Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gaither Family Christmas...

We changed up our stage and worship feel on Sunday, going with a living room/ acoustic feel and sound. I was pumped about the change of pace until someone mentioned it looked like a "Gaither Family Christmas" video. Ouch, I was ready to take it all down right then. But that was just one perspective... But I think last Sunday will be forever referred to as the "Gaither Family Sunday." After piecing together a set-up crew, experiencing holiday travel and fighting the snow, I'm glad we could laugh at ourselves on Sunday.

We did offer a different way of responding on Sunday. I preached on the parable of the 10 virgins from Matthew 25 and we passed out invitations to "the feast" that is one day coming. Alicia Brush designed them and dated the time of the feast as "unknown, but certain." We had people turn in their RSVP's to the feast.

We also installed Scott Sidusky as our Youth Pastor. Scott has been leading our teen ministry for awhile but on Sunday, we went "official" with the title. In giving Scott his local license, our entire Point Team affirms Scott's calling and gifting for pastoral ministry. Congrats, Scott and Debbie!

Friday, November 28, 2008

I love Thanksgiving!

On Monday morning got on the scales to realize I'd lost a few pounds over the weekend - which gave me some extra room for the best weekend of the year! Here's what I do over Thanksgiving weekend; eat LOTS of food and watch LOTS of football! Both of which I've done A LOT this weekend.

We left Tuesday evening to come up to my parents' and we'll be leaving Saturday morning so I can spend Saturday afternoon preparing for Sunday. On Wednesday, I worked on Sunday's message and took my Grandma to this little hair salon in Denmark for her weekly hair appointment. My 93 year old Grandma was glad to spend some time together.

On Thursday, all of us got up early to help prepare meals for shut-ins and anyone who needed a free Thanksgiving meal. We worked with more than 300 other volunteers at Burlington High School. Josh and Ashley Vance showed up about the time we were leaving, to serve the meals in the cafeteria. Our job was preparing the boxed meals that others delivered to shut-ins. It was an impressive undertaking, feeding about 1,200 people. It was a good way to spend Thanksgiving morning. To read more about that event, click here.

We spent the afternoon with the Miller family and I was able to spend a few hours with some of my favorite cousins. One cousin is married to a pastor, so we swapped stories about the stupid things we've done and the stupid things done to us. The only person that can really understand the pressures of pastoring is another pastor. It was a great afternoon spent with cousins I rarely get to see.

My dad switched shifts, working in the morning, so he could spent Thanksgiving evening "watching football with my boy." As nice as that was, my dad can only stay awake in front of a football game for about 20 minutes, so most of the night was spent hanging out at my sister and brother-in-law's, which is also something I RARELY get to do.

After sleeping in a LONG time this morning, I spent most of the day doing French homework while watching Pitt-WVU and Nebraska-Colorado. We're now about to go to Fort Madison for the parade of lights. I was not forced to join my wife and sister on their 11 hour shopping trip, thank goodness.

As you've likely noticed from the pictures, Pastor Andy came with us this week. He wasn't able to go home to Alabama so he came along with us. It's been a good week hanging out with him and it was nice driving his brand new car up here. On Thanksgiving night, he was talking to his family on his cell phone while they were looking up my parent's house on Google maps.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Our First Growing Up Commitment!

On Sunday, we received our first Growing Up commitment card - awesome! The Info Dinners have had some great dialaogue, it pumps me up to see excitement in other people's conversation. I've already learned some things we'll need to do during the campaign that our Point Team hadn't though of yet as well as things we'll do even better at our next campaign (whenever that is).

Keep praying about your commiment. God is working in our church!

I love my church

On Sunday I did something I've never done before, I fielded questions on the fly. We had people text in questions to the media guys, who then put the appropriate questions on the screen. That allowed us to screen the questions (which you'll see was quite necessary) while also preventing me from dodging any difficult questions.

After our first Growing Up Info dinner, I felt lead to re-explain Growing Up as well as taking questions. The questions were great and you can hear the whole thing here - link.

But what I want to share in this post are the questions we DIDN'T put on the screen. The fact that we've got guy in the congregation who think of this stuff is what makes me love my church. Just a bunch of fun-loving guys who are trying to live together in a way that honors Jesus. I could tell you who wrote most of these but I won't. I will give the hint though, that you you can find the guy through my blog...

"I am concerned about the rash on my man parts." I'm not a doctor, I just play one on tv.

"How do you get your hair to look so cool?" Don't know where that's coming from.

"Are you on roids?" I'm not, but my weightlifing partner was there on Sunday and I think he might be... Just kidding, Jason.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I hate change!

My mom tells me I get it from my dad, but a constant quality of mine is that I don't like change. Even if I discover that a change can help me be more productive, I try to overcome the need for change by simply working harder without making the change. This is especially true of my workout routine.

About a year ago, my lifting partner, Jason made me change our squat method to a box-squat. At the time, my max dropped by about 100 pounds, but I've now worked back up to where I'm stronger than I was before, which was the point of the change. I've now gotten comfortable with the box squat routine but I've hit another plateau. My answer; just try harder and I can push through it. But I've reached a point where just trying harder won't get results.

Jason noticed my need for change when I was complaining about how badly my knees hurt during the squat. Jason has quite the eye for technique, if I slightly change my stance or posture, he immediately notices the difference. So, he worked with me on pushing my knees out further, keeping my upper body tight and staying on my heels as I came back up off the box.

I immediately felt the difference. My knees didn't scream at me during the movement, a tight torso gave me a 'springy' feel to the movement and staying on my heels took the pressure off my quads and put it in my butt and hamstrings (which are much stronger than quads - the difference between pulling and pushing). A few months of this and I'll be squatting way more than I am now. The only problem is that I'll have to go backwards before I start going up again. I had to drop down to just one plate on a side so as to work on mastering the new technique. And just that little bit of weight strained muscles not used to being worked in that way. When it was Jason's turn, we added 3 plates to each side. That was pretty frustrating because my goal was to be at 4 plates on a side by this time of the year but I was working with just 1. I KNOW this is going to result in my becoming stronger, I just HATE change; lifting with less weight and having to reteach myself.

But the short-term pain is going to result in long-term growth.

Am I just talking about weightlifting - of course not. There's a lot to be learned from this in leadership, too but I'm still processing all of that so I'll wait to make my thoughts public.

Another good leadership lesson is that Jason told me my improper form was the result of his failed communication. He had communicated part of the correct form, but not all of it. I had no idea this change was needed because it had never been communicated to me. I'll think through that, too. But once he explained it to me, it then became my responsibility for how I'd respond.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TFC's Prayer Teams in action

Our new prayer ministry kicked off on Monday evening. Our first prayer team gathering happened in the home of Josh and Sara Armstrong and Sara lead our time of prayer.
We prayed over all the prayer request cards people filled out Sunday during communion. There were some heavy requests on those cards, some people going through serious stuff. Thankfully, we're able to share those concerns with a God who possesses more than enough love and more than enough power.

Part of our Growing Up Campaign for 2009 is to become more intentional about our church's prayer ministry. So, it's great that Sara has stepped up into this role. Of course, just like our Teen Ministry, Sara can't do this alone. We need more people to take one hour a month to pray for our church and our community. That's what we're shooting for, just one hour per month.

We have another prayer gathering this Friday morning at 7:00 and Saturday morning at 9:00. To get more info or to see a map to our house, follow this link.

Prayer is a VITAL part of us growing into the church God wants us to be. Let's make prayer more of a priority.

Super Servants - Scott and Debbie Sidusky

I'm spending Wednesday nights in November hanging out with TFC's youth group. Did you know they have their own "youth room"? Yep, it's the 'redocrated' garage of Scott and Debbie Sidusky. I'll tell ya' what, watching Scott and Debbie lead, interact with and care for our teens is an amazing thing to watch. They are both VERY talented and they have HUGE hearts for our teens. For almost a decade, Scott has felt God's leading toward youth ministry and it's easy to see why God has called him when watching him in 'action' on Wednesday nights.

In addition to Wednesday nights, Debbie has started an accountability group with some of the girls. Man, that's REALLY good stuff!

But as good as Scott and Debbie are, they CAN'T do it alone! They need other adults to step up and serve alongside them. If you'd like to learn more about serving in this important ministry, please talk with Scott or Debbie.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Some more thoughts on Growing Up

We're two weeks into what I believe to be the most important sermon series we've ever gone through as a church. Not due to the content but due to the timing. It's time for us to become more intentional than we've ever been in living out The 5. As I shared in this message on Sunday, if we're going to walk with Christ on the water, we've gotta get out of the boat.

There are fears holding us back from growing closer to Christ and leading others closer to Christ. But when Jesus asks you as he did Peter (and he will ask you) to leave your fear behind and join him in the unknown, will you obediently respond with a "yes"?

In preparation for last Sunday's message, I read John Ortberg's book "If you want to walk on water, you've got to get out of the boat." All those great things I said didn't all originate in my own head. It was a pleasure to read that book, it challenged me in a lot of different ways. Maybe I'll get the chance to write on those challenges later, but we've made a significant lifestyle change in response to that book. Which means, I'd strongly encourage you to check out the book. I'll lend it to whomever wants to read it. Or you can buy it for $5 here.

I do want to share some more thoughts from that book that I wasn't able to get to on Sunday. This is from the book's introduction:
"Let Peter's walk stand as an invitation to everyone who, like him, wants to step out in faith , who wants to experience something more of the power and presence of God. Let water-walking be a picture of doing with God's help what I could never do on my own. How does such a thing come about? There is a consistent pattern in Scripture of what happens in a life that God wants to use and improve:
1) There is always a call. God asks an ordinary person to engage in an act of extraordinary trust, that of getting out of the boat.
2) There is always fear. God has in inextinguishable habit of asking people to do things that are scary to them. It may be fear of inadequacy ("I am slow of speech and slow of tongue," Moses said). It may be a fear of failure ("The land we explored devours those who live in it," cried the spies sent out to the Promised Land). It may even be a fear of God ("For I knew you were a hard man, seeking to reap where you did not sow," claimed the servant in Jesus' parable). But one way or another, there will be fear.
3) There is always reassurance. God promises his presence ("The Lord is with you, Mighty Warrior!" an angel assures Gideon who had certainly never been addressed by that title before). God also promises to give whatever gifts are needed to fulfill his assignment ("I will help you to speak, and teach you what to say" he tells a stuttering Moses).
4) There is always a decision. Sometimes, as with Moses and Gideon, people say yes to God's call. Sometimes, as with the ten frightened spies or the rich young ruler who spoke with Jesus, they say no. But always people must decide.
5) There is always a changed life. Those who say yes to God's call don't' walk the walk perfectly - not by a long shot. But because they say yes to God, they learn and grow even from their failures. And they become part of his actions to redeem the world.

Those who say no are changed, too. They become a little harder, a little more resistant to his calling, a little more likely to say no the next time. Whatever the decision, it always changes a life - and it changes the world that little life touches. "

So how do you respond? I encourage you to be at TFC on Sunday to hear about our church's future.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Iowan by birth, Hawkeye by the grace of God

These pictures are both from Saturday. One team prolongs their conference's longest losing streak one team breaks the nation's longest winning streak.

The fact that a few Iowans willingly choose to be Cyclones almost causes me to believe the misguided idea of Double Predestination. Maybe free will really is just an illusion...

Veterans Day

He always called me "my favorite Donnie" but I'm pretty sure I'm my Grandpa's favorite grandchild. Not because I make him so proud or anything but because I always call him on Veteran's Day. I don't know if there's any other event in his life that comes close to the significance of my Grandpa's time in the Pacific during WWII. So every Veteran's Day, I call to tell him I love him and to thank him for serving our country. Every year, Grandpa tells me he's going to the Veteran's breakfast at the Hy-Vee in their little town of Chariton, IA. This morning he told me they'd be swapping whoppers from their war days. I assured Grandpa I was convinced he could tell the biggest whopper.

I'd thought I'd heard most of Grandpa's war stories (several times) but today I heard a new one. Thanksgiving Day, 1944 was a 4 hour meal. Their ship was headed toward the Palalu Islands to take out the Japanese Military Base there but they were able to celebrate Thanksgiving while en route to their destination. While eating their meal, the Japanese were sending threatening messages over the radio along the lines of, "we're coming to get you" and they weren't empty threats. The Thanksgiving meal was so long because it kept getting interrupted by Kamikaze pilots.

Thanks for serving our country!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Don't be like me

It's kind of ironic that I spent Saturday morning finishing a message on taking risks; overcoming your fear to step out of the boat in faith because I stayed in my own boat on Friday night.
Friday at 5:00, I was seriously considering driving to Iowa City to watch my 5-4 Hawkeyes take on the undefeated/#3/ National Championship contending Nittany Lions. My good friend Russ Koelzer tried to talk me into going but it was going to be freezing cold, I'd be driving 10 hours in one day, I couldn't get anyone to go with me and I wouldn't get back until midnight. Since Iowa had lost to a pathetic Illini team the Saturday before, I wasn't too confident in our chances.

Man, to relive Saturday, November 8th. I missed out on personally experiencing one of the most exciting wins in Iowa football history. Yes, I had a good time watching the game with fellow Hawk fans at the Other Place in Olathe, but it was a fraction of the excitement I could've experienced. And I found out my sister and brother-in-law were shopping in Iowa City that day and CJ could've gone with me (CJ usually works Saturdays so I didn't even call him). As great as that win was, I'm really, really bummed that I wasn't there.

I could've been out in this crowd.

Don't be a wuss like me!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The world has neither ended nor significantly changed

I realize that emotions run high during an election and as we crested toward the climax, things got pretty crazy. I was watching the Obama celebration on Grant Park and saw people with tears running down their faces. If the tears of joy are about how far our nation has come in the past 40 years then it makes sense to me. 40 years ago, black people couldn't vote in the Democratic primaries and now we have a black Democratic president. That is certainly a Kingdom of God value.
If people are crying tears of joy because of Barak Obama however, I'm not looking forward to their eventual letdown. Barak Obama is just a man! He's now a man with a LOT of power and influence but he will not be able to alter the basic realities of the fallen world in which we live. I know there are a lot of Christ-followers in our country who have placed hope in Obama but my hope is that they keep their perspective. Obama is not the 2nd coming.

Neither is Obama the devil! I know a lot of Christ-followers who are really scared of Obama's presidency. As I was perusing facebook status last night, I was really disappointed in some of the stuff I was reading from fellow Christ-followers. The world is not over. Our country is way too stable for one man to bring it down (although the President can connect with some serious blows). Contrary to what I heard on talk radio yesterday, Obama is not going to raise up his own army that will overthrow our military and turn us into a fascist state. I seriously heard a radio host warn about that.

I'm pretty sure God didn't have a horse in this presidential race. God isn't too concerned about the horses because he just so happens to own the racetrack.

The best Obama can do won't advance the Kingdom of God and the worst Obama could do will not slow down the Kingdom of God. Jesus described us as a yeast or a weed that stubbornly continues to grow even when those around don't appreciate it.

The world didn't really change last night. The world changed for all eternity however, on the first Easter morning about 2,000 years ago. When Jesus' disciples saw their risen leader, they knew the fundamental reality of existence had changed. Evil was dealt a death blow and the empty tomb demonstrated that nothing can stop God's plans for healing this world. As hard as it tried, the mighty Roman Empire couldn't stop the Kingdom of Jesus. Unfortunately, some Christ-followers tried to wed the Kingdom of God to the Empire of Rome for a couple hundred years, but 1,600 years after Rome's fall, the Kingdom of God is still going strong. If the US 'falls' before Jesus returns, then the Kingdom will continue to grow.

In the aftermath of this political process, it's good to remember that our citizenship rests in an eternal Kingdom. Let's continue the work Jesus gave us of bringing that Kingdom to Earth while letting politicians focus on work that will eventually become ancient history.

Signs waving, cheers, flashbulbs, music playing...

Monday, November 3, 2008

5/6 of the way through 08

With the calendar turning to November, I thought I'd give an update on the goals I set at the beginning of 08.

I'll re-post those goals and comment on each one:

Jog 12 miles per week, although I need to fix my treadmill first
I pretty much sucked at this the first half the year. About July, I decided to train for the KC Half Marathon (which I ran a couple weeks ago) and I'm now in good shape and lost about 10 pounds.
Do my ab workout on the running off days
I think I did this once, maybe twice...
Finally get to 3 plates on my bench press and 4 plates on my box squat
I've had to readjust this goal. Training for the 1/2 marathon hurt my lifting so I'm likely not going to hit this goal. I am however, more well rounded through mixing in the running and lifting.
Spend 3 hours per week in personal Bible study
I've been keeping track and of the 43 weeks so far in 08, I'm just one half hour off this goal.
Begin studying French
I'm auditing the French 101 class at MidAmerica Nazarene University. I'm learning the language but I seriously underestimated how much work this would be. I'm still not sure why I've felt lead to learn French but I've been trusting my gut instincts (a main way God leads me) long enough to know that God will eventually reveal the reason.
Attend some sort of coaching training event
Did this in January but didn't get to coach in the fall.
Read the Bible with my wife before going to bed
We're averaging about 4 nights a week at this, which is better than any other year of our marriage although not where I'd like to be.
Fast every week from Monday noon to Tuesday noon
I've done this every week, though I've occasionally moved the days.

I've decided it's time to stop worry about things that are out of my control and to actually let God be in control of His church. This means that I'm going to entrust God with growing TF numerically so I can focus on growing people. There are two groups of people in which I'll be investing most of my time: our Advisory Council and the unchurched people God has entrusted us with. With that in mind, here are my specific goals.
Redesign the structure of our Advisory Council so we have leaders over each of the 5. Finish this by spring
This was completed in August (just a couple months later than I'd wanted)
Personally invest in the new people who were previously unchurched (I have a list on my desk)
Yeah, I'm still doing this although the way I'm doing it is different than it was last winter.
Spend 3 hours per week in prayer for TF.
Yep, right on pace! It's amazing the "coincidences" that happen when I pray. It's amazing to find the formerly hidden strength needed to face difficult challenges when I'm praying every day.
Find more ways to emphasize the 5 during Sunday morning worship
Our Growing Up Campaign is making this happen!
Read 1 chapter a day of a ministry related book.
I'm not doing this every day but you can see the list of books I've completed in 08 on the right side of this page.
Equip the church for personal Bible study (coming this Sunday) or as the pastor from whom I heard of this plan called it, "develop a self-feeding program."
Yep, done this. But Josh Vance and David Brush are really wanting to develop SOAP classes, which would really help people.
Focus on our Fav Five (coming soon)
Since about July, I haven't been as intentional about this.
I did have the privilege of baptizing a person on someone else's "Fave Five" list!

I've still got two months to go, but overall, I'm pretty happy about the personal and professional growth I've experienced this year.