Category Archives: Personal
So, what about church? What do you think about it? Seriously….
Is it a place you go on Sunday just to say you went?
Is it a place you go so you can have your weekly social hour?
Perhaps you go when it’s convenient – you know, the kids are up anyway, we have nothing better to do…
Or maybe you go “because we have always gone.”
A better question yet – WHY NOT CHURCH?
Have you been hurt or offended by a person/leader at church?
Maybe you didn’t like the music or the preacher went to long?
Maybe your friends don’t go, so why go?
Perhaps there is a sporting event that is taking place and you feel the need to go there?
It’s the only day you have as a family….let’s relax at home?
As a minister’s wife and before that as a deacon’s daughter….I have at least thought ALL of the above and at some point perhaps they have all been true. However, the older I get and the more I grow closer to Jesus…the more I realize that church is family. I am NOT talking about a building that you attend on Sunday morning….I am talking about the body, the people, that comprise what is the CHURCH.
Recently, I heard it said that the reason attendance is down is because people aren’t committed to their churches…I agree but I think there is more to it.
Let me ask you this…Why family?
Think about it…does your family EVER offend you? Do you get tired of listening to the same old thing? Has there ever been a time where you wanted to stay home from a family event and didn’t simply because it was FAMILY? For the most part, we are committed to family. We will fight HARD for a relationship just because they are our FAMILY.
I know this from my own experience as well as from others. I have a close friend who has gone through some REALLY tough extended family issues…to the point of sister-in-laws criticizing, siblings judging, etc…It would have been easy for her to say “Forget it…their loss.” Yet, I watched a truly amazing thing…she FOUGHT for a relationship, she worked to love in spite of disagreement, she reached out instead of pulling away. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE FAMILY
Back to the church….What IF we saw a church as FAMILY? What if instead of comparing notes on what church is doing what programs and which church has the most to offer – we instead looked and said “Where can I contribute to this FAMILY?” Once in a church, what if instead of throwing our hands up and saying “I’m outta here” and walking away – we FOUGHT for relationships, we worked at it, we loved, we reached out…suddenly the stakes just got higher.
I am NOT talking about simple attendance on Sunday morning…although that is important. Anyone can get up and tolerate an hour or two at a church. What I am talking about is investing in a FAMILY. Putting their needs ahead of our own…reaching out to them no matter the cost, fighting for the relationship.
This issue has me up at this crazy hour of 4:30 in the morning…well actually since like 2:00. Anyway, as I lie in bed TRYING to go back to sleep I still wrestled with this whole – church attendance/commitment thing. As is typically the case, I knew that if I couldn’t sleep God must have something to show me. I got up and after taking our puppy out I began really seeking what God was wanting me to hear….
Acts 2: 42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.”
Acts 2:46 “EVERY day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude.”
As I read these verses, and then the commentary in my Bible – a few key points caught my attention.
First there were FOUR things that they DEVOTED (COMMITMENT) themselves to:
1.) Teaching of the Apostles – ie. Sunday morning church, Bible Studies, Small Groups.
2.) Fellowship – ie parties, socials, special events
3.) Breaking of Bread – they ATE together, they spent time around the dinner table, like EVERY family should.
4.) Prayer – They were COMMITTED to times of prayer.
Beyond these four things there was an amount of time and places that they met:
1.) EVERY DAY….church was a FIRST priority, before anything else. They didn’t “fit it in” they instead made it FIRST. It was a DAILY thing to be together as a church family…not a once or twice a week thing.
2.) FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE – Did you see that? They were in each others homes, daily. Like a FAMILY should be. They were JOYFUL with each other.
I have to say – some of these hit me HARD. As I was lying awake and thinking of our church family, I was quick to get frustrated and angry and start saying “Well they should…” and then I read these points…
Am I eating with my church family? Am I praying? Am I devoted to teaching – not just going since I am a minister’s wife? Am I a part of fellowships with a JOYFUL attitude? Am I inviting people to break bread in MY home? Am I putting my church family FIRST EVERY DAY?
Shaking head in shame…no, not like the church in Acts and not like the Bible commands. Oh sure, I am frustrated with attendance, I get more than a little discouraged to hear of a family going to another church for whatever reason, I am looking for the right “program” to attract families….but am I DOING IT GOD’S way?
Being on staff, Joel and I have an inside close up look at how churches are struggling both in growth and financially. We are more than aware of the stark budget cuts and having to trim ministry things here and there and to be honest it DOES get discouraging…but then I come to Acts chapter 2 and I realize it’s not about the amount of money our church has – PLEASE DON’T MISUNDERSTAND _ YOU NEED TO TITHE (that’s a whole different topic) but money doesn’t make the church grow. Yes, money helps expand the ways a church can do missions and reach out but that isn’t the key to a growing church.
At the end of Acts 2 it says “They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And EVERY day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.” vs 46b -47.
I have this hunch, okay more than a hunch, belief – that IF we were to do what the church in Acts did – our churches would be overflowing. Instead, we have allowed work, sports, relaxation, entertainment, etc to become first and put the FAMILY last…both biologically speaking and the church family.
Here’s the challenge to myself and to you:
1.) Find a church family that you can be COMMITTED to – in the good, the bad, the ugly. Will you disagree? Yep! Will you get angry and frustrated? Yep! Will you be blessed beyond measure? ABSOLUTELY! Be committed – don’t give up on your church family when things are down or hard. STAY IN AND FIGHT…be like my friend and WORK toward a relationship and unity.
2.) Open your HOME on a regular basis. This is a tough one for me…I have four kids and my home is often not clean (okay pretty much NEVER clean). I have a REALLY small house – it’s crowded with 6 of us! I don’t like to cook…the excuses go on and on…but I can’t ignore Acts 2 when it says THEY MET IN HOMES….I want my home to be a place we can break bread together and be a part of each others daily lives.
3.) EVERY day connect with someone within your church family. A phone call. A cup of coffee. A text message. A facebook post. A lunch date. Somehow, someway, connect EVERY DAY!
4.) Make your church your FIRST commitment – not an “if it fits in”. When your church is having an event make sure that you and your family are there! Make Sunday a CHURCH with NO exceptions type commitment…that means YES you tell the coach your daughter can’t play in the softball tournament if it is on Sunday. That means that YES you are there on Wednesday nights even if you are missing an athletic event or some other thing. When you look at the calendar for the month – the church events are the FIRST things written in – not the last!
As the social/event/calendar coordinator of the Arrington Family – this is my challenge as well. Yes, we are on staff so in a sense we or at minimum Joel – is usually at all church events but I want more. I want a FAMILY relationship, a committed attitude. I want to be reaching out through my home, to be praying with and eating with church family. I want to CONNECT EVERY DAY!
I have never really been much for resolutions. I have tried, and failed. Tried…and failed. Year after year it seems to be the same routine. Yet, I can’t escape the urge to set some goals for the new year. So, I am not resolving or committing for 2013. I am just simply desiring more.
- I desire more of God’s Word. Not just read the Bible all the way through once, but several times.
- I desire to read more. There is so many great, God inspired books out there. I want to read more of them than I did last year.
- I desire to write more. I am really beginning to enjoy my blog and the art of writing. I still need lots of practice.
- I desire to give away more money. Finances have always been a struggle for our family. The money has been there, we just have not always made wise decisions with it. This year we will control our spending so we can give more money away in the future.
- I desire more holes in my belt. I like having to add notches in my belt to make it fit tighter. They call that a “Non Scale Victory”. More empty space on my plate will help with that.
- I desire to learn more. College studies will certainly contribute, but I want to learn more about the world around me and the people I share it with.
- I desire to serve more. There will be many needs this year. I want to help more than I ever have.
- I desire to share more. Time is short and there are still people who need to know Christ as their Savior. No time for slacking.
- I desire to parent more. The kids are growing up. I must be more involved.
- I desire to love more. My God, my wife, my children, my family, my friends, my church, my community, my world – all would benefit from me loving more this year than last.
I am very supportive of definitive, specific goals and these listed desires are certainly not void of such ends. However, if one year from now I look back and I have done little more than I did last year, I can be content and grateful to a great year and a great God.
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:2
What is it about squirrels that are so distracting? I mean, really. Are they that cute that they demand our immediate attention? Does the sudden appearance of them startle us? Can the fun way they hop through the grass or scurry around the base of a tree just mesmerize us? I don’t know the answers, but I do know that every time I see one it steals my attention for a brief time, or longer. I know that my dog can’t seem to bark enough at them. I know that people will drive their cars dangerously around one to spare its life.
As I was growing up, I remember my mother asking me frequently to go “pick up” my room. What she wanted me to do was to pick up all the toys, clothes, and other miscellaneous items I used during the course of the day and put them back where they belonged. What really happened was that I would pick up a toy, put it away. Pick up my socks, put them with the dirty clothes. Pick up another toy, and promptly sit down to play with it. A half hour later, my mom would ask , “Are you picking up your room, Joel?” Quickly putting that toy away, I would respond, “Yeeeessss.” A few more items later, I found myself engrossed in another toy. This is how I feel much of this past year has been like. I mean, just a year ago I sat down with pen and paper in hand to set my goals for the year. As I look back at what I did not accomplish, it begs the question – Why? It wasn’t that I didn’t accomplish anything. I just didn’t accomplish enough. I blame being distracted.
Distractions are not always bad. There can be good and even great distractions. Like, the ball you see bouncing out of the corner of your eye while driving, indicating that children are potentially in the road or soon will be. Or, maybe you are at the store and you see your old neighbor John who is visiting from out of town. Regardless, you take a brief change of direction or break from your current action…you are distracted. I have been distracted by good, bad, and just downright ugly distractions this past year. I would venture to guess that you may have had your share of distractions, too.
Good distractions – Distractions that add value or joy to your life or the lives of others. They may even promote your goal in the long run or present more opportunities for success.
Bad distractions – Distractions which divert you away from your goal, making it more difficult to accomplish. These distractions can happen only once, but are generally more frequent.
This new year I would like to avoid or overcome as many bad distractions as possible. I find that the prophet Nehemiah was a boss when it came to overcoming distractions. So, here are a few principals I will utilize this year as I set and accomplish goals:
- Prayer! (Neh. 1:4-11) Before Nehemiah even began rebuilding Jerusalem, he spent time in prayer. He renewed his relationship and the relationship of Israel, a re-commitment of sorts. Part of God’s plans for us is a growing relationship with Him. Without that, we have failed before we even begin.
- Asses the goal. (Neh. 2:11-18) Is it attainable with God’s help? Nehemiah had to understand the extent of his desire. He knew that with God’s power it would be accomplished. Sometimes, we do not rely enough on God’s power, so we get distracted early. Other times, our goals are so large and out of God’s Will that we just won’t accomplish it.
- Gather the right resources. (Neh. 2:4-8) Nehemiah knew he could not provide all the material needed alone, he had to get help. Some of our goals for the new year include personal finances, so, we have acquired Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University to help keep us on track. Find someone who has accomplished the same goals and utilize them as a resource.
- Expect distractions and prepare. (Neh. 6) As word got out, that the enemy kingdoms tried to stop the work. Nehemiah prepared the builders by placing a tool in one hand and a weapon in their other. What squirrels are going to distract us this year? Will they be the same or different? We must distraction proof our plans as much as possible and rely upon God to help us prepare.
- Know your enemy. (Neh. 6) Nehemiah’s enemies tried many times to discourage him and the workers. We all have the same adversary who will try to distract us, he has been doing since the Garden of Eden. But, what we will not expect is the other people in our lives who may serve as discouragers, whether inadvertently or purposely. We must be peaceful as a dove but wise as a serpent in determining whether these people are good distractions or bad, and then not let the bad get us down or of track.
- Stay on track. (Neh. 6:3) Nehemiah never lost sight of the goal to rebuild the wall. To do that would be a huge loss of time, resources, and the trust of a nation. Even if we the only ones counting on us to accomplish our goals, we must keep to it. To avoid distraction will build trust in ourselves and others around us.
- Celebrate each goal, no matter the size. (Neh. 8:13-17) The people celebrated when the wall was finished. We must celebrate our accomplishments, no matter how small. It builds momentum and strengthens our desire to see our other goals finished. I think I am even going to plan the celebrations as I plan my goals.
God purposes for us to succeed (Jer. 29:11). Not in everything, but in everything He puts our hand to. Satan purposes to distract us (1 Pet. 5:8). Not in everything, but in everything that would accomplish God’s will. This year I pray we will accomplish all God sets us to do and not be distracted by the squirrels that cross our paths.
I didn’t cover them all. What are some other ideas we should consider when “Squirrel Proofing” our goals for the new year?
It is very difficult to believe that I am 14 days away from serving God in Africa. So very humbling and exciting. Yet, in the midst of my excitement, I must not neglect my family.
Yesterday, I was able to spend time with them as we celebrated the First Day of School, purchased extra school supplies, and picked up many of the items I will need for my expedition. Over dinner, the kids asked a few questions about Africa and we had an opportunity to discuss some of the details about the trip. They are very excited about the project, and I can’t help but think they each have aspirations of serving God oversees themselves one day.
I am so blessed to have a wife and kids who are so supportive and committed to our ministry, wherever it takes us. Full time ministry is a team effort, which many times means team sacrifice. In the case of this mission project, Ronnie will have to parent solo, plus fill in for me in many of my ministry duties at the church. The kids will have extra responsibilities, as well, which will encroach on the little bit of free time they have to begin with. Our family will suffer emotional tolls as contact between myself and them will be very limited for a portion of the project. Our home will a much different place for awhile
These make up the greatest of all the sacrifices, but personal finances are not immune, either. God provides graciously for all our needs through one salary, and we are very blessed. However, special events, camps, and mission trips often cause strains on our budget. Thankfully, He has provided everything I needed for participation in this mission project through our church and many people like you who were sensitive to His calling. Even a portion of my personal expenses have been covered, and for this I am so grateful.
So, as we get closer to the departure day, I ask that you join me in praying for:
- My family
- That God will continue to bless my family, even more so while I am away.
- That God will provide the extra finances we need to recover the rest of my personal expenses and help ease some of financial concerns.
- That my wife will be strengthened through her reliance on God while I am away.
- Our kids will have a constant peace as to my safety and the work God will do.
- Our Team
- We will all be leaving someone at home. Pray for and praise God for the sacrifices their families will make, as well.
- Our Suppporters
- Our supporters have and will continue to make sacrifices to help our team spread the Gospel. Our prayer is that their families be blessed, too.
Well, in preparation for my trip to Atalanta this week, I felt like it was time to dust off the blog. I took a bit of a break while writing for StudentLifeforKids. The series ended a while back and I have been pretty quiet…
God is doing so many great things in my life, family, and ministry that I just can’t keep quiet. So, get ready to get a screen full as I begin sharing insights from my own walk with God in regards to life, kids, and family. Not only will you hear from me, but I will bring you the best of the web as I share other blogs, stories, and news from around the world that impact you.
Which brings me to the week ahead. My church has given me the privilege to attend my first Orange Conference, held in the amazing city of Atlanta. This conference is comprised of the nation’s most notable leaders and innovators in the areas of children, youth, and family ministry. I will have the opportunity to network with a host of men and women whom share my passion for the Lord and ministry to families. The experience will be invaluable as I will not only grow personally and professionally, but will be able to communicate with you and others the same insights I will gain.
So, keep it tuned right here for updates and thoughts as the week goes one. If you haven’t subscribed to my blog, I invite you to do that now. I appreciate your prayers for me and my family while I am away. Thanks for the read and the opportunity to serve you through it. God bless.
Well, been quiet here at the blog due to a much needed vacation. My family and I took off to Texas to see family and enjoy the warm weather. We are back now and one day away from the craziest month of the year. Thought I would recap a little of all that is going on in my head:
- Vacation with the family was great. We got to see my sister and her family in Amarillo, and then got to see my wife’s sister and family in Plano. A big thanks goes out to them for housing and feeding us.
- The Amarillo area really needs rain, BAD! Please join me in praying for the drought and potential for wildfires in that area.
- Had the opportunity to network a little with Aaron Groff and Dennis Humphery, both on staff at Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas. Dennis let me hang out in the kids area on Sunday morning. What a great program! If you live in the Amarillo area, or are passing through, check Paramount out. You’ll be blessed.
- Discovered the LEGO store! Where was that when I was growing up?
- Six Flags rocked as always…along with my stomach, ugh.
- Got to see lots of longtime friends from college and high school. Always great to catch up.
- Overall had a great time, thanks to the friends, family, and fellowship.
Now we hit the ground running with VBS preparation, trip and camp prep, and trying to find our house amidst the lawn that has taken over while we were gone.
Encouragement for those who find themselves in the same boat as I.
- First, pray. Philippians 4:6
- Don’t forget to breathe. Very important!
- Delegate what you can, when you can.
- Don’t get tired of doing good – Galations 6:9
God Bless you in your time of work and play.