Archive for April, 2009

Compare And Contrast

While in Jamaica we spent two evenings at each church doing outreach events.  On Wednesday we were headed to a new church after two great nights at another church.  The youth that were planning the evening had just come off two nights of successful outreaches where many kids came with their families.  As we ended each evening we gave an invitation to accept Christ and get connected into the church that we were ministering in.  Many people responded each night and it was an amazing feeling for each of them to be able to lead people to the Lord.

As we came up on night number three of the outreaches and night number one at church number two the plan was to go with what worked.  We would do what we had done the previous nights.  The bus ride to the new church was filled with laughter and joking by all as we figured that we were all set for the upcoming ministry that we would be a part of.img_2840

It was a nightmare.  The kids all showed up without families in tow and they all wanted to fight.  Not many were interested in listening and took every opportunity to run around the church that they could.  As one of the teens were sharing with the people I noticed a rooster jumping from limb to limb in a tree just outside the church that we were in.  This alone would have been fine aside from the fact that the church that we were in had no windows.  It was very much and “open air” church.  Throughout the whole time that this teen was trying to speak this rooster was climbing to higher branches and crowing louder and louder.

It struck me as the rooster was crowing just as it must have when Peter heard the rooster crow for the third time the following morning of Jesus’s crucifixion.  We had denied Christ in our planning.  We got cocky.  With the previous evenings successes we felt as though we were all set.  We were not.  Absolutely not…

I shared the revelation of the rooster with the team when we were back at our base camp and we each repented for thinking that we could do this alone.  We spent much time in prayer that evening and then discussed a strategy for returning to this church for a second night of ministry.  The bus ride to the service was full of prayer and reviewing of our plans.  It was amazing.  Their was a peace in the church that we had not experienced the night before.  The kids were not unruly.  The noise in the surrounding neighborhood was silenced.  The message of Jesus was preached and many people responded to the invitation to accept Jesus as their Savior.  

The rooster still crowed.  I noticed it in the tree outside the window while one of the teens on our team was sharing a testimony.  This time it was an empty crowing.  This rooster carried no weight with it.  Many prayers had been spoken on behalf of this night and this time we had God going before us as we entered that building.  The difference between the two evenings was like night and day.  

When was the last time you got cocky?  How were you humbled by running out in front of God?

Long Way To Go

This past Sunday we had the unique opportunity to have the youth that have just returned from a mission trip to Jamaica share with the congregation.  It was a beautiful service where many testimonies of healing and salvation were spoken.  At times I was moved to tears and at others I was wanting to stand and cheer.  To hear of how far some of the youth that I have had the privilege to pastor have come is very heart warming for me.

praying_hands014But I also realize that there is still a long way to go.  We have a great youth culture in our church and they are a real priority to many.  One of our values as a church is intergenerational ministry.  We saw the evidence of this as many adults as well as children were ministered to by the messages and testimonies that were shared.  Towards the end of both services an opportunity was given to come and have the youth pray for people who may have been struggling with some of the same issues that the youth were able to find freedom in.  Depression, fear, anger, unforgiveness, thoughts of suicide – many issues had been brought up.  I truly felt as though the front of the sanctuary would have been flooded with people responding to their need for prayer in these areas.  That wasn’t the case.  Sure, some people came forward and received prayer.  It was great to see.  I am not discouraged by that.  But I know that there are still many who needed to come who did not.  

That is why I feel we still have a long way to go.  Pride keeps us from admitting that we need help.  Pride keeps us from receiving from others who may be younger and less experienced than us.  Pride also keeps us from finding true freedom in our struggles.  My prayer today is that we would become a fully transparent people who would run boldly to receive the help that we need.  Then, and only then, will we be seen as a truly intergenerational ministry where all generations are free to help each other.

Monday Morning Quarterback

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O.K., so this is the Tuesday edition of a regular posting… cut me some slack!

 

Here’s how the goals are going:

  • Time with family: None.  Absolutely zip.  Nada.  Zilch.  I’ve spent the past week in Jamaica with a great group of 12 teens and 2 other adult leaders.  It was a phenomenal week but being away from Kim and the kids wore on me.  I was very glad to be able to hold them, hug them and kiss them late Saturday evening when we returned.  This week I am going to be making up for some missed time with them by finding special moments each day to share with them.
  • Exercising: With the amount of walking, running, playing, working and definitely sweating I would say that I had a great week of unconventional exercise.  I feel good and actually did a short amount of running one day when I found a field to run in.  Only logged about a mile but running that distance with sandals on and dodging goat and cow  crap would be considered a longer distance than it was!
  • Weight: last week – 196  this week – 195. Surprisingly with all of the rice and beans that I ate last week I still knocked off another pound.
  • Read Two Books Per Week:  Only one book this week but it was a gem!  Augustine As Mentor is a fantastic book for anyone who desires to mentor and release others into ministry.  As I read this book on the plane I found myself underlining major sections of each page.  This is a must read for anyone who trains and equips other leaders.
  • Vacation at the beach: Can’t wait.  We’ll be taking a drive to Hampton this week some time to check out the place before we book it.  Looks like it will be a sweet week!

That’s all for this weekly update.

John Madden Retires

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In honor of John Madden’s announcement today regarding his retirement I thought it would be fitting to recount some of the many stupid things he has said over the years while pretending to be a sportscaster.

So, let’s have some fun with this one.  I’ll be gone for the next week with little to no access to the www world.  I’ll start us off with a few of my personal favorites.  What can you come up with?  Share your favorite stupid John Madden quote in the comments.

“That was a dumb play. Dumb play. You know that was a dumb play. I mean that was a dumb play. I’ve seen dumb plays, but that was a dumb play.”

“You can only make one play at a time.”

“Anytime you have a game, you have to be ready to play.”

“When you lose your best cornerback and your punt returner, I’d say that’s a double loss.”

“First down is a good down.”

“You never want to go backwards in the endzone.”

“They’re goin after him like uh….uh…..sugar is on him or somethin”

“From the waist down, Earl Campbell has the biggest legs I have ever seen on a running back.”

“He got up looking out of his earhole!”

“The fewer rules a coach has, the fewer rules there are for players to break.”

when referring to Troy Aikmen losing his contact lens in a game: “Here’s a guy, that when he wears his contacts, he see’s better.”

“Here’s a guy, that when he runs, he goes faster.”

So what do you have for us?  What’s your favorite Madden quote?

Leaving For Jamaica

After man long months of training, preparation and fund raising we are ready to go.  Tomorrow we will board a plane and head to Jamaica to minister to many children and families.  Please pray for our team as we go to minister to people in schools, villages and churches.

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The blog will be quiet this week unless I can find some wifi near our base camp.  If I do find a hotspot I’ll provide updates here and through twitter.

Love Is A Verb

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I spent my morning at the NH State Capital building.  I was joined by a few hundred people from both sides of the debate regarding same sex marriage.  As I stood outside this morning and listened to both sides of the argument I was struck by the question of love.  Do I show love in all that I do?  This can be a loaded question to some but for me as I stood in the midst of many people who were searching for love and finding only dirty looks and expressions of hatred I was troubled with how I respond to people.

The answer to the same sex marriage seems very simple.  I know what the Bible says regarding homosexuality and what it also says in regards to marriage.  As one who has been married to one woman for over 14 years I would say that I hold the institution of marriage in high esteem.  The issue that troubles me is in how I communicate my position to those who may desire to be joined in a same sex marriage.  It is a difficult conversation to have and one that I am wrestling with.

There were many signs that were held by both sides this morning.  “Love for all”  “1 Man + 1 Woman = Marriage”  “End the Democratic homosexual agenda”  Equality is Marriage”  Each signs carried a message.  There came a point when I wondered if I should be there.  There was a time when I wanted to go to those who identified themselves with the homosexual crowd and apologize for the words that were being spoken about their desire for equality in the realm of marriage.  Not so much because I had changed my mind, but because I could sense the hurt that they were experiencing.

It’s one thing to say that we love all people and to acknowledge that God loves everyone (we all know that John 3:16 refers to ALL people) but it is another to live that out.  I do not believe that any one of the many homosexuals who were at the NH State House this morning felt truly loved by the Christian community that was there.  We can say that we love them but our words feel empty.  We can express that God loves them but how are those words received?

I have neighbors who are homosexuals.  I consider them friends of my family.  I noticed one of them at the State House during the hearing.  I wondered what he may have thought about me being there.  I wondered how he may have felt as though I was against him.  My true desire is to express the love of God to all people but at the same time I want to do it in a way that is Biblical.  I struggle with what is the right way.  I am sure that I will make many mistakes in the coming months and years.  This issue is not going to just be swept under a rug.  It is not going away.  I must be able to reconcile my Biblical values and beliefs and at the same time be able to reach out to my neighbors.  I do not want to make them feel alienated in any way by what I do or say.  I want to be able to communicate to each of them just how much God loves them and how Jesus’ greatest sacrifice was for them as well.

Love needs to be an action.  Love needs to be a verb.  It is easy to view this issue in black and white but that viewpoint can also lead to much pain and heartache.  I don’t believe that is what God wants for any of His children.  I know it sounds cliche to ask the question “What Would Jesus Do?”  but that is what I am left with.  This morning, where would Jesus have been in the crowds?  Would He have been leading the rally for marriage as 1 man and 1 woman or would He have been comforting those who felt sidelined and ostracized for their sexual expression?

What do you think?  Where would Jesus have been?

Monday Morning Quarterback

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Here’s how the goals are going:

  • Time with family: I had a great week with the family.  We spent some time in Maine at my grandparents old farmhouse and then Easter was yesterday so we had extended family with us for dinner.  The girls had fun running around the yard hunting for eggs.  I think we created a new tradition!  Some good news as well – I found a car!  By Tuesday I should be driving an ’02 VW Jetta.
  • Exercising: This week I focused on recovery from shin splints.  Monday I went out for a 6 mile run and had to stop at 2 miles.  The pain was not fun.  I’ll be back into it today with my new kicks and I am praying that I have healed up enough to get in some good mileage.
  • Weight: last week – 198  this week – 196. Friday was my first day off of just water and I must say that I greatly enjoyed a coffee.  I think the coffee is a hunger substitute because my appetite went down almost immediately.
  • Read Two Books Per Week:  Only one book this week (I spent a bunch of time searching for a car)  I did wrap up The No Complaining Rule and found it full of insight into not only getting things done but getting things done well.  I’ll work to put some of this into practice.
  • Vacation at the beach:  I think I’ve found a place for July.  I’ll need to drive up and check it out before I book the week though.  Internet pictures can be misleading so I want to physically see the place…

That’s all for this weekly update.  Next week I’ll be in Jamaica with our youth mission team!  I may have a chance to post a few updates but internet access may be slim.  We’ll see…

40 Days of Water Wrap-up

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Last night ended my 40 Days of Water journey.  I have tallied up my journal that I have kept and am completely amazed at how much I have raised by not purchasing coffee, soda, juice and other beverages for 40 days.  The hardest part of this journey was the first 10 days as I was coming off of the caffeine that I would normally ingest in my first two cups of coffee each morning.

As the 40 days went on I began to connect with others who were inspired to look for simple ways to help others.  The barista at Starbucks who rang up my purchase of water and a banana every Tuesday morning as I journal there, has begun to help collect food for the local food pantry to help families in need of nutritious meals.  

For me, going these past 40 days with only water for a beverage has been great to help me see that when I put my mind to something I can make it happen.  There were mornings where I was tempted to cheat but I was able to overcome the temptation.  I kept a picture in my Bible of a small child from Rwanda that has to go without access to clean water every day and that was a constant reminder of the impact my sacrifice can make.

So, the check has been written to Blood:Water Mission for $125.25 and now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to help myself to a HUGE cup of Pike’s Place Roast!

Sweet Love For My Feet

My new sneakers arrived today from New Balance.  Tomorrow morning I get to break them in.  Stability and Shock Absorption.  It’s like sweet love for my feet and I found them on clearance so it’s extra sweet love for my wallet.

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Hope

When I gave my life to God just over 12 years ago I was filled with excitement.  I was amazed at what changes were happening in my life so quickly.  My attitude, my language, my actions.  They had all changed.  This excitement brought about a joy in my life that was noticeable.  Around that time I found a verse in 1 Peter 3:15 that stirred me up.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

And I was.  I wanted to run and tell everyone about the hope that I had.  I shared with anyone who asked.  I prayed that people from everywhere would see a change in my life and ask what had happened.  Those were some of the most exciting days of my coming to Christ.

I have been re-reading that section of Scripture lately and was a bit put off as I read the same verse in it’s overall context.  The heading for this section of Scripture is listed as “Suffering for Doing Good.”  Not such a feel good heading!  As I read through the entire chapter that this verse is listed in I was reminded of a few things.  Here’s the Scripture:

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

Even the best of our intentions can land us in some pretty hot water with people.  Our actions and words can be misunderstood.  Our intent in doing good can be misinterpreted by those around us as being self-serving.  People won’t always get what we are doing and they will become critical.  Overall I believe that can just be a fact of life.  But when you are in the middle of “doing good” and being attacked because of it you don’t get filled up with lots of happy thoughts.

truehopeThis past week I have been answering many emails that have come in due to the signs that we created to promote our Easter services.  The signs are very simple – just a few words with an image of Jesus on both sides.  The image was colorized to take on a bit of the look of a former presidential candidates sign.  In doing this we have stirred up some controversy.  People are confusing our intentions of communicating the message of true hope that comes from Jesus and Jesus alone.  Instead some are reading into the sign as saying that President Obama is the messiah.  Nothing could be further from the truth and that was not our intention at all.

My first reaction, honestly, was to blast the people.  “Idiot!  Are you serious?  Do you see Obama’s likeness anywhere in this picture?  That is JESUS and the word below his image is HOPE!”  Let’s just say that I caught myself before replying to any of the emails in that manner.  Instead I tried to communicate, as best I could, the message of hope that we were trying to convey with the signs.  I realized my gut reaction was not going to do anything to win anyone over.  It would neither speak of love or hope.  It would only push people further away from the God that we represent.  In responding with my initial thoughts I would have done an even greater disservice to God and to the reader of my reply.

Rather, I needed to convey the message of HOPE to each person who was found to be a critic.  I wanted them to see a difference in a my reply.  I wanted to attempt to clear up the confusion that they had and help show them that not only does Jesus bring hope but also compassion, joy, and patience.  And that, my friends, is my prayer for each of you today and throughout this week.  As you strive to convey a message of hope to others in your words, actions, and attitudes you will be misunderstood.  People will not understand why you are doing what you are doing and they will become critical of you.  Don’t give in to the temptation to blast them.  Allow your response to them to be full of grace and mercy, love and compassion, joy and hope.  May you be messengers of the greatest HOPE ever and may you not be fearful of being misunderstood.