Choose…

Every day, we encounter situations where we try to weigh out the best option.  I think I am most aware of it at the grocery store.  If an item is offered in three sizes, I’m the guy that will stand there with the calculator and try to figure out if it’s worth it for me to buy bigger, while factoring in other variables like 1) will it be used before it expires, 2) can I get this cheaper elsewhere, etc.

 

We all like to find the best option.

 

Sometimes, we are presented with two scenarios and neither looks very good.  For example, if you are sick and can’t go to work your option is to stay home, rest, and get behind on your work, or go to work and be miserable.  It may be more drastic than that.

 

It could be a choice between which bill can’t get paid this month.  It could be a choice between letting a damaging relationship go or holding on to it and enduring the pain.  Both hurt.

 

When the Israelites were being led out of slavery, their first hiccup came fairly early.  It was a question of which way to go.  They knew about the land God had promised them.  They had heard about it for 430 years.

 

In Exodus 13:17 we read that the closest way to go was to travel through a territory controlled by Philistines.  This would mean a war for the Israelites who were already feeling the pain of the long journey ahead. In fact, God said “The people might change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.”

 

So instead God led them to the other option.  The other option was to travel through the wilderness and come out at the shore of the Red Sea.  They would have to cross it. Without a bridge.

 

How does that seem like the better option?  I had to laugh a bit when I read it because think about it.  God looks at everything and says, “Hmm…they can go this way and fight or they can go this way and swim…”

 

But of course, His plan was bigger!  His plan meant He would do something they would never, ever forget.  He is a rescuer, and a redeemer, and a savior by nature.  So, He can do whatever He wants.

 

And when we are faced with an obstacle today, we probably can trust that God has spared something we couldn’t handle and given us something we can handle.  And we can only handle it by trusting He will show up in a BIG way.

 

So, when faced with an option of two choices, I highly recommend the one that puts you in a position to trust God more and allows you to see Him work in your life.

The Value of Parent/Child Dedication

Yesterday, we had an event that we do twice a year.  It’s called Parent/Child Dedication and it is one of my favorite Journey Kids events.

Some churches do a “Baby Dedication” in which families of newborns are invited to stand on the stage during a regular adult worship service.  The pastor prays for all the new parents and kids and the whole bit lasts about five minutes.

It seemed to me that a life-changing event like having a child and being a parent (in some cases for the first time ever!) should be celebrated a bit more than a five-minute tag before the offering plate is passed.

So, we tried to create an event that would do a few things:

 1)   Show value to families.

Having a child is a life-changing event.  It is more than giving birth to new life.  It’s raising deciding to take on the call of raising a child, who will one day be an adult.  So, we want to honor that in a special way.  Our service lasts about an hour and I think the word “service” is the wrong term.  To me, it’s definitely a party.  As one of our director’s said, “There’s cake.  So you know it’s officially a party when there is cake!”

 

2)   Equip parents with their first steps.

A child’s first steps are amazing.  The family cheers, and the cameras come out.  With each new step, and each new distance, the family celebrates.  I think we should also celebrate a parent’s first steps.  We should help them think through what it means to raising a child to know and follow Jesus.  What can they do now that will give them the best success for that?

 

3)   Let families know they are not alone.

Our most recent Parent Child Dedication had twenty families participating.  When you looked around the room, you could sense, “we are all in this together.”  All of those kids were within two years of each other in age.  As I looked at them, I saw a flash of the future when those twenty kids begin Kindergarten together.  They begin college together.  And these families have a great opportunity to find community with each other and support each other, as the body of Christ, and as parent’s all fighting for the same goal.

 

As a church, if we say we truly care about partnering with families to have a greater impact in a child’s life then we need to start at the beginning and walk with them the entire way.

Fight for the Heart – Part Three

Proverbs 4:23 says to “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”  The NLT says it this way, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

If that’s true (and it is) then we have to also believe there are some things worth fighting for.  There are some things that are not worth fighting for. There are people I’m not going to fight against.  I’m not going to pick up arms against my own family, my spouse, my kids, my teacher, my supervisor, or the guy writing me a ticket.

Because ultimately, the goal is bigger.  There is more than just “behavior management” at stake.  There is more than a “quiet evening at home” at stake.  There’s more than “can’t we just get through one more day” at stake.

People’s eternal relationships are stake.  A life of knowing and following Jesus is at stake. A life of passionately becoming what God has called you to be is at stake.

More than anything, I have to fight for the heart.

Fight for the Heart – Part Two

When I look in the Bible, I see lots of fighting.  There’s all kinds of battles, wars and attacks in Scripture.  In the Old Testament, there’s battles against Israel.  The entire book of Judges seems to just be one great war story after another.

Even after Israel demands a king for itself as a nation, the wars continue.  Saul and David had their share of bloodshed.  Solomon alone reigned in peace.  And then the kingdom is split in two.  God’s people were on two different tracks despite God being faithful to every promise.

Then everything shifts.  Jesus comes to earth.  The Son of God comes to us and tells us to think differently about everything.  “You have heard an eye for an eye, but I’m telling you that when someone hits you, turn and let them hit you on the other side of your face too.”  Jesus was crazy.

Or was he?

I think he was trying to teach us that we are not going to accomplish much fighting against each other.  But if we stand for what we do believe, for the value of eternal life and one that is passionate about Jesus, those are things we can fight against together.

The apostle Paul said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

We have an enemy. But our enemy is not in our own family.  Our enemy is something that lurks not inside of flesh and blood.  It’s a force that threatens to keep us from knowing Jesus.  It’s a force that wants to keep us  from loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  It’s a force that wants to bind our passion to love others more than ourselves.

(to be continued…)

Fight for the Heart – Part One

Last night I watched one of the great Disney classics – “Bambi.” It’s one of those movies that, as a kid, made you really hate hunting.

There is one part in particular that stood out to me this time. Bambi is a little more gown up and he’s hanging out with his girlfriend Faline. They have enjoyed a nice quiet evening together frolicking in the meadow while a chorus sings in the background. Then, out of nowhere, without any warning, comes along another young buck. And he tries to steal Faline from Bambi. And of course, Bambi with his new antlers goes charging in.

I think to myself – wow. That is our life, isn’t it? We have people in our lives, kids, parents, spouses, and we love them greatly. And then sometimes it seems that out of nowhere someone or something comes along to steal them away, to get them to turn down a path we know is dangerous or one that is not what God has set out for them.

The question is, really, will we fight for their heart? Is it worth it? Do we love our kids enough that we would fight against the influences in their world that are the opposite of God’s truth? Do we love our spouse enough that we would do whatever it takes to win his/her heart every day? Is it worth fighting for?

(to be continued…)

Operation: Sweet Dreams

One of our second graders at Journey Kids: UPTOWN wanted to do a service project and came up with a great idea.  She asked if she could share it with the rest of our UPTOWN kids and they have ran with it.

Yesterday, I got a call from another second grader who had taken the idea to his school.  They also embraced it and within two days they had collected thousands of bags!

The idea is Operation: Sweet Dreams.  The bags will be crocheted into sleeping mats for the homeless. You can’t tell in the video, but these mats are incredibly sturdy and thick.  In fact, when I saw this one in the box, I thought it was a welcome mat at first because it had the weight of one.  Only when I looked closer did I realize it was actually hundreds of plastic bags woven together.

Take a look!

 

Kidmin Plants

This weekend, I had the great privilege of going to Relationship Church.  Tim Epling, pastor of Relationship Church, interned with Jimmy Carroll through the TCPN.  So, Journey had invested some people, time, and resources into planting Relationship Church.

 

Additionally, the children’s minister there, Katie, once served in Journey Kids.  So, it was great to see her and see what God was doing there.  When she asked if I would come and be with them for the morning, and then hold a little meeting after the services, I was humbled and excited! Fortunately, we have a great team in place at Journey that allowed me to go visit with them.

 

In just a few short months, this church plant has grown from about 10 kids to 40 coming rather consistently.  Also, they have a tremendous team of volunteers in their kidmin that arrive early, set-up, prepare, love and teach kids, then tear down again.

 

It took me back a bit to remember when Journey was a church plant.  I recalled when we had “27 kids!” and how that seemed like a big Sunday.  Since then, I’ve learned that “big” is entirely relative.  So, I try to toss it out of my vocabulary!

 

The number isn’t important unless you tie each number to people, and realize those are children whose lives are being shaped in your ministry.  Those kids have parents or guardians that are influencing their lives as well.

 

Whether a church plant, or a church body that’s been around for 70 years, the real question is what are you investing in people?  Does it carry eternal weight?  Does it make the name of Jesus famous in the lives of children, parents, and families?

 

Happy Birthday Mom!

My mom turns 29 years old today.  

I love my parents a lot.  Growing up, they were an example of a couple that loved each other, that loved their kids, and loved Jesus.

My mom is someone I admire a lot.  She has worked hard in her life and I have seen her influence on hundreds of lives simply because she said “yes” to letting God use her in whatever way He saw fit.  She always encouraged me to believe that I could be more than what I was limiting myself to, and that with God ALL things are possible.

My mom has a great spirit, and believes that Jesus was not lying when He told us what the two greatest commandments were.  As a result, she tries to model those daily and live as an example to her kids and now her grandkids!

Happy birthday mom! We love you!

 

Why CampKidJam?

You should know I’m picky about camps for kids.  I’m not so concerned about the where and what as I am about the why and how in a camp for kids.

Two days after I graduated from high school, I went to work at a summer camp.  God used that time in my life to instill in me a knowledge and experience of what matters in children’s ministry and how to communicate with kids.  I also came away with ideas of how children’s ministry should look and what it should not be.

Fast forward eight years to my first year at CampKidJam.  We took our kids there to try something new.  We had been going to another camp that our kids loved but because of the calendar and other circumstances, it would no longer be feasible for us to go.

CampKidJam is an Orange camp.  It builds on the same philosophy of 252Basics which we use on a weekly basis at Journey.  Still I was skeptical.  Could it really hold up to the energy and thrill of a more traditional week long camp?  Would our kids respond to a camp in a university setting instead of a outdoor setting?  I hoped so.  If my philosophy was true, that “where” or “what” didn’t matter as much as “why” and “how” then we would be in good shape.

And it didn’t disappoint.  In fact, in just three days of camp I was more exhausted than I had been in all my years of six-day camps. But the true test would come a few weeks later when I asked the kids that went if they remembered what they had learned.

They had.  And more than that, they were reading their bible more.  They were praying more.  They came back changed.

This summer, we will be going back to CampKidJam.  I hope to take more kids than we have ever taken.  It’s worth more than I can say.

Make It Personal: Joe’s Elf Video

I realize I’m late in posting this.  But I have to do it while I’m thinking of it.

Our last FUSION was about how to Make it Personal.  When we as followers, parents, kids, and families, make our faith personal, it allows us to pass that on to other people.

Joe serves on our UPTOWN team and graciously agreed to don a Buddy the Elf costume, in an attempt to make some Christmas cheer personal and in turn, spread some cheer around.  The result was a trip to the mall.

Our next FUSION Family Worship Experience will help us Fight for the Heart on February 17th.