Archives For May 2009

I wrote a newsletter article a while ago that encouraged people to blog.  Just as a general principle, I think blogging is a good idea.  I’m sure there are lots of reasons to not blog, however, so here I’ll share a handful.  
If any of these apply to you, you probably should not blog:
5. You can’t manage to keep an online life integrated with the offline one you’ve been living.
4. You can’t string words together into anything resembling a sentence.
3. You’re in the witness protection program.
2. Hooked on phonics didn’t work for you.

1. God is not working in your life.

Roadside Cleanup

Mike —  May 28, 2009 — Leave a comment

Last night about a dozen of us went out and cleaned up trash on the roadside. We were assigned a stretch of road that actually includes the area right out in front of the church property, so that was pretty convenient. It’s a funny thing, picking up someone else’s trash.

I didn’t make the mess…
It’s not my responsibility…
No one picks up after me…
I’m challenging our students to look for practical ways to be useful in the community. It’s not enough for us to just say that Jesus cares about people. We have to show them that we care. In the stretch of road that we covered we picked up a whole bunch of evidence that people don’t care. People don’t care what the community looks like – so they throw their garbage out the car window. There are so many other ways that people say they don’t care about each other, about God, about even themselves.
To a world that doesn’t care about anything, what does it say when the church says “We care.”?

A Statement of Intent

Mike —  May 28, 2009 — 4 Comments

Several years ago, I had my first marathon running experience. It hurt. The first half was great – the second half felt like bone on bone every step. Since running my marathon, I have run pretty sporadically, but known that I would eventually take up the running torch again. It seems that one thing or another always seems to derail my efforts, though. A couple weeks ago a softball strain derailed the uptake a little bit, which may make me seem very old and maybe even a little decrepit, but I am making a statement here and now that I am going to run another marathon. There, now it’s public. I have to.

Now where are my shoes?

Pastor Perfect?

Mike —  May 27, 2009 — 2 Comments

I’ve liked what I’ve read from Craig Groeschel’s Confessions of a Pastor so far.  The transparent honesty is encouraging.  The very first few pages describe the making of an impostor out of his own life, and he describes what he calls the “pastor’s mystique” – a mistaken notion of church leadership that he bought into.  It’s the idea that people want to see their pastor “as superhuman, better than the average person.  Church members want to believe your marriage is always strong, your faith never falters, and you are virtually without sin.”

Believing that, Groeschel and many pastors like him have been led to be overly guarded, careful not to reveal any cracks or deficiencies in their lives.  The problem is we all do have cracks and we all do have deficiencies.  We need other people to help us through a lot of the crap that comes with the business of living.  The advice, “Don’t let them know the real you.  Always dress the part.  Always talk the part.” is good advice for self-protection.  The pain of being hurt by someone we love can be avoided if we never allow anyone close enough to love.
But it leaves us alone, and it leaves us with no footing for real leadership.  If I am hiding myself from you, how will I lead you?  How can I follow a leader I don’t even know?  We can’t lead the church of Jesus to conquer the gates of hell from within a shell of our own making.  
Groeschel notes that,  “Somewhere on my journey, though, I forgot that God called me… not to be like a pastor, but to be like Christ.”  If you’re one of my ministry friends who reads this – be encouraged to lead your ministry as Christ leads you, not as some poser who fits flawlessly into a role or position or system.  Learn to trust the right people with your life.
You’ll probably get hurt more – but it’s worth it.  
You’ll have to give up that shiny image you’ve worked so hard to keep polished – but let’s be honest, the polish is wearing pretty thin anyway.  
You’ll eventually be betrayed by someone you love who’ll use their understanding of you for their own advantage – which ironically puts you in company with Jesus.
He’s pretty good company…

Like Rocks in a Pond

Mike —  May 26, 2009 — Leave a comment

Reading through Matthew 10, you find Jesus sending His disciples out with a message: “The kingdom in near.”  They were given authority by Jesus to drive out demons, heal the sick and even raise the dead back to life!  It’s important to notice that they were sent to “the lost sheep of Israel” with their message, not yet to the uttermost parts.

They were sent to proclaim THE kingdom to a people who were awaiting THE kingdom – people who should have known their own history and had numerous festivals and observances geared to remind them of God’s rescue and provision and promise.  And yet, Jesus knew that when it really came down to it, when “the kingdom of heaven has come near”, when more than they could have ever hoped or dreamed of was finally being given – they were going to reject it.
He warned His disciples that they’d feel the brunt of this rejection.  Phrases like “sheep among wolves”, “be on your guard”, & “when they arrest you…” don’t exactly paint a very welcoming picture for those who were bringing good news!  Jesus warned of brothers betraying brothers and fathers turning over their sons to be put to death because of Him.
I wonder if the church has forgotten the “sheep among wolves” nature of why we are here.  When we complain that the world doesn’t make room for us or show us the proper respect a religious institution like the church deserves (“They even schedule baseball on Sunday!”), is that even a little bit shrewd or innocent?  Or is it more selfish and pouty?  Instead of going “like sheep among wolves”, are we merely planting ourselves like rocks in a pond then complaining that it’s wet and mossy?
Let’s not forget that even though we have been given the greatest news any man could ever share, it is news that requires sacrifice – so many will not want to hear it.  We have to give them a reason to listen – and the courage to live the truth even when they don’t.

A Story in Progress…

Mike —  May 22, 2009 — Leave a comment
A couple months ago, I made this video to talk about the vision for our student ministry. I used a song from The Glorious Unseen as background music, but when I put the video on facebook it got dumped for copyright violation.
I did some checking and learned that there really was no violation, but fb never responded to my contesting of the violation. The process, though, led me to e-mail Ben Crist, the writer of the song and lead singer of the band. I figured, hey, it’s his song – if he doesn’t want me to use it, I won’t.
He was fine with me using it though, and in e-mailing back and forth he mentioned playing here sometime. I found out that they will be in Denver in August, so I asked if they may be able to come here after Heavenfest (where they’ll be playing).

Just got an e-mail from Ben today that we’re trying to work out everything to bring them here on the Sunday right after the festival. This would be awesome, and would let us have a worship concert with them that night as a send off for coldwater, a mission trip I’ll be leading some students on this summer. I’m excited about this confluence of events a week into August. The week following August 8th could have HUGE implications for the future of this ministry. coldwater will be unlike anything else we’ve ever done, and has the potential to lead us to seek the heart of God more deeply than we ever have before. Please be praying that God would lead as we spend the summer gearing up for coldwater.

Glory from Rubble

Mike —  May 21, 2009 — 1 Comment

Last night, I was perhaps more disappointed/discouraged with ministry than I’ve ever been before.  If it weren’t for some awesome stuff that’s happened over the past couple months, a renewed sense of the incredible potential here, and an awareness of how Satan is so deceptive… I’d probably have been drafting a resignation letter last night.

I’ve been trying to rationalize what happened and come up with excuses for my students, but I still am at a loss to explain it.  In ten years of ministry, I’ve never seen anything like last night.  I tend to question myself anyway, but last night brought the “what am I doing wrong?” question to a whole new level.
Then this morning, reading Haggai, I came across God’s words to Zerubbabel and Joshua as they began to rebuild the temple – and was encouraged (It’s a short book, you should click the link and read it now).  The city had been ruined and these guys were part of the restoration crew.  But, the people were not making God a priority.  They’d rebuilt their own houses, but totally neglected the Temple.  Things were not well in Jerusalem – their work was not being rewarded because they were thinking of themselves first.  But God drew them back to Himself.  He reminded them that He was with them to strengthen them for the work at hand – work that would bring glory from the rubble of their day.
It reminded me that I’m not here because of my own will.  God has brought me to this place with a purpose in mind – to draw people to Himself.  He has brought me here and He is with me.  I can lose sight of that if I let myself focus on all that I need to do to build this ministry.  But this ministry isn’t about me or what I can or can’t do.  It’s about Jesus, and I know that if I keep lifting Him up and pointing people’s attention to Him – He will keep drawing them to Himself.
To do so, I have to make sure He’s given priority in my own life first, then work with great expectation as He builds something from the rubble that will bring Him glory.  He is building His church, and hell will not win!

1 Million Being Served!

Mike —  May 20, 2009 — Leave a comment

My wife and I have been sponsoring children through Compassion since we were on Ramen noodle rations in college.  Several times, the kids have grown out of the program while we sponsored them and we started over with another child.  I’ve also encouraged several of my students and others that I know to help Compassion give hope to children all over the world.

Today, I just read on Compassion’s blog, they started a sponsorship that means 1,000,000 children are right now being sponsored!  In villages and cities all across the globe, hope has been found and is being shared right now with a million young people!
Visit Compassion and see what it’s all about.  Maybe it’s time for you to sponsor the first of the second million…

Actions Speak Loudly

Mike —  May 20, 2009 — Leave a comment

Paul had some pretty serious mettle to say what he said in 1 Cor. 11:1.  After dealing with some pretty touchy issues that had to do with actions that may be offensive to somebody, he said “Follow my examply…  Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.”  The only way he could say that is that he knew he was living like Christ.

A recent article from Francis Chan has some great, challenging thoughts along these lines.  Go read the whole article, but here’s a quote that stood out to me: “Let’s make a personal decision to stop talking so much and begin living like Jesus.”  What does it mean to “live like Jesus” in our world today?  The way we answer this question is more than critical to the future of humanity.
Have we forgotten that the very essence of discipleship is to become like the leader?  Our culture allows for us to look like ‘good Christian people’ without actually living very much like Jesus at all.  Are we really ok with that?
We like to think it would sound arrogant to tell someone to “Imitate me.”  We don’t say it because we don’t want to sound prideful.  There’s a difference, however, between arrogance and a confidence that is born of grace and humility.  I can take no credit for what I am.  The very air I breathe is a gift from God.  Am I doing all I can to use that gift to become more like Him?  The truth is, it’s probably not a fear of sounding arrogant that keeps us from making the call to be like us – it’s just easier to say “Do as I say, not as I do.”
May the people you’re with today see Jesus.

3rd Grade Track Day

Mike —  May 19, 2009 — Leave a comment

As part of winding down of the school year, Emily had her first track meet today.  Kids from 5 or 6 of the elementary schools in the area come to the Middle School and get to run on the track.  They’re all excited (maybe just because they’re not stuck in a classroom and they know the year’s almost done), parents are excited, teachers are a little frazzled trying to get everyone where they need to be at the right time – but they’re excited too!

Emily was one of the kids not so much excited by the running and racing as by the fact that she was getting to be outside all day.  She likes to be active, but hasn’t ever really shown too much interest in being athletically competitive.  The thrill of winning never seemed to interest her as much as the chatting on the sidelines with her friends.  That may have just changed…
I have to be honest and say that I didn’t have high expectations of 3rd grade track and field glory today.  She tried to convince us to let her run in her canvas flats (that would fall off if they were run in) because she didn’t run that fast anyway and her tennis shoes made her feet too hot.  The 50 meter dash was her race of choice – because they had to choose something and it was the shortest choice available.  As we headed for a shady spot, I told her to get her tennis shoes back on when the girls were running the 100m.  “Why do I have to put them on that early?”  I explained to her that each heat of the 400 would be a minute and a half or so, the 100 would only take about 20 seconds and then she was up.  “So how long will the 50 take?”  I said, “You’ll only have to run for about 10 seconds, so run as hard as you can.”  She got a huge grin at the realization that her “running” task would be so brief and the satisfaction of knowing she had chosen “well”!
I’ve been emphasizing to her that I didn’t care if she won or lost or was stuck in the middle somewhere, I just wanted her to do her best.  That’s all I ever really want from my kids – the best effort they can muster up.  At the realization of the brevity of her run, she finally agreed that she would do her best.  When the whistle blew, she took off and ran her best for 50 meters.  Today, her best was enough to win the race!  I know it’s only third grade and it’s only one short race, but today I’m very proud of my oldest child.
Not because she won, but because she did her best.  She tried as hard as she could to run as fast as she could.  I love how she got excited at the end.  There was something in her eyes that wasn’t there before – or at least not as brightly.  When it finally dawned on her that she won  (which wasn’t for several seconds after she’d walked off the track) she had this huge grin and a look of disbelief.  I could see the thoughts forming in her mind “I actually won!  If I can win this, what else can I do?  What dreams can I achieve?”
Her imagination is running wild with possibilities.  And she’s just learned that great effort can create great outcomes.  My little girl surprised me today – reminded me to never write off the unexpected.  I have a feeling she’s going to surprise a lot of people for the rest of her life – not necessarily on the track – as she imagines her way into a tomorrow very different from today.