School is coming…For some it is already here…For some parents it is a great day, for some parents their will be tears . For some kids it is a struggle filled with anxiety and for some kids they just cant wait to be back at school with their friends. It is a mix of anxiety, joy, fear, and excitement for a new year.
One things we will all experience this year is the busyness that comes with a new school year. It seems to me that every year, sports gets more intense, classes get harder for kids, the schedule for ministry even seems to get more and more intense. All these things may be amazing opportunities for learning, exercise, friendships, and fun. These things can make it almost impossible to have opportunities to share a meal, share your day, or just find times to be home and slowing down together with your family.
Somewhere as a family we all learned that to be the best parents we have to run, run, run. We have to be in everything, be there for everyone, and give our kids the most experiences possible. I am here to tell you we are all wrong on this front. Yes experiences for our kids are great. It is important to give them times to succeed, and fail, to find joy, and sadness so we can help them navigate those moments before they become adults. The thing I think we miss is how can we also teach them to rest. How do we teach them to slow down enjoy life with the people God has put in our lives.
This fall our Church is starting something new. We are calling it Family rest nights. The second and forth Wednesdays of each month during the school year we have opened the school and Church schedule so that no events happen in the building after 4pm. We want to model for families to be home and with each other gathered around His word. I love food so for us it will include a meal. We plan to send out emails with devotional questions, scripture readings, and prayers for the family. The goal is to help model family times of rest. My prayers is this will help families slow down and be. Slow down and be in the presence of each other and Jesus. I know I need to have those times of rest. Join us in resting in Jesus and growing together as a family.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42 NIV)
This morning in chapel at St. John I thought it would be fun to take all the palm branches left over from Palm Sunday and strewn them all down the aisles. It was a huge mess. I would say it might have been the biggest mess you can make in Church. In fact I was pretty sure after chapel the janitor would no longer be speaking to me with kind words. Kids walked in and were shocked by the mess on the floors. It was a glories mess. (By the way as a youth leader making a mess is what I do)
I had them read with me Mark 11:1-11. It is my favorite version of the story of Jesus being called king. In this text, Jesus rides his donkey into Jerusalem and the people were excited that this might be the next king to rule. They are excited because they thought he would come and kick out the romans and rule the world again. Jesus walks into the temple and does nothing. He just walks back out. I would say all the people who are holding those palm branches just dropped them on the floor. He wasn’t the king they expected, but He is a king and he would show them how he would clean up their mess they had in their lives.
I proceeded to share with the kids and staff about the mess we all live with. My family can make some big messes. Please don’t ever plan on just dropping in because if you do you will see a mess. If you give me some time I can clean up some and make it look like my house is clean. In fact I say to my wife and kids. The trick is make it look good but not too good so they don’t know we worked for a couple hours making it look clean. You see I think many of us have a mess in our lives we pretend isn’t really there, or we spend a lot of time making clean ups look like we have it all together. But here is the thing we are a mess.
This week is Holy week. It is the week Jesus shares with us that he isn’t here as some great king to conquer the world but here to clean up our mess. He shows us his love Thursday through being a servant, then he continues that service on Friday to make the ultimate sacrifice on the cross to clean up our mess. He rose again Sunday to keep His promise of new life in Him.
If you haven’t been in worship in awhile I would encourage you to join the Church any Church these next four days. Come and see all He did for us. It wasn’t necessarily what we expected and certainly is more than just a quick cleaning. Jesus has come and rose again to bring new life and clean up the mess that is our life.
Thank you Jesus for your love and grace.
(By the way we did clean up the sanctuary today, and the janitor is still speaking to me…)
Most of the time during lent people spend the day thinking about what they are going to be giving up for Lent. For me I have never really found that helpful for my spiritual formation. Giving up sweets makes me angry. Giving up chocolate would make me down right angry. Mostly I would be thinking all day about how I missed that food or thing I gave up. For me it doesn’t point me to Jesus. I want you all to know I don’t find anything wrong with giving something up for lent as it is certainly a spiritual discipline of fasting. Fasting is a time honored way of strengthening ones faith. For me however it has never been appealing or truly beneficial.
So today I decided to do something different. I decided instead of taking something away I am going to add something to my family’s life. We are going to spend the next 40 days reading through the Gospels. We are going to spend this time on the journey to the cross following Jesus’ journey to the cross. I know for me reading the scripture brings it alive. I am excited for this journey and would challenge you to think about it as well.
In the reading schedule I gave myself a day off because lets be honest having a day off is needed sometimes. Life can be crazy busy. I don’t need something else to give me more guilt for messing up. So below is the plan.
My goal this Lenten season is to journey to the cross with my Lord and Savior. My prayer is that many of you will join in this journey. Let us be in the Word together as we make this journey to the cross and see these great things he has done for us.
Lent Reading Plan: 2017
||Matthew 10-Matthew 12
||Matthew 13-Matthew 14
||Matthew 15-Matthew 16
||Matthew 17-Matthew 18
||Matthew 19-Matthew 20
||Matthew 21-Matthew 22
||Take a Break
||Matthew 23-Matthew 24
||Matthew 25-Matthew 26
||Matthew 27-Matthew 28
||Mark 1-Mark 3
||Mark 4-Mark 6
||Mark 7-Mark 9
||Take a Break
||Mark 10-Mark 12
||Mark 13-Mark 14
||Mark 15-Mark 16
||Luke 1-Luke 3
||Luke 4-Luke 6
||Luke 7-Luke 9
||Take a Break
||Luke 10-Luke 12
||Luke 13-Luke 14
||Luke 15-Luke 16
||Luke 17-Luke 18
||Luke 19-Luke 20
||Luke 21-Luke 22
||Take a Break
||Luke 23-Luke 24
||John 1-John 2
||John 3-John 4
||John 5-John 6
||John 7-John 8
||John 9-John 10
||Take a Break
||John 11-John 12
||John 13-John 14
||John 15-John 16
||John 17-John 18
||John 19-John 20
Today I am sitting in my office and thinking thank you Jesus it is Friday and Sunday is coming. As I go through facebook, twitter and news sites I am disheartened. I am tired of it all. I am tired of the media stuff I see all around me. I am tires of the memes and misleading articles about this candidate and that candidate. I am tired of all the anger and hate. I am tired of people looking back at past this person wronged me and now I need to hate them forever. I am tired of all the damage in our world and I am tired of all the sin. I am tired from my own sin, I am tired of hearing about the brokenness all around me. As I was sitting in my office today all I could think is how can I lead my kids through this? How can I lead my children from fear to hope?
As parents and adults we are scaring our children. We are teaching them to live in fear. I have been at a number of meetings lately with adults who are bemoaning the Church is dying, the country is going to fall apart, what are we going to do? Her is my response stop it. Stop it right now. Stop spending every waking hour worrying about who is going to be elected, stop worrying that our church is missing kids, stop worrying about everything. No matter who is elected in a month the World is not going to end. The government isn’t going to collapse and the Church isn’t going to blow up. Above all remember who is in control.
Jesus is in control. He in control of the Church, the government, and the world. He is doing amazing things everyday if we just take the time to look around. I have spent the last 2 weeks meeting with 10 baptismal families. These are families with young children who are focusing on how they can help their children be a part of the Church so they can be connected to Jesus. It is amazing.
Lets just stop freaking out. Let stop and be in prayer for our leaders. Lets stop and be in prayer for our friends and enemies. Lets stop and be in prayer for our Church. Jesus in control and leading the way. Lets turn that fear into hope.
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
Over the 12 plus years I have been serving in ministry I have been amazed by many different peoples generosity. This Sunday was one I really needed. You see this past weekend I was sick. I mean dog tired sick. I have run my body ragged between a trip to Disney, VBS, Hosting a day camp and strategic planning. My body has literally been saying to me “Steve just STOP IT or else”. I was sick all weekend and Sunday morning I just wanted to lay in bed. I had been literally coughing all night and hadn’t slept except for about 2 hours from 8 AM-10 AM. I was miserable when I walked into St. John but I was there to help lead the service. In all honesty I should have stayed home, but God had another plan.
To open the service I made a few announcements. The most important one to me was a need we had for donations for a couple of our students who needed help to be able to attend the mission trip this summer. Throughout the service Jesus gave me the voice and allowed me to avoid coughing uncontrollable during the prayers and other parts I had to lead. It was truly a miracle that I made it through the service. Praise God He is faithful to me and got me to the other side so I could see His great goodness. I am so glad I was there because I got to see Jesus move.
At the end of the service I had three people I come forward and ask what they could do to help. One even wrote a check for the amount we needed for two of the students. I was amazed. I know I shouldn’t have been amazed but God brought those people forward to help reach a need for our young people. I should never be surprised by the generosity of Gods people for His mission. I am so glad Jesus brought me to that moment. I got to see Him work.
Today as you may be feeling down, or tired, or broken be reminded that Jesus is continuing to work in the lives of His people. He is working to bring about His good and we are blessed often when we can see it. My prayer for you today is that you see Jesus work his miracles working in your lives.