Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's - Push the Pause Button

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Ferris Bueller

Happy New Year!

Today and tomorrow is a wonderful time to meditate and reflect on life. 2011 has brought blessing, struggle, disappointment and joy.

That's life isn't it?

There's something important about remembering. Did you experience great victories in 2011? Where did you see the hand of God clearly in your life? Were there times of great struggle and failure?

For me, the answer is a resounding YES!

Today or tomorrow take some significant time to push the pause button and reflect. Here are some ideas.

1. Look through your calendar or journal

There's no way I can remember last week much less the 3rd week of January. If you journal this is a great wonderful time to skim through your thoughts from last year. Your calendar is another way to stop and remember. Whatever you use, work though 2011 slowly and think about how you spent your time and energy.

As you look over last year some events will jump out at you. As these special events jump off the page, slow down and reflect.

2. Stop and give thanks

After taking a stroll down memory lane stop and thank God for all the blessings. Remember, some times blessings don't seem that way when you're going through life. Sometimes looking back can bring difficult circumstance in to focus. "In all things give thanks."

3. Embrace your failure

As you honestly reflect there will be times of regret. Be honest with yourself.

I plan to own up to my struggle and failure, once again tell God I'm sorry and ask for his grace and power to grow in 2012. You may need to pick up the phone and call someone you've wronged. Whatever the case, use this as an opportunity to apply God's grace to your life not to sit in shame.

4. Jot down 3-5 hopes for 2012

Ok, this is a little different than New Year resolutions. Where do you hope to see the hand of God in your life and your loved ones next year?

Some of these hopes may be simple like, "I hope to spend more meaningful time with my wife". Or they may be "bhag" hopes. (big, audacious, hairy goals). Wherever God takes your thoughts and imagination make sure you're depending on the power of the gospel not your effort.

5. Share your hopes

We need prayer. Hopefully you have some people close to you who will share in your desires for 2012. If not, maybe that could be one of your "hopes"? Find a couple people to share what you're praying for in 2012.

Life happens at the speed of sound. Let's use this holiday as an excuse to stop, reflect and connect with a God who has been and will be gracious.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top 9 in 2011

Everybody's doing it. So to keep up with the Jones'...

Why just 9 you ask? Well honestly, I'm not sure what the 10th most read blog of 2011 is.

So here are 9 most read posts of 2011. They're probably at the top because my mom read them over and over again, thanks mom!

Number 9

This was written while sitting in a hotel in Honduras at the end of leading a trip with high school students. It was an amazing experience but as usual I had a big questions.

Number 8

Our high school pastor Trey Grant does a great job challenging students to empathize with the poor. This a letter from a parent who was involved.

Number 7

My daughter's 16th birthday was this year. This is about / for her.

Number 6

After hearing stories of Godly men committing public sin, I was reminded of my own frailty and potential collision course with scandalous sexual sin.

Number 5

One of the greatest struggles teens have is navigating how they will handle their relationships with the opposite sex. It effects all their relationships; parents, friends and God.

Number 4

How can small group leaders serve their students through the summer? Here's a note our highs school ministry sent to our leaders.

Number 3

This is simply our information sheet on how we do our 2 year internships at IBC.

Number 2

When on vacation I watched most of this TV series. It impacted me at a deep level. There's more to come on this as I've now finished every episode.

Number 1

This was a short email sent to the IBC staff the morning after one of our students, Jha'Kyric Nixon drowned. That night I led a candle night service. 1 week later I had the privilege of officiating the funeral. God did a magnificent work but students are still hurting today.

Wow, what a year. Can I encourage you to take some time and reflect on your year? Maybe sit down with your calendar and look through the year to remember God's blessing. Of course there where hard times, but remembering God's goodness at the end of the year helps launch us into a grace filled new year.

Happy 2012!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christ with Us - Spurgeon

"He is as surely with us now as He was with the disciples at the lake, when they saw coals of fire, and fish laid thereon and bread. Not carnally, but still in real truth, Jesus is with us. And a blessed truth it is, for where Jesus is, love becomes inflamed."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Sign of Christmas

Our arts team at Irving Bible Church came together to produce this whimsical short film for Christmas. Enjoy, and a very Merry Christmas to you!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Advent, Much More than the Manger

Believe it or not, my family believes I'm a Scrooge.  To be honest so much of the materialistic focus of Christmas makes me irritable BUT I love the mystery of the Advent Season.  It seems the invisible layer separating heaven and earth becomes a little thinner during the Christmas season.

Every year I learn more and more about the richness of the Christmas season. Last year I worked my way through Shawn Small's book "Via Advent" which added so much depth to my Advent meditation.  I'm pondering visiting Shawn's book again this Christmas.

This Advent season has also been full of new learnings. A few weeks ago I was chatting with a Catholic youth director friend. I was curious about some of his church's advent traditions. We began to discuss how Advent is a celebration of the "3 comings of Christ".

Of course the first coming is what we celebrate in the manger. And I knew about a second coming in the future but what is this third coming? Personally I had never thought about Advent being much more than meditating on and celebrating the birth of baby Jesus.

Below is an excerpt from a sermon of St Bernard of Clairvaux. He was a very influential monk born in France in 1090 A.D. He was a noble who chose to abandon his life of privilege for the ministry.

Meditate on his words below as he describes the 3 comings of Christ as we reflect this Advent season.

We know that there are three comings of the Lord.

The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible.

In the first coming he was seen on earth, dwelling among men; he himself testifies that they saw him and hated him.
In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they pierced.
The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved.

In his first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty.

For most, Christmas is simply about baby Jesus but a closer reflection gives the season greater richness.

You may want to reflect on the "3 comings" through this little prayer exercise.

First Coming - Prayer of Gratitude
"Jesus, thank you for leaving the comfort of heaven to clothe yourself in human flesh..."

Gal 4:4-5
4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

Second Coming - Prayer of Awareness
"Jesus, remind me of the power of your presence in my life, for when I received you I became a son or daughter of God. Help me to recognize the mystery of "Christ in me the hope of glory"".

Col 1:27
27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Third Coming - Prayer of Longing
"Jesus, we long for the time when you return to make everything new. We live in a constant state of waiting"

Rev 21:4-5
4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."


So as we think about the first coming of our Lord, let's not forget his second coming into our hearts. And may we eagerly look forward to when he comes again in glory.

Even so, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Social Network Christmas

I'm not sure why, but this media presentation makes me a little emotional. Perhaps it brings the story of Christmas a little closer to real life.

Sometimes it's difficult to imagine this stuff REALLY happened.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Humility in Leadership

Collaborative leadership, which must be humble leadership, is something we should think about and seek.

I'm reading "Church Unique" and came across this amazing quote on leadership. It's from an ancient Chinese philosopher.

A leader is best when people are hardly aware of his (or her) existence, not good when people praise his government, less good when people stand in fear, worst when people are contemptuous. Fail to honor people, and they will fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who speaks little, when his task is accomplished, his work done, the people say, "We did it ourselves!"

This quote haunts and challenges me. Left to myself I will always want to be the center of attention and praise.

May we be leaders who collaborate, avoid the spotlight and seem invisible.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Single Parent Ministry

Single parents have unique needs that sometimes aren't met through traditional children or student ministries.

I'm blessed to work with some great leaders who serve single parent families. A question we constantly ask is, "what can single parent ministry accomplish that other ministry doesn't".

Jennifer does great job leading single parent ministry at IBC. Here's an email I received from her describing a special event this ministry provides every Christmas Season.

Good morning!

Yesterday Single Parent Ministry hosted 140 children for our annual Christmas Mall. If you aren’t sure what that even is, I will tell you.
J Each year we set up a “mall” in the Commons for children of single parent families to choose gifts to give their primary care givers. It might be mom and dad, mom and grandma or any other combination you can come up with. We start them off with a hot breakfast prepared by Kelly Haney, Dean Andree and team. From there, they are put into small groups with 2 adult leaders to rotate through other stations.

They choose gifts, wrap gifts, make Christmas Cards, decorate sugar cookies, make a holiday craft and visit with Santa. We also run Christmas movies on the big screens for them to watch while in between stations. What does it take to pull off an event like this you ask? How about 65 volunteers, 30 dozen eggs, 40 lbs of bacon, 20 jars of sprinkles, 200 candy canes, 200 sugar cookies and 2 gallons of icing just to start.

We had many new faces attend this event this year, and two families that came together and wanted to rotate through the stations together. One family had been to IBC twice, heard the announcement last Sunday and thought they would try it out. The children were older then our typical crowd, but they all seemed to enjoy being together and having fun! They really loved how IBC is the hands and feet of Jesus in the community!

On another note…one of our single moms that came through On Track this fall listened to another mom’s struggle through a custody case and really wanted to do something to help with her legal fees. Her 10 year old daughter thought they should hold a garage sale, so they decided to get the word out, named their project “In His Love”, and secured a location…the IBC parking lot. They held it on Saturday, and aside from raising over $1400, they met a man from Jerusalem. He is Muslim and purchased about $400 worth of goods. During his shopping trip they were able to chat with him a bit, and one of the men there was able to witness to him.

I would say that God had his hands ALL over the single parent ministry this weekend, and He provided in many ways to many people. The joy on the faces of children enjoying the holiday season and not having any worries for at least one day makes it all worth it. The parents get a morning off to themselves to refresh, relax or prepare for the holidays. The gratitude I have for each hand that helped make this weekend happen is more than I can express.

Merry Christmas!

I hope this encourages you as you're perhaps thinking about how to better serve single parents in your setting.

Also, would love to hear how you are serving single parents in your setting. What have you do that's encouraged single parents?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Adult Volunteer Christmas Party

We can never say "thank you" enough.

Our student ministry rises and falls on the service of our adult leaders. We continually pray that God will raise up Godly leaders who will serve life on life with students. If you're a relationally driven ministry you do the same thing.

Our adults are busy. It's a delicate balance to get time with them and serve them well. How do you train and serve them personally without requiring too much time in addition to their investment with students?

Sometimes we do it well, sometimes we don't.

Over the last few years we've found that a Thursday night Christmas party is one of the best ways to honor them and say "thank you".

Last year we went a little radical by taking everyone to a karaoke restaurant. It was epic and someday we'll do it again.

This year was a little more "traditional". We invited our leaders and their "significant others" to a catered dinner at a nice home. Our time was heavy on relationship and very light on programming. Sometimes it's just good to be together.

Here are some of the details...

  • We provided every leader with a small gift that was nicely wrapped...
  • There was a professional photographer to take pictures of individuals and couples...
  • We presented a short video of our students saying "thank you" to leaders...
  • I spent a few minutes sharing a story about how life on life investment makes a difference...
  • We recognized leaders who have served 3 years or longer...
  • We had great food and beverage...
  • "Thank you" was said over and over again...

There was only about 10 - 15 minutes of programming. Most of our time was spent chatting, playing ping pong or doing karaoke (we have some performers).

Our hope and prayer is that our leaders walked away encouraged, inspired and appreciated. When we tell them our ministry doesn't exist without them we really mean it.

I want to continually pray and dream of ways to serve them well. Here's a questions we all must wrestle with.

Do our volunteer leaders feel served by us or do the feel used by us?

So, put your money where your mouth is. If you're a life on life ministry do a quick assessment to see where your time and money is going. If there isn't consistent time and money spent on encouraging and training your leaders think about where you can adjust a little to invest deeply in them.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Introducing "Parenting at IBC"

I’ve always wondered why someone didn’t give me an owner’s manual when my first son was born. Even after being a Dad to four, I still run into challenges where some kind of advance notice or “how-to” would save me from making a mistake. With so much that’s at stake as a parent let’s face it: we can use all the help we can get.

It certainly seems that I’m not alone in my desire to become a better parent. Over the last months I’ve had no fewer than ten discussions with parents who desire to raise their children well. There’s clearly a need for excellent training and connection for parents both at IBC and in our area and we are proud to offer just such a resource in our new series of parenting events we’re calling “Parenting at IBC”.

Parenting at IBC includes three types of gatherings that will connect you with other parents and provide excellent training and resources.

1. Half Day Gathering

On February 4th we’ll host our first “large event” where Dan Webster, an expert in training and coaching pastors, youth pastors and parents will be with us to discuss the uniqueness of our kids. Dan has over 30 years of experience and is a gifted communicator in bringing clear teaching and authenticity to those he serves. The training and interaction will be suitable for parents of any aged child, birth through college. After Dan speaks we’ll break into age groups for further training and interaction.

The event will be from 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at IBC.

2. Sunday Nights

At Sunday night events you’ll get answers to practical questions you may have about parenting. Questions like, “What does appropriate discipline look like?” or “Should my seven year old have an iPhone?” and “How do I handle technology?” We plan to offer four of these Sunday night gatherings during 2012.

3. Small Groups

In addition to Parenting at IBC large events, we are working to develop an eight to ten week small group curriculum that will help you get to the heart of Biblical parenting while you interact with other parents who are seeking similar direction. We hope to pilot a few groups this summer.

As we prepare to launch Parenting at IBC here are some key thoughts…

· Parenting at IBC is designed with parents of all ages in mind, so whether you’re the parent of a six month old or a 16 year old, we’re thinking through how to best connect and encourage you.

· We are working hard to make sure each gathering is planned and implemented with a high level of excellence. No one has extra time. We want you to walk away from each gathering encouraged and equipped.

· Parenting at IBC is not just for you. Each of us have relationships with other families who need encouragement in this area. Sure, we’re going to be presenting content that is Christ based but we believe that each Parenting at IBC event will provide great encouragement for all parents, even those who don’t know Jesus yet.

So, mark your calendars. February 4, 2012 will be a great opportunity to grow together as we become better equipped to serve our children.