In year four of Canyon Springs I experienced one of the strangest church services ever.  It felt dark and scary. There was a sense of panic in the air.  It was not a great service. Actually the service never happened, but it was a Sunday I will never forget.  I showed up to church early that day for set up and when I did there was a dark feeling in the air.  Literally.  If you looked over the horizon from where we met there was a large cloud of dark smoke billowing over the hills.  I knew there was a fire in the area but when I checked the news that morning they said it was 20 miles away. Just before church started I would learn just how quickly news can change when it comes to fire.  Just as we finished set up and the band was doing a sound check a friend of mine came running into church.  I noticed right away that he was barefoot.  His next words I will never forget.  He looked at me with panic in his eyes and said “My house is going to burn down today.” It turns out that his house was saved, but 7 different families from Canyon Springs lost their homes in the Cedar Fire that day.

After my friend’s announcement, we canceled church, quickly put all our equipment back in our trailer and headed home.  That had already been an eventful weekend for our family.  Just the Friday before the fire, my wife had double bunion surgery. She wasn’t planning on going to church that day because she was hobbling around on two bad feet.  I still think she could have gone to church but I wasn’t going to argue with a cripple.  At that point in Canyon Springs, I needed every Hawkins to show up to boost our attendance.  Back in those days we counted everyone: the janitor;  Pregnant ladies we counted as two.  I raced home that day and do you know what I found?  My wife had heard the news and had already packed our car for the evacuation.  On two bad feet,she had packed just about every item in our home that we considered valuable.

There is nothing like a natural disaster to give you perspective on what in your life has value.  What do you value the most? What can you do without?  What can you never replace?  Let’s think about that for a moment.  If I announced right now that there was a fire racing towards us and you had a half an hour to get your valuables out of your home, what would you fill your mini-van with.  What are the items you would want to make sure you grabbed? Noticed nobody said children.

Here’s what we took when we evacuated that day:

  • Wedding photos (not that we ever look at them, but we grabbed them anyway)
  • Computers
  • Video tapes which included videos of our kids’ births
  • Some of my dad’s tools

A moment like that teaches you what you value.  What is important to you.  What you can’t live without. What you would put in your van if you had to quickly evacuate. This is true not just of our possessions, but also of our values. We call them value statements and they are the ideas that guide your life and that you hold most dear. At Canyon Springs, we have six value statements that are guiding principals in everything we do and today I’m going to tell you about the value that, looking back on those early days of our church, we would definitely have put in the minivan first. Drumroll please…the value statement that we would have put in the van first is:

Growing people change

When my wife and I moved down to start this church, that’s why we moved:  we believed that if people could get to know this God that we knew that their lives would change.  They would be transformed.  As each person grew closer to God their lives would be different.  This was the first box in the minivan.

My guess is, it’s probably the reason why you first came to church.  I’m guessing you didn’t come for the music or the dynamic message.  You came because you wanted change.  You wanted to be different. You wanted God to transform your life.  Some of you walked in here out of desperation.  You had hit rock bottom.  You needed something to change.

Let me tell you one of the early stories of Canyon Springs:  One day a couple from the church asked if they could take us out for our anniversary, and they wanted to take us to Roy’s.  Have you been to Roy’s?  It’s amazing.  That night sitting around at Roy’s they told us their Canyon Springs story.  When they walked into church their first morning their marriage was essentially over.  She was looking for an attorney, and he was looking for an apartment to rent.  In a last desperate attempt to save their marriage, they decided that they would try that little church that was meeting in the school nearby. They walked in on the first day of a new series I was doing on marriage.  At our anniversary dinner, that couple thanked us for starting Canyon Springs because according to them it saved their marriage. That couple is still together and still a part of Canyon Springs.

That is why we exist.  We exist to help people grow and change.  It is one of our highest values if not the highest.  Today we are going to talk about this value.  We are going to look at what it means to change and how you and I can help other people who are in their journey to change.

Growing people change.  It’s one of our values. This is how it reads:

Each person is at a different place in their journey, but we all have one thing in common.  Either we are moving forward or we are sliding backward.  Our challenge is to take the next step in your relationship with God whether it is step one or step 1001.  We want to challenge everyone who walks in the door to take the next step in their God journey.

In our hearts, I think that we all want to grow and change.  But lets also be honest.  That can also be scary.  Especially in church.  Because, yeah, we want to change, but we’re not so sure we want to change into what God wants us to change into. Some people feel like when God gets a hold of people he’s going to change their personalities.   He’ll make all the extroverts into introverts and he’s going to make all the introverts go door to door witnessing.  If a mission trip is the last thing you’d ever want to do, God’s going to twist your arm until you go.  Either God’s going to do it, or my wife’s going to do it.  If you are more of an action person, he’s going to make you sit and read and get into journaling.  If you’re studious and love your alone time, he’s going to put you in charge of a junior high small group.

That is not God’s goal for you.  God’s goal for you is not to make you into someone you don’t want to be. God’s goal for you is to make you the best version of yourself that you can be

[bctt tweet=”God wants to make you into the best version of yourself that you can be. #CanyonSprings” username=”canyon_springs”]

He wants to take all of your skills, all of your abilities, all of your likes and dislikes and help you to fully utilize all that you are.  Here’s a great quote from my favorite author John Ortberg.  It’s from his book, The Me I Want to Be.  If you are looking to change, it’s a great book.

“When you flourish, you become more you. You become more that person God had in mind when he thought you up. You don’t just become holier. You become you-ier. You will change; God wants you to become a ‘new creation.’ But ‘new’ doesn’t mean completely different”

My guess is you’ve probably had a glimpse of who you can be.  There are moments when you feel fully alive.  Fully the person you were made to be.

  • Maybe it was the day you fed that homeless person.  No one was looking.  You just saw a need and you met it.  And it felt good.
  • Maybe it was a moment with your child.  You found yourself in a frustrating situation, but you didn’t lose it.  You maintained your cool.  You were able to walk your child through the hard time with calm and wisdom.  In that moment you felt alive
  • Sometimes that can happen when you lose yourself in a piece of music, or you stand up to a bully, or express compassion to a co-worker.

In that moment you get a sense for who God made you to be.

You Can’t Be Whatever You Want to Be

Let me give you another idea when it comes to change.  I realize I’m contradicting your mother when I say this, but it’s the truth.  You cannot be whatever you want to be.  I know when you were young your mommy told you, “If you try hard enough, you can be whatever you want to be.”

[bctt tweet=” You cannot be whatever you want to be, just what God wants you to be. #CanyonSprings” username=”canyon_springs”]

I know for some of you guys, that meant playing in the NBA or becoming the quarterback of the Chargers. For some of you ladies that meant becoming an Olympic gymnast and being on a Wheaties box.Based on what I know about you, I don’t think your mommy was right. You couldn’t become quarterback or play in the NBA.  I can tell just by your tithing patterns that none of you made it.  Either that, or you’re just holding out on me.  Unfortunately, we cannot be whatever we want to be.  We can only be what God has made us to be. Look with me at Ephesians 2:10

We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10

You are not your handiwork.  Your life is not your project.  Your life is God’s project, not yours. God is the one that thought you up.  He knows what you were intended to be.  He knows the kind of activities that you can be involved in that will bring you the most fulfillment.   You can fight him on this, but you will fail.

The Word

I want to point out what this looks like in real life.  Let’s take a look at Acts, Chapter 7.  This chapter paints a picture of the first martyr in Christian history and the first person to persecute the church.  The martyr is Stephen and the one doing the persecuting is Paul. In this chapter Stephen gives a long speech to the Jewish leaders about how wrong they were and it ends like this:

57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:57-60

Okay flip the page to chapter 8:1

1 And Saul approved of their killing him. Not only did Saul approve of killing Stephen, this was a turning point in his life.  At this point he decided that he would become a vigilante and would gather up all of these Christians. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Acts 8:1-3

That day began a great persecution, and who was at the center of it.  Paul was.  Stick with me; I know this is a lot of text for a blog but it’ll be worth it.

1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. Acts 9:1,2

Paul wasn’t asked to persecute people.  It was his choice.  He pursued.  He arrested.  He ran them down. He went to synagogues to ask for letters so he could collect as many Christians as he could. Now here’s where the story gets really good:

3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. Acts 9: 3-9

That moment began a change in Paul’s life.  Rather than hating Jesus and persecuting his people, he would love Jesus and he would be the one persecuted.  The focus of his life changed.  But who he was didn’t change.  He was still Paul.  He was just as focused and just as passionate as he ever was.  Flip with me to 2 Corinthians 11:24-27.   These are probably the most famous verses to describe Paul after his conversion.

24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 2 Corinthians 11:24-27

Based on these verses what do we know about Paul.  This guy is a maniac.  He’s passionate.  He’s fiery.  He’s focused.  He’s out there.  He was running around like a crazy person before he met God and running around like a crazy person after.  His personality didn’t change.  Just the focus of his life.

Be the Best Version of Yourself

God doesn’t want to make you into something you are not.  He just wants to make you a better version of yourself. Let me help you understand what that change will look like in you.

1) God’s goal is not to make me the me I think I should be

For as many people who come to church because they wanted to grow and change, just about as many leave for this reason.  They aren’t who they think they should be.  They come to church and hear, “You should read your Bible; you should journal your thoughts; you should memorize scripture, you should go on a mission trip.”  “You should do this” and “You should do that” and before long the should’s push you right out of the door.

A recent study by the Barna group showed that the number one challenge to helping people grow spiritually is that most people equate spiritual growth with trying hard to follow the rules.  The hardest thing is the should’s.

Most of the time those rules have to do with what other people do. They journal and they read 30 minutes a day and they listen to messages on the radio. All those practices are good.  But not everyone connects with God the same way.  Some walk and pray.  Some learn through messages.  Some love to read.  Some journal.  Some like the podcast.  Some feel close to God in nature.  God wants us to reach out to him in a way that we connect with.

Do you know what’s at the center of “should?”  Comparison.  Let me read you a great quote: Henri Nouwen put it like this, “Spiritual greatness has nothing to do with being greater than others.  It has everything to do with being as great as each of us can be.”

Let me give you one example.  We send a lot of teams to the mission field around here.  We’ve gone on over 30 trips in the last 5 years.  Most churches send 1 maybe two a year.  For some reason, mission trips have become part of our fabric.  I have heard people say this about missions at Canyon Springs: “It almost feels like if I don’t go to Haiti I should feel guilty.”  If you feel that way, it’s not my fault; It’s my wife’s fault.  She’s leading all these trips.  Just wanted to make that clear.  Look we don’t want you to feel like you should go or feel guilty.  Let me tell you a story that should appease your guilt:

Years ago, Jilane and I were youth directors and once a year we took our kids on a mission trip to Mexico.  You know who hated those trips–My wife.  She couldn’t stand them. She hated to be dirty; hated sleeping on the ground.  Nothing about those trips appealed to her.  Because it wasn’t her call. It wasn’t the season for those trips in our life.  Now she goes once a month to lead a Bible study in Mexico. Because it’s what God has called her to now.

Jesus didn’t say “I have come that you might follow the rules.”  He said, “I have come that you might have life and have it with abundance.”

2) God’s goal is not to make me the me other people want me to be

Lot’s of people have opinions about what we should be.  Your boss, co-workers, your spouse, your parents.   There are lots of people who will tell you just what they think you should be.

Last week I read a story about a couple who had a daughter named Shauna who was a classic strong-willed child. When she was four years old, she kept trying to go AWOL on her tricycle. Her mom could not rein her in and finally said, “Look, Shauna, there’s a tree right here, and there’s a driveway right there. You can ride your tricycle on the sidewalk in between the driveway and the tree, but you can’t go past that. If you go past that, you will get a spanking. I have to be inside; I’ve got stuff to do. But I’m going to be watching you. Don’t go past either one of those boundaries, or you’re going to get a spanking.” Shauna backed up to her mom, pointed to her spanking zone, and said, “Well, you might as well spank me now, because I got places to go.”

Would it surprise you to learn that when Shauna grew up, she had formidable leadership capacities and an indomitable drive? She always will have them.  Shauna’s parents could have fought her every step of the way, but they would ultimately only end up frustrated.

There are two ways we can look at this. First, let’s not try to be what other people think we should be.  There are lots of opinions out there.  If you try to follow them all, you will be constantly frustrated.  Stop listening to everyone else’s plan for you.  As my 16 year-old says, “Dad, you just be you.”

Second, let’s allow the people in our lives to simply be them.  Let’s not raise our kids to be us.  Let’s not expect our friends to be like us. Let’s let God shape and mold them so that they can be who they were supposed to be.

3) God’s goal is to make me the me I’m meant to be

The person you were designed to be.  God wants to redeem you, not exchange you.

[bctt tweet=”God wants to redeem you, not exchange you. #CanyonSprings” username=”canyon_springs”]

Let me give you a real live example of what I’m talking about. Last week I bought a 1986 Volkswagen Vanagon. We haven’t named her yet.  Years ago my son and I transformed a beaten up Plymouth Satellite into a super cool Plymouth Roadrunner.  We named him Moose.  Not sure what we’ll call the Vanagon.  I bought this as a project car for my daughter and I.  This is how smart I am.  I’m going to sell one of my other, reliable, working vehicles, so that my daughter and I can transform this car into a cool surfer van.  Yes, I know; I don’t surf, but don’t bother me with the details.

When we started to look into getting this van I asked my daughter to start dreaming.  What do you want this van to look like? Here are some of her ideas that she posted on her Pinterest page.




That’s what we want it to look like.


This isn’t our idea for our van:




And this isn’t our idea for our van:



It would be nice, but it isn’t going to happen.


Our goal for our Vanagon is to make it the best possible version of a Vanagon.  Clean, fun, mechanically sound.  We want it to be a reflection of who we are.  My ideas, my daughter’s ideas.

Listen, God wants you to grow.  Not into something that you think you should be.  Not into something that your mom wants you to be or your boss thinks you should be.  But who God wants you to be. Fully alive.  Full of purpose.  Fully you. Growing people change and when they change they become God’s handiwork.