Friday, June 23, 2017

Hero Dad, pt 3, Things that Matter cont.

Hero Dad pt 3 Things that Matter, Continued

As a dad, I haven't figured it all out, and am still learning, but I have learned that there are some things that really matter. See Part 1 and Part 2

Words Matter

James 1:11 says, “Out of the same mouth proceed blessings and cursing.”

It is amazing how, as dads, our words can change the dynamics of a room. Out of my mouth we can speak blessing or cursing, peace or conflict, stability or insecurity, courage or fear, healing or wholeness. We really determine destiny. If we are successful at something, chances are someone told us that we were good at it, or challenged us to be good at it. This is especially true if our primary love language is words of affirmation (See Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages). This one happens to be one of mine. I can live a whole week on a good compliment.

Decisions Matter

Big decisions, little decisions, decisions we make while making decisions; they all matter, and our family notices all of them. The best decisions come from a life of discipline, because you don’t have to think to long about them.

Esther and I made a decision before we were married to give 10% of our income to God (tithe). When we are challenged financially, our tithing is not in question because it moved from a a decision to a discipline. When it comes to extra giving, we make that decision every year. We pray and listen to God’s voice and make our decision based on faith, and then we put it in our monthly budget. God has always provided for us. 

There are many other decisions we make that involve discipline: spending time with God, spending time with family, working hard at work, loving our church community, investing in the future, living a life of integrity, etc. They all have a ripple effect and make a difference on our future.

Are we perfect? No. Do we stumble? Yes. Do we fall? Yes. Do we make decisions we wish we would not have? Yes. When these happen, it gives us a chance to discuss the consequences of our decisions and experience God’s grace, seek forgiveness, and make correction.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hero Dad pt 2, Things that Matter

As a dad of twenty-seven years, I have learned that there are a few things that really matter to my family. I have learned these through some successes and a few failures. I certainly don't have it all figured out, but here are a few things I know to be true.

Relationships Matter

Every day we have a choice: relationships or stuff. One friend, Dr. Dick Foth says, “There are two things we deal with in life: money and relationships, and only one of them can make you happy.”

Healthy relationships are based on trust, respect, and love for each other. Life is too short to allow these things to break down in our relationships. If you want to enjoy life, enjoy the people you are with, and that begins in the home. If we would take the same attitude toward relationships as we do securing our future, we would have less stuff and be more content.

When it comes to dad relationships, there is no substitute for time. It is one thing we cannot get back. I can't tell you how many tea parties we had as a family. I ate more plastic fruit and hot doges from the girls kitchen set than I can count. Those days are long behind us; Now, we look for reasons to celebrate together, and when we do, we go to Dairy Queen, and we will celebrate anything. "How was your day?" Someone asks. "It's was ok, nothing special," is the reply. "That's great, you survived the day, let's celebrate."

Presence matters

Some girls play competitive sports, mine did not. They all had very brief softball careers in elementary school. My girls traded in sports for music and dance lessons. So instead of sitting on the sidelines cheering, I was in the seats at ballet, piano, and violin recitals. To be fair, Kristi did have a short cup-stacking season. Let me be clear, I enjoyed every moment, and I was so proud of each level of advancement my girls had in their particular skills. My second daughter, Brittany, did take up gymnastics and cheerleading. At least there was competition; someone won and someone lost, and someone got a trophy. While many were cheering for the football team, I was the guy in the stands cheering for the cheerleaders. When my youngest daughter joined the marching band and drumline team, I was excited again. This time, I had a chance to really get involved. I drove the equipment truck – and loved it. There were some late nights studying in the truck for the next message while the team rehearsed to “take the floor.” But I was present.

My mom demonstrated this to me as well. She was present for me, even when she had no understanding of what I was doing. She was at my baseball and basketball games. She was my biggest fan when, as an eleven year old, I scored a basket for the opposing team. She was at every concert I played in and every play I acted in.

I think the reason why I like the Baltimore Orioles so much is that my uncles took me to the game in old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. It is a reminder to me of the men in my life that cared enough to let me be around them. Although I did not have a dad, my uncles and the men in the church made sure positive male role models surrounded me.

I am thankful for my wife, who reminded me how short our time is with our girls.

She was right.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Hero Dad

One of the best rewards of being a dad is that I get to be a hero in my girls’ lives. For certain, heroship is seasonal. When my girls were young, I could fix anything or create anything. I could even create castles out of cardboard boxes. I could one moment be a big monster and the next be slaying a big monster. All I had to do was show up.

However, my heroship decreased as they grew up. Not that it went away, it was just more sporadic. I could not fix everything and they realized that the castle did fall down. I took on more of a supportive role, cheering them on from the sidelines or bleachers.

But every once in a while, I get to still be a hero, and over the last two months I got to be super-dad again.

My second daughter had tornado warnings at her home in Virginia Beach. Who did she call? Her dad. I was all over this, “Baby, I got you. I’ll be with you on the phone. Get to a secure place and it will be ok.” For a moment, I was her hero again. She is married and has another hero in her life, but for that hour, it was me again.

My youngest daughter called on a Wednesday morning while I was at my small group meeting. “Dad, something’s wrong with my car.” “Don’t worry Babe, I got you. I’ll be there to get you. I’m right around the corner.” When I showed up, I noticed the problem. I took her to school, came back to get her car, fixed it, and it was ready for her when she got home – and I was a hero again.

That same night, as we were retiring for the evening, I hear a scream coming from my oldest daughter’s room, DAD! COME HERE!” I arrived to see that she needed me to kill a spider in her bedroom. Hero dad, once again.

And finally, the next morning I receive a phone call from my daughter who is away at school. She was going to take some particularly challenging tests that day. When I answer the phone I hear, “Dad, can you tell me I’m smart?” “Babe,” I said, “Of course you are smart. You got this. I believe in you. Let me pray for you right now.” We prayed, and I, for the forth time in a few weeks found out that I was still a hero in their lives.

It is not really the hero status I need, I just enjoy knowing that I’m still wanted and appreciated in their lives. These moments are simple reminders and are very special.

Over the last 27 years of fathering, I have learned to appreciate the things that really matter. I shared a few of them on Father’s Day. Regardless of whether you are a father or not, I think these things can apply to all of our lives. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Show Me Your Friends and I'll Show You Your Future

"Show me your friends and I'll show you your future."

If the above quote is anywhere near accurate, Melanie Edwards has an amazing future ahead of her. Over her high school years, she has developed deep and lasting relationships with, not only the girls in the picture, but everywhere she has been. 

Esther and I could not be happier with the relationships all of our girls built over the years. 

We are about to move into our "empty-nester" years, and although we look forward to a slightly slower pace, and a few more dates with just us, we will miss our girls' presence around our home - the music, the laughter, the meals, and the discussions. What we will especially miss are our girls' friends that come over at random times. They have added life and joy to our lives. We feel like they have all become our kids and we are so proud of them.

Here's to your future girls - go change the world. 

And keep stopping by. 

We will still feed you.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Dig Spiritual Wells Before You Need Them

On Good Friday, I received news that I had a mass located in my bladder which could be cancerous. I saw this on my online medical portal from tests that were run the day before. Without any communication with my doctor, that's all the information I had. Needless to say, Easter was an interesting day for me. Our church was excited. This is Super Bowl Sunday for churches, and we had one of the largest Easter attendance in several years. We worked hard encouraging people to bring guests - and they did. My heart was thrilled with the response. At the same time, Esther's and my mind was racing with concerns about my health. In one moment during our worship time, the thought came to me, "This could be the last Easter message I get to preach." Those of you who had a doctor use the word "cancer"understand some of my thoughts. It's one thing to talk to others who are going through it, it is another when it is in reference to yourself.

The next Monday, I had a chance to talk to my doctor. His voice was concerning and compassionate. He referred me to a surgeon who fit me in the next day, after performing another test he confirmed quickly the mass was a tumor. Here is one thing you never want your urologist to say, "You and I are about to become friends." He informed me that this kind of tumor is one that has a high probability of returning. I don't want to overstate my issue, because there  are so many others walking through more traumatic health concerns, but I do want to be honest and say this made a significant impact on me. I walked out of his office, called Esther, and we wept together.

The surgeon worked hard to rearrange his schedule and I had surgery the next day. Thankfully, he was able to remove the whole tumor and the waiting for the pathology report would be the next stage in the process. I would spend the next couple of days on pain medication, which means I visited LaLa Land many times.

Some people say, and I am guilty as well, that God uses these times in life to slow us down so we can spend time with Him in prayer and reading His word. That was not the case for me. I spent my time sleeping or watching mindless television. I could not think clearly about anything. When I tried to read, I lasted through one sentence before my eyes glazed over and I was in LaLa Land again. When I tried to pray, I was consumed with my own issues - which was not helpful.

After a few days, I was able to focus enough to put a few things in perspective. Here is the biggest lesson for me: dig spiritual and relational wells before you need to draw from them, because, trust me, you will one day need them.

Even though I did not have the strength to study, read, or pray, I experienced the presence of Jesus and his grace. It was like drawing spiritual water from the wells that were dug in my past. I couldn't read the scripture, but the scriptures were very alive in me. I couldn't pray, but His presence surrounded me. I had a level of trust in God that I didn't know existed. I couldn't reach out to others, but so many reached out to me through cards, emails, texts, and phone calls. I couldn't lead the church, but my team knew what to do.

I preach all the time about creating space for God though prayer, scripture, and relationships. When you do this, you are digging spiritual wells; wells that you will one day need to draw from.
When you care for your soul, one day your soul will care for you.

I have now learned that my tumor was a T1 carcinoma. From what the doctor explained, it is the second lowest grade, and for this I give thanks. My biggest issue is going to be ongoing testing in case it comes back.

Here are some points I hope you get from this:
  1. Create space for spiritual growth though studying God's word, participating in worship with your church, and joining a small group. Stop making excuses as to why you can't. Develop and nurture your relationship with Jesus.
  2. Fix relationships before a crisis so you are not suffering alone. Your life is too short to hold grudges and unforgiveness. 
  3. Thank God for every day and small things. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, so be thankful for today.
  4. Invest in your friends, family, and church. They are way more important than worldly wealth. 
May the Lord bless you as you live for Him. 

Filled with Thanks,

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Going Public

In March, I was more than excited to baptize Sean and Dana. These men took the next step in following Jesus: making it public. Each of their stories is unique, but both speak to the transforming power of Jesus Christ. This is why we do what we do. We share the message of Jesus and He changes lives.

It is my prayer that in 2017, we will see MANY people become followers of Jesus and take the next step by making it public

Monday, February 20, 2017

Let the Fun Begin

I have the honor of spending three days with a group of guys whom I've met with for 14 years now. Thanks to Kurt Kinney's birthday, we are now all over 50. We have come to cherish these days together. We love to laugh and solve the world's problems. We rejoice in each others victories, and pray through each others pain. We don't see eye to eye on everything, but we are passionate about the common important things: family, church, prayer, leadership, etc.
I have learned so much from these men. The wells of understanding go deep with these guys.
I freely admit that sometimes I just throw out a topic just to see the fireworks begin. We can go from passive to passion in as much time as it takes to take a sip of coffee.
We are all very busy in our season of ministry, so creating space in our calendars is a challenge, but it's never a question of whether or not we should.
Thank you Larry Hickey for calling us together many years ago.
Let the fun begin! 

Friday, February 10, 2017

So You May Believe

Beginning February 26th, I will begin to preach a series of messages from the book of John. I have read this book many times in my life, but I have to admit, it has never impacted me like this year. 
John is one of Jesus’ closest followers, also known as “John the Beloved”. Decades after Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, John sits down and writes a book about his greatest love: Jesus. In this book he tells us who Jesus is.
  • He is the creator of the world
  • He is the giver of life
  • He is the light of the world
  • He is the way, the truth, and the life
  • He is the provider
  • He is the only hope of the world
  • He is the perfect sacrifice that satisfies God’s wrath
  • He is the forgiver of sin
He tells us these things so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and in believing we may experience new life (John 20:31).
I can't wait to get started. 

Friday, February 03, 2017

My Confession

My confession is odd, considering I have been in occupational ministry for almost 30 years.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Still Learning

For many years, January has been a prayer focus for my family and the churches I have been part of. Basically this means we have intentionally created more space in our lives to spend with God and listen to His voice. This year, Centerpointe Church, and I specifically focused on praying for people in our lives who do not have a relationship with Jesus. We wrote down the names of people who are in our lives and prayed for them every day. On average, people wrote ten names down, some many more. My list started with around ten and has expanded as I met new people and as I felt directed by God. 

This challenge came from a lunch conversation with a friend of mine, Steve Pike. He made the statement, "If someone is in your life, they deserved to be prayed for" and then told stories about how God is beginning to open doors of "coincidence" conversations with people on his prayer list. There was a seed planted in my heart that day and I could not shake that lunch appointment from my mind. 

I didn't notice it at first, but that seed took root and began to grow. Steve was already scheduled to lead a board retreat for us in early January, so I rearranged the Friday meeting to make it an all-church prayer meeting, asking Steve to share the same stories and lead us in prayer. He then spoke on Sunday morning to our congregation - same thought but adding more stories. 

Something has changed, and I have learned some valuable lessons. Before I share them, I first have to make a confession, which might seem odd coming from someone who has served in occupational ministry for over thirty years. My confession - I am not an evangelist by gifting. My primary gifts are leadership, pastoring, and teaching. Evangelism doesn't even rate in the secondary gifting scale. Yes, I desire for people to come to Christ, and I invite people to know Jesus in messages, but on a non-public level, I struggle; however, I'm starting to see things from a new perspective, and it all begins with prayer.

The first lesson is this: my passion grows in the area of my prayer focus.

What I have noticed is that as I pray repeatedly for specific people, the Holy Spirit begins to reveal things about their lives and gives a deeper sense of understanding and insight. Furthermore, prayer makes me more interested. One person I am praying for had an article written about them two years earlier. In the past, I would not have thought about reading it, but prayer has given me a holy curiosity, so I read the article and I learned something about the person and their family, which I used to start a conversation. 

I have also noticed that in prayer, the Holy Spirit has the opportunity to nudge me toward simple action, such as sending a text message, an email, making a phone call, or walking across the lawn. Since I am partnering with the Holy Spirit, He goes before me to prepare the way, and my obedience always seems to be "at just the right time" in the other person’s life. It’s amazing how that works.

One lesson that has particularly made a difference is the understanding of my responsibility in the area of evangelism. Studies show that there are almost six hundred thousand people in Fairfax County who are considered “unclaimed;” in other words, they have no religious affiliation. For a pastor of about three hundred people, that number seems overwhelming and the mission too unreachable. Praying for my community is great, but it has little effect on how I live. However, Fairfax County is smaller than I think. If our three hundred people have ten to fifteen people we each know, our collective prayers can make a real impact. Just think - our church is now praying for three thousand to forty-five hundred people, by name, every day. Just think of the miracles that can happen and the spiritual conversations we will have.

The most moving part of January was during a Friday evening prayer meeting when we gathered in a circle at the front of our auditorium and mentioned out loud the names we had written. As I listened to each person present names to God, I thought of other people who have prayed for these same people for years – grandparents, parents, and friends. But, I also realized that some people who we prayed for might not have any connection to other believers and it is quite possible that their names were brought before God for the first time. I could see God listening and smiling every time he heard a new person being mentioned in Heaven.

I believe God is going to do amazing things at Centerpointe Church in 2017, and I believe it is because we are intentionally praying for, and reaching out to, people who have yet to experience God’s forgiveness and grace.

There is one more thing the Lord reminded me of in a more profound way – I am not alone. I want you to hear this. Say it out loud. I want you to understand it in such a way that it echoes throughout your heart and soul, because many times in our lives we have times of thinking we are out there by ourselves. We often feel like we are alone, especially when it comes to our faith. We go to work thinking that we are the only ones who are Jesus followers. Students go to school thinking everyone hates them because of their faith. They sit in class as teachers openly mock their faith and call people of faith intolerant. Furthermore, when it comes to sharing our faith, the sense of inadequacy can be overwhelming. However, in our mission to invite people to follow Jesus, we are not alone.

Matthew 28:19–20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (NIV).

Jesus promised us he would send the Holy Spirit to empower us, teach us, and go before us to prepare people’s hearts. It is the Holy Spirit’s role to convict people of sin and show them their need for a savior. It is He who awakens a person’s soul. I am simply an obedient partner in soul winning.

John 16:7–9 “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (NIV).

This is the great secret of witnessing – knowing that The Holy Spirit has gone before me. 
When I am praying for lost people, I am not left to my own resources or prayer skills. Even when I don’t know the right words to pray, the Holy Spirit prays through me. When this happens, I am assured that I am praying in harmony with God’s own will, because He absolutely loves the same people I love.

Although January 2017 is in the rear view mirror, my prayer is that we do not lose passion concerning lost people. If we are passionately following Jesus, we will not be able to stop inviting others to join us.