Happy Father’s Day, God!

Because you know HIS NAME…he will protect you, save you, and be your place of refuge and safety.

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.  Psalm 91:14

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For some, this concept (promise) can be difficult to fully understand. Some of us have been blessed with great father figures. Yet, others not so much. As humans, the difficulty is separating our experiences with earthly fathers from what we know and will continue to discover about our Heavenly Father.

Even those who have wonderful fathers (biological, step, foster, etc.) must not closely compare them to the father figure we have in God. Why? Because this can limit our expectations of God in heaven. Even the best earthly fathers cannot compare to the love, grace, gifts, and protection our God in heaven offers.

Conversely, some have not had the greatest example of a father in their life. Maybe you’ve even had multiple poor experiences. I’m truly sorry, but please work hard to give God a fair chance to demonstrate that he really is different. Don’t allow your bad earthly experiences to limit God’s influence in your life. No matter the depth of pain and hurt, take a step of faith. Become vulnerable and allow him to be the father you never had…and even MORE!

Take a minute to listen to this incredible song by Rend Collective. Sing the words of this chorus to your Heavenly Father today. And go ahead, wish him a very Happy Father’s Day.

Is there anything in this song that is hard for you to believe about God? Or is there something in it that you already know to be true and lean into daily for encouragement?

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Same Blog…New Focus!

Guys, I’ve been blogging for over 10 years now. I started in the early days with a blog I called ‘Brain Gum, spiritual thoughts to chew on.’ I miss that one. Then after some church leadership experiences, Lead Right was born. This blog had a few posts about scripture and faith, but it largely focused on healthy leadership.

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As my blog needs to adequately reflect my personal season of life, it is now transitioning back to a more ‘devotional-type’ of blog.

My wife, Cailey, and I co-pastor a Missional Community in Yakima, WA. This endeavor has been completely new and invigorating for us. It’s an approach to living and spreading the Gospel, while making disciples, that we’ve never experienced before.

I’m keeping all prior posts on this blog. But as a transitional post, here are a few of the more popular leadership writings I’ve shared.

‘Godly’ Doesn’t Always Equate to a Good Leader  //  Why Churches Should Be In The Habit Of Spilling The Beans  //  Leadership Burnout: 4 Signs To Watch For  //  3 Things To Always And Never Do In Leadership  //  6 ‘Easy’ Ways To Begin Leading Your Home Spiritually  //  4 Ways To Embrace Failure  //  The One Commandment Most Church Leaders Break Often  //  4 Food Groups of Leadership  //  Church Health – an Oxymoron?

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And for those of you who are looking forward to future reflections on Scripture and living out our faith, here are a few past posts that readers have liked.

4 Keys to a Successful Devotional Time  //  3 Things to Avoid When God Begins to Speak  //  Why You’re Being Attacked  //  3 Ways To Find Real Joy  //  How To Listen When God Begins To Speak  //  God Is Working On Your Behalf This Very Moment 

Before I let you go, can you do me a favor? Please let me know what > TOPICS < you are most interested in so I can focus on those.

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3 Things Every Believer Must Practice Regularly

Great pastors and authors like Richard Foster and Dallas Willard have taught about the subject of Spiritual Disciplines for years. Now, there isn’t a complete list like the Ten Commandments in the Bible that groups all of the disciplines together for us (although that might have been handy). The Bible doesn’t even refer to them as Spiritual Disciplines. Yet, these are spiritual practices Christ followers can observe so that they are able to grow and mature in their faith and their understanding of God.

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While disciplines like solitude, fasting, and tithing are among well over a dozen others, below are three spiritual practices I believe to be absolutely critical if a believer wants to experience life fulfillment, have joy, and grow closer to Jesus.

Bible Intake |  The Bible holds all that we need to know about God’s character and his heart toward us. If we never read the Scriptures and only pray and spend time with other believers, all we will have is a highly personalized philosophy of God. Very little truth or foundation.

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) And of course we know that all scripture is inspired/breathed by God. It’s not an option. We were created for God’s word to fuel us, to give us life.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) God’s word guides our choices and directs us on our life journey. He’s our GPS! And here’s the great thing. We you and I take a wrong turn in life, he simply says, ‘re-routing.’

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18) A couple of those ‘wondrous things’ would be learning about God’s will for us and making new discoveries of his character and personality.

Prayer | When we take time to pray we are making an investment in our relationship with God. I’ve often said that prayer is like taking God to coffee. You hopefully enjoy each other’s company, learn something new about each other, and openly share what’s on your hearts.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) God already knows what you want and need. So why pray? Because God actually wants us coming to him, talking to him, and acknowledging the relationship. God is not a deadbeat dad who is disconnected and merely sends a child support check in the mail each month.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17) God both hears and acts. He’s accessible 24/7. And he works on our behalf.

Community with other believers | We were not created to do life alone, nor to thrive or struggle on our own. Not only do we see the importance of community in the Creation story back in Genesis, but it was also fully lived out by Jesus with his disciples.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)  Believers should lovingly encourage each other to do good for others and to love in ways like Jesus did.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) Walking 100 yards with a 500 pound weight on your back is MUCH EASIER if you have a large number of like-minded friends near you to help carry it.

So, would YOU add anything to my list? Have you experienced these three things in your own life?

And possibly more important, do you struggle with one of these more that others?

 

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A Tribute to Craig Jutila

The urgent prayer request by Venture Christian Church was unexpected. The tragic news that followed not long after left all of us in shock and disbelief.

Craig Jutila met Jesus and their son, Blake, in heaven on December 26th. Initial reports suggested it was a snowboarding accident, but later Mary shared that the autopsy report found a sudden heart attack was the cause of his passing.

My wife, Cailey, and I share a special friendship with Craig and Mary. It all started when Mary agreed to have coffee with Cailey while Craig was speaking at a CPC event in Orlando about 8 years ago. It was almost an instant friendship. Their relationship led to Cailey and I volunteering to support Craig’s speaking and EmpoweredLiving for the next 5 Orange Conferences in Atlanta.

 

 

 

 

Craig initially coached and mentored us in our KidMin and FamMin roles. Both of them poured into us, professionally and relationally. Craig took extra time out of his schedule to guide me in preparing my notes for 3 sessions at a conference in Kentucky 3 years ago.

Craig was the life of the party. And if there wasn’t a party, that changed when he arrived. His personality…MAGNETIC! And as a couple, Craig and Mary are the most humble, generous, trusting people you could ever meet.

And I mean ‘trusting!’

I helped Craig with broadening his Twitter and blog platform for a couple of years. My involvement required me having access to his Twitter account. I remember vividly our phone call when I was just starting this partnership. Craig very nervously said, “You know, I’m trusting you with my career right now. You literally have the power to destroy me with one wrong post!”  Then we laughed.

Did I mention generous? They had us stay with them back in August after illness prevented us from flying back to WA from a leadership training we were in town for in Compton. And yes, we always volunteered to support them at Orange Conferences. But they would manage to take us out to eat, buy coffee, and give us warm ‘Thank You’ cards with various gift cards enclosed. They really just loved blessing others.

And while I’m on the topic of the Jutilas blessing others, they wrote a book together. It’s titled, ‘From Hectic To Healthy: The Journey To A Balanced Life.’ 

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This is one of the most authentic, open, and painful books on marriage and ministry you will ever read. For that reason I encourage you to do just that. Please read it! Carey Nieuwhof also recorded a powerful interview with Craig on the topic of ‘When leadership ruins your family: How to live and lead differently.’ If you’ve never had the privilege to hear Craig speak, this would be a wonderful way to experience his heart.

Craig’s passing has caused me to reflect on my own life. He was an incredible, loving husband and father. He was a faith-filled, obedient child of God. He took what the Lord gave him and ran with it. And if you knew Craig, he probably ran with a lot of ideas/callings before God actually released him to (alluding to Craig’s self-disclosed ADHD behavior). His energy and creativity were contagious.

Craig was at the height of his personal life and ministry calling (in my opinion). Why? Because the platform and range of influence God had given him was constantly growing and changing. I have tried to model my public speaking style more after his creative energy than anyone else over the years. Now he’s telling stories and entertaining all of heaven. What a sight this must be!

Lastly, to Mary, Cameron, Alec, and Karimy I offer this prayer.

May you be blessed by the tangible feeling of Jesus’ loving arms wrapped tightly around you in this time of heartache. Lord, bless this beautiful family’s season of mourning with support, quiet time, joyful memories, laughter, comfort and strength. Amen!

 

 

 

 

In Loving Memory

How Do You Define ‘Worship’?

Worship is not a church service. It’s not a spiritual song. Not a moment in prayer.

Worship is a condition of the HEART. It’s a constant mindset of GRATITUDE toward our creator and savior, Jesus.

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And in my own personal experience, the some of the most POWERFUL seasons of worship have been the seasons filled with challenge, pain, and loss of clear direction. It’s in those seasons, when we’re able to STAY CONNECTED to the Father…remembering ALL the ways he has been faithful and provided…that re-directs our attention away from our own circumstances and onto the countless blessings that we so easily overlook.

I’m going to refuse to let my ‘Thank You’ be silenced today. I’d invite you to join me!

Join the discussion and LEAVE A COMMENT below.  You can also connect with me on Twitter and Instagram!

 

 

Empty Nesting & Time Zones

IMG_5663I have a love/hate relationship with watching our kids grow up!

In our 26+ years of marriage, our family has moved over 20 times.  And 5 of those have been large moves across the country.

Why?

One word.  ‘Adventure.’

What I’ve discovered as Cailey and I are quickly becoming empty nesters is that our kids are taking on the rhythm of life they were raised in.

Take exhibit A (image to the right).  This is the new world clock on my phone.  As of this week, this now represents the 3 time zones our immediate family live in.

Most of our moves, and all 5 of the big ones, were related to doing ministry.  And it wasn’t ever as simple as going where employment was.  There were always multiple options for us to choose from.  I guess we’ve just firmly believed in listening to God carefully and stepping in faith in whichever direction He sends us.  We’ve modeled this lifestyle to our kids, so it should not surprise me that we now have a 21 y/o son living in Colorado and a 23 y/o son serving the next 3 years in Guam with the U.S. Navy.  Our other two kids currently live at home, but who knows where they will end up in the next year or two?

 

All that said, here are a few lessons I’m learning about watching our kids leave our nest and become highly independent adults.

  • Our direction and influence in their lives must look different than before. It also needs to be OFFERED, not GIVEN.
  • Their life choices are THEIR life choices. Their career, family, lifestyle, and overall worldview isn’t going to look just like mine. Those are not wrong or right. They are simply going to be different…unique to the person they are becoming.
  • It is fun watching them discover ADULTING along the way. But this is a spectator sport. We must not interfere in game play when we’re on the bench. And guess what? Our kids will determine if and when we come off the sidelines, not us.
  • Lastly, I love the fact that our kids still TALK to us! Now, I’m not so naive to claim that they tell us everything and they know all there is to know about Mom and Dad. But we still share our ambitions, worries, victories, and basic joys with each other. Cailey and I call that a win for our family.

Our family is far from perfect. We’ve even been told we’re entertaining at times (that’s not always a compliment). But our kids genuinely love each other, and deep down they know that their parents love them.

Here’s to family, life transition, and simply going with the flow!

 

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Would You Take a Selfie With God?

No matter how old you get, I think you’ll agree that none of us will ever forget the friendships we had in High School. Those were formative years of our adolescence. And if you were anything like me, you had different friendships.

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about!

I had 2-3 friends that my parents didn’t care for. They would strongly encourage me to stay clear of them. “That guy’s bad news, Brent” they would say. “They’re going to just get you into trouble.”

Generally speaking, they were wrong. One friend, however, they were dead right on with…..but that’s a different blog post 🙂

I digress.

Have you ever viewed God as a friend? You know, like the friends you associated with in school? Well, this thought entered my mind recently and I ended up mulling over it a while.

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Whether you already have a relationship with God or not, I think this concept of the Creator of the Universe actually wanting to have a real friendship with you and I is difficult to grasp. I mean….he’s God! But he still calls us ‘friends.’

Anyway, the more I thought about it I determined that there really are two types of friend that God offers to us. See what you think.

Friend #1 – That friend you have a lot in common with. You have so much fun just being together and in each other’s company. It doesn’t even matter what you’re doing. You really look forward to spending time together. This is the friend you’ve taken selfies with in about HALF of your Instagram feed.
Friend #2 – The person you work to build a relationship with because of what you can gain from them. Maybe because of who they know, what they have, or the position they hold. This friendship is not the kind that just evolves naturally. It requires initiative, but the investment is worth it!
I would argue that there are aspects of both in God. The longer we know him and spend real time with him, the more comfortable we become. The more we learn that he really is very relational.
Additionally, I’d be willing to bet that God would take the most epic selfie! (we just might have to edit the brightness down afterward)

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3 Things to Avoid When God Begins to Speak

The other night, I sat down to have what I assumed was going to be 20-30 minutes of prayer and reading in one of my devotionals.

Then, God showed up and decided to join me!  What a novel concept.

I read one random page in my devotional book containing one particular scripture verse.  Next, I felt prompted to check out the verse of the day in YouVersion.  This was a different passage, but same theme.  Huh?

I then decided I would pop my earbuds in and experience some worship music.  You want to know something?  The bridge of the song I chose relayed the exact same message as those two scripture passages!  What the heck?  You know God’s trying to get your attention when he puts the same thing in front of you 3 different times.

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When God takes you down this sort of path, it goes without saying that it would be wise to pay attention more than usual.  I would suggest, however, 3 things to avoid when he starts speaking this clearly.

  1. Avoid DISTRACTIONS – Remain in that moment as long as possible.  But sometimes God catches us just as we are on our way out the door to work or an important engagement.  In these times, it is critical that we come back to this moment and word with God as early as possible to allow him to continue speaking.
  2. Avoid HURRY – Don’t jump to conclusions trying to quickly decipher what is being said.  The things of God are often quite large and can take time for us to truly gain a grasp on the specifics of what he is either telling us or asking of us.  Be patient.  Meditate calmly on his voice.
  3. Avoid PRIVACY – Shortly after you’ve had a bit of time to process what you are experiencing with God, go ahead and share it with 1-3 people.  These should be individuals who you know love Jesus and who honestly care about you and your future.  Ask them for their thoughts on what God might be saying.  Then, look for a common theme.

What have your experiences been when God starts communicating in such a bold way that your mind and heart are simply taken captive?  I’d love for you to leave a comment below.

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9 Months After Moving To Colorado

Well, it’s been 9 months since we moved to Colorado Springs from Georgia.  There has been A LOT that has happened in that short window of time.  This has been the most difficult stage of my life in 25 years of marriage and ministry…hands down!   A few months ago I wrote a post about taking a break from blogging for a season.  I’m still not blogging regularly until December, but I felt compelled to post this update.

Colorado Springs is amazing!  It is beautiful, has very few bugs, and virtually zero humidity.  I see the majestic Pikes Peak every day…multiple times a day.  But simply living in a beautiful place doesn’t necessarily make the experience beautiful.

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You see, when we moved to Colorado I left behind a son, an incredible church family, and a ministry career that had become my identity.  I didn’t know it while traveling across the country in a 26 foot U-Haul truck, but I was about to spend the next 3 months lost, confused, and depressed.

First, the family unit split in two.  We originally thought we were just moving with our youngest two sons.  Then just hours before hitting the road our oldest child asked to move with us.  This is her story so I’ll allow her to tell it on her own another time.  But this is a huge reason God led us to Colorado.

Our oldest son had a career and friends in GA and decided to get his own place and stay there.  My wife and I blessed his choice to stay, but I really struggled (honestly, I still am) moving without him.  I guess it’s a natural part of the whole ’empty nesting’ thing….but it really sucks!

Once we arrived here, I began working at a popular coffee shop.  Every coffee-lover’s dream job, right?  I have also been working hard to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology online.  After working there for about a month or so, I hit a wall.  For 2-3 weeks I remember feeling anxious and emotional driving to work.  There were even a few times I had to pray that God would strengthen me to overcome the flood of tears so I could perform like a ‘normal’ barista.  Those tears were sure to come later in solitude moments in my bedroom.  One evening here, another there…just me and Jesus.  Real men do cry, so don’t judge.

It was in this brief season that I realized that I had allowed ministry (being a pastor) to become my entire identity.  Loss of title, income, and the comfort of knowing a job well.  When you’ve done nothing besides pastoring full-time for over 20 years it’s not the easiest thing to transition out of that world and into retail coffee at 45 years old.

Slowly, I began to realize that God had me in a new, very specific, season on purpose.  First and foremost, I was to enjoy really being there for my wife and kids without the demanding work schedule of ministry.  Second, He was aligning  co-workers and customers at the coffee shop for me to interact with…to live my faith out for them.

In March of 2016 I had the honor of speaking at a Children’s Pastors conference in Kentucky.  This was a true gift directly from the hand of God to me.  He knew I needed this.  I loved it!  I got to share my ministry experiences with young leaders, and then encouraged them after each talk.  This rekindled a fire for ministry in me.

Yes, we left an amazing church in Georgia, but God led us to another one.  (we thought this would be impossible).  My wife, Cailey, is serving PT on staff there now working with kids and equipping leaders.  I am volunteering in the Connect ministry to help people discover a meaningful and fulfilling place of service in God’s community.

Most recently, the Lord provided me with a new job working with a medical bill sharing ministry.  Another new experience, but I’m trusting God in it completely.  Cailey and I have also begun co-writing our first book.  We welcome your prayers with this.

What does He have in store for me in the next 5-10 years?  I don’t have a clue and I’ve given up trying to figure it out ahead of time.  I used to have this quote hanging in my church office.  Now it is mounted above our couch in the living room.

“The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.”

This has proven to be true in my life and I’m confident it will be in yours as well.  My Jesus is faithful, he knows what he’s doing, and he really does care more about my personal success and happiness than I ever can.

Here’s to another year of adventure, obedience, and remaining in Him!