Wednesday, December 14, 2011

TIME


It has been over a month since my last entry on this blog.  I started thinking… why?  Why has it been so long since my last post?  It wasn’t for a lack of things to talk about…
I mean – thanksgiving fell during the blogging sabbatical and there is always plenty to discuss when it comes to us giving thanks. 
There was also the big snow storm that came and then froze.  I could have written about how the snow is so clean and makes everything look great until humans get there hands in the mix and dirty it up and make everything look gross (sounds similar to God cleaning us up… you know what I mean). 
There was also the cold that came with that storm and how ungrateful I can be when I have a warm house to sleep in and money to pay the heating bill for the month.  I realized that fact when I went out to my car that I parked outside and my water bottle from the day before was frozen solid.  (Some family probably slept in their car the night before because they didn’t have the aforementioned items).  A bit of a reality check… definitely could have blogged on that.
So why has it been so long since my last post?  It boils down to an excuse so many of us have yet really isn’t true.  “I just didn’t have the time” or a better phrase this time of year is “I’m just too busy.”
I’ll be honest with you – I hate it when people use the excuse they don’t have time – or they ran out of time or anything do to with being too busy.  In all reality… we all have the same amount of time, and blaming the fact that we didn’t get it done because “I didn’t have the time” really is a nice way of saying – it wasn’t a priority (or it really wasn’t important to me) so I didn’t get it done.
Think about it for a second… if it is important enough, we will find the time to do it won’t we?  If a famous actor or your favorite sports athlete called and wanted to stop by for a meal and hang out with you, you would not be too busy.  If you were offered a chance to do something fun that you may never get the opportunity to do ever again, you would definitely rearrange your schedule.   Time is an unusual thing.  We all get the same amount – we have to spend it all – we don’t really “save” it – and it really does make a difference how and where we invest it.
On New Year’s many of us will make a resolution or two – something to do with weight or addictions or health… but I would challenge you to begin to think about how you spend your time.  Over the last year, how much time did you waste?  How do we keep from doing that again this year?  How many times did you put off something until tomorrow assuming tomorrow was going to come?
Our time is valuable – spend it and invest it wisely!

Paul tells us this very thing in the book of Ephesians… chapter 5:15-17 (NAS)
15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

We will talk more about the management of our time on Sunday, January 1.  We would love to have you there.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Gratitude... This Sunday

When the kids are unhappy about something... we always tell them to think about "what is something that you are thankful for?"

It is a lesson that I think I need to follow more.  The more I have studied for this Sunday's message, the more spoiled I realize I am.

2-9-0.  Any idea what those numbers mean?  That is what I paid for gas when I filled up yesterday.  A few years ago, I would have thought I was being robbed blind if I had to pay 2.90 a gallon... now I am totally excited.  I honestly never thought I would see a gallon of gas cost under 3.00 in my lifetime.  It is amazing how quickly our perspectives change and how our thankfulness and gratitude is dependent on our situation (when it shouldn't be that way).

Come this Sunday (or visit the website on Monday to download the message) as we discuss gratitude.

A Sunday Follow Up (10/30)

 The message yesterday was… “Is Jesus Enough?”  The obvious Christian answer is “YES” – but do we live like it?
Until everything is taken away, I guess we will never really know.  Because we have so much and rely so much on everything that we have (and that we need/want) – can we really know for sure that we are living like Jesus is enough?
Yesterday, we went quickly through acts 20 (with our focus on verses 22-24) and looked at the challenge that Paul faced in leaving his “comfort zone” and his stuff and the things that he surrounded himself with and then head to Jerusalem where things weren’t so comfortable – where it would really be “just Jesus and him”. 
“And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that
the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead.  But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”
“And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again.  I declare today that I have been faithful. If anyone suffers eternal death, it’s not my fault,  for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know."
(Acts 20:22-27) NLT
Here’s what I took from the message last Sunday (and the studying all week)…
First, we need to be open and honest with God and sit quietly to listen to Him and his leading (through the Holy Spirit).  When God calls, it is time to go.  No matter the uncertainty, no matter the resistance and no matter the cost.
We can blame the thought of not knowing what is next on why we don’t go… but look at all of the Biblical examples of people who followed when they really didn’t know the outcome… From Moses, Abraham and Noah all the way to the disciples and Paul.   What can we learn… When God calls us, we are to be obedient and leave the details to God.  (It’s called “taking a step of faith”)  Yes, you will have questions and you will most certainly have critics… but if we truly believe that Jesus is Enough, we are willing to follow Him no matter the cost… because He is everything and I am nothing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Follow Up to Sunday

 It’s Wednesday.  I am not sure about you but all week I have been thinking about Sunday’s message.  If you weren’t there, we talked about Choosing Intimacy with God. (it’s up at www.paragonchurch.com or you can download it at iTunes).
On Sunday, I had a hard time with the message for whatever reason.  Maybe you did too.  It was about being open and vulnerable to God and being willing to let Him love you fully and loving him the same in return.
It seems like an easy thing to do – and we all know it is something that we should do, but do we do it?  Do we choose to really KNOW God and allow him to really KNOW us?  Do we choose intimacy?
This might help answer that question… Intimacy with God begins when we radically pursue Him with our whole heart.  The book of James tells us that in chapter 4 vs 8 - Come close to God, and God will come close to you. That verse goes on to say Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.
Radically pursuing Him with our whole heart – all the time… not a part time thing.  We can’t be pursuing all the things of the world and God.
Is our loyalty divided?  Is my loyalty divided?  Is that concept what makes it so difficult to be intimate with God? What are the things that come in the way?  What are the things we are more intimate with than God… what do we know better and give more time to?
As I looked around, I see all sorts of things that get in the way – take more time – I know better.  Much of it seems to revolve around technology… iPhone, computer (especially social media), TV, Radio, Video Games, and the list goes on.  I would bet that those are things that get in the way for you too.  But what are we to do?  We NEED those things to survive… DON’T WE?  I mean, twenty years ago, people were so lost without unlimited mobile to mobile minutes and texting, right?  40 years ago there were only 5 channels to turn to… oh the humanity!  70 years ago, people didn’t even have TV’s, just scratchy low quality (standard definition) radio broadcasts – how could you live in such a culture?
Can you imagine a day without Facebook, Twitter, emails, texts, or phone calls?  A day without TV or your MP3 player or some other noise distraction? Even a couple of hours is hard, isn’t it?  Honestly, it has become so difficult for some that Southwest and other airlines now offer free WiFi on select plane flights.  Frontier has DirecTV built into their head rests.
And we wonder why it is hard to be intimate with God… it is because we are never pursuing him with our whole heart… we are never “still and know that He is God” – how do we get to the point where we can choose to be intimate with Him, without distraction.
Here is my challenge (to myself included)… Take time and fast (to take time to be without).  Take a day a week – take a day a month – or you could even start small and just take an hour.  Unplug from the world and plug into God.  Don’t worry about everything else… yes you will survive.  Do it in the morning when you wake up… do it before bed… do it at lunch… to start - unplug for an hour or two.  Sit quietly (it may be the first time you have ever done that in your life).  Pray to God.  Listen to God.  Read His Word (from the actual book, not your iPad).  See what happens.  Let that time grow into a special time between you and God.
Give it a shot.  It may seem weird at first but I bet you will like it before long.  So many people tell me that they never hear God… but how can you with all of the other “noise” in your life.
Pursue God.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Another quick thought from Mr Jobs...

I saw this on the Fox News website...  A quote from Steve Jobs (right before I graduated High School)

Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me.… Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful—that’s what matters to me.—CNNMoney/Fortune, May 25, 1993

How do we have that same attitude toward life?  How can we grasp the understanding that it (life) isn't about the money... that it (life) isn't even about me at all?


RIP Steve Jobs


Steve Jobs, the genius behind Apple, died today.  When I found out I began to think about how many ways a man I had never met affected my life.  He has impacted so many people in so many ways.  His ideas changed American culture and created a subculture of Kool Aid drinking Apple followers (of which I am one).

Due to his death, you can find out all about Steve Jobs from the numerous reports and bios… that he was a college drop out, that he left Apple for a while, and you probably even heard that he has been battling sickness since 2004. I always knew he was sick, but never realized how sick until I came across the Commencement Address he gave to the Stanford University Class of 2005.  Here is a little of what he said…

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

A lot to think about…

I am not sure of Steve Jobs’ spiritual condition, but he was so right.  Life is short.  I blogged about that a few months ago.

Psalm 89:47 says… Remember how short my life is, how empty and futile this human existence!

Steve Jobs died today… it could be anyone of us tomorrow.  We should live our lives in light of eternity.  What are you doing here that will affect those around you?  How is your life changing the people around you? 

You have been given one life to live… don’t waste it.

(thanks to Ed Stetzer for posting the commencement address)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

When?


 A few weeks ago, Christy and I had the opportunity to go to the NewSpring Leadership Conference in Anderson, South Carolina.  It was refreshing and recharging and I could not have asked for a better conference to attend.

The speaker line up was full of some of the best church communicators out there today.  Perry Noble (pastor at New Spring Church – SC), Jud Wilhite (Pastor at Central Christian Church – Las Vegas), Steven Furtick (Pastor at Elevation Church – Charlotte) Mark Driscoll (Pastor at Mars Hill – Seattle), Andy Stanley (Pastor at NorthPoint Church – Atlanta), Judah Smith (Pastor at City Church – Seattle) and Craig Groeschel (Pastor at LifeChurch – Oklahoma).  While they all brought great messages of encouragement and challenge, I think the overall theme came down to one question that Judah Smith asked during his message… “When did Jesus stop being enough?”

While it wasn’t the theme, as I read through my notes on the plane ride home, it seemed to me that every speaker’s message revolved around that idea.

As I started to think about our new series that starts this week called NOT A FAN. I began to think back to that question… “When did Jesus stop being enough?”

When did church become about “everything” instead of just the “one thing?”  When did it become about programs and special events and the idea of “what’s in it for me” instead of being about Jesus, and Him alone?

Sometimes people think if we are not DOING a bunch of everything, then we are failing somehow in ministry.  I want to say that is wrong thinking.  Open up your Bible or open up a new tab on top to Matthew 28:18-20.  I’ll give you a minute.  Alright, read it?

If not, here it is - 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

I would like to HIGHLIGHT a few words here… Jesus does not tell us to go and make programs or bigger churches or fans of Him… he calls us to make disciples (fully devoted followers of Him) and teach them about Him and pass on His commands.

While it is great that churches provide all that they do, we really need to be careful to not let those things become priority or the reason why we go to church or do church.  Church is not about us.  We are not there to be entertained.  That is a FAN mentality that cannot be, because Jesus didn’t ask for fans, He has challenged us to be followers and to make them.

Starting this Sunday we will be discussing the difference – I hope you join us this Sunday as we kick this series off.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A letter to our partners

On August 26th, I sent this letter to our "partners" and thought that I would post it here in case I didn't have your mailing address (or if you just wanted to know what was going on)


Dear Paragon partner,

I hope this letter finds you well and walking with the Lord.  I must admit that I am not one who likes informal, impersonal, form letters, but I figured this is the best way to let you know where we are as a church, and where we are going.

When the idea of Paragon was birthed, we wanted to make sure to stay on task and have more of a “rifle type” approach to ministry rather than a “shotgun style.”  We wanted to focus on five key areas of ministry.  They are WORSHIP, CHILDREN, YOUTH, CONNECTION GROUPS, and MISSIONS.  I would like to let you know how I think we are doing in each of those areas.

WORSHIP – Our Sunday morning worship services have been going very well.  With everything that happened in May, things could have gone very poorly, but by the grace of God and the help of you all, it was quite the opposite.  Our new worship leader, Gerome Fragua, transitioned in seamlessly, and the six weeks of guest speakers went better than I could have ever expected. We have a lot of great ideas for the weeks and months ahead, please don’t miss the upcoming Sundays.

CHILDREN – I could not be happier with what Laura LeFevre and her team of volunteers are doing in the Children’s area.  All the kids I talk to have been loving doing Children’s Church and are excited about being there.  Laura has some great events planned and I would encourage you to get your kids involved. The only issue that we have had in the children’s ministry is so many of our great teachers and volunteers have moved away over the summer.  If you are interested in working with our children in any area, please contact Laura LeFevre to get plugged in.

YOUTH – Our youth group meets every Thursday night at the Napier’s house under the direction of Corey Proctor and Lorraine Pratt.  Things are going very well and our biggest problem is not having enough room for all the kids.  This is a great problem to have if you ask me.

CONNECTION GROUPS – Because we do not have a building or the space to meet for a typical “Sunday School”, our focus has been on getting together in people’s homes for Bible Study and fellowship.  While there are still kinks to work out, the connection groups are progressing nicely and we will be starting a new semester of study on Sunday, September 18th.  This new semester will have each of our groups going through one of my favorite books of the Bible, the book of James.

MISSIONS – Of all the areas of our focus, I will admit, this is our weakest, but getting stronger this fall.  We are in the process of creating opportunities for you to reach outside of our church walls and show Rio Rancho and the surrounding communities the love of Christ.  Please keep an eye out for opportunities to serve and remember, there is a mission field right outside your front door.  We don’t have to have an organized event for you to do missions work.

All I can say to wrap up this letter is “GOD IS GOOD” and I am excited to be a part of what He is doing at Paragon.  I hope you are too.

Have a great week and we will see you Sunday,


Pastor Matt

Thursday, August 11, 2011

(some) Lessons learned


It has been a while since my last post for Paragon.  It seems since March that the posts have been sporadic at best and I hope to change that as we move into the fall.

Today’s post is all about what God has been doing in my life over the past five to six months.   Rick Warren, pastor at Saddleback Church in California and author of Purpose Driven Church and Purpose Driven Life tweeted something the other day that I found to fit very well with my life since February.  He said “God wants to turn your test into a testimony; your mess into a life message.”

As I look back over the last six months, it has been a blur (though, while going through it, it seemed like an eternity).  And after all that I went through (and some things, still going through) I really do think it was a big test that people can eventually benefit from, even myself.

How can anyone benefit from a test/mess like this?  Here are just four of the many things that I learned.

#1 – God is in control and not me.  I am very much a person that likes to be in control.  I like to be the one driving.  I like to be the one leading.  I like to be the quarterback during crunch time.  No matter how much I like it, when it comes right down to it, I am merely a man that God has chosen to use in whatever way He deemed fit.

For example, my biggest fear was Paragon slipping up and faltering because I wasn’t there to have my hands in the mix.  Boy, was I wrong.  The people of Paragon stepped up in every way to do what God had not only called me to do, but also what He had called them to do – reach Rio Rancho for Christ.  The church didn’t miss a beat.  As a matter of fact, two of the Sundays I was out, we saw our largest attendance outside of Easter and our overall averages for the summer were higher than January-March of this year.  All that says to me is that God is in control and I am along for the ride.  The funny thing about this point is, about 3000 years ago, David penned this passage that we now know as Proverbs 3 –
 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
   and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
   and he will make your paths straight.
 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
   fear the LORD and shun evil. 
(Proverbs 3:5-7 - NIV - Biblegateway.com)
You would think that it shouldn’t/wouldn’t take cancer for me to realize that my “understanding” is pretty worthless in the grand scheme of things.

#2 – God works in mysterious ways.  You have probably heard that before and you may even think it is in the Bible (FYI – it’s not)… but it is true.  I have never fully understood the way that God has brought me to where I am, but there is no doubt in my mind that my past experiences have shaped me to exactly what God wants me to be (at least right now).  Who knew that God could use divorce, death, dysfunction, and now cancer to His glory, but He did.

#3 – Life is short.  I know Reebok used that term back in the 90’s, but I never really thought about it then (probably because I thought I had a good 60+ years still ahead of me).  Now, I think about it a lot.  I am 35 with three kids – one of them in double digits.  I have had cancer twice.  I have seen a lot and experienced a lot – but most of all, I have noticed that the phrase  “it seems like only yesterday” pops into my mind quite often.  Where has the time gone and what did I do with it?

Benjamin Franklin once said “Lost time is never found again.”  Going through all of this… surgery and radiation and healing – I don’t remember much other than being miserable through it.  I know I didn’t accomplish much other than watching Food Network and the Travel Channel.  I also remember just wanting the last day of radiation to come so I could be done.  When all was said and done, I felt as if I had just wasted the last eight weeks of my life.  Nothing to show for it other than a few scars and some different side effects.  How often is that the case in all of our lives.  When New Year’s comes in a few short months, what are we going to look back and say we accomplished in 2011?

Finally - #4 – We are more than conquerors.
I’ll be honest with you… CANCER SUCKS and sometimes other parts of life aren’t that great either but one passage (that I have read probably 100 times before) stood out to me during all of this.
Romans 8:31-37
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
   “For your sake we face death all day long;
   we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
(Romans 8:31-37 - NIV - Biblegateway.com)

This life is only temporary… the afterlife is eternal.  If you know Jesus as your personal Savior, that is great news – if you don’t know Jesus – remember, life is short and now would be a good time to meet Him.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Sense of Entitlement


I love the 4th of the July.  Outside of the two big Christian holidays it is probably my favorite holiday.  Its probably because (1) I love being an American and (2) I love watching things blow up (and a distant third - it also happens to fall during BBQ season).

The country is 235 years old.  I wonder what our “forefathers” might think if they saw how much this country has changed since they signed the Declaration of Independence?  It amazes me how much things have changed even since I was a kid (and that wasn’t that long ago).  I think of the ups and downs our country has gone through and where we currently are today.

How did we get here?  While there are many “experts” that will give you 1000 reasons, one that really stands out to me is our culture’s thinking that they are naturally entitled to something.  Merriam-Webster defines “entitlement” as belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.   We live in an instant gratification society that thinks the world owes them something so they want to get it now.  Teens and young adults see what their parents have (that their parents worked long and hard to earn) and they want the same thing, and they want it now.  Thankfully (sarcasm), we have credit limits that can help us get there.

We think we NEED these things to be successful or to be happy.  We think our kids NEED these things in order to succeed or be happy in life… I mean, honestly, who doesn’t want to give child everything they NEED.

Our problem in our culture is we have severely blurred the lines between WANTS and NEEDS.  What we NEED and what we WANT and even more so what we DESERVE have gotten very confused.  I don’t need to explain it too much more to you because you already know all about this (even if you don’t want to admit it).

What I do want to talk about is how this attitude has spilled over into, and has begun to consume the church.   I love my church.  I love going to church.  I love being a part of a Bible believing church.  I hope you can say the same.  My question I need to ask myself is “WHY?”  Why do I love my church?  Why do I love going?  Is it because of what it does for YOU?  Is it because it meets all of your NEEDS?  Every Sunday, people all over the United States are looking for a new church because their current church isn’t meeting their needs.   I know this because people have used those exact words to tell me why they are checking out Paragon or why they left Paragon.  I have never had the nerve to say it right then and there, but there is a question that always pops in my mind… “SINCE WHEN IS GOING TO CHURCH ABOUT YOU?”

Church isn’t about us.  Our gathering together is a great thing for building up one another, for learning and for a sense of community, but none of those are the #1 reason we go to church (or at least they shouldn’t be).  It is about us coming together to worship the ONE TRUE GOD.  We have been worshipping Him all week long and this is a culmination of that week.  Our songs are to Him (not to us to make us feel better).  Our message is to Him (not to make us feel better).  We are to come here for an audience of ONE.  Everything else that happens there is just a fringe benefit for being there.

That is what “Simple Sunday” at Paragon is all about.  We are going to strip away everything that we think makes church and leave only what really is church… a group of people worshipping the ONE TRUE GOD.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hope.


Hope.

As of today, I have five treatments left of radiation to take care of the cancer that returned to my tongue.

The crazy thing is, this has been a large part of my 2011 and 2011 is almost half over.
This morning I began to think about this…
Friday, February 11th was my biopsy for a sore on my tongue (118 days or 3 months 29 days).  That started this journey.

Friday, March 11th was my surgery to remove the cancer (90 days or 2 months 29 days)

Monday, April 18th, radiation began.  (52 days – more than 7 weeks) That is a lot of time gone.  I feel like I have accomplished little during this period.  By the time I am done next Wednesday, two months will have elapsed since starting radiation.  Two months of my life and over 50 pounds of my body weight gone… with little to show for it.

In the beginning, I really didn’t think I would make it through all of this.  I have wanted to quit so many times.  When you look at the goal being two months away, you never think it is going to get here.  Now that it is 7 days away, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and a hope that “normal” will return soon after that.  And that is what has brought me through… a hope that normal will come, just a hope that it would all soon be done.

Everyone has help keep my eyes focused on that hope since the beginning.  My wonderful wife, my family, my church, my friends… they all continued to encourage me that the end was in sight and a hope of being me again would soon be here.

And that got me thinking… without that hope, would life really even exist?  We all hope in something don’t we… that keeps our lives going, doesn’t it?  For some, they find hope in our jobs, others, their family, and others still, they find hope in their kids success.  Some find it in the government and some find it in their future success, and some just hope to make it to tomorrow.

It seems everyone hopes in something… it is what gets us through today, tomorrow and the next week – it is the hope that something better is coming.

I will tell you, there are little things that I hope for… my taste buds to come back quickly, the sores in my mouth to heal even quicker, to be able to get back to doing what I love to do without any fatigue and the list goes on.  But what happens when either (A) those things finally happen or even (B) they never do?  That is a question that people face every day.

Here is the answer.  Put your hope in something more than the temporary.  I love what the Psalmist, David has to write in the Book of Psalms, 25.

1 In you, LORD my God,
   I put my trust.
 2 I trust in you;
   do not let me be put to shame,
   nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one who hopes in you
   will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
   who are treacherous without cause.
 4 Show me your ways, LORD,
   teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my Savior,
   and my hope is in you all day long.

From the beginning of this whole thing, I kept saying that I know God has a plan and He knows what He is doing.  There were days that it was easier to say than to actually believe, but deep down, my trust is in Him.

I honestly do not know where I would be without that faith, trust, and hope in Him.  As I look out at those who do not know Him, I wonder, how do they make it through.  Where is their hope?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A HUGE THANK YOU...

Today, I feel better than I have in a few weeks.   I guess the doctors know what they are talking about when they look at all the side effects going on in me and say “you need a break”. 
That happened on Monday.  I went in for treatment #25 and met with my doctor afterwards.  She took one look at my throat and the sores in my mouth and said you need some time off.  The problem is, I didn’t want time off.  I still have 12 treatments to go and every morning I wake up this week, I will still have 12 treatments to go.  I just want to be done.
I want to be done so badly that last Friday morning I wrote a letter to both of my doctors involved and said “I quit”.  I never sent the letter, but it sure did feel good to get it off my chest.  I was miserable and hating life.
That night I loaded up the car and went to a benefit dinner that Paragon Church and First Baptist – Rio Rancho held for my family and me.  I didn’t want to go because I wasn’t feeling well but since both my Father-In-Law (Chester) and Pastor Si were going to speak to challenge me, I thought I should go.   When I arrived, I was blown away by the support of each person there.  There were so many people helping and serving as well as eating, it just said to you – “YOU CAN DO THIS.  We’ve got your back!”  Since the dinner, Christy and I received all of the cards and gifts to encourage us to keep fighting this fight.   I cannot tell you how much that means to our family.  We feel so loved and supported.
On top of that, all of the volunteers have stepped up at Paragon Church to get the jobs done every Sunday.  One of my biggest worries about all of this was “what is going to happen to the church while I am down and out.”  God, like always, has had the whole thing under control.  He is constantly reminding me that “church” is not about me – it’s about Him, and with the true Leader leading, Paragon has not missed a step in the process of reaching Rio Rancho for Christ.
I ask for your continued prayer support for each member of our family.  Only 12 treatments left.  The last treatment day is June 15.  Side Effects last for a few weeks/months after that.
Even with that seeming to be a long way off… I have seen two quotes in the last few days that challenged me to go the next leg…
“Don't let the devil take what you have left just because you can't get over what you've lost.”
“Character is built on daily decisions. Never let character give way to convenience.”
Thank you all.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The week that was...

It’s Monday, and I sit here in my recliner, thinking about the week that was and I must say, I am really glad it is over. You wouldn’t normally say that when that week consists of your anniversary, your wife’s birthday, your son’s birthday, and Mother’s Day, but it’s true.

Let me explain. Last week was miserable for me. As you probably already know, I am in the process of going through radiation treatments to kill off any remaining cancer cells that might be left in my mouth. The treatments themselves are not bad, other than having my face locked to a table, but the side effects are killing me. Dry mouth, mucus, sore throat, mouth sores, fatigue and on top of it all, when I feel like trying to eat, my taste buds are shot. Then, I also had an infection/blocked gland in my cheek making my face swell up and the antibiotics they gave me didn’t treat my stomach well. None of those side effects work well with celebrating anything and I not only felt terrible physically, but also mentally. So much so, I was ready to quit and was building up a case so I could quit without feeling like a quitter. Even as I came home from church yesterday, I just wanted to be done with all of this. I wanted to feel awake, swallow normal and I wanted to eat food that tastes like it smells, instead of tasting like sawdust.

This morning, I went to radiation as I normally do (15 treatments down, 22 more to go). I felt a bit better because I slept a bit better. I met with the radiation oncology doc after and I told her how much I would like to be done. I asked her what would be the ramifications of stopping early. To put her long answer into a short one, she said “you have kids don’t you?” Me. “Yes” Doc. “Do it for them. The odds are much better that the cancer doesn’t return if you finish treatment.”

I then went to another dr. appt with my Ear Nose Throat doc and he told me the same thing. “We need to be aggressive with this because it was aggressive first.”

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but it was what I needed to hear. They were just echoing what my amazing wife had been saying all along.

When we got home, I jumped on the computer and I saw a friend from college, who is also a church planter (actually helped me a lot as Paragon Church initially progressed) with a new post about his health. I must say, it put my struggles into perspective. You see, he found out he is dealing with a serious disease that is knocking him out slowly and there are not treatment options at this point in time. I would explain more to you but he does a great job on his blog and he actually knows what he is talking about… so find out more at http://gregrohlinger.com/. Please be praying for him and his family.

I have heard more and more stories like this affecting so many people (and I have seen a lot taking place in ministry) it has helped me see life a little clearer. Yes, I have a disease that sucks. Yes, The treatment is a bit barbaric (if ask me) and even the doc said this is the worst of all cancers to have to radiate due to location. But as far as we know, the treatment will give me much better odds for the future and God has put a group of men and women around me, including my wife, that are and will continue to help me get through this. I am being prayed for, being encouraged, and people are giving of their time in all sorts of ways.

I think that the most important thing I have gained from all of this is… this church isn’t about me. God may have led me to plant it, but it is still His. He is in control of the life of Paragon and He knows exactly what He is doing with mine. I think my two greatest struggles with all of this are how my side effects would affect my family and how all of this would affect the church. Once again, I just need to realize that God knows what He is doing and we all need to trust Him with that control.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

G.O.S.P.E.L.

IN CHRIST...


We started our study of Ephesians last week... one phrase that is throughout Ephesians (and the rest of the New Testament) is IN CHRIST... but what are the blessings from being IN CHRIST important... and why do they matter.  Take a look...

Because I am IN CHRIST
I am faithful (Ephesians 1:1)
I am God’s child (John 1:12)
I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)
I belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)
I am a member of Christ’s Body (1 Corinthians 12:27)
I am assured all things work together for good (Romans 8:28)
I have been established, anointed and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
I am confident that God will perfect the work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6)
I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)
I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)
I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18)
I am blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)
I am chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 11)
I am holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4)
I am adopted as his child (Ephesians 1:5)
I am given God’s glorious grace lavishly and without restriction (Ephesians 1:5,8)
I am in Him (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30)
I have redemption (Ephesians 1:8)
I am forgiven (Ephesians 1:8; Colossians 1:14)
I have purpose (Ephesians 1:9 & 3:11)
I have hope (Ephesians 1:12)
I am included (Ephesians 1:13)
I am sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)
I am a saint (Ephesians 1:18)
I am salt and light of the earth (Matthew 5:13-14)
I have been chosen and God desires me to bear fruit (John 15:1,5)
I am a personal witness of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8)
I am God’s coworker (2 Corinthians 6:1)
I am a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)
I am raised up with Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6)
I have been shown the incomparable riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:7)
God has expressed His kindness to me (Ephesians 2:7)
I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
I have been brought near to God through Christ’s blood (Ephesians 2:13)
I have peace (Ephesians 2:14)
I have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18)
I am a member of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19)
I am secure (Ephesians 2:20)
I am a holy temple (Ephesians 2:21; 1 Corinthians 6:19)
I am a dwelling for the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22)
I share in the promise of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6)
God’s power works through me (Ephesians 3:7)
I can approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)
I know there is a purpose for my sufferings (Ephesians 3:13)
I can grasp how wide, long, high and deep Christ’s love is (Ephesians 3:18)
I am completed by God (Ephesians 3:19)
I can bring glory to God (Ephesians 3:21)
I have been called (Ephesians 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:9)
I can be humble, gentle, patient and lovingly tolerant of others (Ephesians 4:2)
I can mature spiritually (Ephesians 4:15)
I can be certain of God’s truths and the lifestyle which He has called me to (Ephesians 4:17)
I can have a new attitude and a new lifestyle (Ephesians 4:21-32)
I can be kind and compassionate to others (Ephesians 4:32)
I can forgive others (Ephesians 4:32)
I am a light to others, and can exhibit goodness, righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:8-9)
I can understand what God’s will is (Ephesians 5:17)
I can give thanks for everything (Ephesians 5:20)
I don’t have to always have my own agenda (Ephesians 5:21)
I can honor God through marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33)
I can parent my children with composure (Ephesians 6:4)
I can be strong (Ephesians 6:10)
I have God’s power (Ephesians 6:10)
I can stand firm in the day of evil (Ephesians 6:13)
I am dead to sin (Romans 1:12)
I am not alone (Hebrews 13:5)
I am growing (Colossians 2:7)
I am His disciple (John 13:15)
I am prayed for by Jesus Christ (John 17:20-23)
I am united with other believers (John 17:20-23)
I am not in want (Philippians 4:19)
I possess the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16)
I am promised eternal life (John 6:47)
I am promised a full life (John 10:10)
I am victorious (I John 5:4)
My heart and mind is protected with God’s peace (Philippians 4:7)
I am chosen and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12)
I am blameless (I Corinthians 1:8)
I am set free (Romans 8:2; John 8:32)
I am crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20)
I am a light in the world (Matthew 5:14)
I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
I am the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)
I am safe (I John 5:18)
I am part of God’s kingdom (Revelation 1:6)
I am healed from sin (I Peter 2:24)
I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1, 2)
I am not helpless (Philippians 4:13)
I am overcoming (I John 4:4)
I am persevering (Philippians 3:14)
I am protected (John 10:28)
I am born again (I Peter 1:23)
I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am delivered (Colossians 1:13)
I am redeemed from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13)
I am qualified to share in His inheritance (Colossians 1:12)
I am victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57)