He Became a Nobody

I’ve grown up with a dad who convinced me that I could win at anything I put my mind to.  I’ve been a leader since I was young and I love the idea of training, competing and winning with teams that I have been a part of.  I am a passionate sports fan and I love it when my team wins.  America has always been a “winner.”  I love reading books written by winners who have been successful in their careers.  From the biographies of President’s to biographies of football coaches, I am drawn to learn from champions.  America loves a winner.  I love a winner.

With that said, I’m personally in a bit of a pickle right now with Jesus.  He is a champion to say the least.  A winner if you will.  Yet what He is showing me right now is that His definition of winning is quite different than what I’ve ever truly considered.  Philippians 2:7 is uncomfortable to read.  It reads, “Instead, He gave up His divine privileges, He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.  When He appeared in human form.”

To win in the kingdom is to go low. 

Recently, I was given the opportunity to speak in a place that would look great on a resume.  It would give me major creditability as a young pastor.  I talked to God about it as I was blowing leaves in my back yard and I could not understand why He was being so silent.  I heard nothing.  Three weeks went by and I could not discern if I should say yes to this overseas invitation that would have lasted two weeks.  Finally God spoke to me and when I heard what He had to say, I was not prepared to deal with it.  In a nutshell, my eyes were opened to the reality that I was more interested in what was in the event for me and not for Jesus and His kingdom.  I felt sick to my stomach when God showed me what was in my heart.  

I asked the Lord recently to show me anything in my heart that is not of Him.  He has been faithful to do that and I feel no condemnation on it.  I appreciate that He loves me enough to show me things about myself that need His pruning. 

Am I doing what I am doing for me or for Him?  

Perhaps during this holiday season as we are moving towards the New Year, you should ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and reveal anything in you that needs His loving correction.  It’s worth it.  I don’t want to be another pastor who does not have the character to steward what God desires to do through me.  Refinement is not punishment.  He has great intentions for us as He graciously grooms us through His own design of pressing.  

I’m thankful for a Father who loves me enough to show me my own heart.  Step out in faith and ask Him to shine a light on your heart.  Embrace what He shows you and take it to the cross.  It’s worth it.

Love,

Chad

Peanut Butter and Jelly

My six year old son said the other day, “Dad, I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”  

Love.

That one, 4 letter word, has seemed elusive to me for many years.  I know what it means and I’m able to speak and write on it but I’m not sure it’s ever been imbedded in me on a gut level.  I’ve studied the different Greek meanings of that mysterious word for years.  Yet it was not until three weeks ago, in a small town in Colorado, that it made sense to me in a very deep way.

I’ve been married 18 years to Wendy Elizabeth Norris.  When she walked down the aisle in Tifton, Georgia on May 24, 1997 I thought I knew what love was.  I had no clue.  I think there are only some things that can be learned through many years of trial and error.  It would be amazing if the concept of love could be “imparted” to us but it just simply doesn't work that way.  Learning to die to yourself and lay your life down for someone else seems to be a lifetime adventure.

Wendy and I decided to spend some time in Colorado at a Christian Retreat Center.  I thought we were just going for a good little “tune up.”  God had something else planned.  For me, it was nothing like a tune up.  It was a complete overhaul.  God spent 10 days giving me revelation on what love really is.

You would think that I would have many encounters and revelations with God on a ten day retreat but that was not the case for me.  I had one encounter; and it happened to be at a Crossfit Gym in Buena Vista, Colorado.  After one of my workouts, I walked outside and caught my breath as I  looked at some of the most beautiful mountains you have ever seen.  As I was standing there I said, “Lord, what do you want from me?”  Immediately, I heard, “Greater love has no man than this, than he that lay down his life for his friends.”  

That was it.  No manifested presence of God.  No angelic visitation.  No tingles or goosebumps.  

God quoted scripture to me.

Our ten days together was one long conversation on what love looks like inside the context of our marriage.  For Wendy, her love language is service.  One of the ways that she desires for me to love her is for me to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids to take to school.  Funny how things come full circle.  My son flippantly used the word “love” in his comment on a sandwich.  A few weeks later, God would show me that making that sandwich is a small glimpse into what love really is.  

I’m not sure it’s possible to love someone without it costing me something.  “Laying my life down for someone else” can look like many things and have many degrees of cost.  Yet, as I continue to process the idea of love, I am realizing that it always should cost me something.  In that cost, a more intimate connection with Jesus is the reward.  Loving Him and the one I’m serving.  Sounds very similar to the greatest commandment.

Come Lord Jesus.  Help me with this.

Love,
Chad

Hunger

I remember my very first UGA football game when I was a child.  It was so overwhelming to me that I felt like I was going to explode.  There were 80,000 people going crazy by cheering for their beloved Bulldogs.  That passion was contagious and infectious.  I ended up getting a degree from there many years later.  That passion got inside of me and till this day I am a diehard UGA Bulldog.  My whole family is.   I am Bulldog born, Bulldog bred, and when I die I will be Bulldog dead.  Dawgs or die.
 
"Passion."  One word that means a lot to me.  I like being around passionate people.  I tend to struggle around apathetic people.  It’s just the way that I am wired.  I love being around people who are passionate about their dreams, pursuits, hobbies, or aspirations.  Passionate people inspire me.  I remember reading the book “Fred Factor” that focused on a mailman who was so passionate about his job that someone wrote a book on him.  Mark Sanborn was so inspired by Fred that he told his story.  Passionate people inspire others.
 
This week I am at Voice of the Apostles in Nashville, TN.  I have heard Heidi Baker speak numerous times.  I’ve listened to her sermons and have always left feeling the desire to go after God harder than I ever have.  I have read her books, listened to her interviews, and been impacted by her sermons.  None of the times before can match what God did with me while she was speaking last night.
 
Heidi and her husband Rolland are missionaries in Mozambique Africa.  They are the leaders of Iris Ministries.  Her story has been well documented all over the world.  Heidi has been on the cover of "Christianity Today" and is well known for signs, wonders, healings, raising the dead, and deliverances.  She is a tiny woman with a huge Jesus in her heart.  That is probably an understatement.  Even though I have been familiar with her and Rolland, last night took her impact on my life to a different level.  I wept the first twenty minutes of her sermon and I don’t even know why, other than God was already moving on me and 8,000 other people.

What struck me last night is the deep friendship that Heidi has with God.

 It’s what I want more than anything in the world.

I want it more than influence, friendships with people, money, or fortune.  My whole life I have been borderline obsessed with knowing God.  I don’t want to be interested in God; I want to be possessed by Him.  As Heidi was talking last night, I knew that I was in the presence of someone who walks that out.  I’m sure Heidi is not perfect and she has her own flaws like the rest of us do, but one thing I know for sure; is that she is possessed by God Himself.
 
I pastor a church in the Bible belt.  Heidi prophesied last night, “God is coming for the Bible Belt with the kiss of intimacy.”  I want to be a part of that.  More than I want my next breath.  I don’t have to live in Mozambique to be a fiery furnace of passion for God.  God loves the Bible Belt as much as anyone else in the world and my prayer is that He will allow me to be on the front lines of a great move of Heaven in our midst.  Come Lord Jesus.

Not a Matter of Talk

I Cor 4:20 says, “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.”

This past week, I spent a few days with the students of Bridgeway Church, the family I have the honor to Pastor.  Our Student Pastors, Joseph and Paige Helms, decided to take our students up into the mountains to connect with God and each other.  When we planned this camp, we spent some time listening to God on what He wanted for these few days together.  We kept hearing the word “Fire” as we prayed about the week.  I had no idea it could be as intense as it ended up being.

Sunday came and around 90 people loaded up and carpooled up into the mountains expecting to experience God in a real way.  All 90 of us left feeling completely overwhelmed and grateful by the love of our Father.

What scares me is that it’s easy to have a successful church in America and not focus on what Jesus focused on in His ministry.  All you have to do is hire a great musician, a competent communicator and cater to specific needs that people have in their lives.  Host a few classes for young adults, those going through divorce, young marrieds, students, etc…  You get the point.  Yet, when you look at Jesus in the gospels, you notice that He focused on three things:

1. He taught the Kingdom

2. He healed the sick

3. He delivered people of the enemy.

All too often the American church and what Jesus focused on do not line up,…  at all.

For this particular camp, we decided to focus on what Jesus focused on.  The result was literally life changing.  I have been a part of camp ministry since I was 19 years old.  I have preached at so many youth camps that I can’t even begin to add them all up.  Not a single one of them has ever impacted me the way this camp did.

The reason is that I felt like I was living in the book of Acts.  We saw so many students and adults touched by God all week long.  Healing and Deliverance was normal.  Receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and praying in tongues was normal.  Major encounters with God in the worship sessions were normal.  A wind started blowing while I was preaching one night.  Then a wind started swirling around the room.  We did not glorify the experiences.  We sincerely loved on Jesus and gave Him our worship.  We saw students give their lives to Jesus Christ for Salvation which is a miracle in itself.  We literally experienced God.

I’ve noticed that people who chase experiences in the Kingdom tend to get sidetracked and burn out.  Yet those who keep their eyes on Jesus and are completely open to what He wants to do tend to have a much better chance at going the distance with Him. 

I am excited about this youth group being an engine of passion for Bridgeway.  The adults here have a lot to learn from these young people.  I want to learn from them.  Last week is a week I will never forget.  Jesus was on center stage and we were not afraid to focus on the things that matter to Him.  We want more Lord.

What do you need to change today to start to focus on the things that Jesus focused on?

What the Enemy Fears

America is the land of the “Mega Church”; enormous organizations built with solid business principles that are run as smoothly as a well-conditioned school or hospital.  Personally, I’m not one to “bash” Mega Churches.  I believe churches of 5,000 to 50,000 congregants are helping tons of people.  I value a high level of passion and excellence and I’m all for as many people as possible walking in the Kingdom.  

However, I do want to ask a question.

 “What scares the enemy?”  

Does a large body of people scare the enemy?  Do huge organizations that operate in the name of Jesus Christ make the enemy nervous?  At this point in my life, I can answer “yes” to that question, if and only if, one thing is happening in these places: disciples are being made.

Recently, I was preaching in Hampton, Virginia and was asked, “What scares the enemy?”  I thought about it for a few seconds and replied, “Disciples who walk in power, terrify the enemy.  What does not terrify the enemy is a person who simply pays a few tithes, sits in a room with a bunch of other people a few times a month and listens to a very entertaining sermon.”  

In my time as Lead Pastor of Bridgeway Church, I have been asking myself, “What will be our scorecard?”  For most of my life, I have noticed that the scorecard for most churches is:

1. How many tithes are coming in. 2. How many people are showing up on Sundays.  

There is nothing inherently evil in these two things but I do not believe that this is the scorecard that Jesus Christ is looking at.  I believe Jesus is still interested in what He was interested in many years ago when He said the words in Matthew 28, “Go and make disciples.”

If we are not making disciples that are learning to walk in the character and competency of Jesus Christ; then I am asking, “What are we doing?”  

When my life is over, I want the Lord to look at me and say, “Chad, thank you for being obedient to what I called you to do.”  Jesus is calling me to make disciples and teach the Bridgeway team how to make disciples.  We still have our diapers on in terms of building a culture of discipleship but at least we have left the old mindset of only counting fannies in seats and money in buckets.  We want to raise spiritual mothers and fathers who give their lives away to raise up other disciples who walk in power. 

In John 6, we see Jesus be very challenging in His sermon and many of His disciples deserted Him.  He even asked Peter if he was going to leave.  Jesus did not seem to have a passion for gathering many people.  He had more of a passion for teaching truth and inviting others to join Him in His journey, even if it was hard.  Jesus cared more about developing His disciples than He did creating an enormous ministry that revolved around people simply hearing Him teach.
  
                                      The church in the west needs to do the same.

My goal is to have a development culture at Bridgeway Church.  I think it will take us at least five years to build a strong culture of discipleship.  At least, five years.  In the mean time, I am continuing to help our team sink our teeth down into the mentality of a developmental culture over a delivery culture.  When someone asks me how church was on a Sunday I immediately try to steer the conversation to our overall goal of making disciples and not just evaluating a 90-minute service each week.  

Come Lord Jesus.  Help us.

Love,
Chad

Witch Doctor

One of my favorite things to do in life, is to take people, who are hungry to see if John 14:12 is real, down to Haiti. Jesus said "If anyone believes in me, he will do the same things I have done, even greater things will he do because I am going to the Father."

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My Trip to Bethel for the "Holy Ghost" Movie Premier

I meet very few people who have not been influenced by Bethel Church in some way over the past ten years.  Bethel Church resides in Redding, California and is Pastored by Bill and Benni Johnson. Bethel Music has influenced Christian music in great ways to say the least.  In addition to the musical influence, Bill Johnson has served as one of the leading voices in the message of Heaven coming to earth.  Bill gets persecuted a lot for what he preaches.  He is a thought provoker and pioneer on teaching people the works of the Father.

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Naturally Supernatural Conference

I was at P.F. Chang’s the other night with my good friend, Clay Danner. Our church will be launching Clay and Rhonda Danner to Taiwan next summer to begin a ministry there.

We ate lettuce wraps, spicy shrimp pad Thai, and some other dish I can’t pronounce. We tore into our food like men who had not eaten in a month. As we stuffed our faces and thought about God’s plans for Clay and Taiwan, we sensed that God wanted us to speak into something about our waiter.

No worship band. No stage. No lights, camera, or action. Just two dads eating a big meal and watching God break through in a very natural way.

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