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13
Nov
19

Part 2 of “Reflections from 52”

In the week leading up to my 52nd birthday I shared four of the insights that I have learned over time.  The first four (without the explanations) were, “Putting God first is not as obvious as it should be, Live life by truth and not feelings, Suck it up buttercup and Enjoy now”.  If you would like the full explanation, I encourage you to go back to my last entry from a couple of weeks ago.

Today I wanted to share three more that I feel God has been teaching me over the years.  My hope is that you will learn some of these quicker than I have.  It will save you much heartache and allow you to enjoy this life God has given you to a much fuller extent.

Ask more and assume less.  This is a big one for me.  For years I would hear one side of a story or watch something from my angle and make huge assumptions.  Assumptions that were often wrong ones.  Over the years after many feet in mouth and much eating of crow I am not there, but it is getting less often that I just assume first.  Hear both sides or all sides if possible, ask lots of questions, pray and then you can move ahead with a plan of action to address what you are hearing or seeing.

Love is a command not a suggestion.  I am a child of God.  As a child of God, I am commanded to love.  I don’t always like that.  I like to love people who love me first, who are lovable or who I just choose that I want to love.  I also like to hate, dislike and punish people.  People who I feel deserve it.  People who have wronged me or others I love and so in turn I think I have the right to give them what for.  The problem is that as a Christian, that is not my right.  God makes it very clear that I am to love and to leave the vengeance gathering up to God.

The sun does come up every day.  Some days tear the very fabric of the soul.  They are days that can not be over fast enough.  Days that haunt us for the rest of our lives.  They are hard but after the deepest darkness the sun comes up again the next day.  God reminds us that each day is a new day with new mercies.  It does not mean I forget tomorrow but it does mean new grace, new opportunities and hope rise with each new day.  So, no matter how dark the night is, the sun will come up again tomorrow😊

21
Oct
19

Reflections from 52

As I sit here on the eve of my 52nd birthday I am bombarded with memories.  Some of them haunt me and others bring tears or a smile.  One thing I am learning as I age is the power of passed on lessons.  I desire more than ever to hear the tales of those around me and how they learned the lessons of life.  I take more notes than I did at 40 (partly because I remember better), ask more questions than I did at 30 and listen a whole lot more than I did at 20.  I figure that if I cherish life lessons from others maybe you do too.  So, here are seven of my favorites. I will cover four in this post and three in the next post.  I hope God uses them to help you on your journey

Putting God first is not as obvious as it should be.  Being a human, I have been reminded repeatedly from the pages of Scripture and interactions with people that just saying you have put Christ first does not mean that you have. The devil does not want Christ to be first in our lives. If we really want Christ to be first, that must be a moment by moment choice. Since my flesh screams to be first and since the world parades the benefits of being first, it is difficult at times to quiet myself enough to hear the Holy Spirit and to do the work necessary to make Christ first.

Live life by truth not feelings.  Again, this principle is easier said than done.  Unfortunately, for many of us we react with our feelings and make decisions without getting in the Word, getting counsel or even praying. We might say, “This feels like something God wants me to do” but have we really sought Him in our decisions and made sure they fall in line with His truth?  Too often in my life I regret the decisions that I have made.  Decisions that I felt like I needed or wanted to make.  Decisions that frankly were just easier because I didn’t feel like thinking about the consequences of my decision.  When you truly embrace truth, you will find that your decision making will be very much improved.

Suck it up buttercup!!  Life is warfare.  The devil is constantly coming after you and you are not humanly capable to defeat him so put on the armor, realize this life is shorter than you think and fight the fight.  It will not be easy and it is not fair. But it is the only way for a Christian to live, so stop whining or having a pity party. Get the armor on and go into battle knowing that He who is in us is greater than any!!

Enjoy Now.  I have blogged about this before, but this has been life changing for me.  I live my life way too often regretting and dissecting my past or planning and preparing for my future in an unhealthy way.  I just don’t take the time to live in the now.  So, enjoy a funny show, a good book, a brilliant sunset or a lousy cup of coffee with a friend.  If we do not decide to enjoy the nows, then we always live in the regrets of the past or the fears of the future.

 

Chew on these and share your thoughts or your life lessons with me.  We are fellow travelers on this journey so gleaning from each other is a gift.  I hope the lessons I shared will help you to tackle your todays and tomorrows.

16
Sep
19

New Church Plant, New Stage and New Staff

In a couple of months, we here at UPCC will celebrate our official ten-year anniversary.  When we started UPCC we had a vision to stay small and relational so we could do relational discipleship effectively and see God’s kingdom expand.  As I stated in my last blog, our new church in Boyertown was launched on Sunday Sept 8, 2019 with over 50 adults and children from UPCC.  The leader of this new group has been an assistant pastor here at UPCC, so the Elders have been on the hunt for a full-time person to fill Bryan’s big shoes (figuratively not literally😊) as soon as we could.  As is often the case God had a different plan.

Instead of a full-time assistant pastor, God brought in a part time youth pastor and a half time assistant pastor.

Spencer Schwartz, our new Youth Pastor, is no stranger to UPCC.  He and his wife Claire have been members here since almost the beginning.  Spencer’s full-time job is leading the Off the Wall ministry location here in PA but with a great youth staff and the connections he already had it has been a pretty smooth transition.  Spencer has been with us on staff for the whole summer, so this has allowed for a great transition.

Although we were super excited to have the youth pastor role filled, we still really wanted a full-time guy to do all that Bryan did.  There were some great candidates but, in the end, God decided to bring along a veteran pastor to help us out half time.

Ray Kulbeda will be starting with us on Sunday September 23 as our new Assistant Pastor!!  Ray comes with a large amount of pastoral and financial experience.  He has a heart for disciple making and has the experience we need to help fill some of the vital roles that Bryan has so capably done.

Now if all that is not enough to keep us busy, we tore out all of our old boilers in order to get new ones for the winter, are in the final leg of having our back parking lot fixed and paved and we began the first step in a three phase plan to replace the stage, tech, sound and lights!!  Whew!!

All along the way the devil has been strategically attacking our church family.  We have stayed united as a body, but the individual families are getting fiercely buffeted.  Grief, health issues, financial burdens, family strife, job loss, mental health challenges and so much more.  The devil seems to have a playbook on how to hit the vulnerabilities of each member family in our church body.

Please pray for us as we celebrate His goodness, strive to keep the unity, fight the evil one and stay faithful to His plan.  And if you don’t have a church home and are willing to lock arms with us in this craziness and are passionate about reaching the lost and making disciples, we have a place for you to call home.  Know this, we are not overcome but are overcomers because of Christ!!

09
Sep
19

242 Church in Boyertown has been launched!!

On Sunday, September 1, there were a couple of amazing milestones.  It was the ten-year anniversary of our “soft” launch of UPCC and the send off service for 242 Church.  Tears were shed, laughter was heard, and prayers were lifted up as over 50 adults and children committed to this new body.  For one last time we worshipped as one church and it was a sweet, sweet service.

 

This Sunday UPCC still met, sang praises, heard the Word preached, shared testimonies and continued on.  In fact, even with the church plant group gone we were three quarters of the way full in our auditorium.  Then that night 242 Church did the same for the first time. It was in a rented space at a Kingdom minded church and just like that a new church was born.

 

Our philosophy of church planting is that we are birthing a new “child” – a child that at first needs special nurture and care.  242 will remain under the umbrella of UPCC’s elders and will have the same Deacons.  In order to protect both ministries we will continue with the same budget.  As 242 gets strong and is ready to stand on its own they will have their own membership, elders, deacons, budget and become an independent church family.  Our desire is to still have a few events a year together, a couple of joint services and have a symbiotic connection as we will always be not only in the same kingdom but of the same DNA.

 

Personally, this has been really hard and really awesome.  I hate to see people I have poured into and loved leave.  My right-hand man and our secretary are both a part of the new church.  Emotionally, I mourn the loss as I contemplate what pastoring UPCC will be like without them.  Spiritually, I am super excited as I know we are following God’s command to birth new works.  I am excited as God has brought in new staff (more on that in my next blog) and has fulfilled a goal we have had since we first started.

 

The best things in life are never the easiest but if we live in obedience to God although our hearts will be heavy, they will also be full.

 

As God gives you opportunities to be stretched, embrace them.  You will never regret living a life committed to following and trusting in Him.  Please join me in rejoicing and praying for both UPCC and 242😊.

06
Jul
19

Spiritual warfare is real

What comes to your mind when you hear the term ‘spiritual warfare’?  Dark nights with moving shadows that follow you from the depths of the darkness?  Winged creatures swooping down and grabbing their unknowing prey with sharp talons?  How about the overwhelming thoughts that plague you in the quiet of loneliness?  The Godless regimes that persecute those of their country whose only crime is trusting in Christ alone for salvation?  This sampling reminds us of the variety of perspectives that people have when it comes to spiritual warfare.

 

I am here to tell you that spiritual warfare does exist.  In Ephesians we are warned of it, but I am afraid that many of us try to act like it really does not affect us.

 

If you are a Christian who is striving to please God, you will be under attack. The attacks come at the times you least want them and feel the most unprepared for them.  However, as you are torn at by the evil one with despairing thoughts, stabs in the back, overwhelming family, health or financial issues, be assured that you are not alone.  As a blood bought child of God, the attacks will come but do not lose heart.  We have the Spirit of God living in us, The Word of God in front of us and the people of God around us.

 

Now more than ever we need to be reminded of that.  As each day passes in your life, know that the devil gets more and more creative in how he can get you to just quit. He is a master manipulator.  He tries to get us to see our friends as enemies, Our God as unneeded and our agenda as the highest and most important goal.

 

Since we have just celebrated our nations freedom let’s not forget the freedom and power that we have in Christ.  The warfare is great but remember what I John 4:4 says, “GREATER is HE who is in YOU than he who is the world.”  Now that is something that you can take immense hope in!!

 

25
Jun
19

Pursuer or Pursued?

When I was a kid, we loved to play games in the neighborhood that included chasing.  Kick the Can, Ghost in the Graveyard and Freeze Tag to name a few.  It was a blast as we would tear around the yards and laugh and scream with delight.  In those games there were benefits to being the one pursued and the pursuer.  Being the pursuer gave you the thrill of “catching or freezing” someone and the adrenaline rush that came with it.  When you were being pursued there was that uncomfortable and yet thrilling feeling in the pit your stomach as you tried to evade the ones chasing you.

As an adult I have found that life has changed.  You don’t ever see a group of adults playing freeze tag in their front yards.  I also find that most adults don’t want to be the pursuer but would rather be the pursued.  This seems to be especially evident in a church striving to be relational.  Now don’t get me wrong – there are many who live a life that is one of pursuing.  They make calls, visits, texts and notes a priority in their everyday life.  They have “caught the vision.”  Many others, though they love the idea of relational living, struggle with actually being a pursuer and are disappointed when they are not pursued.

As an avid promoter of living life authentically, I can say that it is extremely rewarding to live a life pursuing people but it can also be extremely painful.  The devil does not want people to live in true community and so he attacks those trying to do so by creating havoc.  Expectations are not met, miscommunication happens and assumptions are, well, assumed.  So the beautiful picture of life together becomes disgruntled and disillusioned people who give up on it all together.

For those of you who really want to do life together and are willing to invest in pursuing, let me share a few thoughts of what you can do to help you on your journey.

Grace extravagantly.  You will be disappointed, used, wounded and even broken at times.  However, do not allow that to jade you. Just choose to give grace.  You can’t assume the worst, shut down, pout or withdraw when problems arise. Relationships take work. You might get less sleep in order to meet people at times and places that are not most convenient to you.  Keep at it each time you reach out. If you are hurt, pray, evaluate, and accept responsibility where you should and try again. In the long run you will have impacted more people than you think or remember.

Be Creative.  The way I purse people may not be the way you do.  We have people over often, go grab meals, take walks, drink coffee.  I try hard to meet people where they are and help them take the next step.  Your way of doing that may be different.  It might be with other moms where your children play while you connect. It might be on your commute to work or a late-night face time when everyone else is in bed.  If you desire to do life, then be willing to be creative in how it is done.

Pray hard.  Humanly speaking you will feel drained.  People can drain you dry if you allow them to.  You have to know what boundaries you need and who you can spend time with that will refresh you.  Attacks come from where you least expect them and the ferocity of spiritual warfare can be devastating.  It is imperative that you stay on your knees. God is there and will guide, refresh and encourage you as you pour out your soul to the one who loves you more than anyone ever could.

Stay connected.  The people God has in your life today that will help you on your journey will most likely not be the ones you have in five or ten years.  Don’t be discouraged by this.  Enjoy the ones He has in your life right now that lift your arms when they are too heavy, lighten your load when it won’t move and refresh you with encouragement when you can barely think.  You have to be poured into as you pour out.

I hope these reminders will help you. I encourage those of you who are waiting to be pursued to give grace and start to take up the mantle of pursuer yourself.  Although it can be difficult at times, I will die continuing to try to live authentically and pursuing anyone who God puts in my path.  This life is not about results but obedience and the Bible is full to overflowing with examples of this.   Be encouraged and keep pursuing.

 

03
Jun
19

Pain

Pain is not a stranger to any of us who make up mankind

It digs and it tears, and it obsesses the mind

Sometimes it is inflicted with no intent to hurt at all

Other times it is vicious, spiteful and actively trying to make you fall

Fall into the vast and seemingly bottomless pit of despair

Its goal is often not to kill but instead to heartlessly scare

Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual pain are very real

All are intended to do one thing and that is to steal

Steal our joy for living a life full of laughter, friendship and love

Pain laughs a devious laugh as it looks down at us from above

Doing its best to spread its torturous tentacles to every nation in the world

Slavery, Abuse, Misunderstanding, and Unmet Expectations are all hurled

Mankind seeks to snatch up each one of them eagerly

Pain loves to see man unleash them on anyone they see

So is there any hope, any chance that we can be free from pain’s grip

Never fully while sin reigns on earth but it can be reduced from a flood to a drip

If you are His child, then He provides us all of the resources that we need

His Word which provides us the food that our soul He will feed

His Spirit which enters us when we accept His free gift as our own

He is there in our body until this earthly shell dies and this world we have blown

His church body which although flawed will come as God sees us in pain

These saints are sometimes few but are always refreshing like rain

So, take heart weary soul when the pain feels too great to bear

You can be confident that He will be there with all His love and care

And know that one day pain will be completely defeated along with its king

Then we can all join together and lift our voices and…. boy will we sing!!!

 




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