Three Prayers for Graduates

Graduation is an exciting time in the life of families. When students walk across the stage and receive their diploma, wave at family and friends, it closes one chapter and begins a new one. Christ following parents pray for years that when their high school senior reaches this season of life that they are equipped to engage the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They pray that would not simply know Bible stories but that they would know the story of the Bible. They pray that they would know exactly what they believe and why they believe it.

This is also a season of the unknown to a graduate. Sure they may know where they are going to school and what degree program interests them. Sure they may have a job lined up. However, for many graduates, it is their first time to have this much independence. The first time to experience what life is like in adulthood. So what should we pray for high school graduates entering this season of life?

“God, reveal yourself to me.”

Psalm 25:4a, “Show me your ways, Lord,…”

Every single believer in Jesus Christ should pray this often and with a sincere heart. If you have no desire for God to reveal Himself to you, then you are not walking with Jesus. You may know a few things about Him, but you are not walking with Him. What was the first thought you had this morning? What was the first action that you acted upon? For me, I answered 2 text messages and 4 emails before I even said hello to my family or got ready for the day. Don’t get so busy with life, work, and relationships that you place the most important relationship in your life on hold. When you wake up, may your hearts’s passion be: “God, reveal Yourself to me in a new and refreshing way.”

Then, be ready. If you really want God to reveal Himself to you, it will change your life. It will change your head, your heart, and your hands. 2 Corinthians 4:6 reads, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” 

“God, refine me through Your mission.”

Psalm 25:4b, “…teach me your paths.”

There is a ton of self-help philosophy out there these days.  “3 ways to be a better you!” “4 things that must be accomplished today!” “6 ways to climb up the latter in life!” “5 ways to get what you want!” You know what the difference in philosophy/life theories and walking with Jesus is? Philosophy is connected to a system. Christianity is connected to the Savior. Systems, as good as some of them may be, will fail you at some point. They will let you down. Jesus will never, ever fail you, even in your worst moments and on your worst days.

The second half of verse 4 says, “teach me Your paths.” Don’t walk in your own strength and in your own wisdom. Jeremiah 6:16 encourages us by reminding us that, “This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

 “God, ready me to live my faith strong.”

Psalm 25:5, “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

Then, what is the action item? David prays in verse 5 that the LORD would guide him. Our world does not love Jesus. What is one of the best things you can do for a world that does not love Jesus? Ready yourself, in and through the Holy Spirit, to live a strong faith. What are some ways you can tell you have a strong faith? As a result of your faith, do others ask you about your faith often? Do you lead well in your home, church, and in your circle of influence? When things don’t go well, what or whom do lean on? Your faith in Jesus or what you can simply figure out? 2 Corinthians 5:7 reminds us of an incredible truth we must live by daily, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” In life, you may not see what is coming around the corner but, you serve a God that knew it was coming before you ever even existed. Trust Him, with all your heart.

Congratulations class of 2017.

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Posted in Discipleship, Family, Student Ministry

Why I’m Using Pencil and Paper More Often

I love technology. I use various forms of technology multiple times a day. I’m writing this blog post on a MacBook Pro, while wearing an Apple Watch, while seeing a notification on my iPhone laying next to me. It is safe to say I use technology to its fullest.

With all that being said, at the beginning of the year I made a little bit of a switch and moved away from using some soft of electronic device for everything. Honestly, it has greatly helped me. So what have I done? I am using pencil and paper more often. I know, earth shattering stuff right there. More specifically, there are two things I’m using pencil and paper more often for. First, I use a Moleskine Weekly Planner for my weekly to-do list and appointments.  This is a great tool with the week’s dates on the left side (appointments) and a blank lined page on the right side (to-do list). Second, I’m carving out my messages for Wednesday nights in a journal. Full disclosure, for both of these things, weekly planning and messages, I still save them digitally. I use iCal for events and appointments and all my messages end up in a word document, saved in my Dropbox. I still teach from my iPad more times than not. It is simply easier all around for me.

So why use pencil and paper more often? What differences have I seen?

I remember more. It is amazing how many tasks and appointments I accomplish and don’t forget about quite as easily when I simply write it down. I will put it down on my weekly calendar which I look at multiple times a day. I remember to pray for people more often as I look at their name. I can also see what it most important to me. Simply put, I forget less and pray more. What I have also found is that if I don’t write it in my weekly planner, I more than likely will end up not doing it.

It feels more intimate. I’m sure there is some sort of formal scientific explanation here but, there is something about writing things down and looking at your own messed up handwriting that makes your content feel more intimate. I feel like it is more personal and in some ways, more from the heart. I’m not saying this can’t be the case when you are looking at a digital screen, it just, to me feels more intimate when I read what I have wrote down. This is also a reason that I am using a hard copy of God’s Word more often. It encourages the students and leaders I lead to bring a copy of God’s Word, to highlight and underline in it, and to make notes. It is great to go back and look at what God taught you in different seasons of life.

I’m more organized. When writing things down, I can see what I have to do and how I’m going to manage it and ultimately do it. This goes beyond simply not forgetting tasks and appointments and into mapping things out ahead of time, being proactive with my schedule instead of reactive, and making sure the most important things get done before anything else. It can also serve as a great evaluation tool as it will tell you what you spend most of your time doing during the week.

The takeaway… I have found using pencil and paper helps me more than I realize. It works for me. It won’t work for everyone. The bottom line here is to find a system that works for you. One that comes naturally and that is not forced. You will be amazed what you learn about yourself and how much your leadership skills will improve as a result.

Posted in Discipleship, Leadership, Ministry

Caleb Andrew Kinkade

On April 7, 2017 we welcomed our second child into the world, Caleb Andrew Kinkade. Madelyn is doing great as a big sister and everyday we continue to learn and grow ourselves as parents.

At the end of the day, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We are praying three specific prayers over Madelyn and Caleb’s lives as we raise them to love and pursue Jesus more than she loves anything else.

  • Our first prayer is that their lips would proclaim the glory of God to the nations.
  • Our second prayer is that their hands would be about the work of the LORD.
  • Our third prayer is that their feet would walk in truth.

Baby Caleb

Posted in Family

Making God-Honoring Decisions

Some people love to take charge and make decisions. Others hate it and avoid it at all cost. No matter what end of the spectrum you find yourself, we all have to make decisions. No matter if you are asking, “Where will I take my family to eat tonight?” or if you are asking, “Who will I marry?” decisions, big and small alike, are very crucial in life. THE most important decision one can make is accepting Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior. All other decisions don’t even compare to this one.

After begin a youth pastor for almost a decade now, I have seen incredible God-honoring decisions made and I have seen terrible decisions made. Decisions tend to make or break us in one form or fashion. They have consequences and rewards. They mature us.

So the question, and one that many people struggle with, is “How do I make God-honoring decisions in my life?” The question behind the question is, “How do I know if I’m making the right decision that will please God and cause me to pursue Him more?

I believe Philippians 4:8-9 gives us an incredible framework and lenses to go by. Here we see eight characteristics that Paul is telling believers to “think about such things.” These can serve as a lenses in which we filter and make God-honoring decisions.

Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV), “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

1. True: Am I prayerfully grounding this decision in the truth of God’s Word?

2. Noble: Is this in line with Godly character?

3. Right: Will this encourage and help others?

4. Pure: Are my thoughts, motives, and actions pure in this?

5. Lovely: Will this help build community?

6. Admirable: How will this effect my testimony?

7. Excellent: Am I choosing best over good?

8. Praiseworthy: Who gets the credit, you or God?

Click HERE for an expanded tool that includes these eight questions and more content to equip you making God-honoring decisions.

Posted in Discipleship, Leadership, Student Ministry, Theology

Christ Followers, Committed Athletes, and the Faith Journey

I’m a big sports fan. It is not the most important thing in my life or even the second most important thing in my life but it is something that I have committed a lot of time, energy, and resources to over the years. In fact, I don’t remember to many summer vacations growing up because most my summers were spent on the baseball ball field. Therefore, my family would vacation during the Christmas break. Currently, I serve with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as a Character Coach at a local elementary school.

We live in a sports-crazed society no doubt. A week rarely goes by in which we don’t learn about some sort of “breaking news” in the world of sports. Recently, three men were inducted into Cooperstown, the Hall of Fame for Major League Baseball. This week is the Super Bowl in the National Football League. There is a lot of hype, analytical work, and money spent on things like this.

As Christ followers, Jesus desires certain traits and characteristics in us. When you read the Scriptures you see the type of people He called to follow Him, to join Him on mission. You will notice things such as hard work, devotion, and passion. You also see these traits in athletes that are successful on any level of competition. Furthermore, I believe we as Christ followers can learn a lot from the lifestyle, work ethic, and passion of committed athletes. Allow me to highlight four of these areas.

Train effectively and often. The coaches I had growing up taught me this: Games are won in preparation. If you have lousy practices during the week, you will probably not find yourself in the win column that often. Committed athletes train physically no doubt but, it is just as important to train mentally and emotionally as well. Winning athletes wake up before any else to train. They are the first ones in the building and the last ones to leave. Their dedication to their team and sport is undeniable. As Christ followers, how often are we training spiritually? This goes way past picking up a Bible every once in a while. Some Christ followers might tell you Jesus is the most important aspect of their life but then will scramble to find their Bible for church on Sunday mornings. It is not only important to train often but also effectively. Things such as accountability, biblical community,  involvement in the local church, and consistent gospel conversations, are crucial in the life of a believer and help us grow in our walk with Jesus.

Forced to think “we” before “me.” Sports, in large part, are team-oriented sports. You have to be successful as a team unit in order to be effective and win. The most successful teams are full of individual team members who work hard to be the very best at their specific job so that the overall team is successful. With that being stated, there is no denying teams are full of self-centered, egotistic, “all about me,” athletes. What do you see come from this? Distractions and a broken team unit. While they may be incredibly gifted athletes, they end up hurting their team instead of helping their team. Committed, successful athletes are forced to think and thrive on “we” before “me.” A quarterback-wide receiver combination is only as good as the offensive line is. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 9, Jesus told His disciples you must deny self, pick up your cross daily, and follow me. The mission of God is all about one person, Jesus Christ. It is not about us, it is about something  way bigger than us.

Make others around them better. This is possibly the single most important trait of a committed, successful athlete. When they step onto the field or court, they make others around them better. Their skill set allows others to shine. I love seeing an elite quarterback make an average wide-receiver look incredible. This also gets back to the theme of work ethic. When leaders in the locker room work endlessly, it is amazing how often others on the team exemplify that. On the other end, when leaders in the locker room have terrible attitudes, it can destroy the team as well. Jesus spent His earthly ministry pouring into a few men with an incredibly calling on their life. He taught them, spent time with them, prayed with and for them. Why? Ultimately because He loved and cared for them but also because He knew the type of impact they could and would have. Being around Jesus, His Kingdom and mission makes us better believers, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, employees, and so on.

Play through the pain. Committed, successful athletes want to be on the field or court at all cost. They will do whatever it takes to be able to play and help their team win. It kills them to stand on the sidelines and watch. They play hurt and convince the training staff they can play even when they probably shouldn’t. Their attitude is “cast it up” and lets play ball! The Christian life is hard, no doubt. It is a life of self-denying sacrifice that comes with victories and hardships, bumps and bruises. At the end of the day though, a committed, successful athlete knows it is worth it. Following Jesus is not always easy, it is always worth it. Every single time.

So to the Christ follower… are you training effectively and often or are you being lazy and apathetic? Are you thinking “we” before “me?” Are you making others around you better by the example you are setting? Are you playing through the pain or are you giving up?

Posted in Leadership, Sports

3 People Every Christ Follower Needs in Their Life

The Christian life is the greatest thing one can be a part of and invest their life into. When Jesus looked at 12 ordinary men and said, “Follow me,” it was the invitation to die to self and follow the Master. When these 12 men put their “Yes” on the table, an incredible opportunity, full of love, grace, and devotion began. The Christian life is also difficult. Don’t misunderstand, it is completely worth it but with sacrifice comes difficult decisions and constantly defining self for a greater purpose. That being said, as a Christ follower myself I believe there are three people every Christ follower should have in their lives on a consistent basis as we continue to walk this faith journey together.

Someone in front of you. This is a mentor figure in your life that is further down the road than you. A person that instructs and speaks truth into your life. They pray for you, ask hard questions, and model what a devoted Christ follower looks like. They are not perfect by any stretch but they are obedient to what God has called them to do. Therefore they become someone we watch, we learn from, we seek counsel from, and we seek to model what they model. The danger for so many Christ followers is that we become complacent and think “we have made it” in our faith journey and we stop learning, reading, and become lazy. Christ followers, may we always have at least one person that is in front of us, urging us and guiding us to love Jesus more than anything else.

Someone beside you. This is a friend and accountability partner in your life. They are about the same age, same gender, and are in the same life stage as you. You minister to them, they minster to you. They ask you the hard questions, you ask them the hard questions. You meet often, text each other often, and pray for each other often. The Christian life was never, ever meant to be lived in a silo. When Christ followers isolate themselves and don’t have accountability and biblical community in their lives, we are so much more likely to fall into temptation, “hide” sin, and not grow spiritually. It is vital that every Christ follower has at least one person beside them.

Someone behind you. This is either a person that is not a Christ follower or a struggling Christ follower. For whatever reason, they are struggling in life. They need prayer, counsel, encouragement, and most important a maturing Christ follower to come beside them and give them sound, Biblical truth and guidance. They need someone to stop what they are doing and care enough to hear their story. If they are not a Christ follower, they need someone to clearly explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how to accept Him as their personal LORD and Savior. If they are a true Christ follower and they have hit a rough patch, they need someone who will be honest and help them. To commit to pray for and with them. Christ follower, don’t share with this person that you are “in front of them” in life. All this will do is create a “They think they are better than me” mentality that will discourage instead of encourage. Simply minister to them in honest, real and tangible ways.

Christ follower… who is in front of you, who is beside you, and who is behind you? 

 

Posted in Discipleship, Leadership, Theology

We Didn’t Go to Church on Wednesday

We didn’t go to church this past Wednesday evening. Before you jump to conclusions, no, I have not lost my job and yes, things are fine at the church. We didn’t go to church on Wednesday because it was fall break for our local school system and we didn’t have our regularly scheduled activities. Our local school system actually has a two week fall break. Our student ministry had a game night during the first week and then the second week we gave our leaders and families a break. Many people were out of town for both weeks anyway.

This past Wednesday actually ended up being a very eye-opening, confirming night for me. Let me explain by giving you four observations/confirmations I made by being a home on a Wednesday night.

Our neighborhoods are full of people not connected to a local church. I saw many of our neighbors and their friends. At one point I looked out our front door and counted 8 kids, various ages. The driveways were full of cars, not empty. I had a great conversation with my next door neighbor about his job, family, and what it is like raising kids. It lasted about 30 minutes but no where in the conversation did he say, “Wait a minute, aren’t you a pastor? Why aren’t you at church right now?” We talk about missional living as this trip we go on 10 hours down the road in a different city, all while we have people we see everyday, that live right next to us, that may not be saved. That aren’t connected to a local church.

Our start times may be difficult for some. Several of my neighbors got home right before 6pm or right after 6pm. Most of the ones I personally know work 30-45 minutes away from our neighborhood. Our church has an optional dinner that begins at 5pm and then activates start at 6pm or a little bit after. People are busy, no doubt. Several families have two working parents, leaving/picking up kids at daycare, practices, recitals, and so many other things. We have to have a start time for programming. If you start earlier people can’t get off work to be there in time. If you start later you run into bed times for younger kids, middle and high students cramming to finish homework, and so on. Its a hard call when is the best time to start. Again just an observation about how crunched people are for time.

People miss church. I received a text message from one of our leadership high school students right before 6pm asking what time the party started at my house. We joked for a little while and I thought to myself, “What a great idea for another fall break down the road!” If I had student stuff that night would some have came, yes. Would it been a great night, yes. Next two week fall break am I going to meet both weeks, no. Why? It’s totally okay and valid to give volunteers a break every once in a while. It gives them a necessary break and tells them I appreciate what they do. You also have to have volunteers to pull it off. If you don’t, then you need to seriously evaluate what and how you are doing ministry. It was good to hear from students and know that they miss when we don’t meet.

I love what I do. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and spending time with them, but I missed church as well. It was an odd feeling. What was on TV? What were we going to do? I ended up thinking a lot about church and actually began writing this blog post. Outside of family vacation and if I’m so sick I can’t see straight, we are always at church on Wednesday. Some may say, “Well you are paid to be, right?” Technically, yes, but I have gone to church on Wednesday nights long before I was a paid staff member. That does not make me more spiritual than someone who works third shift and simply can’t make it a Wednesday night at 6pm. Church is a priority in my family, always has been, always will be.

We didn’t go to church this past Wednesday evening. Was that a bad thing, not at all. Should that be the habit, not at all.

 

Posted in Family, Leadership, Ministry