Periodically Pastor Jason and Pastor Brandon will post here their thoughts/rants/grumblings as they pertain to life, faith, ministry, leadership, or whatever else is going on in their messed up minds that week. If you would like to post as a guest blogger, email your post to email@example.com.
I work at a job that I love, with a boss who is hard to like. I stood toe to toe with the devil in him on Monday, I wouldn’t say I won, but he didn’t fire me, so my job is not done. My goal of course is not to get fired, but God has me in a position to witness, love, and respect to a business man who is a bully. A man who feels is okay to demean and humiliate people in front of co workers and friends.. A man who has a quick fiery tongue but whom also has a hart that is broken and scared if one can get close enough or stay employed long enough to find it.
I was married to a man just like this, but was weak then. If he said jump, I asked how high. I allowed his words and fiery barks to destroy my self-esteem until I was nothing more than a shell of a person.
Through my divorce I learned that kind of submission is not what God desires for us, however that experience gives me the stamina to face the battles I face now. The stamina to weather the storm, walk on water, and reach an unlovable burnt crusty marshmallow…the best part is I am not married to him! This time my financial security does not rest on him (although he likes to think it does).
What I do-God’s talents and gifts to me, for this time in my life I use them to reach his kids that don’t often act like his kids, I get to provide a safe caring, non judgmental, non sarcastic, loving environment for his younger kids, and a sounding board for his older kids if and when needed.
I get to be a companion and friend to his wife, as well as damage control within our business to confront clients and business partners with God’s guidance and love before they experience the tongue of the boss. There are also other opportunities within my responsibilities at work to create a godly environment and be good stewards of our resources.
Through my divorce I felt like I was walking backward but in a forward direction gathering the pieces of my life in my apron as I went. Now I am walking forward helping others to keep the beautiful fringe and ties of this apron attached and stitched solidly in place, while also helping them trip the unneeded strings that cause them to trip and lose sight of God’s goal for our lives.
Romans 12:11 "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Of all of the motivations and attitudes Paul writes in Romans 12, I often find this one the most difficult, and I think many of us would be in the same boat.
I think we understand that we should be excited and motivated to do God's work. I think we understand there is a responsibility to respond to His grace in our lives by continuing to serve Him and point people to Him, I don't think any of us would argue with that. Many of us even understand to the point of stepping out and serving in ways that would be "outside our norm." And if we are serving, then we should be good, right? What more do we have to do?
See, this is where our human nature and comprehension leads us down a path opposite of what Paul (and God) are calling us to be. Our rational human mind says "If I am serving, I am good. People can see me, I am giving my time, putting my hours and sacrifice in." But Paul is saying it's more than just doing, it's also the attitude with which we do it. Never lack in zeal, but keep spiritual fervor. How many of us can honestly say that as we serve, we always do it with complete fervor and zeal? Hopefully some of us can, but I am not one of those people. There are times when serving becomes a chore for me. I love what I do, I love serving God by working with His people, but sometimes I just don't want to do it. Sometimes I show up to church to teach Club 56 because I have to, and its my responsibility. I love teaching that class, but sometimes I don't. But you know what? I would be terribly saddened if that was taken away from me.
We have all heard, and more likely lived through, the phrase "you don't know (or appreciate) what you have until it's gone." Maybe we've experienced this with the loss of a loved one, or a financial situation, or a job, or whatever else it may be, but what if this was our opportunity to serve God? If you could not attend church, if you could not talk about Jesus, if you could not serve people, if you could not ...fill in the blank... what kind of life would that be? Knowing the truth, knowing what God has done for us, and called us to, but not being able to do anything about it/in response to it?
You know, there are places in this world where this is a reality. Countries where people face persecution and even prosecution for serving God (in whatever capacity). And you know what we see in those countries? Rapid growth. The more His people are told no, the more zeal and fervor they have to share the message.
We don't necessarily face that kind of opposition, so instead we create our own: I am too tired; I have too many other things on my place; I am uncomfortable; I am not skilled; I just don't want to. And we let these made up excuses destroy our zeal and fervor, but what if we didn't even have the opportunity or allowance to do so? We live in a land of the free where we can share and serve and worship how we please...what excuse do we have to lack zeal and spiritual fervor? None. My goal, at least for myself, is to recognize that I get to serve God, and that, while I have other things going on in my life, that putting His focus first and being excited/motivated/eager/passionate about the opportunity to serve God will permeate into every area of my life and give me a purpose greater than anything I could manifest on my own.
Last Sunday, Jason spoke on the voices that we hear and the voices that we choose to listen to. While I was paying attention to Jason's message, in the back of my head kept running WWE Superstar Randy Orton's theme music, "I hear voices." For those of you who don't know, I am a WWE fan, you can judge me if you want, but it is something I share with some of my closest friends and has kept us close over the years since college; as well has having been a great way to connect to a certain demographic of students.
Anyway, Randy Orton is consistently one of my favorite WWE entertainers, as his trademark finishing move, the RKO is one of the most electrifying moves in sports entertainment. Outside of a finishing move, one of the most exciting elements of a WWE superstar is their theme music. When the crowd is wondering what superstar will come out next for a match, or when a conflict is arising in the ring and the music hits to announce a new cog in the story line, it is the music that gets the crowd fired up (or cues them to start booing, if it is a heel). Of all sports moments I have experienced, the roar of the crowd when Stone Cold's music announced surprise appearance at Wrestlemania 32 in Dallas, or the collective goosebumps of the whole Sprint Center when the infamous gong of the Undertaker hit at RAW in Kansas City, are very close to the top of my list of crowd moments.
So a wrestler's theme music is extremely important in the WWE, and as I said, I could not get Randy Orton's theme out of my head on Sunday. These are the words that kick his music off:
"I hear voices in my head, the council me, they understand, they talk to me."
This is very much what Jason was talking about on Sunday. What voice is in our head that understands what we are going through, that councils us, and that will dialogue with us to create the culture in our mind that leads us where we need to go?
I know a lot of people who question prayer, and question talking to God because "God doesn't talk back." I don't want to discount someone else's experience, but even though I don't necessarily hear an audible "voice of God" I absolutely feel that there are voices in my head that are beyond me, giving me advice, council, and understanding. As I try to explain it, it sounds ridiculous, but in the times when my faith has been strongest, I have felt a constant internal dialogue between God and myself.
Those times when I fill my mind, ears, eyes, hands with other things, basically choosing to listen to something else with any of my different senses, it seems to systematically block out that voice that guides me and councils me. So for those questioning if there really is a voice that speaks to you, I can absolutely say I have experienced this.
The next line of Randy's theme says this "You've got rules and your religion, all designed to keep you safe. But when rules start getting broken, you start questioning your faith."
Now, disclaimer, as you get further into this theme song, I will tell you it gets further away from what we would call a spiritually healthy message, but I do think these first two stanzas can teach us a lot about ourselves and how we view faith.
First off, what voices are we listening to? (As Jason mentioned Sunday)
Second, what "rules" are you living by that are designed to keep you safe?
This second point, if not treated carefully, can get into the realm of "start questioning your faith."
We start creating our own rules to keep us safe. Rules like, "If God is good then there would be no pain in this world." and "If God is loving then how could He let his creating go to Hell?" and "Why aren't Christians better?" We try to play God. We often believe we could do God's job better. So we start creating these rules, and wondering "how hasn't God thought of this before...He must not be real."
But the "rules" that were "designed to keep us safe" preceded any human element of doubt and deterrence we could possibly come up with.
Rules like the rules of life and death. That death holds authority over all men. Except for the exception to that rule. The guy who conquered death. And his story that made it out of the first couple centuries (where his followers spread the word at a higher clip than any time since then...even in the midst of extreme persecution). In a time when the scriptures were not available to 99% of the population, the voices of His people told and told and told the eye witness account of His son.
Rules that guy said like "you are my disciples if you do what I command." Rules like love your neighbor as yourself. Rules like if someone slaps you on the cheek, turn and give them your other cheek.
The difference about these rules is that they are not designed by man to keep us safe here on earth, but they were designed, and executed, by the God whose depth is greater than we can ever fathom (Romans 11:33). He has no counselor, no one he answers to. His is the voice I want to listen to, and the recognition that we sometimes fail to reach His standard, it does not shake my faith because these "rules are being broken" but it strengthens my faith knowing that the absolutes that are God's diving rule and power will never be broken, and will continue to provide the voice I need for the rest of my life.
This week, people throughout our country celebrate the freedom we have as Americans. But, the concept of freedom didn’t originate with the founding of the United States. It’s found throughout the pages of the Bible, culminating with the person and work of Christ.
Jesus said, “Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
As believers, we enjoy numerous freedoms because of what Jesus has done for those who have placed their trust in Him alone. I thought it might be cool to list JUST SOME of the freedoms we have as followers of Jesus.
Because of Jesus and His death and resurrection on our behalf, we have:
Freedom from guilt. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
Freedom from shame. “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame” (Rom. 10:11).
Freedom from God’s wrath “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9).
Freedom from fear of death. “But has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).
Freedom from bondage to sin. “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).
Freedom from the curse of the law. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13).
Freedom from legalism. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1).
Freedom from Satan’s dominion. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13).
Freedom to approach God. “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19).
Freedom to relate to God as His child and His heir.“Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:7).
Freedom to partake and enjoy every spiritual blessing. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
Freedom to bring our concerns and requests to God. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).
Freedom to walk with God throughout life. “For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ’I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people’” (2 Cor. 6:15–17).
Freedom to authentically love others. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).
Freedom to live out God’s purposes in your life. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
Freedom to enter the gates of heaven. “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2–3).
Now...while you live in this freedom, celebrate this freedom...you should always be aware of people in your life who need this kind of freedom in their life. God may have placed you in their life to lead them to this freedom.
Happy 4th week everyone. Enjoy your cookouts, your fireworks, your gatherings...but remember there is a much larger freedom to be aware of.
Writing is normally easy for me. I write for blogs, a few articles here & there, I write for messages & consulting. The process isn't difficult for me. The content typically isn't difficult for me. However, this time was different for some reason.
A while back Brandon asked the staff to contribute to the blog responding to the influence series. This SHOULD have been an easy task for me. I mean, I wrote three messages in the series, surely a blog would be a snap. I thought about the topic, I went back & listened to the messages as a learner (not a teacher)...and it was a rather humbling experience to be honest.
One of my biggest influencers in life is John Maxwell. He's considered one of the greatest leaders on the planet. Countless books, seminars, you name it-he's done it. But he started out as a pastor of a small church in Indiana. As he grew older and began writing on leadership he realized that his audience was largely made up of non-christian people. It forced him to rethink God's calling on his life. He decided to step away from full time ministry to focus on equipping leaders across the globe. Though he still teaches at Gateway Church in Florida, he mainly works with business leaders and corporations. To hear him speak of the opportunities he has had to share his faith challenges and convicts me every time I hear him.
And that's where I've been stuck this past couple weeks deciding what to write. Maxwell says "leadership is influence, no more-no less." If this is true, how have I been leading? Where have I been leading? Who have I been leading? Ultimately who am I influencing?
Many of you aren't aware of this, but in January, I made a personal goal to help 150 people take steps forward in faith this year. I've got a ways to go, but it's been an amazing 5 months of trying. This goal has focused the way I work, speak, think, connect, engage, what I say yes to & what I say no to. I have made it a point to spend at least 3 days outside the walls of the church WITH people. I'm studying In places people gather. I'm counseling in places surrounded by people. If it were up to me, I'd stay in my office alone & be perfectly content. But God placed this idea of reaching 150 people in my heart & it wasn't going to happen sitting in my office.
It's funny isn't it? I'm a pastor. I teach every Sunday to a couple hundred people & hundreds more watch online each week. But I needed to intentionally place myself in an environment where I could be around people in order to reach them. I needed to engage people in order to influence them.
For FAR too long, my influence in many ways has been limited to teaching on Sunday. And while this is definitely my sweet spot, I feel that God has been shifting my sweet spot to what I do Tuesday-Saturday out with people. It's the stuff no one sees. The stuff no one hears about. The stuff that isn't always under the lights of a stage or amplified through a sound system. It's the conversations trying to bring hope to hurting people. Conversations trying to lead people who are lost & drifting. Coaching people who want to create some systematic habits to live by. It's in the hospital rooms, the coffee shops, the restaurants, in the stands watching our kids play baseball or in hotel lobbies.
It is ALL an opportunity to influence. An opportunity to be salt & be light. An opportunity to make the world better & brighter for others.
I'm ashamed to tell you that I've been in full time ministry for 15 years & in just figuring this out. That I'm less concerned about 'office hours' than 'people hours'. The amount of people I'm currently working with is absurd & I should be exhausted, but I'm not. I'm focused & energized that God has given me the opportunity to add value to them.
Maybe this ministry thing is MUCH more simple than we make it out to be. Just add value to people. For some of us, it was we teach, we sing, we greet, we pray, we bake stuff, we smile, we talk...so much ministry happens all around us & it is ALL influence.
I'm not near my goal of 150 people yet. But the people God has sent my way have given me a renewed passion for influencing others. I guess you could say that they have influenced me to be a better influencer.
May we all find ways to influence. Make someone's world better. Make someone's world brighter. One decision that can literally change someone's life. You saying yes to being an influencer.
Leadership is influence. Lead well my friends.
I feel so lucky to have had people pour into my life over the years . While thinking about writing this blog post, it was a tough decision about who to choose. Should it be my parents, teachers, friends, mentors, or bosses? Then when I heard Pastor Brandon’s message on Sunday, May 21, it hit me!
I hope you caught that message. Brandon cooked bacon and eggs on the stage and challenged us to be a fully committed Christian instead of just being involved in Christianity. He challenged us to be “PIG” – Present, Intentional, Gracious.
When I heard these words, our GraceKids immediately came to mind. It hit me that one of the biggest influences on my life today is the kids that come to our church. These kids are “PIG” and are an inspiration for me to do the same.
Present – This is such an important trait and is one that I hear talked about in so many ways. Experts tell us we will be happier and healthier if we live “in the moment” or cultivate mindfulness. Kids are naturally great at this. When we are teaching GraceKids lessons or completing activities, they aren’t worried about what comes next. They are fully present in the moment, having a great time. They play together, listen to each other, and pray for each other.
Intentional – Being intentional about building relationships was a focus of Pastor Brandon’s message. Again, our GraceKids are amazing at this. All the time we see them welcome new kids and include them in their games and activities. They don’t worry about their differences, they find what they have in common and build from there.
Gracious – There are so many ways to consider this trait, but being in ministry my mind always goes back to God’s Grace. This is a kind of forgiveness that children exhibit so well. They don’t hold grudges. When there is a scuffle or an accident, kids are often back to playing together before the tears have even fully dried.
As I consider all of these traits, they seem the most strong and pure in the youngest kids we teach. As children grow older, they often start to struggle with them more and more. Until we have grown all the way into adults and these traits become so difficult that we need messages to remind us of the importance! I have a feeling this is one of the things Jesus was talking about in Matthew 18:3, “And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
All this time you thought I was the one back there teaching the kids. But, in truth, they are teaching me!
(Chris Huxman is the team lead on our Grace Cares Ministry, and has served in the past on the Lead Team)
I have had many influencers, both good and not so good, in my life. But I think one of the people who influenced me the most was my Grandpa Milo. I miss him so much since he passed away several years ago. Grandpa taught me many things. Perhaps one of the things I have not learned as well as I wish I had is how to balance the values of hard work and family. It is a constant struggle for me to shut down work mode and just say, "Yeah let's go out and play baseball, or jump on the trampoline, or play XBOX, or go to a movie." But I'm working on it.
Maybe the biggest way he did influence me is the gift of connecting with others. Like my grandpa, believe it or not, I not a very extroverted person. Yeah, you get into a conversation with me and you might regret it because it might be hard to get me to shut up, but in reality, while I love people and love caring for people, I am perfectly happy out on my tractor or in my truck on my own for hours on end.
Grandpa was that way to an extent. He was an old school, peace-loving Mennonite who always went to church and served the church and his denomination in many ways for many years. But this quiet, good ole Mennonite boy had a gift. He could connect with anyone. And I am so thankful that rubbed off on me. He taught me that all it takes to connect with someone is any common ground. It might be your faith, or politics, or sports, or farming, or kids. Or it might be something you disagree on but love to debate. But everyone has value.
The ability to connect has helped me in the workplace, in the lives of my children, and at Grace Crossing as well. Really in every aspect of my life! Thank you grandpa for influencing me with the gift of connecting with others.
If you have missed our May sermon series, we are looking at what it means to be influencers. To be salt and light and dot connectors in our world. Over the next couple weeks, as a staff, we will be writing blog posts about people who have influenced us and have lived out the characteristics of Jesus that we are discussing in our sermon series. Today, I write about someone who added value to me (Jason spoke about how Jesus added value to people in his message on Mother's Day, if you want to go back and check that out). This person was my high school Chemistry/Physics/Earth & Space Science teacher, who also was my Scholars Bowl coach (of which I was a two year captain, and four year varsity regional roster member, no big deal), Mr. Scott Boden. Mr. Boden (I like to call him Scott now) is currently the Goessel High School and Middle School Principle.
There were so many ways that Boden influenced me, from how he taught to the way he acted around his wife and kids, but what stuck with me the most is the way he invested in his students (especially myself and a couple of my friends).
I do not want to toot my own horn, but there was a time when I was a very intelligent young man. School came easy, and when I wanted to, I could get by without really trying. Normally this would be of positive note to say about someone, but it became a danger for me. There was a time during my sophomore year that I came to the realization that I didn't really have to try to be quasi-successful in school. While some of my teachers did not notice this trend, others did, but their response was to harp on me and tell me I was wasting potential (which was the truth, but was not communicated in a way that lead me to make a change). Mr. Boden noticed this trend quickly, and took an approach of making me feel as if he and I were equals. Now, it wasn't exactly "equals" as he still threatened to suspend me from Scholars Bowl if I didn't quit stealing things from rival schools, and still gave me detention for lighting unnecessary fires in class, but he treated me as if I was a real person, who understood real consequences, and could be trusted with real information. While I had experienced some amazing teachers, nobody to that point had treated me with the respect and candor that Mr. Boden did.
Upon developing this relationship, two things happened. First, I wanted to make sure that I did not let Mr. Boden down. Whether it was in areas of intelligence, creativity, or effort, I wanted him to know I was taking his investment in me seriously. The second, was that I knew I had an advocate, who would fight for me when I needed it, and offer advice when I needed it (of which I continue to use him in these capacities). Having an adult in my life, in the setting of school that so easily bored me, added value to me in a place where I can stopped caring about having value in.
On Sunday, Jason mentioned four questions that people ask before they allow someone to influence them. Those questions were, Do You Care? Can You Help? Can I Trust You? Why? I want to share a short story (among the thousands of Boden stories I have) on each one of those questions, to show how he influenced me.
Do You Care? The foundational memory I have of when I realized Boden cared about me was after the State Science Assessment during my sophomore year. During this time I was in Boden's Chemistry AND Physics classes (I still am bitter at Hesston HS for letting me take those simultaneously as a sophomore). Historically I had been a great test taker, but this particular test was not in line with historical data, and after the results came back, he brought me into his office, and was more blunt and honest than a teacher probably should be, but that blunt honesty showed me that he cared more about me than he did whatever that standard protocol was for dealing with a student. I won't get into the details of what he told me, but he realized how I would be motivated and created a game plan that would snap me back to my potential. He showed me that day he cared enough to push limits to get the point across to me.
Can You Help? One of the smartest people I know, and more importantly to me, one of the smartest people I know in the areas I actually care about, Boden's knowledge and experience with how he dealt with me and other students showed that he in fact could handle mentoring the ridiculousness that we all know is me.
Can I Trust You? This specific story is another one of those grey areas Boden toed the line on to add value to me, and our relationship. A situation had come up at school that I was involved in, though not necessarily the prime culprit. Mr. Boden had heard word of the situation, and approached me to prepare me for what was ahead. While that does not seem to be a big deal on the surface, it was more that I could tell even then that he was going to the point that would not betray his colleagues, but that would also prepare me for what was ahead. It was the perfect balance of the two, and showed me where honesty (thought not necessarily unnecessary transparency) establishes real, beneficial, communication.
I had many amazing adults in my life who added value in those four areas Jason mentioned on Sunday (Do You Care? Can You Help? Can I Trust You? Why?) but throughout my four years at Hesston High School, no teacher continuously exceeded the normal call of duty on each of those four questions more than Mr. Boden. He played a large role in the way I saw myself, and the value I saw added to myself, as a high schooler, and continues to play a huge role in the way I interact and build relationships with students today.
Thanks for being an influencer to me, Mr. Boden, and I hope I have done well as the self-appointed co-godfather to your son.
We have had a pretty crazy first couple months of 2017, roller coaster with its ups and downs, and have missed out on blogging for a little bit. I am excited to get back into it here as we are post spring break, and post winter, and finally hitting some spring weather (both in temperature and wetness this week...surely April rain means in May we should have some pretty vegetation, there should be a saying about that).
With spring weather comes spring sports, and for me that has meant Moundridge Softball. I have had the great opportunity to team with head coach Aaron Annis in coaching the girls softball team here in Moundridge.
This new endeavor brought with it new challenges that I am continuing to have the opportunity to react to on a daily basis. The biggest challenge so far has been transition from baseball to softball (differing rules/skills/expectations/protocol/etc). I have spent the majority of my life playing and learning everything I can about baseball, and now am throw underhanded into a sport that is very similar and also completely different. It also is frustrating that the thing I was best at (pitching/holding runners) translates almost zero onto the softball field, but for the most part I feel I have adjusted well!
For me what I have noticed most recently though, is an attitude that has come to the surface for many of the girls. This is an attitude that is not isolated in Moundridge High School girls softball players, but also my boys at Chapman, as well as the years I spent playing and coaching at Manhattan Christian College. That attitude, or maybe more appropriately represented by the word, mentality, is that immediate results determine success.
When coaching hitting, it is easy for a girl to see that the ball went really high and far and think that's her success, when really, I just got dang good at finding her bat when throwing soft toss.
Or, probably a better example, when working with a developing hitter, and trying to make a small adjustment, let's say in not dropping her back shoulder as she is swinging. The next swing she takes she throws her hands at the ball and doesn't drop her back shoulder and I tell her "great job." However, if she still missed the ball, sometimes it is difficult to feel like a "good job" was done. As coaches we get looks because, while we were focussed on a small aspect of hitting or throwing or fielding that we were attempting to change and progress has been made, they might only see that they still didn't hit the ball, or still didn't stop the ball cleanly on a dig at first base.
What I wish I could convey more than anything (and this is much easier as a coach viewing from the sideline) is that what we are working on is just a piece in a much bigger puzzle, and that immediate results are not always going to be true indicators of long term success.
In my faith life, I also find myself transfixed on immediate results (both good and bad) and think that those are complete indicators of success. Sometimes, it's just part of the journey, it's just a piece of the puzzle and there is something much bigger going on.
I have to think that while Noah was sitting there on his giant boat waiting for water he had never seen before and not getting any he had to think, "Maybe I did it wrong."
I know Joseph was a very faithful man, but I wonder if he ever sat in jail thinking, "I've done everything right, and this is where it lands me. Doesn't feel like my faith and actions have proven 'successful' so far."
As I said, it is much easier to see from the sideline why keeping a pitcher in while they are struggling can lead to a fighters mentality when the games REALLY matter (or recognizing who won't have a fighters mentality when the games REALLY matter). In our lives, we sometimes see our immediate results and wonder, "why is this happening to me?" without being able to see what it will do for us in a later situation.
Life is going to beat us up, life will also give us reasons to be lifted up. Just like in softball, I hope I can take the immediate results with a grain of salt, whether good or bad, and build on them to create bigger victories in the future, rather than hang my head on an immediate setback, or settle for the small win in front of me, that doesn't necessarily mean future success in the same area.
GUEST BLOGGER!! Maegen Stucky is our guest blogger this week. She and her husband Luke are regulars at Grace Crossing and have two awesome boys, Crosby and Gracen. She has taught in Club 56 over the last year plus, and Luke volunteers in Grace Kids. You can check out her blog at mommamegsblog.wordpress.com
As 2017 looks at 2016 and says, "your time is up, my time is now" we all start to think, "what is on the table for me moving forward?"
It is funny because really, there is not that much difference between December 10 and January 2. One is approaching the end of the year, and one is kicking off the new one, but there is not really a difference. If you are a student or work in academics you are probably enjoying a winter break of sorts, but even then, you head back into the same school year you left off with. If you work in some other business, you most likely got a few days off over these couple weeks, but the grind kept going for the most part. There really is not that much difference, except in our perception. The perception of January 1 is that things start over and we have a renewed outlook on our upcoming time. While not entirely true, if this is motivating for us then it can be a great way to focus on something ahead or accomplish a goal that has thus far eluded us.
The truth is we could start a "resolution" on January 1, or March 8, or October 18, and there would not be much difference (two years in a row I started one the week after Thanksgiving; the first year I went a year without soda, the next a year without chocolate. Turkey day to turkey day. Chocolate was harder).
But the challenge has been placed before us by Pastor Jason to think, instead of a resolution, a word that could define our 2017. While we have had some awesome submissions, and I am excited to preach about a couple of them, I have been thinking about what mine would be, and the word I keep coming back to is "dad." It is no longer a secret that Nicole and I are expecting our first child in June (find out gender in January...my guess is girl), While the most important familial role for most of my life has been uncle, that role has, and will continue to, change in a big way.
What is it like to be a dad? How will my life change? How will I deal with discipline? Do I magically know how to unkink a slinky now? All these questions are a whirlwind in my mind. Now I am not worried about it, because I have watched some amazing dads raise their kids in the form of my dad, my siblings, friends parents, etc. and I know I have that proverbial "village" that will never let me fail...but that change and that next stage have got me all sorts of questioning.
So I do what I am supposed to do in questioning times like these...I turn to scripture and I see God described as Father and all of the "fatherly" traits he has; creator (already did my part on that one), provider, discipline, comforter, loving, guiding, offerer of wisdom, etc. When I read these things, I have a twofold response.
1. It is so amazing that in the most organic relationship, of parent and child, that God has provided us the blueprint for how to be a perfect father. All I have to do is follow how He has loved us and I will have given my child everything I can.
2. Uh oh...There is no way I can live up to those standards! I cannot be the perfect provider or comforter that God is, this kid is doomed! I am going to mess up more times than Wil. E Coyote trying to catch the roadrunner.
And the truth about fatherhood (I think) is that it is both of these things. My goal is to follow the first one, but the reality is the second one. I am not going to be a perfect dad, but if I take the examples of my Heavenly Father, my earthly father, and a lot of other great dads I have been around, and sprinkle my own unique personality into it, then that is really the best I can hope to do for my child(ren).
I was lucky, I had a great dad whose life portrayed many of the qualities and examples of a godly father. The reality is not everyone has had that. I have always been able to connect God the Father as loving, caring, providing, and that label has always made sense. But in today's world, there are a lot of people who have had fathers who have been: absent, abusive, unsupportive, impersonal, and any number of other shortcomings that when they hear the word "father" their mind goes somewhere opposite where it should and creates a barrier from accepting God as a true father and perfector of all things good for us.
So, that all being said, my word for 2017 is dad. I have six months of the year to continue to prepare for my child to enter the world and then comes the part where my goal as a father is to the best of my abilities, be someone who allows my children to see God as the perfect father because they associate a dad with someone who cares for, supports, looks out for, provides, and loves them, even when I am not perfect.
This is what is important to me in 2017, my wife and child, and I look forward to it all (and accept any and all help and advice you all my have to send my way...and thank you for those who already have).
Here's to 2017!
We are in what is called the 'holiday season'. A season of joy. A season of celebration. A season of excitement. But, the reality is that it's also a season of high expectations, sometimes weird family dynamics & people getting sick right & left. A season of intensity & exhaustion; pressure & demands. It's also a season of on genuine loneliness & depression for some.
We WANT to make the season perfect, right? But it won't be. No matter how hard we try to orchestrate the whole thing, it won't be perfect. At least not what we perceive as perfect. Such unrealistic expectations are often set so high the only logical end result is disappointment. Our romantic versions of what this season SHOULD be collide with the reality that it often is.
Even as I sit at my desk writing this blog, just out of the corner of my eye sits my 'to-do' list for the next 2 weeks. It's long. There isn't enough time to get it all in. I begin to ask how I can meet with everyone & give them enough time to actually add value to them? How can I take adequate time to study, write & plan for 2017? It's overwhelming isn't it?
As stressful & chaotic as the season is, it is still an amazing time of year. It's a time to ask NOT what we 'wish' for, but what we 'hope' for. It's a time to reflect on what we really value within this season. During Christmas season & the approaching new year we are reminded of a God who came down to be WITH us. A God who said to His people in Isaiah, "I will give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes. I will give them the oil of joy instead of sorrow, & a spirit of praise instead of a spirit of no hope." Beauty instead of ashes? Joy instead of sorry? Praise instead of a spirit of no hope? That sounds like a GREAT holiday season, all because of God WITH us!
At Grace Crossing we are called to this mission; to turn ashes into beauty, sorrow into joy, hopelessness into praise. We have always been about giving people hope. May we always be a church where people can find this. Not only in this season, but every day of the year. God is WITH us...NOW, YESTERDAY, & TOMORROW. God is WITH us.
So celebrate the season! Enjoy your friends & family. Enjoy the parties, cheesy music, ugly sweaters & weird desserts. But listen to me...don't aim for perfection. God isn't looking for perfection, He is looking for you to be present this holiday season. Invite Him to be a part of & the focus of your holiday season. May we all take some time this season to reflect on the fact that we are not alone. We've never been alone & we never will be. God came down on Christmas morning to be with us. May our love for God, our love for ourselves & others outweigh the pressures & expectations of the season. And with all this said...I wish you all a Merry & Blessed Christmas.
A slight spoiler alert here; as I sat down today to study for my message for the #thankful series (which I will get to bring on November 27) I came across some scripture that I really needed today.
This scripture comes from Psalms 118.
118:1 Let all Israel repeat: His faithful love endures forever."
118:8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.
118:9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
118:13 My enemies did their best to kill me, but the Lord rescued me.
118:14 The Lord is my strength and my song; He has given me victory.
118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
118:24 This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Today, in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election and turmoil among the people, I found it so important to be reminded to take refuge in God rather than put our trust in princes or kings or presidents or senators or friends or even family. Our true hope and security is found in our creator and the spirit he has empowered us with (See Weekly Devo Nov 1).
Verse 22 then hit me hard as I thought about the cornerstone. Jesus, the rock that was cast way by the people, who was tossed aside, became the cornerstone, where one wall meets the other...where Jew and Gentile come together as Christians...where Republican and Democrat meet in the name of love and mercy and truth.
Sometimes our country moves further away from the cornerstone, some times we as individuals walk further away from the cornerstone, but it continues to be there, for it's 2016th year and counting (don't question the numbers, you get where I am going).
As we enter a potentially very new era in our country, the most important things I can do right now are:
-Pray for President Trump, Vice President Pence, their cabinet, the legislative system, the judiciary system, and all other leaders as they attempt to lead our country (1 Timothy 2:1-3)
-Take refuge in the fact that my God is sovereign and powerful beyond any measure I could imagine, and embrace His love, which will rule long after President Trump has come and gone, and long after any other system we as humans attempt to put into place...His love will endure forever.
I can't be salty when this is the case. I am still a citizen of a great country, and more importantly am a citizen of an indescribable home with my savior and God. This is the day that the Lord has made, I WILL rejoice and be glad in it.