Monthly Archives: December 2008

Here and Now

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3

I love to talk and write about spiritual growth. Many of my posts talk about how to grow in all areas of our lives. This passage of Scripture gives some great insight into how that happens. You see, the power to grow doesn’t come from us, it comes from God. Peter talks about having everything we need for life, but then adds and godliness. The second word is meant to qualify the first. It might have been easy for us to interpret this as eternal life, if the “and godliness” had not been added. I believe he is talking about this life, right now.

Godliness is a God-honoring life from the time I make a commitment to Christ until the time I die. Until we fully understand what Jesus did for us, we cannot fully live life with godliness. This provision is more than following commandments, applying principles and claiming promises in Scripture. God’s provision for a godly life now, is Christ himself. He gave himself, so that we could be like him.

In Galatians 2:20, Paul says “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” The key word I see is “in”. We have Christ in us, we have become the temple where God is. He actually lives within us now by His spirit. Because of that presence in us, we have everything we need to be the person we are supposed be and do the things that God is asking us to do.

If we are not fully aware of Christ’s presence in us, we tend to live blindly. Going about our daily lives, missing much of the life God has for us. We tend to avoid hard things, and are easily overwhelmed. But if we have a clear sense of who we are, it gives us the hope and courage we need to face any challenge or temptation. When was the last time you called on the name of Jesus in the face of temptation. You have everything you need to live a godly life right now.

None of us are perfect like Jesus was, but He has given everything we need to be like him. Peter goes on to say this: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We have everything we need to be effective and productive for God’s kingdom.

Running in December

Some of you know that I have been running to get exercise. I have run in two 5k’s and am looking forward to running more in 2009. During this time of year it is difficult to get outside to run, so I have been running some on the treadmill. I am a fair weather runner. Yesterday was an unusually warm day, it was in the low 60’s here in Walnut Creek. I took advantage of the nice day and went for a run.

This was a different kind of run for me. About half way through my 2.5 mile run I started talking to God. I started talking about how I want to be different this coming year. How I want to be more like Jesus in all areas of my life. I named the roles that I have like husband, son, brother, employee, co-worker, friend, small group leader, pastor, and mentor.

We all play a variety of roles in our life. Each of those roles are important, but are not who we are. Those are the areas that we have influence with other people. I want to use that influence to Glorify God. I talked to God on that run about having a life of worship. To worship God in each of the roles that I have.

As I was running, I kept thinking that this run is the beginning of a long marathon. I asked God to help me keep running, not along the road, but in life. To run a marathon you must run patiently, and to struggle through some pain. It also takes some hard work and preparation to run a race. It is more than just jogging a few laps. The spiritual life is hard work, just like the physical life. If you want to be in great physical shape you must eat well and exercise well.

If you want to go deeper with God, you must eat well and exercise well. It takes more than just going to church. A life of worship includes things like; prayer, reading your Bible, forgiving people, giving grace, having healthy relationships, giving generously, volunteering your time, working with excellence, doing what you say, doing what is right, even when no one is looking, sharing your faith with others, living with purity & integrity. It is loving God with all your being and loving people deeply.

In 2009, I want to love God and love people, like never before. This is an adventure, a race through some rough terrain, with some rough people. It could get a little dirty and you may fall down, but the finish is worth the effort. Every time I go running, I will be reminded of the race we are all in. Read 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Hebrews 12:1-3 and 2 Timothy 4:7-8 for more on running the race. Start running!

The Identity Trap

I have been studying a book on “How People Change” by Tim Lane & Paul David Tripp. I have only gotten into the first chapter, but already am learning a bunch of good stuff.

When I meet with people, I am always trying to help them make changes in their life. I love to coach people and encourage people to grow. Most often people have lost focus and perspective in their lives. They have become blind in some areas of their life. They have bought into the schemes of busyness, money, happiness and performance. I’m too busy to spend time with God every day. I don’t make enough money. God wants me to be happy. I need to perform for people to like me. Those are just a few lies people believe.

In their book, Tripp & Lane talk about spiritual blindness. The first spiritual blindness is that of identity. “Many Christians do not have a Gospel perspective on who they are.”

This lack of Gospel identity shows up in two ways. First, many Christians underestimate the presence and power of indwelling sin. They don’t see how easily entrapped they are in this world of snares.” Read Galatians 6:1. They don’t grasp the comprehensive nature of the war that is raging within the heart of every believer (Read Romans Ch. 7:7-25). They’re not aware of how prone they are to run after God replacements. They fail to see that their greatest problems exist within them, not outside of them.”

Did you catch that? Read it again slowly. Your greatest problem is the daily struggle that goes on inside you. The struggle for your heart and mind. The stuff you think about and the stuff you believe. That is why the Bible says that the truth will set you free. Believing and thinking about what is true sets you free. Your true identity sets you free.

Here is the second way our false identity shows up.

“If who I am in Christ does not shape the way I think about myself and the things I face, then I will live out of some other identity. Often in our blindness, we take on our problems as identities. While divorce, depression, and single parenthood are significant human experiences, they are not identities. Our work is not our identity, though it is an important part of how God intends us to live. For too many of us, our sense of identity is more rooted in our performance than it is in God’s grace. It is wonderful to be successful at what God called you to do, but when you use your success to define who you are, you will always have a distorted perspective.”

So my question for you today is this, who are you? Do you view yourself through the lens of the Gospel or through the lens of this world? Have you underestimated the level of sin that lives in you and the daily battle you are in? Have your problems become your identity? Maybe your work or ministry has become your identity?

The best gift you will ever receive is your true identity as a child of God. Having that identity will change your perspective and change your life. Keep growing in your faith, character and leadership.

Merry Christmas.

Tribute to Grandpa

I grew up in a Christian home and have been blessed to have Christian parents and grandparents. On my mom’s side, both grandparents have passed away. On my dad’s side both grandparents are still living. David & Erma Stutzman have been married for 66 years. For most of those years David was a pastor, working a full time job, raising a family and pastoring a Conservative Mennonite Church. My grandpa was also an entrepreneur, as he started a Christian books store in Sugarcreek.

I appreciate the Christian heritage that has been passed down from one generation to the next. The more I see other families without that heritage, the more I appreciate where I came from. Christmas is always a special time for my family, as we don’t get to see each other as often as we like. For Christmas this year my Grandpa & Grandma sent a Christmas card to Vikki and I. In that card was a letter from Grandpa. He loves to write and to read, maybe that is where I get my love of writing and reading books. I also share that entrepreneural spirit and love of shepherding God’s people.

I wanted to share some of that letter in my Blog:

Jesus met them saying, All Hail. (Matthew 28:9) The angel had informed the woman that He is risen, come and see, they came and saw. With fear and great joy they ran to bring the disciples the wonderful news. That’s when Jesus met them. Imagine the thrill of meeting him and hearing His; “All Hail”. What a contrast to what they saw on Mt. Calvary. They fall down at His feet and worship Him. A most wonderful experience. I long for that, come and see, day when I can fall down at His feet and worship Him with thanksgiving. Just maybe hear, “all hail”.

The all hail is possible because in God’s eternity past, through His determinate counsel, He sent His son, not only to Bethlehem, but to Calvary. (Acts 2:23) God through His foreknowledge knew man’s need. He also knew there was only one way to redeem mankind. So God’s determinate action sent Jesus to Bethlehem, Calvary, the empty tomb, and seated at the Father’s right hand. That made complete redemption for mankind possible. That thrills me!

Another “All Hail Christmas Season” is upon us. The angel said to Mary “Hail”. (Luke 1:28) The year 2008 is slipping away. As we celebrate the season, let’s retain that all hail spirit. Its fullness date may be nearer than we think. That will be a thrilling moment.” (David Stutzman)

Grandpa then shares some things about how they are getting along and how thankful they are for family and friends that help them as they grow older. Their health is slipping, but their spirit is strong and their focus clear. Here are some more quotes from his letter that I treasure:

“God knows what He wants to accomplish in our lives and He knows what it takes to accomplish those goals. He never wastes any suffering. If we trust Him, He will bring some good out of all our varied experiences. That’s one of the blessings of following Jesus.”

“In 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, Paul says that afflictions work for us while we look to the eternal. So let’s hold lightly everything that is not eternal. Through our affliction times let’s retain that eternal focus and gain that exceeding and eternal weight of glory. All Hail, I’ll go for that!”

“We have done a lot of traveling in our days, but our traveling days are over. However, we have one more special trip planned. The date is uncertain, the one way ticket all arranged, the arrival is safely guaranteed, the destination, our eternal home. So until then, let’s keep our chins up, our knees down and our eyes focused on the eternal.” (David Stutzman)

Thanks Grandpa, that is the best Christmas present I will get this year. I love both of you.

Salt Shaker

I have been reading the book of Mark. This is the shortest of the four Gospels. Mark is writing to Roman Christians, trying to show them that Jesus was the Messiah. He talks a lot about what Jesus did and basically shares the important highlights of Jesus’ ministry.

At the end of Chapter 9, verse 50 really jumped out at me. I have been thinking about this one verse for several days now and thought I would write about it.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” Jesus

Jesus was the best, at saying a lot in a few words. Many preachers today say a lot of words and but don’t say a whole lot.

Just before this quote from Jesus he was warning his disciples about temptation. He was telling them to get rid of anything that may cause you or even tempt you to sin. Even to the extreme of cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye. I guess He wanted us to get the point.

He concludes by talking about salt. Salt is good, because it adds flavor to food and it counteracts decay in food. But if salt gets stale and loses it saltiness it is of little value to add flavor or preserve food.

This is a great analogy for Christians. Christians are supposed to add flavor to the world around them. In other words, we are to influence the world for Jesus Christ. We also are here to prevent moral decay in the world, by living right lives and honoring God with all we do. By loving other people, even the unlovable ones.

So why do many Christians lose their saltiness? We drift, we get lukewarm, we lose our focus, we get judgemental, we get busy and distracted.

Imagine a salt shaker on your table. It holds the salt, but the salt can only get out if someone shakes it. The local church is the salt shaker, this is where the salt can come and rub up against each other and get salty. It is a place to be encouraged, challenged and refueled. It is a place to build community, serve, give and care for each other. Then the Holy Spirit does the shaking and gets the salt out into the world. The church with the strong hand of the Holy Spirit, shakes the salt out into the community.

The salt does no good, if it stays in the salt shaker. It needs to get out of the bottle and into the world. It is the same in the local church. Each person that calls themselves a Christian needs to get out into the world and be an influence. It means living righteous lives and loving God with everything we have seven days a week. It means loving other people as much as we love ourselves and God. It is having our actions match up with our words.

Jesus tells us to have salt in ourselves. How salty are you? Are people influenced in a positive way when they come into contact with you? Is your personal life decaying? Are your relationships decaying? What flavor are you adding to the relationships you have?

Got Salt?

Serving Food

I am on the board of the Greater Dover/New Philadelphia Food Pantry. The Food Pantry started this year by combining some existing church food pantries into one. The neat thing was how many local churches joined in this effort. We now have over 20 churches that are supporting this pantry in some way. Some provide volunteers, some provide food items and many give financially. The need for an organized local food pantry is greater than most people realize. There are many people in our community that have a very hard time getting enough food for their families. I have met single parents, grandparents and people that have lost their jobs recently. All are grateful for a local pantry to get emergency food items.

Over the past few months we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking help. I have noticed this at the Church as well. The Pantry had been housed in the Salvation Army Church in Dover. They had been running a food pantry, and agreed to allow the new pantry to use their facility and roll their pantry into the new one. The Salvation Army has moved into a new building and had offered space there, but we needed a larger area to grow and serve more people. I want to thank the Salvation Army of Dover for their generosity and help in getting this pantry going.

This past week we moved into the old Buehler’s building in Dover. The Church of the Harvest owns the building and was not using the back part. It has a loading dock and ample space to store food. Many volunteers worked hard to get the space ready for Friday’s distribution. The Church of the Harvest graciously has allowed us to move into this space. We are paying for the extra utilities and for the improvements and repairs, but no monthly rent.

The best way to support the pantry is by giving money or volunteering your time. They are able to buy large volumes of food from the Akron Food Bank for penny’s on the dollar. We recommend instead of bringing in food items, that people donate money.

Every Friday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm we distribute food. We are expanding that to Thursday evenings in 2009 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. My wife Vikki and I went and helped serve on Friday. It was NewPointe Community Church’s turn to provide volunteers. I took some pictures to give you an idea of how the operation works. We served 150 families in two hours. People can only come once per month right now, so that translates into nearly 600 families a month that are being served food through the Greater Dover/New Philadelphia Food Pantry.






Gross Discovery

Yesterday my wife and I took her truck to a local car dealership for a recall. We had to have a new part installed. While we were waiting we decided to grab a cup of coffee and sit down in their waiting area. My wife went to sit on a chair, and saw something on the chair. She went to pick it up, and as soon as she touched it, she realized what it was, A TOENAIL!


It takes a lot of nerve to trim your toenails in a public waiting area.
This whole incident reminded me of something that happened a few months ago at my workplace. Someone found a collection of toenails in our team meeting room. No one has admitted to doing it.

Speaking of toenails, my right big toenail looks like it may come off. It is black and blue and cracked. I hurt it playing basketball a couple of months ago and now it looks like I will lose the whole thing. Maybe I will leave it on the floor for someone to find. Just kidding. Sorry no pictures of that for your enjoyment.

The moral of this story is to trim your toenails in the privacy of your own home. If you must trim in public, make sure to dispose of your trimmings. Don’t be that guy.

Go ’08 Christmas Edition

The last couple of weeks have been pretty busy for me, but busy in a good way. I have been working on matching up families and small groups in our church with local families and widows that could use some help over the Christmas season and beyond. I have been calling families and talking to them about the needs they have. I am amazed at how many local families are really having a hard time. This year it seems a little worse, because of the economy and the lay offs.

At NewPointe Community Church, we try very hard to make a difference in our community. To do that, it takes initiative to reach out through acts of kindness to families and individuals. One of the areas I am excited about is the amount of elderly that we have been connecting with and helping. Our local Senior Center has been great to work with. Our population of senior citizens is growing, and our church is aware that we need to reach out to them as well.

Our Go’08 Christmas Edition is an extension of this summers outreach day when we closed down church and went into the community to serve. This Christmas we are sponsoring local families, widows and children. Some of the widows and children are local and some are in the countries of Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.

I have been truly blessed to see the generosity of the people that are a part of the NewPointe family. That generosity is having a huge impact on our local community and the Middle East. I am so thankful to be a part of this local church that wants to change the world.

Gardening

This week I spoke at Leader’s Edge on Wednesday. On the first Wednesday of each month NewPointe holds a breakfast and a lunch meeting in the community to talk about leadership.

This month the topic was “Charting your Future”. My opening question was this: How many of you have ever had to cram for a test? Maybe you slacked off during class or skipped class and then had to stay up most of the night to cram for the test.

Can you imagine trying to cram on a farm? You forget to plant in the Spring, and spend the summer fishing, golfing and playing video games. Then in the Fall, you suddenly realize you need to have a harvest for money. You quickly plow up the fields and plant the seeds. You even fertilize the soil. How would that work?

You might laugh at that, but we do the same thing in many areas of our lives. How about your physical health? Can you spend years eating whatever you want and getting little exercise, and then spend a few days working out and then go run a 5k or a half marathon or play full-court basketball? Or how about getting a bad report from your doctor. You are motivated to start eating right and exercising, but you don’t see immediate results. You can’t cram your health.

How about your marriage? You spend 15 years of marriage, doing your own thing, hurting each other, ignoring each other, not communicating or resolving conflict, not speaking each-others love language and then suddenly realize you must work on it or get divorced. You can’t cram your marriage and make it better in a month.

So do you get the idea of cramming?

So here is the next question: How many of you have a garden or have had a garden in the past?

Most of us have experienced gardening to some degree. Mine is not so good. When we bought our house over 10 years ago the previous owners had big garden in the lower field behind our house. I was excited to have a big garden, because growing up my mom had a great garden. I tilled up the entire area and planted a bunch of seeds.

I soon realized that the garden was out of sight from the house, so I often forgot it was there. I also did not like lugging water down there when it was dry. So needless to say I neglected the garden. By late summer the weeds were higher than the plants and the harvest was not good.

The second year I downsized and put half in grass. I got the same result.

The third year I planted all grass. Now we have a very small garden up near the house, so that we can take care of it and keep is watered and weeded. My wife now makes most of the decisions for the garden and I am the support person (till the soil, pull some weeds and eat the veggies).

So here is the point to this story:

Our lives are like a garden. To have a successful garden you need to do these four things well:

Plant, Cultivate, Water and Weed.

  • Plant – You need to know what you are going to plant in your garden. In your life, you need to know what the most important things are. What is your vision and purpose for your life? The help think about that ask yourself these questions. What would you want the people closest to you to say at your funeral? What would you focus on this week if you had only 6 months to live? Write out your purpose statement and decide what are the most important areas of your life. My purpose statement is this “Growing in Faith, Character and Leadership.” I have a half page written that describes the person I want to be as well.
  • Cultivate – Once you have decided what the most important seeds are for you, you need to prepare the soil for planting. In your life garden, that means setting some goals for each of those important seeds. We are good at setting goals at work, but not so good at setting goals in other areas of our lives like our marriages, finances, friendships, faith, physical and emotional health. To cultivate, you need to sit down and think about each of those areas and then set some goals for each of those areas.
  • Water – Nothing grows without water. If you want you goals to grow and happen, you need to water them. This takes some action. You need to find a system that helps you take action on your goals. It may be a weekend getaway with you spouse to plan out the coming year. Where you talk about how you want to improve your relationship and then schedule time together, schedule vacations, decide what book to read together or what seminar to go to. You need to plan out your weeks and months in advance with your your goals in front of you. If your health is important then you need to schedule workout times. If your faith is important you need to schedule spiritual growth times.
  • Weed – Weeding is necessary to have healthy plants. We all need to be constantly weeding all areas of our lives. What do you need to decide not to do? I have been working on a “to don’t” list for 2009. What do you need to stop doing or say no to? It might be some good, fun things, but they might be taking away from the important things. We also sometime like to keep special weeds in our garden. Things we like, but we know are not good for us. We try to keep them in the corner of the garden. The problem with that, is they creep into the rest of the garden, and all of a sudden we are drowning in weeds. What weeds do you need to pull and through out of the garden completely?

So start thinking about 2009 and start planting, cultivating, watering and weeding. Don’t cram the important areas of your life.