Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Website

I have moved my blog to - I'm still updating and getting the new format together, but it will include baby updates, pictures, and hopefully at some point I'll be able to set up a podcast of our Wednesday night services!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

My April Newsletter Article

A Gospel Centered Life, or a Religious Life? At the onset you would probably think I was crazy to say that being religious is a problem. Some may say that religion is good for the world, that it promotes morality, values, etc. And you’re right, it does all that. What is it missing though? The Gospel….

Recently I came across a blog post talking about the Gospel Life vs. the Religious Life. I've put in some of my own thoughts as well. Here goes, it talked about:

1) Our reaction when things go bad – A religious life says “God, you owe me this!” But a Gospel life says “God, you owe me nothing except that which you freely give by grace. I trust you more now than ever”

2) Our reaction to others – A religious life says “Hey, at least I’m not as messed up as that guy!” A Gospel life says “By the grace of God that is not me. Only by the cross am I who I am right now”

3) Jesus – A religious life says “Yeah I follow Jesus, and He’s part of my life when I have time. I’m a good guy, I pay my taxes, love my family, etc.” A Gospel life says “Jesus is my greatest treasure, the object of my greatest desires, and the deepest longing of my heart”

I write this to challenge you to examine yourselves, and your families and ask yourself the hard question: “Are we a religious family, or are we a Gospel family?” Gospel centered families aren’t always easy, but the Kingdom rewards and impact are amazing!

Soli Deo Gloria

What to do when your best friend moves

Last night I reopened our "Fishbowl Questions" for our student ministry, which is the chance they have to ask anything they want about the Bible, Christianity, Church History, etc. and I try to answer their question as best I can. One I got last night I won't be answering on a Wednesday night, but felt like I should answer it on here anyway.

The question was "How do you respond when you best friend is moving?"

Sadly, relocation and job transfers and moving are all too common these days. Very rarely do people plant roots in one place for 15 or 20 years, but instead 3-7 is looking more like the norm.

Losing a good friend to a move is never easy, and the hurt that such a loss creates should never be understated or blown off as "being emotional." God created us to live in community, and God created us with a desire for companionship from other people. In short, God created us to desire and want friends. So when we lose one to a move, or worse to death, there is a hole left in our hearts. That's perfectly normal and OK to feel hurt, sad, or down over something like that. You're simply doing what God wired you to do.

For the believer, there is never goodbye. It's just "see you later!" because we trust in the hope of the Resurrection, where we will live forever in community with all those who are identified in Christ. That means you'll get to see your friends again, and I have no doubt that in heaven and later on the redeemed earth, the fellowship and company between friends will be even more amazing than it is now. I look forward to running with Mark again, lifting weights with Jason again, and talking with my friends long dead (Luther, Calvin, CS Lewis, etc.).

Here's _ tips in dealing with this, they come from both personal experience and from seeing others go through similar circumstances:
1) Allow yourself time to be down about it, but don't dwell on it - Grieving is normal and natural, and you should have adequate time to weep and cry over it. But this shouldn't consume you, it should only be for a time.
2) Take comfort in the fact that your separation is only temporary - You'll see each other again! If not here, then in heaven. And how awesome is that!
3) Keep in contact - Think of how much God has allowed us to communicate with one another. What once took weeks in letter writing can now be accomplished immediately through e-mail. And think about the phone, texting, Facebook, and all these other ways we can communicate with each other. Use them! Take advantage of the many ways you have to keep up with each other. We use video chat with our dear friends, and Carrie and I use that when one of us has to be out of town.
4) Take this as a time to make new friends, particularly friends you can be intentional about sharing Christ with - Self-explanatory here
5) Keep praying for them, and send each other quick notes/texts of encouragement
6) Don't isolate yourself because your "best friend" is leaving. This can be extremely dangerous, and very unhealthy. If the period of grief lasts a really long time, it can actually be harmful. If you hold on unnecessarily to a friendship separated by great distance, then you can become co-dependent on that person. Healthy friendships have other friendships. Outside of marriage, you should not have one single solitary person you spend all your time with, pour your heart out to, etc. It's just not healthy.

I hope these are of some help, here's a verse from a song that is fitting as well for goodbyes.

We meet to part, but part to meet
When earthly labors are complete
To join in yet more blest employ
In an eternal world of joy

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Incredibly Humbling Moment

Today I had one of the most humbling moments in my life, sitting in a dark exam room with my wife while she had an ultrasound, and for the first time we heard our baby's heartbeat and could see the outline of what is our son or daughter, who I am exceeding overwhelmingly excited to meet in November.

But in those moments, a couple things came to mind, and I'm going to share them with you.

1) God is amazing - This sounds so simple, but is also so profound. The God who built the entire universe by simply speaking it into existence is also the sovereign God who is over 9 months causing all the things happening to Carrie's body to grow this child. The fact that this process happens is a humbling act in and of itself, but then the grace of God making itself known through advances in technology is incredible. To think that God has enabled us to develop technology that allows us to hear our baby's heartbeat and that we live in a place where that is accessible, it's truly wonderful.

2) The fragility of life - Our baby is right now 1.7 cm in length, roughly the size of a big raspberry. Right now the life that is in Carrie's womb is so fragile, and we have to be careful with what she eats and at this point nothing sounds good to her. But how fragile our child is, how delicate his/her life is. We are humbled by this, and daily pray for our baby's safety and healthy growth. We know that at any moment the worst could happen, and trust in the Lord with this.

3) The fact that I am not in control - This is the hardest one to swallow, that I am not in control of what happens. As a guy, this is very difficult. I want to protect my wife and child, I want to ensure their safety, I want to provide for them and make sure that nothing harms them. I want so desperately for our child to be saved, but I can't even control that.

These are just a few of the many thoughts going through my head today in those brief moments hearing my baby's heart beating and seeing his/her shape develop, many more to come. Keep praying for Carrie, me, and the life that God has entrusted to us. We are not worthy, but He is gracious and good to us.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Why I will probably cry after the UofL game today

Yes, I probably will... And it won't be because my favorite team may be on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble or because they may go down to a #1 team looking for revenge. No, the reasons are far deeper than that

Today marks the end of an era. That's a phrase often overused in sports, but it's true today. This will be the last game played in Freedom Hall. It's been referred to by everything from Cheat-em Hall to any number of expletive-laced comments. The old stately building in the middle of a quickly sinking state fairground will always be a monument to college basketball. History itself has passed through the stately halls and beautiful court.

Seven Final Four teams have called that home, including 2 national champions. Two Hall of Fame coaches have paced the sidelines. One has his name on the court. There are four retired jerseys from names that will forever echo in Cardinal faithful: Griffith, Tyra, Unseld, and Ellison. Several names are honored also, and I still wait for my favorite player DeJuan Wheat to receive his honor. There are 2 huge banners from the 80 and 86 seasons. There are dozens of conference championship and conference tournament championships. There are years of NCAA Tournament appearances recorded. And the building itself was host to several Final Fours in the days before TV demanded the Superdome. The High Five was started there, and Dr Dunkenstein put on shows that Cardinal fans still talk about. You can find the Cardinal Cha-Cha, and the constant barrage of fans spelling out C-A-R-D-S! It never gets old, no matter how many times... And if I here someone go "oooooh..." it comes natural.

And somewhere in the midst of all that in the late 80s and early 90s was a wide-eyed little boy who got to go to games with his dad. Sure they were exhibition games or games against lesser teams, and the seats were often so high up that it would require a climb, but that was because tickets were in such high demand it was hard to go to games. That little boy would watch the big men run up and down the floor, shooting and dunking and stealing. And beside him would be his dad, and in his hand would be a hot dog and a Pepsi (the official drink of Cardinal sports). It would be a big deal to get to go, homework would need to be done before tipoff, and driving to the stadium and seeing the bright lights was a highlight of the trip. Walking in you could hear the pep band playing, the smells of old men and their cigars, the sight of red and black everywhere, and next to that little boy was his dad. He always knew where to go, where to sit, when to stand, and when to boo a bad call. And when it was over and the Cards had taken down yet another team, there was much celebration and shouting of "GO Cards!" in the parking lot. That little boy and his dad would go on Saturday mornings as part of the Junior Cardinal Club and get to see the behind-the-scenes of Louisville sports. Secretly, it was probably more for the dad than the son, but the son didn't care.

I took my wife to a couple games there, and showed her all around the hallowed halls. She did well to tolerate it (she grew up in Wildcat country), but could see the childlike excitement I still had every time I walked into the Hall. I wish I could one day take my kids there, just like my dad did with me, but today marks the end of an era.

The team will be the same, the new arena will be beautiful, and I cannot wait to build my own tradition of taking my kids to see their favorite team play. But, deep down in my heart, I know nothing will ever replace the atmosphere in Freedom Hall when the Cards got on a run, how loud it can get, how everyone claps in unison when the starting lineups are announced, and what a roar comes when Denny Crum, Darrell Griffith, Marques Maybin, or any of the others who dazzled on that court are announced.

So today Cards, win one. Send that beautiful building out by knocking off the #1 team in the country. The future of UofL basketball is bright, but today will be a hard day.

Because deep down, that 8 year old boy is crying because part of his childhood is passing on.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why Lock-In is a Cuss Word

Ah yes, the lock-in, the event every youth group wants to do because "they're the greatest thing like, ever!" It's the chance to do what many teenagers do anyway, stay up all night and consume massive amounts of sugar and caffeine. For adults, and in particular, the youth pastor, lock-in ranks up there with George Carlin's list of dirty words in their vocabulary. Here's my thoughts on why lock-in is a cuss word in my vocabulary/ministry. Yes I'm a hypocrite because we did one on New Years, but let me emphasize the verb "did" and the quantity "one" :)

1) Sleep deprivation has the equivalent effect on the body as alcohol. Anyone who's stayed up all night studying or playing dodge-ball in a church gym can testify to the fact at some point in the night you just feel different. One study I heard of said being awake for 18 hours without rest is the same as having a 0.05 blood alcohol level. Sleep deprivation isn't healthy for the body, so why promote it and disrupt that which God gave us to enjoy, sleep?

2) Volunteer Shortages - The key problem in most church youth ministries is the volunteer problem. Many youth pastors have to cut back on programming because it's too hard to find people to staff them. Lock-ins are no exception, because what right-minded adult would forsake a warm bed to eat cold pizza and walk around a church on Make-Out Patrol?

3) Spiritual Significance - This is what I ask about any program, event, or activity: What is this doing to glorify God, point to Jesus, lead the lost to Jesus, and help us grow in our faith? Too often lock-ins are parties with a Bible passage in the middle. If you're going to have a captive audience for 8-9 hours, don't waste the time! It doesn't have to be a serious reading of Scripture all night, but if the purpose of the lock-in is just to have one, you're wasting your time, their time, and the church's money

4) Exhausting - The present-day youth pastor is often pulled and strained in so many directions and live in a constant state of exhaustion. Gone are the days when it was a special moment to have your youth pastor come to a ball game or event or whatever, now in many places it's an expectation (again, find that in Scripture, but then again, most job descriptions aren't biblical either). That said, a lock-in that requires 30-40 hours of preparation, recruiting, set-up, and execution is going to cause a youth pastor to choose between neglecting his wife/family or the necessary time he needs to study to teach.

5) Dark areas, teenagers, two genders, and hormones a-raging. Need I say anything more?

I'm not saying people who do lock-ins are bad or that their ministry isn't godly. All I'm saying by this is why I don't like them and don't plan on doing them anymore. They are great once in a LONG while I suppose, but to regularly do them is asking for rapid burnout.

These questions should always be during planning - What is this event/program/speaker/retreat/etc. doing to the glory of God and the health of the local church? Will this present the Gospel accurately and provide an environment for the Spirit to work on the hearts of those present? Will Jesus or You shine because of this? How is this encouraging missional living among everyone's circles of influence?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ten Things to Hear

Carrie sent me this list of 10 Things a Pastor's Wife Loves to Hear. Here they are, some funny some all too true:

10.) On our date night I just need to make a few hospital visits.

9.) I think I should go back to seminary.l

8.) It's funny how God always calls a pastor to a church that pays more.

7.) I noticed your family went to bed early last night.

6.) I can't believe the pastor's wife would do (or say or think) that.

5.) If it were my child I would want to know.

4.) Are you visiting with us today?

3.) I have been asked to do a funeral/wedding/baptism.

2.) Dear Lord, thank you for our pastor and his family.

1.) Well done my good and faithful servant.

After reading through them, I started wondering what 10 Things Every Youth Pastor Loves to Hear. Same principle applies, some are good to hear, some not so much...

10) Your budget is going to be reduced next year, giving is down and the economy is hurting, but we're going to spend $______ on this new ______.
9) We're going to bring you on part-time, but I foresee this being a full time position before too long
8) Why aren't you able to make it to __________ that my son/daughter is doing __________?
7) Thank you for being able to come on such short notice, we didn't know who else to call.
6) That camp was great, but it wasn't nearly as fun as __________.
5) You showed me something from the Bible I had never thought of before, and that was pretty cool.
4) Oh, he's just the youth minister. He's not a real pastor.
3) My son/daughter wants you to come to their graduation party, you've meant so much to them.
2) I've gotten to experience so much because of you, and you've helped me grow closer to God. Now I want to be a youth minister.
1) Thank you.