Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Quiet Moment

The picture above is of "The Link" at Grace Community Church.  There aren't many times that I'm in the Link and it looks like this.  Typically it's loud, full of teenagers and adults.  This, though, is what it looks like at 1pm on a Wednesday afternoon.  As I was getting ready for our youth ministry tonight and setting some things up in the Link ... in the quietness and peace of the moment I just stopped and looked around.  I stood there for a couple of minutes, reflecting and praying.  During that time, a thought came to me:

This place was built for "them."  Literally, under the foundation of this building, are names of teenagers and adults that we want to see come to know Jesus.  Before this place was built, we took time to write the names of people we want to see come to know Jesus in the ground and on rocks and poured the foundation over those names.  We are expecting those people to come.  We are planning for them to come.  We literally built this building on the "foundational" belief that people need to know Jesus and we can be a vital part of seeing that happen. Every Wednesday when our youth ministry meets, my prayer is that we will give teenagers a clear picture of who God is.  I believe with all of my heart that God wants to make Himself recognizable through us.  Teenagers and adults working together to make that happen can be a powerful force, especially when that force is powered Jesus.  When we live as though Jesus lives in us, that stands out.  That shines.  That is attractive.

In the quietness of the moment, I was reminded of adults who lived that way in front of me and created in me a hunger for God.  I was reminded of people who cared for me, invited me in to their home, took time to talk to me at church ... people who listened to me and corrected me and encouraged me ... people who, for whatever reason, strategically invested in my life.  I am better because of it today and for that I am thankful. And, I'm thankful for the many adults we have that continue to do that very thing in the lives of teenagers in our church and community.  I'm thankful for the teenagers who are doing that very thing in the lives of their peers at school and at axis.      

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I Should Write a Letter to Myself More Often

I was at a youth conference this summer and one of the things we were encouraged to do was to write a letter to ourselves.  This letter was to remind us about what God was teaching us at the conference and to help keep us accountable.  Did we actually follow through with what we felt God was leading us to do?  Well, I recently received this letter in the mail and it came at exactly the write time.  The first paragraph of the letter said this:

"It's been a good week.  God has moved and worked again.  Kids are pumped and primed to do things.  It's been approximately three months.  What have you led them to do?  Have you looked at them as your own kids?  Have you loved them and seen the unseen?  Don't get weak or soft.  Press on."

Reading that first paragraph was so good for me because it gave me some tangible things to look at and answer ... Have I helped set our kids on mission?  Have I loved our students as my own kids?  Have I focused on the ones that often do not get focused on?

The second paragraph of the letter said this:  

"Allow Jesus to pour Himself in to your life.  Don't seek great things.  Don't seek favor from men.  Seek God.  Seek Him every day.  Listen for His voice every day."

Reading that second paragraph reminded me that being in ministry is a combination of two things ... God's work in my personal life and allowing God to work through my life.  The most important relationship I have in my life is my relationship with God.  Life just stays so much more healthy when I'm finding my fulfillment in Him rather than anything else.  My marriage is so much more healthy when I'm finding my fulfillment in Jesus rather than placing unrealistic expectations upon my wife.  My ministry is so much more healthy if I'm finding my wholeness in Jesus rather than in my ministry itself. 

As I allow Jesus to pour in to me, I then have a greater capacity to pour in to others.  What's awesome about that is that Jesus' capacity to pour in to us is endless!  The more I allow Him to pour in to me, the more He does.  The more grace I need in my life, the more grace He gives.  The more strength I need in my life, the more strength He gives.  Jesus gives to me in direct proportion to my need.  The more I need I am, the more He is willing to give.  

A guy by the name of Jeremiah wrote this during or after the capture of the city he lived in.  Jeremiah also experienced incredible persecution in his life ... beaten, thrown in prison, tormented for his relationship with God.  He knew a little something about being in need.  He said,  "Because of the Lords’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."  (Lamentations 3:22 - 23)

His grace and mercy and strength are always there.  His mercies are new every morning.  As long as I'm open to receiving them, they will never run out! The more I receive them, the more I'm able to give them out.  I certainly don't do this perfectly.  It's a constant battle to try to keep things in balance.  But, receiving this letter was such a powerful reminder to me that the more I seek God and allow myself to be led by Him, the more equipped I am to lead my family and my ministry and empty myself in to others as I allow Jesus to pour what He offers (love, grace, mercy, faithfulness) in to me.

Friday, November 16, 2012


This past weekend, we were able to celebrate Communion at Grace.  We take practice a "3 Part" Communion in which we reflect on everything that Jesus has done, is currently doing, and will do in the future.  The night is a very powerful journey of reflection and focusing on Jesus.  

We start out our night by focusing on Jesus and the price He paid for us on the cross.  We spend time reflecting and also asking God to forgive us of anything that we have allowed to get in the way of our relationship with Him.

We move on to the next part of the journey which is a "foot washing."  We do this as families.  The foot washing represents our daily need for Jesus.  It helps us to realize that we can allow things to get in the way of our relationship with Him and we need to be cleansed of those things.  It also is a sign of humility.  When Jesus washing His disciples feet in John 13 He was taking on the role of a servant and doing what no one else really wanted to do.  It's a great example for us all to follow.  Also, doing it as a family gave families a time to focus on each other and pray together.

We then moved to a "Thankfulness Journey" ... a time in which we read 7 different things on gratitude and thankfulness and we asked to reflect on how we could be more grateful in our lives and if there was someone or something we had been taking for granted.  

After the "Thankfulness Journey" we moved to taking the "Bread and the Cup."  This is a time of reflection on Jesus paying the penalty for our sin on the cross.  Jesus said that every time we do this, we do it to remember Him. (1 Corinthians 11:23 - 25)  It's an incredibly powerful thing to focus on.

After the Bread and Cup, we enjoyed a meal together looking ahead to heaven and us being with Jesus.  You can read about that in Revelation 19:6 - 9.  

We then celebrate!  The Bible says "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" (Revelation 19:9)  If we're blessed, we want to celebrate that so we worship and dance and, this time, even dropped confetti!  It was awesome!

The night was a very powerful night and I'm so thankful that we take time to remember and reflect on these things.  I always leave feeling more blessed and thankful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rising to a Challenge

Yesterday afternoon I went for a run and two of my kids wanted to come with me.  So, I took them for a mile jog and it was such a good time!  With a 1/4 of a mile left I noticed that they were both starting to get pretty tired.  So, I was trying to think of how to motivate them a bit.  So, I asked my son a simple question ... "Do you think you can beat Mercy to the house?"  Without hesitation he said "Yep."  He then took off and never looked back!  

As I watched him run on ahead, I was reminded about how motivating a simple challenge can be.  What was turning in to boredom was given new life when it became a challenge.  We like to rise to meet challenges.  This is true for both men and women, but I think it's particularly true for men.  Men have an innate calling to "rise up" and nothing causes us to rise up more than a challenge.  Every challenged faced gives us the strength to face another.  Every challenge overcome, gives us the courage to believe we can overcome another.  And, even if the challenge results in a defeat, one has still allowed themselves to rise to the occasion and that, in itself, is a win every time.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Family Pics

We recently received an early Christmas gift from a family at our church.  Darcy is a professional photographer (you can check out her amazing work here) and she decided to give each of the pastors and their families a 30 minute photo session for Christmas.  We felt incredibly blessed by the gift and we had lots of fun getting the pictures taken.  It was such a great day for us as a family.  Here are some of the shots below.  You can see why they bring such joy to my life!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Three Simple Thoughts on the Election Results

I went to bed last night before all of the election results came in, so I woke up this morning to discover that President Obama had been re-elected.  My next move was to then go on my regular social media sites and read what others thought about the results of the election.  I have friends who would be considered extremely liberal ... others extremely conservative ... and quite a few that would fall in between somewhere.  Some were gloating.  Some were complaining.  Some were cursing.  Some were proud.  Some were saying how disappointed they were in America.  Some were saying that America made the best decision it could have made.  Others were talking about how everyone who voted for President Obama simply wants a handout while those who voted for Romney will now just go back to work and support everyone else.  Some were called bigots.  Others were called racists.  Some remarks were, honestly, quite funny and light-hearted.  There were comments on both sides that I agreed with ... others I disagreed with ... and some were totally offensive to me.  But, it all brought to mind a few simple thoughts ...

  • I'm thankful to live in a country that's a bit "messy."  We can't claim the right of free speech without being willing to tolerate someone using that right.  While the "venom" that has been spewed in social media from both sides is honestly quite nauseating to me, I'd much rather be nauseated by the right of free speech than to be nauseated by someone trying to control what I say.
  • (I'm a pastor, so this is my Biblical analogy) Our freedom allows us the right to say what we wish but freedom ... like grace ... can be taken advantage of.  Just because we CAN say something doesn't mean we SHOULD.  In the same way, I believe that God's grace covers all of my sin, but that doesn't give me the right to just go and do what I want simply because God forgives me.  Grace calls me to a higher standard.  Freedom should as well.
  • Healthy conflict is a good thing.  The key word, though, is "healthy."  Something I've learned in my marriage is that it's not the absence of conflict that builds intimacy, but it's the handling of conflict properly that helps build intimacy between my wife and I.  In marriage,the reality of two imperfect people pledging to live together, with all their faults, with all their imperfections, for the rest of their lives means that all of those faults and all of those imperfections will become very evident to each other … for the rest of their lives. 
    When my wife and I face those imperfections, we have a choice:  to respond through our sinfulness ... with bitterness, jealousy, resentment, selfish ambition ... or to respond in a way that seeks to please God?  Responding with honor, respect, and dignity to the other.  I don't claim to know much about life, but what I have discovered is that hatred generally breeds hatred.  Disrespect usually breeds disrespect.  Dishonor usually breeds dishonor.  Again, I'm a pastor.  Jesus gave us a pretty good rule to live by ... "Treat others the way you yourself would like to be treated."  Doesn't mean there won't be conflict.  But, the conflict can have a greater purpose than simply demeaning the other person.  When handled properly it can actually produce powerful results.

    So, I, like millions of other liberals and conservatives and people in between will continue to work hard ... continue to pay my taxes ... continue to pray for our nation and it's leaders asking God to help them lead with integrity and wisdom and the principles upon which our nation was founded ... and I will continue to live a life of gratitude thankful to all who fought and died for my right to express my thoughts and vote my convictions.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What a Week!

After our week long outreach drama event at Grace Community last week, I've really been struck by this Bible verse:  "And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory." (2 Corinthians 4:15 NLT)

It was an incredible week for us.  We saw a total of 714 people come to our event.  96 people started a relationship with Jesus and another 96 people decided that it was time to begin refocusing on their relationship with God.  It was a powerful, powerful week.  God's grace reached more and more people ... there was great thanksgiving ... and God received more and more glory!  Can't beat that.

Something else that just fills my heart with gratitude is all of the people who were involved.  There where nearly 100 people from Grace Community involved to pull the event off.  The church was literally turned upside down and you would not have recognized the place.  People were able to use their different passions and their different abilities to work together as a team and be a part of seeing people come to know Jesus.  No part was too small.  It was a total team effort from the people working parking to the people greeting to the people praying to the people acting, whatever the role ... it was teenagers and adults working together toward one purpose ... seeing people come to know Jesus.  

I also loved seeing the joy and sense of purpose in our volunteers eyes.  They were sacrificing their time, coming in early, staying out late and they didn't seem to mind at all.  In the outside scene you see below, on our last night it was 40 degrees and not a single person was complaining about how cold it was.  The attitudes of all involved were stellar.  I was so proud of everyone and thankful to be on the team with everyone.


"And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory." (2 Corinthians 4:15 NLT)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Working Through the Fear of Failure

The fear of failing can be crippling.  It's what keeps a guy from asking a girl out on a date.  It's what keeps a person from chasing down a dream they've had for years.  It's what deflates our passions and defeats our goals.  And, what's really interesting is the fear of failing is often worse than the actual failure itself.

The past 2 months I have had to talk to myself more than listen to myself.  I have the opportunity to lead a week-long outreach at our church geared toward seeing people come to know Jesus (the above picture is from one of the scenes from this interactive drama)  We've prayed.  We've prepared.  We've planned.  We've practiced.  We've invested lots of time and money ... and yet there remains the very real possibility that it could "fail."  What if people don't show up?  What if people hate it?  What if it completely bombs and people begin to think that I'm incompetent and have no clue how to lead something?  What if?  What if?  What if?

When given the freedom, the "what if's" can take over and become an idol of safety in our lives. Here are a couple of key concepts I have tried to focus on in order to keep moving forward with this event even when there is the real possibility of failing:

  • All throughout the Bible people were given a work to do by God that seemed much bigger than anything they could do on their own.  God never encouraged them by telling them how great they were and talking to them about the amazing abilities they have.  He encouraged them with 5 simple words:  "I will be with you."  Those 5 words are more powerful than any of my abilities.
  • Even if a "task" fails  ... God is still happy with the faith I showed in trying to make it happen.  Years ago, I once bought my wife a blender for her birthday ... not because I'm a jerk but because 2 weeks earlier she had expressed a desire to have a blender.  So, I bought her the blender ... an AWFUL birthday gift!  But, my wife didn't say that.  She saw the thought behind the gift and the thought was trying to do something that was going to make her happy.  She was pleased that I was listening to her desires.  Was the birthday gift a "failure?"  It was a blender.  Enough said.  But, the action was a total success.  Faith always pleases God.
  • When you're trying to make a difference, there are times that you are going to fail.  It's a reality.  But, the failure doesn't define who you are.  I am a son of the living God!  My identity is found in Him ... never in my accomplishments, whether amazing successes or devastating failures.  When I fully understand that, the "what if's" don't define me.  The "I AM" defines me.
  • This is an opportunity for me to trust God to do what only He can do.  Proverbs 21:31 says "The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord."  To me that means we can do our part to the best of our ability ... but there are certain things that ONLY God is going to make happen.  Our goal and desire for this event is to see people start a relationship with Jesus.  Only God can make that happen.  Now, I can partner with Him and do my part ... but there should always be a measure of things that are completely out of our control, because that way we are trusting God and we NEED Him to show up.  If I can accomplish something on my own, I'm not really showing much faith.  
  • The more we try something and see God come through, the more faith we'll have to try again.  The Bible is filled with stories of God coming through for His people.  I could share story after story of how God has come through for me personally.  The more I exercise my faith, the stronger it becomes.  

The picture above is everyone involved in this event crying out to God and praying for Him to come through.  It was such a special time of prayer and such a time of humility for us all realizing that we have the opportunity to partner with God to see people come to know Him.    

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Heartbeat of Grace

The passion of our church is to win people to Jesus.  When you believe that Jesus is the best thing that's ever happened in your life, you just naturally want to tell people about Him and embrace His way of life.  Anyway, our church is really busy this month trying to let people know about Jesus.  We have three major events that we are doing.  

1) Judgment House ... you can see the logo above ...  is an interactive drama depicting the realities of life, death, and life AFTER death.  Our goal is to simply try to get people thinking about eternity and share with them that Jesus loves them more than they could ever imagine and they can know for sure that they will spend eternity with Him in heaven.  Below is our video promo for the event as well.

2) We also have our "New to You" Clothing event.  We simply get people to donate gently used clothing items and then we give them away for free.  There will be hundreds of people from our community in our building during this time and we try to provide, not only free clothes, but a smiling face, a warm welcome, friendly conversation, and a genuine interest in how people are doing.  

3) We also have "Beast Feast" ... an outreach event specifically for men.  We're bringing in huntin' and fishin' venders, lots of "outdoor-sie" equipment, and we're cooking wild game.  Let's just say there will be lots of testosterone in the place that night.  We're doing something for men in order to reach men.  

We really believe that the church has a greater purpose than simply meeting with other followers of Jesus.  Don't get me wrong ... that's great and all ... but may we never be a church satisfied with being with other believers.  May there always be a burning in our souls to tell people about Jesus.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A New Series Starting at Axis

Here's the graphic for the new series starting in our youth ministry tonight.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Book - Axis Wrap Up 9-19-12

Clash Night at Momentum 2012

We had another great night with our students on Wednesday as we continued our series on the Bible.  I shared an illustration about something that happened to me in youth ministry in 2003.  We went on a mission trip to inner-city Philadelphia to a place called Urban Hope.  It's a fantastic ministry in a very dark part of the country.  The West Kensington area of Philadelphia is one of the most difficult and dangerous places in the country to live but Urban Hope is a light in that area sharing the love of Jesus.  That's why we partner with them.  Anyway, in 2003, I took a group of middle school students to Urban Hope.  When we arrived, I was sharing with the students how wise we need to be in that area.  It's a dangerous area, so we need to use common sense ... don't go out at night alone, if you see a drug deal don't go up and say "How ya doing?" ... stuff like that.  Anyway, one student who came from a very difficult home talked to me afterwards and said, "I'm not afraid."  I asked him what gave him his bravery.  He said, "Well, if anyone tries to start anything with me, I'll get 'em with my 'shiv.'"  He then pulls out a fork wrapped in duct tape and filed off at the end!  Well, you can imagine my surprise to see him with an actual "shiv."  I think I said two things ... first, "Give me the shiv."  Don't think I had to ever say that to anyone before.  Second ... they use automatic weapons here.  Your "shiv" isn't going to be much use to you.  Dude, think about what you're doing here!

Anyway, that event got me to thinking about the spiritual battle we are in that is talked about in Ephesians 6:12.  And, how often we are under prepared for our spiritual battle.  We often use a "shiv" when the enemy is equipped with automatic weapons.  In other words, the battle for our soul is serious business and we need to be equipped with the right weapons of defense AND offense.  We talked through the spiritual armor of God and how we can fight the most powerful weapon of the enemy (his lies) with the most powerful weapon of all ... the Word of God!  The best way to fight Satan's lies is with God's truth.  The Bible will always tell me the truth ... when I like and even when I don't like it.  

Hebrews 4:12 says "For the Word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."  There is no other book that can be described as living and active ... alive and full of power.  I don't fully understand it all, but when you combine the words of God with the spirit of God living in us you get something alive, you get something powerful, you get something that is meant to transform us!  God has not preserved the Bible for centuries just to allow us to have something nice to read.  He has preserved it to allow it to change our lives!  

In my life that plays out when I focus and meditate on the truths of the Bible instead of the lies of the enemy.  So, for instance, if there is a time I feel inadequate and like I have nothing to offer, I'm believing a lie.  The Bible says "We are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago."  (Ephesians 2:10).  If there is a time when I feel my past mistakes creeping up and I wonder if God truly does forgive me, I'm believing a lie.  The Bible says "I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins."  Jeremiah 31:34.  If I feel like I'm not good enough, I'm believing a lie.  The Bible says "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."  (Philippians 4:13).  So, it's a matter of taking ownership of my thoughts and weeding out the negative (the enemies lies) and meditating on the positive (the truth of the Bible).  

We then broke up in to our Chat Groups and gave kids the opportunity to address some of the lies that teenagers often believe about themselves and how the Bible addresses those specific lies.  It was a great night for us!

We also had some fun.  Check out this video from our new game called "Will It Smash?"

Friday, September 14, 2012

Date Your Kids

I have a strong belief in the importance of "dating" my kids.  Before I was married I dated my wife.  I wanted to express my interest in her.  I wanted to let her know that I was pursuing her.  I also dated her because I simply had fun with her.  We really enjoyed being with each other and going on dates was a way to show that.  And, it was in the process of dating my wife that we fell in love with each other and eventually married.

If "dating" expresses interest, shows pursuit, and is fun, to me it just makes sense then to date your kids.  If anyone needs to know they are loved, they are pursued, and they are fun, it's our kids.

Literally from the time our kids have been old enough to take out of our house, I've dated them.  Sure, the conversation was a bit one-sided at times (I've been on a few other dates like that too) but it was an opportunity for me to invest in my kids one-on-one.  They need that.  They want that.  I have a responsibility to do that and I want too!

Yesterday I was able to take my son to the movies.  It was a 5pm matinee and we were the only ones in the theater.  It was so much fun!  We laughed, we ate some popcorn and Skittles, we talked.  It was a blast for both of us.  My son went to bed talking about it and woke up talking about it.  And, the really cool thing is that I'm not sure who had more fun ... him or me!

Earlier this week I took my two daughters out for a doughnut.  We laughed and cuddled and I read books to them while they smothered their faces with doughnut icing.  It was so much fun and I loved every minute of it.

As a dad, I have the responsibility of investing in my kids ... not just telling them that I love them but showing them as well.  I take my daughters out because I want them to feel valued and to know how they are to be treated when someone begins to pursue them.  I take my son out and spend time with him to show him how a man is to act and to let him know how important he is to me.  And, our dates have taken on all sorts of different looks ... sometimes it's Starbucks and other times it's a walk in the woods.  Sometimes it's an evening at the movies and other times I get to shop for nail polish.  Sometimes it's time at our house that I dedicate just to them and other times we're in the back yard playing.  It doesn't matter what you do.  The important thing is just to do it.  Time spent with your kids is never a waste and is an investment that will last through the years.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Book - Axis Wrap Up 9-5-12

We kicked off a new series at axis called "The Book" on Wednesday.  It's a 4 week series we will be doing on the Bible.  I'm really excited about it.  We'll tackle several different aspects of the Bible during our series, but on this Wednesday we focused on the importance of not just reading the Bible but actually doing what it says to do.  

I used the illustration of letters that I hold on to from my wife.  I keep every card and note she's ever sent me.  The reason I do it is because of who they are from.  They are from the woman I'm incurably in love with ... my best friend ... my wife.  That's why the letters are important to me.  I used that to illustrate why the Bible is important to me.  The Bible is God's letter to us.  What makes it special isn't the fact that it's amazingly written, the best selling book of all time, and contains great "advice" for life.  Who it's from is what makes it special.  It's a letter from God, the Creator of life, the One who loves us more than we could even know.  And, specifically, this God has changed my life and, because of that, I want to read His letter and do what it says.

We looked at James 1:22 - 25 which reads Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

We talked about the idea that the Bible is meant to do more than just penetrate us.  It's meant to activate us.  If we believe that coming to church or our youth ministry or simply listening to someone talk from the Bible is what following Jesus is about, we are deceiving ourselves (verse 22).  Knowing is good.  But, knowing should lead to doing which leads to growing.  

I used the illustration of being pretty overweight a few years ago.  I was 250 pounds ... which on my frame looked more like 350!  I knew I needed to lose weight.  I knew what I needed to do.  I needed to cut back on sweets and carbs.  I needed to eat more fruits and vegetables.  I needed to exercise more.  I knew all of that.  But, knowing it isn't what caused me to lose the weight.  DOING it is. 

Simply knowing the Bible is not what embracing Jesus' way of life is about.  The blessing comes from the doing.  James 1:25 says "But the man who looks intently into the perfect law (the Bible) that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does."  To grow in our relationship with Jesus we have to:

1) "Look intently into the perfect law."  In other words, spend time in the Bible.
2) "The perfect law that gives freedom" Realize the Bible is meant to set us free, not handcuff us.  Embracing Jesus' way of life as outlined in the Bible brings true freedom.  Sin handcuffs us.  The words of God free us.
3) "Not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does."  Again, the blessing comes from the doing.  

If you're a follower of Jesus, you have the presence of the Living God inside of you.  When you combine the Presence of God plus the Words of God ... well, that is a winning combination.  

We ended our night by challenging our students to begin something called the E100 Bible Challenge.  The challenge was to read a specific set of passages from the Bible (100 of them) by December 19th ... the last Wednesday we will meet in 2012.  I was pumped to see the majority of our students sign up for it and take the challenge and can't wait to see them rise to meet it.

We also challenged our students not just to read the Bible but to do what it says.  This month we are challenging all of our students to pray (something the Bible tells us to do) and specifically pray at the See You at the Pole event on September 26th, and also to share Jesus with their friends by giving the friends at school something called a Life Book.  We will be doing this at the end of the month.  

It was a great Wednesday for us.  I loved seeing our kids get excited about the challenges ahead.  We also had lots of fun with games and just hanging out together.  You can check out some pics below.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thinking of Our Utah Hikes

Last year at this time, my wife and I were on one of the most amazing experiences of our lives hiking through a Canyon in Utah called The Narrows.  The trip was Carol's surprise present to me for my 40th birthday.  She worked hard and saved up an entire year to make it happen and it was such an amazing week with my wife.  We often say that we'd rather pay for an experience   instead of stuff.  I'm so thankful we have that philosophy and this trip provided memories we will never forget.

I was reflecting a bit on the experience today and enjoying the memories.  You can read about our trip below if you'd like.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Yes You Can - Axis Wrap Up 8/29/12

Have you ever thought that God sees you differently than anyone else?  Have you ever thought that God sees you differently than maybe you even see yourself.  The Bible tells us that "The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him."  (2 Chronicles 16:9).  God's eyes are searching ... not for the most talented, most popular, best dressed, etc.  His eyes are searching for people whose hearts and motives are fully committed to Him.  It's those people that He promises to strengthen and support.  

We wrapped up our "Yes You Can" series at axis this past Wednesday night with the main thought of God uses the least likely.  All throughout the Bible, God has a history of choosing the least likely, the least popular, the ones with "issues," the ones who don't have it all together. God specializes in choosing the least likely.  To illustrate that we looked at the story of Gideon in Judges 6 - 7.  It's a powerful story of God choosing the least likely person to do something powerful.  God chose a man to lead a battle ... a man who, when first introduced in the story, is hiding and fearing for his life.  He's a man who describes himself as "the least in my family."  Throughout the story, Gideon struggled with self-doubt.  But, God said, "Am I not sending you? ... I will be with you."  We used the thought again that those 5 words are life changing.  "I will be with you" is greater than any of our fears and any of our excuses.

The reason God uses the least likely is so that "no one may boast before Him."  (1 Corinthians 1:27 - 29).  It's the idea that God often uses the least likely so that when the "wow" stuff happens, we can't take credit for it ... all the credit goes to God!  Even in the story of Gideon, when his troops were outnumbers 4 to 1, Gideon goes to God for help.  But, instead of getting more troops, God actually takes away soldiers and leaves him with only 300 men.  The odds are now 450  to 1 ... but when the battle is over, Israel is victorious and all the credit goes to God.

Our kids were challenged to never make the mistake of asking God to use them so that THEY look good.  The ultimate end in doing the good things we're called to do is so that our "light will shine in front of people.  Then they will see the good that we do and praise our Father in heaven."  (Matthew 5:16).  How awesome would it be to see God use us, but instead of people saying "Wow, you're amazing."  they say "Wow!  God is amazing!"  That's the  goal.

We finished the night by casting some vision for the fall and letting our kids know that they will be challenged to do some specific things that will make a difference.  The initial thought they may have is "I don't think I can do that."  But, I reminded them that God says "I am with you."  That's where our confidence and courage comes from.  It was a great way to end the night and our students left fired up about some of the things coming up for us this fall.

Check out some of the fun pictures from our night below ... some "Feats of Strength" and testimonies of what God is doing in lives.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In the Picture ...

I was reminded today of the importance and joy of going through life together.  The picture above is of our current small group.  In the past 5 months we have had 3 babies join our group.  We take seriously the command "Be fruitful and multiply."  Anyway, it's been so fun to be able to see each newborn in the hospital ... Beniah in April, then our Judah in June, and today I was able to meet baby Adelyn for the first time.  

One of the joys of being in a small group is simply getting to experience life together.  Some of the things our group has experienced have been pretty difficult.  It's in those difficult times it's more important to simply be in the picture than it is to have all the answers.  Some struggles just do not have easy answers, if any answers at all.  Our presence is often more important than our answers.

Others things, like today, have been filled with joy!  And, again, it's important to be in the picture, celebrating those high times as well.  Romans 12:15 says "Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep."  Today I'm thankful for those in my life who have laughed and cried with me and am thrilled to have the opportunity to do the same.  Be there for someone today.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Team

This is a picture of our pastoral team at Grace Community Church.  Pastor Jim wrote about our team right here on his blog and has some incredibly encouraging words to say.  Love that about him.  He's always pouring in to us.  I wanted to take a moment as well to say a few words starting from left to right ...

Jim ... one of the most influential men in my life, driven by seeing people come to Jesus, driven to pour courage in to men and help them be passionate followers of Jesus Christ

Jeremy ... talented, humble, passionate about seeing people worship Jesus, intensely driven to help others live free in Jesus

That's me in the middle ... looking super-hero'ish :)

Jon ... always caring about people, compassionate, believes the best in and wants the best for others, always thinking about the future and ways to reach children and adults more effectively

Miah ... focused, on task, caring, always desiring to bring the best out in others, willing to push a point when needed and sacrifice a preference when needed

I would describe our work environment as intense, but not tense.  I love these guys.  I would trust my family to them.  We challenge each other and make each other better and I'm incredibly grateful for the influence they all have in my life.  They are great examples to follow and I have learned so much from them.  They are truly great husbands, great dads, and they are also great pastors.  

"So let's not get tired of doing what is good.  At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up."  Galatians 6:9

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What Makes You Beautiful Parody

A little something we put together to honor the volunteers at Grace Community.  We're all in this together!  So thankful for everyone that's on mission to reach people for Jesus!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mess Fest 2012

Being a youth pastor certainly isn't all fun and games ... but on this night it was!  Check out some of the pics from our 2012 Middle School Mess Fest.  Always one of the funnest and messiest days of the year.

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