Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Signs we're doing the right thing

Last night I met with a family that has been coming to TF for about 2 months now. It was great to hear their story about what God has been doing in their lives and how God lead them to TF. When answering my question of what they appreciate about TF, I couldn't have written a better answer. The appreciated the entire atmosphere and approach of our church, from our preaching and music to their son's involvement in Trinity Family Kidz.
Man, that really pumps me up! This is why we started TF, to connect with unchurched families.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Game of the Century

Erin and I made the trip out to Arrowhead Stadium today to experience the College Gameday (built by the Home Depot) atmosphere. While I think it would've been better had it been on KU's campus, it was still a great experience. It was pretty cold, though.
I got my picture taken with Super Bowl MVP and Heisman Trophy winner, Desmond Howard. I considered asking him who went to the Rose Bowl the year he won the Heisman, but he seemed like too nice of a guy for me to taunt him.

Friday, November 23, 2007

I LOVE Thanksgiving!

This truly is the best holiday every invented. I watched so much football today and ate so much food yesterday! I had trouble sleeping last night because my stomach hurt so badly. I love it.
Here are some pictures. After the meal at Erin's grandma's, we raked her yard. I was very thankful for the short trees in our yard. Also notice how much Erin's cousin Jenny looks just like her.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving jog

I stayed up late last night watching the 1931 version of Dracula on youtube. I had my laptop in bed with me and shut it off when Erin finished reading and came to bed. I woke up this morning with the intention of going on a jog but instead stayed in bed and watched the end of Dracula as well as another movie (the Butterfly Effect) that someone uploaded to youtube. I wonder if the movie companies come after the people who upload a recent movie like that.

Anyway, when I finished the movie at 11:00, I climbed out of bed, threw on some shorts and a long sleeve shirt to go for a jog. When I was jogging with the wind, it was perfect but going into the wind was freezing. I'm so out of shape that the fact that I jogged the full 3 miles without walking means it was a good run. But if I'd slowed to a walk I probably would've died of exposure.

But I'm so glad I decided to run because just as I was going out the door, Erin's sister Megan who has gotten serious about running, gave me a call. She calls me every once in awhile to check up on me, make sure I've been running, which I haven't been lately. I'm glad I could say I was going out the door because she was calling from her cell phone, while she jogged up a hill in snowy Cleveland, where she was visiting her in-laws. Accountability - it's a good thing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Super Servant - Areon Kelvington!

I could maybe rename this blog entry to "Super Leader," although service is certainly a part of what AK is doing with this new men's group.
Areon sent me a document today that was describing what the men's accountability group is all about. I'm going to post it all below, if you'd like to read it. But if you don't take the time to read this, then just know that all guys would benefit from this group! I believe that one of the best ways to call TF to becoming a church that lives out God's best is by calling the men of the church to live out God's best. And Aaron is doing exactly that with this men's group.

If you'd like to join this group, send Aaron an email at

Here's what the men's group will be discussing:

Accountability Groups: Men Helping Men in Their Walk with God ~ by Randy Alcorn
Foundational Scriptures:
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." (Prov. 27:17)
"Carry each others' burdens . . . and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal. 6:2)
"Be very careful, then, how you live . . ." (Eph. 5:15)
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 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." (Heb. 11:24-25)
To experience true accountability, we have both the right but the responsibility to ask each other hard and to-the-point questions. Our goal must be not just to help each other feel good, but to help each other be good. The following questions are only suggestions. You may add and subtract as you wish. The point is not legalism, but checking in with each other in a meaningful way.

Questions to Ask Initially--And Come Back To Periodically
l. What are the biggest barriers to your relationship with God?

2. What are the biggest barriers to your relationship with your wife?

3. What are the most serious temptations you face at home? At work? Elsewhere?

4. If Satan were to wage an all-out attack on your life, what area(s) would he focus on? (What are your greatest points of vulnerability? For example, sexual impurity, financial irresponsibility, dishonesty, greed, pride, etc.)

5. How can your brothers help you and pray for you?
Questions to Ask Each Other Regularly
1. What have you learned or memorized this week from God's Word? (Share a specific passage.)

2. What happened this week that put you to the test? How did you respond?

3. How are you doing in your relationship with God? (Be specific--time in the Word, prayer, sense of dependence on the Lord, etc.)

4. How are you doing in your relationship with your wife? (Be specific--communication, spiritual sharing, conflict resolution, etc.)

5. How are you doing in your relationships with your children? Or parents? Other key people?

6. How are you doing in your relationships at work or school?

7. How are you doing with your thought life? This week did you consistently keep your thoughts and actions pure before God? (If the answer is "yes", ask "Are you lying?")

8. What kind of a ministry did you have this week? Whom did you share Christ with, either directly or indirectly? Or, how did you use your gifts and resources to help the needy?

9. How can the others pray specifically for you this week?

10. Anything else you'd like to share? (Questions or issues you're dealing with?)

Select the questions you want to be asked in your next meeting by your "accountant." Beyond these, he or she may ask any others which may be productive for your spiritual growth.I. 75 Specific Accountability Questions. ___1. Have you had daily Time Alone with God since we last met? ___2. How many Days Alone with God have you taken? ___3. Have your thoughts been pure and free from lust? ___4. Have you dated your spouse every week? ___5. Have you taken a day off each week? ___6. Have you had a daily debriefing time with your spouse? ___7. Is there anyone against whom you are holding a grudge? ___8. Is there any emotional attachment with someone of the opposite sex which could develop dangerously? ___9. With whom could such an attachment develop in the future? ___10. Have you given unselfishly to your mate's needs? ___11. Are there any unresolved conflicts with your mate? ___13. How often have you had family altar since we last met? ___14. How often have you shared your faith? When? What happened? ___15. How much time have you spent with your children? Doing what? ___16. Have you spread falsehoods about another -- slander? ___17. Have you hurtful truth about another --gossip? ___18. Do you have any unmade restitutions? ___19. Are you disciplining you child? Mate? How? When? ___20. Is your practice of journaling up to date? ___21. How much have you fasted since we last met? ___22. Have you had nightly prayers with your spouse? ___23. Report on your memorizing & meditating on scripture. ___24. How are you improving in your relationship with your mate? ___25. Is there a brother you should try to restore from sin? ___26. When did you last give a thoughtful gift to your mate? ___27. In what ways have you been tempted to be proud? ___28. How have you given to the needy since we last met? ___39. How much time have you wasted watching TV? ___30. What about questionable movies, magazines, or videos? ___31. Are you completely out of installment debt? ___32. How are you avoiding materialism? ___33. Have you exaggerated or lied since we last met? ___34. Have you been able to ignore carnal, complaining, petty people? ___35. What spiritual growth books have you read since we met? ___36. Of what are you afraid? How will you defy this fear? ___37. How have you played "Team Ball" with others since we last met? ___38. Have you had a critical spirit since we last met? ___39. In what special ways have you shown love to your mate? ___40. Have you been fully submissive to authority? ___41. Who is it that you are tempted to envy, or be jealous of? ___42. Is there any believer with whom you are out of harmony? ___43. Who are you disciplining and mentoring? How? ___44. Was there a time when your love for God was hotter? ___45. How have you attempted to make peace between others? ___46. Have you taken anything not belonging to you, large or small? ___47. What sexual sin have you been most tempted to commit? ___48. Have you a practice which may be a stumbling block to others? ___49. Have you avoided outbursts of anger or rage? ___50. About what have you been inclined to boast? ___51. Have you been tempted to give up? How? Why? ___52. How have you clarified your life's mission since we last met? ___53. Have you avoided fighting, quarreling, dissension, and factions? ___54. How have you shown enduring patience since we last met? ___55. Have you avoided obscenity, foolish talk, and course jokes? ___56. In what ways have you been tempted to greed? ___57. Have you selfish ambition? How pure is your desire to achieve? ___58. Is there hate, malice, or ill will in your heart for anyone? ___59. Is there any sin, inward or outward, which has dominion over you so that you are habitually falling in this area? ___60. How have you expressed thanksgiving to God and others? ___61. How have you shown submission and respect to your husband? ___62. How have you shown love and tenderness to your wife? ___63. Have you frivolously wasted words since we last met? ___64. Have you participated in fruitless arguments? ___65. Do you have you a teachable spirit? ___66. Have you shown favoritism toward the rich or powerful? How? ___67. In what way have you launched out in faith since we last met? ___68. Have you abused your power over others? How? ___69. Have you deceitfully manipulated people for your own benefit? ___70. Have you been guilty of worry, anxiety, or distrust of God? ___71. In what ways have you shown brotherly kindness? ___72. Is there any sin of another which you have come to tolerate? ___73. How have you sought opportunities to serve, listen, and help? ___74. How have you cared for the needy since we last met? ___75. To whom did you show Christ's love since we last met? How?
II. John Wesley's "Four Questions" for weekly class meetings.
___A. What known sins have you committed since we last met? If there is such, what shall we do about it? ___B. What temptations have you faced? ___C. How were you delivered from these temptations? ___D. What have you thought, said or done, of which you are uncertain whether it was sin or not?
III. GOALS -- To be held accountable for.

The Weekly One-Hour Accountability Check-up
Accountability is to be regularly answerable for each of the key areas of our lives to qualified people.
Suggested Guidelines:
Try to ensure that each person gets equal "air time." However, if one of you has a particularly hard struggle one week, be flexible enough to focus on that issue even if it takes the entire hour.
Let each person work through a section at a time, and then let the other(s) answer. This will keep things moving better.
Don't neglect the prayer time.
Try one-on-one. Small groups of 3 to 5 men can also work well if everyone speaks succinctly (one hour will go by very quickly).
Re-read the chapter, Accountability: The Missing Link, at least once every year and discuss the questions at the end of the chapter. You will be surprised how your understanding of accountability will change over the years.
Stick it out. You will want to quit, perhaps often. Ask God to strengthen you when you want to give up.
Hold each other accountable for the goals you each set for yourselves and to the standards of God's Word.
Never forget the purpose of accountability: To each day become more Christ-like in all of your ways. Remember it is Jesus who is the object of our search, our devotion, our sacrifice, and our affection. Anything less than intimacy with the living Lord will be a pallid achievement of your time together. Finally, if you are uncomfortable with the format feel free to alter these questions and type up your own accountability checklist. The substance is more important than the form. You may want to divide the key areas among more than one accountability partner.
Questions to Start off the Meeting:
How has God blessed you this week? (What went right?)
What problem has consumed your thoughts this week? (What went wrong?)
Spiritual Life:
Have you read God's Word daily? (How long? Why not? Will you next week?)
Describe your prayers? (for yourself, for others, praise, confession, gratitude)
How is your relationship with Christ changing?
How have you been tempted this week? How did you respond?
Do you have any unconfessed sin in your life?
Are you walking in the Spirit?
Did you worship in church this week? (Was your faith in Jesus strengthened? Was He honored?)
Have you shared your faith? In what ways? How can you improve?

Home Life:
How is it going with your wife? (attitudes, time, irritations, disappointments, progress, her relationship with Christ)
How is it going with the kids? (quantity and quality of time, values and beliefs, education, spiritual welfare)
How are your finances doing? (debts, sharing, saving, stewardship)
Work Life:
1. How are things going on the job? (Career progress, relationships, temptations, work load, stress problems, working too much)
Critical Concerns:
Do you feel in the center of God's will? Do you sense His peace?
What are you wrestling with in your thought life?
What have you done for someone else this week? (the poor, encouragement, service)
Are your priorities in the right order?
Is your moral and ethical behavior what it should be?
How are you doing in your personal high-risk area?
Is the "visible" you and the "real" you consistent in this relationship?
1. Close the one-hour accountability check-up with ten to fifteen minutes of prayer. Focus on concerns of the week. [1]

What is the best way to guard ourselves against these and other sins that can wreck a ministry or render us relatively ineffective in ministry? Scripture indicates that personal accountability is important to this process.
Ultimately, of course, we are accountable to God. This is a doctrine that is often neglected today in light of God's grace and forgiveness, but one which the scriptures emphasize. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10; cf. Rom. 14:2). In the judgment we will give an account for every careless word (Matt. 12:36), God will bring to light the things hidden in the darkness, our secrets, and will disclose the motives of our hearts (Rom. 2:16; 1 Cor. 4:5). Even our ministries will be tested as to how well we have built God's temple, and we will be rewarded or suffer loss accordingly (1 Cor. 3:10-15).
If we realize the full impact of our ultimate accountability to God, how much more zealous we should be to establish earthly accountabilities with fellow believers to help us develop the discipline we need to live a life that will honor and please God! Of course, we must never attempt to transfer personal responsibility for our life to any group, but God may use such relationships to assist us with our own personal responsibility.
God knows our frame that we are but dust. He knows our hearts are deceitful and wicked. He never intended for Christianity to be an individualistic, do-it-yourself religion. That is why he gave us such commands as: love one another (John 13:34); confess your sins to one another (James 5:16); pray for one another (James 5:16); look out for the interest of others (Philippians 2:4); encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24); stimulate one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:23); if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; and bear one another's burdens (Gal. 6:1-2).

We all drop the ball once in awhile...

It's good to know that TF isn't the only church that occasionally has people arrive late to the nursery or to set-up crew. Check out this blog entry from a church planter in DC, link.

Really good post, Ben. Sometimes what I'm thinking can best be articulated by another planter. But I do want to encourage everyone to continually strive toward excellence in everything we do as a church. We're still intentional in focusing the few, but most important ministries, so as to not spread ourselves too thin.

The best hour of my week

One of the best hours of my week is the hour (or hour and a half) I spend in Bible study with Travis Bottcher. Travis has been on an amazing spiritual journey the past 9 months. He first came to TF early in January and that began a long journey of exploring Christ, reading the gospels and having some long conversations together.
Travis made the commitment to start following Jesus sometime in June, while we were studying the gospel of John together. Travis started following Jesus in June and hasn't looked back since.
Some of the insights he shares when we're discussing that week's passage of scripture just blows me away. Sometimes I'm thinking, "wait, you're the new Christian, I'm the seminary grad - I'm supposed to be teaching you things!"
Last week we were reading from Ephesians where Paul listed positive behaviors and attitudes that Christians are to put on and negative attitudes and behaviors that Christians are to leave behind. Travis asked me, "is it normal that when I read the Bible I can see how this applies to me and how I'm to be living this out?" I gave an emphatic yes! I assured Travis that the surest sign that he's living for Christ is that his life is continuing to conform to scripture.

Wow. There is nothing as exciting as talking with a brand-new Christian! Can you see why I think of our Bible study as the best hour of my week?

Monday, November 19, 2007

All but the house!

This kind of stuff just pumps me up. After worship today, someone came up to me and said, "all but the house." It took me a second to realize he was saying they'd paid off all their debt but the house; it's a Dave Ramsey saying. Man, that really pumps me up!

Sometimes God just blows you away

We were quite surprised to get a phone call from the friend who has been the go-between during that potential adoption, asking what time church started. And she came to church on Sunday morning! She said the mom wanted to come but wasn't feeling well enough yet.
I really can't express how mind-blowing it is that she came to church.

We've also had several unchurched families coming the last few weeks. This means that God has entrusted these families to us and we MUST work hard to disciple them! I feel honored that God would entrust these families to us.

I jogged around the Sprint Center Saturday AM

Erin and I just finished a really good weekend, which was really needed. Thanks to some pastor appreciation gifts, we went out to McCormick and Schmidt's on Friday night and then spent the night in the Crowne Plaza hotel, which I pricelined a room. Our room was on the 20th floor, directly above Memorial Auditorium. We spent time just sitting in front of the picture window enjoying the view. On the left side of the window we could see the Bartle Hall spires and to our right we could see all the lights of the Marriot Hotel. We were also looking directly down on the fountain plaza on 12th street and Wyandotte.

On Saturday morning I went on a great jog around downtown, getting to see all the work that's happening there. Part of my jog took me around the Sprint Center, which is quite impressive. When I got back to the hotel I ran up the 20 flights of stairs. That sucked - it was all I could do to keep from puking.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A really bad night / day

It's 9:30 on Tuesday night and Erin just got back into bed for the first time since Monday morning. Last night she got a call at about 8:30 telling her the mom we've been talking with about the adoption was going into labor. The mom wasn't due until March 14th, so we knew this was not going to turn out well. A friend of the mom, who has been a go-between in this situation, called Erin to say the mom wanted her to be there.

The baby was delivered at 6:10 this morning today but was already gone by the time the delivery was complete. The mother had somehow gotten an infection inside the womb which caused her go into labor, but his lungs weren't developed enough to survive outside the womb.

What amazes me about my wonderful wife is that she was with the mom at the hospital from 9:30 on Monday evening until about 11:00 on Tuesday morning. Erin's presence in the hospital was about loving on the mom, not being there to see the possible birth of our potential adopted son, since we knew he wasn't going to make it. I believe Erin was able to bring some Christ-like love and peace into a very difficult situation and as painful as this is, I'm glad we (mostly Erin) were able to be Christ's body for this young lady.

The mom named him Christian. Erin was even able to hold his little body for awhile.

We're not sure where to go from here. This is, by far, the hardest thing we've ever gone through.

Monday, November 12, 2007


On Saturday my dad and I went to Iowa City to watch the Hawks beat down the Gophers and return Floyd of Rosedale to his rightful place in Iowa City.
There is no place I'd rather be than Iowa City on gameday. There is so much going on both inside and outside the stadium. I'm trying to give a picture of all that happens on gameday, from the tailgating to the band to postgame celebrations. I also like this picture with Nile Kinnick while wearing his #24, the only number retired in Iowa football.
There is now a tradition at Iowa games to run out on the field after every game, so dad and I hopped the fence and walked on the soft Kinnick turf.


A couple weeks ago, Erin and I made the roadtrip to West Lafayette, IN for the Iowa - Purdue football game. Unfortunately, the Iowa offense failed to make the trip and the game wasn't very close, but it was still a great trip. There's nothing better than driving through Midwestern corn fields and seeing the sights of a Big Ten campus on a college football game day. Purdue's campus had some gorgeous trees and stately buildings. The football atmosphere however, was the dullest out of all the college stadiums we've visited.
One of my life goals (and I shoot for some important goals) is to see the Hawks play at every Big Ten stadium. With our trip to Purdue, I've now been to 7 of 10 opposing stadiums.


I'm just now posting the pictures of our trip to mom and dad's from a few weeks ago. We just purchased a new camera and Erin spent some time walking around the farm looking for some good pictures.

My parent's neighbors have a bee farm and Erin got suited up to get a close-up view of a bee hive.
The weekend after we were there, Mom and Dad hosted a big "plowing day," which was big deal. They had a bunch of people there with old plows and tractors, showing off their antiques. There was even a tv station covering the event.