Friday, June 11, 2010

Learning to Suffer Well

To use a baseball illustration, most Americans have somewhat of a disjointed view of life with God in the picture. Our view is that adding God to the equation when standing in the batter’s box of life naturally means that hitting the ball should be made easier. After all, God is the giver of life and the source from which all good things flow. If I struck out 100 times out of 150 attempts without God, then adding him should decrease my at bat to strike out ratio.

What I’m learning, however, based on the scriptures is that this is somewhat of a disjointed view of God.

A lot of churches are doing a disservice to Christians today in an effort to bring more people into the church. We preach Christ like infomercials preach the promise of their products. We make shallow promises about how God makes life easier, richer and healthier. We sell unbelievers on how joining the church will make you life better but rarely mention the difficult conversations and pain that it takes to get there.

In an effort to get people to join the church, commit to God and pat ourselves on the back after a Sunday, we summarize that adding God to your life will make the pitcher’s pitches seem like a change-up instead of a fastball.

So you can imagine how shallow we respond as Christians when we’ve committed our lives to Christ and a curveball comes our way. Francis Chan illustrates it well when he talks about how it’s as if we’ve created God for us instead of the other way around.

The more I read the scriptures, the more I realize that a Christ centered, Spirit-filled life actually doesn’t make the at-bats of life any easier. In fact, the pitches get faster, the frustrations become intensified and the suffering multiplied.

This thought isn’t new to the scriptures. It’s just that teaching these scriptures don’t leave the hearers with warm and fuzzy feelings. Just look at II Timothy 3:12, "And all indeed that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” When was the last time that your pastor talked about the blessing in persecution?

It seems to be that the Christian life promises to be harder, sweatier and more challenging. It guarantees suffering, persecution and hardship. Becoming a mature Christian doesn’t mean knowing more about the Bible and leading a small group of 25. It means learning how to respond correctly to life’s problems and frustrations when they arise.

Our responses to the strikeouts at the plate of life are well documented. “I thought this was the ‘blessed life’…where’s God in this? Why are we going through all of this suffering? I thought God loved me?”

These responses are typified in today’s world. It’s natural, it’s justified and it’s…fleshly. It’s time that Christians learn to respond to suffering differently. We need to learn how to suffer well. Consider the Apostle Paul’s words from Philippians 3:10:

10-11I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself.

Wow. What a response! Paul wants to give up the good life, the easy life, and the life of easy blessing and head down the road less traveled straight to persecution, suffering and eventual death. That’s the road towards Jesus…and it’s the road that doesn’t get preached enough. That’s having an understanding that in this life, we will suffer and learning that when suffering comes doesn’t mean that Jesus is abandoning us. It means that we are more like Jesus then that ever!

If you are serving Christ, desiring to be more like Him and praying for His will to be done in your life…know without a shadow of a doubt that suffering in some form is coming. But it’s through our suffering that our testimony of Christ’s resurrection power becomes in full view. Because though Christ suffered and died, he was resurrected and lives…and while we may suffer for a little while, be rest assured that suffering will turn to rejoicing.

I want to walk into suffering already rejoicing. I want to learn how to suffer well.

Walking in Love- DD

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What Doctrine Does...

There’s little doubt, in the life of a Christian, doctrine should be important and handled carefully. Last week at Heartland Church, I had the opportunity to teach about one of Heartland Church’s key doctrines, the Doctrine of the Kingdom of God and this week, I will take on another.

As I get older, basic Christian doctrine is getting more and more important to me, and as it does, it’s becoming more important to me for all the reasons that I didn’t think it would.

As a younger man, I was of the opinion that only those who have a heart after God become interested in developing Godly doctrine. That is to say, “good doctrine follows a Godly pursuit.” If a new Christian wants to develop Godly doctrine, he can’t and won’t have a desire to develop this until he really recognizes and develops a sacred, holy and reverent view of God

But here’s the truth: the word “doctrine” in scripture is translated as “teaching” and interestingly enough, Romans 10:17 states, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Let’s reverse that scripture to understand it better. The Word of God enhances your ability to hear and hearing enhances your faith ability. As a result, the Word of God enhances your desire to love God more and trust his ways!

That means this: Godly hearts don’t develop good doctrine; good doctrine develops Godly hearts.

Take John 8:31-32 for instance: “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 we read, “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

This scripture speaks of someone who went down a path of unrighteousness BECAUSE they didn’t love the truth; the truth being the Word of God. By not loving the truth, good doctrine was impossible to develop and without that good doctrine, that good teaching…it was impossible to develop a Godly heart.

Here’s my two cents for the day:

I think we put WAY too much emphasis on trying to motivate people to love God. We argue with them, we try to come up with creative ways to inspire them, we try leaving them alone and letting them learn the hard way. Tough love. Free love. Crazy love.
I’m of the opinion that Godliness comes out of a life of good teaching, both being modeled and by the scriptures.

I heard a sports radio host talking the other day about how everything in our life is incentive based and we don’t do anything anymore unless there is a reward/incentive attached to it and our churches operate in much of the same way.

“If you do this, then God will do this.”

This puts the emphasis on you to act a certain way with an expectation that God should do something.

Isn’t that exactly the opposite of what Bible teaches? God did something and because He did something, he has an expectation for us to act in a certain way (devotion, worship and giving glory).

That’s why the on-going dialogue that I am experiencing within myself has been difficult. “Dusty, what if there appears to be no incentive? Will you still follow God’s precepts?”

Let’s stop dangling carrots in front of fellow Christians to entice them to follow Jesus. Following Jesus isn’t a daily Easter egg hunt where you just find goodies at every turn. Following Jesus requires sacrificial living that brings about confrontation, suffering and difficulty.

II Timothy 3:12 says “All who desire to live a Godly live will be persecuted.

You don’t always find the most eggs. You don’t always get the job. You don’t always receive the earthly award. Following Jesus according to sound doctrine is much more about obedience because God is God, than it is about anything else.

As we continue down the path of sound doctrine, let’s study to show ourselves approved because the Holy Spirit is calling us to absolute devotion for the glory of the Father.

Nothing more and nothing less.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Promise to Papa...


Many years ago, you picked up a paintbrush and began painting a stunning depiction of a vision that ran far past even your own lifetime. As I stand here among staff, some of your closest friends and family, my heart is full. My heart is full because I have the privilege of gazing into the picture that the Lord moved your heart towards so many years ago.

As I think about that picture, I’m reminded of the first time that I tried to learn how to ride a bike. I remember the training wheels that helped guide me around the neighborhood that gave me the confidence for future moments where I would ride without them. And I remember all too well, my own father holding my bike and the comforting words as he held it in his hands, with me sitting on the seat and gripping the pedals, “I’m going to get to you started,” he would say. “I’ll hold you up for a little while…but then I’m going to let go”.

And when I first started to ride, my father was by my side, holding me up and steadying my uneasiness, helping me gain the self-belief that I would be able to one day ride alone.

The truth is that you’ve been guiding our hands along the canvas, shadowing each stroke, helping us hold the paintbrush for the picture that you started painting so many years ago. And on January 14th at 6:43am for the first time, you let go of the brush. And I have to admit before you even now, that much like when dad let go of the bike, life is a little bit scarier without your guiding hand.

But I hear you saying even now, “Bikes were meant to be ridden and not guided. You’ll fall…but you will eventually get up.”

And so today we are standing in front of the canvas, admiring the painting and all of its grandeur. It’s a picture filled with the spirit of the Lord guiding many towards a real relationship with their heavenly father, and as we look into it, we know this painting was meant to be finished. While I’m somewhat unsure of how to paint without your guiding touch, you helped to instill the self belief in all of us that as we begin to paint, we will paint well.

There are whimsical colors that must be added. There are strokes that must be gently and eloquently brushed, and so today, I want to commit to you upon behalf of a generation that has called you “Papa” that we will pick up your paint brush and we will continue on...

We will paint with the color of righteousness, choosing not to use the events of yesterday and today as a reason not to fulfill God’s plan for tomorrow. We will remain virtuous and of noble character. We will forgive the offenses that others commit against us, as we have watched you hold little record of wrong against those in your life. We will hold close sacred values that you have modeled:








We promise not to take ourselves too seriously as we work, realizing that we are only vessels. We loved your humility; how you didn’t brag about your accomplishments. We watched you smile and we loved your contagious laugh. We will live life colorfully and vibrantly.

We will not paint at the expense of family, which you have modeled for us, setting aside time to show us the way a husband should love a wife, our Nana, with whom you loved with your whole heart.

We will fashion our brush with strokes of love working hard to treat every brother and sister in Christ equally and loving all outside the body with a spirit of tenderness, affection and humility.

We will spread our colors under the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We will be quick to listen, slow to speech. We will pray for answers and listen for solutions. We will work outside of ourselves and ask God to guide every movement that we make. We will not lean on our own understanding, but we will instead, let God lead the way.

We will mentor and teach those coming after us how to seize the brush. We will use each day to fashion strands between this generation and the next to create an echo of the values that you have taught us.

To trust quickly

To love swiftly

To listen wisely

To worship passionately

To pray continuously

We don't know if we will finish the picture. That’s not up to us to determine. But we will spend the time that we have left, painting furiously with all of our might.

Thank you starting the beginning of a beautiful painting. Thank you for guiding those before us and thank you for instilling the values in us, which will help us create future artists working in tandem with the creator who makes all things well unto himself.

We will paint…so that God may be glorified.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Israel Calls to Me...

Got back from the Holy Land this week and thought I'd take a moment to share some of the many things that I've taken home with me.

1. Devotion and Dedication
Perhaps the most moving part of my trip was standing at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem with the many Jews and Rabbis that were praying. I can honestly tell you that I stood in absolute awe. It's the first time that I can say that I've experience such a feeling. I didn't cry...I just took it all in. Absorbing the prayers of the righteous and unrighteous alike that had gone up from that place over the 1000's of years. The wall is just saturated with prayers and I remember thinking to myself as I took my piece of paper and stuffed into the wall, "I am so small. There are so many requests here. And yet God cares about mine so much." It was such a powerful moment.

In case you're curious, my request included prayers for our new building, for all of our partners, for all of my Facebook friends, for all of my pastoral relationships, and my family. So just know, you are covered at the wall. What a feeling that is.

2. Journey into Jerusalem

We actually spent the first 2 days of the trip in Tiberius which actually North of the City of Jerusalem, about an hour and a half away by Bus. Here we visited famous sites such as the Sea of Galilee (one of the smallest Seas I've ever seen), the Mount of Beatitudes and the Jordan River. The Jordan River shouldn't be called a river, it's more like a stream. I could dive into it and swim to the other side in roughly 30 seconds.

So it was Tuesday afternoon when we started our journey into Jerusalem. Kendra and the other Daystar singers went off to visit one of our hosts rabbi's so our bus was mostly vacated but our guide began to play a song called, "Oh Jerusalem" as we entered into the city and it was one of the most incredible moments of my life. The Holy!

3. Saturated with Histoy
I've never been anywhere so saturated with history. Jerusalem is one giant excavated region. The further down you dig, the more history you uncover. The walls of the old City are literally layered through thousands of years. The first 4 rows of stone are from the 2nd temple period, the next 4 from the Ottomatic period, the next 4 from another and so on and so on...

4. Western Spirituality is Weak
I walked away greiving and sick to my stomach comparing Western religion to that world. In Israel, your faith is your life. You will fight by it, die by it and thrive by it. Not only do the Christians there know a lot about the region, but they know their bible and have done much to carefully write the book on their heart so that they may be careful to do everything written in it. It was of great inspiration to me to make my faith my life instead of just involving it as a Sunday hobby like so many Westerners do.

5. Jet lag is real.
I'm telling you, my body has been ROCKED from this trip. From the moment that I arrived to even this day, I feel like I've been ran over 30 times by a herd of roaming antelope. Sick, tired and yet desiring to see everything is not a winning combination. Next time I go overseas to Israel, I'm going to be much more prepared to fight jet lag effectively!

On another note, Tiger Woods: I really feel for you this day. You are just another reminder that regardless of who we are and what we're involved in, all of us are 1 decision away to moral failure. We have to guard our lives carefully and tread lightly. I really am remembering this guy in my prayers. I don't wish the fire that he will now go through on anybody.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The New HC Plans are coming along!!!!

Hey Heartland Family...

Incredible things have been going on around HC this week and I want to take just a second to tell you about some of the meetings that took place.

Last week, Pastor Dan and I sat down with Brad Bowen and talked through the phases of renovation completion. For those of you who don't know Brad, he's a partner of the HC family working as the project manager over the renovation construction. He's put in countless hours on the project and has been working with the general contractor who's currently drawing up the plans for the specific renovations.

We broke the renovations down into three phases:

Phase One: The things that can be done before Heartland has its first services in the building.

Unlike most renovations, this project is a little bit tricky because we're limited to what we're able to work on until Grace Church vacates the building on December 27th, the end of the 90 day period that we are allowing them to lease the space back to us while they find a church home.

But there are some things that we believe will be completed such as the construction of the children's classroom bathrooms, the new HC sign on the building (which I'll show you some pics of later) and the sound and lighting in the sanctuary (there are others, but I'm sparing you for now).

Phase Two: The things that can be done as soon as we get into the building.

One of the major items that will be done when we get in will be the Children's wing. We're working with a company who specializes in the design of churches and their children spaces and the preliminary plans have been incredible. We recently agreed to a contract and they have begun drawing the specs for our KIDZ Blast stage which will be a smash hit!

Phase Three: The things that we have to raise money in order to be able to accomplish.

Heartland has entered into detailed talks about extending our lobby space into another level giving us an additional community space in which HC partners will be able to enjoy one another and hang out. With wi-fi service, a coffee shop and other amenities, we believe that people in our area will just want to hang around some Sunday mornings!

We'll be holding a Carrollton Renovation Update to let you know exactly where we're putting our money on the building and show you some of the plans in greater detail on Sunday, December 6th following the 2nd service so make sure you are there!


Yesterday, we met with our interior consultant who will be providing some direction for our building in the areas of decor, paint and an overall design concept inside the building. She was a sharp lady who's contributed to the design of interiors of churches like Watermark Church in Dallas, Texas.

Craig Penrod, one of our valued HC partners has already purchased our sound equipment and actually has it set up inside of his house already programming and getting it ready for the building! HAHA! Check out Craig who's twisting and tweaking the board below. Craig has YEARS of experince as a sound engineer and will be helping take us to a whole notha' level in our sound!

Finally, we've been bidding out the design of our new HC sign that's going to be visible from highway 121. We are in the finally tweaking phases of the sign (the poor company has to hate my guts because I've made them give me so many design options). I'll give you the inside scoop and let you see what will be popping up on 121 at the end of December/Early January!!! Check it out and let me know what you think! This isn't the final copy and we're working on a di-cut to make the bottom lettering POP but it's getting close!!!

Keep praying for us and get ready to help serve in some way as we're going to be calling on our partners to help us build, move, shake, rattle and roll!!!!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

U2 Concert!

I went with Kendra and a ton of other people that I knew from around the office and everywhere else to U2 this past Monday night at the Cowboys stadium. (Kudos to MUSE by the way...they have a new fan!)

This was my second "real" concert experience and I was pretty impressed. However, I wasn't aware that having floor seats meant that you wouldn't actually "have a seat". We were literally on the rail of the second stage that went around the main stage and at one point, we stood probably 10 feet away from Bono as he sang. It was a pretty unique experience, but after standing for probably 4 and a half hours in a small confined space with people screaming and drunk around Kendra and I, we decided that we are "seat people". My legs felt like they were going to fall off.

Greatest moment of the night was when Bono started singing "Amazing Grace" and 100,000 people joined in as he segued into "Where the Streets have No Name" (my U2 favorite). It was an incredible God moment for me as I raised my hands and praised Him for all that he was!

I'm a big Bono fan. His humanitarian efforts are incredible and during the event, he took the time to say, "I want to thank President Bush for the efforts that he made and the lives that he saved in Africa." Say what you want to about the guy, he's not afraid to make political statements in the middle of a concert experience!

Anyway, here are a couple of pictures that my buddy, Seth, took from the evening. It was something that I won't soon forget. Thanks to David, our Productions Director, for the ticket!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Prosperity Less?

It's been somewhat of a bummer of a day in the Dean home today. Last Friday night at a party that we hosted for our college and career ministry at Heartland, we found some wet areas in our carpet and discovered a leak in our dishwasher had created quite a mess.

We called a friend over and he helped us realize that the problem that we had was worse than we initially thought and after pulling back the furniture and then the carpet, discovered mold growing and the area soaked under the carpet with water.

Not the easiest feeling in the world to deal with.

So we decided to file a claim and go the whole insurance route. It took about 5 days, but the adjuster came out today and proceeded to tell us that it was a slow water leak that we could've prevented so the insurance wasn't going to help us at all.

When asked how we could have prevented it other than walking around each day of the week and lifting our furniture to inspect for surprise leaks, the adjuster didn't really have an answer only to tell us that he wasn't going to be able help us.

As he left, Kendra was very upset. I know she was fighting back tears as her house is so important to her and now carpet needs to be replaced in the house as well as the dishwasher and cabinetry, but the finances aren't currently there to make it happen, although through a little saving and extra work, the Lord will provide.

But that's not the really interesting thing that happened. The most interesting thing that happened was the conversation that we had after the fact. As we rallied and began to encourage each other, we acknowledged that the enemy was attacking us and that we didn't need to attack each other. This little tool that our marital and spiritual mentors, Fred and Anna, taught us is so important in marriage. So many times, we blame our spouses and turn them into our enemies over things that either of us really are in control of. Acknowledging that you know who the enemy is, is so important.

There's no coincidence that the enemy has come against us after just starting our small group, hosting parties, as well as ministering to several individuals recently who needed guidance over some pretty significant issues. The timing is too familiar...we know that Satan hates it when people use their home as a blessing to the Lord.

But then our conversation really inspired me when Kendra said that she was surprised that this news was so upsetting to her and the fact that she had even cried over it, stating that she nor I wanted to be controlled by our stuff because stuff is afterall...just stuff.

It was a huge moment for both her and myself as we laid all of our "stuff" before God and said, "we're not sure how you are going to fix it, but we're just going to rest in the fact that you will."

I think of the famous preacher, John Piper, who talks about the prosperity gospel and how it's sabotaged and fooled people all over the world. God is good and only wants good for us and because he only wants good for us, it means that he gives us whatever we want if we have faith. The only problem is that there were people in the Bible like Jeremiah who God gave a mission and from the beginning told him that he'd fail.

Faith in God often is determined often too often by what we have instead of what we don't. But the real gospel of Jesus shows itself to others when someone experiences loss and can stand refusing to be defeated and say, "regardless of what are still enough and I trust in you."

The prosperity gospel is true. But it doesn't show itself in BMW's and shows itself by the family who can prosper regardless of when bad things happen to good people. "God will prosper me even when my finances don't."

The reason why God could tell Jeremiah the end result of his ministry was because God knew that he would be faithful to complete the task regardless of the outcome...because he trusted God.

It's a great prayer for all of us to pray on this day...
"God, I don't know how all things work together for the good for those who love you...and I realize that the finances may not flow richly the way that I hoped that they would on this day. BUT, I know that regardless of what happens financially, I know that the blessing will show itself in some way...and so I trust you, embrace you and look forward to the blessing that comes from either the successes or failures that I experience as I follow you. In this life, I'd rather fail and be yours, than succeed and by owned by this world."