My name is Steve not Mr. Wilson!

So it happens everytime I meet someone new.  Well at least at Church.  Actually it never seems to happen in public. At Church and especially school people want to call me Mr. Wilson.  My normal response to this is turn around and11947697_1147243708622293_2077133576210456602_n look for my father. (Actually I look for my grandpa but since he is with Jesus I assume they must be talking about my Dad)  You see I really do want you and your children to call me Steve. In fact to the students who have known me best it is often Steve-OOOOOOOOOOO in a very loud voice…but I digress. I have a reason I want to be called Steve and not Mr. Wilson. By the way it has nothing to do with not wanting to be old.

So why do I do it?  The reason I want to be called Steve is because I want to have a different relationship with you that Mr. Wilson can’t. I do it because I want to have a relationship like Jesus did with his disciples.  I want you to have a relationship with me that goes beyond authority figure or someone you can’t talk with. No I am not your best friend but I am also not your authoritative principal. I want you to know I care for you. I want your child to know I care for them.  I never want them to be scared to come to me and ask the most ridiculous question in the world or tell me their deepest darkest secret.  I want them to know we are walking as disciples together.  We are equals in faith and by calling me Steve I think it shows we are on an equal plain and able to talk with.

I know many parents who teach there children to call adults by Mr. or Mrs. as a sign of respect.  I do it for my own kids but here is the thing.  I believe it is respectful for you and your children to call me Steve because I have told you to do it. So please don’t get mad at Jimmy or Jenny for calling me Steve. I told them to.  I wanted to be in relationship as fellow disciples.  I have never heard of Jesus telling people to call him Mr. Jesus in fact he seemed to go out of his way to get them to call Him Jesus.

Disclaimer: This is not a post about anyone. This is my thing.  If you want to be called Mr. Blah by all means do that.  I am not trying to call others to do the same…Well I guess I am but not with the Mr. or Mrs. thing just the be in relationship with each other thing, sharing Jesus.

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Sleeping on an air mattress, following Jesus can be uncomfortable!

wpid-wp-1441706854917.jpgI miss my bed.  I miss how it makes me feel.  I would like just once to wake up in my own house on my own bed next to my wife and not have a kink in my back and neck. My new chiropractor loves this by the way. (Not really but we have gotten to know each other rather well these last few weeks based on the number of times he has popped my body back in place.)  Needless to say it has been a uncomfortable few weeks.

Beyond the aches and pains I started at a new ministry.  I traveled back and forth to sell and buy a house.  I have lived with my in-laws for almost 6 weeks now.  I went from a 5 minute commute to work to over 45 minutes when traffic is good. I went from knowing everyone’s names to knowing almost no ones.(cue Cheers music)  OH and my wife is living in Grand Rapids and i see her on the weekends.  Needless to say everything is different.  Life has become uncomfortable and I am ok with it.

I do like life to be comfortable.  I like to have a routine. I like things to be predictable. I really like to sleep in my own bed with my wife.  However being uncomfortable has helped me know Jesus.  Over 3 months ago my life was flipped on end.  I said goodbye to some amazing people.  I am serving in a new ministry.  It isn’t comfortable but it is exactly where God needs me to be.  Worship, prayer, and everything else is in my faith life is different.  Jesus is in control and for that I am grateful.

So why bring up being uncomfortable. Is it so you can feel sorry for me? Is it so you can comment on this post and say we are praying for you or can we help? (please do pray for me and my children.) Really that isn’t the point. The point is being uncomfortable in this faith walk is a good thing.  It reminds me of God and His work in my life.  It reminds me that no matter how much I have planned and how comfortable I am He seems to find a way to make me uncomfortable so I can trust in Him, so I can follow Him.

When we get comfortable I think we tend to trust in ourselves.  We trust in our choices, and abilities instead of trusting in Him.  We trust our good fortune, or luck.  We trust in everything but Jesus.  We look to everything but Jesus. Here is the thing. We need Jesus.  We need Him in His word, and sacrament. We need Him in our prayer life.  We need Him in everything. Being uncomfortable has reminded me of Jesus’ work for me.  Thank you Jesus for reminding me of my need for you.  Thanks for making me uncomfortable!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV

Stop singing in Church…No make a joyful noise

20150612_131958So I cant sing.  I am actually maybe the worst singer ever.  This past Sunday my wife commented to me that I should try not to sing out because I could scare the people around me. (this was in jest)  Once when I was in college at chapel I sat between two choir members and they both asked if I could stop singing for one of the verses because I was so off key it was throwing them off.  I am bad and I know it. On occasion at Church I leave my mic on and others know it, but I still sing.  This blog post has nothing to do with others joking comments. I don’t think anyone of them was seriously asking me to not sing just having some playful banter.

I think everyone should sing in Church.  I think everyone should be an active participant in the worship service.  I sit in the front row of Church and often sit where I can see most of the men and women in my Church skipping the singing part.  This by the way has nothing to do with contemporary or traditional worship services.  Sure sometime the key for the song is unsingable or the hymn uses words no one understands or can sing.  We may have many reasons people don’t sing but if you are not doing it because you are an awful singer please listen up.

The saddest reason I think people don’t sing is because they think they sound terrible.  They are afraid to sing out because they don’t want to be embarrassed.  Well let me tell you something I know as a youth guy.  Your kids are watching.  Your boys sitting in the pew are watching you mom and dad.  They are watching you and thinking Dad thinks this Church thing is dumb, so we think it is dumb.  Mom doesn’t sing so we can check out of this Church thing. Please, please, please sing.  Mom, dad, grandpa, and grandma please sing.  It is better for you to be involved worship, but most important it shows those young people around you that you care about this Jesus.  I know you know and love Jesus. I really want you to show that to others by being involved.  Sing loud and praise the Lord.

In college my favorite line a friend Rev. Dave Herald  and I used to say.  “If you have a good voice sing loud and praise God…If you have a horrible voice sing loud and get back at him!”  Enjoy God’s gift of song, sing to the lord and receive his blessings through the worship services.  Help lead by example to our young people that this Jesus who came and died for us is worth giving praise in response to his good gifts.

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Psalm 95:1 ESV

Walking together…The joy of ministry and sorrow of ministry

DSC_0093This past weekend I was asked to speak the message at a former student’s wedding.  It was truly an honor to be a part of her, and her husband’s special day.  It really made me think about all the students God has lead across my path over the last almost 12 years.  It has made me think about what I love most about being in ministry.  I love walking alongside people. I get the greatest joy of walking along side people and sharing Jesus with them. Sometimes with great joy and sometimes with great sadness. Most of the time it is both.

Speaking at Emily’s wedding reminded me of the messiness of walking with people. You see at Emily’s wedding it rained during the whole outside wedding ceremony. I am not talking about that kind of rain that just gets you wet but the kind that leaves you drenched.  My suit was dripping and I couldn’t see for part of the message because water was just running down my face. I was reminded that walking with students isn’t always easy. It can be quite messy. You know when it is all said and done it is quite rewarding.  You get to see two people join as one to follow Jesus together.  You get to see lives changed and you get to laugh at the craziness of life and enjoy the moments for what they are.  Moments where Jesus can bring joy in the midst of hardships. It did make it much easier to talk with them about being children of God through baptism because I had such a great object lesson.

This weekend also marked another tough moment in ministry.  A student who I met a few times and is friends with some of the students I know well, ended his life.  It was a tough way to end a weekend.  I also thought is was emblematic of ministry.  God lets us walk with students in the good times and we also have to walk through the tough stuff as well.  I am reminded that Jesus calls us to walk in the lows and the highs, in the sorrow and joys but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I will have another post later about this week with students and about this young man. So as I end I would ask for prayers first for the couple who is starting a new life and second for the family grieving today. Ministry is tough and walking with families isn’t always easy but Jesus reminds us of his unfailing love through all of it.

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance

Ecclesiastes 3:4 ESV

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust: The connection to the cross, and baptism!

Created with Microsoft Fresh PaintTomorrow I get to lead chapel at my Church School. Tomorrow is ash Wednesday and that has me thinking deeply today.  Many of the children who will be here will experience imposition of ashes.  My prayer tomorrow is that many of our students will take the time in worship to remember their sin and more importantly be reminded of the eternal life won for us on the cross, and given to us in our baptism as we are connected to the cross.

I know many people don’t like the imposition of ashes because of Jesus’ words in Matthew  6 about keeping our prayers and fasting to ourselves and not to show it off.  Jesus is obviously right, and if the goal of ashes is to show the world we are repentant or how good of a Christian we are we have failed.

The purpose of the ashes placed on us is to remind us of our sin, remind us that without Jesus we are dust and without him we will continue to be dust forever.  I love that in that moment. When we are brought to the realization of our brokenness.  The part I think is more important and often overlooked is we are given the sign of the cross.  The same sign we were given at our baptism.  That this is not our end. We are not just dust but we are God’s child.  We are the ones who are connected by baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection. You have eternal life today in Jesus and forever more.  As we spend the next 40 days in a time of reflection on our sin we must not forget these two truths.

Tomorrow as you are reminded of your sin, and the death it brings, remember the life that comes in life with Jesus.

  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.  2 Corinthians 5:21-6:2