Honor Your Leader

Honor is a lost art today. 

Disclaimer: When I talk about honoring your leader, I primarily have in mind the leadership model Jesus left us, which is servant leadership. I personally strive to be the best servant leader I can be for the leaders I lead and followers I serve. Servant leadership is the leadership style preferred at Restore Church when we empower leaders to serve in our church and for our community. 

Followership 101 is to respect your leader by learning from them, looking up to them, listening to them, encouraging them, praying for them, defending them, appreciating them, obeying them, supporting them and sacrificing for them. 

You can’t fully excel as a follower if you don’t learn to honor your leaders. Not to mention, your ability to be a leader is based on how well you do as a follower in life. 

A leader who is honored leads at his or her highest capacity. When a leader is honored, it makes everything he or she is leading better. You and everyone on the team will feel the residual effects of honoring your leader. 

Honoring the leadership God has placed over you is serving your leadership. When you dishonor your leader, you are abusing the authority you have as a follower of the leader. You have no real authority if you do not operate under the authority of the leadership above you. Honor is always the best move to make as a follower. 

At Restore Church, we have a new saying: Honor up, honor down & honor all around. 

1. Honor up :: Show love and respect to the people God has placed above you. Be proactive for them. Be in prayer for them. Be positive around them and about them. Be a participant in the implementation of the vision and/or plan to execute. 

2. Honor down :: Serve the people well that God has allowed you the privilege to lead. Care for them. Communicate with them. Coordinate with them. Be down to earth for them. Love them when they are hard to love. Don’t act like you are too good for them. Be humble when they start following and stay humble so they don’t stop following you. 

3. Honor all around :: As Christians, the apostle Paul calls us to mutually submit (Ephesians 5:21) to one another no matter if you are the leader or the follower, a husband or a wife, a parent or a child, a teacher or the student. Always surrender your right to be right to the people around you as you submit to God.

“Another” Heroin Overdose

I overdosed on heroin.

I was 19. We were in the basement of a friend’s house. I passed out after a rather large injection of heroin. I was told I turned blue and my body went limp. I soon came out of it. Only by the grace of God am I alive today. 

Let’s fast forward to today. 

I received a disturbing text from a close friend who lost his son to a drug overdose two years ago. Two young people overdosed from heroin today in the woods next to his house. As they were pulled out of the woods, they were literally 150 feet from where his son was when he was transported to the hospital the day he passed away. 

I am tried of the saying the words “another overdose.” Are you? 

I am tired of hearing about “another” family who experiences hopelessness from the loss of a loved one. I am tired of “another” day where no one stirs the pot in our community to make a loud enough noise to call people out off the bench and into the game. 

Until you get sick and tired of being sick and tired of “another” overdose or “another” family, you will HIDE instead of HELP, LAUGH instead of LOVE and IGNORE instead of INSPIRE.

1. Hide or Help?

All over the community neighbors are hiding from neighbors, teachers from students, pastors from parishioners, employers from employees, county officials from county residents. People who are untouched from addiction are around those whose families are destroyed by it and choose to do nothing, zero, zilch. 

There is no way all of the answers and solutions are going to come from the addict. They can’t help themselves. Even the families whose loved one is addicted or have lost a loved one or who discover a purpose in their pain to fight addiction still have a journey to find a new normal and can’t possibly be the place where the answers and solutions come from. I truly believe the solution at some level is going to come from those who are in hiding. Why? They can help those who can’t help themselves. It’s time for anyone and everyone to come out of hiding to participate in the solution.  

2. Laugh or Love?

There are two main responses addicts receive from their peers, parents or others. They are either loved or laughed at. I have heard someone say he deserved to die from drugs because of who he became from his addiction and what he did to feed it. Personally, I have actually had people wish I died from drugs because of the horrible things I did to feed my drug habit and who I got started using drugs and so forth. 

An addict needs a breakthrough. They need a supernatural dose of love in their life to accept the addict where he or she is before he or she can break free to become who they were created to be by God. Love needs boundaries, but it needs to be limitless at times too. Addicts are functioning from a lonely and lost-in-life operating system. They need to operate from love. They need to know they are loved by people and God. They need to know God has a plan for them regardless of the set back of their addiction. 

A set back is just a set up for a comeback! 

3. Ignore or Inspire?

It’s impossible to ignore an epidemic. We can pretend like we don’t know it’s in the air we breathe but we are ultimately accountable to what we know. We will be accountable on the Day of Judgment to the knowledge of the damage of addiction taking place in our neighborhoods. 

To know and ignore is a deterrent, but to know and be an inspiration in your neighborhood can produce incredible benefits and blessings. To love our neighbors as ourselves is to walk across the street to support the people in close proximity as they go through a tough time. To love our neighbors on the other side of the train tracks is to support local initiatives to fight addiction in lower income areas. To love our neighbors is to pull someone off the street and put them into treatment. To love our neighbors is to make sure a known addict is offered the help he or she needs. To love our neighbors is to mentor young people to fulfill their full potential so they can be untouched by addiction. To love our neighbors is to financially support the cause of fighting addiction and to volunteer to change the statistics of addiction and its consequences. 

I am not waiting for “another” year to be the year. This is the year we make things happen so that there is not “another” record setting year of overdoses and deaths from overdose. 

 

If you want to be part of the solution, email us ASAP at crave@restorechurch.net. We can’t wait for someone else to do what we are called to do. 

No One Truly Cared Through My Teenage Years

As I look back, I didn’t have a chance as a teenager. In some respect, I feel like I was set up for failure.  I know I made my own choices, and I am fully responsible for the decisions I made, but where was everyone? 

1. No one cared to LEAD me. I did not have anyone from school or church or sports trying to earn the right to speak into my life. No one tried to break into my life to discover what makes me tick. No one showed me how much he or she cared so I could allow him or her to lead me. 

<<<<<<<<<<<<<WHERE WERE ALL THE CHURCH LEADERS? >>>>>>>>>>>

2. No church cared to CONNECT with me. I could not connect with any of the religious groups around me during my teenage years. They did not speak my language. They did not build a bridge to me where I was. They were the opposite of cool. Anything I experienced from church bored me to death. 

<<<WHERE WERE ALL THE CREATIVE CUTTING EDGE OUTREACHES? >>>

3. No one cared to SHOW me how to serve. I never volunteered once as a teenager unless it was court mandated or at Woodstock 1999. I was never asked to serve with any group. I never learned the value of paying it forward. I never understood my life could make a difference. 

<<<<<<<<<WHERE WERE ALL THE DIFFERENCE MAKERS? >>>>>>>>>>>>

4. No one cared to MENTOR me. I never had a mentor until I was 23 years old. I never had anyone consistently walk through life with me as a teenager. I bounced around from teacher to teacher and from family member to family member. No one said this is the process to the prize, or here is step one, step two and so forth. 

<<<<<<<<<<<<<WHERE WERE ALL THE MENTORS? >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

5. No one cared to teach me about SATISFACTION.  I never had anyone sit down with me and share about the pursuit of happiness. I did not know how a drug addiction even worked. I had no one that warned me about the love of money and material possessions. I wish I understood the monster of more. 

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<WHERE WERE ALL TEACHERS? >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

It’s time to make room for teenagers in our lives to pass on positivity to the next generation. We need to rise up and be the leaders. We need to go the extra mile and connect teenagers to life giving, relevant church experiences. We need to show teenagers how God created them with a purpose and to pay it forward to others. We need to build into our schedules time to mentor teenagers for the long haul. We have no choice but to coach the next leaders of our world to understand what truly satisfies and to stop eating from the dumpster when God has a banquet. 

 

Who is in it to win it? 

Be On Time

Let’s go DEEPER in the second of ten core values in our serving CODE!

Your time is valuable.

We value your time so much that being on time is a core value when serving.

In the Army, it is said: “If you are on time, you are late.” This is not the US Army but this is the one and only cause Jesus died for—the local church--so how much more should we make being on time a priority?

There is a deep respect expressed to the leadership of the church and the people on your team when you follow through with your commitment to be on time at your assignment to serve, to be on time at your pre-service meeting before you serve or to be on time at whatever it may be related to serving God.

Respect is mutual. It is given and received through the common courtesy of being on time.

Why is being on time so important?

You are a significant piece of the puzzle. You are part of something bigger when you serve. If your piece of the puzzle is not there, it affects many others. And when someone else is not there that is connected to what you are doing, it affects you.

What happens when I serve you by being on time?

>>>>We can draw strength from each other. 

>>>>We can point people to God together.

>>>>We diversify our service to God together. 

>>>>We show people unity together.

One last word to the wise. Be graceful all the time as some discover the value of being on time. Not everyone gets it the first time around, but let’s extend the same love and grace God extended us when we were late to make a decision to follow Jesus.

Let’s mutually respect each other by making it a priority to be on time.

When the Feeling Wears Off

Prepare Your Heart

Let’s go deeper in the first of ten core values in our serving CODE! 

Serving in the name of Jesus is a spiritual activity. In the beginning it feels good -like when you help an old lady across the street but eventually the feeling will wear off because of the work it takes in preparing your heart. When the good feeling is gone, it’s at that moment your heart to serve is tested. If you have struggled to strengthen your heart muscle to serve through both individual and community prayer, through deepening your understanding of the Bible, through developing more meaningful connections to others, and through cultivating the spirit of generosity in your life, then you might fail the test or serve out of a state of weakness. 

BUT.

If you put the work into preparing your heart and strengthening your spiritual muscle, you will have strength to be in control of situations outside of your comfort zone. A prepared heart is what gives you the capacity to love people through difficulties, serve people who don’t serve on your terms, forgive people who fail you, and to do it all with the joy of the Lord. 

This is what I do to prepare my heart each week as I go into our weekend worship experiences:

  1. I pray for God to use me to be a solution to problems. I pray for the people I am serving with, their families and those I am serving through the message I share. 
  2. I read the Bible to gain faith so that I can believe God can do big things in me, in you and in our church. 
  3. I strive to only speak words of encouragement to everyone I meet even if they have something discouraging to say about me, them or someone else. 
  4. I give my best to God in every way from my energy to financially to relationally to spiritually and emotionally when I am serving in the weekend worship experiences. I leave it all on the field! 

Remember, you are serving in the only cause Jesus died for—the local church—and the only thing He is coming back for.  

10 Signs Your Child Is Addicted to Drugs

I have never been wrong in the last 14 years when it comes to reading the signs of someone using drugs. I have an uncanny sense to see the signs of addiction in waiters and waitresses, friends and family, and really anyone in my presence anywhere. 

Ask my wife if you don’t believe me. She will support my claim of batting 1,000 so far. Ask her about the girl who lives in our neighborhood I did not know yet noticed she had crashed her car.  Just by seeing her walk to her car from time to time and the way she got into an accident I knew she was an addict. Months later she was our waitress and somehow I shared my story of overcoming an addiction and she confessed to using drugs. 

But how am I batting 1,000? How did I see an addiction in an accident? It’s because I was a full blown drug addict who hid my addiction from people I lived with, who loved me and looked at me in the eyes every day - yet they had no clue of my addiction. 

Read the Signs. 

The signs are obvious if you open your eyes. Don’t be in denial after reading this. Be proactive to expose what is in the dark.

  1. Attitude change. Easily angered. Short fuse. Temper flares up for no reason. Erratic behavior. 
  2. Physical appearance altered. Loss of weight. Constantly itching. Always sniffling. Long sleeves in hot weather. Picking cuts on face. Infections on body. 
  3. Missing stuff or selling stuff. Your TV does not just walk away. Your money does not just fly away. Your jewelry does not just float to the pawnshop or drug dealer’s girlfriends. 
  4. Constant need for money. $10 here and $20 there adds up quick. You think you are paying for lunch when you are really paying for their next high. You think you are paying for their car insurance when you are purchasing their next bundle. You think you are buying methadone to get them clean and you are really feeding their habit.
  5. Out-of-control emotions. Addicts cry almost on demand. They will shed tears when they are trying to convince you they are not using and they really are. They threaten to take their life if they don’t get their way. 
  6. Gaps in their timetable. They will leave for 90 to 120 minutes with no legitimate reason. They look for windows of opportunity to run to their supplier, use and cool off before they come back. 
  7. Obsessive phone usage. When an addict is dying for drugs, he or she will be looking for anyone to pick them up, bring them something or both. They will be buried in their phone until they know someone is coming to save them. 
  8. Consistently caught in lies. Addicts are sharp and creative. They are quick on the draw. But eventually they will get tripped up and you will see through their lies. They are known as liars. You tell yourself you can’t trust them, yet you still do. 
  9. Plays the victim card. Addicts are notorious for not accepting responsibility. They blame everyone else. They throw people under the bus. They point the finger at others for their problems. Their push back is a sign they are popping pills. 
  10. Return back to old behaviors. They go back to old friends. They go back to old unhealthy jobs. They go back to old habits. They start drinking again even if drugs were their issue. They start smoking heavily. They stop going to meetings. They go less and less and make all kinds of excuses. They stay to themselves more and more. They isolate themselves in their bedroom or apartment. 

Know the signs. Catch it early. You can save someone’s life by exposing their darkness before it’s too late. 

But don’t forget to extend love and grace, so that when the addict is ready to come clean, they know someone is there that does not judge or condemn but loves them and shows mercy.

Why Addiction Kills

I have been sober for over 14 years now from shooting heroin and smoking cocaine. By the grace of God, I have been able to give of my life to fight for a solution for the drug epidemic where I live. I don’t have all of the answers but believe I am in the right neighborhood with my deduction from drug related deaths and overdose victims in the last 14 years that I have witnessed firsthand.

Underneath an addict’s symptoms is a systemic problem of purposelessness and a lack of the right conditions for it to take root and grow into something in an addict’s life, causing the addict to overcome his or her adversity. 

Is purpose going to be found in a methadone clinic? Is purpose going to be found in a rehabilitation program based on growing the population, not its patients? Is purpose going to be found with making drugs legal? Is purpose going to be found in recovery where a chair can be your god? Is purpose found in taking an anti-opiate shot?  Is purpose found in using a new age religion as a recovery method?

I do not have all of the answers nor am I knocking any methods mentioned above per say. I am just pondering on how do we inject people with purpose in the life of an addict or potential addict through creating the conditions for purpose to grow into something where people’s potential is fully maximized. 

I would whole-heartedly argue that drugs don’t kill or cause overdoses as much as a lack of purpose in the addict’s life who wanders into addiction, opening doors not easily closed. Not just a lack of purpose but an absent of the environment conducive for purpose to grow into a person’s full potential and positive people present in the addict’s life to make sure the purpose is fulfilled. 

I will define “purpose” as a deeply imbedded calling to use one’s life for the greater good of the world he or she lives in. Many people find greater purpose in what God wired them to be passionate about. This ranges from helping people who struggle with similar struggles to raising their family for greater purposes to contributing to the world by working God’s ways into the work place to using their resources and/or gift of gathering resources to bring change to the world. 

How to save an addict with purpose:

  1. Point out what people are passionate about. Help people discover what they are truly passion about. If they don’t know, make it your mission for them to find out. What sets them on fire will save them. It might be a matter of self-reflection and spiritual development as well as to seek the confirmation of others regarding this passion. 
  2. Connect the passion to a greater purpose in the world he or she lives in. An addict needs a purpose in their life that is greater than the purpose of drugs and alcohol. You can’t just designate anything in the place purpose needs to take residence in your life. 
  3. Tap into the power of God. You need a purpose beyond you that’s connected to power that’s beyond you, an overcoming power, or when the pain is great, you will give up on your purpose. Only a power greater than the power of drugs and alcohol will suffice. 
  4. No one’s path is perfect but the direction should be planned out. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The addict needs a plan to fulfill his or her purpose. Put it on paper. Schedule in your calendar. Prioritize the priorities of your purpose being fulfilled. If you need to read books, plan for it. If you need to pursue education, plan for it. If you need a mentor, plan for it. 
  5. You become like the people you are around. Make sure a recovering addict keeps people in his or her life that pull greatness out of them not people who pull you down to his or her weakness. Every addict needs people in his or her life who know their weaknesses and are coaching them to maximize their potential - even if it’s hidden.  You are the average of the five closest people to your life. Make sure you have people in your life making your average higher. 

You can’t stop someone on a mission from God to make the world better with his or her life. But you can start someone who needs to be started on this road. Don’t give up on anyone. Every addict deserves an opportunity to trade his or her pain for purpose. 

Who can you help find purpose? 

It Takes a Village To Fight Addiction

I was a statistic. I was an overdose victim. I used needles. I was addicted to heroin and cocaine. But through God’s grace I have been clean for 14 years and have given my life to God’s purposes and plans as I lead Restore Church to start locations with the hope that every campus has its own faith based recovery program called: CRAVE. 

Have you ever rubbernecked before? One time I was driving down a road in Pennsylvania and all of a sudden an 18-wheeler tipped over right in front of me. It was literally sliding towards my car. So instead of stopping or swerving off the road, I drove straight towards it. I stopped my car right in front of it, ran out the car and jumped up on the side and pulled the truck driver out. Of the hundreds of cars that went by, two stopped. The rest rubbernecked. That day I learned that there are two kinds of people in life when accidents happen. People who run into accidents and people who watch accidents? What kind of person are you?

America is in the middle of a huge accident when it comes to drug addiction. In the groundbreaking documentary, The American Epidemic, the following statement was made: “Drug overdose is the leading cause of injury death in America.” After digesting that, I am flabbergasted, speechless, shocked, disgusted and, most importantly, empowered to find a solution. But how could we find ourselves as a nation in the middle of an unprecedented drug epidemic? We are so rich and powerful in so many ways but when it comes to finding an answer to this problem we are so weak and bankrupt. 

Someone so brilliantly stated, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” The sobering reality is we have a lot of “insanely crazy” solutions on the table for addicts in recovery as options today. Solutions that in theory should work - but don’t. Solutions that might have worked in the past but have caused paralyzing consequences for addicts seeking recovery today. 

I do not have all the answers or the solutions just yet but here are our commitments to the process as I move forward: 

  1. I will not be crazy. I refuse to do the same things over and over again and expect different results when it comes to recovery solutions for addicts as well as prevention systems to stop new addicts from picking up for the first time. I have a core conviction: If you want to reach the people no one is reaching, then you have to do the things no one is doing. 
  2. I will not rest. This is a 24/7 365-day problem. It needs to be attacked with a solution that takes no days off. I am not going to quit until we move the dial in the right direction and the statistics change around town. 
  3. I will keep an open mind. I want to learn as much as I can from as many different treatment programs, political perspectives and people in both addiction and recovery. 
  4. I will include everyone. I have been pondering the problem for years and have come to the conclusion that the solution is going to be birthed out of a community that stands united, not divided. We need to come out of the shadows of anonymity and into the light from all walks of life, socioeconomic statuses, backgrounds, ethnicities, pasts (regardless of drug and alcohol abuse), blue collar or white collar workforces and so forth. We can do more together than we can do apart. In the same way it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to fight addiction. 

In closing, I have a dream that recovery for an addict would be more accessible than drugs and alcohol. I have a dream that the first call an addict makes for recovery is the last call. I have a dream that every addict would be treated like a human being - not a caged animal. I have a dream that recovery would not be hidden in the darkness but exposed in the light. I have a dream that the face of addiction would change from your stereotypical strung out crackhead to the person who appears normal next door. I have a dream that no more tears will be shed by moms and dads at funerals as they bury loved ones. I have a dream that includes everyone, not only addicts and their loved ones, in every arena of life - from counselors to ministers to city officials to businessmen and women to school teachers and administration to health care professionals to law enforcements. I have a dream that change starts here and now with you and me.

Patience as a Weakness

Have you ever exhibited too much patience? Have you ever let someone walk all over you in the name of being patient? Have you ever missed the opportunity because you waited longer than you should and you knew it?

Patience is a double-edged sword. Demonstrating it can be both helpful and hurtful. It can prepare you for what’s next or get you stuck in what’s now.

Three signs your patience is holding you back:

  • Too much time has gone by. You can’t even remember the purpose you started to show patience in the first place. 
  • Lack of follow through on your part. You did not follow up on your end of the bargain in regards to becoming a better you if you were waiting on the right person to come into your life. You did not learn what you needed to learn to get the promotion so it passed you. 
  • The opportunity is off the table without explanation. You missed the job opportunity, career advancement, a friendship and so forth - yet you have no clue. You never received any input because you didn’t ask.  

Three Ways to Prevent Patience From Running Out Of Its Power:

1. Don’t wait without testing the waters. Sooner or later, you have to test the waters of patience. Be proactive not only passive. Don’t wait for it to come to you after awhile. Go after it. For example, is she or he the right one? Is the job going to work out? Is more education necessary or not? You can’t leave it on the table for someone else to take what should be yours. So test it at times to see if it is yours now, not yet or never.

2. You will never waste the time you take to sharpen your tools. In your season of learning patience invest in yourself. Personal development is preparation for your patience to pay off. Even if you discover that the person was not for you or the opportunity was not viable, you will never waste the time you take to invest into yourself. It will pay off eventually. 

3. Make sure your trusted advisors know your timeline. Check in with people who have played the waiting game. Let them speak into your timetable. If you don’t have a timetable, let them help you create one for the issue you are showing patience towards. Don’t let an opportunity go by the way side unless your trusted advisor says so. 

Patience can be your best friend or your worst enemy. It’s up to you who she becomes. 

Connect the D.O.T.S.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s paradigm changing book, The Tipping Point, he deduces from the journey of successful products and services that have had an unstoppable momentum in the world to their tipping point. He asked what tipped them over the edge to experience extraordinary growth rapidly? 

When it comes to the ministry of Jesus, what tipped the scales for His movement to turn into a worldwide phenomenon?

Jesus lived for 33 years gaining very little traction. He had amazing teachings. He selected his own team. He developed them on the job. He performed signs and wonders like nobody’s business. Yet even the Son of God did not have worldwide stardom. So what took Him, His followers and His teachings over the top? 

What connected the DOTS from Jesus’ slow start to rapid growth?

Jesus’ tipping point was His resurrection from the dead. The resurrection was, still is and will always be the tipping point of the Christian faith. It’s what caused all of the success behind the early stages of His movement. It’s what caused all of the growth in the early church. Identifying with the resurrected Jesus was the reason early followers were murdered. 

So it was not his teachings as much as it was the connection of His teachings to His resurrection. It was not the caliber of people who followed Jesus when He was on Earth as much as it was their connection to the resurrection. It was not His master plan to evangelize the world but it was the connection of His plan to His resurrection. 

When you connect the dots to the resurrection, churches grow, lives are changed, people are set free, bondages are broken, people receive callings to do greater things, to deeper surrender and are challenged to greater sacrifice.

How do you connect the dots of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to the process that raises you up to new life in Christ? 

Here are the four dots to connect, to shift from the resurrection being a miracle to a mindset shift:

Decisions to Destiny :: Your decisions determine your destiny. Decide not to stop on go. Don’t stop before you start. Start on go. Let your life, no matter where you are, be the starting point. Stumble straight ahead. Fail forward. Whatever you end up doing, don’t ever, ever ring the bell like in Navy Seal training to quit. Decide you will do what God wants you to do and you will be living out your destiny here and now. 

Orders to Obedience :: There is often a gap between orders and obedience. The gaps are called obstacles. Obstacles are just opportunities disguised to take you to the next level in life.  What obstacles are in your way from following through with obedience? You are too distracted. You are allowing others to get you side tracked. You lack values, priorities and principals in life. 

Truth to Trust :: Jesus' teachings were black and white. There was not 50 shades of gray in His truth. You can trust His truth. It will set you free. If you know Jesus, you will know His truth. We do not have faith in something but in someone. Jesus’ truth is timeless. It’s been tested and approved over time and always comes out of top no matter what it’s up against. You are not trusting a systematic theology; you are trusting a Savior that embodied His truth even to the point of death on the cross. 

Strength to Storms :: Your foundation will be tested by storms. Storms are inevitable. You are not exempt from them. You can have the strongest foundation on the planet and it’s just time before a storm blows through. Make sure you build your life on God's strength. His strength will weather even the hardest of storms. 

Now you can connect the dots because you know the dots. 

Decisions ---> Destiny

Orders ---> Obedience  

Truth ---> Trust  

Strengths ---> Storm

Here is a hypothetical situation: let’s say you are about to go to work and you tell your children who have the day off, they can do anything they want - play video games, watch movies, watch TV, but there is one thing they must do before I return. They must take out the garbage. That’s it. Just do that one thing. So you go to work, come home. You just dealt with lots of traffic, you stopped and picked up pizzas for the family, you walk in and what do you find, but the remains of what looks like World War III, the garbage can is not just full, but has erupted like a volcano! You go into the living room where your kids are watching TV, and what do you find? Trash is all over the place, and you say, “You were allowed to do whatever you wanted today, but the one thing I told you to do, you didn’t do?” How do you think Jesus is going to feel if the one thing He commanded us to do, to raise people up to new life in Christ by connecting people to the resurrection of Jesus, we didn’t do? 

Why I Got Baptized

I was sick.

I was a serious intravenous drug user.

I was a convicted criminal.

I hurt anyone who ever loved me.

I failed my family.

I wasted my potential.

I felt like the biggest loser on the planet - until I met Jesus.

I had no idea what Jesus went through for my life. But once I discovered God’s grace looks past my failures and His love sees my hidden potential, I committed my life to follow Christ. I have never been the same since. Not long after my commitment, I was water baptized.

These are the four reasons why I do not regret getting water baptized:

1. I wanted to be like Jesus in every way possible. Jesus participated in the act of water baptism. So I did it.

2. I wanted to follow His orders. Jesus traded His life on the cross for my life. I strive to do anything He wants me to do even though I know I am not perfect. I work hard not to delay because that is disobedience in God’s eyes. How could I be disobedient to the God who obediently climbed on the cross with no delay for me when it comes to water baptism? Jesus instructed His followers to get baptized. So I did it.

3. I wanted to publicly profess my faith. Jesus publicly hung on a cross around people who hated Him. The least I could do was to be fully immersed in water in front of the people who loved me. So I did it.

4. I wanted to place a mile marker on my spiritual journey! Your water baptism experience is very unique. It is one of the few activities on your faith journey you can point back to when you are struggling, doubting, failing, falling or backsliding. No one, not even I, can take it away once you do it.

I will never regret my personal decision to be water baptized, nor will you.

Just do it.

Why Do I Serve?

I have been served!

That’s it. There is nothing more or nothing less than the fact Jesus served me first!

Jesus stepped out of eternity onto the earth to serve me through His life, death, resurrection and ascension. He does not have to do one more thing for me to continue to serve him for the rest of my life. 

I don’t have to be asked to serve.

I don’t have to feel good to do it.

I don’t have to be paid.

I don’t need a title.

I don’t need be thanked.

I don’t need to be complimented.

I don’t need to be honored.

I don’t need to be seen. 

I don’t need to be noticed by others. 

I don’t need someone telling me to do it. 

I don’t need to have a detailed plan in place.

I don’t need a string attached. 

I don’t need it to be convenient. 

I don’t need it to be easy. 

I have given my life to serve the GOD who served me first with His love and grace. I don’t deserve what God has given me, so I have designated my life as a tool in the hands of God to be used as He permits, no matter the conditions or the situations.  

Remember, everyone wants to be servant, until he or she is treated like one!

How Big Are Your Buts?

I don’t like to be told what to do. Even more than being told what to do, I will only do what is easy, than I will “but” my way out of it. 

What I mean is this: I would help you, but I have to do something for me. I would give you some money, but I need the money for me. I would show up to serve on time, but it was more important for me to sleep in. I would follow through on my responsibilities, but it interferes with my entertainment for the evening. 

When you give God a BUT, you miss a blessing! 

The first time I learned about following Jesus I thought to myself, I will follow Him as long as I can keep my plans intact.  

I would follow to a certain point then do exactly what these two first-time followers of Jesus did in the following passage:  

Luke 9:57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Essentially, these two men wanted to follow Jesus on their terms. 

They both echoed the same attitude towards God’s direction. I will follow you, but… I will help you but... I will love my wife, but... I will help people but… 

BUT... BUT…. BUT….

So how big are your BUTS? 

The bigger your BUT, the bigger the blessings you are missing out on. If you “but” God when it comes to your finances, you will never experience the true blessing of being a giver. You will be in bondage to the guilt of greed, and shame of disobedience. If you “but” God when it comes to relationships, you will never be satisfied. No one will ever be good enough for you because you are not good enough for yourself. If you “but” God when it comes to your career, you will never find success. Your success will be nonexistent if you are not willing to make the sacrifice to fulfill your calling in the workplace. 

I was following Jesus on my terms and expecting the results as if I was following on His terms.  I took advantage of Jesus meeting me on my turf. I thought I could use the following excuse forever: I am a work in progress. It’s okay to not be okay, but I discovered it’s not okay to stay that way. 

Turn your BUTS into BLESSINGS:

1. Identify your big buts. Your “big buts” are your excuses for not following through with your commitment to Christ, your career or your community. Where have you told Jesus, I will follow you Lord, “but” I can’t? List those areas. Make this your personal development prayer list. You can’t fix what you do not admit is broken.  

2. Investigate the Bible. Search to see for yourself again where God clearly communicated His standards in regards to sex, money, relationships, happiness, marriage, parenting, working, and so forth. Use the Google search engine. Ask a friend to help you find Bible references. Message a church leader if you know one. Simply make a list of these Scriptures so you can begin to get God’s word in you. Start memorizing them one at a time. 

3. Interact with other believers. You are who you hang out with. Learn from the people who missed God’s blessing because they had “big buts.” Don’t make their mistakes. Find people on the road of obedience to travel with. You can’t experience the blessings of God in disobedience. Link up with an accountability partner, someone who can help you and you can help them stay on the narrow road only few travel on!

As you eliminate your “big buts,” you will open doors to experience incredible blessings. Remember this, every “but” you give to God, you prevent many people around you from being rewarded by your obedience. You are a gateway for many of your family and friends to share in the benefits of following God’s plan on His terms. 

I do not like “big buts,” so stop sticking them in God’s face!

Easter Is Over. The Tomb Is Empty. But Is Your Life Full?

Easter can be a very busy season. When the last eggs are scooped up at the local Easter Egg hunts, the Easter Cantatas close their curtains and all the church worship experiences fade away, are you fulfilled or still empty? There is so much profound truth to internalize from the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ yet it is overlooked and not fully understood. 

There are many timeless truths but let’s start here:  Because the tomb is empty, your life can be complete.

1. Be patient in the process. A lot can happen in three days! Jesus was not resurrected from the dead an hour after He died on the cross. It was not a day or two days later as a matter of fact. It was three days later. Not even Jesus expected to change His situation overnight. Time is on your side when connected to a productive process. Trust the process and over time it will pay off. Your process is just a series of possibilities where God can take your situations and turn them into a resurrection. 

2. Put it in perspective. You need a resurrection mindset not only a resurrection miracle. A miracle gets you started whereas a mindset sustains you! The miracle feels good for a while but eventually it will wear off. The euphoric feeling will dissipate. When it does, if your mindset has not shifted fully then your tendency will be to start resorting back to the way life was before the miracle. 

3. Push through the perceived problem. Shifting into a resurrection mindset is a sacrifice. If it does not take sacrifice to live for Jesus, then you need to shift into sacrifice mode. Anyone can do something when it feels good and when people tell you how good you are for doing it. But sacrifice is when you do it when it does not feel good and no one rewards you for your positive behavior. Learning how to reframe your feelings through the lens of a resurrection mindset is problematic but all part of the process. There is not a problem with the process because you don’t have the same feeling you did when the miracle happened in your life. It’s actually part of the process for it to go away. This turning point will make you or break you. It’s at this crossroads, you have to choose sacrifice which says: It’s not about me being full of myself but emptying myself so that God can fill me to love unconditionally and sacrificially. Your journey starts when Jesus’ sacrifice causes you to sacrifice. Leave something behind. Don’t pick up your bad habit. Change how you spend. Make life about others, not about you. Don’t let a certain feeling shift you away from your resurrection mindset.  

4. Partner with resurrection people. You can’t experience the fullness of the empty tomb alone. Its design by God was to bring people together to celebrate life, the abundant life (John 10:10), only found in Jesus Christ.  It is said: “You become like the people you are around.” That means you need people who have shifted their mindset around you or you will take the path of least resistance in your application of the resurrection. Sooner or later, your faith will be contingent on people’s performance and love for others conditional on good feeling. You will isolate from people guiding you through the process to shift your mindset. 

Life can be full but not fulfilled. Everything you ever will need to be both full and fulfilled is found in process of updating your internal operating system to a resurrection mindset. Stay connected to the local church. It’s one of the few places led by the precepts of Jesus as well as His spirit to push you into your purpose and lead into the future by the sacrifice of many. Instead of following suit with a great majority who become less consistent starting the week after Easter, be more committed to the cause of Christ expressed through the local church than ever.

Close But Far

Have you ever realized once you got so close to something, you were so far away from it?  

In relationships, you can think you know someone and yet be so wrong. In marriage, you can be so close to winning an argument yet so far away from winning in your marriage. When learning about something in college, you discover in the process how much you don’t know trying to know more. The same is true in your relationship with Jesus. 

You can be so close to the cross yet so far from Christ. 

There were many people around Jesus when He was being crucified some 2,000 years ago, yet no one was willing to freely carry their cross as Jesus challenged them early on.

Many of His disciples were so close to Christ yet so far from the change He commands. 

The closest to carrying their cross was Simon of Cyrene who was forced to carry Jesus’ cross for Him. He carried the cross yet the cross of Jesus did not change him. Hence, how you can be so close to the cross while still far away from Christ. Is that you? 

There were many others around the cross on that first Good Friday. There were religious leaders, Roman guards, rebels and regular people. All of them insulted Jesus including the thief on the cross who later crossed over to Christianity while hanging next to Jesus on the cross. Every last one of them played games around the cross. People were acting a fool around the cross. They were mocking Jesus, spitting on Jesus, taunting Jesus, denying Jesus, hurting Jesus, and finally making sure He breathed His last breath. Are you like any of them? 

They were so close to the cross - yet so far from Christ. 

Finally, one of the rebels had a change of heart. He crossed over from being close to the cross only - to close to Christ. Because of his deathbed profession of faith, Jesus gave him his passport to heaven. But wait? How does a convict who deserves hell make it into Heaven?   

Grace. 

That’s it. I know you want more than that like serve, give, forgive, live, take classes, read the Bible, support the building campaign and help as many old ladies cross the street. None of that makes you good enough for Heaven. Only receiving God’s grace through accepting forgiveness from the cross prepares you for eternity. Not only touching the cross but letting the cross touch every area of your life. 

Grace is receiving, not achieving. 

Receive by faith that Jesus became a sin offering for us. He took your place. Not He became your sin. 

Receive by faith that Jesus lived a perfect life, so that His life would be accredited to your account.

Receive by faith that on the cross God treated Jesus as if He lived your life. So that He could treat you as if you lived His.

May the cross point you to Christ and as you come close to Christ, may He use your life to point people back to the cross. 

How To Have A Better Easter Experience Than Last Year

1. Build Anticipation. If you want more out of what God intended for you to receive from celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ you can start preparing your heart now. Here are several things you can do: read the Bible, pray, fast, and attend church on Good Friday. The more you invest into the process, the better the end result. 

2. Come Expecting. You get what you expect. If you come with a “whatever” attitude to church on Easter, you will get “whatever” results. God’s outside of even our greatest expectations, but if you don’t expect to hear a word from God, you might miss it. If you don’t come expecting for God to use you to encourage someone, they might miss it. Don’t miss the main points of Easter because you were not fully present and engaged.  

3. Don’t Criticize. It’s easy to be uber-critical of the songs or the sermon, but you’ll miss the meaning in the music and the main points in the message. Your job is not to be the self appointed assessor of the worship experience. Honestly, and I say this in in love. No one probably cares about your critical review.  Don’t miss the major lessons because you are overly focused on the minor details. Also, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. You will not connect with everything in the worship experience. What you don’t connect with others will, and vice versa. Don’t judge the whole experience based on what you’re indifferent about. 

4. Invite Away. It’s more fun when you experience an Easter Worship Experience with friends. Let everyone you know, know you are going to church this Easter. Call, text, knock, go live on Facebook, post personal invite video or however you see fit. An invitation to church is the precursor to a radical life change someone desperately needs. Don’t make the decision for him or her whether they want to attend or not. Ask, and leave the ball in their court! God will take it from there. 

5. Sit Together. It’s not easy to invite but it’s not enough to just invite. Take it to the next level and make sure you sit in church with whoever you invested your invite into. Many are fearful to go by themselves. Give them every reason to attend by making a way when they bring up excuses. Schedule to meet the person in the parking lot of the church. Come early if you have to meet them. Pick them up if you have to. Do whatever it takes short of sin to make sure they attend and sit with you. 

6. Give Something. It’s more blessed to give than to receive. You will never know how much a church invests in you on Easter. Thousands upon thousands of dollars. Hundreds upon hundreds of volunteer hours. This takes everything out of the pastors, staff and members on mission or volunteers to create a memorable experience for you and your family. Remember, there is no true connection without investment. Invest back into the church that invested in you.  Encourage someone. Give an out-of-the-ordinary offering to the church. Take someone out to dinner from church. Be a blessing to those who bless you! 

You Are Not Good Enough

I have been told before that I was not good enough. I have felt like I was not good enough. I have even proven to myself that I was not good enough before. 

But why don’t I quit? Why don’t I look for a new calling? Why do I face my fears? 

It’s simple, but it’s not what you think. It’s not based on my competencies. There’s always more to learn. It’s not because I know the right people. There are always more connected people to know. And it’s not because I can produce numbers.  There are always better producers. 

I don’t quit when it makes perfectly good sense to because of the confidence I have in my calling from God.  

Jesus exposed his secret to success when he invited the first two disciples into His new international venture - soon to be known as Christianity. These early adopters to Jesus knew better than anyone they were unqualified to follow him. Why you might ask? It’s because they did not make the cut in the religious world of the first century with their local rabbis. We know this because those who were not good enough to follow a rabbi went to work for their fathers business. Hence why they were fishing. So, when Jesus called them, he did not consider past performance, only future potential.  This calling was worth leaving everything behind for these two newbies. 

Here’s what I know about God’s calling: He structures His calling on our lives not based on what you bring to the table. You will never find inner peace and lasting purpose in what you do if you base your calling on what you can produce and how you can perform. 

God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called. 

Your lack of qualifications is what qualifies you with God. So if you find yourself falling short of your numbers, and struggling to keep the ship afloat, remember, it’s not because of what you can do. 

Three Reasons Why You Can Place Confidence In Your Calling:

1. You can build a future out of your failures. Your failure is a stepping-stone to unlock your future destiny. It’s your failures that redirect your life on a path to your purpose. God looks past your failures and into your future.

2. You can see a greater supply through your shortage. You can miss your supply by focusing on your shortage. But if you focus on God’s unlimited supply, the gap in the shortage will close. You are a limited resource whereas God is an unlimited resource. Don’t let what you don’t have keep you from what God wants to give you. 

3. You can draw strength from your struggle. Your weakness is what attracts the grace of God to your life. When you are weak, God is stronger. It’s when you are at the end of the rope, God ties the knot. When you fall short, God is there to bridge the gap. 

Your calling is not a career. It’s way bigger. You can have a career but it’s your calling to God that will steer you through the rough waters and strong storms. Profound purpose and satisfying success is not the byproduct of your calling. It is your calling. What good is it if you live your whole life fulfilling someone else’s calling even if you got rich in the process? The worse thing in the world would be to die with an unfulfilled calling. No matter how tough things become, don’t compromise your calling for comfort. 

The Clash Between Calling & Comfort

You can’t fulfill your calling from your comfort zone.

What God is calling you to do and the pursuit to be comfortable doing it often contradicts and clashes. 

Marriage is a perfect metaphor that illustrates the clash between calling and comfort. When a man and a woman come together in covenant marriage, they sacrifice the comfort found in being single, for their calling to be married. What each spouse enjoyed doing when they were single is filtered through their calling to be married. Some things make it through the filter while other things don’t. The calling should always trump what is comfortable. 

Maybe that’s why you can’t get into a groove? Maybe that’s why everything is not smooth sailing? Because if it were, would you really need God? 

The fact you are not fully comfortable in your calling is evidence you are in your calling. The state of not being comfortable should not be the result of poor planning or low team morale. But when up against those kinds of walls, it’s your calling you go back to for the confidence needed to figure out what needs to be fixed and follow through with the plan till its fixed. 

When things are not comfortable, it’s best to do the following three things: 

  1. Fight for unity. A group of people with a poor plan yet who are unified around it can be more effective than a team with a well developed plan yet disconnected and indifferent with each other. 
  2. Focus on the why. Never forget the why of your calling. At Restore Church, it’s to reach people far away from God and raise them up to new life in Christ. As a result of our mission, we will do anything short of sin to make it happen. It’s the WHY that will cause you to figure out the WHAT, and the HOW. It’s the WHY that will lead you through the chaos and uncertainty. 
  3. Feel the pain. It is not fun to be in pain as a result of something you feel called to do. But don’t allow the pain to be wasted. When you feel that kind of pain, let it motivate you and your team to do what ever it takes never to be in this kind of pain again. Michael Jordan felt the pain of losing a key playoff game over and over to the Detroit Pistons - to the point he cried. He decided he would do whatever it took never to feel like that again. He used his pain as leverage to rise above the problems in his life at the time to accomplish his purpose of winning the first of six championships. 

As you discover your calling, life might become more uncomfortable. Again, that is a sign you are headed in the right direction. Be patient with the people around you who are directly touched by your calling.  Your calling was most likely not an over night deal. It took time for you to arrive where you are. So give people time to accept it without compromising your calling. You might just be the connection that person needs to their new level in life. 

Stretch Marks

You attract not only who you are but also who you are becoming.

The difference between who you are and who you are becoming determines your next level. 

You are not at your next level because of who you are. But as you stretch yourself to become a better version of who you are, you will step up to a new level.

You are where you are because of who you are but you won’t get to the next level unless you develop the following four stretch marks. Stretching your life is like stretching before you run or work out. You can only stretch yourself so much by yourself. It takes someone else to push you to experience the pain you need to grow. 

  1. Follow Well. Great leaders start as great followers. No matter how high you climb, always submit to someone who is higher than you. Submit yourself to someone at the next level so that you can see the next level in action. 
  2. Break Bad Habits. Unhealthy habits hold us back. Don’t let your bad habits continue to get the best of you. A bad habit is anything in your life holding you back from your next level. You know what you need to stop doing better than anyone. Everyone’s bad habits are different, but they all do the same thing—keep us from unlocking the door of our future potential. 
  3. Don’t Stop Learning. You will run out of steam if you rely on yesterday’s wisdom. Get a word of wisdom for your life today that will carry you into tomorrow. What are you learning? Who are you learning from? What are you reading? Do you need to enroll yourself in a higher education pathway? 
  4. Serve with no strings attached. Lead by serving. Don’t only be served as a leader. Become the best servant you can become to your team, your family and in your work place. Humble yourself. You are not too good to do anything. Help others become more successful than you are. Give up your right to be right. Serve the people you lead. 

Leaders discover they can go further and do more if they stretch out before they lead. When you see leaders who are stretched out, you see their marks, not only on them but left on the people they lead. Do the people you lead have the same kind of stretch marks as you?