Monday, March 28, 2016

Guess who is pregnant?!?

God never ceases to amaze us with His amazing grace. Grace by its very definition is undeserved and unearned.  As you know, our story is one of brokenness and redemption, hurt and healing, unfaithfulness and forgiveness. It is a story that testifies of God's relentless grace. And our grace story continues to be written.

Ashley and I are thrilled to announce our family is growing! God is giving us another undeserved gift of incredible grace.


That's right: Ashley is pregnant. God has granted us the privilege of becoming parents.  He continues to make beauty out of ashes.

We have often questioned whether we "deserved" to have a baby. The Enemy has a way of constantly reminding you of your consequences and how "undeserving" you are of God's blessings.  And yet we know that God redeems brokenness for His glory and goodness. He brings life out of death.  And in His sovereign grace He has created life in spite of our failures. 

For 14+ years, I have been privileged to be the daddy of three amazing children. I love them more than my own life and never anticipated having the opportunity to walk this path again with Ashley.  But God had a different plan and so we take this next step in our grace story with both excitement and trepidation - knowing that the same God who creates life provides more grace than necessary to take each step of this journey.

It is our heart's desire that the life of our child will point people to Jesus and Jesus alone. 

Approximate due date: September 25th

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Loophole

"He uses grace as a loophole" 

Ashley and I were talking last week & she was telling me about a conversation she was having with someone where the above statement had been made negatively about another person ... like grace should not be viewed as a loophole.

As I processed these words for a minute, we both looked at each other and exclaimed, "But that's exactly what grace is - a loophole!" 

Our lexical friend Merriam-Webster defines a loophole as a means of escape.  Most often it has to do with an unnoticed out in the legal system that allows a person to evade the potential consequences of breaking a particular rule or law.   A person deserves one thing because of their actions but undeservedly avoids those consequences because of a loophole in the law.

Paul states it this way in Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death, BUT the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." As sinners we have broken God's holy and righteous law and are therefore deserving of God's full wrath. And yet because of Jesus, we are provided a means of escape - a loophole! We deserve death. He provides life.

We tend to fail to recognize grace as a loophole when we forget the depth of our own depravity and our constant need for the gospel.  And sadly, the longer we are on the journey of following Jesus the easier it seems to forget our righteousness is found in Jesus alone and not our own efforts to please Him.

I am grateful grace is a loophole and I hope I never forget just how important that simple yet profound truth is.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Grace Point Church turns 10

Do you ever wish life came with an edit button? Do you wish you could go back and rewrite or omit a chapter of your story?  I think all of us have moments or seasons we wish we could amend.

Ten years ago this week a new church launched in Las Vegas.  135 people gathered in a middle school cafeteria north of Las Vegas and Grace Point Church was born. I had the privilege to serve as the Founding & Lead Pastor of Grace Point for its first five years.  In reality, I had already invested over 3 years of my life into that moment so the official "launch" was simply the climax of the previous chapter of my life.

Parachuting into a community like Vegas and planting a church is a daunting task. Very few church plants survive in Vegas.  And truthfully only a church planter knows the weight and burden of starting a church from scratch.  The amount of money that must be raised (a million dollars for us), convincing a core group to move to Las Vegas with you with no guarantees of success, finding staff and key volunteers to lead, securing a location, letting the community know you are there, questioning if and why anyone would even show up, all of your doubts and insecurities exposed again and again ... and on and on and on. The church plant death rate in the first three years is telling. But we were a part of something unique.

Over the first 3 years, Grace Point grew to a self-sustaining church of over 800 people, even seeing more than a thousand show up on a few occasions. We preached the gospel and hundreds of people came to faith in Jesus and were baptized (including my 2 daughters). Lives were changed. Marriages were restored. Broken people found a place of healing and redemption.  People from around the country began to take notice of Grace Point.

The name Grace Point came from my own personal quiet time in Romans 5:20 where Paul reminds us grace is bigger than sin.  We wanted to be a point in Sin City where God's grace abounds. And that is the environment and message we were able to demonstrate and proclaim.

My dream became a reality ... and in the process my heart drifted from God.

Five years ago this week and on the fifth anniversary of Grace Point Church, I stood on the stage and preached my last message as their pastor. My own sinful choices disqualified me from leading the very church God enabled me to start in 2006.  I hit bottom.  I hurt people - most importantly the ones God called me to protect first and foremost. It was a devastating time in my life and I had no hope that God could restore my marriage or my ministry. I gave up. I ran. I hid. I disappeared. And Grace Point was forced to rebuild without me. 

This weekend Grace Point Church turns 10 years old.  I have no idea if they plan to celebrate this monumental occasion. I do know that you will likely never hear or see anything about the first 5 years of their journey.  In a sense those chapters have been omitted except in the hearts and minds of the people involved. That is often the way it is when a pastor has a moral failure. But thankfully God has enabled Grace Point not only to survive but to thrive. After being portable for 10 years, they are about to move into their own facility. Exciting days are ahead of them.  And occasionally I peek in to see what is happening and rejoice in what God has done in spite of me.

The Church belongs to Jesus. It is bigger than any one person or sin. It is His church and He will sustain it. I am regretful that it took a life-altering chapter for me to grasp fully that truth.

For a few years, I wanted to rewrite those chapters in my life. I think at times you have to hit bottom to look up. When a person is drowning in sin, the tendency is to try and tread water or try and make it to shore on your own.  But that struggle only takes you deeper until something breaks.  I was broken and it changed my outlook.

My perspective has shifted dramatically in recent years. I know that I cannot go back and amend those seemingly defining chapters but God can redeem those chapters for His glory and in the process heal my heart to the point those chapters do not define me.  God has shifted my perspective from focusing on my personal, relational, and pastoral failures while at Grace Point to observing what He was doing behind the scenes for the season I was removed.

Here are a few glimpses of how God was working a bigger story behind the scenes when my chapter was being written.

- I sat in the kitchen of a young couple many years ago in rural Kentucky and shared the gospel with them. They prayed to embrace Christ, were baptized in our church, and began a spiritual journey that eventually landed them in Las Vegas to become a part of Grace Point.  He now serves as the Lead Pastor of the church. 

- One of the current elders/full-time staff members and his wife moved to Vegas after being displaced by Katrina. He was a marine biologist and took a job taking care of the aquariums at The Mirage. She assumed a hospitality director position for Caesar's Palace. They randomly saw a sign one day for Grace Point, attended, and embraced Christ. I had the privilege of baptizing them.

- Another one of the current elders attended another church in north Vegas but was dating a lady at Grace Point who came to the church through one of our community events. Her story is one of incredible grace and redemption. She also came to faith at Grace Point and I baptized her. He was also going through some healing from a previous relationship and soon became an active part of our church. A few years later I was able to officiate their marriage and watch God heal their hearts in the process.

- Back in the early 2000s, I was considering taking a pastoral position in southern Indiana. A teenage young lady with a heart for Jesus was a part of the selection process that hired me to be their pastor.  When we decided to move to Las Vegas a few years later, I asked her and her husband to be a part of our launch team and move with us.  They took a huge step of faith and moved to Las Vegas where they have been a part of Grace Point ever since. He is also an elder at the church.

- Other current staff members also came to Grace Point during our first few years and their lives and the lives of their families were radically transformed by God.

- Three different churches are being planted around the country by young men who served as interns at Grace Point while I was the pastor. One of them met his wife at Grace Point. She also moved to Vegas (by herself) to be a part of our launch team.

- Ironically enough after participating in a mission trip to help Grace Point, a couple from Alabama asked if they could move to Vegas and serve on our team. They spent one year at Grace Point on our staff before returning to the city in which we now live - Decatur. They eventually took over a small church that has exploded to more than 1500 people and has impacted many lives throughout North Alabama. They were also a vital part of the healing process for my first wife who now serves on their staff. 

- Grace Point helped launch 2 churches in San Jose and San Francisco that are making a huge gospel impact in those areas.

- During our first few years, we worked hard to establish a partnership with the City of North Las Vegas that enabled us to touch hundreds of thousands of people in a few years time. It was an important component of who we were as a church and our presence in the community. That partnership continues today.

- We started a community service weekend in North Vegas called Servolution where we served aggressively our community for an entire weekend. That vision has continued and still shapes the church and community.

- Even my younger brother Derek who came to Vegas during a difficult season of his life and served on our staff met his future wife at Grace Point!

- I can't tell you how many emails or Facebook messages I have received and still receive from people all over the country who were impacted through what God did at Grace Point during that season.

Can you see the common thread here? God was writing a story bigger than the individuals in the story.  God's story is bigger than any chapter or chapters in your life. He is in absolute control. He is writing a story larger than our failures and our success.  He uses different people at different seasons in our lives to get us where He wants us.  He is writing His redemptive story and broken people are a part of the narrative.

It blows my mind God was writing a redemptive story in a small house in rural Kentucky that would enable Him to continue something on the other side of the country in Sin City - something that He began in my heart but would continue through the ministry of someone else whose path divinely crossed mine years earlier.  That chapter alone demonstrates how sovereign and big our God is.

The decisions I made during that season of my life hurt a lot of people. I will always live with that reality. But God has healed my heart to the place where I will not focus on my past mistakes but on the story He was writing in spite of me.  My sin did not catch God off guard.  He knew the chapters of my story before they were lived out. He knew how my story would play out before Las Vegas was even on my radar. And in His sovereignty He put together a redemptive plan that He would use to transform the lives of thousands of people long after my chapter ended.

Thankfully God is now writing a new story in our lives. In spite of the brokenness and sin, God has even redeemed my poor relationship decisions and is allowing me to serve and lead alongside an incredible wife. Our story truly is one of beauty from ashes. God is allowing us to compose a new chapter. He has given us the privilege after 5 years of healing and restoration to lead a group of broken Jesus followers who also have chapters they wish they could rewrite or amend.  Our stories are all about Jesus - the One who takes our chapters of brokenness and sin and redeems them for His purposes.

So on this first week of January when memories of both victory and defeat tend to plague my mind, I am thankful I serve a God who is writing a story bigger than mine.

Happy 10th Birthday Grace Point Church. And thank you Jesus for allowing me to be a small part of their journey.  And now on to the next chapter of our God-written story. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dear Ragan: a Daddy's Reflection on His Second Daughter Turning 16

A few years ago I wrote a blog post regarding my oldest daughter Kayleigh turning 16.  This week my second daughter Ragan crosses that threshold as well.  I am in denial and shock.  My sweet princess is 16! How does this happen?!?  Time is a cruel taskmaster and a wonderful gift at the same time.

On this special day, I want to remind you Ragan of a few reasons why your Daddy loves you "to the moon and back" ...

1) You have a caring heart.

I love Ragan's heart.  She cares for people. She loves her family and friends.  She has a tenderness about her that is unique.  Her heart has been captured by the gospel and it gives her a loving kindness that few young ladies her age have.

2) You are growing into a beautiful young lady.

As Ragan gets older, she is growing more and more beautiful.  I love her cute smile and happy personality. Her naturally small frame is the envy of anyone who has to "work" to stay in shape but it does not define her.  In a day and age where culture has so many expectations on what a young lady is supposed to be and look like, she is discovering her true beauty is found in her identity in Jesus.  Her beauty flows from the inside out.

3) You are naturally affectionate.

Ragan is the child who naturally holds my hand and kisses me when she sees me or tells me good night.  Even our dog Toby knows he can give plenty of kisses to Ragan when others turn away from his slobbery affection. When our life took some tough turns a few years ago, Ragan still wanted to be close to her Daddy and show me that she loved me no matter what. I will never forget how affectionate she was to me in my most difficult days.

4) You are unique and special in more ways than you can imagine.

Every child has their own special place in the hearts of their parents. For me, Ragan captured her Daddy's heart from the beginning.  Our closest family and friends know that Ragan has a nickname reserved only for Daddy: Two-Two (translated Double Two at times).  It is a nickname I gave her early in life for a couple of reasons. First, we are both the middle child of 3 kids - the "second born" as my Dad likes to say. Second, she was born on December 22nd.  Two-two is a natural nickname for my Ragan that reminds me how precious she is to me even as she thinks she is outgrowing cute nicknames.

Ragan has a unique and special place in my heart and in the world around her. She is a talented dancer. And dancing matches her personality perfectly as she transitions through life in a graceful yet spunky manner.  I love this unique blend that makes her special.  She has so much talent and I can't wait to see where life takes her.

5) You have integrity.

Ragan and I have been discussing the complicated world of relationships and dating for a while. I admit that these are tough waters for me to navigate and I do not always get it right.  Sometimes my expectations seems a little unfair or strict to her.  She has had to have tough conversations with boys that are not always easy or popular in the culture around us. And yet she handles these situations with respect, honor, and integrity.  She has often told me the truth in situations where it would have been easier for her to withhold information.  Her honesty and integrity stand as examples to me and it prepares her for a life where telling the truth is not always easy or encouraged.

6) You love Jesus deeply and He loves you even deeper.

I am a flawed father. I have disappointed my children many times and will do so again in the future. And that is why I always point them to Jesus who will never fail them.  As God refines my heart, I pray my example of brokenness and redemption serves as a reminder to my children that God redeems us for His glory and our faithful obedience comes out of living continually in the gospel of Jesus Christ in whom we find our identity and fulfillment. 

Ragan has a passion for Jesus.  She spends time with Him. She worships Him. She serves Him. And it is His deeper love for her that will enable her to live in faithfulness to Him. And when she fails Him it will be His faithful love that restores and heals her heart.

Daddy loves you Ragan Noelle Hudson.  You are my Two-Two.  And as you turn 16, know that I am proud of you and look forward to watching Jesus continue to grow you for His glory.

PS - and no you are not ready to hit the road by yourself ;)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Raising Daughters

I do not consider myself a great parent.  Unfortunately parenting does not come with an instruction manual. Most parenting is learning as you go. For that reason alone, I frequently make mistakes as a dad. By the time you add to the mix different personalities, genders, emotions, life circumstances, sin, and the complexity of leading and loving another individual, you realize quickly there is no such thing as a perfect parent.

I have also discovered parenting girls is completely different than raising boys. I grew up in a home with all brothers. My father is an only child so he has no sisters. My mom was raised with two brothers and no sisters. My older brother has only sons.  My daughter Kayleigh was the first girl in the Hudson family for 2 generations. Needless to say, raising daughters was not in the genes when my girls came along.

Every season of a child's life is different. They evolve as a person. They grow. Their personalities are shaped. Life experiences mold them. Raising a toddler looks entirely different than parenting a teenager.  Bottom line: this parenting gig is NOT easy.

I have two beautiful, fun, and intelligent daughters. For a few years now, we have been trying to navigate the "dating" waters.  When should they be allowed to start? Should they be allowed to start? {My vote is no} What does it look like? What are the expectations?  What is dating?  What does a God-honoring dating relationship even look like?  My head hurts just typing out these questions!

As the one and only God-appointed father of these two precious treasures, my natural instinct is to protect them at all costs.  I have been through enough life and its consequences to want to guard them from unnecessary heartache and hurt.  I want them to be valued. I want them to be cherished. I want them to be honored and respected. I want them to be treated like the princesses they are in my heart.

And yet, they are young ladies. My Kayleigh is 18 and in college! My Ragan is about to turn 16! I am not sure how and when this transition happened but here it is.  And I am not always sure how to handle it.  We talk. We cry. We laugh. We yell. We get frustrated. We say mean things. We pray together. We ask for forgiveness and forgive. We get angry.  We hug tightly. We love deeply. And through it all, we try and live out with each other the grace that has been lavished upon us by our Heavenly Father.

If I am completely honest, I don't always "get" my daughters. I don't get their emotions. I don't always understand their feelings. I don't always want them to grow up.  For crying out loud, I don't even get why they would want to date any stupid boy ... sorry - there's that protective dad thing. 

And they don't completely "get" me. Truthfully they will never understand the depth of my love for them until they hold their own babies.  They do not grasp the uncertainty that resides in my heart as I try and parent them in such a complicated and depraved world.  They do not comprehend the concern inside their daddy that something or someone is going to steal their most prized possession, their heart, and then trample it.

I pray regularly for God to provide preventative grace in the lives of my girls. I am thankful beyond words for the redemptive grace of Jesus that heals and restores our brokenness. But I beg God for the grace of Jesus to intervene in the lives of my girls before the brokenness occurs.  I pray His grace protects them from unnecessary hurt and sinful choices knowing that if they make choices that leave them wounded that His same grace will be there to make them whole again. But grace is not just about from what Jesus redeems us but also grace is about from what He protects us.

I LOVE being a parent. It is one of the greatest privileges of life. I love each of my children as deeply as humanly possible.  And in the end, I know they know it. I know they know that their daddy wants what is absolutely best for them.  And as they continue this transition from teenagers to young ladies, I know that they know that their daddy is a person who needs the gospel of grace.  I have been given much grace in my two girls and so I seek to be a person who extends grace to them when they blow it and asks for grace from them when I blow it. And in the end, I think that is what being a parent is all about - it is about broken people resting in the grace of an unbroken Redeemer who enables healthy relationships in the middle of the complexities of real life.

The gospel is a way of life that impacts how I parent.

And then there's my son...

Friday, October 09, 2015

GRACE: a way of life

We are in a benchmark series at City Church called CORE.  In this series we are unpacking what it means to fulfill the mission to which we believe we have been called: to continue what Jesus began. We have refined our mission with 4 Core Values that serve as our guardrails to make sure we remain focused on our task.  Two of those values focus on what we believe: 1) The Church belongs to Jesus & 2) Grace is a way of life.  The other two deal with what we practice: 3) We live intentionally in community & 4) We are in the city for the city.  This Sunday I will be preaching part 2 of our second core value ~ Grace is a way of life. 

Living a life of grace begins with believing and accepting the gospel of grace.  We learn grace by being graced. As we grasp the gospel (what has been done for us in Jesus & who we are in Jesus), grace becomes a way of life. We tend to live out what we have received - what has changed our lives.

I believe most of our struggles as individual and corporate followers of Jesus often comes down to two primary issues: 1) a failure to grasp, embrace, and live out God's unconditional grace, love, and forgiveness in our lives & subsequently 2) a failure to give out God's unconditional grace, love and forgiveness.

We fail to live lives marked by unconditional grace because we fail to recognize our desperate need for grace in our own lives or we fail to recognize God's full acceptance of us in Jesus.  Religion tends to take a ladder-like approach to spirituality - the more you do or don't do (as defined by your sect), the more spiritual and God-approved you are. I grew up in an environment where spirituality was often defined by conformity.  Consequently my deepest struggles as a Jesus follower often have to do with resting in who I am in Jesus and not trusting in what I have or have not done to make me acceptable to God.

I talk a lot about grace. I even planted a church in Sin City named Grace Point - where we emphasized grace is the point but I am not sure I fully began to grasp grace until I was absolutely dependent upon it.  My understanding of grace runs deeper than ever because life has taught me how desperately I need Someone who loves unconditionally.

Grace is more than a doctrine. It can't be contained within our theological systems. Grace goes places where we are uncomfortable. It is messy and complicated. It chooses the wrong people. Grace is divinely vulgar and uncomfortably promiscuous.  Grace will not be controlled by our sense of fairness. It defies logic and has zero to do earning, merit, or being deserved. Grace doesn't demand. It simply gives.

The gospel of grace liberates us from the ladder-like approach to spirituality. It sets us free from the burden of trying to earn God's approval, the demand to measure up, and the pressure to get it right. Grace releases us from the tireless effort to do or be enough and from the need to be right, rewarded, regarded, and respected. 

*By the way, this truth applies to "church life" as well.  Grace liberates the local church from the next level consumeristic approach that drives many churches and pastors today - more people, more campuses, more buildings, more numbers, more impact, and on and on and on.  I have lived that life and it is exhausting!  

Grace just happens.  And when we get grace ... when we really get it ... when it moves beyond a catchword ... when it moves beyond mere doctrine and becomes a way of life ... when that happens, then grace changes everything.

Grace is often most clearly visible in stories because grace happens in real life. It happens in the messiness.  And that is why I get grace deeper now than earlier in my life.  I get it more now because grace came to me in the messiness of my own making and it redeemed, restored, and healed me.  Grace came to me when I was broken, when I was unworthy of it. Grace came to me when I needed it the most but deserved it the least.

As I lead this ragtag group of Jesus followers called City Church, we realize more than ever that we can't make the church cool enough to draw sinners to Jesus. Here is what we can do: proclaim and demonstrate the gospel of grace.  We give grace because we have been given grace.  And that simple truth will change your life. I know it has changed mine.

Grace is a way of life.

Want to listen to or watch our Core series? 

Subscribe to the City Church podcast here.

Or watch the messages in our Core series here.  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Welcome to City Church

Today we announced that Revolution Church is re-launching as City Church.  We are excited about this direction change for a number of reasons.

1. We believe it is time for a fresh start.  With new leadership comes a re-defined focus. The name Revolution (and formerly Crosspoint) Church served a purpose. We believe that season is now complete and it is time for a new start.  It is important for Ashley and I to take ownership of a fresh focus and changing the name is a natural part of this process.

2. We want our name to reflect who we are.  We believe God has called us to be IN this city and FOR this city.  God has called us to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel in this community. We want the people in our city to know that we are for them. We will serve them. We will love them. We will partner with them to make our city a better place.  The name City Church reflects a bigger vision than what just happens on Sunday mornings.

3. Our mission statement is simple: City Church exists to continue what Jesus began.  We believe the New Testament teaches that we are to continue what Jesus taught and did.  We are to be a gospel-centered and Jesus-focused. And this mission begins where we exist in everyday life - our homes, our places of work, our schools, our parks, our restaurants, our stores, our ballparks, our neighborhoods. In other words, we are called to live out the gospel in our city.  Our name reflects our desire to be Jesus followers within our everyday life context.

Change is a natural part of life.  God created a world that is constantly changing - seasons come and go, children become adults, parents become grandparents, flowers grow and fade, and on and on. Even so, change is a natural part of the life of a church.  And we believe this change is a natural step in our process to be who we believe God has called us to be in our city.

We could not be more excited to be on this journey.  Our story is one of authentic brokenness and grace-filled redemption. We are thankful to be able to lift up Jesus in this city.  And we invite you to be a part of this group of broken, grace-dependent Jesus followers that we call City Church. Come as you are. It is okay to not be okay. Just remember one thing: no perfect people are allowed. 

Welcome to City Church!