Call me sick, call me twisted, call me whatever you like…but this was the most fun and best Christmas picture ever! I still can’t stop laughing about the 7 minutes of chaos we provided at our local mall to get a picture with Santa. We don’t even really do the Santa thing for many reasons that I will not get into, but we do get an annual picture just to appease my mom and a few others. The truth is though, that guy in the red suit is pretty scary!
We waited in line for about a half hour and as we got to the second in line, Santa went on break. Out came a brand new Santa who was about to begin his shift. The first kids in line were so excited to see Santa and everything went smoothly until our kids came. At first, everyone was quiet, but as we inched closer, the chaos began.
Of course, my 5 year old had no issues and walked right up. McKenna was next and walked slowly but lost it as soon as he picked her up. Ryleigh was clinging to me as tight as ever with a death grip like none other. I set her down on the chair behind Santa and she went hysterical. We sat Josiah on his lap and he lost it and kept jumping down running away with his hands outstretched in terror.
Brittany and I never planned on getting in the picture, but we had to just to hold the kids down in place. Ryleigh continued to scream her shrill cry. McKenna was planted firmly into Brittany. Josiah kept sagging down to the ground, trying to roll himself away from Santa. Poor Santa, who just started his shift, he must have been thinking this was a wonderful way to start the night.
Now we ask the babies, “You want to go see Santa?” To which McKenna will respond with a look of concern and very adamantly will say, “No!” Here’s to hoping that all of you will have a Merry Christmas this year!
Why is it that most of our churches create small groups segregated by type of people? Most often each group is separated by a theme like College and Career, Married 20-30, Married 30-40, Seniors, Men, Women, Singles, Recovery, etc, etc. It seems we like to categorize or label people and throw them all together because of their similarities, stereotypes or labels in hopes that relationships will be built and even for some, church growth.
Everyone already knows we have a discipleship problem in the church, that is, a lack thereof and we need to become better at it. I personally think a large part of it comes with the way we do our small groups. If we restructure small groups to be more diverse, throwing different ages, races, cultures or dare I say political types together, we might invigorate them and as a result grow more mature believers. Instead, we create fraternities or country clubs, often with clicks and effectual spiritual growth.
How much am I going to learn from people that are just like me and think the same exact way that I do? Of course, one can learn something, but how much more could they learn if they are challenged to think or see things differently? When we segregate people from others, we don’t create opportunities for older men or women who may be more mature in their faith to come along side someone younger and pour into their life. The benefit for both the young and old or mature and less mature is immense.
When I was a young child, my dad built models of cars and airplanes and displayed them in my room. He hung the aircraft from the ceiling with fishing wire and displayed the autos on shelves or furniture that I couldn’t reach. I remember how much I loved that part of my room and had the thought that I would do this same thing for my son. Legos seemed like a good idea since they’ve come so far since I was a child.
I began my project and to my surprise, my five year old daughter wanted to help me. Unfortunately, these sets were complex and too hard for her to be of much help. Enjoying the time that we shared, I decided to go out and purchase her an age appropriate set of legos. Then we set aside time to work on it together.
This being her first set, she didn’t understand the whole process, so I began to lead her. I would show her the instructions, then I would have her collect all of the pieces that the instructions called for. I remembered an approach that I learned at the Exponential Conference introduced by a group called New Thing and decided to try it out. In a nutshell, I would show her how to build that particular segment while she watched to help her see it in action. As we progressed, then I would show her how to build it getting her to help me so that she would feel a part of it. Then as we went on, I would have her build it, while I helped her. As time went on, she would then build it while I watched.
Discipleship in the church should be done in the same way. As we do life together with someone less mature than us, we come alongside them and have them observe us in action. Then we have them help us while we do this particular thing. Then we have them do it and help them. And finally, we come to the point where we can observe them doing it without needing to help.
This isn’t a particularly difficult concept. Nor is it anything new. It’s just a simple approach to take as we help those around us grow in their maturity.
Two years ago today, our little family of 3, changed dramatically, doubling in size to 6. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. The tension of not knowing what to expect, not only for that day, but for the future as well. Would we be able to handle this? Would this put a huge strain on our family mentally, physically, socially, emotionally, financially? Would they be healthy?
We never had a moment like we had with our oldest that day, much less for weeks. We didn’t get the opportunity to connect with our new born children who were born 6 weeks early. I got to see them for about a minute each before they were rushed back to the NICU for extensive testing and incubation. It was hours before I would get to see them again as they were hooked up to breathing apparatus’ and had a ton of wires hanging off of them. It was days before I actually got to hold them for the first time.
The last 2 years have been hard, but not nearly as difficult as several doctors who advocated for selective reduction had described. None of the horrors that were told that could happen ever came to fruition. Today, instead is one of those markers or mileposts to where we look back and see what the Lord has done.
We have had to rely upon the Lord more in this time and we have seen him act on our behalf. He has been there for us in everything. He has provided our needs. He has blessed us. Things might not have gone the way we thought or even asked, but he has never left us nor forsaken us. In these two years not only have my wife and I grown, but we watch as our oldest daughter is being drawn to Jesus. What we have seen is that God has equipped us for what he has put in our care and asked us to steward for him.
McKenna might be the smallest of the three and is the one that everyone seems to fall in love with. She loves to cuddle and be held, but don’t let her small stature fool you, she is valiant and doesn’t let herself be bullied by her brother and sisters. Josiah is the sweetest of the three as he is the only one that will give kisses freely when asked. He tends to have a goofy personality and loves to be the center of attention. Ryleigh, who was born as the smallest, is now actually the tallest. She is also the one that tends to lead the pack being the first to do everything. Each have completely different personalities but yet share a strong bond to one another. They are all blessings.
Happy birthday to Ryleigh, McKenna and Josiah as they turn 2 today! While this is a special day for each of them, it really is more a testament to how good our God is.
My sweet baby girl turns 5 years old today! These 5 years have come and gone so quickly, it’s so hard to believe. Addie started VPK this year, which is basically pre-kindergarten. She absolutely loves school to the point that she cries if she has to miss due to sickness. Like any other girl her age, she loves the movie Frozen, especially Elsa and Olaf. She loves to play board games with my wife and I. And she loves to have regular story time, bible story time and prayer before bed.
One of the things that was a staple of hers was that she couldn’t say Chick-Fil-A, she had always said Chicken Afe instead. She also would for some reason say Narms instead of arms or Norange instead of orange. Sadly though, she finally grew out of these pronunciations within the last couple of months. I will continue to call it Chicken Afe though.
Addie has gotten to the stage where she is curious about everything. I sometimes marvel at the thoughts and questions running through her head. She is quite mature for 5 years old and a very smart girl.
I’m so proud of my sweet girl and can’t wait to see what year 5 will hold for her!
A couple of days ago, I got to experience a concert by a group called Rend Collective. What an incredible band! The artistry in music, playing all kinds of different instruments is awesome. But what strikes me more with this band is their love and devotion to Jesus. As they are traveling from city to city, they are bathing their tour in prayer – prayer for a revival in the church. A revival that brings joy and celebrates the work that has been accomplished in Jesus Christ.
I am a serious person. Sometimes too serious for my own good. I’m experiencing a revival of sorts in my own heart. A revival of pure joy – so much so that even I want to dance and have fun. This isn’t a joy that is manufactured by man or a joy that is out of my own effort. It’s a joy that comes as one of the fruit of the Spirit.
If you have a chance, check out their tour. If they are coming to a city near you, I would highly recommend experiencing one of their concert celebrations.
Every one of us deals with difficult people. My company was bought out by another earlier this year and we’ve gone through quite a bit of transition. There’s been layoffs, increasing demands and a lot of angry people. Morale has steadily decreased and it is becoming a more and more hostile environment to work in.
After an exceptionally tough day yesterday, I was having a hard time this morning being motivated to go into work. I arrive at work at 5am, so the good thing is that I typically have about 3 hours of quietness before the madness starts. So this morning, I sat there in my cubicle telling the Lord that I didn’t want to be there. I told him that I was growing weary of the constant negativity, finger pointing, accusations, etc and that I wanted out. I’ve had quite a few recruiters call me lately, maybe I should talk to them, Lord, let me know what to do. I then asked him to give me the grace to make through another day.
My job allows me the opportunity to listen to a lot of podcasts. So I promptly started listening to a message by one of my newly favorite preachers that was delivered weeks ago as I’ve been combing through his archives. If anyone ever doubted the sovereignty of God or how God transcends time with a word at the right time, let me tell you.
I listened to this pastor share a word about how there are people who currently work in dark environments and have opportunities to go where it would not be as dark. He said, sometimes God strategically places us in these dark places so that we can make a difference there. Then it hit me, this is a word for me.
Years ago, I worked at a non-profit religious organization. As I look back on that time, I remember how great of a job that was. There was camaraderie, greater purpose in our work, objectivity and nice people to work with. It was actually a dream job. But the thing is, God called me out of there. I lived in a Christian bubble. I was at the point where I had no one in my life that was not a Christian.
God was calling me to go into the world and to be a light in darkness. Please don’t hear me as saying that everyone in these environments needs to leave, that is truly not the case. What I am saying is that you need to hear the Lord for yourself and know what he is telling you and where he is leading you.
During that time, everything around me was so easy, I really didn’t need God because I could do it on my own. But the reality is that was far from the truth. I was stagnating, living comfortably and not growing. I had to be taken out of my comfort zone and be challenged.
When I left there and took my first job outside of my Christian bubble, it was a major wake up call. But it was what God wanted. At that time, I realized that I could no longer do it on my own. Instead, I would daily fall on my knees and spend time with the Lord before my day even started. See, my times that I had spent with the Lord previously were here and there with no consistency. But during this time, I started a daily dependence.
Now these days, it’s grown past even a daily dependence, to a constant awareness of his presence. That constant awareness where he now gives me answers to questions on my job that I would have not figured out on my own. We were all made to commune with him. To know him and to grow in our relationship with him. He is there at all times, we just need to acknowledge his presence.
So before I get off on another tangent, I will conclude with the fact that we need to know what he is telling us. We need to know his direction. And sometimes, maybe even many of the times, he really wants us to be in the messiest places. That’s where we truly grow and can be a light amongst darkness.
Early this year I started a very in depth inductive study of the book of Leviticus. Once I completed it, I decided to go back through and review because it was so rich in information. After that, the Lord led me to start the same type of study on the book of Hebrews, now 11 weeks in, I’m only in chapter 4.
The time from these 2 studies has been nothing short of life changing. To see the role of the high priest in the temple and the sacrifices and rituals that were done. There was a way that the Most High God had to be approached and if it wasn’t done right, it would result in death. But most importantly how everything pointed to Jesus. There is so much more to this the most neglected and misunderstood book of the Bible.
In the book of Hebrews, we see Jesus take over the role as our High Priest and make a once and for all sacrifice. A sacrifice that tore the veil and defeated the works of the devil. His blood was placed on the altar of the mercy seat for us and He arose and is seated on the throne at the right hand of the Father. His work is done.
The implications for us are huge. We are forgiven and can now enter into the presence of the Almighty God. Not just enter in, but boldly approach the throne of grace. We are seated with Christ in the heavenlies. We have power and authority in Christ over darkness.
Now as I sit and read my Bible, it brings new life to my reading and study. Seeing what His finished work has done for us and who we are in Christ. His word is our weapon of warfare. It is full of power and truth that we the church seem to have been blinded to and neglect.
How can we go and sing songs that have powerful lyrics but not even give thought to what we are singing? How can we glance over such powerful verses but wipe away any significance they might have because we haven’t seen it? Why do we let man or culture tell us what to think or how to believe, especially when it doesn’t truly line up with the word of God?
Church, it’s time for us to rise up. It’s time for us to wake up to who we are in Christ. It’s time for us to stop letting television have more of an influence on our life than the word of God. It’s time for us to stop being influenced by the culture around us but instead to influence the culture around us. It’s time for us to take Him at His word. It’s time for us to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and boldly proclaim the good news to the lost.
Father’s Day is one of those bittersweet days for me. There are a lot of joys found in becoming and being a father as you watch your children grow. For me, it’s not so much a day of celebration and honoring myself or patting myself on the back. It’s a reminder of the responsibility and duty that I have to my wife and children.
This responsibility is something that we dads often fail miserably at or we may take too lightly. I don’t need to share statistics, we all know that many issues we see in society today come from the failure of a father. Men often seek the pleasures of this world or happiness in things that will never bring them what they are seeking. Men bow down and worship the idols of success, sports, hobbies or anything else that will allow them to escape. We often do these things at the expense of our wife and children.
One thing I learned from my dad was the importance of being involved in my children’s lives. There is just something about a father being present that goes such a long way in the psyche of a child. At the very least, this is something we all as dads should seek to do. Other things like loving and honoring our wives is also of great importance…our children will take notice of our love and devotion to our wives.
The bittersweet part for me on this day is that a little over 10 years ago, I lost my dad. My dad was such a part of my life that there hasn’t been a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. It’s especially hard on those rough days where I feel like a failure. There are those days where the pressures of this world mount and I need some advice or maybe just someone to listen. Then there are those days that I need the embrace of my father, to tell me that he love’s me and is proud of me.
I, like many others, will have to wait for those moments with my earthly father to happen again. But it brings me to my main point. In order to fill that hole, in order to heal that gaping wound in my heart – I need to continually turn to and embrace that role in my heavenly Father. My heavenly Father is there and will never leave me. My heavenly Father is there to give me wisdom when I ask. My heavenly Father will pour his love on me, embrace me and show me how he sees me.
Developing this relationship with my heavenly Father is the most important thing. It is the only thing that will help me to not only be a good husband, but a good father to my children. May all of us fathers have a very blessed day today.
I am alive and well! Last May we started attending a church that my wife and I have grown to love. It really has given me confidence in the fact that “the church” is in fact alive and well. Finding a good church is really a hard thing to do and shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are a lot of churches out there that are teaching false doctrine, not representing the true gospel of Jesus Christ and are misleading many. There are other churches that just aren’t producing much fruit in the kingdom because the focus is more on numbers that don’t truly represent true growth.
But this isn’t a post about the problems of the church as I could go on about that forever. If you want to find a good church, find one that has the main concern that the Lord, Himself, is present. That focus is so important! It was important to Moses as he declared, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.” Being separated from the presence of God is not an option. Why is that? Moses tells us why, “Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
This truth right here is paramount to us as a church being what we are supposed to be in this world. So many churches have lost the focus of His presence and it just makes them ordinary, faultless people. No wonder why so many people are disillusioned with us. If they see us, in our flesh, we are never going to impress. But if they see the glory and manifestation of the One True God, well, that is a different story.
While the church I am in is not perfect; any church is not going to be perfect; it has been a huge blessing to us. It’s been stripped of programs and the business that many churches fall into. The idea is that we are not spending a ton of time inside the building, but being the church outside. There are many that are on mission locally and worldwide but call our church home and cover those who are sent. It’s a very mature congregation in the sense that there are many who have progressed beyond milk.
For the first time in my life, I really feel as though I can call a church my own. The first year and a half of living in Jacksonville, I was often depressed and looking for a way out. But now, I am rooted and grounded, hopeful and call this my home. So life is good!