Resolution? How about a transformation!

Are you doing the traditional resolution dance today? This is the time of the year that we get motivated to change a certain part of our life. We have great desires to improve ourselves, which is admirable for sure!

Last night, we spent the evening with my brother and his wife. We had a fantastic night at dinner in Tremont/Ohio City, the re-energized area of Cleveland! As we ate, we began to ask my brother the details of how he has lost 50 pounds in 6 months. That’s right, my brother has completely transformed himself. He has done this in a very healthy and safe way……..eating right and working out consistently. When we asked him how challenging it was, he said it was very difficult at first because he had to get rid of his former way of doing things. He had to throw off his old lifestyle. David used to snack late at night after putting the kids to bed, which led to more and more snacking. He also was eating unhealthy during the day. All in all, he was consuming about 500-1000 calories more than his body needed.

After David’s Physician told him the truth of his current health status, David had to make a decision. Do I continue living this lifestyle and become a statistic of early onset diseases and potentially leaving my family sooner than I should? Or should I choose to become a new person (50 pounds was 1/3 of his person!) and change my life? He chose to become a new person! He had to really work hard, stay focused, have others encourage him to keep his eyes on his goal, and remember that this was going to be a complete lifestyle change and not just be a fad for a few months. Six months later, he is an inspiration to many (including me and Maureen!) and is proof that it is possible to become a new person!

Let me now encourage you to look at yourself today as you peer into next year, 2015. I am not talking about weight loss, but about true transformation. I am talking about a spiritual transformation similar to what my brother went through physically. You will have to do as David did, he had to evaluate some things in his life. He was enjoying eating and all the things that came with that. But deep down he knew he wanted to change. It took his Dr. telling him the truth about the life he was living. When it was stated that he had a risk for a heart attack at an early age, he had to face the truth. He had to look in the mirror. He knew it was needed, this change in lifestyle, but did he want to commit to this? He had to evaluate what the truth was. Then, he had to make a choice and stick with it. My brother never starts something he can’t finish. He made this choice and has done an amazing job of transforming his life.

How about our lives? This is a great time to evaluate ourselves. We need to hear truth as well. Is Jesus the truth? If He is, are you going to make a commitment to follow who He says He is, or walk away and keep living, like my brother was. Are you going to make a lifestyle change to follow Jesus and stick with this? Do you know who Jesus is? Do you believe the source? If Jesus is the only way to a relationship with the Creator of everything? What will it take? Is it an easy lifestyle, or will it be challenging? Or, will it be painful? My brother stated it was way harder than he ever thought it was going to be. Is following Jesus harder than we ever thought it would be?

Romans 12:1-2 says it best: “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

My brother offered his lifestyle as a sacrifice so he could be a changed person, transformed! May we live for Jesus in a way that is sacrificial. May we live for Jesus and allow Him to transform us so that we are different over the next year. How? I don’t know…………ask God to show you the truth about yourself. Evaluate yourself today. Where are you severely out of shape, overweight, or where you simply have gotten lazy? Be ready for the answer, and it may be something like my bother heard…….you are dying a slow death. You need a lifestyle change. It will be hard at first because you will have to get rid of your current way of doing things. You may have to throw off your old lifestyle.! You will need to become a new creation and a new person (2 Cor 5:17). You need to…………………

Lead Small, 3 of 7

We, as leaders in kids ministry, have a huge challenge before us. Most studies show that more than 50% of students in KidsMin walk away from their faith in college. The main reason for this is that teenagers have a pseudo, immature, green, borrowed and even fragile faith. Why? There are many reasons: having to learn more in life; not experienced enough; being very young. Their faith is, to some degree, unchallenged! Just like the young baseball player who can scoop up every ground ball hit to him. He has trained, he has practiced, and he has overcome what has been set before him…..except one thing. He has never played in a game before!!! So when he makes an error and allows the ball to go right between his legs on a routine ground ball because a base runner was right in front of him when he tried to field that ball, we can say it was because he was never challenged with “live game action”. He then comes to the bench and complains it wasn’t fair and he quits!!!

What is the solution then? We want to walk along side kids and help them have a stronger faith then, right? In other words, we want to help them develop an authentic faith for themselves, one that is led by the Holy Spirit. It would probably look like what Paul was describing to Timothy in 1 Tim 1:18-19. We are after this type of a generation! They will be rooted in Scripture, hold onto their faith, have a strong conscience, and know God personally. We desire for them to trust in God and not just for a moment in their life (such as at VBS, Beulah Beach, or KOG/GOG).

Our vision is for each child to have a really BIG faith – an authentic faith. And a great way to cultivate authentic faith is through leading SMALL.

Leading small? Wait, I thought you just said to have a big faith….? Well, we have a huge challenge, but it needs to start small. We have a big ministry, but many little souls are at stake here! What if the biggest things we accomplish are by doing something small? There is great power in leading small. When we lead small, we realize that what we do for a few may have more potential than what we do for many.

When we lead small, we simply make a choice to invest strategically in the lives of a few over time so we can help them build an authentic faith! We lead small in small groups, teaching in the classroom with a smaller group of kids, or in larger groups by dividing them into small groups for discussion and prayer time.

A few weeks ago I was teaching 5th grade and was being vulnerable in the mistakes I made as a younger guy. I shared the story of stealing pumpkins when I was in High School (my kids love to hear stories of when I mess up, by the way!!). Wow, this had a huge impact on them! They opened up and began to ask tons of questions about that event. I engaged them with this story of my young adult life! I then was able to share my faith with them and inspired them to live differently. May God transform them from this opportunity I had to LEAD SMALL!

When you are leading your small group this week or teaching your class, remember that we lead small in order to build authentic faith.

Champions who lead the way

I was running today and it was possibly the best run I have experienced in years! As I approach 41 years old, I was running with my dad who is nearing 71 and my son who is half way to 11. My son ran with us for 1 mile as my dad and I continued for 3.1 miles. This was not the only reason it was a great run.

My dad has been running for over 30 years. I vividly remember my dad experiencing a moment of crisis in his life when he was 40. He was overworking and not living a healthy life; stress was taking over and taking its toll on his life. Then he experienced a bleeding ulcer and nearly died. Since then, he has committed to get in shape and stay that way. He then spent the next 30+ years disciplining himself to stay healthy.

I have not lived as disciplined as my dad in regards to staying in shape physically. The last 3 months I have worked hard to get on the right path as I am getting in shape. This has caused me to understand how hard this has been for my dad over the years. My dad is a physical champion in my live and in my kids lives. My dad has caused multiple generations to see what it takes to stay in good shape. And let me be the first to say, I have the utmost respect for my dad as I now know how hard this is to do once you hit 40!

My dad has been a physical champion in my life. As we were running together today, I thought about the Scripture in 2 Timothy 1:3-5 where Paul is talking to Timothy about being a spiritual champion. Paul mentions those spiritual champions in Timothy’s life. His mom and Grandmother both passed down their faith to Timothy! They lived it out and encouraged Timothy over the years. I am sure it is similar to what my Dad has done over the years with his life physically. He has not just talked the talk with exercising, but he has actually disciplined himself to do it all year around for 30 years. He has bundled himself up in the dead of winter to stay in shape. I am sure Timothy’s mom and Grandma followed God even when it was challenging to do so. The “winter” came in, and they bundled up and put on the spiritual clothing so they could stay in shape. This obviously had an impact on Timothy’s life.

My dad has impacted my life and has encouraged me to take the time to stay in shape. It has been very tough for me and I have not done a great job over the last 10 years. Actually, I have failed miserably in this part of my life! You could maybe even say I have failed in an epic way. But, as I try to get back in shape, it is very hard. My very first workout with my friend Reggie, I thought I was going to die. I nearly puked, passed out, struggled to get through the rest of my day. I even told Reggie, I never want to feel like this again!

Isn’t this so similar to our spiritual life? We may have people in our lives who have been great examples for us in their spiritual lives. Maybe you have one of these champions in your life today. You may have gone through a crisis as I described about my dad earlier. You could have many questions or statements about God that you have never gotten out before. Though going to Pro Sport Performance and allowing my friend Reggie to train me up was very hard to do, it has been great. I actually didn’t want to go to him and ask him to “get me fit”. I knew it was going to stink at first and was going to be very difficult. He answered many of my questions about eating and training. If you have questions about God, the Bible, Jesus, or anything else, find that Champion in your life you can count on to walk with you along this path. Find that Reggie or Bob in your life.

Be ready

One of my favorite TV shows for the last year or so is “Alaska: The Last Frontier”. “Alaska: The Last Frontier” gives the viewer some of the breathtaking beauty of Alaska. Many of us don’t understand the fact her winters can be incredibly harsh. This show perfectly illustrates this reality, as the series profiles life for the Kilcher family in the isolated community of Homer. For four generations, the Kilchers have lived off what their 600-acre homestead has provided, but cultivating that living is never easy. Led by patriarch Atz Kilcher and his brother Otto, the family spends the short summer and fall gardening, hunting and fishing for food, gathering supplies from the land and preparing their animals for the winter.

As I traveled to Alaska when I was in High School, and it was SUMMER. I never understood how harsh her winters were. From watching this show, I now understand all of the preparation it takes to be ready when the first snowfall comes. The reason it is vital to be ready and prepared is that the first snowfall could be feet deep! That’s right, I said feet deep.

One of the grandsons of the founder of this homestead is Atz Lee. This guy absolutely cracks me up. His Grandfather moved here from Switzerland in 1936 and Atz Lee was born and raised on this homestead. You would think this guy knows when to start preparing for the upcoming winter……….but no, he continues to push the envelope every year and wait as long as he can to do everything from hunting for the meat or fishing for the salmon they need to eat throughout the winter. One episode was in the dead of winter and Atz Lee (married with two kids by the way!) was running low on meat and firewood for heating their house. He had to run outside in feet of snow to chop down some trees for firewood! All because did not prepare during the entire summer for this expected time of the year!

You know, I felt the same way 4 days ago as we got blasted with the coldest November 18th on record followed by 10 inches of snow on November 21st which closed the schools! Thankfully I did rake the leaves in my backyard. But, I did not clear out my gutters of the leaves yet and I hadn’t even tried to start my snowblower. On top of all this, my garage was filled with leaves, bikes, skateboards, and many other kids toys. I felt a lot like Atz Lee on Friday! There I was: It was 25 degrees, I was all bundled up while trying to start my snowblower. I then spent an hour taking it all apart but couldn’t figure it out. Did I immediately go to my neighbor who got his snowblower started and ask him to borrow his? That would have been the smart move. You know, clean off the driveway and spend time with the family. Nope! Instead I cleaned my garage and prolonged the necessary walk of shame to admit my failure AND lack of winter preparation!!!

I find there is a strong similarity between what I just described and my spiritual life. Paul reminds us and gives us a strong charge in 2 Timothy 4:2 “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction.” Paul is speaking to Timothy here. Can you imagine if Timothy didn’t prepare to know the Word of God? Would the truth of Jesus been handed down to the next generation? What if Timothy knew the Word very well, but wasn’t ready to share it in situations that came to him? If we don’t prepare daily, will we be ready to share the truth with our friends, neighbors, co-workers, parents who we sit next to at the game, or anyone else we would run into? This would be a resounding no, we won’t be ready. I don’t want to be legalistic here or fear us into reading and studying the Word more. I simply want us to think about this. Are we really ready?

When I was in sales, I would call on 15-18 different physician offices every day. Most of those offices I was completely prepared to walk into. I would know how many patients they saw daily, what type of patients, what their favorite type of medication to order was, and many more boring stats. This information was vital as I had opportunities to earn their business and them to use my products to help their patients. But, I still vividly remember those offices I went into blind and not prepared. I would stumble over my words or even use the wrong Physician name……yes, I used the wrong name as I addressed the Dr! There were times I didn’t even want to walk into an office because I knew I wasn’t prepared. I can tell you this, I never earned anything in these offices.

How about my spiritual life? Am I prepared to tell my friends about the Jesus I follow? Do I really know Him? Are we prepared to serve God in any capacity that He may be calling us to? You may not feel God can use you somewhere, but be sensitive to God’s leading and prompting. We need to be prepared for any occasion to be used by God to share the truth of who He is. I can tell you as I have been learning more about God’s Word over the last 2 years, I have had many more opportunities to share in the Truths of Jesus Christ! And it feels good to be prepared and ready. Maybe next fall I will have the snowblower ready in October and the gutters cleaned out by November 15!

Spend time during this Thanksgiving to ask God how you can be better prepared. When you do, though, be ready to evaluate yourself. This is never easy, but it is tremendously fruitful!!!!!

Lead Small, 2 of 7

Ezekiel 22:30 “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.”  (NLT)

I ended my intro to this 7 week study with this Scripture.

When we look at what was going on in this section of Ezekiel, God was looking for a few good leaders.  You see, Israel at this time had terrible leadership and the entire Nation needed to be refined.  The whole nation was wicked.  First, all leaders had been indicted for their terrible sins:  prophets, priests, and princes.  Second, the people in general were also accused.

Ezekiel and Jeremiah (prophets) were faithful servants of God.  Apart from them, though, God was seeking a person capable of advocacy for Israel when its sin had gone way too far.  In other words, God needed someone to speak on behalf of the people and be their advocate before God.  But God found no one.  This person needed to be able to lead the people of Israel to repentance.  We know the rest of the story:  only God Himself could do this.  This is why God found no one fit enough for this.  We know Jesus, God in the flesh (John 1:14), is the only one who can be The Advocate for the people of Israel and gentiles as well.  Only the Messiah has the character and credentials sufficient to do what no mortal man can do, which is to intercede for the world.

But, we know that people need to hear this message and decide for themselves that Jesus is what they need.  We need people who are fit to teach, to rebuild the walls of righteousness, to work hard and lead the children to an understanding of Jesus Christ.  We need people to stand in the gap for the young souls.  Then, may they find Jesus to be the one to lead them to repentance and find salvation through Him!

You have decided to stand in the gap!  May God prepare you this quarter and for the next.  May you grow in your faith in Jesus as you lead the kids!  May you have the privilege this quarter to help these kids decide for themselves who Jesus is and to follow Him with all of who they are!

Lead Small

Good afternoon,

As Fall is ending and the Winter Quarter is approaching, I wanted to encourage you and give you fresh insight into why we do what we do!

I will be sending you a blog for the next 6 weeks that will:

*remind you why we do what we do, week in and week out.

There are times we get frustrated with no control in our rooms, or we can sometimes get annoyed by some of the kids (should we not say this, even though it is true?).  Or maybe we wonder if what we are teaching is really sinking in and truly making an impact with the kids!

These blogs will remind you of what will help make a great impact in the souls of the young ones here at Grace Church.   We will be focusing on a concept that is Leading Small.  This means that we need to focus on a small group of kids.

If you are a teacher or assistant teacher , you should average 10 kids or less per leader in the room.   If you are a small group leader on Wed nights or Sunday for Chapel, the number of kids per adult should be 7.  So, we can all lead small!   You may think this is a great idea, but you are really wondering how in the world we can do this.


My hope is that the next 6 weeks:

*encourages you

*gives you new ideas

*reminds you of concepts that work

*allows all of us to praise God for the privilege of serving the kids!

Remember, kids will decide (try and figure out) what they believe about God up to the age of 12.  After age 12, they will begin to defend what they believe about God.  We have an awesome opportunity to help kids be in the path of Jesus in order to have a personal relationship with the Creator of all things!

In Jesus’ Name,


Ezekiel 22:30  “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.”  (NLT)