connecting TRUTH with CULTURE

past blog

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Sabbath.

This may sound weird having just come off the Christmas holiday season, but I need a break.

Not a “take five, grab a Snickers, and get back in the game” kind of break. But a regular, calculated, intentional rest period from the chaos of my week. I’m the kind of guy that will spend 100% of my efforts working as hard as I can and not stop until I am completely spent! My goal is noble: to do the best job I can possibly do and represent God well through my stewardship and excellence. But unfortunately, this plan is completely unbiblical!

In the Old Testament God intentionally mandated that the Israelites adhere to a Sabbath, or rest period. He developed a model for them that mirrored His own process of creation. In the beginning God created for 6 days, and then took a day to rest. This is what He desires for us to do. To work hard for 6 days, and then take a rest period. Pull away, relax, break the cycle or work and sweat. But I don’t like to do this.

Why don’t I like to take a regular Sabbath and rest period? Simply put, I think that I am God. You see, I have this incorrect view of God’s desire for me. God created, He worked, therefore what He wants for me is to work, and work hard! But for me to keep up with God I must trade in my 7th day of rest for an additional 8 hours of creation (or at least keep my phone on me so I can complete work tasks while I’m with my family…).

God ultimately desires for us to model our lives after Him. We are to work hard, but not at the expense of what matters most. When we are facing Him after our lives have expired, the first question He asks will not be about our jobs, even if they are church jobs! He’s going to ask what we did with Him and how we led our family.

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bumper bowling

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I’m not a big bowler. I mean, I’m no stranger to the 100 point mark, but turkeys are pretty rare for me! However, recently I’ve been thinking about bowling as it pertains to parenting. Weird, huh? Well, let me explain…

As the parents of two kids under the age of 4, I am constantly looking for ways to help my kids excel in life. I love them with all of my heart, and I am highly interested in their development and growth. As Luke says of Jesus as a kid, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:52) That’s my constant prayer for my kids!

What’s this have to do with bowling? Well, when I was younger I remember learning to bowl with the inflatable bumpers covering the gutters. It was amazing! I could toss the ball down the alley with my eyes closed and there was still a great chance of hitting a majority of the pins! I believe that parenting can look a lot like that…we find ways to adjust and direct the course of our kids as they barrel towards various goals in their life. We coach them in their relationships with family and friends, hold their hands as they learn how to obey and follow instructions, and walk with them through each step of growth into young adulthood. As parents, we are the bumpers!

The temptation as “bumpers” is to see success in our kids’ lives through our assistance and choose to stay in place…forever, if possible. The bumpers exist to train, not to remain! No bowler who keeps bowling with bumpers ever becomes truly successful in the real bowling world! At some point the bumpers must be removed so that the bowler can experience bowling the way it was intended…complete with the pitfalls and dangers of the sideline gutters.

Parents, are we adequately serving our kids as bumpers? Do we see our role as protective and preventative? Or do we use our influence to train our children how to bowl without bumpers?

I truly believe that, as Andy Stanley would put it, this is a tension to be managed rather than a problem to be solved. Our goal should be to create balance as our kids’ bumpers, sometimes re-routing and sometimes allowing them to feel the pain of their mistakes. How do you manage this tension? How have you seen your kids react to your role as their training bumper?

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christmas carols. Merry Christmas! We are only hours away from the most wonderful day of the year! Which means, there are only a few days left to listen to the greatest music ever…Christmas music!

2011 has been a banner year for fpStudents. God has done some amazing things; we’ve seen crazy growth and lives changed all year long! As we finish out this year we decided to do a unique two-week series focused on the amazing season of Christmas, specifically seeking to understand the intent behind some of the most popular Christmas carols!

Typically Matt Grimes and I will do the majority of the teaching at our fpStudents worship services on Wednesday nights. But for this series we stepped back and let a few others share what God had put on their hearts. I was so excited (and a bit anxious!) to have several high school students speak during the series!

I was BLOWN AWAY by the level of intensity, honesty and passion that Whitnie, Tatum and Bailey brought in their delivery of God’s Word. They knocked it out of the park, and we (the students included) learned some great things as a result:

1. Students Are Gifted! Regardless of your age, when you choose to follow Christ God supplies you with gifts that are to be used to glorify Him and make Him famous. I truly believe that life change will happen among students and families at Faith Promise and beyond when STUDENTS begin using their gifts in God-honoring ways. What gifts are you holding back? How can you impact your world for Christ through what He’s given you?

2. Teaching Is Learning! If you ever feel like you have reached an impasse and are having a hard time growing in your relationship with Christ, take some time to share what you know! Each student who taught during this series commented to me about how much THEY learned through the teaching process. This doesn’t mean that you have to be on a stage in front of a crowd. When was the last time you intentionally shared what God has taught you with someone else? I believe that we can get full of knowledge, and in order to make room for more information, we MUST look for ways to pass on what we know! How are you exporting your relationship with God and sharing it with others? In this Christmas season, how often do you find yourself telling others WHY you celebrate the birth of Jesus?

I am so pumped about where God is leading fpStudents in 2012. Please continue to pray that He will interact with students and change families forever. And, of course, have a very merry Christmas!

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parenting, part 2.

Guest post by my amazing wife, Holly Wallace.

Before I had children I would often say “When I have kids I will never….” Then, I had my son and all previous judgments went out the window. Since then I have learned that there is a lot I need to learn.
On Tuesday Michael posted 5 helpful things that he had learned about parenting. Our knowledge is by no means extensive and we still have a lot of room to grow but we have gained a few “tricks of the trade”.
1. Show respect within the family. Children are like adults in that they need to be listened to, loved and admired. By treating kids with respect, we show them value and in turn teach them how to demonstrate significance to others.
2. Facility an attitude of gratitude in the home. The word “gratitude” appears hundreds of times in the Bible and is at the heart of our relationship with God. With that much biblical emphasis it is important to teach kids to be thankful and show appreciation. From thanking nursery workers for their service to being gracious about a compliment, it is important to impart an attitude of gratitude.
3. Uphold consistent discipline and follow through. As parents, if we do not follow through with the rules and consequences we set for our kids it is unlikely that they will adhere to them either. If we do not stay conistent we teach them to ignore our words and that we cannot be trusted.
4. Involve your kids in serving others. Not only do we want our kids to see us serving others, we want them to be able to serve as well. By cleaning up toys before leaving the weekend classroom or helping distribute dessert with an invite card to church to the neighbors, it is important to teach our children to serve others. Even simple acts of kindness such as these will help to nurture a servant’s heart and demonstrate how they can serve God as they grow.
5. Maintain intimacy with your spouse. A vibrant marriage is a crucial aspect in helping children thrive. Giving them a healthy model of marriage will shape all of their future relationships. For that reason it is important to take a stand and put time into your marriage, for your family’s sake!
With no manual for success it is important that we help each other along the way and share the “tricks of the trade” that have worked in our home. What tips could you share with other parents to help them along the journey?

158

parenting, part 1.

I used to know everything.  And then I became a parent.

Apparently, raising kids is one of the most natural things that you can do…people have been doing it for years! The strange thing is, kids don’t come with an instruction manual. Not that I would read it…I am a man, after all…but it would be nice to know that it exists!

In my nearly 4 years as a parent I have learned a few helpful things that I’d like to pass on to you today.  My knowledge is by no means extensive…which is why tomorrow my wife Holly will be sharing her thoughts on the subject as well…but I have seen the following “nuggets” as very useful on the journey of parenting.  Here goes…

  1. Kids don’t do what you say, they do what you do.  Trust me, kids figure this out early! If you tell them to eat their vegetables while going to town on ice cream…your authority will not have the impact you want it to.  You are the model for how they make decisions. Show them the right steps to take, and with each step they will trust you more.
  2. My relationship with my wife is the most important earthly relationship. I love my kids, but the reality is that one day they will leave.  The goal in parenting is to prepare them to live without you. This is a truth that I have learned to share with them early by modeling to them that my favorite person in the world is Holly.  Nothing will come between us, including my wonderful kids.  Let them know that your spouse comes first.
  3. Fight for face-to-face time. Especially in the early years of parenting, there are a lot of side-by-side interactions with your spouse.  That’s normal.  Parenting is tough, and you have to lean on each other and work towards a common goal. But if you don’t fight to keep your focus on your spouse, that “side-by-side” will shift to “back-to-back” and you’ll miss out on the marital intimacy that God desires for your life.
  4. Give the “why” before they need the “why”. Don’t wait to your kids are in middle school to explain the reasoning behind your decisions.  The more you involve them in the process of choosing family activities, friends, hobbies, etc., the less they will ask why later.  The “why” of your family decisions should be clear and consistently communicated even before they can fully understand the cognitive process.
  5. Partner with the local church. Parenting is tough, and I wouldn’t want to do it outside of the body of Christ. Following Christ is a team sport, and I’m grateful that God allows us to experience community in our pursuit of Him.  Get involved with a group of people with your values that can encourage you and speak truth into your kids. It will make a huge difference!

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stockholm syndrome.

Last week at fpStudents: High School student services we wrapped up a series called “Stockholm Syndrome.” This is the phenomenon that occurs when a hostage or kidnap victim develops feelings of compassion, trust or even love towards their captors. While this syndrome sounds absolutely ridiculous, we all experience various forms of Stockholm Syndrome every day.

Romans 7:14-15 tells us that, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

We all experience slavery in a very real way. From birth we are controlled by our sinful nature, and even when you turn your life over to Christ, there is a deep emotional connection that we all feel towards sin.  Inevitably, we do what we do not want to do…sin holds us in emotional bondage.

In addition to this emotional link we all share with sin, we choose to remain enslaved when we continually believe the broken promises of sin.  Sin promises us pleasure but delivers pain, promises power but delivers weakness, and promises freedom but repeatedly delivers slavery.

This control must stop.  This is not who we should be. We were not created to live in Stockholm Syndrome.

According to Romans 3:21-23, “…a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Avoiding sin will not deliver us from its control. Achieving goodness will not overshadow it. The only way we can defeat the power of sin in our lives is to respond in faith to Jesus Christ.

I don’t know how you came to read this today. No clue what your past 24 hours has looked like. But I can tell you this: Jesus came to set you free, and He will never break His promises.  If you feel the burden of Stockholm Syndrome in your life, hand it over to Him.

If you’d like help in understanding what following Christ is all about, please contactFaith Promise Church. We’d love to walk with you on this amazing journey.

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home from haiti.

This past week a team of 18 from Faith Promise Church went to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to work with two orphanages that FP supports.  The last six days have been a whirlwind experience that would take days to fully communicate in words, so I thought I’d share with you just a few moments of the Faith Promise Haiti Mission Trip that will be forever etched in my mind.

  1. On our first morning in Haiti, we got word that a child at one of the orphanages was sick.  Turns out he had cholera, which, if untreated, is very deadly. Ryan Hargis, our resident EMT, took him to 3 different hospitals where the boy was denied care. Finally he was accepted at a small Cholera Treatment Clinic, and by the time we left on Monday, he was back at the orphanage with the other children.  Had he not been diagnosed by our team, he likely would not have made it.  God’s timing is amazing!
  2. In case you’ve never been to Haiti…it’s really HOT…even in October! Most days the temperature reached above 95 degrees, but I was BLOWN AWAY by our team’s tenacity to interact with the children despite the climate. We spent most of our time outdoors, and the team treated each passing hours as if it was the only opportunity that they had.  The smiles on the kids’ faces were priceless as they got more attention and love in less than a week than they likely had ever received before!
  3. While in Haiti we had the honor of communicating through a translator named Namarra.  His presence amped up our connection with the children and the culture, and it would not have been the same without him.  I was so proud to see our team give so generously to him on our last day…he took BAGS of stuff back to his home when we left!
  4. On Sunday our team got to experience a typical, though not for us, Haitian church service.  We fumbled through the French singing of traditional Hymns and sweated through a non-air-conditioned two-hour service in packed house of 350. I had the unique opportunity of preaching that day, and it was humbling to hear how grateful the church was for our involvement in the orphanages. I pray that our relationship with those children grows even more as we continue to support them!

I want to thank Faith Promise as a whole for the continued support that has been extended to the children at these two orphanages.  We are making a difference in more than just food and shelter, but also in allowing these kids to see God as He truly is…the Giver of life and love.  Please check out this video to see the personal impact you are making in the lives of dozens of children in need.http://vimeo.com/fpstudents/haitithankyou

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haiti day four

Blog By: Katy Creasman

We experienced church today with Pastor Odven’s church and they sang How Great Thou Art and Because He Lives.  Those were the 2 songs that we could pick out in French.  In the afternoon we went to the orphanage and played with the kids.  We were able to get their picture with names, age, and weight.  It was very eye opening to go around the city and see some of the devastation still left from the earthquake.  It is sad to think that we are already leaving tomorrow from Haiti!  God’s love knows know limits and He has definitely shown me His love through the kids and people here.  They have made a permanent impact on my life!

 

Blog By: Sydney Weisberg

We went to Pastor Odven church, we all had an amazing time and wish I could stay longer. I have never experienced anything like it. You could literally feel the Holy Spirit in the church. After we went to church we saw the kids and played. We went to mega mart but didn’t get out of the bus instead we went to deli mart which is kind of like our Kroger.  One of my favorite parts of the day was to go sightseeing around the “down town” area. We saw the palace that was in pretty good shape, and got to take pictures of it! It’s still hard to believe that we leave for Miami tomorrow. This was I life changing event that will stay with me forever. So thank you Jesus for allowing me to come learn and experience all of these things.

 

Blog By: Bryce Spencer

Today is Sunday, The Sabbath, a day of rest. In Haiti it was a day for new experiences at church. Ryan left with Jackefer, the bus driver, in the morning to pick up the children from Bon Berger orphanage (pronounced bon bajay) and then came to get us. Hand in hand with the children we all walked into church. We were a bit out of place but I took comfort in the fact that we were all children of God. I had an epiphany; God doesn’t care what language we sing, pray, or worship in, He smiles at every one of us. Today the spirit of God was felt deeply by everyone there.

Here I’ll semi-quote something my team member Carl said: There was a lot separating us as we walked into the church – race, nationality, culture, and language, but when we stood together to sing the Creole hymns there was no longer black or white, Haitian or American, only brothers and sister standing united under the one true almighty God. And in that we were unified as one. And the Spirit of God moved.

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haiti day three

Blog By: Dave Breaux (read his blog at davebang.wordpress.com)

Back to Bon Berger this morning. A little bit of a shock for the new people, because all of the children were back. Lots of familiar faces for those of us who have returned. Headed to the backyard to play and love on the kids.

Ryan got to hang out with the boys a little before heading out to the Mega Mart.

One of the old friends we ran into is the little boy that Tonja always referred to as my mini me. His name sounds a lit like Fonzie. Not sure if he is a Happy Days fan or not, but many of us gave him the thumbs up and a “Heyyyyyy” when we heard it.

In addition to a bunch of jewelry, some sunglasses, and some stickers, we were able to leave them with a lot of food and supplies.

Back to Foyer de Amis in the afternoon. Broke out the bird hat and taught some of the kids my Pterodactyl dance.

We did some face painting, and let them do some face painting, too.

Finally, we had to say goodbye to Foyer de Amis for the last time. Definitely didn’t get any easier this time. Amazing how we come to make an impact on them, but they make such a huge impact on us in the process.

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haiti day two

Blog By: Amy McGehee

Loving Unconditionally/Unconditional: Do we really live day-to-day loving people unconditionally? Is it just something we say that makes love sound better or something we do to express that emotion?

As this is only the second day we have been here in Haiti I have already seen unconditional love expressed by the children I have just met.  They don’t even know my name or speak my language, but the love they give is humbling to say the least. They don’t want anything in return – just love. Today I met a little girl that was absolutely adorable.  At first she was hesitant to interact, but once that barrier was broken she just wanted to be held and loved.  As I sat holding her I started thinking about how many times in my life that I know God just wanted to hold me and how I was so resistant.  So many times I have expected something in return and all I really needed was to surrender and just let him love on me.

I have learned that love should just be freely given, with no stipulation. How many times in your life have you withheld love because of how you felt about that person? Whether it’s something they did or something they said, was it really worth withholding your love? In that case, how many times should God have withheld love from you? God never withholds his love, but so many times we neglect to receive and give what is something so free.

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haiti day one.

Written By: Whitnie Williams

I’m overwhelmed. I feel like I’m in a completely different world.

I’ve never seen anything like this. Port-Au-Prince has this almost tragic beauty to it. The place is in ruin. The picture I’ve posted is of a tent city. A lot of people who lost everything in the earthquake have found shelter there, but it’s not the typical idea of shelter.

As soon as we began driving to the missions guest house, I witnessed much more than I could have possibly prepared for. I witnesses tragedy I have never seen before now.

Upon preparing to leave for an orphanage, a woman brought over a group of orphans she cares for to visit. My youth pastor, the leader of the trip, began to walk towards them, but it was them who flocked towards him, attacking him and greeting him with hugs and smiling faces filled with a joy I cannot explain. These children have lost everything, and in the midst of that, it was a simple stranger that could make their day. They then ran towards us, throwing their arms around us without reservation. I was overcome with emotion. It was the single most heart-warming and heart-breaking thing I’ve ever seen. I began to bawl. We’d been here for just a couple of hours, and I was already sobbing. I continued to cry as two of the most adorable children on the world held onto me. It was honestly a big comical… (Ok, it was hilarious. And yes, there are videos. No, you may not see them. :P)

We then boarded our bus and made our way to the orphanage our church sponsors, and it was there that I met some of the most humble, giving, loving, compassionate young ladies I have ever met. Through the language barrier, we connected. They were fascinated by my fair complexion and freckles, and one girl seemed to admire my purity ring.

I spent my bus ride back in reverence. God is so amazing, and that does not even begin to cover it. I cannot wait to see what He will do here through these amazing people and this amazing group He so eloquently and beautifully crafted by hand.

Keep us in your prayers, and I will update tomorrow.

Be blessed,

Whitnie

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haiti missions trip – october 13-18

Tomorrow morning a team of 18 from Faith Promise will be heading to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to spend several days ministering to nearly a hundred orphans.  While we are on this trip we would LOVE your prayer support!

While we are in Haiti, our goal will be to connect you with the missions experience every day.  You can follow along with our trip each day via this website,www.michaelbwallace.com.  Team members will be blogging about their experience as well as posting pictures and video from each day of the trip.

The team members for this trip are:

Kristina Booth
Dave Breaux
Tonja Breaux
Katy Creasman
Whitney Fulwiler
Carl Hall
Sabrina Hall
Ryan Hargis
Amy McGehee
Tatum McKinnon
Austin Parrish
Hannah Ridner
Kelly Searle
Bryce Spencer
Michael Wallace
Holly Wallace
Sydney Weisberg
Whitnie Williams

Thank you for your support!  As you experience this journey with us, feel free to leave comments on the website…it will be great to hear from you!

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10 years.

As I write this post…the first in a while, my apologies for that…it is September 11, 2011, which is 10 years exactly from a very dark and somber moment in American history.  It was a day that struck fear and changed perspective.  It was a day that none will forget.  It was 9/11.

The question that is commonly asked during times of remembrance is, “Where we you when 9/11 happened?”  For each of us who experienced the event and aftermath, there are countless stories of emotion, fear, doubt and worry.  My story involves a different word: vomit.

I woke up on September 11, 2001 in my college dorm at Appalachian State University in the “thriving metropolis” of Boone, North Carolina.  It was my freshman year, and only the 3rd week of the semester. I was just getting past the nerves of being in a new place and the anxiousness of starting college…but on this special morning I woke up with the flu. Awesome.  So, in my first month of living away from home I had to nurse myself back to health and miss my morning classes.  This caused me to do something very uncharacteristic…I turned on the news in the middle of the morning.  At almost exactly the same time that the media began reporting that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center in New York City.

In the hours that followed I joined the millions worldwide who were glued to the TV as the story developed and it became apparent that America was under attack.  Between trips to the bathroom to be sick, I remember very clearly feeling an ache in my stomach that had nothing to do with a virus, and everything to do with a lack of control.  On that day,the reality sunk in deeply that the world I lived in was not safe, and the control I thought I had was a complete myth. 

I watched over the next weeks and months as friends, some new and some old, made decisions in the wake of the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC that have affected the course of their lives.  Some chose to get right with God or with other people, committing to live their life differently in the knowledge of the fragility of  each moment we are granted.  Others chose to enlist in the armed forces and dedicate themselves to defending our country and its values.  And all of us adjusted to a world with a drastically different approach to air travel, security and international terrorism.

It truly was a day that changed the course and attitude of our nation.  But the reality of 9/11’s impact is that it pales in comparison to the Sunday morning 2 thousand years ago, when Jesus defeated death to change the course of history and landscape of eternity!  Let’s continue to remember 9/11, the lives lost, the heroism personified and the freedom that is bought through sacrifice.  We should celebrate the country we love every single day.  And more than that we should never “get over” the sacrifice Jesus made for our salvation!

What about you?  Where were you when 9/11 happened?  Have you considered the same intentional approach to celebration and remembrance when it comes to what Jesus did?

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friday night lights.

Friday night is one of the most electrifying and magnetizing events of the week for a student.  The lights, the band, the competition…it is inspiring and exciting to be a part of it all.  So, shouldn’t we feel that same anticipation when it comes to following Christ? Shouldn’t we all want to get in the game and get off the sidelines?

That’s why we’ve created a brand new series at fpStudents that will help us see how God has designed us to do just that.  The first step in understanding this crucial truth about our world is to start with diet and exercise.  We’ve created a unique student reading plan that will give you clarity and focus as you learn to chase after who God is.  You can pick up  your copy of the “Two-A-Days” guide at fpStudents on Wednesday, or download the first week right HERE.

It’s a new school year.  And it’s up to you.  Are you going to pick up the ball and make a difference?

It all starts now.  Let’s go!

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colt’s miracle.

I’m not sure why we don’t talk about it more.

Ok, that’s a lie. We want him to feel normal, that’s why.

Truth is, he’s not normal. And it’s a miracle.

As I write this I am in Dallas, less than half a mile away from the site of a miracle. 3 years ago my wife, Holly, and I were in a state of shock. We discovered in July of 2008 that our beautiful baby boy had a cranial deformity called ‘craniosinostosis.’ Which basically meant that in order for him to look and act like a ‘normal’ kid, he would need fairly extensive surgery. As a 9 month old infant.

And in November of 2008 we spent 2 weeks at Children’s Medical Center, a stone’s throw from this very spot, as Colt endured a dual craniotomy, 2 separate invasive surgeries, to correct his deformity.

The miracle that took place at that moment was not medical…it wasn’t even logical. I know that before Colt was born God had a plan to take care of him. You see, God moved in my life to lead me to attend Dallas Theological Seminary. Why is that important? Well, my attending DTS meant that Holly and I needed to relocate immediately after graduating college and getting married. Which meant that we would be living in a new city with new friends and new jobs. But ultimately it meant that when our first child was born, and a cranial deformity was detected, that we would already be living less than 45 minutes away from several of the most experienced cranial surgeons in the world.

The successful surgeries.
The providential placement of our family.

Still not the greatest miracle that happened here.

I remember the morning of the first surgery. I was bitter and angry, although I didn’t show it. And I broke down when we had to hand Colt over to the doctors, weeping like never before. Not because I was worried, but because I was frustrated that I couldn’t fix this little boy that I loved with all my heart.

The greatest miracle that I experienced then was the recognition that God loves Colt, and me, more than I could ever imagine. The truth is, Colt is just on loan to me. He’s always been God’s. Always will be God’s. But I have the privilege of helping him grow to see who God is, and show him how much God loves him. On the day of Colt’s first surgery I realized for the first time that God loved Colt more than I did.

And that He loved me even more than I did.

Let that sink in. Read it twice if it helps.

God loves you more than you do.

That simple truth, the fact that it is true and that we can have knowledge of it, is a miracle.

And I am so grateful that I could learn this lesson from my baby boy. Because God made him special I was able to see the true depth of His love.

I’m not sure why we don’t talk about it more.

147

is it thanksgiving yet?

Go ahead and laugh, but as a student this question penetrated my mind every year during the first week of school.  Yes, in August.

As soon as the Fall Semester began I started to look for the next break from the monotony of the school day.  The newness of my recently purchased book bag and fresh school supplies (and Trapper Keeper!) would wear off sometime between second and third period, and the walls started to cave in.  The promise of the weekend would barely whet my appetite for freedom compared to the longing hope for a week off in November.  Because, as we all know, Thanksgiving break means that you can practically hold your breath until the glorious event that is Christmas break!

Sound familiar?  This is the attitude most students carry into the school year.  It’s like a painful prison sentence that steals freedom and replaces it with responsibility! But, having completed many years of education myself, I have discovered several tips that will help students and families prepare for the 2011-12 school year:

  1. Do Your Homework.  Silly, right?  Stay on top of this week to week, and you will avoid the feeling that you are sinking in quicksand, and the finish line will seem much, much closer!
  2. Choose Your Friends Wisely.  Your attitude will be influenced by the people that you surround yourself with.  Negative people will mess up your outlook on life, but positive personalities will make each day a joy to live!
  3. Define Your Purpose.  Why are you going to school? Because the state requires that you get an education?  Or because you recognize the value of learning and growing? This requires a level of maturity that is greatly lacking in our culture.  The students that get this will go FAR in life!

Students, the way you look at this school year will make the biggest difference in the outcome of your time in school.  Are you spending 7 hours a day just learning information? Or trying to create an identity that is seen as popular? Or showing the world that you could care less about their opinion?

The biggest, most audacious (vocab word!) thing you can do this year is to impact your influences for Jesus.  Students, teachers, coaches, principles…they will all be watching you.  How are you intentionally representing Jesus for them? Are you doing your homework when it comes to your relationship with Him? Are you surrounding yourself with people who also love Him? Have you defined your purpose as a follower and ambassador of Christ this semester?

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transformed.

Last week fpStudents experienced the beginning of a movement.  Trust me, it was WAY MORE than just “camp” as we saw students break free from many things in their life and commit to chasing after God forever.  They are poised to make an incredible impact on East Tennessee, and it all starts with the recognition that they, and we, need to be transformed.

Philippians 2:12-15 “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”

In Philippians Paul shows us that our transformation begins at the point of salvation, but we continue to “work it out.”  There is a process that we must go through where God works in us so we can become blameless and pure.  Wherever you are in the process, the key thing to remember is that you still need to be transformed.

Why do you need to be transformed? Because you’re not dead yet. If you’re not dead, then God’s not done! God’s plan is to transform you…not into a perfect Christian robot, but something pure among the wickedness of the world…a beam of bright light in the midst of the dark sky.  That’s why we need to be transformed…because the more we chase after God, the more we look like Jesus, and the more the world is drawn to Him and will be saved.  Therefore God’s purpose is for those who love Him to share His reconciliation with those who don’t.

We all have the need for salvation.  We can’t make our own way to Heaven, that’s why Jesus death and resurrection is so vital to our relationship with God.  But beyond that, we have a need to be transformed.  We don’t need to become perfect in order to have a relationship with God, but once we start that relationship and continue to see who He is and how much He loves us…we can’t possibly stay the same…we must continue the process of transformation!

Pray with me for this generation.  Not that they will become something great by solving the debt crisis and creating world peace…but that they will be marked by representing Christ through their transformation.  And that will truly change the world!

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the yellers.

I love theme parks.  Really, I do.  Not in the “I WILL ride every roller coaster in this park 3 times before I leave” kind of way.  I’m more of a “I would like to ride 2 coasters and eat as much overpriced food/drink as possible” guy.  Especially when turkey legs and frozen lemonade are involved.  Please and thank you!  Whichever end of the spectrum you find yourself leaning towards, there is one thing that I’m certain no one enjoys at a theme park: the yellers.

Who are the yellers? They are the boisterous, happy people employed by the park to help them bankroll on your account by encouraging you to spend your food money on carnival games.  Now, I have nothing against them personally.  I mean, they seem nice enough.  But if you walk within 100 feet of a carnival game you are guaranteed to hear someone on a microphone daring you to climb a tight-rope (after riding a roller coaster, ha!) or shoot a free throw (on a 11.5 foot basketball goal) or toss a bucket of rings (insert funny comment) all to win a giant stuffed toy and/or impress your friends and family.  After paying $50 to get into a theme park, I’m pretty sure no one enjoys walking through the gauntlet of yellers, right?

However, sometimes I feel their pain.  Do you?  Have you ever spent time intentionally trying to tell someone about God?  Have you ever worked your tail off to share the Gospel with someone?  Have you ever felt like the world is sidestepping you like a “carnival yeller” because of the veracity with which you speak of Jesus Christ?  Do you ever feel like all your exhaustive efforts are ending up as white noise on the ears and hearts of those you care about who don’t know Him?

In Mark 16 Jesus told the disciples, “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” His command to us is to share the gospel, the story of who He is and what He has done, with the whole world.  Sometimes this makes me feel like an annoying “yeller” in the ears of the world. But I have learned 2 things in my 21 + years following Christ:

1. We are commanded to PREACH no matter what.  Throughout the New Testament we see Peter, Paul, Stephen and others face grave danger and even death for the sake of sharing the gospel of Christ.  Being annoying wouldn’t even get picked up on their radar of “persecution.”  For them, and hopefully for us, it is a life and death issue.

2. The most effective way I’ve seen/heard/tried to share the gospel is NOT by yelling and screaming about the end of the world.  It is simply by sharing with others the story of the gospel in my life.  Letting people see who Jesus is and what He has done for me lets them see the relational side of our truly loving God.  Instead of playing to their fears, open their eyes to our compassionate Father who wants nothing but reconciliation with His children.

Yellers.  They can be annoying.  But sharing the gospel is our command and it is our obedient response to a loving Savior.  How are you sharing Jesus with those around you?

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awonkum.

I love my kids. Like children do, they bring a lot of joy to my life. Not that they are angels 100% of the time (far from it), but as their daddy I find myself smiling a lot at the way they see the world. For instance, my son has become a fan of the “Monkey Song.”
I remember singing this song when I was little, maybe you do, too:

Five little monkeys, sitting in a tree
Teasing Mr. Alligator “Can’t catch me!”
Along comes Mr. Alligator quiet as can be
And he CHOMPS a monkey right out of that tree!

I love it when Colt sings this song for two reasons: First, Mr. Alligator is mimed by my son as he sings with his hands together swimming back and forth approaching the monkeys. He even squashes his face together as if to hide himself from the moneys. It. Is. Adorable. Second, in Colt’s version of the song he replaces the phrase “Along comes” with his own grammatical creation: “awonkum.” As in, “awonkum Mr. Alligator, quiet as can be.”

While “awonkum” is obviously Colt’s slight miscommunication of a lyric, and is quite humorous to hear him sing, I can’t help but think of the other things that may get scrambled in translation to my 3 year old. How clearly is he able to convey that I love his mother more than any other person on earth? Can he accurately share with others how active God is in our home, beyond just thanking Him for our food? Does Colt know how to communicate what is most important to our family in a way that represents our honest intent in parenting?

I truly believe that communication is huge, especially when it comes to parenting. What we say, and how we say it, has a massive impact on our kids. What “awonkum” situations have you seen play out in your family?

You can watch Colt singing the “monkey song” right here.

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interviewing satan.

This week fpStudents launched a new series called “Blockbusters” where we screen a popular movie and then teach Biblical truth through the theme of the movie.  It’s really a fun way to interact with culture and help students see the relevancy of God’s Word.  Plus there’s popcorn!

The first installment of the series was a viewing of the movie “Despicable Me” that introduced a discussion on stereotypes.  Yesterday I posted some thoughts pertaining to how we view stereotypes and our lives in light of who Jesus is.  In communicating the pervasiveness of stereotypes I decided to track down Satan and interview him in order to clear up a few misconceptions about him.  You can watch that video through the link below.  Enjoy!

Interview With Satan

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stereo-typical.

Most of our lives are lived in the context of stereotypes.  Without an intentional effort, we can easily become consumed with creating an identity for ourselves based on our circumstances.  It could be a promotion, a relationship, your seat at the lunch table, a financial goal, or any public status symbol.  The truth is that we are all very concerned with how our circumstances affect our identity.

In John 10:10 Jesus explains very clearly that Satan’s chief goal in our world is to “steal, kill and destroy” while He himself came to earth that we “may have life, and have it to the full.”  I truly believe that Satan is way more concerned with stealing your identity than “making you sin.”  Basically, if he can convince you to buy into the lie that the next status symbol, relational or financial goal will complete your identity, you will do anything to make it a reality, including things that separate you from God.  In a nutshell, Satan sells stereotypes!

But there is another option.  As Jesus said, His goal is to give us life, and not one that is only complete when our circumstances line up perfectly.  Jesus came to earth to reconcile us with our family.  Through His death and resurrection He made a way for us to reconnect with our Heavenly Father.  While Satan sells stereotypes, Jesus provides a family.  It really is that simple.

The choice, then, is ours.  Have you accepted your role in the family?  Even after you have accepted Jesus as your savior, are you living each day chasing after a stereotype? Or resting in the arms of a loving Father who cares for you no matter what status you achieve?

Today you have a chance to break out of the typical routine of buying into Satan’s stereotypical lies and see yourself as God sees you.  The full life that Jesus offers begins with an identity that supersedes all of life’s circumstances.  How are you identifying yourself?

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summer of awesome.

If you read the title of this blog post and had any doubts that the next 2 months are going to be out-of-this-world amazing, you MUST read on!  If you are a 6th-12thgrade student there is no better way to spend your summer than by plugging in to what fpStudents is doing.
Here’s what’s going on:

Blockbusters Series – On June 8th fpStudents will begin a teaching series called “Blockbusters” where we will convert the Faith Promise Pellissippi and Blount campuses into movie theaters and discover Biblical truths from a new movie each week.  Plus, there’s FREE POPCORN!

Six Flags Road Trip – On June 16th we will load up and drive to Atlanta, GA for a full day of roller coasters and sunburn at Six Flags theme park.  The cost is only $50 and you can sign up online or at the kiosk.  This event will depart from and return to the Pellissippi campus.

Transformed Summer Camp – July 22nd-27th will be a 6 day adventure that will be the highlight of your summer!  Join us at Myrtle Beach, SC as we soak up the sun on the beach, ride a huge water slide, swim in the pool, rock out with late night events, meet new friends and experience the complete life change that comes with a relationship with Jesus. The cost is $355, but you only need a $250 deposit to reserve your spot today!  You can sign up at the kiosk or go online and see some great video footage of last year’s camp experience.

High School After Dark – Join us for some incredible hang out time after select Wednesday nights!  After Dark will include a bonfire, a luau, a water fight, a pool party and a movie night! Check out fpStudents.com for more specific info.

Stick with fpStudents this summer and it will definitely be the greatest summer of your life!  All events are open to any students who have completed 6th-12th grade.  For more details on the special graded events for middle school and high school check out the website or give us a call at (865) 251-2590.

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legacy.

I think that we love to celebrate graduation because it is the culmination of years of hard work and determination.  A lot goes in to the “finish line” that graduation represents. And a word that is usually tossed around a lot in this season of finishing high school is LEGACY.

Over the last few weeks in fpStudents we’ve been discovering that when it comes to our priorities, what we do reveals what is important to us.  We can talk a big game about being healthy or loving God, but until we hit the gym or spend time in God’s Word, those things really aren’t a priority for us.  The things that make it to our “To Do List” are the things that we really care about and what truly has value in our lives.

When it comes to legacy it’s easy to only look at the finish line.  Seniors become focused on the legacy that they will leave, and can quickly hyper-focus on how they will be remembered at their school, church, team, or family.  I have learned two things about legacy.  First, if what we do reveals what is important to us, then how we do those things will determine what legacy we will leave.  Legacy is less about our actions and more about our attitudes.  We all leave a legacy in the form of a story, and how that story is told is connected to the way handle our decisions, relationships, etc.

The second thing I’ve learned about legacy is that nobody creates a legacy on the last lap.  A legacy is built like a house, brick by brick, until it is complete.  You can’t walk up to a vacant lot, toss some shingles on a concrete slab and call it a home.  It takes time.  Each day of your life, of high school, middle school, your job, parenting…you are creating your legacy.  You determine how you will be remembered not just at the finish line, but each step along the way.

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the bash.


This week I want to fill you in on a HUGE event for fpStudents at both of our campuses.  On May 25 we will launch into Summer 2011 with THE BASH!

The Bash is a massive event that is highlighted by the opportunity to beat the tar out of a few old junked up cars with baseball bats and sledge hammers.  This is the perfect way to get out the aggression collected over 9 months of the school year!  But that’s not all!  The parking lot will be loaded with inflatable games including a high-flying Euro-Jump, obstacle courses and a dunk tank.  There will be tons of free food, great prize giveaways and even a live DJ to take it to the next level.

Parents, this is a spectacle that your student won’t want to miss…and it’s the best way to get them started on the summer of a lifetime!  fpStudents has some amazing things planned throughout June and July, including a Road Trip to Six Flags and our Transformed Student Camp in sunny Myrtle Beach, SC.  You can find more info on these events on our webpage www.fpStudents.com.

Each week throughout the summer we will continue our fpStudents services on Wednesday nights, starting with our exciting BLOCKBUSTERS series on June 8. Make sure to stay connected all summer long and join us each weekend at Faith Promise as well!

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bucket list.

Last week I had a chance to cross off something from my Bucket List.  We all have experiences or accomplishments that we want to see happen before we die…a big item on my list has been to complete a Half Marathon.  And this past Saturday I did just that!  It was a huge relief to cross that finish line and be handed a heavy medal that signified the completion of my journey.

Tonight fpStudents at all campuses will begin a new series called “To Do List.” There are so many things that battle for our priorities…school, jobs, relationships, family, etc…that we can often lose sight of what should be preeminent in our lives. In this series we’ll discover what’s most important and how we can order our lives accordingly.

There is a huge connection between our daily To Do Lists and our long-term Bucket Lists.  If your Bucket List items never show up on your weekly To Do List, chances are that they will never get done.  For me to accomplish a Half Marathon required me to get up several times a week and actually run!  It was painful and exhausting, but in the end it was absolutely worth it.

Let’s think for a second about what Jesus has command us in regard to our To Do Lists. In Matthew 28:18 Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Throughout the Bible we see the importance of loving God and loving others, but in Jesus’ final words to the disciples He challenged them to seek out the lost and tell them about Him.

As I think back to the moment I crossed the finish line, I realize that in that millisecond my race was over.  I was no longer making progress to the goal.  I was done.  That moment will come for each of us when we die.  As our life expires, we will potentially leave Bucket List items unfinished, but there’s really nothing we can do about it.  We’ve “kicked the bucket” and moved on to eternity.

I believe that the same is true of our responsibility to Christ’s command.  We only have a few years on earth to represent Jesus to a world that doesn’t know Him.  If you’re Bucket List included the names of your friends, family, co-workers and teammates that are separated from Christ, how are you responding to Jesus?

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stuff colt says, part 2.

 

Yesterday I listed out some of the funniest things we’ve recorded our 3 year old son, Colt, say over the last few months.  Another great 15 quotes are listed here today for you to enjoy.  Here’s why we’ve been doing this:  to remember.  Since Colt first started to form words into sentences we’ve been captivated by his thoughts.  And we realized that by recording them on Twitter we’d have a way to capture the moments that stole our hearts.  In the moment they seem like you’ll remember, but by writing them down they are much more likely to last!  As we compiled the lists for these posts, Holly and I belly-laughed reminiscing on #StuffColtSays…and I hope that you also look for ways to remember your kids. 

  1. “I will be so very careful with my milk and I will not get any on my shirt. I promise.”
  2. Michael: Colt, where do butterflies come from?  Colt: From tigers!  Michael: No, caterpillars.  Colt: The caterpillars catch them?
  3. Colt: “Tomorrow I can wear underpants! I like underpants.”
  4. 4 minutes into watching the Royal Wedding, Colt said: “Why is this still on?” but he watched the weather for 2 hours on Wed.
  5. Colt: “Mommy, please don’t brush my hair, I don’t want to look like a lady!”
  6. Colt: I wrote a song.  Michael: What song? Colt: Feep fop foop pizza!
  7. Holly: “If the storm gets bad we’ll need to go to the downstairs bathroom.” Colt: “Why, Mommy? I don’t need to poop!”
  8. Colt: “Jesus is in my heart, but I’m gonna ask Him to come out so that I can tell Him why I’m scared. Then, He can go back!”
  9. Colt: “We don’t eat animals.” Michael: “Where do we get chicken nuggets?” Colt: “Downstairs.”
  10. Colt: “Daddy, I have a question.” Michael: “What?” Colt: “My…question…is…I want the light on.”
  11. Michael: “Emmy you’re my princess.” Colt: “I don’t think so, she has shorts on.”
  12. Colt: “When lions walk past my window I say ‘U keep on going lions, we got no room for u here!’ Is that what u say too, Mommy?” Holly: “Huh?”
  13. Couldn’t locate Colt this am & finally found him in his car seat ready to go. When asked y he was in the car he said “I’m ready for church!”
  14. Colt: Can I have more milk? Michael: Can you eat some of your spaghetti? Colt: No. Michael: Ditto.
  15. Colt: Daddy what’s that? Michael: sweat. Colt: Can I help your sweat? Michael: How? Colt: with my book! (places wooden book on my chest)

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stuff colt says.

I love my family.  They are truly the greatest blessing in my life.  While I love them with all my heart, parenting Colt, my 3 year old son, has become a unique experience for Holly and I.  He says some of the funniest and most bizarre things ever!  So, a few months ago we started “tracking” his quotes on Twitter by making a hashtag called #StuffColtSays, 1/2 of which you can enjoy here.  The other 1/2 will be posted tomorrow, along with what I have learned by posting my son’s humorous one-liners.

  1. Colt “I don’t need grapes Mommy. I just already got these from the trash & they’re just yummy”
  2. Holly: “Colt and Emmy, it’s time for nap.” Colt: “You’re serious, aren’t u!?!”
  3. The rain woke Colt so he asked “When Jesus comes back will He turn on lights so I can see Him & tell Him why I’m scared?”
  4. Colt: “Mommy no matter what Emmy says I did NOT run past, push her & take her toy!” Holly: “U know Emmy CAN’T say that right?”
  5. Colt to the CVS clerk: “We were just at church. You wanna go too? It’s fun!”
  6. Colt’s bed prayers tonight started w/: “Dear Lord Jesus thank u for ALL the Mommies, ALL the Daddies, ALL the Emmys & ALL the bikes…no, just fast bikes!”
  7. Colt: “I’m David and Emmy is Goliath. Mommy, u can be Batman!”
  8. Colt: “We are a band! Emmy, u sing, I’ll play drums & Mommy u play guitar. But we can’t just play anything, we have to play MUSIC…Hit it!”
  9. Colt stubbed his toe and thru the tears he cried “Mommy, can I have a new toe? This one hurts too very bad to keep!”
  10. Colt: “Mommy, u remember Daddy? He’s my favorite!”
  11. Holly: “Colt, who r u going to meet tonight?” Colt: “Baby Waterfountain Ervin!” Holly: “U mean Baby West?” Colt: “That’s what I said!”
  12. Colt recaps a book read at school: “2 guys were playing, 1 took away a toy & the other cried. The first guy said sorry & we turned the page”
  13. Colt:”Can I watch TV?” Holly:”No it’s naptime” Colt: “We not say no 2 each other, we r family, we luv each other!”
  14. Colt explains snow to Emmy “It covers houses like milk but it’s cold!”
  15. Colt: “I bit my tongue!” Michael: “That’s why you need to eat your chicken, your teeth are hungry!”

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just like you.

When I was a little boy my family listened to a lot of “Phillips, Craig & Dean” music. A lot.  Like, I could probably recite their whole catalogue without breaking a sweat.  And we saw them in concert.  A lot.  I knew their jokes and could predict their stage transitions.  I could have joined their tour and changed the act to “PCD & some random kid from North Carolina.”

Ok, I may exaggerate a bit, but we were really into their music.  While they have had many hit songs, there is one that stands out in my mind every time I remember them.  The lyrics are as follows:

“Lord, I want to be just like You ‘cause he wants to be just like me.  I want to be a holy example for his innocent eyes to see.  Help me be a living Bible, Lord that my little boy can read.   I want to be just like You ‘cause he wants to be like me.”

As a kid I didn’t think much of it, but now as a parent I am rocked by the reality of this message.  I see so much of my life reflected in my 3 year old son Colt.  Sometimes it scares me to think of how I may be misrepresenting to him what it looks like to follow Christ.  He sees my failures and my frustrations.  He’s around for the times when I lose my cool.  No matter how many times I get it right, he is acutely aware of the fact that I make mistakes.

I’m so thankful that my dad took his impact seriously.  He was very intentional with my brother and I to show us what it was to be a man who follows Christ.  I wanted, and still want, to be like Him, and the best way that I can repay him for his representation of Jesus is to follow suit with my son.  The picture above is of my father and my son.  I am so proud to have learned from one and have a chance to lead the other.  I pray that my son will grow to love Christ and desire to be the kind of daddy that my father has been to me.

Our kids are constantly watching.  What is your example teaching them?  Who are you leading them to follow?

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easter monday.

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Matthew 28:16-20

On Thursday, Jesus prepared His disciples for His death.  On Friday, Jesus died on a cross and the veil was torn.  On Saturday, the disciples were shell-shocked.  On Sunday, Jesus came back to life.  On Monday, Jesus wrapped up the remainder of humanity’s focus in one paragraph that we can sum up in two letters:GO.

Thank God that we live in Easter Monday every single day of our lives.  There’s none of Thursday’s nerves, Friday’s despair or Saturday’s panic.  We don’t even have to wait until Sunday afternoon to know that Jesus defeated death.  On Easter Monday, the truth was OUT, and our role is CLEAR….therefore, GO!

Because of what Jesus did, we have the chance to live out Easter Monday each day…. not unlike Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day”… every day is a glorious repeat of the emotions of the weekend wrapped up in the adventure Jesus gave us for the coming week.

Go.

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good friday.

Long before Rebecca Black got excited about Friday, eternity experienced a Friday like no other. It was a day that began the longest weekend ever. It was the day Jesus gave his life for us. Good Friday.

Why is Friday good? Why would we speak that way about a day where someone died? Simple, really. He didn’t stay dead. On Sunday Jesus came back to life, defeated death and sin and made a way for us to have relationship with the Father!Therefore, the Friday Jesus died is GREAT because the story ends with our reconciliation with God.

If that’s not enough to get you excited about Friday, you can check out the most recent music video by fpStudents right here: http://vimeo.com/22703594 I guarantee you’ll laugh!

If you don’t already have a church to celebrate Easter this weekend, I’d like to invite you to join me at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, TN. We have services tonight, tomorrow and Sunday. Or check it out online at http://faithpromise.org

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a day without makeup.

Today there are over 1,200 girls that have chosen not to wear makeup…all because of one girl.

A few weeks ago fpStudents hosted a girls-only event called “Girl Talk.” The purpose was to help high school girls recognize that God created them, sees them as beautiful, and loves them more than anyone else ever could. The girls had a blast, and for days afterwards continued to write in their journals and talk to each other about what they had learned. One girl, however, took it a step further.

Bailey, a freshman at Hardin Valley Academy, decided that she wanted to do something to help even more girls see themselves the way God sees them. So, as many students do, she turned to Facebook and created an event called ” A Day Without Makeup 2011.” Her intent was to simply give her friends a chance to stand together and show the world that they are God’s creation, and therefore He sees them as beautiful even with no makeup on. What began as a simple “Facebook Event” targeting a few dozen friends turned into a movement among well over a thousand people.

I wanted to tell you this story for 2 reasons.

  1. These high school girls are being impacted by a simple truth: God loves us. He’s not a giant bully looking for ways to rain on our parade. He created us and wants the best for us. Knowing this has affected the way these girls are choosing to live their lives. How about you?
  2. This “Day Without Makeup” started because one freshman girl decided to do something. There was no guarantee of success. She could have failed miserably and been embarrassed on the internet and at school. But Bailey chose to step out in faith and courage that what she was doing was RIGHT and NEEDED TO BE DONE. Do you have that same faith? That courage?

I’m so proud of Bailey and the impact she is having on her peers. Although, to be fair, there are quite a few adults participating today as well…

Update: By having over 1,000 people involved in “A Day Without Makeup” Bailey earned a chance to put makeup on me during our high school fpStudents service. It was magical.

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april 18, 2001.

Ten years ago my life changed forever.  It was the day that I started dating Holly Moffitt.

Holly and I met in the first grade at Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, NC.  I was in love from day one, but only a select few knew how I felt.  Over the next 11 years we would continue to become good friends, sharing several classes a year and experiencing elementary, middle and high school together.  By our senior year Holly had been dating someone for quite a while, and I had dated a few girls here and there, but nothing serious.  And then I couldn’t take it anymore.

Our senior class took an annual trip to Disney World to celebrate our triumphant exit from school and entrance into the real world.  While on this trip I found myself spending a lot more time with Holly, and loving every minute of it.  On the last night I finally got a chance to make my move.  In front of Cinderella’s castle, with fireworks going off in the background, I looked into Holly’s eyes and told her I’d had a crush on her for over a decade.  My deep, emotional moment was met with silence.  For a good 30 seconds she just stared at me.  It was awkward to say the least.

But by the time we arrived back home from the magical world of Disney, Holly and I had shared hours of conversation and I knew that this was going to change my life.  That brings us to April 18, 2001.  On this day in history, Holly and I went on our first date.  Carter Brother’s BBQ had never before and has not since seen two people so in love.  That day was ten years ago today, and I am so proud to say that I am still dating Holly, not only as her boyfriend, but now as her husband of almost 7 years and co-parent of 2 wonderful kids.

Holly, I love you.  Thanks for showing up that day for a BBQ lunch and every day after that. Here’s to celebrating again in another 10 years.

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three p’s of war.


Last week fpStudents wrapped up our “Make War” series that focused on identifying God’s battle plan for our lives.  Just as no general goes to war without a plan and no coach leaves the locker room without drawing up a way to win the game, our God set our lives in motion with a specific purpose in mind.  The big question we ended this series with is this: how do I discover God’s plan for my life? Taking a look at Esther’s life we can see three simple ways that God directs our paths.  You can check out her story in the book of Esther in the Old Testament…it’s a great read!

1. Personality. Esther’s personality was in sharp contrast to that of Queen Vashti.  Instead of rudely barging in on the King, Esther chose to approach him with respect and honor.  Her God-given personality allowed her to fulfill God’s plan for her life. What about you?  What things make you unique?  Is it a musical gift? Or a boisterous persona?  Maybe your quick and witty humor?  You may be scared of using these gifts and talents, but God has designed you with an arsenal to make noise in this world to draw attention to Him!

2. Passion. Esther was passionate about the Jewish people.  Kind of a no-brainer since she was one….but nonetheless she was moved to play a role in saving them from extinction.  God gives each of us passions when we chase after Him.  Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  Not that God is like Santa…visit Him at the mall/church and you get what you want…but when you draw close to Him He will create in you a passion for the things that matter to Him.

3.  Position. God placed Esther in a specific position as queen for a specific reason.  That reason was partially to save the Jews, but primarily to make His name glorified!  If you are reading this, it is unlikely that you are a queen.  (If you are, well, hello there!  Thanks for reading!)  But the truth is that God has placed you in the midst of your family, your friends, your job, or your classroom for a reason. You are rubbing shoulders with people who need to know about Jesus.  They need to see it in your life.

This has been a fantastic series of messages and discussions.  If you’d like to watch the messages from all three weeks, you can see them here:www.vimeo.com/groups/makewar

old testament vs karma vs exercise.

This is gonna sound weird, but sometimes I catch myself creating an Old Testament style exercise program with a little bit of Karma tossed in for good measure.  Strange, right?

In the last 6 months I have worked out pretty consistently.  I run, lift weights or swim about 3 times a week.  And I love it.  But I seem to fall into this pattern regularly where I use exercise to give myself the freedom to eat whatever I want.  I figure, dude, I ran 4 miles!  It’s cheeseburger and ice cream time!  While this may have worked when I was 17, its not nearly as effective in my old age of 28.  I saw this first hand yesterday when I ate two pieces of pizza and IMMEDIATELY ran 3 miles.  Ouch.  Not a great plan.

You see, my plan to take care of my health has been to temper my intake with exercise.  But if I continue in that path I will never really lose weight…and my heart will eventually give out on me!  The same is true of the way we deal with sin.  Here’s what Paul said in Romans 3:21-24, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Without realizing it, I can fall into this belief that my actions control the outcome of my sin.  I create this internal check-and-balance system to justify or condemn myself for my sin, when in the end the only thing that matters is Jesus!  How great is it to know that no matter what junk I’ve eaten in the past, the scale will read “healthy” as a result of what Jesus did on the cross! I don’t have to work off my old eating habits or sins!  Woohoo!

Here’s the awesome part:  This grace is a free gift!  The bill goes directly to Jesus, tip, tax and all.  So what should our response be?  Well, if you grew up in the South…or at least in my family…every gift on your birthday required an immediate and thoughtfully original thank you note.  What’s that mean?  The rest of your life after coming to Christ is the thank you note that you present Him.

How are you treating His gift?  Are you hitting the treadmill to show Him that you can do it yourself?  Or are you living a life that is worthy of His death?  Do your decisions reflect your desire to tip the sin scales or honor your Savior with each moment of your day?

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jamaica, mon.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you look back and realized that God has been preparing you for something? Over the past year that my wife Krista and I have spent in Knoxville has been one of the best years we could have ever asked for. We found a church that we absolutely love and is doing great things for the kingdom and through that church God has challenged us personally to do something crazy for him.

This story really begins almost 10 years ago. For those who don’t know Krista and I started dating back in high school when she was a freshman and I was a sophomore. During spring break her freshman year Krista took a mission trip that would change her life forever and through her, mine as well. Krista went to a small village in the mountains of Jamaica. She visited a deaf school and knew from that moment that she needed to reach out, teach, and minister to the deaf. Her passion lead me there the next year and for years after that. For Krista is was more than just a great place to go on a mission trip. It was her life calling. When she finished High School she went to college to get a degree in deaf education. After college we got married and Krista ended up taking a job at the Tennessee School for the Deaf in Knoxville. If she didn’t take that job then we wouldn’t have found our church, Faith Promise, and we might not have been as open to mission work. It’s crazy how things work out.

There is more to the story than I’ll share here but more importantly I want to share the why about why we are going. The Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf is a wonderful organization that reaches out to a lost people group who otherwise wouldn’t have an education, a future, and a faith. CCCD gives a free education for rural deaf kids in Jamaica. They teach them a language (sign language) and more importantly they teach them about Jesus. To be a part of what they are doing in Jamaica is exciting and even though we have a long road ahead of us we can feel God’s hand in all of it.

We are inviting people to become a part of our Journey. We would love it if you would consider partnering with us. For more information please visit our website at www.bkbeukema.org. For more information on the Caribbean Christian for the Deaf visit www.cccdjamaica.org.

In Christ,

Ben Beukema

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speed limit enforced by aircraft.

Have you ever seen a sign like this?  Last weekend our family was driving through Virginia where these signs are prominently displayed along major highways.  I remember the first time I really looked at one, I nearly stopped the car to scour the skies in case there was an F-14 on my tail or a Stealth Bomber clocking me from down the road!

I was confused for two reasons.  First, can an aircraft actually “enforce” the speed limit of a land-confined vehicle?  Was my SUV in danger of being landed on or worse yet shot at by a National Guard aircraft?  Or maybe Randy Quaid in a crop-duster like in the movie Independence Day?  Second, assuming it is actually possible for aircraft to enforce speed limits on automobiles, I can hardly imagine a scenario where this is both necessary and cost effective.  It doesn’t seem to be the best use of tax dollars to fuel a fleet of Black Hawk’s to collect a dozen $75 speeding tickets on a good day.

Either way, when I see these signs on the highway I am reminded that I routinely fail to believe everything I read. Whether it’s a metal sign on a Virginian road or the thin paper pages between the leather binding of God’s Word.  How often do I read Scripture that should rock my world, only to pass over it quickly to get to the next verse.  Like…

… Jesus in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

… Paul in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

… James, Jesus’ brother in James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

… or John in Revelation 22:20 “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

The Bible is not a book of stories or suggestions, but the account of the God who loves us and has loved us since before the creation of this planet.  Read it.  And believe it.

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girl talk.

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This is embarrassing, to say the least. Several weeks ago my assistant, Ashley, came to me with an idea for a girls-only event for our high school students. These girls face expectations, lies, myths, pressures and situations that make it extremely hard to survive high school unscathed. It’s tough to be a girl these days! So, “Girl Talk” was formed!

On April 10th dozens of ladies will meet at Faith Promise to celebrate who God has made them and discover the potential He has placed inside each and every one of them! Now to the embarrassing part. As is typical for student ministry events, promotion is key. So I gathered several staff guys and one lucky student to portray what would happen if guys were invited to “Girl Talk.”

You can watch the final product here: http://vimeo.com/21767680

If you are a high school lady and would like more info on Girl Talk, simply email Ashley Caldwell at ashleyc@faithpromise.org

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rescuing colt.

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My 3 year old son, Colt has a new game. It’s called RESCUE. Here’s how it works: I am instructed to sit on the couch (or “boat”) and hold a ribbon or a rope while Colt rolls off the edge of the “boat” to the floor (or “water”). He immediately shouts for RESCUE and I then toss out one end of the rope. We both tug on the rope until Colt has climbed his way right back in the boat with me…only to fall right back in the water and repeat the process again and again.

In the midst of continually saving Colt from the raging rapids of our living room floor, two things stuck out in my mind:

1. We are all dying to be rescued! From the moment of our creation humanity has had a desire for a hero. Psalm 44:25-26 proclaims “We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love.” We were created for a relationship with God, and when we strain for anything else, we find ourselves in need of rescue. We can be tempted to try to rescue ourselves, but truth be told, we all long for our loving God to pull on the rope and save us from the flood of our sin, stress, mistakes, past and pride.

2. Our kids are longing for us to be their hero! Colt wasn’t interested in being rescued by just anyone, he wanted his daddy to save him. Every day we have numerous chances to be a hero for our kids and represent the rescuer that God is in our lives. But every time we choose anything over them (work, hobby, TV) we are showing them that they are not important. Imagine if Superman had a chance to save someone from imminent death, but missed out because he was checking email on his iPhone! We often don’t feel the pressure of imminent death, but each time we abdicate the hero role for our kids we give them a mixed message of who God is and the plan He has for our lives.

My prayer for you this week is that your decisions would reflect the recue that God has put out for you, and that you represent Him clearly to your family. Our kids are dying to be rescued by a hero who loves them. In lieu of the truth they will gravitate towards anyone that is willing.

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make war.

Joshua 6:2-5 “Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.’”

War is all around us. Every day we approach a battle on several fronts. It could be in our family, job, relationships, government, etc. When I face struggles or obstacles in my life, I rarely think to begin with worship. My natural reaction is to muster all the fortitude and strength I can to face what lies ahead of me. Whether it’s a financial battle, a discipline conversation with my children or a disagreement with my wife, I instinctively reach for my weapons first. But that’s not what Joshua did.

Instead of increasing the anti-wall weapons budget or spending extra time in training for battle, Joshua obeyed God’s command to lead with worship. He put the priests with trumpets in the front of the army…not to distract Jericho from a sneak attack…but put on display who was truly leading them. Worship is simply acknowledging who God is, what He has done, and that He has a created us for a reason. I rarely feel like worshipping in the midst of a battle, but those are the times when I need Him the most.

Joshua’s army led with worship. Do you? Or is “worship” simply a style of music? Do we achieve worship by matching the right guitar chords together, or by recognizing our Creator in every moment of every day?

Starting this week, fpStudents will begin a series about God’s unique battle plan for our lives called “Make War.” The first step of this process is to discover that we are all wired for worship. We are called to lead with it, and let it permeate everything else about our lives.

The messages for this series will posted online at http://fpstudents.com/hsm

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motivate the elephant.

Many times change can be difficult because nobody likes to fail.  Failure is like an emotional punch in the stomach, and our Elephant (our emotional, feelings-driven side) avoids it with a passion.  But at the same time, our emotional side loves to win!  So once we Direct the Rider our next step is to Motivate the Elephant.  As we have described our emotions as an elephant, the obvious trick becomes finding a way to control something so large that carries so much weight in our lives.  Here’s how we do it:

1.       Shrink the change. Step #1 gives us a chance to convince our emotions that the necessary change isn’t really that big of a deal.  Instead of communicating it as a massive lifestyle adjustment, simplify what needs to be changed to the smallest factor.  This will give the emotions the confidence it needs to change direction.

2.       Grow your people. We can either adjust the perceived amount of change to match the person, or change the person to match the level of change.  The latter requires us to have a “growth mindset” where we are constantly striving to get better and agree that we have not yet arrived to our potential.  This allows us to make change part of our identity, not a consequence to past failure.

If we want to make a change in our lives or the lives of others we must get the Elephant on our side. When we are emotionally invested in a change we will jump on it faster, work at it harder and stay with it much, much longer.  So, if you need to motivate your family to leave the house on time every day, help them feel how small 5 minutes is and challenge them to beat the clock…remember, we hate to fail but we love to win! If you want to work out more, find ways to identify yourself as a “runner” or a “lifter.”  If your employees or volunteers don’t jump at the opportunity to complete tasks with excellence, point out the 3 small things that will make a difference and insert the term “excellent” in job descriptions and daily conversations.

The Rider and the Elephant are extremely important to making change stick.  But there is one more step to the process that can send the whole operation into a tailspin if it’s not acknowledged. Find out what it is in the next post!

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direct the rider.

Making change happen in our lives begins with the Rider.  In the last post we discovered that our intellect (the logical, thinking side of all of us) has the daunting task of sitting atop the elephant of our emotions on the journey of change.  So, if we want to make a change at work, with our habits, in a relationship, etc, we must start by creating some clear communication with our Rider. Here’s how it works:

1.        Script the critical moves.  In short, we have to determine exactly what it is that needs to be done.  What needs to change? What are the pertinent steps?  The key to connecting with our intellect is making things simple enough that we can understand each move necessary in the change process.

2.       Point to the destination.  There must be a finish line for the Rider to be aiming at.  With a goal in mind, that is both clear and attainable, the Rider is much more likely to achieve long-term change than if simply told to “go get it done” with no idea of how to know if it’s arrived or not.

We essentially have to handicap the Rider and give him every advantage possible to make change happen. The clearer the direction and the more obvious the destination the better chance we have to create legitimate change.  So, if you want to go to the gym regularly, set out your clothes the night before, make sure you have gas in your car and set your alarm.  If you want to help your daughter keep her room clean, help her clean it once so she can see what the finished product looks like.  If you want to do a “180” on your employees, don’t talk in hypothetical terms but with real numbers and timeframes.

Directing the Rider is the first step to making change happen, and the next post will help us tackle the Elephant of our emotions.

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change is hard.

Nobody likes change. On some level, every one of us experiences some fear, animosity or pain when we are forced into change situations.  Recently I read a book that completely adjusted my view on change and how to make it happen.  It’s called “SWITCH: How To Change When Change Is Hard.” The next few posts will give you an overview of how to use the framework described in the book to flip your approach to change, but I’d also recommend reading the book as it is loaded with examples of how to pull this off in your life!

Change is hard simply because of an internal battle that we all face.  The authors of Switch refer to these warring factors as the Rider and the Elephant. Picture a man attempting to ride and lead an elephant down a small road in an African jungle.  Even though this person may have some control over the animal, conventional wisdom tells us that at any moment this beast could buck the rider and take charge of the situation.  This is the picture of our intellect vs. our emotions.

Inside each of us is a struggle between what we know and what we feel.When we are facing a change this struggle comes to light.  In the midst of change our emotions typically win out…and we rarely feel like changing.  This is why change is so hard.  Our intellect tells us we need to change, but can only control our emotions for a short time before the emotions push back.  While the rider is attempting to control the elephant of emotions he is also navigating a path of change.  This is a precarious situation to say the least.

So, how do we change when change is hard?  Find out over the next few posts as we dig more into the Rider, Elephant and Path.  I guarantee this will affect your job, relationships, parenting, etc. Check back soon!

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spring break in haiti.

While you are reading this, most high school students are on spring break.  Many of them are at the beach, lake, Six Flags, shopping or playing video games.  But several Faith Promise students chose to spend their week off from school in a different way: in Haiti.

The country of Haiti has been ravaged by natural disasters and government corruption for decades.  Much of this was brought to a global light during last year’s massive earthquake that nearly leveled the capital city of Port-au-Prince.  In addition to wrecking the country’s already weak infrastructure, the earthquake created an immediate homeless population of millions and thousands of children were orphaned.  That’s where we came in.

Faith Promise as a church has partnered with several orphanages in the last year to support and build in to the next Haitian generation.  Over the last few days I have had the privilege of serving alongside a dozen students and leaders from our church whose simple goal was to show kids God’s love.  It was an amazing and humbling experience.  As you can tell from the pictures above, these kids are just that: kids.  They love to laugh and play, sing and dance.  But in their community they have very little joyous interactions with adults.  Our team made it a priority to shatter our comfort zones in order to connect with these children relationally.  It was a phenomenal thing to watch people who have never been out of the country or seen anything near this level of destruction get down on the floor and love on some kids.

Initially there were some fears and anxiety about the impact we could truly make.  The country is so messed up…what can we possibly do to make a difference?  The truth is, God loves these people every bit as much as He loves us, and by helping to show these children love we will set the foundation for a different kind of Haiti.  These kids are the ones that will start that revolution!

So, what can you do?  Simple: Pray.  Experience the stories of this team and commit to support them in any way possible.  As Pastor has said, we are blessed to be a blessing!  Now that you know the stories, the numbers go out the window…it’s all about the people.  Thank you for giving so generously to this nation that truly needs it.  There is hope for Haiti because we are the church.

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haiti post 3 – blaze manning & courtney bakker.

This trip has definitely been a life changing experience. Being able to love on these kids and them loving on us was so fantabulous! However, driving on the roads was like riding on a roller coaster with no seat belts.

This morning we went to “Bon Berger”, which is one of the orphanages. There were about 36 young children that we were able to play with and love on. Of these children we both found two little adorable girls that we want to bring home and adopt. Around noon we went to the other orphanage, “Foyer De Amis”. This is the orphanage where we spent most of Monday. There the kids were, again, so precious! The joy in all of these children was absolutely astonishing. They sang, they danced, but mostly they laughed! We tickled, we hugged, and we fell in love with every single one of these kids. All of us left a part of ourselves with them as we had to relinquish ourselves from the grasps of these kids.

It was so great watching God move today just by doing simple things such as letting the girls play with our hair or playing soccer for hours with the boys. The kids have definitely changed our lives forever; we just hope that we have changed theirs in some way as well. The two of us have definitely gotten closer through this trip, I mean we keep saying the same thing at the same time, but it has also been great to grow closer with the other people on our team. We have so many inside jokes, nicknames, funny stories, and so many other things that we can’t wait to share with all of our friends and family.

As we are writing this it is raining here in Haiti and The Boys, Thomas Potok, Austin Parrish, and Cale Caldwell are out on the balcony playing in it and they have made their own skating rink with the slippery wet tile. We thought you would enjoy getting a laugh out of their silliness like we have!

Patio Skating Video

God Made Me…Shine! Video, part 1

God Made Me…Shine! Video, part 2


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haiti post 2 – cale caldwell.

Watch a video of Cale playing soccer/futbol with some of the Haitian kids here.

Hope has been the theme that God has put in my heart leading up to this trip and since we’ve been here.  It started with a conversation with a friend at work who does not know Christ. We were talking about all the uncertainty in the world: all the chaos and revolutions in the Middle East, natural disasters, the problems with the global economy, our recession and unemployment, and political tension pretty much everywhere. My friend said that for the first time in his life, he was actually really worried about what was going to happen.

It made me think about Haiti. From what I’ve learned, they aren’t making a lot of progress because they have no hope for the future. They are really just living day to day, trying to get food and stay healthy. The relief money goes through a corrupt government and it feels like the people have no hope for anything better than this. The question for me was, “well what can I possibly do to help?” “Where do I even start??” “How will the small things that I can do really make a difference when they need so many things to change?”

1 Timothy 6:17 says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God.” This trip has given me an opportunity to look at my faith. Do I put my hope in wealth, health, family, my country, my job, or even my church? Because all those things are uncertain. Christ is the same here in Haiti as he is in America, and hope in anything other than Him is no hope at all (Romans 8:24). I am so thankful for all the blessings that God has given me and my family. But more than all that, I am thankful for Christ setting me free to live a true, abundant life in Christ. By His sacrifice, there is hope for Haiti and every one of us.

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monday in haiti.

This is what our Haiti team did today.  Thank you so much for praying and keeping up with us on this journey!  New post first thing Tuesday from Cale Caldwell…you won’t want to miss it!

– Traveled to “Foyer de Amis” orphanage in Carrefore, Haiti
– Played soccer with older kids
– Played cars, coloring and hair-braiding with younger kids
– Traveled to “The Good Shepherd” orphanage in Port-au-Prince (view video here)
– Purchased over $700 (well over 6 months worth) of food for the orphanage
– Collected supplies to build 10 gallon water filters for both orphanages

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haiti post 1 – kelly stratton.

Today has been probably the longest day of my life. Our Haiti team left the church so late on Saturday that everyone’s sleep schedule was messed up. So I was preparing for potential grumpiness for the day.  And then our plane into Haiti got delayed…for about four hours. You could feel the energy in the team just drop.  I felt so crushed at that point. If you asked me I was ready to just throw in the towel and let myself wallow in pity. Then I remembered- God has everything set to His time. We kept talking about how once we got to Haiti it was “island time”, and we just had to go with the flow of things. I don’t think anyone expected to need to adjust to island time before we actually made it to the island.

Things are never going to come out exactly how we plan them. We aren’t God. He has His watch and we all follow it. Yeah we didn’t want to sit on a plane for what felt like forever, but it happened. During that time we got to make new friends with a lot of people, including two other groups from Knoxville, and start a game of balloon volleyball up and down the airplane aisles. The fact that God replaced my plans with His plans was refreshing.  We hadn’t even made it there and I knew that God was already using this trip for His glory. I can’t wait to see how He changes my plans tomorrow!

Part of our team on the bus from the airport in Haiti.

Sunday night dinner at the MSI Guest House.

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spring break makeover.


Paul is one of my favorite Biblical icons.  Not only did he write the majority of the New Testament, but he experienced one of the greatest identity makeovers in history.  His entire life had been focused on one thing, killing Christians, and in one moment his identity, purpose, passion, all changed forever.  Instead of hunting Christians, his life mission become to create Christians.

What I love the most about Paul’s story is that as soon as he entered in to a relationship with Christ, he was baptized and began preaching.  What’s amazing about this?  As soon as Saul’s identity changed, he faced ridiculous conflict on every side of his life.  Instead of being the hunter, he became the hunted. His old friends wanted to kill him and his new friends didn’t trust him.  So why did he choose to dive into this new, often painful identity?  You can find out 2 ways: read the book of Acts in the Bible (which you should do anyways because it’s awesome) or watch this week’s Catalyst message HERE soon.

No matter what the obstacle in your life, remember that we exist because of God’s love and we live because of God’s grace.  It’s all about who He is and what He’s done.  And on top of that, He chooses to use us each day to meet and greet a world that is missing out on Him.

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prayer for haiti.

Have you ever been knocked flat on the ground by the Lord?  Last night it happened to me.

In just a few days a team of 12 students and adults will be leaving the country to spend spring break working with orphans in Haiti. At the end of the Catalyst worship service I called this team to the stage to be prayed over.  It was a great chance for the community to support and encourage them as we prepare to leave on Saturday.  But a few moments after that prayer, God knocked me flat on my back.

One student, who is not going on the trip but wanted to be involved, came up to me and asked if I could give him the names of each person going on the trip.  Why? Because he wants to fast and pray for our team the whole time we are gone.Bam. I was blown away. Typically students look for ways to indulge during a week away from school, but this guy chooses to instead give of himself on behalf of others.

No one asked this student to step up and take this burden; he didn’t have to do it.  But here’s a guy who is walking in step with the Holy Spirit and doesn’t just hear, but obeys.  I could not have been more proud as his student pastor!

Maybe, just maybe, this story has inspired you to help as well.  God’s work in Haiti is an undertaking that you can be involved in, simply by praying for our team each day.  If you are moved to, I am including the names of each team member in this post so you can pray for them by name.  We are so excited to see what God does in the lives of the kids we meet!

Haiti Team Members:

Cale Caldwell
Ashley Caldwell
Kelly Stratton
Butch Crouch
Ryan Hargis
Thomas Potok
Blaze Manning
Dave Breaux
Tonja Breaux
Courtney Bakker
Austin Parrish
Michael Wallace

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passion gives purpose.

What’s your passion? Is there something in your life that makes you love getting up in the morning? Or do you simply go through life completing tasks and wearing identities that you feel you’re supposed to be?

I believe that passion is a huge missing component in most of our lives. It starts in grade school. We order our days around someone else’s schedule to learn things we don’t care about. Now, this process is pretty unavoidable, but what I see in so many students that sticks with them through adulthood is a lack of passion.

Our focus becomes the external and not the internal.  We develop this idea that our lives are all about achievement. Our purpose becomes intertwined with our finical or social success. When that becomes our passion, we are missing our purpose completely. God has created each of us uniquely for a specific purpose. He has placed a passion inside of you that will help guide your life. I believe that He may direct that passion to shift at times in your life, but He never wants you to trade in that passion for apathy!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He [God] has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” The number one passion God has placed indie of us is the notion that something happens after we die.  From the inside out we long for a relationship with our Creator…and that gives us tremendous purpose!

How can you tell if you are living a life of passion? Simple. Ask the people around you. They see you in action….they know your nonverbals and can read your moods. Find out what they think you are passionate about…or if you are passionate at all. Passion gives us purpose….and we can’t truly live without it!

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sex and dating.

Last week we wrapped up a great series called “It’s Just Sex” where we took an intense and honest look at God’s desire for our sexual decisions. Throughout the series we challenged the idea that sex is simply a physical act that is void of emotional or spiritual implications.

In the final week our students had a chance to ask dating questions of a panel of adults ranging from dating-early-20’s to married-parents-of-teenagers. It was a very unique experience that allowed us to share God’s truth in a different format and encourage students from various angles of influence.

You can check out the message right here: http://vimeo.com/20645700

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one year.

It’s been one year since I started blogging on this site. I’ve really enjoyed having an outlet to share my thoughts and experiences, and I hope you, the reader, have gotten something out of the relationship too!

Over the past year there are a few things I’ve learned about blogging that I think will help make this site better for everyone in this second year:

1. Don’t post on Saturdays. Yes, I realize the irony is pretty thick here that this post lands on a Saturday. Most people don’t check blogs on Saturdays, so I’ll try to keep my posts to the 5 day work week….unless it’s a post celebrating an anniversary. Ha!

2. Write even if I don’t feel like it. Last year I heard it said that if you intend to write, commit to do it for a year, not just when you feel like it. That’s my plan for year 2!

3. Write about what I’m reading. I’ve read a few books in the last year that I think you the reader may enjoy! If you read what i write, hopefully you’ll want to read what i read. 🙂 In the next week or so, expect a multiple post review of my favorite recent book: “Switch: hard to change when change is hard.” I hope you enjoy it!

Thanks for joining me in this first year of blogging. If you joined later in the year, I’d love to know why you started reading and what you get out of following this site. Have a great weekend and I’ll see you on Monday!

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its just sex q & a.

The third week of the “It’s Just Sex” series was a very unique experience.  I had the honor of sharing the stage with my beautiful bride, Holly, to discuss the God’s answers to some of high school’s toughest questions on the topic of sex.  I am always looking for new and creative ways to communicate God’s truth to students, and the impact this week had was pretty cool.

As you can watch for yourself in the video below, this Q & A format created a very different dynamic than a typical “monologue-style” message delivered by one person.  It allowed us to discuss, tell stories and work back and forth through the questions we answered. I’m so glad that I went “outside of the box” to connect with students in this series.  I’ll definitely do this more often!

You can watch the first 3 messages from “It’s Just Sex” right here:http://www.vimeo.com/20469549

What about you?  What are you doing this day or week to break out of consistency and routine in order to branch to new levels of creativity and connection?

109

the gift of creativity.

This week Matt Grimes and I had the chance to take part in the annual Youth Pastor Summit in Orlando, Florida. The event itself was pretty neat…great band, speakers, etc. We felt challenged and empowered to continue helping students follow Jesus in a world that desperately needs Him. Truly a great event.

Then, to amp up the greatness of our experience, we discovered that we had been given FREE tickets to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (or as Matt and I referred to it…Continents of Suspense, Hemispheres of Mystery, or Global Quadrants of Joy)! Let me tell you, the only thing better than going to a theme park is going to a theme park for free! And the only thing better than that is going to a theme park for free on a school day in February! The lines were so short we were able to ride every ride in both parks in under 5 hours.

Even in the midst of this great afternoon at a world class theme park, I couldn’t help but notice the incredible creativity that went into making the surroundings. Each area of the park was constructed with such immaculate detail, crazy special effects and an enormous budget…but what was all the creativity for? What was the life-long impact of riding “The Incredible Hulk” supposed to be? What was the true significance of experiencing “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter”?

You see, friends, we have all been given the gift of creativity. Genesis 1:1 says that “In the beginning God created…” and in 1:27 “So God created mankind in his own image.” God created, He created us in His image…therefore He created us to be creative creators!

How are you pushing your creative limits? How are you following through with the creativity that God gave you? Are your most creative moves seen at work, or at home with your family? On your hobby or a date night with your spouse? We have chances every day to create more significant experiences than anything Universal or Disney can come up with. Creativity is a great gift…let’s use it in a way that will leave a lasting impact.

108

model before you mandate.

As a parent, I often have a hard time keeping my kids in line.  Do you?  I’m pretty sure Joseph and Mary are probably the only parents that got a pass on this one. Parenting is tough, and I love finding ways to make it more simple.

Last week I had the opportunity to help teach one week of a six week small group on “Parenting Beyond Your Capacity.”  It was great to connect with other parents who share the common goal of becoming the most effective leaders of our home as possible.  While teaching, I stumbled upon a nugget of truth that I seldom apply to my life:  I must model before I mandate.

Without a doubt parents have the most potential to influence their kids.  Over the course of their lives no one will have more chances to impact your kids, by their actions or non-actions, than you will.  This got me thinking…do I use all this potential to tell Colt and Emmy what to do?  Or do I put emphasis on showing them what to do by my own actions?

It’s easy as a parent to focus all of my efforts on ensuring that my kids make the right choices.  I feel that I constantly say, “choose to obey” and “don’t say no to me” and “stop standing on your sister” (ok, that last one may be specific to my family…) But the truth is that I don’t put nearly enough energy into creating opportunities to say, “obey like daddy obeys” and “love like daddy loves” and “put your family first like I do.”

Before God challenged us to influence our children, He first puts the challenge to us to make changes. “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”Deuteronomy 6:6-7

It is crucial that we model before we mandate. Kids care much less about what we say than what we do, especially when they don’t match up.  How well do these two things line up for you?

107

valentine’s day.

In case you need to laugh today, check out this belated Valentine’s Day greeting from the Faith Promise high school ministry.  Have a great day!

Worst Valentine’s Day Ever!

106

intimacy.

Last week we continued our new “It’s Just Sex” series with a closer look at what sex is all about.  While sex includes physical, emotional and spiritual aspects, it seems that our culture has made sex into a massive enigma that gets in our face everywhere we turn.  In high school it can feel like every decision you make has sexual implications.  Between planned parenthood, movies and TV the world around us appears to have jumped head first into the lie that sex is simply “what you do when you are dating.”

As we busted this lie at Catalyst, we took a deeper look into what happens when you use a God given gift, sex, in a God forbidden way.  (by the way, that’s the definition of sin!)  Check out the message below and you will see the story of one girl who bought the lie, as we all do, that her sexual decisions were the key to her dreams.  The truth is that God designed sex for a greater purpose…intimacy.

“It’s Just Sex” Week 2 Message

This week we will be answering many questions from students about what the Bible has to say about sex, including “what do I do if I’ve already messed up with a sexual decision?”

105

working well with others, part 5.

As we arrive at the final post of this series on creative collaboration and, essentially, survival in group communication, know that none of this is easy.  These tips are difficult for each of us to apply to our lives, since we all deal with varying levels of pride and selfishness that may never completely go away.  That’s why I believe this last tips is so vital to working well with others.

5.  Humility.  The most important part of working well with other ministries (people) is recognizing that you all have a common goal.  Even if your specific areas of ministry come into conflict over space or scheduling, keep in mind that you are working with each other, not against each other.  If it helps, you can even pass on this list of tips to prove your point.

Our ability to choose humility over pride is often hindered by one small phrase: “But I’m right!”  Our being right has very little impact on how we represent God to the world.  When it comes to working with others and sharing space, especially if our interactions are with those not following Christ, our example and attitude far outweigh any level of correctness on our part.  By living out the example Jesus has given us of putting others first we will win something more important than an argument…we will win the ability to continue to have an impact on someone who needs Him.

104

working well with others, part 4.

Continuing in the series of cooperative posts, here is the 4th tip that I’ve found to be useful when working with others.  This tip is one that requires some extra effort, but will always pay huge dividends in the end.

2.  Creativity.  Working and sharing space with others will more than likely force you into an opportunity to be creative.  When space and scheduling conflicts arise, instead of focusing on how you wish you could do things your way, focus on how you can do it differently.  This not only challenges you in your planning stage, but will also keep your events from falling into a pattern and becoming monotonous.

When we face conflict in the midst of working and sharing space together the easy thing is to become obstinate and demand our own way.  However, in long-term relationships this is rarely the best option.  By choosing to be creative and develop different plans and processes we can not only maintain a connection with others, but also stretch our own limits of creativity and expand our belief of what is possible.  This will always set us up for further success in the future.

103

its just sex.

This week we started a new series with the high school students at Faith Promise Church.  One that is turning some heads.  We’re talking about something that can make parents uneasy and students uncomfortable.  We’re talking about sex.Everywhere we go we are bombarded with lies and myths that can diminish sex from its intended purpose of intimacy to a cheap physical act.  In this series we are uncovering the lies and revealing the truth about this great gift God gave humanity.

If you are a parent of a high school student, this video is for you. Join us on this journey and discover your role in your student’s sexual decisions and dating processes.  Each week our Parent Connection tools will be available for your familyright here.

You can also watch the first message from this series right here. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this series.  What steps are you taking to help the next generation accurately view sex and God’s plan for our lives?

102

why fusion why.

guest post by Brian Rozmus.  Brian is an active volunteer leader with the Faith Promise Student Ministry and blogs on his own website atsomeownagethoughts.blogspot.com

So what is the best way to use a weekend off from work? Why, invite 9 youths over to stay at my house, of course, from Friday evening until after Sunday morning church. Instead of relaxing, hanging out with my wife, or completely the plethora of work I could be doing, I volunteered to be a host home for Fusion. Why, you ask?Why did you do something that insane? Because those 9 kids really needed it.

I started the weekend planning. I was off for several days leading into the weekend and I was going to be ready. I was not only the host home, but I was playing the role of small group leader as well. First thing, first: food. An army runs on its stomach, and with teenage boys this is certainly true.  As every good small group leader knows, when you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s time for dessert!

Food taken care of (with the intrepid assistance of my wife) I dove into the lessons. I read the lessons and the scriptures associated with them. I knew what I was going to say and how I would answer questions. I was starting to feel prepared. I was confident and ready.

Then it was Friday night. The students started to arrive. I told them where to put their sleeping stuff. I started chilling and speaking with them. I asked them questions about their hobbies, sports, school, and girls. I gauged their moods. They were excited…buzzing with it. So was I!

That night was the first of three worship and sermon sessions. The band was rocking. The kids were jazzed about the new Blount County Campus, having never before been there. Matt and Michael, our own personal Hardy boys, set the stage and harnessed the excitement, priming the students like the pros they are. The kids were almost foaming at the mouth. Then the guest speaker spoke. You should have seen the students. I did. I was watching them lean forward as he spoke. As he shared his experience with the Birmingham SWAT team, the kids were hooked. The story was so vivid, the kids were just there. Afterwards, my guys were declaring that they would have decimated the SWAT team. The rush was on.

I think the biggest moment for me personally was the last night’s worship. It felt like we had been at summer camp for a week. God was definitely in the house. I have not been that refreshed in a long time. At the end, the students were instructed to write, what was holding them back from serving God with a whole heart, in a box of sand. Then they should wipe it away. I felt God touching my heart. No it couldn’t be. This was for the kids, right? God showed me what I needed to write. I knelt by the box of sand and wrote. Then I wiped it away. I felt clean and whole. I was free of that thing. God did that for me. Please get this. It was not just for the students. It is for the leaders also.

For my boys, the time was the last night’s small group discussion. I just asked a simple question. What did you learn from this weekend? What lesson did you take away? What I heard blew me away. The boys opened like a flower blooming. Light bulbs switched on. Students had listened and better yet, applied. I loved it! There is nothing more awesome than watching God at work!

The next afternoon, after the kids were gone, my phone was exploding with texts.The guys were texting me for advice. They wanted to know how to change their lives to serve God better. I was in awe. All I had done was plan some meals and read some prewritten lessons. The work I put in did not measure up to the results. But God had known the entire time. He had seen the condition of my guys hearts and he knew what they needed to hear.

So why did I give up my home and my weekend for Fusion? Because God used it to change lives. I witnessed it first-hand. These kids need you.  So maybe God is asking you to serve somewhere and you are resisting. Give up now and watch God at work. It just never gets better than this.

101

working well with others, part 3.

Here comes another entry that I wrote for the “Church Chaos Survival Guide.”  I hope that you are able to use these thoughts as often as I still do.  Here’s another tip to making “working with others” work for you.

3. Flexibility. Keep in mind as you plan that the space you need (or ministry help you require) might not be available.  It never hurts to have a “Plan B” for dates, logistics or personnel when scheduling an event or working alongside other ministries’ schedules.

Ministry and life would be so much easier without other people, right?  It might be silly to think about it like that, but the truth is that our lives constantly intersect with other people, our priorities clash and our problem-solving can constantly get tangled up!  Flexibility is key to being able to adjust our processes without missing the purpose behind what we are trying to accomplish.  If we remain rigid about the process then we run the risk of missing out completely on meeting our goal. It also sets us back on the next key to working well with others, which we will discover next week!

100

working well with others, part 2.

Welcome back!  Today we will look at another entry that I wrote for the “Church Chaos Survival Guide.”  Communication is key to working well with others and using shared space effectively in ministry (or any work environment, really!). Here’s another tip to making “working with others” work for you.

2. Planning. Include logistical thinking in your short-term and long-term planning.  Try to know as far in advance as possible when you will need communal areas or assistance from other ministries, and stick to your planning as the event arrives.  Once your plans are set communicate as necessary to make sure all ministries are on the same page.

When it comes to planning we can cause problems two ways.  Either we don’t plan far enough in advance or we fail to include other ministries/people in our planning.  Thankfully, the solution is fairly simple:  expand your vision.  Always ask the question, “Who will this decision affect?” and pass on the necessary information.

The farther in advance you plan, the more thorough your planning, the simpler your communication, and the more effective your project or event will be.  My personal goal in planning that will involved others is to get the ball rolling no later than 2 months out. In student ministry, this means planning out guest speakers, large group events, music/worship needs and anything that will involve parents in order to strategically leverage our surroundings to reach students for Jesus.

99

working well with others, part 1.

A few years ago I helped collaborate on a book called the “Church Chaos Survival Guide” that was given out at a ministry conference.  The topic that I wrote on is something that I still struggle with most weeks. Regardless of your job title or location I know that these tips can help you work well and share space with other people or groups.

This week I am actually on vacation with my lovely wife Holly!  So I have preloaded the next 5 posts to walk you through what I wrote in the book, why I wrote it and how I’ve tried to implement it in my life and ministry.  I hope you enjoy!

1.  Communication.  Maintain a relationship with other ministries so that you don’t just see each other when you need something or have a problem.  This might sound simple but healthy communication will prevent many space and scheduling issues between ministries.

I love that the first tip that I have for other people is one of the hardest things for me to do.  What stands out to me about communication is the misunderstanding we all buy in to that communication is just about talking.  Listening is so crucial to creating a relationship!  Whether its with a spouse, co-worker, volunteer or boss, the temptation we feel is to replace listening with planning our next addition to the conversation.  In order to cultivate the healthy communication we need to work well with others our first priority has to be to hear what they are saying.

What about you? Have you seen conflict as a result of miss-communication?  Has there been a time that listening has mended or preserved potential work or ministry related disasters?

098

i love the 90s.

January at Catalyst was all about the 90s!  It was during that decade that high school students were born and learned some of the most important things about life.  How to talk, read and share.  Throughout this series we took a fresh look at how these skills are re-learned in the early stages of a relationship with Jesus.  You can watch all the messages in this series on our vimeo pageWrapping up the last week was all about discovering the importance of sharing Jesus with others.

In John 4 we see Jesus interact with a woman in Samaria at a drinking well.  After Jesus reveals that He is the Messiah that she (and the rest of the world) has been waiting for, she (let’s call her Jill) reacts in an interesting way.  “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’  They came out of the town and made their way toward him.  Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’”

Strangely, Jill didn’t take any classes on evangelism. She didn’t learn the Roman road (which was yet to be written) or even go to Sunday school!  But her first step as a Christ-follower was to share her relationship with others. Here we see a pivotal truth to following Jesus: Found People Find People! The only tool Jill had in her arsenal was her story.  She knew that she had been lost and then Jesus found her.  And that’s all she needed!

Sharing is one of the toughest things we learn to do in life.  It requires us to put our desires to the side and allow someone else to become our priority.  This is what we see Jesus model throughout the Gospels, and is the essence of truly following Him.  No matter how hard it can be to “put yourself out there” the worst thing that could happen is NOT that you put your reputation at risk for someone else to know about Jesus.  The worst things that could happen tomorrow is that you risk their eternity for your reputation!

How are you intentionally sharing the life changing truth about Jesus with others?  When was the last time you shared your story with someone who didn’t know Him?

097

fusion weekend.

Yesterday the Faith Promise Student Ministry wrapped up a HUGE weekend event that included over 320 people!  Fusion Weekend is all about creating relational connections between students, leaders and God.  Throughout the weekend 6th-12th grade students grew closer to each other as they discovered the true purpose behind religion.  Religion is simply our response to a relationship with God!The challenge we all face is to live each day as a response to that relationship, not seeking to replace it.

We will have a killer recap movie uploaded this week (which I will post here later) but until then check out some pictures from an outstanding weekend!

096

prayer warrior.

This phrase has taken on a new meaning for me in the last week, and if you are a parent, this scenario may sound all too familiar to you.

Our adult small group meets on Sunday nights, and we have the great blessing of two consistent babysitters to watch the total of 14 children that make up our group’s families.  It is incredible to be able to enjoy our group time without worrying about kids that range from 1 month to 12 years constantly needing our attention. However, occasionally our awesome babysitters are unavailable…last week was this rare exception.

As we neared the end of our time we took requests and began to pray.  But instead of a reverent and focused time of communication with God about half of the adults’ attention was divided to essentially wrestle the restless toddlers who had remained in the room with us.  I began to notice that as each person prayed, the child in their arms made it increasingly difficult for them to keep a consistent flow of thoughts.

I had never seen a more honest picture of prayer warriors.  As we fought to keep our focus on prayer, we had to press on through distractions and avoid being derailed by the very children we were praying for.  While in this instance the struggle was physical and tangible, it reminded me of the reality that we all face when it comes to developing consistent communication with God.  Especially as parents we run the risk of missing the intimacy of a relationship with Him by allowing ourselves to be pulled away from prayer.  However, it is the very thing that will give us the power and ability to bring up our kids to want that same relationship.

What do you do to attain or maintain a “warrior” status when it comes to prayer?
How do you strategically take your requests to God for family, friends, etc?
How do you model your prayer life for your children?

095

inception.

Last week I had the great pleasure to speak at the student service at the Faith Promise Church Blount Campus.  It’s been awesome to see this ministry grow from a dream to reality over a few short months!  This coming weekend students from all of our campuses will converge at the Blount Campus for Fusion Weekend, an event that will shape the spring semester of our student ministry.  More info on that HERE.

The message I gave was the first of a two-part series called “Inception” that is all about discovering the importance of the origin of our thoughts.  What’s cool about understanding this aspect is the process that our thoughts take.  Our thoughts shape our beliefs, and our beliefs guide our actions.  As you can see in the message, this process is consistent throughout our lives, and gives us insight on the purpose behind our thoughts.

You can, as always, watch this week’s message right here on the Faith Promise HSM Vimeo Page.

094

my journal.

There’s a good chance that at some point in your life you have attempted to keep a journal.  For some it is as simple a process as breathing, and for others starting to journal is harder than starting to floss or breaking a bad habit.  I find myself more aligned with the later.  I have a problem with my journal.  It’s empty.  And I have several silly excuses as to why it’s empty.  I’ll let you pick your favorite.

1.  My journal has a “vintage” look to it. When I bought it back in November I was drawn to how cool the journal looked.  It’s got this really unique flap on it that made it impossible to pass up.  But the problem is, every time I start to write in this journal I ask myself if what I’m about to write is important enough to fill the pages between the incredible leather hardcover.  I imagine that a journal of this quality (all $12 worth) deserves better words than I could put in it.  Something like the codes that keep the CIA NOC list safe from terrorists.  Or the original written lyrics to the Beatles’ “Yesterday.”  Or maybe the recipe to my dad’s phenomenal pancakes.  Regardless of what could go in my journal, I carry this doubt that my thoughts or feelings could be worth enough to be kept in it.

2.  You can’t erase pen. If I were to get up enough courage to write in my journal, I would scribe each letter with the fear that it is in there forever.  If I misspell a word, smear the pen or change my mind it’s permanently etched on paper.  There’s no erasing or deleting.  It’s gonna be there until I throw it away or burn it.  And with my handwriting, those are pretty good options.

3.  I’ll never read it. I’ve heard of people writing in journals, but who has time to actually read the thing?  Me? Read about myself?  Seems kinda weird to me.  Is someone  else going to read it?  Even more weird.  Assuming I choose to write in my journal and spell all the words correctly, I will still feel like I’m wasting my time.  What’s the point? Is it therapeutic?  Maybe?  But I just can’t see myself sitting down to read what happened to me in the previous week or month.  I could be alone on this, but sometimes I will psych myself out of keeping a journal because I may not be proud of the final outcome.

So, why did I choose to write all this down? Well, because sometimes I feel the same way about life that I feel about my journal.  Some days I feel that my life is less than significant.  And it I try to fill it with something that matters I will likely find a way to mess it up.  And at the end of the day if I look back on what I’ve accomplished I will either read regret or missed opportunities.  Am I alone on this?

The great news is, my silly insecurities pale in comparison to the life that God has planned for me.  The more I focus on who He is and what He has done for me, the less I can shift my eyes to my selfish wants and desires.  You see, God took the time to create something from nothing for the purpose of a relationship with me.  If nothing else, that’s a great place to start writing.

If you are a consistent journal-er, I applaud you.  I think it’s one of the hardest things to weave into your daily habit.  I hope to one day join your ranks.

093

creative process.

From my experience there are two origins of pure unadulterated creativity.  I can usually trace back the flow of creativity in my life to these beginnings.  Whether it is in ministry, marriage or parenting, I see these two constants as the catalysts to creativity in my life.

1.  Necessity. In an ongoing creativity-centered environment it is easy to search for new ideas based on the immediate needs of the day or week.  Whether its a message, video, date night or kid’s outing when you face similar tasks that repeatedly require creativity you often rely solely on the end goal of getting the task completed.  The necessity essentially forces us to a point of creativity.

2.  Opportunity. I think that creativity can also be born out of non-necessity.  When there is no deadline or immediate pressure for you to produce, creativity can be found anywhere. Without the need to force creativity you are able to freely explore the opportunities for creativity.

This week I found myself in a position that allowed me to lean on both styles of the creative process.  While pressed to find a way to promote an upcoming student event, our team relied on the necessity of the weekly production time line as well as the opportunity to capture the family of our Family Ministry’s Pastor on video.  The result was a 1 minute long promo that brought down the house and has spurred parents to get their kids connected with the event.

How do you find creativity?  Do you prefer the pressure or the freedom?  Necessity or opportunity?

By the way, you can watch the Carringer Fusion Weekend Promo right here!

092

the car wash.

Last week we took our 2 year old son Colt to get the car washed for the first time.  To be clear, it was not our first time to wash the car, but it was Colt’s first experience in the drive-through car wash with the jet sprays and massive floppy brushes.  He had a blast!  He watched from the inside with amazement as our car became covered with suds and water and within seconds was washed clean and dried.

The next day while I was playing cars with Colt…one of his favorite things to do in the world…I had an idea.  It was silly, and kind of “out there” but I took a shot. I grabbed a nearly empty roll of toilet paper and a piece of tape and I built this: a homemade toy car wash.


I know it’s not much to look at, and it probably won’t survive many washes, but it is the perfect size for Colt to drive his little Matchbox cars through and pretend to give each of them the same experience that he had in the huge soapy car wash the day before.  And as he was playing, I realized something.

Colt wasn’t concerned with the quality of the toy. He didn’t compare it to other pretend car washes he’d seen on toy store shelves.  The fact that I took the time to build in to his dream made it a joyful moment for him.  In a matter of seconds, with no preparation at all, I was able to interact with and validate his world.  It wasn’t a moment that will be etched into his mind for all of time, but it was a step in the process of showing him that I care.  And that’s what kids…well, all people, really…live for.

That’s why “Fight For The Heart” is such a high value for our Family Ministry.  The more intentional we as parents embrace the struggle to show our kids God’s love through our love, the more accurately they will see how much He cares about them.

091

year 27.

Today could be a sad day.  My 27th year on earth ends today, and I’m pretty sure 28 means you have solidly moved from “mid-20s” to  “late-20s”.  But I’m not sad.  Actually, I’m really excited about turning 28!  Why?  I accomplished some great things while I was 27…including:

1.  Stay married to an incredible woman.  I can’t overestimate the impact that Holly has on my life, and in an age and culture where divorce is rampant regardless of your beliefs or code of ethics I am so thankful for the nearly 7 years that Holly and I have been married.  More than that I can say that we love being together as much if not more today than at any other point in our marriage.

2.  Keep adding to my family.  Last April we added a daughter to the Wallace clan.  This was a crazy experience for me in that we had just moved, changed jobs, and bought a house in the few months leading up to her arrival.  Plus I grew up with a younger brother and no sisters.  27 has been a year of growth as a parent, and everyday I feel like I have those “Grinch” moments where my heart continues to bust out of my chest as my capacity to love Colt and Emmy increases!

3.  See a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.  To my credit, I chose to put this one third on the list…but it has been a lifelong dream to get to experience a baseball game at this historic stadium.  As I walked in for the game (that the Cubs lost…badly) I called my dad on the phone and walked to the same section that he would visit with clients as a salesman in his “mid-to-late-20s”.  I’ve seen the Cubs play ball before, but never in Chicago.  It was a dream come true.

As I look back on the events of year 27 I am even more excited about what’s coming in year 28.  One thing that I am working towards, and absolutely terrified about, is an attempt to finish a half marathon.

Notice I said finish…not run.  Check back next year for an update.  It may take me that long…

090

the ebb and flow of technology.

So, this week my relationship with the techno-world felt a bit like that one roller coaster that you don’t realize is going to make you sick until halfway through the ride.  That sounds kinda harsh…but when an iPhone promises you the world and some slick web-based software drop kicks you into the corner…it stings a bit.  Let me explain…

On Wednesday the continued snow storm that has slammed East Tennessee forced us to cancel student services again at Faith Promise Church.  I found this out while sitting at an airport terminal in Miami as I was returning from a scout trip to Haiti for a missions trip coming in March (more info on that here).  So, I decided to continue in the tradition that we have adapted in the High School Ministry…videotape the message and upload it to our vimeo website.  In fact, I just happened to have recently acquired a new iPhone 4 that includes a high quality video camera…so…I shot the entire message from 36,000 feet above the earth in an airplane!  I can recall the incredible rush of emotions that hit me when I finished shooting the video.  I was stoked!  How cool that I could use technology to communicate the gospel from almost 7 miles in the air!


But then, a few hours after arriving in Knoxville, I hit a speed bump.  For some crazy reason I was unable to complete the upload and conversion to our vimeo page in time for it to be viewed during the normal Catalyst hours.  The roller coaster that had taken me as high as the sky just plummeted towards the dirt.  Not cool, technology, not cool.  Thankfully I was able to get the video online and working today, so you can actually watch the whole message right here!

Has technology ever taken you on crazy turns that defy the mind?  Have you ever wanted to kiss your phone minutes after wanting to punt it across the room?  How do you cope with the emotional ties we all have to technology?

089

decisions, decisions

guest post from my amazing wife Holly
follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/hollyewallace

In Proverbs 6 God chooses the analogy of a lamp and its light to picture how a father and mother are to function as a team in parenting. Throughout the chapter God explains the impact parents can have on their children through instruction and discipline. As outlined in verse 23, in regards to the familial expectations, the father is to explain, the mother is to enforce and the children are to obey. As such, a successful parenting structure requires two partners that respect each other and work together to help mold the rearing of the children.

Sometimes, as parents, we agree on decisions regarding our children and other times we do not. However, whether or not we agree on the final arrangement is irrelevant, it is more important that our children see a united front as apposed to dissension. When children receive the same message from both parents they observe a united parental front as well as a healthy family support system.

In an effort to achieve this parental unity Michael and I try to implement several steps in our decision making process:
– Respect each other’s parenting ideas
– Avoid arguing about discipline in front of the children
– Enforce decisions agreed upon by both parents
– Be consistent

Every day, as parents, we are faced with making decisions for our children. As such, raising children as a team is crucial when it comes to being an effective parent; from minor decisions such as snacks or nap time, to difficult ones such as schools to attend or disciplinary actions. Regardless of the resolution reached, it is crucial that parents agree and execute as one unit. This will not only provide children with a supportive family construct but will also serve to exemplify a solid foundation for them to build upon.

What steps have you taken to help your children in the decision making process?

088

where there’s a wii there’s a way.

With all the recent winter weather we’ve seen in the Southeast, I’ve been thinking about how much I love the Church. It may sound strange, but I can remember a time when a snowstorm on the weekend would mean you would miss church completely for the week. But not now.

In 2011 I am continually excited and encouraged that the Church keeps looking for fresh ways to communicate God’s Truth to the world. The day after Christmas we experienced a similar “surprise snowstorm” in Knoxville, but instead of saying “see ya next week” Faith Promise said “see ya online!” Amazingly, this is a phrase that applies every week at my church! We have 4 services on Sundays on our Internet campus that includes a chat room to cultivate community. It’s incredible!! You can even watch the service on your iPhone….wow. On Dec. 26 I decided to go one step further and try
something I’d never done before. I watched the Faith Promise weekend service on my Wii gaming console at home.

On one hand, this kind of technology amazes me. The Church is now closer to each individual than ever before. You can invite a friend to your home to see your church, or stay connected when you are out of town. But, while this makes it easier to find the church, it doesn’t mean that everyone wants to. I honestly believe that what makes people want to come to church has more to do with their perception of Christ-followers than the coolness of the communication. Let’s
continue to leverage technology to the best of our ability, but we can’t let it be w substitute for the most needed aspect of ministry: the relationship.

087

when everything goes wrong.

Last week I was given the opportunity to do something that I have been wanting to do since moving to Knoxville over a year ago:  experience a University of Tennessee sporting event!  On Thursday night we packed up the car and headed for Thompson-Bowling Arena for a showdown between the Lady Vols and the Alabama Crimson Tide.  Our anticipation rose as we parked the car and walked into the stadium.  As I expected, the color orange was everywhere…including on us!

Minutes before the game started we prepared for one of my favorite traditions: the national anthem.  Three girls (who were actually decedents of John Wayne, Loretta Lynn and Daniel Boone…random fact, but kinda cool)  walked out onto the court with smiling faces ready to lead the crowd in a 2 minute celebration of the great United States.  And then…it happened.

We could tell immediately that the microphones were not working properly.The jumbo-tron TV screens showed all three girls mouths moving, but their voices were barely audible.  Within about 10 seconds, thousands of fans shifted from a level of quiet whisper to complete silence.

From the nosebleed section in 311-A I expected that we wouldn’t be able to hear the girls sing at all, but to my shock, their voices seemed to get stronger with each note.  I glanced around the stadium to see thousands leaning in and paying more attention to the national anthem than perhaps they ever had before.  And by the time the song was over, three girls who could have easily been embarrassed by the situation received a standing ovation for a solid 30 seconds.

After we finished clapping and the game ball was tipped, two things echoed in my mind:

1.  The girls kept singing.  Instead of stopping mid-verse to request that the mics get fixed, they stayed focused and did what they came to do.  Their role was clear to them, and they were going to sing whether people could hear them or not.

2.  The crowd listened more intently.  I think we all feel the need to shout every once in a while.  Whether its as parents or teachers, employees or bosses, we all find ourselves in a position where our voice needs to be heard above everyone else’s. However, if what we have to say is worth listening to, people will listen. They will actually lean in to hear more clearly what we are communicating!  The Bible promises in Isaiah 55:11 that God’s Word will not return void…speaking His Word will always make an impact!

By the way, UT won the game by a whopping 110-45 margin.  Go Vols!

086

i love the 90s.

Last night…again…we had to cancel our Catalyst high school service at Faith Promise Church.  Seems to be a trend of snowy Wednesdays in the last few months!  Anyways, as promised, I recorded the message for the first week of our “I Love The 90’s” series.  Every week you can find the live recording of our messages in 3 places: www.faithpromisestudents.com/hsm, our vimeo site, and this blog.

The quality on this one is fairly low.  Due to the weather our production director actually imported and uploaded it in his car on the way home in the snow!  Props to Paul for getting it done and still being (somewhat) safe! 🙂 I hope the message connects with you and challenges you as we start 2011.  And if you are in the Knoxville area…enjoy the snow!

Vimeo – “I Love The 90’s” – Week 1: Learning to Talk

085

refresh part 2.

As I said yesterday, my family refreshes me. They are the reason that I can find the silver lining in any situation.  They are the purpose behind the majority of the decisions I make.  And I absolutely love them.

I love my wife, Holly.  Not only is she smart, gorgeous and funny (although she’s slowly morphing into my sense of humor…)  but she makes me the best I can be every day.  She reminds me of how incredible our God is, that He loves to bless His children and He has a plan for our lives.

I love my son, Colt.  His personality is so fun and he asks some amazing questions.  He is one of my favorite people to hang out with, even though he’s not even 3 years old.  Just over 2 years ago he had several surgeries on his skull andGod continues to show me through Colt that He is in control, and that He loves me no matter what.

I love my daughter, Emmy. I’m pretty sure that I smile about every 15 seconds that I am with her, because she doesn’t let anything upset her.  She seems to laugh at every situation she faces, and she is the cutest 9 month old I’ve ever seen…although I’m admittedly biased.  She reminds me constantly that our God is good, and will continue to be faithful for all time.

My family refreshes me. No matter what is going on in the rest of my life, be it personal or professional, I know that God has placed them in my life for a reason.  You may not feel that way about your family.  But the great thing about family is that even if you don’t come from one that refreshes you, that legacy can start with you. But it only happens by putting God first with your heart and your decisions.  My prayer for you today is that you will make that dream a reality in your life.

084

refresh.

OK, it’s Monday. But not just any Monday.  It’s the first Monday of 2011.  Which means you’d better be refreshed.

I’m one of those weird people who really like the first day back from a break. I look forward to it way too much.  Even more than I look forward to the last bite of a great cheeseburger (which is the middle, since I’ve already eaten off the edges), the first sip of an ice cold Coke (no matter what flavor, it’s all Coke in the south) or getting back under the warm covers when you realize it’s a snow day (several times in the last few weeks).  More than all of that, I love a first day back.  Why? Because I have spent the majority of the last two weeks with my family, and I love my family.  Check back tomorrow for some photos of each of them and the reasons that they refresh me.

I am excited about getting back into the swing of Monday’s schedule today because I have spent time with Holly, Colt and Emmy.  It refreshes me.  What refreshes you? What puts your stress level back to zero and makes everything worthwhile?  What or who leaves you recharged and reset?

One thing that I have learned during this time of refresh is that if my family refreshes me, I need to create consistent opportunities to be emotionally available for them.  If I only get close to them when I have an entire week, I’ll turn around and Colt will be in college, Emmy will be dating and Holly…well, she’ll still be hot.  My point is, take time now to embrace the things that refresh you.  I promise you’ll have more energy and less bitterness.  You will create more memories and less regret.

And you’ll live each day with the margin you need to do the things that God has created you to do.

083

new year.

As we are now hours into a brand new year, I wanted to take this chance to outline a few changes for this blog in 2011.  I have greatly enjoyed posting my thoughts several times a week, and I hope you have gleaned some useful application from my posts on my relationship with God, my family and ministry.  The deeper I go into this blogging venture, the more helpful I want it to be.  So, here are some things you can expect this year that I believe will help make a difference in your life, if you’ll let it:

1.  Regular posts. Today I am committing to post 3 days a week all year long.  My goal is to be consistent in writing so that you can be consistent in reading.

2.  More pictures. In reviewing the most read posts from 2010, I re-discovered the massive importance that visual communication holds in today’s culture.  I will be including more pictures in my posts, and I will be looking for ways to capture more thoughts, emotions and meaning in single picture posts.  We’ll see how that works out.

3.  More videos. Almost every week I spend a great deal of time preparing for and delivering 18-22 minute messages/talks/sermons for high school students.  In addition to adding pictures to these posts, most weeks will include a post containing video of the message as it was delivered live at Faith Promise Church.  I will also be looking for ways to communicate specifically on this page through video.

4.  Guest posts. At this point I have been the only writer on this blog, but this year I will be inviting others to share the space, both in guest post and written conversations formats.

I pray that 2011 is a year that is marked by fulfilled potential and captured dreams that glorifies God as you continue in a relationship with Him.  He is faithful and He always will be!

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top ten 2010.

I am now 82 posts deep into this blog.  So I figured the best way to wrap up the year is to do what 93% of bloggers seem to do at the end of the year: a hyperlink-top-ten-list-of-awesomeness.  I like it because I get to browse back through 2010 and see what you as the reader have been most drawn to.  I hope you also enjoy this summary of what I’ve thought, learned and experienced in 2010.  You can click on each entry and re-read if you like.  Enjoy!

#10 – “003-previewOne of my first posts outlining why I am writing.
#9  – “069-images of haitiLook for more pics after my trip in March.
#8  – “079-tough callThis post links to the Faith Promise vimeo site.
#7  – “072-love moves” Students will always rise to the occassion.
#6  – “016-recorder” Kinda reminds me of the “Talk-Boy.”
#5  – “008-retreat” It’s been a great year with Faith Promise students.
#4  – “068-haiti” Quick post while on the ground in Haiti.
#3  – “012-home” Still love looking at these pics and longing for “home.”
#2  – “063-images of marriage” Second best thing that happened in 2010 was my Dad’s wedding.  Awesome day, awesome reflections.
#1  – “017-emory” Of course, the top spot goes to Emmy!

It has been an incredible year of change for our family. Change always feels like preparation to me.  I can hardly wait to see what God is preparing us for in 2011! 

Just so you know, my next blog post will outline some format and vision changes for the next year.  I’d love to hear how this blog has affected your life, and why you are reading.  Feel free to comment below.  Have a Happy New Year!

081

please please me.

You know the magic word, don’t you? The one word that will get you whatever you want? The one word that your parents made you say before you could get dessert? The same word that we all work to instill into our children’s vocabulary and applaud them for coming up with on their own? Do you know the magic word?

When I was growing up it seemed like my parents’ biggest goal was to train my brother and me to say the word “please” in every sentence. Now that I have two kids of my own, I see myself falling into this same pattern. So, I asked myself, why? What am I really trying to teach Colt by holding out on his requests until he says “please”? Manners, I tell myself. My goal is to raise a child who uses manners when he communicates with other people. Maybe. But the more I think about it, the more I hope it goes deeper than that.

If I only teach Colt to say the word please, and not to consider others more than himself, I am missing the point. If I train him to remember and use the “magic word” then am I preparing him to accurately interact with others, or be continually confused when “please” doesn’t get him out of a parking ticket or a bump up to first class on a plane ride? If I convince him that he can have what he wants based on his ability to say please, am I setting him up for success or helping him create a world where he is king and everyone else exists to do his bidding?

These are the thoughts that roll through my head as I parent. And as they continue to roll, I find myself challenged to underscore the purpose behind my parenting to my kids. My goal is to raise adults from children, and as such I should help them learn that the “magic word” isn’t please, it’s patience. Or humility. Or maybe even sacrifice.

080

back to the future.

As we wrap up 2010 this week, it seems appropriate to say something to the extent of “time flies.” While the truth of this statement is always consistent, I sense that we all feel the impact more around major holidays and celebrations. In this season of reflection, I am reminded of the way our past can shape our future.

In September of 2001 America went through a monumental event that changed the way we look at air travel and security forever. Strangely, this spring’s graduating high school class was only starting 3rd grade when 9/11 happened. They will be voting, working in and influencing a culture that is vastly different than ten years earlier. But many have little recollection of the moment that has steered many recent cultural and political shifts.

Recognizing the impact of the past is vital to navigating your path for the future. I love how the author of Hebrews calls us to remember the faith of the spiritual giants of Biblical history. In Hebrews 11:1-2 the author writes “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” Each “ancient” is recalled for their faith…Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc. But the point is not what happened in the past. The point is that God has been faithful. They didn’t know how He was going to work out His plan, but they had faith that He would do it.

We are now just hours away from a brand new year. In this year you will be challenged. You will face things that you aren’t prepared for. You will, at times, feel that God is not with you. And you will be tempted to doubt. Remember the past. He has been faithful. And He will continue to be faithful.

Happy New Year!

079

tough call.

Yesterday I had to make a tough call. I was promised 12 months ago that it never snows in Knoxville, TN, and then I moved here.  It turns out that was a fairly common half-truth used to lure potential church staff to the East Coast. But it works out nicely, since I love the snow, and we didn’t get that much in Dallas, TX!  But I digress…

The tough call was made by myself, the middle school pastor and family ministry pastor at Faith Promise Church.  With a huge ice storm coming in from the southwest we chose to cancel our Wednesday night student services.  This was tough because the roads were safe to drive all afternoon, with only a threat of snow/ice in the evening.  Well, it turns out it was absolutely the right move…at about 8:00pm freezing rain landed all over Knoxville and schools everywhere began to cancel classes for Thursday!

Here’s what I love about this situation:  we still had a student service last night. What?!  How can that be?  Well, when we pulled the plug on the live experience at the church, we immediately grabbed a camera and filmed the message for the night.  By 6:00pm students were able to go to our website and watch the message, and I watched our leaders connect with their students on facebook for much of the night! How awesome it is when we leverage what God has given us and continue to capitalize on the passion in our hearts!

If you would like to check out the message from this week, or the whole “Christmas In Chaos” series, you can see them right here:  Faith Promise Students Vimeo Page

If you have questions about how we made it happen, feel free to comment below.  Also, how do you work through similar situations?  What tough calls have you had to make recently?

078

twas the movie before christmas.

Hey Catalyst families! This year we will close out 2010 with a HUGE Christmas celebration!  On December 22nd from 6:30pm-8:30pm the Faith Promise Satellite will be transformed into a winter wonderland complete with a movie theater style snack bar.  Plus, all the proceeds will go to scholarships for Student Camp this summer.  Bring your whole family out for a special viewing of a Christmas classic and even win some great prizes!

For more info on Faith Promise Church go to www.faithpromise.org

*childcare will not be provided, but you are welcome to bring your whole family to this event

077

mary christmas.

Mary’s Christmas was not ideal.  Not only had she just completed the worst road trip ever…80 miles on a donkey while 9 months pregnant…but she ended up delivering her first child…without an epidural…in a barn.  Ideal? No.  Chaos? Absolutely. Mary? According to the Scripture, she’s OK with the whole thing!

Luke 1:30-31,37-38 “But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus…For nothing is impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”

Mary’s surroundings were a mess.  A pregnant virgin? Her family and her community could easily choose to have nothing to do with her.  Her life was essentially over!  But Mary didn’t focus on her surroundings, she focused on the Savior.

When we feel the chaos pouring in, threatening to choke out our life, reputation, hopes and dreams, it is difficult to see anything other than our surroundings.  The friends that betrayed you, the family that hurts you, the failure that haunts you… it’s all that we are aware of.  The solution to all of the chaos in our lives is found not in removing the chaos, but in discovering clarity.  Chaos is the absence of clarity. For you, me and Mary, that means that our focus must move from our surroundings to our Savior.

From the moment Mary heard about Jesus, her life revolved around Him.  She carried Him with her everywhere and within a few months it became obvious to everyone that something had changed…there was someone living inside her.

Are you so focused on the Savior that everyone else can tell?  Do the people in your life recognize that there is someone else living inside of you?  Or are you so focused on the chaos of your surroundings that you miss the clarity that comes with putting the Savior first in your life?

076

christmas in chaos.

You can now check out the video of last week’s message at Catalyst!  We will be uploading each message to the Faith Promise Church High School Ministry page for you to see.  Enjoy!

Christmas In Chaos

075


Christmas fear.

I don’t know about you, but I celebrate Christmas pretty much the minute Thanksgiving is over.  I mean, every year the sugar plums start dancing in my head as I slip into a tryptophan coma after scarfing on some pumpkin pie.  Anybody else with me on this?

Anyways, this year as we inch closer to Christmas day, I found myself analyzing the role of the shepherds in the Biblical account of the first Christmas.  These guys must have thought that Christmas came on Halloween! In the middle of the night they are greeted by shining angels who immediately have to tell them not to be afraid.  As comforting as this must have been, I imagine that the fear the shepherds experienced slowly transitioned from immediate danger to cultural shock.

Luke 2:10-12 “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Even though they spent entirely too much time hanging out with the sheep, these guys knew what the “Messiah” was all about.  For years they had heard prophecies about the Savior that would come and rescue the Jewish people.  I have to imagine that when they realized that He was coming “today” a whole new level of fear set in:what will He be like…will the Romans be OK with this…are we about to start a war with this news…will the Jewish people start their own country now…will we ever see our sheep again?

I don’t know that they asked all those questions, but I do know that when I face fear in my life I have two go-to responses: paralyze or mobilizeFear has a way of either putting your life in freeze-frame or fast-forward.  When I see spiders, 98% of the time I will stop moving, breathing, everything!  I get paralyzed!  But that’s not what the shepherds did…

Luke 2:15 “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’”

The shepherds chose to mobilize when they were faced with fear.  Instead of sticking with the sheep they took off for Bethlehem.  Without knowing what the outcome would be, they immediately started following Jesus.

And when you follow Jesus…you have to be in motion.  Following is an action!

What about you? How do you face fear?  Is it easier for fear to paralyze you or mobilize you?

074

legacy.

One thing that I love about the holidays is the chance to spend time with family.  When Holly and I got married we moved from North Carolina, where all of our family was, to Texas, where we knew absolutely no one.  So, every year we look forward to the meals and celebrations that bring us all together.

This Thanksgiving as we gathered with my grandparents, Memaw and Poppa, and a total of 17 extended family members for lunch, we had an unusual opportunity to peek into the past.  Poppa surprised us by turning on a DVD complied of 8mm video footage from the 1960’s of my family.  It was very surreal to see a 2 year old version of my dad, while my 2 year old son sat on my lap.  As we watched the grainy home movie and marveled at the fashions and youth of my grandparents, my mind wandered to Moses in Deuteronomy 6:

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children.”

When my grandfather was in the Navy 50 years ago, he had dreams of his family being involved in ministry and making a difference in the lives of families.  In the half-century that has passed, Memaw and Poppa have had the joy of watching their kids lead in the local church, their grandkids lead in the local church, and now they see how much their great-grandkids love going to church.  It is a legacy that is rooted in loving God with everything and putting Him first.  I am so grateful to have a Wallace legacy, and as Holly and I parent the next generation of Wallaces I pray that I will continue to have that same impact on them.

What legacy have you been given?  What legacy are you leaving with your children?

073

your story.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  It’s a great day.  It’s a day where you will probably find yourself around a table surrounded by family and/or friends, and you will get a chance to share what you are thankful for.

What surprises me about this cultural norm is that in all my years of Thanksgivings I have never seen anyone read from notes.  Not once has anyone needed to look at a calendar or call someone to help them remember the reasons that they have to give thanks.  Strange, right?  Why don’t we do those things? Because the process of me sharing what I am thankful for is simply me sharing my story.  It’s easy because it’s all about me.  There’s no memorization or studying or pre-planning necessary.

Why isn’t sharing our faith the same way?  If you are a Christ-follower, you have a story about how you met Jesus and how he changed your life.  I have found that sharing your story is the most effective way to tell others about Jesus because in your story you will inevitably define salvation.  Your story probably flows something like this: “I was like this…and I did this…and I realized that I needed Jesus…I accepted Him…I have a relationship… and I live differently.”  Your story of coming to Jesus, no matter how many different twists and turns it takes, or characters that are involved, or moments of conflict that arise, is the story of who Jesus is and why He did what He did on the cross.

Here’s the great thing about YOUR story: people will listen to it.  Maybe it’s just because they don’t want to be rude, but most people will hear you out on a story about YOU.  And the best part is, they will be able to identify themselves in your story…which is a great way to help them identify their need for Jesus.

What’s your story? When was the last time you shared it?

072

love moves.

If you have ever doubted the potential of high school students, I’d like to put you at ease.  In my experience students will ALWAYS move to the level that you hold them to.  Yesterday is a great example.

This month I have been challenging our students to be a movement of love in our community.  As Christ-followers we are the physical representation of Jesus to a world that doesn’t know Him, so we organized a Love Moves Day to give students an opportunity to live out the love that they have experienced through Christ.  We had over 70 people come out to paint, clean, organize clothes, clear brush, and sort food all over the Knoxville area!

These students not only showed up, but they reached out in a big way, with a great attitude, and were a great example of Christ’s selfless love to our community.  In case you needed a reminder, there is a movement of love surging in our nation…and its spurred on by students!

071

above.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”Colossians 3:1-4

If you are a Christ-follower, rest assured in this: You have been buried and hidden with Christ, you have been raised up with Christ, and soon you will be placed above with Christ!

But right now…He’s above…we’re here…and it is our calling to be the physical representation of Jesus to a world that doesn’t know Him.  Let’s do it!

070

four letter words.

One of the most painful verses for a student to read in the Bible is Colossians 3:20 “Children, OBEY your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”  This has probably caused some tension in your home, and if we are honest, we all have an issue with obedience!  Here are a few reasons why I think it is so hard for students to OBEY.

1.      When I OBEY you, I ignore my WANT.  Since we all want what is best for us, obedience seems counterproductive to our very nature!  Strangely, this is one of the first things my kids learned to communicate: “I want…” and “That’s mine…”  To obey is to deny what I want in lieu of what you want.  That’s tough.

2.      When I OBEY you, I ignore my SELF.  As students grow they develop this internal yearning to create their own identity.  While their identity has been wrapped up in being a part of your family, almost immediately they look for ways to distance themselves from you.  To obey you means that they must sacrifice their identity and see themselves as part of the family.  That’s normal.

3.      When I OBEY you, I give up my TIME.  For 99% of students, their time is not their own.  Between school, homework and activities, very little of their day is unstructured.  Therefore, the time that they have is precious to them.  This makes it difficult in their mind to justify giving it up to do what you want them to do. To obey is to put myself on your timetable.

You may agree or disagree with these observations, but as a final parenting tip, let me remind you of Colossians 3:20.  The hardest hurdle for a student to overcome is the “WHY” factor.  They will feel entitled to know the reasoning behind giving up their WANT, SELF and TIME.  That’s where this verse becomes crucial!  The “WHY” is built right in! Why obey? Because “this pleases the Lord.”

I have found it helpful to make this part of our normal discussion with our kids. If I wait until Colt is disobedient to discuss the “why” then I miss the chance to help him understand that we all obey because it pleases the Lord.  So, to OBEY is not about giving up my WANT, SELF or TIME, it’s really showing God another four letter word: LOVE.

069

images of haiti.

Here are a few pictures of my trip to Haiti last week.  There is a great need there, beyond the food, water and shelter that they are currently lacking.  These people need the transformational love of Jesus in a big way!  Aside from the physical needs that cover this nation, there is a spiritual void that permeates the minds and hearts of the people there.  I have seen it and felt it, and in March I will be going back to help do something about it.  Look for more info on that, including ways that you can help, coming soon.

068


haiti.

This morning I am writing in a hotel near Port-au-Prince Haiti.  Yesterday was an experience that I will never forget, as I toured the devastation left by an earthquake and saw the heartbreak that Haiti has come to know as “normal.”

Unfortunately I am having some tech issues with my picture-uploading, but as soon as I get back to the States I will post as many images as I can of what I have seen.  This is a nation that has seen setback after setback, and honestly the only hope that there is for Haiti is through the selfless love of the church.  They need God in a BIG way, and I am stoked about being able to continue to partner with orphanages here to make a difference in the next generation of Haitians.  Please join me in praying for the efforts in this region.  Even though the media has moved on, Haiti has not. They need our help.

067

perspective.

Have you ever made a decision that you knew would change your life? Or taken that first step down a path that you’d never been down? Tossed and turned over a choice that will put you outside of your area of comfort? Yeah, me too.

In a few hours I will be landing in Haiti, a country that has seen more devastation and corruption than practically anyplace else on the planet. I am both excited and fearful for this experience. I’ve never been anywhere like this, and I know there is a lot that I don’t know. For me, that’s scary.

Whatever happens today, I know I will be changed. It’s amazing what that kind of antipciation will do for your perspective. Check back soon to see how I respond to the challenge.

066

hixson.

This weekend I had the opportunity to spend a few days at Hixson First Baptist Church speaking at their student ministry’s Fall Fusion experience.  When I agreed to the engagement I was told it would be a typical “Disciple Now” event with a standard small group curriculum and several large group teaching sessions. However, a few days before the event I got a call from the student pastor that changed everything.

Instead of doing the same-old-been-done-before experience, Jeremy felt God leading them in a different direction.  So with only a few days notice he flipped the script completely.  The event went from an inward-focused mentality to an outreach-focused mentality.  Basically swap the discipleship for evangelism, and make the event something that appeals to “outsiders.”  As you could imagine this earned Jeremy several different responses from the church and families involved.

Here’s what I love about what Jeremy did:

1.  He listened to and obeyed what God was saying.  Jeremy knew in his heart where the Spirit was leading, and he knew by experience that it might not be easy to pull off.  But he gets that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and very clearly is more interested in God’s opinion than anyone else.  I LOVE THAT!

2.  He focused on the ONE, not the NINETY-NINE.  Jeremy leveraged his finances, promotions, time and energy to do an event that was an easy invite to a first time guest.  By being willing to change the format to two 4 hour experiences instead of a 2 day commitment he built momentum and created less “buy in” for the student who could be nervous about attending.  The result? 25% of the attendance on Saturday were students that were not regular attenders.  AWESOME!

It was a great honor to speak at this event, and I will forever be reminded of the risk Jeremy was willing to take to reach kids who don’t know Jesus.  How are you putting the lost first in your planning, programming, and relationships?  Are you willing to drop everything you hold “sacred” for the sake of someone who doesn’t know Jesus?

065

its fall.

I love the fall season.  It seems like it always hits at the perfect time…summer has gone on for long enough and I am always ready for cooler weather and the change of the leaves.  One thing I realize as we enter autumn is that it is marked by death.  The grass withers, leaves die and fall from the tree branches, and flowers are no longer in bloom.  Sometimes I feel that way myself.  Stagnant, tired, unfulfilled, empty.  But it’s in these moments that I am reminded of the beauty of the spring.  Without the fall season, I don’t know that I would truly appreciate the colors and smells of May!  There is a life-death cycle throughout nature that we see every year.  And there is a similar and necessary process for you and me in our relationship with God.

This week we begin a new series at Catalyst, the Wednesday night high school experience at Faith Promise Church, which will dive into the true meaning of being ALIVE.  As we identify the connections in life, death and everything in between, I want to encourage you to join us.  Over the next few weeks we will be reading through the book of Colossians and you can follow along on our student websitewww.faithpromisestudents.com/hsm.  This daily reading guide can help you out whether you are in high school, are a parent of a high school student, or are just looking to answer the question “What does it mean to truly be alive?

As the markings of the season continue to shift from life to death and back again, remember that wherever you find yourself in the cycle, there is a way to obtain life both now and forever.  But it might not be in the way that you think.

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alive.

This week at Catalyst we will begin a brand new teaching series called ALIVE, and I am so excited!  In this series we will be walking through the book of Colossians, starting with chapter 1 which is highlighted by verse 15:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”
Colossians 1:15

Over the next few verses Paul walks us through THE great mystery of all time:That the God of all eternity would create a way for humanity to be reconciled with Him.  It is through Jesus, the visual, physical, tangible image of our invisible God, that we are able to do what we could not do on our own: pick up the tab for our sins and be presented holy.  But Paul continues to crank it up a notch in verse 27:

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:27

The great mystery isn’t just who Jesus was, what He did or why He did it…but that He resides IN US!  Get this…if you can read this you are already breathing God’s breath (Genesis 2:7) that must be constantly recycled through your lungs, but you also have the opportunity to breathe God’s Spirit, too!  By simply accepting that you can’t reconcile with God on your own and Jesus already did everything necessary for your salvation, Christ will reside in you. There’s the HOPE of GLORY: When the breath God gave us runs out, the Spirit will sustain for all of eternity alongside the God who died for you!

That makes me feel pretty ALIVE today…and reminds me that with the breaths that still remain I’ve got to share the mystery with anyone who will listen! Join me?

063

images of marriage.

Last weekend was a big one for my family.  We grew by not just one person, but many!  As we celebrated with my dad on the day of his wedding, I was reminded of the similarities between following Christ and getting married.

Becoming a Christ-follower is a decision.  But it’s not a one time deal.  It is a commitment that is followed by a relationship.  Every day after the point of conversion, when you accept that His death and resurrection covers the weight of your sin for all of eternity, you wake up and face a new day with new opportunities to live out your commitment in a relationship.  The same is true of marriage.  The commitment that is made on your wedding day is lived out over the course of your marriage.  We make a big deal out of the commitment, telling everyone we can, exchanging vows and rings, and making it a day that is to be remembered.  What a perfect picture of our relationship with Jesus!  The relationship is experienced with consistent reminders of the commitment.

I also love the continued allusions between rings, baptism, anniversaries and communion.  The more I think about the importance we place on the tokens and remembrances of a marriage, the more I see the importance of them in a relationship with Christ.

By the way, here are a few pictures from the wedding…it was a great day!

062

creativity.

I love creative things.  Whether it’s a musical element, a fresh use of words or a video that captures something with new perspective, I find that I am drawn to creativity.  As I am observing this about myself, I have discovered that creativity shows itself it two ways:

1.  Making the Complex Simple. Musical artists like Taylor Swift and Travie McCoy are marked by their ability to boil down a host of emotions into simple phrases like “you belong with me” or “I wanna be a billionaire” that becomes a catchy-ringtone-anthem that marks a generation.  And it’s not specific to musicians, either. Andy Stanley lives on this side of creativity, seemingly finding the most obviously applicable points in Scripture and life that make you simultaneously want to hug him for his brilliance and slap yourself for not seeing it on your own.  There is an art to making the complex simple that is creative and beautiful to me.

2.  Making the Simple Complex. This one is a bit tricky, because we can use it internally to convince ourselves that sin isn’t all that bad, or that she was wrong and I was right (let’s face it, you were wrong).  Nevertheless, the ability to take simple concepts and weave them into something that seems more complex or looks like something else entirely is a huge part of human creativity.  We see this in everything from The Beatles song lyrics to the Biblical meta-narrative revealed through the Old and New Testament. The simple concept that “God loves us” is found throughout Scripture and is more than just a theme of the Bible…it is the Bible itself!

I’m fascinated by both the art and science of creativity. Are you?  What do you see as creative? What gets your attention and your time?

061

politics.

I rarely write about politics. Not because I don’t care about local or national governments.  Not because I have no opinion on the various platforms that are discussed.  And certainly not because I am not concerned for the health and wealth of our country.  Here’s why.

The government can’t save us. Even at its best, the US government is still made up of people.  The entire system was designed to protect the whole of the country from the will of the few, i.e. checks and balances.  I support certain candidates and absolutely want my voice to be heard through voting.  But in the end, our government, and any government, is simply filled with people.

Government is not the answer.  But I think we’ve lost sight of something even more important:  While the government is filled with people, the church is filled with the Holy Spirit.  The government is designed to maintain order and the church is designed to change lives. If we blur the lines between the purpose of the government and the purpose of the church, we will find our hearts longing for the wrong things…power, control, money.

I believe with my whole heart that no matter who is in the oval office or which party controls the house and senate, our God is in control.  He’s aware of our conditions in America, Haiti and China.  And He loves us even despite the conditions of our own hearts.

Not sure if this helps you in any way, but I needed to share what gives me perspective in election years.  Otherwise I run the risk of becoming filled with bitterness and hate.  Let’s support the government and be involved, but first love God and be the church.  In the end, only Jesus saves.  Are you as passionate about His cross as your cause?

060

real.

I read this quote recently from A.W. Tozer:
A real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme love for one whom he has never seen. He talks familiarly every day to someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of another, empties himself in order than he might be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up. He is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passeth knowledge.” — A.W. Tozer

I love the simplicity with which Tozer observes the mindset of the Christ-follower.  Even more than that it strikes me that in order to truly follow Christ we must be strange, weird and odd.  When you are real about your relationship with Jesus, you will run the risk of everyone else pointing out the unrealistic nature of your faith.  Are you OK with that?

059

fall retreat recap.

Check out the recap video of our Fall Retreat to Camp Cedar Cliff in Asheville, NC!  We had a blast, and I am amazed to see how God continues to move in the lives of the students at Faith Promise! For more info on what’s coming up for high school students go to www.faithpromisestudents.com/hsm

http://www.vimeo.com/15691298

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student pastors only.

If you are a student pastor, thanks for reading!  I hope that this site is as helpful to you in your life and ministry as it is therapeutic for me to write.  My purpose in the post for today is two-fold:

1.  Student Pastors Only:  If you are a student pastor, leader or volunteer, I would love to have a conversation with you.  Not just me and you, but me, you and several other pastors who are going through the same stuff that we are!  As our roles in ministry are different than most any other area of the church, we are in a very unique position.  And through our uniqueness my desire is unity.  In Knoxville there are dozens and dozens of churches with student pastors asking the same questions but trying to answer them on their own.  My goal is to create an ongoing conversation that will allow us to creatively spur each other on to more innovative and collaborative ways to approach student ministry.  I’d love for you to JOIN US!  Whether you can make it or not, know that I am praying for you and your ministry.  Thank you for what you do.

2.  Everyone Else:  If you are not a student pastor but find yourself reading this blog, there is a good chance that you have had an interaction with a student pastor at some point in your life.  Here’s my challenge for you: thank them.  Whether its a mentor from long ago or the guy you see each week at church or the fellow staff member who is passionate about students.  Thank them.  It is because of their heart and sacrifice that so many young people are facing this world with faith instead of fear, hope instead of hate and love instead of apathy.

057

prayer.

Following Jesus is radical. The obedience, the cost, the responsibility that comes with it.  Following is one of the most difficult things that I can think of.  Following requires you to put your desires to the side for the purpose of following someone else.  Allowing their purpose to become your purpose. Their dreams, your dreams. And allowing their pain to become your pain.

However, there is an incredible silver lining that we often overlook.  Prayer.  As I have heard Francis Chan say with such passion twice in the last few weeks, “I can’t believe that God listens to me!”  The fact that we communicate with the Creator of the Universe, but still find ways to see the challenge of following as a minor setback to accomplishing our earthly, tangible goals continues to amaze me, especially when I do it myself!  That’s why prayer is so important!  The more we communicate with God, the more His heart will become our heart and His desires our desires.  Here are a few ways that I am learning to pray:

1.  Measurably. Not just “help me do better” but “help me defeat this sin, speak to this person, deal with this responsibility.”  The more measurable our prayers, the more recognizable it is when God answers them.

2.  Magnanimously. Basically this is a big word that (kinda) means big.  At least to me. The bottom line is that we have access to the God who created EVERYTHING, and we must recognize this when we pray.  Not just “heal my cut finger” but “bring my friend into a relationship with You.”  The bigger our prayers, the more recognizable it is that God answers them.

3.  Marketably. Our prayers should always reflect how awesome our God is.  So, when we pray, we might as well pray that by answering our prayers and listening to us, God continues to use us to reveal Himself to a world that lives without Him.  That’s what it’s all about anyways.  If you are truly following, your goal is to make Him known.  There is no greater goal or responsibility…let’s pray Him up! The more our prayers ask for God’s glory, the more recognizable it is how God answers them.

My challenge to you is this: Write down your prayers so that you know when God answers, and spend an equal amount of time listening to what God says that you do asking Him to do things.  How will we know what He says if we hang up the phone when we have nothing else to say?

056

corrections.

I sat down this morning to write a blog post for Monday.  Typically I plan out the week ahead of time and write several posts in a row so that I can schedule them to go live at various points in the week.  Anyways, the post that will post early this week will reference a post I did back in March.  After re-reading this post, I realized that there is some correction and follow-up that is long overdue:

1.  “he [Chuck Carringer] currently doesn’t have a blog or twitter…” This had been remedied!  Since the posting of that blog, Chuck Carringer, the Family Ministry Pastor at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, TN, has started a blog AND a Twitter account. I would HIGHLY recommend following him and regularly reading his posts.  Whether you are in ministry, have kids, or have ever been part of a family (that should get pretty much everyone!) they are a great resource and will be well worth your time.

2.  “We prayed raw, honest prayers…” The post itself was all about the urgency and faith with which we should approach God’s throne in prayer.  At the time Chuck and I were wrestling over how to reach a group of students, one in particular, who didn’t seem to get what we were trying to accomplish as a ministry.  We questioned why he was even attending the student service.  And instead of focusing on our frustration we took it to the One who ultimately could do more about it that we ever could.  And as a result, nearly 3 months later, that student came to know Jesus!  What’s even crazier to me is that the moment that we prayed, in the midst of our frustration and pain, God had already moved!  The volunteer that made the relational connection with that student had his first experience with our ministry only days before!

It is amazing to me to see how God works in my life.  I rarely get to see ahead of time what He’s going to do, but I should always look back, recognize what He has done, celebrate His providence, and move forward with the knowledge that He continues to be active in my life. Do you?

055

friday questions.

Today I chose not to write a blog post filled with information.  Instead I am giving you some questions.  Some you will be able to answer with little to no effort, and some will stick with you for a while.  Enjoy!

If you were to identify yourself with one word what would it be?
What would you choose as a profession if you could do anything at all?
Why did you get out of bed this morning?
What decision or conflict is rolling around your mind today…and how is putting it off affecting your day?
What do you hope your kids tell others about you?
What are you doing right now that will matter in 10 years? 50 years? 100 years?

054

obedience is radical.

When I think of the term “radical” my mind often conjures up images of extremists and people who seem to have lost touch with reality.  So, to title a high school event radical is, even in my mind, kinda crazy.  Who wants to be radical? Who wants to be seen as the weirdo that stands up for what he believes or the crazy girl who shares her relationship with God with her friends?

The truth is, radical is the requirement to follow Jesus. Matthew 4:19 shows us that following Jesus isn’t about becoming a scholar or teacher, but a fisher of men. That’s radicalActs 4:2 shows us that following Jesus means telling others about Him even (or especially) when it causes some awkwardness or friction.  That’s radicalLuke 14:33 shows us that the first step in following is to recognize the cost of following.  Understand that it’s going to hurt.  Check the price before selecting your order, because the bill is gonna be steep.  Following Christ means being willing to give up everything.  That’s radical.

So what does this mean? How do we actually pull this off in our current culture?  Four simple letters: O.B.E.Y. The hardest word in the world to act on.  You see, following Jesus, really following Him, is born from obedience.  The disciples obeyed when they dropped their nets and followed Him.  In John 14 Jesus is abundantly clear that the way we show Him our love is to simply OBEY!

As Perry Noble often puts it, we must “listen to God and do what He says.”  How can something so basic be so radical? Because our ability to hear God is easily muffled when we listen to ourselves first. To our fears. Our doubts. And to a world that doesn’t even know Him.  Don’t let the people you are trying to save dictate the truth for you.  Be radical.  Listen and obey.

053

radical.

Do you live an ordinary life? Like, over time every day seems to repeat itself and become dull and boring?  Do you ever feel like someone lied to you about the excitement that following Christ would bring?

If you’ve ever felt that you are missing out on the radical life that is promised to Christ-followers, a life that is abundant, there is one simple solution.  That’s whatthis weekend is all about.  What does a radical life look like, and how can I have it? Do you want the answer?

Check back on Sunday for the 4 simple letters that can transform your world.

052

discipline vs. punishment.

“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands…know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.” Deuteronomy 8:2,5

For a long time I thought the word “discipline” was a bad thing.  I saw discipline as a synonym of “punishment,” but I had an immature understanding of God’s discipline.  Punishment our payment for stepping out of line, but discipline is God’s way of correcting our mistakes in love.  As the verses above state, God protected the Israelites while He led them in the desert.  He didn’t punish them externally, but He intentionally walked them through the process of understanding what they did wrong in an attempt to correct the internal issue.

I have tried to model this with my son, Colt.  When I was growing up, my dad would always say the same thing when he disciplined me: “Because I love you, I have to make you obey.”  Now that I have a child of my own I completely get it! I even added a second line to the phrase: “Colt, because you love me, you must choose to obey.”  When we view discipline as correction with love and not punishment without purpose we see our kids the way God sees us.

How does this happen?  Remember, punishment is a reaction and discipline is a response.  We have to be intentional when correcting our kids not to snap into punishment mode but to come alongside them and identify the internal problem while delivering the external consequences.

051

newspring leadership conference.

OK, I’ve posted 4 in a row referencing the same conference.  In case you haven’t figured it out by now…I learned a TON of information during the one day leadership experience!  Session 5 was lead by Francis Chan.  This was a bit of a different format than the other speakers in that he didn’t give much of an outline or really have much of a linear thought pattern at all.  But there was one quote that has stuck with me, and will stick with me for a while.  For that I am very grateful.   Here it is:

“If YOUR STORY was in the Bible…WOULD IT STAND OUT? Would people read it or skip over it?”

This is a great question to ask, not to be cocky or egotistical, but to help us remember that the “stories” of the Bible are not made up of extraordinary people, but obedient people who had faith regardless of the circumstances.  If that’s all it took to get your story in the Bible…would the next generation read about you?

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newspring leadership conference.

Session 4 – Judah Smith

“Matters of the Meantime”

Proverbs 13:12 – “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

Judah spoke from Mark 4 about Jesus and the stormy waters.

* When you “boil God down to 7 steps” He’ll show you that it doesn’t work!
} Understanding God is not a mocrowaveable situation
} It’s not about an equation or a vending machine, but a relationship

* What Is The Meantime?
} “What do you do when you’re not where you used to be, but you’re not where you’re supposed to be?”
} The “meantime” matters to God – Jesus ages 12-30
} You can’t get from shore to shore on your own
} Don’t be embarassed by the meantime!
} Don’t manufacture the other side!

* What to do
} Stay In the boat!
} From Abram –  Too much DELAY feels like you’ve been DENIED

049

newspring leadership conference.

Session 3 – Jud Wilhite

Jud spoke from John 4 about Jesus and the woman at the well

* Jesus was all about reaching the broken…you will always have an audience!
* Too many people see church like a Christian prom…get dressed up and look good, then go home and be real

* Two Questions
} Who is hurting that we can help?
} Who needs to be reached that isn’t being reached?

* See restrictions as an opportunity
} Jesus used a lack of water to reach the woman
} Fight the martyr mentality
} Find the “yes”
} Use what you have
} Tell the truth in love
} Tell stories!

048

newspring leadership conference.

Session 2 – Mark Driscoll

“If you want God to use you greatly, then He must wound you deeply.”

“Suffering costs so much…use it!”

Mark spoke from Ephesians 3:1-13 about “suffering well”

* Sanctification comes from suffering (3:1)
} We should suffer for doing the RIGHT thing
} Jesus was made perfect through suffering (Heb 2:10)
} The cross was not just done for us, but by us
} “We should not just feel more deeply in our suffering, but think more deeply”
} “Jesus did not suffer so we would not suffer, but so that we would be more like Him in our suffering”

* Stewardship comes from suffering (3:3-6)
} We are a steward of a great mystery (not an unknown, but known by few)
} Suffering reduces life to what is the most essential
} We should be Christ-centered, not cause-centered
} Christ is the result of the revelation of the mystery, don’t replace the mystery
} If you want a great harvest, you need a deeper pruning
} “Suffering is the means by which God prunes His church”

* Serving comes from suffering (3:7)
} Suffering produces humility, encouragement and thankfulness

* Speaking comes from suffering (3:8-9)
} If you speak without suffering you become a religious referee
} If you preach repentance but don’t practice it, you will be toxic!
} We must preach from our “losses” not just our “wins”
} Suffering helps you identify how unlike Christ you are
} There aren’t “good guys & bad guys” but “bad guys & Jesus”
} Religious people don’t suffer, they cause other people to suffer
} Preach against sin & religion and everyone will be after you, both the fornicators & fundamentalist

* Sanctuary comes from suffering (3:10-12)
} The church is a family…that’s why we can annoy each other!
} The gospel must always remain #1
} The church caused Christ to suffer…it will cause you to suffer, too

* Sustaining comes from suffering (3:13)
} Who has betrayed you? Abandoned you?
} We must stay the course and suffer well!

047

newspring leadership conference.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Newspring Leadership Conference in Anderson, SC.  This was an AWESOME one day event that featured some of the most relevant communicators around, talking about leadership and the church.  Instead of trying to summarize this fire hydrant experience, I thought I’d pass on my notes so you can see what I have learned.  Enjoy!

Session 1 – Perry Noble

“Before God wants to do something great THROUGH you,
He wants to do something great IN you.”

Perry spoke from Joshua 5:13-6:5

*Recognition
} Who – Joshua was busy, didn’t recognize who Jesus was
} What – Never experienced Jericho before, but were near the breakthrough
} How – The goal is to get alone with God…that’s where intimacy happens!

* Submission
} Joshua’s shoes separated his nastiness from God’s holiness
} If God can’t trust you in the small things, why should He in the big things?

* Luke 10:17-20 – Ministry is not about what we can or can’t do…but simply that we know Jesus! Nothing else to brag about!

Check back soon for notes on the other 5 sessions!

046

high school fall retreat.

First of all, yes, I am hi-jacking my own blog to tell you about an AWESOME upcoming event for high school students at Faith Promise Church.  Secondly, keep reading cuz it just gets better!

If you have a high school student, you might notice a routine developing.  They are getting used to the school hours and the extracurricular activities are hitting their stride.  This is the perfect time for your student to inject some RADICAL into the routine.  That’s what the High School Fall Retreat is all about!  October 2-3 we will be heading out to Camp Cedar Cliff in Ashville, NC for two days that will challenge and change your student.  This is a chance for your student to unplug from the mundane and discover the difference between living life on their own and thriving in a relationship with God and a community that supports them.

Here’s what YOU need to do to make this a reality:

  1. Register Your Student. You can sign up right now for only $100 HERE! This price includes all meals, a t-shirt and all activities at the retreat!
  2. Mandatory Parent Meeting – September 26th from 1:00pm-2:00pm.  You will get additional information about the retreat and sign all release forms.  Even if your student cannot attend the retreat, we’d love to have you join us as we discuss the vision for the high school ministry for this school year.

If you have any questions or would like more information please contact the FP Student office at 865-251-2590.

045

faith promise weekend service.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to deliver the weekend message at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, TN.  Holly and I are so honored to be part of the FP family, and I greatly appreciate Pastor Chris giving me this chance to share something that God put on my heart that relates to students and families!  Enjoy!

http://vimeo.com/14705660

044

remote control of lust.

Tonight at Catalyst I will be speaking on the topic of “lust” in our series called “Remote Control.” We’ve been learning about different attitudes and emotions thatwe often hand control of our lives to, only to be led into disaster.  This week is a doozy!

Lust is all about the lie, and I have observed 3 lies that are consistent with lust.  Whether its a sexual desire, relational lust or maybe something materialistic, lust always comes with lies.

#1 – Lust promises PLEASURE but delivers PAIN
#2 – Lust promises CONTROL but delivers SLAVERY
#3 – Lust promises HAPPINESS but delivers REGRET

The only true way to avoid these lies and the carnage that comes as a result of believing them is to take the remote control away from our sin nature and hand it over to the Holy Spirit.  I have a 2 year old son, and he doesn’t like it when I have to take things away from him…you can expect your sin nature to put up a fight too! Be ready!

“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” Romans 8:9a

043

happy isn’t good enough.

I have spoken to many parents who have hopes and dreams for their kids.  Rarely do I come in contact with a parent who does not wish for their child to live a better life than they did. Or to drive a better car, buy a house sooner and get to have more and do more than they did growing up.  Who wouldn’t?

Unfortunately the word that is most consistent in these conversations is the word “happy.” As parents, we want our children to grow up and be happy…but how do we communicate this?  If we define happy for our families as making enough money, driving the best car we can afford, going into debt up to our eyeballs to live in a certain neighborhood…are we teaching them how to be happy? Or are we showing them that happiness is defined by what you have and not who you are?

I see it in high school students every week.  They define their world based on their home.  Students are beginning to make decisions on their own, but they always do it in the framework that is defined for them in their family.  So, if we as parents major on the minor things in life, the stuff and status, they will too.  If we are more consistent to football practice than to church, or we spend money on dance lessons and then can’t afford to attend a camp experience, we are teaching them, through our decisions, what is most important.  There’s nothing wrong with football and dance, but if we teach them that what’s most important is to chase after happy, we are setting them up for disaster!

Happy isn’t good enough. Happy is temporary and will wear off.  If you want your child or student to experience the best life possible, the priority must be placed on a relationship with God and loving Him first, no matter what.  I guarantee that your kids will be much more grateful for living a “blessed” life than a “happy” one any day.

042

absolutely.

Earlier this week I wrote about Ryan Grant’s response to the question “Can  you lobby for the ball in the huddle?” His answer reflects an attitude that I think is healthy in ministry and leadership.  He said, “absolutely.”

His answer reminds me of a great line from the sports movie “The Replacements” where Gene Hackman tells Keanu Reaves “winners want the ball when the game is on the line!”  Initially you might react to Grant’s answer with, “how prideful, how arrogant of him! He’s part of a team, who does he think he is to lobby for getting the ball!  He just wants to pad his stats!”  Well, maybe.  But let’s look a bit deeper.

As leaders, especially leaders in ministry, I believe that we have been gifted and designed to lead and communicate the truth to a world that is more desperate for it than they even know.  Whether you are a volunteer leader in ministry, staff member or simply a friend of a sinner, you’re opportunities are going to be limited.  We only have a few chances to Go, Fight, and Win this world in the battle for their eternity! Any chance that we have to lobby for the ball, the microphone, the podium or the ears of our peers, we HAVE to respond with ABSOLUTELY!

If we aren’t actively pursuing more chances to spread the Gospel, how likely are we to recognize one when it comes up?  As a running back, Ryan Grant approaches every huddle with the mindset that screams “I want the ball!”  It’s what he’s designed to do.  He’s the only guy on the field who can run the route.  You and I are the same way.  We have influence, generally with mankind, but specifically with the people we know.  You may be the only shot somebody has at knowing Jesus…do you want the ball or not?

Our time is short.  The clock will run out at some point.  Would you rather hear the buzzer and hang your head wishing for a second chance to change someone’s life? Or be in the middle of the field celebrating your obedience in every opportunity that you were given to convey the truth?

041

the last thing.

I recently read an article in Sports Illustrated where Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant was interviewed.  One of the questions he was asked was “Can you lobby for the ball in the huddle?”  There are two things I observed from his answer, the first of which is the last thing that he said.

His response was “absolutely” followed by a strategic explanation of when he makes his request.  He said, “There’s a little trick for all running backs.  After you break the huddle, you always let him know what route you’re running.  You know why you do that? Because that’s the last thing he is thinking about.”

There’s something to that, especially in the realm of student ministry.  We have the answer to the question the world keeps stumbling through – what’s the purpose of our lives? – so we must communicate in such a way that the message is received!  With the myriad of information flying at teenagers these days, the best way to get the important stuff through their filters is to either focus on VOLUME or TIMING.

If we can’t stand out as the loudest voice (which I am still willing to try) let’s make sure to communicate strategically.  As Grant implies, timing is huge in getting a message across.  I think about this every time we put together a service at Catalyst and every time I write a message for a teaching series.  What’s the LAST THING they are thinking as they leave?

In the Faith Promise High School Ministry, we recently adjusted our strategy on service planning to ensure that the last element is one on the “up-swing” for both energy and excellence.  Basically, if students will leave a service thinking about the last thing the most…let’s make sure that it’s the image we want to represent Jesus!

What’s your last thing?
What impact do you hope to leave in every area of your influence?

040

airplanes.

I think every decision I’ve ever made has had one of those “no turning back” moments.  You know, where you see a chance to get out of doing something ridiculous but instead press on.  I passed that moment last week when I chose to get involved in the Catalyst Service on Wednesday night.  With a room full of students and volunteers, I rapped. Not a present.  Not knocking on a door.  I rapped an actual song.

This choice had nothing to do with my comfort level in the rap arena.  I’m not necessarily “rhythmically blessed.”  But I saw an opportunity to give 100% in a situation where I could have given 50% or walked away.  And I chose to do something crazy.  I put my pride on hold (I knew I had little chance of looking like I knew what I was doing) and I jumped in with both feet!  Why?  My decision was not based on how it made me feel, but on how it could impact the lives of students. Confused?

The way I saw it, if I knocked it out of the park, I mean, absolutely nailed it and P. Diddy came looking for me the next day because he heard about my skills, the impact would be that students in the room would be engaged in the worship service because of the spectacle.  But, even if it was terrible and I forgot most of the words, the students would still be pulled in to the experience and there would be an extremely memorable moment in the service.  Either way, the students would remember that night.  And that’s the point.  My passion is for students to be so pumped about engaging in a worship service that they invite others and their friends get saved.  And I will look as ridiculous as I have to to make that a reality.

And, yes, we got it on video.

039

vip experience.

Let’s face it, high school students are HIGHLY RELATIONAL.  Success for a student is usually viewed as some level of social status or peer admiration as opposed to doing a great job in class or completing an assignment on time.  Relationships drive everything about who they are and how they define themselves.

So, how do we use this new understanding to continue to be the church and reach out to students who don’t know God and may be apprehensive about coming to church?  The VIP Experience!  When a student comes to Catalyst for the first time, they become our VIP guest.  A student (not an adult) will host them throughout the night, answering any questions that they may have while making a relational connection with them.

After the Catalyst service ends, the guests are ushered into the VIP Experience where they have a chance to eat some pizza and hang out with student leaders who are intentionally focused on connecting with them. Oh yeah, and the band is invited too!  Not only does this create a “backstage and exclusive” feel to the experience, but it also creates an opportunity for the guest to be around the visual leaders of Catalyst.

Our goal in being so intentional to reach out to our first time guests is simple:  Our students invite friends that don’t know Christ, and our prayer is that they will become more interested in a relationship with Him as they see how much we love them because of Him!  This is just one more way that our high school students are living out the vision of Faith Promise Church.  So, this is YOUR green light to bring out any high school students you know to Catalyst.  We’ve got some great stuff going on just for them!

038

new post.

Anybody else feel like July FLEW by?

I’ve got lots of new content coming soon, but until then check out this post on theFaith Promise Church Blog!

037

vacation.

It is usually a rare and joyous occasion that my family gets the chance to retreat and spend quality time away from home more than once within a three-week period, but this year it worked out that we get to visit both the beach AND the lake!  I experienced both destinations while growing up in North Carolina, and I am so excited to be able to begin traditions with my son (and daughter, although she doesn’t enjoy it quite as much at less than 3 months of age) that involve the waves of the ocean as well as the relaxation of the lake.

Here are a few snapshots of our beach time last week:

(This is the first time Colt ever saw the ocean…)

036

after party.

Camp is absolutely my favorite experience of the year in student ministry. Between the student connection, incredible energy in live music and the life-change that happens in a camp setting, it is no wonder why students love to unplug from reality and create memories while connecting with God and others!  This year was no different…or was it?

Having been part of student camps for over a decade, I can honestly say that this past month I experienced something brand new in student camps: The After Party.  In an attempt to create a “family ministry connection” in the camp experience, Faith Promise Student Camp wrapped up by inviting families to meet us at the church to celebrate what God did at camp during the week.  It was the best ending to camp I could ever imagine.  Here’s why:

1.  Connecting Parents With Camp. Typically a student will leave camp completely exhausted, and it can take months for a parent to extract information on their experience at camp.  By inviting families to our After Party we were able to show them a 20 minute mini-movie that gave them a visual of what happened at camp that set up immediate conversations about how they were impacted.

2.  Cast Vision For The Ministry. This was an influential time of vision casting for the families in our ministry, some of which have never had an opportunity to see the student ministry in “action.”  In this time we were able to communicate our passion for leading students in a growing relationship with God while outlining additional ways to connect over the summer.

3.  Celebrate Life-Change. We had a phenomenal week at camp, which was highlighted by baptizing a dozen students at the After Party.  It was a great way to celebrate the students’ decision in a way that they will remember for the rest of their lives!  What a great way to celebrate the conclusion of camp and the beginning of a life changed forever!

035

 coming up.

Hey, all!  It has been a LONG time since I’ve posted anything…which means you can prepare for a TON of posts coming up to fill you in on what’s been going on.  Before you ask, yes, this is a post to tell you about future posts. Why? Because I am so excited about what this summer has meant so far to my family as well as God’s church!

Here’s what you can expect soon:

…Unleashed Student Camp with Faith Promise Church at Myrtle Beach, SC…

…Family Vacation to Oak Island, NC (including cute pics of the kiddos)…

…Tips on Summer Event Planning for Students…

…Student Missions in Nashville, TN…

…The World Cup (…maybe…)…

…and Why I Am Excited About August!

See you back in a few hours!

034

snow.

Most weeks my Tuesday involves a series of meetings. One of my favorite meetings of the week is our Family Ministry Leaders meeting. It is always a great time of creativity, learning and synergy between the Family Ministry at Faith Promise Church.

This week Chuck Carringer, our Family Ministry Pastor, put a series of random, unconnected words on the white board. He challenged us to choose a word from which to teach a spontaneous one minute leadership lesson. Check back later for a post about my selection and response to this challenge.

I love what this exercise communicated to our team. As we work to partner with parents to grow their family’s connection with Christ, we need to develop eyes to see fresh ways to communicate. New angles, view points and perspectives can make all the difference in connecting the message of Christ with the people who so desperately need to hear it.

How do you change perspective?

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unleashed.

Next Sunday I will be heading to Myrtle Beach with nearly 200 of my best friends! That’s right…camp is here!  If you are in 6th-12th grade and you’d like to join us on this journey, there are still a few spots left and you can register atFaithPromise.org

This year we are offering an option for families to stay connected with the camp experience!  You can do this two ways:

1.  Pray! Check the Faith Promise Students website for information on how you can pray specifically each day for your student.

2.  Tweet! The staff will be updating our special camp Twitter account every few hours while we are away.  All you have to do is go toTwitter.com/FPCUnleashed and you can see pictures and descriptions of what’s going on at camp! How cool is that!

We are praying for an incredible week of life change and relational connection as we enjoy the camp experience.  Check back here for updates on the staff and ministry side of our week! Thanks!

032

eggs.

Friday morning at the Wallace house usually mean one thing: food! Whether it’s cinnamon rolls, bacon or pancakes, we start Fridays off by enjoying breakfast together. Today that meant EGGS! Recently I’ve been training Colt to eventually take over the egg division of our kitchen.

It’s important to remember the little things. Chuck Carringer likes to say “God is in the gaps” and I feel the same way about family. It’s not a destination that you reach; family is all about the process of living life together and becoming who you are.Celebrate it. Remember it.

031

camp.

I LOVE CAMP.  There, I said it.

This summer FPC Student Ministry is headed to Myrtle Beach, SC for an incredible week of awesomeness. Really. We paid extra for additional awesomeness. If that’s not enough to convince you to sign up…check out this video:

http://www.vimeo.com/11957123

You can register NOW by clicking HERE! See you at UNLEASHED!

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memories.

This past Saturday I took some students to Nashville to help out Crosspoint Community Church‘s “Serving Saturday” with flood relief from the crazy flood in early May.  While there we spent time emptying a family’s flooded basement of their personal belongings.

We pulled out boxes of toys, books, video tapes and souvenirs, all destroyed by the flood.  Years and years of life and memories had been covered with mud and relegated to the trash.  As we loaded the Bibles and picture books that were falling apart and no longer usable, it hit me pretty hard.  I fought back tears as I surveyed what I considered to be lost memories, but the only thing that was lost was the memorabilia.  The things from our past are simply reminders of our experiences.

Our family moved a few months ago from the Dallas, TX area to Knoxville, TN.  Of course there were several things that were lost or broken in the move.  I found myself instantly agitated by losing certain items that were “treasured,” and rightly so.  But these things do not define who we are or who we will be as a family.  They simply mark our history.  It is always difficult to lose things, but I am so glad that they are just things that are temporary anyways!

This family in Nashville had lost items, not their identity. The tangible evidence was removed, but the memories remained.

029

everywhere.

This might sound kinda crazy, but I see Jesus everywhere.  Not like the lady with the Jesus grilled cheese sandwich. I don’t see His face in the clouds or on the sides of buildings. But I see Him in constant conversations and topics every single day.  Here’s an example.

The last three weeks at Catalyst we have been getting into some heavy topics: multiple ways to Heaven, homosexuality, evolution. Stuff you aren’t supposed to be able to talk about at church.  The cool thing to me is that each topic has tied back to our need for Jesus.

Sure, you might say, how can you not talk about Jesus when you teach about how to get to Heaven? Good point. That one’s kinda obvious. But let’s move on to the other two.  What does homosexuality have to do with Jesus?  Well, homosexuality is a sin, and in order to understand the implications of it we must identify the desire to sin and the consequences that come with it.  Sin separates us from God. Jesus made a way to connect the dots. Bam!

OK, you say, but evolution is all about the beginning of time, what does that have to do with Jesus? Well, Jesus prayed in John 17:4I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” That means that what the Trinity (including Jesus) started in Genesis 1 is completed in the Gospel.  Creation was completed in Christ! Wow!

Jesus is everywhere.  He is immersed in the framework of who we are.  You can find Him in any conversation, any topic.  The question is, are you looking?

028

plans.

May is all about graduation.  For the seniors and their families it is a time to celebrate the hard work and determination that has allowed them to walk the stage.  For juniors the long-awaited senior year is finally within reach.  Sophomores begin to refer to themselves as upperclassmen, and freshmen…well, freshmen are just excited to not be freshmen anymore!

During this season many Scriptures are used as inspirational material for the graduates.  One of my favorites is Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  While this verse is full of optimism and excitement when looking towards the days ahead, the context paints a slightly different picture.  Jeremiah was passing on the Word of the Lord in a time when his people were in exile.  The king of Babylon had ransacked the country and taken the best of the best to work for him.  Meanwhile, the rest of the people were scattered throughout the Babylonian community.  Needless to say, things did not look good.

But the point is not that the people were in turmoil and chaos.  The best part of this passage is that the message remains the same.  God didn’t promise prosperity in the middle of a booming economy.  He promised to lead them out of exile and into a land of peace where they would yet again have a relationship with Him.  On top of that, God gave them the blueprint for how to keep this relationship going…which is just as impactful for you graduates.

Jeremiah 29:12-13 – “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Are you focused more on the hope, future and prosperity that you want? Or on the seeking, calling and praying for the relationship with God that He wants?  You can’t have one without the other.  The great things that God has planned for us are only obtainable through obeying Him and developing a relationship with Him. Graduates…are you seeking or planning?

027

unleashed.

This summer the Student Ministry at Faith Promise Church is taking Myrtle Beach by storm! We’d love to have you join us!  Whether you are a current 6th-12th grade student looking for the best week of your summer, a young adult who is looking for an opportunity to lead students through an awesome week of camp, or a parent who is looking to get to work helping students know and love Jesus,what are you waiting for?

June 13-18 will be a monumental experience that is sure to not just give you a good time, but promises to shift your life into a higher gear. Don’t miss out!  More information and online registration can be found on our website –FaithPromiseStudents.com

See ya there!

026

sacred cows.


It amazes me what we can sometimes be afraid to talk about. For one reason or another, it has become “taboo” to discuss certain things as a family or a church for fear of being labeled “politically incorrect” or “judgmental.” I think it’s time we busted these barriers wide open!

I am currently teaching through some “hot topics” at Catalyst in a series called Cow Tipping, including homosexuality, evolution, and alternate routes to Heaven. There are two major reasons that we are getting into these issues:

1. This is what the world is talking about. If you even glance at the news today, you will see countless stories on wars based on religion or religious preferences, the homosexual agenda, and a complete redefining of the word green. It is so important for us to talk about these things with our families and especially our students! Let’s face it, the world is not going to teach them the truth on these subjects, so we MUST go to the Word for our answers!

2. These topics are intended to destroy the foundation of our relationship with God. Sound bizarre? The idea that “many paths lead to Heaven” or “you can earn your way to Heaven” completely undermines salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. If we believe that we are born homosexual and there’s nothing wrong with it, then there is no reason for accountability for any sin at all. And evolution clearly aims to destroy God’s very existence.

These topics have become “sacred cows” that society has tried to keep penned up and out of reach from the church and the truth. I say it’s time to strap on our boots and go Cow Tipping! Who’s with me?

025

mommy.

I love being a Daddy.  It is one of the greatest joys that I can experience on earth!  Not only do I have the opportunity grow as a leader while shepherding my children, but I get to walk alongside them through so many challenges and celebrations.  I believe that God gives us the chance to parent as a small glimpse into the emotions that He feels towards us: joy, laughter, empathy, anger, sorrow, grace and a desire for community.

But today I want to focus on the other half of the parental powerhouse: Mommy.  It is a word that needs to be screamed when you fall off your bike or are scared of being in the dark alone, or when those other kids are just plain mean. But it stands for so much more than just comfort.  I have the privilege of doing life with an amazing woman, who happens to be a Mommy.  And I have seen that a mother’s role goes far beyond mere compassion.  It requires strength, multi-tasking, strategy, sacrifice, courage, selflessness and most of all love.

I am blessed to have two amazing kids (so far!) but even more to be able to enjoy watching them grow with an amazing woman who encompasses all of these words and more.  I’m so glad that you are my kids’ mommy, Holly.  You take the word and the role to a higher level.  Thank you for all that you do.

P.S. My wife has some great thoughts on parenting and life…check her out on Twitter: http://twitter.com/hollyewallace

024

confident.

Last week I was honored to be a part of LIT 2010, a one day conference hosted by my pastor Dr. Chris Stephens.  This was a GREAT day that made a huge impact on pastors from all over the world.  You should absolutely check out LIT Charlotte 2010 on September 30!

I was challenged by each speaker at LIT, but one question asked by Pete Wilsonhas hit me in the face every day since: “What would you do if you were confident that God was with you?” The basic premise is that as Christ-followers we live life on faith, but do we actually act in a way that reflects our full reliance on God?

As a student pastor this question explodes into a myriad of additional questions:  Where am I holding back from speaking truth to students? Who should I be actively pursuing as volunteer leaders? What am I doing that I should stop doing so that I can focus on things that are most important?  What excuses am I making in order to keep God in a nice, neat, understandable box?

Psalm 27:13-14I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

The biggest question this makes me ask is, if I truly believe that God is with me, why do I need to ask for courage to be bold with my faith?  Is my confidence in my own abilities or in God to use me?

023

go. fight. win. part 3

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’” (Matthew 28:18-19)

Just like LeBron James steps on the basketball court with every intention of winning the game, Jesus came to earth for a specific purpose with a defined “win” in mind.  If we read the Bible and stop when Jesus is crucified then we miss out on the most impactful aspect of his role in history and eternity.  The biggest “win” in history was obtained three days after Jesus was killed, when He defeated death and proved to the world that He is God!

It is in the aftermath of this huge victory that Jesus challenges us to “go, fight, and win.” We’ve tackled the “go” and “fight” but the most important part of His command is the “win!”  What is a win? According to Matthew 28, once someone gives their life over to Jesus the first step of obedience is to get baptized.  This is essentially the trophy ceremony that shows off the biggest win of their life!

Last week at Catalyst, the Wednesday night High School worship service at Faith Promise Church, we baptized 5 students who have experienced this “win” and I cannot even put into words how awesome it is to celebrate with them in the winner’s circle!  Check out one of these students’ story right here.

This is what it’s all about.  Jesus came to earth to make a way for us to have a relationship with God.  By accepting his sacrifice and victory over death we gain eternal life!  Stay encouraged!  Jesus called us to GO FIGHT and WIN until He comes back…and when He does we will have the biggest victory party ever! Who are you bringing with you?

022

go. fight. win. part 2.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’” (Matthew 28:18-19)

In the last post we saw the first step in following Jesus’ command is the often repeated by onlookers, coaches and cheerleaders at most sporting events: GO! You’ve got to get in the game in order to have influence.  The next step in the process is to FIGHT!

Fighting might not be the first thing you think of when you imagine Jesus’ instructions…His actual words are “make disciples of all nations.”  In the book of Acts, however, we see Jesus allude to the fact that the process of “making disciples” won’t be easy.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,” (Acts 1:8)

When Jesus left the earth He set us up with the Holy Spirit so that we will have a major advantage in the battle for humanity.  That’s right, battle. The process of evangelism is a battle for the heart, mind and soul of each individual that you come in contact with who does not know Jesus.  Therefore, we must fight with passion and vigilance, not with fists or weapons, but with our words, thoughts and actions as we intercede and intervene in the lives of the people we are trying to reach.

Don’t trick yourself into thinking that you don’t have influence, or that “evangelism” is something that seminary-types do.  Evangelism is simply accepting Jesus’ command to go, fight, and win others for Him. Why is this a fight? Because the stakes could not possibly get any higher!  What are the stakes?  Find out next time…

021

go. fight. win.

Sounds like a chant you might hear at a football game, right?  Simple, direct encouragement to keep focused and win the game.  Just what you need from a glance to the sidelines as the final minute ticks off the clock. Go. Fight. Win.  Three words that sum up every pregame locker room speech ever given.  But, let’s not limit this phrase to just sports.  I believe we can see them clearly in Jesus’ last words to us on earth. Let’s pretend that this is his pregame locker room talk just before we take the field…here’s what He said:

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,’” (Matthew 28:18-19)

Ok, the first word should be pretty obvious…Jesus tells us to GO!  There are two things that this tells me.  First, there is a need for me to get in the game.  Since Jesus gave this command the timer started counting down to His return and what we do in the time remaining will not only determine our eternities, but those of the people we come in contact with every day!  So, simply, go DO SOMETHING to let them know about Him!

Secondly, Jesus wipes away any excuses we can think of with the first statement.  We GO not because we earned it or are educated for it or have experience doing it, but we are called to spread the Gospel because Jesus has all of the power.  Under His authority we have nothing to fear, and nothing can disqualify us from having an impact on our world, aside from us not obeying Him…we’ve gotta GO!

So, what does GO look like for you?  Do you have a specific person in mind that needs to hear about what Jesus has done in your life? If not, maybe your first step is to open your eyes and heart to find that person.  The clock is ticking down and all around you are souls who need you to get in the game!

020

quicksand.

(this entry was originally posted on my old blog on Feb 18, 2009 but still affects me…enjoy!)

I mess up. A lot. It’s not like my life is a constant train of failure, but I am no stranger to the “uh-oh” moment.

You see, when I mess up, it’s almost never a one-time occurance. My one mistake will lead to a second, third, or twelfth disaster. I’ve heard it described as quicksand (bees, coach…”Replacements” anyone?). The idea is that one failure leads to the next until you are surrounded by them and each move sinks you deeper into your mess.

Tonight I made a mistake. Not a huge one. Nothing to really write home about. But it bugged me so bad that it was all I thought about all night. For the past 5 hours I have relived it in my head and thought of dozens of things I would do differently if only I had the chance. As I was kicking myself for my stupidity, I realized something. The only person that was kicking me….was me!

I have been reading a lot lately out of the book of James. He talks about how we should consider trials as joy (although they are not joyous occasions) because the testing of our faith develops perseverance. When I make a mistake, I so often will hinder my own ability to persevere and therefore become mature and complete, by camping out on my failure. Paul tells us that we should recognize that the price has been paid, our sins are forgiven, so MOVE ON! This might come easy in the grand scheme of salvation, but for my daily dysfunction I often find it difficult to put that into practice.

So I am done letting my single mistakes drive me into the quicksand of my own guilt and pity. Now all I have to do is figure out what to do with all that free time! At least that’s something to think about…

019

needy vs hungry, part 2.

If haven’t already, go ahead and catch up with the last post HERE.  Paul urges Timothy to “continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of”despite the potential (or in his case, guaranteed) risks involved.  The goal is to move from needy to hungry.  Needy says “it’s all about me and what I need to be comfortable/passive” while hungry says “I don’t care what it costs or what I have to do, I want to be used.”

Here’s what this looks like for us…

Needy:  I’ll talk to someone about Jesus if I know they are interested in hearing about Him.

Hungry:  I want to make Jesus known in every conversation possible!

Needy: If I have a free night or weekend I can cram in some volunteer time.

Hungry: My schedule comes second to sharing the gospel with people who need to hear it!

Needy: If something ever goes off-script, or if my volunteer role challenges me, I’m out.

Hungry: I will challenge myself to get outside of what makes me comfortable!

Needy: I want to get all of the knowledge I possibly can.

Hungry: I want to use what I am learning to impact others!

Needy: I won’t support the authorities in my life without a good reason.

Hungry: I will lift up my authorities, even if they are wrong, because they represent God!

Needy: If you can’t see me, I can’t influence you.

Hungry: I don’t care if you see me, as long as God uses me!

Needy: My decisions affect me and no one else.

Hungry: I have influence on the people around me, and they need to see Jesus in me!

Our goal as Christ-followers is to consistently put ourselves in 3rd place.  That means that our preferences and comforts come behind God and others.  Jesus made this very clear in Matthew 22:37-39 by saying “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘”

When we put others ahead of ourselves we can maintain a hunger for reaching those who don’t know Jesus, which is, in fact, what a Christ-follower does!  Jesus put others first and pointed out their need for Him and if we identify ourselves with Him we’d better get hungry about putting others’ needs above our own so they will actually want to know Him!

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needy vs hungry, part 1.

These two terms might sound interchangeable, but the difference between the two can determine our impact and the impact of the people that we lead. I believe that if your attitude lurks in the needy category you will never reach your potential, but if you can make the move to operating out of hunger instead of need you will see your personal growth, ministry and sphere of influence skyrocket!

In 2 Timothy 3:10-14 Paul mentors Timothy with these words: “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings…Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it…”

Paul describes a basic difference between being needy and being hungry – needy is all about ME and hungry is all about YOU!  Paul had the option to focus on himself and feed his needs but instead chose to get in the game and take risks so others could hear about Jesus.  Those risks were painful and costly, but his hunger drove him to keep going in spite of the persecution.  He was convinced that it was worth sacrificing what he had for what he knew to be true…

Check back for more on this in the next post, including some tips on how to know whether you are needy or hungry.

017

emory.

The Wallace family welcomed a new member this week!  Emory Elizabeth Wallace was born on April 1, 2010 weighing 7 pounds & 7 ounces and 21 inches long.  Colt is absolutely loving his new role as “big brother” and we are already enjoying the new perspective that having a daughter has brought us.  There will be lots of posts coming up on how this affects our family and ministry, but for now let’s just “ooh and ahh” over how cute she is! 🙂

016

recorder.

I absolutely love my son. There is nothing in the world like getting a hug from him when I get home, or seeing him learn something new (seems to be happening every day!).

This past weekend we spent some time watching the Tennessee basketball game on TV. As is typical for me during a game, the volume and intensity of my voice rose with each missed layup and errant pass. I began to shout “C’mon Tennessee!” and “Let’s go Vols!” (with a few disgusted “what the hecks” thrown in for good measure) when all of a sudden I heard an echo. Looking down I see Colt, frowning as I was, shouting at the TV, repeating every word I said.

Being a proud father, I of course reached for the voice recorder on my phone, hoping to capture this “cute” moment of Colt’s childhood. As I did I realized something: my little boy is already a “voice recorder.” What I say and do is and will be imitated and repeated in his young life.

Who’s voice are you repeating?
Who’s recorder are you speaking into?

And why do you think it’s important to get those questions right?

015

after the storm.

“Sacred Storm: Final Exam” was a four day blur of excitement, energy, laughter and movement of God. I was blown away by the whole experience, and I continue to thank God for letting Holly, Colt, Emmy and I be a part if what Faith Promise is doing in Knoxville!

Here are a few snapshots of the production:

014

 sacred storm.

If you live in the Knoxville, Tennessee area, don’t miss out on Sacred Storm atFaith Promise Church this weekend!  I would love to give you some great insight and details that will entice you to show up…but you will just have to experience it for yourself!  I guarantee that you won’t see “truth” the same way again…

If you don’t live in Knoxville, that’s OK, you can catch the production on the FPC iCampus Saturday, March 27th at 3:00pm, 5:00pm & 7:00pm or Sunday, March 28th at 9:45am, 11:45am & 9:00pm (all times eastern).   One thing that I love about the iCampus is that you can even experience church from your iPhone!

013

series.

I wanted to draw attention today to the page on this blog called “student teaching series.”  As a high school pastor I often go to many different sources to pull creative ideas on how to reach students in their current culture.  So, I thought it might be helpful to post the series on this site for two reasons.

First, browsing the list could inspire or spark an idea for you and your ministry.  My hope is that as you glance through the series titles and descriptions you are able to do more than just copy and paste, but that you challenged to take these ideas andmake them even better! Second, once you make the idea better, bring it back!  Feel free to use the comment section of the page to give feedback on what you like, don’t like or how you would improve/adjust.

Thanks for checking out the page…I’ll try to keep it updated monthly!

012

home.

Home is a great place, isn’t it?  It’s a place where you can let your guard down and be who you are without worrying about failing.  A haven that screams comfort and safety in the middle of a world gone mad.  We recently moved into a new home.  Take a look:

One day recently as we were driving home, I said to my 2 year old son Colt, “we’re going home, buddy!” I said it with energy and excitement because Holly and I have worked hard to make home a place that Colt wants to go.  Reminds me of Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 14 – “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

Just like Holly and I talk about going home with Colt as a reward and respite, God promises us a place that makes earth pale in comparison – “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

That sounds like a place I want to go at the end of the day.  It sounds like a place where I can let my guard down and know that God will love me no matter what.  It sounds like home.

011

right now.

Last week I got to spend about an hour talking ministry with my boss, Chuck Carringer.  (he currently doesn’t have a blog or twitter, but is very excited about getting both started soon!)

We talked about strategy and solutions for certain aspects of student ministry for a while and then realized that we were beginning to talk in circles.  It suddenly dawned on us that no matter what obstacle or challenge, if we took any steps at all without first going to God about it, no strategy would be enough and no solution would ever last.  So we did something that I believe isn’t done enough in ministry:we prayed.  We stopped right where we were and prayed about the situation.  We prayed raw, honest prayers…the kind you rarely pray by yourself and never express in front of others.  But we did it.  We were transparent before God and each other in our desire to reach students in a brand new way.

Here’s the best part: we didn’t say, “we should probably pray about this” and then go home.  We stopped our conversation with each other and immediately spoke directly to God.  Now, I don’t tell you this to point out how great I am for getting this right…the point is that I don’t do this nearly enough!  It hurts to think of the times that I will take action FOR God without running it THROUGH God first!

God is listening.  What is it that you aren’t saying to Him?  Why not talk it out right now.

010

unique.

Ever feel like you are just as “special” as everyone else…or maybe even less?  There are times that I look around and have a hard time identifying myself as the “best” of any of the things that I excel in.  This is frustrating to me since I try very hard to be the best…but I routinely feel like I fall short.

That’s why I love the story of Ehud in Judges 3. It starts out, “Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab.”  Doesn’t sound very exciting, does it?  Well, it speeds up quickly…but I’ll let you read it for yourself.  The significant aspect of this verse is that Ehud is referred to as “a left handed man.” You see, the fact that Ehud was left handed might seem insignificant, but this minor detail allows him to be used by God in a huge way!  More about that in a future post…

The point is that when I focus on what I feel I can’t do, I miss out on what I can do.  There are specific people that I have an opportunity to impact and influence.  If I waste time worrying about the level of my impact I can completely sidestep my chance to make it happen!

Ehud used his uniqueness…do you?

009

missed opportunities.

A few days ago I missed an opportunity. It wasn’t big….it was actually quite trivial. Basically, I missed out on referencing James Bond in a post named 007. I know, I was pretty upset myself.

While that miss is borderline stupid, there a lots of other fumbles that we make every day that have huge significance! What I choose to spend my time doing plays a major role in the outcomes of my life. The choices I make determine the direction I take. I can’t DO everything, so what I choose to do and not do tells alot about me. It’s what economists call “opportunity costs.” Basically, God gives us a certain amount of time in earth, and what you do with it shows your priorities, love and worship.

What opportunities are you passing up?

008

retreat.

Check out some cool photos from the HSM Spring Retreat this past weekend. I love having the opportunity to “get away” from the routine of life and spend some quality time with God (and like a hundred high school students!) Jesus routinely took time away from His followers (see Mark 1:35-37) to connect with God. I’ve found that the more often I follow this model the more effective my time actually is. Remember, it’s HEALTHY to step away for an hour, an afternoon or a weekend to stay focused. God even tells us very specifically to unplug for 14% of our week! Keep the Sabbath! Retreat!

007

lit conference.

My pastor Dr. Chris Stephens will be hosting “an igniting event for church leaders” at Faith Promise Church on April 29, 2010.  The featured speakers will include Lady Vols Basketball coach Pat Summit as well as pastors Johnny Hunt and Pete Wilson.  Sign up for the Lit Conference today right HERE.  I’ll see you there!

Check out a welcome to the Lit Conference On Vimeo

006

temptation.

At Catalyst this week we took a closer look at what we do when No One’s Looking.  Jesus faced temptations even before He preached to a crowd or performed a miracle, and He handled the situation flawlessly.  So what practical steps can we take to avoid and overcome temptation?  How about trying this:

Stop! When we are tempted there is usually a sense of urgency that comes with it, as if we have to jump in immediately.  The first thing we have to do is pause, take a breath, and allow some time to pass before we make a decision that will mess us up.

Think! Once you put on the brakes, take a minute to think through the consequences of your actions.  It is silly to think that you will be tempted to do something you wouldn’t enjoy, so go ahead and assume that there would probably be some sort of personal happiness that comes from following through.  But think through the repercussions of your actions.  Instead of viewing things as isolated events, back up and try to see the big picture and where your decision will take you in the long run.

Run! Put some major distance between you and your temptation.  It is not enough to say, no, I’m not going to do that, but then stay as close to the edge as possible.  If you do that you will simply set yourself up for future failure.  The best and safest option, both for yourself and others, is to turn away from it and don’t look back!

It should come as no surprise that you are the most real, raw and honest version of yourself when no one is looking.  Does that scare or encourage you?

005

Ever heard of Jonah? (you can read his story here) As a prophet in the Old Testament his job was to hear from the Lord and communicate to the people what He said.  He was basically God’s Twitter.

There was only one job requirement necessary to be a prophet: obey.  Listen to what God says, and do it.  Simple.  But Jonah had a huge authority problem.  God told him to warn Nineveh of the destruction He was going to bring to them and Jonah ran! Why?  Jonah 4:2 – “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”

Jonah promoted himself from prophet to judge.  He bucked God’s authority in an attempt to be in control.  You see, I figure that Jonah had seen God forgive people time and time again, and that started to eat away at good ‘ol Jonah.  I bet it ticked him off to keep traveling from city to city announcing destruction that never happened.  I would even guess that by the time God told Jonah about Nineveh he was just fed up with the whole thing.  So what does he do? He goes the opposite direction.  Not to skip out on his responsibilities, though.  Nope, good ‘ol Jonah figured that if HE didn’t tell Nineveh what to do, then God would have no choice but to destroy them!

You see, Jonah had an issue with God’s authority.  He was seeing things upside down!  Jonah got to the point where he thought that God existed for his purposes, not that he existed for God’s!  God places authority in our lives as a means of protection and correction, not domination and manipulation.

Jonah tried to switch roles with God.  Do you?

004

distractions.

Last week at Catalyst, the Wednesday night service at Faith Promise Churchdesigned to reach high school students, we closed out a series called “Victory” in which we identified what real victory looks like and how we can obtain it.  We have learned that victory requires sacrifice and that Jesus has made the sacrifice to allow us the opportunity to take hold of the ultimate trophy, a relationship with God.  Skipping ahead to the end of the story we see that God will ultimately defeat Satan in the final showdown between good and evil.  All of this is great news, but what does it mean for me, right now?

In the message last week I spoke to the importance of recognizing that we must fight with purpose in our present battle over sin.  A huge component of this is the fight against distractions. This is a major undertaking for students and adults alike, as we are distracted from the moment our feet hit the floor in the morning until we drift off to sleep at night.  I know that I have missed way too many opportunities to take an active role in the eternal battle against sin because I have been easily distracted and selfish with my time and resources.

Make no mistake, a war is waging all around us.  We know that God is the ultimate winner, so cut out the things that keep you on the sidelines and get in the game! In Deuteronomy 1:6-7 God commands “break camp and advance.” It’s too easy to sit back and watch the game pass by from the stands! Don’t be distracted by the diversions designed to divide your focus, but instead grab a weapon and take action!  Make war with sin! Make an impact in the eternity of the student you sit next to every day in biology! Put your phone down and have a conversation with your family at dinner! Quit asking ‘what’s in it for me’ and instead demand ‘here i am, use me!’

Man, I needed to hear that…

003

preview.

I guess now would be a good time to tell you what you should expect if you choose to continue reading this blog.  If you have already hit up the who is michael? page then you know that I am a husband, father and high school pastor.  My goal in creating this blog is to put my thoughts and actions into a format that can help others.  Maybe you can identify with one or more of those roles, maybe not.  Either way I hope that you will be challenged and encouraged by what you read here.

Having said that, here is a quick snapshot of the types of posts you will most likely see on this blog:

Lessons in Leadership and Humility (I’m finding that they go hand in hand)

Ministry Strategies (what I’ve seen work and fail in my own ministry experience)

Personal Successes & Failures (an honest look at my life and personal relationship with God)

Shameless Self-Promotion (promoting things that I find useful, not promoting myself)

Questions (I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I’ve collected lots of questions)

Feel free to get involved in the content of this blog by commenting to posts and even requesting specific topics.  I look forward to the day that I will have to reorganize my post formatting to allow for 4-digit numbers as a result of the impact and influence of our time here.

And I can’t promise that the jokes will get any better than that.

002

 identity.

Today is my wife’s birthday.  Holly is currently at the spa getting pampered as part of our celebration of who she is.  Birthdays are great because on that special day people go out of their way to show you that they thankful for who you are. I love birthdays for that very reason, because of how much we celebrate the things that define us.

I commonly identify myself as Michael Wallace, Holly’s husband, Colt’s daddy and High School Pastor at Faith Promise Church.  These three identities pretty much control my identity.  Much of my day is spent in one of three roles: husband, father, pastor and many of the celebrations and frustrations in my life revolve around my identity.

What I love about birthdays is that they bring clarity and purpose to the life of the celebrated person.  As a Christ-follower I know that I should feel the same way each time I remember that I have an identity that supersedes all others.  My relationship with Jesus gives me a title that should be celebrated every day: child of God.  Before I am a husband, father and pastor, I am a forgiven sinner who was plucked out of the depths of my own destruction and given a chance to experience eternal life!  That identity determines the way I live out my secondary identities.

Identity determines ideals. How you define yourself will determine how you define success and failure.  As long as you rely on temporary things you will live and die for things that won’t last. I choose to wrap my secondary identities in the most important one, what about you

001

 controlled chaos.

I have fought with both of these terms separately for most of my life.  Recently I have come to the realization that the more I try to be in control the more chaos I can cause.  For the last year and a half I have made an effort to move towards a healthier system.  Controlled chaos describes a process by which I rely on God to lead me through the chaos of this world.  He is a God of order and structure who still manages to be ridiculously creative and passionate, while actually desiring a relationship with me.

This is the account of the view I have as He controls my chaos. Enjoy.

 


 

Check out my 12 favorite entries from my first attempt at blogging in 2009.  The blog was called “something to think about” and I managed to keep it up for almost 5 months.  I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009
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something to think about.

OK, here we go!

I have been perusing the blogging world for quite a while now. There are a few regular feeds that I hit consistently, and then some others that I check up on now and again. It took me a while to realize what it is about blogs that attract me to them like a moth to a flame. But I’ve figured it out!

Every time I read a blog, my day is affected by it. Whether in the short term or long term I continue to think about what I have read. Sometimes my perspective on a situation will be changed, other times I will find myself laughing out loud for reasons I cannot fully explain. Either way I find that the course I was heading on has been shifted, simply because I had the opportunity to peek into someone else’s brain.

So this is my thank you. To those who have inspired me, made me laugh, given me perspective, or challenged me. I hope that my simple musings will return the favor, or at least pass on the love to others who stumble across this page. My goal is simply to give you something to think about.

Sunday, February 8, 2009
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joy in the pain.

Over a period of eight days, I will have experienced a wedding, a funeral, and a first birthday.

The wedding was for a staff member and friend, and as I witnessed the ceremony I watched him barely contain the excitement on his face to finally be married. The funeral will be for another staff member who has suddenly passed, leaving his wife and two young sons. Death, whether unexpected or not, is an emotional burden for the family, and I can already imagine their faces as they say goodbye. The birthday will be for my son, who will be a year old on Saturday. His first birthday will be bittersweet for Holly and I (I’m sure all birthdays will be) as we watch our baby continue to grow into a boy and all too soon a man.

This roller coaster of emotional events has hit me over a short period of time when I “happen” to be reading the book of James.

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

When we experience rough times it is common to focus on the things that make us uncomfortable and make our lives more difficult. Be it the first fight as a married couple, living on without a family member, or watching your baby grow up, knowing that each day brings you closer to letting them go, it is in the difficult moments that I have seen two things happen. First, we discover who is most important. When we hit rock bottom we can truly see how important and influential the people who surround us are to our lives. Second, in every struggle we face we have the opportunity to become more like Jesus. I usually refer to Christians as “Christ-followers,” and it is in throws of trials that we can actually put feet to our faith and live out the label that we wear as Christians. Facing trials is all about developing perseverance and becoming more like Christ. The more trials we face, the more we grow!

When I reach for joy in the midst of pain, it gives me something to think about…

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
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quicksand.

I mess up. A lot. It’s not like my life is a constant train of failure, but I am no stranger to the “uh-oh” moment.

You see, when I mess up, it’s almost never a one-time occurance. My one mistake will lead to a second, third, or twelfth disaster. I’ve heard it described as quicksand (bees, coach…”Replacements” anyone?). The idea is that one failure leads to the next until you are surrounded by them and each move sinks you deeper into your mess.

Tonight I made a mistake. Not a huge one. Nothing to really write home about. But it bugged me so bad that it was all I thought about all night. For the past 5 hours I have relived it in my head and thought of dozens of things I would do differently if only I had the chance. As I was kicking myself for my stupidity, I realized something. The only person that was kicking me….was me!

I have been reading a lot lately out of the book of James. He talks about how we should consider trials as joy (although they are not joyous occasions) because the testing of our faith develops perseverance. When I make a mistake, I so often will hinder my own ability to persevere and therefore become mature and complete, by camping out on my failure. Paul tells us that we should recognize that the price has been paid, our sins are forgiven, so MOVE ON! This might come easy in the grand scheme of salvation, but for my daily dysfunction I often find it difficult to put that into practice.

So I am done letting my single mistakes drive me into the quicksand of my own guilt and pity. Now all I have to do is figure out what to do with all that free time! At least that’s something to think about…

Sunday, March 1, 2009
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change.

Sometimes the very thought of this word can paralyze us. I know there have been times where I have resisted change, but as I have been part of various changes in the past year, both personally and professionally, I have come to love it!

I am realizing that when change is opposed it is usually due to a lack of control on our part. I notice that I get the same feeling when change happens that I don’t choose that I get when change DOESN’T happen that I would prefer.

It all comes down to faith. Do I trust that the authorities in my life are doing what is right? Or do I think I know best? This is very convicting at times for me, especially when I ask those questions of God. Just something to think about…

Saturday, March 7, 2009
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this afternoon.

This afternoon I stopped to get gas and the lady in front of me, who was also getting gas, pulled out a pack of cigarettes and actually started smoking at the pump. I could hardly believe the stupidity it takes for someone to do that, and I was about to go say something to her, when all of a sudden her right arm caught on fire!

I was caught off guard by the instant flame that developed all the way from her hand to just below her shoulder. I felt for a moment as if I was frozen in time. I wasn’t really sure what to do next. Do I run to her and help? Do I get out of the way? Get some water? In that split second I noticed that a police car had just pulled in to the gas station. Immediately a wave of relief washed over me. In my mind I could see the situation resolving itself as the officer climbed out of his car. However, just as quickly as I found relief I stumbled into utter shock!

Instead of lending a helping hand, the cop pulled out his gun and shot the lady, who was screaming uncontrollably, three times in the torso. It all happened so fast that I couldn’t even react until the officer reached me to ask if I was OK. Still freaking out inside my head, I stared at him in disbelief and asked him what in the world just happened.

As matter-of-factly as possible the officer responded, “Well, sir, what did you want me to do? She was waving a firearm!”

if you liked this…you should hear the muffin joke…not really something you WANT to think about…. 🙂

Sunday, March 8, 2009
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struck heel.

Genesis 3:15
“He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

In this verse we see God handing out the ultimate punishment for man’s sin: The North Carolina Tar HEELS are condemned to play the Duke Blue DEVILS for all of eternity.

You might notice that in this verse the offspring of Eve was punished by having their heel struck by the snake (satan). The correct interpretation of this passage (I’ve studied the Greek) shows that this is a foreshadowing prophecy of the relationship between UNC and Duke. As a result of man’s sin, Duke is required to continually attempt to strike the superior Heels. This is a cumbersome process. One that takes a huge toll on the players involved, and obviously attracts massive media attention.

The reason for this is that it is a snap shot of the ultimate competition between God and Satan. While Satan may strike temporarily, seemingly winning certain small battles, the final battle and all of the war will end in favor of our God.

The same is true of the annual battle for Tobacco Road. The good news is that when the Devils strike the Heels, the result is that their heads are CRUSHED! (yes, that includes certain large noses as well) – Let the record show that UNC leads Duke all time 129-97 in head-to-head matchups, 27-18 in ACC Reg. Season Championships, 17-16 in ACC Tournament Championships, and 4-3 in NCAA National Championships…

So, as we spend a few hours on a Sunday enjoying a guaranteed victory for the Heels, know that this is just a microcosm of the eternal narrative of God’s relationship with man.

Of course, since I have gone to the trouble to write all this down, UNC will probably lose.

Of course, I am required to occasionally be pessimistic about sports. After all, I’m a Cubs fan, too!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009
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gulf coast missions.

Day 1 of missions was a blur of sweat, laughter, service and solidarity. We saw students from different ministries come together to reach out to a community in need.

I have never been in an area that has been hit by a hurricane before. I imagined that as soon as a few months after a natural disaster everything would be back to normal, or very close. After a year and a half the San Leon area is still in desperate need of relief.

Relief is a great word to describe what we do with missions work. As we offer our services and begin moving in this town, the people we come into contact with are instantly relieved. After being let down by the government, their town, and even neighbors and friends, the sight
of a group of students spending spring break cleaning their yard and painting their home brings a wave of relief that is not easily matched.

I think the same is true of the effect of Jesus in our life. When you try a variety of outlets to satisfy and they continually leave you empty, finding the one thing, the solution, that truly fills you up is such a relief.

I hope that we can continue to show this community what that life change is all about through our actions and attitudes this week.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009
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gulf coast day 2.

Wow! Day 2 of Gulf Coast Missions was a blast! I have been blessed to be with 9th grade students who LOVE to serve and are doing some “and then some” work….the kind that requires a deep understanding of humilty and discipleship.

Humility.
These students really get that this trip is not about them. Our goal us to reach others in their point of need and be the active solution to their physical needs while mirroring that Jesus is the solution to our spiritual needs. Humilty is not about putting yourself down, but putting God and others up. They get that!

Discipleship.
These students really get that this trip is all about them. From the moment we left the Apex to the minute we return, they understand that by putting others first they can take the mindset if Jesus. By taking the mindset of Jesus they can become more like Him. In the Bible the
disciples were clueless to what Jesus was talking about until He left the work on their shoulders. Once they took the load and “did work” they began to grow leaps and bounds in their understanding of what Jesus had done. These students get that, and it is evident in everything they are doing. I can’t imagine being more proud!

Can I say the same thing about myself on any other Tuesday? Can you?

Something to think about….

Friday, April 3, 2009
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blank.

OK, I just wrote an entire blog.

Then I deleted it.

I think my life is often defined by the choices I make to either edit or not edit myself.

Not sure if this is one of those defining times, but it’s definitely making me think about other ones that might be!

Sunday, April 12, 2009
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what’s hot on tv.

My TV is so cool. I just noticed this week it has a new feature: “What’s Hot On FIOS” With this feature you can instantly see what shows are being watched by the most people right now. Then, to kick it up a notch, there is a second choice below that that tells you what shows are coming on next that are usually popular as well! How cool is that?

I think back to when I was in high school and I wish I had something like this then! Not just for my TV, though. I wish I could tell what clothes would be popular each day, or better yet, in the future so I could actually lead the trend. It would have been amazing to be able to tell what music, movies, slang, sports teams or cars to choose based on their popularity!

Throughout the maturing process (and even beyond it) there is a deep longing to feel loved (girls) and respected (guys). This often translates into looking into the wrong places for our identity. High School is all about identity! It is basically four years of identity crisis, in which you sometimes go to class and try to learn something, right?

I know I would have given anything to know what was going to be popular before I got to school each day in high school, but here’s the good news: when your identity is not tied to trend it won’t need to be replaced as often as your shoes or cell phone! As a Christ-follower, I know that no matter what I look like or how correctly I copy the most current culture I will always have a positive identity because of my relationship with Jesus. Because of that I know WHO I am and WHOSE I am!

So, bring on the next generation of iPods and Priuses! Technology and trends are a neat perk to being made in God’s creative image, but I know that regardless of where culture goes, I am made specifically in that image for a reason.

Now if I can just find something to watch on my cool TV…

Tuesday, June 2, 2009
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it’s been awhile.

Well, it’s been awhile since I last posted a blog. Going on 2 months, actually. A lot can happen in two months. You might get one or even two haircuts. You can lose touch with a close friend, or even lose that 10 pounds you always talk about in just 2 months!

For me, the last two months have been a blur. I posted my last blog right before leaving to visit family in North Carolina, and had every intention of writing at least one blog about my adventures there, followed by some updates of the family, including pictures, of course! But instead I have unintentionally stepped back from blogging. Time has a way of taking things from you, if you let it. A hairstyle becomes overgrown, friends become distant, or that dreaded 10 pounds becomes 20.

I have been watching a show lately called “Life After People.” They ‘document’ with computer effects what would happen to Earth if people just disappeared. Pretty intriguing stuff! The main thing I have
gleaned from it is this: No matter what we have done in the past, if we don’t keep living and keep interacting with each other and our surroundings, eventually even our most prized and fortified achievements will be nothing but a memory.

This blog became that for me after only two months. Without my efforts it nearly became a thing of the past. I wonder what else I am handing over to time for it to turn to ruin?

What about you?

Monday, June 22, 2009
_________________________________________________________

father’s day.

So. Yesterday was Father’s Day. Just a normal Sunday, right? Wrong!

This is the day where we honor and remember our fathers for all that they have done for us.

As our family enjoyed a wonderful Father’s Day pizza at the incomparable CPK, Holly asked me a question that made me pause. She asked me, “Do you think that Father’s Day is more about honoring fathers, or setting an example for children to recognize what they do?”

At first I thought, both, of course! But after 24 hours I feel that I have to say the latter is most important. As a father I now realize that any honor given to me pales in comparison to the honor it will be to see my son grow into a mature Christ-follower who recognizes that his relationship with me is just a shadow of the relationship he should have with God.

As I came home tonight, late of course (it is camp season!), I checked in on my son and realized something. It hit me that being a Father is less about my relationship with Colt and more about gaining a deeper understanding of how and why God loves me.

I just hope that I can communicate those feelings to my son so that he can understand how important it is that every day he honors his true Father.

Something to think about. I know I will.

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