brothers

Adventures in Faith

This is How I Fight for Real Church Community

I want genuine church family. The kind it talks about in the Book of Acts.

People that I know and who know me--strengths and my weaknesses.

People I can repent to, and who will hold me accountable and sharpen me.

People I'm going to support (and by supported by) materially and spiritually.

The kind of church family that I trust to help raise up my kids.

Since 2012 Whitney and I have searched for this, we've looked at lots of churches, big and small. And this type of community is hard to come by.

If I have to point to the top reason why, it's simple, it's not a priority for most people. Instead, we'd rather:

Be in lots of other social circles

Have ourselves or our kids in a bunch of activities

Preserve time to just be with our own family

Work a bunch so we can afford a more comfortable life

Also, for the most part, we pretty much wait to connect with them around church programmed small groups, picnics, or other functions.

The problem is, however, that most of us are pretty much booked solid, and so our only hope to connect more deeply is to either 1. quit stuff, or 2. bring our church family into the activities of our regular life. And I actually propose must of us need to do both!

Make no mistake, I'm guilty of this too. 

The only "leg I have to stand on here" is that I'm fighting this fight. I've quit stuff (watching sports regularly, physical training, hobbies), and Whitney and I are also doing the following: 

  1. We've joined a small group. I meet guys on Thursday morning for an hour to check in on life and typically we're reading through a book. Whitney does the same on Fridays.
  2. I show up at the Men's breakfasts and other events whenever I can. Even more, I've signed up to help out once in awhile.
  3. We've started reaching out to anyone who shows any sign of wanting to connect more. We give them our number and get theirs, then text them. This usually leads to us inviting folks over for dinner, and we take it from there. 
  4. I've targeted specific people to talk to, typically men who exhibit real commitment or wisdom, and ask to have coffee with them just to learn who they are, and figure out ways we might work together.
  5. We pray for people we meet and to connect more deeply, and we sometimes will let people know we're praying and if we've gotten any sense from the Lord about it. 
  6. Whitney and I have couples over for dinner every few months.
  7. We sign up for the opportunities to meet other new members, for example, our church has a "Dinner for 8" program to keep us meeting new people.

Is this a formula for deep spiritual community. Not at all.

In fact, it's going much more slowly that Whitney and I would like. We're a long way away from sitting down with other families to talk about our possessions and what we need to sell to support each other, like it says in Acts 2:45

But we're not giving up, and we're trusting that God is going to provide this in the right season. And in the absence of it, as we've prayed about it, we've sensed that God is saying to us, "right now, I am enough." He's also given us a vision about one day having deeper community, and we trust His promise there.

I'm also starting to get more upfront about what I'm looking for in the church. I've been telling guys that I want to talk about the serious aspects of life, or I just start talking about them myself.

Recently, one gentleman in the church and I sat down and started thinking through how we can challenge more guys to be interested in this kind of community. It's a work in progress, but we've got a few ideas we're going to try.

Adventures in Faith

My Jewelry is All About My Wife

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I met this morning with a guy who, despite only sitting in-person with him 2 or 3 times, he is very dear to me, or as we Christians say, he's my brother in Christ (Matthew 12:48-50). And the cool thing about the body of Christ is that God gives spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12), and this particular brother, he has the gift of prophecy. This means that He get's "words" from God, and here's what he said to me this morning, as we chatted at Harvard Business School...

It went like this, after chatting for 45 minutes, I asked him if he had anything I should write down, meaning, is God giving you anything for me?

He said that he was given a picture of the meaning of my ring as symbolic of the bond that Whitney and I have together, which is very strong, and has God at the center. He asked me if that had any resonance with the wedding ring that I wear. 

I told him that, yes, I had selected this design for a very strong exterior (tungsten) with a beautiful interior (rose gold). 

But even further, I told him, shortly after I met Whitney, while we were still dating, I had a piece of jewelry designed to represent our union. The charm melted down a lot of my old jewelry, representing a new beginning, and the gold was formed into the letter "W" for Whitney and "R" for Ryan interwoven, with a diamond at the center, representing Jesus.

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And finally, I added, over just the past week, I've been thinking "in the back of my thoughts," really in my soul, about what it would be like to love Whitney more fully. To hear her, love her for who she is, devote myself more fully just to her and to knowing her. Nobody knew about this conversation, and here was this brother with this word from God encouraging me forward in the strength of this union.

This was a fun start to my day in Boston, and another example of how fellowship with believers brings about a "different world" that is encouraging as it shapes in truth and molds one into the image of Christ.

People Getting It Done

Jack McCall is One Transparent #handsonchristian

I've known Jack for four years, God has endeared him to me for so many reasons.

Chief among them is the fact that Jack is action-oriented in his faith. He tunes in to what the Holy Spirit is doing so he can hear God prompting him (John 10:27).

As a result, he does wild things like empty his wallet on people (including my wife once, read about it here), and he regularly prayers for people on the spot even complete strangers (read one story I was a part of here).

I’ve seen first-hand how God has incredibly blessed people to tears through Jack’s quick prayers.

Jack is also wildly transparent which is rare and has a way of disarming others and empowering them to open up about themselves.

Finally, Jack is one of the most joyful guys I know!

So check out our video chat from today, and know that this is a #handsonchristian, it was a treat to see him and listen to him, and I encourage you to sign up to receive his weekly email, it's one of the few I always read. 

For more about Jack and my history together linked up as brothers in Christ, click here

Adventures in Faith

The Body of Christ = Prayer Coverage

Got a call last night from a dear brother in Christ, he's a pastor in Connecticut, among other things. Anyway, I listened to his voicemail this morning, it was him praying for me and for my family for three minutes and it changed my whole day, maybe more.

As I listened to it, my spirit leaped--what he was saying was not him just saying stuff, it wasn't a normal prayer, it stirred something inside me deeply, it changed my day.

And this particular brother has a habit of doing this. I literally have received so many calls from him (and humorously 9 out of 10 go to voicemail) that it quickly ate up all my voicemail space. These voicemails are such a treasure that I opened a Dropbox storage account just to save them.

By the way, often his voicemails go beyond the three minute limit per message for 2, 3, even 10 messages in a row. He's someone who is praying in the Holy Spirit, he's sharing real truth, and that's why these gems are so valuable to me that I save them and go back and listen to them.

I have dozens of messages like this, not just from this one brother, but others too. Am I sharing this because I'm special and want to rub it in your face? Not at all.

I'm sharing this because I believe this is supposed to be the common experience for the Christian living in fellowship of the church body. And just going to church doesn't guarantee you this experience. In fact, I'm just coming off a year when Whitney and I were searching for a church where, in some ways, these kinds of calls from brothers was a big part of what church meant to me. 

The reality is that these calls, the timing, the words that are spoken, knowing that God is putting you on the mind of someone else at just the right time, they become deeply touching evidence about how real and good God really is.

So what do you do if this isn't happening for you? Here's what I propose:

1. Hang around other people who want to pray. Maybe the're at your church, a Bible study, it could be anywhere. Listen for clues that they might be praying and offer to join them. You'll find that many churches have prayer as part of their regular routine.

2. Don't be discouraged if/when you don't start getting calls from people praying for you. The sad reality is that most people are overcommitted and don't actually pray for themselves, let alone other people. 

3. Start to pray for other people that are around you. And pray that God would put people in your life to pray for you.

4. Keep your eyes and ears open. Sometimes God sends us people but they don't look like what we'd expect and we miss it. Look for opportunities to connect with people who want to give and receive prayer.

5. Ask for prayer. Humble yourself enough to share details about what's going on in your life, be vulnerable and ask for prayer. 

As you put yourself out there, and forge new and deeper relationships, undoubtedly over time, God is going to start putting people around you that are praying for you, and God is going to use those people to show you how incredible he is, and its going to change your life. 

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
— James 1:6
Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.
— Ephesians 6:18

Adventures in Faith

5 Years Later I Met w/ the Pastor Who Wouldn't Baptize Me

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
— 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Legends, People Getting It Done

Mike Griego: All In Executive

I don't exactly remember when I met Mike, but in just a short year or two he has become a dear friend, advisor, mentor, and brother in Christ to me. Let me tell you why.

First, Mike has a posture about him that tells you he is listening intently, and that he cares. Despite his insane schedule (Mike is a highly in-demand sales training executive and author) he has made time to meet with me on several occasions to listen to me and at times offer sage advice.

After hearing about my challenges and project ideas, Mike has often said he will pray for me. Nothing too out of the ordinary there, but I know that Mike does pray for me because he reports back to me with the sense that God is giving him when he prays. These reports are often tremendously encouraging to me, and reflect God's perspective on the situation, I'm certain. 

Why do I call Mike the "All In Executive"? Because Mike, like many of us, was a Christian who for many years went through the motions, but he was not all in. He chronicles the transition from being lukewarm to being all-in here. You see, as Mike handed over the keys to his life to God, he continues to evolve into a Godly man who is putting himself out there for the Kingdom.

A practical example of this is a blog he launched called Biblical Viewpoint. Mike is extremely intelligent and his ability to synthesize Scripture, history, and aspects of our worldly struggles into an easy to read post every week or two is outstanding. Mike's timely writing is something I never skip over, and I've shared his posts with family and friends on numerous occasions. 

Here are a few of my favorites:

For a more thorough personal account of Mike's faith and how it informs his work and everything else in his life, check out his profile on Finding God in Silicon Valley.

Real Relationships

God Gives Good Friends

After an amazing outpouring of love and encouragement via every means imagineable over the past week, I reflected on the stark difference in my relationships before and after I prayed to God to give me friends and mentors.

You might also be interested in this guide I put together last year outlining the practical steps I took to go from few friends to more than I ever imagined.

Click for the free guide.

Click for the free guide.

 

People Getting It Done

Jack McCall: Fool for Christ

Jack and I first met when I attended a 6:30 am Christians in Commerce Meeting at the San Jose Chapter. I can't recall entirely how it worked out that we ended up grabbing lunch together soon after, but we did. Jack is the refreshing type of believer who lays it all on the table, his shortcomings, his struggles, and mostly, his praise. 

I've come to Jack with some of my own struggles as a result, and he is a rare person in that he shies away from giving advice. He wrote to me once:

"I'm not one to give men advice, because God has assured me that His voice to each heart is far more impacting than any knowledge I may impart. He does use me to speak to folks, but not usually in the way of advice." 

He may share a relevant story, but usually doesn't say "do this or do that." I've found that when I go to Jack, the Holy Spirit moves through him to me in a profound way.

Jack and I have had several such "Holy Spirit exchanges" between us over the past year or so. One such case was a breakout of prayer in the middle of a Denny's restaurant I wrote about here. Most recently, though, the Holy Spirit moved through Jack as he spoke at his wife's funeral. She passed away unexpectedly, after 40+ years, I grieved in my heart for him, and I knew that God would use this difficult trial for his glory. Jack's words were profound, about his failings and love for his wife, it became clear their marriage was a great testimony even to, no, especially in, the last days. 

Jack has a website where he blogs and provides resources online here. I really like his "Appointment with God" outline he has posted online here. As Jack shifts from career as a successful salesman to spend more time in ministry, I expect God is going to do amazing things through him, I know he is going to finish the race running hard. 

People Getting It Done, Legends

Charlie Strouss: Kingdom Realtor

Charlie and I met at a New Canaan Society gathering in Menlo Park. We realized we live a few blocks from each other, and that we were both going to be dads soon. We got the families together and worked out together once in awhile. That would be a pretty standard friendship in many circles.

Then, in 2011 we both attended the New Canaan Society San Francisco Weekend. Even more than that we were roommates at the Fairmont Hotel. We mostly had our own agendas over the weekend, attending different breakout sessions, sitting at different tables for dinner, and so on. After one particular talk by Francis Chan (which I wrote about here), Charlie and I both walked back to the room. When I got to the door he was coming down the hall from the opposite direction. We didn't say a word to each other, both stunned by what Francis had said. We went inside and realized we were both there with the intent to lay on the floor before God.

And so we did so together, and our prayers sounded a lot of like.

"I don't want to keep doing things, even praying and reading Scripture, my way."

"I don't want to leave here and be nicer to my wife for a couple weeks only to revert back." 

"I want you, God, to be the focus of my life! Nothing else matters, and I will give it all up for you."

When we were done, we knew that it wasn't a coincidence we had both come back to the room to pray, that we were roommates, that we had met. We acknowledged that we were not being fully open with each other. So right then and there, we agreed to hold each other more accountable by talking at least a few times a week, mainly to pray together, but also to see that we are in the Word, that we're being honest about our struggles.

And so we left that weekend with a new resolve, and ever since, we have kept our word. We began to pray together, often over the phone. We began to be more honest about our struggles and have more difficult conversations, even asking each other to share about our faults. At times, we've been challenged by the other, but we also know that our relationship is more about bringing God glory than having fun.

Within a couple of weeks of our time in San Francisco, we began to see "things" happen. Scripture was popping off the pages for us, and we were eager to share. Opportunities to share our faith became more frequent, and even though at times it wasn't received as we had hoped, we encouraged each other that being faithful in making the attempt was what matters. 

So, I'm writing about Charlie because he is a dear brother, he's invested in our relationship even when its not convenient. He calls me usually at the exact time I need to be called, and I know that is God working through him. He shares his real thoughts with me, not the sanitized version, and we wrestle with the issues of our day. But there's more to Charlie that makes him a Hands On Christian.

Charlie opens the office of his bluechip commercial realty firm early in the morning just about every Tuesday so guys can usher in to pray together. It's a simple act that requires commitment. That Tuesday morning group, called Legends, isn't a Bible study or a fellowship, it's just a group of guys who want to get before God in the morning together to intercede on behalf of the Silicon Valley. There are a handful of these Legends groups scattered around, and they all have the same burden to get before God in the morning to pray. Even more, Charlie didn't set out to start a prayer group--he just started to pray in his office with another guy. For eight months or more they prayed, and they occasionally prayed that more guys would join them, and out of that he decided to invite others. 

Last, but not least, Charlie and his wife are not shy to put their faith to work. For a few years, during the winter months they organized a large sleeping bag distribution to the homeless. They'd scout out their whereabouts, secure a wholesale buy of bags, coordinate donations from dozens of friends and families, organize a preparation day in a warehouse, and then oversee the delivery to sites all across San Jose. This is just one example of them putting their faith to work, among many. So its my honor to call Charlie a brother and to be able to put a few words down about him here. 

Adventures in Faith

I Just Turned Down a Sweet Job

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Colossians 3:15 -  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

So I had this amazing opportunity presented to me. An international diplomat with a vision to launch this really cool business start-up in Silicon Valley, through a wild set of circumstances/connections was introduced to me. And, low and behold, after a few Skype calls, felt like I was the guy to launch this thing in Silicon Valley, and I had to turn it down.

As the opportunity unfolded, I put a lot of prayer into the decision. And what I heard early on was Colossians 3:15. When I say "heard" what I mean is that I opened my Bible for guidance and when I read it, that verse jumped off the page. Then, it showed up in a devotional. Then, when I talked to a pastor about this big decision, he brought up the same verse without knowing it had already come twice before.

This pastor told me that the word "rule" in that verse, in the original language (Greek  βραβεῖον), it means to umpire or call the shots. He told me that whenever he has a decision with lots of little steps, like an interview process, he let's the verse guide him. And so I took that fact that this verse had popped into my life three times in a row, well, I decided to let God's peace rule in my heart too. 

And so as I take these steps, I let God make the calls, if I get peace about it in prayer, in reading Scripture, through my wife, etc. then I know that I am in God's will, if I do not, I simply backtrack and move in another direction.

That was easy when I had peace about it. Then, something strange happened. A few communications with the parties that were involved left me feeling less at peace. There weren't any huge red flags, by all means, I still wanted to take the job. But, the peace was fading. So, I brought in the big guns, my incredibly discerning wife, to see what kind of peace she had. And, as we reviewed the details, she had great insights, and she too had a fading sense of peace.

There were still a couple of steps to take short of taking the job, and so I decided to take them, and continue to see what happened with this feeling of peace. Within another week, it did not return, and so I reached out to the various parties who were now involved both in Silicon Valley and abroad to withdraw my application. 

The good news is that these guys are also Christians, and I knew they were praying about this whole thing too, so I figured it wouldn't end badly. And, in fact, they were so gracious in their understanding. We agreed that this was the best solution, even if it wasn't predicted or convenient. I resolved to continue to find a way to serve the project and certainly pray for it.

Within 48 hours I realized that the contacts I believed would serve this start-up should still be plugged into it, even without me at the helm. And so I reached out to make those connections. I continued to pray for the project, and then a dear friend of mine, who I had discussed this whole thing with, sent me another candidate for the job. So, I reached out again with a new candidate for the job, someone with arguably a better skill set for the position that I have.

The conversation continues. The team that is in place to launch this enterprise, well, they are Godly men, they're praying too and while we know that I won't work with them in a legal sense, I know that in God's Kingdom we are all co-laborers, and I have a high level of certainty that we will continue to serve each other in our efforts. This is the kind of really sweet relations that can happen even in rejecting a sweet job offer when one is dealing in the Kingdom of God. 

People Getting It Done, Legends

Tamrat Layne: The Diplomat Who Met Jesus

I met the former Ethiopia Prime Minister Tamrat Layne, when he stopped into a Legends prayer meeting in Menlo Park. Over coffee and pastries, in his soft-spoke and humble way he shared this story about being jailed as a revolutionary and his meeting Jesus in person in prison.

God is doing amazing things through Tamrat and his wife, Mulu, on an international scale. His personal website is here

People Getting It Done, Legends

Jaeson Ma: International Disciplemaker

I was introduced to Jaeson when he showed up to pray with a group of guys in Menlo Park. The group goes loosely by the name Legends, and Jaeson is a driving force behind it in Orange County. Even more than that, upon meeting Jaeson, I just had the sense that he was both sharp and humble, on the move and available. 

At that first meeting, Jaeson shared what he is seeing in China where his travels as a talent acquisition executive in Hollywood takes him often. Wherever Jaeson goes, he is looking for people God is drawing and making disciples! Even more, he gave encouraging updates about how Jesus is moving in Hollywood in unmistakeable ways, he shared with us that the Bible Series on the History Channel was going to be huge, long before it was. 

Since then, I've occasionally been on the receiving end of an email from Jaeson to the Legends guys where he shares more about what he is seeing including passing along prophecy. These are profound indications of what is going to happen in the future in the Kingdom of God. 

Did I mention Jaeson is a multimedia talent himself?! He recorded a hit song with Bruno Mars, is active on Facebook, YouTube, and much more, you can follow and learn more about him online here. In closing, a short but important message from Jaeson.

People Getting It Done

Peter Kockleman: Kingdom Construction

Peter Kockleman is a man who captures your attention. With tales of his adventures over the years (he set a world record with a 2,000 foot bungee jump from a hot air balloon once), and his matter-of-fact approach to business and life, he's easy to like and listen to. His latest undertaking, the expansion of his business Summit Steel, is one for which he praises his partnership with Cityteam.

"My church group hosted Cityteam guys from the recovery program at a boot camp and while playing football with them, I learned many were looking for work. Even more, they needed someone to believe in them, so I took a chance to hire guys without experience that had to be trained and invested in.

When we hire and care about them, it speaks volumes to them that we haven't written them off and that they matter. Since then, I've hired 20 guys, and 14 are still with us. They show up on time, they're hard workers, they have a peace about them and they haven't failed me; in fact, they've literally build the business in our new location."

Peter hasn't been content to simply hire guys. He personally contributes financially and last year, his company was the top sponsor for Cityteam's Golf Classic at the famed Olympic Club. He teaches the men a course on sexual addiction. And, when he can't hire guys, he helps them find a job, even buying their tools to work in other trades such as carpet laying. He's helped guys find housing, paid the deposit on apartments, and so much more.

Pete adds, "I can honestly say I have been more dramatically impacted than the 20 graduates we have hired over the past two plus years.  I will NEVER write off another human being as being beyond hope since I have witnessed these men die to their former lives and transform into men worthy of honor that God always knew they could be.  God never gave up hope for His creation.  Now I know why!"

People Getting It Done

Why Francis Chan Is My Favorite Pastor

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When I was first coming into my faith, a guy told me to look up Francis Chan's YouTube videos. The first one I found (just below) had me watching his videos late into the night, very impacted by what he was saying, his emphasis on the profound meaning of Scripture often overlooked, and his sense of urgency.

When I moved to California, I learned that Francis lived in San Francisco, and it wasn't too long before I had a chance to hear him preach in person at a youth event. I realized then that what strikes me most about Francis is his urgency, the man does not want to waste a minute on this Earth. That, and a fear of the Lord, has driven this man deep into his faith, and his teachings have literally changed me as a person.

In November 2013, at the New Canaan Society San Francisco Weekend, Francis was set to speak again. I was eager to hear what he was going to say to a few hundred business guys packed into the opulent Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill. Francis looked to be under duress during his talk, he gazed to Heaven, at one point he knelt on the ground in prayer before the men. Here is what he said.

After this talk, I was struck silent. I walked back to my hotel room, not wanting to listen to another speaker or talk to anyone, I just wanted to get on the ground before God in prayer. I wanted to repent that I just keep doing things on my own terms, not surrendering to God the way I know he is calling me to do. As I walked to my room, coming from the other direction was my roommate, Charlie. 

Charlie and I entered the room one after the other, and I don't recall that we spoke a single word to each other. We put our things down, he in his separate room, me in mine. We soon realized we were both about to be on the floor in prayer, and so we joined each other. We called out to God and our prayers sounded similar. We prayed for maybe forty five minutes or so.

As we got up, we recognized there was a reason we were connected through this group, that we were sharing a room, that we both came back to pray. We offered to each other that while we are friends, we really only know about 70% of each other, at best. We agreed that we didn't want to leave this conference, and make nominal changes for a few weeks or months, to return to the same old way of doing things.

We made a commitment right then and there that we would work hard to get to know each other. And, more importantly, we would call each other every day or two to hold each other accountable to reading Scripture and to getting before God in prayer.

Over a year later, Charlie and I still talk a couple times a week at the minimum, pray together, reveal our struggles as much as anything, and encourage each other through life. There are times when we'd rather not reach out for all kinds of reasons, sometimes we are even annoyed at each other, but we both know that our relationship serves a higher purpose, that investing in the other isn't just about us, its about drawing closer to God, and glorifying Him. I think its fairly rare to have these kinds of real relationships among men, but I think when the Holy Spirit moves men get connected in a very strong way in relationships that bear great fruits.

I digressed there a bit into my personal story, rather than about Francis Chan and why he is "Getting It Done." Most recently, I had a chance to have dinner with Francis with about a dozen other guys. We were eager to hear what he's been up to with his "Crazy Love" project in the Bayview section of San Francisco. In a nutshell, Francis decided to start living church with a core group of brothers and sisters that are known by their love and their unity first, and then multiply from there.

He shared over dinner how they had multiplied a couple of times already, he told stories about how Christ's love is being expressed, and the way that everyday men and women are being raised up to teach and make disciples. In fact, Francis says he seldom preaches, since everyone is willing and able to preach and share together.

The question that came to my mind, which I asked Francis, is this, "Are the people who are coming into the church poor?" Francis said that they are. And then the follow-up question, "Can it work among the rich?" This is the million dollar question (ok, pun intended). So many of the disciple making movements that I hear about that have the characteristics of the early church we read about in Acts, people loving and caring for each other and being united, well, it mostly seems to happen among the poor. 

This lead to Francis talking about a project he feels led to, a partnership with a larger church in Silicon Valley called Abundant Life. The elders at Abundant approached him about going "all in" for the kind of love and unity Francis is seeking with Crazy Love. And so, Francis has an opportunity to try "it" on a larger scale, he's come on as an elder and is preaching there periodically. Needless to say, I'm going to be praying for his effort and keeping an eye on the progress for sure. Here is a sermon Francis gave at Abundant Life called "Giving God Our Best."

In closing, I just heard Francis talk, again at the New Canaan Society Conference in San Francisco. And while a good deal of his talk was directed at the men and movement of NCS, his boldness in speaking the truth, in only desiring to please God was evident. And, his message about defining the God we serve from Revelation Chapter 4 has already vastly changed the way I pray. As soon as the video is available, I'll post it here online. 

Don't stop Francis, fly far as on the wings of eagles brother!

People Getting It Done

Touched by the Suffering of Jack McCall

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
— Psalm 23:4

Jack and I first met when I attended a 6:30 am Christians in Commerce Meeting at the San Jose Chapter. I can't recall entirely how it worked out that we ended up grabbing lunch together soon after, but we did. Jack is the refreshing type of believer who lays it all on the table, his shortcomings, his struggles, and mostly, his praise. 

I've come to Jack with some of my own struggles as a result, and he is a rare person in that he shies away from giving advice. He wrote to me once:

"I'm not one to give men advice, because God has assured me that His voice to each heart is far more impacting than any knowledge I may impart. He does use me to speak to folks, but not usually in the way of advice." 

He may share a relevant story, but usually doesn't say "do this or do that." I've found that when I go to Jack, the Holy Spirit moves through him to me in a profound way.

Jack and I have had several such "Holy Spirit exchanges" between us over the past year or so. One such case was a breakout of prayer in the middle of a Denny's restaurant I wrote about here.

The Holy Spirit moved through Jack as he spoke at his wife's funeral in the Fall of 2014. She passed away after 40+ years of marriage, and I grieved in my heart for him; I also saw God use this difficult trial for His glory. Jack's words were profound--about his failings and love for his wife--it became clear their marriage was a great testimony. 

In the days after Jack lost his wife, he was understandably shaken. He grieved tremendously, and publicly to those who know him and follow his blog. In the midst of this great trial in his life, I saw that God was doing deep and wonderful work in his life. The words he was writing cut right to my heart, I'd often tear up while reading them.

I reached out to Jack to see how he was doing over breakfast a month or two after his wife's passing, I just had a sense I needed to pray with him. When I did, the most miraculous thing happened, I wrote about it here. This was God using Jack's suffering to bless others.

Not long after Jack's wife died, his mother died too. I learned that his brother had died within a year or so prior to his wife's death. He had also dealt with a challenging sale of a business he had built over many years. To look at his life from an outsider's perspective, one might have great pity on Jack. But I know Jack and I know better, and I saw how there was treasure in the midst of the brokenness. In fact, I texted and emailed Jack that on several occasions. I couldn't hold back from telling him how clear it was to me that even while he was numb and grasping most days for a way to get by, his continued faith and obedience to God's word was serving as a great sermon to most everyone around him. 

Now, months later, I've been able to witness Jack start to become outrageously blessed in the wake of all the loss and mourning. He is literally a man dancing with joy at how good God is, and to say that is a real miracle. I know many who have faced this kind of loss and are derailed if not wrecked by it. Jack has been sustained by his faith, and out of his sufferings he has emerged in a deeper walk with God and having impacted many through his walk. 

In closing, Jack has a website where he blogs and provides resources online here, register to receive his blog posts, which I always read when I receive it in my inbox. I really like his "Appointment with God" outline he has posted online here. As Jack shifts from career as a successful salesman to spend more time in ministry, I expect God is going to do continue to do amazing things through him. 

People Getting It Done, Legends

Kent Shaffer: Church Uniter

Kent and I met at a hackathon event in Silicon Valley, put on by Leadership Network. Kent stood out because he showed up early to pray over the space, he was clearly very smart but humble too. He helped me empty the trash and do the menial tasks it takes to run a straight 72-hour event for over 100 people, despite that he was listed as an esteemed mentor. He offered me access to his hotel room for a shower and to nap. Yet, there was a lightness about him too, we had fun together. And before we parted ways, Kent pulled me aside and said he wanted to help me, and encouraged me to think about ways that would be possible.

Kent and I have stayed connected ever since, which is saying a lot since he spent the year after we met traveling the United States with his family packed into an RV, with only occasional stops in one place for an extended time. Kent and his wife Evie felt called to be on the move with the purpose to connect the church, to share resources, and breakdown barriers. Kent's work manifests itself most clearly in two websites he runs, called Open Church and Church Relevance. Or follow his travels and commentary on Twitter here. Evie is a phenomenal artist/graphic designer/technologist and you can enlist her design services online here, and follow her artistic renderings online here

It is a great blessing for me and my wife to know the Shaffer's. When Kent makes occasional trips to the West Coast, we find time to sneak off on a hike up a mountain to pray in the early morning hours. And we were blessed recently when they parked their RV behind our home and we had a few days to have our families spend time together. They are dear souls, salt of the earth people, who you just know are following the Lord wherever He might take them.

Kent and I write back and forth to each other by email and text and an occasional phone call. To know that there is a man out there in the world who I know is following Jesus and who is like-minded, that I can call knowing he will be real with me, this is a priceless gift. When I look back on our relationship and consider how it formed, I know that it could only have happened through the work of the Holy Spirit. People just don't often meet each other, stay in touch via email, and consider themselves to be close as family. Yet, that's what Kent is to me, a dear brother in Christ. 

In closing, in one of our email exchanges where we were discussing a trial I was in the midst of, as he often does, Kent shared an insightful passage with me, this one from an Indian pastor named Abraham Israel:

Eagles are the only birds that love the storm. When all other birds try to flee from the storm and hide its fierceness, eagles fly into it and will use the wind of the storm to rise higher in a matter of seconds. They use the pressure of the storm to glide higher without having to use their own energy. They are able to do this because God has created them uniquely with an ability to lock their wings in a fixed position in the midst of the fierce storm winds.

After a certain period of experiencing storms face to face, eagles love to play in the storms. The storms in life that we as God’s royal eagles face are trials, tribulations, and temptations (John 16:33; James 1:12). As we face the stormy wind of afflictions in life, the Holy Spirit helps us lock our mind in a fixed position with the grace of God through faith in the finished work of the Cross, which helps us conserve energy and just stay in the storm and enjoy the lift and height of heavenly mindedness in a greater and greater altitude (1 Cor 10:13; Eph 6:16; 1 Peter 5:9-10; Phil 4:7).

After a period of time, we start to love the trials because of the positive things of peace that we are able to experience in the storm and the heavenly after effects of being lifted in to a great height of spirituality and ecstacy in believing (1 Peter 1:8), which would not be possible without it. This is the reason Apostle James said,
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

We as a person of royalty need to take a quality decision of accepting trials willingly with joy because it lifts us in to higher altitude of spirituality without us wasting even an ounce of energy. After we start to use all the maneuvers in the midst of storms, we will surely say, “Bring it on!” with a stout chest and our head held high.

People Getting It Done, Miracles

Jack Deere: Spirit Led Man

I first met Jack at the New Canaan Society, and in the hallway he spoke to me like a friend. His calm approachable spirit struck me; with people eager to speak to him, we had a leisurely five minute conversation. Me a young man who knew nothing of his journey, his books, anything.

After that conference, I learned that Jack had a son who went through Cityteam's addiction recovery program, was clean for awhile, then relapsed. When he did, he was discovered in a park by a wealthy Christian family in Silicon Valley that took him in to live with them. Somewhere shortly after that, he committed suicide. 

Jack's story intrigued me, and I've attended his workshops and have picked up his book, "Surprised by the Power of the Spirit," but admittedly, have not read it yet. When he preached at the NCS conference in Washington, D.C. the Spring of 2014, he laid his heart out before 700 men in an intimate and graphic way regarding the near death of his wife, his struggles before God all the while, and now his care-taking of her. 

Currently, I see Jack is posting about caring for Leesa on a Caring Bridge site here. Jack is a soldier who's wrestled with his faith publicly, he's stared death in the face, he's pastored churches, he's cared for many, and I see a man who is bearing himself naked before God, and before others to the glory of God. 

Adventures in Faith, Most Read

God Gave Me A New Brother

While attending the New Canaan Society 2013 Washington Weekend, I had a thought to invite a guy to attend with me the following year. He kept coming to invite. 

I left awash in a sea of new ideas and yet the thought to invite this guy stuck with me. The conference was a year away, I wasn't even sure if I would go again, the cost is over $1,000 and I was not in a position to pay for this guy and I didn't want him to have to pay either. Finally, I wasn't so sure how he'd feel amongst 800 guys who raise their hands in worship of God while singing and tend to be very transparent in their conversations. All of these were not small details, and yet I decided to invite him anyway expecting God to work out the details if it was his will.

When I did invite him he said he was interested, so I told him not to worry about a thing, that I'd take care of it all. Knowing he was in the military I applied for him to get a scholarship. The conference planners said they'd know closer to the date if someone would pay for him. Months passed and as the conference came back around I learned that someone would pay his full fee to attend.Praise God!

So we were all set to attend together and share a room and it was going to be a great chance to get to know this guy better. The day before the conference I drove to meet him, and right away I could tell his family was beyond busy, organized chaos even. Not only did he and his wife have two young children, they both worked in high-level demanding jobs and were both getting a Masters degree at the same time. So it was understandable that they were often running at 100%.

As we drove to the conference together, I could sense that it would take time for this guy to wind down, with everything that was going on in his life. I wondered if we'd get a chance to really connect on a heart level. Even more, I could feel a sort of pull to keep him away from the conference altogether. 

We arrived, had dinner together, and settled in for the night well enough, but without "breaking the ice" to deeper conversation that I desired. Even more, I knew he was getting texts that were concerning him and had him contemplating leaving the conference. 

The next day something happened that changed our trajectory. We listened to Erwin McManus preach a great sermon.

When he was done, Dudley Hall stood up to transition to the next speaker. Before he did, he said he had a sense to stop and pause and give guys a chance to stand up and be ministered to if they needed it. With his invitation, the guy I was with stood up right next to me. I was caught off guard but I stood up next to him and put my arm around him. Soon a few other guys huddled around us and we prayed together. Several of us were choked up with tears.

From the moment we sat down, I could tell everything was different. Our conversation had a lighter quality to it. We snuck off to talk more personally. At a reception later that night, I saw this guy talking amongst a small group and when i walked over to listen in, I heard one former war veteran encouraging him to let go of some of what he had encountered at war. I knew that these were divine connections being made. 

That same night, as we laid down to bed rich conversation ensued, in fact, we stayed up until after 2 in the morning talking about our faith in Jesus, questions, things that don't always make sense, our perspectives. It was amazing and I was so blessed to see our relationship open up even more. 

As the conference came to a conclusion, I was full of emotion over this dear new brother, not just a friend now but someone with whom we had discussed the depths of our hearts. We worshipped the King together, made new connections, and we left feeling as though we had a few new ideas to consider. Miraculously, this guy even shared with me that he felt as though he was healed in some way over the weekend.

And yet, having gone to these things before, I knew that it can be a challenge to go back into a busy home from a "mountaintop experience" to a spouse and kids who have missed Dad. Even more I believe these reconnections can be wrought with attack from the enemy to prevent unity and progress. So I prayed that this guy would find a way to get away from his busy schedule to spend intimate time with his wife, share some of his experience, and even bring her to the mountaintop too. I asked my wife to pray the same thing, and we were astonished when just a short time later, we saw that this couple had posted online that they had found a Christian retreat center to visit in the mountains where their pets and children would be cared for so they could connect one-on-one. My wife and I were so excited about this announcement.

Going into this conference, I thought in some way that I was maybe driving some kind of progress, that I would be responsible for getting us there, diving into the heart issues, cultivating the relationship. Looking back, I can see that yes, there was a role for me to make and follow-up on the invitation, but everything was out of my control and firmly in God's hands. After the conference, the things I thought I might do to keep us connected, this guy beat me to every one! He suggested that we talk regularly to pray, he's sent me notes, small gifts, he's inquired about life even though we live in opposite sides of the country. It reminded me that God draws people to himself, the Holy Spirit teaches, my role was just to be obedient to one little piece of the puzzle to make the invitation and follow through to get us there.

Adventures in Faith, Miracles, Most Read

God Brought You to Me

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stoneand give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Ezekiel 36:26-27

I was traveling on the East Coast, and I took a bite into a Chik-fil-A sandwich. They aren't so prevelant in San Jose yet. I posted a picture of said sandwich, to which a reply was soon posted that I was supporting a hate group.

When I read the message, I had an immediate sense that a serious division was being dropped between myself and this dear brother. I prayed right away. I was in a good place at that time, in the Word, feeling full of peace and love. And so I called this brother, no answer. I left a message. There was nothing to hide, even though I simply like Chik-fil-A's chicken sandwiches, I am full aware of the positions both for and against their Christian stance.

Days go by, no return call. I call again. Still nothing. The weight of division growing wider caused me distress. I decided to pray and fast over it. I enlisted others to pray with me over it. One night, while praying with a friend, the friend pointed out that it was not be who had division in my heart, but rather this brother who did. So we shifted our prayer for the brothers heart, that God would work in it and soften it toward me.

Within 48 hours, I received a call from this brother. It was on Mother's Day, I will never forget it. As I received it, I looked up to the sky through the trees and at the son, and I said that you Jesus. On the phone, this brother said to me that he wants to talk to me when the time is right, but more importantly that he loves me, and that he knows I am a good guy. He was reminded of this because he ran into a guy while playing softball who, after putting "two and two together" realized he knows me, and who then gave this brother of mine unsolicited words about how I am a good guy. These words were received and they rekindled a love for me, and that is why he was calling.

As I heard this story over the phone, tears came to my eyes. I just kept saying in my thoughts, "praise you God, praise you!" To see a prayer work so clearly, so dramatically, so fast, it is amazing to behold! Only God can change hearts like this, without any human interaction between us in the meantime. Where the Enemy (Satan) seeks to divide and destroy, God is all powerful for redeem. 

To top it off, this brother of mine concluded by saying that it was too long since he'd seen me, and that he would book a flight for a visit within a week, which he soon did. This was an amazing turn of events, and I was delighted. Though, mixed with my delight was a growing concern around this conversation I would have with this brother. I knew that he had a firm belief that Chik-fil-A and their Christian stance, specifically in favor of the traditional family, was wrong. And I know he knows that I share the same Christian values, so what would become of our conversation?

Upon his visit a few weeks later, we had a delightful time. There was no early confrontation, and through much prayer and fasting before his arrival, I felt well prepared to talk about anything, especially Jesus! We took a day trip to Sonoma to visit wine country. A great day, but as we left, my dear brother did not stop imbibing on wine. In fact, he opened a bottle in the backseat of the car, and against protests, kept drinking. Soon he was becoming confrontational, angry even. He began to come at me "swinging" for my beliefs. 

The situation became very uncomfortable. I did not want to even speak or rationalize with someone who was drunk. And yet, the tirade had to stop. I raised my voice, "Let me tell you why you are here," I said. I reminded him how a month or so ago he would not return my calls, how he was angry at me because of my post about Chik-fil-A. He said he remembered this. I told him how it distressed me so that I prayed and fasted for several weeks. He was silent. Then I recalled how he ran into someone, quite randomly, who exclaimed my character so that he had a change of heart, and called me, which led him to take the trip to visit. I said, "Can't you see, God loves you, he brought you here!" As I said these words, my dear brother broke down in tears, he accepted the love of God in that moment, I believe, and he even repeated the words, "God does love me, he does." It was a tender moment, we both cried.

I wish I could tell you that the division was eliminated entirely on that night, it was not. After all, drunkenness and shame were still present. The next day, there was a sheepish sense and my brother wanted to avoid me, I think. However, there was no reason for it--that would just be allowing victory to the enemy. And so I sat next to him, put my arm around him, I told him I love him, that we can always talk and even when we do not agree, we will still love each other in words and in action. He apologized for his behavior, and I immediately forgave him. I said we must forget about it, and was determined to move on and have a fun day, after all, it was my birthday!

In conclusion, what I learned most about this trial is that God heard my prayer and fasting brought a brother to me, He changed a heart, put someone in my brothers path to remind him. I also learned that in this case, that far more than words or a carefully constructed argument, it was my life itself that likely spoke to my brother. It was how my wife made such a big deal over my birthday with thoughtful gifts and homemade recipes. It was how we visited an early morning prayer group and the guys were so welcoming. It was how we played golf and a friend stopped to pray before we tee'd off and my pals were fighting over who could pay for lunch. It is the authentic overwhelming love of Jesus, expressed in relationships and community, that draws someone to God.