I know many people don’t get excited about the NBA Playoffs.  Some people don’t even like Basketball.  Some just follow it, perhaps because “someone in the house does.”  But part of me also has to ask:  How can you live in North Carolina and not like Basketball?  If not the Pro Game, at least college and ACC?  Anyway, that is a subject for a different day :)

I do enjoy the NBA and now that May is near, that means the Playoffs begin.  By now, the marginal and complacent teams will miss contending.  They are already making plans for next year, in the hopes of being a contender.  In a nutshell, they will be watching and not playing; spectating not participating.

There is an excitement and an energy for the teams who played well enough, practiced hard enough, and executed during the “regular season.”  Some barely made it, others positioned themselves early to get high seeds.  This time of year, cities like Boston, Chicago, Miami, and Oklahoma City are charged up, electrified, and raring to go.  Rightfully so, they should be.  It would be ridiculous if they weren’t.  But the interesting thing is, energy and electricity does not win the NBA Championship.   In fact, a few of the most electric and energetic teams will not even be in the playoffs, and a few will go home throughout the playoffs.

So then, the questions default to these:  What does win?  What does it require?

Practice.  Passion.  Execution.  Improvement.  Teamwork.  Overcoming adversity.  Finishing Strong.

Those are just some of the things that whoever wins the championship, will have demonstrated.  The list is certainly more extensive than that.  You know, in my years I have seen teams that always come out in the 1st Quarter strong.  They can contend and play well early.  However, as the game wears on, for various reasons they slip.  Occasionally that is a steep slope – other times it is gradual.  But my point is:  they don’t finish well.  The early energy, excitement, high five’s, and adrenaline has not carried through.

Now, let’s take it from merely a sport, basketball, to what God is accomplishing in His world and through His Church.

God desires that we finish strong.  It’s as if He is telling us, as the Coach, that we must not focus on what happened in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Quarters.  The turnover, the missed shot, the bad pass, or the technical foul – is all water under the bridge.  Maybe ours is a missed opportunity, the sting of a failed relationship, lack of faith, or a contrite heart.  God is saying:  “You have to move on from that to this moment.  You have to allow Me to have the past so that you can do your best in the rest of the time that is left.  Finish strong!  Get your heart and passion rightly aligned!  Stay in My strength and listen to Me!”  This is what I hear God saying.  And the great assurance is this:  We, as His sons and daughters, win because He has already won!

There is no one who doesn’t get excited about energy.  It is encouraging and contagious.  For the life of the church, I submit it is imperative and something we must ensure is a part of the atmosphere.  After all, who wants to be a part of a deflated body or a complacent group of people in any type of setting?  That is almost like succumbing to defeat and hopelessness.  We are to be excited about God’s vision and plan for this world – a vision and plan He is working out today, and the ultimate plan that will occur on that day He has appointed.

Today, we are on His team.  The winning team.  He has this – it is all wrapped up.  But we need more than energy and excitement – we need His passion, urgency, empowerment, heart.  That is how we can finish strong and be “about His business” in this world.  This coming weekend, as we prepare to come and worship God, celebrate His presence, love, and grace in our lives, and receive His teaching and coaching – let us be in prayer for how we may (together and in our own lives) fulfill His gameplan more effectively.  May our prayers be real intimate connection with Him, through His Holy Spirit, so that we may listen and receive His direction and guidance.  And as we come Sunday, may we not only be charged up and energized – but also have a deep, penetrating passion to finish strong for Him.

May the joy of the Lord be our strength!


By the way: Go Celtics

Why Summits?

As I begin to pray and seek God for what He would have us to do this spring/summer 2012 as far as our training/equipping summit is concerned, I thought it might be helpful to answer an “age-old” question.  Why Summits?  Or, Why are they even needed?

Good question.

The fact is, we all need to examine (re-examine) the “why” and the “how.”  More than just another educational experience, the desire of the summit is to have a time of sharing, reflection, instrospection, and equipping.  It’s been said that “while the Message never changes, the methods must.”  How true and accurate that is.  Our commission is to go into all the world with the Good News of Jesus.  We are commanded to make disciples.  We are charged to do life together.

The summit is an opportunity to edify the body of Christ for the work of the Gospel, together.  We learn and glean from others and from testimonies.  We also survey methods and ways to effectively share Jesus and shine the light.  We talk about taking the timeless message into a time-sensitive, individualistic culture – to a people who are searching and seeking purpose, restoration, hope, and acceptance (to name a few).

More info will be coming on our upcoming summit in the next 7-10 days.  Please stay tuned for the date/time, and plan on joining us @ Bridgeway.

Blessings and joy…


Got Strength?

The drift of our minds is bent toward independence and self-sufficiency.  This is understandable since, in the ordinary processes of learning and growth, we aim to become independent of our teachers.  If we want to learn a foreign language, for instance, we obviously want to move beyond the point where we need our instructor to be constantly on hand.

God’s purpose for us, however, is to be in a close relationship with Him and with our fellow Christians.  Basil W. Maturin, a British spiritual author of the early 20th century put it this way:

“We need to balance independence with our dependence on others…The man who is recklessly indifferent to others bears the mark of failure stamped upon him, and he who is wholly dependent loses all individuality and all power of influence in the world. This is true of those who are naturally strongest and weakest, and it applies equally to women and men.”

Without this awareness of our dependence on God and our interdependence with others, we will never come into our full strength.  By extension, we as the church will never come into our full strength either.

For this to take place, we have to submit to a regimen we might call “sacred training.”  C.S. Lewis put it this way: “Jesus works on us in all sorts of ways… Through nature, through our own bodies, through books… But above all he works on us through each other.” Let’s expand our vision of what God makes available to us through others.

Most obviously, we can relate to one another through acts of love and also through reactions, the kind of forbearance that reflects the love that the Holy Spirit “pours into our hearts” (Romans 5:5).  Our reputation for this also has an evangelistic dimension: Christians have often won new believers to the faith simply by the love they share with one another.  It is stated that the early Romans would continually remark, “See how these Christians love one another!”

Service is another aspect of this.  A friend of ours is involved in an outreach initiative that aims to exercise spiritual influence in a medium-sized city near his church.  The regular meeting of prayer and planning for this have brought a new social dimension to his life.   In addition, moving forward together into uncharted waters has added an unexpected measure of zest and zeal to the members of the group.

We can also engage in close and intentional spiritual relationships, particularly in the form of peer mentoring.  We know personally of a number of examples where this has been transformative for people trying to cope with challenging family situations.  In one case, when a husband was at his wit’s end, the influence of peer mentoring was mainly in the form of deep-level encouragement. In another case it was a matter of mentoring a man who was on the verge of leaving his wife.  Only within the peer-mentoring framework was he able to accept a negative reaction about this, and it saved his marriage.

Other benefits of small groups have long been obvious, especially when they show signs of covenantal commitment and life-sharing. For one thing, they are valuable for personal guidance. We can seek guidance from others as often as possible and be open to their insights. As it says in the Book of Proverbs, “in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14).

More ways could be mentioned for rebalancing our lives between dependence and interdependence.  God spoke through one of His greatest prophets when he commanded:  “Awake! Put on your strength!” (Isaiah 51:9).  Let’s move toward full strength.  In addition to private prayer and connection with God, let’s avail ourselves of our resources as living church communities.  Our strength comes from the Lord, by the Holy Spirit, and His strength is effective and real.

Be light, go shine!


He is Risen…He is Risen Indeed!

The written Word of God, all 66 Books of the Old and New Testament, point in one direction, tell one story, and provide one answer.  He is the answer to all of mankind’s ailments, problems, addictions, and sins.  At the end of the day, then, there is but one choice and one ballot that must be cast.  It states:  “Choose this day whom you will serve.”  The ballot has a blank line, and each and every person must write in their own answer.

Jesus is Risen!  He is Alive!  People today, from all walks of life and all over the world, will ask themselves:  Is it true?  Did this happen?  Is it important, really?  I know because I used to be in that bandwagon.  Seemed I was looking for a way out, a reason to excuse me from having to face truth of my own life, more than trying to really get to the heart of Jesus’ resurrection.  You see, many “know about” Jesus.  You can know His history, the story, the Gospels even – without ever really “knowing” Him.  It is a tragedy for sure, but it is a reality.

To know Jesus, to know His resurrection, goes way beyond anything that anyone can imagine.  On the outside looking in, it is impossible to realize this.  You can read about Him all day long, take every course at every accredited seminary, write books, preach messages, listen to every radio show on Christian programming, visit the Holy Land, sign up for every ministry – but if you don’t “know” Him as your personal Lord and Savior, it is nothing more than a historical pursuit or a theological journey.  He desires far more than that!  He came to set the captives free.  He came to give life, and life more abundantly.

This Easter, this Resurrection Sunday, how would things change for you if this were our last Easter Sunday before He returns?  Would some things get stirred up then?  Would there be priority and urgency?  Here is what I do know:  In the aftermath of His death and crucifixion, men and women of all walks of life were ready to lay down their very lives for the Lord Jesus Christ and for their faith.  And over and over again, they did.  In other words, they would rather go to the gallows or be burned as a candle (alive) than renounce their Lord and their faith.  There were 11 men who followed Him, who struggled mightily, and who were self-absorbed.  But after the resurrection, and when the Spirit came on them, and penetrated in them, something drastically changed.  It altered them through and through.  Paul records that as many as 500 people witnessed the resurrected Christ ascend.  My point?  Something cataclysmic happened some 2,000 years ago.  Something that changed everything.  It impacts the present and the future.  It impacts each and every one of us.

Death came through sin.  And sin has brought corruption, lying, stealing, cheating, adultery, addiction, idolatry, gossip, slander, envy, jealousy, wickedness.  But Jesus brought hope, peace, unity, joy, healing, love, and final victory over sin.  So death does not have the final word.  And His victory is available today, to all who would receive Him and believe in Him (Read John 3:16-17).

In the words of the songwriter:  “Thank You for the Cross, Lord, Thank You for the price You paid…”   Make this Resurrection Sunday the first day in the rest of your life.  Believe in Him.  Trust Him.  Seek Him while He may be sought.  There is nothing in the world like it and nothing in the world you would trade for it.

He is Risen, He is Risen indeed!