Friday, February 27, 2009

This week we dug into a box of old pictures with the kids. It was a blast looking through the photo’s of birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, church events, old youth group trips, mission trips, homes we lived in, etc.

I was blown away at the memories – especially of the memories Julie and I have made together. We started dating in High School and stayed together all the way through college. Yep, I married my High School sweetheart! As I looked through the pictures it was as if my heart swelled with love and respect for this incredible woman. Her inner and outer beauty amazes me. I’m blown away with the fact that God allowed me to marry such a woman – I’m extremely blessed.

I’m thankful for the 18+ years we have been married and for the 25+ years that we have been dating. I’m thankful and rejoice in the wife of my youth! 18 Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. Proverbs 5:18 (New Living Translation)

You know, neither one of us are perfect. And yes, we have had our little moments of disagreements. But we have leaned on Christ and each other – prayed together – and stayed together. As I look back, most if not all of the struggles we have had were born in my own selfish desire or attitude. The more I learn to serve my Lord and my wife the more I grow and the more our relationship grows.

I’m a little slow sometimes – yes, I admit it! But the more I learn to live out John chapter 3 verse 30 – the better my life in Christ becomes. 30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. John 3:30 (New Living Translation) To borrow from Rick Warren, “it’s not about me!” Marriage may be one of the most profound relationships on earth to learn this principle.

I still have a long way to go. I have a lot of “decreasing” to do. But for now, I’m rejoicing in the memories!

Blurred Vision

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I can still remember when I was in the 5th grade (the picture above is from my 8th grade year) my eyes started to give me problems. I noticed it when I was in the back of the classroom – one of the privileges of your last name starting with “W!” The problem was I couldn’t see the chalkboard. Actually, I couldn’t see hardly anything far away. My parents took me to an eye doctor where they examined my eyes and determined I needed… what? Glasses! That’s right – I had to get glasses.

I picked out a wire rim pair that had the automatic shading lenses. They would get darker when you stepped outside. I guess I was thinking about all the outdoor activities I enjoyed not how dorky they would look. So, the glasses gave new opportunity for the local bullies to call me names, usually it was simply four eyes. Not only did they look funny, but they also hurt when I first put them on. The doctor said the headaches wouldn’t last long. It just took some time for my eyes to adjust and for my ears to get used to carrying the frames around on my head.

Uncomfortable, heavy, inconvenient, dorky, with a slight shade of brown trimmed in gold, that’s part of what I remember about my pair of glasses. However, the most significant thing I remember was putting them on in the doctors office and, and, and, I COULD SEE! Yes! There were letters on that stupid wall and now I could actually tell what letters they were.

The drive home was amazing! I never realized what I was missing. Life before my glasses was out of focus and just a blur. Now, the leaves on the trees had detail. The road signs gave directions. There were squirrels running around in the park and birds flying in the air. It was like a whole new world.

There have been times in my life when my spiritual life has been out of focus as well. Times when God seemed distant. It might have been because I had neglected our relationship. It could have been my pride, lust, prejudice, gluttony, desire for more money, or a thousand other things.

I have discovered a cure for this spiritual blurriness –“a pair of glasses” that put things in perspective for me. Jesus knew about it and did it. Moses was great at it. Nehemiah was all about it. King Jehoshaphat called for the entire nation of Israel to do it. Paul, Barnabas, and the disciples were smart enough to do it. John the Baptist taught his disciples how to do it. The church of Antioch did it. I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure it out. I think this may be one of the most neglected of all spiritual disciplines and at the same time one of the most powerful one’s available to us.

It’s called fasting. And like my new glasses in the 5th grade, a time of fasting and prayer may at first be a little uncomfortable, give me a caffeine headache (from the lack of it), and cause people to think I’m nuts for doing it. But, when I fast and pray, my Lord and this world He has placed me in comes into focus. It allows me to humble my heart, see how much I rely on Him, and focus more clearly on His agenda for my life more than ever before.

So, on March 3rd, I have called our church to a 40-day Pre-Easter fast. I need focus – I need clarity – I want to see God do miracles – I want to know His heart and His will for my life. I know it won’t be easy. But, I’m confident it will be an amazing journey.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship." Romans 12:1

Pastor's taking the heat

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Yesterday I came across a powerful post by Phil Pike dealing with Pastor's and their struggles. It hurt me to read it mainly because I am in the midst of this massive struggle. I'm not posting this for sympathy but to hopefully open some people's eyes to the very real struggles that pastor's face. Honestly, when I accepted my current position - I simply had no idea what I would face and the dangers it would pose to my health, family, ect. I'm afraid it's difficult for most people to truly understand unless they have been there. We are in the midst of a spiritual battle and your pastor and his family are on the front line. Enough said for now.

Here's the link to Phil's Post - it's well worth the read!


Serving for...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Today I want to share a guest blog from Emily Cooper the director of our Youth Ministries. She is the wife of our Associate Pastor Mitchell and a passionate follower of Jesus Christ. The Coopers are a wonderful blessing and extremely gifted. I'm extremely thankful to have them on our team! Here's her post.

As I was reading this morning, this verse stuck out to me, and even as I continued reading, I was drawn back to it again and again in my mind. And I've struggled this very morning with this very thing...

"Watch over the flock of God entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly - not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God." I Peter 5:2

It's a great reminder, an excruciatingly hard truth for me that we are serving for CHRIST, for His glory, and often times people don't know, don't care, don't see or respond to our love in the ways we hope/expect that they will. But the ultimate truth is, we do things to serve God, for His smile, His pleasure. All other service is meaningless, like a clanging gong...

This morning I grudgingly did something for someone - there was really no pleasure in it, I think they could tell, I knew, and then the guilt inevitably followed. I figured there would be no "thank you" or recognition of the effort it took on my part. It is my prayer that God would renew our hearts, captivate us with His love, and we would serve the body of Christ (the church), and all others God has placed around us, with our eyes fixed on Christ and out of an overflow of His love, a response of our love for Him...

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." Colossians 3:23

Emily Cooper

Sunday Thoughts

Monday, February 16, 2009

*Taught four straight days at Boswell this week. Love teaching these 4th & 5th graders! They are eager to learn like fresh clay to the artist’s hands – I’m thankful for the opportunity to impact their lives.
*The extra work load is extremely hard – this will only last another couple of weeks – then I will begin to finish up some of the classes which will give me more time for ministry work. Trying to squeeze everything in is burning me out – but necessary right now to impact lives and make ends meat.
*I am so thankful for what God is doing in my oldest daughter. She is growing stronger in her faith each week – not a popular thing in this town at her age. Praying for her impact in a very dark school.
*Kassidy’s Upward team is really coming together. The competition has been light but they are still learning so much. Kassidy is really catching on to the game – she has some raw talent and a ton of determination. Now’s the time to develop it.
*Klaire is talking more and more. She still has her three-year-old moments or meltdowns. Even so, the girl is such a blessing and miracle to have in our home and hearts.
*Had an amazing date day with Julie on Valentines Day. Took her to Ocean’s Zen – an Asian Bistro in Springfield. It’s one of our favorite date spots because the food is simply off the wall. I’m so blessed to be married to this incredible woman. I melt when I look into her eyes.
*Our church is in a weird season right now – somewhere between the Transitional Season and the Malaise Season. I don’t like it. We can’t stay here long. I can’t figure this out right now. Maybe I’m not supposed to. So, I’m praying for God to give discernment and guidance – to help us focus completely on Him.
*Our current sermon series on Prayer is rocking my world all over again. Hoping God uses it to challenge our church to truly become a body of prayer warriors for Christ!
*This coming Sunday I will be speaking on Fasting – then challenging our church to enter into a 40 day fast beginning on Tuesday, March 3rd. Can’t wait to see what God does in our hearts during that time.

Happy Valentine's Day

Friday, February 13, 2009

I love Valentine's Day! Maybe because I get to celebrate this holiday of love with my best friend and wife of 18 years. I hope God blesses us with many more weekends like this to celebrate each other and the love that He has blessed us with.

Here are some of my favorite Valentine’s Day links from Twitter friends: Hope you enjoy!!!

From Mark Driscoll:

From Ron Edmondson on who we are to love:

From Matt Willmington about safeguards in marriage.

From Tony Morgan: free song download to celebrate Valentine’s Day – Marvin Gaye!

Learning about Volunteers

Thursday, February 12, 2009

It’s been 15 years since I worked a full time job and did ministry part time. That’s changed. This past month I have been given the wonderful opportunity to teach a Drug and Violence Awareness Program in one of our local elementary schools. It’s typically a couple of days a week teaching in each class – and I have loved it. However, do to testing and snow days my schedule has been rearranged to accommodate the program and class schedules. Thus, today is my forth day in a row of teaching 8:00 to 3:00.

Keep in mind, while adding this extra workload I still have to continue my full time ministry job as pastor. That means a lot of afternoon calls, meetings, and studying. And…I am tired – bone tired – wiped out!

Let’s just say this has been a great learning experience for me. Here are some of my observations;

• My respect level for anyone who volunteers to serve in his or her local church has gone sky high! Yes, I believe everyone should find a place of service. I believe God has given us gifts and talents to be used for His glory. It’s just that my respect for the people who actually put in 40 to 50 hours of work at their normal job then come join us for ministry at night or on weekends has gone out the roof.
• My respect for my wife and what she does has hit the moon! I honestly don’t know how she does it? I don’t think I would – I don’t think I could – not for as long as she has. The next time someone tries to tell me what my wife isn’t doing what she should be doing – I hope they are standing close enough for me to punch them in the throat! If you haven’t walked in someone’s shoes, don’t expect to understand the crap they have walked through to get to where they are.
• Churches and pastors (yes, myself included) often take advantage of their volunteers. Let explain this – again, everyone should find a place of service - everyone should understand what’s expected of his or her ministry task (another post sometime but we fail in this area big time!) - but we have to stop expecting our volunteers to be at the church 7 to 10 hours a week plus spend time at home growing their relationship with Christ and preparing their next lesson.

I would love to hear what some of you have to say about churches expectations on volunteers and how we as pastors can do a better job of caring for schedules, expectations, ect.

Crazy Drivers

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Here's a video worth checking out. Maybe it's a little funnier to me because I have a daughter learning to drive?

More than a Great Tool!

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Sunday Thoughts

Monday, February 9, 2009

• My faith is being stretched right now. It’s hard to explain but God has me in a place of waiting on Him. I’m not good with waiting – very impatient – but working on it.
• Heavy work schedule this week with teaching 24 hours at the local Elementary school. I’m loving the time with these students – they are bright and eager to learn – truly makes me miss kids ministry.
• Had an awesome weekend – Friday night we went out for Pizza with our girls. I love our time together as a family.
• Kassidy’s Upward team played Saturday morning. I also took Klaire to the game because she forgot to sleep in! She sat on the bench and helped us coach the team – and she loved it. Not sure that she will be much on sports though – she spent most of the game brushing her hair with her pink hairbrush! Kassidy continues to develop in her skill level and understanding of the sport. I love to watch her play.
• Saturday night I took Julie out on a date to Gary’s Place – it’s an Italian restaurant in town – and has great food. I’m extremely blessed to be married to my best friend. My wife is amazing.
• We mailed off support letters this week for Karlee. She has been selected to a summer mission’s team and needs to raise some funds. I’m blown away by how much she has grown in Christ over the past year and can’t wait to see what God does in her life this summer.
• This Sunday I started a new sermon series called “Prayer.” I’m going to take this series through six weeks – one of those weeks I will deal with fasting and challenge our church family to join me on a 40 day fast that will lead us up to Easter.
• The message yesterday was very simple and practical – and yet God used it to challenge me to spend more time listening in prayer. He gave me a freedom yesterday as I spoke – it’s hard to explain – but there is nothing like the Holy Spirit guiding you through a message like that – I’m blown away that God allows me to do this. I’m looking forward to the next several weeks and praying that God will break through hardness in hearts and allow us to see Him change more lives in our midst.
• Our attendance was down a bit in the second service – not sure why? The worship was spot on – loved the first song and Mitchell’s solo just before I preached. We continue to pray for God to send us more musicians for the band – especially a drummer.

Recovering Racist

Monday, February 2, 2009

34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
John 13:34-35 (NIV)

Okay, this is a tough blog for me to write. But, I’m a Recovering Racist. There – I said it! I don’t like that I said it and I don’t like that it’s true. Over the past 22 years (I’m a slow learner!) God has been stretching me and changing me in so many ways. And, my view of people is one of the things He has changed.

Webster defines racism as; a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

For me, the biggest change factor in this area of my life has been the adoption of our youngest daughter Klaire. We adopted Klaire from China just over two years ago. And, it’s been one of the greatest decisions of our lives.

Again, I knew I grew up in small town “white” America – heard plenty of racial jokes in school, etc. But, honestly thought I had moved passed the whole race thing.

Then, one morning – as I walked into Klaire’s bedroom – I stood over her bed and looked at this incredible little gift from God – and all of a sudden it hit me – when I looked at Klaire I didn’t see a little Asian girl – I only saw my daughter. My daughter.

It’s at that point – that I realized I had grown up with such a closed mind and sick view of people and our world. Because the truth is – we are all people – created by God – unique – and yet the same. And when God looks at us – He only sees… His children.

Honestly, I’m thankful our country is changing in regards to race. I do believe things are better than they were 20 years ago. But, if we were all truly honest – we each probably still have some work to do in regards to loving each other as John 13:34-35 teaches. Then the world will know we are His!