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All posts for the month January, 2014

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Most Christians in America live unintegrated lives. Meaning, we have our work, our family, our faith, our community and none of them interact. They are distinct from the other. Inevitably what happens is that one part of our life gets broken (maybe a divorce) and it absolutely affects the other parts, but since we are living unintegrated lives the other parts are not strong enough to help you through the brokenness let alone help you rebuild that area of brokenness.

Peter writes, “And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.” (1 Peter 2:5 NLT)

We are all in a rebuilding process and our hope through this series on Nehemiah we are launching this weekend, will give you the tools to reintegrate your life and community, thereby bringing health to areas of brokenness personally and to our cities. Nehemiah is a great narrative of this kind of rebuilding process.

Here’s the question: do you care? Have you become so calloused to the way life is, that you are now resigned to believe that this is the way it will always be? What if there was a way to have a better life, a more whole life? Would you be willing to go through a lengthy and not always easy process of restoration? And it matters. It matters a lot. Our nation is so divided right now and I believe that is one of the clearest signs that we are divided within ourselves as well. It matters that we get whole. It matters that we see ourselves as living stones that God is building up.

This weekend I want us to look at the rubble around us and in us, and allow the Holy Spirit (our Nehemiah) to break us so he can start rebuilding us.

Don’t miss this series at Westside. It has the potential of creating strength in your life, in your family, in your workplaces, in your schools, in our cities.

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This is one of my top ten bible stories. It’s where movie directors get their inspiration for epic battle scenes.

What is my “perhaps God will…”? What is yours? I started my online masters degree years ago when I was a missionary. For a lot of good reasons I had to drop out. Last year I sensed God asking me to finish. I didn’t know how I could do it or pull it off financially or time-wise or with the church transition. But I stepped out in faith, reapplied, and will be starting the program this Monday. I’m so excited and have already finished four books for my first class that were inspiring and extremely helpful for what I’m doing in the church.

So, what is your “perhaps God will” and what can you do today to step towards it? Maybe it starts with a prayer, or telling someone else your audacious dream, or…GO FOR IT!

Steven Furtick’s Day 4 Devotional based on 1 Samuel 14:1-14:

In today’’s reading the army of King Saul has been locked in a standoff against the Philistines. And Jonathan, the king’’s son, has become so aggravated with the inaction of his fellow warriors that he decides to make a bold move. He enlists his armor bearer to join him on a two-man commando raid.

His battle plan is potentially God inspired— – and a little ludicrous. The two young men will openly approach the enemy outpost. If they get a go-ahead sign from God, they will attack. A borderline suicide mission. But if God is with them, Jonathan figures, nothing can stop them.

In his motivational speech to his bodyguard, Jonathan seems to be speaking out of both sides of his mouth: •

– Nothing can hinder the Lord.

– Perhaps the Lord will act.

At first glance this seems like spiritual schizophrenia.

But perhaps Jonathan isn’’t schizophrenic. Perhaps true faith always feels this way. On the one hand, I know that God is able to do anything. On the other hand, I think He’’s willing to do this specific thing. I know God can. And I’’m pretty sure He will. But I can’’t be completely sure.

That’’s where audacious faith comes in.

Audacity isn’’t the absence of uncertainty and ambiguity. Audacity is believing that God’s promise is bigger than my perhaps.

The Bible says that God’’s Word is a lamp unto our feet (Psalm 119:105), not a floodlight beaming to our destination. So, armed with the confidence that there’’s a decent chance and an interesting possibility that my impulse might be from God (perhaps, in other words), I start investigating.

We’’d all like to live in a world where God lets us do big things that require minimal risk. Where the voice of the Holy Spirit carries for miles and miles, piercing through static and fuzz, jeers and taunts. The fact is, though, that the land where the sun stands still is a land where promise and perhaps must coexist. Audacious faith does not eliminate doubt and fear. It eclipses their power one decision at a time. You know God’’s will by doing God’’s will.

Jonathan and his armor bearer ended up saving the day in a spectacular way. Their act of audacious faith tilted the fate of an entire nation.

Act on your “perhaps”, and see what God will do in your world.

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What keeps us from seizing our vision? For me it has been fear. Not the fear of failing. Doing athletics you learn that winning all the time isn’t really possible. What I have feared are the “what if’s” of having a target on my back and my family’s back because we stepped out in faith. I can say that I have truly conquered my fears 90% of the time. There is still that occasional moment of fear, but it is quickly replaced with faith as I remind myself that it’s God’s vision and not my own.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37 NIV)

What keeps you from seizing your vision and how do you overcome it?

Steven Furtick’s Devotional based on Joshua 1:1-5 and Hebrews 13:5:

Most nights I slip into my boys’ rooms after they’’re asleep, just barely place my right hand on their heads, and whisper: “God, raise up my sons to be the greatest men of God of their generation.” I tell them that I’’m praying this for their lives when they’’re awake too. Of course they don’’t understand many of the implications of this. But one day they will. I’’m just trying to stock their hearts with raw material that God can use to build a vision within my boys when they’’re older.

The point I’’m trying to make has very little to do with me and my boys. It has everything to do with you and your vision: If you want to see God do something impossible in your life, you have to open your heart and mind to God’’s vision for your life. You have to seize it.

Joshua has been a faithful second in command for many years. But talk about having a tough act to follow. For the Hebrews, Moses was a legend in his own time – —the president, chief justice, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs all rolled up in one. But now he is dead, and Joshua is next in line.

Joshua’’s term of office is starting at a perilous moment in the nation’s history. The people are about to try to take Canaan from several people groups who aren’’t exactly eager to vacate the premises and hand it over.

The vision isn’’t in question: occupy the Promised Land. But before that can happen, Joshua has to seize the vision. And judging by the number of times, “”Be strong and courageous”” shows up in Joshua 1, apparently God knows this leader is scared of failing.

God steps in with encouragement. Just as God was with Moses, so He will be with Joshua. God promises, “”I will never leave you nor forsake you.”” (Interesting how He says the same thing to us [Hebrews 13:5, NKJV].)

Joshua seizes the vision. We know this because practically within moments he is issuing orders to get the campaign under way (Joshua 1:10–-15).

If you’’ve received a vision from God, you need to seize it too. Don’’t waver or put it off. Stop trying to have all the answers before launching out in faith.

All God needs is all you’’ve got. Give it to Him —today.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about “encounters.” The first time I encountered my wife Suzanne (at a pool in Arizona on a basketball road trip); the first time I encountered my kids as they were born; the first time I encountered God (in a church service when I was a boy).

Each encounter brought a new awareness of something greater than I had ever experienced before. It struck at the deepest core of my being. Encountering God is one of the few encounters that can be as deep or more deeply impacting the 100th time as it was the 1st time. And it can happen at any moment: walking early in the morning, watching a sunset, seeing your kids play, sitting listening to Beethoven, during a lunch break talking with a coworker, attending a church service.

My prayer today is that I would experience a burning bush moment with God. Maybe it will happen for you today as you meditate on these words or as you say a simple prayer on your way to work or during a break or after you get your kids off to school or….?

Steven Furtick’s Devotional based on Exodus 3:1-10:

When you strip the biblical miracles of their spectacular special effects, a common plot point emerges: extraordinary moves of God begin with ordinary acts of obedience.

Consider Moses’’s first encounter with God.

Moses is tending the family sheep out in the nondescript countryside.

He happens to notice a bush that’’s caught fire. He walks over to take a look…

Up to this point, it’’s not exactly a riveting scene, is it?

In reality, the illustrious burning-bush encounter that seemed so captivating in Sunday school is… really…quite…ordinary. Moses is performing menial manual labor, working for his father-in-law. It’’s dusty. The sheep stink. Does it get any more mundane?

Almost all encounters with God begin that way. You may be living under the illusion that when God ignites great things in your life, He’’ll announce it with a big bang. He might. It’’s more likely that He won’’t. So stop waiting around for the big bang. Pay attention to the subtle clues and the still, small voice. Maybe you’’ll hear it this very day.

What we call a miracle is really just the right combination of your ordinary ingredients and God’’s extraordinary expertise. When God’’s super collides with your natural, sparks will fly.

God may call you to serve as an unknown youth pastor of fifteen kids in a moldy basement for a youth room and with an Atari for entertainment. Ordinary. But He may also be providing you an opportunity to pour your life into one of those teenagers who will go on to preach the gospel in a thousand places you’’ll never go.

Extraordinary.

God may lead you to stay at home with your young children, forfeiting a second income. Ordinary. But along with diapers, dishes, and naps, you receive the gift of time – —to model discipline, instill values, and speak life into your kids. They could grow up to be Joshua’s in their own generation. Extraordinary.

If God is calling you to make a big difference today, He is likely to start in a small way – —a bush that only you will notice. Will you remove your shoes, draw close, and receive your assignment? Will you give the Lord permission to ignite your ordinary? If you will, before long your faith will start carrying you to a higher level than you ever thought you could reach.

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Today’s Question / Action: Is there something that is seemingly impossible that you’’d like to see God do through you?

I look at my life through 7 categories:
1) Spiritual
2) Family
3) Vocation
4) Life-long learning
5) Physical
6) Financial
7) Community

I’ve prayerfully created a 5 year vision for each of these 7 areas and the parts that seem impossible right now would be:

1) Paying for kids college
2) Giving away 15% of our income and being 100% debt free
3) The church being debt free and caring for over 5,000 people
4) Personally seeing my friends know God and participating in the life of our church

WHAT ABOUT YOU? What is something that is seemingly impossible that you’d like to see God do through you?

Below is the devotional from Steven Furtick on Joshua 10:1-14:

Right here on Day 1, I’’m going to throw out a challenge to you: If you’’re not daring to believe God for the impossible… you’’re sleeping through some of the best parts of your Christian life. And further still, if the size of your vision for your life isn’’t intimidating to you, there’’s a good chance it’’s insulting to God. You should be living by audacious faith every day. Audacity is not just for “elite Christians.” It’’s intended for every believer. So today we’’re beginning a spiritual journey toward trusting God for what seems impossible. I’’m thrilled to think about what it’s going to do for our lives and our world.

A story from the life of Joshua serves as our template for audacious faith.

The Israelites unleash a surprise attack on the Amorites, and right from the beginning the battle goes well. But as the sun sinks toward the horizon, General Joshua faces a decision. The victory isn’’t complete, and once it gets dark, the rest of the Amorites will slip away. Joshua sizes up the situation and delivers one of the most gloriously unorthodox prayers in the Bible. He has the audacity to ask God to make the sun stop in the sky. To freeze time on behalf of His people.

And God gives Joshua exactly what he asked for.

With everything in me, I believe God still desires to make the sun stand still over the life of every believer. Obviously, not in the unique way He did for Joshua, but in ways that are equally spectacular (although not always quite as dramatic), God is perfectly willing to perform the impossible in our everyday lives. If we have the audacity to ask.

Is there something that is seemingly impossible that you’’d like to see God do through you? Maybe God has already been working in your spirit, planting a desire, sparking ideas about the much bigger things He wants to accomplish.

There’’s nothing our world needs more desperately today – —in individuals, families, businesses, churches, and communities— – than God’s saving, supernatural acts. And God is ready to act if we will be bold enough to ask, not just for a good day or a better life, but for the impossible and then will step forward to act in audacious faith.

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Luke 17:3 – “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Jesus

In an increasing secular society the church is faced with either capitulating to what the culture deems “moral” thereby defining what “missing the mark” entails. People can define what is right or wrong for themselves, just as Christians can define, based on Scripture what is right and wrong in the Christian ethic. This divide, between culture and Christianity, will continue to increase and God’s people must understand how to navigate their faith in the Christian context in a post-Christian society.

These verses of Christ inform us how to deal with sin in our community of faith, meaning “what do we do when Christians walk according to a cultural ethic that is opposed to the ethics of Christ”?

First, be on your guard means to be watchful, to watch out for your own life and for those in the Christian faith around you. Don’t ignore or turn away from areas where you or others are missing it.

Second, if a brother or sister in Christ misses the mark, “sins”, Christ instructs us to go to them and rebuke them. Matthew 18:15-17 gives us guidance about the process that this takes place (see below). This idea of “rebuke” is not a harsh word. It actually is connected to the value of the person. Meaning you connect what someone has done to their value. Another way of saying it, “you’re better than this.” Meaning, you have more value than what you just did. Our sin often undervalues us and “rebuking” is raising the value back up to its proper place.

Third, if the brother or sister turns away from that sin because of your rebuke, changes their mind, opens up to your rebuke, then forgive them. Don’t hold it over them. Don’t make them do penance. And don’t bring it back up later. They need to move on and so do you. My mom used to tell “forgive and forget”; that’s the idea here. If they don’t repent then use Matthew 18:15-17 as a guide.

This is tough stuff to be certain. Our temptation is to let each other live however and try to encourage people even when they do miss it. I’m all for encouraging, but we also need to properly and with grace be on guard for ourselves and for each other and hold each other to a higher value of life and integrity. As we live this out in love others will see and know that we are Christ followers with a distinct ethos that governs our lives and our community of faith.

(Below is the study of the words I did if interested.)

The word “sin” here is the Greek word hamartano, which means to miss the mark.

The word “rebuke” here is the Greek word epitimao, which means to mete out due measure. This word is interesting because it is connected to the value of the person bring rebuked, connected both to who they are and what they did to deserve the rebuke.

The word “repent” is the Greek word metanoeo and means, to change one’s mind or purpose.

The word “forgive” is the Greek word aphiemi, which means to send away, leave alone, or permit. It denotes “to remit or forgive”. This word signifies the remission of the punishment due to sinful conduct, the deliverance of the sinner from the penalty, and it involves the complete removal of the cause of offense; such remission is based upon the sacrifice of Christ.

Matthew 18:15-17
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

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Genesis 41:38 – So Pharaoh asked his officials, “Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?”

How did Pharaoh know Joseph was “so obviously filled with the Spirit of God?”

– He interpreted dreams
– He had a planned design to save people

Christ followers have a unique opportunity to connect the sacred to the secular (dreams to design ). Since we are linked, to one degree or another, with the spiritual, God wants to set us up in our cities with influence and leadership. Let’s step into our destinies.

Today I have the opportunity to visit a friend from high school who is in prison. In a way I’m taking the sacred, my spirituality and faith, into the secular space of a jail, just like Joseph did. I believe this is where God does His best work.

How might you connect the sacred to the secular today in your job, family, with friends, or school?

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Luke 15:1 – Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.

I’m praying this for my life this morning and for Westside’s weekend services where some of our teaching takes place. I also think about other teaching locations: our Life Groups, our Youth and Children ministries, our Knowing God classes, our Resource Groups (like Financial Peace, Building a Lasting Marriage, Pure Desire, Cleansing Streams, Ministry Training Class, etc).

Imagine if every place and person where teaching took place was marked by what marked Jesus’ life: 1) an ability to teach in a way that connects with others and 2) a hunger in people to be around this kind of teaching.

God let it be true in every gathering of Westside Church.

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Luke 13:21 (NLTSB) – “It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

This past weekend I told the story of a young man in our church, Josh Germain who is a senior at Mt View High School. The Bend Bulletin did an article on Josh and recognized that “God had seeped into every part of Josh’s life.” This morning I read Luke 13:21 and realized this is exactly what Jesus was talking about as he described the Kingdom of God. Being On Mission is allowing the Kingdom of God in us to seep into all aspects of our lives, like yeast in flour.

I’ve seen several On Mission flag pictures the past 24 hours: a teacher, a skier, our parking crew, a basketball team, a family at a restaurant…where and with whom are you on mission with today?

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Last night Steve Stern gave a strong reminder that 1) we are numbered with others and as we have been comforted we should comfort those we are numbered with and 2) it’s not about us, but about God.

Here is one of the hardest teachings of Jesus for us to live out. In Luke 9:24-25 Jesus said, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”

Most of life is about trying to gain our little piece of the pie or at the very least protect what we feel is owed to us in this life.

In the most recent Hunger Games movie, one of the characters has decided to give her life for the main character. She says something to the effect that the capital has already taken everything I love. Out of that emptiness she chooses to give her life for someone else. Someone who she is numbered with (a “victor”).

I mentioned this past weekend that I used to run from conflict and try to avoid it whenever possible. Here’s one of the reasons: I was protecting myself from being misunderstood, hurt, rejected. For me, avoiding conflict was all about me. That realization coupled with this teaching of Jesus, has helped me to let go of myself, my desires, my wants, what I think I deserve, even my dreams and serve and comfort those around me. And sometimes the best service to someone you love is to confront them.

It’s amazing how everything is tied to everything. We are truly complex people with strengths and weaknesses.

God, help me today to be God-focused and other-focused. I know that in laying my life down people may step on it or over it, but I also know that if I don’t, I will lose myself somewhere along the way and forget that this life is not about me.