Monday, January 30, 2012

Old Friends...

Old friends tend to the best friends.

They know all your junk and still love you.  They go eat breakfast with you when you are back in your hometown and its never awkward.  You can sit with them and laugh.  They know where you live and they love to spend time with you!

(Conrad, Neal, Bobby and Peanut)
These are just a few thoughts that have been running in my mind since my last Big Bear trip a few weeks ago to celebrate the life of a dear friend.  While I was in town in was super tough to be there, under the circumstances, but really good to see a bunch of my old friends.  A handful of us went out to breakfast one day and it was so good, for me, to just spend time with these that I love!  There are a few other guys that I would have loved to have in this picture with us but I am so thankful for these guys in my life.

If you hear me preach a sermon and talk about the stupid things I did when I was younger it was probably with at least one of these guys!  We did a whole bunch of crazy things.  As I look back on life I can say that I regret a bunch of what I did but I would never change what I did.  My past has shaped me into the man I  currently am and for that I am thankful for Old Friends in my life!  I love you guys!

(Andy, Bobby, Conrad, Jason and Neal)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Foundations of the Christian Faith

Tonight I am starting my first class for adults.  For the last couple months I have been working with our Executive Pastor to help develop a lesson plan that we feel will be helpful to people in their walk with Christ.  I know that there are many things we can invest our time into that is why the goal for this class is to be helpful not smart.  

The Foundations class will be eight weeks long and meet upstairs in our church office on Wednesday Night from 7pm-8:30pm.  We will have round tables out so that people can discuss what we talk about in the class and pray with others before they leave.  We are hoping that this helps people find others in their life to connect with and allows for group knowledge to be shared.

If you are thinking about taking the class, or have already signed up, here is what you can basically expect to get out of the class (you can also expect me to throw some crazy twists):

Week One: Introduction to the class
This week we will intro the class and give an overview of everything that we will cover in the class.

Week Two: Understanding the Bible (Structure and History)
Goal: To give a basic understanding of the Bible.  We will cover the 66 books, 40 different authors, discuss locations of the writings and end with an overview of the original languages.

Week Three: Understanding the Old Testament (Structure and Theology)
Goal: To discuss the calling of Abraham, see the grace of God in the lives in Israel, discuss the nature of God and touch on some prophecies of Christ. 

Week Four: Understanding the New Testament (Structure and Theology)
Goal: Talk through the nature of Christ (fully God and fully human).  Look over different terms for the different literature that we find in the New Testament.

Week Five: Defining Biblical Terms
Goal: For people to leave with a basic understanding of Sanctification, Justification, Atonement and meaning of Baptism.

Week Six: Spiritual Formations
Goal: Now that we understand the text we need to teach people to interact with the text as they grow closer to Christ.  Teach about Lectio Divina, Fasting, Prayer, and create a personal growth plan.

Week Seven: Apologetics 
Goal: Teach people how to accurately defend their faith without getting angered.

Week Eight: Alliance Distinctive's
Goal: To help people understand what is different about South Hills Church Community in relation to other denominations and groups. 

If this sounds good to you go ahead and sign up for the class here!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dealing with Death

It seems like this month I have experienced more death than I can remember in a month.  Now I know this can be a morbid topic to address and generally people would like to avoid the topic but it is also a very real topic to address.  It started earlier this month with the death of a very close friend and then on Sunday I found out that two more people I know had passed away.  I'm not really sure what I am trying to communicate here but to just share some of my feelings as I process what has happened around me.  I hope that these thoughts may be helpful to others who are dealing with death.

How do we process death:

When I found out my friend Rob passed away I shed a few tears that day.  When my wife told me I had to hold back the tears.  When I spoke with Conrad that day I let some of them fly. The thing that shocked me is when I broke down at his memorial service.  I knew that I had emotions in my life in regards to his passing that I had not dealt with but I was shocked at the pain inside.  As I think about the truth of Scripture I can only think about how Paul tells us to mourn with those who are mourning
"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn" Romans 12:15 

I am so thankful for my wife this month.  I am so thankful that I have someone in my life who shares the same belief system as I do.  Charity has allowed me to mourn over these deaths but has been there with me to talk them through.  She has, graciously, listened to my ramblings and my questions as we have conversed over this topic this month.  Charity has been there to listen to me say: "I just don't get it" or "I don't understand" more times that I can count.  As you deal with death in your life I would invite you to find a faithful person that you can have honest conversations with.

During these times that we are dealing with death I think the best remedy is to have friends around.  I am not talking about acquaintance; I am talking about friends.  This is a time in life that we need to surround ourselves with people who know us, who we can be honest with and who can be ok with us crying.

If you had to add something to this list what it would be?

Friday, January 20, 2012


The last six months I have a been asking more questions about ministry than I have in a long time.  Now I am a question asker by nature (just ask my tattoo artist).  When I was asked to transition into working with adults it was a whole new game for me and that meant new contacts, new lessons, new books, new contacts and new clothes (ok, just kidding about the clothes).

The main thing I work on now is connecting people to the church and the more I am working in this role I am beginning to see how unconnected people are to the church.  To be honest I am kinda of shocked at how many adults are not connected in smaller groups of people.  I guess when I became a Christian that is just what was explained to me as normal so I did it but my experiences are not true for everyone and that is why I preached about being connected at my church the first two Sunday's of the year.

I could take more time to talk about being connected but if you have not listened to these messages I invite you to listen to them and see what God stirs in your heart about your life connections.

Connected Week One

Connected Week Two

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Leaders are Learners: Part 2

Yesterday I started talking about how leaders are learners.  I am convinced that once you stop learning you will loose your ability to lead.  You may not loose it right away but over time you will loose any edge on leadership that you once had.  I'm sure that people will still come to you to ask questions but there will come a time when you cannot answer the newer questions because of your lack of understanding of the topic.

In my life here are two areas that I plan on learning about so I can be a better leader:

I am a firm believer that my second responsibility in life is to lead my family (my first being to lead myself).  One of my New Years goals is to be a better leader in my family.  That is going to require me to take classes, read book, talk with friends and be extremely honest with others.  One of the first steps that I am taking to lead my family is to be a part of a marriage group this year.  I know that being a part of this marriage group is going to stretch me in life (especially because I am the facilitator of the group).

I want to learn to be a better husband

I also want to learn to be a better dad.  I have realized that in the last couple years of being a dad I have not been as present as I would like to be.  I share that because its true and I want to be better.  See I have taken the time to invest my time, and energy, into seminary for the last six years.  Seminary is getting ready to come to an end so this year I want to focus on being a better dad.  I want to keep taking my little girls to doughnuts.  I want to keep spending time with them and telling them they are beautiful.  I want to spend time with them where the TV is off and my iPhone is out of reach.

I feel there is some great leaders in the church (global) right now but I also feel like there is a leadership void.  I feel like the church, and the world, are ready for the church to step up and take her true place of leadership.  As we have leaders begin to learn more about pastoral ministry, empowering members and making disciples I think we will see the void begin to fill but that will take time.

I think a main aspect of leadership in the church is going to come from spiritual mothers and fathers taking the time to invest in the younger generation.  I know I fall in the "younger generation" category but I want to help develop those younger than I am.  I want to be a resource for those who are curious about spiritual matters.  I want to help people understand how to study the Bible.  I want to not just say it and really do it.  That is why I will be teaching a Foundations of Christianity Class at our church starting next week.

As you think about your life: Where do you see God opening doors of for you to learn in your life?  Are you committed to being a person who learns in life or are you just settled with the place you are?  I want to encourage you to take the time to focus on self leadership, leading your family and then being a leader in the church.  The world is looking for people to lead; will you be one of them?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Leaders are Learners

One of my first classes in Bible college I remember the dean of the school teaching and during the class he said something to the effect of: "Leaders are learners."  After that he made sure to clarify that just because someone is a learner it does not mean they are a leader.  I have pondered those words for the last ten years of my life.

See I am in a leadership position at my church and I have done my best to be a leader that is constantly learning.  As I look at most people in the world we tend to lead in some area or another.  Maybe you find yourself leading in your job or on the sports team you are a part of.  Some people are leaders in the church and others are leaders in the home.  Men we are called to be leaders in our marriage and leaders of our family.

Today I want to focus on two areas of leadership that I see needing more leadership:

Most people that I meet with are leaders in their job.  I think they are leaders, in their job, for two main reasons.  The first reason is they took the time to learn the position.  They may have attended school to learn the necessary skills to manage others in their work place.  They may have grown up in the industry and therefore it was just natural for them to lead because they know more than others.  Other people find themselves in a leadership role because they chose to learn the position and rose up as the the best candidate.

Secondly, I think that people are leaders in their job because God has gifted them to love on others and be compassionate for people.  In a book called "Good to Great" they survey all these top companies across North America and found out that the best leaders always pointed their success to the team around them.  When something went bad they took a long look in the mirror to see if the problem was them.  These people are true leaders, that are learning, to lead better in their job.  These are the kind of leaders we need leading today.

I have worked with students for over ten years and I love it when I see a student lead on their sports team. These are the students that take the time to learn about their teammates.  They learn what the people on their team are good at.  They learn about them off the field and make a real connection with them.  For leaders this is not something that is difficult for them to do; it is something that comes naturally.  I think for real leaders this is something they want to do!  They want to learn about others so they can connect with them and help them become better people.

These are the kind of students that are comfortable moving across boundaries in the social order.  These students are the ones who do their best to get other connected and feel a sense of unity.  I think they are the students that are saving other students from committing suicide and making horrible choices in their life.  They care so much about others that they are willing to look like a fool to help someone else connect and feel secure.  These are the kind of students that we need leading in schools to help others feel a part of something bigger than themselves.

Tomorrow I want to talk more about the subject of leadership but today I will leave you with a question: "If you a leader (in any capacity) how are you learning to help better those around you?"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

New Years Goals

I really wanted to title this post "New Years Thoughts" but what I am about to share are not only thoughts  but some goals I have given myself this year.  Now I know this post is 14 days late but I am pretty sure that most people have already failed at their resolutions or are struggling to maintain them.  I say that because I think we generally choose resolutions that are: (1) Very tough to achieve and (2) Unrealistic.

On our anniversary this year Charity and I talked about some of these things so I figured I would share some of my goals for this year:

When I told Charity this was my main goal for the year she laughed at me; and rightfully so.  See I only have one class left until I graduate with my Masters degree.  I am super excited to be done with the degree but I am more excited about what my education has done for me.  Education has helped me worked through past issues, helped me grow as a person and has increased my effectiveness as a leader.  Seminary has been so good for me so this will be a huge chapter closing in my life.

My next two goals have to do with a transition in my life.  See when I graduate seminary I am going to have some more time on my hands.  My personality is such that I like to stay busy and I like to see results.  I am committed to what I put my mind to and this year I am putting my mind to being a better dad.  I told Charity that with my responsibly in seminary coming to an end I want to take more time to focus on our family.  Obviously seminary has taken time, and money, for me to complete.  I would like to give that time, and money, back to our family in being a better dad.

I think that I could have probably put this one before being a better dad, and in my mind it comes first, but it flows better this way.  See I have given a whole bunch to our church in the last seven years.  I love my church.  I love seeing people find Jesus.  I love seeing students grow in their relationship with Christ.  I love hearing about people who find groups to get connected in.  This year though I am going to shut my phone off more to give more to my wife.  Charity has been such a huge support in my pastoral role and this year I want to give the church less and give my wife more (some of you are going to think I'm crazy for writing this).

For the last eight, maybe nine, years I have made a commitment to read my Bible from cover to cover.  This year I plan on doing the same thing but I want to take some people along for the ride.  See God's word is extremely interesting.  The Bible is full of stories that capture the imagination and reveal truth in a relevant way.  This year I am committing to read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation with a group of people so we can share the knowledge with each other.

Now that I have shared my goals, what are some of your goals?  What is motivating you this year and what will you focus on?  Much of what I am sharing here comes from a conversation with a great friend in ministry.  One day, on the phone, he said this to me:
"Being a better pastor will not make me a better Christian, husband or dad but being a better dad, husband and Christian may make me a better pastor."

Monday, January 09, 2012

Seven Years of Marriage

This Saturday was my seven year wedding anniversary.  Now I am not going to even pretend that this blog post contains the secrets of marriage but I just want to share some lessons I have learned.  This time Charity and I shared our anniversary up at Mount Charleston which is about 45 minutes from our house.  We had a sweet deal and were able to get away (thanks to Charity's mom) and just spend some time with each other.

On our way home we stopped at Maggiano's for lunch and some more time to talk.  It was crazy not having our little girls around us for over 24 hours but it was also great to spend some time with just my wife.  I get away for work and seminary quite frequently but this was a huge blessing being with Charity.

As I reflect on the last seven years of my life here are some thoughts:

Charity makes me want to be a better man.  I come from a rough past and I think there are many times that I would revert to those ways if it weren't for Charity in my life.  Charity is sweet, Charity is caring, Charity is understanding and Charity supports me in life.  Charity brings out the best in me. For those of you who are not married look for someone that brings out the best in your life.

I know most people think that we pastors really only work one day a week but that is not true.  Being a pastor means being on call... all the time.  Over the years we have created some systems in our life to buffer the craziness but that there are still times I head to the hospital on my day off.  See what many people don't know is that in four months I will graduate with my Masters in Divinity.  The M.Div program is much more intense than your normal Masters Degree.  I will have put over six years into this 84 unit degree.  I would not have been able to (almost) accomplish this task without the help of my wife and how supportive she is.

I am sure that this doesn't come as a shocker to anyone but many times we fail to examine life.  Charity and I took some time to reflect on our lives over the last couple of years and oh how life has changed.  We had some good talks about how much fun we had in San Diego when we met; going to the zoo and hanging out at the beach but life has changed.  I have more responsibilities now in my role at church and that means less time having fun.  Although we have experienced much change over the last seven years I know that I always want to be married to this woman and live out those changes with her.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Star of Wonder

Last month Sophie starred in her first play at church.  Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration but she did practice a whole bunch for her one song that she sang with a bunch of other little kids.  It was super cool to have Sophie take the time to practice for her play but I have to admit that I am glad we are done singing this song every time we get into the car!
Gramps and Lola came out for her play which was a special treat.  If you have a few minutes to laugh then watch the video and check out my little girl.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Park Day

Yesterday I had a great morning (the rest of the day sucked) and was able to spend some time with my family in the morning.  We went to breakfast with some friends that Charity has known since high school and then headed over to the park.  I didn't realize how long it had been since I went to the park with my family and was able to just be with them (life has been pretty hectic lately).

Here are some things that we did:
We went over to the trees and shook all the leaves off
We rode the swings together
We went on the slide
We climbed the rock wall
We ran around and smiled

Then came one of the best parts when Sophie started singing this song and just totally made me laugh