Amazing Grace - Prayer Changes Things

God is so good to his kids! When we were living apart from God, because of our sin, we experienced Common Grace. CG is a theological term that refers to God's great love for all of mankind, that no matter where we stand with God we get a taste of his goodness. Through creation, relationships, commerce, travel, etc..., God is giving a glimpse of grace – common grace. Wow!

But when we are snatched out of the darkness and saved by God, boom, we step into amazing grace! There are many facets to God's amazing grace but one is that our prayers can change the course of our lives and those around us. Yes, it's true. Why pray? God loves to grace us with answering those prayers and change things. Read the list (thanks to Michael Bronson) below and take your prayers to God with confidence and dependence. Prayer changes things – maybe your day or even your life. 

  • 1 Chron. 5:20 - God responded to Manasseh’s prayers
  • 1 Kings 9:3 - God responded to their prayers
  • 1 Samuel 1:9-23 - God answered Hannah’s prayer and she gave birth to Samuel
  • 2 Chron. 1:11 - God gave gracious favors in answer to people’s prayers
  • 2 Chron. 32:20 - God answered Hezekiah’s prayer while in battle
  • 2 Chron. 33:19 - God was moved by Manasseh’s prayers
  • 2 Chron. 7:12 - God responded to their prayers
  • 2 Kings 20:5 - God responded to Hezekiah’s prayers
  • 2 Samuel 21:14 - God answered prayer on behalf of the land.
  • 2 Samuel 21:25 - God answered prayer on behalf of the land
  • Acts 10:31 - Cornelius’ prayers were answered
  • Acts 10:4,5 - Cornelius’ prayers were answered
  • Acts 28:8-10 - Paul healed people through his prayers
  • Deut. 9:18, 20 - Aaron’s golden calf greatly angered the Lord. As a result of Moses’ prayer, God didn’t destroy a large number of people.
  • Ezra 8:23 - God answered Ezra’s prayers
  • Genesis 25:21 - The Lord answered Isaac’s prayers
  • Isaiah 38:4,5 - God added 15 years to Hezekiah’s life in response to his prayers
  • Job 42:8, 9 - God accepted Job’s prayers for his friends
  • Joshua 10:12-14 - Joshua prayed and the sun stopped moving
  • Luke 1:13 - Elizabeth became pregnant (with John the Baptist) because of Zechariah’s prayers
  • Mark 11:24 - We will receive whatever we ask for in prayer
  • Mark 9:29 - Certain kinds of demons can only be cast out with prayer
  • Matthew 21:22 - We will receive whatever we ask for in prayer
  • Proverbs 15:8 - Prayers of the upright please God
  • Psalm 102:17 - God will respond to the prayers of the destitute
  • Psalm 6:9 - God accepted David’s prayers
  • James 5:15 - The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well
  • James 5:16 - The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective

Let us pray! 
 

Organic Churches Thrive

There's nothing quite like the dynamism of watching a church thrive. When new people are streaming into worship experiences, friends are hugging and back slapping, and the singing sounds like we're about to lift off – there's nothing like a thriving church. But every blessing is met with a challenge and churches are not immune – they may be at the bullseye of the target.

Today's thriving churches face a challenge much like the early church. With every spurt of growth in any church, needs arise that exceed the capacity of the current leadership. Leadership is faced with the question of how to address the need without leaving their post. 

In Acts 6:1-6 we find a powerfully relevant example of a church in growing pains. A group of people (Hellenistic Jewish widows) was being overlooked and missing out on essential needs by no fault of the leadership as much as the consequence of rapid growth. The apostles did something amazing. Instead of leaving their post of prayer and the word or setting up a fancy structure for which people could apply and be trained for leadership, they put the ball back into the laps of those who saw the need. They instructed the concerned folks to select godly men that met basic criteria and they would then commission these qualified leaders. What happens next is simply awesome, "the word increased..disciples multiplied...and many priests came to faith". (Acts 6:7)

The church thrived when it stayed organic!   He's some observations I have from Acts 6 and life as a pastor and leader:

  • Some structure is needed but too much structure stifles growth and flexibility. 
  • When leadership creates programs we often box people in and box others out.
  • Empowering people to create gives a deeper sense of ownership.
  • Organic creativity puts responsibility in the hands of the people who know the need.
  • When we give authority to people we also embed them with a sense of holy responsibility.

I've learned that God trusts his kids sometimes more than we trust each other. When leadership is willing to resist too much structure but bring order to organic – churches thrive!

Join us this Sunday 10 am @ 180 Chicago Church. Click here for details

When beat up by losers...think like a winner!

I worked at a lumber yard with a man who beat me over the head daily, and it almost killed a dream. The mind games he shot at me were, in retrospect, evil. He mocked the way I walked, my hair, the way I worked (because I could work laps around him), and the even my manhood. I was in the final year of preparing for the Iditarod and this dude who turned out to be one of the biggest losers, was actually in deep pain and wanted the world to join him – one soul at a time. People who are losing can't handle winners or anyone who is winning. It's the nature of lostness!

How do you deal with these people who live in pain and want you to join them? Think like a winner! I'm not suggesting mind games, I'm championing God's truth that's marinating in our minds. Thinking on transcendent things isn't playing games, for God's kids it's our calling to think like a winner..."For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God". What a God, he's constantly coaching, directing, correcting and inspiring us to get our lives aligned with the spiritual reality that we are brand new in Christ and we GET to live like it. We can't afford to get sucked into a losing mindset because what rolls around in our brain in the morning will likely be rolled out in our life by evening. The cause and effect of our thoughts and its direct impact on our lives are undeniable. There is no time to waste on this one. It's time to think like a winner. Not to prop up our self-esteem, but to honor God and get in the streams of His life and our joy! This is the only way to deal with the bully's who want to beat us down.

You gotta get your head around this staggering vision from God: The direct impact of rehearsing God's truth over and over in your mind produces awesome results in your life..." 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". This isn't a pipe dream or reserved for "super saints", this is God's unblushing promise for you! Please make a note: The flip side is ugly. Hang out with gossipers, mockers, small-thinkers, crass-jokers, downers or holier-than-thou'ers and life ain't gonna be pretty, because over time they get in your head. It's true...you'll start drinkin' and thinkin' from the same bath water..." futile thinking...darkens hearts". But note this little nuance: The absence of right thinking isn't necessarily neutral thinking. It can be setting us up for negative and destructive thinking. My co-worker is a metaphor for the spiritual Committee (Satan and demons) loves to fill empty spaces. So let's get our thinking aligned with God's winning truth.

Col. 3, Ps. 1:1-3, Rom. 1:21

This weekend at 180 Chicago I'll be inspiring you to defend your God-given vision. Join us...(CLICK HERE)

Church Unleashed

I've been a part of some great works of God. When God's kids get a vision of life in Christ, the Holy Spirit can launch something truly amazing. 

One of the challenges is discipleship. How do we help people grow in a world that is loaded with distractions and many opportunities – even good ones? While we are overstimulated in this tech saturated world people are as lonely as ever. We need relationship – to know and be known. 

What if we dared to let the church be the church? What if we trusted God to raise up a passion for impact in the hearts of people? And then what if we managed this passion rather than creating too much structure that ultimately stifles the power of the church as an organism? 

This Sunday I'm going to cast a vision for something that's potentially more dynamic than any structure we could as people to fit into. Come get a taste if you're able.

Pray "In the Spirit"

Praying "in the Spirit" is mentioned 3 times in scripture. It's not about the style of our prayers but rather, the means of our prayers. To pray "in the Spirit" is the intention to open the sails of our soul to hear from God and be fully lead by him. 

The Holy Spirit is not as mysterious or spooky as many believe. God's Spirit is an essential person of the Trinity and to neglect is dangerous. But the Spirit's work is both practical and tangible. Helping in "our weakness", "leading us into all truth", and giving us the "power" to live radiantly.

The need we have is simple but the fix is not easy and the war is raging – we must be still and quiet enough to hear the Spirit and not ourselves. As Watchman Nee taught so beautifully, "our outer man must be broken so that the Spirit can be released". Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit so we must invite God to break our outer man (our humanness) so the Spirit can take full control of our lives, direction, decisions, and conversations. Prayers can be prayed and life can be lived "in the Spirit"! In quietness, power is born anew. We surrender control, see our messes and our misses, confess our need, submit our will, and allow him to shape our spirit into a sail for the Holy Spirit – pray "in the Spirit". 

Keep spreading the word about a new church, 180 Chicago, on the near west side. We're already seeing God do some amazing transforming work at a heart level. Join us this weekend. Find all the info you need to know at this link.

Blessings,

Karl

Chivalry is Alive! (I'm sharing a biblical vision of manhood this Sunday)

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.

Chivalry is not Dead! Women still love men who are leading/loving servants. This Sunday I'm going to share a biblical vision for manhood and how women can help men get a win. I believe everyone will walk away encouraged.

Be our guest this Sunday, share this post, and bring a friend. Chivalry lives! See you Sunday.

https://www.180chicago.church/visitus

To Us & Through Us

Everyone shares something in common. We have been burned by others and we've burned others. It's the later part of that sentence that makes us healthy or not. Owning our own stuff makes us much healthier with respect to the bad stuff that's been done to us.

I've noticed something about people with self pity. I've seen this in myself in certain seasons and I don't want to ever go back – none of us has to. The common trait of self pity is that we can easily see the wrong that's been done to us but are reticent to acknowledge that we have, in fact, done harm to others somewhere along the line. Whether willful or subconscious recklessness, we have done injury to others, many who we love. 

There is a classic verse that wise people will never forget, "we have all sinned..." Romans 3:23. Somewhere, some time and probably more recent than we'd like to admit, we have hurt someone deeply. 

I've also noticed something about people who have been burned deeply yet stand in incredible strength. Strong people can hold two things at the same time. 1. Painful things have happened to us. 2. Painful things have happened through us to others. It's not about trying to measure who inflicted the most pain. It's about the reality that people hurt each other.

When we can hold both in hand we can then deal even more confidently and courageously with pain. We can own our own stuff and also draw definitive lines for others who have injured us and intend to do it again if we let them. The truth is the strength! Be strong on this issue today and you'll treat people more lovingly and you'll even have stronger boundaries for those who are still weak – be strong nonetheless. 

This is just a small slice of a message I'll be sharing this Sunday at 180 Chicago. You can find out about us at 180chicago.church or just click here for directions and information on free parking. I hope to see you Sunday!

 

 

New Series @ 180 Chicago

The mind of man plans his way, 
But the LORD directs his steps.


Proverbs 16:9

This Proverb is not about God scraping our plans and scolding us like we're a wayward son. This is a loving Father who coaches along the way. It's best described as the way God directs the steps of his kids who are under way and ready to honor him.  

Well, this week we're jumping into a new series at 180 Chicago and it's not what I had planned. I'm reminded often that we have plans but God orders our steps. 

This Sunday I'm going to keep veiled expect for the new Series Title:

DRUM BEATS
Religious Myths vs. Liberating Truth

Directions and details so you can be our guest this weekend? Click right HERE.

Here's a question to ponder before Sunday: If you could make a list of your life's priorities, what would they be?

We'll have a guest I'll be interviewing. Mike Felix, one of our advisors, will be interviewed and the topic will dovetail into the message. Mike oversees about 8,000 employees for AT&T across the midwest. You'll love it.

We're in the summer swing and many of you have other commitments. But please pray wherever you are. Ask God to flood us with his presence. Feel free to invite your friends, family, and neighbors. I'm expecting great things!

Blessings,

Karl 

Mary - The Ultimate "Favored" Mom

Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived a favored life. Luke's gospel is clear that she was plucked out of obscurity, spoken to by an angel, and told that she had found favor with God (Luke 1:28 & 30). Mary's life proves a point that Isaiah 66:1-2 spikes home...God is searching for people to place his favor. Some facts about favor from Mary's life and other biblical heroes 

God’s favor is…

  • Attainable – Within the reach of anyone
  • Brutal – Plenty of trials and challenges
  • Epic – Front row seat to see God’s power

How Did Mary Find Favor With God? We have the answer in her response to the angel Gabriel. "Behold , I am a servant of the Lord; let it be according to your word." (Luke 1:38)

Mary was from Nazareth…
but she lived in Surrender!

Why risk living surrendered?

  • When you own your weakness you discover true power.
  • The impact of your surrender will be felt for many years.
  • God sees everything and he’ll see a surrendered you.

Surrendered people are favored people…will you surrender your life to God?

Adventure - The War

On Mother's day, we will launch a new church in Chicago. Each step on this adventure has required utter dependence on God and the lessons I've already learned can't be wasted – anyone who dares to walk by faith will face these I'm sure.  

Stepping into our calling is an invitation to spiritual exhilaration and spiritual conflict. There is a very real spiritual war for anyone who resists the temptation to let a dream die. The battle only intensifies as we move closer to the center – the sweet spot of our call. But the rewards and yes, the exhilaration of doing what you were made to do, are too rich to surrender to forces of darkness.

In Part 1 I offer you a look at my outline from last Sunday's message. The launch team benefitted from this and I hope you will as well. Please take a deeper dive into the scriptures and be encouraged. The war is real...but the exhilaration of God's presence and power triumphs!

1. Satan is actively deceiving, harassing, and accusing God’s kids – Satan is for real! (Rev. 12:9-10)

2. What should our posture be in the face of such evil? (Eph. 6:10-20)

  • Remember that PEOPLE are not the ENEMY.
  • Use every piece of EQUIPMENT God PROVIDES.
  • Never underestimate the POWER of PRAYER.
  • Refuse to be AFRAID of Satan, but do be ALERT.
  • Always RESPOND to attacks with the GOSPEL.

3. Why wade into the battlefield when we can avoid conflict?

  • PERSEVERANCE is rewarded with God’s presence. (Matt. 4:11)
  • OVERCOMING is contagious to broken people. (Acts 5:12-16)
  • EVANGELISM is too much fun to miss out on. (I Cor. 9:23)

4. Between now and Revelation 12…

  • What do we do with temptation?
    • Get with your spiritual allies. (Eccl. 4:12)
    • Take extreme measures to remove those things that trip you up. (Matt. 5:29-30)
       
  • What do we do with the false accusations?
    • Sort truth from lies – List what’s rattling around in your head in a confession column and a rejection column. Confess known sin and totally reject false accusation! (Note: Doing this with actual paper and pen can be incredibly liberating.)
      • Confession of sin breaks bondage…(I John & James)
      • Rejection of false accusation sets us free…(Romans 8 & II Cor. 10:1-6)

I love you with the love of Christ and am praying right now (I just stopped to pray) that God would guide you in strength as you step into your God-given dream – he died for you to live!

Please share this flyer with anyone you know who may want to join this adventure!

All That Glitters... (remix)

"All that glitters isn’t gold”. You’ve heard it and you’ve lived it. It's easy to get enamored with flashes of beauty. But it’s the testing of fire that proves something or someone to be the real deal – all that glitters...isn’t gold.

I could hardly believe my eyes. After just an hour of working that little stream with my gold pan...there it was! A bright gold fleck stood out from the sand and rocks as I swirled the pan. That little piece of gold screamed at me…” ten years old you're rich”! It had taken me a good bit to navigate my way down the ravine to where I stood, but only a few giant leaps to get up out of there. I yelled for Ivan and ran with my hand held forward for him to feast his eyes on what I believed was just the first traces of my riches. 

Ivan gazed at the piece of gold and a gentle smile crept across his face. Then I heard the dreaded words. “Karl, it’s gold in color but it’s ‘fools gold’!” I was sick. My future now looked in my ten-year-oldmind had gone on a 30 second spending spree and it was all for naught. 

There’s a lot of fools gold in the world of relationships. Some are fans that will stay close as long as there is any value to be gained by being with you…and bolt when you're spent or when your value runs out. Others are purely foes from the get-go but will glitter to get along or get a leg up. Foes are never capable of truly believing the best, praying for blessing, or celebrating your victories – gold standard friends are truly rare.

"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24

We’ve all been fans and foes to others at some point. So how do we see through the glitter to find the friend or friends who are pure gold? Here are a few thoughts:

•    True friends don’t need you for what you have; they love you for who you are.

•    True friends have your back when others are trying to stab you there.

•    True friends celebrate your wins no matter how big they may be.

•    True friends never leave you on the field of adversity, they carry you to safety.

•    True friends see your potential when you can see nothing good at all.

This is just the beginning. The list could go on and on, because a true friend becomes for us what we don’t possess when we need it most. Yes, Jesus is the ultimate friend, but we sometimes need a friend who can lift our head so we can even see Jesus again. 

All that glitters isn’t gold, but never stop panning for the real deal in relationships. Some people who barely glitter are pure gold.

The Essential Conversation

Prayer is such a beautiful gift and evidence of God's genuine love for his greatest creations. That God would give us speech to share our fears, dreams, and questions with him is amazing. And the promises of God to get us aligned with our deepest desires as we delight in him is almost unbelievable.

Isn't that the tactic of evil? To plant such doubts in our minds about God's true intentions that we neglect the simplest and sweetest conversations?

Isn't it the moments of utter silence after a prayer from our heart that deludes us to question whether God could possibly care? And aren't the daily conversations we have forgotten that we had with others, the very thing that causes us to think that God will soon forget our needs?

But our human experiences with conversation should never keep us from a conversation with the one who gave us breath, voice, and language. He spoke the world into orbit. He spoke promises beyond compare. In the presence of God is a steady stream of wisdom and love. God wants to talk with words both spoken and our words responded to...join the conversation.

Ps. 37:4, Gen. 1:3, Is. 65:24

How To Have Real Community - Boom!

Who has your back? What does it look like to have true friends? Is there someone you can entrust your biggest dreams and deepest concerns?

What Francis Chan says in two minutes is what I've felt and seen in scripture for years. We have to be on mission. When we're actively reaching the world we'll look around and find the other people who are passionate to get the gospel to the world – this is real community!

Let's go...

What a MAN!

Oh my, what a man! He jumped out of a boat and was one of the first followers of Jesus. Leaving behind a father (Zebedee) who was wealthy enough to have other workers, he and James (his brother) risked it all because of the life they found in Jesus. 

He witnessed miracles, ran in Jesus' inner circle, heard transforming messages and watched crowds flock to the Savior of the world. He heard the call on his life and waited for the Holy Spirit to fall on the few that still believed in the King of the Jews (and the world). 

He survived the massacres of Claudius, Nero, and Domitian. He watched Saul become the new-born Paul. He outlived Paul by 30 years. He was the last surviving original disciple. 

John penned his letters with accumulated wisdom after decades of faithfulness. He saw people come and go. He was a valiant leader and a brilliant champion of Jesus. His writings were not in his thirties, fifties, or seventies...He penned his letters in his late eighties or early nineties.

Now my appeal: If you're wanting to know where you stand with Jesus and if you are on the path to eternal life...read First John! That's why he wrote this beautiful book (I John 5:13). Meditate and pray that God would give you wisdom as you read the wisdom of man who walked strong to the end! 

Endless TV Pundits < God Changing Lives

I'm fasting from watching televised news. There's a cable channel playing (on mute) in our radio studio in case there's breaking news we need to report. And I go to several sites on the computer to get the high-level facts but watching the pundits is just more than I can take right now. It's just too toxic and I must confess I can get sucked into the stream of contentiousness – this stream is endless. 

But there is some big news that never gets old - God's Changing Lives! For me, news can be a distraction from a bigger yes – my calling in life is to preach the word or encourage on-air. Please don't hear me condemning anyone. I'm not saying it's sin or even wrong for people to watch the news. But I've been blessed with a calling that is actually the solution to the problem. Jesus can change anything and everything.

Just this week I've personally heard or witnessed the following:

  • A broken marriage restored
  • Healing from being abandoned by a father
  • New resolution to stop gossiping
  • Joy of realizing that their life actually matters when they've been told they're a loser
  • Confession of stumbling into sin and finding forgiveness
  • Getting a fresh vision for their life

These stories are more powerful when you see the emotion on their faces. This is a rush I never tire of and blessing I'd be a fool to miss. So let me nudge you just a bit. Is there something, anything, that is distracting you from your calling? Are you settling for the lesser when the richer is calling – is Jesus calling you? 

Take a moment to ask God, "what's the lesser < what's the richer"? His sheep hear his voice and follow him. I hope you have a fresh story today.

Invitation: I've been letting you know about a new church plant I'm lead pastoring. If you know anyone in Chicago who would find this adventure to be "the richer", forward them this blog or this link and join us to learn more this Sunday. 

Blessings,

Karl

We're All in Recovery

I've been really thinking about "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 poor 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. Pride is what created evil. 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 (I read that somewhere), we are all broken people, and by God's grace, we are in the process of changing (sanctification). But the full change is down the road...so...we're all in need of recovery ministry. Some flaws are more visible, but maybe they're better to have because of the built-in accountability factor. 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 hooked on wine and call it liberty, recovering perfectionists, drive-by accusers, professional victims, and self-elevating embellishers. It's good for all of us!

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, as a core truth to lead a church, when that time comes again. 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)

Note: It's almost time to roll! We'll be launching a church very soon in Chicago. We're looking for people who believe what I wrote above. Prayerfully consider joining us in this adventure. Click this link for more information and bring a friend.