Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Weighing my Priorities (behind enemy lines)

A couple weekends ago I had the chance to return to a former ministry that I served in NH, they invited me to preach in the morning and present YMI at night. It was so cool to be back with them and sense their excitement for what God is doing in our ministry.

I was there on the weekend when the Red Sox had to win 2 games to make it to the World Series, so needless to say tensions were high! Now those that know me well, know that I'm a die hard Yankees Fan, which is great when you live in NY (AKA The Evil Empire according to Red Sox Fans). But when you're deep in the heart of Red Sox Nation it's like being behind enemy lines...then when you factor in the fact that I'm there to minister God's love to these people you start to weigh your priorities pretty fast.

I did some quick evaluating and realized that at least for that weekend I was actually rooting for the Red Sox to win...I know I can't believe I said that either, but here was my motive...If the Red Sox won on saturday night then the congregation that I was going to be ministering to on sunday would be in a great mood, and more likely to engage whole-heartedly with what I wanted to communicate from God's Word...If they lost, they would be bummed out and would likely take their frustrations out on the closest member of the "Evil Empire" that they could find...ME.

So, there I was deep behind enemy lines rooting for my arch rival to win so I would have a chance at actually ministering to a group of happy, on fire, non-bummed people.

Well, as we all know by now, the Red Sox went on to win that series and swept the World Series, and Bonnie and I had an awesome weekend catching up with old friends (who also happen to belong to Red Sox nation...see it can be done), And I'm glad that I didn't include the final part of my opening line on Sunday morning at the service...

Here's pretty much what I said..."It's great to be back here in Red Sox nation, and even though I'm from the Evil Empire I have to tell you I was rooting for the Sox to win last night (insert Gasp from the audience)...Let me explain, as a minister of the Lord I have to weigh my motives against God's standard which is greater than any personal leanings toward any one particular team. I have a great responsibility to deliver God's word to members of any nation (even Red Sox nation)...but I must admit that task will be much easier to accomplish with a group of very happy people as opposed to a group of whining bummed out fans...Thus I rooted for the Red Sox to win last night...Is everyone happy to be here today?" (Insert cheers & applause)
What I wanted to say next, I didn't (probably wisely)..."Man, it must have been tough for Pastors to preach on Sunday mornings here in Red Sox nation over the last 86 YEARS!" (Time between World Series Championships for the Red Sox equaling many bummed out whining fans sitting in church services)...I'm glad I didn't say that especially now that the Sox have won 2 World Series in 4 years!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What a wedding!

Hey everyone,

I hope things are going well for you this week. Thanks to all of you who prayed for me and my family as we traveled back to our former ministry in Fishkill, NY (about 6 hours away) as I officiated a wedding with two of my former students.

It was an awesome weekend as I was able to re-connect with lots of people that I had the privilege of working with over the years. It was very interesting as I rubbed shoulders with student after student and got caught up in the stories of mutual experiences we had together, that a common theme kept coming back to me. The theme was basically, that life is tough, life is full of choices, and if we choose to live our lives God's way we can avoid alot of pain.

That theme came screaming loud and clear to me as I ran into a student that I hadn't seen in about 4 years. In fact the last time I saw him he was about to be sent away to some juvenile detention center because of bad choices he'd made. I was so glad to see him, I actually didn't recognize him at first as alot can change in 4 years, but one thing I noticed immediately was how happy he looked! He was a kid that was always in trouble for stealing, or fights, or gang involvement or drugs or you name it, and there he was standing there in a pin striped suit at his cousins wedding...beaming from ear to ear because finally he was "clean".

I talked to him for quite a while and got to the bottom of why he was transformed. The bottom line was that he started choosing to live life God's way, and he realized he had been surrounded by a group of loving family members that never gave up praying for him. It was awesome to see him "get it".

His Grandma came up to me at the reception and gave me some more details on the amazing transformation in his life, and it reminded me again how important prayer is, as she told me that not a day went by that she hadn't prayed for him. She went on to thank me for the part I played in being his Youth Pastor, and I was just so thankful in that moment that God has directed my path as He has.

This student and I have alot in common, we both had opportunities to choose the wrong crowd, wrong direction, wrong things etc. but God sent people into our lives who prayed for us, never gave up on us and fought for us. As I stood there rejoicing with him at the changes I was moved to remember and thank God that Jesus never gives up, in fact never stops fighting for me because he has an incredible plan just for me.

All these thoughts were perculating in my brain this weekend, then I get home and I click on a link to a music video that was sent to me and viola there it is in skit form what I was feeling all weekend. Check it out for yourself, and realize that Jesus never gives up and is always there fighting for you because He loves you and has a much better plan than the hollow lies of the enemy!

Have a great week!

Friday, October 12, 2007

YMI Update

Hey Everyone,

I hope you're all doing well as you transition from the warm summer to the chill of the fall. I know I'm looking forward to the fall and winter as we continue to make our transition with YMI. Many of you have been checking in to see how we're doing and where we are in our support raising. So I just wanted to give you a quick update with what has been going on. I also want to say thank you to everyone who attended the forum and or seminar I did at the Mission Northeast Conference, I had a great time connecting and growing with you, and I hope to keep in touch.

Recently the Pastor of a church in our area (Bonnie and I went to college with he and his wife) contacted us with an interesting proposal. Pastor David Whiting of North Baptist Church (which also has a school where Bonnie teaches and the kids attend), called me and said that if we wanted to we were welcome to live in a house on the church property that is empty (rent free!), while we raise support. This is an awesome opportunity as it would enable us to unload a mortgage payment & taxes and help us really focus on raising the support that we need to go full time with YMI. Bonnie and I prayed about it, and sought some advice from various people, and have decided to put our house on the market and see what happens. So we would appreciate your prayers with us for a speedy sale at the price we're asking (we don't have alot of wiggle room, so in order to be able to pay the commission for the realtor we need to come in pretty close to what we're please pray!)

I've been making contact with various churches with the potential of having me come and share the YMI vision, so please continue to pray with us that we would continue to have those opportunities, and that the churches would be receptive to what we're doing and join our support team.

I'm going to be attending a missions conference at Eastern University outside of Philadelphia in a few weeks, where I'll be representing YMI with a booth and making lots of contacts for future trainers with the mission which has a ton of potential. Then yesterday I got an e-mail from the coordinator asking if I (among others) would be interested in speaking at one of the chapels that week, which would really be a great opportunity, so again please pray about that with us.

I'm currently still at half time with Lakeshore (Tuesday - Thursday each week) and working for YMI on the weekends, but Lakeshore is actively pursuing a new Youth Pastor (which is great, as I really want to see an excellent Youth Pastor come on board soon!) which means that I'll be done there when that happens. So the sale of our house is really critical due to this scenario as what I make at Lakeshore is basically paying the mortgage and taxes right now (again keep praying with us about that).

I'm continually blown away with the impact that YMI is having around the world (I've attached the most recent quantitative report that shows what YMI is doing), and am so blessed to have a part in the movement that God is doing. Every Youth Pastor we train has the potential to make an eternal difference in the lives of countless lives for Christ, and that is what it's all about!

Below is where we've been recently as well as our current travel schedule so please keep us in prayer as you think of it...

* 8/26 - Speak at Fishkill Baptist, Fishkill NY
* 9/23 - Speak at Centerpoint Church, Concord NH
* 10/1-3 - Mission Northeast Conference, Schroon Lake, NY
* 10/12-14 - Conduct Wedding at Fishkill Baptist, Fishkill NY
* 10/19-21 - Speak at Missions Conference True Memorial, Rochester NH
* 10/24-26 - Missions Emphasis at Eastern University, Philadelphia PA
* 11/9-11 - YMI Board Meeting - Louisville, KY
* 11/29-12/20 - Speak at Youth Camp and Seminary Graduation, Nairobi Kenya
* 1/19-31 - Teach YM 102 Youth Culture - Kiev Theological Seminary, Kiev Ukraine

Well, that's about it for now, thanks to everyone of you who are supporting us in prayer and finances I hope you know how much Bonnie and I appreciate it, and how much of a difference you are making in the lives of young people around the world for God's glory!

Serving Him,