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The Beach – Lesson 3!


The tide is an amazingly powerful thing.  The waves crash onto the beach and then as it’s going back out, the tide pulls at your legs, twists you around and moves you to where you don’t necessarily want to go.  The tide was moving north, up the coast.  We told our kids they could play in the water in front of us.  They would have a great time.  They would splash around, lay down in the water, go underneath it with their noses plugged.  It was an all around good time.

From the water they couldn’t sense what was happening.  And it seemed that no matter what we would tell them, it never seemed to matter.  They would be playing and after about 10 minutes, they would be part of the way up the coast, not in front of us on the beach anymore.  The tide was strong enough to carry our kids away.  Had they gotten underneath one of the currents, there could have been some interesting moments on the beach.  For my kids, it wasn’t a matter of disobedience to not stay in front of us where we could watch them, it was simply a matter of the slow fade.  The tide would tug and pull at them and the natural reaction is to go with the flow.  And before you know it, they were down the coast, where they weren’t supposed to be.

This was a huge lesson for me.  It is so easy to fall into the slow fade trap.  Haven’t you experienced it before?  You get on top of the spiritual world, you are on a high, things are going great, God is good, no temptation or peer pressure can touch you.  You are the on fire Christian out to change the world.  But in a slow act, so slow in fact that you don’t notice, somehow that drive begins to wear off.

Or maybe your marriage is at the top of its game.  No one can touch you.  You and your wife are rolling through life with no problems or regrets.  But something happens.  Before you know it, you are fighting over who forgot to close the garage door last night.  Something just isn’t the same.  There was a slow fade.

We have all experienced it, haven’t we?  The natural defense for slow fade is connection.  Jesus says that He is the vine and we are the branches.  Read His words in John 15.  For those who separate themselves from Jesus, cannot produce fruit.  They will not live full lives.  One of the first signs of the slow fade is a lack of spending time connected to Jesus Christ.  So you need to ask yourself questions like this; how much time are you spending in God’s Word?  Are you reading your Bible?  Are you praying?  Are you connecting daily with the true vine?  Or do you think that you’re such a spiritual giant, that you can handle months and months, or even years, disconnected from Jesus Christ?

Another defense for slow fade is focus.  Scripture teaches that we are to remained focused on Jesus Christ, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith.  We must constantly be in a state of refocusing and repentance.  When we remove either of those from our spiritual disciplines list, we will begin to experience the slow fade.  We will find ourselves further and further down the coast.  We can so easily go from, “God is good and I will die for Him,” to, “Where is God?  I thought He loved me?  What’s going on?”  So, where is your focus?  Are you more focused on Jesus or money?  Jesus or your kids?  Jesus or your vacation?  Jesus or your job?  Jesus or your house?  Jesus or yourself?

Another defense to the slow fade is to simply talk to another person.  Scripture teaches us that confession to another person is good for cleansing the soul.  When we keep things bottled up inside, we tend to close ourselves off to God and to people.  The more sin we hide inside, the easier it is to hide from God because we feel like He won’t want to hear from us.  So we begin the slow fade away from God.

So where are you on the spectrum?  Are you already up the coast?  Are you feeling like you’re on a high?  Or are you somewhere in the middle?

What steps do you need to take in your life to prevent the slow fade from happening to you?  Who do you need to talk to?  How much more time do you need to spend reading God’s Word?

What examples can you think of that I’ve missed?

It’s amazing how much you can learn at a beach.  What have you learned from the beach?

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The Beach – Lesson 2!


One of the days we were at the beach, the waves were extra choppy.  Most of the waves were above my head.  They weren’t “gnarly pounders” or anything, but they were fantastic for what we were doing.  I would make my way out into the waves and dive into them or ride one on an inner tube.  The power of the waves and the current of the tide was incredible.  I was reminded of how weak I really am when some of the waves tossed me around like a rag doll.Grant and me in the waves

After a brief break, I decided to head back out for more.  As I was getting pretty far out I heard a little voice say, “Hey Dad, wait up.”  I turned around to see Grant following me out into the water. He has gotten more and more brave throughout the week.  I had asked him to stay in the shallow part while I went out and hit some of the bigger waves.  He looked at me and said, “No, I’m coming with you.  Wherever you go, I’m going.”

I picked him up and we walked out to a place where I was having difficulty touching the ground.  The waves pounded in on us and I had to work really hard to keep us both above the water.  It was quite the adventure and something I don’t think either of us will forget.

I wonder how often our spiritual journeys play out that way.  God leads the way out into the deep waters.  The waves are smashing in (the biggest difference between my story and the lesson is that I’m not God and God wouldn’t have had any problem holding me up in the waves, but you get the point) and He is pointing out to where it is the most difficult.  He leads us toward risk and into places where our weakness will show.

And sometimes we are sitting on the beach, or relaxing in the shallow.  How often do we look at Him and say, “I’m going with you wherever you go.  No matter how deep or risky, I’m in.”

What is the deep or risky step of faith that maybe God is leading you toward?  You know, it might be something fairly basic.  Maybe you are feeling the pull to make church a more important part of your life.  This might be a huge step of faith for you.  Maybe you have been burned by church and Christians in the past and now you are being pulled toward church again.

Or maybe it’s a little bit bigger.  Maybe you have a neighbor who isn’t so neighborly.  And maybe God is pulling you toward building a relationship with them or even introducing them to Christ.

What about that homeless person you see on your way to work every day?  He has a specific spot on a corner and you see all of his belongings in a shopping cart.  Maybe he makes you realize that your 6,000 sq. ft. home, 3 car garage and golf membership, is really a good life.  And maybe you are beginning to feel the tug of God to come out into the deep end.  Maybe it’s time to stop and try to make that person’s life a little better.  How do you do that?  I’m not sure, but I would encourage you to follow God’s lead out into the waves.

No matter what God is leading you to do, I would challenge and encourage you to follow Him into the waves.  When you get there, He will be strong enough for both of you.  Look at the waves, see God’s extended hand inviting you into what could be the greatest adventure of your life and say, “I’m going with You.  I’m going wherever you go.  I don’t want to stay on the beach anymore, I’m ready for the waves.  Bring it on!”

What adventure is God calling you to?

Are you willing to follow Him into the waves?

Comment me and let me know your thoughts.

Lesson 3 coming soon…

The Beach – Lesson 1


It’s almost hard to imagine that anyone could learn anything at a beach.  The beach is where you go to shut your mind off and just relax.  It’s where you go to take your mind off of work and allBeach Bird the things that bother you.  The beach seems to be the place to chill.

However, it seems even sitting on a beach, swimming in the Atlantic Ocean and doing pretty much nothing for the last few days, has prompted a lot of thoughts in my mind.  My family was given the opportunity to enjoy a beach house that belongs to some of our friends from church.  They graciously gave us the key and said, “Stay as long as you like.”  So we have been in North Carolina, swimming in the Atlantic Ocean at Carolina Beach.  It has been an amazing blessing and one that we are very grateful for.

As we walked along the beach, there were millions of shells all along the sand.  Millions all along the length of the beach right at the edge of where the tide would leave them.  This of course prompts hundreds of beach-goers to walk along slowly and pick through the shells.

Which ones are “full” shells?

Which ones appear to have the most value?

Which one could I make a necklace out of?

Is that a starfish?

And probably a hundred other questions that are going through their minds as they pick through the carnage of what used to be alive.

All of these little shells used to have something living inside of them.  They have now come to the end of their life and they have washed up on a beach.  They are picked through and stepped on.  Some are considered worth keeping, others are left on the beach to either be buried in the sand or ultimately swept away with the tide.

So when our life on earth is over, how will people view our lives?  Will they step on over us or will they stop and admire they way we lived?  Not that it is about us, but will we have lived life in a way that brings life to others or brings a smile to the hurting?  Will we make our lives count or not?

I know one day I will die, but I don’t want to end up an empty shell, getting walked on at the beach.  Okay, that won’t happen, but you get the picture.  I want my life to count.  I want to help make life better for other people.  I want to help people discover a God who loves them unconditionally.  I want to see people on spiritual journeys come into a special and new, connection with the Creator of the universe.  I don’t want to live an empty life.  I want to live a full life that points people toward something much bigger than today.

Stop and picture the beach.  What lessons can you learn from the beach?

Lesson 2 coming soon…

Use Your Manners!


If you were to come into my home and listen in on some of our family conversations in the house, you would hear me getting onto my kids periodically for different things.  Sometimes it has to do with the way they treat each other.  Sometimes it has to do what they are saying about someone else.

But none of those even come close to the one thing I’m always all over them about.  It’s a small thing really, but in the long run it’s a big thing.  My wife might even tell you that I get onto them so quickly about manners that I sometimes fail to give them the chance to use them.  Maybe so.  But manners are a big deal to me.

Manners

This was only reinforced during my time in North Carolina.  It seemed like every where we went, people were only too willing to extend a hand of common courtesy.  Letting you pull into a space in front of them.  Starting a conversation with you as if you had been friends since birth.  The kindness to give us a free sweet tea, not because we ordered one, but because you were just extending a hand of good, old fashioned, southern hospitality.

Granted, some of these examples go beyond manners, but it starts with the basics, “Please,” and, “Thank you.”

I want to help my kids grow to be respectful and kind to people around them.  I don’t want them thinking they are above treating people respectfully for the things they do for them.  Some days my kids are really on the ball with manners.  Other days I go to bed with a sore throat.

Still, being at the beach simply reinforced for me my stand on manners.

What do you think about manners?

 

The Scary Part Of “Tomorrow!”


Once again this summer I am spending a week, sitting on the sand of Carolina Beach, North Carolina. I’m soaking up a lot of sun and family time. It has been a great week.

Last summer after our trip to the beach, I posted a series of three blogs about the lessons I was learning while at the beach. You can find those here or by searching for posts on, “Beach.”

This year I picked up a couple things as well. For instance, the danger of always saying, “Tomorrow,” or, “Maybe later.”

While swimming in the ocean, my sons said, “Dad, can we boogie board?”

“Of course,” was my reply.

“Hey Dad, can we have soda with our dinner?”

“Absolutely,” I would say.

“Dad, can I tell you about these facts I’m reading about in my book?”

“I’d love to hear them,” I would say.

But at home, too often the answer is, “Maybe tomorrow. I’m tired. I’ll get to you later. Maybe next week we can do that. No, you can’t have soda for supper.”

And before you know it, tomorrow becomes ten years and you aren’t sure where the time went. Then you live in regret because you missed some of your kid’s best moments.

So, yes, there is a danger in too many “tomorrows.”

Do you have a son you should be playing catch with? Do you have a daughter you should be having a tea party or playing Barbies with? Do you have a child you should be listening to because they have questions about something they read?

Did you just tell them, “In a minute,” because you just had to finish reading this blog? (I hope not.)

Try changing your answer and watch their eyes light up.

Tourist Destinations!


St Martin's Church, Exminster

Church of St. Martin

Our family has gone on a few vacations together.  For the most part, we don’t get too far from home, but we do enjoy getting out of town every now and then.  Have you ever noticed the types of places we plan to go for vacation?  They’re usually tropical, warm destinations.  Disney World.  Disney Land.  Sea World.  Bahamas.  Jamaica.  A cruise.  The beach.  Depending on your vacation, you will look for places to tour.  You might be a family that likes to walk around a historical museum or location.  Seeing a statue that was built in memory of someone can be a lot of fun.  We plan to go somewhere that we can tour and see things that we can’t see at home.

Want to know what one of the tourist stops in the United Kingdom is?  A church like this one near Exminster in Great Britain.  It is the Church of St. Martin and it dates back to the 14th Century.  You can even go online here and research much of the data on the church.  For instance, the history tells us about the Parish registers, dating back to 1562.  They even have published indexes covering baptisms, weddings, burials and christenings.

As our family was driving through one small town in Missouri, we stopped at a little park to have a picnic lunch.  Vacations on a budget is how we roll.  We sat eating our lunch and noticed a cute little building on the park grounds.  It sure looked like a church.  A really old church.  My wife wanted some pictures before we left town.  We started to walk around the building and we saw a sign in the front.  It was the town museum, formerly a church.  It had been remade to show off town history along with much of the history of the church.  It didn’t date back to 1562, but it was still a very old church building.

In terms of “religion,” the western world is following suit with much of that of Europe.  As Europe has moved away from Christianity, much of America is doing the same.  We could answer the question, “Are you a Christian” with the answer, “Yes,” while at the same time answering the question, “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God” with the answer, “No.”  Simply stated, the church in America is dying.  More churches die per year than we replace with new churches.  According to one article I read, we need to plant 2900 more churches a year just to keep up with the population growth.

Let me say it this way, America has decided it no longer needs the church.  The church is no longer the center for spiritual needs to be met.  As Europe left the church behind, America is following close behind.

A very sad possibility is ahead of us.  That possibility is that churches could feasibly become tourist locations in America.

I for one, am not ready to concede.  I for one, am not ready to turn our churches over to the tourist industry.  The question is, how far are we willing to go to stop the bleeding?

How much are we willing to sacrifice to make the church of God thrive again?

Are we willing to engage the culture in new and risky ways?

I would like to share more on that question in a future post.  In the meantime, what are some of your thoughts?

How is your church engaging the culture around you in fresh ways?

What are some of your ideas for engaging the culture so that we don’t become a tourist attraction in America?

What do you think some of the key contributing factors are to this decline in the church in America?

Exponential – Day 1!


I have heard about the Exponential Conference before, but have never been able to attend.  This year I have the chance.

Exponential is a Church Planting Conference.  Some of the best people in church plants come together to encourage each other and to get their hands on church planting resources.  Not to mention it is in Orlando, Florida this year. That’s hard to beat.

Day started early, 5:00 am early.  Not my favorite time of day to be honest.  Flight left for Orlando from Washington Dulles around 9 am.  Pretty sure I left my green jacket in the concourse.  So if you’re at Gate B70, keep an eye out for my green, Estes Park jacket.  Thanks.

The airport in Orlando is beautiful.  Definitely gets you in the tropical, beach feel right away.  Complete with the glass ceiling and palm trees throughout, it’s quite the place.

Went straight from there to an hour wait for our rental car at Thrifty.  Thanks, Thrifty, for being super speedy.

Pre-Conference with Tim Stevens.  He has some fantastic material on volunteer strategies.  Maybe I’ll buy his book.  Then I’ll have some new material for the plane ride home on Thursday.  Tim is a part of Granger Community Church in Indiana.  God has been blessing them in big ways.  Great church!  I even met Kem Meyer.  Life might be complete if she starts following me on Twitter.  ^_^

Then it was time for dinner.  And holy cow, was I ready for dinner.  So the search began for dinner in Orlando.  Our staff landed at B. B. King’s restaurant.  Put that one on your bucket list.  Yum!  Live blues too.  B. B. King himself will be there on May 4th & 10th.  Plan a quick vacation to Orlando for that.

Overall, I would say Day 1 at Exponential has been a success.  Now I’m exhausted.  Need I remind you I was up at 5 am.  Not my time of day.

I miss my family already, but left them with a fun treasure hunt game to play everyday while I’m gone.

I’ll talk to you again at the end of Day 2.

Good night.

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