Month: February 2011

Fear No Evil – Chapter Three

For the next several weeks, I am introducing some excerpts from my first book from Zondervan, Fear No Evil which releases in April.

This is from Chapter 3.

First Samuel 17 tells the story of the teenage-version of the psalmist David trying to talk King Saul into letting him charge into battle and take out the infamous giant Goliath, who for more than a month had been taunting the Israelites and mocking their God. The stakes of Saul’s decision were sky-high; whoever won in the fight against Goliath would claim victory for the entire battle. And David thought Saul would be wise to send a mere boy to accomplish this feat? Admittedly, David had a tough sales job in front of him.

In an effort to persuade the king, David began to rattle off his resume. Here is what he said: “Your servant has been keeping watch over his father’s sheep. And when a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it and struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth….”

Allow me to push “pause” on David’s speech for a second. Clearly I am no parks-and-wildlife expert, but this much I know: when a bear has food in its mouth, it is best not to attempt to remove it. This is a helpful piece of advice, don’t you think?

But David never once followed it.

“And when it turned on me,” he continued, as if it was a shocking turn of events for a provoked bear to fight back, “I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.”

It’s important to note here that David wasn’t referring to a mere bear cub. He was talking about a mature bear that he killed with his own two hands. And his slingshot, I suppose.

Every time I read about David’s courageous feats in the wild, I imagine what the other sheep in David’s father’s flock thought when they saw their shepherd take down a wild, angry bear. I happen to believe that they comprised the most trash-talking bunch of sheep around. I envision them sauntering up to lions and tigers and bears all over their neighborhood, saying, “You see what just happened to your buddy, Frank? Mm-hmmm. That’s our shepherd, boys! You want a piece of the action? Huh? You want some of this?”

In far more reverent ways, this is exactly how I feel when I walk through life with God. As I take each step of the journey by his side, I consider what he has done to those throughout history who have tried to mock him, and to Satan and all of his evil demons, I whisper, “Hey, boys. You want some of this?”

My friend, this is the same way you have to envision yourself. The God of all creation is flanking you on the left and on the right. He has gone before you, he promises to stay the course with you, and he has your back like nobody here on earth can. Our Shepherd—the Good Shepherd, our God—is the only one who can help us find the mountaintop when we find ourselves stumbling through the dark. There is a mountaintop, I assure you. But sometimes that long-awaited peak can only be appreciated when it is found as a result of enduring the valley first.

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Fear No Evil – Chapter Two

For the next few weeks, I am going to share some excerpts from my first book, Fear No Evil, which releases in April. If you want to pre-order the book and support the Dream Centers we are opening in our city, go to www.Amazon.com

This is from chapter two, where I talk about the crazy journey for our family from Gateway Church in D/FW to New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

First Kings 1:28-52 recounts the story of David turning over his leadership reins to his son Solomon. I’ve always been fascinated by this particular event in Scripture, because of all the sons David could have chosen, he selected one who was the product of his adulterous affair with Bathsheba. Of all his children, I wonder if Solomon was the one who was sort of pushed aside throughout his childhood because he was a tangible reminder of such a terrible season in King David’s life. But as David neared death and needed a successor to the throne, he looked directly at Solomon and in essence said, “You’re the one.”

Over the years I have developed a theory about why Solomon was selected. Despite the details surrounding his entrance into the world, I believe the reason he was tapped to lead a nation was because he had caught the DNA of his father, who had a willing heart, a willing spirit, and an honest desire to serve. Granted, David had faced his own share of challenges along the way. But in the end he would be called a man after God’s own heart. He was a leader whom God could trust.

I look at the legacy of guys like David and Solomon and feel the pull of healthy covetousness. How I crave a legacy like that. I don’t care if I am ever known for my teaching and preaching, for my talents and gifts, for my list of earthly successes, whatever they may be. If there was one thing I would need in the days immediately following the shooting, it was the manifested presence of my heavenly Father’s DNA: strength and integrity, calmness and a sense of peace, wisdom and perseverance, kindness and an insistence on the fact that though all around feels unbearably dark, hope—true hope—still abounds.

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Fear No Evil – Chapter One

For the next few weeks, I am going to share some excerpts from my first book, Fear No Evil, which releases in April. If you want to pre-order the book and support the Dream Centers we are opening in our city, go to www.Amazon.com

This is from Chapter One and I had just arrived home after the horrible shooting on our campus earlier that day.

Around nine-thirty, I pulled into the garage of our home in northern Colorado Springs and exhaled the weight I had been carrying since just after one that afternoon. It occurred to me that I hadn’t had time or space to let my emotions catch up to all that I had experienced, but no sooner had the thought crossed my mind than Pam came out from the house to the garage. She must have heard me pull in, and at the sight of her—my gorgeous, faithful, perfectly safe wife—I came undone. As tears flowed, we were silent. But in our silence we were thinking the same thing. We were so grateful no one in our family had been hurt, and at the same time we were devastated that the Workses had lost two daughters. We were grieving the other injuries and the loss of innocence for our church. So many emotions, wrapped up in soundless tears.

Several minutes passed in that garage—ten, maybe—before both of us realized that we’d be much warmer inside. We headed into the house, where I saw Pastor Jeff and his wife, Jenny. Faithful to the core, they had stayed put at Pam’s side all day long. What a gift to have friends like that.

The ten of us gathered in the living room—Jeff and Jenny and their four kids, Pam, our kids, and me—where I conveyed the most recent information I had been given from New Life security, New Life staff members, hospital personnel, family members of people hurt in the shooting, and so forth. The more I talked, the more drained I became. The day was finally wearing on me, from the inside out.

To neither Pam’s nor my surprise, Abram and Callie understood exactly what had unfolded at their church that afternoon. Even at ages nine and seven they grasped that someone had come to our campus to do very bad things, and that another person had been forced to stop him before the bad guy could hurt more people than he already had. Callie asked, “Dad, did he come on the campus to shoot you?”

Feeling too weary to do anything but tell the plain truth, I said, “Callie, he came on the campus to shoot all of us. We all were victims today.”

Satisfied with the facts, as kids so often are, she and her brother hugged me tightly and then headed off to bed. In their little world, as long as Dad was home, safe and sound, all was well once more. Plus, they had been spared the gruesome sights and sounds of the tragedy and had no awful memories needing to be worked through. They were miles away from the church by the time destruction rained down. For that, I’ll always be grateful.

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Bill Hybel’s Foreword for Fear No Evil

RECENTLY WILLOW CREEK celebrated our thirty-fifth anniversary, and after the festivities had come and gone, during a quiet moment of reflection I thanked God for his goodness that has sustained us all these years. Like any church that has been around for a while, we have experienced ups and downs, good times and bad, seasons of blessing and those marked by immeasurable pain. By God’s grace, we have prevailed.

Throughout those three-plus decades of ministry, I have seen too many churches wind up with a far different story to tell. Despite noble intentions and well-meaning commitments, adversity wins the day. The sequence is predictable and sad: calamity strikes and people scatter. They despise the sting, they fear the pain, they rush to disassociate from the mess. But not so with New Life Church. After suffering back-to-back blows that might have leveled another group, this courageous congregation chose to renew their faith, rally their energies, and doggedly rise again.

It is more than a feel-good story for New Life; it is good news for us all. Because as churches reach for their redemptive potential instead of forfeiting the fight, increasing numbers of people wind up living lives that  conform to the teaching Jesus offered and the example that he set. The net effect is a drastic reduction of the dangers of living on this planet. Think about this with me: if a few hundred million more people were to enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ over the next few years, and if they were then to start choosing inclusion over exclusion, righteousness over evil, serving over controlling, giving over grabbing, peace over violence, and love over hate, this world would be a far better place to live. This is why Jesus told us to pray each and every day that the will of his Father that was being played out to perfection in heaven would start to operate more and more here on planet Earth. Depravity may be on the loose today, but it doesn’t have to be tomorrow. You and I can be agents of eternity-impacting change. We can be ambassadors—of compassion, of encouragement, of hope.

When pain hits home, most people’s tendency is to want to run from it, replace it with another feeling, and pretend like they escaped unharmed. I experienced this most dramatically just after my dad died decades ago. The sadness that descended on me was so awkward and uncomfortable that I merely tried to pull myself together and move on. I returned to work and threw myself into a frenzy of ministry activity, counting on the chaos I was creating to distract me from the deep despair I felt.

But that is not God’s way.

Instead, he encourages us to lean into the neediness we feel. He invites us to watch him bandage our wounds, set our broken bones, and start to stabilize things once more. He inspires us to slow down, review the loss, pray through it thoroughly, talk about it openly, think about it deeply, and write about it reflectively. Thankfully, that is exactly what Brady Boyd has done. And now, in these pages, you and I get to benefit from the lessons he learned along the way.

These days, whenever a round of suffering comes my way, the first thing I try to do—even before I allow myself the first taste of panic—is to try to grab hold of a foundational truth from God that I can cling to until things get sorted out. One that helps me every time is this: God is never, ever the author of evil. If I can’t keep that particular truth straight in my mind, I am going to lose the plot every time. But if stay focused on the theological certainty that God never authors evil, then I stand a better than average chance of weathering the storm.

Throughout the Bible, God also promises that when we pass through the rising waters, we won’t be walking alone. When we fight through the raging rivers, they will not sweep over us. When we walk through the furious fire, the flames will not set us ablaze. And when we trudge through life’s darkest valleys, God promises he’ll always be there.

What’s more, our good God limits the amount and the severity of the evil that comes our way so that it stays within our capacity to endure it. I don’t know about you, but that kind of promise serves as a strategic part of my survival plan for life. Even when my circumstances unnerve me, I can hang onto that with my white-knuckled grip.

You may be reading this and thinking, “That’s great for you, but you obviously don’t understand how severe my suffering is.” Deep down, you believe you are beyond hope, that life’s rising waters are about to pull you under. But it’s simply not the truth. The open tomb of Jesus Christ never stops tossing a life-preserver of hope to even the most hopeless of heart.

If you are going through a rough patch right now, then I’d ask you to consider by faith that just as God wove together something beautiful for the once-brokenhearted people known as New Life Church, he is at work behind the scenes in your life too. Despite how bleak and bitter and cold things may seem as you survey the landscape of your life, I promise you God is working, just beyond what your eyes can see. He never sleeps, the Bible promises, and he never slumbers. He doesn’t take the month off during your season of despair. On the contrary: Romans 8:28 says that for those who love God and follow him, he is working to make all wrong things right.

Take to heart the lessons from Fear No Evil. Don’t wait for the next round of suffering to surface in your life before you confirm your belief that hope exists, that hope is available, and that hope will always prevail.

P.S. from Brady – The proceeds of this book will support the Dream Centers we are opening in Colorado Springs. Pre-order Fear No Evil at www.amazon.com

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What makes all this worthwhile?

I was meeting with a young leader recently, talking about church, the future and all that God is doing right now in our fellowship. I found myself really excited about life and realized that I really like what I get to do everyday. Why am I so excited?  What makes all this worthwhile? These are questions that need to be discussed and answered by everyone, whether you’re a pastor or not. Here are some of my answers.

1. Life must be lived with friends.

Working alongside people you love and respect makes all the difference. In fact, I believe the camaraderie, the laughs, and the conversations will be the things we remember the most. Telling the stories of what God did among us, remembering the gaffes and the goofiness of the past are some of the most treasured times I have with friends. Not everyone around us has to be close, personal friends, but there needs to be close relationships present somewhere or the road just becomes too arduous.

2. Life must be lived for His kingdom and not for our personal empires.

When a group of people put God first and their egos and agendas last, a momentum is created that’s almost impossible to stop. When no one cares who gets the spotlight or the accolades and only God is worshipped, the atmosphere becomes ripe for miracles. I can give my life away without regrets if the end result is building something eternal that brings God glory.

3. Life must be full of experiments that lead to innovation.

I really enjoy a work environment that is full of risks, experiments and potential messes. This is when the most innovative ideas tend to surface. The moment that everything is predictable is when I get really bored and distracted. I can pastor for another 40 years if the church keeps its sense of wonder and continues asking the question, “What is the best way to do this?”

4. Life must be about others succeeding.

Life is better when we are cheerleaders. Watching others do more because of our influence and facilitating the growth in those around us really makes the tough days worthwhile. Leading is more than just telling others what to do. It’s speaking the right words at the right time, igniting passions and opening eyes to opportunities.

What makes it all worthwhile for you? What keeps you going forward with joy and purpose in every step? What would you add to this list?


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How to take a day off

The sabbath was not a suggestion. Moses included it in his top 10 and Jesus completely redefined this ancient practice to the Jewish culture who had made it a chore instead of a blessing. But, let’s be honest, most of us do not know how to take a day off without feeling guilty, restless or insecure. As a young pastor, I seldom chilled for a entire day and it almost cost me my marriage, my health and my ministry. Today, I am better at it. Here are some thoughts and suggestions to help all of us unplug and recharge our lives.

1. Tweet less or not at all.

2. Don’t look at your Facebook inbox.

3. Go on a date with your spouse.

4. Go outside and take a walk. The sun recharges our bodies more than we think.

5. Unless it’s family or one of your close friends, do not answer your phone. Voicemail is a great screening tool.

6. Don’t drink cheap coffee.

7. Talk about anything but work stuff. Note to pastors – church stuff is work stuff.

8. Wear clothes you would never wear to work. I have an awful set of t-shirts I wear on my day off.

9. Do something that makes you smile or laugh. If nothing comes to mind, read something from Dave Barry.

10. Spend time reading the bible. If you’re a pastor or teacher, do not read the text you plan to teach on Sunday. Read for yourselves today and not for others.

11. Hit yourself on the kneecap with a hammer each time you read an email from work. After a couple of emails, you will be forced to lie down and rest.

12. Spend some time completely alone. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. We should too.

May our souls be restored and our joy return as we trust that God can do more in our lives in six days than we can accomplish in seven days on our own. The sabbath requires faith and obedience, but the rewards are incomparable.

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