Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Made for Ministry

A few weeks ago I took an online Small Groups Conference through Saddleback Church called "Twelve".  During the conference I was reminded of a few things that sparked my excitement for ministry, again, in a new way.  One of those things was that we were made for ministry.  God created me to serve the church and use the gifts and talents that I have to help the church be a better place for others.  I hope that is something that you believe in your life and actively live out!

Part of my new role I am helping to slot childcare for our Tuesday night Financial Peace University.  Now if you were honest with yourself most people would not find it a joy to find people to watch other people's kids; when you say it like that.  But if you say it a different way and get to see what I have seen and hear the stories that I have heard it becomes a totally different story.  I get to see students using their gift of love and compassion to watch kids on a weekly basis so that families in our church can grow in their financial understanding.

See I have a cool seat where I get to see students serving with younger kids, loving on them, playing with them, hanging out with them, holding little babies and modeling the love of Christ to these children.  Now there are times that it can be tough but I have taken a new approach on the whole deal.  See I truly believe that when I ask a student to watch children that they are ministering to those younger kids as an older believe in Christ.  I am not just "slotting childcare" but I am helping students find their calling in the body of Christ and use their time to love on kids.

Even as I write this is makes me smile because most of the students have actually thanked me for inviting them into ministry on Tuesday nights!  I had a conversation with one girl that got me so excited because I was able to explain to her that we need to allow others this opprotunitty to minister.  Here is a text message that I got from a young man who helped out one night and it just makes me smile!  When you read the message you can see that this young man had a great time ministering to these younger kids.  He let me know that he met some kids who were pretty cool and that he would not just do it again if I asked him but he would be happy to do it again.

See we are made for ministry.  We are made to use our gifts and talents to serve the church to help others find their full potential in Christ.  Are you taking part in that?  I hope you are because then you will be happy to come and serve again. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Power of an Invite {Part.Three}

Now that I had been invited to church and God had done some amazing changes in my life, I began to live my life differently.  I stopped drinking (personal choice) because I know where it had taken me in the last few years.  I also stopped doing drugs because I just didn't think that lined up, Biblically, with my new decision to follow Christ.  I started to serve at my local church and helped out in our children's ministry (this was a great place for me to grow spiritually).

Then one night I had the chance to invite someone on the journey I was taking.  I was at a friends house from Big Bear who had recently moved to San Diego.  He was living in a large house a couple minutes from my place with a few other guys who were all from Big Bear also.  The house was a full on party house so much so that they called it the Playboy Mansion.  It was a Saturday night and I was hanging out at the house when someone asked me about why I wasn't drinking.  I began to share my faith and what God was doing in my life.

At that moment my friend Brian walked out of the room and headed, quickly, to his room.  I wasn't to sure what he was getting in his room and to be honest I thought he was grabbing a gun.  He came out of his room shaking a Bible and saying (loudly): "I want to understand this book and what it means."  I knew he was drunk so I told him what I knew I safely could and then invited him to come to small group with me on Tuesday when he was sober.  He accepted the invite and the conversation changed.

On Tuesday I pulled up to Brian's house and went inside to get him.  He totally forgot that he had said he could come to small group but he ended up coming with me.  That night, in small group, Brian broke down in tears and confessed his sin.  God was working heavily in his heart and he accepted Christ that night!  Brian was in desperate need of a savior and God used me as a man to invite him to church.  Our friendship has grown so much that I was able to preform his wedding ceremony!  Brian is one of my best friends and I am so proud of what God has done in his life in the last 10 years.  I often wonder what would have happened in Brian's life if God never used me to invite him to church...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Power on an Invite {Part.Two}

When I was twenty years old I walked into my DUI school because of the choices that I had made and where they landed me.  That morning I had a meeting with the teacher of my class so I had to show up early.  During the meeting the teacher asked me about my drug use, my alcohol consumption and how I ended up where I was.  I was very open with the teacher and at the end of the session he looked me in the eyes and said this: "I'm not supposed to give you my personal opinion but I want you to know if you continue to do what you have done you will be dead in five years."  Those words have rattled in my brain for the last eleven years.  See I never imagined that when I was invited to smoke pot when I was thirteen that I would end up here.

After our meeting I went to my regular class and in that class there was a man named Brett Wheeler who spoke openly about his walk with Christ and his involvement in church.  He admitted that he had messed up and there was something different about this man.  I knew that I needed to talk to him.  See I had just been released from jail five days prior for another alcohol related incident and I was hurting more than I had ever hurt before.  My life was shaken to the core and I had no clue what I believed anymore.

As we were leaving class I wanted so badly to ask Brett to take me to church with him but I was scared to ask him.  That morning, when we walked out of the classroom doors, Brett turned around and invited me to church with him.  I was about to decline when he looked me in the eyes and said these words: "Neal if you don't stop what you have been doing you will be dead in five years."That was too much for me to hear that in such a short period of time.

That day I gave Brett my number and he not only invited me to church but he drove about forty minutes to pick me up and then forty minutes back to church.  Then he also gave me a ride home!  Brett modeled what it means to invite someone to church and then follow through with that.  I have to say that I am not sure where I would be today if he had not invited me to church that day...

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Power of an Invite {Part.One}

As I've transitioned into my new role I have been thinking more and more about what I want to dub The Power of an Invite.  Our church just started Financial Peace University and its great to see how many people have been invited into this journey into financial freedom.  As my role grows, and we get Life Groups up and running healthily, I am excited to see how many people are invited into life changing relationships.  Thinking about life changing relationships reminded me of four things that I want to write about this week.

When I was about thirteen years-old I was invited to a friends house and that invite would change the way I lived.  I was at a pee-wee football game at the local middle school that I had ridden my bike to.  After the game I rode my bike, with some other guys, over a new friends house.  I can't exactly remember when I was invited over to this house; it may have been figured out before hand or taken place that day but that invite changed my life.

That early fall day was the first day I was introduced to smoking pot.  I went over to my friends house and ended up smoking pot with about four other guys.  I remember that day very clearly.  I remember sitting upstairs in my friends room on his little couch he had in there.  I remember what we used to smoke the weed.  I can even remember some of the things we talked about that day.  I am not sure what, in my memory, has held onto those thoughts but for some reason I have.

See that day I was invited to someone's house and then invited to smoke pot.  No one forced me to ride my bike over there.  I was not bullied into making the choice to smoke pot; all the choices that day were choices I made.  Now this will be the one post I write on this week that is directly related to a decision that  has had a negative influence on my life.  I want to start this way because it fits in a time line of what I will present and how my life has changed.  I want us all to be keenly aware of how important the invite is in our lives can be impacted for the positive or the negative!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

18 Months Later

I can't believe that eighteen months ago we were blessed with this beautiful little girl (ok, honestly Leah was 9 pounds 1 ounce when she was born so she has never been "little")!  Leah Joy is our second daughter and it has been so cool to see her grow and mature over the last eighteen months in our home.  Leah has gotten the coolest personality and it has really been a blessing to see her grow up, see her interact with Sophie and see how much she loves her mom.

When Leah was born I gave her the nickname "Little Leah".  Not sure where it came from but it just seemed to fit.  There were a bunch of pictures that I could have put up here to show who this little girl is now but I chose this one.  Leah loves to eat blueberries on her waffle and this morning was no exception!  Leah wanted more waffle and is using her sign language saying: "please" to get more (you gotta love a girl who uses her manners).  Leah has her tough nights and doesn't always sleep through the night.  She has some great days and loves to swim, make us laugh, tickle and climb the stairs.  I hope that these next eighteen months of our family will be ten times more of a joy than the first eighteen months were!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

First Chargers Game

Yep... I am 31 years old.  I lived in San Diego for almost five years and it took me driving just over 300 miles from Las Vegas to go to my first San Diego Chargers game!  This trip was actually super cool for me because I was able to take it with some young men who recently graduated from our high school ministry; Nevin Zwifel, Nick Markovich and Anthony Rossa.

We left Vegas around 8pm on Wednesday night and headed to Corona to stay at Nick's cousins house.  We left Corona early Thursday morning and headed to the beach.  It was great spending the day at the beach with these guys and my friend Jon Miano actually came and hung out with us (Jon was a student when I was an intern in San Diego almost nine years ago).

After the beach we headed to Wahoo's Fish Tacos and I got one of the best burritos I have ever eaten.  After filling up we took the trolley over to Qualcomm Stadium to see our first game!  Here is a cool pic that I will never forget.  It was great to spend the day with these guys at the beach and then head over to the game.  We got these nice and early to watch the team warm up and we made sure to boo for the 49'ers as they came out.

I have to admit that our seats were literally perfect!  The seating may have gotten a little better but for me this was perfect.  We were close enough to see the action but not too close that it was tough to see the field.  We weren't too far either; I never found myself watching the game on the big screen.  It was crazy for me how quick the game seemed to go.  It was like one minute it was sunny and the next it was dark.  The game seemed to fly by being there in the action.

I have to admit that I was a little bummer that Rivers, Gates, and Jackson didn't start but I can get over that.  I am so thankful to Nick for taking me to this game.  Now the coolest part is that I have been able to invest into the lives of these guys for over 12 years (Nevin 7 years, Nick 4 years and Anthony 1).  It was great to spend some time with them as they are starting college, getting for the Marines and becoming men.  I can't tell you how thankful I am that I got to attend this game but more importantly to spend time with these men.