Don’t Serve Anyone This Christmas

What???  That’s right.  Don’t do it…ok maybe if you are fixing dinner or something.

Thanksgiving and Christmas

These are the days that everyone thinks to serve.  We pick and plan events to serve others.  In fact I fell into this trap earlier this month.  I thought it would be cool for our missional communities to go and serve together.   Now I feel that this is a bad idea, seriously.

Why would this be a bad idea?  Let me explain.  I’m a follower of this guy, Jesus.  I’m a disciple.  I think he did things right and said things that are worth listening to.   I’m not going to bomb abortion clinics, picket funerals of heroes, or any of that stupid nonsense that the media calls ‘Christianity’.

I saw a bunch of people in downtown Nampa the other day with signs saying ‘honk  if you think marriage is between one man and one woman’ and signs with Bible verses printed on them as well.  I wanted to stop and ask them if they thought Jesus would stand there with a sign.  I know they couldn’t honestly say yes.  If Jesus were in Nampa at that moment, he would have been at the local gay and lesbian bar sharing stories of love and restoration and hope.  That is the Jesus I’m trying to follow.

So why not serve on Christmas?  Matthew 25:31-46 is a crazy riff that Jesus spat.  It says that God doesn’t even know us if we aren’t helping the sick, visiting the imprisoned, clothing the naked, or welcoming strangers.  This following Jesus thing isn’t an event…it’s a life.  One that is lived every moment of every day.   This is a life filled with love, giving, and joy that you can’t buy from Sony or Lexus.  Serve on Christmas if you want…just make sure Dec 26th makes your list too.

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Shawn Mullins

What are you doing with your life right now?

I mean what are you giving your life to?

Did you love your day?  Did you give something to this world that no one else but you could do?

Shawn Mullins wrote a song called Twin Rocks, Oregon that haunts me like few other songs.   Some lyrics from the song:  I told him I too had been travelin around livin out of my van from town to town playin for tips and whatever records I could move.  I said “I don’t reckon i’ll be makin it big, you know it’s hard to get rich off a tour of coffee house gigs” and he said “yeah, but ain’t it a blessin to do what you wanna do…” and I told him “yeah, I pulled off here
to watch the sun disappear into the ocean `cause it’s been years since I smelled this salty sea”

Life isn’t about the money you make or the titles you collect.  It’s not about reality TV or online poker.  Life isn’t about getting your kids to do their homework or paying the bills on time.  It’s not about rec league soccer or play groups.  Life isn’t about attending church or eating at good restaurants.  It’s not about the most toys or the dot com.

Life is about giving…it’s about the sunsets and doing what you love.  I’m tired of struggling with things that don’t matter.  So between me, you and the wall maybe it’s time we start doing life the right way.

We cannot build on a negative

A lot of life is lived in reaction.  We aren’t always the most proactive people so it seems like we are playing catch-up rather often.  The same is true for the way we connect with church.

Quick think of 5 negative things about church…easy right?  But what is that building?  I have read book after book and blog after blog about the way institutional church, corporate Christianity, etc. are killing the message of Jesus.  Maybe it’s all true, I don’t know.  Why are putting so much energy into explaining it and analyzing it?!?

We cannot control every leader and we certainly can’t build on a negative.  Deep fellowship cannot be built on a hatred for Sunday morning niceties.  True discipleship cannot be built on a dislike for programs. Connection to God cannot be born out of an irritation with the way communion is served.  Isaiah 57:14 says “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”  Even this blog post is somehow ironically tied to the negative!  To quote Switchfoot, ‘if we’re adding to the noise, turn off this song.’

What I am really trying to say is this…each church is different…each church has it’s function and dysfunction…but God’s mission on earth has these churches.

Bottom line is…that going forward each Pastor/leader/Apostle must be able to look in the mirror and honestly say whatever mode, structure, model or mission they embrace is born out of a sense of obedience and call to share the gospel, bring about the kingdom of God and see people transformed.

Truth: The solid historical church needs us wacky misfit missional folks and we need them.

Are you searching for the magic door?

If you know me at all, you will know I am an avid reader.  What you might not know is that I used to read in search of The Magic Door.  What does that mean?  We all do it I’m sure…we have this magic door we are looking for.  Maybe it’s through a job or a piece of knowledge or a relationship or an experience or an amount of wealth.  We all have this tendency to think that once we walk through it that we will feel peace, content, love, joy, and all will be alright.  I thought I would find it in a book.  I would read library books, online books, new books, borrowed books, books I’d read before.  Most of them dealing with ministry, church, God, prayer, or some combination of the aforementioned.

I would hear stories of people who had their whole lives changed in an instant when they had an encounter with God or some epiphany of faith.  This would frustrate me even more as I have had a great many encounters and realizations of my own.  I would wonder what was wrong with me and plunge headlong into another book…only to completely miss the point.

There have been others who have missed the point as well.  God speaks to the prophet Jeremiah (Chapter 2 Verse 13), ‘ My people have committed two sins:  They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’  Just like me, Israel was trying to find the magic door.  I would contend that those who are using drugs, experimentation, relationships, etc. as an escape are also searching for the magic door or as God calls it – digging broken cisterns.

So what is the opposite of digging or searching?  Remembering the spring of living water.  Sounds philosophical or metaphorical perhaps.  But if searching and digging indicate forgetting, then it is a remembrance that frees us.

In Hebrew the term for forget means to obliterate or abolish a connection!  All our digging and searching help to destroy God within us.  Thus remembrance is really to give life to something…allowing that life to move within us…allowing the well spring of life to fill our cisterns.

God is here now in fullness.  Can we remember?

What exactly are you up to Zach?

Hey crew. Here is the details on what is exactly going on in our lives:

1. I am working in Psychosocial Rehab. What is that? Basically case management for those with mental disorders…helping them adjust to society.

2. I will also have a few part time things going to pay the bills.

3. The real focus of what is happening in our lives is that we are working to plant a church in Boise. This is why God called me back to Boise. We will be meeting in homes for a time as we gather momentum. Awake is the name of our church. It is based on Ephesians 5:14. We want to call people into healing, wholeness, restoration, mission, and discipleship.

4. If you want to hear more about our mission community or want to support us in prayer or any other way…give me a call! or message me. I want to meet or talk with you and bless you!

Why Mephibosheth Matters

I’m betting you are going to name your next kid Mephibosheth…or maybe try to convince your sister to name her kid that because she didn’t like your suggestions of Megatron, David Bowie, or Anita Knapp.

Mephibosheth (that name is long…I’m gonna call him Mephi from now on) is the Grandson of King Saul (Check 2 Samuel 9 for the details).  This guy had not one but two crippled feet and was the grandson of the guy who tried to kill King David numerous times.  Needless to say Mephi didn’t get nominated for homecoming king at Canaan High.  Then David calls Mephi to appear before him…

I sense that this is how many of us must feel before God…crippled and afraid.   When David greets Mephi, all he can do is call himself a servant.  David wont have any of that.   He gets all John 15:15 on Mephi.  David gave him all the land that Saul once had and told him he would always eat at the King’s table! What?!?!  By the way, I’m pretty sure David looked just like Richard Gere.

David restores and exults Mephi because of Mephi’s father, Jonathan.   Mephi didn’t do anything amazing.  It was the grace of the King and the actions of the father that created this banquet feast.  Beyond that King David places servants under Mephi!

You and I come before God in the same state right?  We feel crippled, broken, beat down, and unworthy or perhaps uncertain, afraid, unqualified, or just plain confused.  God calls us friends, puts us in His feast,  and wants to move us into a place where we can give from our abundance (sure finances if we are blessed in that area…but I really mean spiritual abundance – love, joy, peace, etc.)

But we are so convinced of our lowly servant-hood that we can’t accept or see or live into the feast!  God is not a cure-all for whatever ails us but He surely doesn’t desire for us to be depressed and oppressed!  God desires to set us free and bless us to be His hands and feet in this world.  Now we have to ask the question – ‘How do we do this?’

to be continued…

Awakening

Ephesians 5:14 – “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

I would contend or hallucinate that most people feel dead inside, at least in part.  We take in this form of media or that drug to try and mask it or boost us a bit.  Where is the freedom of living…the spark?

According to the CDC, 1 in every 10 Americans over the age of 12 are on some form of antidepressant. ( http://www.newser.com/story/131508/1-in-10-americans-on-antidepressants.html )  This isn’t a path to freedom.   It’s merely covering over the bondage of depression and anxiety.  I’m not looking to start a debate.  I know that some people experience a chemical imbalance and need it…but I’m saying there is freedom to be had?

We have sold ourselves short of what God can do.  We live in language of defeat.  Rather than awakening, we slumber.  Rather than running into the light, we cower in darkness.  God is not a magic genie waiting to grant wishes.  But God is a God who calls us into life, to awaken, to light, to feel, and to experience.  Do you feel dead?  Are you bound by defeat?  Are you masking your pain?  A new life is more than just possible!  This isn’t some cheesy self-help nonsense.  This is the living God, creator of the cosmos calling out to us to live!  Don’t start to get caught up in ‘how’…get caught up in ‘now’!  Let’s start praying for freedom.  Expect God to show up.  Tell me what you need to be free of and I will join you, our community will join you.  Let us proclaim life…let us awake!

 

What happened in Florida?!?

This is the question of the week. I’ll give an overview of my journey and then in some following blogs, hit on some specifics.

This journey is a spiritual one. My heart has been shaped, moved, and readied for what is next. In truth, there isn’t anything wrong with Florida. Miami is a big city like so many others that I’ve been to…L.A., St. Louis, D.C., Seattle, Dallas, and others. While big cities don’t thrill me, they don’t usually bother me beyond a little added stress while driving or waiting in longer lines. However, something about Miami didn’t sit will with me from the moment I got there. The whole trip down I prayed for God to reveal to me where to live in the area, for me to find joy in what I was doing there, and to be able to bless people. As soon as we hit Palm Beach on the freeway a knot formed in my stomach and I began to have adrenaline rushing through my veins. Even as I write this now, I feel some of the same feelings. I thought maybe I was nervous but this wasn’t nerves, this was total unease that didn’t let up. We stayed the night in Ft. Lauderdale and I didn’t sleep with noise of people outside and the feelings from within.

The next day I began training. The work itself was fine and the people we encountered were nice. I quickly realized that the job would mean long hours but again I’m used to that. That night the unease grew and no amount of prayer would ease it. I told my wife that something wasn’t right and that I felt like I needed to come home. She encouraged me to give it a little time and that I was probably a bit stressed. My dad gave me the same advice so I thought I would give it another couple of days.

The next day I began looking for apartments. I called at least 40 different places and visited a dozen more. Three bedrooms were no where to be found in a remotely safe area of the city. I called my wife and told her all that was going on internally. As I was becoming homeless at 11am, I moved hotels and called her again. I told her that I needed to come home. After driving 2850 miles…I wanted to drive it back. That is how uneasy I felt.

After considering some options (working in a smaller city, taking a few more days to see if it works, etc.) I made the decision to come back. As soon as I did, I felt a little better. I began to call people and let them know. Then I talked to a long time friend of mine. He said to me…God called Abraham to kill Isaac but the point wasn’t for Isaac to die…it was to see if Abraham would give up everything to follow God. I am Abraham in my story. I really was willing to give it all up to follow God. I thought this was the path to become a pastor and to bless people (and now I see it actually is).

Long story short (I’ll give the longer version later), this unease I felt was a spiritual unease. God didn’t allow me to find an apartment. God broke down communication with my boss. God allowed a spiritual unease in my soul that would cause me to return to Boise.

It’s hard to explain why God would place me on such a path. 1 Corinthians 1:27 says, ‘God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.’ I’m trusting in this foolish journey. God has a call on my life to be a Pastor. I’m going to pursue that. Even now He is opening up doors that will allow me to work in that way. I would covet your prayers in this. I will keep you posted on what that looks like.

Until then, go in peace and serve the Lord!!

What I learned at Friendship or ‘The Last 6 years’

I recently included in the church newsletter an article on what I learned at Friendship Celebration.  It was a shorter list and was meant to be a bit humorous.  I want to revisit that now…in a sort of ‘what I learned in the last 6 years’ way.

1. I am the worst vegetarian there ever was.  I stopped eating meat for a year and the only veggies I ate were coffee, french fries, and hopps.  Actually I sort of drank the hopps.

2. I hate yard work.  I kind of like the remodeling and handiwork aspect of owning a house, when I have time to get to it.  But mowing, weeding, watering, cutting wood…I’m buying a condo.

3. Sometimes you have to tell a kid to rebel against their parents. When a kid starts to come alive in their faith and wants to quit band to spend time serving and in prayer.  Sorry folks, I’m siding with Jesus on this one.

4. Driving an SUV is awesome.  I’ve had only little cars and the mini van before my 4Runner.  Gas mileage nothing, how much you wanna bet that I can climb up that mountian over there.

5. I hate politics.  I hate church politics.  I hate local, state, and national politics.  Oh I will vote, but you can’t make me smile while I do it.

6. People take life way to seriously.  Relax.  Come on.  Play with your kids, have a beer with a buddy, take a mulligan, and watch Saturday morning cartoons.  If you get the most toys you still die.  If you cause the most drama, we will all still think you are crazy.

7. All my favorite independent coffee shops are gone.  They had the best coffee.

8. How many more Mormon churches do we need in Boise?  Geeze

9. I can eat my weight in Egg McMuffins.  Oh how I love Egg McMuffins

10. Reality TV makes no sense to me.  I’ve tried watching tons of shows, based on people’s recommendations to me.  I don’t understand why these people are famous, who would want to watch the nonsense they are doing, and who watches this junk on a regular basis.

11. Self esteem is bunk.  There is no such thing.  Either you find worth in yourself or you don’t.  Esteem is this psychobabble, media-fueled, roller coaster of ups and downs based on performance and feelings.  Dear teenage girls – please stop.

12. Michael Jackson isn’t dead.  We haven’t been to the moon.  Sasquatch is real (according to Daren).

13. I love Boise and plan to be back here for good at some point.

A bittersweet goodbye plus epilogue

Here is the email I sent out today (if you have already read it, skip to the epilogue) :

Dear Friends,

It is never the best to receive important news via email. However, I feel it is fair for everyone to know this at one time. While I would have liked to call everyone personally, it wouldn’t be possible to reach everyone in one day. It has been my great privilege to serve God in your midst for the last six years. I feel that it is here at Friendship that I have become a man. We have laughed together, cried together, and grown together. So it is bittersweet that I am informing you of the end of my journey at Friendship. If you know me, you will know my heart. I have a Pastoral heart. God has called me to be a shepherd and an opportunity has come for me to live fully into that calling as a Pastor. Some of you are probably asking, ‘What took you so long?!’ For others I know this might seem like it is out of left field. I want to assure that I am not leaving because of any incident, situation, or person. I am leaving because I am being called by God. I have been given an opportunity that will allow me financially to and give me plenty of time to work toward ordination. It is never easy to leave, especially when you have grown so fond of those you have worked with. Do not fear. I have been praying for the next DCE and that person is out there. They will do a fantastic job. You have to promise me that you will love them, support them, and not ever say ‘Well Zach used to _____’. Please do not worry about the ministries – Awanas, Sunday school, Confirmation, middle school, high school and college groups will go on! Some of the plans will change, like movie nights at my house probably won’t work . I have been working to make arrangements with people to take interim leadership so there won’t be a gap in programs. Your help in any and all areas, of course, will be welcomed. We have about a month left in our journey together. October 16th will be my last Sunday at Friendship. I look forward to hearing about your adventures. I thank you for all your care, support, encouragement, and love. I will pray for you every step of the way.

Yours in Jesus,

Zach

Epilogue:

I know many will ask how this came about so I will tell you.  When God wants to change directions in my life, He brings it to me.  I really never have to go looking for adventure (think that might be a movie quote but don’t quote me on that).  6 and a half years ago I got a phone call out of nowhere from Juli Bokenkamp asking if I would consider Friendship.  This opportunity has come in the same way.  I did not seek this employment, it came to me.  Late last week I was presented with an opportunity to take work in the insurance industry.  Of course this is not my call!  However once I learned the details and the opportunity it afforded me I had to reconsider. The following stories will tell you why:

4 years ago I had an amazing vision in which God told me that I would be a Pastor.  I began praying for God to open the door for me to live into that vision.  More than a few times, I doubted God’s plan.  I love working with students and families as a DCE but it typically doesn’t lend itself to the freedoms of schooling.  I did not feel called to seek out another job or try to somehow fit school into an already crowded schedule.  Battle of good vs. good maybe?

2 weeks ago I had a disturbing dream.  God showed me these moments of suffering.  Each one was progressively worse than the next.  Finally at the end, after asking many times what it was all about, God told me to end the suffering. I woke up completely frustrated.  How could I end all the suffering in the world?

Since then I have realized that the dream wasn’t about me personally ending all the suffering but calling people to live (and living myself) in the love of Christ.  I was being invited back to my first vision – to shepherd people in love.

So an opportunity comes to me out of the blue…one that will allow me to become ordained i.e. a Pastor.  It was my burning bush moment.  I haven’t slept since Friday.  Seriously, I went to bed at 6am and was up at 8am today.  I prayed and prayed and prayed it out.  I wanted to be clear that this was the opportunity I had been waiting for.  After all that time of prayer, I feel that God has given me this path.

Renee and the kids will be here for a bit while I get adjusted.  We plan to keep our house here and spend time here.  We love Boise and want to be back for good after the dust finally settles.

That’s the big picture.  Please call me to talk or text me or email me.  I want to answer your questions, pray with you, and walk with you through this.

– Zach

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