Month: October 2010

What can we do to serve our city?

The first Dream Center is about to open, just in time to serve families in our city during the holidays. Read about your first opportunity to serve at the Dream Center as well as other possibilities to serve in the update below.

ONE(CAN)PAIGN

Local Ministries is collecting non-perishable food items. Check our donation trunks in the foyer for more details on the most needed items that we can give to bless families in our city. Please call Rina at 265-3180 if you have any questions.

NOVEMBER MONTHLY FOCUS
Teens are often times overlooked during donation drives. Let us show these students how much they are cared for this month by donating items that mean a lot to them. All donations will go to the kids at Carmel Middle School south of town at Christmas time. Donation bins are available on either side of the foyer outside the living room. On the donation bins you can find lists of supplies needed. Please call Rina at 265-3180 if you have any questions.

PASSING OUT THANKSGIVING BASKETS – NOVEMBER 18-20TH
It’s Thanksgiving time again, and we will be providing Thanksgiving Baskets to families in the Knob Hill area. We have three different ways for you to help us with this project. Option 1: Join us as we assemble the baskets of uncooked ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal at our new Dream Center location on November 18th from 1pm to 4pm. Option 2: Deliver baskets to the families on November 20th from 9am to 12pm. Please help us plan accordingly by registering at www.newlifechurch.org/outreach . Option 3: Sponsor a family Thanksgiving Meal anytime for $20 (please make checks payable to New Life Church with Knob Hill Baskets in the memo line). For more information please contact Rina at 265-3180

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Pray, Vote, Pray

I took Abram to get a haircut today and while sitting in the wait area, the radio in the salon was playing nothing but non-stop political ads it seemed. A Democrat was bashing a Republican and the next ad featured the Republican bashing the Democrat. The Independent candidate was against everybody. Uggh!

Once the haircut was underway and I had given the young girl my detailed instructions for cutting Abram’s tricky hair, more ads starting playing. I told the stylist I was really ready for the election to be over and the ads to disappear. She looked at me and said, “I really want to vote, but I don’t think I am going to vote for any of the people because I don’t know what to believe.” Good point, but not a good plan.

As Christ followers who live in a Republic where elections determine so much, I hope we do not stay away from the polls because of confusion or out of protest. Pray about the candidates and the issues, and then vote according to your biblical convictions. Then pray some more! Pray, Vote, Pray!

As much I wanted to give her some suggestions on how to vote, I didn’t. Instead, I prayed for the young lady on my drive home that she would have peace and not be rattled by all the rhetoric that is swirling around. Scriptures tell us that people who pray are people of peace, even during election season.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding (and political ads), will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

Pray, Vote, Pray!

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Dream Centers Update

We have signed the lease on our first Dream Center building. It is a small office complex in the geographic center of our city, near the intersection of Academy and Austin Bluffs. I am very thankful to a generous businessman in our church for allowing us to use his property rent free.

The site is perfect for a medical clinic downstairs and the rooms on the second floor will be great for drug and alcohol support groups that we hope to start in January. Right now, Pastor Matthew Ayers is meeting with medical professionals and many other volunteers to organize and plan what types of medical and dental services can be offered. We are also going to install new carpet on the second floor and give it a fresh coat of paint.

This is not something that can be done super quick so be patient as we do our due diligence. We do hope to use the building during the upcoming holiday season for some outreaches into our city and we should have phase one of the clinic open in the first quarter of 2011.

If you want to serve our city, contact Pastor Matthew at mayers@newlifechurch.org Thanks for your prayers and support. The dream of caring for our city through many Dream Centers is becoming a reality. God be praised!

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Defender or Defensive?

Nobody likes to be criticized and all of us want people to like us to some degree. When criticism or unfair comments are made about us, we naturally want to respond, to defend our reputations, to set the record straight. That sounds like the right thing to do, but that’s not what Jesus did. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, instead he trusted his case was in the hands of God who always judges fairly.

In the past three years, there have been blogs and news reports about me that were completely inaccurate and it was difficult to read and listen to them without defending myself. One morning on a phone call, my friend, Pastor Jimmy Evans, gave me some great advice. He told me there was a difference between being a defender and being defensive.

He told me if my only goal was to defend my reputation, I should stay silent but if I needed to defend the people of New Life from harm, then I should speak. It was wise advice and I am thankful I decided to not defend myself. Secure people have faith that God is one the one who brings justice to all situations, either in this age or in the age to come.

Secure people are a people of peace and are quick to forgive those who have hurt them. Secure people prefer mercy because they have not forgotten how much mercy they need everyday.

If we are going to walk away from a life of insecurity, we have to trust, like Jesus, that we have a perfect shepherd watching over us and we are the sheep of his pasture. How do you respond to unfair attacks? Can you trust God for justice?

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Be Wisely Authentic

I think it is great when pastors are candid about their own struggles. Authenticity builds trust and allows for others in the fellowship to speak honestly about their own issues. Church masks are removed and people are able to get the help they need.

But there are times when the pastor can share way too much information and cause people to actually stumble. This past Sunday, I shared a really vulnerable story about my personal struggle with depression last year. I hope it was helpful, but I was mindful of a couple of questions we should all consider before we share personal issues.

1. Has the issue been resolved? I am not sure pastors should confess their struggles publicly until they have at least started the process of getting some help privately. The Sunday morning stage should not the be the first time we confess our weaknesses. We need to have a trusted circle of mature friends who can hear this first and then we can talk about it publicly when it is appropriate. Don’t be vulnerable just to be cool. I know many young believers who have given up even trying to live Godly lives because they believe there is no use trying if their leaders cannot be victorious. Confess, but then tell them the path you found toward healing and wholeness. That is encouraging and will actually build hope in people.

2. Am I about to share something that will embarrass someone? In the first talk on Sunday when I was telling my story of near depression, I made it seem that Pam and I were struggling in our marriage, although the struggle was not with her, but with my role as Senior Pastor. I made that clearer in the 11am service, but it reminded me to be very careful not to reveal something about someone just to tell a cool story about my messiness. Protect people and their reputations at all costs, even at the cost of a good sermon illustration.

I hope every leader feels the freedom to be transparent, honest and vulnerable. It’s refreshing and healing to those who hear and it helps all of us take off those silly church masks and live honest lives filled with hope and freedom.

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An Adoption Story

It was still dark outside when the alarm sounded, jarring Pam and I from a restless sleep. The day was finally here after ten years of waiting. We were going to be parents. 

This part of the story had started three months earlier when a woman who attended church with us in Amarillo, TX asked if we would adopt her son when he was born.  We said yes almost immediately.  We went to doctor’s appointments with her, met her other children and became friends along the way.

On the morning she was scheduled to deliver Abram, I remember Pam getting completely ready in about 20 minutes, which is lightning fast for my southern bride. We arrived at the hospital, put on our scrubs and were at the birth mom’s side during the c-section procedure. When the doctor brought Abram from the womb, he handed him to me first. His bald head and thick eye lashes are what I remember most.

Four days later, we had a ceremony in the hospital where the birth family said their goodbyes and handed Abram to us wrapped in a blue and white blanket.  Aside from our own salvation experiences, it was the single most spiritual moment in either of our lives. Adoption is the central theme of the Gospel and for those of us who get to experience the miracle of adopting a child, the message is even more poignant.

12 years have now passed, and our little boy is becoming a little man. He is brilliant, hilarious and loves Legos and all things Snoopy. He loves life more than any kid I know.  I am thankful that God chose us to be his parents and I am thankful for his birth mom who showed true courage and unbelievable obedience to God.

If God is leading you to give your life away to a child who needs a parent, check out www.Icareaboutorphans.org for info about Wait No More. Colorado is really close to being the first state to have a waiting list of parents wanting children instead of a long list of kids who wish they had a family of their own. I can’t wait to hear your stories.

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What is a Healthy Church?

We all want to belong to a healthy church and I certainly want to lead one, but what are the characteristics and traits that are synonymous with healthy churches? Is there any way to really measure something that seems so abstract? This is not an exhaustive list, but this should at least start some good conversations.

1. A healthy church is led well.

When the early apostles established churches, they looked for men and women with obvious character to lead the fellowships. They appointed elders who were mature, had good reputations in the community, were not greedy for money and managed their own families well. These leaders were accountable for their decisions and had proven themselves faithful.

2. A healthy church values relationships.

Healthy churches have a low tolerance for gossip or divisive behavior. They understand the power of unity and are ok with healthy debate so long as relationships are not splintered.  They purposely live in authentic community and look for every opportunity to meet the needs of one another. They see each other as family and are determined to live life together in the good times and bad.

3. A healthy church is outward focused.

Healthy churches are always looking to care for their community and are willing to use any available resource to meet the needs around them. Healthy churches are a blessing to the community in which they live as citizens. They are a generous people who give sacrificially at every opportunity.

New Life is not perfect, but we are determined to be healthy. It is not easy just like a healthy lifestyle is not easy. We must wake up everyday determined to do the right thing for the right reason, even if it hurts. Healthy churches change the world and I am grateful to belong to a church that is doing just that.

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Ten Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me 15 Years Ago

I have been a pastor for about 15 years now and it has mostly been a fantastic journey with some of the best people on the planet. I did not attend seminary or have much formal training when I started out, but I sure wish someone had told me these ten things in the beginning.

1. Sheep bites can’t kill me, but the gnawing will make life miserable a few days each year.

2. No matter how hard I try, I will always be tempted to measure my success by attendance numbers.

3. The best thing I can do to build and grow God’s kingdom is to be myself and not compare myself to others.

4. It takes a long time to become old friends so nurture and cherish the old friendships God has given me.

5. I will only have as much spiritual authority as I am willing to submit to myself. Independence will destroy me but there is power in submission.

6. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Challenge people to go deeper even when the message is unpopular.

7. My brain will always feel like scrambled eggs on Sunday afternoon so don’t make any major decisions until Tuesday morning.

8. Some people will only trust you after a really long time of proving yourself and another group will never trust you no matter what you do.

9. Don’t feel guilty about taking a Sabbath. It was not a suggestion.

10. I will never regret spending time with my family instead of saying yes to a church meeting that someone else could lead.

I hope this is helpful to other young leaders who are launching out into ministry. What are some of things you wish someone had told you before you started ministry in the local church?

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Dream Centers Update

We may have found our first building for the Dream Centers we wish to open. It is a small first step, but I am super excited to get started.

The building is a two-story office complex in the geographic center of our city. I will give you an address once the elders and I finalize the lease. The building is being given to us rent free!

We believe we can open a free medical clinic on the first floor and begin marriage and family ministry for military couples on the second floor. Of course, both will be led by a coalition of volunteers.

We are still looking at other properties around the city that would allow us to meet the unmet and underserved needs in our community. We are also in the early stages of getting a separate 501(c)3 for the Dream Centers and talking to potential board members from the business, military and church worlds.

Thanks for praying with me. God is at work and I am grateful to be a part of what He is doing. Greater things are yet to come in our city.

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