New Year’s Non-Resolution Resolutions

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It’s the last day of 2015 and a new year is just a few hours away.  Recently I asked several people if they made New Year’s Resolutions to improve their lives each year and if they did, did they keep them?  Almost everyone said they made a resolution but had never kept one!  That got me thinking.  If we always break our resolutions, why not make some Non-Resolution Resolutions?  You know, use a little reverse psychology on ourselves and make some resolutions that, when we break them (which we are likely to do), it will actually be good for us!

So here are a few of my Non-Resolution Resolutions for 2016:  

I hereby Non-Resolve Resolve to ….

Be Less Healthy –  That’s right.  I’m going to gain weight, take up heavy drinking, eat only sugar and never exercise.

Not Read My Bible Every Day — Nope.  Not me.  I’m not opening my Bible every day to hear directly from God.  Who would want to do that?

Be Mean to My Wife and Kids — I’m going to be a terrible family man and a poor spiritual leader.  I’m going to fail to provide for them or protect them.  I will never encourage them or forgive them either.  They are the ones who are lucky to have me.

Not Give Regularly to My Church or Charity — No way. I’m going to feed my greed and hoard my money (or spend it on extravagant stuff that I don’t really need).  Why not?  It’s all mine anyway.

Be an Absent Friend — Who needs friends anyway?  Why would I ever help anyone else?  I’m going off the grid of friendship.

Hold Lots of Grudges — I’m mad and I’m not going to take it anymore!  I will never forgive anyone for anything, no matter how small and no matter what it does to my relationship with them or to my own emotional and physical health.

Never Read Anything — I’m giving up on reading.  No books.  No articles.  No blogs.  I’m already smart and wise enough, why would I try to improve by reading?

Watch More Mindless T.V. Shows — I will spend every free hour I have (when I’m not spending my money on stuff for me) sitting on my couch in front of my big T.V. and endlessly watching reruns of Oprah, Dr. Phil and Jerry Springer. I might throw some binges on something with vampires or zombies too.

Never Pray — Not once will I pray.  Not for guidance or gratitude.  Not for help or forgiveness.  Not for understanding.  Nope.  Not once will I speak to God all year.

Well, those are my 2016 Non-Resolution Resolutions.  I think when I break these (which I am certain to do since I never keep my New Year’s Resolutions), I’ll have a pretty good year and so will those around me!

Happy New Year!

On My Mind and Heart: Practicing the “Presents” of God

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During a recent conversation with a friend, she mentioned that we often hear about practicing the “presence” of God (i.e., remembering that God is always close to us) but don’t hear as much about practicing the “presents” of God (i.e., recognizing the numerous blessings that He gives to us each day).  So, this morning as I was praying I started thanking God for the many, many “presents” He gives me all the time.  There are way too many to list here, but I wanted to share a few from my list with you:

My wife, Carrie.  She loves the Lord, is a great mom and friend, and always is trying to make my life better. I experience Christ’s love deeper through her love and forgiveness of me.

My daughters, Sara Beth and Rachel.  I thank God for them every day and am proud of the young women they have become.

My family (Dad, Jamie, Al, Judy, Mike, Kim, Madeline and many more).  God has put awesome people in my life who love me and support me no matter what.

My church family, Adventure Christian Church.  I know that as a pastor I am super blessed.  Our church reaches people for Christ, new families join our church regularly, people are involved in serving and helping one another, we have a wonderful group of staff members, elders and leaders.  It’s an honor to pastor the Adventure family.  Thank you, God!

My country and our freedom.  Too often we forget that we have been blessed by being born into a great country.  Our country guarantees the exercise of freedoms given to us by our Maker in a way never before experienced in history.  (I recognize that some of these guarantees are constantly being challenged, but I’m still very happy I live here rather than anywhere else in the world).

The Bible and the ability to read and understand it.  The Bible transformed my life.  I am grateful for this present from God.

My awesome friends.  God has blessed Carrie and I with many friends who love us not because we can do anything for them, but just because.  That’s pretty wonderful.

Food and Water.  This may sound silly, but I really don’t mean it too.  I am grateful that I always have food and water.  Not a day goes by that I don’t have access to clean, healthy food and clean water.  Many, many in this world do not.

Opportunities to Help Others.  I am grateful for opportunities to help others and the ability and resources to often help.  Sometimes it’s a physical need, sometimes emotional, sometimes professional, and often it is spiritual.  I’m grateful that God gives me the present of reaching other people for Him in practical ways.

The Ministry of the Word.  I am very grateful to be able to teach the Word and share the Gospel with others.  It’s really the most important gift He gives me because it has such a direct, eternal impact.

I could go on and on and on, but these are just a few of the things for which I am grateful to God.  How about you?  What’s on your list?

On My Mind and Heart: Second Chances

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This week I’ve been thinking about second chances, how blessed we are that God gives us second and third and fourth and many more chances, and, how we should give others a second chance (or third or fourth) a lot more often than we do.

God gives us a second chance.

Christmas is the celebration of the ultimate second chance.  In the beginning, God created a perfect world in which mankind could live, thrive and commune with God.  But, man blew it.  And because of that, man suffered by being separated from God.  But, through the birth of Jesus Christ (which we celebrate on Christmas Day every year), God gave mankind another chance – a new opportunity to commune with Him.  What a great gift!  We didn’t do anything to earn this second chance.  We didn’t deserve it.  But God gave it to us anyway.

We should give others a second chance too.

The Bible exhorts us to forgive others because in Christ Jesus God forgave us.  Because God gives us a second chance even when we don’t deserve it or earn it, we should be a lot more forgiving of the people in our lives who need a second chance for relationship with us.  I know you’ve been hurt.  I realize that someone has disappointed you, betrayed you, and fallen short of your expectations and needs.  But, guess what?  You’re no peach either.  And either am I.  That’s why we all need to be a little less bitter and lot more forgiving.  When you do that, you’ll be surprised at how much better a restored relationship feels than the broken one you are living with right now.  Try it.

Final thought.

Who do you need to give a second chance to today (just like God gave you a second chance)? 

On My Mind and Heart: Why I’m Thankful for My Church

i_love_my_churchAdventure Christian Church is a wonderful place to pastor.  Today, on Thanksgiving Day, I want to share just a few things for which I am thankful about ACC.  The list is much, much longer than the space here allows, but these things are at the top:

I am thankful that you’ve stuck with me.

It sounds awkward writing it down, but it’s true — I’m thankful that you still allow me to be the pastor at Adventure.  Over the past decade you allowed me to grow as a pastor, leader and man.  I’ve made some mistakes – some bigger than others (we won’t recall them right now though :-).  And, in spite of those mistakes, you stuck with me.  You kept coming.  You loved me when I was not lovable.  You forgave me when I needed forgiveness.  You’ve allowed me to grow as a preacher, teacher and leader.  Thank you!

I am thankful for the people with whom I serve.

The staff and current elders at Adventure are wonderful and I absolutely love serving with them.  All of the staff is great, but Pastor Richard Mosqueda is a true ministry partner.  We joke about how our gifts are so different that God put us together because together we are one good pastor!  But all of the staff and elders are more than just people I go to the office with or make plans and decisions with.  We are Christian brothers and sisters.  We love one another.  We pray for one another.  We care about each other.  That makes coming to “work” each day a real blessing and something for which I am truly grateful.  Thank you!

I am thankful for a church that loves Jesus more than themselves.

So many people have been impacted by Adventure Church.  Nearly 200 people have been baptized since we first started!  That doesn’t happen unless the church members love Jesus more than themselves.  I am grateful that our church is willing to try new things to reach people for the Kingdom, to look past things that don’t really matter like how someone is dressed on Sunday or whether we use a hymnal, and to change our methods to reach people where they are, knowing that God won’t keep them there.  It is a true blessing to be in a church that understands that church is about God and others way more than it is about them.  Thank you!

Happy thanksgiving to all of you!  God bless you and thank you!

On My Mind and Heart: 3 Things to Always Avoid

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Last week I shared some things I try to do every day to help me have a better day.  This week I’m sharing 3 things I try to avoid. These are all things you can control …

Avoid Bad Company

Who you hang around with has a huge impact on you!  More than you realize, probably.  When we are around complainers, whiners, gossips, and people who are just generally “blah” and have an icky attitude about life, it is going to affect us.  It impacts how we see things.  It influences our speech.  It sucks our energy.  I often refer to the choice to gravitate toward complainers and whiners as “wallowing with the pigs.”  And, when you wallow with pigs you always get dirty.  So, instead of choosing Bad Company, choose to spend time with those with positive things to say and helpful outlooks on life.  It will make a difference.

Avoid Bad Media

What goes into your brain through your eyes and ears can’t be removed.  When we watch raunchy shows or listen to bad music or read racy novels or look at promiscuous pictures, it is like eating garbage.  It’s not healthy.  And, what you take in, at least in part, makes you who you are and will impact what comes out.  Don’t get sidetracked by the mistaken belief that media doesn’t affect you, your thoughts, your focus, your desires, your beliefs and even your reality.  Instead, fill your mind with good things — things that challenge, things that cause you to think, things that move you closer to God, things that help you learn, things that make you laugh, and things that honor your relationships with people and with God.

Avoid Bad Thoughts

This might seem like the hardest of my suggestions because in some ways we feel like we can’t control what “pops into our heads.”  But, the truth is you can.  You can train yourself not to dwell on evil thoughts, on worrisome things, and on vengeful plans.  You can redirect your thoughts from disillusionment to hope, and from despair to joy.  It takes practice to “take your thoughts captive” but you can do it!  Every time a bad thought comes into your mind, immediately start thinking about something that makes you happy — a memory, a future plan and funny story.  With time, you will be the master of your thoughts.

What are some other things that you avoid to help you have a better day?

On My Mind and Heart: 3 Things I Do Before Breakfast

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Routines are important to me.  If I can get into a routine of doing something at the same time, in the same way, every day, the chances of me continuing to do it are much greater than if I leave it to chance.  You are likely the same way.  Today when I was thinking about what to write this week, I thought I would share some of my daily routine.  Here are 3 things I do before breakfast everyday.  I’ve been doing them for a long time and I can’t hardly remember not doing them.

One: I Pray for Carrie (My Wife)

I pray for Carrie every day.  I pray that she would be blessed.  I pray that she would be protected.  I pray that I would be a good husband for her.  Men – praying for your wife is one of THE most important things you can do for your wife and marriage.  Only you can give your wife a husbandly blessing.  So, if you don’t do it, then it’s lost forever.  It doesn’t have to be fancy or long, but it absolutely should happen – every day.

Two: I Read the Bible

Most days I read at least one chapter from Proverbs (there are 31 chapters so I read whatever chapter number corresponds to the day of the month) and then something from the Old Testament and something from the New Testament.  There are some days that I wake up later than I wish or have something else going on so on those days I at least read at least one passage (or even just one verse).  When you read the Bible it is hearing directly from the Lord.  For me, it helps me get my mind “straight” before I start a day full of meetings, emails and conversations.

Three: I Read Something Else

There’s an old saying that goes something like this:  “There is no difference between the man who can’t read and the man who doesn’t read.”  It is so important to read something every day.  I know it’s a lot easier in our culture to just watch t.v. or listen to the radio, but actually reading results in things that watching or listening will not.  When we read, we are choosing what goes into our minds instead of having it chosen for us.  When we read, we comprehend differently and deeper.  Reading causes us to think much more about the topic we are reading about than if we just listen to someone else talk about it.  I read different things: magazine articles, blog posts, the newspaper and, of course, a variety of books (see my Reading List here).  Reading gets my mind “warmed up” for the day and thinking about things I would probably not think about if I just drank my coffee and headed out the door.

Those are a few of things in my daily routine.  Maybe you will choose to incorporate some of them into your daily routine too.  I’d love to hear about your daily routine, so post a comment and share what gets you off to a great start in the morning.

A Message about Fatherhood to Dads, Moms and Children of all ages and stages

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A request was made to write a post about Fatherhood.  It’s an important topic – for dads, moms and children – of all ages and stages of life.  I hope you enjoy it …

This was a special message for fathers, children and mothers for Father’s Day 2013. Here are my sermon notes from the message on June 16, 2013.

3 THINGS CHILDREN SHOULD DO FOR THEIR FATHER

(note: Remember, we are all children, so this applies to all of us).

Honor Your Father

This is a command (the 5th) and is also mentioned several other times in the Bible (including by Jesus).

Ephesians 6:2-3 – Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.

What does it mean to “honor” your father? We go through stages, that overlap. First, we honor our father by being obedient when we are younger and under their authority/household. Strive for “first time obedience” which is especially honoring of him. Second, we honor our father by showing respect, involving him in our lives, allowing him to participate with us and on behalf of us in our lives. (illust. – Sadie and Willie returning dress on Duck Dynasty). Third, as they (and we) grow older, we honor our father by caring for him.

Learn from Your Father

Proverbs 2:1-5 – My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

note: this passage, written to a son from his father, encourages an active seeking of help and advice from the father. From our fathers we learn about life as well as about how to do things. We can also learn from our father’s mistakes. In any event, I believe that dads want “better” for their kids and desire for their children to learn from them – both the good and the bad.

Forgive Your Father

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” – Matthew 6:12

Fathers make mistakes. Sometimes big ones. Forgiving them for those may be the best father’s day present you can give him. Forgiveness is about leaving the past in the past and focusing on the future.

3 THINGS MOTHERS SHOULD DO FOR THEIR CHILD’S FATHER

This section is for mothers — all mothers. Even if you are not with your child’s dad any longer, you have one of the largest influences over the nature of your child’s relationship with his/her dad.

Encourage (don’t nag) Dad

1 Thessalonians 5:11 – encourage one another and build one another up, …

Try not to impose what you think is right upon the dad/child situation. This often leads to a situation where whatever dad does it’s not “good enough.” Be encouraging. Tell dad “thank you”. Compliment him.

Praise Dad in Front of Your Children

I read a blog post recently titled “Is Dad a Hero or a Bum – the Answer often Depends on what Mom Thinks.” — That is so true. Praising dad in front of your child strengthens the relationship more than you can imagine. You can do it — at one time in your life you thought at least something about this guy was pretty awesome.

Be a Partner

Don’t setup a situation where it is “mom and the kids v. dad”. Don’t hide things from dad. Don’t complain about him with the kids. Instead, do all you can to be a partner with the dad — unified in parenting the children as a team.

3 THINGS FATHER’S SHOULD DO FOR THEIR CHILDREN

Be a Godly Example

Like it or not, good or bad, you ARE an example. But are you a Godly example?

John 13:15 – For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

Being a Godly example involves being an example in these areas:

Character – this is what you are all of the time, no matter where you are or who is around. Your kids are watching you. Are you a man of honesty, integrity, consistency?

Discipleship – this is showing your kids what it looks like to follow the Lord Jesus and grow in your faith. Do they see you going to church, studying the Word, etc.

Service – your kids need to learn from you that life is not about them (or you) but about other people. They learn this from your example in serving others who need help, serving your church, and serving your community.

Demonstrate Unconditional Love

Unconditional love is the theme of the Bible — God loves us not because of anything that we can do and in spite of anything that we have done. Your kids (especially your daughters) will come to believe that God loves them the way that you love them. Love them unconditionally, which means:

Love them for who they are, not what they do

Love them in spite of their mistakes and bad choices

Remember: love is an action not a feeling

Leave the Right Legacy

You will leave a legacy of some form. But, God has given us the power and the freedom to choose what our legacy will be. Will you leave a legacy where your children and your children’s children seek to know the Lord personally? Or will it be a legacy of absence, abuse, excuses or mediocrity?