I’m going to be a dad + the most amazing last two weeks in HSM

1 02 2012

There are a lot of exciting things going on right now in my life. My wife is pregnant, 36 students accepted Christ two weeks ago in Student Ministries, and 105 students expressed interest in going to Haiti with HSM this summer this past week. I feel like there is a movement going on in Student Ministries and there is definitely a bunch of new and exciting adventures going on at my house (like not getting any sleep because my wife moves around all night trying to get comfy. She is so insensitive!).

Here’s the story I shared with HSM two weeks ago:

Back in September of last year my wife and I realized something was missing from our life. We were really happy with how everything was going. We both had great jobs, awesome friends, an amazing marriage, a cute dog, and an unwavering faith but we still felt like something was missing.

 November rolled around and I went on a mini vacation with a few friends and when I got back my wife told me that she bought me something. I asked her what it was and she said a new shirt. I was thinking, “man she is excited about this new shirt she got me.” But my wife loves buying people gifts so I kind of brushed that aside. As she went to go get the shirt she told me to close my eyes and when I could hear that she was about 8 feet away from she said, “alright open them.” There in front of me was my wife holding up a little baby outfit. 

 The first thing I said was “that’s not going to fit me.” And she said “Can you just be serious for once?” So I focused in and asked her if she was pregnant. She said yes, we hugged, texted our parents and a few friends and sometime around July 20th I’m going to be a dad. The thing that was missing for us was a kid. We were ready to be parents, we felt like God was pushing us in that direction and the thing that was missing for us will no longer be missing in a few months.

This then led into a message about something missing in our lives and for a lot of people the missing component is Jesus Christ. This has been one of the most exciting couple of weeks in my life and I still feel like the best is yet to come!

Here’s a little recap of the lat two weeks.

Series: We are in the middle of our series on the Armor of God called “Ridiculousness”. On Jan. 8th we taught a message right out of Perry Noble’s (senior pastor at Newspring Church) book telling our students that Found People Find People. We encouraged them to invite their friends back on January 22nd. (We also started a pretty big buzz on social media surrounding that day by asking our students to hash tag everything with #J22. It was really cool to see them rally around that.) They responded in a huge way and that weekend 36 students that we know about texted us and told us they were ready to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The following week we encouraged students to move forward with what God has equipped them with and serve. In response to a one of our three new service initiatives in HSM that were presented to our students this past weekend, 105 of them said they wanted to go to Haiti with us this summer. They responded to the vision to take action.

Worship: Jan 22- The team opened with a song by Rhianna (We Found Love) and played Awake my Soul by Mumford and Sons halfway through the message. Kevin and I had a blast incorporating music into the message and the students really responded. They then finished with an awesome song of celebration called Freedom is Here.The goal was to create an environment that a student who has never been in the doors of a church would feel comfortable in.

Jan 29- Hear the Sound. Oh My God. From the Inside Out. One Thing Remains. Tyler led and did a great job!!

Fun: Jan 22- Played a couple Minute to Win It games that went really well. Jan 29- Played a game that ended with Steve S. (one of our apprentices) with whip cream all over to him. The students lost it!!

Areas of Improvement: We need to bring this energy, excitement, vision, etc. EVERY WEEK! We saw our potential and now we know we can make that happen week in and week out. Time to get to work.


Reduced to Rubble

1 12 2011

This morning I was reading Micah 3 and when I read through verse 11 I stopped and reflected on it for a little while.

Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they look for the LORD’s support and say, “Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us.”

Micah is addressing the leaders of the house of Jacob, or Israel, and gives them a stinging depiction of their sins and downfalls. These leaders are motivated by their greed and appetite for wealth and they are warned in verse 12 that their actions are leading to devastation. While doing so, the leaders are looking to God for support and trusting His protection and provision. If they were truly allowing God to lead them then their lifestyle would not have projected the greed and treachery that it did. But my question is, how often do we find ourselves in similar situations? Situations where we have chosen not to be faithful, where we fulfill our selfish desires and then when ruin and destruction are looming we say, “We’re good, God is with us”?

How often do we get sick after choosing to not care for our bodies?

How often do we struggle financially after choosing to spend lavishly?

How often do we feel lonely after choosing not to sacrifice or give attention to those around us?

How often do we feel disconnected from God without choosing to pursue Him?

Andy Stanley wrote in The Principle of the Path, “Your direction, not your intention, leads to your destination.” If we want to be healthy, if we want to be secure financially, if we want to be loved, if we want to grow closer to our Creator then it takes work on our part. We have a responsibility. It means listening to what God is telling us before it’s too late. Too often I see individuals who aren’t willing to put forward any effort and are entirely focused on fulfilling what they desire in the moment. It’s weird how often those individuals then wonder how God allowed them to get to where they are now.

Look, we have hope because God is a God of grace and He will be present and active in our lives no matter what, but that doesn’t mean He always has to be there to put a band aid (or stitches) on our problems. Sometimes it takes us falling flat on our face to realize that we need to do our part. We don’t live a dormant faith. Our faith is very active and there will be times where we need God to rescue us from ourselves or our circumstances, but let’s choose to listen to God now. Let’s listen to God before we get to the depths of disaster and follow the direction He is taking us now. Let’s ask for God’s guidance, direction, and provision now so we don’t have to ask Him to put together a destroyed temple. Let’s plug away at the work in front of us and ask God to build up the temple we have been given.

The night I got arrested…

24 03 2011

Last weekend I shared a story with about 50 parents about a mistake I made when I was 15 years old. I point to this experience as the beginning of a tumultuous 4 years in High School.  But not for me (at least, not at the time). My parents experienced the most hardship and difficulty during this part of my life. I know it’s true because they told me. Staying up late at night arguing what to do with me and how they were supposed to move forward in the midst of a pretty solid amount of dumb decisions.

The night I went to my first ever High School dance I was filled with excitement, fear, and anxiety. Mostly the latter two. I succumbed to peer pressure (which would turn out to be a trend for me) and invited a girl I didn’t know all that well because “we were part of the same group.” We dressed up, I placed the corsage on her wrist, we ate a delicious dinner, had our parents drive us to the school, and I suffered through the actual dance- only dancing during the slow songs. To my wife’s chagrin, I still treat most situations involving and form of dance this way.

After the dance I went to my friend’s house with 2 of my best buddies and began to watch TV and talk about girls and eat a ridiculous amount of food. At about 2 am one of the less intelligent members of the group informed us that he had smoke bombs and it was our duty to light them in front of the Carl’s Jr. down the street. We agreed. We put dark clothes on and set out for our adventure. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it very far.

As the lights flashed above the police car our immediate reaction was to run. All of us except for the guy whose house we were staying at. He decided to sit on the curb, so we had no choice but to join him. The four of us were piled in the back of the police car and I thought my life was over. We ended up having to pay a hefty $20 fine and take a 4 hour curfew violation class on a Saturday.

The part I remember most about the whole experience was probably mom and dad’s reaction. That and the horrible feeling in my stomach the next morning. Like I said before, this was the start of a string of stupid decisions I would make for the next 4-5 years and my parents had to deal with the headache of it all. However, in their response and reaction to my dumb decisions they ALWAYS communicated love. I knew they cared about me, I knew they loved me, I knew there would be consequences, I always got disciplined and I always knew they had forgiven me.

This week I am teaching on forgiveness and in preparation for the message, one of the first things I grabbed out of Timothy Keller’s book The Prodigal God was that forgiveness costs something. It cost my parents a lot of sleepless nights and it caused arguments and disagreements between them. But the price they paid for me is the reason I am sitting in an airport getting ready to go with my dad to our yearly March Madness games. I have a great relationship with my folks. I respect them and love them and I am so thankful for their sacrifices.

But, as much as it cost my parents to forgive me, it cost Jesus a lot more. As much as my parents sacrificed for me, Jesus sacrificed a lot more. As much as my folks longed for me to come home, Jesus desires for me to come home that much more. Without any kids of our own, I think this is part of the way I understand forgiveness. And I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am. Hopefully our students grab onto that as well.



The Best Team Ever

15 01 2011

This past week Jim Harbaugh became the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. I like Harbaugh and I like him even more now that Notre Dame won’t have to face a team he coaches every year. I’m not much of a Niner fan, but living in the bay area he has been the talk of the town. During his press conference Harbaugh explained his game plan for his new team and he said something that really caught my attention.

I have unshakable confidence and great faith in human agency, in human beings, and their desire to want to be part of a team, want to be part of something great, whether it’s building a great cathedral or winning a Lombardi trophy.

I love teams. The 2008 Temecula Valley Golden Bears are one of my favorite teams of all time. I’ve played and coached some incredible teams, some of them championship teams. In 2008 I coached a team that wasn’t exactly a championship team. Actually, we entered our last game with a 0-9 record, but I’ll never forget that game. We were playing a school from a little further north of us and like most of our games it was hard-fought all the way through. Unfortunately, our determination and persistence usually didn’t equate to any sort of closeness on the scoreboard. However, in this particular game we were hanging around. We were actually down 7 with the ball and two minutes left in the game. We drove all the way down the field and scored a touchdown, but the night — or the drive– didn’t end there.

We decided to go for two. My wife was up in the stands pacing like it was her job and I was doing my best Lou Holtz impression, practically picking a crater in the grass with my fingers. As our quarterback received the ball from the center he stumbled, regained his balance, and threw a strike to one of our wide receivers in the middle of the end zone. Some of the stories about football games end with elation and joy as the underdog wins the game. Well, that is exactly how this story ends as well. We won. We celebrated. We laughed. We cried.

As I reflect on what I remember most about that night, it had to be the seniors. They didn’t want to leave. We didn’t have any playoffs to look forward to or championships to win, this was it for them. This would be the last time they could be with THEIR team on this field to a play a game they loved. The players literally sat on the field speechless as they took everything in.

I loved that team. We weren’t good, but I would say we accomplished something great. We were unified, we never quit, and we continued to press on toward our goal. I’ll have to agree with Harbaugh on this one. We definitely want to be a part of a team and we want to be part of something great.

As ministers and leaders, I think it is important for us to create teams that embody some of the qualities I saw in the Golden Bears that night. Unity, persistence, trust, faith, endurance, and love. Anyone who has ever played on a team knows the feeling you get from being part of something special. I mean isn’t incredible when you know your role and know what you add to a team? Isn’t it amazing when you can trust the person next to you and trust they are going to do everything they can to help you win? And don’t you love it when week in and week out each member is practicing and playing their hearts out as they work toward a common goal? We can work to create this type of team. As we put together and lead great teams, not much can get in our way. Even if we aren’t seeing wins the way we want to, greatness can still be on the horizon. Like I learned a couple of years ago, even win-less seasons can end in victory.

CS Lewis on Christmas

21 12 2010

CS Lewis had some interesting ideas about Christmas and I’ve listed them below. There is a great deal of truth in the words Lewis wrote but they do not represent typical Christmas cheer. Actually, he sounds pretty Scrooge-y. Scroogiosity is an area I’ve been deeply challenged in this Christmas (I wrote about it a bit here). Throughout December I’ve been warming up to the idea of Christmas more and more everyday. I even have a “Cookies for Santa” candle in my office and it smells AMAZING. I’ve learned a lot about the love certain individuals feel from a thoughtful present, receiving gifts well, the joy of family and friends coming together, and a prevalent hope surrounding individuals in all walks of life this time of year. I’m really starting to enjoy Christmas.

As you can see, I don’t know if I agree with Lewis this time around (a rare occurrence), but I thought you still might be interested.

From “What Christmas Means to Me”:

“Three things go by the name of Christmas. One is a religious festival. This is important and obligatory for Christians; but as it can be of no interest to anyone else, I shall naturally say no more about  it here. The second (it has complex historical connections with the first, but we needn’t go into them) is a popular holiday, an occasion for merry-making. If it were my business to have a ‘view’ on this, I should say that I much approve of merry-making. But what I approve of much more is everybody minding his own business. I see no reason why I should volunteer views as to how other people should spend their own money in their own leisure among their own friends. It is highly probable that they want my advice on such matters as little as I want theirs. But the third thing called Christmas is unfortunately everyone’s business.

I mean of course the commercial racket. The interchange of presents was a very small ingredient in the older English festivity. Mr. Pickwick took a cod with him to Dingley Dell; the reformed Scrooge ordered a turkey for his clerk; lovers sent love gifts; toys and fruit were given to children. But the idea that not only all friends but even all acquaintances should give one another presents, or at least send one another cards, is quite modern and has been forced upon us by the shopkeepers. Neither of these circumstances is in itself a reason for condemning it. I condemn it on the following grounds.

1. It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to ‘keep’ it (in its third, or commercial aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out—physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.

2. Most of it is involuntary. The modern rule is that anyone can force you to give him a present by sending you a quite unprovoked present of his own. It is almost a blackmail. Who has not heard the wail of despair, and indeed of resentment, when, at the last moment, just as everyone hoped that the nuisance was over for one more year, the unwanted gift from Mrs. Busy (whom we hardly remember) flops unwelcomed through the letter-box, and back to the dreadful shops one of us has to go?

3. Things are given as presents which no mortal ever bought for himself—gaudy and useless gadgets, ‘novelties’ because no one was ever fool enough to make their like before. Have we really no better use for materials and for human skill and time than to spend them on all this rubbish?

4. The nuisance. For after all, during the racket we still have all our ordinary and necessary shopping to do, and the racket trebles the labour of it.

We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade. It is in fact merely one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things. I don’t know the way out. But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst I’d sooner give them money for nothing and write it off as a charity. For nothing? Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.”

Lewis, C. S. Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces. London: HarperCollins, 2000. (Originally published in Twentieth Century, Volume CLXII, December, 1957.)

As found on the blog of the late Zac Smith.

Faults I see in others…

3 12 2010

“The faults I see in others are really the faults I see in myself.”  I don’t know where I read this recently, but I swear I did. I think it may have been C.S. Lewis writing about Pride. The more I think about what this means though the more I recognize why I tend to clash with certain people. The worst part about it is that I am recognizing it in the people that I lead. I am overly critical about specific things within some of the people around me.

That guy has a pride issue.

She is lazy.

Why can’t he follow through better?

How hard is it for her to say that she’s wrong?

I have the ability to point out there biggest faults and  the things that are preventing them from becoming great leaders.  As I sat and thought through it a little more though I realized that the things that bugged me most about them were the things that were really bugging me about myself. Lets just say Matthew 7: 3-5 applies a bit here. Those planks are a bummer aren’t they? Remember, this doesn’t mean that the speck has been removed from your brother’s eye. No way, it’s still there.  But check that plank before you begin to approach someone (in love of course) about their specks.

So I guess the question I have to reflect on and work through comes directly from this struggle. It’s kind of like looking in the mirror when you see the faults of those around you. They stick out because you recognize them. They are extremely familiar to you. What faults do you see in the person next to you? They are showing us where our struggles are. Let’s pay attention and try to not be so critical especially when it comes to those that we are leading. You could look like a real jerk if you are calling someone out on their pride and YOU are the proudest person in the room.  A little self assessment can go a long way before pointing out the faults in others. After all, it looks like we are just criticizing ourselves.


2 12 2010

This is from something I wrote months ago.  I was in a rough spot at the time…

Envy and jealousy are a part of me. They are something that I struggle with on a daily basis. I want to be noticed, included, recommended and invested in like everyone else I know.  Maybe I’m not the type of person that they want to talk to. Maybe I don’t have any thing to add to them. Maybe I am really worried about my self worth.

I think that is probably what it comes down to. That or pride. I think recognition is vital. When individuals are recognized, they feel like they are doing a good job. The weird thing is that even if the people I want recognition or approval from were to give me what I wanted, I think they would be pretty annoying to me. Why is it that I feel like I need to be recognized? Can I not find my worth in God? Why is that so difficult for me?

Humility and wisdom are the things that I desire, but sometimes I want the humility and wisdom because someone else has it and I want to be better than them. I’m a messed up individual that has some serious struggles. I don’t spend enough time with God talking about what we are doing together because I don’t include him in what I’m doing “for Him.” Disgusting.

God help me to focus on you more. Thanks for using me in the midst of my imperfections. I’m sorry I do these things, help me to be better. You are in control of my life, it is yours and I want to die to my sin daily. Give me wisdom and understanding because it is what we desire for me. Guide me as I try to stop comparing myself to others. I love you God and I’m thankful for where you have me right now. Thanks for what you are doing at this church and allowing me to be a part of it. Amen.