Friday, August 16, 2013

10 Years and Counting...

Last Friday Courtney and I enjoyed our 10th wedding anniversary... To celebrate I threw a secret (to Courtney) party and vow “renewal” (If you had the chance to attend and wanted to see the photo-area pics click here)!!  To my excitement, she said ‘yes’… Again!!

Leading up to the anniversary I spent a lot of time in reflection to what I wanted to do for a gift… Though we have never been big on presents for each other on specials occasions, a 10th wedding anniversary calls for a little something-something!!  Though 10 years is not as numerous as many couples we know, Courtney and I have always had a desire that our marriage (and now-a-days family) would be an encouragement to others.  I do not share that as a, “we’ve never fought and married life has been perfect” or even trying to put our lives on “pedestals” to others, however, God has called us (believers) to be an example of loving community and a reflection of Christ himself.  In the book of Ephesians 5 (a letter written by Paul to a community of believers in Ephesus) he dedicates several powerful and difficult sentences to couples and how we should act in marriage if we are followers of Christ. 

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

If it ends there, it seems both unfair to the ladies and extremely difficult.  Over the years, especially in pre-marital mentoring I’ve done, I’ve heard so much rejection and misunderstanding to this passage.  We (not just women but as a culture) get so hung up on this word “submission.”  In the land of the free “why do we have to submit to anyone” or “so I’m supposed to mindlessly obey to my own detriment”!?  If that was the only verses in the passage you have a leg to stand on and let me apologize to anyone that has used the above verses to argue or dominant a household… That is wrong (as we put it into context with the next nine verses: 3 verses to women & 9 verses to men)!

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church - for we are members of his body.  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Did you catch it!?  After reading this passage I always ask the question: “How hard would it be to submit to someone who cares for you more than themselves and would literally die for you?”  What do you think?  That’s true freedom… to put our love, trust and submission in someone that loves us more than their own life and daily puts their needs behind ours!!  P.S. that’s the gospel… to put our faith in one who can actually do the work for the payment we owe and out of thanksgiving follow!!  However, please do not get confused… Our spouses can never pay the ultimate sacrifice necessary for our sin.  Only God can do that and He has through His Son: Jesus!  Our spouses make terrible gods and even worse saviors!! 

Christian couples are given a heavy standard to live by: Wives submit to your husbands & Husbands love your wives like Christ loves the Church!  So… How are we doing!?  Fellas, how are you doing this week at putting your wife and family’s needs before your own?  How are we doing loving them the way they need love and not the way we think they want?  Ladies, how are you doing following his lead?  Are you praying that he could lead with conviction, spirit filled and love?

Though I do not want to point you to our marriage as THE example, I would love for you to be encouraged that it is possible to have a marriage that strives to bring God honor.  It is possible… to not just exist but be happy, to not just get through the years but love the memories, to not just stay together but to honor each other!! 

The Secret: Marriage is a Covenant not a Contract!!  We are called to love and honor each other daily not because “they did their part” but because we made a promise to them AND GOD however many years ago!! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An Unlikely Source of Wisdom

Did you see this video?  Did you hear what Ashton, I mean Chris Kutcher said?  Did you see the Teen Choice video?  Those were the questions that flooded my inbox this week in regards to an acceptance speech delivered during the 2013 Teen Choice Awards.

Now, given the audience that I think typically reads this blog, I'm assuming that most of you completely missed the Teen Choice Awards Sunday!!  As a Family Pastor focused on High School students and their families I don't always catch these events live but I do keep a pulse on them to know what's going on in youth culture.  This particular event boasted "150 million votes" and over hundreds of thousands of views on each of the videos they have post from the live performances.

So Jeff, why are you asking us about whether we watched the Teen Choice Awards!?  It all has to do with truth.  And though this specific person (Ashton Kutcher) didn't say "Jesus"... He did give some incredible wisdom to an audience that resembles, if not IS, our kids!!  Before I go on, please take 4 minutes and watch this video:

Can't view it? Try clicking on this link: Ashton Kutcher Acceptance Speech

Three things Chris learned before he became Ashton: Opportunity - Being Sexy - Living Life!!  

At first glance it seems like every other "Star"with the exception that he told us from a stage his real name and said he feels like a "fraud".  But that first insert should have been enough for us to listen a little deeper (something the teenage girls in the audience didn't pick up on)!  

As Chris/Ashton goes on he explains his three things:
- Opportunity looks a lot like work: "I didn't quit my job until I had another one"
- Being Sexy is actually being Smart... Thoughtful... Generous
- Don't live a life but build one

Ummm... WOW!!  This is NOT the typical message we get from Hollywood and honestly not even the message we have heard from the young actor in the past 10 years.  So what changed?  Why the sudden insight for his 100% Jesus?  I have no clue for him but I know what the ultimate answer is for all of us: The Gospel (Romans 6:23)!!

My encouragement this week, if you have teens or tweens, is to watch the video and talk about the message he shared.  What an incredible launching point for great conversation of having a point to this life.  What an even better opportunity to dig deeper and show our kids where such wisdom truly comes from... the Bible (Examples: Work Hard: Colossians 3:23, Be Smart: Proverbs 19:20, Build a Life: John 10:10)!!  If you do not have tweens or teens, what did you think of his advice?  Did you connect with any of his points?  What can you glean this week from those three truths?

Tips for Swimming...

Recently I read a swimming article for parents that stated: "If your kid is anxious about staying afloat, these tips will ease her into action."  Sounded like a good read so I skimmed on!!  I was excited and amused to see their bullet points and how they were completely transferable for parents personally and to engage their own kids with 'the Mission'.

- "Learn the Basics"
"You can either teach your kid yourself or hire a swim instructor. 'In lessons, kids focus on proper technique, and then Mom and Dad can focus on play.'"  At New Beginnings we want to come alongside you (the parent) in the discipleship process.  This means we want to help with ideas, equipping and even just be a sounding board to listen.  We also would be honored to be apart of your child/students life to help with some of the instruction of the basics so you can focus on how they apply to everyday life.  This is why at all of our NBFamily ministries we provide information about what we are studying on Sundays and Wednesday not to mention some take home guides to follow-up with the 'basics' that were taught about their faith.  Our prayer is that while you incorporate those tools it could transition into a consistent "Faith Talk" each week (a time you set aside and take just a few minutes to connect with the Bible and then an age appropriate activity to solidify it to their (and your) mind)!!  Be on the look-out for the brand new 14-week faith talk tool (walking through the 12 major events of the Bible) launching after labor day AND ministry specific Family Equipping taking place each Sunday morning in W301 (more details to follow).

- "Forget the Floaties"
"Not only can they give him a false sense of security, but they discourage proper form because they force his body to be vertical instead of horizontal in the water."  This principle is amazing!!  We often use "crutches" to do specific tasks thinking it will make us more efficient or better in some way.  At the time it seems all well and good but after awhile we realize our need for the crutch and often find ourselves farther from the original goal.  A big example for me was my phone... I remember very vividly when I got my first iPhone.  I was amazed as the days went by using this new device that would keep my calendar and answer my calls (no more palmpilot folks).  It could store thousands of contacts and hours of music but one day it froze up.  After hours of testing, it landed on the desk of a "Genius."  Though they could replace it for me at small price of $250 there were a couple other things we could try first.  What was crazy is over the next MILLION YEARS (couple days) as my phone was on the fritz, I realized a lot of things had changed:  I couldn't listen to "my songs" on my way to work or while working out, Some e-mails I had saved because of the content were unaccessible, I no longer remembered phone numbers (I had stopped memorizing them since they were saved in contacts), There was nothing to do while going the bathroom (don't lie, you take your phone in with you too), etc.  My iPhone, though so helpful in many areas had become a crutch and actually put me in a worse position on many things and I didn't even notice until it was gone.  What are the "floaties" you are putting on your kids or yourself (Is it: Making summer camp or VBS but never during year? Memorization of Bible facts but no understanding of the Gospel? Pushing baptism before they're ready? A salvation moment but no life change? Etc.)!?

- "Take the Plunge"
"Go ahead and carry your child into shallow water -- even if she's kicking and screaming." Often I have seen kids and students make choices and sometimes not make choices that dictate the whole families situation.  What I like about this point is that it can be taken either way: Maybe your son or daughter is needing a little encouragement to get connected or plugged in, maybe they have no desire to get involved, maybe they just don't want to go to church at all?  Will you do me a favor... before you give up will you do the following three steps: 
1) Please, let myself and the other NBFamily Pastors know!!  We would love to be praying for you, encouraging you and looking for more intentional ways to get them a solid connecting point.  
2) Urge them to come three times to a specific program (Yes, even if it's "kicking and screaming").  I know this is a big ask but it has a proven track record if started and encouraged at home!  If you can get them there three times it will be our job to keep them coming!!  
3) Personally get involved in some capacity at New Beginnings.  The fact is, often kids do what they see their parents do.  If parents are just dropping kids off each wednesday at church, consistently skipping sunday morning worship to do other things or just too busy to actually be in a small group... THE KIDS WILL FOLLOW SUIT!!  Please consider getting into a D-Group this fall (brand new groups start next Sunday, Sept. 8th.  Click here for more info

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Do you have “dates” with your daughter?

It may not be officially "summertime" but this is Oklahoma and the weather doesn't get much better than this... And with that, what are you doing with your time?  

The Berg's love getting out together (Not to mention Berg Family Fun Nights)... And Court and I LOVE having "Daddy-Daughter"/"Mommy-Son" Dates!!  Do you!?

((Here's a pic from a recent Daddy-Daughter Date to Claire's))
*A lot of dads like the idea, but they don’t know where to start. Here's a quick blurb from dad and blogger Jay Payleitner.  

Here is Jay’s simple advice for that challenge: Enter her world and enjoy your time together.

Jay continues: “You can’t force deep, meaningful, life-changing conversations. But if you keep showing up … they’ll happen. And you’ll be glad you were there.” Click here to keep reading the blog.

Jay provides about a hundred different great ideas you can carry out with your daughter at her age—and I know at least some of them will be great with sons, too.

Jay’s bottom line:
“The primary purpose of dating your daughter is making memories and cementing your lifetime connection. But there’s another huge benefit to showing up on time, opening her car door, treating her with respect, and handling any mishaps with grace and a smile... You’re modeling for your daughter the way any boy should act when she goes out on any date at any time.

Also, I think one of Jay’s suggestions will really surprise you: “In the middle of your time together, hope something goes terribly wrong.” More ...

Since every father-child relationship is different, what ideas do you have to add? Maybe you can help another dad bond with his child. What are your secrets?

*Excerpts taken from Carey Casey (CEO of National Center for Fathering) post.

A Heart for Haiti

On the way home from church a week ago today, I was driving and chatting with the kids about their evening, when out of nowhere, Jackson said, “if I add my first name and the second part of my middle name, my name would be Johnson.”  Seemingly an innocent comment, however, it sent waves down my spine and memory. 

You see, in the summer of 2011 I held a little boy that in the depths of my soul I wanted to call my own.  His name? Johnson.  We were in Haiti on our second mission trip near Port au Prince.  We happened upon an orphanage called Thagami. While there, we met Johnson, and that is also where a piece of my heart has remained ever since.  I had fallen in love with Haiti in the spring of 2003 on our first trip there, but I fell in love with it even more and more with each trip we’ve taken since.

“Haiti” is not a foreign word in our home.  Often our children will pray for Haiti, for our sponsor child there, for food and shelter for the people.  There isn’t a day that goes by that Jeff and I aren’t thinking, talking or praying about Haiti and it’s people.  It seems our kids are watching and listening, and imitating... That is Faith Mission!!

Jackson, our oldest, who is eight, has, for quite some, time exhibited the gift of compassion.  I know this is not a natural inherited thing, but most definitely a God-given spiritual gift.  Although he can be rough and tough and loud (and just like his Daddy), he can also be quite sensitive to the leading of the Spirit and to the hearts and stories of others.  I’ve known this for about two years, however, I had not understood the depths of which he grasps the hard things in life until last Wednesday on the way home.

We had certainly mentioned Johnson to the kids three summers ago and his image pops up on our pictures often.  I don’t think Jackson had remembered his name or his story.  We began talking about this sweet innocent little boy that was around five years old and his sister, who is about six, named Magda. I had reminded them that I loved Johnson and would really love to be able to adopt him someday.  Of course, in their innocence, their probing questions of why, lets do it today, why not, why, why and why some more, only seemed to scrape the wound off my heart for him and open a new one in Jackson’s.

Not understanding how his mom and dad would just drop him off at an orphanage and never return for him, or their lack of food, water and even shelter at times, caused a deep stirring inside of Jackson.  I believe in the depths of my soul, that in that moment (and certainly since) that Jackson could feel Johnson and Magda’s heartache for their mommy and daddy, for security, their loneliness, the hunger and thirst, their everyday agony.  As he literally sobbed for over an hour for two precious souls he’s never laid eyes on, I cried.  I cried sad tears because I too, want desperately to know that those precious faces are loved and cared for and that they know the LOVE of our Creator and that their needs are being met.  I cried because it’s hard for this Mommy to see her son weep in such a real way.  And I cried because I have joy.  I love that God’s gotten a hold of my little man.  I love that he’s gifted him with a gift that isn’t easy to have, but so worth it for the Kingdom. I love that Jackson, too, has a heart for Haiti, and for the suffering around the world.

Market in Port Au Prince
In just a little over eight months, Jackson and Creighton both will be joining us on our trip back to Haiti.  In a selfish way I am nervous, but essentially only really because I know in my heart that the Lord will do unbelievable things in the heart of my son while we are there.  And it might be that one-day my son will dare to live in a far away land serving others in his giftedness.  That day will be a bittersweet moment if that is what God has truly called him to, but I will know that he is exactly where he was meant to be.  For even at the young age of eight, his heart has been opened, his eyes have seen, and he cannot look away and pretend it doesn’t exist.  And neither can I.

Magda & Courtney
Our kids, your kids, all kids, watch and learn. They see our passion; we can’t hide our hearts—good or bad.  Jeff and I certainly (most definitely) don’t have it all figured out or even close (and please don’t hear that my son is a saint, because he’s most definitely going to need the next ten to twenty years to mature in every area…you know who his father is, right?)  But I love that he’s seen our passion, taken the gifts that God has gifted him with, and is beginning to want to use them. We all have that “power” as parents.

The big question is which of our passions are they going to take away?  Is it the love a sport, a team, an unreached people group, missions, church, scripture, reading, studying, hunting…the list could go on for fifty more pages.  None of those things are in and of themselves bad things, but we must know that they watch, they mimic, they listen. 

Johnson & Courtney
What are you passionate about?  What are your spiritual gifts?  Do you recognize in your children what spiritual gifts that they’ve been given?  Have you realized that God made everyone with unique talents, gifts, experiences, and personalities in order that His word and Name can be spread to every nook and cranny of this whole earth? He doesn’t need another “someone else”; He just needs YOU to be WHO He created you to be.  And your child(ren) to be who He created them to be.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Could it be that God is calling you to serve in a way you’ve never served before?  It doesn’t have to be Haiti, but it’s a great place to start if you and or your family want to serve overseas in a third world country.  It may not be your passion, it definitely won’t be everyone’s.  But I encourage you to find out what you are passionate about, where you are passionate, and go, do, be whatever it is He is calling you to.  The time is now.  There will never be a better time than right now.

Jacob our sponsor son in Neply
If you want more information about going with us to Neply, Haiti May 31-June 7, 2014, please contact me at  We are going with an organization calledMyLIFESpeaks for the forth time and currently have about half our spots full.  
We would love to have you join us! You won’t be sorry you said “Yes!”

Two other blog posts about Haiti:
Live from Haiti (Update from the middle of the week during our last trip)
Jezi Renmen Ayiyi (Charleigh's prayer for Haiti)

To see pics from the last two New Beginnings trips to Haiti click on the year:
20112012 & 2013