Forty

August 12, 2014 — Leave a comment

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At STORYCHURCH we’ve been working our way through the story of Moses and the Israelites. This week we caught up with them with the Red Sea at their back and the army of Egypt approaching them at the front. It was an impossible situation with no way out. And the people weren’t happy about it. They confronted Moses with “Was it because there weren’t enough graves in Egypt that you brought us into the wilderness to die?”

And that’s when Moses tells the people “The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.”

That doesn’t feel like much of a solution. It’s easier to do something. Anything. But to be still, to wait on God, to trust Him to come through in an otherwise impossible situation – that is hard.

The story moves forward as God parts the sea and makes a way for the Israelites to walk across on dry land. It’s an improbable solution to an impossible situation.

As a church we’re in one of those Red Sea moments. God did something amazing for us recently when He made it possible for us to purchase our first permanent facility. It was a miracle really – something we weren’t even looking to do. And so we extended ourselves, we took a risk, we followed Him out of one chapter and into the next. And now it sort of feels like He led us into an impossible situation. We’re too far out to turn back now, and yet at the same time without a real clear way forward. To date (August 12, 2014) we’ve raised just about 45-50% of the funds needed to complete renovations on the facility. And the clock is ticking. We have just about two months to finish the work.

My tendency in these moments is to freak out. It’s to rush into something. Anything. It’s to desperately do whatever I can. But I think in this season we need to hang on to this: “The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.”

So we’re going to do just that. We’re going to spend the next 40 days seeking after Him together in prayer. We’ve purchased everyone a copy of Mark Batterson’s “Draw the Circle” and we’re going to spend the next 40 days together circling this facility and all the needs for it in prayer.

If you are part of STORYCHURCH I want to invite you to please join us. This is our moment. It’s our time to watch the deliverance of the Lord. It’s our time to see Him do the impossible. I think this is going to be the greatest time our church has ever experienced and I don’t want you to miss it. If you didn’t get a book Sunday we’ve got extras at the church building, or you can pick one up on Sunday and join us a few days late. Of course if you want to get it digitally you can do that as well.

Each day we’ll be posting reminders, thoughts and reflections from that day’s reading so be sure to connect with us on all your favorite social media platforms as well. I can’t wait to see what God does in your life over the next 40 days and in the life of our church!

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Four Cups

August 4, 2014 — Leave a comment

four-cupsYesterday at STORYCHURCH I talked about the four promises God gives the people of Israel as they get ready to depart Egypt and head for the promised land.

If you are interested in that message, you can listen here.

But I wanted to be sure to reference this book, which was a huge source for me as I prepared. It’s a short read that really unpacks these promises as they relate to the Passover meal and their significance for you and me today. You can go here to find it on amazon.

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My Prayer

July 21, 2014 — 6 Comments

Lots of people have been encouraging me and my family as we continue to pray through this faith-stretching season. Recently someone shared this with us and it has become my prayer:

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I’ve always felt like the most important messages a pastor can ever give are the ones that they preach to themselves first. This week I preached a message that said “The greater the distance, the stronger the arm.” It was part one of a new series we are doing called “Promised Land” where we are tracing the life of Moses. This first message was mostly about the world Moses was born into. It was a time after Joseph had died and now a whole group of Hebrews was finding themselves enslaved and subject to genocide. The Promised Land they all had heard about never felt farther away than it did in that moment. And yet that’s the exact time that God was already moving and Moses was born. The deliver was in the reeds.

It reminded me of what most dudes do when they get around a football. There’s always one who will utter the two words “Go Long.” Every guy wants an opportunity to show off his arm strength. It’s innate really. I believe this is what God is doing sometimes when the Promised Land feels far away. I believe God is just waiting for the opportunity to show off his arm strength.

And so this week’s message was first and foremost for me. I’m right smack in the middle of one of the biggest faith stretching times I’ve ever experienced. For our church we’re trusting God for helping us accomplish a pretty big financial goal in order to renovate our first permanent facility. For my family we are two weeks away from not having a place of our own – all the while trusting God to sell our home in CA and at the same time hoping the house we love will still be available here in NC.

If there ever felt like I time when God was saying “Go long” it is now. We’re praying and hoping and trusting we are running the right route and that God’s arm is strong enough. But that doesn’t make it easy. Some days my faith feels really thin. I doubt. I question. I second guess.

And so I go back and listen to a podcast of me teaching to myself hoping and praying that this guy is right. Because he sounds a lot more sure than I feel sometimes.

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Single Parent

June 24, 2014 — Leave a comment

I’m a single parent – for about eight days anyway. My wife is out of the country and I have no way to even communicate with her, so at least for now – it feels like I’m on my own.

But that’s where the comparison stops really. I don’t want to compare my week solo with what thousands of moms and dads do every single day – parent on their own. It’s only day four and I’m losing the battle. So far I’ve made my kids cry with a frustrated moment of voice raising, I’ve sat them in front of TV / iPad / video games way more than I’d like to admit, and I put the car in drive with the door open and had my youngest fall out. (He’s fine by the way.)

Parenting is one of the toughest jobs in the world. And that’s just the part where we try and keep them alive and dressed and half way clean. But for many single parents, that’s the easy part. There’s also working and trying to earn enough on one lousy salary to keep a roof over their heads and food in the fridge. Add to that the important task of teaching kids about life, how to be a good man or woman, helping them succeed in school and trying to keep up with what their friends are doing. Sometimes those same parents are trying to undo what their kids are learning from a less responsible parent.

Single mom and single dad – you are the most amazing people on the planet. What you are doing is so hard. But please don’t quit. Don’t give up. We see you. All your hard work, all your sacrifice, all your frustration. We see it. You are doing an amazing job. You really are.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant talking about the influence of his single mom on his life. (Jump ahead to about 2:54 if you’ve only got a couple of minutes.)

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Chapter Two

June 3, 2014 — 2 Comments

This weekend at STORYCHURCH we got to announce some incredible news – that after four and a half years of portable church, we are about to close on our FIRST PERMANENT FACILITY!

I’ll be honest, I never saw this coming. At least not right now. About a year ago we shut down a process of looking for a new location to rent (not buy!) and after checking out more than 60 spots, we couldn’t find a single thing that worked for us. Instead we recommitted ourselves to the community we are already in and really sensed that God was saying it wasn’t the time.

Sometimes God closes doors.

So then a few months ago we were approached by the remaining members of Fuller Memorial Presbyterian church here in Durham, roughly a mile from where we meet. It’s a church with a 115 year history and a vision for the future that exceeded even that, surpassing the energy they had to give to it. That vision and that kingdom mindset resulted in a ridiculously amazing offer that we simply couldn’t refuse.

Sometimes God opens a door.

In the comparably short history of STORYCHURCH, it feels as though one chapter is wrapping up and a new chapter is beginning. In our world, it’s Chapter Two. And Chapter Two is where the inciting incident often hangs out. It’s the moment when the story goes to a whole new level and you either dive in or you put down the book and pick up a new one.

STORYCHURCH – I for one can’t wait to see where this thing goes and I’m PUMPED that I get to do this with you! It’s going to be an incredible journey and we’re just getting started.

Who’s excited!?!?

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Mount Everest QomolangmaSo yesterday I talked a little bit about David and how he avoided the fear flu that plagued the rest of the army of Israel (read it here). But the truth is that fear isn’t the only thing that is contagious – Courage is too.

David was a courageous young man. When faced with a giant named Goliath, he went charging into battle confident of the result because of his faith in the God who would protect him. His actions inspired the entire army. Moments after Goliath fell the entire Israelite army charged the enemy and chased them until they had beaten them so soundly that there was basically no enemy left. Apparently there were two viruses going around. The Fear Flu, and the Courage Cold (ok, that was lame but you get it).

Courage inspires courage. It causes people to say “Oh, hey maybe it isn’t that scary.” I heard once about Roger Bannister who was the first man to ever break the 4 minute mile barrier. He did it in 1954. Up until that point it seemed like it was beyond the limits of human ability. Within months of Bannister’s accomplishment several others did the same thing. Today it is the standard for mile running competition and the world record has come in a whopping 17 seconds faster than that. So what happened there? I think what happened was that one person’s accomplishment broke a fear barrier. For whatever reason people were convinced they couldn’t do it. Once someone proved it could be done, it became common place.

Or take Mount Everest. It took dozens of failed attempts until one climbing pair finally summited in 1953. While still a major accomplishment, today more than 1500 people have made it to the top and in recent years some of the worst danger on the mountain is due to the amount of people who are all climbing at the same time. Once again, something that seemed impossible has become pretty common. Courage has opened the door to more courage.

Which brings me back to David. See years later some of Goliath’s family were still a little bit upset with Israel. 2 Samuel 21 describes at least four more giants who were all killed at the hands of Israelites. One of those who managed to take on a giant was David’s nephew. Other than a slight mention here though it basically isn’t a big deal. So what was once a pivotal defining moment for the people of Israel, a moment when it was believed that no one could possibly beat a giant, eventually became a footnote as others took on giants as well. When one person successfully slays a giant, everyone lines up to take one on. 

I’m so thankful for the people who have gone before me and proved that the impossible can be done. For me that’s church planters and leaders who have taken great risks to see a dream become a reality. In my most fearful moments I look at them and say “maybe it isn’t that scary after all.” One of my greatest joys today though is that I get to talk to others who are just starting into this journey. And in some small way I think the fact that I can share my story with them helps them to say “maybe it isn’t that scary after all.”

We all have within us the opportunity to be carriers of fear and courage. Every day we have a choice as to which one we will spread. I hope and pray that you will draw strength and courage from others who have gone first and that it will inspire you to charge ahead as well – thereby spreading the Courage bug wherever you go.

 

photo by: TausP.
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Fear is contagious

May 7, 2014 — 4 Comments

[220/365] Nuclear Fear (Explored)You’ve probably heard the story of David and Goliath. For 40 days Goliath came out in the morning and again at night to taunt Israel. For 40 days the fear built amongst the armies of Israel. For 40 days this army looked at each other with fear in their eyes hoping that someone else would take on the challenge. And then David shows up and decides he’ll take on Goliath.

You probably know that David was a shepherd, that he was the youngest of all his brothers, and that the only reason he’s even here at the battle lines was to bring his older brothers a snack. David is an unproven young man (militarily speaking). So why isn’t David afraid?

I think that all the reasons we think David SHOULD be afraid are exactly why he isn’t.

  • David was a shepherd. Unqualified right? Should he be afraid? Well, David tells us in this story that he regularly fights bears and lions with his bare hands to rescue sheep. So the shepherd thing is actually in his favor.
  • But he’s the youngest brother. Exactly. Probably too young to know what a scary situation this is. David has that youthful naîvete that makes him a prime candidate for taking on a giant.
  • David isn’t supposed to even be here though. Yep. I wonder if David was able to do what he did because he had just showed up and heard Goliath for the first time. The rest of the army had heard Goliath about 80 times by now. For David – it was the first time. While the rest of the army has passed around the fear flu, David hasn’t spent one minute sitting around talking about how big this guy is or how desperate the situation must be. He hasn’t heard Goliath bark out his taunts 79 other times. David doesn’t mess around – he hears the challenge, and then he goes after Goliath right away.

I think sometimes we give our fears too much credit. We sit around with other people who are also afraid and we talk together about how big and scary our dreams are. We overstate the risks. We invent doomsday scenarios. We wait and we wait and the fear grows until eventually we are paralyzed.

I’m trying to do things differently these days. I’m trying to be quicker. Fear is contagious. But it’s also slow. Courage sprints off the line and leaves fear in the dust. 

 Ultimately David’s courage and his lack of fear came from his confidence in God’s provision. But I promise that if David had spent as much time waiting as the rest of the army had – he never would have slayed that giant.

I suppose it’s important to say that it’s obviously wise to consult others and to gather as much information as possible before we make decisions and go for it. But it’s probably also true that it’s possible that we’ll never be done gathering information. At some point we better move or pretty soon we’ll catch the fear bug as well.

Finally, fear isn’t the only thing that’s contagious. Courage is too. More on that tomorrow.

photo by: pasukaru76
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2014easter_square400The morning after Easter for a pastor is like waking up after you played in the Super Bowl. You kind of have a fog about you, and sort of a question of “Did that really happen?” I know for me I woke up this morning with an awareness of God’s goodness and the amazing things He did in us this weekend. Yesterday was an historic day for STORYCHURCH. For the first time ever we had two services. We crushed our attendance record, we saw people come to faith in Jesus, we saw multiple people serving for the first time. Our teams were well prepared, they made each experience and interaction as fresh as the first, and basically the whole thing went off without a hitch.

It was the culmination of months of conversations and preparation and hard work, and to see it all go so well was an incredible thing for me. It never gets old to see people committed to a vision, committed to each other, and committed to serving Jesus.

One thing is for sure, we’ve got some of the most amazing leaders and volunteers on the planet. I really believe that every person who invited, who served, who gave, who prayed, who shook a hand and smiled – every one of us made a difference yesterday.

Thanks STORYCHURCH. You inspire me every day to keep helping people “embrace the story they were meant to live.” Thanks for believing in our mission, for sharing the load, for contributing your resources and time and talent, and for caring enough about people to introduce them to Jesus.

Guess what? We get to do it again soon!

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It’s 12:32am. My alarm will go off in less than four and a half hours. And I can’t sleep.

Tonight my mind is racing. It doesn’t help that I took a two hour nap pretty late in the day today. But mainly it’s my thoughts running a hundred miles an hour.

As a kid I remember being so excited some nights that I couldn’t sleep. The night before Christmas. The night before camp, or before a big game. You know what kids don’t do? They don’t stay up late replaying the tapes of all the conversations they had that day, or reliving the past and wishing they could change something. I love that about them. They are almost always forward focused – dreaming, excited about what the next day will bring.

Somewhere along the line our memories become stronger than our dreams. We lose that child-like excitement for life and for what could be. I hope your dreams are stronger than your memories. I hope the future pulls harder than the past for you.

Tonight, it’s my dreams keeping me up and not my memories. And that feels pretty good.

What keeps you up at night?

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