Bubble Soccer - Men's Retreat

As I mentioned in my previous posts, part of the time spent on the Men's Retreat was just having fun. People played football, basketball, mountain biked, ping-pong, corn hole and hiked. But the highlight was playing bubble soccer.

As you can see in the above picture, bubble soccer is at is sounds. You are literally in a bubble, and playing soccer (well, attempting to play). I say attempting  because first, it's actually difficult to do much of anything in those bubbles. It's hard to see out of them because they're pretty cloudy/blurry, so you can't really see the ball and it's hard to tell who is who on the field, and it's actually pretty exhausting running around carrying the bubble. Second, let's be real, all you want to do is knock each other down. So even though a game of soccer was taking place, you're pretty much just looking to level someone. All of that added up means eventually you just are looking for someone to deck, and when the opportunity arises you take it, even if it means it's your own team mate.

After we played several games of 'soccer' we got rid of the soccer ball and just played chicken. So without further adieu, here are some videos of us playing chicken...

This first video is of me (on the left) and my buddy Stephen (right):
This collision was probably the best. The guy on the left got so much speed, so quickly, the guy opposite him had no chance:

The 2 camp staff guys that were overseeing the bubble soccer mentioned it was worth having one guy jump up in the air right before impact. Which gave us this awesome video:

The Men's Retreat was an overall success. As you can see we had some fun, which allowed for our men to further build and strengthen, as well as create new relationships and friendships with one another. And most importantly Christ was proclaimed and lifted high. Thanks for y'all's support!

Back from the Mountains - Recovering Manhood - Redemption

As I shared a couple weeks ago, this past weekend was our church's Men's retreat. Myself, along with about 30 other men from our church went up to Ridge Haven and spent the weekend together. It was a great time where we relaxed, had fun, ate awesome food, laughed and most importantly, spent time in the word and prayer together. Our series was on Recovering Manhood and we had 4 sessions, and I had the privilege to lead one of the sessions. Our topics were Creation, the Fall, Redemption and Consummation.  The topic I spoke on was Redemption and so I thought I would share a shortened/edited version of my notes. I hope and pray these will serve as encouragement to you...

So what is redemption in the Christian sense? I think the best way to think of it is salvation plus transformation. Let's look to God’s Word to have redemption illustrated for us.

Ephesians 2:1-10 says. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

So lets recap: We have a Creator - God - who created all things, including us. and he established law and order that He commands us to perfectly follow. But because of Adam’s rebellion and rejection of God’s law, sin entered the world and mankind thus making us dead in in our sins, sons of disobedience and children of wrath. And therefore we rightfully deserve God’s wrath and punishment.

But God being rich in mercy sent His Son Jesus to do what we could never do. He perfectly fulfilled the Father’s law. He died in our place and then God raised Him from the dead and He is now seated at Gods right hand. Jesus served as the spotless and perfect sacrificial lamb to appease the Father’s anger and those who confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead, will be saved.

That's salvation. And that's amazing and mind blowing that God would do that! It truly is amazing grace. That God would pour His wrath and punishment that we deserve into His Son is astounding. And my prayer is that that truth will never lose its awesomeness for us. But here’s the thing. A lot of times when we talk about redemption, we stop there. We only focus on the salvation side of things. But redemption involves both salvation and our transformation into God's likeness. The transformation part is just as important.

Remember what the end of that Eph passage said? We are God's workmanship. We were created for good works. And we are to walk in the Lord's ways. Eph 5:1 says for us to imitate our Father. As we heard last night from Shane we were created to bear the image of God. We are to be holy as God is holy.

Redemption must not end with salvation. If it does, then we will use God’s grace as an excuse to continue sinning. We’ll shrug off our sin because we don’t see the horror of it. We’ll turn a blind eye to it because we like the temporary pleasure it brings and we don’t want to give that up. We’ll be that person in Romans who says well if God’s grace abounds in my sin then I should sin more and more so that His grace may abound more and more. But we can’t serve 2 masters. We can’t serve both sin and righteousness. In the end you will hate one and love the other.

So as we focus on the transformation side of redemption, and how that should impact us as men, I want us to look to 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. It says “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

So we’ll just work through these verses by each command. There’s 5 total commands contained within these 2 verses. The first command is to be watchful. If you really think about it, it makes perfect sense for that to be the first command, but I think as men that goes against our instincts doesn’t it? As we heard last night God designed us men to be leaders. So it's in our makeup to want to take initiative and take charge. So why doesn't God say ‘Take immediate action’ in place of being watchful?

I think you could list multiple reasons as to why, and they'd be correct, but there’s 1 main one reason I'm going to highlight and I’ll illustrate it with 1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

I know the lion analogy can be a little hard to grasp cause we don't live in a land where we have the daily threat of a lion attacking us in our backyard. But with that said we all can agree a hungry desperate lion is something to watch out for. But I think often times we don't view Satan in that light. We buy into the picture of Satan as the red guy with horns and a pitchfork and he’s mischievous and simply looking to prank us and cause us to sin so we can can all get a good laugh out of it. But that’s not who he is. His desire is to cause complete and utter ruin and destruction in and of our lives.

So we must be on guard. We must watch for him and his schemes and his tactics. You must watch out for situations and scenarios you know will present temptations to you. And when you see those situations coming, you need to be on guard against them. Do whatever is necessary to avoid, prevent and get away from that scenario.

We need to recognize that the devil, our enemy, the one who wants to destroy us, knows our weaknesses. That's a bad combination. So we must be watchful because sin is always looking to over take you.

The next command is stand firm in the faith, and this command is exactly what we need to hear after being told to be watchful. By standing firm in the faith we are reminding ourselves the strength to withstand the devil’s temptations is not found within us. We can only resist and flee temptation by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our faith cannot be in ourselves or in the things of this world. If it is then we will succumb to his temptations every time. We must put our faith in Jesus our High Priest. As Heb. 4:15-16 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

The next 2 commands are act like men, be strong. There’s 2 things I want want to point out with these commands. First, specifically regarding the command act like men, is that men is plural. It’s not saying you act like a man. But rather, y’all act like men. This is a great reminder that it is imperative to lock arms with other godly men in our lives who will encourage us, love us and rebuke us. I think of scenes from movies like 300 where they lock their shields together. Or in Gladiator where Maximus says to the other slaves if we stay together we survive. Every day, whether you like it or not, whether you acknowledge it or not, we go into battle, we go into a spiritual war raging that is unseen. And we can't go into that battle alone. The Christian life is not meant to be lived alone or in solitude. The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, encourage one another and not neglecting to meet together. And James 5:16 says “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” There is transformation when we live in humility and vulnerability with other brothers in Christ. As iron sharpens iron so shall one man sharpen another.

The 2nd point. Act like men can also be translated to ‘be courageous’. So it could read be courageous, be strong. The phrase be strong and courageous shows up a lot in the Old Testament. Often times it’s used in the context of war and as encouragement to God’s people that they do not need to fear, but rather be strong and courageous because God is our warrior King and he will overthrow the enemy. Just as the Israelites were commanded to go to war to eliminate their enemies and false gods, we are called to go to war with sin and put it to death. Romans 8:13 says “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Galatians 5:24 says “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” And Colossians 3:5 says “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you.”

The Puritan John Owen famously wrote “be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

Satan lies to us that sin will not lead to death. He told that lie to Adam and Eve and he tells us that sin to this day. But God’s Word reminds us otherwise. James says when sin is fully grown it brings forth death.

Sin in our lives, even if you think it's a small and insignificant sin, must be put to death. We must be willing to take whatever steps, even radical steps, to put sin to death so that we can live.

The last command is let all that you do be done in love. This command certainly feels like a change of pace. We have all these macho commands about standing firm, acting like men and being strong, and then the last command is for us to love.

But Jesus said, he who has been forgiven much loves much, and he who has been forgiven little loves little.

Redemption is all about unworthy and unlovable people being forgiven by the One who rightfully should pour all of His wrath onto us. We are a people who have been forgiven much. Therefore we should be a people who love much.

As we are transformed and grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus 2 things will happen. 1) we will grow in our likeness of of our father, who is love. So we will look more and more like love. And 2) we will grow in our grasp of the depth of our sin, which will allow us to see more fully how much we truly have been forgiven.

So as we pursue transformation. As we pursue looking more and more like our redeemer we should and will become a people marked by a great love that flows from us.

: prayer :
Father we are sinful and vile and you are holy and majestic. It blows my mind that you would send your perfect and blameless Son to die on our behalf. May your gift of salvation always be on our mind. And may transformation into your likeness be our daily goal. May we be a group of men that locks arms with one another, speaking truth and love to each other. May we be a people and a church that understands how much we have been forgiven and therefore display a deep love to you and our neighbors. Grant us the power and discipline to daily be killing sin in our lives. Thank you for rescuing us. We pray this in Jesus name amen.

I hope these notes serve as encouragement to you. Once I get a hold of some pics and videos from the weekend I'll share those as well.

Fall Festival Fun - 2015

We had a great time yesterday at Midlands Church's fall festival! We have had it at Stone River the last few years, which is a beautiful venue on the river and overlooks the city, and even though it was a rainy day, it was a lot of fun! There are lots of pumpkin games for the kids and a chili cook off (which Hart won last year) ... we had to give the others a shot this year, so we left ours out of the running (JK!)
 Cai was Ezra from Disney Star Wars for Halloween. We had already dressed up 3 days prior for a number of Halloween business so this isn't his complete costume, but he wanted to wear it again!
 Waiting to Pumpkin Bowl!

 Pumpkin Tic Tac Toe
 Judah picked out this awesome prize from the prize box....
 Sporting those purple shades like a boss!!! I tell you this kid has two adjectives that describe him best: stubborn and silly! Hahaha! That's a fun combo!
We feel really blessed because yesterday was November 1st and Hart's first full-time day working for Midlands Church! By God's grace, we reached right past 50% of our support raising mark and are so grateful that God always always provides exactly what we need exactly when we need it! While there is still a support raising road ahead of us, we are grateful to have the amount needed to begin working full-time in ministry! If you would like to support our family in prayer and financially, please visit our support page for more details!

Hope yall had a great Halloween weekend!  

Rainy Day Blahs

Sometimes rainy days are snuggles in warm jammies and hot tea, both of which I plan to accomplish later this afternoon. But other times, we fight the "blahs" of rainy days!

I had several errands to run today and on the way home, for some reason, I just become down about this whole financial support raising crazy idea/journey our family is on.

It's until the going gets tough, when we get pushed against the ledge looking down over the cliff that we have to choose who is faithful and all those tiny lies just come lunging at you from all directions!

"Did God REALLY call you and Hart to this ministry? Is God REALLY faithful? Is God going to ACTUALLY come through for YOU?" All the lies you know are from the evil one pound you over and over.

(See photo note at the end)  
So I ran to Jesus. I ran straight to my bed and laid flat on my face and prayed! God. Please. Give me the faith I need! I know you, Lord! You WILL come through. You did not call us to this task to not equip us and carry us through and I trust you. I do! But I am weak and I need your strength.

As I opened my daily devotional New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp, I just sat in amazement at the Holy Spirit's working in my life as I read the text hand-picked for me and my struggles today.

"Here's the good news: God is faithful and will do what is necessary to craft real faith in us. Faith isn't natural for us. It's not natural for us to rest our entire past, present, and future on someone we cannot hear, see or touch. Doubt is natural. Envy is natural. Fear is natural. Worry is natural. Trying to figure out what's coming next is natural. Trusting in our own strength and wisdom is natural, but faith is not natural for us. So God works in sanctifying grace to turn baby believers into mature people of faith. He will not relent until that work is complete. Nothing can stop the transforming grace." 

And as I read the day's chosen text from a few different translations, the message spoke it straight to my heart the best in 1 John 3:1-3

"What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it-- we're called children of God! That's who we really are. But that's also why the world doesn't recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he's up to. But friends, that's exactly who we are: children of God. And that's only the beginning. Who knows how we will end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we'll see him-- and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, and with the glistening purity of Jesus' life as a model for our own." 

He is good! He has called us to this task and he will surely do it and we will trust Him!

If you would like to support us financially, go here!

Photo Note: You pass this on the way to the beach on the side of this old church in the country. True, yes, but still the whole thing is hilarious to have printed that way on a sign. I had to stop and take a picture. Can you spot the joker!? Oh my, people. Oh my. But really... do turn to Jesus! 

Men's Retreat - Where We'll Do Manly Things

"Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love."
- 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

From November 5 through the 8 I, Hart, will have the privilege of going on our church's annual men's retreat. I always look forward to this time. It's a chance to get up to the mountains and enjoy autumn at its prime. Beards will abound! It's a time to do all things manly: shoot guns, watch football, play football, hike, and eat a whole bunch of good food...manly food...like bacon wrapped bacon with a side of bacon. But most importantly this will be a time of a bunch of brothers in Christ getting together to pray, hear the Word taught, sing a bunch of hymns, and motivate each other to pursue godliness.

I'm especially excited about this upcoming retreat because Lord willing the support will have come in and I will be officially full time with our church by that point. As far as my roles for the retreat and what I'll specifically be doing. The retreat is Friday through Sunday (6-8), but I'm going up with a team the day before on that Thursday to help prep and set up for the weekend. I'll also be selecting the music for the retreat, and co-leading with one of our other musicians during the retreat. I'm excited about co-leading because I normally am filling in musically in the background on Sunday's, so this will be a fun opportunity to scratch that occasional itch I get to play my guitar and lead the singing. And what's also exciting, and a little nerve wracking!, is that I will be the speaker for one of the sessions. The topic for the retreat will be biblical manhood. So please keep me in your prayers! Pray for wisdom and discernment as I prepare what I will share/teach will be words that points these men's eyes, as well as my own eyes, towards Jesus. And that it would please the Lord for what I share to convict and encourage us men along this race.

If you're a guy and you're interested in attending our Men's Retreat, let me know. I'd be happy to talk with you about it.

And if you are interested in supporting me, please head over to my support page!