2017 … And Not A Moment Too Soon!

It’s here!   2017 … and not a moment too soon!
For my little family, the 2016 calendar year was one of our more difficult.
We entered into the year, knowing that Sheryl’s daddy would not be with us another year.  There were no hopeful New Year resolutions.  Everyday was filled with the grief, pain, and inevitability of yet another goodbye.
Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and the debilitating effects of Hydrocephelus and Neuropathy took their toll.  Gene went Home on June 30, 2016.  Our family would miss him for the remainder of the year.  We still do … miss him.  And, her sweet mom and sister … Jo and Lynne.  What a beautiful Hope we have … in Heaven!
As I type this blog, my dad is now admitted as a long term care patient in a nearby nursing care facility.  Dad has lived a full life here for nearly 80 years, most of them filled with beautiful family memories, but a few filled with the agony of failures, disappointments, and outright near-death experiences.  Still … Dad perseveres, until the LORD says to him, “come on Home”.
But, it’s a New Year!  A new season … a new day.
Today, we begin again.  So do you!  What will 2017 hold for you?  For all of us?
In America, we are preparing for the traditional transition of Presidential power. Only the LORD Himself can know what that transition will bring to the United States of America.  As we prepare … we pray.  And, PRAY more!!
In our small town of Pascagoula, Mississippi … we prepare for the remainder of this school year and all it brings.  Our Cameron is an 11th grader — a Junior classman.  He loves the PHS Band and has excelled on the PHS Drum Line as a multi-talented percussionist.  Sheryl continues to teach 3rd graders, and I continue to grow into my new ministry position with Center Pointe Church in Ocean Springs MS.
Our pastor, Ted Pagel, begins teaching a new series this month … The #NEXTLEVEL.  We have chosen — as a church, as individuals, as families — to GO to the #NEXTLEVEL … in our Worship, in our Spiritual Formation (Discipleship), in expansion as a Church … in every area that the LORD says to GO!
Jaron Tipton, multi-talented Worship Pastor at CPC, preached yesterday about Commitment.  God has wonderful promises to fulfill on our behalf, but He is awaiting OUR commitment.  He is a good Father and He cares for us, but He will not carelessly throw around His blessing to those who are not committed to follow Him.
And .. it’s Football BOWL GAME time!  The boys and I enjoyed the New Orleans Bowl and Southern Miss Football’s very special victory celebration.  The days ahead are filled with even more of the best football of the season.  We love it!  Sheryl is very gracious to allow us our “man-cave” time … if we simply clean up after ourselves.  (( HA ))
So … let’s dive in!  2017 is here.  And, hopefully for you as well … not a moment too soon!

Christmas JOY

silent-nightWhat fills your heart and soul [your thoughts] at Christmas?  Joy .. Peace .. Cheer .. Parties .. Shopping .. Loneliness .. Fear .. Depression?
For some, Christmas is the ultimate year-end high.  The most wonderful time of the year.
For some, Christmas is yet another dark day on the calendar.  An insidious lurking reminder that what was .. is no more.
The Christmas carols that we all enjoy evoke a range of emotions from Joy .. to Reverent Worship .. to human awe and amazement … to deep contemplation.
Hark, The Herald Angels Sing … Joy To The World (The Lord Is Come) … How Great Our Joy … Angels, We Have Heard On High … Good Christian Men Rejoice … What Child Is This? … Silent Night, Holy Night … Away In A Manger … O Holy Night … 
Even the modern pop Holiday songs are filled with a range of emotions from goofy cheer, to despondent sadness.
So, what fills your heart and soul [thoughts] at Christmas?
A recent statistic from 2015 suggests that 1 out of 4 people in the world struggle with mental illness.  Studies show that suicide is the third leading cause of deaths in youth up to age 24, and 90% of those who commit suicide suffer from some type of mental illness.  Depression is the leading cause of suicide among youth up to age 24.  Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is increasing among those in their mid-life and senior years.
I want to urge you to fill you heart and soul with JOY this Christmas.  The Bible says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy” – Psalm 94:19
David, or one of his songwriters, wrote this Sabbath song as a reminder that God had filled their hearts and souls with JOY, despite the anxieties and worries of their day.
Chris Tomlin penned a wonderful praise song that we sing at my local church …
Joy, unspeakable joy
An overflowing well
No tongue can tell
Joy, unspeakable joy
Rises in my soul, never lets me go
My hope for us, for you, this Christmas season, is that the LORD of Hosts fills our hearts and souls with an overflowing well of JOY.

Leading the Next Generation

Andy Stanley states in Next Generation Leader, ” … I was given an incredible headstart as a leader. For that reason, I am convinced that it is my responsibility to pass on what I know to the generation coming along behind me.”
Now, I’m no Andy Stanley.  But, I also was given an incredible headstart from a ‘pastor-father’, who poured much wisdom and knowledge into my life at a very early age.  Specifically, that of a church leader; and I’ve been doing the ‘work of the Kingdom’ ever since.
As I approach mid-life (forty-somethings are almost gone … ha!), I find it interesting that what motivates me now, is to see the generation coming behind me get …  IT.  See pastor Craig Groeschel‘s take on IT.
As I begin to settle in to my new role as Worship & Creative Arts pastor at Oasis Church Gulf Coast, I am blown away by the tremendous passion for Christ that I see in our students and young adults.  The zeal to ‘do something big’ is that never-ending ‘bug’ that just won’t leave us alone.  “It” permeates everything that we do at Oasis, and God simply seems to keep pouring gas on the fire that is lit within us!
Already in 2012, more than 200 decisions to accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord, have been made through our Sunday worship ‘experiences’ (services) — both on campus at home, and via internet campuses across the nation.  We baptize a few dozen new believers each month, just at the ‘home’ campus in Pascagoula, and we hear reports every week, of dozens of new believers becoming more fully devoted to Christ and His Church through public baptism, connection to small groups, and commissioning (sending) into ministry or Christian service.
Most of the decisions FOR Christ here locally, are coming from the ‘Millennial’ generation … the 20-somethings and under, who most of the Baby Boomers (my age group) had somewhat ‘written off’ just a decade ago, following the hedonistic 80s and 90s that we all witnessed.
This ‘next generation’ actually DO know what they want!  And, it will scare the daylights outta you if you are not ready to listen to their heart.  They desperately want, and need, to be ‘fathered’ (led with discipline) and ‘mothered’ (nurtured and affirmed) … and they WILL be.  If not by the Church, then by their chosen Social Media group.  WHOEVER will hear them!
That said, let me echo my pastor with a battle cry for this generation.  HEAR them.  LOVE them.  And, LEAD them!
They … do not ‘see’ life as we did in the ‘golden era’ of the 40’s and 50’s — the ‘Mayberry RFD’ panacea world, with good old homespun stories, folk songs on the front porch, and fresh veggies cooking on the stove every evening for dinner.  They have not been modeled how to respect authority.   They do not know HONOR, like we did.
WE — Baby Boomers and Busters — must TEACH them.  And, we must LEAD them.  That means we must make TIME for them.
And, yes, it will call for some inconvenience.  And, yes, it will cost you.  And, yes, you’ll have to invest in them.  But — OH how it’ll be worth it!
This year is an election year in America.  If you choose to let another generation watch you carelessly and selfishly live YOUR life, as you wish,  spending time with ‘your 4 and no more’ (churches), and taking care of your own (family), without regard to your neighbor …. then, you have NO RIGHT to complain of the outcome.
God did not put you here to ‘consume’ His creation.  He put you here to ‘produce’ life, and to steward all that HE has already provided.  He is looking for fathers, mothers, producers, and ‘tenders’ of His Garden.
So, what will YOU do?  What is YOUR response to this generation?
Will you ignore their needs and desperate cries for help?  Will you continually condescend to their childish behaviors and symbolically “put them in time out” (jails, detention halls, etc), forcing someone else to ‘take care’ of them?  God forbid.
It’s TIME … TIME for the ‘dead to rise’ as the popular praise songs say!  No more casual Christianity! No more callous leadership.  No more selfish, self-promoting agendas.
GIVE yourself to the generation coming behind you.  FIND good in that kid who drives you nuts.  SHOW the love of Christ to children (especially) who rarely see Love in action.
Again, to quote Andy Stanley from a recent sermon series, ” … we are not trying to make a POINT anymore … we’re going to make a DIFFERENCE …”. 
To quote my pastor, Eric Camp, ” … we (Oasis Church) will NOT throw away this generation … we will LOVE THEM to Jesus!”