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All posts in Change

WARNING: Bad News Ahead…

For many of you, January 2015 has been an INCREDIBLE month. You are seeing CHANGE happen in a lot of exciting areas of your life. Some of you are motivated, moving and dreaming about the possibilities that lie before you. You are seeing God in a deeper way – a relational way. You’ve never been closer – never felt like you were getting “it” like you are right now. That JACKS ME UP!!! I believe I might be addicted to seeing God change people’s lives.

The “Change” series has been a great one – Literally one of my favorites from almost 4 years at Vertical Church. The momentum and the evident presence of God in our midst lately at both locations is just mind blowing. I am SO thankful to God for blessing us with His Manifest Presence among us as we seek Him.

Unfortunately, I need to warn you about something. There is some possible bad news ahead:

You won’t always feel the way you do right now.

The night of February 5th, 2011 was the 2nd longest night of my life. (You can read about the longest night here) When I went to bed that night I felt like my life would change forever as the next day was Launch Day for Vertical Church. I could not sleep for anything. And when I would fall asleep I would quickly wake up and look at the clock. I COULD NOT WAIT TO GET UP AND FINALLY, AFTER ALL OF THESE YEARS OF DREAMING, HAVE CHURCH IN OUR CHURCH PLANT!!!

The following Saturday night, same thing. This pattern continued for a few months until one Saturday evening, I slept peacefully and was surprised to be startled by the alarm clock at my regular 5:15 am.

See, it’s important that you understand that I LOVE MY CHURCH!!! But I have to be honest, sometimes today I struggle to get up at 5:15 am. As exciting as Vertical is, and as much as I truly can’t wait to get there, we have done this 207 times. Ride your favorite roller coaster 207 times and tell me if you get the same rush as the 1st few… Vertical is not new anymore, and if we don’t guard our heart we will allow “the ordinary’s” to slip in.

You won’t always feel the way you do right now.

Just as you have heard us talk about over these last 4 weeks, rainy days will come!!! In our 1st year we had like 1 rainy Sunday, but they indeed came! Distractions will happen. Opposition will arise. People will try to discredit you. Your enemy, the devil, will tempt you. What do you do when you don’t want to fall or fail?

  1. Focus on God. Remember I talked about it last Sunday?!? Nehemiah 4:14, “Remember the Lord…” You heard Donnie quote Nehemiah yesterday from chapter 6 – so repeat after me: “I am doing a great work and I CANNOT come down!” Don’t stop what you’re doing. Focus on God, focus on next and get your eyes off the distractions around you.
  2. Pray. Verse 9 says, “They were trying to intimidate us, imagining they could break our resolve and stop the work. So I prayed for strength to continue the work.” The common response in most of our lives is to work harder during times like this. We need do what Nehemiah did – stop what you are doing and PRAY. Take it to God, focus on Him, remember what He said, then get back to work.
  3. Let God fight your battles. Through the years I have had multiple bouts with people whom I felt were opposing me. I remember one particular Sunday night crying out to God from my driveway and sensing Him instructing me to pray for them and allow Him to handle this situation. That’s what Nehemiah did, he prayed, “…remember those who were trying to intimidate me.” And God did. They completed God’s plan and finished the wall in 52 days.

I Have Never Met Someone Who Didn’t Come Down

Your bad news is actually good news – you are aware and you can be ready! You may feel really strong right now but you won’t always feel that way, and that’s OK. If you never come down from the high you’re on you are different from every single follower of Jesus that I have ever met. It’s important that you recognize this and recognize that opposition doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong, opposition often points to the fact that you are doing something right. Never forget what Donnie said yesterday, “The closer you get to doing what God wants to do through you, the harder your enemy will fight to stop you.”

I love watching God work in YOUR life. Let Him. I’m praying for you.

The Coldest, Wettest Night of My Life

If you are going to try to do what God wants to do thru you, your spiritual enemy will do whatever he can to stop you! This might not comfort you in the moment, in the midst of your storms and challenges, but I believe that the closer you get, the harder that you’ll have to fight.

I wonder how many of you have found that the more you try to follow God, the harder it gets? Here’s an encouragement for you – IT WILL GET BETTER! You just have to stay in there, saying day in and day out, “I’m not giving up – I know God is leading me – I know God is with me – I AM NOT QUITTING!” Remember what we learned last week: We don’t face opposition for doing something wrong, we face spiritual opposition when we are doing something right.

The battle might be the toughest near the end but you are right at the point of break through! It is always darkest in the moments before the dawn breaks. I experienced this first hand a couple of years ago…

It is always darkest in the moments before the dawn breaks.

Every summer my son Matt, along with Pastor Donnie and his son Dylan and I, join some friends to tackle a portion of the Appalachian Trail. This trip is one of the highlights of my year. It is a man’s trip, totally roughing it, pack in-pack out, all foods and camping accommodations for the duration of the trip. On one particular trip we were caught off guard as a storm came up suddenly on the high altitude that we were camped at. We had planned to shelter camp the whole trip, meaning we were going to sleep in open air shelters that are placed at various places along the trail. But on this particular night a shelter just wasn’t in the cards as a large group beat us to the shelter, taking our chance for a roof out from under us.

We had no tents.

That’s another message about being prepared for whatever may come our way. “We’ll be fine.” our friends assured us. The radar had shown that it should be a pretty clear night. So we set up camp and were just getting to sleep as the sun was setting in the west. It wasn’t 10 minutes before one of the guys yelled, “you better make plans for some cover, I hear a storm coming up pretty quick through the trees!” Within the next 60 seconds the BOTTOM FELL OUT of the sky. We attempted to wrap ourselves in 2 tarps that we were actually laying on (that was a really bad idea). It wasn’t long before we were soaked, along with our sleeping bags and everything we had outside of our backpacks.

Everything was soaked. The ground was muddy. There was nowhere to go. No wood was dry enough for fire. And the rain, though no longer heavy, continued to drizzle, not for the next hour or two, mind you, but ALL NIGHT LONG.

We were cold at around 58 degrees. Matt was shivering which worried me, and there was nowhere to get warm or comfortable. All I could think about was keeping Matt warm, laughing about how bad this actually sucked, and praying continuously for the morning to come.

I never went to sleep. And as the night went on it got darker and darker on top of that tree covered mountain. The minutes turned to hours, and my prayers were for the sun to come up and the rainy drizzle to stop.

The dawn is breaking – the sun is about to come up.

The sun DID come up and you better believe we quickly broke camp to make sure that NO ONE was able to keep us out of our shelter on that next night. I was asleep by 4pm!!! That night was discouraging, but making camp and drying out our clothes was ENCOURAGING. It was ok and the rest of the trip HAD to be (and was) better than the beginning of it.

Your enemy will work hard to discourage you, scare you, distract you, slow you down and eventually to get you to give up on the dream that God has given to you. This weekend, as we look at this last section from Nehemiah’s story, you are going to learn the most important play from your spiritual enemy’s playbook and how to beat it every time.

This is MY FAVORITE PART of Nehemiah’s story. I cannot wait for you to experience it!

Something Miraculous Going On…

Lately I have noticed a difference on Sunday morning’s at Vertical Church – a “CHANGE”.

It started 2 weeks ago. I noticed it but really just explained it away as a “good day”. In church life we seem to have “hot” days – and “not so hot days”. It’s hard to guess when those will be, and because you know that every weekend holds the potential for changing someone’s eternity you go always go in with high expectations. But the other weekend was different. Others mentioned it. There were conversations happening among those who see it from the leadership side. Stories coming forth – decisions being made – a few of those “WOW! I didn’t see THAT coming!” conversations.

Something is different.

People seem to be leaning in… praying harder… singing louder… laughing more… lifting hands higher. The “AMEN’s!!!” are stronger… the prayers seem to be deeper and people seem to be investing in invitations harder.

Something is different.

Follow Fast ’15

We had more people than ever participate in our annual start of the year fast. We had many who have fasted before but pressed in harder and deeper than ever. And I truly believe that the difference is that God has answered prayers through our time of fasting – HE has revived many hearts.


6 ”Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?(MY NOTES: when you do this…) 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your lightwill rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations;you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, (MY NOTE: rebuilding walls – sound familiar?)Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

I Believe that we have Entered a New Season

Maybe you are experiencing it with us. Maybe you are on the outside looking in. Maybe you are on the INSIDE looking around. You see it too and you want to experience it too.

Pray. Tell God. Be honest. Lay down the things that are hindering you. Turn FROM your sin and turn TO Him. You don’t have to fast to do that and you don’t have to wait for Sunday morning

2 For he (God) says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. 2 Cor 6:2

By the way… Next Weekend (February 1) we begin one of the most important series we have EVER done at Vertical, “Overwhelmed”. Here’s how you know you need this series: If you, or anyone you know ever struggles with stress, worry, anxiousness or ALL of the above, this series will deal with all of it. How do you overcome worry when you are stuck feeling overwhelmed? Seriously, this series is going to “CHANGE” a bunch of lives. Make sure you invite those people who meet the “qualifications” to join us to Win the War against Worry.

If You Struggle with Discouragement

Discouragement can KNOCK YOU UPSIDE YOUR HEAD when it comes from some of the most unexpected places. When God starts bringing “CHANGE” into your life, people who are usually “there for you” and are normally encouraging sometimes become unanticipated discouragers to your efforts.

At Vertical we are currently talking about how to start 2015 by allowing “Change” to happen IN you and THRU you. As we learn from the book of Nehemiah, we are encouraging people to more than personal change – we believe that there are many being called to BE change in their world.

If you are going to pursue God’s plan for your life, brace yourself, you WILL experience opposition and discouragement. Yesterday I watched 4 teams battle each other for the honor of going to the Super Bowl. In both cases, the teams were calling plays based on their knowledge of their opponents playbook. For week’s they watched video – they knew what certain play formations looked like – you beat “this” by doing “that”. You can overcome discouragement if you know your enemy’s “playbook”.

The devil is real.

Whenever you are trying to do something with God, your spiritual enemy, the devil, will do whatever he can to oppose you in that effort. I know that some people struggle with the concept of a real spiritual enemy in this world with horns, a red suit and a pointy tail. I oppose that picture as well, but know this, the devil is real. One of my best spiritual brothers of all time, JD Coxe, cemented this truth early in my walk with Jesus by sharing this life changing scripture that the Apostle Peter gives to us:

Be self-controlledand alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1Peter 5:8

You will Experience Obstacles

You never know what kind of roadblocks will come, but be ready – If your dream is a threat to the devils plans for those around you, obstacles are around the corner:

“I thought life WITH God would be easier. I’m having a harder time SINCE I came to God than before!” I know that this seems backwards, but the reason you are experiencing obstacles is because you have become a spiritual threat to the darkness around you. When you weren’t living for God you weren’t a threat so your spiritual enemy didn’t mess with you because you didn’t mess with him. But now, you are doing something right and you are experiencing spiritual opposition.

Criticism is Coming

People will tear down your plans, goals and dreams. Sometimes you will be surprised by who they are (I know I often have been!) Often these people are small-minded people who have never taken a scary faith step in their lives. Sometimes their criticism is the result of their own spiritual conviction – your bright light is exposing some of their spiritual cobwebs or the dimness of their own spiritual flame.

Don’t Align Yourself with Your Enemy

Your spiritual enemy will use his strongest ally against you – guess who it is: YOU! Your biggest enemy in the area of discouragement is not satan, your biggest enemy is between your ears!

I remember attending a church planting conference back in 2008 and in the lobby one afternoon were all of these church planters that I had been stalking online. I was dreaming about planting a church and THEY were living my dream. I wanted to go up and talk with them, to share my dreams, my fears and gain wisdom from their journey. But before I got up the nerve, my greatest enemy echoed in my mind:

“who do you think you are talking to those guys? They will take one look at you and laugh you out of the building? You are not one of them – you aren’t in their league!”

I listened. I did not talk to them. I missed an opportunity to glean from guys WHO LOVE to talk about church planting and love to talk people into taking faith steps. I NEEDED TO HEAR THAT and I missed it because of inside discouragement.

Don’t be a Whiner!!!

We’re learning from Nehemiah. Before I tell you what Nehemiah did, let me tell you what he didn’t do: HE DIDN’T WHINE ABOUT IT!!! He took it to God in prayer and then he told the people 2 things that you can personally do that will help you beat discouragement every time.

  1. “Remember the Lord.” Nehemiah 4:14 says, “Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” Remember that God brought you to this and God will bring you through it. When I am feeling discouraged it really helps me to think back to times that The Lord has shown up for me, protected me, shown favor towards me – times when He has prompted my heart. Whenever you are discouraged, do what Nehemiah did – Remember the Lord, Your God.
  2.  “Fight for your dream!” No one will fight for your dream harder than you. It was Nehemiah that led the people to begin rebuilding the wall, and it will be Nehemiah who will have to fight hard for that vision! Are you willing to fight for it? WHAT are you willing to fight for.
Too often people allow discouragement to stop them short of their original goal. Never forget, if you are going to do something that matters with God, YOU WILL face opposition and discouragement.  Just because we are facing opposition doesn’t mean we’re doing something wrong – we often face opposition because we’re doing something right.

Whatcha Gonna Do, Brother?!?

I woke up thinking about Hulk Hogan this morning.

Boot to yo face!

Not that I was ever a Hulk fan or anything, as I was an NWA, Nature Boy Ric Flair type of wrestling fan growing up. I knew about Hogan and all of the WWF hype surrounding him, I just thought that it was cartoonish and silly compared to the stuff that I watched.

Every Hulk Hogan win match inevitably went down the same way: after “hulking-up”, an action when he looks out to the crowd and baits them to get behind him, he throws his opponent into the ropes so they can run into a boot to their face. Then comes Hulk’s finisher, coming off the ropes he does a leg drop over the man’s neck before he covers him: 1-2-3 (ring the bell).

A Hulk Hogan match isn’t over until the leg drop. Period.

(WRITERS NOTE: I recognize that many of you reading think ALL professional wrestling is cartoonish and silly and you wonder where I’m going with this – hang with me for a moment.)

Back to waking up. I woke up with Hulk’s catchphrase on my mind: “Whatcha gonna do, BROTHER, when Hulkamania runs wild on YOU?!?” to which the fans scream as he walks away.

Whatcha Gonna Do?

We are currently in a series of messages from one of the greatest leadership books in the Bible, Nehemiah. In this series we are learning how to 1) determine God’s calling on our lives and 2) how to take it from dream state to reality. I kind of think of it like Hulk’s opponents – Whatcha gonna do because Hulkamania is coming your way? You gotta do something!!! And that’s where we are at – we GOTTA do something. So what do we do?

You begin with “WHAT?”

In Nehemiah’s story he was moved when he learned that the walls and gates of Jerusalem were torn down and in disrepair. The city was vulnerable, nothing was as it should be. This is not the “WHAT?”, this is the problem that drives it. Nehemiah’s response: prayer, fasting, mourning. “God, this is bad, what can I do?” It’s in this prayer Nehemiah finds his “WHAT?”: rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem and replacing the city gates. Nehemiah knew that as long as those walls and gates were down the city was vulnerable to outsiders and made the city known to be a representation of God a disgrace. There were a lot of things that COULD be done but none would matter unless the city was secure.

What is it that God would have you to do? If you are like most people you do not know. How do you find out? Answer this question: what is something that you see in your world that makes you think, “someone really needs to do something about this!” You’re right – someone SHOULD do something and it might just be you. So like Nehemiah, you pray – “God, what can I do about this?”

This is where it starts. This is where you “hulk-up”.

To achieve the BIG goal, you have to take your FIRST step.

Once you figure out “WHAT?” you should do, Next we figure out “HOW? you do it.”

What’s the first thing you need to do? Forget the big picture – that’s intimidating. In the Nehemiah story, it was the people of Jerusalem knowing that they needed to rebuild the wall, but it was such a big task no one knew how to do it or where to start. In your case, you have to Figure out where to start and do that. What is the first thing you should do?

  • Do your homework. Find someone with a similar passion that is doing it and schedule an opportunity to pick their brain.
  • Be prepared. Write down every question imaginable to ask them when you do meet.
  • Do something. Work with them. Learn from them. Feel it, smell it, taste it – let it get all over you and IN you. Someday you will do something like this as well. Ask yourself, “how would this work in my situation.”

Once you do that do the next thing, then the next thing, then the next thing.

Now to Break this Down REAL Practical

Let’s say you are at the “I’m not where I should be with God.” place. What’s your next step? A next step towards God. What does that mean? It could mean consistent church attendance. Your immediate goal could be to be in church 2 weeks straight, then 3 weeks straight. On many occasions I have met people who have NEVER attended church 6 weeks straight in their life. That’s shocking to my “church-attending friends”, but it’s real.

Let’s say Your next step towards God may be entering into relationship with Jesus by praying to receive Him. So do that.

Is your next step baptism? Have you been baptized SINCE you believed? If not, you have not been biblically baptized and need to be. I don’t know what your next step is – what I do know is you need to take one.

Let’s say you are a leader in your church. Your “WHAT?” is you don’t have enough workers in your ministry, you need more people on your team. When you have a great ministry it is very hard to understand why people aren’t beating down your doors to be part of it, right? Your “HOW?” is to meet people and find some new team members. So what’s your next step? Looking for more team members. “But I have other responsibilities!” the leader may say. There is someone on your current team who will understand that you need some new team members and can handle those things for the leader.

This stuff applies everywhere. Can we help you? Absolutely – comment, email or inbox us – we would be honored to pray with you about your next step.

Boot to the face.

Just like no Hogan match is complete until 1) hulk-up 2) boot to the face 3) leg drop, your life as God has designed it to be lived isn’t complete until you figure out WHY you are here. Don’t you want to make this life count?

So I got one question for ya: Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania and God’s dream for your life run wild on you?!?