Building Legos, Building Children

I sat on the floor with my three year old son, surrounded my thousands and thousands of little LEGO pieces.  “Wow!”, I thought to myself, “this is a pretty daunting task!” We were attempting to rebuild my X-Wing LEGO starfighter from 1999.  The problem was that the X-Wing pieces had been mixed in with thousands and thousands of other loose pieces.  Bummer.

It requires a LOT of patience to build something like that!  You need to keep your eye on the instruction book while at the same time keep an eye on what you are building and never lose focus of the end result- that you are trying to build something special.

As we tried to put that spaceship back together, I realized something.  Raising kids takes a lot of patience too! As my wife and I parent Joshua and Rebecca, we need to keep our eyes on our instruction book (the Bible) and also keep an eye on the unique children we are raising.  We also need to remember that we are doing something special here: we aren’t just trying to raise good, moral kids.  We want to raise kids that become adults who are passionate followers of Jesus.  Adults who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do Kingdom work.  Adults who use their gifts and talents to help make disciples who make disciples.  Adults who become godly parents themselves someday and continue this great heritage of faith that my wife and I inherited from our parents.

But today, its enough to acknowledge that raising kids takes a TON of patience!  We may not have all the pieces… but its OK.  God is helping us form and shape these little angels/monsters into beautiful works of art.

Its enough for today.

Success! We did it!

Success! We did it!

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What a Difference 12 Months Makes!

548851_10151275463129673_412396012_nAs I looked back over the last 12 months, I was amazed at all that God had done in our lives! He had proved himself faithful and walked with us through the dark nights and been there with us as we celebrated new life and growth and change.  A few of the big changes in the last 12 months:

  1. 12 months ago, Ezra church was averaging 71 people each Sunday in the month of March and only had one worship service at one location.  This past month, Ezra Church averaged 242 people each Sunday and now has FOUR worship services at TWO locations each Sunday! As the pastor who oversees all our worship and tech, my job has become a lot more complicated in the last year! Now I have to schedule and oversee two different tech teams and two different worship teams each week. However, its been great watching more people get involved in our worship and tech area.
  2. 12 months ago, I was overseeing 40 people in 4 Growth Groups (small groups).  Now we have 85 people in 8 groups! Again- as the pastor who oversees our Growth Groups, things have gotten a lot more complicated but I love seeing more and more people get IN COMMUNITY!
  3. 12 months ago, I was still in grad school, trying to finish up my Masters in Theology.  I graduated last May and it feels so good to have school done!
  4. 12 months ago we had one kid- and now we have two kids! It was a crazy journey with Becca spending 10 days in the NICU, but God was faithful and he was with us through it all and I believe he healed our little girl.

I’m excited to see what God does in and through our family and our church the next 12 months!

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Chosen Over Passion or Hillsong

You can tell Easter is just around the corner; everyone is releasing their new worship albums! This month both Passion and Hillsong released new albums.  Instead of picking them up- I decided to get the first offering from the new partnership between Mars Hill Church and Tooth and Nail Records.  The band Citizens is one of the worship bands from Mars Hill and the ROCK.  I LOVE their sound.  Its so fresh and new.  Its so great to hear a worship album that doesn’t rely on delay and epic keyboard pads.  You can read more about the band on this great blog HERE.

Check out their debut album.  Its full of re-imagined hymns and original tunes.  Let me know what you think!

Citizens

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Its Been a Wild Ride!

This past Sunday our church went multi-site and we had over 200 people connecting or reconnecting with God!

Less than two years ago, we felt God call our family to Madison, WI to help change the spiritual climate of this city.  It has been a wild ride! We moved here September 1, 2011 and joined a core group of about 20 adults to help launch Ezra Church.  Our first Sunday we had about 50 people show up to worship with us. On Oct 2, 2011 we had our Grand Opening and had 75 adults and kids in attendance! A few months later, we broke the 100 barrier for the first time with 142 people on Easter Sunday (April 8, 2012).  We continued to grow over the summer and we had the crazy idea to launch a second service- even though our one service wasn’t yet at capacity!  So, on September 23, 2012, we went to two services.  That Sunday we had 165 people show up to connect or reconnect with God!

Just as we were recovering from the wild ride of going to two services, God decided to make life even more interesting.  Kristin gave birth to our daughter Rebecca who then spent 10 days in the NICU.  On top of that- a church in our network/denomination approached us to see what it would look like for them to join the Ezra Church family.  Their church was about 30 min south of where we meet and they were averaging about 40 people each Sunday.  After lots and lots of prayer, we felt God was leading us to take this crazy step of faith and as a church of 150 people go multi-site!

This past Sunday, Ezra Church launched it’s second campus in Stoughton, WI.  Almost 100 people showed up to connect or re-connect with God! Between both campuses we had over 200 people for the very first time worshiping at Ezra Church!

We’d love for you to continue to pray for God’s blessing and for direction and wisdom for us!  We’re excited to help change the spiritual landscape of the Madison area and to help more and more people find community, purpose, and a relationship with Jesus Christ!

STOUGHTON copy

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From Nothing to Super Bowl Champion

From nothing to Super Bowl champion.  Wow.  Did you watched the Super Bowl last Sunday?  Man- it was a great game!  But I think the most powerful story to come out of that game is the story of Baltimore Ravens offensive linemen Michael Oher.

Oher, whose story was made famous in the Oscar-winning film “The Blind Side,” grew up in Memphis, Tenn., the son of a crack-addict mother and an absent father. He didn’t have a permanent home and was eventually taken in and adopted by the Tuohy family.

Here’s a picture that was taken just after the Ravens became world champions and won the Super Bowl:

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It was a powerful moment.  In it, an emotional Leigh Anne Tuohy is seen hugging her adopted son, Michael Oher, after his team, the Baltimore Ravens, won the big game Sunday night. “We both just darted for each other and he picked me up,” she told ABC News today. “He was so excited and I was just sobbing.”

“Dreams do come true,” Oher told ABC News after Sunday’s victory. “I came so far, from nothing to a Super Bowl champion. I’m in shock right now.”
Oher, an offensive tackle, helped the Ravens hold off the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31.
As she drove back to Memphis today from New Orleans, Touhy told ABC News that she and her husband truly love Oher as much as they love their biological children, who also were present at the game to cheer him on.
“Families don’t have to match,” she said. “You don’t have to look like someone else to love them. There are wonderful kids all over this country who need a forever family. And we believe there are no unwanted kids, just unfound families.”

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You know, we all come from broken, imperfect families.  Maybe not an addicted-to-crack mom and an absent father, but certainly not perfect.  The reality is- non of us are perfect either.  At our church, we have a saying: “No Perfect People Allowed.”  We want to be honest about that and not pretend that any of us have it all put together.

Here’s the beautiful thing about Christianity that is different than any other religion. Every other religion is about how to work hard to make ourselves good enough.  Christianity tells the story of how God sent his only son to rescue and redeem us so that we might be adopted into the family of God.  I think that’s beautiful.

No matter what you’ve done or what has happened in your past- you can find your forever family by surrendering your life to God and following his son Jesus.  God has invited us into his family.  How will you respond to his invitation?

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Today at Ezra Church

christmas revolution boxToday was week two in our series “Christmas Revolution.”  I got the chance to preach on who Jesus is and why he came.

When God looked at us and saw where we were, he realized, “They don’t need a life coach, or a silent partner, or an accountant, or someone who can just get them on track and help them obey me better… it’s worse than that!  They need a SAVIOR!  They need someone to bail them out of the mess that they are in!”

 

Jesus came to save us from:

  1. The guilt of our past
  2. Living a meaningless life
  3. An eternity apart from God

One of our interns, Michael Miller, led worship and did a great job helping us respond to the greatness and the glory of God.

We had a solid turnout for church, even though it was snowing.  153 people in attendance.  Last year, we only had 61 people in attendance on the same Sunday.  Last December we were averaging only 59 people each Sunday; this year we are averaging about 150 people each Sunday.  God is good!  It is so great to see more and more people connecting and re-connecting with God!

As we get ready to head into 2013, we are so excited to see what God has planned for Ezra Church!

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Thankful

 

 

 

 

 

I love this time of the year!  The changing of the leaves, football, Thanksgiving, and my birthday!  As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, I was thinking of all the things I am thankful for.  Here’s a few of them:

  • I am thankful for my awesome wife who is an amazing friend, mother, lover, and ministry partner.
  • I am thankful for my two beautiful children.  It sure was a lot of work to get them here healthy and whole!
  • I am thankful for our outstanding, supportive extended family: the Lindeens, Millers, Hickles, Smiths, Gallaghers, and Cardenas.
  • I am thankful that we get to do ministry with a wonderful, godly couple: Dave and Becky Tilma.  I wouldn’t want to church plant with anyone else!
  • I am thankful for our many financial partners and everyone who prays for us.  We would not be doing ministry here in Madison without such a great team backing us up!
  • I am thankful that I get to play worship with such amazing musicians!  Seriously I don’t think there’s another church our size with such talented musicians!  In fact, I’d stack up our worship band against most any mega-church worship bands.
  • I am thankful for the chance to record music.
  • I am thankful that both the Packers and Broncos have won 5 games in a row and are looking like they are heading to the play-offs :-)

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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