Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Take Advantage of Today!

Leap year: Let's do something different!

by Kurt Johnston & Josh Griffin

Today is a free day! It’s a bonus, a perk, an extra opportunity to live in a moment of time and space that won’t show up again for four more years. Okay, it’s really just February 29th…and it’s not much different than yesterday. But since today won’t happen again for a long time we are going to give you a little challenge for today. Actually it’s several challenges, that when tallied together, will totally 29….in honor of today.

Do 3 Random Acts of Kindness Today:
Buy a stranger a cup of coffee, offer to empty the trash in a co-workers office, point out the fact that your boss’ toupee looks exceptionally realistic.

Call 5 Folks Who Haven’t Heard From You In A While:                                     
Call one of your parents, call an old friend from college, or call somebody whose birthday popped up on Facebook.

Pray For 10 People By Name:
It doesn’t need to be a long prayer, but mention 10 folks specifically in your quiet time today.

Make A List Of 7 Things You Love About Your Spouse:                              
Don’t read them to him or her, instead put them in your bible or journal and refer to the list the next time you are tempted to nit-pick about something dumb.

Meditate On Your 4 Favorite Bible Verses:      
These are your favorites for a reason. Spend some time reminding yourself why.

Happy a great February 29th!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Outreach to Children and Adults with Special Needs

This past weekend our church held a Totally Tropical Luau for special needs children and adults in our community AND their families.  The luau was the vision of a dear lady who attends our church and runs Dream Ministries (a ministry for those with special needs).  Her passion and heart to make this happen are truly inspiring, as well as her life and ministry.

Our church is passionate about reaching our community.  One of our montras is "We are IN the community.  We are FOR the community."  The Luau is one way to show that and to reach out to an often neglected and forgotten group of people.  Very proud of our church.  Below is a video recap of the event.

Luau 2012 Recap from Grace Community Church on Vimeo.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Our Daddy/Daughter Dance

The church I grew up in was definitely an "anti-dancing" church.  It was so against dance that the mantra was "You should stay away from pre-marital sex because it can lead to dancing!"  Well, thankfully that doesn't apply at our church our youth ministry.  We do a lot of things as a church.  But, in my opinion, one of the funnest things we do (and one of the best) is our annual Daddy/Daughter Dance.  I believe this was our 6th time doing it, and every time is always so much fun!  It was a little strange for me this year because I was actually on vacation the night of the dance, so I wasn't able to be there for the first time.  But, it was also refreshing to know that I had left the dance in the very capable hands of a few of our volunteers and they did a great job pulling it off.  

We really try to do a fun mix of upbeat songs, slow songs, and Just Dance Videos.  This year we added a couple of music videos as well to shake it up a bit.  Our play list included songs like:

- Cotton Eye'd Joe (Just Dance 1)
- Double Dream Hands (A fun video)
- Just the Way You Are (Billy Joel)
- The Way You Look Tonight (Frank Sinatra)
- Cinderella (Steven Curtis Chapman music video)
- Apache: Jump On It (Just Dance 3)
- And, of course, classics like YMCA, Electric Slide, and Cha Cha Slide

It's really a fun night filled with special moments.  And, it's a great way for our dads to cherish their daughters. Below are a few pics from the night.

Axis Wrap Up - Uncommon Prayer

We spent our night at axis Wednesday focusing on Uncommon Prayer.  I rearranged the night a little bit so we could have as much time in our Chat Groups as possible.  I talked briefly on two people in the Bible who prayed "uncommon" prayers ... Joshua and Elijah.  We then watched the 9 minute video above by Steven Furtick on prayer.  Really powerful and challenging.  For the rest of the night our kids went with the adult leaders to Chat Groups and discussed questions on prayer like:

"What would it look like if everyone prayed the way I prayed?"
"What are common excuses for not praying?"
"Why do our requests to God often not measure up to the size of God?"
There were several other questions, but our last question was "What are things you'd like to see 'crushed' under the force of prayer?"  We then had students in the groups prayer for each other.

It was a great night and my prayer throughout the day for our students was that they would learn that prayer is "powerful and effective"  (James 5:17) and they's walk away with a passion to pray "God-sized" prayers.

Next Week:  A student-led night dedicated to Leap Year.  Take Leaps of Faith!

Monday, February 20, 2012

So Much Behind One Picture

We had baptisms at Grace Community yesterday.  Over 50 people were baptized and it was such a celebration!  This picture here means a lot to me for several reasons:

1. It's one of our high school students, Ryan, who is getting baptized.  He specifically asked for me and the other adult in the picture, Aaron, to baptize him.  What an honor.  Ryan really came alive for Jesus at a senior high retreat last year at Kalahari and has really been growing as a part of our church and youth ministry.  

2. To me, this picture represents the whole discipleship process.  I'm Ryan's youth pastor.  But, I'm also the pastor of Aaron, the other adult in the picture.  He's a volunteer in our youth ministry, in my small group, and we meet regularly for accountability as well.  Aaron meets regularly with Ryan for mentoring and accountability and has really been investing in his life.  It's such a clear picture of the whole process ... meet with someone, invest in them, see them meet with someone and see them invest in another, etc, etc.  It's a simple picture, but to me it means a lot because it demonstrates a process of how we care for people and help them grow in the relationship with God.

3. The picture was taken by another axis volunteer who serves in so many different ways and invests in so many people.  Not only does he work professionally with teenagers, volunteers with teenagers, but the guy takes amazing pictures and he uses his gifts to serve the church.  

This simple picture says so much to me.  It is a picture of the Church ... people using their gifts and abilities to care for others, invest in them, and help others grow closer to Jesus.  

Our Disney Trip

Ironic that the day after the Super Bowl, I too was "Going to Disney World!"  It was my first time at Disney and my family had such a wonderfully refreshing time with another family while we were there.  I wouldn't necessary call a trip to Disney relaxing (we did 4 parks in 5 days) but it was incredibly refreshing and we built some great memories with our family.  

We tried to hit the parks as soon as they opened.  So, we'd get there and then hit the really popular or rides before there were heavy crowds in the park.  We'd also get "fast passes" for other rides and be able to ride them more quickly at certain points in the afternoon.  It was a pretty good strategy that kept us from having to wait for seriously long times in lines.

We did Hollywood Studios and Epcot in the first two days.  Lots of memories I will never forget at those parks but the main one I will always remember is my son "fighting" Darth Vader at Hollywood Studios.  Seriously, this is all he talked about doing for weeks leading up to the trip.  He was so pumped for the opportunity to defeat Darth Vader.  The moment that I will never forget is when the "Jedi Master" is sending all of the jedi in training to the side of the stage when all of the sudden Storm Troopers come out on stage.  Well, Ezra stops in the middle of the stage and "activates" his light saber and just stares down the Storm Troopers.  It was seriously hilarious!  I wish I could probably describe the look on his face.  He was so ready to do some butt kicking!  Poor Darth Vader didn't realize what he was in for..

My daughter Mercy loved seeing all of the shows and the characters.  She just had a blast and I loved seeing her enjoy herself.  She was able to have her picture taken with several characters and loved watching the parades as well.  The above picture is one I never thought I'd have taken.  :)  But, it was a night out with just the adults and my daughter loves Sleeping Beauty.  So, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to get a picture with her and then show it to my daughter the next day.  She loved it!

The rides were lots of fun, the shows were amazing ... it really was a "magical" time.  I had so much fun taking Ezra on his first roller coaster.  He did both Expedition Everest and Space Mountain and had a blast.  I was in high school when I went on my first roller coaster.  The dude is 4 and he's already riding them.  He really impressed me!  I loved the Safari, the ride Soarin' (just absolutely amazing), and each of the roller coasters we went on.  The whole experience was so memorable and I loved having the opportunity to be there with family and friends.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

What Disney Can Teach the Church

Our family had the amazing opportunity to spend a week in Disney with some close friends.  It was such a fun and refreshing trip and, a majority of the fun for me personally came simply from watching my kids be totally mesmerized by the whole experience.  They had so much fun!  I hope to post some pics from our trip soon, but right now I wanted to share some brief thoughts on what the church could learn from Disney.

- The moment you entered the parking lot you were greeted by a smiling, friendly face.  People were very helpful and seemed genuinely happy that you were at Disney.  

- The workers called every little girl a princess.

- The workers took time with you.  If you had questions, they were happy to do whatever they could to answer them or find an answer for you.  You didn't feel like a "burden" to them.

- The customer service was amazing.  One way we experienced that was when our 3 year old "puked" all over herself right as we entered the park on our very last day.  It was 34 degrees that morning (not what we expected while in Florida).  We had some warm weather clothes but she just threw up all over them ... so we had to purchase something warm for her at one of the stores.  While making the purchase we told the cashier what had happened and she gave us $25 off the purchase.  She didn't have to do that, but still did.  It was a very kind and thoughtful gesture in an attempt to make our time at Disney be memorable.

- Everything was clearly marked.

- Everything was done with excellence.

- I left thinking "wow!"  Disney has a reputation to uphold and they did a great job of upholding it and representing the "Disney tradition" well.

One of the things I pray every Sunday before our services and every Wednesday night before axis starts is that we would represent God well.  I firmly believe that if we give others a clear representation of who God is and what God does in our lives, it will be attractive.  The Bible says to "Taste and see that the Lord is good." Psalm 34:8.  If others get a taste of God ... a clear picture of who He is, I believe they will see that the Lord is good!  And, our role as followers of Jesus is to represent Him well ... to allow Him to be on display in our lives.  How attractive will it be when someone enters a church parking lot and is greeted by a smiling face directing traffic and genuinely excited they just pulled in.  How attractive will it be if men at churches treat ALL women with respect and integrity ... if we are ALWAYS a gentleman treating a lady as a princess.  How attractive will it be if we show a genuine interest and concern in people's lives.  How attractive will it be if we always go above and beyond what we have to do ... doing more than is expected because we want to serve others as we have been served by Jesus Himself!  I tell our volunteers and student leaders often that there aren't many days of the week when a person's life can literally be changed ... when God intervenes and the Holy Spirit steps in and brings life change to a person.  Any time a student walks through our doors on a Wednesday or a person walks through our doors on a Sunday there is the opportunity and potential for God to step in and change that person's life.  We need to take that responsibility seriously and fulfill our role and partner with the Holy Spirit to create and environment where change can take place.

I left my time at Disney inspired and reminded of the importance of my life representing God well and reminded that if the Church is on mission together to do that, we can reach people for Jesus in amazing ways!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Only Thing That Counts ...

I've been really challenged this week by Galatians 5:6b which says "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."  I've asked myself the question several times this week ... is my faith being expressed by how I love others?  According to Galatians 5:6 ... that's all that really matters.  Am I allowing God to be on display in my life by how I treat others, respect them, serve them, give to them?  Or, am I too busy keeping my eyes on myself.  

The picture above is an illustration I used a few years ago on a Sunday morning.  I'm holding a mirror and the idea behind it was that as long as I keep my eyes focused on myself, I will never see you.  For those of us who are trying to embrace Jesus' way of life, that means we try to take our eyes off of ourselves and focus outward on others and how we can be Jesus to them.  I wish I could say I do this well every day.  Some days are better than others, but I'm really trying to keep in mind that "the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."  I heard someone say once that "Fake Christianity is just a bunch of words.  Authentic Christianity is LOVE in action."  I hope I can live up to that statement and let God be on display in my life.

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