Whatever It Takes

I wasn’t sure what was going to happen last Wednesday night.

I had prayed a lot and I knew our leaders were praying too.

I had challenged all of our students to bring one friend. “Plus 1” we were calling it.

I tried my best to show from Scripture that following Christ necessitates inviting others to follow Him as well.

I promised that the gospel would be shared and their friends would have a chance to respond.

Our office had sent out reminder emails, Facebook posts, text updates and gathered supplies. (My administrative assistant is amazing!)

We were offering lots of FREE food and exploding watermelons with rubber bands. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?!

We also gave incentives for meeting certain attendance goals. Pies in the face. Getting slimed. And the thing no sane adult looks forward to–a Lock-In.

I’m not sure what else we could have done.

I was confident it would be a good night, but there’s always that doubt. There’s always that question of “What if nobody shows up?”

I mean, I’ve certainly been a part of events that didn’t go as planned and I’m sure I’ll be a part of more in the future. Haven’t you? You pray, work hard, get commitments from people who say they’re going to come, and then they don’t show up, a projector breaks and it rains. Total bummer.

And in this case, it’s middle school. We’re depending on parents. So if we have a student who is iffy about coming, a parent can say “get in the car, you’re going. You’ll have a great time!” Or, we could have a student who really wants to come, but a parent gets off work too late to get them there, doesn’t feel like bringing them, or makes the student stay home to get homework done (I’m not against doing homework, by the way). There are lots of factors.

All to say, in faith, I was believing it would be a great night!

So what happened?

We had a Wednesday night attendance record and 5 students prayed to receive Christ! Amazing!! And for breaking 1 goal and coming within 1 person of another (We had 139 in attendance and the second goal was for 140. I showed some grace.) I and 3 other leaders got a pie in the face. And gladly, I might add.

It was a FUN night. Lots of laughing. Lots of celebration. And we will be doing another night like this in the near future.

Some might criticize and say, “Oh that’s gimmicky. You should want kids there who want to be there. Kids who have the right heart. And just preach the Word. Stop all the shenanigans.”

Sure.

No doubt.

I hear ya.

But often times it takes doing something you don’t want to do, or even doing something for the wrong reason, to be exposed to a message that changes your heart.

So if playing a crazy game and getting pied in the face brings a student out who wouldn’t have come otherwise, we’ll keep doing it. At least 5 students are glad they came. Their eternity has been altered. 

Also, we do this kind of night once every couple months. It’s not an every week thing.

And don’t forget, Jesus didn’t just walk around preaching. He performed miracles, hung out with people and gave away a lot of FREE food. 

Bottom line: We need to have a more “whatever it takes” approach to life and ministry instead of doing the “same old thing” and expecting different results. 

What could you do differently for your next event to see extraordinary results? What do you need to change in your life personally to see some change? Have you truly exhausted every opportunity and option to do your part, or are you being stubborn or lazy and just praying that God will do something miraculous?

What happened last Wednesday night was an “Only God” moment. God was the one who brought the students, changed hearts and made the night a success. He gets all the glory. But at the same time, there was an incredible team of people that He used to accomplish the night. Those people get all the credit.

So, thank you volunteer leaders! It’s a honor to serve with you each and every week.

Thank you Parents! It’s a privilege to partner with you to reach and grow your students for Christ.

Thank you students! I pray you continue to catch the vision that life isn’t about you, but is about serving others and inviting others to follow Jesus. Keep it up!

Let’s continue to pray for God to do incredible things in our lives and ministries and work hard to see them happen. Let’s do whatever it takes.

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Going for a Run

Tomorrow I’ll be doing something I never thought I’d do. I’ll be running in the Gasparilla Distance Classic 15k in Tampa.

I know. It’s not a marathon or even a half. But it is 9.3 miles.

And that’s about 9.3 more than I ever thought I’d sign up to run.

I’m not sure how well I’ll do.

I’ve only been training since the New Year.

Eating healthy is still a work in progress.

I’ve battled blisters and bleeding.

And a conversation with a college student a few weeks ago makes me a bit nervous. It went like this:

Her: “Hey, I saw you running yesterday.”

Me: “Yeah? Awesome. I’m running in the Gasparilla. How did I look?”

Her: “You looked like you were about to die.”

Me: “Ha. Thanks! What about the guy I was with?”

Her: “Oh, he looked great!”

HA! I love her honesty. We have laughed about that conversation since. And I probably did look like I was about to die. 🙂

Regardless of how I look tomorrow, training for this race has reminded me of three things:

1) There is nothing like setting a goal and going for it. My time may be terrible tomorrow. I may pull a muscle and have to walk a couple of miles. But it’s the “going for it,” the journey, that matters. It’s being able to look back on where you started and see how far you’ve come. The journey propels you to carry on in this and in other areas of your life. It shows you how much you really can accomplish when you decide to discipline yourself.

2) Life is better when you do it with others. We weren’t created to do life alone. And that includes training for a race. That guy that “looked great” when I looked like death has encouraged me tremendously. He’s given me tips on running. Texted me to check and see how I’m doing. And we’ve become closer through this process. Thanks, Joe!

3) Your spiritual life is like a race. Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” You and I are on a journey with our faith in God. We haven’t arrived. We may have doubts. Setbacks. Lows. Highs. Some days we are closer to Him than others. That’s okay. Just don’t give up. Keep pursuing Jesus. Keep Jesus as your focus. Look to Him to know how it is you are to run this race called life. And one day you will arrive at the finish line. You will see face to face who it was you were trusting in all along. Jesus.

You’ve Already Failed Your Resolution…So What?!

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So it’s been 14 days. 14 days since you or somebody you know made a New Year’s resolution.

How’s that going?

Research shows that it’s likely not going very well. One particular study suggests that only 71% of people have kept their resolutions to this point. That means 29% of resolution-makers have already messed up in just 2 short weeks.

Ouch.

What’s worse is that the same study found that out of the 71% that make it two weeks, only 8% of those people end up achieving their resolutions.

8%.

So basically, there is a 92% likelihood that you are going to fail your New Year’s resolution if you haven’t already.

Ugh.

Depressed yet?

Well, don’t be.

Refuse to be.

Forget about that New Year’s resolution. That was so 2 weeks ago.

Instead, think of today as your January 14th Resolution.

Today, you can start over.

Today, you can commit to the change you intended for January 1st.

Today, failure doesn’t have to have the final say in your year.

Resetting your life for the New Year is nice. It even makes sense. It feels right. But for some reason, we have bought into the idea that once we fail at our resolution it’s over for that year. We become paralyzed in the state we started in and stop pursuing the change we desired. Maybe your resolution was to exercise 5 days per week. It’s been two weeks, and you haven’t exercised once. You have 2 options: 1) the “maybe next year I’ll exercise and lose weight…didn’t do it this year…already failed my resolution…oh well” perspective, or 2) the “I’ve messed up so far, but today I can start over” perspective.

It’s the difference between perfection and persistence.

Perfection focuses on never messing up. When it happens, the resolution is abandoned.

Persistence focuses on continuing even though messing up is inevitable.

Nobody expects perfection out of you. It’s impossible. Even the 8% that “achieve” their resolutions do so imperfectly.

What matters is being persistent in pursuing the resolution you’ve made. And when you do, you will eventually see the results. Maybe not right away. Maybe it will take longer than you’d liked. But it will happen. You may have to start again a few more times down the road after failing along the way. That’s okay. But don’t quit just because it didn’t go well since the New Year.

So what resolution do you have for yourself? What change would you like to see in your life right now?
Is it exercising? Losing weight? Reading books? Better grades in school? Spending more time with your family? Something related to your finances?

I don’t know about you, but I always try and make some sort of resolution regarding my relationship with God. For me that relationship is the foundation for my life and influences everything I’m a part of. Thankfully, God is NOT a God of second chances. He is a God of grace – the God of unlimited chances. No matter how many times I fail, He meets me where I am and lets me start over. He is the same towards you. He unconditionally loves you and desires a relationship with you. This year give it a try. Pursue a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. You won’t regret it.

If you want to increase your chances of success at your resolutions, there are some practical things you can do.
-Write them down.
-Ask someone to hold you accountable to them.
-Have a plan of action steps.
-Make sure they are S.M.A.R.T – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound.

But if it’s a resolution that takes any amount of effort (and the most meaningful ones do) you won’t be perfect. You will mess up somehow. And when you do, you can quit, or start over.

It’s okay if you’ve already failed.

You’re not alone.

Don’t wait until next year to restart.

Begin your resolution today.

Make a January 14th resolution!

Dan Diamond, “Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It,” Forbes, January 1, 2013. Read here.