What is your number? Taking a measurment of your family faith life.

20160115_092811 So this week we I was part of a team trying to help our staff be more physically healthy. One of the ways we are doing this is through a biggest loser challenge. For those that wanted to participate we broke them into teams to help us all be accountable. The goal is to help the staff have some bonding time and also help everyone be a little healthier. The most fascinating part of this activity is people’s fascination with numbers. Some people are terrified to share their number. Others will tell you if you ask.

The scale is a terrifying thing for many people. This week we set up a scale in the office for people to use if they wanted for our biggest loser challenge. I can tell you a few of them left that room with very angry faces. In fact, one told me we shouldn’t speak to her for the rest of the day. That scale can be terrifying, hurtful, and down right painful. It doesn’t paint the whole picture of health. I can however give us a snapshot of how we are doing. It doesn’t really tell you if you are healthy but it can tell you which direction you are heading in terms of your health. I for one wanted to throw it out the window.

(One note if you are a member of St. John or any Church please look after your Church workers’ health. Bring in some healthy snacks and less cookies we need the help!)

Kicking off this program got me thinking about not just my physical health but also many families’ spiritual health. Weight gain doesn’t happen over night it happens over months and years. Weight loss is the same way. Your health spiritually is very similar. We have good years and bad years. We have ups and we have downs. This is a great time of year to get on your faith life scale. (disclaimer, I am not saying if you are not doing the following things you do not love Jesus or you do not have faith so don’t comment non-stop and tell me I am preaching moralism please)

Are you in prayer as a family? As an individual? Are you in worship? Do you come to receive God’s blessings in Communion? Have you spent time in God’s word this week? Have you cared for someone beyond yourself? Have you served your neighbor? These questions don’t tell us if we have saving faith. This is just meant to help us look at our faith lives and reassess where God can work in us to be more faithful. Let us take a look in the mirror. Let us as Jesus’s disciples get on the scale and see where we are at. Maybe it is time in your life as it is in mine to lose a few pounds and get back to work.

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Rest is so hard…teaching our kids to rest in Jesus.

I have Mondays off. It is the one day a week I get to have off and I try to guard it like crazy.  Well mostly that is true. Honestly my wife is the one who guards it best because she knows if I didn’t get my rest I will be cranky and out of control20151006_064921.

When I was in High school I spent three weeks of my summer in Puerto Rico for a mission trip.  I spent that amazing time getting to know some of the people there and would love to go back just to experience that place again.  They taught me a whole host of things but the thing I remember taking away from my time with them was how important rest was to their culture.  You see every day they had a siesta.  It was a time when the whole country shut down for the most part and people were expected to rest.  I remember being told by one of the people there that we Americans didn’t enjoy life because we didn’t rest enough. We ran from thing to thing never enjoying the times God gave us to rest.

My life seems to moving faster and faster.  I feel more tired and enjoy my life in Christ less and less.  My kids feel it too.  I am afraid we as a family are too busy with life to enjoy our time in rest in Jesus.  We as the family of God need to slow down and rest.  We need to spend time in resting in Jesus.

So how are you resting?  Are you resting?  I know I am not resting nearly long enough.  I am running too fast and ultimately teaching my kids to run to fast.  Let us all find those times to slow down and rest. Let us teach our kids to rest.  The laundry will be there tomorrow, the school work will be there tomorrow, the office work will be there tomorrow.  Let us rest in Jesus. Let us teach our kids to rest in Jesus.  To focus our time on rest.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

How can I pray for you? How can I help families see Jesus?

IMG_0005I must confess my prayer life is not all that good.  I have times when my prayer life is awesome.  Mostly I forget, fall asleep, or just plain don’t have the words.  To be real honest with you all prayer is something I have to structure. I need a purpose.  I need something to be doing.

Here is what I am going to do.  I am going to pray for you.  I want to spend this year in prayer for you.  I want to be in prayer for the families I serve in ministry.  I want to have God work through this means of talking with him so that you may be filled with Jesus.

This is probably the most important thing I can do for the families of the congregation I serve.  I am going to pray for them. No not all of them at once. Not the generic prayer for families each day but individuals.  I am going to pray for just a few each week.  It will probably take me the whole year to get through them all.  At this point I am not sure how many it will be but I plan to pray for 3 families a day.  I want to spend the whole day thinking about those three families and keeping them in constant prayer.  They will get a message from me a week ahead of time letting them know I will be praying for them, and asking if they have any needs.  Then I want to follow up and let them know I prayed for them.  I pray God will allow me to hear of stories of his work in their lives, but if not I want them to know someone cares.  That Jesus loves them.  I will be praying for their requests, but also that their faith may grow, that they would gather at God’s house and hear about Jesus.  I pray Jesus would be a part of their lives.

So what do I ask of you?  Well could you pray for me?  Could you pray I continue to do it.  When I am busy, or tired or lazy help me to continue to do it.  Help me to say nothing is more important than to pray for you.  Let us join together in prayer so that the world may know Jesus.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. Ephesians 1:15-16 NIV

Facebook Christianity and my blurry life…We are all broken, ugly, sinners.

WP_20150308_16_42_06_ProI know I am not the only one to make this observation; People are not real on Facebook!  We only put the best out for others to see. We will take a picture 5 times if we don’t think it looks good. This can be difficult for Christians and others who are going through tough stuff.  We all post the best picture, video or quote.  We want others to believe everything about us is awesome. I know I do it.  I post when we are doing family game night, reading our bible together or having a family hug moment.  I don’t know that I have ever posted a picture when one of the kids is having a tantrum, or in the middle of a fight.  I know none of you have seen a video of me screaming at my children over something trivial. I never show you my unkempt house, my piles of dirty laundry or the time I left the seat up.  I don’t want people to see those moments.  I want them to see the good. Heck, I only want to see the good.

So it got me thinking, what if for a week we took pictures everyday, every 15 minutes or so? What if I took pictures of the mundane, the broken, and the bad? What if everything posted to Facebook wasn’t the good stuff, but was me at my worst? What if I posted pictures from angles not so flattering to myself or  only posted pictures that are too blurry to see? I suppose some of you would be offended, many would be annoyed, others would look down on me. Many would know for certain what they have always suspected, Steve is a broken sinner. Steve is selfish, Steve is a slob, Steve doesn’t do much right at all!  To be truthful you would all be right.

For those of you who know me, don’t worry I am not going to post pictures every 15 minutes.  You won’t have too unfriend or block my posts…hopefully. I write this because I want us all to be reminded we are broken. I to fail more than I succeed. I to am in need of Christ’s forgiveness.   We all need His grace, forgiveness, and mercy. We need it each day.

If this week you experience in real life the ugly and the broken, and you are ashamed of it. I would try to remind you, Facebook isn’t real life.  It isn’t real Christianity.  In real life the picture is actually blurry and often broken.  You are not alone. Jesus is there  with you.  He had gone through it as well. We have all been forgiven in Christ.

Therefore (Jesus) had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrew 2:17-19 ESV

Stripping paint… How ministry can be tough when you don’t get to see the end of the project.

DSC01756This past weekend I was on a retreat with High school students from Big Rapids, Muskegon, and Grand Rapids. I loved it.  I loved talking about Christ with them and on the first night we spent talking about the term whatever.  We focused on whatever we do, we do it for Jesus.  If we hold the door open we do if for Jesus, If we clean up after dinner we do it for Jesus, If we scrape paint we do it for Jesus.

We scraped a lot of paint.  In fact when we arrived we had thought we would be painting.  We came to finish this great project.  Instead we spent 8 hours scraping one building.  It was hard work.  The building was build in 1957 and had at least 6 coats of paint on it.  The process was spread paint remover goop on building, wait 30 minutes scrape, get off a layer or two,  and repeat.  If you waited too long it got dry and stopped working. At one point someone said “Wow this is hard work.” And I said “Yes and we are paying to do it!” It was hard and to be honest. I am not sure we all had the satisfaction of seeing a completely striped building ready for paint. Being the scraper of paint is tough work and not very satisfying.

So I think scraping paint reminds a lot of being a disciple of Jesus. Sharing Jesus with students, friends, families, enemies and everyone in between is tough work.  Sometimes when we spread the good news you don’t get to see it finished. even after you spend a lot of time on it.  We would love for it to happen so quickly. We would love to be able to pray, talk and conversion happens.  You don’t always get to see the beautiful building God is working them into.  You see siding that looks beat up.  You see the little bits of stubborn paint on a person that just isn’t wiped clean.  Sometimes at the end of your time with the building, you don’t see the finished project just a building you worked on.  I can be so frustrating.

I tried to tell the students this weekend.  This project isn’t complete.  We did what God had planned for us to complete.  We followed Jesus. We served and one day the whole project will be finished.  It wasn’t our job to finish it was are call to start the project.

As you think about that person, or family who needs to hear about Jesus, and are frustrated that the job isn’t done remember we all play a part and sometimes we don’t get to see the finish just are part of the process.

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  1 Corinthians 3:5-7 ESV