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Last night we circled the Redmond Airport three times as the pilot evaluated whether we could land or have to go back to Portland. The issue was low-lying fog. I guarantee you there were a lot of prayers that the fog would lift. But how many of us actually thought our prayers would lift the fog? Seriously? Do we believe that our prayers can have a direct impact on weather patterns? What about on our lives?

Elijah was this prophet in the Old Testament who prayed that it would not rain and it didn’t for three years. Then he prayed that it would rain and it did (1 Kings 18:41-46). James writes about Elijah and intentionally calls him a “human, just like us” (James 5:17). He’s making the point that the prayers of us all can have impact.

After 20 minutes of circling Redmond, after 20 minutes of intense prayer, the pilot turned the plane towards Redmond and we were able to land. I don’t know if our prayers had any impact or not. The pilot did not get on the P.A. and announce we experienced a miracle. But the fog lifted enough for the pilot to land. And we walked off the plane excited because we were not in Portland.

I am convinced that I must pray more often. Not out of some religious exercise, but because our prayers have impact, and consequently our lives can make a difference. But if we don’t pray something, nothing will happen – that is a guarantee.

IMG_1224-0.JPGBold Prayers. I’ve been thinking about what is impossible in my life and in the lives of those I love. I know with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26), but I know this intellectually and theologically. What I know humanly and practically is life throws you curve balls and, in our humanity, we sometimes can’t see beyond the illness, the addiction, the brokenness, the loss of a job, kids running from God, and so forth.

Today, I’m asking God to help me see beyond my humanity. To see what could be when He gets involved. I’m not going to demand, but I’m going to boldly ask for some things that seem impossible to me right now. My mom’s blindness and arthritis. My dad’s health issues. The salvation of every one of my relatives who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. My good friend Steve Stern’s complete healing. For our high schools to experience the life changing love of God that is not manipulated by outside forces, but birthed through people God has placed there who have an authentic relationship with God. The foster care system in Central Oregon would be strengthened and God would somehow use us to bring healing to broken families.

Every one of these requests are outside my ability to solve on my own. I can play a part, and I must play a part, but they rely on the strength that is in God’s hands. I want to walk in step with His will.

Jesus, as Westside Church prays bold prayers today, would you give us a spirit of faith that transcends our circumstances and sees with your eyes. Help us to pray with that awareness, with courage and an authority that can only come from being in You. 

IMG_1224-0.JPGPast failure. It’s often a determiner of future possibilities. How we get up from failure (or don’t) can predict what God can do through us (or not) in the future. Think about Peter. He so desperately wanted to walk on the water with Jesus (Matthew 14:22-32). So he got out of the boat, stepped on that water, and started walking. What?!?!?! That’s incredible faith. Then the waves caught his attention, the storm distracted him, and he took his eyes off of Jesus and started to sink. Jesus called him, “little faith-man”. Ok, he didn’t actually came him names, but, in essence, that’s what he said.

How did Peter respond? Well we don’t hear much from him, except in the very next chapter we find him asking questions (Matthew 15:15). He’s still leaning in, and Jesus isn’t making it easy on him. Often, when faced with failure, we retreat. We go dark. Isolation. “Maybe everyone will forget my failure if they don’t see my face for a couple days.” Instead, Peter stays connected and in chapter 16 he makes one of the most profound statements any disciple of Jesus has ever made (Matthew 16:13-20).

I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But this is what I know: nothing good can happen in my life, or the life of our church, if I don’t take a step out of the boat now and again. Great risk brings great reward. Some risks are worth taking.

As a church, God has asked us to extend His life and love to our community in non-traditional ways. Not only our multi-sites, but also investing into retirement communities, prisons, foster-care, individuals who have a dream of changing their community. I can confidently say, that right now, I am more willing to take risks than at any other time in my life, because I know that Jesus will meet us in the middle and breathe His life and love over all that we do. Let today’s fast be a symbol of the willingness you have to risk it all for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

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As Westside launches into this Seven day fast, I want to think about the region God has put us in. We are not here to conquer Central Oregon. There is no “us vs them” in God’s Kingdom work. It’s all about the love of Jesus – it really is. So, as I think about this land that I was born into (Redmond, 1970 by Dr. Unger), what comes to mind are several really amazing things:

1) Its beauty – I’ve traveled all over the world and our mountains, lakes, rivers, and deserts are one of the most diverse and majestic lands I’ve ever seen.

2) Its pace – I’m down in Los Angeles right now taking a class for my Masters degree, and let’s just say I’m really thankful for the pace we have in Central Oregon. It’s not just about how we drive, but how we think, what we prioritize, and how we live.

3) Its growth – I’m not sure what the actual statistics were back in 1970, but we had a much smaller population then we have now (my guess would be at least 70%). The reasons are numerous, but I’m sure our beauty and pace have something to do with it.

4) Lastly, I think about its people. Everywhere I go, I’m struck by goodness and brokenness. Both coexist in our region like salt and pepper on a good steak.

This morning, as part of the fast, we are reading Numbers 13:26-33 where the spies who went into the land God promised Moses and Israel came back with a report of what they found. It reminds me that we should take a moment and think about the land God has given each of us – the place where you live, where you work, where you play. What do you appreciate about that place and those people? What are the challenges you face? How might you pray for them?

Lord, I pray for Central Oregon. You know how much I love the place where I was raised and now pastor. You’ve given us this land and these people, not as a conquering territory, but as a people to whom you love and sent your Son. That everywhere Westsiders place their feet, would be established your grace and goodness. Give us this land as an inheritance, not in the physical, but in the spiritual. Break down barriers that exist in people’s minds and hearts. Give us the words to speak with boldness and kindness. Fill us with your Spirit so we can tear down strongholds that exist over this land. Strongholds that are keeping your people locked up in fear and addiction. And Lord I pray for the rain of your Spirit to fall on this land so everyone will know that you are a God that loves them and desires relationship with them. May your Church find favor here and everywhere you call us. In Jesus’ Name. Amen

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For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all your paths. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭5‬:‭21‬ NIV)

Now that I know God loves me as His child and accepts me in my brokenness, this verse takes on a whole new meaning.

The way I live my life, the manner by which I walk through the difficulties and temptations, are in full view of God. He sees it all, everything. Nothing is hidden. That used to freak me out. How disappointed He must be in me. Not only does He see everything, He examines it, which means He weighs my choices, the ruts I find myself in, the consistent struggles I face.

But that word “examine” means a great deal more than just weighing my actions or pondering them. It actually means “to make level, to even out.” He doesn’t see everything in my life and then sits back and judges me. That’s how I use to see Rod and many still see God that way. But He actually takes initiative to help us, too even out the rough spots. He patiently endures our mistakes and sin, and comes alongside and gives us wisdom to live better.

I don’t know how you feel about that, but I am extremely overwhelmed with gratitude for His amazing grace and wisdom over my life.

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My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭2‬:‭1-5‬ NLT)

The picture here is if someone who mines for a great treasure because they know its value. To search for wisdom as a hidden treasure. To dig deep for the gold you must exert effort. To thirst for knowledge that results in digging for a well.

Listen for it – create space in your day to read the Bible and meditate on its wisdom.

Treasure it – do you see its value? Have you tried to understand the Bible better by asking questions, keeping an open mind, sitting under people who teach the Bible? How important and vital is God’s wisdom to you?

So, grab your pickaxe with me and start digging into this great book. Find some friends who have a similar desire to study the secrets to life and talk about this amazing book of proverbs.

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DAY ONE: What does they fear of the Lord mean to me?

Proverbs 1:2-7
2 Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. 3 Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair. 4 These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young. 5 Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance 6 by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles. 7 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

By this book, one can learn the principles that determine success or failure in the major arenas of human activity, including business, personal relationships, family life, and community life. Verses 2–6 describe the purpose of the book, that is, to teach wisdom to the reader. The primary purpose of Proverbs is the instruction of young people and those who have yet to learn wisdom (v. 4), but it is not only for children. Those who are already mature and learned (v. 5) also have a great deal to learn from this book, and they should not shun it as unworthy of their time.

The vocabulary of this section indicates four characteristics of biblical wisdom.
– First, it is practical. “Wisdom” includes the idea of “common sense” and the ability to cope with daily problems.
– Second, it is intellectual. This is implied in words like “understanding” and “knowledge.”
– Third, it is moral and involves self-control. This is indicated in words like “right and fair” and “discipline.”
– Fourth, Proverbs draws the reader into the mysteries of life. This is implied in terms like “parables” and “riddles.” Biblical wisdom seeks to resolve or at least adjust to the ambiguities of life. It seeks the reality behind the appearances.

Verse 7 ties the fundamental principle of biblical wisdom (“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”) to recognition that many will reject wisdom and God (“fools despise wisdom”). A principle that believers must teach their children is that in their pursuit of wisdom they will be surrounded by others going the opposite direction who will be encouraging them to do likewise. In this fashion the polarity of the entire Book of Proverbs—the way of the wise and the way of the fool—is introduced. The reader faces the alternatives and is challenged to attain wisdom through the fear of God. (“The New American Commentary”)

To fear God is to regard God with reverent awe. He alone is holy, awesome, and glorious (Isa. 6:3). He is worthy of our respect. Because God is righteous, we should be concerned about the consequences of displeasing him. Our fear is not one which leaves us cowering and terrified but rather is like the respect a son should have towards his father. The fear of God leads to wise and pure living: ‘By the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil’ (Prov. 16:6b).

To fear God is to submit to him, turning from self-assertion and evil: ‘Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil’ (3:7). We are not autonomous beings, free to assert our own will and decide what is right for us. We must acknowledge the Lord’s sovereign moral governance of the universe. We should be open to his training and correction and trust that his way is always best. To fear God is to know God. To know God is to have life (19:23a). When you fear God, you no longer fear men (29:25).

The fear of the Lord is not a beginning like the first stage of a rocket which is cast aside after it has served its purpose. Rather, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom in the same way in which a foundation is the beginning of a house: everything that comes after the foundation is built upon it. (“Opening Up Proverbs”)

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Good leadership responds effectively to the need for more leaders and workers. Appar- ently, no one took a vote to determine the identity of these people. The leaders were chosen. The leadership of the early church practiced the ABCs of leadership.

They:

Attracted leaders.

Believed in them.

Chose them.

Developed them.

The apostles had specific qualifications in mind for the leaders they wanted, and chose men who were…

1. Known from their sphere of influence —“seek out from among you.”

2. People who could serve on a team—“seven men.”

3. Trusted among the people — “of good reputation.”

4. Empowered for the task — “full of the Holy Spirit.”

5. Competent and intelligent —“full of . . . wisdom.”

6. Responsible — “whom we may appoint over this business.”

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Here are key words when it comes to leadership and life that are drawn from Acts 3:

– faithfulness
– empathy that leads to action
– courage
– expectation
– transparency
– authority
– generous
– problem solving

I want to be found faithful. I want to see the brokenness around me and not be immune to the hurting, but walk into their situations. The courage to do what is right and say what needs to be said.

A couple weeks ago I was talking to a young man in our church and he has this vision to do what Peter and John did in this passage. He’s a solid believer in Jesus, a graduate of our intern program and called out for God’s work. He, like all of us, need these principles to live out a God-life right where we are: in our workplaces and right outside our workplaces, in our homes and right outside our homes, in our schools and right outside our schools.

Demonstration + Proclamation = Credibility

Immediately following Pentecost, the Christian movement picked up steam. Two leaders, Peter and John, encountered a lame man on their way to the temple. When the name of Jesus healed the man, they immediately gained credibility to share the gospel. In other words, once they walked the walk, they attracted an audience when they talked. Note how Acts 3 describes these early church leaders:

1. They faithfully did what they knew to do (v. 1).
2. They stopped and sensitively addressed needs (v. 3).
3. They had the courage to face problems (v. 4).
4. Others anticipated receiving solutions from them (v. 5).
5. They realistically admitted their lack of material resources (v.6).
6. They fearlessly used their God-given authority (v. 6).
7. They generously gave away their spiritual resources (v. 6).
8. They solved practical problems (vv. 7, 8).

I’m reading the @YouVersion plan ‘The Maxwell Leadership Reading Plan’. Check it out here: http://bible.com/r/GE

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This past week I had the privilege of introducing Ken Johnson as he spoke to a group of our Foursquare pastors in Gresham. I was reminded of several of the characteristics below as I have sat under Ken’s leadership, in one form or another, for the past 33 years. What I appreciate most about Ken’s leadership is his commitment to be what he is in private, in public. He and his wife Linda have stood in the gap for Suzanne and me and many others over the years because of their integrity. Thank you.

The Position of a Leader: Standing in the Gap

God contrasts the poor leader with the godly leader in Ezekiel 22. The poor leader oppresses and destroys his or her followers, while the godly leader “stands in the gap” on behalf of the land and the people (v. 30). These leaders represent God to the people, and represent the people to God. They serve as “middle- men,” serving God and serving the needs of the people.

This text describes ten traits of the leader God affirms:

– Consecration: They set themselves apart and remain committed to their call.
– Discipline: They do what is right even when it is difficult.
– Servanthood: They model a selfless life, lived for the benefit of others.
– Vision: They see what God sees and live off the power of potential.
– Compassion: Love for their cause and their people moves them to action.
– Trustworthiness: They keep their word regardless of what others do.
– Decisiveness: They make good decisions in a timely manner.
– Wisdom: They think like God thinks and avoid impetuous moves.
– Courage: They take risks for what is right.
– Passion: They demonstrate enthusiasm for their divine calling.

I’m reading the @YouVersion plan ‘The Maxwell Leadership Reading Plan’. Check it out here: http://bible.com/r/GE