Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Encourage Your Friends

This is totally something that I am working on in my life right now.  I am an encourager and love to encourage my friends in what God is doing in their life.  I love to meet people and encourage them to follow hard after the truth of God.  I love to see people serving in our church and thank them for all their hard work.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)
The opposite side of being an encourager is being a discourager and I can be great at that also.  When I get close to people to love to razz on them.  I have a bad habit of knowing what bothers people and being able to bring that up in awkward ways.  There can be some fun points in this of bonding but there is also an aspect that really brings people down and this is something that I need to constantly be aware of.

See so many times we forget how powerful our words can be.  We forget that in our words there is the power of life and death.  We forget that there are people in our circle of influence who need an encouraging word in their lives and we have the power to offer that to them in the time of need.  If you were to read through the New Testament (mainly Acts and the Epistles) you would see the word "encouragement" come up 40+ times.  There is something important in our words so I want to begin to more aware of as we seek to encourage those around us:

When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.  Acts 11:23 (NIV)

Lets talk about three areas that we can help to encourage each other

This could be one of the best ways to encourage someone this week.  Maybe you already have a meeting planned where you could just slip the old debt card over and take care of the coffee to encourage your friend.

It is amazing at how much a nice note can make someone's day.  My wife LOVES it when I write her little notes and leave them around for her to find.  Who can you write an encouraging letter to today to let them know how important they are in your life?

Time is the most valuable resource that any of us have in this life.  Who do you need to spend a little extra time with this week?  Time spent can help to refresh a relationship, it can be used to strengthen a bond, it can be used to clarify some things so that you can leave the other person more encouraged!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Kids Need Encouragement

I've been thinking a lot about encouragement lately and how important it is to our lives.  I'm not sure exactly what has spurred this in my life but it is on my mind right now so I am going to dedicate this week of blogging to encouragement.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at a winter camp and was able to take my family with me... for the most part.  The family stayed at my mom's house since Sophie was feeling a little sick and I headed down to the camp.  On the way up to the camp a cool time happened that was encouraging to my kids (at I think it was).

We were sitting at Starbucks in Barstow, CA and were about to leave.  Before we packed up I took a picture of Charity with a funny face.  It spurred me to start taking some pictures with my kids while we made funny faces and here is what we got:

Now you may be trying to get the correlation between the monkey face so bear with me real quick.  See this was a time in my life that I could herd my kids back to the car or spend some time encouraging them to be creative.  Now I am sure that their first grade teachers will not like this behavior but when they are young and we can have fun like this I want to encourage my kids to be creative.  The best thing about spending time with them like this is that I get memories that will last a lifetime as I build my relationship with them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Question Behind the Question: Book Review

Last Sunday I caught a flight from Vegas to Sacramento.  On that flight I had a thin little book with me that I planned on reading.  The plane took off and I began to journey into the "Question Behind the Question" (QBQ).  Now this book was recommended to me by our Executive Pastor about eight months ago.  I didn't have the time to get it then but I knew it would be a good plane book.  I was able to read the book (and eat a sandwich) during the flight.

The title of the book pretty much explains what you are going to get... the funny thing is that I didn't read the title before I got the book so I was taken back a little on what I was getting into once I started reading.  The best thing about books like that is they are exactly what you need at that time in your life.  

This book is exactly what I needed in this time of my life and the stage that God has me in. 

Here are some quick stats on the book:

Author: John G. Miller

Pages: 115

Recommendation: READ IT!

Favorite Quote: "Taking action may seem risky, but doing nothing is a bigger risk!" (page 84)

I honestly could have given you fifty quotes from this book because it is chalk full of great stuff!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Park Here; Please

(Hume Lake 2009)
This Christmas break I had a blessing of working with a young man by the name of Sam Alex.  Sam is the kind of young man that would be amazing to have on your team.  Sam worked with our church for six weeks over his Christmas break from Biola.  The best part about that is that he contacted me because he didn't just want to sit around and do nothing.  See the first week of school Sam made a choice to change his major to Pastoral studies and I know that one day Sam will be a pastor.

Sam came to church and started going to our high school ministry as a freshman in high school.  He came to most all of our summer camps, winter camps and was one of my student leaders.  I loved being a part of Sam's life and to see who God has transformed him into is amazing.  I will never forget the change that has taken place in Sam's life and even being able to baptize him is a blessing for me.  I have been able to see Sam grow up into a young man; a young man who loves the Lord with all his heart.

I share all of this because of a text that I received from Sam just last week.  Sam gets it!  Sam has been looking for a church to connect with and instead of sitting around he is getting involved in an area that needs help.  See what Sam was working with us he had the best attitude.  Sam did everything from create PowerPoints to help with game for students, he taught in our Children's Ministry and even cleaned the church.  I specifically remember one day seeing Sam outside cleaning at church and I knew that the night before he preached in our high school ministry.  Look at the joy in this text!  The excitement of being able to help out at a great church that needs help with their parking lot ministry.

Here are some three quick things that I think we all can learn from what I am seen in the life of Sam;

Sam worked his butt off for the six weeks that he served at our church.  Sam did this for not one penny!  He modeled what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23 and he has been doing this ever since I met him (along with many of the guys he grew up with)

If you are not serving at your church stop sitting around!  Go and find a place where you can use the talents that God has given you to serve the church well.

This could be the most important or just the thing that holds them all together.  Sam always had a big smile on his face (even when I asked him to do a 99 slide PowerPoint).  If you meet Sam you will know what I mean and the joy that he has in his life because of who he is in Christ.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentines Away

Most people get to spend Valentine's Day with their spouse or significant other.  They may go out to a nice dinner, buy some gifts, kiss a little and laugh alot but the last two years have a been a different story for me.  I have been at seminary all week so instead of spending Valentine's Day with my family I spent Valentine's Day away.

Before I left for my final week of seminary Charity took me out on a super cool date and I was able to spend some time with my kids.  Not that Valentine's Day is a huge holiday but its an important day to my wife.  I tried to get her some flowers to have around while I am gone.  Before I left we decided to celebrate Valentine's Day a little early by exchanging cards and gifts.

So as I was unpacking my bag, in the hotel, I found a package in my bag from my wife.  She had spent some time with the girls making me fancy cards, writing little notes, tucking in some of my favorite candies and using her creativity to make me smile.  Even though I didn't get to spend Valentine's Day with my family, I still was able to Skype with them and have some cool gifts to enjoy!  I'm very thankful that this will by my last "Valentine's Away".

Monday, February 13, 2012

Honesty vs Good Intentions

This is something that has been running through my mind lately.  It all really started back in June (last year) when our staff started meeting with a consulting group.  During our first time with the group the leader asked us to share everything that we are thinking.  To impress the importance of this he asked to share what he called "The last 10%".  The goal was to get everyone to be very honest so we could experience some growth in our personal lives, staff unity and see God use our church to reach the lost.

Ever since that meeting we have started to use that line around our church.  I currently meet with a great group of people who are helping to shape Life Groups around our church and we have used this line in most of our meetings.  The great thing is that this group of people is very honest and that can sometimes hurt.  In our last meeting I shared something like this with them:
"Honesty can hurt, and you may hurt me with what you say, but if you are not honest with me I will never grow into who God is asking me to be."
Here is how this can play out in real life

Most of us would prefer that everyone in life spoke to us in their good intention voice.  This is the voice that is always affirming, it is always soothing and it rarely hurts our ego.  Good intentions will never get to the last 10% because the last 10% can hurt people.  Good intentions can stroke an ego but they may never call anyone to life change because they don't want to offend people.  Good intentions make us feel good even if there is a real issue that needs to be dealt with.

Honesty is something that people share with you when they really care about you.  Honesty is what Jesus exemplified in His life as he spent time with the disciples.  He didn't sugar coat things to make them more palatable for them but just spoke the truth in love.  When we are honest with each other we can help others grow more.  Honesty says: "I love you too much to let you continue to act like this".

Honesty is difficult though but Good Intentions are also difficult.  When we use our good intentions we are careful to not say what we really feel and that can hinder growth in others.  On the contrary, when you are honest with people it can jeopardize your relationship with them and you may end up hurting their feelings.  When being honest it is imperative to understand your tone of voice, body language and facial expressions are saying more than your words are saying.  If you are aware of these areas of your life then it becomes easier for people to accept what you are saying.

The next time you have a conversation think about "The Last 10%" but before you use it make sure that everyone in the room knows the rules and are ready to hear what needs to be said.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Wise Up! Rise Up!

Last weekend I was invited up to Pondo to speak at camp. The camp was full of middle school students and amazing adult leaders who love middle school students.  The theme of the camp was "Rise Up! Wise Up!" and for the weekend teaching we spent of our time in the book of Proverbs.  Now middle school students can be a difficult crowd of students to communicate to so you have to be very intentional at how you address them with the topic so they can have application for life change.

Here are some of my thoughts after the spending the weekend with students:

Many of you know that I was recently asked to transition into a new role at my church.  I had lead in our student ministry department for the last seven years so I know the transition would be a huge change.  I was a little nervous that I may get to the camp and realize that it would have been better for someone else to be there teaching but the exact opposite happened.  I realized that I miss spending time with youth pastors.  I miss seeing students do stupid things.  I miss spending time with the community that happens in a ministry team that meets on a weekly basis to conquer the same goal.

On Saturday Charity came down (she was staying at my mom's house) to hang out for the day. Since having children Charity and I haven't been able to do ministry, on the front lines, side by side like we once were able to and I miss that.  My wife is such an amazing, encouraging, uplifting woman that it just makes me want to spend more time with her.

Saturday night was decision night and I had been praying most for that night.  I was able to share about how Jesus calls us to follow Him and invited students to make that choice right there to follow Jesus.  About 30+ students stood up and said "I want to follow Jesus" that night.  Something happened that night that I never expected when the worship leader, David Gaulton, called all the adult leaders up to pray with students.  It took some time but after a while most of the students had left their chair to head to the front to pray with their adult leader; it was so rad seeing God move in the lives of students that weekend.

(Students praying with leaders)