Monday, December 23, 2013


Ever heard of a skeuomorph? You see them every single day, and probably don't even think about it.

Skeuomorphs are design elements from earlier models that are added to newer models for the purpose of making people feel comfortable. I am typing this on a computer. In many computer programs when you save something a little picture of a floppy disk shows up to let you know your file is being saved. Here's the thing, who still uses floppy disks (beside my pile downstairs)? It's a symbol we've become familiar with so it's kept to help us feel comfortable. On a DVD and Blu-ray player the play button sometimes is a triangle or arrow pointed right. That's because in the good old VHS days, the tape actually played to the right. So why do we still use an outdated symbol on this new technology? It's familiar and comfortable.

The sad part is we've actually become dependent on skeuomorphs. Almost every single sound your car makes is unnecessary and added just for you. Think about it, do you really think in the 21st century we can't make a turn signal that doesn't click? So why is the click there? How many people do you see driving with the turn signal on? Now imagine how many more it would be if there were no sound. The "click" you hear when you buckle a safety belt is louder than it really needs to be simply because we feel safer when we hear that sound. For some cars the sound of the engine is amplified or even created and played with speakers (like in electric cars) because people kept thinking their car wasn't started because they couldn't hear it, and people didn't see cars coming because they weren't looking and they needed the sound to alert them.

Here's my question, what skeuomorphs are in your spiritual life that you are holding on to, maybe even depending on because it's easier to have them than learn to operate without them? Tomorrow billions of people are going to attend Christmas Eve services. What things have we told ourselves are necessary for worship? What if they don't sing "that Christmas carol they sing every year" or light the candles we like or ____________? Is that thing really necessary to celebrate Christ's birth or are we so dependent on it we rely on it when we shouldn't (like the car engine, people should look both ways before crossing the street without hearing an engine, but they don't)? When we gather to worship on Sunday morning, what is necessary other than Jesus showing up?

It's challenging, but try it. Look for skueomorphs this week. A page turning on a digital book isn't necessary, but it looks pretty and we depend on it. What else can you find? Even harder, what spiritual skeuomorphs have you made? Something to think about.

Merry Christmas.


Monday, December 16, 2013

"I Need"

In the spirit of Christmas, this statement bugs the snot out of me.

I challenge you to a little social experiment. While you are out and about some day, listen to how many times you hear this statement at stores, restaurants, etc. It always bugs me. We have convinced ourselves that something petty and small has become a need, something we cannot live without.

"I need an Xbox One" - No, it would be nice to have that game system, you would like it.
"I need extra fries with that" - No, trust me, you don't.
"I need it delivered by tomorrow" - No, no one will die if they don't get that card you should have sent out last week.

For most of the people I know, really, there are very little that we still need. Water is piped straight to our houses and clean enough to consume, the amount of food available in ten miles from my house is obscene, to order or groceries, most people have so many clothes they actually complain about washing and folding them, the living rooms of some houses in my town are bigger than an entire family's house in another part of the world. Because we have our needs met, and met so extravagantly, we have tricked ourselves into believing that some minor wants are now needs.

It still dumbfounds me to hear someone in a restaurant say "I need tomatoes on that." You're in a place that is cooking your food for you, food that is deemed safe by the FDA and prepared by professionals, food that is paid for from jobs that give us enough money to pay others to prepare our food, food that is so diverse that many people in the world would not eat this many different types of food in their lifetime, let alone one meal. But I need tomatoes on it? No, I would like. It would be nice. It would be tasty. But it's not a need.

God can bless you with everything you need, and you will always have more than enough to do all kinds of good things for others. ~ II Corinthians 9:8 (LB)

As you shop and are out and about, think about what you really need...


Monday, December 09, 2013

Monday, December 02, 2013

There Is Nothing More Deceptive Than An Obvious Fact

I saw this statement a while ago and it got me thinking. How many things are there in my life that are glaringly obvious, especially to others, but to me they seem hidden? And why? When it comes to faith it really makes me wonder if we feel the same way.

-We go to church every Sunday, but do we see the person sitting in corner waiting for someone to be friendly to them? Or do we see them every week and just keep "seeing" them?
-We say faith is about grace, but what about the person who hurt me?
-We know a great way to learn about God is to read His Word, but when was the last time we did that?
-Another great way to learn about God and His children is in a small group or Bible Study, but who has the time?
-God is love and loves us completely, and we believe that for others, but what about ______?
-We know prayer can move mountains, but do we pray like it?
-People in our lives need to know there is a God who loves them, so what are we waiting for?

-Insert your own obvious fact here.

There are a lot of things about God and living for Him that are obvious, very obvious. So why do they seem so hidden and hard?


Monday, November 25, 2013

Remember To Be Thankful

It's amazing to me our capacity to forget. Our brains are wired in a way that we can have information, feelings, anything simply slip away to never be seen again (but someone else will remember it for you, and remind you).

This week we will take a day to be thankful. People all across America will sit with families and share a huge meal showing their bounty and provision and we will all enjoy being what we have and be thankful for it. Only to immediately run out and buy all the stuff we don't have (and don't need) because we think it's on sale (which in reality it's not).

I recently found out that Black Friday was a produced holiday (we don't have it in Canada so I just thought it was something Americans always did, like Boxing Day). The American Association of Realtors created it, and all it's widespread panic, to convince people they did not have enough and they need more. Now. Hours after celebrating what we have. Some stores even on the same day.

It's sad that the one four-day weekend Americans are given is spent in a shopping frenzy. It's almost like we immediately forget all that we just said we were thankful for. And believe it or not, we also seem to forget that many of the prices for these stores will be back, if not stay online.

Let's not forget what we are really celebrating here. Let's just take a few days to be thankful and enjoy each others company.

With that, Lorie and I are thankful to welcome Leah Mae into the world, and thankful for all those who pray and support us!


Monday, November 18, 2013


At the moment, Lorie and I may be having a baby any day. I mean any day. So we are doing the only thing we can do. Waiting.

But there are two different ways of waiting. You can sit and just hope, singing la-di-da and not do anything until the moment. Or, you can have all your bags packed, car seat installed, nursery painted, house clean for company, continue going to doctor appointments and even have family with their bags packed ready to come down at a moment's notice.

Take a stab in the dark which one we are.

If you are to wait on God, which one are you? Are you sitting there just hoping God will show up and do something, or are you waiting, preparing for the day when God shows up, learning who He is so you can recognize Him in that moment, serving so you can be ready to do what He asks, praying so you can learn to hear His voice?

As Liz has said, sometimes we confuse waiting with loitering. Or maybe, just maybe, we aren't waiting on God, God's waiting on us to be ready for when He shows up...


Monday, November 11, 2013

Until The End

Being in America, I bet many of my friends don't know the last person killed in World War I was a Canadian. At the end of WWI, it was decided the war would officially end at 11am on 11/11 (hence the date for Remembrance Day / Veterans Day). At that moment there would be a cease-fire and the great war would be officially over.

Unfortunately for Private George Price, it wasn't over soon enough. He was on patrol and exited a house into the street and shot by a German sniper, 90 seconds before the cease-fire. If he had stopped long enough to tie his shoe he would probably still be alive.

The sad part is, many people knew there was still enemies (of either side) in the area. He shouldn't have gone into the street (some accounts say he was warned not to). But he did. He probably felt safe, the war was over. The problem is, it really wasn't.

I wonder how many times in our lives we feel safe or that a threat is done when in reality, it's not. We say sorry after a fight and think it's done, but really there is a lot more work to be done in the relationship. Or maybe we just feel safe, I prayed a lot when things were bad, but they're better now so I can pull back and pray a little less.

To truly make it, we have to be faithful to the end. The most dangerous point in our lives spiritually (and in other areas) is not when things seem bad. No, it's when things feel good. When we feel safe. When everything is going well and we pull back on the disciplines that we know we need to be healthy.

Don't pull back. Keep running the race until it is completely done.


Monday, November 04, 2013

The Difference Between " I Would Like" and "I Want"

These two phrases sound the same, but they are not. Let me explain.

I would like $2,000,000 (it's twice as good as one million). Meaning, if someone were to give that to me, I'll take it. It would be nice. I would like it.

But I don't want it. I'm not willing to give up my ministry and work somewhere else to get that. I will not get another job and lose time with my family. I will not break the law to steal it. The cost of getting the prize is not worth the work to attain it.

I would like it, but I don't want it.

What things are there where you have confused these two ideas? Would you like to serve others or do you want to serve others? Would you like to be more generous or do you want to be more generous? Would you like to be closer to God, or do you want to be closer to God?

Too often we confuse wanting something with falling back onto "I'd like it if someone gave it to me". If you truly want it, do the hard work of getting it. Including a better relationship with Jesus Christ.


Monday, October 28, 2013

What Was Given To Judas?

Don't ask me why, but this has been in my head for the last little while. What did Jesus entrust to Judas, the guy who would betray Him?

John says Judas was in charge of the disciples' money, and that he regularly robbed from it for himself (John 12:6). But where did that money come from? Obviously walking around for three years with 12 disciples had a cost, eating, shelter, etc. Did people give to Jesus' ministry and Judas took from that?

Or what about this? When Jesus was young three gifts were given to Him, gold, frankincense and myrrh. Was there enough of these gifts to provide for all of Jesus' life including His ministry with the disciples? Was Judas possibly robbing Jesus of the gifts He received as a baby?

I don't know why it's been bothering me. Both seem incredibly wrong, stealing from the charity of people giving to God's work or stealing from the gifts of the wise men to 8 lb., 6 oz. baby Jesus, all wrapped up in His swaddling clothes (sorry, I saw part of Talladega Nights on TV the other day). And yet, in either case, Jesus still entrusted Judas with it. Jesus allowed Himself to be stolen from by this person for three years.

I don't know, I'm starting to think we can learn more about Jesus' character from how He treated Judas...


Monday, October 21, 2013

Drawn To Extremes

In television, there is a way to help ensure people keep watching.

Make the characters more extreme.

If you don't believe me, go back and watch the first season of your favorite shows and then jump immediately to the new ones. Robin Scherbatsky is angrier (especially with Patrice), Patrick Jane is cockier, Sheldon Cooper is... well... crazier (even though he's not crazy, his mom had him tested), the list goes on and on.

People are drawn to extreme characters. It's something in our nature that we want people who are 100% at whatever it is they are.

And faith is no different.

Many people like to live out their faith and use that as their way of sharing Christ. I'm all for that, but I have a question. Are you extreme enough? People aren't going to be drawn to a "slightly Christian" anymore than they like a "slightly know-it-all" Sherlock Holmes. We want someone who is all in, good or bad. Someone who is completely what they are.

When it comes to living for Christ and chasing after Him, are you extreme enough?


Monday, October 14, 2013

Giftings and Callings

For those that don't know, in our student ministry and our church at large we have been talking about sharing our faith, what that means, how we do it, etc. It's one of those interesting topics. Everyone thinks we should do it, but most people also think it's someone else's job.

One reason that has come up for this is how people are gifted. Some are more gifted at sharing the gospel (evangelism) while some have different gifts, like encouragement or mercy. So there are those who feel since they are not gifted at evangelism, they don't necessarily need to do it.

But there's a few problems with that. For one, most of the people I work with have not done a lot of sharing their faith. So when they take tests that ask "do you feel comfortable doing ____" or "do you like _____", sharing Jesus never comes up because, well, they've never done it. Unless you have prior experience building a house, building a house will never show up as a gift from God... until you actually try doing it.

The other is there are some things God created us specifically to do and there are other things He expects all of us to do. We are all called to serve (Galatians 5:13), we are all called to love (John 15:17), and we are all called to go and tell people about Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). You don't get to be excluded from these expectations because of your gifts, you use your gifts in different ways to live up to these expectations. We are all called to do these things.

So as you live out your life for Jesus, don't use how God wired you as an excuse to get out of doing the things we all should. Instead, use the way God wired you to uniquely live out the things Christ asks of all of us.


Monday, October 07, 2013

Looking & Seeing

I've noticed something over the last little while. An observance that happens from time to time and place to place. Something many of us share in common.

We don't look anymore.

I've run into people going in the out door (who then glare at me for being in their way), had to show people more than once when the instructions were right in front of them, things like that. We have come to this cultural belief that if something is really important, the presenter will grab our attention and do their best to make us listen (like the emergency procedure on an airplane). It's the communicator's job to grab our attention if they really want us to see something. Otherwise, we skim it like babble on Facebook (which we still have set for Facebook to tell us what's important and put those posts at the top). We don't look unless someone screams for us to.

But God is different. He is everywhere in plain sight. Psalm 19 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what His hands have made. Day after day they tell the story; night after night they tell it again. They have no speech or words; they have no voice to be heard.
But their message goes out through all the world; their words go everywhere on earth." When it comes to finding Him, Jesus told us, "Ask, and you will be given what you ask for. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Anyone who seeks, finds. If only you will knock, the door will open."

Notice who has to take the first step. We have to look. We have to seek. We have to knock. Even though God is everywhere, we need to train ourselves to see Him.

So try it this week. Be observant. You never know just where you may see God...


Monday, September 30, 2013

It's A Matter Of Perspective

The last few days I've had some commonality in my reading. Not planned, different things I am reading are kind of working together. The biggie is it's all about perspective.

How you look at something really depends on how you feel about it. Two people can see the exact same thing but feel differently depending on their perspective. The one example I read was about a $30 bottle of wine. If you're at a restaurant and that's the most expensive bottle of wine they have, it probably tastes really good, especially if you've made your way through the $5 bottles. But if you're at a 4 star restaurant and that same $30 bottle is the cheapest wine they have, does it still taste as amazing? Even after a $400 bottle?

Too often we warp our perspective to fit our surroundings. I'm a good person compared to the druggies I hang out with. Would I still think I'm a good person if I spent a week at a monastery? I hit this when I think about being in shape. For a lot of people my age, I'm doing okay. When I play sports with 15-year-olds on Sunday nights, I don't feel the same.

To balance our perspective, we need to be measuring whatever it is we're looking at against something that will help us see things for what they really are. If you want things to get better, you need to look at the very best and have the perspective of trying to get there. If you want to feel you are the best, look for the worst and compare yourself to that. In situations in everyday life, we can look at the billionaires or we can look at the 3 billion people that live on less than $2 a day.

And to steal a quote (I've seen it accredited to more than one person, whoever said it, bravo), the sinking of the Titanic was a miracle to the lobsters in the kitchen.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Doing Makes You Ready

It seems like that doesn't make sense. Don't you have to be ready before you do something?


Last week we were talking about sharing our faith with WATER (sr. high) students. Almost all of them felt like they were at this point, they were willing by they did not feel ready. And I bet I can tell you the reason most of them didn't feel ready.

They didn't do it.

It's a cycle that can only be broken by diving in. Like swimming, you can read all the books about technique and watch all the Michael Phelps video you want, you will never feel ready. The only way to get comfortable is to actually do it. Or what about driving, who remembers the first time you drove? You can take all the classes and read all the books, there is still an uneasiness when you take that 2 ton vehicle out on the road for the first time.

The only way to get over that sensation of not being ready is to actually practice doing it. This goes for anything in life, this is not evangelism specific. The only way you get more comfortable is by doing it more.

So it begs the question, what are you holding back from doing for God because you don't feel ready? Obviously sharing our faith is one thing, but what else is there? Maybe if you just start doing it you'll slowly feel more comfortable and more ready.

From the Book of Nike 2:15 - Just do it.


Monday, September 16, 2013

We Have To Ask

Have you ever noticed that many times before Jesus performed a miracle He asked the person what they wanted?

When Jesus heard them, he stopped and called, "What do you want me to do for you?"
"Lord," they said, "we want to see!" (Matthew 20:32-33, NLT)

This is the God of the universe in human form. He knows everything. Do you really think He was asking for His benefit? Do you think He did not know the answer and needed them to tell Him what they wanted?

Of course Jesus knew what they wanted! The key here is, Jesus waits to be asked. How could God pre-emptively do things in our lives and they claim to love us enough to give us free will? Part of freedom means God is waiting on us because He loves us enough to do that.

So when it comes to what you want from God, do you ask? Do you ask specifically? "God, make my life good," doesn't cut it. Have you ever stopped and thought what you would like from God then specifically asked for that?

It makes a big difference...


Monday, September 09, 2013

Do You Hear His Voice?

A few weeks ago my family was in town to visit (actually, our house has been a virtual hotel this month, but I digress). For part of that visit my father and his wife came to the modern service at our church.

As the MC (for lack of a better word) of that service, I was sitting backstage while the table discussion was going on (at this service, after the pastor speaks we take time to process what was said in small groups). I'm usually back there and most weeks all I hear is a mix of crowd noise and adults from Peanuts cartoons with the odd roar of laughter.

But this week was slightly different. There was one voice I heard over everyone else's. My father's. It's not that he was loud or anything, it's just that for a good part of my life I was taught to hear my father's voice, to recognize it, to listen to it, to obey it. As a child I learned to pick out my dad's voice and now, almost twenty years after I moved out of the house, it's still there. I can still pick it out over all the other voices.

Jesus tells us to do that same with His voice. In John 10 He speaks of being a good shepherd and we as His sheep must be able to hear His voice, to pick it out over the bleating of all the other sheep and to follow it wherever He tells us to go. The only way I know to do that is the same way I learned to hear my father's voice, consciously listening for it over time.

So the question is, can you hear your Father's voice? And if not, how can you learn to hear it better?


Monday, September 02, 2013

The Real Laborer

As some of you may have noticed, today is Labor Day. At first glance it seems to be a holiday to allow those who labor to rest. That's not where it started...

According to the U.S. Department of Labor the original purpose of Labor day was to celebrate those who labor. It was meant to be "dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers." It wasn't a day of rest, it was a day of celebration. It was meant to cause us to reflect on all we have done to make things beautiful.

There is debate between who actually came up with the idea for Labor Day. One man who is commonly brought up is Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor. His reason for having Labor Day was to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold." My mind immediately went to Someone else who does that for us.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)

So today let's celebrate the real Laborer who is taking us from our rude nature and creating us to be something full of grandeur. Happy Labor Day!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Producing Light

When I was a kid we sang a song in Sunday School about "this little light of mine". You held up your index finger which represented your little light. In one verse, you even cupped your other hand and put it over your finger representing how easy it is to hide your light.

The problem I realized as I got older, this song teaches me I have a little light. I'm just a tiny light in the greater scheme of things and only shine a little. After all, according to the song I can put a bowl over the light and snuff it out.

Except we're not supposed to be a little light.

"If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light." (Jesus speaking in Luke 11:36, NLT)

We're not meant to be a small light. Our whole lives are to be a floodlight. Have you ever passed a night construction crew working under those floodlights? There is so much light under them it looks like they're working in the middle of the day! That is what God intended our lives to be, not a tiny little light, but our entire lives shining with everything within us lighting the way for people to see Jesus in all that we do.

Go Shine!


Monday, August 19, 2013

Are You Artistic?

The real answer is "yes", everyone is artistic. We may not all paint (my best work is by numbers), but everyone has an artistic side, be it music, design, photography, writing, everyone has the ability to be artistic.

However, we see that as secondary. First is education or job or some other hobby. "When I have time I will create something." Here's the scary part. In many lives art defines success.

Robert Root-Bernstein at the Michigan State University did a study of Nobel Prize winners and members of the National Academy of Sciences and found these people all had several arts related hobbies. All. It allowed them to think differently. He even went on to say measuring someone's aptitude in arts and music is more predictive of career success, more so than grades, IQ, achievement or any other standard of measure.

Why bring that up? Two reasons. I work with students and I want them to succeed. Helping them get involved in arts may be a big part of that. The other reason, look at the history of the church. The art, the sculptures, icons, music, art has always been a huge part of faith and the church. And it seems to be diminishing. Yes, we still have music on Sundays, but how many people are singing? What about works of art? The imagery that was so prevalent hundreds of years ago?

So here's a challenge: to help find God and better ourselves, let's try doing a little more art. We may be surprised what we come up with!


Monday, August 12, 2013

The Wrong Focus

In my reading a lot lately, I've stumbled upon something. Have you ever noticed that a couple of times when Jesus tells the disciples He is going to die for them they begin to argue about which one of them is the greatest?

Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, for he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and teach them. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.”They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.

After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. (Mark 9:30-34, NLT)

For it has been determined that the Son of Man must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him.” The disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing.
Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. (Luke 22:22-24, NLT)

That last one, that's during the Last Supper! Jesus is about to being a night of suffering and is trying to tell His friends this, and instead they're arguing about which one of them is the top dog.

Let's not serve to be the best or the most noticed or for any sort of recognition, let's serve and love Christ and others simply because that's what we should do. It should be its own reward.


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Genovese Syndrome

Last night at Drink Deep we talked about being a magnetic ministry, helping people stick and wanting new people to be invovled. The big key to this is everyone being involved, it's not one person's job to be friendly, it's everyone's. It's not just one person's job to invite new people, it's everyone's. But the problem is when something is given to everyone to do, it doesn't generally get done. Why? Genovese Syndrome.

Here's where the term comes from. In 1964 a woman named Kitty Genovese came home one night and was attacked by a man with a knife. She screamed and yelled and the neighbors all stuck their heads out the windows and yelled and scared the guy away. At least 38 people. But no one called the police, no one helped Kitty. So she lay there, until the guy came back and attacked here again. Again she screamed, people heard, saw and made noise, and again the guy left. And again, no one did anything. When he came back the third time he killed her.

Why did no one do anything? Because they all thought someone else would do it. The great Chicago fire, people watched for 15 minutes before someone asked, "Has anyone called the fire department?" Everyone thought someone else would do it. When it comes to being welcoming and friendly at church (or wherever you're involved), everyone has a responsibility to do it.

There's two ways to look at something that is everyone's job. Since everyone is doing it, someone will cover it, or, this is my job that everyone needs to be doing. Which one do you go for?

BTW, I see this a lot with evangelism. Jesus asked all Christians to go out and share the gospel, and since there's so many Christians, someone will do it. Or is it my job that everyone else should be doing too? Something to think about.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Discovering vs. Deciding

Sunday Pastor Kevin quoted something I've thought about for a while (yay). It's the idea that for many people, we decide what we want God to be like instead of discovering who God is.

And I know that sounds offensive at first, no one wants to think their view of God is false or that God is nothing more than an imaginary friend to them. But really stop and think about it for a minute. Is what I believe about God based in something I've learned or was there something I just really wanted God to be, so I decided He should be like that?

When I was in school I had two mini epiphanies. One was from a professor, that we can never know everything there is to know about God. After all, if that were possible, that means God is no greater than what I think, meaning He would be no greater than me. And trust me, God's bigger than me. The other was if someone is real, than my opinion does absolutely nothing to change them. I can think you are an angry person, but that doesn't somehow make you an angry person. It just makes me wrong (hopefully). My belief of you does not decide who you are. Likewise, what I believe about God changes Him in no way. So the better answer is for me to do all I can to discover who God is so my beliefs are true.

The other day I read this quote by Ravi Zacharias. "Intent is prior to content. If you are not looking for truth, any answer can be interpreted as reasonable." It's true, if you're just looking for any answer and not testing it to make sure it is true, a lot of different answers will suddenly be okay to answer your question. If, however, your intent is to find the truth, you will work harder to find the right answer. When discovering who God is, we need to have the intent on learning who God really is, not just looking for the answer we like the best and makes us feel the most comfortable.

Otherwise, what will we have?


Monday, July 22, 2013

Newport - Christian Mud Wrestling

No, we did not go to a Christian mud wrestling event on the mission trip. Let's just get that out of the way now...

What happened was a long conversation with Leland, our site director. He is going through something that I wish more Christians would go through. He's wrestling with his faith and how to live it out.

Please understand, this is not about what he believes. It has to do with how that translates into life. For the past few years he has been attending a Christian school studying to enter the ministry. He is surrounded by fellow believers who hold Christ as high he does in their lives. He even went on a mission trip himself last year with some people who had such high standards on their faith they only listened to Christian music.

And then he joined Youthworks. He's now on week seven of being in the actual mud of ministry. The kids at kids club don't behave, they act like the broken homes they come from. Other churches in town aren't as co-operative as he hoped. Not everyone wants Christ's love. Ministry sites can be hard to work with. Churches are coming on mission trips with students who don't behave, leaders who don't support or follow the rules and the biggest struggle, all these people believe different things and act in ways that vastly differ. He's in the mud.

I think many followers of Christ have this problem. They live in a world that is custom designed to make them feel safe. They go to a church they like, that preaches what they believe, they only attend the Bible Studies they want, only serve if and when they feel like it and Jesus is a nice guy who's there to listen when they want Him to. If their faith was a house, it would be neat and clean and orderly, just the way they like it. But what happens if someone enters this house who is messy and doesn't know the rules? What if someone enters their life and muddies it up a little? There's two options: You can put up with the mess, get to know the person, love them despite it, try to live with them and their mess, maybe even try to help them be cleaner. A lot of work and a lot of time.

Of you can kick them out.

That seems harsh, but really, which is easier? Which one is do we disciples of Christ do every single day? The advantage (as I see it) that Leland has, he can't leave. He has to finish the job he started and it is helping him wrestle and grow stronger every day. The question is, when someone enters your house of faith and starts messing it up, are you willing to wrestle in the mud and get a little dirty with them?


Friday, July 19, 2013

Newport Day 5

My apologies that the stories from students were not up last night. Unfortunately, we were just way too late in getting to bed (it was the prayer night/footwashing ceremony, I didn't see my bed until after 1). But, we have some stories about Thursday, here they are.

If you would like to see posts and pictures, like us on Facebook at, follow us on Twitter at @_fireandwater, or check us out on Instagram at Fireandwaterstudentministries.

As this week has gone on, I’ve realized how truly blessed I am to have the people in my life that I do. Today was not only my favorite day, but a very moving day for me. My crew this week has been absolutely amazing and I’ve enjoyed being with them every day through whatever we did. At Hal’s farm today we worked on collecting a ginormous pile of sticks and logs. It was very dirty work, but getting to do this task with Dustin and Brad definitely made it so much easier for me. Another thing that made me so happy to go to Hal’s each day, was seeing how much of a great man Hal is. He devotes his life to getting those who have made mistakes back on their feet. It touches me to know that he helps them know the love of God and lets Him direct them back on the right path. He is such a caring man with such wisdom that I loved listening to. It was such a great work day, but what really made my day was the club activity tonight. At the end of every YouthWorks week, we do a feet washing just like Jesus did with the disciples. It’s such a moving experience because you genuinely feel that God is present and that he is watching and knows how much it impacts you. You feel the love of God and it is honestly such an amazing point in the week. It brings me to tears because I am so overwhelmed with joy and I can honestly feel how much I am loved and how much I am needed. As the feet washing is happening, Troy and Mrs.Witzig prayed over me and I could not have felt more special at that moment. Everyone in the room was crying and it really gave me a chance to open up to others in the youth group and realize how much they are there for me and how much they love and care for me. It is so reassuring to know that I have a safe place to go to where I can tell anyone anything. I could not have asked for a better week and I can’t believe its coming to an end so fast. I made so many great relationships with those from the other church and I strengthened those within my own church. God has blessed me with the opportunity to have this experience and I know that he has changed me this week. –Lauren Detrich

Hey Everybody, tonight marks the end of what I can truthfully call the most exciting and unpredictable mission trip of my life. This evening was particularly interesting in two ways. Anyone familiar with a YouthWorks Mission trip knows that Thursday night is foot washing night. This ceremony reenacts the actions of Jesus on the night preceding his betrayal. Usually this is a cryfest with ever girl… and Stebbe bawling their eyes out because they are attached to the moment. This year, there was no less attachment, just very few tears. Everyone seemed more interested in talking than crying (I consider this an improvement) for me, the entire process was light hearted because the music in the background was a blaring jazz number that had nothing to do with the situation at hand. My Dad also provided comic relief by tickling my feet when he washed them. (total goober) after everything the boys returned to our sleeping room (a tabernacle) for bedtime story and a giant pool noodle war. Our bed time story activity was to serenade the girls in their sleeping room by singing the iconic Disney anthem “A Whole New World” after the singing had finished the boys returned to our sleeping area. Earlier in the day several boys had stopped at a Sonic before showering, next to this Sonic was a family dollar. We bought pool noodles, and foam dart guns, and rubbery dodge balls. When we returned to the sleeping room after our serenade, we took up these weapons and had a twenty minute long teenage boy pillow fight. Matt, Jeff, and Tim all took part. Troy was involved as well (It was awesome). In the end I can solidly say that Team Indiana beat out our Michigander competitors. -Dustin Meeks 

This week in Newport has been one of the most life changing mission trips I have been on. The start of the week was definitely a struggle but as the week progressed I gradually realized how privileged of a life I have and how much I take that for granted. When I went to the kids club this week I met a boy named Storm. He was one of the most athletically inclined kids I have ever seen. He would play the games with the other kids and completely blow everyone away with his raw talent. It was sad to soon realize that Storm may never be able to do anything special with his ability and will be stuck in the black hole of Newport. Now on to the subject of the feet washing last night. Every year I go on a mission trip I have a huge god moment where I see all of the sins I have made and how bad it makes me feel to sit and sulk about the small things that happen in my life. This also leads to crying every year. This year was different to say the least, I began the night sitting in silence thinking to myself about all of the things I have done wrong and just reflecting on the past year. That moment right there was the beginning of the waterworks. Soon after I calmed down it was my turn to have my feet washed and for Troy and Mrs. Witzig to pray with me. That started it again. As the night progressed I had many emotional conversations with a few of the incoming freshmen. We talked about everything from god to their upcoming high school experience. It was so great to be able to help them through what they think is going to be the hardest time of their lives. This group of individuals I call my youthgroup has changed my life in so many ways and in the process has given me a place to have someone to talk to about everything. They are most definitely a dear part of my heart that I never want to lose. I love these people so much like a second family. – Makinna Laymon

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Newport Day 4

Wednesday is always an interesting day on a mission trip. It's half-way done, students are realizing how little time left they have to make an impact, and at a split-site which this is, it means many students switch their ministries they have been working on. Add in the massive thunderstorms tonight that messed with our evening activity and you have all sorts of fun (we did a prayer drive, we travelled throughout the town and learned some stories then prayed for the ministries there). And we had a few people eager to tell their stories, so enjoy the blogs!

As a member of the “Lost” crew, I have had the opportunity to volunteer at the Kids Club every day this week.  On Monday and Tuesday, only about eight kids came, which was a bit disappointing considering we had about twenty YouthWorks student volunteers. However, today about twenty kids showed up!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Kids Club and appreciate the interactions I have experienced with the children. Kids Club has different stations in which the kids participate, and I am a leader at the Reading Post.  At the Reading Post, the kids read a bible story with the group and then, they can choose to either pick out other books to read or play cards.  Yesterday, I read with a girl named Ali, who will be in seventh grade this fall. Today after the bible story, Ali raced over to me again to see if we could keep reading the story that we didn’t have a time to finish the day before.  I was so proud that Ali wanted to continue practicing her reading skills. Even in my three days with the kids, their attitudes have improved, and most of them seem eager to learn about God.  I will definitely miss all of the children at Kids Club, and hope they will continue chasing after Jesus when Kids Club ends in a couple weeks and their school begins. -Kari Lorentson

These past few days have been a blast! The people from the other church are very friendly. In my group for this week, there are ten students plus two adults, split pretty evenly with people from each church. For the first two days my group did manual labor for Hal at his house. If you haven’t heard about who Hal is, he is a guy that ministers to addicts and is involved with the YouthWorks service. Today most of the groups switched up what they were doing; my group went from Hal’s to the Kids Club, which was a pretty drastic change. At the club, I met a few of the kids there. One I met was named Quinton. He was a pretty nice kid, kind of shy, and some of the other kids and I played ball with him for a while. After kids club was over, I went with some other people to drop the kids off at their houses, and it was very interesting to see where all the kids were coming from. The kids we dropped off all lived in a government subsidized housing area called Myers Circle, which was saddening for me to see so many families living in near poverty.

Later in the day we went on a prayer tour, going around the town of Newport and stopping at several places to pray for many things. We stopped at a park, a goodwill, and a soup kitchen that many of our youth have been serving at this week. It was very humbling to see so many of the things that go on in this town. I look forward to the next and last day of serving with an eager heart and an open mind. –Mattheus Mitchell

I have had a really eye-opening experience over the past few days here, it’s been really great! The first few days working with the kids at Kids Club were a blast, although the first day was hard, being able to reach out to the kids. Even by the second day, though, I was able to make some good connections with them. And of course, I got to be a part of my favorite aspect of worship, music!!!!

Now, though, I’ve moved on and my crew, Love, has started working out at Hal Valentine’s farm. It’s a lot of hard work, not my favorite thing in the world, but it’s really great knowing that I’m making a difference and being able to see physical results from my actions. Today we hacked weeds out of Hal’s pasture, enjoying the adventure of how to learn how to use all the different tools. When we had finished up and moved to lunch, we got to try some of Hal’s AMAZING lemonade. Like seriously, I want to bring him home with me so he can make it all the time! We did finally get back to work though, and we went out back to trim his fence and cover the barn with chicken wire.

My half of the crew worked on the fence, and that was where I was really grateful to everyone in the crew for their amazing and supportive attitudes. We had cleared out most of the first half of the fence and we noticed a little wasp’s nest, which we tried to avoid. Being me, I completely forgot where the nest was and managed to get myself a fun little sting. It wasn’t too bad, through my shirt on my arm, so not even a stinger to pull out, but as soon as I noticed, everyone dropped everything to help me out. Matt was amazing and really kind, and he’s been checking up with me all day to make sure I’m still feeling alright. The rest of the day was less eventful for me, hard to beat such an fun afternoon, but we did have a really meaningful evening activity, going around to all our work sites to pray for the everyday people who work and use the places around Newport. It’s really important to be reminded that there’s always something going on, even after we leave. My last day is tomorrow, and I’m really going to be sad when it’s over, even if it is more manual labor. I’ve really loved this experience and I can’t wait to bring my attitude back to Fishers. -Jacob Bennington

Newport Day 3 (Revisited)

As chance would have it, we had all three bloggers from last night in the same place at the same time this morning with a chance to rewrite their blogs, so they did! Here are their stories, enjoy!

With my first mission trip being at Oklahoma, and my most recent one being at Minneapolis, I know what makes a mission trip easy or challenging. So far, I had spent the last two days at a local farm. I have seen many things ranging from horses eating all of our lunches to watching Hal (farmer and a good example of my Godfather in 20 years) shoot a possum at point blank range seven times right in front of me. This is by far my favorite work site so far in my mission trips. I did things outside of painting a house or pouring mulch on a local playground. I had to be pushed outside of my comfort zone with challenges like clearing out a rodent and spider infested scrap pile, and sorting out and rewrapping barbed wire.

Throughout the week, I have heard heart-warming stories of little toddlers and senior citizens in assisted living. I for one have no such story, we went to a farm all day and had fun, but I never really saw what life was like outside of my worksite. I was focused on trying to get projects done that couldn’t even be close to finished after two days. I haven’t experienced a fluffy heart warming story that I’ll tell to all my family members when I tell them about the trip. I have had a great time so far, and I have come to realize that mission trips are more than sweet stories, sometimes they consist of laughing with friends and pushing your limits. –Jacob Stebbe

Today, we went to a man named Hal, and he owned a farm. He had a plethora of jobs for us to do from weedwacking to sorting stuff behind a barn. Even though I got poison ivy working along the fence, Hal seemed incredibly grateful for the  things we did for him and his wife. Hal was a very wise and nice man who helped addicts with their problems. His patients would either come to his house for counseling or he would go to them. Both days we worked for him he gave us lemonade at lunch and told us stories of his life with a lesson behind them. Today, though, he gave us more than jobs to do. He gave us his food because his horses had toppled our cooler, spilling the lunches everywhere, leaving only the Cheezits bags intact. While it hasn’t felt like a real godly trip yet, every last bit of hard labor we’ve done has been worth it. -Matt Nieland

On the first day my group Wicked, had to separate since the thrift shop only need a few volunteers. So half of us went to Feed my Sheep; a food pantry/soup kitchen/church. The soup kitchen reminded me a lot of the restaurants. At first I and a girl from another church up north, Jackie both organized the food pantry. We got to know each other pretty well! After that I was moved to the soup kitchen and I was able to serve people their food and drinks. I felt like a waiter.

So as I continued my job I meant a man who really opened my eyes. This man volunteer once a week.  He told me how we would go and travel around the States and world to do missionary work for a couple weeks or even for a couple months. He told me he went to Romania to Ireland to Arizona. I was amazed by how active he was at his hometown but also all around the world. He showed me that I can still do mission work, no matter where I am; at my hometown or even a whole different state. -Emily Buckler

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Newport, Day 3

A little bad news for today, in the middle of students writing the blog he computer decided to run an update, all the blogs were lost for today (sorry), and since I'm trying to type this on a phone, here's Troy's quick update:

Today was the last day for most groups at their ministry site, tomorrow those who were at Kids Club go to worksite and vice versa. A few groups also had some new experiences working at Goodwill and nursing homes.

The evening activity was a bluegrass concert by some really talented musicians from 16 to 60. Even those who don't like the bluegrass style of music said they liked the concert.

Our theme for the day was being pursued by God, it hit home with some students.

We have also become known as the youth group that sings, they were quite loud when singing along with "Undignified" in the church bus.

Thank you all for your prayers and support, sorry again for the lack of student posts, we will have some tomorrow (Windows willing).


Monday, July 15, 2013

Newport Day 2

So today we got to actually start working at our different worksites. But I'm not going to tell the stories, here are a few from our students. Enjoy! (and my apologies, cell service and wifi are not our friends out here so I won't be putting pictures on the blog, feel free to browse a few at the Fire & Water Facebook page and Instagram account).

On the first day, I immediately noticed that many of these kids had come from rough families and, like many people, were “broken”.   However, the kids seemed to be very comfortable with the youth workers.  We all got to connect with them and allow them to have a good time at the kid’s club.  There were still some difficulties because it was tough; many of them were very shy and timid, but they eventually opened up towards a few and created friendships.  Tonight, we learned that all of us are “broken” from sin and have sometimes not done what God wants us to do.  I realized that we are not that different from these kids who come from a very different background.  We all have that trait that we were “broken” but still loved and desired by God who looks at the bigger picture.  Even though we may all be “broken” God still desires to have a relationship with us and have a connection with us because we are all his children. -Evan Hodes

I was also at the kid’s club the first day. There was about an 8 to 30 ratio of kids to youth workers. Although it was kind of a slow day for some of us, it was really nice to watch these kids open up to us in just 6 hours. Some just came right up and hugged us, and some required a couple of hours to engender affection. During the first day, through the kids, we were able to glimpse a bit about Newport. Our crew drivers went and picked up a few kids from their houses, which they sometimes would share with other families, and dropped them off at the end of the day. Although really nothing spectacular happened today, it was a really good learning day for the most of us. -Kate Wade

Hello errybody! Tis Alec here. I was working at a sort of thrift shop called God’s Storeroom today. And while there was a lot of work to be done here, the work itself seemed sort of… insignificant. We spent a while sorting through all sorts of things that needed to end up on shelves, however these shelves were already full. I felt that as we were adding to the shelves, we were only making them messier. However our church discussion afterwards helped me realize that I have to continue to look at the work that I’ve done and realize that I might not be able to see the impact I’m having, but it’s still there. I’m hoping that as this mission trip progresses, I can begin to look more beyond myself, and see how the impact that we are having is affecting the whole community. This trip isn’t for me, it’s for the community of Newport. -Alec Balasko

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Newport Day 1

Hey everyone, we have made it safely to Cosby, TN (it’s the little town we’re staying at next to Newport). Thanks to all those who have been praying for us, we appreciate your support. Every day we’ll be posting stories from students, so here are a few from today with our trip down. Enjoy!

As some may not know, this is my first high school mission trip. I have a decent idea of how it will go from junior high, but I’m hoping this can be a new experience for me. We just now found out our crews that we will be working with all week, and I was hoping I would be at the same site all four days, but I will actually be serving in a kid’s club for the first day, at another site for one day and working on a farm the last two. This means that I will have to try to make as big of an impact on these peoples’ lives in the 3-12 hours I may have with them… Wish me luck! –Grace Balasko

I have gone on quite a few mission trips in the past, once to Alabama and a much closer to home Indianapolis with my old church, but this is my first with the Fishers United Methodist Church. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I signed up to go. Here now, I’m finding out that it is a much different atmosphere than any of the other trips I’ve been on. Whereas the trip in Alabama was organized with many other churches, and the trip to Indy consisted only of my churches youth group, this trip to Newport has two churches, and even though we’ve only been together here for a few hours, the fellowship between the two youth groups has become very apparent and I hope by the end of the week we will all be very good friends. –Mattheus Mitchell

How to start a blog post? I guess the most logical place would be the same place I seem to start every mission trip: with an injury. A few hours into bonding with the other groups, we decided to play some Ultimate; as we were making the last play of the game, I run after a stray pass to go for the final point. The other team’s best defender decides to give me a hit I’ll remember: the big, white, obvious church van picks a fight with me, and I came out the loser. Luckily the other church’s van is made out of tougher material than my face, so it suffered no injury. In other news, I managed to score a mission’s team who has been assigned dinner prep at the community cookout on Thursday. This is a good thing because I have been on this team not once, twice, or even three times; but seven out of seven in my Youthworks career, so I am very experienced at serving burgers and hot dogs. The other church seems very nice, and is genuinely thrilled to be here, so I can’t wait to see where this trip goes. –Andy Patterson

Monday, July 08, 2013

Silence Is Golden

Last night our students participated in our semi-annual prayer night. We set-up stations and allow students to pray in various forms (for example, instead of just praying for God to forgive you for something, we had students write out what they would like to be forgiven for and place them on nails on the cross, making Jesus' sacrifice a little more tangible). It always amazes me how students we haven't seen for a while, God send them to this event.

There was a theme to last night. Silence. For over an hour every prayer station was to be done in silence. Some loved it, some hated it. But in our discussion at the end of the night I kept realizing how little we have silence in our lives and how much we need it. We are barraged by noise coninually in our lives. There are very few places or times of day where we have just silence. Now with cell phones we have the ability to have noise all the time, even if we don't want it that little device can go off to tell us we have mail or a text or to complete your daily challenge in Temple Run II (that was oddly specific).

And I think we do that for comfort. We have grown comfortable in noise, we enjoy it, we crave it. Too much silence hurts. Veronica Roth said this: "Noise and activity are refugee for the bereaved and the guilty." Almost like we use noise as an escape for the calm of being with Jesus because we're scared of it.

So here's my challenge, be silent. Find a place to pause. Away from the internet, TV, radio, machines, people, away from it all, even if it's just for a few minutes a day. It may do you some good.


FYI, next week I will have help writing the blog as FIRE and WATER Students will be posting stories from our summer mission trip. I hope you get a chance to read about their adventure!

Monday, July 01, 2013

Turning To God In Trouble?

I've been reading through the prophets lately, it's kind of grim to see how the people of God were acting, how God tried to warn them of what their actions were causing and how the leaders treated the prophets trying to save them.

And a little light bulb went off when I was reading Hosea 6. Great chapter, I love verse 6 describing true worship of God as not in how we sing at church but how we treat people outside of church, but something seemed to stick out while reading that chapter. People seem to turn to God in trouble.

When things are going good, people tend to relax, think about themselves, pray less, etc. until something bad happens. This leads to a massive turning to God and asking for His help.

Here's what I was thinking about, if we only turn to God when times are tough, and God wants us to always be with Him, if I were God why not just let people be in trouble all the time? Really, if I know the only way to get someone to pay attention is to ring their doorbell incessantly, then I'm going to ring their doorbell like crazy. If the only time people turn to God is when trouble hits, why not just allow people to live in despair at all times so they are constantly relying on Him? After all, in other places of the world that are not as blessed as North America this is happening.

Maybe we should be thankful for God loving us when times are good so we don't need to be reminded of who God is like the people of Israel needed. I like that option waaaay better...


Monday, June 24, 2013

Are You Honest With Where You Are At?

A while back I read a book I found at Goodwill, usually not my stomping ground for purchasing reading material, but I saw something I had heard of and wanted to read. "Good to Great". Very business minded, but it spoke a lot about leading and doing things well.

One of the chapters dealt with a huge problem in business. People aren't honest with themselves with where they are at. They think their product or their sales are better than they really are. Kind of like on Kitchen Nightmares, all the owners think their food is spectacular when everyone else knows it's not, and that's why no one is eating there.

It made me think a lot about our spiritual lives and what we talked about last night at Drink Deep, are we honest with where we are with God? If you ask the average person who well they do with spiritual disciplines they would say "good", but if you had them write out when did they pray, what have they actually read in the Bible, time served, etc. I think people would be surprised.

When Jesus came to earth, that's what he asked of us. Can we be honest enough to say we need Him?

Jesus told them, "Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners." (Mark 2:17, NLT italics added for emphasis)

If you want a fun experiment this week, actually sit down and take an honest look at where you with Jesus. Then look at where you would like to be, and what you need to do to get there...


Monday, June 17, 2013

Some Is Better Than None

This is an old idea that seems to be resurfacing lately. It's in Jon Acuff's new book and I've seen it in the blog world. But it's a really simple idea. Some is better than none.

Here's what I mean: Let's say you are supposed to exercise. Now if you're like me, I'm pretty inconsistent with it. So the natural thought is, "Well, I can't commit to doing two hours a day, so I just won't start." And the problem with that is, you get no exercise. Absolutely none. Now what if I said, "I can't do two hours a day, but I can do fifteen minutes at home." I may not be getting the full trainer/bodybuilder workout, but at least I'm exercising.

Some is better than none.

Think of all the spiritual exercises we put stop because they seem too big:

The Bible is big, and I can't keep up with the year reading plan, so I'll read none of it (I am always behind in my year reading plans, but I'm always in a reading plan).

I can't pray an hour a day, so I won't pray.

The church serving event conflicts with my calendar, so I won't serve anywhere.

I don't know how to bring up Jesus in a conversation, so I just won't ever talk about Jesus.

I think too often we forget baby steps. We want to go from nothing to all-in, and it just doesn't happen. The best way to start something is to stop thinking about it, stop talking about it, stop waiting for the perfect opportunity, stop waiting until we "feel like it" and just starting doing something.

You'll be surprised what you can accomplish.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. ~ Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Can You Believe Something Without Acting On It?

This was one of the roads our discussions took last night at Drink Deep. We were talking about our core values and living as disciples of Christ, and this kind of came up. The question is can you believe something without actually doing something in regards to that belief?

The answer that came first was yes. I'm sure everyone can name people in their lives that believe one thing but act in a different way.

But, of course, I couldn't leave it at that. If someone is acting in a way that differs from what they say, the question is, are their actions different from what they believe, or are their words different? You can have a rickety old chair that looks like it's about to fall apart and ask if I think it would support my weight. If I say "yes" but I refuse to sit in it, which one do I really believe?

This can lead to some very hard inner conversations. I can say I think poverty is a bad thing, but if I am doing nothing or giving nothing to stop it, am I really that upset with it or am I content to allow it to exist because it doesn't directly involve me? I can say it is important to tell people about Jesus so they can know there is a God who loves them, but if I'm not doing it do I really believe it's necessary? Or just that it's someone else's job?

It's a scary can of worms to open, but it may help you realize what you truly believe. If someone were to look at your life without any commentary, what conclusions would they reach about you? Something to ponder...

My friends, what good is it to say you have faith, when you don’t do anything to show that you really do have faith? Can that kind of faith save you? If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food, you shouldn’t just say, "I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat." What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? Faith that doesn’t lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead!
Suppose someone disagrees and says, "It is possible to have faith without doing kind deeds." I would answer, "Prove that you have faith without doing kind deeds, and I will prove that I have faith by doing them." ~ James 2:14-18 (CEV)


Monday, June 03, 2013

Get Rid Of The Little Things

Last week I went and had my oil changed. I take it to the same guys every couple of months, they've really treated me well and let me know what I need to with my car. But I felt a little bad, I was the only one there that day (someone came in for a few minutes, but they were the only other customer). Talking with they guys, I asked if it was normal to be this slow. Their response: "It's raining."

People do less when it rains. Even though you most people get in their car through the garage and the oil place is inside, still, going out in the rain is too much. Later that day I was grocery shopping, people were lined at the door waiting for the rain to stop before they went back to their car. Hey, even church attendance goes down when it rains.

Isn't funny that such a little thing can be so crippling? But then I thought about it. It's those little things that are incredibly crippling. The big things, not so much. We hear so many stories of people overcoming great adversity. But when it comes to getting things done, it seems the little things have far more power.

When it comes to faith, let's not be stopped by the little things. Go to church when it rains. Serve even if it's a little uncomfortable. Read your Bible or pray even if you're a little tired or there's something on TV. Let's not have our souls stunted by the little and the mundane.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Who We Call To In Trouble, Why Not In The Good?

The other day I was reading this from the book of Jeremiah:

Kings, princes, priests, and prophets—all are alike in this. They call a carved-up wooden post their father, and for their mother they have an idol chiseled out from stone. Yet in time of trouble they cry to me to save them! Why don’t you call on these gods you have made? When danger comes, let them go out and save you if they can! (Jeremiah 2:27-28, LB)

It really got me thinking, why do people typically call on one thing when times are good, but put their trust in another when times are bad? For me, I'm a typical guy, I don't go to the doctor... unless I am breaking bones or losing copious amounts of blood. Then, suddenly, I trust the doc. Sadly, I many people could avoid going to the doctor in times of desperation if they went when they were healthy and kept on the path to good health.

If God is so powerful and amazing and trustworthy that when things are falling apart all around us we want to call on Him for help, why not trust Him when things are going well...?


Monday, May 06, 2013

Post 666


But only if we let it be.

What if we stopped letting absurd fears get in our way of our dreams (or better yet, God's dreams for us)?

I bet there could be some amazing things you could do if you let go of some fears.

So what are you waiting for?


Monday, April 29, 2013

The Little Things We Can All Do

Over the past week I've had four experiences in which there was really one question at the root of them all, do people want to visit church?

There were all sorts of reasons not to, it's not inviting, the people there don't practice what they preach, people feel like they don't belong, it brings up guilt in their past, they "style" isn't theirs, plenty of reasons why people walk in the doors then immediately walk out.

But what if instead of focusing on why people don't feel welcome we were to work on things to make people feel welcome. Saying "hello", being friendly, offering them our spot, asking about them, getting them coffee, offering to show them around, inviting them back, all things that take a minimal amount of effort but pay off big dividends (and I'm sure you have more you could add to the list).

And here's a crazier idea, what if we didn't limit it just to strangers or first-time visitors. What if we did it for people we see every week? Imagine where we could go then...

I know, crazy...


Monday, April 22, 2013

Don't Be Above The Influence...

Be the Influence.

That campaign to fight drugs, it has a good message, but I think it's incomplete. It asks kids to be above the influence. That's great, we shouldn't be influenced to do things we think are wrong. But I believe there is more. We should be the positive influence on them.

Years ago I had the chance to talk with a missionary family in Africa, they told me about their year back in America. They had the normal adjustments of life, but one that turned out well was school. They had a ten year-old son who had to adapt from private school in Africa to public school in America. Not an easy task. But he did it, and he did more than just adapt, he adapted those around him. Because of his Christian upbringing and his school experience in Africa (which is slightly more disciplined than here) he actually changed the attitude of the class. The teacher said it was the first time she had seen it in her career. Usually a bad egg comes in and brings down the class. This young man's actions actually brought up the class.

That's what we are called to be. We're not merely supposed to detach ourselves from being influenced from the world around us, we are supposed to be influencing them for the better.

Jeremiah was a prophet at a hard time, the people of Israel were rebelling against God and now it was starting to take it's toll. But he held fast. But he also complained. He told God how he had never taken part in the feasts to idols and was a good follower of Yahweh and didn't deserve what was happening to him. God's response-

The Lord replied: "Stop this foolishness and talk some sense! Only if you return to trusting me will I let you continue as my spokesman. You are to influence them, not let them influence you!" (Jeremiah 15:19, LB)

To be used by God, we need to do more than just remove ourselves from a bad situation. We must trust in Him and be a positive influence to them.

How are you doing as an influence to those around you...?


Monday, April 15, 2013

You Can't Buy Elbow Grease

I read this quote the other day (sorry I can't attribute it to anyone, even the author said he didn't know where it came from). Basically, in the context it was written, it's saying you can't buy good results, you have to work for them.

We like to buy things in our society. It's easier to give money than to work for it. I find this in ministry all the time, if I'm having a lock-in, there are plenty of people willing to give me a few bucks so it will be fun. There are waaaay less who are willing to spend the night and help. There are commercials on all the time for a new weight-loss formula. For some reason "eat right and exercise" isn't as popular.

With God, it's the same way. I guarantee if someone sold a device to hear God more clearly it would sell like wildfire, yet do the work of finding time to pray? Craziness...

What is it in your life that you think "if I just had _____ I would be better at it"? Maybe all you need is a little elbow grease.


Monday, April 08, 2013

Everyone Can Fall

I've been reading a really old book on religion lately that really challenges my thinking, seeing how people view God in a different culture that has no frame of reference to today. But in my reading the other night I found something that was still true today.

It was the idea that everyone can fall. As believers in Christ none of us are perfect and can even walk away from our faith. We can leave Jesus behind. The only person who is safe from this is the person who acknowledges they aren't safe and works at ensuring their relationship with Jesus is the most important thing.

Here was the idea that really struck home. In Luke Jesus says He saw satan fall from heaven like lightning. And here was the question that got me. If satan was in the presence of God, in all His fullness, if satan saw God for all that He is and worshipped Him and served Him in glory that we will never know until we get to heaven, and he still walked away from God, what makes us think that we are safe?

When it comes to natural disasters, fires, etc. there are two types of people. Those that think it will never happen to them and those who prepare so it doesn't happen to them (or if it does, they are ready). The first group does nothing, why prepare for something that won't happen? The second group has fire exits, emergency plans, and some even practice just in case the day comes. When a flood happens, which group do you want to be with?

In our faith, do we think that will never happen to us, or are we working on our relationship with God so that it won't happen to us?


Monday, April 01, 2013

The Day After

So Easter was yesterday, a day of celebration for the glorious gift of grace, of life, of the love of God bought with the price of His Son's death, and we celebrate that death could not hold Him in the grave.

And today, have we quickly forgotten? This attitude and excitement we had yesterday, isn't it true today too, and tomorrow, and the day after that...

Are you living like it's Easter the other 364 days?

We're going to be talking more about this at Drink Deep Sunday, we hope you can be there!


Monday, March 25, 2013

Our New Vacuum Sucks

It's all in the wording isn't it... is that title a good thing or a bad thing...

It's a good thing. Lorie and I received a vacuum for a wedding present years ago, and it has finally passed on to Silicon Heaven where all the calculators go when they die. So Lorie and I asked around and ended up getting a decent vacuum.

But here's the rub, we didn't realize how filthy our floors were until we got the new vacuum. We did one room and had to empty the dirt trap (we blame the bunny). It so shocked us we went into crazy cleaning vacuuming mode and did every room in the house. The amount of dirt that thing sucked our of our carpet, it was disgusting.

We quickly realized the difference between thinking things were clean and knowing things were clean. It's kind of like on Hotel Impossible when the owners think their hotel rooms are clean, and then Anthony comes in and shows them what it means to be "really" clean.

Spiritually, we can do the same thing. We can be "clean", or so we think. But we get complacent, we do the same things, we're using the same old vacuum. It's not until we try something new, let someone else speak into our lives, raise the standards of our soul, put more effort into getting to know God that we realize how dirty we were before.

So the question is, would you rather use an old vacuum and think you're clean or spend what you need to on a new vacuum and do the work to "know" you're clean?

You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of people who are crooked and stubborn. Shine out among them like beacon lights, holding out to them the Word of Life. ~ Philippians 2:15b-16a (LB)


Monday, March 18, 2013

Do We Live In A Den Of Lies?

I read an interesting article the other day. It stated that on average we are lied to 200 times a day. 200! That means we are lied to about every five minutes of our waking lives. I thought that was outrageous until I watched a set of commericals...

But let's face it, truth isn't high on our priority list anymore. As communication becomes more antonymous (over the internet, text messages, even those commercials), there is less personal integrity attached to the message. If the other person doesn't know who we really are, or they're not in front of us, it makes it that much easier to bend the truth just a little.

No wonder people are skeptical of everything in today's world! Every five minutes they're being lied to! And then, even crazier, they hear a story about God, becoming man, giving His life for us, all so we could spend eternity with Him. How incredibly unbelievable does that sound? How much more does it become just another lie when it is nothing but an anonymous message with no relationship behind it?

Easter is coming up, the one day we celebrate this monumental event. And many people are wondering about it. But who do you think they will believe more, an anonymous message over the internet about how God loves them, an evangelist they've never met on television, or someone they know and trust like... you?

Share this story with people, and don't do it from a distance. We have the greatest truth the world has ever known and we are going to remember it on Easter Sunday. After all, as we heard at Fishers UMC yesterday, Jesus isn't just the way to the Father, or even just life, He's also Truth. (John 14:6).

And we know that the Son of God came so we could recognize and understand the truth of God—what a gift!—and we are living in the Truth itself, in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. This Jesus is both True God and Real Life. ~ I John 5:20 (MSG)

Monday, March 11, 2013

When People Outweigh Your Passion

At Drink Deep we are talking about failure and how to handle it well, and during the first week we focused a lot on the fact you fail if you don't try. The only true failure is quitting. In our discussion that night we asked why students have quit things they have been involved in, band, drama, etc.

What was a little surprising is very few quit something because of the actual thing. They knew what they were getting, the expectations were not too much, and most times they still loved whatever it was they were doing when they quit. So why quit? Because of the people involved.

Almost every story was about someone involved, a teammate, someone else in the play, gnawing away at them until they just had to quit. A few times it was the leader/coach, but generally it was the people around them, the ones at their level. And I pushed on this because it saddened me to think students would quit something they are gifted at, maybe even something God created them for, because of how others made them feel. That is where this quote came out:

"It happens when people outweigh your passion."

Awesome quote, and scary at the same time. How often does our passion get outweighed by someone else? How often do we quit something we love because of those around us, or worse yet, someone else quits because of us? When it comes to our faith and being disciples of Christ, are we making sure we have enough passion so people can't ever outweigh it and cause us to quit?

There are some things that in the grand scheme of life are unimportant, but there are other areas that will affect us long after this life is over and done with. We need to be fueling our passion for those things so that no matter what happens (because sometimes things get rough no matter how much you love it) we are able to endure whatever it is that steals our passion. We can't afford to go bankrupt with our passion for God, it can have eternal consequences...

Psalm 40:11 ~ Now GOD, don’t hold out on me, don’t hold back Your passion. Your love and truth are all that keeps me together. (MSG)


Sunday, March 03, 2013

Are You Honest With Where You Are At?

Lately I've been on a kick watching shows and reading books about how to make things better. I know I shouldn't enjoy watching Chef Ramsey yell at people, but the accent makes it all better.

But something I've noticed in common with all these resources and the examples they use, everyone has a false view of where they are at.

The cooking shows, they rate their food a 10 when it's really a 2. The business who thinks it's overhead costs are 30% when really they are 62%. The company that believes they are the top seller in the market when really they are number 4. There's even a clip of Jeff Daniels (I think it's from "Newsroom") that's been floating around the Internet where someone asks reporters why America is the best country in the world and only Daniel's character has the courage to say "it's not" and start quoting statistics.

The simple fact is if you don't know the truth about where you are you can't really improve. Why would you, especially if you think things are going great when in reality they are not?

I read this verse the other day. I've read it before but one word stuck out this time:

Mark 2:17 ~ When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (NLT)

It's that word "think". People who "think" they are righteous. When you know you're sick, you ask for a doctor. When you "think" you are well, even if in reality you are hurt and wounded, if you "think" you are well you won't go to the doctor.

How many of us have really taken an honest look at where we are at spiritually? Yeah, it's going to be messy and maybe even a little hurtful, but when was the last time we really examined our hearts to see where we are with Christ?

Of course, we could just "think" we're righteous. How did that work out for the religious people Jesus was talking to?


Monday, February 25, 2013

When People Outweigh Your Passion

Last night we started our series "How To Be A Failure" with WATER (sr. high). Lots of discussion, lots of talk about what failure is and what failure is not.

But I noticed something in the small group discussions that caught my attention. One of the main points of the night was true failure is giving up, as long as you keep trying you're not a failure. So the conversation took a turn to why people quit clubs, sports, etc. And the number one reason? People.

Almost everyone had a story of them quitting something they liked because of the people there. The people were mean, rude, didn't get along with them, whatever it was. But it saddened me that the most common reason for quitting was the people around them. But then Logan said something quite profound:

"It's when people outweigh your passion."

That's a good thought. What things are there in your life that you are passionate about? And at what point do the people involved outweigh your passion for whatever it is?

When it comes to faith and Christ, how many times have people outweighed your passion? You wanted to be involved in service but you stayed away because of the people involved? You enjoy Sunday morning worship but you thought you may run into someone you're not getting along with so you stay home? You want to share the gospel but you're worried about what someone may think of say?

It seems the problem is we need enough passion to outweigh the people. So what are you doing to fuel your passion? In your journey of faith, are you feeding your passion, serving, loving, learning more about who God is, spending time with Him, doing all the things to fuel your spiritual passion so that no matter who ends up in your path your passion will outweigh the person?

Keep your passion for God, our relationship with Him is not something we can afford to quit.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Okay For Me But Not For You

The other day I was reading in Matthew 27, the story of Christ's crucifixion, the Last Supper, etc. and a story in there caught my attention. I've read it many times, but for some reason a piece of it just stuck out at me.

The story goes that Judas was approached by the religious leaders of the day to betray Christ, and to do so he was paid 30 pieces of silver. He is called out at the Last Supper, meets up with Jesus and the gang in the Garden of Gethsemane and kisses Jesus on the cheek telling the soldiers who to arrest. But later he feels some remorse and goes back to the religious leaders wanting to give them the money back.

Now here's where my attention was piqued. The religious leaders say "no", they don't take the money. Judas throws down the money anyway and goes and hangs himself. That I remembered, but it was what the priests did with the money that caught my attention.

The leading priests picked up the coins. "It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury," they said, "since it was payment for murder." (Matthew 27:6, NLT)
Now hold on a minute, it was okay for them to take money from the Treasury and use it to pay for murder, but to take it back on that same murder, unacceptable? Really?!

It got me thinking, do we do that in our faith with people around us? Actions or thoughts that are wrong for them, but okay for us. My favorite one in college was music, I couldn't listen to non-Christian rock because it was bad and ungodly, but the person telling me this could listen to secular country because, well, they liked country.

Maybe if we held ourselves to the standard we hold others, and offer others the benefit of the doubt we offer ourselves we would all get along a lot better.


Monday, February 11, 2013

You Lose When You Stop Trying

It's a quote I saw last week (and used at Drink Deep last night). It's a really good one (thanks Jeanne Mayo).

This is an attitude I wish I could just force on people. Too often we think we've failed. In reality, we've done nothing but taken a step back. Take that old famous quote "the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step", it tells us that to get something done, you have to start. Okay, but what if at mile marker 223 there's a rock in the road, an obstacle to go around, or even worse, you walk backwards a little. Do you stop the journey because you've suddenly failed?

No, you regroup and move forward. The journey isn't a failure until you stop walking. And that's so true of our spiritual lives, sometimes we hit walls, we make mistakes, we even go backwards. But that's not failure, that's life. Giving up would be failing.

In two weeks Drink Deep will be doing a series on what failure really is and how to overcome perceived failure. We hope you can make it!


Monday, February 04, 2013

Popping Seedlings

Anyone else enjoying this weather? I hate it. Don't get me wrong, I like 60 degrees, I like 20 degrees. What I don't like is them back-to-back in less than 24 hours.

In the midst of this weather I saw Mr. Yakey (he runs a tree farm as well as helping out at the church) and I asked him if this weather affected the trees, it's playing havoc on our bulbs, I wondered how the trees are faring. What he told me was interesting. The mature trees, this does nothing. But the seedlings, this crazy weather affects them. The heavy rain gets down in the ground with their tiny root sack then the cold freezes that water pushing up on the sapling making it literally pop out of the ground. He has a fun week of staking down hundreds of seedlings, putting force on them so they stay firmly encased in dirt.

So here's my question, spiritually, how are your roots doing? Are they strong enough to endure the emotional and spiritual changes in weather? Or do you pop out of the ground, pop out of your faith when that happens? Or an even better question, do you have someone who is helping you grow as a Christian, someone who you let stake you into the ground?

Colossians 2:7 ~ Let your roots grow down into Him and draw up nourishment from Him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all He has done. (LB)


Monday, January 28, 2013

Big Day Sunday...

First off, I apologize for not posting last week. Between the Winter Retreat and the death of Lorie's grandmother it got away from me. Sorry.

But for this week, we have a big game coming up on Sunday (I won't use it's proper name so I don't get sued). Many ministries, like our own FIRE & WATER, will be having parties and all sorts of other fun to celebrate this momentous occasion. So here's the thing, take advantage of the opening it provides.

Many people would never darken a church door, it's too scary. But watching a game on a big screen with free food, not so scary. Many of you may not know your neighbors, there hasn't been an opening to talk with them. What about inviting them to watch the game? Believe it or not there are even some people who don't like the 18 hours of pre-pre-pre-game coverage, what if they were invited to be a part of something else on Sunday morning?

It's funny, I've heard people say they don't talk with others about Jesus because it never comes up in conversation. Of course it doesn't, why would someone who doesn't believe in Jesus bring it up? So we should be looking for an opening to bring it up. Believe it or not, even a football game can give you that opportunity...


Monday, January 14, 2013

Depending On Helps

New cars are amazing. There are all these things to help you be a better driver. Rear view cameras as you back up (they even beep if you're too close to something), sensors on your mirrors that let you know if you are too close to another car (or a wall), built in GPS telling you where to go, all sorts of gadgets to help you be a better driver.

But that's the key. They are there to help you be a better driver, not make you a better driver. They are helps, nothing more. You should not be depending on side mirror sensors to let you know if you are too close to another car, you should be looking for other cars like a responsible driver. These helps are all great until we become lazy and start depending on them instead of driving properly and doing the things we should be.

When it comes to faith, are we doing the things we should be or are we depending on helps. I should read my Bible, but Jason always puts a Bible verse on his Facebook post so I'll just browse Facebook and call it devotions. I should be praying, but the church website has a place for prayer requests, I'll just put it there and let them pray. I should go to church, but Joel Osteen is on TV, I'll just watch him as my worship service.

All these things are great, but they are helps. Our faith should not depend on them, we should be living the lives we know we should and doing the hard work of getting to know God better and be who He created us to be.

After all, put yourself in the driver's seat of the other car. Would you want the guy driving next to you changing lanes depending only on the side mirror sensor or would you want them to be doing the things they need to be doing as a responsible driver?