Everyday for about the last week, my 3 year old daughter has asked me, “Daddy, is it Easter day?” Her question is cute and makes me smile, but it also makes me think…what would it look like to celebrate Easter every day? Stated another way, what does it look like to live everyday in light of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior.
The Resurrection changed everything! We see how drastically it impacted the disciples in the book of Acts. Paul even says that without the resurrection, Christianity doesn’t make sense (I Corinthians 15:14-19).
Easter is great. I’m so glad that as a church we do celebrate the Resurrection, but the reality is we should celebrate it everyday. Through the resurrection we have new life. Christ’s death purchased the forgiveness of our sins. His resurrection gives us the power to overcome sin and death. Not only is our eternal destiny secure, the quality of our life in this world is improved. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we get to spend eternity in heaven AND we can experience the best possible life here and now.
As Easter draws near, I’d encourage you to take some time to read Romans 6:1-14 and reflect on the impact of the resurrection on your daily life.
I was inspired today by a prayer I saw on a bumper sticker:
“Lord, help me to be the person my dog thinks I am.”
I know exactly what that means. (As do all of you other dog owners.)
We have had Stanley, our Lab / English Setter mix, for about 9 years. Virtually every time I come home he goes insane with excitement! Any time I even just look in his direction he wags his tail and hopes for a few minutes of my attention. Stanley thinks I am awesome – 24/7.
I know he thinks much better of me than what is reality; hence the truthiness of that bumper sticker prayer!
Authentic spirituality produces that type of reality – to be the same inside and out. To be real. To not be satisfied with mere image control. To be unpretentious. What you see is what you get.
Christ in us renews and changes us from the inside-out; incrementally bringing us to wholeness that is found in no other way. Not perfection but definitely a closer match between how we are perceived and who we really are.
I hope I can live up to Stanley’s expectations! For real.
This past weekend saw the completion and celebration of our 2012 Upward Basketball and Cheerleading program. By the numbers:
- 145 players
- 18 basketball teams
- 2 cheerleading squads
- 45 coaches
- 9 referees
- 16 children accepting Christ
- 1 successful season
The above totals do not include the numerous volunteers who helped in the Good & Plenty Café, were part of our Upward prayer team, assisted with set-up and clean-up, conducted half-time devotions, helped with administrative tasks…..the involvement in our Upward program is amazing.
Upward Basketball and Cheerleading is one of ACC’s foremost outreach ministries. As Dave likes to say, combine sports and Jesus and you have an instant winning combination. At the awards celebration, we asked for parent feedback on the season, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few comments: “You’re doing a great job. The coaches care so deeply for (the players) and truly showed Christ’s love to them. You are making an eternal difference.” “We love how the kids hear about Jesus and are taught Christian ethics”. “My family has greatly benefitted for the last few weeks from the program. My children now have a positive view of themselves and have a love of basketball”. In my opinion, it doesn’t get much better than that!
I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every volunteer who dedicated time and energy into making this season a wonderful success. We will be celebrating the completion of the season this Sunday, March 25th. If you have Upward spirit wear, please be sure to wear it, and stay a few minutes after the service to enjoy the wonderful Upward Highlight Video.
I can’t wait until groundbreaking…. when actual construction work begins… when tradesmen and trucks and noise fill this place. That is when it seems real… when our Growing Together hopes and dreams become tangible. That day will be exciting.
So, when do we get started?
All along we have said that the date of groundbreaking depends primarily on two things: Financing and the Village of Arlington Heights plan commission. Let me give you a brief update…
First, the financing. Our elders, Operations Task Force and trustees recently met to prayerfully consider two different loan proposals. We decided to go with Village Bank of Arlington Heights. This construction loan is now in the process of becoming official so we have the needed funds.
Secondly, our work with the village plan commission. We have hit a few unexpected snags – nothing major or highly unusual – it’s all a part of the laborious process of getting the numerous necessary approvals. At this point we anticipate actually being able to break ground in the fall – at the earliest.
In the meantime we have received to date – just over $200,000 in Growing Together donations. Thanks so much for your generosity. Your faithfulness is so encouraging and God honoring.
Let me give you a few things to pray about:
- That our loan would be finalized and officially approved soon.
- That our work with the plan commission would be as smooth as possible.
- That Church Building Consultants would have great skill and wisdom as they work with the plan commission and as they continue to develop our building plans.
- That we could receive great (Low!) bids from the various sub-contractors.
- That we would break ground in God’s perfect timing – not a day too soon or too late!
- For Jim Young and our Building Vision team.
- That Growing Together pledges would continue to be met in a most generous way.
Thanks for your interest and thanks for praying!
At Pit Stop (middle school youth group) last night, I taught on Esther. I love the story of Esther. If you’re not familiar with the story, I’d highly encourage you to take some time to read it soon. It’s a short book. You can easily read it in one sitting. VeggieTales also did a great job telling the story :). The story is full of exciting plot development, a little bit of irony, and the triumph of good over evil.
The thing that I love the most about the story is a verse from chapter 4. Esther has sort of gone from rags to riches and finds herself in the royal palace. The King chooses her to be his Queen. The King is tricked into decreeing the extermination of the Jews (not knowing Esther is a Jew). Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, gets word to Esther and persuades her to help. That’s where we find the following verse:
“And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14b
Mordecai reminds Esther that there are no mistakes with God! Perhaps the position she finds herself in as Queen is for this very moment where she has the opportunity to save her people. I want to live my life with that statement in mind. Each day I’ve been given opportunities to be a witness for God, to make an impact for His kingdom.
Who knows but that I ended up in this grocery line next to this individual for such a time as this.
Who knows but that I share this seat on the train, bus, plane, with this individual for such a time as this.
Who knows but that I ended up at this coffee shop/restaurant for such a time as this.
I’m challenged by the story of Esther to look for Divine appointments in my everyday. I hope you will as well.
Authentic. Funny. Insightful. Faithful. Dedicated. Reliable. Grace-filled. Wise. Fun. Humble.
The first ten adjectives that came to mind (in no particular order) when thinking of our ACC leadership team.
Elders – Ray Demich, Ken Kerr, Jim Johnson, Jim Ray, (Mark Birmingham is in the confirmation process).
Staff – Kris Milashus, Chris Modrzejewski, Scott Williams, and Jim Young.
It is such a blast working along-side of them. I respect each one of them. I see each as God’s strategic gift to our church and to me!
This past Friday night / Saturday we were on our annual retreat up in Lake Geneva. Our focus was on self-leadership; the idea that before you can effectively lead someone else you must be able to lead yourself. We each feel undeserving of our leadership roles but also believe that our sufficiency is found in God – not ourselves. We spent quality time evaluating our spiritual health and our fitness as leaders. We were very open and honest with each other. We listened, gave feedback and prayed. It was sweet. I walked away so grateful for our team.
Just wanted to go public and say in no uncertain terms: 1) I love these people. 2) It is such an honor to be their co-worker and 3) I thank God for them.
ACC is so blessed by quality leadership. Please join me in praying regularly for our leaders; encourage them and express appreciation.
As part of the lesson for Oasis (high school ministry) this past Tuesday, we talked about the difference between punishment and discipline as they relate to our relationship with God. They’re similar terms, but I think there’s a significant difference between the two. Understanding the difference can help clear up some misconceptions about God.
Punishment is primarily about penalty.
Discipline is primarily about correction.
To help illustrate the difference, consider this scenario. A small child throws his crayons on the floor. This is unacceptable behavior and so the parent intervenes. Punishment looks like a swat on the hand and sending him to his room (penalty for his action). Discipline looks like explaining to the child why we don’t throw crayons, putting the crayons out of reach for the rest of the day, and trying again tomorrow (focused on correcting the behavior). Now, I know both of these could achieve the desired result (not throwing crayons). I would even argue that each have their time and place. However, it’s important to understand the distinction between the two when we consider how God relates to us regarding our sin.
Punishment = penalty for sin
Discipline = correcting sinful behavior
Praise God that the penalty for our sin has been paid in full! (Romans 8:1). In his death on the cross, Jesus took the punishment that was meant for us. God the father poured out his wrath on God the son as he judged our sin. The penalty has been handed out. So, when bad things happen, it’s not God punishing us. God isn’t sitting up in heaven keeping track of wrongs and dishing out punishments – a stubbed toe here, a sickness there. The scriptures are clear, however, that God, as a loving father, does discipline his children. (Hebrews 12:1-13). Keeping in mind that discipline is about correcting, it would make sense that God would discipline his children as way of making us more like his Son. Each of us is a work in progress. We stand before God as if we’ve never sinned, but our lives tell a different story. As long as we are here on earth, we struggle against our sin nature. Sometimes we give in and lose that fight and God needs to step in and correct us. God disciplines those he loves. So what does God’s disciple look like? We’ll save that one for another time…
- It is strategic. Mix kids and sports and BOOM! – people are all about it.
- It develops leaders. Many get involved and are stretched – maybe having never coached before, or reffed, or given devotions. But they try it, find they can do it, and get better at it and BOOM! – growth happens as a Christian and as a leader.
- It relies on prayer. The weekly prayer email to the prayer team reminds us that we have supernatural goals that require supernatural resources.
- It is a ton of fun. The energy level is high – lots of cheering, screaming, clapping. The players are having a blast – week after week!
- It introduces people to Jesus. It all points to him. It is about a relationship – not about rules or rituals or religion. Jesus loves you enough to die for you – the best news ever and Upward is all about delivering that message.
Just a few weeks left in the season. Please pray for our upcoming closing program on Sunday afternoon, March 18th. Pray that the seed of the gospel would be planted in many hearts and that some would even cross the line of faith that day! I thank God for Allison Bies, Upward director, and her awesome team of workers. Upward rocks!
The past 2 weeks have been excessively busy for me. I’ve over-scheduled and over-committed myself. Don’t feel too bad for me…it’s entirely my fault :). I should have been more careful in planning out my schedule. While doing my Lent readings for the day, I was confronted with a timely thought. It’s from the book Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross edited by Nancy Guthrie that I referenced in last week’s post. As the author reflects on Christ’s betrayal and suffering he say’s this:
Jesus’ character shines through in this moment of crisis…the character and calmness of Jesus remind us and provide an example for us in the midst of our own trials.” p. 38
Now, I’m not going through a crisis, but I think the principle applies to anytime we are stressed. Stress, trials, difficult times, they have a way of “testing” our trust in God. Christ was able to be calm in his moment of crisis because he knew his Father was trustworthy.
Numbers 23:19 says God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? An old saying comes to mind. “Don’t doubt in dark what you know to be true in the light”. When we experience hard times, we need to lean hard on what we know to be true about God. If it’s true when times are good, it’s true when times are tough. God is good, all the time.