I am certain, these guys were not talking about…

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Its hard to believe, another Summer is nearly over. Time just seems to move along so quickly.

One of the highlights from these past few months was a men’s gathering in the beautiful woods of Michigan.  I believe about 1500 men descended on the campground for the weekend.  This church sponsored event was called “Palooza” and it was an incredible time.
I’ve thought about that gathering a lot over these past few months,  and one of the most frequent thoughts that comes to my mind is that the focus of our corporate times was not in comparing our accommodations. When we met in a large group, our discussion did not tend to be about the size of our tent, or RV, or the fanciness of our grill back at the campsite.  In other words, the focus of our weekend was not about our stuff.  We were there to enjoy meaningful fellowship with other guys, and to benefit in many different ways from time spent over the weekend worshiping the living and loving God and to be challenged, and encouraged by passionate messages inspired by God’s Word–the Bible.
Both on Saturday night watching a special fireworks display, and Sunday morning, as we gathered one last time for a time of worship and hearing a Bible-related message, I would look around and see the expressions of men, young and old who were impacted by their experience that weekend.  It was truly a special time.
So, what’s the point in all this?
I believe living our lives should be similar to the weekend I just described.  Because we are all unique and our preferences, and circumstances vary so much, we will all live with different stuff. Some people will be able to enjoy very nice, and expensive things—good for them.   Other people, who don’t have as much money or just choose to live in a more simple kind of way, will find contentment with very modest resources–good for them.
I’m not sure of all the reasons why our culture focuses so much on “STUFF’,  rather than on the much greater experiences of enjoying deep relationships with others and seeking frequent worship of God. Just to clarify this last point, “frequent worship of God”,  I don’t mean being at church a lot every time the doors open,  though regular attendance at church is important.  What I’m referring to is keeping Him top of mind throughout the day, so that you understand He is the One responsible for  your life.  He is the Creator of if and the Sustainer of it.
Rather than being freaked out by acknowledging that our lives, including our thoughts and intentions are always transparent before Him, we should take great satisfaction in knowing that He cares so much for us and loves us so much.
At this Summer’s Palooza, I met a man who actually came to the event with no housing plans at all. Understanding that, I invited him to join us on our site, and if need be, and I was ready to share my pop up tent with him.  As things turned out, he was able to get sleeping accommodations in a mini-cabin.   Would I have been a little uncomfortable sharing a kind of cramped 2 man tent–yep.   But, that feeling would have been totally compensated by knowing that I helped a person in need.
Today, as you do life, let me encourage you to examine your own life and to pursue the things that are of highest importance.  Enjoy all the things that you have, but take some time to ask yourself if you are distracted in any way from really experiencing this precious thing called life because of your focus on STUFF?  Again, it’s not a question of how quality is your stuff, or how much you have (or don’t have), but rather if you are spending more time thinking about it, than on the deeper things of relationships with others and with God.  Seek to live your life without any regrets!
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Is there a way of hope in my terrible circumstances?

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Are you going through a tough time and tired of going through it alone?

Are you desperate for some guidance to help you find hope in your present difficult circumstances?

Are you open to receiving encouragement and support from others?

If so, I would like to invite you to join us this Fall for a life-changing 13 week ministry called HOPE GROUP.

We’ll meet Wednesdays from 6:30-8:30 p.m., starting September 13th, at Harvest Bible Chapel on Randall Road in Elgin.

Let me encourage you to take a step of faith to finding hope. THINGS CAN CHANGE!

For more information, about Harvest Bible Chapel’s Hope Group ministry at their Elgin campus, please check out the link!

http://www.harvestbiblechapel.org/event/summerhopegroupselgin/    (as an fyi,  our Fall registration link is not up quite yet, but will be shortly—bookmark this link).

Harvest Bible Chapel- Love without condition …Forgive without limit >>>>>>>This is what we do!

I can’t believe I had been missing it

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About two years ago, our church, Harvest Bible Chapel started a new initiative, Act Like Men.

The idea was to get men to come out 3-4 times during the year, Sunday night at 9 p.m.  While at these hour and a half meetings, there would be two brief messages and then two discussion times with men in table groups.During these “connecting times”, men were encouraged to be transparent with one another, to let down their guard and be vulnerable.  As we did, it was an opportunity to find support, accountability, healing, and encouragement.

 

IF, the men attended three of the four nights, they were then able to go a men’s Summer event called Palooza.  It was designed to be an “over the top” weekend gathering in Michigan. The weekend would be packed with four messages and times of worship, and many, many activity guys would find challenging: events like softball, mud wrestling, free throw shooting, football tosses, and so much more.

I attended last year’s event. No doubt, it was a good time with many positive take-aways from it.

Then came round two during the  past nine months, I believe there were four or five late Sunday night events where attendance at four events was required to qualify to attend this past weekend’s second annual Palooza.

 

Again, there was the same format of quality worship times and intense, competitive events.

And again, for me, there were many highlights that stood out to me from over the weekend. 

But what set this apart, was that it wasn’t until the last 15 minutes of this weekend that Pastor James MacDonald said something that sent fireworks off in my brain (we actually had fireworks on Saturday night too!).  He laid out a vision for what Act Like Men was all about. 

 

He mentioned that the bar was set so high (in fact, next year, we are going to have seven late Sunday evening gatherings to attend) because he wanted the church to be calling out guys to break away from our addiction to our independence and acting like we are in control of our self.  Too often, we have that “I want to do my own thing”. 

We ARE responsible for our actions, but guys especially have a habit of acting from their own selfish and independent mindsets, and prone to isolation, so that we need to go radical and be challenged to a higher calling.  Guys, we need to be involved in community.

 

I saw it!

 

I finally realized what I had been missing.  It was the importance, rather the need of guys (WITH ME BEING RIGHT THERE AT THE TOP OF THE LIST) to do life together and encouraging, supporting, praying for, and holding other guys accountable.  It was a matter of being a part of a community where we can not only receive the support and care from other guys, but also give it as well. 

I had been experiencing that throughout the weekend, but was oblivious to what I was actually experiencing.  I was missing the intentionality of it all.

 

But again, now I understood it.

 

I am so excited to be a part of a sea of voices, a band of Christian brothers intent on glorifying God by the way we live during this short time we are on this planet.

I just wanted to be transparent and let you all know what God was doing in my life and encourage each person out there, especially guys to get involved with a group like this, if you are not already.

 

Blessings.

I thank God for my friends

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God never ceases to amaze me.

Recently, my father passed away, which as you can imagine is a tough thing to go through.  However, I have been so overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and prayers that it has definitely eased the sorrow and has strengthened me.

On top of that, I have just seen this recent devotion from James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel, “Friends who hold you up” and have had to just step back and thank God that the qualities of a true friend, as outlined in this meaningful devotion have been showing up, right in front of my eyes. I thank God for the friends I have!

 

David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home (1 Samuel 23:15–18, esv).Because of the pressures of life—stress at work, turmoil at home, a health problem, a financial crisis—sometimes we stumble. Sometimes the weight on us is so heavy that we can’t help but stumble.

That’s when we need a biblical friend or two to hold us up, as Jonathan did for David during a crisis in his life.

David was being hunted again by King Saul. This wasn’t a game; Saul wanted to kill David. “And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh” (1 Samuel 23:16a). Jonathan was taking his life into his hands by even speaking to his friend, who was number one on Saul’s most wanted list. As we examine this scene, let’s notice five ways Jonathan held David up. These translate into five ways we can support our friends and receive their support.

1. Their Presence
A biblical friend shows up. Jonathan arose “and went to David” (23:16a). Jonathan had many reasons for staying away. Personally, he had everything to lose and nothing to gain. He risked his father’s wrath. In fact, when he got up to leave the table in the palace, his father threw his spear at him, trying to kill his own son (1 Samuel 20:30–33), which showed how Saul had slipped into insanity. In siding with David, Jonathan also risked his own royal position. After all, if Jonathan just let his dad kill David, then Jonathan would become the next king.

But David was alone and afraid, and there was no way Jonathan was going to let David down. He went to David.

2. Their Prayers
A biblical friend prays with you. When Jonathan arrived at David’s hideout, he “strengthened his hand in God” (23:16b). Even though David was a man of deep faith—author of most of the Psalms, a man after God’s own heart, a giant-slayer—he was hurting and disillusioned. Jonathan didn’t show up with shallow comments or advice, nor did he present himself as the solution. He helped David take his problems to God.Notice what Jonathan didn’t say. No cheap encouragement, like, “Dad will come around soon, Dave,” or “Don’t worry so much. It’s not as bad as it seems. Let’s look on the bright side while you hide here in this damp, dark forest without food or hope.” Often when we show up for our friends who are hurting, there’s nothing to say. The burden is too big, the hurt too deep. It’s about presence and prayer. We need friends who will take us to God, and we need to be that kind of friend when others stumble. Christian friendship isn’t about sitting in the same pew at church on the weekend. We need friends who will get on their knees, pray, and discuss the things of God with us. Biblical friends “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24b, niv).

3. Their Protection
A biblical friend protects you. As soon as Jonathan showed up, he reassured David, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you” (23:17a, esv). Think of what these words meant to David. David was an emotional guy—he’d have to be to write the kind of moving poetry found in the book of Psalms. It’s not hard to imagine that as he saw Jonathan approaching, David might have questioned his friend’s loyalty. He didn’t have to wonder long. Apparently Jonathan sensed that David’s meter was redlining, so he quickly reassured him. “My dad won’t find you. Of course I won’t tell him where you are. Relax.” When David heard those words of support, he felt strengthened.

When our hearts feel like tornadoes, the last thing we need is for a so-called friend to show up and fan the storm. Instead, biblical friends protect us, speaking words to soothe our troubled emotional state.

4. Their Personal Loyalty
Biblical friends confirm their personal loyalty. Jonathan told David, “You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you” (23:17b). Even though Jonathan was the prince, David had been anointed to be the next king, and Jonathan didn’t contest God’s decision. In fact, he painted a picture of the future for David, essentially saying, “You will be king—not me—and that won’t sever our relationship. I’m content with being number two as long as you’re number one.” No wonder David loved him.

When we stumble, we need friends who protect us with their fierce allegiance, not someone who turns against us and kicks us while we’re down. We need friends who will come to our aid and lift us up with their life-giving loyalty.

5. Their Promise
A biblical friend confirms the friendship with a promise. “And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord” (23:18a). Some men might balk at that idea, claiming it sounds girly or weak. Actually, what a sign of strength that two warriors stood together, admitting they couldn’t be all that God wanted them to be without the other. They communicated, “I really need you! Let’s stand together in this.” That kind of committed friendship lifts those who stumble.

When we slow down in life, get off track, feel discouraged, lose focus, want to quit, or fall flat, we need this kind of friend.

And we need to be this kind of friend.

What will your kids pick up from you?

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IN 2 MORE POSTS, I WILL BE WRITING A SPECIAL 1000TH POST!—-CHECK IT OUT

Some times its good just to be reminded about our influence as parents.

So, with that in mind,  I thought the following quote was a bit sobering in thinking about what kind of influence I am having on my children:

“kids will be blessed by their parents’ wise choices and bent toward their parent’s bad choices”

James MacDonald

How about you?  When it comes to your character decisions and how well you are fulfilling your responsibilities in these areas of your life. what kind of influence are you having on your kids:

Devotion to God (do you take time to develop a vibrant relationship with a living God and go far behind just empty words of belief that lack any tangible follow through?)

Personal Health- (are you being proactive with managing good health, or are you out of control and reacting to the latest ailment that happens to you (sometimes due to lack of exercise, good diet, and handling stress?)

Importance of Family  (do you know the heart condition (and life circumstances of your spouse and kids?)

Acting wisely with your finances and possessions (and not letting them control you)

Work (excellence at work, but not obsession over it)

Volunteering (are you investing in others with your time and talents)

Leisure (is life just one massive treadmill, or do you regularly take time to relax and be energized from it?)

Can your church compete with Disneyland?

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For many parents, going to Disneyland is high on their “parenting bucket list”.  And why not?  Any place that labels itself as “the happiest place on earth”  sure would seem to be a place worth checking out.

I’ve been to Disneyland a few different times and it was a pleasant memory (though expensive).

I thought about that phrase, “the happiest place on earth” this weekend.  Why?   Because I thought Disneyland might just have a worthy competitor–the local church.

There are approximately 300,000 churches in the United States.  I deeply hope that the you and the other members of your local  church, as well as its leadership would see itself as a place that people just love to be a part of and could compete with Disneyland’s reputation.      Why would they?

Well, I think that being in a place where like-minded people can re-assemble each week and share their similar experience of being a part of the family of God is a good thing and so are these reasons:

  • being challenged weekly with firm and loving words preached directly from the Bible that confront us with the truths that a holy God exists, and that apart being involved in a relationship with Him (made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who died in our place), we would be forever lost and separated from Him
  • being able to engage together in worshiping God in a joyous, celebratory kind of way
  • seeing people who you care about and who care about you
  • being involved in a culture that we are all just hurting people rubbing shoulders with other hurting people
  • serving together in voluntary helpful works of service
  • being encouraged by smiling people
  • feeling you are a part of fulfilling a vision  that is bigger than any one person

Those are just a few reasons that are top of mind to me as I was thinking about this after my church’s recent weekend’s Easter worship celebration!

I love it when I hear people tell me (as I’ve recently heard from some people I know who attend different churches than I do) that they hate to miss being a part of their church’s Sunday mornings because they just feel like their missing something.  I hope you feel that way as well at your church.

Again, I hope that being involved in a vibrant local church has already  been crossed off your bucket list.  If it hasn’t yet happened for you, I trust that day will come soon where you will just know that you are a part of something very special.

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(this was an amazing moment during the 3/27/16 Easter worship service where confetti helped the congregation at Harvest Bible Chapel celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ!).

Could your marriage be improved just a bit ?— Do you want to know how?

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We are all affected by marriage, whether our marriage experiences have been good or bad, there are consequences that come from it.

Consider the health of your own marriage–how great is it?  If it is not superb, wouldn’t you want it to be?

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, why not prove to yourself your commitment to having it be the best it can be?

Let me encourage you (and your spouse) http://www.harvestbiblechapel.org/10780/content/content_id/307740/This-Weeks-Message at Harvest Bible Chapel, given the weekend of 4/6-7/2016.