You may have noticed by the amount of crazy, frivolous spending, that Christmas is coming. Materialism has run crazy and taken lives in its wake again. Getting deals does not make people evil. The sinful heart does a great job of bringing it out of people. But why? How is it that rational people can get so short-sighted over an electronic device that will be obsolete in a matter of months? It is a lot like getting caught in the undercurrent. If you don’t prepare for how you might guard yourself from it, you will end up underwater.
It is no different for any other area of our life. I know my family is currently in the midst of a transition from one ministry to the next. That lends itself to a lot of opportunities for unguarded emotions. What helps is to back up and look at the big picture – eternity. We are serving the God of all the Universe. We are obeying Him and not getting taken in by the comfort of settling somewhere where God is telling us to leave from. That is a hard place to be at times because our ability to try to control everything gets in the way. But there is such joy in the trust that comes from a relationship with God. It means we need to keep our eyes on Him and not on other things.
I don’t know what that means for anyone reading this, but I do want to share how I have been praying in order to keep focused on where I need to be now. And when I say that I don’t just mean as a pastor, but as a parent, husband and member of a community.
“He is always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” – Colossians 4:12 (part of it)
I have been taking time to wrestle in prayer for my family. We want to not just sort of settle in God’s will but we want to stand firm in it. We want to have our feet firmly planted on the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ. So, I pray that my children, my wife and those I serve in ministry with will know the will of God and stand on it with confidence. I also have been praying for progress and growth in our relationship with God. (maturity) As we get closer, we become more like Him. And lastly I have been praying that we are fully assured of that will. As we walk each day in step with the Spirit of God, we want to know that we are right where we need to be!
This type of prayer involves taking a longer range view. It means understanding that sometimes what is right in front of you is not what you might have chosen, but you know the God who has chosen it can be trusted.
The beginning of the first proclamation of a national day of Thanksgiving from 1789. – by George Washington. (before it became a yearly thing)
‘Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, humbly implore his protection and favor…”
The goal was always to thank God for his provisions. That is what Thanksgiving is about!
Why is God where our Thanksgiving beings, as it says in verse 2 “come before him with Thanksgiving.”
He gives Salvation to us
The Psalm reminds us that God is the Rock of our salvation. Right now there is turmoil in families all over the world. If we were left to our own devices to somehow obtain salvation and make sense of it all, it would be like trying to build a mansion on the beach with no foundation. Sure, you might get by for a while, but the wind and waves will come at some point and the house will be destroyed.
We can be thankful today that despite all the changes in our culture, positive or negative, that God does not change. We can be thankful that He still saves sinful people from the mess of sin we are in. He takes us and places us on the Rock, Christ Jesus.
He Made it All & is Over It All
In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land – Psalm 95:4-5
There is purpose and order in the creation. No matter what is going on at any given moment, God is still the real King. Why? Because He made it all. I mean try to imagine this scene. The depths of the earth in his hand. The mountain peaks, some of which people have never climbed, and never will climb, are his. The sea in all its splendor is God’s. He owns it because He made it. I mean I have made some amazing things with Lincoln Logs and Legos, but never anything as amazing as the universe, the depths of which we can never fully grasp.
This makes my heart burst with thanksgiving because it tells me that God is always on the throne. God is never surprised by anything that happens. There is no molecule in the universe that he is not aware of. He made it all. He knows it all. It reassures me that no matter what I am going through, no matter how alone I might feel, I can find comfort in knowing that God knows exactly what is going on.
He Knows and is Involved With us Personally
This is where it gets crazy. God over everything, but He knows everyone personally, individually. It is one thing to recognize that there is a God who is over everything, who is larger than anything. Many people believe in a “higher power.” But, the difference here is that God is personal and involved in our lives.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; – Psalm 95:6
He is our maker. That means we are not a mistake and not junk. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s handiwork, His masterpiece. He has molded each person individually like an artist does with clay.
So, as we gather today we give start by giving thanks to God because in Him is where our Thanksgiving begins.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Everything seems to revolve around social media now. We send messages on Facebook and text messages for everything. Phone calls are rare and handwritten notes are fading away. The personal touch seems to be lacking at times.
So this morning I wrote my three boys a note. There was nothing all that earth shattering about any of them. I just told them about how much I loved them and how I am proud of them. I shared something about how I pray for them and left it at that. This is so meaningful for them.
Therefore I want to encourage you to do the same for people you love. This week is Thanksgiving. Maybe there is someone you have been taking for granted. It could be that a handwritten note would encourage someone’s day in ways you don’t realize. This is true even if you have horrible handwriting like me!
Pick up that pen and write one to someone and watch how God blessing in that!
What would a week be without the boys putting on strange clothes? I guess it is better than losing their clothes, although that does happen enough also. It seems like we are being influenced by vampires and super heroes. I don’t know which one scares me more.
We have a young boy aspiring to be a super hero or a vampire. I guess it depends on your particular bent. He did wear this outfit to church one day. Enough said.
If you have ever seen Larry Boy, this will make sense. We have some super suction ears.
Of course today we are going to be building some sort of camo fort. I will keep you posted.
Have a great weekend!
It was over a year ago now that I started to feel a bit unsettled here. It is not that I didn’t like something about the ministry, but I just sensed God stirring me to something. I remember asking the Lord to make His will known in my life, but I really did not want to move. The truth is Cape Cod is a nice place to live and we have established ourselves here. We had three of our four children here and currently have two kids in school. Moving with youth children adds a while new level of stress and fear. I had no idea why I was even thinking like that. I prayed and set it aside.
Then in November of last year the church burned down. I thought maybe that was this stirring I was feeling. Maybe God was somehow preparing me for this big change. In the midst of all the chaos it definitely was set aside. I was very busy with day-to-day ministry items that all of this was forgotten. But God does not let something drop and one day there it was again. God, by His Spirit, pressing this on me once again. It was at this point that I said, “okay, Lord, whatever you want.”
Over the course of time God has led me to a place where I believed He was asking me to become a Senior Pastor. That made me laugh because I was only about a year removed from my Master’s degree where I did a thesis on longevity in youth ministry. I spent a considerable amount of time researching and thinking that whole thing through. My conclusion was that I was a youth ministry lifer. I did not want to be one of those guys who started in youth ministry and then moved on. God likes to surprise us, doesn’t he?
In the beginning of this year I started to feel like God was loosening the roots here. I recall hearing from a pastor friend of mine that before God moves you He needs to loosen the roots. That very thing was happening and I didn’t even know what that very thing was. This was new territory for me and I was being stretched.
I started to bring this subject up with my wife who always seemed to bring me back to reality. She did not have the same sense I did and I was okay with that. In fact I was looking for any excuse I could to get out of it. We went to a conference in June and God spoke very clearly to me that it was time for me to take this step. Of course my wife was not there yet, or so I thought. It was amazing how many different people and speakers during this conference brought this to mind.
I got home and was praying for God to make the path He had for us known. One night the flood gates opened. I had been on the phone and when I came out and talked with her she admitted that she had the same sense of stirring. That left us at an interesting place because what do you do with that? What was I supposed to do? Who was I supposed to contact? How does someone even try to process this all?
Little did I know that was just the beginning of a journey for us where God would open doors very obviously. There is much more to share from there. For now I just want to leave you with a thought that I had during this time period. I kept thinking about how God shows up in unexpected ways but with amazing results. I wasn’t even looking for it, but when God calls it needs to be noticed. Perhaps it is that we need to expect God to do the unexpected. Maybe we get a little too comfortable with our mapped out lives. I know God has put together something amazing for us and we are just getting started.
Have you ever been surprised by God? How?
My kids went through a season where they watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs almost every day. One night while watching it with them I realized that I was looking at a picture of our youth ministry and probably many others as well. There is such diversity in a youth group that at any given time you could have any or all of the 7 dwarfs represented. It is important to know that and figure out how to help them thrive in that group setting.
Every group has their wall flowers. These are the people who are happy to sit in the corner by themselves and watch everyone else. I have sent leadership students to go talk with the bashful ones before only to find that they really would rather not talk. In our minds we think that they are not enjoying their time when they are just introverted. And if you call them out of the crowd they will immediately turn red.
Bashful seems to thrive the best when they find someone who is similar to them. If you have one bashful person, you probably have another one. And while their level of bashfulness might be different, they seem to enjoy being together. These students are also great people to pull into some behind the scenes service role. Try it out and watch them thrive!
Unfortunately Dopey comes the most often. They are the ones tripping over their feet, injuring themselves playing video games and forgetting how to get home. They are wonderful people who just miss a lot of the details in front of them. Their favorite phrase is: “wait, what?”
I have found that these students thrive when they are able to see the humor in life and enjoy some of the silly mistakes they make, not as some sort of liability, but as a unique way God has created them. They often bring a lot of interesting ideas to brainstorming sessions as well. You might never use their ideas, but their ideas often bring about other even better ideas.
Sleepy cannot even stay awake to say hello to you. These are the students that will go to a loud concert with you and sleep in the front row. What do you do? I guess you should start by giving them a job they love to do and by serving coffee.
Doc is your resident know-it-all. He knows Greek, Hebrew and a few of the tribal dialects. He will win the trivia game every time. Look to Doc to provide the schematic for the outdoor maze you want to make complete with emergency exits for Dopey. The best thing you can do with Doc is help him steer his genius to be helpful and not off-putting to others. When Doc is a humble person, others will respond with much greater respect.
Sneezy is always sick or has an allergy to everything, including air. That makes things hard enough, but they are also extremely nervous about it. I have found the best thing to do with them is remove that which makes them nervous and help them to relax. This should be a safe environment for them, so they can relax and hear from God instead of sneezing.
Grumpy is a glass half empty kind of person. At times he even breaks the glass. There is no way to make this person fully happy, even if they are smiling. They will always find a way to kill the fun you are having with a snappy, sarcastic comment. What can you do with them? Sometimes the best thing to do is ignore their grumpy comments. I have sometimes even playfully called them out on it or sent Dopey to converse with him. There is an opportunity to build a relationship with someone who is pessimistic to help them see that there is joy in the Lord.
Of course Happy does not need to be reminded of joy, they got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in their heart. He is always smiling, laughing and waking up at 5 a.m. with a bubbling personality. Happy makes a great greeter or game leader because they are just hard to get past without being happy also. As it turns out, happiness is contagious.
There is a variety of people in our churches. That means we cannot use a one-size fits all approach. It also means we need to think more creatively about how to reach them. Maybe it is time to throw out the box and look at the needs of the people right in front of you. You might just be surprised at how different personalities can be steered to really make a huge impact for the Kingdom of God.
The kids are watching a Barney movie as I type this. I have mixed feelings about that.
The truth is there are a lot of things I have mixed feelings about today as I hide from the purple dinosaur in the room.
We are moving to Wisconsin the end of December. (I know, who moves to Wisconsin in winter?) There are mixed feelings with that. There is the excitement of a new home and new people to meet. Then there is the anxiety that comes from taking 4 kids on a 1200 mile move.
My 4-year-old has helped with the packing by adding a bag full of rubber ducks. I guess that helps.
Children – Do they ever stop?
I have mixed feelings as I watch my children grow up. It is a lot of fun to see them learn and discover things and they are cute in pictures. But they are just growing — a lot.
I love the little things that I see my children picking up. My daughter was recently running around the house singing “I have decided to follow Jesus.” She even threw in the “no turning back, no turning back.” May God grant that in her life and all of my children.
I love it when they come home from church and we talk about their Bible lesson from that week. Kids have such a way of understanding the story. I think it would do all of us good to hear a child tell us a Bible story sometimes.
And then there’s Si….
And with that, I guess they want me to make breakfast. I hope you have a great weekend!