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.

Yes You Can ... Axis Wrap Up 8-15-12

We kicked off our fall ministry at axis this past Wednesday and really had a blast.  It was so much fun to be together again and to see lots of new faces as well because it was the first night for our new group of 7th graders.  There was a lot of excitement in the area and kids serving virtually everywhere.  Loved to see it all!

We had a couple of fun things that we did.  Our summer intern, Josh, and I hammed it up a bit at the beginning saying how much we missed each other over the summer.  I then dedicated a song to him ... What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction.  We played the video and just started an impromptu dance party, which was lots of fun.  We then played this funny rap video and during the part of the song ... "Yell Krispy Kreme" ... we had some of our leaders decked out in flat bills come out and pass out Krispy Kreme donuts to everyone.  Kids weren't expecting it and it was a fun moment.  

It was a fun night with a powerful worship time led by Pastor Jeremy.  We also introduced our theme for the month which is "Yes You Can."  We started by talking about Allyson Felix, the US sprinter who recently won gold in the 200M.  We discussed how she had one silver in the past 2 Olympics and described winning a silver medal as "motivation."  We watched one of her training videos and how hard she worked for the past 4 years in order to get to one moment that was only going to last around 20 seconds ... the 200M race.  This Olympics was her moment ... her moment to win the gold.   I related that to how I believe many of our students are at a similar moment in their lives ... a moment that will decide if they will take steps forward or stay where they are at.  A moment that will decide if they will step up to the challenge or sit back down.  I believe many of them are wanting more, longing for more, expecting more from themselves.  I asked them the question, "If now is your moment, how will you respond?"  

We looked at the story of Joshua (Joshua 1:1 - 9) and how he was groomed for years to be the successor to Moses.  For years he was watching Moses, learning from him, always being given greater and greater responsibilities.  Now the time had finally come for him to step up and do what God had called him to do ... lead this people.  And, in Joshua 1, God didn't say that Joshua could do this because of his great abilities or because of his talents or because he was so popular or anything like that.  God simply said "I will be with you."  Those 5 words are life changing!

Because God said "I will be with you," Joshua could then be "strong and courageous."  The enemy wants to fill us with fear because fear keeps us from being filled up with the Holy Spirit.  So, he'll fill us with self doubt and anything else to keep us from being a threat to him.  But, when we believe what God says ... "I will be with you" ... that makes us a dangerous threat to the enemy and his agenda.  Self doubt always hears the words "No you can't."  If you believe God you hear the words "Yes you can."  

Whatever God calls us to do He equips us to do.  So, we began to look at what we are called to do in the Bible.  If you think you can't make a difference, yes you can!  God says we are called to be the light of the world.  If you think you can't overcome temptation, yes you can!  God says He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear.  If you think you'll never be able to share your faith, yes you can!  Jesus tells us to go in to all the world and make disciples.  If God calls us to do it, He equips us to do it, and God plus anybody else is ALWAYS the majority.

It was a really powerful night wrapped up with a moving worship time.  I look forward to seeing our students take steps forward and believe the truth of God's word ... "I will be with you."    

Friday, August 17, 2012

So Proud of My Wife

Grace College has basically been a second home for my wife for the past 16 years.  During that stretch, her longest time away from Grace was 4 months.  That was when she was hired to work as a therapist at a local community health center right out of grad school.  While she was working there, a position as a student therapist opened up at Grace.  Carol virtually had no experience as a professional counselor, but her reputation at Grace, her work ethic, her giftedness as a counselor, and the fact that it was simply God's plan for Carol, secured her a position as the only full-time student therapist on campus.  Well, after 4 years as an under-grad student, 2 years as a grad student, and 10 years as a therapist, my wife's "official" time at Grace College has come to an end.  She has made the decision to stay at home full-time with our kids.  

5 years ago when we had our first son, she dropped her time back to only 2 days a week.  With the birth of our next two daughters, she remained at 2 days a week.  But, once we had our fourth child, Carol really felt the need to stay at home fully.  

Yesterday we cleaned out her office at Grace, as you can see by the picture below.  It was a bitter-sweet time ... an era coming to an end combined with the blessing to stay where her heart has always been ... at home.  

My wife is an amazingly gifted counselor.  The couch you see below is in Carol's office and has literally been filled with hundreds of college students looking to seek guidance, help, or healing in their lives.  I've been in her office many times, but as I was there yesterday I was moved by how many tears have been shed, how much anger has been vented, the many lies demolished, and how much healing has taken place on that couch.  

Proverbs 18:4 says "The words of a man's mouth are deep waters ..." expressing the idea that there is often hidden content in our words.  Carol has been gifted with the ability to listen beneath the words and begin to point out what a person is longing for in their lives.  She is able to look at behaviors and realize that our behaviors serve a purpose.  Even if a person hates something they are doing, they are still trying to accomplish something through that behavior.  She would help them try to discover the goal behind their behavior and often times help them to see that what they are doing is a sinful strategy that is looking for "wholeness" in something that was never meant to make a person whole.  God has so much to give us, but we often fill ourselves with junk ... "emotional carbohydrates," if you will ... that will not satisfy.  How we handle not getting our longings met point to the strategies we use to often get us through life.  Carol would point out those strategies that are not working and then point them to the ONLY One capable of providing wholeness ... God.  

1 Samuel 23:16 says "And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God."  I look at Carol in that way ... during her time at Grace College she has helped so many find their strength in God.  

She has done that in my life as well and I simply cannot imagine life without her.  I'm so proud of and amazed at the work she did at Grace College as a counselor, but am vastly more proud of and amazed at her ability to be a Godly wife and mother.  As gifted as she is at being a counselor, she is even more amazing at being a wife and a mom.  While I am sad to see her time at Grace College come to an end, I'm so thankful to have her at home full-time doing what she loves to do more than anything else.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Don't Compare ... Be You.

I had the opportunity to wrap up our Top 10 series at Grace Community yesterday by speaking on the last of the Ten Commandments ... "You shall not covet."  Coveting is a word that's not used too much today, but we do use the word envy.  Coveting and envy can be used interchangeably.  The last commandment is actually expressed this way in Exodus 20:17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house.  You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey ..."  If the commandment stopped there I think I'd be OK.  I'm very content in our modest home.  I'm incurably in love with my wife.  None of my friends have maids or butlers, so I'm good there.  And, I certainly have no desire to ever own an ox or a donkey.  So, as I look at the first part of that verse I think to myself "I'm good!"  But, then I read the last part of the verse "... or ANYTHING that belongs to your neighbor."  That would mean any possession, any personality trait, any physical characteristic, any ability ... anything.  The word "anything" brings me back to reality very quickly.
In my own life, I don't so much covet other people's stuff, but I have struggled with coveting other people's abilities, gifts, passions, etc, and I have wrestled with envy as far back as I can remember.  We all have certain temptations we struggle with more than others.  This is one of mine.  But, in my life I fight hard to battle against it because envy does nothing but breed division.  It distracts us, divides us, burdens us, causes us to obsess over things that ultimately do not matter, and when we allow all of that to happen in our lives, it takes our eyes off of the mission we, as followers of Jesus are to have ... and the enemy loves it!  
James 3:16 says "Where you find envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice."  I've seen the damage envy can do.  I've experienced it in my own life and have seen it played out in the lives of others.  That's why it's so important for all of us to not allow it access to our lives.  

A few ways we can fight against envy ...

1) Be for each other and not in competition with each other.  Envy will turn everyone in to a competitor.  When you sense that happening in your life, do a heart check and ask God to reveal the areas of your life that are being darkened by envy.  Envy is a heart issue, but we try to make it a people issue.  The issue is not the person you envy.  The issue is you.

2) Be grateful.  You can't be envious and grateful at the same time.  It's impossible.  Take time to reflect on what God has given you in your life and practice gratitude.  Jon Gordon said it this way:  "Gratitude is like a muscle.  The more we do with it the stronger it gets."

3) Realize God made you to be you.  God is not looking for you to be someone else.  He has gifted you to do exactly what He has called you to do.  If we spend out lives wishing we had the gifts and abilities other people have, we'll spend our lives wishing we were doing what God has called them to do.  When that happens, we missed what God has called US to do.  I illustrated that point below by trying to dress like some of the people on our staff.  I put on a Phillies t-shirt that was way to small.  Glasses that totally were not me.  A tatoo sleeve and skinny jeans.  As you can tell ... none of it fit.  That's exactly what happens when we envy other people's gifts and abilities.  We look silly and ultimately cannot be used the way God wants to use us.

The hard truth is that God has not distributed everything evenly.  He has given out different spiritual gifts, different abilities, different passions, different measures of wealth, different skill sets ... we are ultimately responsible for doing the best with what He has given to us.  Proverbs 14:30 says "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones."  We have a choice.  We can strive to be our best and do our best with what God has given to us and be at peace or constantly wish and long for more and desire the possessions or abilities others have and feel our bones rotting away.  The enemy's way leads to death.  God's way leads to peace.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Back from Maine

Just a short post to say my family and I just made it back from a week in Maine on Saturday.  Lots of time outside.  Lots of time walking in the woods.  Lots of time with extended family (as you can see from the picture above). I loved seeing our kids play with their cousins and have so much fun together.  And, Judah certainly didn't lack any love, that's for sure.  All of the cousins wanted to take turns holding him.  He was a big hit!   Anyway, it was a great week away.  

The drive was 21 hours one way, partly because of bringing a nursing baby boy with us.  We didn't think it was a good idea to leave him in Indiana.  But, our kids did AMAZING on the trip!  They travel so well and I'm incredibly grateful for that.

I wouldn't necessarily describe it as a "relaxing" vacation (having 10 kids under 8 years old in the house isn't a recipe for relaxation), but I would say it was incredibly refreshing.  Refreshing to be with family ... refreshing to experience the outdoors ... refreshing to be away from the normal routine.  It was certainly good to be away, but I'm also glad to be back.

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