Choose this day

Choose this day…

I guess I am just a crap or get off the pot kind of guy (never thought you would hear that in a ministry blog huh?), I agree with the Prophet Elijah:

1 Kings 18:21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

I think the people answered him “not a word” because they didn’t like their lifestyle being challenged. They were comfortable where they were stuck between two Gods, two ethos, two lives. It is not my job as a man of God to allow people to remain comfortable, it is my job to pull you kicking and screaming if I have to toward God.

The question we face today is the question we as a people have faced for centuries. Who will you serve? And will you do it will all of you being?


What a legacy…

Hebrews 11:4 (NLT)
4 It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. God accepted Abel’s offering to show that he was a righteous man. And although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us because of his faith.
     “All things done for self will past, and all things done for Christ will last”, so goes the old DC talk song.  Abel’s legacy lives on thousands of years later due to his faith, because he was a righteous man.  My Pastor spoke just briefly about this at a leadership picnic last night and it has remained with me all day.  We don’t know exactly what Abel did to show his righteousness but we know God accepted his sacrifice and we know that God lists him here in this passage because of his righteousness.  What will you legacy be?  Will what you do still speak to people days, months years, centuries later?
     If what we do, we do for the sake of ourselves then it is sure to pass away like the snow in spring barely to be a memory in our minds replaced by next years winter.  However the legacy we leave for our God, which is a legacy for the ages.  The book of Nehemiah lists the name of the men who worked on rebuilding the wall, I think because God wanted to show that he keeps track of the work done for him and on his behalf.  If he listed in his Word the names of brick layers how much more will he list the names of those who build his kingdom?  I think of Don Nonnenman the man who helped me to know Christ as real and his legacy as it continues through me and my youth ministry.
     In the movie Gladiator Maximus makes a very profound statement:
          Maximus: What we do in life echoes in eternity.
     The question lingers, what will your life echo?

Family Life

And God answers

OK, so it turns out that God knew what he was doing all along. (who would have guessed?)  Alora didn’t have another ear infection, it was just a cold, which she has so graciously passed on to Heather and myself as proof.  So she isn’t one of those luck three percent after all. 


Spiritual Conference Call…

     It is really strange how God has to get a hold of you sometimes.  Last Sunday night after our, soon to be, regular poker game, my wife began to tell me about some of the conversations she and the ladies had while the men were playing.  She and Mel (One of our pastor’s wives) were talking about Wildlife (the youth ministry) and the direction things had been going.  Mel made the point that I needed to do what I do best and not to try to emulate some of the other styles I had been trying.  I didn’t even realize I was doing that but in retrospect I guess I was. 

     If my wife had said this to me I may have been able to shrug it off, and apparently I wasn’t hearing God say it myself so I had to have it this way.  I am glad for people who care enough about you to say what you need to hear and not always what you want to hear.  This past Sunday I was able to really be myself again and although I hadn’t realized that I wasn’t being me before, I could certainly see it now, and it feels so right to be back.  The great thing is I am not the only one who noticed the difference.  Several of my students and leaders made comments to the effect.  I am so glad for a God who doesn’t give up when you get out of line. 



Changing directions

So I am reading this book “The Charismatic Century” (Than you Mr. Harvey) about the history or the Pentecostal or Charismatic church, which is all relatively new to me.  It is very interesting to find out where your culture comes from and the struggles of the people that have come before you.  The one thing that has bound all pentecostals together, despite all of their other differences and disagreements, is a strong belief in the power of the Holy Spirit to act in the life of a believer.

I suppose I need to ask myself in this situation, where has that belief gone in my own life?  I still believe in the power of God’s spirit in theory but I don’t live with a consistent expectation of his power in my life.  Maybe it is one of those fluxations people go through in life.  You don’t even realize you are going a certain direction until you are a good deal off your intended direction.  Well, after a good deal of time in prayer I am changing my direction.

Family Life

My daughter is one of the few…

We found out today that our daughter is one of the 3% of kids who still get ear infection after they have tubes but in their ears.  It is a terribly frustrating experience.  Please continue to pray with us as we try to figure out what to do.  We can at least use ear drops to clean out the infection now instead of filling her with antibiotics but she HATES them so it has been a bit of a struggle.

Alora Upclose


Christianity Family Life

I thought I knew God…

As I move through life I slowly discover that I don’t know as much as I though I did.  Today was one of those moments

I thought I new a lot about God before I was a father.  But like many things in life the older I get the more I realize I didnt know crap about crap if you will forgive the expression.  This morning my daughter, Alora, had to have tubes in put into her ears, a very common surgery to prevent her from having more than her current seven ear infections in six months.
            We woke her early this morning to be at the surgeons office at 6:30, she was amazingly cheerful, her normal disposition.  We left our daughter with the nurses while I ran next door to grab us breakfast.  The surgery was done by the time I got back but when we went back to see Alora we could hear her first.  They had warned us she may be inconsolable but nothing really prepares you for that experience.  As I sat there holding my crying daughter, wishing there was a way I would take her pain upon myself, I began to understand more the heart of God our Father.  After being a Christian for some time the idea of Jesus sacrifice is in danger of becoming cliché.  I have only one time in my life come close to understanding why God would go through the agony he endured, that was the night my daughter was born.
            I would have done anything to take the pain my daughter was enduring on myself.  I would have taken her pain, or anything else needed if it would have made her stop her inconsolable weeping.  It was breaking my heart to see her in pain but I could only imagine this was a small piece of what God felt as he looked upon the earth and saw us all, he was willing to do anything to save us all from our eternal pain. 
            I thought I new God until I was a father then I realized I didnt know anything.

How to be a successful Christian

How to be Successful as a Christian

            Last night I spoke to my youth group on a topic that I consider of vast importance to the Body of Christ but one that has been greatly overlooked in the past.  Our western culture has relegated our walk with Christ as something that is private and just between us and God.  However if you were to talk to someone who lived in the time of the early church I am sure they would have a different opinion on the matter.  Additionally it can be seen in the Bible simply by searching out the phrase “One another.”  You will see the epistle writers had many admonishments in regard to how we interact with “One another.” I believe they understood that we are all in this together and it is difficult if not impossible to stay on track with God by yourself.
          A minister once told me, “A friend is someone who is concerned about your eternal destiny.”  I have changed it slightly to “A friend is someone who cares more about your destiny than they care about your acceptance.”  Simply this means, I don’t care if you get mad at me I need to help you walk rightly before the Lord.
          Believe me when I tell you this is more than theory to me.  Once four years ago or so when my wife and I were just dating we arranged a camping trip with a group of friends from Ohio to West Virginia.  All of our friends from Ohio cancelled at the last minute.  Well Heather and I went on the trip anyway with her father and my friend Brian.  We had a fun weekend and we returned to our church unaware there could be a problem.  A few days later I am approached by my Ministry Captain and friend Dale, who confronts me on rumors circulating around our trip.  It was rumored that Heather and I went camping by ourselves.  As you can imagine for a man called to ministry this may be a problem.
          Fortunately, I was able to explain to Dale that her dad had been with us as well as my friend Brian.  The rumors were easily squashed, and I found out that Dale was a true friend because he cared enough to approach me in that situation.  There are very few people in my life who cared enough about me to confront me with an issue that would be harmful to my future.  We all need that kind of accountability and community in our lives.  We all need a circle of true friends that know us enough to call us out on issues that need a confrontation.  Even if we are not protecting our selves from active sin, we are told to encourage one another in the Lord.  When we get tired of well doing, sometimes we need someone else to pull to help us along, later we can return the favor.  Don’t be fooled into thinking you can make it on your own, Jesus didn’t even try to do that.  He had his inner circle of disciples that although I hesitate to say he needed encouraged I think he was setting an example of how we are to live.
          The long and short of it is this, find someone to walk through this journey with you.  I had to pray for that someone when I first became a Christian and maybe you will need to do the same but God will provide someone for you to call a friend, and it will make your walk a much easier, more successful one.

New wine old skins

17 Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Jesus didn’t come to Earth to fix or patch up an antiquated religious system, he came to bring something completely new, the likes of which the world had never been seen before.  Many people even to this day are filling their old skins with new wine only to have it explode all over their new pews.
Allow me to explain for those of you who are not familiar with this passage that it means, as we don’t use wine skins any more it may require some exposition.  In the desert of eastern nations their wineskins are made of the skin of goats or sheep.  When these skins are new they are stretchable which is good because as wine ferments it releases gasses that will expand the skin.  However, after a time of use these skins would be come tender and if one added “new wine” it would rupture the skins, ruining the skin and loosing the wine.
In the early Church there was much talk about how much the new Gentiles had to follow the Law of Moses.  Some demanded that the new Christians need to be circumcised in order to be saved and others insisted they that they obey even more.  In fact in Acts 15 Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem in order to get a definitive answer to such a question.  There was the same debate among the council, but finally…
Acts 15:7After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

The council sent word by Paul and in a letter that is summarized in its final line Acts15:29 “You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or eating the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well. Farewell.”
There almost seems to be this thought that obeying the details of the law will somehow make you more spiritual rearing its head in the Church today.  As if you could be made any more righteous for obeying the law.  Hebrews proclaims: The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.  The law shone a light on our imperfection and God introduced a new Priest in Jesus, and when there is a change in the priest hood there is a change in the law. (Heb 7:11)
So let us not place ourselves under an imperfect law again when God has provided a much better way.

The Man that was Don

The Man Who Was Don

In the summer of 95, my life changed forever in the back seat of a Campus Life bus headed for Ocean City New Jersey, the day I met Don Nonnenman.  I was sitting in the back with my buddy Bill being DJ to the entire bus, whether they liked it or not.  Don asked us what we were playing and proceeded to go through our bag of CDs, yes this was before MP3s and CD burners, we actually had to carry around stacks of CDs that took up an entire suitcase themselves. 

Don then began the speech we had anticipated, after looking through Metallica, Zombie Anthrax, GNR and who knows what else he told us the music was ungodly and we should find some better music in much grander words.  Bill and I were prepared for this as the token sinners on this bus full of wannabe saints; we received similar speeches on almost every trip we took.  However, Don did not condemn us and walk away, like so many gospel drive-by shooters before him.  He sat there in the back of the bus for the rest of the 8 hours listening to our early 90s metal and getting to know us, making some jokes and making some friends.  No, Don was different.

If truth be told, Don did not do anything the same way as the other Christians I had encountered.  He was unique, although unique hardly does him justice.  I can now see Gods hand was moving that week, he and I sat and talked a lot that week, even though teenage girls surrounded me. I choose to sit on the porch of a shabby hotel and hear about Jesus from this man, who was old enough to be my father.  Don was not even trying to be young and cool like some of the other youth leaders of the day.  He was just himself with his jagged edges and his soft heart, and I was there sitting with him asking question after question of this man who talked of Jesus like none I had ever heard before.

I would like to tell you that week after talking to Don I gave my life to Christ and never looked back but that is to much Hollywood and not enough truth.  I answered the altar call laced with emotional pressure that week and returned to my life as if nothing had changed.  Still the token sinner in the bus full of wannabe saints.

I spent many hours on the phone with Don and even a few weekends at his house.  The following year at that same summer camp, I spent hours talking to Don.  I think it helped that he seemed out of favor with some of the establishment because of his hard line stances on some issues and anyone who is an outsider with the establishment was ok with me.  He told me about the things God has done in the past and what he wanted to do with anyone who was willing to listen to him and follow God for all they were worth.  I was interested in the idea of power he spoke of; I had never heard anyone talk of raising the dead before.  It was as if he spoke of an entirely different Jesus than I had heard of at the churches I had attended with my friends, a Jesus that wanted to be deeply involved in my life in more ways than just crushing my fun.

It would not be until next year at that same camp, after hours of sleepless nights caused by hours of great conversation that I went by myself to my hotel room.  I did not know what to do or how to pray so I just talked:

God, I dont know if you really exist or not, but if you do then you must know me and you know I dont do any thing half assed. (half fast,  for you religious folks) so I am going to give you a year, one hard core year of my life, but if you are false or no fun I am out.  And I will be your worst enemy.

Yes, not the most sanctimonious or prayers, but it worked for me and it worked for God although I am sure he laughed at the thought of me threatening him.

When I told Don what I had done, he was overjoyed and began to tell me more about what I should be doing in life.  Some times, I agreed but sometimes I did not and he did not really force the issues with me.  We spent a lot of that camp week talking over the gifts of the Spirit and many other topics, honestly the topics were not as important as the man who took me under his wing and guided me on my journey toward Jesus.  He took me into his home weekend after weekend and gave me more books and tapes than any teenage boy should read.  He answered my questions and loved me as no one outside of my family had ever done, although that was probably because he was my family.  He had taken me into the family of God and made me a part.  It is amazing how beautiful it is to be blindsided by discipleship.

Last Friday I got a call that I will never forget it came at 4:00.  It was Vanessa, Dons daughter, on the phone.  She called to tell me that Don had gone home to be with Jesus; I was shocked.  I did not know what to say or to do, I felt relieved and sad all at the same time.  I had leave work and go home to see my wife, knowing that the man who was Don forever changed my life.  The world is worse off for having lost him but heaven, I think just became a livelier place.