the things they had done when they were in love with and actively pursuing God.

It’s easy to think about when you compare it to a marriage.  

If you have been married any length of time you know that if you are not careful over time you can end up just being roommates.
You started out in love, you went on dates, you surprised each other. Now the new has worn off and you are comfortable.

As Kelly spoke yesterday and got to the comparison I heard amen after amen about pursuing your wife/husband.  A crowd that is often silent really took hold of that idea. The idea of dating your spouse.  The idea of building, having and maintaining a healthy marriage through tending the fire you sparked when you decided to pursue your spouse for the purposes of being with them until death do you part.
When you were dating you went to their house every chance you got because you wanted to spend time with them. You talked to their friends and family because you wanted to know them. You talked long and late because you wanted to hear them. You spent your money on them because money didn't matter compared to their happiness. You did all that and so much more simply because they wanted you to.
Do that again.
Amens were thick in the sanctuary.

We were all clearly on board and fired up about the message.  I had several people tell me they really liked it. That it spoke to them. They were going to date their spouse.

The comparison is a great comparison and you certainly should never stop pursuing your spouse. 
The point though of the letter to Ephesus wasn’t that their romantic life wasn’t what it used to be.
John and Kelly respectively was talking about our spiritual life. If you heard the sermon then you certainly heard that message but did you get distracted by the comparison.

Did you shut down there because its so much easier to pursue your spouse than it is to pursue God.  Did you take that as the point of the message and mentally check out? 

After all we live in a “right now” culture and results are quicker, the rewards more immediate.  You are better to your wife/husband they are better to you. Done.  It doesn’t take as much effort. Especially if you haven’t kept your romance game up.  If you've went a couple years and the spark has dwindled something as simple as flowers or doing the dishes can get you the rewards you want and make you feel great right away.  You really feel like you turned things around with your roommate 

With God it can be harder. Your pursuit doesn’t always have immediate results.  
I heard less amens yesterday as Kelly brought it back around to our relationship with God.

When you first were saved, you went to the church every chance you got because  you wanted to spend time with Him.  You read your bible because you wanted to know Him. You talked long and late about so many important things because you wanted to hear Him.  You served others because you wanted to be like Him. You tithed because money didn't matter compared to His happiness. You did all that and so much more simply because He wanted you to.

Some sat there in their pew not knowing Kelly was talking to them.

He certainly was talking to me.

Have you gotten comfortable with God? Have you forgot what it was like to pursue Him?

It’s not to late to begin the chase again. You just have to decide to.

So decide.

Don’t just be a roommate. 


Monday, January 9, 2017

A Look Forward

January 2017 week 2 is just beginning.
Last week I wrote a little about how bad I thought 2016 was until I really saw all the pictures from the year and realized how blessed I was.
This week I want to talk about my attitude last year.
Last year I dwelled way too much on the negative.  Right from jump street January 2016 had me down.
It started with our church evaluation.  Our evaluation didn't go bad. If you were at the united night or at the small meetings with Duane and his team you know that it was over all a positive eval.
We addressed the issues head on that we were facing. We got better with communication as a church. From remind, to more graphics on Facebook even more places to see our weekly announcements video that Graham does.
The congregation spoke that we needed a staff youth pastor and we got one. Our youth has thrived ever since.
There were however some bad eggs that tried to skew the results. Using fake email addresses some of which were personally hurtful and multiple accounts marking everything with a strongly disagree.
This anonymous attack struck the first blow of 2016 and it was one I don't think I shook all year.

I thought about it a lot I tried to figure out who it was. I wanted to know who among us could be that petty.  I second guessed a lot after that too, worried I was harboring an enemy.
All of that shaded my attitude the rest of the year.  It wasn't until about September that I realized what was going on.  How my attitude was effecting others.
Instead of trying to bring a positive point of view to meetings or even private talks with others I found myself commiserating with them.

I was not only not helping others I was digging us both deeper in the doldrums of 2016.

In Sept however I decided 2017 wasn't going to be like that.
This year I am going to focus on the wins not the loses.  I will endeavor desperately to show others their wins as well.

My verse for 2017 is Philippians 4:8
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

I know I will struggle with positivity this year, I am a worrier after all.  Still I will try my very best to live that verse for the next 50 weeks and beyond.

Thanks for reading

Alan

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Look Back

It has been a long year. I don't recall a time in my life where as many people I know have had what they would categorize as a bad year.
I'm the same way, 2016 really kicked my rear.
Well thats what I thought until I started putting together the year end video for the church.
While I was cutting things together I started coming across photo after photo of amazing opportunity and unbelievable blessing that I received last year.
in 2016 I went to the L.A. Dreamcenter where I handed out food and prayed with strangers on literal skid row.  I took a trip to Ethiopia where I got to briefly address a group of pastors from the area.
I celebrated the 16th year of marriage with my wife Linda. I stayed financially steady and watched God bless my family.
I started 2016 with becoming a licensed minister on January 10th and ended the year by performing my first wedding for dear dear friends on December 23rd.
All these things were covered over by the barrage of unfortunate events that was my 2016. To the point that I too would call 2016 a "bad year".
Recently I was asked to write down a few of my failures of 2016 and a few sucesses for my year end evaluation.
I had pages of failures but just a line or two of wins.
I kept track of the wrong things. Like I do every year.  Like I am sure most of you do as well.
It really jaded my view of last year.

This year, for 2017 I am doing something different. I am going to celebrate the "wins" be It personal, professional or ministerial.

I went out today and I bought a whiteboard.  I hung this whiteboard on my office wall beside my desk. Over the next year I am going to write down all the blessings, celebrations and victories of the year.
Right now it sits blank in anticipation of what God has in store for me and for us this year.
God willing by December 2017 this board will be filled with all the blessings God has for me and my family.

Go out and get yourself a whiteboard, start a note on your smart phone, get a journal, write on scraps of paper and keep them in an empty jar.  Some how some way record your wins this year and learn from your loses.

Thanks for reading.

Alan


Monday, December 26, 2016

My Top 10 of 2016 (Books)

I read 57 books this year. Well below my goal but not bad.  The following list is my top 10 favorite books organized by order read. With the exception of the last 2 which are my 2 favorite books of the year. I will be pasting the synopsis from amazon here on the blog in black and following that up with my own thoughts in blue.

Lasting Impact by Carey Nuehoff

You've probably noticed ...
Churches aren't growing.
Young adults are walking away.
Volunteers are hard to recruit.
Leaders are burning out.
And the culture is changing faster than ever before.
There's no doubt the church is in a moment in history for which few church leaders are prepared.
You can look for answers, but the right response depends on having the right conversation.
In Lasting Impact, Carey Nieuwhof leads you and your team through seven conversations that will help your church grow and have a lasting impact.
What if ...
      • Having the right conversations could change your trajectory?
      • There was more hope than you realized?
• The potential to grow was greater than the potential to decline?
• Your community was waiting for a church to offer the hope they're looking for?
• Your best days as a church were ahead of you?
Maybe the future belongs to the churches that are willing to have the most honest

conversations at a critical time. That's what Lasting Impact is designed to facilitate.

I started off my year with Lasting Impact. We read this as a staff at church and it is 7 chapters or conversations that will help you find ways to grow as a person and God willing grow your church.
Also highly recommended is the Carey Nuehoff leadership podcast available thru iTunes or wherever you get you podcasts.

The End of Me by Kyle Idelman
Author Kyle Ildeman examines Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, and unpacks the many counter-intuitive truths, including: brokenness is the way to wholeness, mourning is the path to blessing, and emptiness is required in order to know true fullness. Ultimately you will discover how Jesus transforms you as you begin to live out these paradoxical principles. Because only when you come to the end of yourself can you begin to experience the full, blessed, and whole life Jesus offers.
A great book and lots to think about.








Unqualified by Steven Furtick
In (Un)Qualified, Pastor Steven Furtick helps you peel back the assumptions you’ve made about yourself and see yourself as God sees you. Because true peace and confidence come not from worldly perfection but from acceptance: God’s acceptance of you, your acceptance of yourself, and your acceptance of God’s process of change.
Probably my most looked forward to book of 2016. I will read and have read everything that pastor Furtick puts out. I was not let down.








Misreading the Scriptures with Western Eyes by E Randolph Richards
Biblical scholars Brandon O'Brien and Randy Richards shed light on the ways that Western readers often misunderstand the cultural dynamics of the Bible. They identify nine key areas where modern Westerners have significantly different assumptions about what might be going on in a text. Drawing on their own crosscultural experience in global mission, O'Brien and Richards show how better self-awareness and understanding of cultural differences in language, time and social mores allow us to see the Bible in fresh and unexpected ways. Getting beyond our own cultural assumptions is increasingly important for being Christians in our interconnected and globalized world. Learn to read Scripture as a member of the global body of Christ.
Honestly opened my eyes to a lot of cultural ideas that had previously stymied me in my Bible study.

End of Watch by Stephen King
The spectacular finale to the New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes (winner of the Edgar Award) and Finders Keepers—In End of Watch, the diabolical “Mercedes Killer” drives his enemies to suicide, and if Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney don’t figure out a way to stop him, they’ll be victims themselves.
This is the end to the Bill Hodges trilogy and it was worth the wait. I didn’t read a lot of fiction this year but couldn’t pass this up.









Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson
When the image of a man-eating beast travels through the optic nerve and into the visual cortex, the brain sends the body a simple but urgent message: run away! That’s what normal people do, but not lion chasers. Rather than seeing a five hundred pound problem, they see an opportunity for God to show up and show His power..
Chase the Lion is more than a catch phrase; it’s a radically different approach to life. It’s only when we stop fearing failure that we can fully seize opportunity by the mane. With grit and gusto, New York Times bestselling author Mark Batterson delivers a bold message to everyone with a big dream. 
A sequel to Batterson’s first book In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day this completes part of that story and is a brilliant followup even if it is 10 years later.


Night School by Lee Child
It’s 1996, and Reacher is still in the army. In the morning they give him a medal, and in the afternoon they send him back to school. That night he’s off the grid. Out of sight, out of mind.
Two other men are in the classroom—an FBI agent and a CIA analyst. Each is a first-rate operator, each is fresh off a big win, and each is wondering what the hell they are doing there.
Then they find out: A Jihadist sleeper cell in Hamburg, Germany, has received an unexpected visitor—a Saudi courier, seeking safe haven while waiting to rendezvous with persons unknown. A CIA asset, undercover inside the cell, has overheard the courier whisper a chilling message: “The American wants a hundred million dollars.”
For what? And who from? Reacher and his two new friends are told to find the American. Reacher recruits the best soldier he has ever worked with: Sergeant Frances Neagley. Their mission heats up in more ways than one, while always keeping their eyes on the prize: If they don’t get their man, the world will suffer an epic act of terrorism.
Every Year that a Jack Reacher novel is released is a year that a Jack Reacher novel will be on this list. This is probably my least favorite book in the series but it still made my list.

Silence by Shusako Endo 
Originally published in 1966 follows Two Portuguese Jesuit priests travel to a country hostile to their religion, where feudal lords force the faithful to publicly renounce their beliefs. Eventually captured and forced to watch their Japanese Christian brothers lay down their lives for their faith, the priests bear witness to unimaginable cruelties that test their own beliefs
I read this book because I knew that Martin Scorsese had optioned the book for a movie and was currently working on it.  The book had a lot of heavy themes and I found myself lost in the world and the dilemma of the main priest Sebastiao Rodrigues. Great read.







How’s Your Soul by Judah Smith 
Judah Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Jesus Is ______, explores what it looks like to cultivate a healthy soul in the midst of a busy life and points readers to the soul’s only true home and place of rest and fulfillment: God.
Pastor Kelly got me thinking about grace recently and this book scratched that itch while asking a few questions of its own. I just finished the audio book and like it so much i picked up a physical copy so I could read, highlight and dog ear. I would put it as my favorite book of the year and it may well end up being that but I just finished it and i have so much deeper I want to go. 
I always worry that a movie I recently see or a book I just read will make these lists due to it being on my mind more and I try to avoid that. 



With that said my favorite book this year was…


With My Eyes Wide Open by Brian “Head” Welch
A life-changing spiritual awakening freed Brian “Head” Welch from a stranglehold of drugs and alcohol and prompted him to leave the highly successful nu-metal band KoRn in 2005. What followed was a decade-long trial by fire, from the perils of fathering a teen lost in depression and self-mutilation to the harsh realities of playing solo and surviving the shattering betrayal of a trusted friend. In this intensely inspiring redemption saga, perhaps most inspiring is Brian’s radical decision to rejoin KoRn and reconcile with the tribe of people he once considered family in the metal music scene.
I loved Brian’s first book Save Me From Myself (2007) and had no idea he was working on another. As soon as it popped up for preorder I snatched it up and waited for the release date. 
Brian has an amazing testimony and is an admittedly flawed person, as are we all.
One of the things I really liked about this book was how far Brian Welch has come since writing his first book.
If you read Save me From Myself you are confronted with a borderline cocky christian. Brian is new in his faith and in my opinion it feels like God hadn’t been completely given the reins to his life. There is more nostagia for the drug addled days than I was comfortable with and some language that certainly didn’t present itselff as christian.
It was clearly written by a man that had accepted Jesus and this was new to him.
By With My EyesWide Open there was a shift in the writing style and the attitude portrayed. It is a testimony in itself and I am thankful for Brian Welch.

Thanks for reading

Alan