Tuesday, November 30, 2010

December Newsletter

It is quite surprising that 2010 is already in its final act. A lot has happened in the last twelve months. Mission trips to 3 different countries & ten states has allowed me to travel & experience God’s world more than I had in my entire life up to this point. On top of that there have been hundreds of students I have been able to meet, encourage, teach & challenge as they face the same big world we do. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, I got lucky enough to have the beautiful Andrea Kroll to agree to marry me!

Our God has been good to me these past twelve months & it is during the times that I write to you that He reminds me of his faithfulness. A verse that the Lord has brought to me as of late comes from Psalm 37. In verse 7 it says, Be still in the presence of the Lord, & wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.” There have been several times of question as I’ve worked many hours & wondered how God would answer the needs of my heart. Patience is hard thing for me, especially when waiting on the Lord to act. But I’ve learned it doesn’t stop there. He requires me to react. The Lord’s “acting” should prompt a response in our lives. This is my challenge for you during this Holiday Season; to not only wait for the Lord to act, but to have the courage to respond to him. He is looking for us to trust and obey him in our relationship with him.

I pray this Christmas is unlike any other in your life. I’m praying that all of you are moved to action, to respond to what our Savior has done for us and to say that your life will leave a legacy for Him from here on out.

50 Giving 40

I am thankful for you in your desire to pray, encourage & partner with me financially. Your support is one the major contributors to my success at LeaderTreks.

This time of the year is often when a lot of us look at going above & beyond what we give regularly throughout the year. I want to ask that you consider me & my ministry at LeaderTreks in that decision. Your financial support goes straight into our program of developing leaders to fulfill the Great Commission & to the needs of the missionaries & the people they love & serve.

I am still working towards my goal of having 50 households committing to giving $40 a month. We are now at 14, two more since the last newsletter in October! Some of you may still have that tea packet laying around. I ask you to make a cup & spend some time in prayer asking God how you can partner with me.

With LeaderTreks being a recognized 501.c3 (non-profit) almost anything can be given & be valid for an income tax deduction. Stocks, vehicles & unused airline miles are a few examples. Please contact me with any questions you may have about partnering with me or donating with a year end gift.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Leave Year-End Giving Behind

This weekend I was again reminded why it is so important to trust in the Lord & lean not on your own understanding (Prov 3:5) when looking at your finances. I am in the business of raising support to survive & will be for at least another nine months. It is quite a mystery to me, as I look back over my life since I started raising support 15 months ago, how I have been able to keep my head above water.

Letting God takeover your finances goes beyond just cutting that "generous" year end check during the Holidays every year. God commands much more of us in the realm of money but as Jesus said, "Well done my good & faithful servant. You have been trust with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things."

Below are 3 ways in which you can begin to loosen the grip you have on your finances & begin to trust God more with what he has given you.

Year-Start Giving: Wait isn't it year-end giving? Yeah, that is how we usually do it. We take a look at what is left after eleven plus months of spending & decide how much we can afford to give to our churches, charities & missionaries. But honestly, God gets frustrated with this way of living. We can't honestly say we trust him when we give him the last of our money. In Leviticus 23 God tells his people that they are to bring the first & best fruit of their harvest and give them to him. After all, God did bring them to the land that they were living and harvesting from. What would it look like to have all our "year end" giving done in January? Think about it, you have all your tithing, donations, tax-exempt hoopla out of the way in the first month. It also will bring you to the point of going to God & asking him how he will provide for you in certain areas over the next year. He will constantly be in your mind as you think about the giving you gave before the spending you'll spend.

Give Automatically: This is not the same as regular giving. While there are still many people who write a check regularly for their church (most do it while sitting right in the service) they can still tend to flake out when trusting God. They see the spending that is happening every time they open the checkbook & if there has been too much during a particular month, God takes the hit. 2 Corinthians 9 talks about coming to a decision on what you are going to give & to do it cheerfully. Automatic giving helps here. You can sign up with practically any 501.c3 to have money withdrawn automatically from your account. Or another option is to go to your online bank account & enter the organization's info there. Most banks only need a name & address. They will print & snail mail a check to your recipient. 

Give Your Time: The excuse always comes up that we do not have enough money coming in to give the way that we would like to right now. I know people who have been saying that for most of their post high school lives. Well great, I'm compassionate, I can understand that, but how about you serve somewhere? I believe that your time is worth exponentially more than your money is (most of us here are not rolling in Bill Gates' type of money). Take some of the time spent in front of the TV or the two plus hours you spend on the Internet every day & get plugged in. I have yet to have one youth pastor to tell me that they have plenty of adult volunteers. I doubt you will walk into any food pantry, homeless shelter, or after school program & hear the director tell you that they are good on help, & that they would just rather have your money. James confirms this, "Show me your faith without deeds & I will show you my faith by what I do" (2:18).

Please don't take these as the only ways in which you can relinquish control of your finances to God. They are simply ways that have helped in my life & in the lives of others I have talked to. God wants to be the provider in all areas of your life, including your finances. Take time to pray & talk about this with people who love you and will speak honestly about it.

Question: What things do you do to make sure that God is getting the "first fruits" of your finances?

A Year With God

I have read through another free book from BookSneeze (see link at the bottom of my page) called A Year With God by R.P. Nettlehorst. Now officially I did not read the entire book because it has a reading for 365 days & it has not been a year since I received the book. I do however think I have read enough to get a good grasp of what this text is all about.

The book works through Biblical text that is entirely from the Old Testament. It takes passages in which God is directly speaking to someone & then Nettlehorst follows it up with insight & application for us to be able to understand how it can work in our lives.

I really loved this book. I was quite excited to receive something that solely focuses on the OT. I think too often we forget about the OT & thus forget that God was the same back then as He & Jesus were in the New Testament. Topics of Hope & Fear, Love & Hate, Quitting & Perseverance and Faith & Doubt are just a few sections that Nettlehorst follows in depth. I even like how they are divided up by the sections just mentioned, but they go in order that they would appear in the Old Testament.

Nettlehorst does a great job of not assuming that we as readers know everything. There are many passages that I have never read that brought a great amount of revelation of who God was to my life. There were also passages that I had read numerous times but Nettlehorst still was able to bring a fresh perspective to it.

I recommend this book for anyone looking to discover how God revealed himself to his people long ago or to someone who may be looking to add a reading to their daily devotions. This book is fresh & shouldn't disappoint.

Friday, November 19, 2010


This morning at LeaderTreks I led one of our training sessions. This one was on challenge. Challenge is one of the things we really believe in at LeaderTreks and it is something that makes us unique in comparison to other organizations running trips with youth. As we walked through all the things about challenge (mix grace with challenge, challenge from the top, etc) there is one that I added to our list; challenge students with your lives. We can go through numerous principles, concepts and ideas but students (and people in general) are challenged through the lives that are lived in people they meet.

That is one of the big reasons why I am at LeaderTreks and why I love being able to interact with students. I never had it right, and I still do not today. I was lost at points during my life and there were times I wanted nothing to do with authority or accountability in my life. Students need to hear about those stories, those times when God redeemed me and reminded me that he loves me because I am his creation, not because of what I am or am not doing. We need to be excited about the challenge in our lives not only because it changed us, but because we get to share that journey with those around us and inspire them that God wants to do the same in their lives.

Question: What is one thing that is challenging in your life right now?

Check out LeaderTreks blog to see more of what is going on at my job.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Core Values

Today I had the opportunity to sit in on one of the sessions of our youth pastor trainings, Leadership Design. Six youth workers went through the activity to discover what their core values were. Now I had done this before (twice actually) and was more so doing it because everyone else was. But as we walked through it there was a list of questions that we answered as we sorted through the 80+ values sitting in front of us.

Questions about people who have influenced my life, what values are violated when I am frustrated and times when I feel the most fulfilled were all extremely helpful in getting me to go deeper on who I was. By the time we were done four of my five core values were different. Quite a surprise to me as you could imagine.

When I took this assessment a year ago my five values ended up being; community, authenticity, reputation/character, influencing others and knowledge/learning.

This afternoon they transformed into; legacy, fun, adventure, creativity & knowledge/learning. John 10:10 was also a verse that came to my mind during this time that solidified these core values. Jesus came to give me not just life, but life to the fullest. It is in these five areas where I have experienced some of the greatest experiences in my life. I am grateful to see these values being lived out in my life. I am also excited to see what they may do in my future.

Question: What are the things you enjoyed & valued most when you think over the important experiences/events in your life?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


A book on my shelf that I have not read in awhile caught my eye earlier this week. Its title is Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson. In the opening pages he talks about his dog & the prized bones he often finds in the woods. As the dog sits down to enjoy his treasure it growls in delight. In between all the gnawing, licking and eating the dog would occasionally let out a growl, which in cat language would equate to a purr.

photo found on google from sodahead.com

I was reminded that the word 'growl' more accurately defined what the writers were trying to say when the word 'meditate' was used in the Psalms (see Psalm 1 & 63).  The idea of growling over the Word of God was something I had not really thought about. To enjoy, savor, and be satisfied by it as if I had enjoyed a full steak dinner. 

With my lack of ability in being able to connect my need to savor the Word my mind did go to things that I do growl over. Approval, free time and leadership to name a few. How much have I had it backwards. As I crave those more and more, my attention drifts farther away from the source that provides all those.

I need to have a huge helping of the Word, no it doesn't need to be eaten with a side of legalism, but I should be filled by it.

Question: What things do we as Christians tend to spend too much time growling over?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Turning Off Your 2001 VW Jetta Daytime Running Lights

I found out last weekend, after the annoying hassle of turning my car on & off to keep warm while at the drive in, how to turn off my Jetta's daytime running lights while keeping the car is on & in park. Simply pull the handle up on the parking brake & the lights should switch off automatically.

Somewhere buried in the Owner's Manual it tells you how to do that, but there is probably like 5 books in that thing. Plus I'm thinking a lot of people (like me) are searching Google for it before going to any manual. Let me know if this helped.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear

I've read through one of Max Lucado's latest books called Fearless: Imagine your life without fear. While the book was good overall, and has some great insight, for me I wasn't able to pull out anything too profound. He does a great job of re-enforcing some of those truths and lies that I buy into about my freedom in Christ, which is good. Below is a book review from Keiki Hendrix. Take a look and let me know what you think.

In 'Fearless - Imagine Your Life Without Fear', Max Lucado examines the issue of fear, its roots and reasons and offers the only sustainable answer - confidence in Jesus Christ.

It starts with a discussion of 'Why We Fear' and describes the contrast between faith and fear, what faithful and fearful behavior looks like, and the resulting affects they produce in our lives.

Max Lucado begins this focus on fear with a story of his brother's own death, a result of his life long battle with alcohol describing the ultimate cause as fear.

The remaining chapters are addressed to specific types of fears. Fear of 'Not Mattering', of 'Running Out', of 'Not Protecting My Kids', of 'Overwhelming Challenges', of 'Worst Case Scenarios', of 'Violence', of 'Coming Winter', of 'Life's Final Moments', of 'What's Next', of 'God Is Not Real', of 'Global Calamity', and of 'God Getting Out of My Box'.

The chapters are short and written in Lucado's appealing, kind, conversational manner. If you have ever read (or heard) Max Lucado, you will understand his gentle, almost soothing writing and speaking style. It is unique to Max Lucado and adds greatly to his discussion of exposing fear and exalting faith in Jesus Christ.

There are personal stories he shares (such as the story of his brother Dee), poems, and practical plans for overcoming the issue of fear. I found his P-E-A-C-E-F-U-L plan particularly useful. It is found in Chapter Four.

As a Ladies Bible Study Teacher, I've recently become acutely aware of the 'fear factor' among many of the people in my life. Before I read this book, I had come to the conclusion that fear is an opponent. Fear is an enemy and must be battled. This book also lists and describes the weapons needed to find a battle with fear.

The book includes a discussion guide which reviews each chapter using the three step attack of 'Examining Fear', 'Exposing Fear' and 'Battling Fear'. These are great tools to use in a small group study.

I highly recommend this book for personal reading or in small group bible study.

Question: What is an area of your life where you do not experience freedom the way God intended it?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Restless Peace

Below is a blog post that I put up a couple days ago on the blog at LeaderTreks, where I work (summitlive.org if you're interested). Take a read through it, & let me know what you think. I'm sure you'll be challenged just like I am.

I had the privilege of talking with one of our interns from this past summer. She was in Costa Rica for the summer & I had the opportunity to do a 2 week trip with her when I visited over the summer.

As we talked through her experiences both in Costa Rica & now back home she told me she is still struggling to feel peace in her heart. She has a unique testimony to share in the fact that she stumbled upon God without really any help from anyone but that persistent Holy Spirit just a couple short years ago. It was cool to see that she was already challenging herself in her faith as she devoted her entire summer to mission, students & discipleship this summer.

But like I said, she is still working through this concept of finding peace back home. She told me that she's decided to be involved with areas of service that need the presence of Christ & also has taken advantage of some fun things as well but that restlessness still exists.

Now I'm willing to bet a lot of you have no idea what she's feeling or I am talking about. The truth is most of us have yet to be impacted by God in way that truly changes our outlook on life. To literally return to our daily lives and feel like a stranger in your own skin is a foreign concept. The Bible talks about this in Hebrews 11 (known as the Hall of Faith). In verse 13 it says that these faithful people (Moses, Abraham, Rahab, etc) "were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth."

I think in welcoming the promised things from a distance is where the restlessness comes from. If we truly are disciples of Christ then there should be a level of restlessness for us to see the Kingdom (our true home) here on earth. Even though we can be sure of what we hope for & certain of what we do not see (Heb 11:1) it does not bring a prolonged period of rest to our lives where we just sit & wait for heaven to come.

We need to be challenged with this thought; if you are feeling at peace, feeling comfortable, you may have it all wrong. You may disagree with me and say that Jesus is all about peace but if you take a look at his life, those who followed him (and preceded him) you will find a lifestyle of restlessness. As Erwin McManus says, "it's hard to imagine that Jesus would endure the agony of the Cross just to keep us in line."

I think this is a path that all of us who work for & intern with LeaderTreks are challenged with at some point. We initially may not like the idea of restlessness, the thought of having the taste of bitterness in our mouths every day, but I think we are realizing it is leading to something much sweeter; living life to the full.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fooling the Wise

Yesterday for my Life Session (group devotion) at LeaderTreks we watched a documentary on miracles called, "The Finger of God". It was quite interesting to say the least & I think everyone should take a look at this movie (it is about 90 minutes & is free to view on YouTube).

The movie was about a gentleman who basically took his video camera, "which looked like he bought at Radio Shack for $39.99," says Phil, & just started meeting up with people who were witnessing & taking part in miracles. The first part of the movie seemed a little ridiculous because the miracles were gold teeth, & jewels showing up at churches who met at airport hotels. But as the documentary went on it began to show miracles were happening all over the world. High school students here in the US, to underground churches in China, to men rising from the dead in Africa were all apart of these miracles.

Now I'm not here to convince you that God does or does not sprinkle gold dust on people, or allow children to place hands on people and heal them, but I am challenging you to think about just how great and powerful is our God? 1 Corinthians 1:27 says, "God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise." Who are these wise people in our lives? No I don't think the Olsteens, Warrens, & Bells of our Christian world count, mainly because we have no interaction with them. But really, can we think of wise people in our lives who we can or have shamed with foolish things?

I have begun to be a little restless with this idea because I am really struggling to think of who these wise people are in my life, and if they don't exist does that mean I am the wise person who is being shamed? Just a few verses later in verse 2:4 it says, "we want men's faith to rest not on men's wisdom, but on God's power." Miracles are one of the big ways that we can show just how powerful our God is, & to be honest I don't think any of us experience our Lord this way enough. How much more exciting would it be for us, & how much easier would it be for us to smash stereotypes as Christians if we were able to experience God's power & then be able to share about it.

So let us not jump to conclusions or make assumptions the next time we hear about strange or unrealistic miracles happening around us. Most of these are happening without us even knowing, which adds a bit more validity to them because people are simply being a part of God's power without seeking recognition for it. Let us go into our day remember that, "the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power" (1 Corinthians 4:20).

Monday, February 22, 2010


Back in September when I first moved out of Wisconsin & down to Wheaton, Illinois I was invited to attend my good friend's church. Now this is the same friend who hooked me up with a job at LeaderTreks where he was working, and where I now work. So I figured if he hooked me up with such a great new job why couldn't he hook me up with a great new church?

Although as I became more and more immersed in my new job, and continued through the in depth training I became some what of a critic of public speaking, specifically speaking that entailed teaching from the Bible. Sunday after Sunday would go by and each time I would find myself more bored or annoyed than refreshed, challenged, or encouraged from what was being taught.Obviously this was something that I needed to change because going to church as a critic is not the right mindset.

This past Sunday I attended church, which was also the day after I had spent a little over a week out in New York leading my first mission trip with LeaderTreks. We currently are going through the book of John, but it is more so focused on a book called "The Voice Revealed". This book rewrites the book of John, and provides commentary and insight into the life and mind of John, who was the last living disciple.

This Sunday we were told that many of the people who had heard that Jesus was being proclaimed as the Son of God had trouble believing that based on where he was from which was Galilee. They said that the Son of God should come from a place that no one knows of. They probably were also struggling to believe that the Christ would come from such a lowly place as Galilee, and probably thought that Christ would come from a much more well known and prominent city.

Anyways, as I thought through the teaching I was challenged with the question, "Am I over-hyping the things that I want Christ to do in and through my life?" Let me repharse this. I have specific thoughts, desires, dreams, talents, burdens, passions, etc and I want God to use those through me to their full potential. But I began to wonder, am I only looking for the big & great things to be "from God"?

Things as simple as relationships, interactions with people on trips, compassion, and things I challenge myself with all were brought into this question. Perhaps instead of expecting this big, great, and grand thing to happen in my life (much in the same way that the people expected the Son of God to be from some magnificent place) I should begin to recognize some of the more simple principles that could have huge impact.

So as we all go through our days, looking to God to provide big things in our lives, let us remember the small things that can be the foundation for the big things later on, love those who need it (1 John), refrain from things that cause your neighbors to stumble (1 Corinthians), love those who struggle to open doors & allow Christ to be with them (Revelation 3:20), & know that God does not test us beyond what we can handle, but will always provide a way to persevere.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Hole in Our Gospel

Long ago, I signed up for a blog with the goal in mind that I would post reviews about books that I was getting from Thomas Nelson Publishing for free. The deal was, they would send me a book for free, all I had to do was read it & post a review about it to my blog & also post a review on some website that sells the book (i.e. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc). So seeing that I read this book probably almost a year ago I thought I would write my review on it. I also am running out of reading material, & with me raising support for my job free books are the best books!

If you are interested in checking getting books for only the cost of reviewing them then check out www.booksneeze.com.

Richard Stearns' book, "The Hole In Our Gospel" was a great book that provided a lot of facts & insight to what is going on in world missions. I was surprisingly impressed with how well his story was tied into the bigger story of the lack of focus and work being put into fixing some of our world's biggest problems. As I have started working at non-profit & begun to see some of the world's poorest areas, I was cut to the core at how much we as Americans lack in truly having a sense of urgency in meeting some of the LIFE needs of our neighbors around the world.

Even looking back at the earthquake that has rocked Haiti, you can already see many Christians & churches forgetting about what is still going on down there, specifically the pain, hunger, and devastating that is still wrapping it's hand around the people's throat.

If you are looking for a book that is filled with lots of current & accurate facts along with good scripture that supports this view of world missions then I highly recommend you taking a read through Stearns' book. This is one I have passed off to a co-worker, and she too agrees that it is an eye-opening book, even for the most educated on these matters.