Boys To Men

I'll never forget the words dad spoke to me on the first Saturday of March in 1979. I was just beginning an epic journey across Alaska on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. At 18 years of age, it was the first year I could compete in the grueling 1,100-mile journey. Men three times my age and tougher than nails were gathered around me. Some had predicted I'd have to scratch from the race and others intimated I'd die on the way to Nome, Alaska. The test in front of me was brutal without a doubt. Fear would creep in at times during the months of training leading up to the start. But here I was, staring down the trail that would lead me into danger like I'd never really imagined.

It was at the very moment I was ready to pull the snow hook that anchored my team and sled that my dad said he needed to talk with me. He prayed for me and then over the noise of my dogs barking and lunging to hit the trail he said, "Son, I already have my plane ticket to Nome, I'll see you when you get there." A little over 21 days later I made it to Nome, Alaska. Because of my dad's few but powerful words, it never dawned on me that I couldn't make it. What a gift dad gave me at the start of a race that shaped my life. 

Every boy needs to be spoken words of life into their heart. My friend and advisor for 180 Chicago Church, Robert Lewis, encourages dads to tell their sons three important things and to do it often. I've done it with my son and you can too. It'll help carry them through the race of life!

Special Note: This Father's Day, Karl will be giving a message at for all men – Like A Man! If you need a shot of encouragement for the journey, click join us and reserve your free autographed copy of THRILL: When Normal Is Not Enough, written by Karl. See you Sunday


Why Our Prayers Go Nowhere...

I was lost and looking. Asking God why he seemed so far away. How could a man who God had so radically saved feel so alone? "Why God – why do my prayers go nowhere"?

God hadn't moved. His grace was at the ready. His love was as real and awesome as ever. He was calling to my soul – taking me deeper still. He would not be minimized or allow me to settle for too little. I had a tough lesson to learn.

The Lesson: God allowed me to pray into a hollow place. The great answers I'd received in the past were just that – in the past. Now God was silent. The Lesson Made Clear: God loves so deeply that he was unwilling to allow me to treat my wife, poorly. I have never abused my wife. If it was within my power, nothing of earthly value was withheld. But Junanne needed more. She needed what God asked of me – to love my wife as Christ loved the church. Junanne needed my time, my love, my friendship.

God loved my wife, and me, enough to freeze me out. My prayers were bouncing off the ceiling because God wanted to get my attention. I learned in that season that God is jealous for us to encounter his best and he won't let us settle for less. 

Love compels God to go silent. He is unwilling to leave us stunted in growth. Our prayers go nowhere when God wants us to thrive. Are you in a hollow place? Consider the following scriptures. If you recognize yourself in any of these – confess, turnaround and enjoy times of refreshing. 

God is waiting...

Ignoring Truth – “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” (Proverbs 28:9)

Holding Bitterness – “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25)

Too Distracted For God – “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James 1:2)

Flawed Motives – “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 1:3)

Treating Wives Poorly - “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (I Peter 3:7)

Rejecting God’s Grace – “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.” (John 9:31)

Unconfessed Sin - “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.” (Psalm 66:18-19)

Doubting God’s Ability -“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-7)

Special Note: I gave a message last Sunday that might give you fresh hope and real power. It was the first message in a new series called: The IT Factor. Take a listen here.

Like a Lady

What God says about being a lady…

  • Women are image bearers more than child bearers.
    “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and   female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

  • Women are equal to men more than different from men.
    “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. Galatians 3:27-28

  • Women are defined by inner strength more than outer beauty.
    “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious”. I Peter 3:3-4

How then do real men treat a lady?

  • As divine creations, not sexual objects.

  • With admiration for their gifting/talents.

  • Passionate for them to grow in strength.

The church gets brighter when our ladies get stronger!

PAIN: God Can Use That

The path to victory is rarely a straight line and God designed it that way!  We have to get this next truth etched in our soul or we'll bail out right before any goal is achieved–any victory is won. Ask God to tattoo this on the wall of your mind: Any REAL victory doesn't happen in spite of happens BECAUSE of adversity! That mind-blowing reality must find a home in our heart. At the moment when all of hell (and half of the earth) is screaming "give up", perseverance is paramount!

Now, not every soul-jarring event or crazy season of life is from God's hand, but God wastes absolutely nothing. He's cooking up a custom recipe for your next victory. Your life is filled with personal failure, random miss steps, blindside betrayal and it's seasoned with unwanted/unwarranted heartache. But God still sees your quiet desire to go His way. God loves your broken but yet undivided heart. And then the craziest thing the moment when most people have said "to hell with it", you say, "all I have left is this little muscle of faith God, can you do something with it", and God miraculously moves that mountain that you're facing today! This isn't spiritual smoke and mirrors. You'll have a story of victory that builds strength for tomorrow and someone in this world is desperate to hear your story of perseverance.  

Resistance is the only way to get physically buff and resistance is the only way to get spiritually buff. But there is one huge difference. Spiritual strength is never for show, it's for personal, subtle, daily victories that build on one another and encourages the soul of another until we find ourselves "mature and complete, lacking nothing".  Maybe you're drained from the battle and calculating the cost of shame–"should I quit". It could be you already turned back, embraced defeat because the challenges were just too huge and too long. Here's the great news: God can give you a ride back to the front lines today. It's never too late to start over. You've never given up for too long. As you're moving out of the valley of death and through the kingdom of darkness, get a mental imge of a train or large public wall and tag it with this God graffiti ..." you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good." Listen, mountains make us strong, valleys keep us humble and pain deepens our need for God. Reject the voices that whisper an invitation to quit or compromise. And when the need for relief seems unbearable, stop/wait for a time at the streams of living water and renew your strength. Perseverance is possible and God can use that!

James 1, Luke 17, Gen. 50:20, Rom.5:1-5, John 7

Recovery For Everyone!

I have a great love for "Recovery Ministry". It's a wonderfully powerful group of people who have amazing stories of God's grace. And if you want to find a dynamic, alive, and trusted friend, "recovery ministry" is a great pool to go fishin' in.

But I've witnessed something, that with a slight tweak, could radically impact the church. We've categorized recovery issues at the peril of us all. We see alcoholism, drug abuse, anger, sex addiction and a few others as bad enough to warrant help. Here's the problem, it can create a sense of, "those recovery, folks". This is dangerous for two reasons. 1. We begin to look down at others and think of ourselves more highly than we ought. 2. We lose the potential of everyone receiving the help we all need, and we all truly need it.

The solution is slight but holds big results. We need to embrace the realities of life in a sinful and broken world. We all have sinned, we are all broken people, and by God's grace, we are in the process of changing (sanctification) – we are all in recovery or we're not growing. Some flaws are more visible and visibly destructive. But everyone who sins this side of heaven injures themselves and others – we all need help and healing. Here's the point: We will ALL get better together when we stop trying to handle things on our own. This is good news for serial gossips, leaders who are reckless, recovering perfectionists, drive-by accusers, professional victims, and self-elevating embellishers.

I've had the joy of seeing movements of God a couple times. A chief characteristic was a humble need for God without any judgment. We were so overwhelmed by God's grace we were rather underwhelmed with ourselves. It created a momentum that was undeniably out-of-this-world. God's been etching this in my heart and it's one of my core convictions as we've launched 180 Chicago. It's simple: When the church believes that we're all in recovery, we'll have a growing ministry, because the gospel will have fresh credibility.

II Corinthians 4:7 (read and meditate on this one for a bit)

If you're looking for a church with dreams as big as yours...join us this Sunday!

Please say it, "God, make me clean".

The good news and the result of God touching our life is no small thing. But for too many, the reality and power of salvation is elusive because they've settled for intellectual ascent but the power of the gospel has never touched their soul. Many have walked aisles but not yet walked with God. This doesn't have to be the case.

Take a listen to some of the clearest evidence of what happens when authentic change happens. When God touches a heart and turns a life, it comes "not only in word but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction". This is how each of us can have the assurance of know "that he has chosen you". I Thessalonians 1:4-5

Yes, we can be so close and yet so far away from saving faith. The illusion of salvation is so blinding that no one is beyond the reach of its deception. Jesus says that preachers, demon casters, and even Christian workers can claim the name of God...and not be his kids. Matthew 7:21-23

It's no accident that just following those stone sobering words by Jesus, a leper (one that was filthy and believed to suffering from his sin) approached him. He simply said, "Lord, make me clean". The answer to our lostness, deception, and powerless life is to confess the uncleanliness of our soul and trust Jesus to touch it and turn it. Let him! Matthew 8:1-3

I'm so grateful for the work God is doing in your life. It's a new day! Please read what's below and lean into your new journey. Welcome to the family! 

Next steps:
1. Share with your friends that you have called out to God and surrendered to Jesus.
2. Get your hands on a good Bible (English Standard version is what I use) and make it a new friend.
3. Find a church that has love and speaks truth right from the word of God. Click here!
4. Celebrate! The life that God has begun in you will continue. (Philippians 1:6)

Hope To See You!

Many people wonder if they can discover and fully live-out their purpose. The simple answer – Yes you can! Come get the truth about how Jesus appeared to people after his resurrection and how he wants to show up in your life. We also have a free resource to help you on your journey. Join us this Sunday, 10AM, at Whitney Young. 

Bust Through The Resistance

The minute we get serious about anything in life we WILL face resistance. I don’t care what you attempt to tackle. Lose weight, sharpen a skill, eradicate an addiction, or conquer a fear - resistance is lurking for anyone who wants to get a win. This resistance is internal and external. It’s in the air and is on the ground. These forces are vicious and want to stop you before you get started. Period.

This is the case in faith more than any other pursuit. I’ve never met a single person who wanted to go and grow with God who didn’t feel resistance in harsh and tangible ways.

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted...”

The world we live in is constantly pressing us to not be radical, to give up and not risk failure. Ironically, resistance tells us to return to mediocrity but never reveals that all it’s selling is ultimate failure.

Press through. Don’t stop. Dig in. Fortify yourself with truth. Gather allies who are in the struggle with you. It’s worth it all. 

Build Your Squad

One of the "Big 3" values at 180 Chicago is Allies: Align your life with God and allies who want you to win.  This is a critical value that will make us stronger or drag us under. When we get relationships right it's a beautiful thing. Today on-air we're calling it "Build Your Squad".

For years I underestimated just how critical relationships are in taking hold of God's promises. If you surround yourself with people who can strengthen you when you're down and cheer with you when you're winning you have a true comrade in Christ.

This is touchy to discuss but even in the church, there are people who are not spiritually healthy. This doesn't mean that we discard them at all. But it also doesn't mean that we have to share the deepest part of our lives with them. Being selective with those we share our deepest thoughts, our sin, our shame, and even our victories, is a selection process that God calls us to be mindful of. Consider Psalm 1, the first three verses:

Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law, he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The clear implication is that we're better off walking alone with God and his word than to surround ourselves with the wrong people. There are unwise people both outside and even inside the church who we should not sit with, stand with, or walk with. Want to really grow up in Christ? We need to get the wrong people out and the right people in – build your squad.

The church is the greatest possible institution on earth, but not everyone who calls themselves a Christian is able to help us grow up in Christ – some are even pretenders. We can't have a spirit of judgment, but we must ask the Holy Spirit to help us exercise judgment for those we should share our lives with. 

Getting our life aligned with God and finding allies who will exhort us, cry with us, and even cheer for us when we get a win, is critical to our spiritual prosperity – build your squad. 

But here's a few questions that will help us think through relationships: Who is the church? How many friends do I need? What should I expect from all the people in attendance? Where do I go for help? What is my role? This requires we see our squad, our relationships/Allies in the church through a few different lenses. 

Benefit Allies - Allies that benefit us are those who we may know little of, but when we see them or hear of them we are the better for it. These are those brothers and sisters across town or across the world who are on the mission but not in our congregation or our daily lives. They send messages or we hear a word of their faith and it emboldens us to stand strong on the rock. The Iranian underground church is that kind of benefit to us. To hear of saints who smuggle and share pieces of a bible so everyone will have something and no one is caught, is a direct benefit to our faith. These allies are in the battle – all around the world!

Builder Allies - Some Allies build us up. This is why Paul wrote to a central group of followers in a city who were meeting together and encouraged them to each use the gifts God had given them. Some of the phrases Paul used were, "varieties of gifts", "are one body",  "the parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable" (I Cor. 12). Here's the bottom line: In the local congregation, it's all hands on deck, or whatever part you are. We can't have anyone on the sidelines because we are stronger when we all do our part together.

Buddy Allies - There is a level of relationship that can only be shared with a few. Jesus modeled this with Peter, James, and John, and he did it for a reason – we're not designed to have more than a few really close friends. These buddies are people who love you no matter what you've done, are doing, or will do in the future. They are in for the long haul. There are unfazed by your blunders and not overwhelmed by your victories. They love you and you love them enough to say, "wait a minute", and they always believe God for big things in your life. Everybody needs a buddy or two, or three. But not much more than that. Unapologetically pray for a few close spiritual buddies, your vitality in Christ is riding on it. 

These lenses can help us see relationships in the church with fresh eyes. We'll be the better for it.

Church Shopping: The Big Three

If you're looking for a church you're doing a great thing! We need Jesus and we need to surround ourselves with God's kids. But how do you know you've landed in a place where you can plug in and thrive? What should we be looking for? 

Let me give you my Big Three! There are many more characteristics of dynamic church congregations but these are three that should be at the core of any church – if you're going shopping look for these.

LOVE - This is how the world will know we are his kids (John 13:25). It matters that we love each other because anyone who is hurting, and we all are, will be looking for loving and caring group of people. Most people don't need perfection, just love. When we are united in love we send a message to the world that Jesus is legit (John 17:22-23).

TRUTH - Since truth will set you free how could not want a church that busts open the word of God (John 8:32)? And we live in a world that leaks – we tend to get easily emptied of truth and rely on our own wisdom over time. This is why we need truth no matter how much it may sting our ears (II Tim. 4:1-4).

MISSION - The church has to be on the move or you don't want to get on it. We are called to prevail as a church which indicates it's moving and busting through gates of evil and opposition (Matt. 16:18). Get on board with a church that's on the go – that exactly what Jesus said to do (Matt. 28:19-20). This is the joy of the church – partnered with God to reach the world with the hope of the gospel.

You may have others and I could add to this list. But these Big Three will serve you well. If you're looking keep your eyes open for these. If you're in a church, work to make these a living reality around you. 


That's Me!

This has been an amazing couple days on the radio in Chicago. Hundreds of people are surrendering to Jesus and finding how powerfully God loves them and changes lives. If this is you, please know that we want to help you take your next step With Jesus. All next week we'll be providing practical resources that will launch you forward with God. Until then, I hope you find encouragement from my story – Yes, God radically changes lives – That's me!

God did a miracle in my life. He saved me from cocaine, crown royal, carousing, et al. But mainly God saved me from my greatest sin, my self-led life. God has helped me to remember some rough memories in those months leading up to the transforming work he did in me. God isn't rubbing anything in my face, just allowing me to never forget that miracles do happen.

This stroll down memory lane causes me to weep, but they’re tears of joy and satisfaction, like staring grace in the face. Here are just a couple scenes God showed me: I would scour my apartment, scraping mirrors, breaking open gram vials for just one more line of “blow”. I would swing from being crazy with laughter and life at parties, then be retreating in the early morning to my room, curled up in a dark corner feeling overwhelmed with an empty soul but not knowing what to do. Feeling the weight of living up to my potential and the crushing emptiness of what others saw as victory and success was a whiplash of emotions. I was religious but not redeemed, I was lying to myself and churning with internal pain, but God was standing in my shadow extending mercy.

Then God took me to a place of spiritual nakedness. He pulled down the filter of denial. I realized then that God saw me and my sin more clearly than I could see myself and he didn’t despise me. I didn’t choose Him, he overwhelmed me. He showed me a love that was stronger than my shame. I can say with certainty that I did nothing but admit my deep need for hope and my rabid desire to truly live. I surrendered my life to Jesus, there was no option. Then the flood came. God irrigated my soul with streams of living water. Every tear of shame was followed by two tears of forgiveness and joy. Where chaos had ruled my heart, peace now lived.

So today I celebrate the grace of God that’s still changing me. I have learned that being broken and at the end of ourselves is the thing we most resist, that holds the greatest promise! This is life, and I live to tell as many people about it as I possibly can. 

If you want to hear another story of God's radical love, read this: Luke 15:1-7


Cut To The Heart

Ten years ago my family went through a life-altering pain. It was born out of many things: envy, pride, jealousy, and betrayal. We cried for many years and still have lingering memories that can cause twinges of pain again. But the grace of God is powerful. He used this devastating season to change me and many others. Some have never acknowledged their sin and pride but that's not my fight. I learned that the greatest thing I could do was allowing God to search ME! I hope this short blog can liberate you from the deadly root or grip of bitterness. 

Strip away all the trappings of health-wealth prosperity and pop psychology, and we can discover how someone's life truly changes – how we can have abundant life. Behavior modification (which usually trades one bad habit for another) and victimization counseling (which avoids dealing with personal sin) can both be a huge help but something else must pierce through. Being cut to the heart over our own sin can take second place to nothing.

We've all been burned by someone and we've all burned others, either by sins of commission or omission. If you can't own that, you're in a bad place. But for anyone willing to face the music, you're about to dance.

Imagine you get burned, and I mean scorched, by someone you love. But now raise the stakes and add in that people are watching – drawing conclusions without knowing all the facts. This will undoubtedly be a way of life, in this life, so we better learn how to handle it. I believe there are three general responses to being burned. Each of these three will dictate what we think about, talk about, and how we walk-out this life.

Tough It Out: This is a mental psyche job. We amp ourselves up. We say things like "greater is He", "I know who I am", and "it's a new day". These things are powerful and true, but without one critical piece, it's all band-aids. All the goals, grit, and willing ourselves forward will only intensify the pain down the road. Self-will always collapses in a heap.

Blame Someone Else: This is so easy and so incomplete. I get it, pointing fingers isn't always wrong. Sometimes we point the right direction and put our finger on a problem. But casting blame is a funny thing. It can leave us feeling justified at a gut level, and our public persona left intact, but personal peace will remain elusive. There's a level of satisfaction in casting blame but there's a hollowness that remains.

Cut To The Heart: We can never enjoy something as being sweet without a taste of bitterness. We can't understand the rush of mountains until we've crawled through valleys. And we can't know peace without being cut to the heart. The first revival in scripture is predicated on one supernatural reality - "they were cut to the heart".

There is one savior, a ton of sin in our world, and one solution. People must be cut to the heart of their personal and individual sin. We can't be tough enough to handle the pain of our own failings. And we can't point fingers without running low on energy or be running out of people to blame.

When we are cut to the heart we begin to gain strength that we could never contrive. And God himself goes to bat for us to deal justly with all the injustice we've ever faced. Go ahead, let the grace of God cut to the heart. That's when abundance begins.

Acts 2:37

Chivalry Wins

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. I Corinthians 16:13-14

Okay men, here’s the good news…chivalry still gets style points! In a world where the distinctive line blurs between male/female, women still love their men to be manly. The plain truth is that women and men need the seasoning each gender brings to the table. We are completely equal and yet totally different. Real men love to have their life flavored by a good woman. And women need their man to be THE man - it’s a required spice of life, just ask most women. 

There is a "code of conduct” that became popular as the Titanic was sinking into deadly waters. The mad scramble on its listing decks was to get as many women and children into life rafts as was possible. The code is branded into history - “Women and Children First”! This code of conduct that played out on that fateful night of April 14, 1912 is what makes the story epic. Imagine if it was “each man for himself” or “each man did what was right in his own eyes”. This would just be another tragic watery grave of shame. But the Titanic lives on because of heroism, valor and chivalry, more than almost any other reason.

This code has roots that reach back thousands of years. The code of chivalry and respect for women and children was cooked up by God himself. It’s the rightful order of things. And when we get the order out of whack, we lose a wonderful story and gain only shame. We need a revival of the code. And that revival needs to begin with you - soon you’ll have an epic tale that someone else will tell.

Here's a few key steps you can take today to reclaim Christ-like Chivalry:

  • Be a man of God. This sounds mountainous but it's the choice to set down self-will and be God's man, today. Stu Weber coined the phrase Tender Warrior and that captures the heart of true man of God. We aren't called to be soft but to be tender – as tender as our Savior. We also can't be passive. Passivity is a result of the fall but Jesus placed his Spirit in us and we can bravely stand as warriors who reject passivity and take responsibility. 
  • Be an initiator not a responder. You don't have to be a Type A guy to initiate. Some of God's greatest men are quiet but they step up and step out, not waiting for prodding or poking. But this initiation can only be done in response to prayerful surrender to Jesus and submitting to his calling. As a disciple of Christ we listen to the voice of God and move when he calls. Faithful men fail forward and no one faults a man who follows the leading of God.
  • Be a learner. Chivalrous men are learning men. We learn from other men, women, and people who we meet in those God moments of life. But the greatest men on this earth have someone bigger than themselves or others to give them direction – God alone! And men who are learners lean into God's word because they've seen the folly of flying by the seat of their pants. 

Chivalry still gets style points today. Rack the points moment by moment and day by day. Go get a win...God is cheering for you!

When Lonely: Don't do this...Do this.

Loneliness is both a reality we'll all face and an opportunity that has the potential to launch us spiritually. First, we need to call out those pretenders. There are three things that vie for our attention when we get hammered with a lonely heart. These three things promise the moon but simply can't deliver. 

1. Things: We could also call this "stuff". Things or stuff want us to reach into our wallet and try to purchase something to fill the void of loneliness. Even a shopping spree can dull the pain for a time, but then the pain of loneliness will return with even more power when the material buzz wears off. 

2. Noise: There isn't enough music or sit-coms to dull the pain of loneliness. Noise can be a distraction for an evening but when we head off to bed the silence within us can be overwhelming. For some, the noise of life has actually become our friend. But this friendship can never truly satisfy. It leaves us with a hollow sense of lifelessness. 

3. Fools: When loneliness hits us we are tempted to find almost anyone to fill us up. Some lonely people have wandered into marital commitments with fools. More of us have given away our heart, our deepest longings, and our wildest dreams, to a fool. Fools can dress up in church clothing, talk with authority, and even feign compassion. But the person who, out of their own insecurity, is willing to trade confidences to climb a ladder of approval is dangerous. Fools will also contrive stories to climb in authority. Don't be on the same ladder with a fool. The temptation to become "tight" too quickly must be squelched. Watch and wait. See if they've thrown others under the bus in the past and stay clear until trust can be gained over time. 

The bottom line: No single thing, no noise, and no fool can fill the void of loneliness. Take the time, I mean to carve out time, to cultivate a friendship with God when no one else seems to be there. The whole idea of new life is that, in Christ, we now have a "friend". God gives us prizes in disguise. Loneliness can be a bonanza – getting to know the greatest friend on earth. He has a vantage point like no other friend and he can overflow us with his presence. Yes, we need friends to fill us up. But let God touch our deepest needs, first!

John 15:15

EVENT - College and Work-force Single Adults: Nite-out with Karl & Junanne on February 23rd. Karl will be sharing the Big 3 questions every single adult should be asking themselves that will transform relationships. Come to this Sunday for more info.


I've never met an honest person who didn't feel like a total loser at some point in life – I sure have. Some have even wondered if our desire for winning is misguided because we tend to fail so often. And there's a real nasty rumor that Christians should "get saved", "be good", but not expect too much from life.

Well here's some good news...God wants you to get some wins under your belt. There is a powerful word in the New Testament: κερδαίνω - kerdaínō [ker-dah'-ee-no] – it's best translated win/gain. These stories show 8 ways God calls you to be a winner.

2018 might be your most pivotal and transformational year yet. I'll be posting Vlog's in 2018 that capture the essence of our Sunday messages. Join us this Sunday at 180 Chicago and hear how God invites you to be a winner! 

What's Your Word? 2018

Do you have a word that you hope captures your life for 2018? It's not too late to grab one up. Pray and see what word might be your word for the New Year.

I did a deep dive on my word. It's a Greek word used 16 times in the N.T. The passages are absolutely awesome. So here's a look at what God is doing in my heart and I trust that God will make these things the character of my life. Go find yourself a word or use mine – WIN! Blessings in 2018!

2018 - Win or Gain
κερδαίνω - kerdaínō [ker-dah'-ee-no]

I will Win/Gain by: 

  1. Living for eternity - Matthew 16

  2. Knowing God intimately - Philippians 3:8

  3. Loving family sacrificially - I Peter 3

  4. Making decisions wisely - Acts 27

  5. Speaking truth daily - Matthew 18

  6. Investing talents fearlessly - Matthew 25

  7. Reaching people authentically - I Corinthians 9

  8. Living life strategically - James 4

Live Fully in the Present and Relax about the Future

Day-tight compartments. That's a modern phrase for what Jesus spoke of 2000 years ago. We don't need to worry about tomorrow because today has enough challenges and God has us covered anyhow (Matt. 6:25-34). One of the most staggeringly profound truths of our God is that as his kids we have access to his comfort and provision – Daily! God is our provider. Period. Full stop.

Yes, we can live fully in the present and relax about the future. Now here's a good one. The University of Cincinnati did a study on worry and their finding are awesome. Here's just a piece of what they found:

It turns out that 85 percent of what subjects worried about never happened, and with the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning. This means that 97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misperceptions.

So how much more should we as God's kids be assured of God's provision? Add God's love to any equation and what we have is something extraordinary. Live fully in the present today! Because we can.

I want to extend an invitation to you. We are building a strong core at a new church in the west loop – God is doing something truly amazing and I'd like for you to pray about visiting us and maybe joining this new ministry. Just click here for directions. See you Sunday!

God's Vision is Great...Get a Little Fired Up!

Our emotions need to catch up with the vision God has for our lives. Any vision from God is not ho-hum. When Nehemiah shared God's vision to build a city where God's kids could live and thrive, this is what they said, "let us rise up and build"! What's not felt is the emotion in their response. The language indicates intense passion. When you get God's vision, get little fired up!

No matter what we may think at any given moment, God's truth trumps our thoughts. It's never too late, we're never too old. We're never too worn out, or too worn down. We're never too lost, or too far gone. We're never too battered, never too shattered, for God to pull it all together. God can do more through our frailty than we can ever pull-off through our efforts of sheer humanity.  If we can take a breath we have a life that needs to be fully lived. Don't let the dream die!

God can do more in the eleventh hour than we can do in the ten prior. There's a debilitating lie that roams around boardrooms, whispered in small groups, and wages a private war against our minds. This lie pushes God-given potential and endless possibility further into a dark hole of discouragement and defeat. And here is the subtle killer..."Past performance is the best predictor of future success", or "your current situation will never change". This is a grand lie! It denies that we were all made "in the image of God". It overlooks endless the biblical stories of redemption, often built on multiple layers of perceived failures. It ignores the passion of God to change a life and His power to do it. It reduces the "good news" to a myth and leaves Jesus dead in a grave. We can't let the dream die because God is alive!

God loves to give vision to His kids. He loves to show himself faithful when we feel frail. Any notion that God paints a general picture of a richer future and then abandons us to stumble along is flatly untrue. This is certain: Nothing gives God more joy than moving you from where you stand today, taking courageous and bold steps tomorrow, and ultimately realizing the vision and dreams that God gave you – so get fired up!

Nehemiah 2:18, Genesis 15:1-6

We're building our core team and I invite you to join us. This Sunday I'm going to send you away with hope and passion from the book of Nehemiah. Join us by clicking here!

180 Wall-Builders

In the first six chapters of Nehemiah, we find an epic story of love, courage, and victory. The task was huge – a wall extending over 12,000 ft., nearly 40 ft. tall, over 12 feet wide, more than 30 watchtowers, and 7 enormous gates. The timeline was tight – 52 days! 

But the purpose is often lost in the magnitude of the task. It was to create a safe place where God’s kids could live and thrive. It’s this purpose that paints a perfect backdrop for the church today. The church needs walls, not to keep people out but to allow God’s kids to live and thrive. 

At 180 Chicago, a new church in the west loop, we’re in a season of building walls. We need people who are committed to the principles outlined below. I’m teaching through these 13 truths. This next week we’re on principle number 4. Our hope is that we grow strong and provide a place where anyone seeking shelter in a relationship with Christ will live and thrive.

If you’re looking for a place to stand shoulder to shoulder with other broken people who are hungry to honor God, you’ll want to check us out. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have wall-builders who have no agenda but to honor God and seek him through dependent prayer. This is a church that will stand strong so many will come to Jesus and find a place to live and thrive.

I hope to see you Sunday if God is prompting your heart. Click here for meeting times and location.

  1. We must be broken over the condition of Chicago and it’s people. 
  2. We must ask God for favor with leaders and people of influence.  
  3. We must expect spiritual opposition no matter how noble our vision.
  4. We must assess the condition and needs of the people we want to reach.
  5. We must allow ourselves to get a little animated over the mission.
  6. We must remember that any great work is God’s work.
  7. We must stand shoulder to shoulder with each other.
  8. We must guard our minds as evil will attempt to mock us off mission.
  9. We must have a mindset that views work as a way to honor God.
  10. We must know that any progress will be met with fierce resistance.
  11. We must be eager to rally support and help each other out.
  12. We must expect leadership to serve alongside and not burden us.
  13. We must give all glory and honor to God in every victory.

Stop "Try-ing & Should-ing" - Start Living

When Jesus transforms our life it's more than redirecting our life, it's about filling our life with his life. "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me..." (Gal. 2:20). This means we can stop try-ing and should-ing – we can start living!

This miracle of new birth is something to be grasped and never surrendered. All the forces of evil and many well-meaning people want to drag us back to living in our own strength (or theirs) and in our own wisdom (or theirs). This all boils down to living from the inside-out and not the outside-in. When we draw our strength and wisdom from our spiritual center we can walk in freedom. When the noise of the outside is our focus we find ourselves striving in our own strength an performing for the eyes of others.

You may be feeling like you've slipped back into outside-in living or you've never experienced living from the inside-out. Today is filled with new mercy. God wants to live in and through you!

Here are a couple ideas:

  • Have a conversation with God today. Talk with him throughout the many movements of your next several hours. Ask him to give you the inside scoop on life. The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth so take a listen to the conversation – talk with God.
  • Resist living by shoulds and oughts and stop trying. Literally live from the center out. This means taking time to put space between opportunity and decision. It requires that we not live to please people. It involves God in all our decisions. 

Try-ing and should-ing is exhausting. Start living!