On Friday night a group of guys from NewPointe Community Church helped a family move. I was part of a group of 7 guys. Three of them are in my small group (John Troyer, Casey Miller and Darryl Kurtz), one was in my old small group (Todd Kandel and his son Nick) and one I went to Mississippi with in the Fall (Mike Young). Thanks a bunch guys!
I had gotten a call from a lady that needed to move from New Philadelphia to Newcomerstown. She told me she had 5 kids and needed a bigger place. I was also able to give her a little food and introduce her to some other people at church. After calling around this group of guys agreed to help. We had 5 pickups a trailer and a large box truck.
I have helped quite a few people move over the last few years and it is always an interesting experience.
People are often surprised that a group would want to help without expecting anything in return. You also get to know these families, because you are in their homes and get to talk with them as you move.
I came to find out that two families had been living in this small apartment in New Phila. The lady I talked to with her husband and five kids and another woman with two small children. All between the ages of 15 months and 9 years old. All packed in a two bedroom apartment. Both of these families had lived at the homeless shelter for a while before getting into this apartment.
I got to spend some time talking with the second woman with the two children. She shared some of her background and challenges she has faced. As we talked my heart went out to these two families. They are trying, yet have made some bad decisions over the years and are paying the consequences. I try very hard not to be judgemental or critical. I simply listened to her story and tried to encourage her to return to God and build that relationship up again. She is facing a surgery next week to remove a kidney and is already concerned more about her children than herself. I think it helped her just to have someone to talk to about the many things she was facing. I was able to pray with her and we also prayed as a group in their new home in Newcomerstown.
These are real people facing real challenges and I hope our group was able to bless them and turn them toward God. When a church comes together and takes the time to help those less fortunate it send a message to the community. Word has gotten around that we are a generous church. I hope more people that call NewPointe Community Church their home church get involved with service projects.
We plan on following up with them and sending them notes of encouragement and stuff for the children. I don’t know what God is up to, but I want to be available to impact and influence people by serving them and praying with them.
How about you and your small group. When was the last time you helped someone as a group? I know many of our small groups have adopted needy families and are serving them throughout the year. That is real ministry, getting your hands dirty and getting involved in peoples lives. I think that is the kind of stuff Jesus would have been involved in.
As some of you know my wife Vikki and I have been on a program called Thin & Healthy through my work to lose weight and get healthy. We have been doing this for around 6 weeks now, and we have seen good results. I have lost over 20 pounds and Vikki has lost over 10 pounds. Our entire staff at NewPointe Community Church has lost over 200 pounds. We have been in a wellness program for over a year now as a staff.
It has been challenging and somewhat difficult, because this is not a diet, but a change in thinking. When I first starting this program I was simply thinking about losing weight. As we have worked the program, I have discovered it is retraining how we think about food and movement (exercise). We meet with a coach twice a week to check our progress and make sure we are staying on track.
The biggest thing for me has been to retrain my thinking about eating all the food groups and in the right proportions. In the past I tended to eat large amounts of only the foods I liked. I also would often skip meals when I was busy. Over the past 6 weeks the coaches have been working on making us aware of what we are eating by keeping a journal of what we eat and how much we exercise.
All of this is very similar to what it takes for us to get fit spiritually. We have to retrain our thinking about spiritual growth and really go into training to change bad habits, or flawed thinking. Sometimes we may need a coach to get us started and help make us aware of our wrong thinking. We should be writing down or journaling our spiritual journey as well, so that we become more aware of what we are actually doing, whether right or wrong.
In my spiritual journey I have often only done the things I liked or read the parts of the Bible I liked. I would often skip praying, reading, meditating, solitude and fasting when I was busy. These and other spiritual disciplines would often get put on the back burner or were forgotten about.
The Apostle Paul said that getting fit physically has some benefit to us but that getting fit spiritually has much more benefit to us. I hope that I can get fit in both areas of my life. To do that it takes changing the way I think, because most of us have a wrong way of thinking about both these areas. Some of these things we know we should do, because it will help us feel better and be more energized. However knowing and doing are too different things. If you want to change your life, then you need to change your thinking. Changing your thinking takes some hard work and often some help along the way.
I want to encourage you to seek out a coach that can help you in both these areas of your life. Someone who knows a little more than you do and can encourage you, challenge you and help change the way you think. That is the only way you can keep the weight off for life and steadily grow spiritually and not revert back to old habits.
I did a funeral today and it was different from most of the funerals I normally do. The husband wanted to talk about his wife and share some stories with the family and friends that came.
What was really interesting was he talked for about 30 minutes and most of the time he was talking about relationships. He talked about how family and friends came to visit while she was sick. He talked about a few in particular that stood out to him. One woman that he used to work with, really impacted this couple. This young woman was at the funeral and the husband told a story about how God brought her into their lives because God knew they would need her support. She went to visit his wife several times and was the only one with him when the doctor came to say she had passed away.
This woman was a Christian and was reaching out with compassion to a hurting family. The impact she had will never be fully known until we get to heaven. She was being Jesus to this couple.
It made me think about how important our relationships are and how important it is to care for each other. None of us know how much time we have, so it is so important to cherish and nurture our relationships. You could tell that this man really cared about his wife and he was grateful for all the others that cared about her as well.
We need to keep our eyes open for opportunities to be Jesus to someone like this young woman did with this family. All it took was taking the time to go. She went to visit, she took the time to sit with someone that was hurting. She paid attention. As a result this man is now seeing God a a whole new way. He is much closer to God as a result of this woman investing in their lives.
How many times do we miss an opportunity that God puts in front of us because we are so busy with our own lives. After hearing this man speak I once again understand why we stress being involved in community so much at NewPointe Community Church. Doing life alone is very hard and painful. Having a support system and friends to lean on is an incredible thing.
I can’t emphasize enough how important community is. You need to take a risk and get involved in a small group of some sorts. At the end of your life you will look back and remember the relationships, the people that you spent time with and built friendships with. You will share story after story about the people in your life.
I was talking with some friends of mine this week and heard this great story about character. One of my friends was having his business audited by the IRS. That can be a stressful time especially if you don’t keep good records or are playing in the gray areas.
My friend was not worried because he has a great accountant and he does everything with integrity. The head IRS agent was digging for something as he is supposed to do. My friend would sometimes buy things through the company and then reimburse the company for those items. He does this often with books that he is reading. My friend likes to read and grow as a leader and so is buying lots of resources. He always reimburses the company if it is for his personal use.
Well after running into this several times and not finding anything the auditor was very impressed with how this business is run. He even made the comment that he thinks he will start reading some of the books my friend reads.
That is amazing; that is character. My friend showed great character and integrity in how he runs the company and the finances of the company. Because of that he had an impact on an IRS auditor. Who knows, maybe he will read some of those books and his life will be changed.
A great definition of character is doing what is right even when no one is watching. My friend did the right thing even though he was the leader and could have taken advantage because of owning the business. It really challenged me to examine what I do when no one is looking. If I were to be audited either financially, relationally, spiritually or morally what would they find? Would the auditor be inspired to follow my lead or would he have to write me up?
I met with a friend of mine on Friday afternoon. He wanted to share with me that he was having a conflict in a relationship because of differing beliefs. His friend has a different worldview of who God is and how we can relate to Him. She believes that everyone will eventually make it to heaven and that other religions pray to and worship the same God he does.
My friend was struggling with this and had tried to point her to Jesus and the Bible. He felt like he wasn’t getting anywhere though. I told him to not force it. God does the work of drawing people to Him. I told him to pray for her and give her some resources like a Bible that is easy to read and understand, a series from NewPointe Community Church called “Reality Check” and maybe a book like “A Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel.
The exciting thing to me is that his friend is listening and searching for truth. I believe when someone sincerely want to find truth, God draws them to Jesus, because Jesus is truth. I told my friend that he has influence with her and can be an encouragement or a stumbling block for her.
Sometimes we can come on too strong and try too hard to convince someone we are right. Instead we need to share truth in a loving way. Not judgemental or holier than thou. My friend really cares about this person and that is why he is so concerned about her understanding. If he can be patient and pray diligently for her, God will draw her in and open her eyes to the real truth.
So, who do you have influence with? Who are you praying for and reaching out to? If you don’t have anyone, start asking God to bring a person into your life that you can invest in. Make yourself available to be used by God. He may use you to draw someone closer to Him. Pray for open doors in your life and see what happens.
On Thursday the weather was great. My wife and I spent the day running errands and then cut up a tree at her parents house. I was out with just a sweatshirt and hat. It was a beautiful day. We cut up the tree and hauled it all away.
The very next day we got drilled with a snow storm. It was so bad that schools, businesses and our church all closed early. I got home late afternoon and helped Vikki finish shoveling our driveway. We woke up this morning to find another 5 inches of fresh snow on the ground. We shoveled the driveway and sidewalks again. I am really feeling it my back after three straight days of sawing and shoveling.
It is still snowing, so I most likely will be back out there later today or tomorrow.
With all this change in the weather it reminded me how much our lives can change. One day it can be great and beautiful and the next day a storm hits our lives. Change is a constant part of life. Things change at work, our sports teams change (I am a sports fanatic), our children change, our friends change, our marriages change, our community changes our circumstances change.
With all this change going on around us, we can get overwhelmed. When a storm hits our lives we can sometimes feel like not trying anymore. We don’t want to shovel out and keep fighting.
During the storms of life is when we grow the most. A tree is strengthened by strong winds, because it forces the tree to grow deeper roots. It is the same with us. God wants us to grow deeper roots and build our faith and character. Those dark times can be very difficult, but they help us draw closer to God, even if we don’t feel His presence. Those are the times we pray more, read God’s Word more, Cry out and question God. Those are the times we feel deep pain and hurt and have to work through all of that to get our lives back. We emerge from those experiences either stronger in faith and character or drowning in our hurt and anguish.
Sometimes we need help digging out. It really helped having my wife shoveling snow with me. It got done twice as fast. It is the same in difficult times. When we have a support network of people to walk through hard times it makes it go quicker. That is why I believe community is so important. My wife and I are in a couples group that meets on Sunday nights. I am in two men’s groups that meet every other week. I want a support network of friends that can help me when I am in need and that I can help when they are in need.
We never know when the next storm will hit our lives, but we all need to be ready. Don’t wait to pray, and build a relationship with God, do it now. Don’t wait to get into a small group, do it now. Don’t wait to go volunteer or serve God, do it now.