Kids Camp!!!

I’m more excited this year for kids camp than I think I’ve ever been!  There are so many reasons for excitement: We have an amazing speaker in Missionary Phil Malcolm!  We are going to be trying some new things that will be really fun for the kids and engaging in the worship experiences!  We have an amazing team that will make the camp the best camp our kids have ever been to!  And last but most important, I know God is going to change kids’ lives at Camp Elkanah!

There are so many things that we do for our kids camps in Oregon that I love, but this might be my favorite: We have 100 days of prayer leading up to our camps, and we try to get 100 people to pray along with us.  Would you consider joining in the 100 Days of prayer?  Each week, I’ll post the prayer topics for each day of prayer for that week.  Our Prayer coordinator takes great care in this task to strategically plan certain prayer items on certain days according how things are planned.  If you have 1 minute, 1 hour, or 3 hours to pray over these needs, it is greatly appreciated

If you would like to join in the 100 days of prayer, would you please let me know in the comments below? Thanks!

Here are the prayer needs for the first week of the 100 days of Prayer:

1. Pray great team meetings
2. Pray for enough volunteer staff
3. Pray for favor among vendors that donate to camps
4. Pray for all upcoming camps within the network (Summer Camp, Royal Rangers, Missionettes, Royal Family Kids Camps, etc.)
5. Pray for a wonderful spirit among all involved
6. Pray for scholarships for those cannot afford to attend a camp
7. Pray for enough camp staff

Thanks again!

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Sunday is Coming

I can’t even begin to imagine how the disciples felt on Friday.  Their friend, leader, SAVIOR, was killed.  They thought that He was going to set their people free!  They thought He was going to overturn the cruel rule of the Romans!  They thought that He was going to change history forever!  They were right; they just didn’t know it yet.  But its Friday, and here He laid, dead.  Crucified. They were disappointed.  Sad. Upset.  Unsure.  Angry.  Confused.. I could go on.

Maybe you are in the same situation.  I mean, not exactly… I’m pretty sure you don’t know anyone who was crucified, and I’m fairly sure that your Savior does not lie dead.  But maybe you had high hopes for something, and it now disappointingly lays at your feet.  Maybe you were looking to someone who turned out not to be who you thought they were.  Or maybe a job didn’t work out the way you were hoping (I’ve been there).  Or maybe, you wanted something so badly, and you came so close to getting it, and now you are disappointed… sad… unsure… or something worse.

I’ve got good news for you… Sunday is coming.

The disciples felt all these things and more when they laid the body of Jesus to rest in a borrowed tomb.  However, they did not see the big picture.  Jesus HAD TO die on that cross.  He had to pay the price for sin of all people.  He had die, so that we might live.  Then, Jesus would rise again.  What the disciples did not know is that in the next couple of days, they would realize Jesus power.  In order to defeat death, Jesus had to succumb to death.

I don’t know what your circumstance is, what disappointed you, or what breaks your heart.  I do know this one thing: Very few people can see the big picture as they are walking through disappointment.  We can have faith in the bigger picture, and trust that God knows what He is doing, but very rarely do people know everything what is going on.

Here is my story:  A couple of years ago, I left Portland, Oregon with my wife, and son who was less than a year old.  We had lived in Portland for 4 years.  We loved Portland.  We loved our home.  We loved my job.  But it was not God’s plan for us.  What was ahead of us? Uncertainty.  What was our emotional state? Broken, upset, sad, angry… I had no job to go to, no home to call my own.  Just my parents’ basement, some cash stored up and faith.

God provided.  When we needed money, God provided in various ways.  When I needed a job, God provided.  What my family and I did not see was a much better opportunity that God had in store for us… Yes, that time was very difficult for us.  It was our Friday.  But like the disciples, we did not know that Sunday was coming.

Eventually, at just the right time, God provided the right opportunity for us.  A pastor called me and was interested in hiring me as the children’s pastor in a rural town in Eastern Oregon (Pendleton).  It was out of curiosity that we went, because we heard so many great things about the church.  I’ve never lived in a rural area before, and I wasn’t sure if I’d like it (turns out, small towns are awesome).  At just the right time, God showed up and reminded me that though we all have Fridays like the disciples had, Sunday is coming.

No matter what situation you are facing, Sunday is coming.  Your Sunday may not look like the disciple’s Sunday, when they found Jesus to be alive again.  It may not be that dramatic.  It may not be exactly what you were hoping for, but Sunday is coming.  Jesus is still in the business of working miracles.

It might be Friday, but Sunday is coming!

Sabbath

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath, by keeping it holy.”

Can you say the 10 commandments by heart?  I’ll be honest, I can only do it because of a silly pneumonic device my Children’s Pastor taught when I was a kid.  We had a 10 week series on the 10 commandments, and though I can’t remember any of the lessons, I do remember the poster they made and the phrase that we used to remember them: GIVeS F/M show me your MASLE (we said ma-sa-lee), but it was supposed to be like muscle.  Each capital letter was the key word for the commandment.  In order they are:

  1. God’s (Have no other gods)
  2. Idols (Don’t bow down to other idols)
  3. Vain (Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain)
  4. Sabbath (Honor it)
  5. Father/Mother (Honor them)
  6. Murder (Again, Don’t do it)
  7. Adultery (Don’t go there)
  8. Stealing (If it is not yours, don’t take it)
  9. Lying (Just don’t)
  10. Envy (Be content with what you have)

When we look at this list of do’s and don’ts, some are really easy for most people who call themselves Christians to follow (like murder, stealing, bowing down to idols), and others are more difficult.  There are a lot of discussions that we can have about what the 10 commandments mean for us today, but that’s another discussion for another day…

In case you missed it, today, I want to pose a question about the 4th commandment.  Of course, before the question I have a rather lengthy preamble: We are lousy at following the 4th commandment.  Starting from Monday, we spend 5 days at school and/or work.  The 6th day is often spent doing housework, catching up on laundry, yard work, running errands you didn’t have time for during the week, taking the kids to practice or games, or… you can fill in your own blank.  Then Sunday we wake up early and go to church, where many of us serve in some capacity or another.  In some churches, you can spend your whole weekend in church serving the Body of Christ.  In no way am I saying that is bad, but we fail to take a day off and “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy.”

So here is my question: “What does it mean to Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy?”  I think that we have the wrong idea here.  When I think of the Sabbath, and I suspect you as well, I think of a day off, relaxing.  Not going to the office, spending time with my family, some time enjoying one of my few hobbies, watching some tv and/or a movie.  That is my default idea of the Sabbath.

Yes, the idea of the Sabbath is rest.  The idea is that we need to recharge our batteries, less we burn ourselves out.  That is a human need that God created in each one of us.  However, our method, I believe is all wrong.  Take a look what scripture says about rest and strength:

Exodus 34:14 “The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Psalm 46:1 “The Lord is my refuge and my strength.  A very present help in time of need.”.”

Psalm 62:5 “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.”

Isaiah 40:31 “those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Matthew 11:28-29 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

If the purpose of the Sabbath is to rest and renew our strength, and our strength is found in God, I wonder if it is not a coincidence that the 4th commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy.”  Is a true Sabbath resting and looking for strength the human way, or is a true Sabbath time spent with the Lord and finding our strength and rest in Him?

To be fair, in our world today, I don’t think that it is realistic to think that one could set aside one day every week just to spend time with God.  In fact I would say that very few could do that.  But could you set aside more time one day a week to spend with God?  Or could you find a way to keep one day a week a “more holy” than other days.  For example, on this one day, could you spend more time with God and be more careful what you allow in your mind through our various avenues of media (music, tv and movies specifically)?

Excited for my friends Bryan and Kristin Thompson

In early 2009, I met my friends Bryan and Kristin Thompson for the first time.  I was the children’s pastor at a church in the Portland, Oregon area, and Bryan was interviewing to be the worship pastor.  At the time they had two kids, Grace and Hope.  There was all kinds of business for them to attend to on our first meeting.  They met the lead pastor, other staff members, toured the church, school and neighborhood, look for housing, lead services, interview with the board, and have about a million other meetings.  Not long after, they accepted the position and moved to the Portland area.

Over the course of the year that we worked together, I got to know Bryan and Kristin very well.  We watched their kids from time to time, including a couple of nights while Kristin gave birth to their third child, Noel.  There are a couple of noteworthy things about their family that I found out during our time together.  First of all, they have very well-behaved children.  That says a lot about who they are as a couple and as parents.  Second, Bryan is one of the most amazing musicians that I have the pleasure of also calling friend.  Third, Bryan is a brilliant leader, and is passionate about reaching people for Jesus.

As long as I’ve known Bryan, he’s always had the church planting bug.  He dreams big, often bigger than himself (which is a good thing.  It allows God to take over), and he also has God-given ideas about to achieve the dream that he has.  So a couple of weeks ago, he called to tell me that he is finally planting a church.  I’m really excited for him to get working on his dream and to see what God does.

All this to ask of a couple of things of my readers: 1) Would you do the greatest thing you can do for my friend and pray for him, his family and his dream to reach the St. Louis area for Jesus?  2) Would you also pray about supporting a new church that can change the world monetarily? 3) If you live the St. Louis area, would you consider taking Bryan and/or his family out to lunch and hear their heart?

If you want to “like” Urban Church on Facebook and keep up with the happenings, you can do so by clicking here.  Check out the video below to hear about it in their own words.  Thanks for reading!

Kids Convention

We had such a great time at kids convention this past weekend!  God did some amazing things in the hearts of our students, and He challenged me personally.  There are so many amazing things to tell you about, it’s hard to know where to start.

We were challenged by 2 main speakers, Gregg Johnson and David Boyd.  Gregg is an evangelist and has deep passion to teach kids about how they can be like Jesus when He was 12 years old.  The only thing we know about Jesus between His early years and the beginning of His public ministry is a story found in Luke 2:41-52.  These 12 verses provide some powerful insight to Jesus.  Without going into the whole story, we see that Jesus was passionate about the Word of God, He was found in the right places with the right faces and He grew in wisdom, stature and favor with God and man.  What more would you want for your tween?

Gregg told us that as a young man, he felt called into the ministry at age 14.  When he came home from that experience, he decided to turn his room into a Bible College.  He spent 2 hours every day, from 3:00-5:00 in his room studying, praying, memorizing scripture and learning anything he felt he would need to be successful in ministry.  Gregg has taken his experience and written books and classes called Bedroom Bible College, designed to help kids between the ages of 10 and 14 do the same thing. 

I found one of these books in our van on the way home.  One of our boys used his spending money to buy one of the books.  When I found it, I asked the boy if he was going to turn his bedroom into a Bible College.  His response? “I think I’m going to turn my living room into a Bible College.”

When I got home, I saw a posting on Facebook about one of the other boys.  After reading some scripture with his parents, he got his brothers and sisters together and said, “It’s time for us to go to school.” They went into one of the kids rooms and prayed and read the Bible together for about an hour. 

Our other speaker, David Boyd is the worldwide director for BGMC (Boys and Girls Missions Challenge, the missions giving and education program for kids in the Assemblies of God).  He talked with the kids about the living for God with power through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  As any good speaker would do, he invited the kids to come forward and pray with their leaders for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  To my knowledge, 2 kids were filled with Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues.  All by 2 of the kids responded.  I prayed with others who were asking God for it, but I did not happen for them at that time. When David asked for hands of kids who were baptized in the Holy Spirit, and began speaking in tongues, many hands went up.  Kids all over the place were filled!

All of our kids came back changed, marked by God.  I’m really excited to see what happens with the 10 kids that we took this year!  Please continue to pray for these kids, that they will continue to seek after God just as passionately as they did this weekend and this week.  Pray that their thirst for God will not be quenched, less they quit seeking.  Pray for those who are still seeking the gift of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, that they will be filled.

Thank you for supporting the ministry of Kids Place.  God is doing unspeakably wonderful things in our kids’ lives!  The best is yet to come!

Heaven (and some shameless self promotion through a lot of hyperlinks)

I’ve previously written about heaven here and here.  I find myself thinking about heaven a lot lately.  There certainly are a number of reasons for it.  For one, it appears as though short of a miracle, my mother-in-law (who I wrote about here) will be in heaven shortly.  I just wanted share a few thoughts that are rattling around inside my head about heaven:

From twitter (@MichelleSCox): If you read in the paper that I’m dead… don’t believe it.  I’ll be more alive than ever.

Revelation 21:4: 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.

There are only 2 things you can take to heaven with you, and your problems are not one of them.

We’ll be reunited with loved ones who went before us in heaven.

Heaven is our home, not earth. (Hebrews 11:13)

Heaven is open to everyone, in fact God eagerly desires to see you there (2 Peter 3:9)

We are all going to die and go to either heaven or hell.  It is a harsh reality, but I believe it to be true.  God sent Jesus to this earth to pay the price for all the wrong that people have ever done or ever will do.  Jesus took the punishment for our sin upon Himself, so we don’t have to.  As a result, we can dwell in heaven with Him forever and ever.  All we have to do is 1) Acknowledge your sin 2) Ask for forgiveness 3) Confess Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.  Then live life as best as you can in obedience to Him.  He doesn’t ask for perfection, he looks at the heart.

Oh, yeah, the 2 things you can take to heaven with you, your friends and family (3 if you count yourself).

Fearless

I was praying the other day over for our country, its leaders and for the people of America in general, and felt the Lord speak something to me.  What I felt him say that we are a country that is totally ruled by a spirit of fear.  The more I think about it, the more I believe it to be true.  Think about it, we are motived by fear in so many things.  Take air-travel for example.  we go to extreme measures to “guarantee” safety and make sure that no one disrupts the flight.  We have metal detectors, pat downs, screenings, people searching luggage, and we even have to take off our shoes for screening.

Or take the economy for example, people are terrified of not having enough money for retirement.  But, we are also scared of investing in the stock market.  We are too scared to save, but too scared to spend as well.  Housing prices are up and down, so people are too scared to buy a house, yet renting is a scary proposition as well.

Or take medical care for example, you can hardly watch 10 minutes of TV without seeing a commercial for some prescription for an ailment that less than 1% of America struggles with.  That’s not even getting into the financial side of health care and insurance.

Or take playgrounds as an example.  The other day I was reading an article about “new playgrounds.”  They’re the same old playgrounds, but made super safe, so no one gets hurt, because no one wants to get sued.  The unfortunate side effect of such playgrounds is that we, as people, are meant to make mistakes and get hurt physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, or otherwise.  That is how we learn.

All these things are legitimate fears.  I’m not suggesting that we do away with any of these things (except these playgrounds), but what I am suggesting is that we look at ourselves and take a look at what we are really afraid of, and why.  Then, compare that with what God’s word says about fear:

“For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 ASV”

God did not create us to be afraid of everything we can imagine.  In fact, He advises us to do something radically different:

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7”

Often times, I will pray in December for the year to come and sometimes God gives me a word or theme for the year to come.  Nearly every time this has happened, I’ve seen it come true.  Perhaps it is self-fulfilling prophecy, or God is challenging me in how I view the year to come, I don’t know.  In any case, I was praying about 2013, and to be honest the reason I was praying is because I felt a lot of anxiety about it.  There are some things in my financial picture that are unknowns for this year.  We have a baby due this year.  No one has any idea what the economy will do this year, and how that may or may not affect anyone’s job.

The word for this year came to me: FEARLESS. Not stupid fearless, like risk my life everyday doing stupid thing because I’m fearless.  Not fearless, like I need to be bold or brash.  Rather, to not fear these things, because God is with me.  The God who spoke the world into existence, who sustains the universe and everything in it, who formed the mountains; rivers and flatlands with his hands,  who lives in your heart, He loves you and looking out for you.  He may not always give what you want, but He always provides what you need.  He may not always make you comfortable, but He is always with you through the discomfort.  He may not always give you all the answers, but He tells you what you need to hear.

I choose to be FEARLESS this year, and trust in God.  He is my everything.