Messy but Magnificent

One of the pastors that I work with at Grace recently shared with me a theme for one of her upcoming ministry areas in 2019 and it was so good that I have to share it with you. Her inspired ministry theme is messy but magnificent.

Don’t you love it? That is both who and what we are. We are messy but magnificent, broken but beautiful, vessels of clay but possessing the brilliance of heaven. When God’s grace reached us and we responded to the Holy Spirit’s work in our life, He began sculpting a masterpiece out of the mess and the murkiness of our personal histories.

As a pastor, I have witnessed this more times than I can count. I have seen wounded people begin to heal people. I have seen fragile people become unshakably strong, and I have seen extremely gifted people add humility and grace to the strength and power of their gifts. It has been an amazing thing to behold, and I am sure I will see it again in 2019.

The Apostle Paul described it this way: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)

Let’s swap prayers for each other in 2019. Let’s pray that wherever our lives feel messy or out of control, God’s magnificence would shine through, bringing life, hope, brilliance, and love to the world around us.


Not trapped in yesterday

You would never know it is winter in Los Angeles. The leaves have barely changed colors, the temperature is in the 80s, and everyone around me is still in yoga pants or shorts.

And yet it’s officially winter—the calendar told me so.

Sometimes the seasons of our lives are like that too. The season has shifted and the calendar says the year is brand new, but everything still feels like yesterday.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that life will flow again. We won’t be trapped in yesterday forever. Yesterday ended at midnight, and whether our yesterday was full of victories, draws, or defeats, there is grace for us to get up and run again today. Perhaps you need to write it down and tape it to your bathroom mirror (or write it in lipstick as my wife, Jessica, has been known to do): “Yesterday ended at midnight.”

There is a prayer in Psalm 126:4 that says, “Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev.” This prayer might not mean a whole lot to us until we learn that by late summer the river bottoms in the Negev (the desert country in Southern Israel) become bone dry, and the thought of retrieving water from them is laughable. However, when the winter’s rainy season finally trumps summer, fresh, clean, life-giving water begins to flow into those barren riverbeds once more.

The change over to a New Year is the perfect time to be reminded that God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). Unlike Cinderella who had everything revert back to the past when the clock struck twelve, we have the promise that with every new day there comes new grace and new opportunities for life, love, healing, hope, and breakthrough. Let’s live today to the hilt.

And then let’s let it die at midnight as we run courageously into the mystery and hope of a New Year.

Read the red and pray for the power!

red-lettersRead the red and pray for the power.

These were the instructions that Dr. Fuchsia Pickett gave to our class when Jessica and I were in Bible school in the early 90s, and I think they are the perfect marching orders for each of us as we start a New Year together.

Yesterday, Grace Church committed to three New Year resolutions, and I would love for you to join us as well.

  1. We set a human goal. This is an area of our lives that can be changed solely through the efforts of our determined humanity. We don’t need God’s help to accomplish this goal—we simply need some leverage and true resolve.
  2. We set a supernatural goal. This is an area that will require some divine intervention—we will not be able to accomplish this goal unless God gets involved.
  3. In order to position ourselves for our supernatural goals, we committed to a 90-day “Read the red and pray for the power” New Year campaign.

Our “Read the red and pray for the power” campaign includes two elements: we are going to read a 90-day Bible reading schedule called “Read the red stuff” that will take us through all of the written words of Jesus Christ in 90 days, and we are going to engage in focused prayer around three areas. If you aren’t a part of Grace Church, your three prayer targets will differ slightly from these, but here are the items we are praying for at Grace:

  1. We are praying for each others’ supernatural goals.
  2. We are praying for our “becoming”—we want to step more fully into our individual and collective destinies in 2017.
  3. We are praying for resolution regarding a permanent church facility.

Please join us. Let’s work hard and pray hard this year. Let’s live 2017 to the best of our human abilities and then let’s pray for some things that are dependent on an amazing God. My daily prayer book, The Valley of Vision, includes the following prayer: “May my desires be enlarged and my hopes emboldened, that I may honor you by the greatness of my request.” Let’s not focus on trivia this year; let’s ask some great things of a great God.

You can download a copy of the “Read the red stuff” Bible reading schedule here, and join our campaign today.

Happy New Year! Know you are loved.

Open Heavens

jacob's ladderHave you ever had a “Jacob’s Ladder” moment when heaven opened up above you?

In Genesis 28 Jacob fell asleep, and in his dream-like state he saw what he couldn’t see during his distracted waking hours. He saw angels ascending and descending on a giant stairway that stretched between heaven and earth. And as if that wasn’t awesome enough, he actually saw the Lord Himself, calling out to Jacob, promising to bless his life.

When Jacob woke up from his dreaming sleep he exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it. How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of  God; this is the gate of heaven.”

God wants that house to be your house too. That wasn’t a one-time-for-Jacob-only Bible story—it was a picture of God’s intentions for you.

He wants you to increasingly live under an open heaven in 2014.

Jesus, modeling God’s heart and intention for us, began and ended His ministry under open heavens (see His baptism and ascension in Luke 3:21; 24:51). And the apex of His ministry occurred after the cross when God Himself reached down from Jacob’s Ladder and shredded the Temple veil that separated people from His presence.

The message of the Gospel is of heaven’s desire to draw near. That’s what Jesus told Nathanael when He recruited Him to be His follower, and said: “You will see heaven open, and the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51).

Jesus’ call to Nathanael is in effect for you and me. He wants us to pitch the tent of our life at the base of Jacob’s Ladder where everything changes when heaven draws near.

Yesterday ended at midnight!

yesterday ended at midnightWrite it down. Tape it to your bathroom mirror (or write it in lipstick as Jessica has been known to do).

“Yesterday ended at midnight.”

Sometimes we need to be reminded that yesterday is over and the Lord’s mercies are brand-new today (Lamentations 3:23).

Whether yesterday was full of victories, draws, or defeats, there is grace for us to get up and run again today. I know that our todays sometimes carry the consequences of our yesterdays, but through the power and life of Christ within us we still have the ability to live today in a way that honors Him and blesses the world around us.

Proverbs 24:16 tells us that the righteous person falls seven times—even the good guys fall sometimes—but they get up again. Unlike Cinderella who had everything revert back to the way it used to be when the clock struck twelve, we have the promise that with every new day there comes new grace and new opportunities for life, love, healing, hope, and breakthrough. Let’s live today to the hilt.

And then let’s let it die at midnight.

The Year We Make Contact

outer spaceWhen I was twelve years old a movie came out called, “2010: the year we make contact” and I keep finding myself thinking about that title as we approach a New Year.

The year we make contact. I like that!

And I want it to be the theme of my life in this New Year.

I want to come into greater contact with some of God’s purposes for my life. I want to experience greater boldness in witness and ministry. I want to be more thankful and less self-absorbed. I want to contact the Lord’s presence in ways that I’ve never experienced before.

Just like Nathanael did.

Do you remember him from John 1:47 when Jesus first encountered him and shared with him some prophetic insights about the state of Nathanael’s heart? Jesus said, “Here is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit,” and Nathaniel was so undone that he exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!”

Jesus replied by saying, “You will see greater things than that. Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Let’s make it a collective goal to see “greater things” this year. Let’s position ourselves for a year of contact, where we can more fully and freely run in the ways and purposes of God for 2014 and beyond. 

Curing Eeyore

Eeyore as depicted by Disney

Eeyore, the old grey Donkey, stood by the side of the stream, and looked at himself in the water.

“Pathetic,” he said. “That’s what it is. Pathetic.”

He turned and walked slowly down the stream for twenty yards, splashed across it, and walked slowly back on the other side. Then he looked at himself in the water again.

“As I thought,” he said. “No better from this side. But nobody minds. Nobody cares. Pathetic, that’s what it is.” (Excerpt from Winnie the Pooh)

Everyone knows an Eeyore, someone who is habitually negative or pessimistic and can find a way to rain on even the happiest of parades. Eeyores find problems in every solution, constantly expect the worst, and project their unhappiness on to everyone around them.

Eeyores must be stopped.  They’re hurting themselves, they’re exhausting their friends, and they’re polluting the atmosphere in the 40-acre wood.

Chronic criticism and negativity poison relationships, assassinate joy, and damage faith, and at risk of offering pat, overly simplistic counsel let me suggest some potential cures for Eyore’s gloominess:

  1. Go on a “thank you” fast. Designate some time to express gratitude for every blessing you can identify regardless of how small it might be.
  2. Embark on a total life makeover, an aggressive but realistic campaign to overhaul your fitness, budget, friendships, hobbies, and self-esteem.
  3. Join a small group and inform them of your plans to change.
  4. If necessary get the appropriate therapy or medical help.
  5. Read…pray…worship…reach out—do whatever it takes to get in God’s presence and linger there. He adores you, and His ultimate plan for you is good.