As men we could say we have many faults, but none so damaging as not being willing to admit that we are afraid. In Rocky 3, Rocky has been knocked out by Clubber Lang. Apollo comes to train him and help him be a champion again, but something is wrong with Rocky. Finally an exchange on the beach leads to the answer: "I Am Afraid". The movie takes an incredible turn after this. The champion is back and wins!!
Everything changes when Rocky admits he is afraid. Since Adam ate the fruit and hid in the Garden from God, men have been afraid. However, few men ever admit to being afraid. It is not something we see in most movies. When is the last time James Bond was afraid? Was Superman, Spiderman, or the Hulk? The answer is NO, but they are not real either. A REAL man admits he is afraid so that fear can be conquered.
Men who are afraid will turn to laziness, pride, or abandonment. Look around for a moment. How many men are turning to pornography because it is easier than a real relationship? How many men are looking for easy battles to win? Men turn to laziness and look for what is easy because of fear. Or perhaps you are the man who knows it all. You put on a great act when you have no idea. You are afraid people will discover how little you do know so instead of admitting it you become proud. And then there is the worst, abandonment. Men do this by walking out on their family or worse killing themselves and leaving a mess behind. This leaves a path of destruction which carries on to other generations. So what do we do?
Courage. Courage is not the absence of fear rather making a different choice when we are afraid. The Bible is clear that courage comes from the power and presence of Christ. We don't just run across it, but find it in Jesus. Just look at the disciples. They were afraid of everything until the resurrection. After Jesus rose they found courage - why - because Jesus was alive and his power and presence gave them the courage they needed.
Men we need to be courageous. Our family is counting on us being courageous. We need to fight for our family by admitting our fear and being courageous in the power and presence of Christ.
Let's choose courage!!!
So far we have seen the Shepherd protects and cultivates the sheep. Today we discover the shepherd who cherishes the sheep. When Jesus declared himself the Good Shepherd in John 10 he told his disciples " So I sacrifice my life for the sheep." Cherishing the Sheep leads to sacrificing for the sheep. This is what we are called to do in our marriage and family. Craig Groeschel uses this phrase "give up things you love for things you love even more". What a perfect picture of sacrificing.
So let's start with our marriage.
We are told by our culture we can do it all but we really can't. The only thing more important than our marriages is our walk with Jesus. So why do so many things compete with this relationship? Our jobs, our hobbies, and even our kids can compete for and cause us to put our marriages off to the side. If you don't give up things you love for the things you love more you will cherish the wrong things. Cherish your kids more than your spouse and when they move out you will have nothing left. The decision to enter the covenant of marriage is a decision to say no to things we love for things we love even more.
What about our families?
In the order of priorities it is God, Marriage, and then family. Again, too many people are cherishing the wrong things. Your kids know what you cherish. They know if your hobbies are more important than they are. They know if your job is what you cherish most. They know. And this cherishing of the wrong things does have consequences. Your children will compete for your love and attention. They might act like never before in order to capture your attention once again. Is this happening in your home? It probably means it is time to give up things you love for things you love even more.
Start cherishing what is most important again. It is another way you fight FOR your family. Don't and you continue to fight against them. The choice is yours.
A Shepherd is responsible to cultivate the sheep. In Iowa where I live we watch the cycle of farming. From planting to harvesting to preparing to do it all over again. There is a specific plan for growth. Shepherds also had to be mindful of what the sheep needed in order to grow. David refers to this in Psalms 23. "He leads me beside still waters." The reference is that sheep will not drink in moving water. You couldn't lead the sheep to a river because the flow of the water would push them away. Rather you would look for a spring or perhaps an area where the water pooled and was still and quiet. That is what the sheep needed.
So can I ask what is your plan of growth for your marriage? Every married couple heads down the isle at the end of the ceremony excited for the journey ahead. A new chapter has begun. But if this new chapter has no plan then the marriage could be headed for failure. NO one goes into marriage planning divorce but it you don't plan for growth and intimacy you will be frustrated. What does your marriage need right now? There are some incredible conferences made to help. There are endless resources out there to help. Get help!! Don't wait!! Formulate a plan for your marriage to grow.
So what is your plan for your kids?
If you look at the picture above it reminds every parent that simply dumping our kids off at church is NOT the answer. It is our job as parents to have a plan of growth for our kids. How you will make sure they grow up and are still following Jesus? How will you help them be healthy and develop good habits? Do you know the school system has a plan for our kids. Certain ages where they want to teach certain things? They have a plan and are executing it. What is our plan? It is hard to watch frustrated parents who just don't know what happened to their kids. Ultimately there was never a plan for growth. You will decide how your children spend their time. You will decide what habits are instilled in them. And what you do with God will reflect into what your children do with Him.
Today is a great day to begin. Put together a plan and cultivate your marriage and family for growth. You can fight for your family in this way!!
The Bible has many references to shepherd and sheep. It was a common thing to see shepherd and sheep just about everywhere you went. Abraham, Moses, and David were all Shepherds. Shepherds were the first to arrive in Bethlehem to see the new born king. But because we don't have this familiarity with sheep and shepherds we can lose what the writers of scripture are trying to teach us. The Shepherd had 3 distinct roles which Jesus refers to in John 10. They were to protect, cultivate, and cherish.
Today we begin with protect.
You might remember the story of David and Goliath when David gave his resume to King Saul that he killed a Lion and a Bear who had tried to attack and kill the sheep he was entrusted to. David was the only protector the sheep had. Sheep have no mechanism to defend themselves. They have no speed, no sharp fang, and no poison. They have no alternative but to trust their protection to someone else. That is the Shepherds responsibility.
So in our homes we must protect. So does that mean we buy weapons and prepare for war? No we are fighting a different enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. We protect in different ways.
Protecting your Marriage.
Your marriage needs protecting. You need to be on your guard. When marriages are destroyed, families are destroyed and everyone is effected. You protect by setting up guardrails. You set these far enough away from danger and sin that if you ever hit one you do very little damage to the marriage and prevent destruction. You need guardrails to govern what you do around people of the opposite sex you are not your spouse. I encourage you to sit down together and set some boundaries for your protection. Do NOT think you can do whatever you want without consequences. If you fail to set guardrails the enemy has a greater chance to destroy your marriage. You need to do this.
Protecting your Family
Protecting your marriage is protecting your family. But how are you helping your kids set up boundaries and guardrails. They want to fit in and be accepted and they will do almost anything to do that. You have to help them. They need guidance as they chose friends, begin dating, and decide what the future holds for them. You can either help them set guardrails are watch them crash and burn somewhere in their life. Normally we wake up when it is too late and damage has been done. Don't wait!! talk to your kids and help them establish guardrails. You'll be glad you did.
Let us not take lightly the protection we are to have in place. Let's defend what is worth fighting for.
Fights. Every family has their share of fights. We can argue over the silliest things but we argue. The problem becomes when we get confused over who the enemy is. We view the people we are arguing as our enemy and this view just causes deep divisions in our families. In fact once you label your spouse the enemy it puts a strain on your relationship. But all of this enemy talk is misguided. Your spouse is NOT the enemy!
Your children are NOT the enemy!
Jesus helps us identify the enemy in John 10:10 "The thief's purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." So who is this enemy? Satan. The enemy at the very beginning in the Garden is still our enemy. He is the one trying to destroy our marriage and family. Jesus at one points call him "The father of many lies". Satan lies and makes your spouse out to be your enemy. He lies and you turn on your kids. And while he has you distracted he is carrying out his purpose to steal, kill and destroy.
Over the next few days I want to help you understand how to fight for your family and not against them. But start with this simple truth and make sure when you see your spouse and kids you tell yourself over and over again - they are NOT my enemy. You may be in a difficult season. There might be a lot of tension in your home. Don't let any circumstances convince you the enemy is not Satan.
It's time to fight!! It time to put on the gloves and fight for what really matters. Fight for your marriage and fight for your family.
20 years ago today Jill and I started on a journey together. We had been married a whole 5 months at that point and had no idea what we were doing or getting ourselves into. We packed a moving truck and a couple of vehicles and with the help of some friends made the 60 mile journey from Oskaloosa to Indianola. A dozen or so people were waiting to help move us into the parsonage and the journey began. We had no idea how long we would be here or what would happen over this time. 10 months later came the birth of Stephen and the rest as they say is history.
If you would have pulled me aside 20 years ago I am not sure I would have thought much about how long we would be here. I do know I had no clue it would be this long. I wanted to survive the first few months. I do remember the day I sat in my living room reading the Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren and wondering if God’s will included what Rick Warren had desired as well – a lifelong pastorate in one church. It is not very common.
These 20 years have been filled with lots of laughter, memories, and tears. Some of you have been here for the entire journey so far. Thank you. Your commitment to our church has made a big difference. Some of you are new to the journey and we are just getting to know each other. And I look forward to getting to know you.
We know one thing for certain and that is we never know how long the journey will last. There is still much to be done. Our culture moves farther away from God every day. Warren County is one of the more unchurched counties in the state of Iowa. Our city is a great place to live and a place in great need of Good News.
So before I get too sentimental here, let me say thank you. Thank you to those who are sharing this journey with us. Thank you for all who give of your time, energy and finances to the work of Jesus’ church here in Indianola. Thank you to those who take time and pray for me and my family. Thank you for the kindness you show us throughout the year and especially at Christmas. Thank you for calling me your pastor.
May God continue this journey 20 more years,
Giving matters. It has an impact. The picture above should remind all of us how important our giving is. All three of our ladies who were baptized are under the age of 20. They have been reached through Children's and Youth Ministry at our church. Some found Jesus at camp while others in youth group or with family at home. All are growing in their faith through the ministries at church. It is exciting to watch and be apart of. They chose to be baptized to make public their private confession of sin and repentance and decision to follow Jesus. They want all to know who they are following.
I grew up in church so I understand how important the impact of these ministries are. I had Sunday School teachers I still connect with on Facebook and in fact one of them supported Stephen to go to Belize on a Missions Trip. That is second generation impact. I had youth leaders who loved and encouraged me and I would not be where I am today without their impact. But everyone in my home church who made a decision to give had an impact on my life. They chose to give. They chose to obey God. They chose to let the church impact lives. And their giving made a difference in many lives including mine.
Your giving matters. If you give to our church then you had a hand in the picture above. You made sure the church was funded which allowed us to reach out. It is important you understand this and are reminded of it. Giving automatically drops in the summer. It is the same in every church. People are gone on vacations and family reunions. We forget to give. But the ministries go on. They continue to have impact.
Don't forget how important your giving is. We need you to give so we continue to see more pictures like the above. So let's give and let's watch what God will do!!!
Today begins another week of summer camp that we promote and invest in kids going to. This week it is the Middle School and High School going to Tri-State Camp in Missouri. If you have been around our church for any amount of time you know we are crazy about camps. We invest about $2,000 a year into camps from our budget. I have the privilege of being the Camp Director for our 8-13 year olds for the past 17 years!! We have 5 Board Members from Junior Camp who are members of our church and 2 Board members on the Tri-State Board. We invest both monetarily and time wise into camps.
So you may be wondering why? Why so much time, energy, effort, and money for summer camp? Why is it a big deal every year?
Two words: impact and influence.
As a pastor I am always looking for ways to have the maximum impact and influence into the lives of our students. We have them only a few hours every week and that is if they come both Wednesday Night and Sunday Morning. That is not a lot of time to have impact and influence. Now, we use that time effectively but it still doesn't leave a lot of time.
Summer Camp is different. Students can unplug and leave the environment of home behind. We get them for many hours not just a few. And we have a chance to impact and influence them. And that influence and impact can change a life.
Just this past year I received a call from a camper who remembered a conversation at camp over 10 years ago. That conversations opened a door and it was remembered 10 years later!! When is the last time you have seen impact and influence like that.
So Thank you!! Thank you to those of you who give every Sunday. You make camp possible. We couldn't do it without you. Thank you to those who go and serve. You give up a week of vacation when you could be sitting on a beach somewhere you are at camp serving. May God give you great blessing for your service. Thank you to those who serve on Board and help plan camp every year. You commit a lot of time to make camp work.
Please pray for those at camp this week. Impact and Influence is at its maximum level this week. May God do great things in the life of the campers and staff
1 Corinthians 15:53-57
This is the passage of Scripture which flood my mind on this morning after. The reality of loss sinking in. Death is a topic we would all would like to skip. But when the reality hits your family the subject becomes unavoidable. It is in those moments you know what your really believe and what your foundation is built on.
Jesus told a story of two men building a house. One built on a rock and the other on sand. BOTH men faced the storm. The rains came and with the downpours came floods. However, the foundation became the difference. The house on the sand crashes and breaks and is destroyed. However, the house on the rock stands. It is not destroyed but survives. The rains hit it hard and flood waters pushed against it, but it remained!!
The scriptures you read above supply some of the foundation to which our family has built upon. A foundation that includes truths like: Humans are eternal because we were made in the image and likeness of God. This means everyone lives forever somewhere. Humans were supposed to live here forever but sin forever changed that. With sin came death both spiritual and physical. God did not leave us alone to figure out our sin. He sent His one and only son to come and walk in this broken, fallen world. He died the death we deserved and Rose Again for our salvation conquering sin, death, hell and the grave!! Putting your trust in Jesus brings assurance that your sins are forgiven and eternal life has started. When you breath your last here eternal life continues in the presence of Jesus: 'to be absent from the body and at home with the Lord'. All these truths have formed a foundation in our family
Irene's sickness caught all of us by surprise. We had no idea and neither did she how sick she really was. But to be told you are facing death is a hard thing to hear. However, she knew her Savior. She trusted in Him. Jesus rose from the dead!!! Death was not something she feared.
I am sure she saw it in her mom who 17 years ago she stood at her bed and watched her breath her last. She saw someone who trusted Jesus and death was not to be feared.
Foundations are everything. And when the storms come you find out very quickly what you have built on. Today is not an easy day. Sorrow and grieving is not taken away but it is understood as offering a farewell to someone knowing you will see them again.
Jesus Follower, Husband, Father, and Pastor and trying to keep those in the right order....