He Is Risen Out of the Darkness!

Tombs are for darkness. Darkness is an absence of light. So, it stands to reason that Jesus could never stay in the tomb.

out of the darkness

Just like the darkness in the tomb couldn’t contain Him, the darkness of this world cannot contain His children.

I want to remember that the next time I’m confronted with a dark situation, an angry person, a sin committed against me.

I can withstand the onslaughts of darkness and reflect light, because light cannot be contained. Especially the Light of God’s Love.

 

Happy Easter everyone. May the good Lord bless you, your family and all you come in contact today and every other one from this day forth.

Posted in Be The Body, Encouragement, Evangelism, Follow Jesus, Inspiration, Leadership, Serving Jesus, Soul Storming, time with God | Leave a comment

Living Alive or Walking Death?

The fine folks over at First Comics News are running a series of editorials this week from Comic Book Creators focusing on faith. I was both wowed and humbled when they reached out to me and asked for a contribution to the series.

For those who are interested, you can follow this link to the site and read my editorial on what faith in Christ has done for my life.

Thanks & God bless,

Mike

 

Posted in Be The Body, Encouragement, Evangelism, Follow Jesus, Inspiration, Leadership, Mike Bullock, Serving Jesus, Soul Storming, time with God | Leave a comment

The Voice

John 1:23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness…”

When the world ‘wilderness’ is used, most of us have no context for this, as we live in urban or suburban areas, where civilization has consumed anything even remotely wild or uncultivated in the surrounding landscape.

Today, for some reason, when I read this passage for possibly the hundredth time, it jumped out at me in a different way. When you stop and consider the world we live in, philosophically you could call it a wilderness. This modern-day wilderness is a wild, uncultivated time with many differing viewpoints screaming at us every second of the day, an overabundance of moral relativism blasting our thoughts every moment; a time with so many contradictory voices zealously vying for our attention, our hearts… our souls.

In the midst of all that, how is anyone to know what is truth?

But, in that wilderness, a voice calls us. Not with the ring of a cell phone, or the alert of a text message, nor the shout of dissatisfaction from a billboard or TV commercial. No, this voice cries out in a whisper; a whisper that can surgically cut through the background noise… if we let it.

This is the voice of the Lord.

And the enemy knows this voice all too well. So, like a petulant child, it raises the level of surface noise in our cultural wilderness, hoping to drown out the voice of the One.

Sadly, for a great many, the voice is drowned out.

Thankfully, the voice doesn’t stop calling. Like a distress signal on a downed ship, or a beacon from a lighthouse, the voice can still cut through the storm, burning away the darkness.

We just have to listen for it.

Today, please take a few moments to clear your mind of the cultural wilderness that engulfs us every day. Imagine a clear pond at night, with a surface as smooth as glass. Imagine nothing moves, nothing makes a sound, nothing is vying for your attention.

Once you’ve pushed back the wilderness, take a deep breath and listen…

Listen for the voice of the One.

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Learning Our Place in HIS Story

Sorry for the long silence on this blog, I’ve been so busy with the day job and everything else in life I’ve barely had time to author emails, much less blog posts or any of my fiction work.

Today is an exception. We have a “No Guilt Sunday” for the first time in almost a year. How is this possible? Church planting is a “no rest of the weary” sort of thing. Well, we finally stopped trying to tell God what we thought we should be doing and started listening to what He wanted us to do.

A major part of that was to walk away from Uncommon Church.

It was arguably the toughest decision we’ve ever made in our spiritual lives.

In no small part due to our own egos. We wanted that church to light up the world and we wanted to be a huge part of the ignition. But, it wasn’t our church, nor the Pastor’s church, but God’s church. And, as such, He will do with it what He wills.

Late last year, the Pastor decided in order to be more directly effective on the City of Austin, he should move the church down to Hyde Park, a really neat neighborhood right near the main University of Texas (Hook ‘Em!) campus. While this was a fantastic idea for reaching college students, urbanites and others who are far from God, it was way outside our wheel house.

Anyone who knows Angie and me even a little bit knows how passionate we are about family ministries. From Love & Respect, to Wild at Heart, to Stormie Omartian and Focus on the Family, we’ve been immersed in shoring up marriages and families, helping kids and just about anything else we could find that helps people live out God’s vision for the family unit.

As you can imagine, a ministry striving to reach college students, single 20-somethings, urban hipsters and the like doesn’t really dovetail with our strengths, spiritual gifts, experiences and most importantly, our leadings from the Holy Spirit. It’s awesome that Pastor Michael and Uncommon are doing it, but that doesn’t mean it’s where the Holy Spirit has built us to serve. Every great ministry isn’t necessarily right for every missionary.

A big “Ah Ha!” moment for me came when I had the privilege of taking author and professional coach Pablo Giacopelli to the airport after a stay with the lead Pastor of Uncommon Church.

During our conversation, Pablo discussed why so many people who want to “do great things for Christ” fail. To paraphrase, if we view it as US doing something great for Christ, its ego led, ego driven and ultimately, ego ruined. Nothing rooted in our own ego can have real fruit in the Kingdom, simply because ego is the antithesis of what it’s all about.

And, if you know me at all, a guy who has been in the spotlight of sorts most of my adult life, signed more autographs than I can recall and received tons of accolades for my accomplishments, my ego is a major character flaw I struggle with daily.

As I carefully unpacked what Pablo had to say that day, I had a bit of an inner transformation, where I started to learn what it truly meant to live for Christ. With that came a need for a sabbatical of sorts. But this naturally led to me being less and less useful to Uncommon Church, which, in turn brought with it a window for the enemy to pour guilt all over me…

But, God has His Story that He’s going to tell with or without my consent. Thankfully, I stopped trying to tell my story and started listening for His.

Angie and I prayed over our decision, sought the wise council of our spiritual mentors and peers, meditated on it and finally started to see how we were not only becoming less and less effective as tools in Christ’s toolbox, but we were actually becoming a hindrance the longer we stayed with Uncommon.

With that realization, we stepped back and formally advised the Pastor we were no longer going to be part of Uncommon Church.

Tomorrow will be one month since we made that declaration and, quite honestly, while there are a lot of bittersweet emotions bubbling up (mainly the disconnect with so many friends we grew to love in the Uncommon community), we feel more spiritually healthy than we have in a very long time.

From what we can tell from the outside, Uncommon has taken an upswing since we left as well, proving once again that God blesses obedience.

Once we officially broke away from the plant, we felt God was giving us permission to just be. Just be part of a church, don’t exhaust ourselves trying to serve the church or build the church, but just be part of one.

So, we “church shopped” for a bit, checking out a few new ones, and considered one we’d already gone to several times before landing at Northpoint Church in Georgetown, TX.

During this whole journey, from striving to make Uncommon great, to the fateful discussion with Pablo, to severing ties with Uncommon, to landing at Northpoint, the concept of Spiritual Authority became increasingly present in my prayer life and reading.

During this time, I was promoted at work to store manager where I have authority over a large business, but at the same time I have to submit to corporate authority, whether I agree with it or not.

I also came to the realization I’ve never once truly submitted to spiritual authority at any Church I’ve attended.

This is a MAJOR problem.

And, one that ties back to ego.

But, no good storyteller would take the reader down a path without lots of signposts and foreshadowing  and God is the best storyteller of all.

In the course of the fortnight where this concept became the heaviest thing on my heart, I received an email from the Resurgence about the latest Church leadership coaching, entitled “Be Under Authority Before You’re In It”. Ok, Lord, I’m listening.

A few days later, Angie and I discussed Church membership and how our submission applied to it and she did some research on it, coming up with very authoritative articles from Matt Chandler and John MacArthur (It’s essential you are a member of your church! But, I’ll let you read those articles separately to discover why). Both articles contained very convicting quotes for this train of thought:

Matt Chandler: I was preparing at the time to preach through the book of Hebrews and “happened” to be in chapter 13 when verse 17 leapt off the page: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

John MacArthur: Living out a commitment to a local church involves many responsibilities: exemplifying a godly lifestyle in the community, exercising one’s spiritual gifts in diligent service, contributing financially to the work of the ministry, giving and receiving admonishment with meekness and in love, and faithfully participating in corporate worship. Much is expected, but much is at stake. For only when every believer is faithful to this kind of commitment is the church able to live up to her calling as Christ’s representative here on earth.

So, if I don’t submit myself to Church authority, how can I ever truly grow as God plans me to? How can I ever expect the Church to grow? How can I effectively witness to those inside the church and, more importantly, those outside it? And, ultimately, how can I say I’m truly submitting to Christ?

It’s not just about obeying Christ, but obeying the authority of the local Church. And, for those to work, the church you belong to must obey Christ as well, in all aspects.

So, as we start the next chapter of our walk, one that begins at the doorstep of Northpoint Church, I ask that you continue to pray for us, pray that we grow exponentially over the next few months as we take a sabbatical from serving, and learn to just be.

It starts today, as Northpoint is actually taking the weekend off so the leadership team can experience the Drive Conference at another North Point Church, in Atlanta Georgia. The overwhelming desire to be part of that is great, but the call from the Spirit telling us to rest is greater.

Thank you, Father, for making that call when we needed it most.

Thank you for showing us our place in Your story.

Posted in Be The Body, Church Plant, Follow Jesus, Inspiration, Leadership, North Point Church, Serving Jesus, Soul Storming, time with God | 1 Comment

This says it all and more

I shared this with a friend the other day (prior to the tragedy last Friday) who was giving in to anger:

There was a time when I felt I had to “get even” with anyone and everyone who slighted me. I used to relish the idea of hammering people for a pound of flesh, and have the scars all over my fists, and heart, to remind me of those days.

But, the more I got to know Jesus, the more I embraced the idea that we’re meant to absorb the negative, the hurtful, the evil, that comes our way, and not allow it to further infect the world around us. Think about it for a minute, pain is foreign to us, not something we were meant to experience pre-fall, but sin brought it into our lives…

Pain comes in, infects us and when we’re weak, we allow it to flow back out and infect others, like some insidious virus…

I came to that conclusion on my own (or maybe I finally allowed the His whispers to reach my heart), without any valid proof to back it up, but knew it felt true to me.

Then I came across scriptural backing of that idea such as
(Matthew 5:39) But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (5:40) And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

(Matthew 5:44 ) But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (5:45) that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.(5:46) If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

This really convicted me. Especially those times when the old me rose up and wanted to make someone pay for what they did. But, what really pushed me over the edge in my thinking was the idea that ‘hurting people hurt people’ and we’re ALL hurting. So, as hard as it is at times, I now try my best to forgive and pray for those who do me wrong, all the while knowing I’m just as guilty of hurting others… but God forgives me, every time.

(Matthew 18:21) Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”(18:22) Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

So, I pray you’ll put aside the anger in your heart that hurts you more than anyone else, offer forgiveness and prayer, and find some healing. You have so much beauty inside you, don’t let the enemy cloud it over with anger and pain…

In light of the tragic events at Sandy Hook, I felt led to share these ideas and those from another blogger, Andrea Young, with all of you:

Maybe instead of running we are to look out for the broken hearted and get messy with them–and pour love in. Messy people are not fun to love…but because there is only One that can heal them–and the battle is real–just maybe fighting that battle has a whole lot less to do with adding more security to our homes and schools but instead looking for those that are hurting and getting down right messy with them…and loving them BIG. Sorry folks but the enemy is a whole lot smarter than me or you–man’s inventions will not stop him or his wicked schemes…only Jesus will.

You can read the rest of Andrea’s post here.

So, today, and everyday, when someone frustrates you, remember God calls us to love, not hate. He calls us to share his kindness, not the enemies anger. He leads us to shine our light, and overcome the darkness… because if we don’t, that darkness will overcome us all…

Posted in Be The Body, Encouragement, Evangelism, Follow Jesus, Inspiration, Leadership, Serving Jesus | 1 Comment

Worthy of Assault

Last week was a blur.

So many things went wrong at work I could barely keep my head on straight. I was fairly convinced it was spiritual warfare, due to the impending launch of Uncommon Church on Sunday, but didn’t know for sure.

Then, on Friday, one of our tech’s was installing cylinder heads on a small SUV for one of my customers. For those unfamiliar with what a cylinder head is, check out this link.

For scale, the head in question is about 20” long, eight inches deep and about eight inches tall. It’s rectangular, has a low center of gravity and weighs about 40 lbs.

While one of our service consultants and the technician doing the work were standing there, the cylinder head dumped over, longwise, off the cart it was sitting on and hit the floor.

No one touched it or the cart to knock it off.

Essentially, a block of aluminum, 20″ long, lifted up on it’s end and dumped off the cart all by itself.

The sheer physics involved would make the very idea of this happening seem utterly impossible.

Yet it did.

The tech and consultant who witnessed it are not Christ followers.

Neither has any explanation. The tech, a Sicilian who seems to have a bit of a superstitious bent to his personality, is simply convinced the SUV in question is “jinxed”. The consultant said “I’ve never seen anything like it, still can’t believe it happened.”

When it hit the ground, it shattered a part bolted to the end that we couldn’t replace until Monday. When that part shattered, my entire work week went down the tubes with it, since a significant portion of my check is commission. Essentially ensuring that I’d not only miss the mark I need to hit every week just to pay our bills, but get my name put on a company-wide weekly list of “under performers”.

Since I was just promoted less than a month ago, ending up on that list is not a good thing.

But, when it happened, and I was told how it happened, I took a certain amount of joy from the occurrence.

Why?

Because I knew why the head suddenly defied gravity and pitched off the cart. The enemy was firing shots at me.

And nothing could make me happier than to know I’m doing something for Christ that puts me in the enemy’s cross-hairs.

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.- Act 5:41
On top of my chronic physical pain, having this stress added to a week that had already been filled with turmoil would have made my old self descend into bitter defeat.

Thankfully, Jesus loves me and knowing that, makes all the difference in my world.

I’m worthy of assault! YAY! 🙂

Posted in Be The Body, Church Plant, Encouragement, Evangelism, Follow Jesus, Inspiration, Leadership, Serving Jesus, time with God | Leave a comment

Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain?

Do you take the Lord’s name in vain?

Something that’s stuck out to me lately is the difference in verbiage when someone says “Oh my God” versus those who say “Oh my gosh.” Don’t ask me why this has jumped out at me recently, I have no control over my own mind…

However, as I dug into the thought of why people say it one way or the other, I replayed memories of people telling me long ago not to say “oh my God” as it’s taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Thinking on that some more, I rattled the idea around in my head of what it really meant to take the Lord’s name in vain. Was it calling on His power for foolish, superficial purposes? Was it making too little of who He really is? Was it once considered scoffing at God?

I’m sure if I ask a dozen people “What do you define as taking the Lord’s name in vain?” I’ll get at least a dozen varying answers.

But, then this question came to me: “What is the Lord’s name?”

Exodus 3:13-14 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”

God tells Moses to tell them “I AM” has sent you. The One who is, was and always shall be.

Taking that even further down the path of my mental meanderings, I came back to a topic I’ve put a lot of deep thought into over the last few weeks: Who am I?

This took me one step further, when I had one of those epiphany moments where someone flipped the light bulb on in my bald attic.

God created me to be who I Am. He Designed Me to be who I Am.

So, if I’m not striving to be who I am, then the case can be made that I’m taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Check out this post from my awesome Pastor, Michael Robison. I’ll wait right here while you do.

Done? Good.

If we’re spending a great majority of our time trying to be the person other people want us to be, or worse, the person we want other people to think we are, then we’re not embracing who really we are. If I strive to make people like me, instead of being who I am, then I’m taking the Lord’s name for me in vain.

This, of course, makes me wonder, is Jesus more saddened when I say “Oh my God” flippantly, or when I live my life striving to be someone I’m not? Losing the me he created behind the false face of the me I created.

A great deal of my young life was spent being told I was worthless. As a teenager, I rebelled against that idea and strove to prove to everyone I was worth far more than I really am. Now, those two personas, the young boy who feels worthless, and the egotistical, over confidant young man war within me every day. All the while, who I AM sits off in the corner, alone and forgotten.

Somehow, I have to think that’s the greater crime, the greater offense, the greater loss to the Kingdom than any off the cuff expression, or particular bit of foul language.

So, my question is, do you embrace the I Am God designed you to be, or are you toiling away behind your artificial façade, crafted by your own hand?

Are you taking the Lord’s name for you in vain?

Sadly, I am…

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