Tuesday, May 26, 2009

God is working for your good!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)

Dear Sisters and Brothers

A verse we hear so much that we get numb. Often it becomes a cliché, a pat answer when someone doesn’t know what else to say. Unfortunately the over use hides the revolutionary nature and comfort of Paul’s words to us. The question is, do we really know this? What if we knew that in all our circumstances God is working for our good.

For instance….
In that broken relationship, God is working for good!
In your deficit, God is working for good!
In your weariness, God is working for good!
In your need for more leaders, God is working for good!
In physical suffering, God is working for good!
In the person that annoys you, God is working for good!
In unfair criticism, God is working for good!
In your losses, God is working for good!
In people who have disappointed you, God is working for good!
In the parent who got angry with you, God is working for good!
In plans that didn’t work out, God is working for good!
In that failure, God is working for good!
In that character trait that you deeply struggle with, God is working for good!
In your sleepless nights, God is working for good!
When no one says thank you or takes you for granted, God is working for good!

Do I know that? Do I believe that? And what if it is true? If true, it says that God is a deeply loving and involved Father who works in unexpected ways behind the scenes of our lives. We are not left alone in circumstances that feel so overwhelming. God is at work, like a master creating a tapestry of dark and light colors, we are that beautiful masterpiece. We are in the making. So whatever your circumstance, God is at work for good. Be encouraged, God is not finished with us yet.

…And He who began the good work in your will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

A work in progress,


Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Dear YL Capernaum Family,

It’s May and you are crossing the finish line to another year. Before we enter summer and the camping season, stop and take a breath. In the Psalms you will occasionally see the word ~ Selah. This was a call to stop. Take a breath, meditate and don’t move on too quickly.

One of the dangers we all face in the spiritual life is hurry. Running to the next thing so quickly we cannot even acknowledge or celebrate what God has done. So dear sisters and brothers, Selah, stop and take a deep long breath. As a matter of fact, why don’t you take a morning or a day and don’t use the excuse that you do not have time. You are paid to be spiritual, that is the number one item in your job description is to love Jesus Christ and that comes by “wasting time” with Him.


What has God done in your life this year?
What has God done in your ministry that makes you rejoice?
How have you grown?
How did God surprise you?
How has God provided for you?
What have you learned in any trials or suffering?
What has God been saying to you?
What scripture has gripped you?
What was the most significant conversation you’ve had with a kid? Leader? Donor?
What has God put on your heart for the coming months?

Selah! Selah! Selah!

Before you go on, stop! Celebrate! Acknowledge God! Worship! Rest!

Remember Jesus is the Messiah who saves the world. You and I are not. Jesus is not judging you by your to-do list, but by your heart.



Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Do you really believe I can do this?

As Jesus left the house, He was followed by 2 blind men crying out, “Mercy, Son of David! Mercy on us! When Jesus got home the blind men went in with Him. Jesus said to them,” Do you really believe I can do this?” They said, “Why yes Master!” He touched their eyes and said, “Become what you believe.” It happened. They saw.
Matthew 9:27-31

I am so struck with how many desperate people came to Jesus in the gospels. They came with desperate situations and with enough faith to come to Jesus with their requests. And Jesus loves their faith. He never refused. He always affirmed it and rebuked those who lived in fear rather than faith. Like the time the disciples cried out in sheer terror, “Don’t you care that we are about to drown?” After Jesus calms the storm in a massive display of other worldly power, He turns to the disciples and says, “Where is your faith?”

I have to hear that often from Jesus when I feel I am about to drown in a sea of life and ministry needs and challenges. But when I approach Jesus as the blind often did, I find myself shakingly say, “I do believe.” Then Jesus says, “Become what you believe.” The essence of the equations is this:

My problem + my faith = God’s opportunity to display His glory

He is bigger than any challenge or problem face:
We don’t have enough money or donors -> God is my provider
My health and energy are depleted -> God is my healer and restorer
I am being relentlessly critiqued -> God calls me loved and His delight
I wonder if what I do matters -> It matters for God, for eternity
I don’t know what I am doing -> God knows what He is doing
I messed up again -> God knew you would and forgives relentlessly
There is someone better that could do this -> God chose you
I seem to be the only one that cares -> God says I care more than you
The needs are endless and overwhelming -> God sent Jesus as the Messiah, not you
Has God forsaken me? -> Jesus asked that too from the cross
Today it all feels awesome, I am in the center of God’s will!

God dances with you in celebration. Friends, whatever the challenge remember this:
God is good! God is in control! God cares!

In faith,


Am I Playing It Safe?

I’m at the baseball field watching my beautiful son, Joel, play baseball. It’s his senior year. He is the starting second baseman and lead off hitter for his team. He is also captain of the team. He is a 3rd year all league varsity player. He has had tremendous success along with great respect from his teammates and manager…oh, by the way, he just caught a pop up to end the inning against Carlmont…anyways, as I was saying with success and respect like that, and the possibility of the best year ahead, you would think he would keep doing what he has been doing, and yet, he did the completely unexpected. He decided to become a switch hitter, and because he is right handed he would bat left handed against an opposing right handed pitcher. Which meant he probably would be batting mostly left handed.
If you have not played baseball it would be hard to express just how difficult what Joel is doing. He is subjecting himself to second guessing and criticism from his manager, team and other parents. In the face of all that he has taken the risk. The result so far has been astounding. In six at bats he has 2 singles, a double and a walk. I stand amazed, proud and convicted. Why? My son has set an example for me of not playing it safe when that would be the easy thing to do, and because of it he is growing to new levels and victories in his baseball career while inspiring others.
It makes me think, am I playing it safe? Am I willing to take the risk? For those of us on staff for awhile our risk is to settle in and go through the motions. That is what Abraham could have done. He had it all in Ur. He was established, successful, a beautiful wife, life was good, and then out of the blue God calls him to an unknown land with an unknown plan. How is that for strategy? Amazingly Abram says “yes”. I would love to sit in on his conversation with Sarai that night. I imagine it would be something like this
Sarai – Hi honey, how was your day?
Abram – I heard a voice today.
Sarai – Sit down honey, I know it’s been a long day you are doing way too….
Abram – No Sarai, I heard a voice and it was the Creator, you know Elohim. He told me to pack up everything with you and leave
Sarai – silence
Abram – No really, we have to do this
Sarai – So you said….
Abram – Yes, I said yes, when can you be ready?

Can you imagine doing this? Friend, what is God saying to you? Where is He calling you? Are you willing to do the absurd if God asks? Are you willing to leave your comfort zone, even if no one believes in you, second guesses you and you have an extreme possibility of failure?
The people that change the world do not play it safe. For every successful invention Thomas Edison had, he estimated 100 failures. Babe Ruth struck out more than most and hit more homes runs than everyone, except two players. Let’s launch, let’s risk, let’s step out in faith, let’s listen to one voice only – His voice. And if His voice directs us/you to a crazy venture, let that Voice drown out all the negative, second guessing voices of reason. I want to follow in the footsteps of Abram whose daring faith changed his name to Abraham. I want to follow my son Joel. I want to follow the Son!

Switch hitting for Jesus,


...but the Lord stood by my side

At my first defense no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood by my side and gave me strength so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen
2 Timothy 4:16-18

Paul is near the end of his life. He is old and on death row. It is a time when he most needs support. So his statement at his first trial, “no one came to my support but everyone deserted me,” is shocking. And it must have shocked Paul. Where were his Christian friends when he needed him? His statement conveys a sense of disappointment and momentary confusion. How lonely it must have felt for Paul who contrary to popular opinion was very much a team player and a people person.

Like Paul we too encounter deep places of disappointment in ministry. The person you thought you could depend on turns their back on you when you needed them the most. The donor you counted on doesn’t come through. The great new volunteer leader you recruited turns out to be a lot more talk than action. Someone you love speaks behind your back. You find yourself confused because something you thought would happen did not. All this leads to profound disappointment and questions towards God. But then Paul’s writes his next line.

Before self pity could fly in and make a nest, Paul says confidently, “…but the Lord stood by my side and gave me strength.” Paul latched onto this truth, that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us. (Heb 13:5) In his aloneness Paul realized he was not alone. He grabbed onto the Emmanuel anchor – God with us. He gained strength when life circumstances had made him week kneed. Beyond even that, Paul took his disappointment to another level. It was so that God could use him to proclaim the Gospel. Paul looked at tough disappointing circumstances as a great opportunity to let Christ be proclaimed.

What about you? If you are feeling alone can you go to the core of your faith? God is with me and stands by me in what I am going through and He will be my strength. Yes, strength! He will give you strength to continue to proclaim Jesus Christ in your dangerous, desperate, disappointing or confusing circumstances.

Paul continued to assert his confidence in God by saying he was delivered from the lion’s mouth. Paul was aware that the Adversary was doing all he could to destroy his ministry and his own life. But Paul knew that “greater is He who is in you, that he who is in the world.” We must not forget we are engaged with a ruthless enemy who would love to kill us and our ministries. We must remember with confidence it is God who delivers us in every trial now and all the way to our dying breath, when we are brought home safely to His Heavenly kingdom. When we know this we can say with Paul in our most disappointing times, “to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Standing beside the God who stands by us,


Just Wanted to Take Time

And Jesus chose twelve to be with Him. Mark 3

Dear Capernaum Brothers and Sisters,

It was 1973; I was 19 years old and a first year Young Life leader at Leland High School – my Alma matre. Joe Kempston was our new Area Director, who had just moved from Washington, and he was my Senior Leader for my club. After the first night of club, he invited all the guy leaders out to coffee. As he looked across the table at three wide eyed 19 year olds, he said, “I just wanted to take time to be with you guys and get to know you.”

It is now 35 years later and I remember that moment like it was yesterday. I learned from Joe that I was more important than club, ministry – even kids. That little gesture by Joe has formed some of my key ministry values for all my life. The funny thing is I doubt if Joe even remembers it. What power to change lives in a simple Holy Spirit led gesture. Joe created a memory for me that changed and has led my life.

In an increasingly impersonal world, don’t pass by the smallest of opportunities to take time with someone, to speak a kind work, to pick up the phone and give an encouraging call. Put people in front of business and our own agenda. Do your leaders know they are more important to you than club and ministry in general? If you supervise other staff, so they know they are more important to you than ministry. Do you “waste” time with them, simply to be with them?

I am struck that when Jesus chose the 12, the primary criteria was “to be with Him.” This is the practice of Christian “with-ness”. We do it well with kids and I encourage you to make sure you do it even better with your staff and volunteers. The dividends are huge for both their lives and ministry. Who will you call today? Who will you take out today? Who will you encourage today? Whose life will you change for the next 55 years by a simple gesture of invitation? As a matter of fact are any of you free for coffee today?

Much love in the Lord,