I love watching God show up in ways you don’t anticipate!

This year has been a year of those unanticipated arrivals, but it shouldn’t have been.  This year my wife committed herself to praying for two major things in 2010.  Both of these prayers were answered.  Man, my wife is good!  One of these prayers I won’t share publically because it involves a close friend.  The other, I can proudly say, was our pregnancy and recent birth of Natalie Faith.

We had been trying for quite some time and due to medical complications (likely stemming from either one of us) it just wasn’t happening.  However, this was the year.  Phase 1 – complete!  Now we just had to figure out the delivery part.  We also anticipated a little more of an issue with her delivery because we had complications with the first pregnancy.  The days and weeks dragged on.  We couldn’t wait.  Finally, on December 1st, they delivered her at 37 weeks.  Our new, healthy daughter was about 2 lbs. heavier than they thought she could be.  Everyone is in good health.  Phase 2 – complete!

I attribute both of these answered prayers to God’s grace and my wife’s prayers.  It doesn’t stop there though.    Over the past few years I have been seeing multiple doctors trying to figure out the cause of my continual headaches.  While we haven’t found a solution quite yet we might be close (looking back, maybe that will be another answered prayer for 2010).  In the process, though, it has been fairly expensive.  As I look back, I am both humbled and blown away at God’s provision for us financially.  I don’t know where the money seems to come from but we have been well taken care of, much more than I would have ever expected.

In light of all of that, why do I get so frustrated at each new doctor’s appointment and each new bill?  Why do I get irritated when circumstances don’t turn out my way?  Why do I question so many things in moments of melancholy? In short, why can’t I trust God’s sovereignty emotionally even when I trust Him intellectually?

Some might say that I really don’t trust Him intellectually at all.  I would have to respectfully disagree with that because I really do believe God’s Word means what it says.  As I’ve thought about this, I think the issue is giving God control over my emotions.  I’m sure some of that will probably require an intellectual approach but much of it will likely be resting in who God is and not what I feel.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Maybe this is you!  If so, take heart because we are in this together.

However, some of you may be reading this and you struggle not only with the emotional but also with the intellectual.  To you I say keep searching out the truth from God’s Word and keep asking the hard questions.  God’s desire is to show himself to you.  God’s very nature is love (1 John 4:8) and he loves all men (John 3:16).  He demonstrated that by sending his own son to die so that we might be reconciled to him (Romans 5:8).  God’s word is true (Psalm 119:160) and he promises to supply every needed thing (Philippians 4:19) to those who call him friend (John 15:14).

If this is you, let me encourage you to look up those verses and consider their implications for your life.

During the Christmas season we celebrate how God, through Jesus Christ, showed up in an unexpected way answering the prayers that many had been praying for a long time.

My continued prayer for 2010 and beyond is that God will continue to show up unexpectedly, bringing honor and glory to himself.

Merry Christmas!

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A few months back we held our third annual “Mystery Bash.” There really isn’t anything significant about the name “Mystery Bash” other than when we started it we didn’t know what to call it. One of our high school students at the time decided to name it for us and it stuck!

In the past we’ve gotten bounce houses and prepared a bunch of high activity games. We’ve made it a lot of fun since this is one of our “draw” or outreach events. “Draw,” by the way, is the first of the three words that describe our 3-D youth philosophy. This year we decided to mix it up a little. We actually had a mystery to solve at our “Mystery Bash!”

Our mystery was whether or not grandma got run over by a reindeer. This is a great resource I picked up somewhere several years ago. I’m not sure who to give credit to but it was a lot of fun! Several of our youth staff and volunteers dressed up as different characters and played out their roles. At each stop the youth were given clues that led them to what happened with grandma. Here are a few pictures of our characters:

In addition to solving our mystery we made our own taco’s, played some blindfolded gift-wrapping games (in which the girls rocked!!!), had a short message, and did a white elephant gift exchange.

In general, it was really a fun night! I just wish more of our youth had been there to be a part of it. I feel like a lot of our older SH youth have dropped the leadership ball as of late. I wish I knew what to do. As of late they seem to be lacking biblical purpose. Our JH turned out in mass and even invited friends that came. They seemed to have a really good time.

After each event I always ask “where do we go from here?” Is this event worth keeping? What needs to be changed? What went well? What didn’t go well? Did it stay true to our purpose (in this case, outreach)? What follow-up needs to be made? These are questions that need to be asked constantly because group dynamics change all the time.

What do you think? What challenges do you encounter? What successes have you had? Please feel free to share. And, please, pray for us. It is not about us, looking good, or even having a good time. It is about Jesus Christ and the lives of young men and women.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12, ESV).”

Another one to get you thinking
(ht: Bill Allison)

This year a new Christmas tradition was started. Toby, the Christmas Elf, brought a gift of money for my daughter. It was beautifully wrapped up in a velvet bag and it was found hanging outside the window. Where did it come from? We don’t know, but we think Toby might reside somewhere near my parents house. That has not been officially confirmed, but inside sources say we’re on the right track.

Jump forward to February…

So, my daughter came home from church tonight after attending Gopher Buddies (connected with Word of Life). We asked her what the lesson was about. She said they learned about sharing their toys and their money.

Well I thought I would be cute, so I asked her if she had any money she could share. She doesn’t earn an allowance yet, but my wife and I have been discussing how to initiate the idea of giving. I really don’t know what I was thinking when I asked that question, but my daughter didn’t miss a beat. She went straight to the dresser and started looking for the money that Toby brought her for Christmas. She was saying “it has to be here somewhere.”

The sight of watching that was priceless. It can’t be matched. I just stood there and started crying. Oh, that we all had tender hearts like young children. I pray that my daughter will grow and continue to love Christ more every day.

Toby would be proud! I know my wife and I were.