Monday, September 15, 2014

Sermon 9/14/2014 - How Do You See Yourself?

How we see ourselves is a crucial issue that dictates our ability to give and receive love to both God and others.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Questions Before the Holidays (Even Though It’s September!)

Some of you may have read the title of this piece and said to yourself, “Holidays?! It’s only September! We have plenty of time before we start having to deal with the holidays!” On the one hand, yes, you’re right! Thanksgiving is a few months away, however we’ve learned that now is just about the right time to start having some conversations to have the best holiday season your family can have. (Case in point: Melissa’s father and Jake’s mom have both asked about our Thanksgiving and Christmas plans already!)

Here are some important holiday expectations to start talking about now:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Surviving Vacation

It’s summer—the time of year when most of us ministry workaholics finally take a vacation. And while vacations are supposed to be times of relaxation, rest, and rejuvenation, they can often become just the opposite. Especially if you have kids! During our nine years of marriage we’ve experienced some awesome vacations, and plenty of hellish ones, too. (Once, we spent an entire week in Florida with another couple, all puking our guts out together. There was a trip to the hospital…it was kind of epic.)

So what can you do to make sure your time away is as enjoyable and restful as possible?

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Why I Won't Sign the Gordon College Petition

Gordon College president
D. Michael Lindsay.
This past week my Facebook feed erupted with status and comments about the recent letter sent to the White House by Christian leaders requesting religious exemption in regards to hiring GLBT individuals. The reason it was so prominent on my feed was due to the fact that my alma mater was front and center in the letter, as Gordon College's President, D. Michael Lindsay was one of the signees. Numerous students took to Facebook to share their opinions, and soon enough an online petition surfaced that asks Lindsay to rescind his name from the letter. Around the same time, Lindsay responded himself to the criticism with a letter on Gordon's website. (Updated 7/14/14: The Trustees of Gordon College have also since sent a letter to the student body.)

With all of this, I have been silent on my thoughts so far other than private conversations with my wife (also a Gordon alum). However, as I have wrestled with my own thoughts and gone back and forth, I can't fight the nagging push to throw my two cents into the conversation.

One of my first observations, is that (at least in my Facebook feed) all of the comments concerning this issue have been posted along with an article that was in The Boston Globe and I haven't seen one person post a link to the actual letter written by Lindsay and the other Christian leaders. Which leads me to a question: if you haven't read the actual letter in it's entirety and are solely basing your response from a skewed article pushing an agenda, how is that responsible? If you sent an email to a friend, and then that friend took two lines out of your email and wrote a blog about it presenting you in a certain light, and then others started painting you in a certain light based on those two lines being taken out of the context of the whole, you'd be pissed! And you should be!!

I am not for one second saying that everyone has to agree with Lindsay's decision to include his name on the letter, however I am suggesting that if you haven't even read the original letter to the White House, to go and read that before saying anything else. Perhaps you will find that your response actually doesn't fit with the original text and instead is responding to something out of context and skewed by a media outlet with an agenda. And you know what, perhaps you will read the full letter and still feel the exact same way, which is fine and leads me to me next observation.

One of the things that I love about the religious freedom in this country is the ability to disagree with one another. For those of you who know me or have my Facebook statuses pop un in their feeds will know that I love debating and discussing theology. I just wrote an entire curriculum for students based around the idea of helping them explore their faith and come to their own conclusions about theology. And at the core of it, is the idea that I think it is more healthy for faith development to have a student disagree with me on a theological opinion, but be able to articulate and defend their position. This opposed to being able to regurgitate the "correct" answer that I have taught them out of my own opinions.

This same thing is one of the things that I loved about my time at Gordon. I loved the fact that Gordon didn't just accept students from the exact denominational background. Heck, it would have made things a lot easier to put everyone with the exact same beliefs on the same Christian campus, but it wouldn't have been better. A very large part of cementing my faith and current views was the debate that took place during meals, in classes and during late night conversations in Gillies about baptism, GLBT, communion, dancing, swearing, men bouncing their eyes versus women covering up, and more. And, again, I loved that people (for the most part in my experience) were able to disagree with one another on certain issues, sometimes very loudly, and yet not lose their friendship over it.

While I was a student at Gordon, I had the amazing privilege of spending a few days with John Perkins, a civil rights leader and racial reconciliation activist who worked hand in hand with Martin Luther King Jr. The biggest takeaway I took from our time was how he viewed the issue of tolerance. Numerous times he told me, "True tolerance is: you believe what you believe, I'll believe what I believe and we won't kill each other." Now keep in mind the context that is coming from. It is from the heart of racial discrimination, of African Americans being treated as less than human. I was blown away that here was a core leader, who watched (not literally as far as I know) his friend be assassinated for his beliefs, take this strong position of saying that segregation and racial prejudice was wrong, yet at the time allow for people to have a differing opinion on it.

It is with this in mind why I won't be signing the petition going around and I would strongly consider others to think through what their signature really means. In my opinion (and you are free to disagree), when you read the original letter, and you read Lindsay's response, the intention isn't about taking away GLBT rights or asking for permission to discriminate. Yes, it does impact that discussion about the school hiring GLBT staff or allowing openly GLBT students to attend. But I think that is an entirely different debate, one that I am all in favor of people fighting if that is what you believe. 

However, what I hear in the letter is a petition for religious freedom, asking for the allowance and freedom to interpret Scriptures, to determine how those Scriptures dictate right and wrong, which then impacts how we live. I hear a letter asking the President of the United States, to allow for the religious freedom to disagree with others. The mere fact that you have the freedom to sign the petition in the first place and to speak your mind about your theological conclusions concerning GLBT issues, again in my opinion, is the exact thing that Lindsay and the others are going after.

And let's please keep that in mind too: there are others who signed this letter. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and author of Purpose Driven Life. Gabe Lyons of Q Ideas, Andy Crouch of Christianity Today, and Jenny Yang of World Relief. So if you do decide to take a strong stance of Lindsay's decision to sign this letter, please make sure your response is consistent. Boycott your local bookstore to get rid of copies of Purpose Driven Life. Cancel your subscription to Christianity Today. Stop giving money to World Relief. By all means you have the right do do all those things and disagree with how all of these organizations interpret Scripture.

However, by signing the petition, again it is my opinion, that you are fighting to have your right to disagree taken away. This time, you may find yourself on the winning side and feel you have gained a victory in freedom of expression. However what happens when the issue tomorrow is the right to believe that Christ is the only way to God (as he says in John 14:6)? Or the week after when the issue is about the freedom to worship openly? Or next month when a Christian church's right to deny hiring a Muslim Imam as their pastor is legally questioned?

Yes, I know there are so many other facets of the GLBT debate and conversation...however, again in my opinion, that is that is exactly the debate that Lindsay and these other leaders are trying to protect. They want and welcome you to have different opinions, however they are asking for the same liberty and freedom they are fighting for you to have. To disagree with your opinion.

And that's something I can't help but agree with.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sermon 6/22/14 - What Makes Someone An Adult

What does it really mean to be an adult? Being financially independent? Having a job? Having a GOOD job? According to some of the leading phycologists and sociologists, it really can be boiled down to one main thing. And unfortunately, the struggle to embrace that one thing dates all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sermon 6/15/14 - What Should I Do With My Life?

During our teen years, a lot is being done to plan for our future, pad our college resumes and figure out what we want to do with our lives. Where does Jesus play into this picture and would God ever ask you to do something you don't want to?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer = Serving Everyone But…

For most youth workers, the start of summer ushers in a different pace of life for our families and ministries. Some of us experience a huge increase in activities and events, even as our own children get out of school and expect to have time to relax. Suddenly, our families have an increasing need for our time, while day trips, music festivals, missions trips, summer camps, vacation bible schools, and students demand our attention at work.

In the midst of all this summer season chaos, it’s difficult to strike a healthy balance between work and home life. And what we’ve noticed over the years, is that it seems to be much easier for us youth workers to increase the ways we serve our churches during the summer, than it is for us to serve our families.

What we mean is this: As the schedule is being planned, how do you divvy up your time between ministry and family? In any given week, what takes more of a priority?

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sermon 6/1/14 - The Bible and Technology

Technology is only going to more quickly develop and change. What does the Bible have to say about our technology use? We can actually learn a lot from rocks and bricks...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What is the Right Age to Start Dating?

I have the privilege of working with an AWESOME group of youth workers in Fairfield County. This past year, we started doing joint events together and the response has been amazing. During our last event of the school year, we did an event on Love, Dating and Breakups and I got to speak on the dating piece.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sermon 5/18/14 - The Power of Prayer

As James closes off his letter, he discusses the power of prayer. What exactly is prayer though and how do we handle James' seeming promise that if you ask for prayer when you are sick, you WILL be healed.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Power of Staying

Serving in ministry is a mixture of ups and downs—just like life. There are hilltop moments when students are responding to Christ, parents are happy, and the staff seems to be getting along…and there are valleys where criticisms spring up on what feels like a never-ending loop, students struggle, and you feel undervalued and on the verge of burnout.

In the past 12 years of ministry life, we’ve experienced both extremes—and everything in the middle—and have wrestled with a “grass is greener” mentality many times. The urge to run is a normal human response to adversity, especially when you feel like you’re giving your best and it’s never enough.

There are times when the wisest, healthiest thing to do is to step away from a particular ministry or job, but there is also great health and peace to be found when you stay put and stick it out...

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sermon 5/4/14 - How We Handle Our Money

Is having money and lots of stuff a bad thing? James starts chapter 5 by warning the rich about their wealth. But what does the warning actually entail and who does it apply to?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Growing in Your Faith Together

Before our second Valentine’s Day after we started dating (see throwback photo on the left!), I (Jake) had purchased a present that I was ecstatic about. I couldn’t even contain my excitement enough to make it to February 14, so after some begging and my best impression of puppy dog eyes, Melissa gave in to getting her present a day early. I ran up to my dorm room, grabbed the carefully wrapped box and sprinted back down to Melissa so she could open it and I could await the praise I had coming…

“You got me a Bible Commentary for Valentine’s Day!? Did you not get any of the hints I had dropped about jewelry?”

This was not the reaction Jake had hoped for. His goal of the gift had been to encourage Melissa in her walk with God and give us a tool we could use to do devotional times together and have deeper conversations. A fight ensued about how insulted and offended Jake was versus how unromantic and stupid the gift was for Valentine’s Day. (Jake now can admit Melissa was right…) This then lead into a different debate about what spending time with God as a couple looked like.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sermon 4/6/2014 - Planning for the Future

What role should planning have in our lives as a Christ follower? And according to the Bible, is planning actually a bad thing?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It's All About Semantics

A few months back, (before the Polar Vortex became a thing) Jake decided he would buzz his hair. It would be cool during the summer, easier to deal with on his upcoming missions trip, and it would avoid a trip to the barber, something Jake has always hated to pay for.

He shaved most of it himself and then asked Melissa to, “Come out and do the back.” Melissa quickly stuck the baby in a pack ‘n play, strapped our son into his high chair, and came out to help. She was hurried, but tried to do exactly as Jake asked. The resulting “do” ended up as the picture on your right. We very quickly realized we had two different definitions of the phrase “do the back”. Jake had meant the edge of the back, whereas Melissa thought he wanted her to buzz the entire back of his head on a lower setting.

Most marriage resources say that communication is a key component to all relationships, but not many deal with semantics.

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