Church on Pointe

Date: 12 Dec 2013 Comments:0

I realized that I have not provided any updates as to what is happening with me after I left my old home church of Northwest Baptist Church. After an extensive search of churches, reviewing their beliefs and listening to sermons by the respective pastors, my family and I have opted to move to CrossPointe Community Church in Norman, OK . The church is a Community-based church that identifies with the Free Will Baptist denomination but it does not carry the majority of the rural deadweight that I remember from the church of my youth. It is a vibrant and active church with an amazing children’s ministry and a wide variety of worship options.

My wife and I are happily attending a small group with other members of the church who have embraced us completely. My daughter is loving their Children’s church because it is unlike anything she has experienced with our old church. Sometimes it would be hard for me to convince my little girl of the importance of attending church – she would drag around as much as possible. Now that she is in the Kingdom Kids ministry at our new church, she won’t stop talking about church and God, I could not be happier to see her so excited about faith. We also have connected with a support group from the church with other foster/adoptive families and even brought some of our friends from the old CCFI group to this group. It is nice to have such a good support network.

So what ministry did I land in? Well, it didn’t take me too long to decide. When the church announced that they were looking for ‘a few good folks’ to do the Media/Tech crew, I decided to give it a go. Historically I had avoided this at my old church because I didn’t want to feel like I was ‘working’ when i was off work. But honestly, with my new job I do a considerably less amount of hands-on with hardware so I figured it couldn’t hurt. I have found that it was much more interesting than I could have imagined it would be. I am now trained to run cameras for the main worship hall as well as lights for main worship. I was trained to do the lights for the south worship hall which is more intense and rock-driven than modern worship. I also trained on the slideshow used by the south worship hall. I could train more actively on the soundboards but they scare me a little LOL so I have just been watching.

All in all, I think I feel safe in saying that moving my family to CrossPointe was a great decision. My wife has made so many friends and is involved with so many different things that it keeps her busy and on fire for God. I have found a great deal of joy in small groups again, helping me get that extra spiritual boost. I still teach my English class at Northwest Baptist Church on Wednesdays and God has shown me that this still serves His purpose for me so I will continue to do it until I feel led to do other things.

Learning to answer the Spirit

Date: 31 Jul 2013 Comments:0

On Sunday night, I made a very major decision that I would not have imagined I would ever make. I turned in a resignation for my position as the lead teacher for the 3 Year Old Class at my home church. I have been teaching in the Children’s Ministry for almost 5 years (subtracting a year from the time I served as Youth Pastor at Agape) and have loved it very much. I would get so thrilled at seeing the children learning about Jesus and singing songs to him and getting to simply watch them grow. I won’t lie and say that there have not been times that it was difficult but overall it has been a great time.

However, I have also been doing some major spiritual reflection recently. It started when I started reading “Altar Ego” by Craig Groeschel, the founder of LifeChurch. I also have been listening to sermons from churches around the area while my church searches for its new pastor. I have been listening to sermons from CrossPointe, a church in Norman where some of my friends attend. I have been listening to LifeChurch sermons, Southern Hills Baptist Church, and even Saddleback Church, home of Rick Warren and the largest church in the USA. In all of these items, one thing has become clear… I am becoming spiritually lazy in some areas of my life. Most of all, I keep leaning on my service in the Children’s Ministry as my success story as to why I am spiritually stronger than I used to be. The reality is that my dependence on this past success has caused me to do less bible study, less spiritual growth techniques, and so on. Simply put, God has greater things out there that he wants me to do but because I am so comfortable in what I am doing in the Children’s Ministry, I feel ‘safe’. That is why I decided I needed to step down from the children’s ministry. At this time, the Spirit has not convicted me about my teaching in the ESL classes on Wednesdays so I am going to keep that up but if He leads me there then I will follow.

I will not simply act as though I am happy that I no longer teach in the Children’s Ministry, though. Even thinking about the fact that I have to turn the reins of that over to another leader in our church pains me greatly. I have to remind myself that I am not giving up – I don’t feel like I have failed – I simply have to learn when to lead and when to follow. I will always remember the goofy songs I sing with the kids, doing crafts where I try to figure out how to glue glitter on to a paper towel roll without it dripping everywhere, helping new kids feel comfortable in the class by taking them around and introducing them to other kids, etc… These are very near and dear to my heart. However, I have begun to do the work in the children’s ministry as more of a chore that I must do because I owe it to my church and to God. But that is NOT the way it should be. That falls more along the lines of legalism than of faith and spiritual service. I wish I could point out the period in time when it ceased being a joyous event and became a chore but I simply can’t pinpoint it.

Those that are closest to me know that I have had a number of spiritual battles in the past year or so – one of which was losing my father and literally being in the hospital next to him when he took his last breath. With all of the negative things I have experienced in such a short time, it’s hard to say when my faith started dropping and my struggle rising. I am grateful for the three children God has brought me and after losing my own father, I have doubled my desire to spend every possible moment with them that I can and to give them the best of me. Unfortunately, I think that my constant exposure to children at my own church have somehow made me have less drive to focus on my own kids at home. This is an impasse that I simply can’t allow to continue. Furthermore, I need to be a spiritual leader to my children in a much more powerful way than I am currently. Sure, I speak the truths of the Bible to them and try to emulate the compassion and patience of my Heavenly father to them but I am only human and there are limitations to what I can do. My hope is that a deeper spiritual walk coupled with focusing more on my own children will allow me to improve upon some of my deficiencies.

For now, I take the first giant step of faith from where I used to be and begin to walk toward the places that God wants me to be. I hope that the families of the church understand my decision and will understand that my choice has nothing to do with their children or with them as parents. My struggle is with my own spiritual walk that needs some improvement. The journey this direction has just started but I am sure it will end up somewhere more amazing than before.

Gods words, not mine

Date: 25 Jul 2013 Comments:0

As a pastor a few years ago, I remember what it felt like when God would take my words and speak for me. It was amazing to hear words that only God could put in my mouth and to see their impact. But now it has been a long time since I felt that feeling until today.

One of my good friends from high school has been an atheist for some time and he often will argue on Facebook when I post things about God or scripture. Normally I simply let him comment and leave it at that because I don’t like arguing online. But today God gave me words and it felt nice…

“Your opinions are your own and you are welcome to them so who am I to tell you to quit posting responses? Yet it is important to explain that I will not use Facebook as a platform for spiritual debate so you can respect that I will rarely respond. I am no Bible scholar of merit, I am a vessel and nothing more. The verses I post are verses that God has laid upon my heart and I share them as I am called to do. Furthermore, even if we did debate, the result would be fruitless… I have faith in God and you do not. You consider yourself an intellectual who accepts nothing that he cannot logic through. But faith has never been logical from an intellectual point of view. I, however, have felt the magnificent presence of God in my life in so many ways that no one can ever understand… Why? Because true faith is deeply personal and will never be logical to someone who craves hard, repeatable facts such as yourself unless they can accept that some things simply defy logic.

As response to your statement of favoritism- you took the statement out of context. God shows favoritism for Israel, yes. God shows favoritism for believers, yes. The context here is regarding favoritism among Christians which God does not make. Peter is saying that God accepts any who are willing to believe in him. You don’t need perfection, you don’t need some hidden and misty thing to be a Christian. You require one thing and one thing only – Jesus. This verse is to say that God can use anyone to reach others and there is no class system in Gods kingdom. You gave great examples – Saul was horrible UNTIL Jesus changed him to Paul. Peter was the disciple who denied Jesus THREE times in one day yet When he truly accepted Jesus, he changed and who better to speak about repentance to the Christians than one who repented so powerfully? David was never called sinless in the Bible, he was always messing something up but God still loved him and used him to lead his people. It is all about context my friend.

I hope you now understand the reasons why I post these verses. If they don’t interest you then they were not intended to reach you. But they likely reached someone else who saw them or God would not have laid it on my heart to share.”

Adventures in Executorship 3 – No Estate Tax

Date: 12 May 2013 Comments:0

I spoke to my CPA about all of the estate matters recently and and found quite a lot of useful information. The most important of these pieces of information is that there is no estate tax in Oklahoma which means that my auditing tasks will be far less involved. All I have to do is show that the property was evenly and fairly disbursed and there is little trouble from the county clerk on the estate.

I spent a great deal of this Saturday cleaning out my dad’s house with help from my mom. I managed to throw out six 55 gallon trash bags worth of old magazines and random trash. We also got all of the electricity fixed… the house had 3 shorts and two light fixtures damaged. Thanks to the help from Rhodes at Diamond Electric, we got all that fixed and two new lights. I almost think that if I had taken care of more of the issues with his house, he might have survived longer than he did.

More info to come as time is available.

Adventures in Executorship 2 – Letters

Date: 6 May 2013 Comments:0

It has been a little time since anything interesting has happened but this last weekend has been interesting. At this point I am over halfway through the Christianson book and have been trying to complete his legal audit form (not required but easier to present to court). I also have received a letter from the attorney that contained the (as yet unofficial) Letters Testamentary and Petition to Probate requesting my signature. The Letters Testamentary is pretty easy and short and I was surprised at how little information it actually contains. Either way, I have signed it and the Petition and returned to the attorney.

For those who are wondering about these two papers, here you are:

1. The Letters Testamentary is a letter that must be signed by myself, notarized, and signed by a judge. Basically it says that whomever is listed on this letter is the intended executor of the estate and is responsible for the management of the estate to which they are assigned. This letter is unique in that it is the product of someone who HAD a will. If the deceased did not have a will when they died, the estate is considered ‘intestate’ which basically means the court will pick whomever they deem fit to execute the estate which is usually the nearest next of kin. If this was the case, I would have to complete the “Letters of Administration” instead. Thankfully my father had a will so the person he wanted to be his executor… me… will be able to do so.

2. The Petition to Probate is a less fun document. Prior to his passing, my father could have compelted a “Letter of Appointment” to add me as the executor of his estate in which case, It would simply have to be approved by a judge at the time it was made. In fact, I even asked my dad if he would create one back in 2011 when he put this all together but we simply didn’t get around to drafting it. That being the case, the estate must pass into ‘probate’ which is basically estate purgatory until an executor can be assigned. What this Petition to Probate basically does is say “Hey! We want this guy to be the executor.” and then it is passed to the other stakeholders in the estate (namely my brother and sister) for approval. Since both my brother and sister have already said that they don’ t want to be executor, they should sign this pretty quickly and get the ball rolling. Once the petition is signed by the judge and family members, it can be approved which will thusly make the Letters Testamentary (see above) fully ratified and the executorship can begin.

Other than these items, there has not been too much going on with the estate. We hired our family handyman to come and fix the back window at Dad’s house and he even pulled up all the old carpet (it was old and cat stained). Much to our amazement, all of the rooms except my old room had hard woods underneath which are actually in pretty good shape. Seeing those pictures of the floor hidden under the old carpet was quite amazing. It made me think that back in the day when this house was built (1940’s) it must have been a pretty nice place. If someone in the family wanted to live in the house, I could see the value in putting the effort in to get the house in good shape but I simply don’t think anyone in our family wants it. I could rent it, true, but that brings about new headaches of a different kind. We shall see.

I didn’t get to visit town last weekend because my wife was taking our daughter to Girl Scout camp and I was watching our two toddler boys. Had I taken them to McAlester, they would have likely wrecked Dad’s house or hurt themselves running rampant in a very kid unfriendly place (dad lived alone and was older so he was unconcerned with many things in his house that we must be aware of with kiddos). This weekend looks much more likely to work out since my wife already wants to go down to see her stepmom and dad for mother’s day and will take the kiddos with her. That being the case, I should have most of the evening on Friday and a large part of Saturday free to start documenting things in the estate. I may be able to do some work on Sunday as well but I may also have to return to my home church on Sunday to help with things. I am still debating what to do in this case.

Either way, the estate is progressing slowly but once the estate is opened, my hair may be on fire. The book I am reading actually says that once an estate is open in Oklahoma (it has an appendix after each chapter with rules from different states) it usually is expected to be completely documented and complete within 2 months. If that’s still the case then this will be a wild ride. That’s all for now.

Adventures in Executorship

Date: 30 Apr 2013 Comments:0

I know that this is a paradigm shift from the posts you are used to seeing on here but I wanted to make use of this blog since it has been a long time.

Long story short, my father passed away on April 24th. My father put so much faith in me that he elected me as his personal representative and eventually I have been elected as the executor of  his estate. I intend to chronicle some of the interesting historical moments in this process.

My current reading list:

“The Executor’s Guide: Settling a loved One’s Estate or Trust” – Mary Randolph, J.D.

“How to Administer and Estate” – Stephen G. Christianon, Esq.

Wish me luck.

Courageous

Date: 10 Oct 2011 Comments:0

It’s been some time since I posted here, been very busy with things not related to spiritual growth and that’s been part of the problem. I am going through my MS in Cybersecurity from University of Maryland, University College (UMUC) which is pretty demanding. I have always liked the field of cyber security but it was an immature field until the past few years and the job market is ripe for this career. Unfortunately this means I have had to put my M.A. Christian Ministries on hold. I will get back to it… I promise… I am not going to waste those 30 credits I earned!

However, that is not the focus of this post. My church, Northwest Baptist Church, hosted a church-wide movie night at Harkins Bricktown Cinema where we rented out an entire theater (or screen depending on how you view it) for the movie ‘Courageous’, the latest movie by Sherwood Pictures, the church that created Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and a few others. To say the movie is great would not do it justice. I am so amazed at how powerful this movie is. 

The movie really made me realize how far I have fallen from being the kind of father I should be (and used to be for the most part). God has blessed me with a beautiful daughter who despearately needs her father to be the kind of man I need to be. He has also blessed me with the two baby boys who need to have a male role model they can grow to become like as they begin to develop personalities. Sadly, I have not been doing the best job on this and I made the command to myself that I would turn that around before it’s too late. The reality is that life is so short and can vanish so fast, that each passing day could be the last one. I don’t want to spend my whole life regretting what I should have done for my children if I ever lost one of them.

That being said, I have resolved to go and get the Courageous Bible study and follow it to the letter. I have always said that I wished there was a spiritual guide  for all fathers to follow. In fact, when I was active in seminary, I very strongly considered making one. Thankfully, the Sherwood Baptist Church has already produced a strong bible study, the very one that the guys in the movie went through. I am leaving my office early today (it’s a holiday so I don’t technically have to be here but I wanted to make up some time) and I will be buying this when I get off.

For any fathers… I can’t stress enough how vitally important it is for you guys to see this movie or read the book. The lessons it teaches are some of the most powerful and vital lessons you can ever learn as a father.

A Few Funny Moments in ESL

Date: 23 Jun 2011 Comments:0

It has been a considerable amount of time since I have posted anything here. To be honest, the only reason is that I have simply been too busy to post to many places and I have not really had a lot of changes occurring on the ministry front. I am still available to consider ministry positions but so far I have not been contacted for any. I have applied to a few different churches needing Bi-vocational ministers and I have added myself to the pulpit supply team but nothing has come out of it. I am sad to say that even though there is a shortage of pastors, the Southern Baptist mentality often comes down to ‘who you know.’ And since I don’t really know anyone outside of my church and other areas I have worked, I am not in anyone’s call list.

No problem though, my ESL class has been very fun. So fun, in fact, that I wanted to take a few moments to post a few of these funny moments. I hope you enjoy…

1.) During a dialogue practice over possessive pronouns, one of my students really made me laugh. She is very shy when it comes to speaking English even though she is quite good at it. Often she will speak if she is called on but won’t usually volunteer to do so. Last night, she was quite excited to be doing so well and got quite vocal on one of the dialogue pieces. The dialogue went thusly:

Me: Could you possibly do me a favor?

Student: Sure, What IT IS?

Obviously the actual words were “Sure, what is it?” but she was so vocal that I responded “Wow, sista! You is jive talkin’! What it do? Actually, please don’t talk like that!” *LOL* Everyone had a good laugh, even the student who said it so it was a good time.

2.) When studying the future continuous verb tense, I was giving the students some practice phrases to review. Basically, I will post a question and then provide only the root form of the particular verb to make continuous in the answer and the students are tasked with taking the question and making an answer since they have learned that most of the pieces of your answer are actually in the question. Be that as it may, I wanted to have some fun and so I came up with a strange question that shared a little of American popular culture. Here you are:

Q: Will Darth Vader destroy the Empire in Star Wars?

A: No, he will not. He will be working for the Empire.

I did my best Darth Vader respiration noise and said “Luke! I am your father!” and the students got a good laugh. I went on to explain that even though the question was really strange, they could still use the same exact structure to answer the question.

3.) Finally, in the same practice of possessive pronouns, I was making up some more examples for the students to try in our dialogue and I did not think one of them through and the result was thusly:

A: Could you possibly do me a favor?

B: Sure, what is it?

A: I’ve got a problem. I have to buy a drink but I don’t have any money. Could I possibly borrow some?

B: I’m sorry, I don’t have any.

A: Oh, I see. Do you know anyone who does?

B: Sure, you should call Frank and ask him I am sure he’ll be glad to help you.

The funny part was that after I said this, I paused and said “Wow, I gotta say. If I am telling you to call someone else to give you some money to buy you a drink at the store, I am not a very good friend. Now am I?” Much laughter followed! It’s really nice to see all of us having so much fun and learning at the same time.

If you get bored, you might check out my new Tumblr. I find that I tend to see random interesting or funny things in my life and decided to use Tumblr to post about them. If you would like to see this strange and unusual Tumblr, you can find it here: http://nottoopolitical.tumblr.com.

God bless!

Changing Angles

Date: 18 Apr 2011 Comments:0

After submitting my resume, providing many different references, and weeks of waiting. I have been declined the Youth Ministry position I was seeking at a local church. I have to admit that I am both relieved and saddened. I am relieved because I have found a great deal of joy in teaching ESL with NWBC and I still somewhat enjoy working with the children’s ministry. Yet I am also saddened because it means that God doesn’t want me in the position at the moment  so I must ask myself if I am doing all I should be doing to be a better vessel for ministry.

My heart longs to reach those who are hurting and to help guidance with spiritual pursuits but if God wants me there, He will send me there. In the meantime, I am trying to change my resume angle to look much more like a teacher than an IT person or ministry person. Why? Because if I have a good CV, it will aid me just as much as a resume in most applications. For now, take care and God Bless!

A Great Analogy for Christian Life…

Date: 9 Mar 2011 Comments:0

I am in the process of finishing out the last few pages of Brennan Manning’s wonderful book “The Ragamuffin Gospel” and I came across a story that seemed very familiar to me. After thinking back, I have seen it in two other books that I have read recently but this time it really spoke to me as a wonderful analogy about how we should live as Christians. Here you are:

Imagine this! You are being purused by a vicious tiger in the forest and are running as fast as you can. When things couldn’t get any worse, you realize that you are coming up on a cliff edge. Right when you are about to lose hope, you suddenly spot a rope dangling off the edge of the cliff and quickly grab hold of it to escape the tiger. Unfortunately, as you begin climbing down the rope you see the cliff drops over 500 feet down and there are sharp, jagged rocks at the bottom. To make matters worse, you look up and see the tiger is now growling and clawing at the edge of the cliff and two little mice just below the cliff have decided to start chewing through the rope you are on. In the midst of all of this, you look in front of you  and see a wonderful juicy strawberry right in front of you. You eat the strawberry and Yum! That was really good!

The moral of this story? We live in constant worry about our past… what is behind us (the tiger at the top of the rope), we are fearful about what the future may hold (the mice and the jagged rocks) and yet we still need to look around and see the wonderful gifts that God has provided us in this very moment (the strawberry). Often times we will find that as long as we are looking around us at the wonder of God’s creation we will find how great the blessings are in the present moment. If we live every day in constant admiration of what God is doing in our life we will be able to understand how wonderful His love is and trust his guidance to direct us.

As a brief update, I am still serving in NWBC happily yet I am also being considered for a new ministry position. I won’t go into much more detail about it now as there is still no way to know if I will even be considered. I just know that they are researching me as a candidate. As I plan and prepare for this, I have been thinking back to some of the things during my previous ministry position that made it so challenging and now that I am out of the heat of the moment, I can see many ways I could have done some things to change the circumstances a little. Would that have changed the end result? Probably not because God has this planned out much better than I ever could.

I keep repeating the same prayer to myself – whatever you want of me, O Father, I freely give for there is nothing in this world I have earned on my own merits. Yet I pray that you will embolden my mind with your Holy Spirit as I seek Your will in everything I do.

Amen and God Bless!