Month: March 2011

Fear No Evil – Chapter Nine

The journey through my first book continues with an excerpt from chapter 9 which talks about how we got our joy back at New Life after a season of darkness and tragedy. I would love to hear your thoughts about this very important topic.

The proceeds from Fear No Evil will help support the Dream Centers we are opening here in Colorado Springs. The book releases April 26th on Amazon, but you can pre-order Fear No Evil here.

There is a reason that every car manufactured in this world has a small rear-view mirror and a large windshield, which is that you and I are supposed to be far more focused on what is in front of us than on what it is we have just passed. But there were times after the shooting when New Life had the two fixtures swapped. We allowed our windshield to become tiny and our rear-view mirror to captivate our every thought. And so one final joy-robber I want to mention is this: beware of your life’s windshield becoming dangerously small.

Whenever we allow the forward-looking, future-oriented, front-windshield work yet to be done to eclipse that magnificent work that is being accomplished all around us, we miss real blessings that God is trying to pass our way. What’s more, we give the enemy of our souls a foothold as he works to deflate our hearts.

Satan loves nothing more than when you and I fixate on our past. Don’t give him that kind of satisfaction! Focus on the good you see happening, and on all that lies ahead. For us, one simple way this idea got played out involved engaging in our “Summer of Serving.” Despite the two cataclysmic events we’d walked through, we called the church to rally together on behalf of our city, we prayed fervent prayers asking for direction, and then we worked to meet as many needs as we could possibly find. We planted gardens and repainted walls at the downtown rescue mission, we lifted the spirits of home-bound elderly men and women who craved community, we cooked and delivered meals to families in need and more. The acts of service didn’t equate to quick progress in terms of our emotional healing, but they did help us shift our focal point from our own pain to the needs we could actually help meet. And by taking that one small step of faith, our church was reaffirmed in our belief that God would use us in days to come to serve the poor, plant new churches, and catalyze transformed living in people whose paths we crossed.

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Take Us Back to Wonder

The mysteries of God are not meant to frustrate us. Instead, what we don’t know about Him should call us back to a place of wonder and worship. We must continue to seek Him, to pursue Him and to discover new things about the character and nature of a God who loves us more than we can ever imagine.

If we ever believe we have God figured out, we will simply worship our theology or ideology. We will worship our image of God and slowly, over time, we will lose our enchantment of Him. Our dogmas would become our idols and we would immediately reject anyone who does not agree with our authoritative opinion.

Not long ago, someone complained to me that we are writing too many new songs and that we should just stick with the familiar tunes. That would be disastrous! We must write new songs and keep exploring and explaining to ourselves and to others what it means to know our fascinating Father. To be content with only the old songs would cause us to lose our wonder.

Journey with me and let’s keep pressing into His nature, His character and His love. Let’s turn our questions and disappointments into fuel for the furious pursuit of a God who thinks better than us and has plans far better than we have imagined or supposed. Worship is best when our wonder has not waned.

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Fear No Evil – Chapter Eight

I am posting some short excerpts from Fear No Evil , which releases in a few weeks from Zondervan. This is from the chapter where I talk about the redemption we have experienced as a fellowship and what we have learned about grace along the way.

The proceeds from this book will help support the Dream Centers we are opening here in Colorado Springs. If you want to pre-order click here.

In Mark 10:15, Jesus is quoted as saying, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Interestingly, as Jesus spoke those words, he did so with a bunch of little kids on his lap. The text says that people from the surrounding areas were bringing their children to Jesus so that he could bless them, but the disciples thought it was a waste of their master’s time. They rebuked the parents, and Jesus, in turn, rebukedthem. “Let the little children come to me,” Jesus asserted, “and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Then he gathered the children into his arms, put his hands on them, and blessed them.

I’d like to make an observation here. Unlike their grown-up counterparts, children are always ready to receive a gift. Always. If there is a kid in your life, then try this experiment today: offer that miniature person something in exchange for nothing, and just see what he or she does. I’ll tell you what they’ll do. They will take the gift! They may not stop to say thank you, but I assure you they will take the gift.

Contrast that with how adults behave when offered something for free. Certainly there are exceptions, but many adults feel a wave of guilt sweep over them when they are forced to simply receive with open hands. But this is exactly the posture God would have us hold, where the kingdom of God is concerned.

Last February, a giant box appeared on our doorstep, addressed to my kids. Without even glancing at the return address, I knew exactly who it was from: the grandparents. Valentine’s Day was less than a week away, which meant yet one more excuse to lavish my children with gifts.

As Callie and her brother tore into the goods, she looked up at me with dancing eyes and said, “Dad! We hit the jackpocket!”

I thought about correcting her—“It’s jackpot, Callie”—but I knew her attention was elsewhere and wasn’t returning anytime soon.

A few weeks ago, they hit the “jackpocket” again as Easter neared. Another box on the doorstep, another ten minutes of parental harassment, two sets of eyes dancing. “Can we open it, Dad? How about now? Pleeease? Can we open it now? “And as the fake-Easter-grass confetti covered every possible surface in our house, I thought, “This is exactly how God wants us to be.” He wants us to behave in his presence like children, who receive with open and thankful hearts.

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Fear No Evil – Chapter Seven

The release of Fear No Evil is about a month away now. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 7, where I describe how New Life took a huge step toward the healing we are now experiencing as a fellowship. The proceeds from my first book will help us open the Dream Centers here in Colorado Springs. You can pre-order the book or download it to your Kindle by clicking here.

ISAIAH 61:2-3 OFFERS a series of promises to those who had mourned in Zion—and to you and me when we grieve today. Speaking prophetically of Jesus Christ, it says that a major reason the Messiah would come in human flesh to planet Earth was to “comfort all who mourn.” He would “bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,” verse three picks up, “the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

I can’t pinpoint the exact date or time when the shift occurred, but somewhere along the way—during the eighteen months that it took to move from the lion exhibit to the giraffes—beauty really did spring up from ashes. Gladness really did take mourning’s place. And the despair I had come to believe would never depart somehow morphed into heartfelt praise. I woke up one day in June 2009 and realized I was available for God’s use once more.

Let me explain what I mean.

Scores of people I know have suffered great loss in life and are emotionally shut down as a result. They never learned to properly mourn and grieve, and so the pain gets stuffed further down. The day finally dawns when they can’t engage in any aspect of life, because their enthusiasm and passion are gone. They can’t engage with their spouse. They can’t engage with their kids. They can’t engage with their role at work. They can’t engage with the vision for their local church. The emotional toll they’ve been carrying prohibits them from engaging in any aspect of life. And as a result, they are unavailable to God and others to be salt and light in the world.

I saw this play out firsthand at New Life. A couple that has faithfully served our body for many years approached me one weekend and said, “Brady, we love what God is doing among this church and how you are leading us into a brighter future, but for some reason, we just stay stuck. We haven’t been able to get involved like we used to be involved. We haven’t been able to worship like we used to worship. We aren’t serving like we used to serve.”

Without intending to, this couple had allowed themselves to become unavailable to God. They had neglected to adequately mourn the losses they had suffered, and spiritually and physically they couldn’t find their way back to full engagement.

As you and I learn to grieve properly—and fully—we see God show up with comfort for our weary souls. The two move back and forth in waves: we grieve, God comforts, we grieve, God comforts even more. He exchanges our ashes for beauty and gives gladness where mourning once was. Our growth, a “planting of the Lord” as the prophet Isaiah puts it, displays God’s splendor.32 “This is why I equip you to eventually move on from pain,” God essentially says, “so that my glory can be gathered through you.”

Months after the shooting, we as a church broke ground, laid soil, and planted two tall, beautiful blue spruce trees of remembrance on the parking spot where Stephanie and Rachel Works had been shot. And on that crisp weekday morning, that promise was on our minds. What Satan meant for death would bring forth undeniable life. Where a spirit of despair had once clouded our sight, pure praise would be on our lips. Collectively we declared that we were ready to move forward, to pursue whatever kingdom dreams God had on his mind. Our time with the lions was over; a new exhibit was calling our name.

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Fear No Evil – Chapter Six

I am publishing excerpts from my first book, Fear No Evil which releases in April. In Chapter Six, I talk about the importance of worship and its power to propel us through the valleys of darkness.

All of the proceeds of this book go to support the Dream Centers we are opening in our city. You can pre-order by clicking here.

Coming before God continuously in a posture of humility and with abundant praise on our lips invites him to steady our stance so that we will be prepared to endure future seasons of pain.

I realize this doesn’t sound like much of a benefit. Who wants to do anything that would possibly invite future pain? But as we looked at in chapter 5, we are already guaranteed some tough times in this life, and you and I both would do well to step into those episodes with as surefooted a stance as possible.

Psalm 18:31-33 says, “For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.” Those words took on new meaning to me after the shooting. It was as if God himself said, Brady, I never promised that the path would be free of rocks or treachery. But I did promise to give you the feet of a deer. Undeniably, on December 9, 2007, my wide, pleasant path became difficult, narrow, and steep. But God immediately kept his word to me—he made me as surefooted as a deer.

The deer described in the Old Testament are not the elegant white-tails I grew up hunting in the woods of northwest Louisiana, but the point is exactly the same: all deer were distinctly designed by God to be able to bound across treacherous paths with balance, agility, and grace. I’ve been to the desert south of Jerusalem where the psalmist David used to tend his father’s flock of sheep, and whenever I read the words of Psalm 18, I imagine him standing at the bottom of a hill and eyeing the huge cliffs above. Seeing the craggy surfaces, the severe drop-offs, the series of tightly woven switchbacks that years of hoofmarks have carved into the ground, he must have marveled all over again that any animal could negotiate such terrain without stumbling.

Throughout the state of Colorado, there are many mountainous roads that wind across steep passes and breathtaking drop-offs. Invariably, when I’m driving through the most harrowing parts, I’ll look up and see a bunch of deer or bighorn sheep meandering around like they’re standing on flat Texas soil. They graze on patches of earth that seem no bigger than a silver dollar and look down at you as if to say, “What? You call this tight?”

Lately, whenever I see those impossibly agile beasts, I remember David’s words to us. “Don’t become so consumed with the landscape that you forget your footing is sure,” I think he is saying through the ideas of that psalm. “You’re steadier than you think you when you choose to trust God with your stance.”

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Worship at its Best

We sing a lot of songs at New Life, but the songs I like best are the ones we sing to God about God. In other words, songs that tell God just how great He is, how worthy He is, and how powerful He is. There are certainly other types of songs that are valuable for us as a fellowship.

There are songs we sing to God about His love for us. Those are nice.

There are songs we sing to God about our love for Him. Those are great, too.

There are songs we sing that celebrate what God has done or may do among us. I like them just fine.

There are prayerful songs, where we are asking God for miracles like healing and salvation. This type is my second favorite.

But there is no substitute for singing to God, about Him. It is the purest form of worship we can give God.

On our upcoming New Life worship project, we have several songs that fit into each of the above categories, but one of my favorites is Great I Am. Take a listen by clicking the link below and give me your thoughts.

Great I Am by Jared Anderson and New Life Worship

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Fear No Evil – Chapter Five

For the past several weeks, I’ve been sharing some excerpts from my first book, Fear No Evil, which releases in about a month. To be honest, Chapter Five, entitled, Disney Doesn’t Do Christianity, is my favorite. I talk about the realities of suffering and what we’ve learned from our season of pain at New Life.

By the way, all the proceeds from this book will support the Dream Centers we are opening here in Colorado Springs. If you want to pre-order, Fear No Evil, click on the title.

Here is a short excerpt from chapter five. I would love to hear your thoughts.

As human beings, you and I both have to learn to confront our pain—to acknowledge it and to grieve. Whether we’re talking about the loss of a loved one or the loss of a career, a bank account, or a dream, it is absolutely critical to stop, to weep, to groan. I think of families who have experienced the sudden loss of a house, either to fire or to a flood. Sure, it was just sheetrock and two-by-fours, but their most precious memories were made inside. It was their first “real” purchase. It was the place where their children were raised. It was their family’s haven, the spot where they would rest and relate and know peace.

Or what about people who have experienced the sudden loss of a marriage? A husband thought the union would last forever, but then one day, divorce papers were served. “But she was my high-school sweetheart,” he laments. “She was everything in my life.” Regardless who is at fault in a split like that, division always hurts.

What do you do when sudden loss occurs? I believe Jesus would say, “You mourn.”

As I said, I’ve been part of a local church since my boyhood years, and yet I can count on one hand the number of sermons I’ve heard on how to grieve well. We talk a lot about the good news but neglect to mention that life sometimes turns bad. For instance, how many times have you been directed to the words of Ecclesiastes 7:3? “Sorrow is better than laughter,” it says, “because a sad face is good for the heart.” In our comfort-seeking society, most people would read those words and come away saying, “Huh? How can sorrow possibly be better than laughter?”

What Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, knew that you and I would do well to remember is that the reason a sad face is good for the heart is because it is in our sadness that pain gets confronted, once and for all. Having pain confront us and choosing to confront that pain ourselves are two very different things. Confronting our pain means saying, “I know that I’ve just taken a hit here, a hit that really hurt.”

“Something terrible did happen.”

“I am hurting as a result.”

“We are hurting as a result.”

“This is hard, but it is real.”

Admitting truths such as these forces the internal protesting to cease. It invites Jesus into the situation so that the process of restoration can begin. “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,” Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 7:4. It’s when we stop to truly grieve a loss that God can intervene.

The alternative of course is denial, in which we utterly resist what is real. We talk ourselves out of believing that something bad has just unfolded and that we were wounded as a result. The approach does nothing for our personal wholeness and keeps God’s healing ways at bay.

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Fear No Evil – Chapter Four

For the next several weeks, leading up to the late April release of my first book, I am posting some excerpts from each chapter. All the proceeds from this book go to support the Dream Centers we are opening here in Colorado Springs. If you want, you can Pre-Order Fear No Evil here.

This is from Chapter 4, where I describe the unbelievable Wednesday night gathering at New Life Church after the shooting the previous Sunday.

After the great Old Testament leader Moses died, his aide Joshua was tapped by God to take the reins and lead the Israelites across the Jordan River. And as God commissioned Joshua for this new role, he told him not once, not twice, but three times to “be strong and courageous.” “Be strong and courageous,” he says in Joshua 1:6. “Be strong and very courageous,”7 he says one verse later. And then, in case Joshua missed the first two installments, verse nine reads this way: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Based on the tenor in the room that Wednesday night, I could tell that the people of New Life knew what I firmly believed to be true: This was our Joshua moment. Sunday had threatened to rob us of our peace, our solidarity, and our faith. But on Wednesday night, we would say, “No.”

On Wednesday, we would choose to claim not fear, but courage—to live, to love, to engage.

At any given time, courage either is entering into you or departing from you. It’s always doing one or the other; it is not static. When you’re discouraged—when courage drips its way out of you like water from a leaky hose—nothing you do seems worthwhile. Every molehill shows up as a mountain, and every dilemma is a debilitating crisis just waiting to take you down. All that is negative in life is amplified, and whatever good exists fades to gray.

But when you’re encouraged—when courage is coming in—you feel like you can do just about anything in God’s name and will experience a fair measure of success. You charge hell with a water pistol and serve like your hair is on fire, not knowing what else to do with your massive influx of holy audacity.

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