Nobody Saw That One Coming

Mark 5 is an amazing chapter that keeps teaching me new things.

 

Three stories show up in this chapter: a demon-possessed man, a woman with a serious health issue, and a man’s daughter who dies at a young age.

 

In each of these stories, Jesus shows up and rewrites the story.

 

The demon-possessed man: “No one could do anything with him.”

 

Nothing seemed to be changing the situation for the better.

 

The woman with a serious health issue: “[She] had gone through a great deal at the hand of many doctors…was getting worse.”

 

As hard as she tried to get help, things were only going downhill.

 

The man’s daughter who dies at a young age: “Your daughter is dead—there’s no need to bother the master further.”

 

It seemed pointless to hope any longer.

 

As bleak as each of these scenarios were, Jesus showed up and rewrote the story.

 

Jesus can do what the best efforts and intentions of others can’t.

 

The man was chained, unable-to-be-restrained, and demon-possessed.

 

Enter Jesus, the author and perfecter. He rewrote this guy’s story.

 

He was freed and transformed into a new person—an evangelist.

 

Nobody saw that one coming.

 

The woman with a constant bleeding issue wanted desperately to change her situation, but was faced with a seemingly insurmountable impasse. Life was out of her control and no one had any reason to believe it would end well.

 

Jesus entered the picture, bringing healing in an instant to a circumstance that had drained this woman of her dignity, her finances and her life.

 

Nobody saw that one coming.

 

In a last-ditch effort, a man comes to Jesus looking for healing for his young daughter who’s terminally ill, only to find out that she had already died.

 

Hope seemed like a waste of time. It seemed so final, so absolute, so settled.

 

Jesus stepped in and revived what seemed lost forever—the little girl was brought back to life.

 

Nobody saw that one coming.

 

When we face situations that seem like they aren’t ever going to change for the better, are only getting worse, or that seem final and unchangeable, we can look at these stories and hope against all hope.

 

Jesus can show up in your story and rewrite it—I would know.

 

Not that long ago, I led others into sin and destructive life choices.

 

Jesus showed up and rewrote my story.

 

Now I get to lead others to Jesus and living whole.

 

Nobody saw that one coming—especially me.

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Hope > Nihilism

It seems so tragic that everyone under the sun suffers the same fate. That is why people are not more careful to be good. Instead, they choose their own mad course, for they have no hope. There is nothing ahead but death anyway. (Ecclesiastes 9.3 NLT)

Look around long enough and you’re bound to see what is the most tragic, heartbreaking thing of all: people who have lost hope. They’ve stopped trying.

I’ve seen too many young people, who feel like they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by living loud and crazy, defiant lives, do so because they have no hope.

The writer of Ecclesiastes (Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived) uses the phrase, “under the sun” a lot to describe a world that exists to people who believe that this life is all there is.

I’m a sucker for sarcasm, and Ecclesiastes doesn’t disappoint.

The book of Ecclesiastes pretty much says this (obviously condensed):

Everything is meaningless if this life is all there is.

What’s the point if when you die, it’s all over? When you die, the world moves on.

Nothing changes and no one will remember you when you’re gone.

Ultimately, nothing you do matters, and if that’s true, do whatever the heck you want because it won’t matter in the end anyway.

Yuck, nihilistic philosophy at its best.

I believe that the reason so many young people are living wild and crazy, rebellious lives with no care or concern for themselves, their futures or others, is because they live their lives without hope.

For many, this is all there is.

This is why we dealt with “YOLO” for so long. (We are done with it now, right?)

This is why I cringe when I hear a young person in our youth church say, “I’mma do me for a while.”

Thankfully, we do have a hope and this isn’t all there is.

I’m so glad that there’s more than all that’s “under the sun.”

When I was getting drunk and high, when I was chasing after easy women, it was because I had been living my life under the assumption that it wasn’t going to get any better—I had no hope for a better tomorrow.

One of the best things we can do is be honest with people and share our struggles along with the hope we have for a better tomorrow (and eternity).

In the worst of it all, I didn’t feel like I could relate to the people I admired who “had it all together.”

It took other people sharing their current and past pain and setbacks with me, along with their hope for a better future that helped by the grace of God, drag me out of the spiritual and emotional pit I had dug for myself.

Here’s the deal: hope > nihilism.

Thankfully, there is a God in Heaven who has a plan and is working things according to that plan—a very good plan.

Let’s be a people who share our hurts, habits and hang-ups, but who also point to our inextinguishable hope in the promises of a loving and faithful God.

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Nobody’s Ever Stepped in Cat Poop

I’m just going to go for it and start off by saying that I’m a dog-lover.

 

We’ve had cats growing up and I’ve liked them well enough, but for whatever reason, I’m not a cat person.

 

Funny thing about cats—they hide their poop and try to mask the scent.

 

Gee thanks, cat. How very considerate of you.

 

Whether it’s in a cat box with litter or my beauty bark, cats hide their poop.

 

Dogs on the other hand, they just do it wherever, whenever, in front of whomever.

 

Even better, dogs often roll in or eat the feces of other animals—Kitty roca is one of my dogs’ favorite snacks.

 

What does this have to do with anything? I’m glad you asked (and that you’re still reading).

 

I think that when it comes to how we live our lives, we tend to be cats or dogs.

 

Like cats, we can make a habit of hiding our scent (read sins) thinking no one will know it ever happened.

 

Do we really think that by hiding and masking our sin stench that people will think it doesn’t exist?

 

I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty easy for me to tell when someone has a house cat.

 

The cat box might keep it out of sight and out of mind, but the slight, lingering odor of feline feces is unmistakably there.

 

Unlike cats, with dogs, it’s all out in the open for everyone to see, smell and navigate around.

 

It’s messy and uncomfortable—is it better than hiding it?

 

Let’s be honest, nobody’s ever stepped in cat poop.

 

People may have to learn to navigate our messes when we live like dogs, but at least we’re making the grass green. Right?

 

When it comes to the stink of sin in our lives, thankfully we don’t have to act like cats or dogs.

 

We can deal with our smelly stuff in the appropriate place—the church.

 

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. (James 5.16 MSG)

 

Remember, Everybody Poops. Let’s just not do it on the carpet, in the lawn or in a box.

we (L) come HOME nip less

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Home isn’t a Place (Guest Post)

Today, I thought it’d be fun to share a post from a great friend of mine, Grant Millard. Enjoy!


I think that we often times associate home with a building. It’s the house that we grew up in, or the place we lived while we went to school, or the place we settled down and started a family. However, I think that home is more of feeling than it is four walls and a roof.

They say that “home” is wherever you make it but don’t think that’s 100% true, because I’ve been in some “homes” that definitely weren’t very homey.

My Dad lived in a lot of different houses growing up, my grandfather was in the Army and so he lived all over the world but there we’re some places that I’m sure we’re “home” and some that weren’t.

My twin Sister, Hillary, goes to college in Spokane. She loves it over there. Hillary has a great job, great friends and a great church in Spokane. She told me a couple of summers ago that Spokane is starting to feel more like home than Seattle is.

Home is a feeling, not a place.

I’ve lived in two different houses growing up but I’ve had many homes. I’ve been “home” at the house across the street where my best friend lived while I was growing up. He moved when I was in 6th grade; it’s not really home anymore.

I’ve been “home” in the Northwood Middle School choir room where my choir teacher gave me my first big shot at singing.

I was “home” when I worked at Emerald City Energy Window Replacement, where I got comfortable with my two co-workers to the point where we would make fun of each other all day at work.

I was home at Shawn Seeley and Stephen Wakefield’s condo where my high school life group was my senior year of high school.

I was home at Meridian Valley Country Club where Andy Jones would take time away from his family on his day off to play golf with me and encourage me to pursue dreams that I didn’t even know that I had.

I was home at the church’s old grand piano where Shaun Jones took time with me week after week to teach me how to play the piano.

I was home in the church office where our old worship pastor told me that he wanted me to play keyboard every Sunday.

I was home in the church lobby where, during my 1rst year of Northwest Life College, I would sit with my friends and talk for hours about life, church, and God (it feels weird to just call them friends because they’re my family now).

I was home in the media booth where the church staff encouraged me to try my hand at lights (and kept they’re mouths shut when it looked really bad).

I am home at Northwest Life Church, where I am loved, accepted, encouraged and made family. The Church is a place where you are loved and accepted, where friendships are born. In the church we have fun, we cry, we laugh, we sing, we party, we eat, we hug and we grow. Sounds a lot like home to me.

Home isn’t a place. Its anywhere where you are loved and accepted and you are loved and accepted here.

we (L) come HOME nip less

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We Do – Empowering

It was an exciting time. It was a scary time. It was time for my parents to hand over the keys to the car.

 

When I was learning to drive, my mom & dad always seemed to have the same stance as soon as I put the car in gear:

 

Eyes so wide open with terror I thought they’d pop out.

Back pressed into the seat.

Fingertips digging into the armrests, hanging on for dear life.

Right foot rapidly smacking against the floorboard so hard I thought it would burst through, as they attempted to find the passenger’s side brake pedal that didn’t exist.

 

Funny thing is, I did the same thing teaching some youth to drive in my car.

 

When you hand the keys of your car over to that youth, their level of excitement & anticipation meets or exceeds your level of anxiety & reservation every time.

 

When you’re 15 or 16-years-old & get the keys to the car, that’s an amazing, empowering experience.

 

Eventually, after training & patiently correcting & encouraging that youth in the right way to drive, they get their license & it’s game on.

 

No more backseat driving.

 

No more hearing, “Can I get a ride?”

 

Once you hand those keys over, you’re trusting them & empowering them to do the right thing.

 

Jesus did the same thing with his disciples, only they weren’t the right age, didn’t go to Disciples Ed & they didn’t have a state-endorsed license.

 

They were a bit cooky & crazy at times, didn’t understand everything Jesus said, were uneducated, normal, run-of-the-mill guys (Matthew 16.17-19; Mark 8.21, 31-33; 9.32, 34, 38; 10.13; Acts 4.13)—& Jesus handed them the keys to the church.

 

At NWLife Church, we empower people.

 

We don’t wait until they reach the “right age” (whatever that age is, I don’t know).

 

We don’t wait until they’ve gone to Bible school.

 

We don’t wait until they’ve proven they “get it.”

 

We empower people right where they are, just like Jesus empowered those before us.

 

As empowered people, we empower people to do the same.

 

“Give as freely as you have received.” —Jesus, Matthew 10.8 NLT

the culture series

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You Just Can’t Disappoint Us Enough

As a kid, the phrase I feared hearing the most wasn’t my full name (although I knew I was in real trouble when my mom yelled it out).

It was something much worse—“I’m disappointed in you.”

Nothing tears into the heart of an individual more than knowing they’re a disappointment.

In that moment, you feel devoid of worth.

A failure. A let down.

Something inside us fears that if we continue to disappoint, eventually we’ll be abandoned, considered a lost cause.

Here’s a snippet from one of my new favorite books, Tattoos on the Heart:

If our primary concern is results, we will choose to work only with those who give us good ones. Myriad are the examples at Homeboy Industries of homies coloring way outside the lines and being given their ninety-eighth chance. Maybe it’s because we are often forced to start where others have stopped. Some on my senior staff wanted to change our motto, printed on our T-shirts, from “Nothing stops a bullet like a job” to “You just can’t disappoint us enough.”

I love that—“You just can’t disappoint us enough.”

At NWLife Church, we say that, “Everyone’s welcome, nobody’s perfect & anything’s possible.”

We really believe that.

I know it’s true by just looking at my own life—how I got to the church, who I was when I showed up, who I am now & who I’m slowly becoming.

I think we could also say, “You just can’t disappoint us (or God) enough.”

You might have messed up pretty bad, but you just can’t disappoint us enough.

We’re still here for you, you’re still welcome here, & we’re not going anywhere.

 

the culture series

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Looking Back: NWLife College 2012-2013

Time to brag on some of my favorite people—the NWLife College Students.

 

The 2012-2013 year of NWLife College officially ended yesterday, & I believe it has been our best year yet.

 

This year, 10 students finished the program & 3 graduated—our most-attended year so far!

 

We also partnered with Northwood Middle School for the first time, starting a new mentoring program.

 

It’s amazing what can happen when someone invests their time & believes the best for someone.

 

Working in Denise Khazoyan’s 8th-grade math essentials class, our NWLife College students paired up with individual students each Wednesday for an hour before lunch.

 

The mentoring program was a huge success!

 

Both the teacher & students saw significant, measurable growth in student behavior & participation, as well as their understanding of classroom material.

 

Assistant Principal Dylan Smith said that the mentoring program made such an impact of the students involved that other teachers wanted their own NWLife College student mentors.

 

At NWLife, we love God, people & life in a way that brings people together & makes our city a better place—that’s what NWLife College did this year & will continue to do next year as we return to Northwood Middle School (& possibly other schools in the area).

 

I am incredibly proud of NWLife College, the students I’ve had the privilege of working with this year, & I’m looking forward to an even better year in September.

NWLife COLLEGE image

“Here I am. Send me.”

A few weeks ago, Pastor Andy Jones used the phrase, “God doesn’t call the qualified—He qualifies the called.”

 

As cliché as the saying can be, it’s incredibly true.

 

God has been using me in fulltime/vocational ministry for three years now.

 

Nothing about my life screams, “Qualified!” when it comes to ministry—like absolutely nothing.

 

My life’s history is full of poor choices & sinful habits (I’m still fighting to make good decisions & drop some habits by the way).

 

When I felt God call me into ministry, I was in the middle of what I’d call a sinful lifestyle.

 

I was getting drunk a few times a week, looking for the next one-night stand, & I was occasionally getting high.

 

As unqualified as I was (& am), God called me out.

 

Now was the time to make a decision—to step out, to put things behind me, to raise my hand, to stand out.

 

The same thing happened in Isaiah 6.1-8.

 

God visits Isaiah & he freaks out—well, giant angels with six wings would freak anyone out I guess.

 

He says he’s a sinful man with a trashy mouth who hangs out with trash-mouthed people.

 

One of the angels cleanses Isaiah’s lips with a hot coal (glad God only did it this way once), & tells him that he’s qualified now—no more sin or trash mouth—all forgiven.

 

Now that God has qualified Isaiah who’s disqualified himself, God asks for a volunteer.

 

Isaiah knew that now was the time to make a decision—to step out, to put things behind him, to raise his hand, to stand out.

 

His response wasn’t extraordinary & he didn’t give an acceptance speech, but I love it.

 

Isaiah said, “Here I am. Send me.”

 

Maybe you’ve felt disqualified to be used be God.

 

Truth is, you’re not qualified & you never will be until you answer the call God’s placed on your life.

 

He qualifies you when he calls you.

 

He’s calling you now—can you hear him?

 

Now is the time for you to make a decision—will you step out, put things behind you, raise your hand, & stand out?

 

Now is > to lead, volunteer & serve.

now is greater FINAL large

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Now is > for Generosity

I’ve been there before & maybe you have too.

“I’ll give more when I make more.”

“I’d like to tithe & give an offering, but now’s not a good time for me financially.”

I was taught to be a giver from an early age by my grandparents.

Notice I write taught—it didn’t come easy or naturally to me.

The first time I remember giving an offering was at my grandparents’ United Methodist Church—I think I was about six-years-old.

Someone (probably my grandma) gave me $5 to put in the Sunday school offering bowl.

After I dropped it in, something inside my six-year-old mind said, “What are you doing?! That $5 is all you have! Now is not the time to be giving!”

After the offering bowl got passed & my $5 went it, I had “givers remorse.”

I asked the teacher if I could go to the bathroom, & on my way out, I picked through the offering bowl, grabbed my $5 & went down the hall.

As I stood in the bathroom washing my hands, I started to cry because I knew that money wasn’t mine & wasn’t meant for me…I put it back in the bowl on the way into class.

I love the story in the Bible of The Widow’s Offering (Mark 12.41-44; Luke 21.1-4).

As Jesus watches crowds of people bring in their offerings at the Temple, he pays special attention to the poor widow who gave two of the smallest coins in circulation at the time.

The coins she gave didn’t add up to much—each of them was worth about 1/64th of a day’s wages (think $2 total).

Jesus tells his disciples that something extraordinary just happened with those two small coins.

This woman gave everything she had to live on.

She knew that God would provide for her & that now was her time to give.

She could have made excuses about why now wasn’t a good time for her to give, but she didn’t.

She knew what I’m hoping to communicate to you in this post—now is >.

Now is the time to be generous & give, no matter how much or how little you have to offer.

now is greater FINAL large

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Now is the Time to Invest

As summer sets in, things tend to start ramping down.

 

Summer is synonymous with the whimsical.

 

For some church staff, it’s at about this time they take a collective deep breath, wondering how many of their congregants will be missing each week because the sunshine is more alluring than the sermon.

 

Conventional wisdom dictates that the summer is time to relax—wait until fall to start something new.

 

Solomon wrote that, “[the ants] labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter” (Proverbs 6.6-8 NLT).

 

Now isn’t the time to delay investing in other people, in the church, in your relationship with God, or in you.

 

Now is > than any other time to invest because it’s unexpected, unconventional, extraordinary.

 

At Live Youth, we’re launching another year of our summer internship for 7th-12th grade students & hosting our first-ever youth conference—pretty cool!

 

We have declared that, “This is our summer.”

 

This is our summer to invest in other people, in the church, in our relationship with God & in ourselves.

 

Let this be your summer—make the decision today to invest this summer, starting now.

 

now is greater FINAL large

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