Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Alpha & Omega

Is Christmas your favorite time of year? It is for many people, but not for me.

Don't get me wrong--I love everything about the season, including the busyness and stillness, parties and presents, family and friends, candlelight and evergreen, and all the reminders of a savior born to us.

I'm one of those strange birds who likes to see Christmas pass, because I like the thought of another new year starting out. It is the potential of there being potential. The hope of there being hope. The dream of there being dreams, all in the new year.

Without the passing of one year, there cannot be the ushering in of the next. This is true of my kids, too, as Kade turns two December 30th. I must say goodbye to my little one year-old in order for me to see my two year-old. I can't have both simultaneously.

Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (see Revelation 1:8, 11). He cares about your year's beginning and end. He wants to be there in your new year. When we say goodbye to 2012, will you go into this next year with regrets? Or with potential, hope, and dreams?

Some of the best times of my life have been when I've taken time alone with the Lord to start a year. The calendar belongs to you. Take a few moments and plan some time for those potential times with family to happen. Schedule a time for those hopes to come alive and those dreams to take shape.

I'm really a summer guy--but you already know that about me. So Christmas is a reminder of all the things I can't do at this time of year. But I can plan for this next year to be even more fruitful for Christ. What are your hopes and dreams for 2013?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Good God? Merciful God?

In the aftermath of the senseless shooting in Aurora, Colorado, many people are searching for answers to the question, "Why would God let this happen?" They are actually asking how a supposedly compassionate being allow this tragedy to befall so many supposedly innocent people.

I don't pretend to speak on God's behalf or answer for Him, but this I do know. God has given us a choice to do good or evil, and too often we choose evil. Our choice to do evil affects other people.

In the midst of circumstances, God shows Himself to be compassionate and merciful. He brings comfort in response to events that cause pain. We will never fully understand Him or His ways, but the Bible gives us hope for a future without pain, without wrong choices, without evil.

A mom in Colorado named Marie wrote a blog post about her experiences from inside the theater with her two daughters the night of the shooting. In part, she wrote:
So I was there with them, fidgeting in my seat, some forty or  fifty feet away from the man with the gun. It’s still a bit surreal, but I do know that when the seemingly endless shooting started, as my girls were struggling from whatever gas or chemical had been released, and we figured out what was happening, we hit the floor. I threw myself on top of my fourteen year old who was on the end of the row, straight up the aisle from the shooter.  In that moment, as the rapid-fire shots continued, I truly thought I was going to die. And I realized that I was ready. I have put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ as the redeemer of my soul, and there wasn’t the slightest doubt that I would be received into heaven, not because of any good thing that I have done but because of His merciful nature and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Still, as I lay over my daughter, I began praying out loud. I don’t even remember what I prayed, but I don’t imagine it really matters. I’m sure it was for protection and peace. It drew me closer into the presence of God.
To have no fear of death is part of God's gift to us. Life's circumstances are not always of our choosing, but our responses to them are. And our good God, our merciful God, promises to be with us in the midst of life's circumstances, if we have placed our faith and trust in Him.

Please join me in praying for the families and individuals whose lives were so dramatically affected by the recent events in Colorado. And join me in trusting God for peace and security in the midst of our own life's circumstances.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tony Dungee's Squeeze Play: Fitting In Family Time

I absolutely love being a dad. I love the thrills, the spills, and even the doctor bills. It's all part of the package and I love it all. My wife talks about the time both girls were throwing up in the middle of the night and I insisted on cleaning it up. I told Katie, "This is what I love about being a dad."

No, I'm not crazy. I just love being needed by little people who love their daddy.

I just finished recording an upcoming episode for RE:CONNECT Podcast where I interviewed another youth pastor about spending time with your kids. I'm in Nashville for a few days, helping write some Bible study curriculum for students, so spending time with my kids involves phone calls and FaceTime video calls. I also took a couple of my kids' little stuffed animals with me and have been texting pictures of them on the plane, in my hotel room, etc.

I got an encouraging email today from someone whom I care about in my ministry, and it had a link to Tony Dungee's article called "Be a Kid With Your Kids." In the article, Dungee talks about how he's had to be creative in spending time with his kids around a busy schedule. The key for him has often been being willing to do what his kids want to do.

I know parents often feel that their lives are too busy to spend much time with their children, but I want to encourage other parents to redeem ordinary time as family time. For example, inviting older children to go grocery shopping with you just so you can talk, or have them bring their social studies flashcards with them when you get work done on the car.

It isn't giving up or giving in when you settle for little moments together when longer times as a family are not possible. It's simply acknowledging that family time is worth making time for, no matter what other events are on the schedule.

May God give us wisdom in redeeming the little moments, repurposing them for time spent with our families so that we may have an impact on our children for Christ. How are you fitting in family time?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Early Morning God

I'm getting up early twice a week these days. I've got a standing appointment with people I care about and I definitely see the arrangement as a beneficial one to me.

Sure, getting my feet to hit the floor at 5:15am isn't my idea of unbridled fun, nor do I consider myself the king of my craft. But neither of these sincerely held opinions deters me from reaching my higher goal: a 6am start time for basketball at a high school gym in South San Jose.

The only other recent appointments that have come close to raising my slumbering form anytime before the sun is up were airline flights and marriage counseling with a young guy before his work day started. That's it. I'm in no rush to shorten my sleep time for just anybody. And that has me concerned.

My heart is laid bare in light of what I currently prioritize. I am clearly saying loud and proud that the only things worthy of my early morning attention are my favorite sport, transportation, or another man's spiritual and emotional well-being.

Sure, I spend time with God every day, both in prayer and in reading His Word, but what if He were to ask for an early morning appointment with just the two of us? Would I show up? Would I even set my alarm?

Similar to my early basketball issues, I mistakenly view getting up early to spend time with God as a chore instead of a joy. Just like playing basketball with guys who are all better than me, I am tempted to view my own spiritual condition in light of how others match up. Wow, I think. I'm not as dedicated as them. Or, my love for God isn't as mature or as great as theirs. And I allow myself to get discouraged.

But I will never pursue holiness with a pure heart by viewing time with my Savior as a duty nor will I be content with my Father's view of me if I compare myself to how His other children interact with Him. Give me a heart to seek Yours, Jesus.

I rise early, before the sun is up; I cry out for help and put my hope in your words. (Psalm 119:147 NLT)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Let Me Entertain You!

Back for my 18th year in a row, I'm singing at Macy's in Union Square, San Francisco this year. More information at my other blog, DB3Harmony, including dates and times. I'd love to have you stop by for a listen to me and the guys!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Window into My World

My office got a couple of new windows yesterday. These skinny pieces of fiberglass encased in a nice wood frame are my new accountability partners. No more eating snacks in secret. No more changing into dry clothes after baptisms. No more.

Where it all happens.
The big upside is that now I can have a semi-private meeting with one of my youth regarding a personal matter or counsel a mom struggling with some issues at home and actually leave the door closed! I'm still on display for all to see, but the conversation remains private.

Okay, enough about the good. Back to the "poor me" factor. You see, I'm what I like to call a "busy guy" with lots of projects on lots of fronts. And the primary front is my desk. Simply put, it's not the picture of barren office wasteland that makes you think, "Gee, does he do anything at all." Instead, my desk screams, "Yikes! Is Pastor Michael buried under all those papers?" Now that "busy guy's" desk is on display 24/7, thanks to the kind folks at WindowsMakeGreatHolesInDoors.com.

I guess I'll need to focus more on personal neatness and general office hygiene. Sounds like another plus to me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dating: What Should a Christian Single Do?

I just read Pastor Mark Driscoll's timely blog about dating and singles. Too often we shy away from declaring what is the truth of Scripture about relationships, boundaries, and holiness.

Take a few minutes to read his post here, then let me know what you think, especially if you're a single young person.

Nobody says it is easy to live as a holy single person. I'm praying for you!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Before and After

By guest blogger, David Roberts

My wife and I are fans of the show, Harry’s Law. The main character (Harriet/ Harry), played by Kathy Bates, is a lawyer who is always defending people that are sympathetic. The show focuses on the closing arguments of the case, where the writers make the jury, and we as the audience melt at the lack of social injustice in the world.

We as Christians have a calling to testify that Jesus is Lord to the ends of the earth. But why don’t we? It’s because most of us think that we need to know the whole Bible, or have words like the writers on Harry’s Law.

Take courage from this. When Paul was on trial for his life, King Agrippa wanted to question him. You would think that Paul would have special words when addressing a king, but that simply wasn’t the case.

So what did he tell the king? He gave his testimony.  Who he was before he knew Jesus, what happened that changed him, and who we was after. That’s it! Plain and simple. He didn’t need some special speech to tell the king or anyone else. All he needed was to tell the truth. That’s all that Jesus wants from us.

So next time you have an opportunity to witness don’t be afraid, just be honest and give your testimony and see what God does with it.

Guest blogger David Roberts is the Worship Leader and a Youth Ministry volunteer at Park Victoria Baptist Church in Milpitas, CA.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Up Next: May Flowers

(Originally written for the Park Victoria Vision, April 2011.)

Don’t you just love an optimist? Someone who is always looking for the “bright side”, even when it seems as though the sun hasn’t been seen here in Milpitas this calendar year? (Let me just say that if it’s true that April showers bring May flowers and Mayflowers bring Pilgrims, we’re in for a mighty good Thanksgiving this year.)
There are plenty of pessimists in the world. Those whose Special Mission From God is to let you know what the Worst Case Scenario might be. And probably will be. But some of my more clever pessimist friends have applied for a name change. They’d rather be known as a “realist.”
In the mind of a pessimist/realist, they are helping people around them see what they’re missing. A dose of reality, they might say. And whether it is a friend or church member, they insist that it is for your own good or the health of the church that they must share their negative viewpoints with you.
The problem is that we don’t need a special revelation from the gifted “realist” to let us know where the faults are in our lives or our church. The Holy Spirit is more than able to reveal to us those areas in which we need to improve individually and corporately.
So is there room for bringing up the faults and failures of a friend or a problem in the church? Sure there is! But there are some pretty strict guidelines. Have you examined yourself first (Matt. 7:1-5)? Are you without blame (John 8:7)? Should the matter be discussed privately (Matt. 18:15-17)? Are you accusing an elder (1 Tim. 5:19, 20)?
Above all, we are to show love to one another (1 Pet. 4:8) which is to me, the biggest dose of reality for a “realist”. Which would you rather be, an “optimist” or a “realist”? Until you decide, try to stay dry out there!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Marital Bliss

Today marks 8 years of marriage to the sweetest, most Godly woman I know. Period. I used to tell her that I tricked her into marrying me since I couldn't accept that she would actually love the real me. But she does. And I'm still amazed. What a gift of God Katie is to me.

The word bliss is a strange word and I think ill-equipped to deal with the realities of a relationship that is functioning and mature. If ignorance is bliss then I don't want marital bliss. I'm loving getting to know more about Katie and how to love her every day.

Sure, "marital bliss" sounds a lot better than "marital blisters", but the truth is that I would rather have life-on-life friction (and love-on-love!) with this woman to whom I am married than some euphoric happiness fueled by ignorance or actual knowledge of the other at a soul level.

When disagreements arise or hurts happen (and they do!), we are motivated to find out where we have taken a shortcut, made a mistake, or how we can do better next time. Leaving problems unresolved is not an option. Since our wedding night, we have always made sure that we cleared things up with each other before going to sleep (see Ephesians 4:26).

As Katie and I have learned more and more about each other whether through hurts, blessings, or time, we have fallen more and more in love. As our mutual needs are revealed to the other, we also see how much more we are needed by the other. Our friendship deepens as a result and our love matures.

So, though she was my best friend 8 years ago, Katie is an even closer friend today. My lover, my supporter, the mother of my children, and my best friend.

I love you, Katie. Happy Anniversary.