Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How to Avoid Swine Flu ... Don't Do This!

Pic of the Day!

Reminds me of a quote from Happy Gilmore!

Mr Bean: The Best Nativity Story Never Told

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Family Night Devotional: Words

Tonight was our weekly family night when we take time to do a teaching lesson, pray for one another, and spend time together in a focussed way. This evening I whipped out the classic illustration about the power of our words and how once we say things we can't take them back - toothpaste! I told the girls they were going to compete for $20 cold, hard cash. For added affect I placed the $20 bill right in front of them. I told them that the first one to successfully complete the task would receive the $20. It was a 3-stage race. Stage 1: Open the toothpaste box, put the tube on a paper plate, race to the back fence, return, and sit down. Stage 2: Empty the entire contents of the tube onto the plate. Stage 3: Put all of the toothpaste back into the tube so that it looks like new again. True to their personalities, Claudia was careful, methodical, fairly neat, and asked for things like a toothpick, and that thing you use to squirt juice and gravy into a turkey (no idea what it's called). Natalia just went nuts and made a mess. After a bit they both confessed it was impossible. They washed up (Natalia left the entire bathroom smelling minty fresh), and then we broke open our Bibles. The girls read several Scriptures about our speech and the power of our words. We talked about how we can practically apply God's Word to our everyday situations by using our words wisely in order to help people rather than to hurt them, and we prayed for one another. It was a great lesson!  

The Youth Ministry Draft

So Saturday was the big NFL draft. With the first pick, the 0-16 Detroit Lions selected quarterback Matthew Stafford and gave him a 6-year deal that includes an NFL-record $41.7 million guaranteed—a record amount of guaranteed money for any player—rookie or veteran—in NFL history. The last pick in the draft—selection #256 was South Carolina kicker Ryan Succop. And hundreds of [other] guys [were] sitting around their TVs at 7:30 p.m. [that evening] wanting to hear their names get called, but the call never came. (Yahoo! Sports)

Every year there is a lot of hype about the players in the draft. Many of the top picks live up to their hype, but a lot of top picks also end up as busts. A lot of average players end up great. A lot of undrafted guys get into the NFL as free-agents and go on to have solid to outstanding careers. As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover.

It all got me thinking … if you were to look at the kids in our church, or in our neighborhoods, and were asked to choose some of them to be in our youth ministry, who would you choose? Who would be your first pick? Who would be your last pick? Who would you brush off and leave undrafted? Who do you see tremendous potential in? Who do you consider worthy of your investment in terms of time, energy, and resources? Who might be a real surprise if you just gave them a shot? Who do you think is more-or-less a lost cause? Who’s the kid that drives you nuts? The one that doesn’t seem to get it? The one you want to give up on?

Now that you’ve considered these questions, ask yourself: What round do you think the 12 disciples were in? What did Jesus see in them? Why did Jesus pick them? Were they the cream of the crop? Were they just the best available to Him?

I was out to lunch a few days ago with Ron Braaten, one of my predecessors as youth pastor at SGT. Next to him sat Danny Burd. As Danny went to the buffet to get his food, Ron said to me with a smile on his face, “He was that junior high kid that drove me nuts.” He told of the crazy things Danny would do that would make him want to pull his hair out. (I smiled, because in many ways, I was that kid too!) But he also talked about how he saw Danny’s potential and gave him a shot. Today, Danny has a great family and is involved in a tremendous ministry that reaches thousands of students around the world because Ron picked him in the “youth ministry draft” all those years ago.

Here’s the point: Jesus picked you. Jesus believed in you. Jesus still believes in you. And Jesus calls you to turn around and do the same with students. Whether you and I get the kids who are everything we’re looking for, or whether they are simply the kids we have to work with, or even if they are the ones nobody else wanted, our job is to see their potential, to believe in them, to breathe words of life into them, to give them a shot, to let them disappoint us, to let them surprise us, and most of all, to let them know that we love them no matter what. That is youth ministry!

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last" (John 15:16).

Domino Effect of Ministry

Last night Ady & I had the joy of attending the 60th birthday party of our good friend Jack Crabtree. Jack has been in youth ministry here on Long Island as the director of Long Island Youth For Christ for over 30 years. At the party were about 200 people from senior citizens to high school students, all there to honor Jack and thank him for his years of faithful ministry. The highlight of the evening was during the program when about 20 folks stood to share how Jack had impacted their lives. Hearing stories of people in their 40's about bike trips in the 70's and 80's that changed their lives, others there who were never directly under Jack's ministry but married someone who was, people who were under Jack's ministry and now their kids are under it, people who have been long-time supporters of the ministry through prayer and giving ... it was just incredible to see the domino effect of a life well lived for Jesus. As one of the pastors who was facilitating the evening said, most people at a service like this in their honor don't get to hear about the lives they touched, because they are in a box on the stage. Wow! What a living legacy, and a real treat for Jack to be able to see, on this side of death, a glimpse of the influence he has had for Christ. May we all be so privileged!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Daughters Ministering!

Yesterday Ady & I had the privilege of seeing both of our girls involved in ministry. Claudia has been training for a children's ministry team called Kids in Missions. During the first service this Sunday they had their first ministry engagement, doing worship and dramas for the children in Kids' Church. Natalia sang in the children's choir during the second service, and both of the girls sang in the choir during the third service. They did so great, and we were so proud of them for developing and using their talents to serve the Lord!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saturday Stuff

Saturday was a beautiful day, and we went to a park as a family during the afternoon. Enjoyed a nice walk with the dogs, and playing on a playground. In the evening I spoke to almost 200 boys at a Royal Ranger camp-out. Afterward my mother-in-law hosted a surprise birthday get-together for me. It was very nice!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Lunch in the City

This morning I surprised Ady and took her to the city for lunch. We grabbed some Starbucks and bagels and hopped on the train at 9:30 am. During our ride in we enjoyed some wonderful conversation about our marriage and our family. After arriving at Penn Station we took the 1 train down to Greenwich Village where we walked around for a while, stopping into a few shops, before sitting down for lunch outside at Caliente Cab Co. on this absolutely gorgeous day. We enjoyed some tacos and guacamole. After lunch we walked around a bit more before heading back home. What a fun date!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Don't Tell Mom!

A few nights ago I was in bed reading at 1 a.m. when my 7-year old came in basically sleep walking. Her eyes were squinting, shocked by the light. She looked totally out of it as she entered carrying her blanket. I asked her what was going on, and she simply said, 

"Don't tell mom!" 

I asked her what she was talking about and she walked around to my side of the bed and said, 

"Don't tell mom. I want to surprise her." 

It was then that I looked at her and realized that she was fully dressed in her school uniform. She thought it would be a good surprise for mom if she found her dressed for school when she went to wake her up in the morning. I followed her back to her room and just had to get a pic. So funny!

BIG BEARD for small groups ... Week 1

Can the Church be Post-Racial?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It’s 2009. Do You Know Where Your Soul Is?

Published: April 18, 2009

I AM in Midtown Manhattan, where drivers still play their car horns as if they were musical instruments and shouting in restaurants is sport.

I am a long way from the warm breeze of voices I heard a week ago on Easter Sunday.

“Glorify your name,” the island women sang, as they swayed in a cut sandstone church. I was overwhelmed by a riot of color, an emotional swell that carried me to sea.

Christianity, it turns out, has a rhythm ... 

Read the full article here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Small Groups Vision Becomes a Reality!

8 years ago when I began working as a youth pastor full-time, I never would have guessed that I would be so passionate about small groups. In fact, I was almost passionately against small groups. Not that I thought they were bad, I was just more into the big program. Well, God takes Sauls and turns them into Pauls, and that's what he did with me in terms of small groups. My first senior pastor will remember almost literally having to beg me to put my time and energy into small groups. I didn't grow up in small groups - although looking back I do remember a few months at one point when I was in junior high that I did go to a couple of youth leaders' houses which I now know were small groups. I never really participated in a small group as an adult, although we did go to a couple of homes on a couple of occasions for ministry time. I was simply not very interested. I didn't understand the power of what can happen when people truly go life-on-life. All that has changed. Today, small groups are a mountain I am willing to die on. 

Four years ago when I was interviewing for my current position, I told those interviewing me that small groups were the direction I was planning on going, and that within two years we would launch them. And we did. It was exciting. We went through that initial surge, the dip, and then leveled off with around 45-55% of our regular kids connected in a small group. This spring I decided to try something new. I wanted to do a sex series, but I wanted to use our small group infrastructure to do it. So, I took a risk. I wasn't sure if it would work, but I knew that I had to put my money where my mouth was and prove in my actions that I believe that small groups are the way to go. I actually asked kids to register and pay to be in a small group to talk about the most taboo subject in our culture. The first Sunday we had a fairly decent response, and I was mildly optimistic. The next two weeks, however, I was blindsided, and so many kids signed up. Yesterday I registered even more, using up the last workbooks we had, to the point that I even had to turn several students away, because we simply did not have room or workbooks for them. Unfortunate, but wow! What an incredible win for us! During this series, we have almost 80% of our students in a small group! We have 8 groups, but one group is too large, so next week I am planning on multiplying it and starting another group, so we'll have 9. Glory to God! Last night I traveled to five of them, quickly saying hi, dropping off a bag of chips, and taking a group pic. Next week I'll hit the others and post the pics.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Planet Impact Worship Team Members Part of Mass Choir At Battle Cry!

This past Friday night and Saturday the Planet Impact worship team members had the tremendous privilege and opportunity to participate in the mass choir for Battle Cry at the Izod Center in New Jersey in front of over 14,000 people! It was a great experience, and we are so proud of them for their hard work! Way to go guys!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

1 Year After Back Surgery, 5 Mile Run for Burn Victims!

One year ago I was barely able to get around using a walker following back surgery. To celebrate the one-year anniversary today I ran in the 27th Annual St. James Fire Department 5 Mile Run. The proceeds from the race went to help burn victims. It was a beautiful day, and I completed the race in 48:31. There were probably 300 runners, and I would say I was in the first 100 or so. The hills wee pretty tough. I run a lot on my treadmill, but I don't really use the incline, so my body is not used to hills. Next time I will train for them, and I am sure I can improve my time. I just learned of the race two days ago, and, of course, my goal was just to finish. lol

After the run, I ate breakfast with the girls, then we went to the church to serve at our church's workday. Following that I hung shelves and hooks in their treehouse then did a bunch of yard and house work. Then I crashed! Very full and productive day!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Daddy-Daughter Day

Today Adriana took our worship team members to Battle Cry NYC where they performed this evening as part of the Mass Choir in front of about 15,000 people! We were able to watch them live on and spotted several of our students in the choir. 

The girls and I spent the entire day together. I had a town meeting from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. so they just hung out and colored while that was going on. When finished, we went to a park overlooking the Long Island Sound. The girls played on the playground, and I basked in the sound of their laughter as I read some Leo Tolstoy (The Kingdom of God is Within You). After that we returned home where we got into our work clothEs and painted the outside of their tree fort. We painted the inside back in the fall. It's really cool! We painted the outside traditional camouflage, and when you open the door you enter girl world - the entire inside is pastel camouflage (pink, light blue, and purple). After painting the tree house I made the girls some dinner and it was off to piano lessons and choir rehearsal. We are now watching a movie together. A fun day with my girls! Thank you Jesus!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A BIG BEARD for small groups

In celebration of a major win, I am growing a beard for the next seven weeks. I'm calling it A Big Beard for small groups. Four years ago when I was interviewing for the position I now hold, I explained to the pastors and members of the board that within two years it was my goal to launch small groups as the backbone of our youth ministry. Two years ago we launched. It was an awesome time for me. Through the ups and downs, challenges and rewards, we have kept at it, experimented, and said small groups are a mountain we are willing to die on. Well, I was absolutely thrilled last week when we had 67 students register for & PAY to be in a small group for the next seven weeks for a series we are calling Live Pure based on the Good Sex 2.0 curriculum by Youth Specialties. Just think about that. In two years well over 50% of our students are not only in a small group, they were willing to pay to be in one. Wow! Thank You Jesus! May this be an incredible, helpful, fun experience in authenticity and community that will shape how they view their need for Christ-centered fellowship. Amen.

Love This!

I was checking out David Bazan's website the other day and absolutely loved what he is doing with his tour ... house shows! So great! Check out how he's doing them here