Friday, December 18, 2009

The Merge

Sarah and I have been discussing whether or not to merge our blogs and we decided it would be better for everybody if we did...I know, what you're thinking: this is a big step in our cyberspace relationship but I believe that after five and a half years of marriage we are finally ready for this level of unity! :-D From now on you can find BOTH of us at

See you over there!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I'm very excited about where we're at right now and where God is leading us (me, my family, the church). There are great things going on on every level. I have already heard some great things from the Life Group times on Sunday mornings and about some awesome outreaches and servant times that have already taken place or are coming up soon! I believe that God wants us to be intentional about community and missional in our outreach. I think those two things even compliment each other. When we talk about being "a house of prayer for all nations" we MUST be a house for ALL People and one of the ways that we do that is through intentional community and missional outreach. As we are sharing life on every level (community/fellowship) we begin to position ourselves to share HIS life on every level (missional outreach). God is putting OPPORTUNITIES before each of us, let's continue to pray for the courage and obedience to make the most of every opportunity that He gives us.

One opportunity that I am VERY grateful for is my job with T-Mobile! I am enjoying it because of the technology (yes, I'm a nerd) and the problem solving involved, as well as getting to know my co-workers. I keep praying for God to help me see what He is doing in the lives of my co-workers and how I can help bring His life and joy to every situation through my actions and my words. I have been looking forward to the opportunity to serve in the church AND in the workplace for a couple of years now and am very thankful to have the opportunity. I pray that you will see the opportunities that God has for you as you look around where God has placed you as a representative of His Kingdom.
May His Kingdom justice, peace, joy, and power come and His perfect will be done IN and THROUGH our lives!

Monday, October 26, 2009


This Sunday James Underwood from Bethel St. Paul shared in Minneapolis. It was a great word about our true identity. In life we all wear different kinds of hats and those things aren't what truly define us. He had an awesome way of illustrating that with a bunch of different literal hats that he wears as part of his life and what they represent, but how those things don't define him. He read from Ephesians 2:11-15 and pointed out that God has bought the naming rights to our lives...just like big companies pay big money for the right to put their name on a building or stadium, in the same way, God has bought the naming rights to your life as Creator & Redeemer!
1. He Created us! (Genesis 2:6)
- Very personally: Formed us with his hands & breathed into us!

2. He Redeemed Us!
- He purchased us with His life and has the right to name us (Revelation 2).

There are many voices trying to label you, but only one has the right to name you and be the source of your identity. At the time of Jesus there were many voices labeling Him, but He looked to the Father for His identity ("this is my son in whom I am well pleased"). It was as people saw who the Father said Jesus was that they truly knew Him. Jesus asked His disciples "who do you say that I am?" His disciples picked up on what God the Father said and answered that He was "the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Jesus asked them for their good not His. It really should have been them asking Jesus "who do YOU say that I am?" Because being who God says you are is more powerful and more important than trying to be who others say you are or should be.
What about you, are there old "names" or labels that someone else put on you, or you put on yourself, that you need to get rid of today? Take off those hats!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Last year I read this GREAT book called "Boundaries with Kids." I wish I had read it before I started youth ministry because it makes the shaping process that kids need to go through so clear. It provides good ways to put boundaries in place for your kids no matter what age they are. I felt like I had learned some of those things along the way by trial and error (because nobody else was teaching this stuff) and other things I saw that I had totally missed (many "aha!" moments). Now that we have Abby I need to go back and read it and work on applying it to the stage she is at right now.

I want to read one book on parenting each year, but I also want to review this book each year because what it contains is so simple and powerful, yet easy to forget over time. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to ANY parent, no matter how long (or little) you have been parenting or grandparenting. You can take this and apply it to any stage of development in your kids' lives. You will probably have a few "aha!" moments along the way and be encouraged to keep pressing on as you train up your children in the way that they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Seven Practices of Effective Ministry

Last year I was privileged to get my hands on an awesome book that summarizes a lot of what I learned in my Organizational Leadership studies: 7 Practices of Effective Ministry.

It takes some fairly complex concepts and puts them in ways that are easy to understand, communicate, and apply. This is something that we were working through in Breckenridge when I left and something that we have started working through with our leadership team at Bethel Minneapolis!
Here's a quick summary. I highly recommend this book to you if you are in leadership.

Practice #1 – Clarify the Win: Define what is important at every level of the organization.
  • As long as the win in unclear, you force your team to guess at what a win looks like.
  • If the win is unclear, you may force those in leadership roles to define winning in their own terms.
  • When you clarify the win on every level you help your team stay on the same page.
  • When you clarify the win you can manage your resources effectively.
Practice #2 – Think Steps, not Programs: Before you start anything, make sure it takes you where you need to go.
  • Every step should be easy
  • Every step has to be obvious
  • Every step must be strategic
Practice #3 – Narrow the Focus: Do fewer things in order to make a greater impact.
  • Churches feel constant pressure to provide programs on the basis of needs.
  • Resist complexity and pursue simplicity.
  • Choose what potentially works best over what is presently working.
  • The more you focus the environment, the greater the relevance, the better the connection, the higher the quality, and the stronger the impact.
Practice #4 – Teach Less for More: Say only what you need to say to the people who need to hear it.
  • Decide what you are going to say
  • Decide to say one thing at a time
  • Decide how you are going to say it
  • Say it over and over again
Practice #5 – Listen to Outsiders: Focus on who you’re trying to reach, not who you’re trying to keep.
- (we really miss the boat the on this one sometimes)

Practice #6 – Replace Yourself: Learn to hand off what you do.
  • Prepare someone to do what you do and strategically replace yourself.
Practice #7 – Work On It: Take time to evaluate your work, and to celebrate your wins.

I highly reccomend you read this book if you would like to know some of the details involved in this process. You may also find it helpful to go through this with your leadership team and apply this to every level of leadership.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Goals Update

At the beginning of the year I set some goals of what I felt God wanted me to do as a steward of what He has given me this year. I share them with you briefly. I hope to get better at dreaming God's dreams for the future and moving towards what God has.

- Read Through the Bible chronologically in the English Standard Version in a year.

  • This is going great, especially now that I switched to an RSS feed.
Get Back in Shape
  • I've lost 20 pounds so far this year and am hoping to lose 8 more by the end of the year.
Finish Graduate School
  • I was blessed to complete a Master's degree in Organizational Leadership AND Practical Ministry. By starting at Regent University and completing at Beacon University I was able to get a dual emphasis in practical ministry (specifically small groups and other ministry things) as well as Organizational Leadership.
Work on Book:
  • I put a basic outline together last year. Unfortunately I haven't done any work on this in 2009. I do want to work on refining the outline and beginning to put content into the right spots.
  • Work on transitioning Valley Christian's worship and student ministries to continue strong after we leave. I was able to work with Dean and other staff members to setup some systems to keep things running smoothly and set the stage for MORE growth in those areas.
Work with a Church Plant that is an Intentional and Missional Community:
  • Sarah and I dreamed of doing this for a while, but it was a "some day" dream and god has blessed us to begin leading a church plant with Bethel Christian Fellowship.
  • The first thing I wanted to do was to work to clarify the "wins" and define our steps for implementing the vision and "win" in the ministry. And it's been awesome to begin this process.
  • One of the things we really wanted to make a part of our church life was to do small groups as part of the service after the message on Sundays and then to also meet outside of the church to DO ministry.
Message Series Prayer and Planning:
  • I have been working on praying and planning out the series of sermons for at least a year in advance; including concepts and images used in the messages. This is still a work in progress, but I am working towards it: I have sets of series plans, but need to work harder on filling in the message titles and contents farther ahead of time.

To Grow as an Effective Communicator:

  • By working on how I prepare and deliver messages using more than just words.
Lead My Family:
  • I decided a while back that I will not sacrifice my family on the altar of ministry! This is something that takes work and I have to move towards this intentionally (word of the week) by spending more time with my family by using the free evenings we have and by guarding my day off. I am a work in a progress, but I am looking for progress.

  • My goal is to read all of the books I own that I have not read yet...this has been a problem as I have continued to add books to my collection.

These are the goals I have been working towards this year and as the year ends I will be looking at what God wants for next year!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I saw this as I was walking around Catalyst. The title jumps out to me :-) Here's what I firmly believe: I believe that the major problems & injustices of the world (hunger, AIDS, poverty, human trafficking, etc.) would be solved if the church as a whole cared about what God cares about as much as He cares about them! What if we united with others & with God in the advancement of His Kingdom, which is defined as justice (righteousness), peace (!), joy (in the Holy Spirit), & power!

I believe God has given us the power to do this with the Holy Spirit & the Body of Christ! May His Kingdom Come & His will be done in & through us!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bible in a Year

Earlier this year I made a list of goals for the year. One of those was to read through the Bible chronologically in the English Standard Version. I have grown to enjoy doing that each year, although there have been years that I have focused on specific parts of the Bible and just read them over and over. There was one year I just read and studied the Gospels over and over while another year I just read the New Testament several times. Although I don't know how many times I have read through the Bible I DO know that the chronological way has been the best way for me to get the most out of it. It really helps me to get the bigger picture of God's work throughout the Bible and throughout history.
If you've ever tried a Bible reading plan or a chronological reading you have probably had some difficulties keeping track of where you were, losing your reading guide, losing your place as you jumped around in the chronological piece. Or falling too far behind that you felt like giving up. Well don't be troubled because everyone that has ever set out to learn more about God has faced similar difficulties UNTIL NOW (cue the "ShamWow" music): I just found an AWESOME way to do my Bible reading the other day. has an awesome reading plan system that allows you to choose between 5 different plans. You can currently add your plan to your RSS reader and it will appear each day as your other blog posts do (they are currently working on an email system too). Here are several reasons that I have found most helpful:
  • You don't have to carry around reading plans (I just read my Bible and Bible reading on my phone or laptop).
  • You don't have to wonder whether or not you already read something.
  • If you miss a day it will be there for you when you come back.
  • When you're doing a chronological reading you don't have to jump all over the place and you can really feel the flow of the greater story.
  • If you're a blog reader, it sets up a system for you where you will be reminded of reading every day...which when you think about it, it's kind of messed up that we would have time to read a blog and not God's story...
So, in making the switch between my chronological plan and BibleGateway's I missed some pieces of the Prophets, but the overall benefits of switching to something that helps me be more intentional (word of the week) far outweighs that.

Another really cool thing was you can choose from multiple versions. I'm finishing up the ESV this year, but next year I'm reading the Bible in The Message translation. Trying different translations has helped me continue to gain greater perspective as I grow, so I'm very excited about finishing this year in the ESV and doing next year in The Message!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Church Planting

I'm at a meeting today and tomorrow where many things have been discussed and will be discussed, but the one that I was eagerly anticipating was the discussion on church planting. A group of pastors in our region (MN, IA, and Western WI/MI) worked on an intentional plan for starting churches in our area by working together that I am VERY excited about and today it was presented to the other regions. The plan is called Apostello (sent forth) and you can access the full version of it here. Today we talked about what role we need to play in church planting; locally, regionally, and nationally as the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. The conclusion was that church planting is something that is already happening in our fellowship but that we can definitely grow more in that area by being more intentional. I'm excited that we're having this discussion about church planting and here's why:
  • I believe that we have to be intentional (my word of the week) about reaching people everywhere with the good news of Jesus Christ and one local church cannot do that.
  • I believe that churches should plant churches that plant churches that plant churches...I don't just say that because I am now working with a church plant, but because I firmly believe that healthy things grow and reproduce. Sarah and I talked about working with a church planting team "some day" for many years. I even had a vision for church planting 9 years ago. For doing many of the things we're doing as part of Bethel Christian Fellowship. Neither Sarah or I were expecting "some day" to come this soon, but we are blessed to be part of Bethel and be leading such an awesome group of people!
  • I believe that starting new churches creates opportunities for more people to get involved in ministering to other people.
  • I believe that churches that start new churches unleash leaders to serve in capacities in the new church and also creates opportunities for other leaders to take their place where they were. Many leaders also emerge from other areas of ministry in successful church plants and more leaders are raised up because there was a place for their giftings to be used in making a difference in people's lives.
I'm not saying everything will be easy for any church that decides to plant a church (or for us for that matter), but I do believe that working together towards what God has for us is better than working alone. I am eagerly looking forward to what God has in store for us in Minneapolis and throughout the churches of the FCA!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Sound of Silence

Sarah, Abby & I made a trip up to Breck-Wahp the other night for a ONE24 Board Meeting. On the way there the muffler began to go out. By that night the broken piece had fallen off and we ended up driving it without the muffler for about 70 miles...that little thing was LOUD! I got that fixed the next morning and then we headed back to the cities. Sarah and Abby in the Civic and me on my 1979 Suzuki 750GS (which is for sale BTW). Much like the Civic the night before, my bike doesn't have baffles so it was also very loud as I cruised down the highway at 70 mph (I wore earplugs because I knew it would be a long ride).

By the time we got to our apartment I had been exposed to so much noise for so long that I felt that the absence of it was eerily quiet. It was almost as though silence had a sound. Which made me think of how rarely we spend time in silence and enjoy it. Silence is one of the reasons I like working on things at night (although it tends to make the next mornings miserable). I feel like I can think better in silence. When I pray I like to spend time in silence asking God to speak to me, this is hard because of all the other noise in my life. In 1 Kings 19:12 God speaks to Elijah in a "gentle whisper" and not in a loud way. If God spoke to you in a gentle whisper right now, would you be able to hear Him? Or, would there be too much noise?

I want to encourage you to take some time and sit in silence with God today. See what happens. See what He speaks to your heart as you wait.

On a slightly related note, I'm sorry for the "sound of silence" here on the blog. There has been a ton going on in my life and in my thoughts that hasn't made it to the blog. :-(
You have probably wondered if I would ever post again. That was a sound of silence I don't want to practice. I switched to the Palm Pre a couple of months ago and discovered I don't really need a computer anymore :-) Consequently a lot of thoughts have been jotted down on my phone and haven't made it to the blog yet. Tonight I had a little time and figured out an easy system that I could use to get those thoughts from my head - to the Pre - to the blog quickly. Soooo...hopefully you will be hearing more then silence on this blog in the near future!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Abby's Friends

I got some pictures of some of Abby's friends before we moved and I thought I'd post them. Here they are, Abby's monkeys:
Monkey Fa, Monkey Sol, Monkey La, Monkey Si...Abby is Monkey Do...
She seems to like Monkey Si the most...I guess they're meant to be together as Monkey Si and Monkey Do...
I'm still missing Monkeys Re and Mi :-(

Here they are all together having a very harmonious time (in case you didn't get it):

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

ONE Summer Night

Are you ready for one summer night to remember? This year we're featuring Children 18:3, Kaboose, Senseless Beauty, Solace, and Sarah O'neal!

Ticket Costs:
$8.00 [in advance]
$10.00 [at the door]

*Ticket are available in Fargo and Moorhead at Family Christian Stores, Rainbow Shop and Melberg's...for other means of purchase, please call (701) 219-0918.

This show is going down rain or shine! We have an indoor auditorium available on site in case it rains.

Come early for some outdoor fun in the sun like volleyball, ultimate frisbee, etc.

For all of us who get hungry rockin' out, concessions will be available!

And, if you think you might need it, consider bringing a lawn chair along.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

way, Way...WAY More!

Sarah and I are very excited to be joining an awesome group that has launched out from Bethel Christian Fellowship in St. Paul to start a church in Minneapolis. We are currently commuting from Breckenridge on the weekends. The whole thing of launching out from this place of safety to start a church goes back to a clear impression I had of God calling us to step out of the boat, our place of safety, and take a step into the unknown where we would have to keep our eyes focused on Him. In the last several months leading up to this there have been several verses that God has used to strengthen and encourage me for the task ahead.

2 Peter 1:3 HIS divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

God's power has given us EVERYTHING we need to live for Him! Everything we need for the move. Everything we need to start a church. EVERYTHING we need for what He has called us to do!!!
One of the other passages is Ephesians 3:16-21 that says,

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do Immeasurably More than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to HIM be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
  • Immeasurably More = exceeding abundantly above = way, Way...WAY More!
Our God is Powerful...He is Awesome! If you're facing something that seems like more than you can do in your own strength, remember that it is in our weakness that we see Him move in power! In Him we have EVERYTHING we need for life! We have been allowed to participate in God's divine Presence, Power and Purpose! We need to make sure we are tapping into His power that He has for us. I know I can get distracted easily, but these verses inspire me to pursue Him passionately!!!
He wants to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine IN and THROUGH our lives!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Last Day

Today was my last day at Valley Christian Church. I've been on staff here for over 6 years! Wow, time flies when you're having fun! It was a privilege to serve at this church and with these students! I will miss everyone very much...Don't hesitate to come visit us!
Tonight Stephen Bjorlin, who will be leading the Student and Worship Ministries for the summer, opened up the mic and let students share after I had said my final words of encouragement to the group. It was a great time, sad, but nice to go out this way then the other ways Stephen mentioned he has seen happen. I was also surprised to see that Stephen had taken some group shots from over the years and framed them for Sarah and I. Then they went beyone that and the students wrote notes on a poster for us as well. I even got an awesome cookie gift from Tiffany and her mom (the cross and the Bible one in the pic)! It was a good way to say goodbye. Stephen mentioned closure, but hopefully no one gets so much closure that they don't come help us load up the truck when we find a house! :-D

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mixed Feelings

There have been lots of changes in the last several weeks and with those changes come mixed emotions. We've announced that we are moving to Minneapolis to lead a church planting team sent out from one of our sister churches. There's sadness and then anticipation as I think about leaving here (sadness) and I think about moving to Minneapolis (anticipation). In the weeks since the announcement we've looked at houses and have found really good deals only to find out they had been sold and the system wasn't updated right away. So there's anticipation and then sadness.
Here's another one for you, this week we dropped off my favorite dog in the world (Mocha) with some friends of ours. They're checking her out for a week and if they like her they will get to keep her. They're a great family and I know they will take care of her and she'll even have a buddy named Moses to play with, but the mixed emotions come into play when I am sad that she won't be a part of our lives, yet I'm happy that she will have a good family to be a part of.
Wouldn't it be easier if things were just good or just bad? :-) I know that all of that is part of the the experience that we call life, but I thought I would share what's going on in my head at 12:50 in the morning: I have sadness as I begin the process of saying goodbye to what has been our life for the last 6 years, but I also look forward with anticipation to what God "has prepared for those who love Him!"

Sunday, April 12, 2009


This Resurrection Sunday Dean shared about the facts that support the resurrection and the difference that the Resurrected Jesus can make in our lives. One phrase that jumped out at me as Dean was talking about the crucifixion, he said that "Death makes us think about life." It really stuck with me because it has been the loss of our three children that have really changed my perspective on life. Death became very real to me after that and it has transformed how I approach life now. Viewing their deaths, and my own mortality, in light of the the resurrection of Jesus brings me hope and joy for this life and for eternity!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Road Goes Ever On And On...

The Road goes ever on and on - Down from the door where it began - Now far ahead the Road has gone - And I must follow, if I can - Pursuing it with eager feet - Until it joins some larger way - Where many paths and errands meet - And whither then? I cannot say.”
Bilbo Baggins –

Over the past several months God has been showing Sarah and I that our time at Valley Christian Church was coming to an end. It has been an awesome several years here since I came as an Intern in the Winter of 2003. This year's graduation will be the 7th one that I attend here...that's a lot of cake and mints! We have been blessed to see kids in our church and community become teenagers and teenagers become adults. We have poured all we've had into this community and have been blessed to see lives touched during our time here. We have been blessed to serve alongside awesome ministry teams and leaders. Hopefully we never forget the many lessons that we've learned while serving here!

Sarah and I weren't looking to leave when the call came to join a church planting team in Minneapolis. Our first reaction was that we were honored, but weren't really looking to leave, we liked it was comfortable. At that point God began to make it clear that he actually thought we were a little too comfortable and we needed to take a step towards trusting Him more deeply. He was, in effect, asking us to "Step Out of the Boat." As Sarah and I prayed about it we realized that, even if we didn't understand how everything would fit together, it was the right time for us to take a step towards church planting that we had always wanted to do "some day."

This Sunday we took the final push off the edge of the boat and announced that we would be moving to Minneapolis this Summer to join a church planting team out of our sister church Bethel Christian Fellowship in St. Paul. We were sad to be saying goodbye, but we had a peace in our hearts and a still small voice that reassured us "this is the way, keep walking in it."

In the coming years we look forward to being a part of the lives of the students we have worked with...thanks in a great part to Facebook! We also look forward to working with the ONE24 team of leaders to see the doors open this Summer!

I believe that God is doing great things in Breck-Wahp and that He is also doing great things in Minneapolis! I am blessed to be able to participate with God in advancing His Kingdom here and now and there in the future!

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths."

Proverbs 3:5-6

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tasty Fundraiser!

I'm very excited to team up with Schwan's to help raise the money need to open ONE24. It doesn't matter where you live...YOU can help with this fundraiser AND enjoy delicious food!
Click on the image to read the details of how you can order to benefit ONE24!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I Hate Bacon

I love breakfast. It's my favorite meal. It's also the only meal of the day I know how to cook different types of food for, I think I could make pretty much any typical breakfast meal, except for bacon...I despise it! Don't get me wrong, I love eating it. It's just that I can never cook it right! It's either dried out or burnt! This morning I was making eggs and bacon for myself and managed to fill the house with smoke with the first batch of cleaned up the mess and started over...then I dropped an egg on the floor, so Mocha was volunteering to clean it up, but I got to it before her. By the time I cleaned up my mess and made my breakfast it had taken me like 40 minutes! Cereal is soo much easier :-)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

PB & J

I just thought I'd share that this last week I have gotten re-acquainted with Peanut Butter and Jelly...FASCINATING!
I'm not a big sandwich kind of guy, I prefer tacos or quesadillas, but before I was married I would eat 2 or 3 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day. Since getting married I haven't really been one to grab bread and make myself a PB&J, but this last week I've gone through about a loaf of bread by myself :-D Good stuff...I also realized that we had Apple Butter in the pantry THIS WHOLE TIME!!!
Ah the simple things in life. I like.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Tonight I'm talking about the spiritual discipline of listening to God. Many times we pray TO God, but don't take time to get to know the ways in which He speaks to us and wait to hear what He would say.

Do you find it hard to spend time in silence in the presence of God? Why?
If you have found something that has helped you, what is it?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Have you ever been to a small group where you're asked the question: what do you want people to say at your funeral? I think one of the things I would like to be known for is a generous heart towards others. Not just financially, which is the first thing we think of when we hear generosity, but in every area of life. I believe that if we have received freely we should give freely and God will bless that because when we do that we are bearing His image in a way that honors Him.
This week we have been going through a terrible time here in the Red River Valley. The snow was melting and the process was accelerated by unusually warm days and then rain. So, we almost flooded here. We're not past the danger yet, but it has been a lot better then many feared. We prayed for a miracle and we saw it.
One of the things that has stood out to me and affirmed to me that we are all God's image-bearers whether we know it or not, was the generosity with which the people in this community gave of their time, effort, and resources to help others in need. I'm sure there are mixed reasons why everyone helped fight the flood, but ultimately I think the compassion and heroic effort that rises up within each person can be traced back to God's heart for humanity. I was very encouraged to see how the Body of Christ and the rest of this community came together to serve for the common good! The areas North of us are not past the danger yet, so they need our prayer and support too and I know that they will get it because, whether aware of unaware, we all bear the image of God to some degree. So, if you know you do, then let your light shine during these dark times with your good works so that others can see that and praise your Father in heaven!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Survey Says...

In the last couple of days I did a survey using everything from Facebook to text messages to live conversations to help me see what everyone struggles with when reading or studying the Bible. The 3 things that seemed to emerge from my unofficial survey are that people struggle with:

  1. Making the Time
  2. Staying Focused
  3. Not understanding It

Thank you ALL for your honesty and cooperation in this. It turns out I'm not alone in my struggle!The good news here is that most everyone that shared a struggle also shared some things that have helped them overcome it, so here are some of the responses:

How to get more out of studying the Bible:

  • Pray before you start (and some said after too so that it sticks with you)
  • MAKE the Time - Setting a specific time of day was helpful to stay consistent (morning, before bed, etc.).
  • Set the Tone - It may be candles or it may simply be going to a room away from your TV, computer and cell phone so they don't distract you...or at least closing Facebook down ("gasp!") :-)
  • Read it Like a Book - You wouldn't read your favorite novel one page at a time, why do that to the Bible? It's harder to follow the storyline if you break it up into such tiny pieces. One very helpful thing here is to check and make sure your version reads easy enough for you! If you can't understand the wording look for a different version. Another thing that may help you stay focused and keep reading is to listen to it while you read, there are even dramatized versions like The Bible Experience that can really help you enter the story.
  • Dig Deeper - Those who found themselves getting confused or bored were helped by taking the time to dig deeper on the passages that confused them. Take the time to read good introductions to each book so you know the context and background. Don't be afraid to use a Bible Dictionary or Commentary to help you figure it out. There are some amazing truths waiting for you if you take the time to uncover the mystery of what is perplexing you! Another thing you can do as you dig deeper is to highlight what stands out to you and then go back over it to meditate on it. You can always go to the Blue Letter Bible or to Bible Gateway to search things you are trying to understand. Then if you have questions that come up about faith you can also read some stuff here to help you find answers.
  • Switch it Up - If you're already in the habit of studying the Bible you may just need to switch things up a little to give you a fresh perspective on it. Maybe you switch where or when you spend time with God. Or maybe you switch your version for a year. Personally, I'm looking forward to reading through The Message translation next year. This year I'm on the English Standard Version.
  • Work with Others - Another great insight you all had was to work with others to help you stay motivated and also to help you gain insight that you wouldn't have on your own. Some ideas were to read with others or to be reading at the same pace as others so you had the same things to talk about and encourage each other in (like you might need someone to encourage you to make it through Leviticus or Job). Another idea was to discuss the Bible in a small group of friends to help you keep growing.
Thank you all for your help in discovering ways to GROW in our relationship with God through studying the Bible.

My next question I would like your input on:
Do you find it hard to spend time in silence in the presence of God? Why/Why not?
What have you found has helped you?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bible Reading

Sarah and I are both reading our Bibles in chronological order this year. It's not really that hard if you stay on task...We both fell behind when Abby was born and we have been trying to catch up ever since!
I've tried different things over the years, but it has turned out that I have read through the Bible one year and then I have focused on a specific part of it the next year (like the New Testament or the Gospels, etc.). I try to switch versions in order to get a fresh view of what it is saying. Last year I focused on studying through the NT in the New Living Translation. This year I am reading through the whole Bible in the English Standard Version and I am enjoying it the nuances it has over the NIV. I think that next year I might try reading The Message translation.

Here's are my questions:
  • What is the hardest thing for you about reading and studying the Bible? What do you struffle the most with?
  • What are some things that you have tried that have helped you in that area or in others areas of Bible study?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Greater Things

God has blessed me so much! I have a wonderful family, an amazingly awesome wife, and a beautiful miracle of a daughter. God has done exceedingly above all that I could have asked or imagined! I find myself randomly smiling throughout the day when I think of Abby. She really is the meaning of her name, "a father's joy" or another way to look at it "the joy of the Father." Even though I could not have imagined this stage of life a couple of years ago when we were going through losses...God was preparing us for Abby. There is a tremendous joy and appreciation in my heart for the privilege it is to have Abby in our lives because of everything that we went through. God was preparing us for what He had for us. Now I am filled with Joy and it makes me think of the fact that we cannot fully appreciate joy if we do not endure suffering.

The song and the phrase "Greater Things" has been stuck in my mind for the last several weeks. Here's where that's coming from: 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 and John 14:12-14. There are two things that have just stuck with me from those verses:

The first is that, and you can quote me on this one, "God will prepare you for what He has prepared for you."
The second, is that we have NO idea what God has prepared for those who LOVE Him! There's so much more in these two passages, but for now suffice it to say that I truly believe that God has GREATER THINGS for each of us than what we have experienced (in terms of relationship to Him, to others, and His overall plan for us) IF we LOVE Him.

I recognize that this is where we struggle...Loving Him. It's easy to get excited about the things that God has for us to do and His plan for our lives, but those greater things flow from a loving relationship and not from striving...from being and not from doing.

I am persuaded that God will do exceedingly above all that we can ask or imagine when we make it our goal to pursue Him! My desire is to seek His Face and not His Hand...His Presence, not His Power.

I want to share a song with you that has been in my heart since early October when I first heard it:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rated R

We just finished our 5 part series at Radiate (our Wednesday night student ministry)

(Thanks to friends from DC Metro for the graphic!)
We established that Relationships are very important to God and He is very interested in a friendship with us and cares deeply about how we relate to those around us (1 John 4:11)...He actually wants us to have GOOD relationships! (go figure!)

1st we talked about MAKING friends and how you need to ACCEPT others (Romans 15:7) can do that because "God doesn't matter if other people reject you!" So go out there and accept other people, even if they're different then you! On the 2nd week we talked about MAINTAINING Relationships and how one of the biggest reasons people lose relationships is because of selfishness, so the solution is to be SELFLESS, you can do this by choosing to SERVE others (Philippians 2:3-5)!

The 3rd week we talked about MENDING Relationships. What can you do to mend a relationship that has been hurt? We talked about the common problem is that we never address the issue and instead we end the friendship and tell everyone else about it. A starting place for Mending relationships is to FORGIVE the other person (we can forgive because Christ forgave us!)...and if you are the one that did something wrong, go seek THEIR forgiveness by apologizing sincerely. Once you have Forgiven you are more able to go to the other person and talk out the problem instead of telling everyone else about it (Ephesians 4:25-32). Our 4th week was perfectly timed to coincide with Valentines day :-) and we talked about finding a Matching Relationship. The truth is that God has an awesome plan for your life and he cares deeply about who you end up with (Jeremiah 29:11-13). That is the 2nd most important decision you will make in your life!!! I think He'll make sure you know when it's the right time and right person! The key here is to TRUST that in fact He does have a good plan for you and that His ways are better then yours (Proverbs 3:5-6)! When looking for that "Matchless Match" you want to make sure you stay aligned with God's standards (some of which would be purity and unity in belief, values, and direction).
  • We got to watch the CLASSIC clip from Fiddler on the Roof, "Matchmaker"
  • The Skit Guys helped us remember not to lower our standards with their hilarious video called "Need Harmony"
Finally, tonight we talked about Maturing Relationships...By continuing to practice the principles from before with those in our lives (Accepting, Serving, Forgiving, and Trusting God) and then BUILDING OTHERS UP. We took some time along to look at these verses and what they say about Growing Up in our relationships to others (you can click on the link to read the verses for yourself)

James 4:11-12Don't speak evil. James 5:9 – Don't grumble against each other. 1 Peter 1:22 – Show sincere love and love each other deeply from the heart. 1 Peter 3:8 – Be of like mind, sympathize with one another. Be humble. Tenderhearted. Love like family. 1 Peter 4:9-10 Be hospitable (food and housing). Use gifts we have to serve others. 1 Peter 5:5 Serve others. Submit to elders. James 5:16 Confess to each other. Pray for each other. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 Love others abundantly. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Encourage and build each other up. Hebrews 10:24 Help motivate others to love and good works. Hebrews 10:25 Meet together and encourage others to come. 1 John 3:11, 3:23, 4:7, 4:11-12 Love one another! 2 John 1:5-6 Love one another! Galatians 5:13 Use your freedom to serve others. Galatians 5:26 Don't be conceited, provoking, or jealous. Galatians 6:2 Help others with their life's burdens. Philippians 2:3-4 DON'T be selfish or try to impress others. DO: humbly think of others and their needs. Romans 12:10 Make it a point to honor each other. Romans 12:15 Be sympathetic with what others are going through! Romans 12:16 Don't be proud: accept others, even if they're different! Romans 13:8 Don't be in debt to your friends! Show them love instead! Romans 14:13 Don't condemn others! Watch how you walk so you don't cause them to fall! Romans 14:19 Aim for harmony! Try to build each other up! Romans 15:5 Ask God for help in living in harmony with each other! Romans 15:7 Accept each other as Christ accepts you! Ephesians 4:2-3 Be humble, gentle, patient. Make EVERY effort to remain united through peace! Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another. Colossians 3:9-10 Don't lie! Become like Christ! Colossians 3:12-13 Be merciful, kind, forgiving, patient, gentle, and humble. Colossians 3:15-16 Live in peace. Be thankful. Teach and counsel each other with God's wisdom!

Thank You ALL for a great series and for the ways you help make Wednesday and Sundays possible!

I'm looking forward to learning more with y'all as we take this year to GROW in wisdom, stature and in favor with God and all people (Luke 2:52)!

Monday, February 9, 2009

New Baby = Shifts

As you may already know, it's hard to get some sleep when there's a newborn in the house. I find myself looking up and realizing the day is already gone! I guess that's how the infant stage is: trying to keep up with all that's going on. Which kind of reminds me that it's that way at anything you start or launch, you spend that first stage filled with joy and adrenaline that carries you through the long days and nights involved in launching a new stage of life, work, or ministry.

In order to remain sane a few natural shifts emerged. So far I've taken every first part of the night, like 9 or 10 until 1:30 or 3...hopefully sooner tonight, I'm exhausted! Then if Abigail woke up Bonnie Jean would watch her for the rest of the night. And during the day Jerry and the rest of us would watch her as needed.

Night Shift

Day Shift

Guy Shift

(Playing Wii Mario Kart AND keeping Abby asleep at the same time! We sure can multi-task!)

It's such a joy to have Abby in our lives!!! We've waited so long for this...even for the late nights! :-) The Lord Hears! Even as God miraculously brought us this child in answer to prayer and in alignment with His desires, I believe that God is about to "birth" other areas of ministry that have been several years in preparation for this time of our lives which will lead to more shifts in the way we live life! The Lord Hears.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

First Family Portrait!

Happy Parents!

"What are YOU lookin' at?!"

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Well, it's been a long several days...longer for Sarah then for me though...but it's been an AWESOME day! Today at 2:53 PM Sarah and I became parents of a beautiful little girl that weighed in at 8 lbs and 13 oz. named Abigail Hope. We've just met her and already she has brought joy and a fulfillment of hope to our lives. Thank you God! Words can't express the gratitude in my heart!

Sarah did amazing during the whole thing (she's my hero!) putting up with 72 hours of regular contractions and no sleep and finally having to go through a C-Section to get the baby out (she was looking up instead of down so she would never have made it out!) and now we have a precious baby girl that God has given to us. The Bible says that He who promised is faithful and He will do what He promises! There's an awesome story behind that, but you'll have to wait to hear it later on here and on Sarah's blog...speaking of which, you can also go there to see some pictures of Abigail Hope Snyder and more:

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Now we're talking! "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

Thank you Stew Carson for the link to this video.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Tonight I am staying up as late as I can so that tomorrow I can sleep in as late as possible because at 3 p.m. we are taking a van load of students across the state of MN to Duluth for a 12 hour Blitz with about 300 others students. There will be a rally, bowling, snow tubing, movies, basketball, and an indoor rock climbing wall! Then at 7 a.m. we will turn around and drive back. Fortunately Pastor Dean will be helping us drive back after spending the night in his warm and comfy bed. I sure hope I can make it through Saturday with whatever sleep I get in the passenger seat!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!
Tonight we were able to celebrate the conclusion of 2008 with some friends. Tomorrow we will be celebrating the New Year with my Grandparents, Dean, and some out of town friends that are stopping by in the afternoon.

As I look back over 2008 I see some pretty amazing things where God has shown his miraculous provision and faithfulness. Here are some of the things that come to mind right away:
  • We are expecting a child!
  • We were able to visit all of our family members this year!
  • We had awesome experiences with Radiate Student Ministries and have seen lives changed by God and that makes it all worth it.
  • I was blessed to help speak or lead worship at a variety of events.
  • I was able to work with many awesome people who have been doing construction on ONE24 and we continue to get closer...It looks nothing like it did at this time last year!
  • Together with Justin, I was able to share the vision of unified ministry (ONE Alliance Developments) with multiple churches in our community (every time I was either preaching or leading worship the same Sunday at my church too so tag-team preaching worked very well for us!)
  • Our church sadly saw our Pastor of 9 years move on to help with a church plant...there was joy in seeing them go do what God has called them to do, but sadness in their moving 3 hours away. But God places His people in His Church as HE sees fit and HE knows what He's building.
  • I was the only pastor at our church for 4 months (and survived juggling school, summer camps, and all of my other church and para-church responsibilities only by the Grace of God!)
  • Our church successfully navigated a healthy pastoral transition! We are looking forward to what God has in store for us in 2009.
  • Ate at Qdoba & Chipotle more times than any other year (praise God!) :-)
  • Shot 2 hole-in-ones playing frisbee golf (2 different courses...real significat and life-changing, I know :-)
  • Helped shingle a roof with my Dad, Mom, and Sister...that was a VERY crazy week!
  • Had a wonderful weekend hanging out on the North Shore with my wife.
  • I lost all of the data from my laptop right after I had organized all of my files just the way I wanted them and was a couple days from backing everything up on DVDs...which caused me to buy an external harddrive to make complete backups easier so I would do them regularly...great choice!
  • Was diagnosed as having "the lungs of a 70 year old"...I guess that explains the wheezing! That was followed by much prayer and medication. I feel as though I'm breathing easier now then I ever have in my life!
  • Helped Sarah with decorating ideas for our baby ?????'s room (don't try to figure out the name based on the characters, it was random). Lots of sanding on my part and a lot MORE painting from Sarah.
  • Tried for the first time in 2008: played cribbage, Trivial Pursuit, and Wii Mario Kart (and loved it). Bought a motorcycle (good times) and an Ebow (still learning to use it). Saw Toby Mac in concert (AMAZING), met the great Tom Netherton of Lawrence Welk fame, and went to an amazing Whintley Phipps concert with my wife and grandparents. I went ice skating, and survived! Finally, I attempted to lead some worship songs while playing the guitar, bass drum, snare drum, and singing (that was fun, but definitely "interesting"...I probably would say that leading from the bass is still harder than that though),
Looking Ahead: I believe that 2009 will be a year of INCREASE! I'm expecting a great year...maybe a year of Multiplication? Or maybe the word is growth or fruitfulness? I don't know...maybe that's just because we're having a baby :-) I'll be working on some resolutions that I feel God might set as challenges for me, my family, and our ministries tomorrow morning. I'll update when I have some of it.