Friday, January 27, 2012

Axis Wrap Up - Uncommon Attitude

"Remarkable doesn't just mean 'neat.'  It means 'worth making a remark about.'"  That's a quote from Seth Godin, one of my favorite authors, and we used a short clip from a talk he did to business leaders to introduce our new series at axis ... UNCOMMON.  I challenged our kids right off the bat and asked them if their life was worth making a remark about.  Were they living in such a way that people noticed ... the way they gave, the way they served, they way the cared for others, the way they talked, their attitude ... would people say "Wow, that's uncommon!"  Would people make a remark about how they are living their life because it stands out.  

We then broke up in to our "Chat Groups" and allowed kids the opportunity to discuss what it means to be uncommon and live in an uncommon way.  The groups seemed to go really well and it seemed as if the topic really hit home with our students.  

The specific topic tonight was Uncommon Attitude.  We looked at James 1:2 - 4 and talked to our kids about how to have an "Uncommon Attitude" when times are tough.  I used the example of lifting weights (and got to show off a bit by curling a dumb bell several times)  haha.  We all know that if we lift weights we become bigger and stronger.  But, the reason that works is because when we exercise we are actually breaking down our body, breaking down our muscles.  That's why we get sore after exercise.  But, God has designed our bodies in an amazing way.  After we break down muscle, the body begins to repair itself.  And, it's in the repairing process that our muscles get bigger and stronger.  So, we have to break out bodies down in order for them to build themselves up and become stronger.  

Spiritually speaking I believe it works the same way.  Nothing breaks us down more than going through a really difficult time.  It's through the "breaking" that God makes us stronger.  For whatever reason God chooses to use the really hard times in our life and allows us the opportunity to become stronger from them.  The "common" attitude when going through a difficult time is to ask "Why?" Or, to get negative and say that "It's not fair.  Why does this always happen to me?"  Or, if you're on facebook, an unfortunately common status I see often is "fml"  after a post about something negative.  The "common" person folds under the pressure of a difficulty or a trial.  But, instead of asking God to take the problem away, the uncommon person will ask God to help them become stronger because of the problem.  The first part of James 1:2 ... "Consider it pure joy when you go through trials of many kinds" ... that's crazy!  That's uncommon!  Seriously! As I was reflecting on that verse, I thought to myself, "That is just nuts!"  How can we consider it "joy" while going through something really hard?  The joy comes from knowing that after you get through it you will become "mature and complete, not lacking anything" as James 1:4 tells us.  There are some life characteristics that will only be developed when we learn to face our challenges head on.

I'm not saying it's easy.  I'm not saying it will be fun.  I'm not saying it's going to be a simple process and won't hurt at all.  Even as I type all of this I think to myself that there are some scenarios of pain and trauma and hurt that I don't even want to imagine going through.  But, the hope comes in knowing that God walks with us through those times and will make us stronger and more able to help others.  The most difficult time in my life (March 2007, my diagnosis of cancer) was incredibly painful.  Seven months of chemotherapy ... feeling lousy all of the time ... weak, tired, the sense of a black cloud hanging over my head every day for 7 months ... not fun.  But, as I reflect on that time, I experienced walking with God in a way that I never would have if I hadn't been diagnosed.  And, I believe I've come out of that a stronger person.  And, have had several opportunities to come beside others who have been diagnosed with cancer and try to be a support to them.  Again, I'm not saying it's easy.  Tears and weeping may be involved.  But, for those that are followers of Jesus, there is hope.  And, our attitude through a hard time can be "Uncommon" and point someone to Jesus Christ.  

Next Week:  Uncommon Actions

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

6 Ways for Men to Pray Over Their Families

I really enjoyed reading this post by Dave Bruskas.  Really practical yet incredibly important stuff on how to pray over our families.

Last Sunday, Pastor Mark led men in a vow and asked them to pray over their wives. We wanted to follow up on some practical ways for men to pray for their families.
One of my favorite responsibilities as a husband and dad is to pray for my wife and four daughters. It is also one of the most difficult things to do consistently. But it is something I want to do well for the sake of those I love most. So as a man who needs a good plan to go along with the best intentions, here is what works for me.


I pray for my family on a scheduled basis four times a day. These prayers aren’t wordy or long. And most of the time, they are simply asking Jesus for the same things in the same way. The condition of my heart is the only thing that keeps them from being rote or ritualistic.


I’m one of those strange people who is either blessed or cursed (depending on your perspective) with an internal alarm clock. So I wake up 15 minutes before I need to get out of bed every day of my life. And I devote that time to praying for my family. Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14–21 inspires this prayer time. I pray that my wife and girls, out of an experiential awareness of God’s love, will: 1) love him, 2) love his Word, 3) love the church, and 4) love people who don’t yet know him.


My kids have always attended public schools. They have taken the bus, rode in carpools, been driven by me or Mom and have even driven themselves. Before they leave me, I hug them and put my head to their head so that my mouth is near an ear. I then pray that Jesus would protect them. I also pray that they would be mindful of his presence in everything that happens that day whether good, bad, or somewhere in between.


My family will have dinner together at least four times most weeks. And as we eat, I ask each family member to share her thoughts from her devotional life. A dad with younger kids can share from his study and invite Mom to do the same. It’s amazing what I learn from my family during this time. We focus our conversation on personally obeying Jesus in the power of his finished work and the Holy Spirit. We then pray together that we would be obedient to him, by him and for him. And we pray very specifically for topics that surfaced during the dinner conversation.


My favorite prayer time has always been just before bed. When my girls were little, I would pray over them as I tucked them in. Now that they have matured, I pray for them in the den as they head to their room for the evening. I once again hug her so that my mouth is next to an ear. And I pray that she would believe that she belongs to Jesus, that his righteousness is hers, that he is her protector who never sleeps, that she would be refreshed and wake with her first thought being about Jesus.


While scheduled prayer is important, life is mostly unscheduled. And a crisis will never send an iCal invite. This means that I have an opportunity for unscheduled prayer all day every day. So I keep communication lines open with my wife and daughters throughout the day. This opens a door to pray with them and for them over anything at any time. Issues range from tough exams to embarrassing blemishes to friends who are losing parents to death or divorce or friends who are just plain lost. My hope is to use these vulnerable moments to teach them that God is both in control and kind. And he is a Father who cares for my wife and daughters. He is always available. And he connects with them through a conversation that we call prayer.


Now, here is why I have mixed feelings about sharing these things: Some dads put my prayer life to shame. My entire prayer time both scheduled and spontaneous amounts to less than an hour a day. But other dads will feel shame over shortcomings.
So let’s move away from shame and start over by God’s grace. Begin with a simple plan that works for you. Make your first goal to have a daily prayer connection with your wife and kids. And ask the Holy Spirit to prompt you to pray spontaneously. Getting started isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think. And your family will love you for caring.
Dave Bruskas is the network pastor for Mars Hill Church.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Joe Paterno Almost a Steeler

Really enjoyed this bit of "almost" history from Peter King's column at CNN today:

Sad news, however you fall on the Joe Paterno spectrum, with the news of his death Sunday at 85 ... 85 days after he coached his last game at Penn State. My feeling is that he could have done more, by his own admission, to bring the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal to light. He hung on too long to a job, when clearly he wasn't up to the physical demands of it anymore; he should have left the job six or seven years ago for the good of the program. But all of that doesn't erase the enormous good he did on a growing campus and for the lives of the players he coached.
The following has gotten some play over the last few weeks, but I thought I would sum up his three biggest flirtations with the NFL over the years.
In 1968, the Steelers went 2-11-1 under coach Bill Austin, and owner Art Rooney and son Dan decided to make a coaching change. Not long after the season ended, they made an offer that Paterno seriously considered -- because it was for $70,000 a year, $50,000 more than he was making at Penn State. At the time, Paterno was a hot property. Penn State had beaten Kansas in the Orange Bowl and finished the season (Paterno's third at Penn State) ranked second in the country.
"I thought he was going to come,'' Dan Rooney once told me. "We had him in my kitchen in Pittsburgh having lunch one day. We had a great conversation. I thought there was a good chance he'd want to coach our team.''
But Paterno felt he hadn't stayed at Penn State long enough, and he felt indebted to the school for giving him the job three years earlier. The Steelers hired the defensive coordinator from the Baltimore Colts, Chuck Noll, prompting disgruntled Steeler fans to complain they couldn't even get a college guy to coach their team. It turned out to be the best decision, arguably, in the history of the franchise.
The pursuit of Paterno happened again in 1973 and in 1982 with the Patriots. Twice Paterno was offered the coaching job in New England, and he verbally accepted in '73 -- but backed out because he reportedly was skittish over the shaky ownership and management of the team.
Imagine if Paterno had taken the Steeler job and Noll hadn't. My first question is whether Paterno would have taken Joe Greene of North Texas State, as Noll did, as the first draft pick of the club in 1969. Greene became the cornerstone of the Steel Curtain, and is probably the single most important draft pick in club history. We'll never know if Paterno would have liked quarterback Greg Cook enough to pick Cook and build his offense around him, or maybe even his own tight end from Penn State, Ted Kwalick, over a player from a smaller school. Noll never feared the college players from schools outside the power conferences; in fact, many of his cornerstone players came from the lesser schools and predominantly black colleges. Would Paterno have shared Noll's affection for the less famous?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Axis Wrap Up - Lies ... A Good Life Will Get You to Heaven

I love seeing teenagers serve!  This past Wednesday our kids took over axis ... the planning, the music, the speaking, they served in EVERY area and it was awesome!  I think back to my life as a teenager and if someone would have never given me an opportunity to speak in front of others or to lead a group of people or to allow me to be a counselor at a summer camp ... who knows where I'd be right now.  The Church gave me the ability to use and develop my gifts and I love paying that forward to our teenagers.

This past Wednesday we finished up our Lies series by looking at the lie "A good life will get you to heaven."  Again, we base truth off of what the Bible says and the Bible is clear that it takes more than doing good things to get you to heaven.  Here is how our kids broke down their lesson time:

1) Doing good things are important.  It's important to live a good life and do good things.  We have been created for that according to Ephesians 2:10.  Doing good things is a way to fulfill part of our purpose on earth and live in a way that points people to God.

2) But, living a good life is not enough to get us to heaven.  The reality is that none of us are good (Romans 3:10 and Romans 3:23).  Our sin causes us to fall short of God's standard.  

3)  That's where Jesus steps in.  Jesus said in John 14:6 "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except by Me."  The Bible also says in Acts 4:12 "Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other Name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved."  One of our students speaking used the illustration of meeting a new friend and wanting to visit them but that friend simply said they live in Indiana.  She could spend her life searching for her friend and never find her because she didn't have specific directions.  Well, the Bible gives us specific directions on how to find God ... through Jesus Christ.  Romans 10:9 - 10 says that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raise Him from the dead, we will be saved.  

It was a great night with kids responding to the Gospel.  

Next Week:  Our new series - Uncommon ... a 5 week study through the book of James.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Axis Wrap Up - Lies ... God Can't Use Me

Most of the time we underestimate what God wants to do in our life.  And, I believe, it's real subtle.  It's not that we don't believe God can't work or won't work.  It's not that we believe God doesn't use people.  It's just that many times we believe that God won't use us or couldn't use us.  It's a lie from the enemy to keep us ineffective.

We addressed this lie at axis last Wednesday night and spent some time looking at a story in the book of Judges about a guy named Ehud.  It's found in Judges 3:12 - 30.  A couple of cool things about this story:

1) God used this guy with a crazy name ... Ehud ... to bring peace to Israel for 80 years.
2) Ehud was left-handed ... considered a handicap or disability in his day.
3) Ehud was from the tribe of Benjamin.  The word "Benjamin" in Hebrew means "son of the right hand."
4) Ehud was left-handed and came from a place called "son of the right hand."  In other words ... he probably didn't fit in.

But, God still used him.  The take-a-way from the story was that God wants us to embrace who He has created us to be.  He doesn't want us to fit in to everyone else's mold.  He has specifically gifted us with abilities and talents and passions and will provide opportunities for us to use those specific abilities, talents, and passions.  Ephesians 2:10 says that we were created to do good things.

Something else pretty cool from this passage ... God used Ehud to defeat a wicked king who was keeping the Israelites captive.  Ehud used his left hand to kill the king with a sword.  The very thing that was considered a disability (his left hand) is what God used to bring victory!  I believe God wants to use our weaknesses more than our strengths because it truly puts Him on display in our lives.  So, the thing that maybe you're most ashamed of, the thing that has created the most hurt in your life, the thing you're most embarrassed about ... God wants to work through that!

God has a purpose for each of us.  Every single day I believe God will provide opportunities for us to do something good.  When we embrace Jesus' way of life, we become dangerous for God.  Don't underestimate what God wants to do in your and through you.

This Wednesday's Lie:  A Good Life Will Get You to Heaven.  I'm excited because it's a student led night.  Should be great!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sub-Zero Retreat Thoughts

We had our middle school retreat over the weekend called Sub-Zero.  Our ministry tagged up with 4 other churches and spent the weekend at Splash Universe in Shipshewana, about a 20 minute drive from our church.  We took 14 of our middle school kids, 6 adults, and there were around 200 kids total at the retreat. Here are a few of my random thoughts from the weekend:

- It's cliche, but it's still true and ALWAYS will be ... youth ministry is about relationships.  A weekend retreat is one of the best ways to build relationships with kids in the youth ministry.  When you're with them 24/7, in an environment away from home, at a retreat that's been covered in prayer, and at a place where God is moving ... that's just a great formula for getting to know students better.  

- I will take a loving, kind, accepting environment with not a whole lot of bells and whistles over a very flashy, high tech, but cold environment ANY day of the week.  This retreat had "it" ... that special something where you know kids are being loved, adults are genuine, and God is moving.  It's hard to explain, hard to define, and sometimes really hard to put your finger on the "how's and why's" of it happening ... but you know it when you see it.  Every student there was loved and accepted and I really believe got a clear picture of who Jesus is.  There was nothing real fancy ... just lots of love.  Students will ALWAYS respond to that.

- Our worship team is incredibly gifted.  The worship team from The Link at Grace Community led worship most of the weekend.  They just have a great ability to help us connect with God and lead us before Him in worship.  The heart, the talent, the passion ... it's all there.  I really love those guys.

- That said ... the student worship team that led the last session was very special.  Honestly, the talent wasn't the same, the music selection (in my opinion) wasn't as good ... but, man, there is something special about seeing kids on stage leading their peers in worship.  The drummer on the Link worship team was a former student in our youth ministry.  I remember him playing as a freshman in high school.  His skill set was limited, but he was able to develop his skills and gifts in the church.  And, now, he's REALLY good.  If we would have been looking for "talent" all the time, that freshman never would have had the opportunity to develop a gift that God had given to him.  It can sometimes get messy and, honestly, difficult to listen too ... but I would rather see a student band leading students in worship because it allows them to serve each other. Now, you pair that with a talented, loving adult willing to help those student develop their gifts ... that's a win.  I'm very thankful that Jeremy (our youth ministry's worship leader) is that type of adult.

- Teenagers are fun.

- Teenagers need to have opportunities to serve.

- I'm not sure how many adults were there as leaders, but there were several.  No "big" names ... nobody outside of their specific youth ministry would really even know who they were, but each of those adults was an amazing picture of service to teenagers.  So much time and energy and love has been poured out from those adults throughout their years in youth ministry either as a volunteer or paid staff.  Youth ministry is not the easiest thing in the world and can often be a trying thing to be a part of ... but when you build trust, slowly keep plugging away at it, and when a student knows that you love them enough to speak truth in to their life ... the hard truths and the encouraging truths ... that pays off.  I'm so thankful for men and women who do that.

- I had a former student of mine, now in college, helping lead our group.  I also had two other college students who are helping with our group, but grew up in the ministry of another church who was also at the retreat.  That's special ... when you know see students you've invested in now investing in other students.  Just very special.  

I'm glad our group was invited to this retreat by another church and have already been asked "Are we going again next year?!"  It was a great weekend with lots of lessons learned and some good reminders for me.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Small Things Can Create Big Changes

Chuck Noll, former coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers once said "Great teams are great because they do the ordinary things better than anyone else." When you work hard, do more than what's expected of you, and do the little things better than anyone else, well, that's a formula for success, not just in sports but in life too. Imagine what our families would look like if husbands and wives were trying to out serve the other. Imagine what our ministries would look like if we paid attention to the small details just as much as we did the big ones. Imagine if we focused our greatest efforts on the two simplest ways to know God ... reading our Bible and praying.

While its true that there are some instances where BIG changes may need to be made in families, ministries or life in general for greatness to happen, more times than not, I believe, that simple, practical changes and attention to the everyday, ordinary things can bring amazing success and cause lives and families to thrive.

What are some things you may need to pay more attention too? What small changes do you have to make in order to thrive in your life?

Below I've linked a post to a great post from Doug Fields on small things you can do to help your family thrive. Really good stuff.

5 Way to Change the Environment of Your Family

Monday, January 9, 2012

My Unfortunate Prediction on the Steelers vs. Broncos

The Steelers' loss to the Denver Broncos yesterday marked the end of their season.  I had someone post something on my Facebook page about the Broncos probably not standing a chance against the Steelers.  My reply to that post was this:  "Haha.  One thing I've learned with the Steelers though is not to get too over confident.  It should be a really good game."   I've been a Steelers fan long enough to see the wins to teams they probably should have lost too and the losses to teams they should have beaten ... especially in the playoffs.  I had a bad feeling the entire week about the game.  I was confident they could stop the Broncos running game ... not so confident they could prevent a deep pass for a score, especially with Ryan Clark not playing.  But, I never thought most of the passes would go against their best corner back, Ike Taylor.  He played the worst game I've ever seen him play.  I wouldn't call him a great corner back, but he's really good.  It was just an awful game for him.  We all have those.  His just happened to be yesterday. 

Each team has a small window of opportunity to be great and to make Super Bowl runs.  I think the team, in it's current form, has run out of time and will need to make some significant changes in the offseason to get younger and start another run.  I trust the Steelers front office and know they'll make good football decisions.

I'm hoping the Broncos can pull off another upset against the Patriots this weekend!  That upset won't bother me nearly as much as the one Sunday. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Axis Wrap Up - Lies ... I Can Get Even

We starting a new year with a new series at axis called LIES.  The idea behind the series is to allow us to look at lies we often believe in our life and then combat those lies with truth.  It may seem like a strange series to open up the year, but as I was reflecting on it and praying about it, I couldn't think of any better way to start the new year than to be free.  Jesus said in John 8:32 "the truth will set you free."  I feel like so many teenagers (and adults for that matter) are held captive by lies ... lies they believe about themselves, lies they believe about others, or lies they believe about God.  We've been held captive long enough allowing the enemy to have his way with us.

I started the night talking briefly about who the Bible calls our "enemy" ... Satan.  He opposes us and his ONLY 2012 resolution is to ruin our lives.  It's all he knows.  It's all he does.  And, the main way he tries to accomplish this is through deception ... getting us to believe something about ourselves that isn't true.  Getting us to believe we need something that we truly do not.  Getting us to believe something he offers will make us happier than what God offers.  Jesus described him as the "father of lies" and that there is "no truth in him."  So, any time he tempts us, he is tempting us with something that is not true.  So important to know, but can also be so hard to grasp because, well, he's a deceiver and darn good at it.

The lie we talked about Wednesday night was "I can get even."  So often in our lives if someone hurts us or offends us or takes something from us or gossips about us ... whatever it may be ... we often think that if we could just make them hurt the way they've hurt us, then we'll be happy.  So, we hold on to a grudge, bitterness or unforgiveness until  their debt to us is paid.  If I can just get even, then all will be better.  The truth is, we can never truly get even.  We can never get paid back.  For the one who's been abused, the sad truth is, that innocence will never be returned.  For the one who has a parent who has abandoned the family because of an affair or neglect or whatever it may be ... they are not getting their family back.  For the one who's been lied about, you can never get back all of the lies that were told.  We never truly get paid back.  

The verse we looked at was Ephesians 4:26 which says "Don't sin by letting anger control you.  Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil."  The idea behind that verse, I believe, is to hold on to anger for as short a time as possible.  Why?  Because anger gives the devil a foothold in our life.  It allows him to gain traction, to get a grip, to dig in and exert his influence in our lives.  The only way to break that power ... to break the power of anger in our life is to forgive ... to give up our right to get even ... to simply say "I have decided that your debt to me is cancelled."  

We ended our night by giving our students an opportunity to write down their grudges, their bitterness, some anger that they were hold on to.  They wrote it on a piece of paper that simply said "I choose to give up my right to get even.  This will not have a hold over me any more."  What was written on those papers was heart breaking but freeing at the same time.  I believe many students left our night the most free they've felt in a long time.  I took those papers home, my wife and I prayed over them, and then we burned them up in our fire place.  Below is a picture of those "grudges" being burned.

Next Week:  God Couldn't Use Me

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Some Beth Moore Quotes

One of my favorite authors and speakers is Beth Moore.  She's an incredibly gifted communicator with an amazing story of how God can completely change a person's life.  During our staff meeting at Grace today, we spent some time watching Passion 2012 online and Beth Moore was the speaker we heard.  I was completely blown away as she shared from Luke 8:40 - 56.  Here are just a few of the things she said that I just had to write down:

- "It is impossible for you to go unnoticed by God."

- "For most of us, the greatest need we have for healing is intensely private.  We are as sic as our secrets.  We have a tendency to hide what needs the most healing."

- "You cannot be unclean enough to mess Jesus up."

- "Jesus makes Himself easy to grab on too."

- "When you feel God's healing, He feels it too."

- "You cannot consume God, but He can consume you."

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