After coming to a place in my faith where I realize there is "stuff" in my heart that is wicked, that I don't want there, that I can't remove, and which I need to Lord to literally do heart surgery, I feel compelled to share this with you all.
Also, I reference this Scripture...
And this sermon by Tim Keller, which is seriously too good not to hear.
Here's a post by a brother in Christ I really respect, a real warrior and disciple-maker, David Watson, that touches on the gravity of this issue we have as Christians projecting this image that we have it figured out, that we're not battling demons, that we're not trapped in sin as much as anyone.
I was really humbled to be invited to speak at the Stanford Faculty Club as part of the Silicon Valley Prayer Breakfast quarterly event considering the Godly men who had come before me.
And yet, it made sense since I had been given a prophetic word several times over the past year or two that I would be speaking in front of groups, as a sort of humble pastor.
As the date came, I prayed, I asked God what to say. I felt like he was telling me, "I have already given you plenty to say." Not exactly a workable outline.
And yet, I knew that, indeed, He had given me everything I need. As the date approached, I became excited, no nervous at all, but feeling as though God was going to use this to do something new. Praise God for that.
When I landed in the Bay Area, it was so wild from the start. A talk I gave at a Christian high school resulted in follow-up contact by students that left me grasping for God's wisdom in response.
A couple of hours spent in the ghetto of San Francisco left me feeling both filthy and the power of the resurrection spirit in the face of entrenched darkness.
Just 48 hours before I was set to talk, I sat down to draft up this outline to hand out to the attendees. I did it because we hear so much, we take in so much information, I feel like retention is low, and that God really wanted me to impress the three takeaways on this to the group.
Then, on Wednesday, November 3rd, this is what I said:
PART ONE: The video recorder cut out...
PART TWO: So I recorded the 2nd half comments back at my hotel.
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.
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.
Much could be written about Pastor Shodankeh Johnson. I'll stick to what I have personally experienced getting to know him as a colleague at Cityteam.
Shodankeh is a man of prayer. I'd heard that he wakes early in the morning to pray for an hour or more each day, and when I hosted him in my home I found that to be true. More than pray, he actually sings in a soft voice to God, I woke up to hear it.
Another time, while attending the New Canaan Society San Francisco Weekend, I had arranged for Shodankeh to share a room with a dear brother and mentor to me named Ken Churchill (I wrote about Ken here). One evening, Ken received an email from a man in Africa who was reporting that another man who is Shodankeh's colleague was imprisoned. Ken informed Shodankeh of this terrible news, only to watch him fall to the ground in prayer where he began by praising God.
Once, I had set up for Shodankeh to speak at a conference, literally planning most of the details of his visit, from the time he stepped off the plane. A colleague, Eric Venable, picked him up with the intent to bring Shodankeh to the office to brief the plan and get settled in. But Shodankeh asked to be taken to Stanford University. Eric asked him if he had an appointment, to which Shodankeh replied that he did not, but he had been praying on the flight and God had directed him to go there. Off they went, and when they arrived, they began to walk around the campus, and in so doing, ran into an old friend of Eric's. As they got to talking, they learned that this friend was the secretary for a director of the Hoover Institution, a prestigious international think tank. And, she revealed, there was a new program in the works to resource international leaders just like Shodankeh! The program wasn't publicized, but she offered to provide some information if they would come to her office. Of course, they went, and despite his schedule being completely booked for the day, it turned out that the Director was in his office and took over an hour to brief Shodankeh on the program and give him all of the necessary details to apply. These kinds of divine directives, interactions, and provision are commonplace with Shodankeh and his team from Africa.
Later, when Shodankeh arrived to the office and I heard the story, I asked him how these things happen to him. He replied to me that when he travels abroad, he has a team of people, as many as 50, praying and fasting for him the entire time he is gone. I came to know that he is a man of prayer, and that his team in Africa often doesn't make a move until they have paid a high price in prayer and received direction from God.
Because of Shodankeh's love for prayer, I have put myself in position to pray with him and bring him to pray with groups of people I am a part of. Two examples, are the Legends prayer group I attend and the New Canaan Society brothers at a weekend retreat. Shodankeh has come to bless the men of Legends a couple of times and when he does there is always a thick presence of the Holy Spirit. Another time, Shodankeh joined a group of men who left the NCS weekend retreat to go to a hospital to pray for a young man who had been shot in the head. That man went on to have a miraculous healing that I documented here.
As I said, much more could be written about Shodankeh, in fact it has here and here. I also encourage you to read the book Miraculous Movements, many of the stories of which come from the work of Shodankeh and his team in Africa. Shodankeh is a man who seeks to know God and the fruits of the Holy Spirit are evident in his life, and for that he is definitely a Hands On Christian.
A short video with a powerful testimony from Pastor Shodankeh Johnson.
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.
Neil brings a professional focus to faith, a rare and desirable trait when done in step with the Holy Spirit. The questioning, tinkering, hacking in the Silicon Valley sense, matched with top notch execution, all in the midst of and service to the Christian faith is a formula for a modern-day Hands On Christian. And Neil is that.
He left a prime gig at Google to launch a start-up focused on building communities of prayer (story here). The app, called Abide, is growing fast with new functionality and partnerships with the National Prayer Committee, International House of Prayer (IHOP), and more.
I've been super excited to support Neil and the Abide team, even providing pro bono marketing and event services. This is because over the past year or so I've experienced powerful moves of the Holy Spirit as I've checked my text and voicemail to hear prayers left for me. In fact, my mailboxes have been filled up forcing me to back-up important prayers I want to revisit. It has seemed to be a crude solution with tons of potential for improvement, and I believe Abide is a solution.
More than Abide, I've watched Neil take part in a variety of other constructive initiatives in Silicon Valley to build the church, including as an organizer, mentor, and key driver of the Code for the Kingdom Hackathon series in the Valley. I've also been blessed to join Neil on occasion early in the morning to, what else, pray.
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.