June 30, 2010

Guatemala 2010

Well, here we go. About to hit the bed, get up in the morning and head to Guatemala. Not sure I'll even get any sleep. I am excited, nervous, freaked, and trying to steady a wave of emotions that I'm not even sure how to identify. The reason: simple. The Lord has been breaking my heart and shaking my shell the last several years for the orphan - for children all over the world who have no one to call "Daddy" and nowhere to call "home". And tomorrow...I'm headed to Amor del Nino, a childrens home in the heart of this Central American country. And I believe the Lord has plans.

Right now my prayer is simple: Lord, keep my eyes and heart open to any and every opportunity You place in front of me. Give me the opportunity to speak Your Name and share the Gospel with someone - ANYONE - in need of You!

I appreciate you joining our team by praying with us & for us.
Updates to come......

June 21, 2010

Pray For Ellie!

Yesterday was Father's Day. It's amazing how your perspective of a day changes so quickly. I remember the summer of 2002, when Morgan was pregnant with my little princess, Libby. The anticipation of her arriving in this world was enough to shoot me to the moon! And of course the years following - having the most amazing wife in the world and BOTH of my children in my life - just keep getting better. But these last two Father's Days I've had to marry the joy of sharing it with my children while thinking about the fact that my Dad is no longer here. December 19, 2008, the Lord decided that Dad had fought his cancer long enough. He went home!

This has all become even more significant in my life the last few days because of Ellie, an 8 year old princess who's fighting for her life. My Dad had a very rare for of cancer called Sarcoma - the same cancer that his mother fought. When my grandmother took the "experimental" drug (in the late 70's) that my Dad was given, she had to sign a release that said she understood the drug could plain-flat kill her. Period. The tumor that Dad had removed from his hip in January of 2007 was (and I quote the surgeon) the "size of a Nerf football"! That was a bit of information I wished I had never asked for. Again, the reason that this Father's Day my heart was heavy is because this sweet little 8 year old - who's just months older than my little girl - is fighting this same uninvited monster that my Dad fought. And it's taking her life!

I want to ask you to join me in praying for Ellie, her parents and her twin sister. Here is their website on Caring Bridge: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/elliepotvin

I know there are children everywhere of all ages fighting cancer, showing strength and courage that many of us presume to know nothing of, but this little girl's fight has hit way too close to home for me. I appreciate you praying!

June 16, 2010

God Doesn't Argue!

I wanted to be a rock star. If you know me, this is not hard to believe. If you know me well, you already knew this! There's a reason Dylan sang about "3 chords and the truth". Millions who are simply armed with a fraction of musical ability and a morsel of conviction and zeal for what they believe set out down this path. And eventually wind up walking home, tail between their legs, feeling like they've just been handed a Simon Cowell beat down! But hey, reach for the stars, right!?

When it became clear to everyone (except me) that the Lord had put me on this earth for other things - specifically to serve him and make disciples - I didn't get the memo. Actually, it was more like I got it, I just wouldn't read it. It was wadded up in my back seat with gum stuck to it. Even after I moved my wife 300 miles north of our families, taken on a position as a full-time youth pastor (which was one of the greatest decisions of my life), I still spent a year in silent protest with God about His misguided plans for me. The way I saw it, HE was the one not getting the memo! And then one very dreary January day in the year 2000, I had finally had enough. I pulled my car over to the side of the road and began to let God know that it was time we had it out about this. I'm not sure, but I think I was having one of those "I'm going to draw a line in the sand" moments. But what wound up happening was He was the one who drew the line in the sand. A very big, clear, deep, fat line...right down the middle of my beach. It was time to decide: Am I going to wholeheartedly pour my life into this - into the lives of these amazing students and people - or am I going to keep second guessing God and being of no use to anyone?
[Fast-forward to this morning - reading in 1 Kings 19]

When Elijah meets with the Lord on the mountain - when he finally shuts up and humbly hears the "still small voice" of God - he's told to go and find Elisha and anoint him to be his replacement as God's prophet. When Elijah finds Elisha out plowing a field, he simply walks over to him, throws his cloak across his shoulder, and walks away. Elisha knows what this means. This is Elijah telling him, "I'm transferring my authority and responsibility over to you!" This is a BIG deal! Scripture tells us that he leaves his oxen, goes and tells his parents, "Peace out. Love you Momma and Daddy!" (my translation), and then (without hesitation) he "returned to his oxen, killed them, and used the wood from the plow to build a fire and roast their flesh." The plowmen were eatin' good in the neighborhood that night! Elisha was done.

The reason this speaks so vividly to me even now is because 10 years ago I wasted a year of my life dragging "my oxen" behind me! Elisha made the decision. He severed the ties. Burned the ships. He took those oxen - he took any thought of halfhearted commitment or second-guessing - and slaughtered it right there in that field. Can you imagine if he'd shown up at Elijah's house with all his oxen? Awkward! Yet, how many of us SAY we're letting go and stepping out in faith in the direction we believe the Lord is leading us...all the while still hanging on to what we want, what we think we deserve, or simply what we know?

I would say that God won the argument in the car that day, but it wasn't an argument. God doesn't argue. We do. He was simply asking me, "Are you ready to get to work? Are you finally ready to kill the oxen?" Looking back, I'm very thankful that I finally slaughtered those ugly beasts!

June 14, 2010

Are You Full? Are You Sure?

As I look back, I am inclined to believe that the sermon I preached yesterday might be one of the most important I have ever preached (or will ever for that matter). I've read the story of Stephen countless times - and probably heard more sermons over it than that. But the thing that struck me about Stephen more than anything is that Luke described him 3 times as being a man who was "FULL". And as I meditated on that over and over last week, the Lord continually hammered something home in me: You can't be "FULL" unless you're being "FILLED". Period.

I think that most of us as Christians have grotesquely underestimated the Holy Spirit! It seems like we think of HIM as an IT - and we don't even think about IT unless we need IT to come and help us out or answer some request we have. The Holy Spirit is a person - He is GOD - the Spirit of God - the One that Jesus told His disciples, "I'm going to need to leave you so that I can send you the Counselor". In other words, God-in-the-flesh was telling his inner circle, "You NEED me to go so that HE can come!" (Brian paraphrase) And as you see in Luke 21:5-15, Jesus is explaining to them that this Temple is not needed for anyone to find my presence because when I send the Counselor, He's going to reside IN YOU! He's going to come and FILL YOU. Not once, but constantly. And you can't be FULL unless you're being FILLED.

My prayer for us as Christ-followers is that we are daily in pursuit of living Spirit-filled lives. And as we do, we'll begin seeing things others can't see, finding peace in situations and circumstances where others only see chaos (check out John 14:15-29), and seizing opportunities to impact others lives for the Kingdom. But if this is to happen, the essential ingredient - hold onto your hat - is the Word of God. Paul explains in Ephesians 6:17 that the "sword of the Spirit...is the Word of God". Here's the kicker: God isn't going to fill you so that you'll get into His Word. He fills you WHEN you get into His Word! And another nugget of truth for us: when we're living Spirit-filled lives, the Word of God begins to pour out of us. But the divine irony is that the way we're filled is by the Word of God being poured INTO us! It's the beautiful, incomprehensible way that the Creator and Redeemer chooses to speak to us, lead us, and use us for His glory!

Are you living a FULL life? Do you want to? More to come....

June 8, 2010

SURVIVE: 10 Years Later!

Somewhere in life you cross this invisible line and begin to be a little more nostalgic. I guess it's all about experience. And probably not necessarily the number or years of experience, but the quality of the road you walk and the journey along the way. Yesterday was no exception for me. A flood of memories came washing over me, bringing me to laughter and even some tears of joy. The years I spent as a youth pastor - 10+ of them in one place - brought me opportunities and experiences that changed my life forever. And as the students here at our church left for camp yesterday morning, this brought to mind the experience and event that was probably more mind-blowing and life-changing than all the others put together: Survive!

It was 10 years ago this week that we loaded up for the first time and headed out to Shepherd of the Ozarks in Arkansas. I had this vision birthed in my mind of what I thought "camp" should look like, and as I visited this place the winter before the Lord affirmed to me that this was the place to come and make it happen. I had no idea that God would take my dreams and expectations and blow them out of the water! 

Our week together in the mountains was all about one thing: TRIBE! And this (I believe) is what set the tone for the foundation of our youth ministry: FAMILY! This was not about putting up with each other, but fighting for each other. It was an opportunity to discover that true worship is found in the vulnerable moments of standing before the Lord (and each other), stripped bare of pride and self-centeredness. There are specific moments that I can recall, standing in the great room of a log cabin, guitar wrapped around me, tears flowing down my face, believing that if the Spirit of the God was any more present it might knock me to the ground. So many moments of comfort and others filled with conviction. Moments that could have never been manufactured by any human - or even preconceived for that matter. They were life-changing!

The week of Survive was not just about being spiritually challenged, but also being physically pushed to limits that you wouldn't push yourself. I saw students who got on the bus to go to camp who "couldn't swim" run down a river bed, dive under water and retrieve a boulder. There were students who were petrified of heights who - holding the hand of a friend - took a leap off an 18-foot cliff. Kids, who probably would have spent the week sitting on the couch, eating Cheetos, watching TV or playing X-Box, who were instead hooked to a rope with their tribe, trying to find their way out of the woods. Mind-blowing! And more than anything, what I saw year after year, moment after moment, was Jesus words in John 13:34-35 being cemented into the hearts and lives of our students and leaders: "The world will know you are mine by your love for one another". And there is nothing better than seeing God's people begin to believe this and live it out!

I hope that many of you who experienced Survive - whether it was just for one summer or all of them - will spend some moments reflecting on what the Lord did in your lives there. I would love to hear some of the memories you have. I know many of your memories are probably filled with Jeff Mangum and Nathan Hubble - two of my greatest friends! Or you may be so old school that you remember Jarrod being there those first 2 years - or remember my poor brother running up and down the river all those summers trying to video every move we made. (And God help me, I thought I was going to kill him if he videoed one more thing!) Physical, relational, spiritual - there are so many life-changing memories. 

So, at the risk of sounding "nostalgic" after all these years, I'd love to ask you one last time: "Do you have what it takes...to SURVIVE?"