There’s a double rainbow…

Today there’s a double rainbow in my sky. I saw it when I opened my eyes this morning. There lying next to me in bed was my beautiful wife and the beautiful baby growing inside of her womb. Both of them a gift from God. Both of them part of my life, and my life a part of theirs. What a gift. What a privilege. What a sight.

One year ago on this very day, I watched my wife hold a precious little child in her hand, Eli, and thereafter his twin brother or sister after a shattering miscarriage. It was the darkest storm we’d ever faced. It was brutal, and it was scary. Today, we still hold the scars from one year ago.

But God has been with us. He’s been faithful time and time again, and He’s held us up and pieced back together what was once broken. And for that I will be forever grateful.

My wife, Monica, has called this new little one our rainbow baby. And I believe that he (btw, we won’t know the gender until birthday) is our rainbow baby. He is our rainbow after the storm. But so is Monica. She is my rainbow. She is my gift from God after the storm. Her strength, her love, her passion, her friendship, her partnership, and her willingness to continue doing life right by my side is truly a gift. What an honor and what a privilege to be able to love this woman with all of my heart.

So today, there is a double rainbow in the sky. A promise from God that He will be with us through it all.

Monica, I LOVE YOU!

 

Thought this song would be a perfect way to express what I’m feeling right this very moment.

Convinced or Committed

I just read a great article by the John Maxwell Co. that really resounded with me. If you didn’t already know this about me, actually anything that has to do with leadership or team development will always grab at my attention and tighten or loosen the tensions inside of me. Some of those tensions get resolved at times. Sometimes the tensions tighten up a bit more. But many times the tensions will never be resovled. They’ll always just ‘be there,’ and that’s ok. They remind me that I’ll never have it all figured out, that I need to stay teachable, and that I need to have great mentors and peers around me to help me along the journey.

But back to the article.

So in a nutshell, the article described four stages of committed-ness that most, if not all organizations will see in their lifetimes. I read this article using my pastoral-leader lense.

The four stages are as follows:
Understanding
Contribution
Ownership
Evangelism

Now at first glance it really hit home because of where I am in life right at this very moment – leading a brand new church plant/start. Since January 2013, I’ve been on the most thrilling yet demanding ride I’ve ever been on. As a family, we’ve had more ups and downs and all arounds than any other time in life. As a husband and as a father, I’ve had to learn to really be present at home, not just there – something I still manage to screw up but am not giving up on. As a friend, I’ve had to learn to be a good listener, to be transparent and to be vulnerable. As a leader, I’ve had to learn to trust, to champion team, to depend, to empower and to follow others. As a follower of Jesus, I’ve had to and will continue to trust God in all things and leave all of the consequences and results up to Him – that’s a tough thing to do by the way, when you struggle with pride. All of this is what the last fourteen months have looked like at a quick glance… and I wouldn’t want to change anything about it.

Now, I won’t unpack the entire article for you, you can read it here. But let me say this quickly about what I read and what struck a chord.

As I read through the article, it was as if looking into a very honest mirror – a leadership mirror, a ‘how am I really leading this ministry’ kind of mirror.

Is the team that I am a part of, even leading, just in agreement with the vision of our church? Are they just convinced that what we are doing is just a good thing to be doing? Where would every single core team member, even church member, place themselves throughout these stages?

So here’s the breakdown that the article will break down a little further:
(I’ve written them down in such a way that I can remember and recommunicate quickly and efficiently. Again, read the article.)

U – Understanding (agree with & convinced but not connected)

C – Contribution (give time & money but don’t lose any sleep)

O – Ownership (given blood, sweat & tears but not entirely committed yet)

D – Evangelism (can’t stop talking about the vision, passion doesn’t fade, significant part of life, genuinely believe in its worth)

Where would I even place myself? How committed am I to the cause and that vision that God has so graciously placed in our hands?

As a leader, I have to ask myself these questions and decide how serious this committed-ness is, how far we want to take this, how high we want to raise the bar.

Do I just want people agreeing with me all of the time but not really connected?
Do I want people just connecting with time, talent and treasure but not really feeling any kind of responsibility to carry the vision?
Will I be ok with a team or church that is willing to buy into the vision, put some work and even a little ownership into it every now and then?
Or will I strive to lead a team and church that champions the mission, believes in the cause, passionately carries the vision, genuinely believes in its worth and is willing to make this a significant part of life in general? It would seem that everything else would naturally and effortlessly fall into place at exactly the right time.

But the reality is that it takes time… and it has to begin with me.

But here’s where my heart began to swell a little and the excitement and anticipation began to rush through my veins.

I can so clearly see that God Is With Us (our church and the families and individuals that make up the church). I can see how so many people are moving through the stages of committed-ness. I am witnessing every single week how more and more people are no longer just okay with being convinced; they are stepping up to be fully committed, and with no going back.

That my friends is a blessing in itself to be a part of. This I definitely don’t want to miss. The best IS yet to come, and our journey has already begun.

I’d really like to get your feedback on a few things:
1. Where would you say you are in these stages of committed-ness where you serve? (For Life Church – East Campus core team members, let’s just go ahead and be brutally honest with this. There’s really no sense in faking it or just saying what someone else might want to hear. It’s a process that takes time and one worth grinding out.)
2. What would keep members of a team/church from reaching the very last stage of committed-ness?

By the way, to the East Campus core team… I love you guys and feel extremely blessed and privileged to be serving with all of you!

#fullcourtpress
#godiswithus

Father Luke

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Hi. Our names are Julio, and we are roofers.

It’s been a long time since my feet have felt like they were on fire. Ha! That’s how it went down yesterday while in Little Axe, OK. It was about 6pm, and half of our response team, aka ‘the roofers – the Julios’ (the same name given to each of us by our supervisor, Uncle Ted), were on the final stretch trying to finish the roof of a double wide mobile home. After about 9 hours on top of that roof, three days later, it was pretty hilarious to see all of us starting to get on each others nerves while at the same time cracking up to every dumb little comment being made. It was hard. It was hot. The roof was sticking to our feet. We were thirsty. We were laughing. My feet felt like they were on fire. Jonsal’s straw hat kept rubbing against mine which was getting on my nerves. We were running on fumes at this point. It was awesome!! We had one goal, one finish line, one objective – finish the roof! So we pressed on. A little more chalking. A few more cuts. A few more nails to drop. The final delirious laughs. One more roof vent to set. A few more obnoxious comments. And then it happened… We finished the roof. We cleaned up and came down the ladder for the last time to some good ole fashioned 4th of July burgers and hotdogs prepared for us by the ever so grateful homeowners. While Bill was saying grace for the food, he kept choking up as he thanked God for his family, God’s provisions, the team from San Antonio, and his new roof. It was humbling to hear it. The burning feet were no more. There were smiles all around. We felt blessed. We knew at that very moment why were were there in Oklahoma, and why we had launched Project Give Moore. It was for Bill and the 23 others living in that home. It was for Kenny. (By the way, the other team wrecked that debris pile up on Kenny’s lot. Kenny’s home was literally ripped to shreds and blown away, and he was left with piles of debris and trees all over his property. Three days ago we had no idea whether we’d even be able to make a dent. Three days later it was ALL cleared and prepped to have his new house moved in. I’m telling you, the other crew killed it!) This trip was for us to look at the devastation right in the face and be changed by it. I am so proud of the entire crew. They worked hard. They worked long hours. They pushed through the pain and soreness every single day. They played soccer. They became a closer family. They showed respect, love and care for each other and for complete strangers. They loved God, and they loved people. They grew together in our week long life group. They went glocal. They finished strong. It was a privilege and an honor to serve with every single one of them this week.

Project Give Moore Response Team
Roger, Bro. Prouty, Roman, Leo, Alex, Jonsal, Anthony, Carmen, Vic, Julia, Jonathan, Medardo, Luis, Jehu, Daniel, Roger, Chris, Justin, Alvaro, Rogelio, Jorge, Lucas

When I don’t want to give anymore…

In January of this year, we (Life Church of San Antonio, formerly South San Filadelfia Church) launched a brand new campus on the far east side of San Antonio. Have you ever been through Kirby? You’ve probably passed by it traveling in and out of San Antonio through IH-10 East several times without having even known you passed by it. But that’s ok, it’s not that serious. It wasn’t even on my radar until God placed me right in the middle it.

What would begin as an exciting merge between an already existing home church within the community along with our medium sized church with no ties to the community, eventually turned into something completely different. We both decided we would be moving forward in different directions after just a few months of ‘working through the kinks.’ I’m glad things turned out that way. God always seems to know what’s best and what doors to open and shut.

So at the beginning of year, we found ourselves leading a brand new church plant in a brand new community all by ourselves… and that’s where this new journey of mine begins.

I was given the privilege and opportunity to put a team together to start this new work. I was given the encouragement and support from my senior pastor and fellow staff members to start rockin’ this new endeavor. I was charged to reach people for Jesus. I was challenged to figure out how to successfully grow a new church. I was asked to consider planting another one within the next few years. I felt compelled to start meeting the needs of the families within the neighborhood as soon as possible. I was so excited to make a difference there at Hopkins Elementary. I was so ramped up and energized to be leading this new bad boy. So we launched, and off we went.

Six months into it, I’d have to say it’s a lot easier said than done. But that’s ok. We keep moving forward.

We’ve been meeting at Hopkins Elementary since we’ve started, and I couldn’t have asked for a bigger blessing. The administration is great, the teachers are wonderful and the families are beautiful. I pray for all of them all the time. We have been welcomed into their home and into their lives. It is an honor. It is a privilege. It is a blessing.

But this morning, something ran across my mind maybe for the very first time. You see, my family and I were invited to visit a church in New Braunfels this morning for a very special occassion. This church will be sponsoring and supporting our new church plant, and they wanted to introduce a few of us new pastors along with our families to their 2,700 members during multiple worship services today. It was pretty cool. So many warm smiles and handshakes. Great facilities all around. Friendly staff members and volunteers making others feel welcomed. It was a big church. Their senior pastor shared how God had blessed them over the last thirty years, and how God would continue to do great things in the years to come. It was inspiring and exciting. My wife and I dropped off our kiddos during one of the services at their kids ministry/building. It had just opened this past Easter. It was a five million dollar facility just for infants, preschoolers, and elementary aged kids. It was pretty impressive.

I guess you could say if I needed to see a ‘model’ of what our new church plant was going to look like in thirty years, well there you go. And that’s what we drove away with. That’s the conversation my wife and I began to have with each other as we drove back home. That’s what I began to wrestle with in my mind as I began to have a conversation with myself…

This is impossible.

How the heck are we going to get there?

Thirty years?

Is this what we really want?

Why can’t we (Hispanic churches/leaders) seem to get here?

Their kids ministry has more volunteers than our entire church does!

How do you even minister to three thousand people on any given weekend?

We don’t even own property to build on.

A full time staff of how many…?

Mission trips here and there from adults to middle school students all year long… really?

It was on a long stretch of what seemed like a quiet freeway as we entered San Antonio that I asked myself this question, “What if I don’t want to give anymore?”

I’d shot a text to a good buddy of mine to see how our church service had gone this morning, and his response was, ‘It was good, not too many people.’

It was the text. It was the visit. It was the text being weighed up against the visit. It was the visit being compared to the text. It was their church. It was our church. It was all the people and all the blessings, and it was our few people and the lack of so many things. It was their five million dollar kids building. It was our teacher’s lounge.

And so I asked God this time around, “God, what if I don’t want to give anymore? What if I can’t do this? What if I don’t know how to do this? What if I screw all this up? What if I fail?”

Pause.

Long pause.

Uncomfortable, long, anxious pause.

Awkward silence pause.

Ok, maybe just a few more moments pause.

And then it came…

… absolutely nothing.

We got home. Unpacked our grumpy kids. Took showers. Had dinner, read, prayed, and went to bed.

So now it’s 1:36am, and I’m up writing this because the answer has arrived.

“Lucas, if you don’t want to give anymore that’s fine. It’s not that serious. You really don’t have anything to give in the first place. (OUCH!!!!) Now, if you want to let me do this through you, that’s a completely different story. It’s going to cost you more, and I’m going to stretch you more than you’ve even been stretched. So I’m just giving you heads up on that. But don’t worry, I’m with you. In your weakness and lack of this and that, I’ll provide you with strength and with what you’ll need. That’s my job. You, my friend, just need to show up time and time again with a humble attitude, teachable spirit, and a generous heart. Love me first. Love people second. Stop being a full time pastor and a part time follower of me. Just flip that around, and you’ll see me show up more often to bless the work of your hands. Get into the lives of other people, do life with them and grow with them in me. That’s a pretty extraordinary thing to be a part of. But you’ve got to embrace it all – the good and the ugly. Go into your neighborhood. Go to Moore. Go where people are hurting. You will always find me there. I’m always close to the brokenhearted. Make sure your family understands this. Share this with your church. It’s a pretty big deal to me. And lastly, but certainly not least, love and delight in your wife and your kids. They are your greatest gift and your greatest ministry. Your greatest contribution to my kingdom will be through them and through their children and their children’s children. So pay close attention to how you lead them. Do it well, and do it wisely.”

What’s loud and clear?

Recently, I’ve had some pretty serious moments where I’ve found myself asking God about His future plans for my life (which at this point includes by beautiful wife and my amazing kiddos). I’m really trying to get out of the habit of suggesting to Him where I think I need to be or even where I don’t think I want to be. Know what I mean? I’ve decided that I just need to trust Him with every detail and aspect of my life. I don’t want to just say or think that God knows what I need, I want to be fully convinced that He is my provider and my protector. But I do still ask Him to speak to me… and to speak to me clearly about the things that are on my mind and on my heart.

And then the messages start arriving. Sometimes quickly. Other times just every now and then. And they come in so many different ways.

Have you ever wondered if what you’re hearing is really God’s voice?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s so much noise going on all around us all the time. There are tons of voices seeking to hold conversations with us. There’s tons of music seeking to replay itself through our song. There are a ton of events happening all around us that are ready to grab our time. There are a ton of images that are bombarding our eyes and imagination. Could it be possible that we might mistake one or even several of these things for God’s voice? Or could God be using one of these things to speak to us directly? Is what’s loud and clear really what we need to be listening for? Or should we be listening for a faint whisper?

Lately, it seems that in the stillness of the night (very early hours of the morning) God’s word seems to grab my heart and attention in a very personal way rather than right in the middle of my day. The passages in the books that I read seem to have deeper meaning and provide the insight I’m looking for. Conversations throughout the day almost seem to pause at meaningful moments as I reflect on them. I’m in no rush to get through what I’m focusing on, and I’m completely engaged in the conversation. I’d have to say that it’s pretty cool.

God knows exactly how to communicate with each of us. Especially individually. He speaks the language we speak loud and clear, even through a softly spoken word.

How do you hear God best?

Push yourself.

So let’s continue this conversation about current and former conditions of the church, ministries, and us as the body of Christ. By the way, thank you for sharing some of the comments you have already. In sitting and meeting with some local leaders, know that we are listening, praying and asking God to sharpen us, stretch us even more, and to give us insight on how to connect and lead along side this generation.

So let me throw this out at you today. Could a current condition be that we just don’t have God’s word hidden in our hearts like we need to? Let me explain myself a bit. I’m talking not just about reading God’s word day after day, but meditating on it day and night to the point that it permeates and saturates our minds and hearts and becomes a natural part of our thought process. It gets to the point that as we approach and tackle life’s situations, circumstances, and/or ups and downs, we draw from this well of Word as a means to navigate through it, tackle it and overcome it.

Simply stated – memorization of God’s word.

So why might this be a condition that needs to be addressed? I’m starting to think that way too many of us are making way too many decisions about way too many things that are affecting a lot of people based on what’s culturally trending according to mainstream society, what others are doing in their ministries based on their callings, and personal experiences. Here’s what I’m trying to say. When we speak and lead, what comes out of us has got to be from a source deeper than those things I already mentioned. Those things can be tools to help us gauge and understand variables around us that directly affect us, but if we draw from the perfect, pure and unblemished word of God, we will speak and lead with power, and His word will not return void!

So let’s just do what we need to do. Let’s get God’s word in us so that when the time comes, it will flow right out of us.

Would you do me a favor? I’m the comments section below, share one verse that you’ve really made a part of who you are. Something that has helped to guide you as you go… And as you lead.

Be vulnerable. Have substance. Embrace change.

Be blessed friend!

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Bring it!

Alright friends, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

Seems like I’m hearing something that goes way beyond an event, a conference, a rally, a march. I’m hearing a reoccurring theme – that is if I’m reading in between the lines correctly or even at face value. I’m getting this sense that you are asking to be challenged, stretched, called out, pushed, and even wrecked. (Forgive me for saying this, but if you don’t ‘get’ what I just said, PLEASE stop reading from this point on. We’re not on the same page. If we’re speaking the same language, then proceed.)

Now, please correct me if I’m wrong, and feel free to share your thoughts at any moment. I want you to talk to me about substance. Talk to me about depth. Talk to me about change. Talk to me about a meaningful and significant connection with God first and foremost and then with others. Why? Because ‘status quo’ – we’re done with that. ‘Mediocrity’ – we’re done with that too. The ‘just getting by’ approach – we’ve had enough of that as well. The ‘let’s just do it ’cause we’ve always done it’ mentality – that has got to go. And the ‘I’m not really sure where we’re going’ leadership – done with that.

I’m feeling you, and I’m hearing you loud and clear. The same is resonating in my heart as well. So let’s move forward together.

So here’s where I’d like to start this conversation, this reAction per say. There are two questions I’d like for you to help me answer:

1) What will our response and reaction to the former and current conditions be? 2) Who is ready to lead to lead this thing?

So where do we start? Let’s take a minute to examine our personal lives –  the personal condition. This is the foundation, and this is where it all begins, happens and ends. How is your two way communication with God? Prayer and The Word. Simple? Yes. Basic? Probably. Profound? Believe me, we’ll never fully understand. However, this is priority over all else and this is a must. We should need God like we need water, air, food, shelter and acceptance from our families and friends. So this is our foundation. If we are building a church, a ministry, a relationship, or a life on anything other than this, it’s not going to last. It’s going to be shaky and unstable. We’ll have to continually rebuild and repair.

So what if this is already our heart’s desire? What if we are already doing the best we can to walk in His way? Then keep pressing on. Keep moving forward, and quickly connect with others of the same heart, mind, spirit and passion. Don’t go at it alone. Walk with someone else, build them up and encourage them. And, allow those of the same heart and spirit to help sharpen you, push you and hold you accountable.

Connect vertically and horizontally. It’s pretty basic.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
(Matthew 22:37-39 ESV)

Let’s get on point starting here. The rest will fall right into place once we’ve got this in motion. (It won’t be easy at times, but definitely worth it!)

So maybe one of the current conditions is that we haven’t really gotten past this point yet. Maybe it hasn’t been addressed enough. Maybe we’re just assuming that everyone is on point in their walk with God. Maybe some of the leadership really gets it. Maybe some of the leadership doesn’t see the need. Maybe most of our students are there, or it might be just a handful of them. We’ll really need to use some discernment and being honest with ourselves at this point to gauge where things are at. It’s a good measurement tool of us nonetheless. This starting point will determine the substance behind our message(s), the basis of our preparation for the things that we lead and are involved in, our relevance to those that are seeking to connect with us because of what God is doing in our lives, and whether or not we will be operating under His favor and blessings.

Would you say this is a good starting point for addressing the current and former conditions? Yes, there are more issue that we’ll address soon. But first things first. We’ll pick this conversation up in a few days.

Be vulnerable, have substance, and embrace change.

Lucas

‘Congreso’

As I’m riding in one of our student vans headed back home from Congreso, I’m trying to process the ‘experience’ of it all… It’s a little hard to find the right words. Nonetheless, I will give my blessing.

May the Lord continue to touch lives and transform the hearts and minds of those that will continue to attend Congreso in the years to come. And may He continue to be lifted up and glorified relentlessly and passionately.

That is all.

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Communication FAIL Wrap Up

So what’s it going to be? Communication fail OR communication improvement. Everyday we move closer to one or the other. Everyday counts. Every finish line that has ever been crossed has started with a first step. So improved communication should be approached the same way. Rather than focusing on whether the steps are small or large, focus on sure steps – quality steps. Go after the things that will help to keep your communication lines healthy and strong.

Take this verse with you as you work through another day…

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

Let this verse remind you that you’re not alone. You’re in good hands with God. Regardless of where you’re at in your communication with God and with others, just keep moving forward.

Stay encourage and stay strong in the Lord. See you soon.

By the way, on Easter Sunday we’ll be kicking off a brand new sermon series entitled “The Epic Journey.” You won’t want to miss it!

Communication FAIL – Challenge #6

Okay friends,

Let’s change it up a bit tonight. Here’s how it’s gonna go down…

I’d like to bless someone this weekend with a pretty cool iTunes gift card (wouldn’t it’ll be cool to download some new music this weekend). A bunch of you guys and gals have been visiting the blogs all week long. That’s pretty cool! I pray that you’ve been encouraged all week long.

Here’s the challenge:

Jot a number down between 1 – 100 in the comment section below. BUT it’s got to be after you share something that you’ve learned this week in your communication journey. You can only respond once, and you can only guess one number.

Good luck. I’ll share who the winner is tomorrow night! Spread the word, and let’s get to posting! (The winning number has already been selected by the way. Closest number wins and the first one to guess right wins.)

See you this weekend.

Psalm 19:14

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight o Lord my strength and my redeemer.

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