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Category Archives: orange thoughts

“…we will come out better.”

marriage shadow pictureI am not one to publicly comment on reality shows.  In fact, I rarely watch them.  But I have been completely captivated by a TLC reality show – Jon and Kate plus 8.  I have gotten caught up in the development of all the children, and have for a long time,and have not wanted to believe the tabloids.

What first caught my attention was the fact that Jon and Kate were quite open about their church involvement and the faith that they are teaching to their children.  To have watched the kids at the Creation play, and hearing Alexis sing praise songs to herself – made me want to applaud this family as they raise their children in Godly ways.

Yet, tonight, as I write this – they have announced that they have filed court papers to dissolve their marriage, just less than one year after they made a huge production about renewing their vows, “to show our kids that we will always be together”.  My heart is very heavy – these are not actors, the children are not living out a script – a family, a very public family – is falling apart.

I cannot begin to imagine, nor will I pass any judgement on the reasons for the dissolution of the marriage.  I have not walked in their shoes, nor do I have the ability to see inside their lives.

What bothers me most the fact that those who seek to discount faith in the God of Scripture and the Christian Church, will be able to point another finger of blame, and reason to not trust in God.

It is my prayer for this family – as well as all families – that they will (they may have already) seek Christian counsel with their pastor.  That they have bathed this decision in prayer, and that they will seek to show their children God’s love through all of this.

For all families – I know that life is hard, and can only imagine how difficult it is to be a couple and parents at the same time.  Know this – God planned designed family, and no where in scripture do we see a flawless example of parenting.  God uses our story to show the proof of His grace, and is redemption.  The family is what He uses to show the world, unconditional love.  Even when words and behaviours have hurt us deeply, we are able to move beyond it, only through showing the Grace that He first showed us.

It is also my prayer any church that has a family going through this kind of trial, will rally around them.  Too often the Church is far to quick to back away from a dissolving family, instead of supporting all the members.  That support means prayer, shoulders to cry on…whatever they need.

And that would be an Orange response to a breaking family.  For the church to come along side the family, and be the light to all the members of the family.  There will always be families in crisis among us – God calls us to love them just the same, if not more tenderly than anyone else among us.  Will you extend them the Grace He has showed you?

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What are you fighting for?

I love getting an opportunity to spend time listening to Reggie Joiner share his passion for the Orange Strategy.  I did just that this afternoon. I popped in the DVD “What If” and  spent 78 minutes with him teaching leaders to answer that question.

I took many notes, and often nodded in agreement to concepts I have heard him present in other gatherings.  He told a story that particularly caught my attention today.

Reggie shares the account of a time he was having a very loud discussion with his daughter.  Without giving specifics, he described the exchange as one of getting louder and more intense.  Then something happened that he hadn’t seen coming.  His daughter, in a way that only a daughter can do, lobbed a statement that took his breath away.  It was a wounding statement, and Reggie reacted.

He did not yell, he didn’t ground her – he simply turned, walked out of the room and went out to the garage.  Then he got in the car, and drove away.  After about 15 minutes of driving, his daughter called him to apologize, and then made this statement:  “Why did you walk away?  I need to know I’m worth fighting for.”

What stuck me about this, was that our families need to know the same thing.  When ministry gets tough, we tend to pull back on the things that seem to run themselves – or don’t show up as crisis driven things.  I fear that in many churches, we figure that the family will still be there “tomorrow”.  But statistics show us that they just walk away – not angry, or loudly – just quitely go because no one is fighting for them.

In the Old Testament we find the book of Nehemiah.  He was the king’s cup-bearer – this was the man chosen and trusted to bring the wine (after tasting it) to the king.  The job of  cupbearer was one of highest honour, and truly fitting of Nehemiah.  Although he was one of the most trusted men in Persia – his heart was in Jerusalem.  When he learned that the Temple was being rebuilt, he grew concerned because he knew there were no walls left to protect it.

Nehemiah, trusting God’s direction, asked the king for leave of his post to go and help rebuild the wall.  Many people were against this, including those who sought to take over Jerusalem for their own purposes.  But Nehemiah followed his instinct and did what they told him to do.  So, in Neh 4:13, we read his solution to keep the situation safe.

So I put people behind the lowest places along the wall – the open places – and I put families together with their swords, spears, and bows.  Then I looked around and stood up and said to the important men, the leaders, and the rest of the people: ‘Don’t be afraid for them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and powerful.  Fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your wives and your homes“.

Wow, if ever a passage of scripture jumped out from a message for me – it was this.  I constantly stand in awe at how God’s Word speaks to situations today.  Our children are being attacked by the Enemy in the open places – at school, through T.V. ads, competition for their time on all fronts – to keep their focus off meeting the Living, Loving God of Creation.   If we don’t stand in the gap, by strengthening families – we will lose this generation.

The Body of Christ, must together position ourselves to show families that they are worth fighting for.  Nehemiah reminded the faithful in Jerusalem to trust the Lord, because He is great and powerful.  We, too, must do the same thing.  Sometimes it feels like it’s a losing battle, but the victory will be God’s – if we truly trust Him to do so.

Churches for too long have thought that if we “allow” families to just be among us, encourage them to be busy for Christ, and let the Children’s Ministry instruct their children – all will be fine, and we will produce Christ followers out of the children who come through our doors.

We are now seeing just how wrong we are.  Church, we were never given that job…standing guard nowhere instructs the Children’s Pastor to teach the foundations of faith.  It was designed to be done in the family setting.  To be passed from generation to generation.   Oops!  We have generations who have never been taught the stories of our Faith.  To see the power and tenderness of the God of the Universe.  We have generations who don’t know the touch of the Father who gave His only Son to pay our penalty,  all just to bring us into relationship with Him.

Who am I fighting for?  Every family who is trying to see that their lives matter, that their child’s eternity is at stake, and don’t know where to find the answer.  The Church needs to fight – through prayer, resources and love – to come alongside our families and outfit them to stand at the gap for their children and protect the generation from destruction.  Are you willing to stand with me?

 

How is your story being written?

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ripped-family

 

 

 

 

I’m home now,  after a very full 3 days at www.theorangeconference.com.  Words escape me right now, to be able to fully describe, or breakdown all that was presented to us.  The Rethink team through an A-1 conference,  provided a full experience for us.  It was quite something to spend 3 days with 3,000 like minded Children’s Pastors, Sr. Pastors, and Youth Pastors.

I brought home some ideas that can be implemented fairly easily and quickly.  Others will require much prayer and discernment for our context, but I am excited to see what God does with the seed He planted.  I was challenged by some concepts and expectations that I heard, and was deeply encouraged by a number of the speakers.  We are making a difference, even when just one family does one thing new to build into the faith of their children.

One of the most profound moments was during the opening session.  Reggie Joiner (he is the founder of Rethink and Orange), spoke to us about 2 approaches to family ministry- “the Better Picture” and the “Bigger Story”.

A “Better Picture” approach is to teach families that they alway have to strive towards the ideal family – you have probably seen their picture…in any frame you purchase.  The problem with this ideal, is – it doesn’t exist.  No family is perfect (I’ve yet to meet one, anyway).  We all have something that falls short of the “Stock” photo family.  This is very discouraging for the families that fill your pews.  They never measure up, and discouragement leads to disengagement.  Reggie challenged us to help our families rip up their “stock” pictures and to embrace the family that God made them. 

The second approach is the “Bigger Story”.  We all fit into God’s master story.  We all have our account of where God has brought us, and how He is working with and through us know.  We need to let our families find their voice in God’s story…each one is as different as we are.

It is through our brokenness, that God can tell his story of redemption and reconciliation.  Isn’t that a much better story, than fitting into a perfect mold?  I’m ripping up my picture, and looking for my storybook…will you?  Together we can find God’s master plan for us and the families we serve.

 

Ready to go be Orange-d up

Sometimes the journey is just as important as arriving at your destination.  My friends and collegues and I have arrived safely in Atlanta for the annual Orange Conference.  We decided to again make it a road trip, and we really have the best time when we travel together.   At times, the conversation is quite serious and reflective, and at other times, we are laughing to the point of tears (and occasional “depends moments’).

Some 20 hours on the road (with stops along the way), we pulled into the hotel parking lot.  We were happy to be here safely, and able to stretch our legs out.

It got me thinking, our faith journey is sometimes like that roadtrip.  We  take friends with us, sometimes the passengers change, and sometimes we add more in, but we have deep and meaningful conversations, and other times we share tears – through laughter or pain.  We know our ultimate destination is important, but the stops and sights along the way add to the richness of the travel.

This week, I will be sharing my time with 3,000 other like minded Church leaders who want to help the family impact our children’s Faith Journey.  Our prayer for their ultimate destination is to spend eternity with the Saints before Jesus’ throne, but we need to make the getting there meaningful, because Jesus came ” that they may have life, and have it to the full. ” (John 10:10 NIV).

This week, all of my sessions at the conference (www.theorangeconference.com) are set to help me focus on building into the parents I minister among, so that they can build into their kids…all for eternity’s sake.  Let me quote the man behind Orange, Reggie Joiner, from his new book “Think Orange”.  In the introduction he says:

“There are two powerful influences on the planet – the church and the home.  They both exist because God initiated them.  They both exist because God desires to use them to demonstrate His plan of redemption and restoration.  If they work together they can potentially make a greater impact than if they work alone.  They need each other.  Too much is at stake for either one to fail.  Their primary task is to build God’s kingdom in the hears of men and women, sons and daughters.” (pg 20)

I can’t say it any better than that, so I won’t try.  As I reflect each evening, I hope to let you in on the insights, feelings and reflections of the day at Orange…it’s a journey worth joining the ride for.

 

Tires and the Gospel

snow-tiresA sure sign of spring today – I took my car to have my snow tires removed.  While I waiting to give my keys to the owner of the garage, we got into a conversation.  It’s one of those that Christians pray to be able to have, and then hold our breath when it actually happens.

 

He asked if I was married to the minister with the same last name.  When I told him yes, his response was, “I would have never guessed that he was a minister.  He’s just a regular kind of guy.  Most ministers I know are so uptight.  Not Jeff.”

I told him that he had just paid my beloved the highest of compliments.

 

He then went on to tell me, that he had grown up in a Jewish community, but he wasn’t very religious.  I told him that neither Jeff or I were very religious either.  The look of amazement was something to behold.  I shared with him, that it’s religion that causes all of the problems people have with meeting God.  The Pharisees were really good at putting rules around people and their behaviours, but really lousy at pointing people to relationship with our Creator.

 

He agreed that the Pharisees were strict, and that’s how he has experienced a lot of ministers.  We talked about how in the Old Covenant, God desperately wanted a relationship with His people.  Adam and Eve were created to commune with God.  They broke that with disobedience, and we have managed to carry on – each generation perfecting the disobedience just a little more.  Jesus came to show us perfect relationship with God, the Father. 

 

I went on to share that Jesus came to fulfill the Law (all the details that had been put into place), and to establish a New Covenant.  One that would allow us the privilege of being in a right relationship with God.

 

It was there that someone else came in, and his attention needed to turn to other customers, but I pray that a seed will have been planted.  He had noticed that we seem to be upfront, honest and approachable people.  Not his experience with “religious” people.  He will have noted that again when it came time for me to pay for his expertise.  He said that if I was paying cash, it was X amount.  When I asked for a receipt, he said he’d have to charge me the tax.  My response was , “I planned to…unto Caesar, and all”.

 

How often do we get in the way of the Gospel we are trying to share.  Do we just say the words, or do we live a life consistent with the truth of the relationship we walk in.

 

When working with families, I remind them that their children are sponges, and they soak in everything they see the parents doing.  If service people are paid under the table, and taxes are not collected, then a logical conclusion for a child is, “Why report all my income? The Government doesn’t need all my tax…”.  Small things with a consistent message are what makes an impact for our children.

 

Praying before a meal, praying when we are in the middle of something difficult, or giving thanks for something good, all model true conversation with our Heavenly Father.

 

If I had been willing to pay under the table, after having a conversation about right relationship, what would that have said about how much I value what God is shaping me into?  Others are watching for Jesus followers to behave just that way – will we point them toward him, or help them to stay out of relationship with Him?

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2009 in church life, orange thoughts

 

Running To and From a Garden

I love spring.  In fact, I think it’s my favourite time of year.  I carefully watch as the bulbs poke their leaves through the thawing soil.  It’s a promise of new and brighter things.  This year, as it has been each time we have moved, I watch in great anticipation of what those leaves will become.  I did not plant much of what is in my garden this year.  It was left and cared for by another’s  hand, and this spring, it is mine to watch come to life.  I know the families of what might appear, but I have no idea as to it colour, or it’s unique variety.  That is a gift from God itself.  What was lying very deep in the soil, while it froze over top of it, is reappearing as the sun shines, and rains come.

Have you ever noticed that in Scripture – some really big events happened in a garden.  Time began, as the saying goes, in a garden.  God placed His first created friends (yep, He created them for fellowship, a trend that has never changed) in the center of a perfect garden.  And it was in through the activities in this garden that Sin entered the world.  Adam and Eve began the legacy that would forever change our perfect communion with The Creator of the Universe.  

Much later in God’s story,  we find the First Born of Creation praying in a garden.  Praying so hard that it was as if he was sweating blood.  Studies have shown that is it possible to sweat blood under extremely stressful conditions.  I think Jesus facing death certainly met this criteria.  (here’s a link, if you want more information : http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=445320.  I find it interesting to note that as Jesus was preparing to pray at Gethsemane, he asked his closest friends to join him in the garden.  Yet again, scripture has The Lord seeking to have relationship with His creation, even in the darkest of times.  I’m afraid that I see too much of me in the disciples that fell asleep, even though they were asked to join in the prayer.  How easy it is to take the relationship for granted, assuming the one I love will always be there, and “sleep” through the last hours of our time…Lord, forgive me.

Fast forward through the time of Jesus trial and crucifixion, when He paid the final price to save us from the inevitable outcome of our sins.  We watch, through the writers of the Gospels, as His friends are gathered close on that hill.  They weep for their loss, they watch in anguish as their beloved  breathes His last, and they try to imagine life without Him.  If only they had paid more attention while He was alive.

But then, it’s Sunday Morning.  Mary had come to the garden tomb to tend to her Master’s grave, and she finds his body missing.  I know the panic I have when something quite trivial, like my keys, aren’t in the place they are supposed to be.  I can only begin to imagine the complete sense of panic, and despair, and questioning that she must have been feeling.  As I picture her wanting to run and find someone to ask what is going on – John’s gospel paints my favourite scene in all of scripture.  My dad had an old black and white print of this scene, and a different times in my life, I have only had to read the caption, and I find myself crying.  The scene is this:

Mary first sees the angels, and they ask why she is crying.  Then a man appears behind her.  We are told directly that it’s Jesus she sees, but she thinks it’s the gardener, and she asks where they have taken him.  He answers with just one word, and as I write this, I can hear how gently he says it, as a father would say his child’s name, or as gently as someone might whisper a dearly loved ones name; Jesus simply says “Mary”.  As soon as she hears this, she instantly knows it’s her Lord, and she cries “Rabboni”, which means teacher.

When this encounter is finished, she wastes no time, but runs (as the other gospels tell us) to tell the disciples.  Catch that – she ran, didn’t stop to hold the moment to herself, but ran to find the rest of Jesus closest friends.  As soon as they heard the news, it was so incredible, that they ran back to see it for themselves.  Good News brings excitement, and must be shared.  The friends of Jesus show us that – those who got the news first, could not contain their excitement, and had to run to tell others.

A few shorts months ago, on Christmas Eve – we read about those who got the new first of Jesus birth from the angels.  They ran to the stable, and when they saw the Truth in person, they ran to tell others.  Here, we are celebrating His life again, and as soon as people heard the news, they ran to see The Truth, and then ran to tell others.

When’s the last time you ran to tell someone about your relationship with The Truth.  Are you excited to have the opportunity to walk with God’s Only Son, the Risen Christ?  Good News must be shared, it’s just too  important not to share.  As the bulbs, and trees, and of God’s handiwork in this part of the world come back to life – be sure to share the news that the First Born of Creation is alive and wants to walk with each one of us.  This Easter – as it should be everyday – be sure to share the good news with someone you love, and then thank Him for the Gift of His life.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2009 in church life, orange thoughts

 

The innocence of Children

 

children-holding-hands1

Jeff and I were standing at the kiosk of the passport office on Monday.  It’s our day off, and we have had to plan for a Monday when it didn’t matter how long we were having to wait.  Turns out, we were done before 1:00p.m. that day.  Not nearly as bad as we had expected.  While we were at the kiosk, and the lady was making sure all of our documents were in order, I watched a truly moving and remarkable moment.

It all happened so naturally, and neither party realized any one was noticing.  Across the room from us, there were 2 families, each with a toddler, at adjacent kiosks.  These 2 children were behaving and not a peep was heard from either.  They weren’t fidgety, just sitting on the counter, and waiting for mom and dad to be done with the officials.

As I watched, (because as a children’s pastor I just notice kids), the youngest boy stretched out his hand.   The neighbouring child watched for a few moments and then stretched out his own.  He poked the center of the younger boys hand, and the instant response was for the younger child to close his hand around the protruding finger.  Then, the next moment, I watched as the two boys held hands around the partition.  These boys were from 2 cultures that would not normally interact, or even get along.  Yet, here they were, waiting to go home, just calmly holding hands.  At one point, they weren’t even looking at each other, just holding the other’s hand.  They were connected – while all of us in the building were trying very hard to not notice anyone else (except me, who was dying to take a picture – but thought the better of it).

It got me thinking, we all long to be connected.  In the confusion or even the anonymity of life, we need to know that other people are near us, and are experiencing the same thing that we are.  The apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12 that, “11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
(from New International Version)

We were designed and gifted to build the body of Christ until we ALL reach unity in the faith…what a cool picture.  God, in His perfect plan, gave each of us gifts to be shared with the others in the Body so that we can reach unity and attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.   We can’t reach that unity alone, we need to be connected just as the body is joined and held together by every supporting ligament , (that’s us).  Without ligaments supporting us, we cannot function strongly.

I need you so I can stand tall in challenges, and I in turn will support you when you face your own issues.  We need each other – not to share secrets, or to talk behind the others back, but to support – prayerfully, physically, emotionally – until we are strong again.  Our congregation has as it motto/logo the following:connect500

Without connecting, we cannot ever grow (personally), and a lack of growth will prohibit us from impacting those around us so that they can continue the cycle.  Like those two boys at the passport office, I need your hand to hold.  We don’t have to say much, just know that the other is there.  In this way, the world will see us for Whose we are.