In the Tension, Possessing God's Promises

Possessing God’s Promises // Part 2


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Last week, we began unpacking this big question:

How do we possess God’s promises?

When Caleb says let’s go into the land, he means let’s possess the land.

Possess in Hebrew: yaresh (yaw-rash) meaning to dispossess what possesses something

The word “possess” implies that something must be dispossessed in order to possess.

To possess the promises of God, we must dispossess the obstacles to the promises.

Moses’s first category of questions about the people in the Promised Land is a helpful starting place: 

  1. Are the people who dwell in the land strong or weak?
  2. Are the people who dwell in the land few or many?

Ten of the explorers say: “The people in the land are strong. The descendants of Anak (the giants) are there. The Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, and Canaanites are there.”

Who were these giants?

Promised Land

What are the obstacles these giants represent?

    • Amalekites: Made them feel doubt
    • Hittites: Made them feel fear
    • Jebusites: Made them feel oppressed
    • Amorites: Made them feel rejected
    • Canaanites: Made them feel small

Caleb saw who these giants were and understood the obstacles they represented, but he responds to the giants in a different way.

Do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. // Numbers 14:9

Caleb’s use of figurative language reveals that despite the obstacles the giants represent, they could consume them. He never minimizes the reality of the existence and representation of the giants, but he doesn’t allow what they are to determine who God is.

I’ve experienced the tension of believing fully in God’s promises one moment and then the next moment confronting a situation that discourages me. What I’ve discovered is that when I’m discouraged, it’s because that situation is uncovering a giant. The fear giant. The rejection giant. And that uncovering leads to discomfort.

Honestly, it would seem easier to ignore the giants. To not wrestle with them. To pretend they are not there. To hide from them.

Ignoring the giants doesn’t dispossess them. The more energy I’ve invested ignoring the giants, the worse the discomfort is when another situation uncovers the giant again.

Having faith in God was never meant to be about ignoring our giants. Faith doesn’t mean we live in a world where nothing hurts, where nothing scares us, where nothing challenges us.

Faith gives us a lens to see how God wants to work in us and is working in us. Even working through our giants.

Naming the giants puts them into the right perspective. The right perspective allows us to consume the giants.

Caleb had the right perspective about the giants. He knew the giants and He knew God. He knew that the giants were meant to be consumed and not to consume them.

Don’t ignore your giants.

Name your giants.

“How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time.” – Japanese Proverb

We can possess God’s promises by naming our giants and consuming them one bite at a time.

This story continues as the twelve explores respond to the next category: the land. Join in on the journey of learning to possess God’s promises!

In the tension together,

sg

P.S. To explore the story of Caleb more in depth, stay tuned for my new book: Color Me Yellow // Finding Your Voice in the Tension between God’s Promises and their Fulfillment

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What are your giants?
  2. What are the obstacles they represent?
  3. What would it look like to consume them one bite at a time?
Possessing God's Promises

Possessing God’s Promises // Part 1


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God says: “I’m your refuge and strength. You will fly, run, and walk as you wait for me. You are more than a conqueror.”

You wonder: “Okay, God these things sound nice, but how do I receive Your promises?”

Possessing God’s promises invites our proactivity.

Big Question: How do we possess God’s promises?

Short answer: We cultivate consistency in our faith, so that our beliefs align with our behaviors.

That answer, brings us to another question: How do we cultivate consistency in our faith, so that our beliefs align with our behaviors?

To explore this question, let’s look to Moses’s questions to the 12 explorers he sent into the Promised Land and how they responded to what they explored.

  1. Are the people who dwell in the land strong or weak?
  2. Are the people who dwell in the land few or many?
  3. Is the land that the people dwell in good or bad?
  4. Are the cities they dwell in camps or strongholds?
  5. Is the land rich or poor?
  6. Are there trees in it or not?

These 6 questions can be divided into 4 categories:

  1. The people
  2. The land
  3. The cities
  4. The soil

Ten of the explorers say: “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However…”

They start off with faith. And then, they interrupt their faith with a “however” or a “nevertheless.” When they say, “however/nevertheless” they limit the possibilities of God’s promise, because of the inconsistency of their faith.

Two of them have a very different response, namely Caleb. Caleb silences the limitations and inconsistencies of their faith, saying: “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” In other words, let’s possess the promise of God.

Caleb led with his faith. He didn’t allow his beliefs to be limited by the facts of what he saw or his feelings about what he saw.

This is the beginning of possessing God’s promises.

This is the beginning of cultivating consistency in our faith.

Do not allow facts or feelings to limit your faith.

Allow your faith to lead you.

This story continues as the 12 explorers respond to each of the 4 categories of questions. Their responses give us 4 proactive ways to possess God’s promises as we cultivate consistency in our faith.

Join the journey of learning to possess God’s promises!

In the tension together,

sg

P.S. To explore the story of Caleb more in-depth, stay tuned for my new book: Color Me Yellow // Finding Your Voice in the Tension between God’s Promises and their Fulfillment

Questions to Ponder:

  • What’s an area of your life where you’ve allowed facts or feelings to limit your faith?
  • What would it look like to allow your faith to lead you in that area?

Promises to Remember and Possess:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” // Psalm 46:1

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” // Isaiah 40:31

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” // Romans 8:37-39

Dreams and Visions

Dream Every Day


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“Solitude is a catalyst for innovation” – Susan Cain

My days come with the fulfilling and exhausting opportunity to stand alongside people as they grow professionally, academically, personally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s fulfilling because building people up into the God-designed version of themselves is one of the core parts of my calling. It’s exhausting because I go from meeting to meeting and conversation to conversation all day. By the end of the day, the introvert in me is crying out for silence, solitude, reflection, and rest. I would be lying to you if I told you that I do a stellar job of finding these spaces every day. But I can tell you that I’m striving for it.

One of the ways I’m striving for it is to take time to read and reflect. Currently, I’m reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking and these words resonated with me: “Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.”

I am an ideas person. I come up with crazy ideas – and not so crazy ideas – all the time. But lately, because of flow of my days, it’s been hard for me to clear my mind enough to let those creative sparks fly. So, when I read these words about solitude and innovation…I thought: “YASSSS! Preach! That’s so true for me!”

Taking these words to heart, I spent some time last Saturday sitting in the corner of my  favorite coffeeshop coming up with a bunch of ideas for our Sunday Worship Experience the following day and our upcoming Radical Culture Spring Conference. With my headphones on and blank pages in front of me, I started to dream and envision the possibilities. My mind was awake.

 

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Tatte Bakery & Cafe, Harvard Square

On Sunday, I arrived to church about 30 minutes before the first service. I had a long  list of to-dos that needed to be accomplished to make all the ideas that I’d had the day before become a reality.

I walked into the balcony of the new sanctuary and there was a guest worship team doing sound check. I didn’t know who they were or where they were from, but in an empty balcony I stood there listening to this beautiful worship.

And then a crazy idea popped into my head: Let’s scrap our gameplan for today and just have our young people stay here for worship. (Eventually, this crazy idea turned into us staying for the entire second service instead of having our Worship Experience.)

I ended up staying for the first service instead of tackling the to-dos. I closed my eyes, in an act of solitude, and spent the time worshipping, praising, and envisioning God. In the last 20 minutes of the service, the guest pastor, invited the guest worship team back up to sing a song they had written. He instructed everyone to get into small groups of 4-5 people and asked everyone to respond to two questions.

But I didn’t join a group.

When the worship team started to sing, I walked to the front of the altar.

I wasn’t being defiant or rebellious to the instructions. I was just responding to the desire of my soul for solitude and reflection.

I stood there alone listening to the words of the song:img_7613

“I can feel the drum of your heartbeat

calling us to be your hands and feet

we’re rising up with courage in our hearts

to carry out your love to the hardest and the dark”

“We’ll lead this generation to the glory of the Lord”

And then – as it always does – the bridge of the song struck me so powerfully:

“There’s a ‘yes’ in our hearts

and it carries through eternity

simple obedience changes history”

All of these words, but in particular the bridge were confirmations and echoes of all of the dreaming and envisioning I had done the day before. Standing there at the altar alone listening with my eyes closed, I could see God’s hand moving pieces and parts together for our Spring Conference. I caught glimpses of dreams and visions that I stored on a shelf somewhere in my mind coming to life again. I could see God moving me towards the dreams and visions He’s put in my mind and that I’ve said yes to in the past.

I started laughing and crying at the same time. I smiled so big that my face hurt. Just standing at the altar solo in the presence of God I was inspired. I stood there reminded that being silent in the presence of God is the greatest catalyst for innovation. I was overwhelmed by the truth that the “yeses” that we say to the God-dreams and visions He unleashes in our hearts carry through eternity.

Think about that.

Our “yes” to God carries a weight through eternity. A “yes” to being part of His story changes history. No dream and vision that God has given us and that we’ve said “yes” to is an empty “yes”. God is on the move. Can we slow ourselves down enough to see His movement?

Let’s find the moments of solitude.

Let’s go to the altar space that can inspire our mental space.

Let’s dream with God every day. 

Let’s re-envision the visions He’s given us.

Let’s create something with our Creator.

In the tension together,

sg

Dreams and Visions

BUILD


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It’s been nearly a month since my last post and I’ve longed to share with you what God has been doing throughout the past few weeks. On January 17, I started a new job. I’m working at an organization called Bottom Line. We work with low-income, minority, first generation students providing support for them from high school to college and college to career. I’m serving as the Career Team Manager and leading a team of 6 counselors who support college juniors and seniors by giving them the tools to be career-ready.

(Fun fact: During my junior and senior year at the University of Central Florida, I worked for Career Services as a Career Peer Advisor. My life has a tendency to move in spirals or circles – depending on your perspective – so in many ways God’s preparation for me for this role began a decade ago.)

(Also an important sidenote: I am still serving as the Youth Pastor of Radical Culture at Leon de Juda. By the grace of God, I’m continuing to balance every day miraculously.)

Almost a year ago, I was sitting at my favorite coffeeshop, Ula Cafe, working on the Color Me Yellow book, when I heard two people at the table next to me talking about an organization that supported students through the transitions from high school to college and college to career. That organization was Bottom Line. My eavesdropping led me to googling.

I checked the job postings at the time and there wasn’t anything that interested me, so I left the name on a post-it and moved on.

And then about 7 months later in August 2016, I saw the post-it and checked the website again. That’s when I saw the Career Team Manager position and I applied, thinking what’s the worst that happens: I never hear back.

Well, I didn’t hear back.

Until the middle of November. I had completely put the application process out of my mind and mentally moved on. So, when they called to schedule an interview I was in shock. After the first interview, they told me they would reach out in two weeks to let me know about final interviews. But less than 24 hours later, I received an email from the Program Manager asking me if I could come in for an interview in 2 weeks.

That 2-hour interview was the most intensive interview of my life. At the end, they told me the same thing: “We’ll reach out to you in two weeks.” Four days later, they offered me the position as Career Team Manager. I had the weekend to decide.

Honestly, I had no clear sense from the Holy Spirit about whether or not this was a God-thing or a distraction from the God-thing. I’d kept this whole process extremely private and the Sunday before I made the decision, two conversations were spoken into my spirit.

The first, came from a prayer about choosing the thorny road or the comfortable road. As my friend prayed, she told me that she didn’t know which was the thorny one or which was the comfortable one, but that she knew that deep down I knew. And I did. It wasn’t about this position giving me the comfort of having a salary, health insurance, title, etc. Accepting this position was actually the more thorny of the two. It was the more complicated, the more challenging, the more transforming.

The second, came from a conversation about my concerns related to time and having enough of it to balance everything. My friend essentially said to me, I have other concerns, but I’m not concerned about your time, because in a special way God always gives you more time than other people. You’re gonna have time to do everything.

I accepted the position.

In the month leading up to my start date, God had been reminding me about my God-design and the way He’s framed me and called me to frame my life. In particular, reminding me of a line in my personal vision statement about building people up into their God-design. He whispered the word “build” to me over and over again. Build people. Build systems. Build ideas. Build networks. Build capacity. Build. I have known for a long time that one of my roles in the kingdom is to be a builder. It’s not just because I love Legos, although I’m certain that God was up to something when He gave me that child-like love! It’s because I genuinely desire to build God’s kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.

In my 495 square foot apartment, there’s a wall that is the last thing I see when I leave and the first thing I see when I return. I recently did some rearranging and purging, so that wall has been empty for months. While God had been whispering to me “build”, I got a vision to use that wall as a visual representation of these words. I had a vision to create a word map with the word “build” in the middle of the wall and then connect different images and words to the word that would be a reminder to me of what and how God has called me to build His kingdom. I would include images and words from my personal vision statement, my core values, and other inspirational images and words that would help me build.

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The “Build Wall” is now up in my apartment.

I leave asking the question: What will you build today?”

I return asking the question: “What did you build today?”

God started a movement when He created all things. Jesus continued that movement to bring us into a reconciliation that we could not achieve on our own. The Holy Spirit was sent to us to empower us to continue that movement. To build His kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.

What will you build today?

In the tension together,

sg

Finding Your Voice

An Echo of Heaven


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I sat in the back of a coffeeshop getting teary eyed. Last week, I was working on the book in coffeeshop with limited internet access. I seized the opportunity to unplug from everything. I won’t give away too much of the chapter I was writing, because I want you to experience the idea in it’s full context. But as I sat there writing with an unplugged clarity, I got teary eyed! 

Honestly, I can’t even tell you the fullness of why I got teary eyed. But what I can tell you was that in that moment I was not writing. It was as if the Holy Spirit took over my thoughts, feelings, and fingers and started typing a word of encouragement that I needed to read.

Here’s what I read:

Every mountain you climb invites you into a newly unfolding part of your story where you will face challenging and exciting new experiences. With every every mountain you climb, on this side of eternity, you experience new dimensions of God. This inevitably gives you the opportunity to experience new dimensions of your voice. As you climb the next mountain, your voice is transformed more and more into an echo of Heaven. A sound that you and the communities God has entrusted you with desperately need to hear. Climb the next mountain.

I can’t promise this paragraph will make it into the final draft of the book. Even if it does, it may go through several edits and look completely different. So, I share this with you as a rough draft of words written by the Holy Spirit.

There are ten chapters of context before this paragraph appears, so the larger implications about finding our voices in the tension between God’s promises and their fulfillment are absent from these words. But there’s a word of encouragement here that I needed to read as I look out on the horizon to climb the next mountain. My prayer is that there’s a word of encouragement for you as well.

If I could characterize the season in the tension that I’ve been walking through for the past 16 months, I would call it a season where my faith grew exponentially. When I was younger, I always used to say that faith was hard for me. I used to say that it was hard for me to believe.  Maybe that was because I questioned, deconstructed, and overanalyzed everything. The truth is I still do those things, but faith and believing aren’t hard for me.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.” (I preached a sermon on this verse last Sunday, that you can hear on the Radical Culture podcast soon). In this season of the tension, I have learned more about the reality of this verse. My faith has taught me that there are a lot of mountains in our lives meant to be climbed and possessed. The incredible invitation of every mountain climbing expedition is an opportunity to transformation. We accept the invitation to mountain climb through faith.

I wonder if our fears of heights, of the edge, and of the unknown, keep us from climbing the next mountain.

I wonder if the work and effort it took for us to climb just one mountain leaves us so burnt out that we spend our lives pointing to that one experience and never accept the next invitation.

I wonder if as we comfortably sit on the top of the mountain, saying “I did it!” and taking pictures, that we don’t want to risk climbing down from one mountain to climb the next mountain we see off in the distance.

I wonder if we mount up excuses after excuses – I don’t have time, I’m too old, I won’t make it through another one, etc – that we rob ourselves of the new dimensions of God and ourselves that He wants to reveal to us.

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Mount Evans, CO | 14,265 feet above sea level | 3rd highest mountain in the US | Highest paved road in the US 

Friends, set aside your fears, stop being complacent, quit being comfortable, quiet your excuses, and climb the next mountain.

There’s work to be done. The kingdom of God is at hand. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. There’s a promise that God has already given you that you have to possess.

There’s a dimension of God that you haven’t experience yet. There’s a dimension of yourself that you haven’t experienced yet.

I started to get teary eyed when I read this sentence:

As you climb the next mountain, your voice is transformed more and more into an echo of Heaven.

I want to be transformed more and more into an echo of Heaven. I want it to be said of me that my voice was an echo of Heaven.

Echo: the repetition of a sound caused by reflection of sound waves.

Finding your voice in the tension between God’s promises and their fulfillment is not easy. Tension implies intensity. Mountain climbing is intense. But there’s a trail map for the tension. The trail map is the Word of God. As we follow the trail map to climb the next mountain, the Word of God becomes the guide and we learn how to understand it. We understand how to follow it so much, that our mind, heart, and soul align with its markings, paths, and coordinates. We are transformed. As we climb the next mountain, the transformation in us causes us to speak a sound that reflects the sound waves of the Savior. We become an echo of Heaven.

And here’s what’s mind-blowing to me about the grace of God. We become an echo of Heaven, not simply for ourselves, but for the communities that He has entrusted us with who desperately need to hear His echo.

Name the next mountain.

Pack your trail map.

Climb the next mountain.

Transform more and more into an echo of Heaven.

God, I present to You every life reading these words. I ask that you would empower them to turn away from fears, complacency, comfort, and excuses and turn towards your incredible invitation to climb the next mountain. Increase their faith to accept the invitation. Remind them that you are not finished with them yet. Reveal to them Your desire for them to experience new dimensions of You and of themselves. Inspire them to possess the promises you have given them. Give them a desire to immerse themselves in your Word, so that they can internalize the trail map that will guide them to possess the mountain. Transform their voices into an echo of Heaven. I bless their lives. I bless the communities you have entrusted them to steward. I bless their mountain climbing expeditions. Let them be an echo of Heaven. Let us be an echo of Heaven. In Your powerful name, Amen.

In the tension together,

sg

In the Tension

On The Other Side


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Sometimes making the decision to do something – even when that something is the last thing you want to do – is the best way to stay tenacious in the tension.

Twelve weeks ago, I started working at Instacart. This was the last thing I wanted to do.

Instacart is an app-based grocery shopping company that allows customers to make a grocery shopping list and have someone shop and deliver their groceries to them.

I sat at my training interview thinking: “What are you doing here, sg?”

After my first day working for Instacart at Whole Foods, I really wanted to quit. But I didn’t. I’m not a quitter. I made a decision that day that I was going to try my best to not complain about this opportunity. (Except complaining about how cold it is in grocery stores!)

I was going to do my best to let this be a training season. A training season on the other side of my comfort zone. A training season in customer service – a field I’ve never worked in before. A training season in not being the person in charge. A training season in serving others.

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These are my notes from the other side:

1. Always pray for the people you serve.

From day one, I made the decision that I was going to pray for every single “batch” (shopping list) that I received before I started working on it. I would never meet the people that I served, but you learn a lot about people based on their grocery shopping lists. You learn whether they have kids, gluten allergies, a cold, and tons of other things.

Praying for people before you serve them gives you an open door into their spirits.

It helps you remember that all people are created in the image of God.

It helps you serve them as though you were serving Christ.

2. Make the call.

I would never see my customer’s faces, but this didn’t mean they didn’t have a voice. Before the app allows you to start the checkout process, you have to call the customer if you’ve replaced any of their items. You can bypass this phone call by sending a text message to them about the changes to their order. It’s much easier and faster to send a text message than making the call. From a shopper perspective, we are ranked based on our metrics. The faster you shop, the more batches you get. The more batches you get, the more money you make. Making the call often ruins your metrics, because it takes time.

Serving demands time.

Making the call to the person you’re serving is how to serve excellently.

Excellence demands sacrifice.

Making the call to the person you’re serving values the person over the system.

3. Be kind. Be merciful.

From a leadership perspective, perhaps one of the most exciting things about being a start-up company is the freedom to create and innovate. I discovered this is perhaps one of the least exciting things for employees. Constant changes – while they are exciting for leadership – get passed on to the employees to execute. My shift supervisor was given the task to implement these changes under the watchful eyes of her supervisors. To be honest at first, I resented all the changes. Then, I remembered all the times that I’ve implemented changes among my teams. This caused me to start to be kind. I started to be merciful to the people leading me.

Creativity and innovation thrive in a culture of kindness.

Changes met by mercy instead of resentment help everyone go farther faster.

4. Consider it an honor to be the guinea pig.

I was an anomaly to the metrics system. My supervisors could not understand how I was getting so fast and accurate so quickly. I attribute much of this to notes 1-3 and to fact that I am a fast learner. But they didn’t know that. They just knew that in my short time at Instacart, I was performing like some of the senior shoppers. So what did they do? They made me the guinea pig for the new ideas they wanted to implement to train new shoppers. These new ideas included everything from my shift supervisor following me around observing my approach to my shift supervisor clocking the amount of steps I took per order with a pedometer, and to my shift supervisor implementing new checkout methods with me. At first, all I wanted was to be left alone. Let me to do me. And then I started to think about all the people on my teams that I’ve made to be guinea pigs for new ideas. I thought about why I chose them and I realized that I choose to ask certain people to do things, because I admire their approach.

To everyone I’ve asked to be a guinea pig for one of my crazy ideas: thank you for enduring my madness. And forgive me for not explaining to you that I chose you to be a guinea pig out of admiration.

Consider it an honor to be the guinea pig.

Consider it an honor when your leaders see something in you that they want to clone, so that others can be like you.

If you’re chosen, then it’s because you’re doing something right.

If you’re chosen, then it’s because you’re setting the new standard.

If you’re chosen, then it’s because you’re blazing a trail for others to follow.

5. People love yogurt.

After twelve weeks, I completed probably around 300 batches and the item that makes it on nearly everyone’s shopping list is yogurt. Greek yogurt, almond milk yogurt, grassfed yogurt, and not to mention all the different flavors in these broad categories. People love yogurt. One batch had 24 individual cups of Stonyfield chocolate yogurt. When I first looked at the batch, I thought there’s no way they’re going to have 24 cups of this yogurt. Much to my surprise, they had 24 individual cups. Why? Because…people love yogurt.

What’s the lesson here?

My mom uses this phrase when she’s going to grocery store sometimes: “I’m going to get the essentials.” I came to discover that yogurt was one of “the essentials” for so many of my customers. “The essentials” are those things that make the list to get you through the week.

As we humbly serve others, it’s crucial that we always seek to meet people’s essential needs. That we meet their essential needs to help get them through the week.

I worked my last day at Instacart last week. I can honestly say that although this was the last thing that I wanted to do, I learned a lot about humbly serving others. I learned lessons that I pray will make me a better servant leader. I learned lessons that I pray will make you a better servant leader in the areas God has called you to steward people that He’s placed in your hands.

In the tension together,

sg

Dreams and Visions

Turning Points


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The greatest ride of my life so far was this past summer riding the rails on the Amtrak across the country. I spent two weeks on the rails with some amazing friends and I’ve held on to nearly all of the stories from this trip. Sometimes the journey isn’t something that needs to be shared right away. It simply needs to be treasured like a sacred gift. But I’ve been thinking about the way leaning into turning points give birth to greater glories.

I thought I’d share with you from my moleskine with a prayer that you would be strengthened to lean into the turning points in your own lives.

Day 7 – July 29, 2016 – 1:50PM PST

The stories of the journey we’ve been on in the past couple of days is too good not to tell, but I have to write about the wonders we’re beholding in this moment of our adventure.

We’re traveling up the coastline from LA to Emeryville. I’ve always dreamed of riding this coastline – of taking a car and driving Big Sur. But God wanted to take that dream to the next level and had something even more special in store for my first experience. The train is taking a route that’s completely unavailable by cars in several sections. The tracks run through private lands – lands that you can’t even get close to. With ocean to my left and the mountains to my right, we’re on the move.

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We could see the train turn outside of the window from where we were sitting

This is our God. A God who takes our wildest dreams into His wildness and makes them even more wild.

The train takes us to Point Conception. A place where the southern and western currents meet and as a result the waves are some of the strongest in the country. Historically, Point Conception was the place where Native Americans believed their spirit would rise to their next life (hence the name Conception).

But what is more interesting is the geographical collide. The state of California coming from the south to the north travels west until it reaches Point Conception and then it shoots north. It’s been such a distinct point in my mind of the map of the U.S. But today, I learned something about that point that makes it even more distinct.

c298cae50ff253d764327d45fa0ccae3-jpgThe collision of wave currents. The wild Northern and Southern waves crash into each other producing powerful and amazing waves that surfers love to ride. But the place is completely remote. It’s completely desolate. And in this collide, there’s a birthing – a new birthing.

This is the wonder of our walk with Christ. In the wild and forceful collisions of turning points in our lives we get to ride the greatest waves and experience new births that make us come alive.

But it’s scary…the sharp curves, the collisions of waves from two directions, never knowing what’s around the turning point. But these turning points that are so wild and so unknown are where we are conceived. These places are the places that become the stories we tell about the people we’re becoming. These wonders – in the wild – are the wonders we look back on and discover they are distinct not just because of their shape, but because of the way they shape us as we experience them. Often times that experience happens in the remote and off the grid places. Often times wilder than our wildest dreams. And God does that on purpose.

His desires are wilder than our wildest dreams. And the thing is, I’m not certain that we could ever contain His desires in us. But we can expand our dreams to be bigger and wilder and know that He will exceed them. He will do exceedingly more than anything we could ask or imagine.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. [Ephesians 3:20-21]

Turning points give birth to greater glories. As we lean in to the collision of the curve, not knowing what’s on the other side of that turning point, we can trust that it will give birth to a new glory in us that reflects His glory.

In the tension together,

sg

Dreams and Visions

A Well-Dug Legacy


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As a steward of God’s Word, the Word has to comfort and confront me before I preach it. About this time last year – around the year anniversary of when my father left for his eternal home – I was preparing a sermon entitled “A Well-Dug Legacy.” The Word woven into this sermon dug a well of healing in me that I needed after the loss of papa.

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“A Well-Dug Legacy” is rooted in Genesis 26 during a drought in the Promised Land. It’s against this backdrop, that the Lord instructs Isaac to stay and dwell in that land and declares the same promise of Isaac that was declared over his father, Abraham. Under the bright shadow of Abraham’s legacy, the Lord blesses Isaac so much that he has to leave the town he settled in and sojourn throughout the Promised Land. His journey begins by re-digging the wells of his father.

And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. [Genesis 26:18]

As I studied and meditated on these words, they began to dig deeply into me. The unique thing about the Bible is that because it’s living and active, it has an incredible power to reach into you and transform you when you read it through the lens of the Spirit. And as I read it, I began thinking about my father’s wells. I thought about the marks that papa left. I thought about the bright shadow of his legacy that I have the privilege to live under and to continue.

I’ve never known anyone who loved the Word of God like Papa. He loved to learn it, to teach it, to talk about it, and to live it. His whole life was a life devoted to conforming to the ways of God woven into His Word. Papa taught the principles of Scripture in every conversation and every interaction. The Bible didn’t even have to be open for the Word of God to be palpable with every breath he exhaled. The marks of the living Word were left everywhere, because of the way he lived. And if you had the opportunity to know him, he inspired you to love and live God’s Word.

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I never anticipated that God would grace me with the gift of preaching and teaching. I used to wrestle with this, as we often do because of the scandalous nature of grace. But as God’s word for me in “A Well-Dug Legacy” continued to dig into my soul, I sensed the healing power and sufficiency of grace spring up fresh living water in me. Living water from a well dug inside of me by my father. The living water of God’s Word and the calling to steward His Word.

As Isaac’s story continues in Genesis 26, he follows the marks of the wells his father dug, he digs new wells, he confronts adversity, and ultimately comes to a place called Rehoboth. The name Rehoboth means “broad places” or “room” and when Isaac gets there he declares the Lord has made room for us to be fruitful. I imagine after all this time of journeying throughout the Land, Isaac was overjoyed to finally be able to rest.

But in the very next verse, the story tells us that he went up to Beersheba.

I don’t know why Isaac went up to Beersheba. Why would Isaac leave a place of comfort? I wonder as Isaac was tracing the marks of his father through the pattern of the wells he re-dug, if he began to see that just beyond the place of comfort – Rehoboth – was a place of faith – Beersheba. Beersheba was the city that Abraham and Isaac settled in immediately following Abraham surrender of Isaac in sacrifice to God (where Abraham nearly kill Isaac). Beersheba is the place where Abraham’s faith in God’s word took root. Beersheba is the place where Isaac saw and learned the faith of his father. So in Genesis 26, Isaac leaves a place of his own comfort to continue the well-dug legacy of faith that his father began.

img_0628I began to see my own story woven into the words of Scripture and was filled with this sense of the opportunity that God has given me…an opportunity to move beyond the place of my own comfort and into a life of a well-dug legacy of teaching God’s Word.

My mom says the last time papa heard me preach, he leaned over to her and said, “She’s better than me.” 

Legacy doesn’t just leave a mark; legacy leaves the right mark. The right marks of legacy are found in the deeply dug wells of people who have continued the faith movement that God started in the beginning. The right marks of legacy are well-dug img_4637into us by the fathers, the mothers, and those communities of faith. They dig faith wells in a way that gives us an opportunity to find healing and inspiration through re-digging them and continuing the faith movement. They dig in such way that when we seize the opportunity to live a well-dug legacy, they can proudly say: “They’re digging better than me.”

This Thursday, December 8, will be the second anniversary of Papa’s heavenly birthday. I know that the wells of his legacy were dug into so many people who are continuing the faith movement and know that he would proudly say, “They’re digging better than me.”

A huge part of his well-dug legacy of teaching God’s Word was an overflow of generosity towards others. For Papa, teaching the Word of God meant conforming to the Word of God and all throughout Scripture we see God’s abundant generosity. When you live out God’s Word, you can’t help but be generous. Papa was generous with his time, resources, listening ear, advice, and love.

Would you stand alongside our family this week and celebrate Papa by living out the Word of God in the form of generosity towards someone?

In the tension together,

sg

In the Tension

Fatherly Affirmations, Fire Alarms, and Fruit Roll-Up Hugs


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We start all of our Sundays with Prayer and Prep at 11:15AM. It’s the most important moment we get as a team to center ourselves as one body, one family, and one movement before we start to serve God’s vision for Radical Culture. But Sunday, November 13 (the Sunday after the elections), God was up to something in our community and in me.

In the days after the elections, I’d spent a lot of time thinking about the question:

What role does God want the Church to have in our country in this season?

As I wrestled with (and continue to wrestle with) this question, I had a fleeting thought that I could have greater influence for the Kingdom if I went back to a legal job. After leaving my job as a lawyer, nothing has gone as I anticipated. The challenges have worn me down and worn me out.

That fleeting thought went away almost as fast as it came and the Lord kept whispering Fatherly affirmations to me about my ministerial calling, my commitment to Radical Culture, and my vision to build-up people into their God-design.

Even as I confront my own challenges in the tension, I’ve learned an important life tip: steward what’s right in front of you.

God allowed that post-election question to marinate in my mind and spirit and with it He had given me clear instructions to do this Sunday a little bit differently. So, my assignment was to steward that question and those instructions.

My objectives for our Worship Experience were two-fold:

  1. Create a safe space for our young people to share their thoughts, feelings, and emotions about the elections 
  2. Start to engage in a dialogue about what role do we, as Christians, need to play

During Prayer and Prep, I looked at our team of leaders and volunteers who were serving and noticed that 12 out of the 16 people were young people 22 or younger. As I looked, I felt God affirm: “I’m doing it. I’m making my vision for Radical Culture to be a movement of young people radically committed to the kingdom of God a reality.”

With that Fatherly affirmation, I went over our two objectives for that Sunday. I affirmed the power of their presence and the power of their service to God’s vision. I shared some words from my prayers that week about the reason I serve young people and serve alongside young people. I told them it’s because I want to build sustainable bridges for them to cross into the future. I told them I want to dig deep wells for them to drink living water from as they stand in the gap for the Kingdom. I told them I want to train them well, so that they will train the generation that follows them well. We prayed together and we started to serve God’s vision.

As affirmed as I felt by God for this particular Sunday, I know that I can never take the opportunity to teach, preach, and build young people lightly. Our young people needed to hear from God’s voice in a way that resonates with them, so that they could be comforted by God’s words, confronted by God’s ways, and conformed to God’s will. And that…well that is not an easy assignment. In these days, where our young people are bombarded by the noise of voices that influence and form them, how could I offer a kingdom-cultural voice?

Here’s another life tip: Pray for prayer people. Choose them. Use them. I have prayer people and I had already chosen the prayer person who prays me into the hardest battles to pray. She prayed specifically about my influence and that I’ve been chosen to have that influence because of my righteousness before God. She affirmed our objectives for that day and my calling. I was ready.

We followed up the worship set with an open-ended question about general thoughts, feelings, and emotions about the elections. I shared from David’s story about a moment when he embraced the mystery of God’s timing and seized an opportunity for reconciliation. Then, we opened up the conversation again to make some observations about Christ-like reactions and responses to this moment in our culture.

As one of our young people shared about the challenges of a Christ-like reaction, the fire alarm went off.

Are you kidding me right now? Talk about mysterious timing! There’s always a message in the mystery. 

I grabbed my guitar on the way out, determined not to miss out on the momentum of this moment. I rallied our community and the young person who was talking during the fire alarm finished sharing.

As the fire alarm went off and the fire trucks approached the church, we prayed. We prayed for those who may be feeling fearful about the future. We prayed for those who were hurting and in shock. We prayed for God to have His way. We prayed for our newly elected president.

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The fire alarm stopped, the fire trucks left, we got an all-clear to re-enter the building, but we stayed outside of the church praying in a parking lot.

Then, one of our leaders led us to keep holding hands and wind up in circles – basically like a fruit roll-up – until we were all in a giant group hug!

In that fruit roll-up hug, I played my guitar and we sang, “No Longer Slaves” as one body, one family, and one movement of young people radically committed to the kingdom of God.

In that moment, I had one of those out of body experience where you’re watching yourself. I watched us the way I imagine God may have been watching us. I smiled as at us. I smiled realizing this generation is bright with the light of His presence outside of the walls of the church. I smiled seeing the power of our young people. I smiled confident that God isn’t waiting to use them until they’re older, but that He’s using them now. I smiled at myself, thankful that He chose me. I smiled affirmed that although I’m in the tension, I’m leaning into and living out God’s calling.

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Fatherly affirmations, fire alarms, and fruit roll-up hugs, have taught me (and are teaching me, because I’ll need to keep learning this) the depth and truth of what the author of Hebrews says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and since which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may no grow weary or fainthearted…It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline…For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. [Hebrews 12:1-3, 7, 11]

In the tension together,

sg

In the Tension

Go – Lesson #3


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This is the third and final lesson that I learned about the tension from rock climbing. I challenge you to reflect on how God is training you in this season of your life for His calling and vision for  your life.

Lesson #3: Go through the uncertainty

While our whole team was still in the section with the “easy” walls (read “Go – Lesson #1″ to see why they weren’t that easy!), I walked over to the tall and “harder” walls. They definitely were harder. I hooked in my harness and made an attempt to climb a pink path. I was on my own this time. No one was spotting me or watching me. I made my way up the wall. Only to realize, I had no idea how to follow the path of pink that allegedly was supposed to get me to the top. I was uncertain. I let go. And I didn’t even attempt this wall again. It was too uncertain for me, so I didn’t want to make the attempt to climb a wall I had no clue how to climb.

But throughout our time at the rock climbing center, I had this nagging feeling in me that even though I was uncertain about how to climb up this pink path, I needed to go back to it and make the attempt. This time when I made the attempt, I didn’t make the attempt alone. I had two friends watching as I climbed through the uncertainty. (I learned a thing or two from Lesson #2.)

Somehow I found – with the help of my friends who were watching – a path through the uncertainty this time that wasn’t clear to me the first time I tried to climb up this wall. But as I made my way up the pink path to the top, there was a point in the path that swerved all the way to the right. I had no clue how I was going to twist my body to make it over there. My friends were shouting suggestions from their perspective about which pink rocks I should climb. I was thankful for their perspective, because when I was uncertain about where to go they were certain about where to lead me. Their certainty helped me get this far, but then there came a moment when it wasn’t clear to any of us which parts of the pink path I should take to climb to the top.

And then I felt it. With my left hand, I felt a rock hidden on the side of the wall. I couldn’t see it, so at first I was uncertain about whether this rock was actually part of the wall. But as I felt it, I felt that it was a hidden rock for my hand to grip. This rock would allow me the mobility to make it through the right swerve in the path and to the top of the wall.

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In the tension between God’s promises and their fulfillment there will be uncertain paths. I wonder if one of the things that scares us the most about going through uncertain ways is the risky feeling that we can’t see a clear path. to the promise. God may have declared something powerful over your life and you want to believe that His promise will become a reality. But the path to the promise is uncertain. 

I feel a lot of affinity with the story of Abraham and Sarah. (And not just because my name is Sarah ;)). God gave a promise to Abraham about his family, his name, and his inheritance of blessing for all people on Earth. The part that resonates with me is when God explicitly told Abraham to “Go to a place I will show you.” Aka go through the uncertainty. He doesn’t give him a map. He doesn’t give him a gameplan. He gives him a promise and an instruction to go.

Abraham is so obedient that He does go. His story is not an easy story. He makes mistakes. Big mistakes. But check out what Paul says about Abraham thousands of years later:

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” [Romans 4:20-22]

He didn’t waver when the path to the promise was certain. He took the risk of faith in what he could not see and this made him righteous before God.

He climbed up the wall and, like me during the moment when the wall swerved, he didn’t see the rock on the side of the wall, but he felt it and he used what he felt by faith to continue on towards the promise.

Go through the uncertainty with the certainty that God will make the path to His promises clear.

In the tension together,

sg