The Blood. The Bold. The Beautiful.

God did incredible things at Castle Pines Community Church yesterday. We set up a huge event tent in a busy parking lot last Thursday in anticipation for a very special Sunday morning service. For 3 days it sat empty. For 3 days it seemed impossible for God to fill it. For 3 days our community gawked at our tent with confusion. For 3 days God asked us to trust Him to do what only he can do.

And so we did. We got our hopes up.

We invited, set up, paid out, prayed up, showed up, prepared, practiced, and got in our places. And at 10:30 am, people from all over Colorado came to the tent. Faces of families I had never seen. Young and old. Urban and rural. It was truly beautiful. Our volunteers in their bright green shirts, waited in the parking lot to greet them at their cars and lovingly lead them to the tent. And although the tent was full, there was still a miracle we were waiting for. For the gospel message to transform lives. For the blood of Jesus to wash away sins.

Our guest speaker, Scott Camp, boldly and graphically recounted the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. He passionately told us his own personal testimony of meeting Jesus in a jail cell after years of drugs, alcohol abuse and a broken home.

The Gospel message went forth and the Holy Spirit began to transform hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. You could see people shifting in their seats. You could hear the sniffling. You could FEEL the Holy Spirit gently revealing the truth of Christ’s love to so many broken hearted.

And then the miracle came. The moment we had prayed for, hoped for, and prepared for – people from all over the tent made their way to the front to receive Christ as their savior. And when we thought everyone had come up, even more came forward. I had the honor of being on stage for this moment as we prepared to sing worship at the end of service. I could see the tears, the hope, the peace, the genuine transformation on their precious faces. Some faces were familiar and some unknown, but all precious.

This is the altar I build to remember what Christ did yesterday. I pray for more faith to believe that God can do this every week. I pray for a boldness in my own heart to share the Gospel daily. I pray for revival in Douglas County where money and possessions so easily satisfy but rob and bankrupt souls of true joy and peace.

And now we celebrate the new beginnings of these precious lives. And do the beautiful work of discipleship. And live life with new believers, our new brothers and sisters.

It was worth the cost. It was worth the prayer. It was worth the time. It was worth the energy. It was worth the sacrifice. It was worth the preparation. It was worth the practice. It was worth it. It is always worth it. And so we will do it again on Thursdays. We will do it again on Sundays. Never tiring of the good work. Never growing weary.

Romans 5:5 – …our hope will not be put to shame.

I’m Loved. Redeemed. Set Free. Now what?

After years of taking small steps away from Jesus, I now find myself in His presence. Broken but cleansed. Callused but chosen. Sinful but forgiven. I can see his face so clearly.

But how do I make sure I never look away? How can I make sure I don’t slowly drift off course again? How do my steps stay pointed toward Jesus, to Glory, to Hope? I started to ask the Holy Spirit to show me how to practically live for Jesus and stay close to Him everyday. Keep my eyes on His face. Remain steadfast in my pursuit. Reveal any other areas of my heart that need to be surrendered to Christ. These are faith building prayers because the Holy Spirit ALWAYS answers these prayers.

And He did answer. I heard a whisper in my heart say, “DOES THIS GLORIFY JESUS?”. I immediately knew that this is the question that I’m to ask myself in the everyday and mundane actions, words, and decisions that steered me off course in the first place. For me, this was a big ask. You see, I created a life where cutting corners, shortcuts and self-sufficiency reigned supreme in order to glorify JUDI. I speed read, I talk fast, I put my needs above others, I have to be first, be best, be awesome and I am willing to do anything to show that I can work faster, harder, better than anyone else. Sounds like someone you really want to enjoy a cup of coffee with…right?

Jesus was calling me to humble myself and rebuild faithfulness in the smallest of tasks in order to glorify Him. I started asking myself “Does this Glorify Jesus” before every little daily task – putting the cart away at the grocery store, replacing the empty water jug at work, going the speed limit…silly, silly, small and petty things.

Hear me when I say – these things, these actions don’t make me any more lovable or unlovable, righteous or unrighteous in Jesus’ eyes. His work to redeem me was made complete on the cross. So, why? Why does it matter if I don’t put my cart away at the grocery store? Because there are no shortcuts to gain wisdom. You can’t cut corners to Glory. And there is no Hope found in self sufficiency. These silly little things take time, they put others first, and they obey the rules – all areas I had compromised in my pursuit of self glorification and it was high time to crush that sin.

So, as I trudged through the parking lot with a heavy purse, even heavier car seat, and screaming baby to return the cart, the sinful chains on my heart started to loosen. And now, this simple question has started to transform larger areas of my life as I journey down this road toward Glory. Areas such as holding my tongue when I have juicy gossip, taking the time to reach out to the friend I know is hurting when I would rather veg out or work on yet another power point, extending grace to someone who’s offended me when I’d rather stew and build a case against them. Areas that I struggled with so much in the past.

And then, the transformation continues to grow the more I ask the simple question – boldly sharing the Gospel when it feels uncomfortable, standing up for Truth no matter the cost, sacrificing material comfort in order to give generously.

This is sanctification. This is Jesus faithfully completing the work He began. This is walking with Jesus. This is the free, passionate, bold, radical, faithful life – the life more abundant – that we are promised. These are the thousand steps toward Glory. 

This week, as you tackle the everyday demands of your life, I challenge you to ask yourself as often as possible, “Does this glorify Jesus?”. I promise, you will make wiser decisions, have more peace and joy, and crush sin in your life. 

A Thousand Steps Toward Glory

In one instant, the blood of Jesus can redeem a person. In one moment, a life can be radically transformed. There’s nothing you can do to earn it, buy it, or be worthy of it. It’s beautiful. It’s grace. It’s the good news of the Gospel.

However, our moment of redemption often finds us in the depths of despair, grief and destruction. Mine did. I asked myself, how did I get here? So far from truth? So far from Jesus? The answer was in the thousand little steps I took away from Jesus. The small and mundane moments where I didn’t glorify Jesus in my decisions… My actions… My words. Moments that seemed so insignificant at the time but steered my life so off course until I careened in a ditch in desperate need of a lifeline.

These steps accumulated over years…gathering distance between me and hope.

And now, here I am. Redeemed. Loved. Set free. The love of Jesus washed over me like a thunderous tsunami wave. Breaking loose the shackles that so easily ensnare.

But now what? How do I live out the hope of glory? How do I honor the grace that flows so freely from Jesus? How do I allow the Holy Spirit to guide me?

One simple little phrase has led me closer to answering that question…which I will share tomorrow.

Broken But Cleansed

Grace is humbling. An undeserved, beautiful redemption. Forgiven and set free. A love-producing ocean. However, I don’t know if I would have ever felt this precious, deep, sincere love for my savior if I hadn’t desperately needed his forgiveness and grace to cancel my deep deep sin. 

You see…I grew up “the good girl”. The one who had it all figured out – without any “wrong doings”. I naturally had a desire to follow the rules, obey authority and never fail. I never addressed the “small” sin in my life like gossip or jealousy because it never felt “that bad.”

However, “being good” didn’t produce great love for Jesus. It produced self-sufficiency – the root of so much evil. I was good at being good…until I wasn’t. And then, I needed Jesus…desperately.

Finally, I felt the weight of sin. The heavy, grievous weight of sin. I finally understood what so much of the scriptures talk about. Broken but cleansed. I now know why the woman in Luke 7 washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 

I wish I could have experienced this love without the pain and utter distruction of sin. But grace is sweet and removes the bitter sting of sin and heals the brokenhearted. May I never forget my great debt that was nailed to the cross. May I never move past washing His feet with my tears. 

Luke 7:47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Money has a color. And it isn’t green.

Aurora. A-Town. East Side. Ghetto. Ethnic. But for me, A-Town has been home for the past 11 years.

It’s been good to me. To my family. The delicious food from hole-in-the-wall joints – the best Mexican, Italian, Fried Chicken or Korean food can be found within a 5 block radius. The beautiful spectrum of colorful people from every race. The endless strip malls. The excellent Thrift stores. Mark and I became “locals” and people knew our names at our favorite places. We were always proud to call A-town our home…but we were called to move on.

We moved to Highlands Ranch 2 months ago – an affluent white community. Parks instead of strip malls. Target instead of Thrift Stores. Whole Foods instead of local food joints. And an endless supply of white folks.

And the most noticeable difference was the Comcast store. Aurora Comcast store is like the bottom of someone’s old crusty basement. Dirty, sad and cramped with families with screaming children that are ready to get the heck outta there. They call your number to a small booth similar to the DMV. You feel like you are in trouble for getting a DVR because the grumpy CSR hates being there as much as you do. I thought this was the norm for Comcast brick and mortar stores.

My first order of business when we moved to Highlands Ranch was to cancel our cable. I finally found the closest store to my new home and made the dreaded trip. To my utter shock and unbelief, the Highlands Ranch Comcast store was big, bright, beautiful, with comfy seating, huge TVs playing delightful programming, iPad stations for kids to play and happy CSRs offering me refreshments as I wait. What did I stumble upon…Comcast heaven? 

I was just getting used to my cleaner, newer, and whiter community when sadness struck me like a stone. Families who pay the same amount of money for cable should be able to enjoy “Comcast heaven”…regardless of their area of town. I know it’s just a stilly cable location but does it say something bigger about our society. Are we OK with “colorful” communities getting crappier services even though they pay the same amount for those services? Are we conditioning our Ethnic communities to expect less so we can give them less. And then I was angry. Money is still green. Not white. Not black. Not brown. Or is it?

As we continue adapting to our new community, I pray that Jesus will give me a voice and heart for people who are treated as if they are of less value than others.

Confessions of a worship leader

Every Sunday is the same. Wake up. Rush out of the house. Hope our daughters are fully dressed and smell good enough that the nursery workers don’t question our parenting. Open the church. Hand off our children to the first unassuming volunteer that shows up. Rehearse. Pray for 20 seconds. Bathroom. Hellos. Back on stage before the countdown video is over. Welcome the congregation. Worship Jesus. Wonder why no one in the congregation looks “into” it. Beat ourselves up over the missed cue and wrong notes. That must be the reason we had so many “mouth breathers”…maybe it’s just the 9 am crowd. Try again for the 10:30 crowd. Same response from the congregation except the lively couple in the back willing to clap on the fast songs and raise a hand on the slow song. It must be the volume. Or the transitions. Or the lighting. Or the song selection…yes, that’s it, the song selection. Need more moody music. No, more joyful music. Go home. Wait…did we get the kids? Oh, whew, there they are. Now go home. Dissect the morning. Replay all of the conversations and cherish the precious encouragement from a few of the congregants. Crash on the bed and snuggle with our babies. Do it all again the next week.

STOP

Last night, I realized firmly-yet-lovingly heard from the Holy Spirit, I have not diligently, fervently, consistently asked the Holy Spirit to move our congregation in deeper worship to ultimately know Jesus and see him more clearly. While I believe it is very important to create an atmosphere that facilitates worshipping Jesus through song selection and environmental elements, we must never believe the lie that we can stir hearts in our own power.

We must have a genuine love for our congregation and humbly usher them to the throne room of Jesus and then allow the Holy Spirit to do the work that only he can do…bring freedom, healing, restoration, surrender, revelation, intimacy and joy through worship. We must pray to see lives transformed, salvations and power through the surrendering act of worship.

We have seen magnificent worship in a rec room with an out-of-tune guitar and off-key singer…and we have seen lifeless worship in a beautiful sanctuary with world-class musicians.

As we build the house of worship…let us never neglect the one who fills the house with his Spirit. Will you pray with me for Sunday?

Fiery Darts or Refining Fire?

So many people I love are experiencing spiritual, physical and emotional attacks from Satan. Sometimes, we shy away from calling an attack what it is because we don’t want to seem like “crazy Christians” blaming everything on the Devil. However, attacks are very real and it’s important to recognize when it’s time to pray against, fight and squelch the fiery darts from the enemy.

On the other hand, there is another another kind of fire that we experience that also brings a different form of suffering…the refining fire of Jesus. It is also important to recognize this type of fire and suffering in order to submit to the loving, divine hand of God.

There is a bright side though. Both types of suffering can be redeemed by Jesus to increase your faith, bring ultimate joy and give you peace that surpasses understanding. Let’s not forget what scripture says:

Genesis 50:20: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Romans 8:28: God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose.


Let’s take a look at the differences between Fiery Darts and the Refining Fire:

Fiery Darts (kill, steal, destroy):

  • Sickness in our mind or body
  • Fighting in our marriage
  • Stolen or broken possessions
  • Lack of faith, doubt
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Opposition, false witness against you

Refining Fire (repentance, surrender):

  • Capture or prosecution for your faith in Christ
  • Exposure of sin
  • A call to repentance
  • A call to lay down possessions
  • A call to lay down idols
  • A call to lay down toxic relationships
  • A call to uproot, move, or serve in a new capacity
  • Consequences of sin
  • Waiting for an answer
  • Living with very little financial resources

How shall we pray if we are unsure what is causing our suffering? Pray like Paul:

  • Pray for increased wisdom and ability to make wise choices under pressure.
  • Pray for a genuine love for others.
  • Pray for strength to endure so you won’t give up.
  • Pray for the willingness to trust God for the impossible.
  • Pray for the ability to live a life that is pleasing to Christ.
  • Pray that you might grow in thankfulness to God.
  • Pray for joy and cheerfulness in the midst of trials.
  • Pray for power from the Holy Spirit to overcome temptation and preach the Gospel.

Are you suffering today? Allow Jesus to redeem your suffering to lead you into increased faith, ultimate joy and peace that surpasses understanding.