Blessed

It's December 31, the last day of 2007. Another year is down and I and my boy are another year older! For the last three years I have had the distinct privilege of sharing my birthday with my son, Benjamin.

What a joy it has been to watch him grow over the last three years and to share our special day together!

2007

2006

2005

2004

I am a blessed man and couldn't ask for anything more!


Winter Youth Celebration

I just returned with our high school group from a great weekend at Winter Youth at the Red Lion Inn in Janzen Beach. It was from December 27-30 and was a great time, as always. It was filled with great times of hanging out, laughter, junkie food, and late nights. Thank you Hospitality Suite for all the coffee!!

The theme of the conference was "Our God..His Love..Your Neighbor." Speakers Rick McKinley and Chris Seay did an excellent job helping us see how awesome God and His love is and the importance of loving people. They caused us to think deeply and ignited great discussions within our group.


A highlight of the conference, much like last year, was the artwork of Scott Erickson. During each session he would develop the theme of the message through his artwork. His work drew us in deeper to what God had for us and served as a great springboard for discussion afterward.



Here are the paintings done over the course of the conference.

See all the fun here.

Christmas Card From Heaven




Here is a story worth reading! I've never received a Christmas card quite like this!

Merry Christmas to all!

Year End Greeting

Each Monday we publish the 180 Newsletter for our students. It's a newsletter with all the latest happenings within our ministry as well as a devotional thought, interesting web sites, videos, contests, etc. This week instead of publishing our regular format, Aaron and I decided to post a year end greeting video. Just a word of warning: it's pretty cheesy...but fun none the less!

To understand the full context of the video you may want to view it at our newsletter site.



TIP: Be sure to watch it all the way to the end.

Free Christmas Music

One of the things I love most about Christmas, is the music. I love good music and I really love good Christmas music.

Artist Aaron Shust is offering a free download of his version of "O Come, O Come, Emanuel" and Rush of Fools is offering a free download of their rendition of "O Come All Ye Faithful."

Click on the banners below to get them. Great stuff!





Think On This



He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, He the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute.

- Augustine

Christmas Lights

There is just something about Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Christmas lights. A seemingly perfect marriage.



See more here.

Feels Good To Give

In my message on Sunday I read from Matthew 10:41-42, the passage in which Jesus is teaching His disciples that there is reward in giving. He didn't go into the specific details of what that reward is, but one thing that we do know ... it feels good! It feels good to give and that is reward enough!

Seems some folks at Starbucks understood that!



HT to KC Wahe

More Giving Ideas

In light of my last post I thought these ideas, received via email, were worth posting. Kind of God's "wish list" for Christmas.

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way Jesus' birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of Jesus' birth, and why He came to live with us down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that He loves them.

4. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

5. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

6. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one.

7. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes God's love and Good News to those who have never heard His name.

8. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Jesus and they will make the delivery for you.

9. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Jesus, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in His presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of His.

Have other ideas? Please join the discussion and add them to the Comments section of this post.

What Do You Want For Christmas?

As I shared in my last post, I had the opportunity to preach yesterday. It was a great morning and I feel the message was well received. The title of my message was "What Do You Want For Christmas?" We essentially took a look at what it would look like if we focused our giving more toward Jesus this Christmas and made it less about ourselves.

One of the texts that we looked at was Matthew 2:1-12. It is the story of the Magi coming to see the newborn Jesus. They came to worship Him, and they worshiped Him through their giving to Him. My two main points were, The greatest gift we can give is our worship, and the greatest form of our worship is our giving.

At the conclusion of my message I shared a few practical ways that we can give to Jesus this year. There are a number of great ministry organizations that one can give to that are actively involved in meeting the basic needs of people. The kind of people that Jesus mentions in Matthew 25.

World Vision Gift Catalog
Samaritan's Purse
Compassion International
Medical Teams International
Bridgetwon Ministries

May we remember, we are never more like Jesus, than when we give.

You may hear the message here, or in iTunes.
Download the accompanying outline here.

Christ Like Giving

This Sunday I have the opportunity to preach. My message is entitled, "What Do You Want For Christmas?" I will post more about it and include the audio, on Monday.

In preparing I came across a great story that I believe beautifully depicts Christ like giving. It reminds us that we are never more like Christ, than when we give.

Here it is...

Shortly after World War II came to a close, Europe began picking up the pieces. Much of the Old Country had been ravaged by war and was in ruins. Perhaps the saddest sight of all was that of little orphaned children starving in the streets of those war-torn cities.

Early one chilly morning an American soldier was making his way back to the barracks in London. As he turned the corner in his jeep, he spotted a little lad with his nose pressed to the window of a pastry shop. Inside the cook was kneading dough for a fresh batch of doughnuts. The hungry boy stared in silence, watching every move. The soldier pulled his jeep to the curb, stopped, got out, and walked quietly over to where the little fellow was standing. Through the steamed-up window he could see the mouth-watering morsels as they were being pulled from the oven, piping hot. The boy salivated and released a slight grown as he watched the cook place them onto the glass-enclosed counter ever so carefully.

The soldier’s heart went tout to the nameless orphan as he stood beside him.

“Son…would you like some of those?”

The boy was startled.

“Oh, yeah…I would!”

The American stepped inside and bought a dozen, put them in a bag and walked back to where the lad was standing in the foggy cold of the London morning. He smiled, held out the bag, and said simply: “Here you are.”

As he turned to walk away, he felt a tug on his coat. He looked back and heard the child ask quietly: “Mister … are you God?”

As we approach the birthday of Christ, may we give in a like manner, and as we do, may we remember, when we give, we give to Him (Matthew 25:31-40).

Baby Genius

Just when I thought my two year old was the smartest kid on the planet, this little girl had to come along. Actually, just when I thought I was pretty smart, this little girl had to come along!

When you consider that she knows geography better than 97% of the population, and that two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 still cannot find Iraq on a map, this is one amazing little girl!

The Truth

This is the truth.

Advent Devotional

My appreciation of the advent season has grown tremendously in the last couple of years. Yesterday was the first day of the advent season, a season of anticipation, reflection, and wonder.

God's people in the Old Testament awaited the coming of a new king, one to set them free and set up a new kingdom. Their King came. Our King came. Now we are in the second advent, awaiting the second return of our King, Jesus. In this, the Christmas advent season, we prepare for the second coming of Jesus and commemorate Christ's first coming at Christmas.

Last year I discovered a wonderful online advent devotional. As of yesterday it is online again. It's called Following The Star and is a great way to begin each day of this advent season. A great way to slow down and reflect on our Savior and the difference He makes in our lives. Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids has a very nice advent devotional on their web site. See it here. Youth Roots as well, has one designed for youth and youth leaders. Find it here.

I am encouraged, as there seems to be a great deal of interest in the advent season. Traffic to my blog has increased nearly 4 times in the last few days, most of which are a result of searches for advent devotionals. Last night I received the following comment on the post I wrote last year.

Every year my girlfriend of 45 years sends me a "Blue Book" for Advent. She's in NJ and I am in FL, but every morning we read our book over the distance together. This morning I did my reading and prepared to read my email, when God guided me to your blog. It was not my intention to browse this morning, yet here I am. I went to the wonderful site - Following the Star. I shared it with my girlfriend. Her comment, "... this site is AWESOME. I truly enjoyed adding this to my Advent journey. I read the Blue Book and GOD CALLING before I get up each day and I'll be reading this as soon as I arrive at work....or on weekends, as soon as I can get myself down to the family room and the computer. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

May we all approach Christmas this year with a growing sense of anticipation of His return. May we as well enter into this time of year with a heightened sense of worship.


Risk Taker

Today I am remembering a couple of my favorite childhood items. My Evel Knievel action figure and my Evel Knievel lunch box. I thought he was just the coolest dude back in the day. I mean who else would attempt to jump Snake River Canyon on a rocket-powered cycle, and break 40 bones before his retirement in 1980?

Today at 69 years of age Evel Knievel past away.

I know I was not alone in my admiration of this crazy daredevil. I think the reason I, along with so many other little boys were so enamored with him, was he was not afraid to look risk in the eye, and go for it! He wasn't afraid to attempt the impossible. He did the things the rest of us only dreamed of doing. We would try to be like him by jumping our bicycles off of little rickety jumps and spilling them all over the sidewalk in the process. I think a little part of us even thought we could someday be just like him. We took risks, albeit little ones, and we felt great doing it.

What we need more of today, especially in the Church, are risk takers. Daredevils. We need more people willing to try things a little crazy, willing to fail, in attempt of doing something great for the Kingdom. God is placing "Snake Canyons" in front of us all the time. The question is, are we willing to attempt the jump.

Does God have a "Snake Canyon" in front of you? Are you willing to take the risk and go after it?

Think On This

Jesus promised the disciples three things--that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy and in constant trouble.
- G.K. Chesterton

Beg God

I have been reminded so many times recently of the fact that it is God and God alone that causes a person to fall in love with Him. As a pastor to students I often find myself in frustration because I can't make my students love God. As much as I teach, disciple, and lead, toward that end, it is God, and not I, who calls them, and moves in their hearts to pursue Him.

At the National Youth Workers Convention this last October Francis Chan called us to beg God for the hearts of our students. He reminded us that we can not change their hearts, only God can.

I recently came across this poem on Michael Ferber's blog. It says it well.

No, it is not yours to open buds into blossom.
Shake the bud, strike, it is beyond your power to make it blossom.
Your touch soils it.
You tear its petals to pieces and strew them in the dust,
But no colors appear and no perfume.
Oh, it is not for you to open the bud into blossom.
He who can open the bud does it so simply.
He gives it a glance and the life sap stirs through its veins.
At his breath the flower spreads its wings and flutters in the wind.
Colors flash out like heart longing, the perfume betrays a sweet secret.
He who can open the bud does it so sweetly

Rite of Passage 2

Inspired by my recent post on Rite of Passage, Michael Ferber has written a series of posts on his blog on Rites of Passage. Read the first one here, the second one here, the third one here, and fourth one here. He presents some great thoughts.

Thanksgiving

Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.
- Henry Van Dyke

This year I am thankful for
My God for inviting me into relationship with Him and for His love for me.
My family for the love that we share and enjoy.
My church community for the unity, and mission, we share.

What are you expressing thanks for this year?

Thanksgiving Worship

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 This scripture set the tone for an amazing time of worship with our students this morning, all centered around the theme of Thanksgiving.


We took a much different approach to giving thanks this morning. Set in the center of room was a long "Thanksgiving table." Placed all around the table were small paper plates along with pens. Next to each plate were print outs of different scriptures. During an extended time of singing we asked people to get up from their seats and go to the table. While at the table we were to consider the scriptures set before us and then respond by writing our thoughts on the small paper plates.

The scriptures on the table were all centered around two different themes related to thanks. The first was giving thanks for the stuff of life that we don't normally think to give thanks for; the trials, struggles, and pains of life. We were to read the scriptures and then write a prayer of thanks to God on the paper plates. A prayer that we could take with us as a remembrance of our thanksgiving.

The other theme was giving thanks to God for the people in our lives. So many times in the New Testament we read of the Apostle Paul giving thanks to God for the people in his life (1 Thess. 1:2-3, Col. 1:3-4, 2 Thess. 1:3, etc.). For those not in the midst of a difficult season or situation, we were to write a prayer of thanks to God for the people He has brought into our lives.

At the conclusion of the morning we talked about the difficult seasons of life, and discussed the why and how of showing thanks to God in the midst of them. A key theme that surfaced was the importance of not simply saying thanks, but showing it.

It was an amazing time, one which I hope is remembered for a long time to come. I am thankful.

Hope











Where do you find yours?

HT to The Ongoing Adventures os ASBO Jesus

Mobile Post

My friend Aaron just blogged from his new iphone, so I had to do the same from my razor, just because I can. Someday I'll be cool like Aaron and have an iphone!

Advent Conspiracy

Did you know that last year the The National Retail Federation forecasted that Americans would spend $457.4 billion dollars at Christmas and that the average family would spend $907? Does this bother you as it does me?

Is spending money on stuff that will likely be forgotten in a matter of months and going into debt to do it, the best way to celebrate the birth our Lord? The last time I went to a birthday party I did not go expecting gifts, I went to give to the one being celebrated. It makes sense to me that we should do the same for the One we celebrate this Christmas season.

I love the spirit behind Advent Conspiracy, a movement to inspire the Church to give relationally, and redistribute the money that would have been spent, on those that are truly in need. In doing so we give to Jesus.

Are you on Facebook? Join the Advent Conspiracy Group and join in the conversation.

Think Of Him

As we approach the busy holiday season I am thinking a lot of new thoughts, and asking a lot of questions.

What if we spent more time thinking of Him and less time thinking of us? What if we pushed back at consumerism and drew in closer to Jesus? What if instead of giving gifts to one another, we gave gifts to Jesus?

We hear a lot about the "Christmas miracles" and the "Miracle of Christmas." It was Jesus who said in John 14:12, in response to His miracles, that we will do even greater things. How might that look this Christmas?

This video is one of the tools God has used to really get me thinking, and re-thinking Christmas this year.



More thoughts to come.

Turkey 'N Thanks

How do you get a bunch of middle schoolers to dress in their finest clothes and sit around a table and enjoy a great Thanksgiving meal in a formal setting? Three words ... Turkey 'N Thanks.

To night was our annual Turkey 'N Thanks celebration or TNT as we like to call it. It's a time to come together as a middle school family and enjoy a great Thanksgiving meal in a formal setting and consider all that we are truly thankful for.




(If you are reading this post via a feed reader click here to see missing pictures.)

The food was amazing, and the fellowship and worship were great!

I showed this video to get them thinking about all the things they are thankful for.



It was great listening to all things in which they were thankful for. We were thankful for video games, family, chocolate, friends, shopping, church, weekends, food, and more. Very cool!

Rite of Passage

I was recently contacted by the parent of one of my middle school students. She and her husband are planning a rite of passage ceremony for their son and was wondering if I had any input. They were particularly interested in what would be an appropriate time/age to do such a ceremony.

I think they are on to something big; something strategic and important. Here was my response to her.

While I agree with you that kids are in some ways growing up much sooner today, I on the other hand, believe they are growing up much slower. Our society has done a great dis-service to kids by in affect delaying adulthood.

There are three questions that every young person seeks answers to. It is the answer to these questions that in a lot of ways determines the conclusion of adolescence and the entrance into adulthood.

These questions are:


1. Who am I?

2. What power do I really have?

3. Where do I fit in?

It is at the beginning of adolescence (onset of puberty) in which kids begin to seek these answers, a great time for a rite of passage.

Recent studies have shown alarming trends.

• Pre-1900
the average age of puberty was 14+ and the average age of when those three questions were answered was 16


• 1980
the average age of puberty was 13 and the average age of when those three questions were answered was 18


• 2007
the average age of puberty is 12 and the average age of when those three questions are answered is the mid-20s.


This can be attributed to a number of factors. Our society has encouraged and promoted a prolonged adolescence, through encouraging prolonged college education, delayed marriage, etc. Another way we have done this is by not doing what you are seeking to do...a rite of passage.

I applaud their decision and their desire to see their son move into manhood. I wish more parents would do so. It is a practice that takes place in other cultures throughout the world, but has long been forgotten in ours. A rite of passage is a great way for parents to invite their kids into the process of becoming an adult. Adolescence is an intimating journey and one in which kids would benefit greatly from godly guidance and direction from their parents.

Band of Brothers is a great resource with good ideas on such a ceremony.

Dare You To Move



We are called to love our neighbors as our selves (Leviticus 19:18). We are called to love the needy because the needy are Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46). This is one great way that we can do so.

I support Compassion. Sponsor a child today!

An Angel?

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Jon did a great job preaching on this scripture yesterday. Hear the message here.


He discussed The Fact, The Command, and The Result. The Fact: You are the light of the world. The Command: Let your light shine. The Result: So they will see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. This all led into a great discussion in our small group last night.

We were discussing the importance of seizing every opportunity God bring our way to be a light for Him. It is easy living in the "Christian bubble" that many of us find ourselves in, to think that I have no opportunities to show Christ to those who do not know Him. The reality is, they are all over the place. As we discussed this, a story that took place in my life came to mind.

I was roughly 16 years of age and visiting my grandparents in Salina, Kansas. Both sets of my grandparents lived just a few blocks from one other so we would spend quite a bit of time walking between the two homes. It was a summer afternoon as I was walking by myself from one home to another. As I began to cross an intersection an older gentleman approached me on my right. As I stepped off the curb I did the courteous thing and said, "Hi." He returned the gesture but included the question, "How are you?" I quickly replied, "Fine" and continued on across the street. What happened next, I often describe as the event that ruined my day and changed my life.

As I continued to progress across the street the gentleman asked, "How do you know you are fine?" In that moment two thoughts came to my mind. The first was, what is with this guy? What kind of question is that to ask of a stranger? The next thought was clearly directed by the Holy Spirit. The thought that came to mind was, I should tell this man exactly why I am "fine." I should tell him that I belong to Jesus and because of that my life is not only fine, but more than fine. Unfortunately that was not my response. Desiring to get on my way, I simply replied, "Because I know I am fine" and continued on across the street. As I turned my back to continue, I heard him call out to me again, so I turned myself around to see him looking me square in the eyes and pointing his finger at me. What came next floored me.

As he stood there staring me down with a face that meant business, he said to me, "Don't you know that it was Peter who said we are to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (1 Peter 3:15) I have never felt conviction quite like I did in that moment. I knew it was true. I, in my shame, agreed with the man and walked on, never to see him again.

I have often wondered if that was an angel sent directly to me to deliver a message that I clearly needed to learn. I wish I could say that I have always been obedient to that truth, since that time, but I can say, that I have never forgotten it. God has used it many times over the years to remind me that I am His, and I am to be a light for Him in this world of darkness; that I am to seize every opportunity to share hope with those that need it.

May our light always shine in such a way that people are compelled to give praise to the author of hope and light.

Life With A Cat

Being a cat owner, I relate to this completely. Enjoy.



HT to Gman

Little Children and The Kingdom

There has been a lot of discussion lately on the Kingdom of God. Books have been written. Articles and blogs have been written, and sermons have been preached. I think that is great, as we ought to have a good understanding of the Kingdom in which we belong.

I have been reminded recently that the best way to understand the Kingdom of God is to spend a little time with a small child. It was Jesus after all who said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14)

Yesterday my son Benjamin demonstrated the kind of faith that I believe God desires to see from us. He and Robin had plans to visit Grandma and Grandpa for the day. Robin had to break the news to him that Grandma was sick therefore they would not be able to go. His response..."Let's pray for her mommy." He then grabbed her hands and they prayed for Grandma. No sooner had they said amen, Benny declared, "Let's go!" That is faith! That is the kind of faith that the Kingdom of God belongs to.

We have much to learn.

What A Ride

There are many posting about Mike Yaconelli this week. Mike, the founder and former president of Youth Specialties went home to be with his Lord four years ago this week. I never knew Mike. I wish I had. He was a man who embraced who he was, embraced Jesus and loved the ride!

He had a heart for people and a real heart for youth workers. I love what Justin wrote on his blog about his experience meeting him. It gives a real glimpse into his heart.

It was just days before Mike was killed in a car accident on October 30, 2003, that he said at the Charlotte National Youth Workers Youth Convention, "If I died right this minute, I would be able to say, 'God, what a ride! What a ride!" When I stand face to face with my God, I want to say the same.

As I reflect on my own ministry over the years, and look at where it has been, where it is now, and where it is heading, I am growing more an more convinced that it is not about programs. We are great at creating programs, but it is not programs that changes lives. It is serving. It is serving our God, in community with one another, that brings about real life change and a smile on the face of our God. If you can spare 9 minutes, I hope you will spend them watching this video. It is primarily clips of him speaking at the National Youth Workers Convention, and is amazing. One of my favorite quotes is, "If we gave up a bunch of our programs and just got kids serving then maybe Jesus would show up in a way that we never thought possible." Agree.





May we all enjoy the ride.

First Memory Verse

My little man Benny has memorized his first Bible verse...Psalm 119:42.

Notice the "preachers flare" he possess!



"I trust in Your Word."

Think On This

The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible - and achieve it, generation after generation.
-Pearl S. Buck

NYWC Days 3-4

Due to the fast paced nature of the convention and less than desirable internet access I was unable to post on days 3 and 4. Here are some of things I am still chewing on.

Day 3
Gary Haugen, president of International Justice Mission spoke and got me thinking seriously about following Jesus into areas that are beyond our control. Following Jesus is an adventure, an adventure into places that are dangerous and beyond our control. It is in those places that we will experience Him like never before. It is in those places that we must remember that His power is made perfect in our weakness. Following Jesus is not safe, but it is good.

Mark Matlock, president and founder of WisdomWorks Minstries, spoke on the Church and culture. He compared the values of Culture to the values of the Kingdom.

Culture Values
• Identity
• Controlling the process
• Critique of others
• Achieve outcomes

Kingdom Values
• Deny self
• Submit to God and others
• Serve others
• Trust God for outcomes

His comment to both of those, was both inditing and by in large, true, "The institutions that house the Church have become works of culture, not the Kingdom." May we strive to be more Kingdom minded and less guided by culture.

Day 4
Marko, Youth Specialites President, wrapped things up with a great talk on the future of youth ministry.

Youth Ministry 1.0 the early years of youth ministries in the sixties and seventies was Proclamation Driven. It was primarily driven by mass evangelism and numbers.

Youth Ministry 2.0 in the eighties and nineties was Program Driven. This era was driven by fancy programs, and even gimmicks all designed to attract.

Youth Ministry 3.0 (today) needs to by Not Driven. Instead of being driven we need to be present. We as youth workers need to be present with God and present with the students we minister to. Our ministries should be characterized less by numbers and programs and more by relationship. Our ministries should be more community oriented (I believe the word he coined was "communial") and incarnational. He based both approaches on Acts 2:44-46a and John 17:18.

We need to be willing to go against the flow of culture and past paradigms, and work toward contextualizing our ministry by making it more appropriate to our communities context.

He used this rather humorous yet poignant Wendy's commercial to illustrate what is taking place in the American church and how we need to be willing to make a change. The point isn't that the Church is blindly running itself into a hole, rather that we need to take a look at how we are approaching youth ministry and be willing to make changes to more effectively reach today's students. Powerful imagery.




Lots to think about. And those were just the General sessions! It was a great weekend. I am thankful Aaron and I were able to go and I am thankful to the YS Staff for putting together such a quality experience. I am better for it.

NYWC Day 2.2

World Vision's 30 Hour Famine had an exhibit down in the Exhibit Hall so naturally we had to stop in and say hey. It was pretty cool because as soon as I mentioned that I am one of the rally organizers for the Portland 30 Hour Famine Rally and that I knew Ruth Nottingham, World Vision's church relations person for the Northwest, they started hooking us up with all kinds of free stuff. You just gotta love free stuff!

At their display they also had a little area set up for people to tape a promo spot for their group's 30 Hour Famine event, so naturally Aaron and I looked at each other and said, "Why not?!"

We had no idea what we were going to say or do, we were pretty much told you have 20 seconds...go! So for all you 180 people reading this, you got yourself a "cowboy cheer" coming this year if we raise more money that we did last year!

NYWC Day 2.1

One of the fun things about the convention is the exhibit hall; a plethora of organizations and ministries that all offer the product or service that promises to make my ministry more successful. Not sure they will, but still fun to learn about new things.

Adam wanted me to get pictures of some of the best displays. Well I'm going to have to go with the ones that offered up the java! In my book, the ones that get me to stop, are the ones offering up the free jo! Of course all the displays that want to offer me a chance at a free iPod Touch get my attention as well. I think Aaron and I have filled out every available drawing. We're gonna get one this year!






NYWC Day 2

This morning in the first General Session Francis Chan spoke about modeling our lives and ministry after Jesus. He asked some great questions. What would the church look like if we took what Jesus said literally? What would our church look like if we said the things Jesus said? The conclusion...much different.

He made a comment that I can't stop thinking about. I'd love your thoughts on it.

He said, "If Jesus had a church in my town, I bet mine would be bigger." I agree. Do you? Jesus said some very radical things. Jesus calls us into a very radical life; a life that the American Church struggles to live.

What are your thoughts?

NYWC Day 1

Convention registration - $245
Airfare to San Diego - $306
Room at the Town & Country Inn - $360
In room bottled water -$2.50

Being with people that understand you - PRICELESS!

Man is it great to be with thousands of others that share your passion. We just got out of a great time of worship led by David Crowder, along with a crazed concert with Family Force Five.

The theme of the convention is "Storyline" We all have a story, a story we must embrace and a story we must share and use for God's glory. We may not like our story yet we must own it.

Phil Vischer, producer of Veggie Tales shared his story to night. It's a story of a big dream that crumbled. A dream that was taken from Him to drive him back to what is most important in life, that being in the center of God's will; complete surrender and Lordship. Phil was at the pinnacle of his career, event touted as being the next Walt Disney. God saw different. God saw his pride, and God took it all away. His story was one that resonated with me at a very deep level, as I too had to come to a similar that point in my life. I hope to share that story here in the days to come.

A quote that stood out to me "If you are in the will of God then where you will be in five years is none of your business." We often spend more time trying to chase our dream, our "vision" instead of just being with and seeking God.

Today has been a great day. We have just begun. I anxious for the rest of the weekend.

National Youth Workers Convention

Aaron and I will be at the NYWC in San Diego this weekend, October 19-22. I'm looking forward to being there for so many reasons. We went two years ago and returned so refreshed, blessed, and challenged. There is just something very cool being with thousands of other people that share your passions and are just as freakish and crazy as you!



Watch this space. Wi-fi permitting, I plan to blog from the event.

Grace Point Staff

We as a church staff recently had our photo taken.


I have been a part of the team for nearly 8 years now and feel so blessed to serve with such great people...my friends.

What Teenagers Look For In The Church

The Barna Group has just released the results of their recent study on "What Teenagers Look For In the Church." What they found is very interesting and I believe very insightful to those of us that minister to teens.

I thought what the president of The Barna Group concluded was dead on. "Helping them connect with God, learn about their faith, and serve others, in a loving and relational environment are their top desires from a church. Keep in mind that young people are not spiritually transformed merely by attending a church, knowing a few Bible stories or being friends with the youth pastor. It takes addressing teens on a much deeper, personal level - such as developing their intellect and vocational passions as well as cultivating their curiosity for the complexities of life."

You can read the study summary here.

Connections

One of things I enjoy most about blogging are all the connections I have made. I have made many connections, and friends, with people all over the country as well as around the globe. Most of which are fellow pastors. I have now made another connection and a very fascinating one at that.

I received an email the other day from someone I had never met. She asked me if my great grandmother was Nina Brenizer, and had enclosed a picture of her. She asked if Nina was my great grandmother and if the little boy on her lap was me. Much to my surprise when I viewed the photo...it was me!

Seems this person has been doing research on her family tree and came across this photograph that had my name written on the back. She then googled my name, found this blog, and sent me the email! The picture was taken in Salina, Kansas in 1968 when I was 1 1/2 years old. Pretty cute kid eh?



After I confirmed with her that that was indeed me, she then sent me a scan of the back of the photograph as well as an early picture of my great grandmother and great great grandfather. Turns out her great grandmother is my great grandmother's sister, and that apparently, makes us 3rd cousins. Fascinating connection!

Your Dash

What are you doing with your dash?

The Dance

One of the things that saddens me the most as a pastor to students is when I see a student surrender their life to the Lord and then slowly allow the influences of the world to creep back in and push Jesus out. I have seen it time and again and it breaks my heart.

On the other hand there is one thing that I love to witness in a student's life. I love to see a student that has come to the realization that they have moved away from Jesus, and return to Him with an increased love and surrender and joy. It is a beautiful picture of God's tender love and grace.

This video of a skit performed at Winterfest 2006 does an excellent job of portraying God's love, grace and joy. Allow yourself to enter into it and you will be moved.



May we all enjoy the dance. May Jesus always be our everything.

Faith Hope & Love

On Saturday September 29, the world lost a wonderful person. Jan Geist was a friend and inspiration to many. Her life was one of extreme faith, much hope, and lots of love. After a 9 year battle of cancer she was set free from her suffering and is now enjoying the tangible and immediate presence of her Lord.

Jan's life and story touched countless lives. Many are recounted at a web site the family has set up. See it here.

Jan touched our family's life in a very special and profound way; a very unselfish and loving way. It is a picture of real faith and love. The following is what my wife, Robin posted on the family web site.

I was part of Jan's Bible Study group in the early days when there were only a small handful of us. We met in a very small room, around a very small table at church. I loved the small intimate feel of our little group. It didn't take long for us to get to know each other in a very personal way. My prayer week after week was that I would have a baby - it had been several years in the trying. My study buddies agonized with me, and prayed so fervently for me. It touched me so deeply. At the same time, Jan was battling her breast cancer. Over time, we had all come to love Jan so deeply, we loved her like a mother. She freely shared her life experiences and her wisdom with us each week. I think all of us inwardly feared for her life, and wondered how we could live without her there.

I was not about to let Jan die if there was something that I could do about it - so, I struck a deal with God. As passionate as I was to have a baby, I was more passionate about keeping Jan with us. I told God that I would gladly give up the privilege of being a mother, if he would keep Jan here with us. I felt that we and the world in general needed Jan so much more than I needed to have a baby. I had contented myself with being childless, as I witnessed Jan have a long period of remission from her cancer. I was truly happy, and God strengthened my faith through it all.

It was about a year into Jan's remission, when I had cause to wonder if I should take a pregnancy test. After three positive tests, I believed the impossible - I was pregnant! How was this possible, and what about my deal with God?

I could not contain my excitement as I proudly walked late into my Bible Study group the following Wednesday. They must have read it all over my face as I told everyone that I had good news. I literally saw some holding their breath as I made my big announcement. I will never forget the response of those precious women - I felt so wrapped in love that day. There were tears and screams of joy all around the table.

As I was walking out to my car after study that day, I received the most touching news of all. I met up with Jan, and I proceeded to tell her about my deal with God, and of His boundless and awesome love for me - blessing me in this way in spite of our "deal". Through joy filled tears in her eyes, Jan told me that she had also made a deal with God, that she had felt strongly prompted by the Holy Spirit to pray for me - to ask what God would want her to "give up" for my happiness. She said that she had told God that she was willing to give up her very life for me, so I could have a child. I was astonished by such a love as that - I was speechless. Jan lived the words of the passage in scripture, John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends".

Jan was the special speaker at the baby shower on December 14, 2004, for Benjamin Andrew Eberly - my son. I just finished watching the DVD of her message of our special bond in Christ. I pray that my son becomes the man of God that would make Jan proud to give her life for.

I am forever in awe and inspired by Jan Geist. I can only hope that I can one day attain the kind of wisdom and intimacy with God that Jan had, and now has in His presence.

Last April I preached a message entitled "Is Jesus Lord of Your Hardships?" Part way through my message I had Jan share some of her story with us. If there was ever someone who knew how to keep Jesus the Lord of her life amidst hardship, it was her. Her testimony was truly amazing. Hear it here.

Read more about Jan's life here.

9 Years Ago Today

It was 9 years ago today that I married the most wonderful woman I have ever known. Robin is my best friend and my love. I am eternally grateful to my God for the gift that she is to me, one that I do not deserve.

It is because of God's wonderful love and grace that we are together. A gift that we remember and celebrate often. A gift that we celebrate in full today.

Happy anniversary hon. I love you.



Middle School Retreat 2

Our Middle School Fall Retreat this last weekend was great! It was a great time of hearing from God, worshiping God, serious play, good food, late nighs, and living in community.

Here's a peak at some of the action.



Already looking forward to next year!

Middle School Retreat

Today we leave for our Middle School Fall Retreat at Camp Tadmor. This will be the eighth year we have done this retreat. It is always a highlight of our ministry year.

This year our speaker will be, well.....me. I will be speaking on four important spiritual disciplines, prayer, time alone with God, witness, and mission. I would appreciate you praying with us that God reveals His heart to each of us this weekend.

The weather is even supposed to be nice!

Here is a glimpse of how it looked last year.

Love Wins

There is a guy who stands in front of one of our local middle schools wearing a sandwich board handing out tracts to students as they arrive for school. He's the kind of guy that is quick to tell kids that they are heading for hell if they do not repent. This is very confusing to my students. I have been asked several times recently, who is that "Jesus guy" and why is he doing what he is doing? They see him as mean, rude and condescending. They don't see much love.

While I appreciate the fact that he is concerned for the eternal destiny of middle schoolers, I wish he knew and understood the kind of damage he is doing. I wish he knew that the Good News that he is presenting doesn't sound very good. I wish he understood that by simply showing love to students, he would see far better results. When we show people the love of Christ, when we love people like He loves, we earn the right to be heard, and people respond.

Jesus told us to love Him and to love our neighbors as ourselves, and that there is no commandment greater (Mark 12:29-31). What we could accomplish if we would just show love. I like the words of G.K. Chesterton, "The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.” Let us not just love those we agree with, but let us love all. Jesus does not see good guys and bad guys. He sees a lot of bad guys, some have embraced Him, and others that have not.

May we learn what it really means to love as Jesus did. May we indeed be prepared to give an answer to those who want to know the reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15) yet may we do so in love and not in anger.

I appreciate Rob Bell's video, "Bullhorn." Here is a clip.


One Anothers

For the past five weeks Pastor Steve has been preaching through a great series entitled Doing Church Together. Yesterday's message, Wise is the Connected Christian, Part 3, was fantastic. You can click here to hear it.

The core of the message was that the church is to be made up of contributors not consumers. In light of my recent post Consumerism And The Church I thought it appropriate to post some thoughts from the message.

God desires to show Himself to the world through the Church. In all our imperfections He desires to reveal His presence through us. He could do it a lot better Himself, but instead prefers that we do it. C.S. Lewis was quoted saying, God "seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye." There are two ways that the task of revealing God's presence is accomplished ... love and unity.

In a consumer based church this task is not possible. The Church must not be made up of consumers but rather contributors. Throughout the New Testament we find a number of "One Another" statements all pointing to the fact that we as God's people must be focused not on ourselves (consumer) but rather focused on one another (contributor). Here are a few:

• Accept one another. (Rom. 15:7)
• Instruct one another. (Rom. 15:14)
• Serve one another in love. (Gal. 5:13)
• Carry each other's burdens. (Gal 6:2)
• Be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Eph. 4:2)
• Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph. 5:21)
• In humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
• Spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Heb. 10:24)
• Do not slander one another. (James 4:11)
• Don't grumble against each other. (James 5:9)
• Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another. (1 Peter 5:5)
• Comfort one another. (1 Thess 4:18)
• Forgive one another. (Col. 3:13)
• Meet with one another. (Heb. 10:25)
• Minister one to another. (1 Peter 4:10)
• Be at peace with each other. (Rom. 12:10)
• Honor one another above yourselves. (Rom. 12:10)

May this be what the world sees. May His presence be clearly seen through us, His imperfect Church.

Glory Of It All

I downloaded the new David Crowder Band release "Remedy" on the day it came out this week and haven't stopped listening to it since. It is in my opinion Crowder's best project to date. There is not a bad song on it. There is one track in particular that nearly brings me to tears each time I hear it. "Glory of It All" is a beautifully written song reminding us of the hope God brings, even in the darkest of times.

I will be at the National Youth Workers Convention in San Diego, October 19-22. I am looking forward to being there for so many reasons, one of which is being led in worship by David Crowder.

Here he leads "Glory Of It All" at Passion '07.

Wonderfully Awkward

Today is the day of See You At The Pole. Due to the fact that there are many schools represented in our ministry, it is impossible to get to all of them, so I decided to go and pray with some of my middle school students. It was a wonderfully awkward time.

It was awkward simply because the middle school years by themselves are awkward ones. Developmentally they are at a very self-conscience and awkward stage in life. Take that same kid and place them in front of their school around their flag pole and it gets even more awkward. It was wonderful because they were willing to take a stand for Christ despite the staring eyes and rude comments by their fellow peers passing by.

It was such a wonderful honor to stand as the only adult with the small group of students who showed up. It was wonderful helping them introduce themselves to one another, and discovering fellow brothers and sisters. When we bagan to pray, not many of them prayed aloud, but I'm sure they were praying inwardly, and based on the conversation we had afterward, continued to pray throughout their day.

I love middle schoolers. That small group of them were truly seeking to live out the words of Philippians 2:15, "...become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe."

To night is our post SYATP rally with our students. I am look forward to a great night of seeking our God together, and witnessing what He accomplishes through the time.

Student Evangelism

I was recently contacted by a national mission agency. They were seeking my opinion on a very important question. One particularly important when it comes to youth ministry. The question, what do you do to reach the schools in your community? It is a good question that would no doubt solicit various answers from different pastors and ministries. Here are my thoughts.

Along with always encouraging our students to invite their unchurched friends to things we are doing (events, regular gatherings, etc.) our primary "strategy" is helping our students discover who Jesus is, and fall in love with Him and His message. It is our belief that when a student is a committed follower of Christ it will be freely evidenced in their life and people will be drawn to Him.

It is my feeling that we for too long have been drawn into looking for the newest and best "strategy" to follow for sharing Christ (4 Spiritual Laws, Steps to Peace with God, Romans Road, 3 Story Evangelism, etc., etc.) when the best strategy is a changed and revolutionized life. When a person is consumed with and in love with Jesus, it doesn't take long for that person to start talking about the One that they are so committed to. Certainly we have discussed methods for sharing Christ, but we focus much more on discipling our students in the direction of a committed love relationship with Him.

If you were to spend any time at all with your average grandmother it would not be long before she was pulling out her wallet to show you all the pictures of her dearly loved grandchildren. Why? Because she is so in love with, excited about, and proud of them that she can't help it. It's natural. No one had to train her in how to share her grandchildren with other people. There is nothing she would rather do. So should it be with our relationship with Christ.

Thoughts?