Windows into the heart of God

I’d love to meet God for coffee today. I’d just like to see Him, maybe even stare at Him. Wouldn’t you? I’m guessing we’d be too afraid or awe-struck to actually go inside the coffee shop where the Creator of ALL things stood . . . sat . . . or levitated.

It turns out that God and I already have an appointment to meet face-to-face. God’s written the day/time down on His heavenly iCal but He won’t reveal the time to me. He said He’ll just come and pick me up when it’s time. (Psalm 139:16)

So, in the meantime, He gives me glimpses of Himself. I love those majestic glimpses. Here are a few peaks that I’ve enjoyed:

Yosemite Falls

Awe-inspiring beauty of Yosemite

Care-free cartwheel of a child

Mysterious and therapeutic beauty of the Pacific Ocean

An orange orchard’s bright display of life

Depth of partnership revealed in a simple glance between a long-time couple

The desert cactus’ demonstration of perseverance

Refreshing hug after two people reconcile

Silky softness of baby’s skin

Uninhibited laugh of a child

The smell of fresh cut wood

Your heart feeling “alive again” after a desert season

When someone chooses to forgive

How about you? What are some majestic “God glimpses” you’ve seen?

3 things I don’t like about my current small group

I believe small group participation is hard but worth it. It’s easy to focus on the worth it part while ignoring the hard part.

Personally, I love my small group. In fact, you can watch THIS 7 minute video of our group chatting last week.

groups logo pp

But I gotta be honest and tell you something. There are 3 things I don’t like about my current small group (and every group I’ve been a part of):

1) Giving up an evening every week

2) Trying to figure out who’s gonna watch my kids

3) The day of group I often dread it instead of anticipating it

Can you believe that I actually lead the small group ministry at our church?

But I still think you should absolutely join a small group. Why? Over my lifetime, I can not think of any single factor that has grown my faith more than the friendships I’ve formed in small groups. Watching others’ faith grow inspires me. Giving others access to my life motivates me. Being encouraged through tough times sustains me.

So, how about you? What are some of the things that make the small group experience hard but worth it? You can be honest. 🙂

Short video of our small group chatting last night

Has God used others to encourage you? If so, how?

encouragement

Last night Ginger (my wife) shot some video of our our small group as part of a larger video project in the works. We were answering the question “Has God used this group to encourage you? If so, how?”

We had fun with it so I thought I’d share the 7 minute “raw footage” video (BTW, we missed you last night Matt & Leslie!):

So how about you? Has God used others to encourage you recently? If so, how? I’d love to hear from you today.

2018

Are ready for an important conversation that’s coming?

Someone five years from now will be experiencing the exact same hurt or struggle you’re struggling with right now. Because it’s tough, you will want to help them. 

Imagine that first conversation when together you sit down for the first time. As a point of connection, you will begin to tell them about your own past hurt or struggle.

What story will you want to tell them? How will you want to tell them you responded?

As you decide what you want to say then, it may clarify what you should do now. Today you write the story. Tomorrow (or 5 years from now) you’ll tell it. Hang in there and write intentionally.

2018

What do you do when life’s good but a trial is coming?

We were both sitting in a Chick-fil-A booth enjoying our chicken salad sandwiches when my pastor asked me, “So how are things really going Mark?”

I said, “Things are going so well that sometimes I worry. I know life will include trials so sometimes I worry about the next trial. It’s almost like waiting for the other shoe to drop and suddenly life won’t be this good anymore.”

Daniel, my pastor, said, “You know what I do to help when ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’? By the way, I worry about stuff like that too. I depend on community. I’ve developed a deep relationship with a few people for that very reason. Because if someday it turns out that I’m a jerk to you those deep relationships in your life will help you navigate through it. If someday you begin to become a jerk those people will help get you back on track.”

friendship

I know more trials are coming my way. We don’t like to think about that do we?

Do you have a few deep relationships? Have you experienced the benefit of deep relationships helping you through a trial?

Here’s to deep relationships and chicken salad sandwiches with Daniel.

2 Honest Questions about Bitterness?

I am tempted to become bitter when I’m hurt. So are you.

But why? Why am I (and you) attracted to bitterness?

What does my bitterness actually cost me?

Bitterness is fascinating. How can we all struggle with something that consistently fails to provide happiness?

BitternessResentment

Anne Lamott said bitterness “is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.” John Ortberg said, “I cherish resentment and bitterness because I want to hurt the rat that caused my pain. But after resentment and bitterness have festered long enough, I find out that the rat is me, after all.”

Ortberg continues, “To lick your wounds and savor the pain you will give back is in many ways a feast fit for a king. But then it turns out that what you are eating at the banquet of bitterness is your own heart.”

I don’t want bitterness to own any real estate in my heart. After all, the miserable track-record of bitterness is crystal clear. But I’m inexplicably drawn to bitterness. Why?

Why in the world am I (and you) attracted to it?

What does my bitterness cost me?

What do you think? What is it that attracts me to something so ugly? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Want to make disciples? Determine your gauges.

I really want to help others grow their faith. Don’t think too highly of me. Sometimes my own faith stinks. Sometimes I don’t even like being around people (especially after another Tony Romo season-ending interception). Sometimes I focus on me too much. But, overall my passion in life is helping others grow their faith.

But how do you REALLY help others grow their faith? That’s daunting! But as pastors, we must face this question: How does the church REALLY help others grow their faith?

So, how’s it going? Additionally, how do you measure how it’s going?

Recently I discussed the right scoreboard vs. the wrong scoreboard. (You can click HERE to read it.) Jesus said the church’s scoreboard is making disciples.

The scoreboard is clear (making disciples) but measuring it is super foggy. The key is determining proper gauges. It’s important to distinguish gauges vs. the scoreboard.

gauges

As I shared recently HERE, God seems to grow people’s faith 5 ways: 1) Biblical teaching, 2) Providential Relationships, 3) Pivotal Circumstances, 4) Private Disciplines, & 5) Personal Ministry.

The church is most effective when focused on “positioning” people for discipleship. For example, we can’t control circumstances but we are positioned for greater “success” if we’re in community with Godly people when unforseen, difficult circumstances arise.

Based on the “5 Ways God Grows Our Faith”, the primary gauges North Point Community Church monitors are: 1) Sunday attendance (Biblical teaching), 2) Giving (treasure reveals heart), 3) Personal Ministry, & 4) Small Group (Providential Relationships). (There are many more sophisticated measurements like ratio of small group participation to Sunday attendance, etc. but these are the critical gauges.)

North Point’s Scoreboard = discipleship. North Point’s Gauges = Attendance, Giving, Ministry, & Groups.

It’s impossible to measure individual discipleship. But we can measure the amount of people who are positioning themselves for discipleship.

Your church’s vision will help you narrow the numbers that matter. No one number gives a complete picture but identifying the gauges help give the leadership clarity, unity, and empowerment to lead.

Can you identify the gauges that help you measure your discipleship process? Are those gauges accurately tracked? Can your leadership team identify the gauges? Do they understand their part in moving the ball forward?

How do you let your kids know you’re “for them”?

Warning: I’d love to hear from YOU today. 

Here’s one of the most common hurts I hear from adults, “I didn’t feel like my parents were for me.”

That hurt cuts deeply and is difficult to overcome.

John Woodall recently tweeted, “Reading about boys who knew their fathers were not ‘for them.’ Imagine a world where boys grew up knowing their dads were for them. Wow!”

parents and child

Dads we gotta lead this!

No matter how old your kids are, give me your best ideas.

What are some ideas that practically communicate to our kids that we are “for them”? I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts?

Here’s the hardest question you will constantly battle

You’re writing a story and it will be brief. The most challenging question you will constantly battle is: Who’s the main character in your story?

Life constantly reminds us that our journey is temporary doesn’t it? This life is fleeting. I want that hard truth to constantly influence how I write my story.

It's All About Him

Here are some questions to help you discover if God is the main character in your story:

Are you pursuing God-given dreams?

Are you looking for opportunities to share Jesus?

Does money drive you?

Is accountability a regular part of your life?

Do you serve others?

Do you get angry or hurt easily?

Are you regularly expressing gratitude?

Do you practice total forgiveness with no room for resentment?

This temporary journey is our single opportunity to tell His story. It’s all about Him. Tell His story today.