Monday, June 29, 2009

Birthday In Review

Yesterday was my birthday. It is amazing how quickly time flies. It felt like just yesterday I was a youth pastor in Miami telling my seniors that I wasn't that far removed from where they were and now I'm 36 and far from cool, not that I ever was. I'm not hung up on my age at all, because God thru recent events has been really showing me the importance of celebrating today and maximizing the moments He gives us. I got to say that yesterday was one of the best birthdays I have had in recent memories. Not because I got an expensive gift, or because there was a huge party thrown for me, but because God reaquainted me with how blessed I truly am.

I have been blessed with Godly parents, who kicked off my birthday singing to me over the phone, not a little happy birthday jingle, but a Christian blessing over me. They both shared how daily they pray for me and my family and for God's will to be done in my life. They shared with me how proud they were of me. As I drove to church I realized how blessed I was to have the parents that I have. Parents that love and model Jesus. They were and are not perfect, but I'm telling you that I never saw two people sacrifice more for their kids than my parents. Barely a high school education between the two of them, yet they never complained. Worked hard every day to insure that my brother, sister and I could have every opportunity available to us.

I went to church and for the first time in some weeks I was able to sit back and worship. I did not have to worry about having to bring a message, but I had the opportunity to just sit under the authority of God's Word and be convicted, refreshed and challenged. In that moment I realized how blessed I have been to be a small part of such a wonderful, thriving and amazing ministry. I have been so blessed to be a part of a Team of men and women who love Jesus and who are so willing to lose their names to live for His. God you are so good.

All day yesterday, I received calls, text messages, twitters, facebook posts, from people wishing me a happy birthday and some sharing some kind words that just humbled me. I had students that I taught when they were just in 5th grade who are now in college, students from youth ministries that I pastored over, students that my wife and I coached in cheerleading, friends from long ago, new friends, church partners, family members and some kind words from some of my closest friends. I was absolutely blown away and blessed. I realized how gracious God has been to allow me the opportunity to share life with so many different people and learn so much from so many of them.

Lastly, I got to spend a lot of time with my wife and kids yesterday. They continue to be the greatest blessing in my life aside from my salvation. It was awesome to see my kids tear into the gifts that their mom had purchased for me. It was so funny to read my wife's ridiculous card, and because I know minors read this blog, I will have to save you from the details...just kidding. The topper of the day was the last gift my wife gave me. They were pictures of her for my new office. She had done a photo shoot with a young lady who is like a daughter to us. Man, I was so blown away on so many different fronts. First, this is not like my wife at all. She does not like to stand out in any way, shape or form. She would much rather be in the background. So for her to do this for me, I truly felt loved. The other thing that got to me, was as I marveled at her outward beauty, I was tearing up just thinking of how beautiful she is inside and out, and how blessed I am to share life with my best friend. It has been an incredible 12 years with the woman of my prayers. I continue to be amazed by God's activity in and thru my wife. She has sacrificed so much, given of herself in so many different way and has been so selfless that I pray daily that I never take her for granted, but receive her daily as God's gift to me.

Yesterday, was not about gifts, it was about reflecting and celebrating the goodness and faithfulness of God. Truly a wonderful, wonderful day, even if I am one step closer to hair in the ears, chester draws and my hair falling is ALL GOOD!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Long Day At Animail Kingdom

It has been a great day at Animal Kingdom. It felt like 100 degrees outside, but it was awesome to have the time with my family. Emi and Max had a blast! They are quick out the gate, but they don't have much stamina. They were both out once we got them in their strollers and headed to the car. Besideds the blazing heat, it really was a wonderful day. I have been so blessed with two wonderful kids and an amazing wife. I love these opportunities to get away and connect as a family.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"YES, Lord!"

This past weekend I was given the privilege to teach as we continue our series entitled "Mixed Up, Messed Up, 'Fess Up-The Kingdom and The Book of James." It has been a great study for me personally and I believe that our church has been really challenged by level of application in this Book and the urgency of it as well. This past weekend we concluded chapter four where James gives a strong word against making plans without acknowledging God. James gives a strong challenge to all of us to consider the time that we have been given and to recognize that our lives are nothing more than vapor. The reality that we live in each day is that tomorrow is not promised and so as Kingdom Citizens we need to maximize the moments God has given us. We need to live each day in appreciation, and in obedience. The challenge we threw out to our people was to over the next seven days wake up each morning and tell the Lord "YES". To declare to the Lord that whatever He made lead us or command us to do our answer was "YES!" We challenged our people to commit Isaiah 26:8 to memory..."YES, Lord walking in the way of Your Truth, Your glory and renown are the desires of my heart."

The text messages and emails have not stopped since the services ended. People have taken the challenge seriously and many have already experienced the blessing, pleasure and power of surrendering each day to the Lord and saying "YES" to Him. For my wife and I it happened just hours later as we felt God's leading to be His extension of grace and blessing to a friend in need. The stories that I have heard so far have been awesome. I pray that we will continue to strive to use the moments that God gives us to glorify Him. Have you told God "YES" yet this morning? Don't delay, tell Him that your life you willing place into His hands for His service. Don't miss out in experiencing the pleasure of is amazing!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Great Weekend Away...

I enjoyed a great weekend away in South Carolina for my niece's graduation. I wished my wife and kids could have joined me, but I was grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with my folks, my sister and brother. I haven't seen my brother and his family in over a year and the same goes for my sister and her family. It was great to hang out and enjoy each other's company. One of the things that I love the most about my family is that when we are together you can always bet there is going to be a lot of laughing. The family that laughs together stays together, that's not biblical or tested but its worked for us. Having times like we did this weekend have been less frequent than any of us would want or hope for, but I was glad that we did maximize this wonderful reunion. I am grateful for godly parents, a wonderful older sister and a great big brother.

I am proud of my niece who graduated high school this past week and whose
accomplishment brought us all together. I pray that God will continue to move in and through her life. As she begins this next chapter of her life, my hope is that she will hold fast to Christ and allow Him to guide her steps daily. My nephew also graduated middle school, which if you remember that time in your life is no easy feat. I look forward to see what God does in his life, I can't help but to believe ministry is going to be a part of his future. His heart is bent towards it, it is truly awesome to see. I am also blessed with a five year old niece, who is hysterical. I can not believe how big she is getting. She is so smart, beautiful and has such a wonderul personality. I enjoyed my time watching her play, listening to her talk and interacting with her. God may you continue to bless my little niece.

It was a great weekend and again I thank God for my family. I know at times it is so easy to over look or even take our families for granted, I would challenge you not to. Enjoy the times you have with them and make sure you tell them how much they mean to you. Just a rambling...God Bless!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Things I am Enjoying...

I am sitting at the airport right now with a great fear that my plane is delayed. So with this new found time that God has given me...(that's my spiritual way of not trying to get upset at the fact that this plane is late)I figured I would throw up a quick blog. So here are a list of things that I am enjoying right now...

#1. My Family...I thank God for my amazing wife and beautiful kids. I am in awe of God's activity in my wife's life in this season. Every time I turn around I see more of His grace and heart pouring out of her life. Her growth, hunger and passion for God challenges me. I love watching her lead God's people in worship because I know it is not show, but an overflow of her own desire to sit and baste in the presence of God. A year ago my son was communicating thru signs and had a limited vocabulary, today he is using 4 and five word sentences and is more and more apart of our world. Autism you suck, but my God is good and He is bigger!!! My daughter is an absolute pistol. I can watch her play for hours. Her imagination and spirit for life is contagious. I can't wait to see what God does with our little fire cracker.

#2. Reading...I am not a good reader, but I understand the
importance of it to my personal growth, so I try my best to remain disciplined. The last three books that I have read have challenged the heck out of me. Currently, I am reading "The Real Church" by Larry Crabb, great book! My time in the Word has been fresh as well. God continues to wreck me with His Truth and remind me of my absolute need for Him. I am praying that God would continue to give me a pure hunger for His Word.

#3. Kodiak Cakes...yup, Hallelujah Diet friendly good it'll make your tongue slap your brains two times. My wonderful wife, made them for dinner the other night and I can tell you it is almost idolatry for me. I am trying to get her to make a Kodiak Pact with me that states that we have them every Monday night for dinner...I'll keep you posted.

#4. Ministry...things at Summit continue to move forward, because of no other reason than God's grace. God has really been working in the lives of His people in this season. The stories of life change have been so encouraging, and our staff continues to gel and work as one unit, with one heart and one aim. I personally feel God is currently stretching me and preparing me for something new. I have no idea what it is, but I continue to ask God to prepare my heart for it.

#5. The Yankees...come on you knew it was coming. The greatest
baseball team with the greatest history is back in first place with a share of the leagues' best record. I don't know about you, but it seems to me like all things are now right in the world...just kidding. I don't know what it is, but I have already been able to watch more Yankee' games this season than I did all of last year. I am blessed!

Ramblings of a man stuck at the airport...I pray that you are taking time to enjoy the many blessings in your life and thanking God for His grace and goodness in the midst of all of it! God Bless.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Celebrating the Wins!!!

As many of you know I am a blog stalker...I love reading blogs of people I respect and leaders I learn a lot from. This past week, one of the blogs I frequent, Craig Groeschel, shared about the growth that has taken place in his life as a leader, pastor and follower of Christ. One of the things he humbly blogged about was the complete change in his attitude and outlook on how he measures success in ministry today. If you know anything about Craig Groeschel, than you probably know that he is a gifted communicator, innovative leader, really good author and one of the voices that God is using to bring effective change to today's church culture...and to top it off he leads a HUGE church. But, what I respect above all that is his humility. I have read every book Craig's written, I have listened to several of his messages and have even been at conferences where he was one of the premier speakers and I have always sensed a humble spirit. In his blog he wrote about how today he is not measuring success by how many people show up on the weekend or how much money came in the offering but how many lives are being transformed and how they are investing back into the Kingdom. As I read that I began to think about what were the success markers that I could be celebrating and thanking God for today. The key here is these are the things that I see God doing in the lives of His people and in and thru His Church.

#1. There are two guys at our church Joe and Mike who lead a Samson group every Thursday night for men. Every time I have sent a guy to that group I quickly get a response from them about how these guys have been a blessing and real help to them. Men pouring into the lives of other men and living below the surface...yeah, I'm going to say that's a win! Praise God.

#2. We have a retired couple that instead of spending their lives on themselves they would rather invest their time and resources on those in need. So what they have done is mobilized our people to give of their resources to bless the ever growing transient migrant community that live just south of our church. Every other weekend this couple Rick and Mary Alice deliver items and invest themselves in this community...anytime people see the needs of others as more important than themselves, yeah that's a win!

#3. We are in the midst of doing an overhaul of our college ministry, it is going to be awesome. One of the things that we are going to go hard after is have Life Coaches for our college students that want to truly grow in their faith and walk in Christ. Right now we have over 30 adults going through training this summer to be prepared to disciple a small group of college students...anytime people recognize the potential in the up and coming generation and desire to be a conduit that God can use to help this next generation reach their God-potential, I'm going to say that's a win.

#4. Our ministry gives away a quarter of its income to ministries outside of ourselves and has no intention to stop growing that percentage...anytime a church cares more about what God is doing to build His Kingdom and has a stronger desire to be a part of that over building their own kingdom, than yeah I'm going to say that is a win.

#5. My wife and I have personally seen a handful of marriages in the last seven months be absolutely resurrected from the dead. When most women would of turned and run and understandably so, these women have chosen to forgive and to allow the Spirit of God to work, restore and redeem. And when most men would continue to hide, justify and even blame, these men have owned their stuff, humbled themselves and have found the power of true repentance. We have seen the body of Christ actually be the body and help these couples get back to the place God desires them to live in...couples seeking reconciliation instead of a bail out plan and believing that God can breathe life into what seemed virtually dead...yeah, I would say that is a win.

I can go on and on, but the point is to recognize the wins and celebrate the goodness of God as a result of it; because the bottom line is, NONE of those wins would be possible without the Spirit of God and the grace of God. It's not our plans, it's not our efforts, it's God! So celebrate the wins and thank God for them!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Incredible Day Yesterday!

What an incredible day yesterday! Yesterday at Barefoot Beach we gathered as a church and celebrated life change. We had the privilege of baptizing 25 people who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. As one of my friends told me, yesterday was a great victory for the Kingdom of God. It is unexplainable the expressions on peoples' faces when they come up out of the water. There is an expression of joy that can only come from the Lord. Every time someone came up out of the water we cheered and went crazy. We celebrated the goodness and the grace of God dispensed and showed to each of these individuals. Yesterday was a powerful reminder to us of why we do what we do. We state it all the time, Summit Church exist to glorify God through presenting the Gospel to every man, woman and child and connecting them into loving relationships with Jesus Christ and with others. Yesterday in part we saw the fruition of that. I thank God for His activity, for His grace and for the opportunity to be a small part of what He is doing here in SWFL.

Today as a church we are getting to move the mission forward as we participate in our FastForward initiative. The first Monday of every month we challenge our people to fast and pray, for our ministry, our community and for the mission God has given to us. I always enjoy to hear the stories from people of what God revealed to them during this time. I am praying today for those who are participating and for Next Level Church, who are also fasting and praying today. God is at work in this region.

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14

God may You bring revival and may You bring glory to Your name!