Monday, September 10, 2018

Ways to Grow Part 2


When I was growing up I had a go to person to ask for advice or to request prayer. His name was Dave. He was my youth pastor. I look back at him and say he was also a mentor. Throughout life we will have mentors whether it in an official capacity or not. I believe we all need someone to mentor us. It helps as an act of encouragement or one who challenges us to take the next step. This person can pray for and stand up for you. I once read a mentor is “one who walks with the student part of the way, then stops and points out the rest of the journey.” I like the simplicity of this defining quality. The mentor shows us the way but is only there when we invite him back on the path.
In Luke 8, Jesus shares a Parable about different types of soil, and how the soil reacts to the seed being planted. The first is a beaten down bath so the seed is eaten by birds before it takes root. The seed is the Word of God and the path is an example of someone who hears the gospel but it goes in one ear and out the other and never really rests in the heart of the individual.
The second is planted amongst the rocky soil. The seed grows but eventually withers because of the lack of moisture. The seed was never able to take root. This shows an example who believed the gospel but eventually fall away. Maybe the person did not take faith as their own and lived it through the experiences of others, or during a time of testing the fall away because their faith had never taken root.
                The third seeds are planted among the thorns. The plants grew up but were choked by the thorns. They may have accepted the gospel but life’s worries or distractions of the world destroyed their faith.
                The last seeds were planted in a good soil and yielded a crop 100x more than was sown. This is an example of someone who has read and trusted the gospel of Jesus, they live and embody the life of a disciple. Even when they face struggle they persevere by allowing God’s strength to cover their weaknesses.
                Do you ever wonder why faith sticks with some and not others? I have seen many friends walk away from faith. Why them and not me? I believe the answer lies in who and what we surround ourselves with. It is in what we spend our time doing by reading and watching therefore impacting us on a deeper level. Jesus set an example of community which allows us to see how it could be done.
                Jesus spent the majority of his time during his ministry with twelve people. He gave them a call to Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. For the next three years they were together a lot. When Jesus taught, they were there. When Jesus healed, they were by his side. When Jesus walked on water, calmed the storm, fed the 5000 and predicted his death, they were witnessing the miracles. 
                The disciples had a group to grow with. We all need a group. Having a group of Christians helps us to live life together. A group encourages and challenges one another to take the next steps of faith. If you look in the sky later you are bound to eventually see geese flying south. They will be in a flying v formation.  The v helps the geese save a lot of energy similar to a race car saving gas by driving behind another car. The geese are able to fly longer distances at one time; I have read up to 70% more.  The v also helps them keep visual contact with one another. This keeps them from wandering off and becoming lost.  Just like the geese we are stronger and better together. We all need a group.
                We also need a few to be accountable to. Sometimes it is hard to open up to a larger group, but it is easier to be real with 1-3 others. Jesus set this example with three of the disciple; Peter, James, and John. He was vulnerable with them during the transfiguration revealing to them more who he was and the voice of the Father declared in Matthew 17:5, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
                When Jesus eventually left the disciples so he could send his Holy Spirit, he gave them the words to “Go and make disciples.” This commission is for us just as much it was for the eleven disciples. We were meant to pass on our faith through encouragement and equipping others for ministry. We all need one to mentor. So as we close today ask yourself these three questions.
                Who is your group?
                Who are your few?  
                Who is your one?

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Ways to Grow



             There comes a time in every young person’s life when you feel like you have finally arrived, where life seems so good it could not be any better. For my son, Tedy, it was when he was tall enough to go down the big slide at the LPC Aquatic Center. He loved it so much he spent the next ninety minutes on the waterslide.
            We all grow. Growth is necessary but we are unable to control the growth process. We must start to see growth differently than we do now. For example there is more than one way to grow. Even Jesus himself grew, Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” This passage describes four different ways of growth.  I would like to break them down for you in a new way.
1.      Stature- High Chair/Physical Growth-High chairs are used to help feed babies. Babies grow by a physical growth. Is the church like a high chair? Yes, but high chairs are temporary. Eventually the baby will outgrow the high chair. The baby will learn to feed themselves.  It would be awkward to see a 40 year old being spoon fed in a high chair.  You have to be careful as a high chair faith can lead to a lazy, unhealthy, narcissistic faith. There must be more than a high chair and spoon fed faith.
2.      Wisdom- Desk Chair/Mental Growth- Desk chairs are used by students to learn. Students grow through information. Is the church similar? Yes, but a desk chair is also temporary. Eventually a student graduates but hopefully does not stop learning. The role of education is to teach a student the ability to continue growing for a lifetime. However if not focused a learning driven faith leads to works driven and prideful faith. Faith is more than attaining knowledge. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 confirms, “knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.”
3.      Favor with God- Pew/ Spiritual Growth- Pew’s are where people sit during a worship experience. In spiritual growth people grow in the heart. However just because you sit in a pew on Sunday’s it is not an automatic heart change. The danger is sitting in a pew becomes just another thing we do, but never impacts your life. The second danger is that your heart becomes legalistic thinking your way is the best or even only way.  The pew is also temporary. You may sit in it an hour or two a week. The real test is if your faith is actually lived out when you are not sitting in a pew.
4.      Favor with Man- Piano Bench/ Relational and Application Growth- A piano bench is special, it is meant for two people. The teacher and the student sit side by side as the teacher demonstrates. There is a relationship of one pouring into the other. Then as the student grows is able to play the piece on their own. The student practices, the teacher gives advice, the student applies the advice and grows. Eventually the student may grow enough and be able to move into a teaching role.
This is what it is meant to be a disciple. Jesus came alongside each one. Walked with them, taught them and there was transformation. Then Jesus released them to make disciples. Each disciple eventually makes disciples. It was always part of Jesus’ plan for us to be in the role of disciple maker. Now talk to your Pastor to see how you can make disciples.

Monday, July 02, 2018

LeBron and the Quest



Breaking news last night is LeBron has once again left his team in free agency. He has apparently agreed to a deal with the Lakers for the next four years. This is nothing new to LeBron who has the mentality everything is greener on someone else’s lawn. His desire to be the best makes him strive for better, this is part of the American dream.
He says his quest is to win championships. He has won three of them. However he wants more. This lust for more leads him to never be happy where he is. And since he is the best player in the NBA he has the power to control at least part of his destiny. This quest has led him to multiple teams, coaches,  choosing the players he wants on his team, and even trading player’s midseason.  
The problem with the quest for the ideal is that LeBron did not find what he is looking for in Miami or Cleveland and he will not find it in Los Angeles either. His quest has become his idol. He has put this goal above any other.
LeBron has what most American’s desire. He has money, fame, and power, yet he still wants more. I have a feeling if this LA experiment works for him and he wins four championships he will still not be content. There will always be a restlessness in him because he can only fill a void with something he is not chasing.
The quest does not stop with LeBron  and championships, money, fame and power. As Americans, we think we will be happier, better, stronger if we reach our goals but then there is always another goal. We think our country will be happier, better, stronger if we have the right people leading us, or the right laws to govern us. This quest keeps us switching jobs, cities, spouses in a lust for more. Yet we always will fall short, it will never be enough.
Jeremiah 17:5-14 says,
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
    who draws strength from mere flesh
    and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
    they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
    in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water

    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”
The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart
    and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
    according to what their deeds deserve.”
11 Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay
    are those who gain riches by unjust means.
When their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them,
    and in the end they will prove to be fools.
12 A glorious throne, exalted from the beginning,
    is the place of our sanctuary.
13 Lord
, you are the hope of Israel;
    all who forsake you will be put to shame.
Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust
    because they have forsaken the Lord,
    the spring of living water.
14 Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed;
    save me and I will be saved,
    for you are the one I praise.

            We can learn a lot from this passage.

1.      When we trust man over God we are cursed.
2.      We can be in the best place possible but still feel horrible.
3.      Those who are blessed, follow/trust God.
4.      The heart is deceitful.
5.      Searching riches leaves us short.
6.      God is our hope.
7.      Only God can heal and save us from the curse.
8.      We need to praise God.

We can learn a lot from LeBron.  But until we think differently than him we will never be happy.  Who do you trust? What do you worship? What will you continue to chase until it is too late?




Wednesday, November 29, 2017

November Awareness- Men's Health and Adoption

October 2010 Jenny and I sat in a Urologist’s office and waiting to hear the results of the test. We had been trying to become pregnant for five years, but we were a little passive, we said it would happen when it happens. But now that I was finished with classes and just two months away from graduation at Wesley Seminary it was time to be a more aggressive in our pursuit for children.
So now here we were hearing the news that we feared. Sure there was some healing that needed to take place, but in a way we had already known what the doctor had shared with us. I would never biologically be able to have children. It was painful but not as painful as I thought it would be. Maybe because I had already known what the results would be. Maybe I had already dealt with it and this was what brought the closure I needed.
 I am not one to dwell in the pain.  I am a problem solver. There is always a solution.  For me there was only one solution. Most of my life I have known people who were adopted. My Uncle David and Aunt Vicky adopted their two children Meghann and Jed. A friend in junior high had two adopted sisters. Adoption had an impact on my life long before October 2010.  
November for me is an important month. We bring awareness to Men’s Health by growing beards. November is also National Adoption Awareness month. In my case the first led to the last, for me they are connected. Infertility however is not the end of the world. It is not a sentence. It is just part of the story.
Adoption has led us down a sometime difficult road, difficult but not bad. Difficult roads can lead to redemption. Adoption has led us to two beautiful children. Tedy is now five years old and thriving. Our second Mae was just welcomed into the family six weeks ago. Seven years later we are now parents to two children whom we love and could not imagine a better story to be told.  

Maybe you find yourself in a doctor’s office being told news that is difficult. Maybe you are experiencing a surprise pregnancy or are being told having biological children is not an option. Can I encourage you to consider adoption as an option? Bethany Christian Services is the agency Jenny and I used and would encourage you to give them a call.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

7th Grade Ignorance

When I was in 7th Grade I was stupid. Most 7th graders are. Sorry 7th graders. It can be a hard time. Hormones are just starting to attack, your body is going through changes you possibly cannot understand. I was dealing with 7th grade ignorance.

In 7th grade I got in trouble... a lot.

I remember having lunch detention for 2 weeks after I wrote some mean things about a teacher and someone discovered them in my desk.

I hit a girl in the head with a math book, was arrested for assault and spent 6 months on probation. I had to pay her hospital bill. Do not worry she is fine and we are actually Facebook friends to this day.

Back in 7th grade we had to have book covers to protect the expensive books. I remember making them out of the paper grocery bags. They held up well and we would cover them with doodles. I remember at the time some friends and I discovered this somewhat cool and simple logo to draw. So we started drawing it on our covers. It at one time was a symbol of good but in the 1930s and 40s it became a symbol of hatred. Yes my friends and I drew the swastika. I told you I was stupid. It was 7th grade ignorance.

I also had a friend. I played baseball with him and he happened to be Jewish. He told me what the symbol meant. I was ashamed. I had hurt my friend. I apologized and remember throwing the cover in the trash. He was good about it but the damage had been done. I however was no longer 7th grade ignorant. I had a responsibility to uphold.

The last week a story has gone viral starting in Iowa and is now national news. Some high school students  wore some KKK hoods, had a confederate flag, and a gun. You can see the story here.http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/iowa-hs-students-wearing-kkk-hoods-booted-football-team-article-1.3480890 They posed for a pic and posted it on social media. Usually when there is hate there is ignorance but we can no longer blame it on our 7th grade selves. We go public because somewhere at some point hate needs to stop. Sometimes it is in the subtlety of a Facebook post, not knowing all the facts, or not willing to budge from our opinions.

I have found that when I listen I usually learn. When I learn I usually grow. When I grow I usually change for the better. I change my actions. Change does not start through actions. Change starts with a change of heart. Changing hearts however is hard. I cannot personally do that. Only God can. Something as deep as the soul where we have this inner voice telling us we know we are wrong. Some may call this conscience, but I will add that the Holy Spirit leads my conscience.

We can never go wrong with love but there also comes a point where I must take a stand for God's creation. I am to give the oppressed value and worth. I must write about the Dreamers whose livelihood is threatened. I must support the refugee. I must do something about those in Texas and Florida who are suffering due to hurricanes. I am no longer in 7th grade. I am no longer ignorant of what is going on around me. I cannot minimize the pain and trauma that others go through.

I am a Christian, and a Pastor. So I see the world through these lenses. I try to view people as God sees them. When people hurt, I want to help. It is called empathy. Today my empathy leads me to write this blog. Tomorrow who knows. But I can no longer sit by passively when I see people hurting.







Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I admit I still have hope



I admit I have been fairly silent on #BlackLivesMatter. I have been watching from afar. Maybe it is because I do not know all the facts. Maybe it is because I am one of the pastiest white guys I know with blonde hair and blue eyes. I admit I have no idea what it is like to walk around with dark skin, to be profiled by someone else just because the color of my skin. But I do know I cannot be silent any longer. Black lives matter and when us “white folks”   respond with all lives matter we are missing the point. In our country we have enslaved people because of the color of skin. We have devalued people not allowing specific rights because we feel supreme. We have had segregated schools because we thought that was best. Even today because of the systemic problems a black man is sentenced more harshly for the same crime as a white man. With all these things I admit I still have hope.

I admit that I have never met a poor policemen. Every cop I know has lived with integrity and when they put the badge on they really mean they are here to “Serve and Protect.” I admit I have no idea what it is like to wear the uniform to observe and watch over a community always having to respond to what the worst of humanity has to offer. Our church honored first responders on September 11 and I am proud of each one of them. They sacrifice their time and safety to protect our community. For them I am thankful. Their hard work is being overshadowed by some police that do not serve with the best integrity or intentions. Even though there are some problem cops I would guess that 99.9999% of policemen put on the uniform each day and use the best judgement they know how. With all these things I admit I still have hope.

I admit I am a Christian who may look at the world a little differently than most. I am a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven before I am a citizen of the United States. Jesus is my King and I follow his truth before I apply any of the Bill of Rights or the Constitution to my life. While I love my country and consider myself to be a Patriot I worship Jesus and not a flag. While I stand to the Star Spangled Banner putting my hand over my heart during it is difficult because my heart belongs to no one other than Jesus. While I recognize we are the leader in the world on freedom we may not have the best ideas on everything we do. With all these things I admit I still have hope.

I admit I am a Pastor who loves the people I have a chance to lead and serve. I err on the side of grace and love.  I share truth but do not condemn. I try to live out the Great Commandment of Loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and love my neighbor as myself. I have been called to live out the Great Commission of going to all nations to make disciples. I have seen the best and the worst of people. I have met with people who have had affairs, going through a divorce, suicidal. I have had a chance to marry and bury. Rejoice with them in babies birth and celebrate with salvation and baptism. I have seen fights tear friendships and churches apart. Through the twelve years in ministry I have heard racist comments at most and ignorant comments at least about minorities, refugees and other religions. All I can do is pray for God to have mercy for they know not what they are doing. Our church in the last few years has become more diverse. I would now consider it to be a multi-cultural church. I love what God is doing within our church community. With all these things I admit I still have hope.

I admit I am or at least used to consider myself a traveler. I have been to four continents and hope to be in the other two at some point. I am ok not experiencing Antarctica. It has helped me to see the world and people differently. We may look different, speak in different languages and come from a different background.  But we have a lot more in common than the things that are different. We truly live in a beautiful world with beautiful people created by a wonderful creator. In the world a terror is sweeping through and killing people who do not side with them. Our first response to fear is to stay away. Some brave soul might choose to go and rescue. The world can be a dangerous place. With all these things I admit I still have hope.

I admit that I am not a republican or a democrat and I will vote for… Well I am not going to admit everything today.

I admit that a blog like this probably will not have a dramatic change in the world. But I hope that the three or four people that might read it might ask how they might be able to bring good to the world. People are looking for hope and I hope that I am one that can bring that to them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Returning from Vacation

July 4th we started vacation. We left the world behind and I shut my electronics off until July 12th. I really like the ability to get away, focus on family. I almost forget that the rest of the world is not on vacation too. A lot happened during those days and I feel like I have spent some of my day today catching up on world events.

1. It seems like there are shootings every day. People are dying. Lives were lost. Cops. Black people. White people. This is never good. There are some some great thoughts that friends and others have written so I want to share those blogs here.

Wayne Schmidt- General Superintendent (Pope) of the Wesleyan Church
Kyle Ray- Pastor at Kentwood Community Church in Grand Rapids, MI (for context he is also black)
Kory Kleinsasser- Pastor at Waite Park Church in Minneapolis

There are many others. These are three people I highly respect. But I think we can all agree we must be in prayer for all involved. We need to learn to listen to people. Hear why, what, who. There is always more to the story and until we have lived in someones shoes we have no idea what someone goes through on a regular basis. This is bigger than me, I don't have the answers but I will continue to look to Jesus. #blacklivesmatter

2. Perry Noble was fired from his position at NewSpring. NewSpring has a weekly attendance of over 32,000. He was fired over his over use of alcohol. This is a big deal and affects a lot of people. I have followed NewSpring for a while as I used to live close to the church. I pray for Perry Noble, his family, his future, his recovery, and all those who have been impacted by his ministry Ed Stetzer wrote on it here. Noble released a video today on Facebook. In it he claims "he ran to it instead of Jesus and because of it I am sorry."

3. Pokemon Go- I understand very little here. All I know is Nintendo's stock went up 25% and in a weeks time there are 65 million users. There seems to be pros and cons for this new app. If you have Pokemon Go and like it please let me know, I would like to understand it. Check out an info video.

4. Personal- Vacation was good. Some of the highlights were.
- Family time- This is alway nice. From Aunts and Uncles, cousins, niece to siblings and parents. It is nice to always see them. I was also able to spend the whole week with my grandmother. She is 90 and not sure how many moments like that I will be able to have.
- East Grand Lake- One of my favorite places on Earth
- Beulah- First time at family camp. I can see why it is a big deal. Here I was able to catch up with friends I haven't seen in over a decade, to former ministry partners.
- Caleb's Ordination- He is my brother and I am very proud of all he has done.
 Some lowlights
- I was sick... on vacation... again. I think I need to learn how to slow down and relax.
- Weather. For the majority of the trip it was cool 50-60s and rainy. This hurt our ability to be outside and enjoy one of the most beautiful places (Grand Manan) I have been in my life.

5. Overall Vacation was good. I was glad to get away from Presidential election ads/news. I was glad to not have to think about Church or meetings or people. I was glad to eat Houlton Farms, Mrs Dunster's Donuts, and Brenda's Cinnamon Rolls. But, I am ready to get back to life. I flourish on the routine. I like exercising regular and controlling my diet. I like my own bed and pillow. I like sitting in my recliner at night. I like my life. I like my job and am blessed to be able to do what I do. I love Heartland Community Church in La Porte City and look forward to worshipping with them on Sunday.