Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Words

Typically, like most people, I make a list of resolutions for the new year. However, for 2014 I wanted to do something a little different. Instead of making resolutions, I decided to pick three words that I hope are a huge part of the upcoming year. I want these three words to give this year direction and guidance.

1. Devoted--I want to be a devoted father to my two children. I want to be a devoted husband to my wife and a devoted pastor to our young people. Devotion does not require perfection, but it goes beyond the ordinary. Devoted means loyal, faithful, constant, and committed.

2. Worship--I want to spend more time in prayer, adoration, and praise. I pray for a greater desire for God and the things of God.

3. Compassion--I want to spend more time in the service of others. In our service to the least of these our brothers and sisters we find Jesus. Sometimes the older we get the more bitter and resentful we become. Life can harden our hearts and make us fearful. I pray that increased age would only make me more kind and caring. I want my heart to be tender and accepting. I pray for the spirit of Christ to increase in my life.

What about you? What three words would you choose for 2014?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Worth the Wait -Adoption Update

Meet Caleb Kyrie Dasinger! For those who don't know, our family has been on the journey of adoption for some time now. This has been a long and sometimes difficult journey. Tedious paper work, unexpected expenses, and a few disappointments have come along the way.

However, as soon as we held Caleb in our arms we knew he was worth the journey. All the disappointments and difficulties faded to the background as we immediately fell in love with our second child. Caleb is healthy and doing well, and our daughter Kenzie loves being a big sister. The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind. Our bodies are tired, but our hearts are full! God is good! 

Our family has chosen to document and write about our journey as a way of raising awareness for adoption and orphan care. We've often been asked the question: "Why adopt? Why go through this messy and expensive process when you can have kids the old fashion way?" Glad you asked! There are several reasons really...

1. God cares for the orphan and therefore we should too! The Bible speaks about this in several places. (see Psalm 68:5-6, Isaiah 1:17, James 1:17)

2. Adoption is at the heart of the gospel! Through Christ, God not only declares us not guilty, but he then adopts us as his sons and daughters! Our adoption cost God a lot, but he believed we were worth it. Adoption is our highest privilege as Christians. 
(see Romans 8, Galatians 4, 1 John 3)

3. We choose adoption because we believe every life matters. And I don't mean this in the pro-life bumper sticker kind of way. I mean we believe every kid deserves a family. Every kid deserves to be loved and cherished. Following Jesus means loving others, especially those who have been marginalized and forgotten. This truth can be lived out in different ways: visiting prisoners, foster care, serving the poor, or assisting widows (just to name a few).

4. However, the best answer I have is sometimes there are moments in our lives where we do not reason things out, we just know in our hearts that God has called us to do something and so we do it. I believe these are the best moments. If we walk by faith, we will get to be a part of some amazing opportunities. Don't be mistaken, following God's call will probably make life more challenging in some ways, but in the end it will be worth it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Give Us Grace

A Prayer for Advent:

Merciful God, you sent your messengers the prophets
to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation.
Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ, our redeemer;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer)

Scripture: John 1:10, 12

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Make Ready Our Hearts

Prayer for Advent:

Eternal God, in your providence you made all ages
a preparation for the kingdom of your Son.
Make ready our hearts for the brightness of your glory
and the fullness of your blessing in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The Book of Worship 1944)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Orphan Awareness Month

For those who may not know, November is Orphan Awareness Month. As Christians, our call to care for orphans is pretty clear in the Bible. Here are just two examples:

"Learn to do good! Seek justice! Help the oppressed! Defend the orphan! Fight for the rights of widows!" Isaiah 1:17

"Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us." James 1:27

The mandate is clear. So why do we hesitate to help? (1) Helping orphans seems overwhelming and unending. (2) Helping orphans is a complex problem with complex solutions. However, here are some good ways to get started:

1. Pray. Sounds simple, but the most important thing we can do is intercede for others. Plus, as we pray, God will begin to give us his desires. Our hearts will begin to break for the things that break his.

2. Get educated. There is a lot of great information on blogs and in books. Here are a few suggestions: 

"Orphanology" By Tony Merida and Rick Morton
"Orphan Justice" By Johnny Carr
"The Hole in Our Gospel"By Richard Stearns

3. Support others. Support and encourage foster parents. Get them gift cards for date nights and offer to babysit. Give monetary gifts to those who are adopting. Everyone is not called to adoption, but we should support those who are. Adoption is expensive and every gift helps!

4. Sponsor a child. Help support a child and their family through organizations like World Vision and Compassion International. 

5. Consider becoming a foster parent. Consider adoption. Again, every family may not be able to foster or adopt, but every family should think about it.

The vast number of orphans can seem overwhelming. It can seem that no matter what we do, nothing will really help. However, as Christians we believe every life is worth fighting for. One adoption helps one child. It's worth it. One foster family provides a safe place for one child. It's worth it. I believe God can take the small things we do and multiply them in amazing ways. Never underestimate what our God can do! Never underestimate the power of love! 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Modesty and Beauty

Great video about the evolution of swimsuits and issues of modesty. She is speaking specifically to females. However, I think modesty is something our whole culture needs to think about (including guys). Talking about modesty typically turns into judging one another and looking down on females for dressing a certain way. I do not think that is helpful. I like how she keeps the topic positive.   

"Modesty is not about hiding ourselves, it's about revealing our dignity. We were made beautiful in His image and likeness. The real question is: How will you use your beauty?"

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Stuck in the Middle

Have you ever felt stuck? Have you ever felt the frustration of waiting? You're not where you were, but you're not where you want to be either. You're stuck in the middle and sometimes the "middle" feels like nowhere. For a variety of reasons, I have felt stuck lately. I feel anxious sometimes and I don't even know why. Don't get me wrong, my life is great. I have an amazing family and I'm doing ministry at a wonderful church. However, my heart feels restless. I'm guessing that God has something for us in the near future. In the mean time, I will use this middle time to trust and to wait...to pray and to seek. These words from Psalm 130 have been precious to me during this season and I hope they are an encouragement to you as well.

I am counting on the Lord;
yes, I am counting on him.
I have put my hope in his word...
for with the Lord there is unfailing love
and an overflowing supply of salvation.
-Psalm 130

Heavenly Father, it is for you that I wait, in you that I hope, and with you that I am. May your presence shine in the middle of it all. Give me strength and wisdom as I wait. Amen.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Getting That Plank Out Of My Eye

Why do we judge others? Why are we so critical of people? I hate that I do these things, but then somebody makes a different decision then I would and I criticize them. Somebody does something that annoys me and I judge them. In my desire to control and to be right, I fail to love well.

But I know God wants something different from me. He wants me to see people as he sees them. He wants me to extend the same grace and compassion he has shown me. He wants me to love others even when I don't agree with them.

I don't know how to love without being judgmental and critical, but I want to. Lord, have mercy.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sticky Faith

What? Sticky Faith Parent Seminar (Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids)

Where? First United Methodist Church Crestview, Florida

When? Sunday, September 22nd (3pm)

Why? Research shows that almost half of graduating high school seniors struggle deeply with their faith. Based on research from the Fuller Youth Institute, we will identify ideas and practices that can set children and teenagers on a trajectory of lifelong faith and service. No matter the age of your kids, it's never too early or too late to build Sticky Faith.

No cost or registration needed. Just show up! Email fumcyouth.crestview@gmail.com if you have any questions!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Different Kind of Power

The darkness and pain of this world seems overwhelming at times. It's hard to follow Jesus in a culture full of idols. Temptation is everywhere.

Do our young people even stand a chance? Do I stand a chance?

And yet, there is a love locked in our hearts waiting to empower us with strength beyond our imagining. We have the power to overcome evil with good. We can choose love over hate. We can choose peace over violence.

But most of us keep this amazing power locked away and we die having never dared to use it. I pray for a generation that dares to be different. I pray for a generation who dares to do more.

"Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope!" Ephesians 3:20

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Keeping Up With Kenzie -Final Post

Today we had a check up with Kenzie's neurologist. For those who do not know, our daughter was diagnosed with infantile spasms (a form of epilepsy) at 6 months old. The early prognosis was not good. However, they found a medicine that controlled her seizures. She has been seizure free for over 2 years! In addition, her EEG tests have progressively looked better each time.

Well, today she had another EEG and the results were perfect. This is a miracle considering the bad results of her first test. We will now slowly take Kenzie off her medicine and see if she has out grown the epilepsy. This rarely happens, but the doctor seemed very optimistic. So over the next few months we will wait and pray. If anything abnormal happens she will have to be placed on medicine again. Regardless, Kenzie's development is great and we are very fortunate. Hopefully this will be the last update on Kenzie. Thanks again for all your support and prayers! We have no idea where we would be without faith, family, and friends. If we've learned anything, it is to appreciate the small blessings and love those around you. Our kids are a blessing and you cannot give them too much love.

"The secret of the mystery is: God is always greater. No matter how great we think him to be, his love is always greater." -Brennan Manning

Monday, July 22, 2013

What Do You Want?

We spend much of our lives simply surviving the day at hand? We have things to get done, people to see, and places to go. By the end of the day, we are ready to watch T.V. or go to sleep. Our schedule leaves little time for reflection. However, we sometimes need to stop and ask the question:

"What do I want?"

We're running around all the time and spending a lot of energy...but for what? What are we hoping will be the end to all our toil? What are your deepest desires when it comes to your profession and to your personal life? Make your answer short and simple. Then think about whether the way you are living is consistent with those desires. What do these desires communicate about where God is leading you?

I can summarize what I want for my family and myself with one word: Overflowing.

I want to be overflowing with the spirit and presence of Christ. I want our family to overflow with love for one another and in our love for others. I want to be overflowing with things to do and places to go. I never want to be stuck or stagnant or comfortable. I want to live in a way that forces me to depend on Christ. I want to be full of life, hope, and grace.

...and for youth ministry: I want students and adults worshipping and serving together. I want to see students fall in love with Jesus. I want them to avoid the trappings of materialism and misplaced priorities. I want them to have high expectations of themselves and what God can do through them.

Am I living in a way that is consistent with those desires? Sometimes. Still a work in progress...

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Waiting Stinks -Adoption Update

We've jumped through all the hoops, filled out all the paper work, and completed the medical tests and blood-work. We've been approved to adopt and now the hard part...waiting. Waiting stinks! Whether it is waiting in traffic or waiting in lines or waiting in a doctor's office, waiting is never fun. Waiting to adopt your child is even worse.

But maybe there is a purpose in waiting. In fact, the Bible tells us in several places to "Wait on the Lord." I've never fully understood what that meant. I am by nature a doer. I don't like to wait. I'm a patient person until my patience is tested...which means I'm not really patient.

Perhaps waiting is how God prepares our hearts for something special. Maybe waiting helps us to realize that everything is in God's timing, not ours. Waiting forces us to depend on God's strength and God's wisdom. Waiting is a reminder that we do not complete acts of faith in our own ability. We play a part, but God is the main participant. Waiting teaches us to trust. God is working in this world for good. God cares more about our future child than we do. God is love and he will bring our adoption to completion.

Don't get me wrong...waiting still stinks. But waiting does have a purpose.

"Those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Quitting "Normal" -Learning from Mission Trips

In a few days I will be taking some Senior High students and our youth team to Haiti. Other than myself, this will be the first international mission trip for everyone in our group. I am very excited to be going back to Haiti, but I am even more excited for everyone else in our group. My hope is that the mission trip will have the same impact on them as it did on me several years ago.

Of course our prime objective is to serve and encourage the church we will be visiting. Our desire is to love on the children and give support to their ministry team. However, there is no doubt that we will receive way more than we give. One of my biggest desires for our group is that this trip will ruin them from having a "normal" life. I've always loved the phrase: "Jesus wrecked my life...in a good way!"

My hope is this trip is more than just a "cool" experience. I hope we see what life is really about and that returning to "normal" is no longer possible. I hope we begin to realize that God wants more than normal. I hope we realize that God wants more from us and that we begin to want more of him. Normal is making life all about us and what we want. Normal is accumulating stuff because we think possessions make us happy. Normal is turning a blind eye to the needs of others. Normal is about getting instead of giving. I want to quit normal because normal is not good enough. I don't think normal works very well.

I pray and hope that what we do for one week would change us forever.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summer Reading

Below is my summer reading. As a discipline, I typically read 3 books at a time...one devotional, one theological, and one fiction. Granted, I'm a nerd and love to read. However, I believe reading a variety of books has helped me both spiritually and as a youth minister. What are you reading this summer?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Freedom of Simplicity -part 2

Last week I gave 5 suggestions for simplifying life. This week I want to mention 5 "whys" for simplicity. These reasons were implied in last week's suggestions, but I think it is important to clarify the purpose behind simplicity.

1. Simplicity frees our time for what is most important. Money and stuff is not inherently evil. However, when money and stuff consumes our time, we've lost sight of our priorities. Simplicity gives us more time for worship and allows us to treasure the people God has put around us. As a pastor, I've had the unique privilege of being with people right before their death. I have never once heard a person regret the amount of money they earned or the amount of stuff they owned. In fact, they always wished they had spent more time with God and their family.

2. Simplicity frees us to follow God's calling. What if God asked you to move or switch jobs? What if God asked you to start a ministry or serve more? How difficult would it be to follow God's leading? The more stuff we have, the more we are anchored down. We are no longer free to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

3. Simplicity frees us to give and serve. Most people have the time to watch television and take vacations, but do not have the time to help others and take mission trips. Most people have the money to buy cars and homes, but do not have the money to assist those in need. Again, somehow our priorities have been turned upside down. We will always have the time and money for what is most important to us? What does your schedule and checkbook reveal?

4. Simplicity frees us to enjoy what we do have. Materialism always causes us to be restless and discontent. Simplicity leads to thankfulness and gratitude. We appreciate the things God has given us, but we do not obsess over them.

5. Simplicity frees us to grow in holiness. Simplicity is not the end...it is a "means" to an end. The goal of every discipline is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Simplicity removes the clutter and chains slowing us down in our walk with Christ. Simplicity gives us a greater focus. We must beware of making simplicity into another form of legalism. Again, our objective is not to judge others and make us look good. Simplicity is freedom...the freedom of surrendering our life and will to God.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Freedom of Simplicity pt. 1

"Models of simplicity are desperately needed today. Our task is urgent and and relevant. Our century thirsts for the authenticity of simplicity, the spirit of prayer, and the life of obedience. May we be the embodiment of that kind of authentic living." -Richard Foster 

Let me say from the start that what I am about to write is not meant to criticize others. My goal is not to judge people. Also, I confess that my family is far from perfect when it comes to the issue of simplicity. With that said, I believe the practice of simplicity is one that desperately needs to be heard in our culture. We live in a world obsessed with more. We live in a world obsessed with consumption. If we are not careful, we will fall into patterns of materialism and greed without even knowing it. With that said, here are 5 suggestions we are trying to do as a family...

1. Give things away on a regular basis. Go through your house and give away items you are not using. Not just the junky stuff, but nice things. We do not need 3 toasters or 15 jackets. Get rid of the clutter. You will help someone else and feel better yourself.

2. Reduce the amount of items you own. The more you own, the more you have to take care of. The more you have to take care of, the less time you have to spend on what is most important (i.e. relationship with Christ, family, serving others). More is not always better.

3. Look to downsize. I know this sounds crazy because we live in a world where we are encouraged to buy the biggest house we can afford. We have been convinced that we "must have" a certain amount of space. Again, this is not to criticize those who have large homes. I am simply offering a different perspective. Again, we must realize that bigger houses and bigger yards require more maintenance  and therefore more time.

4. Do not spend money you do not have. Do not stretch your money so tight that you cannot give to others. Look to increase the amount you can give each year. This year may not be much, but next year can be better.

5. Learn to say "No." Everyone wants our time and typically their requests are good ones. However, we cannot do everything and we must say "no" sometimes so we do not lose sight of what is most important. Make a list of your top 5 priorities and be diligent to protect them. Sometimes you will have time to do other things. But if you don't...say no!

We live in a culture that is plagued by the obsession to possess. We have more stuff and yet we still feel strained, hurried, and restless. It seems there is no escape from the rat race. The problem is we will never have enough. No amount of money or stuff can save us. Perhaps we are pursuing the wrong things. Again, I confess that I struggle with the desire for more as much as anybody else. However, when I'm alone with God, I realize the rat race is pointless. I was made to run another race.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Let the Craziness Begin!

As a youth minister, the beginning of summer always brings mixed emotions. On the one hand, I am extremely excited about all the trips and fun events we have planned this summer. On the other hand, the very sight of this calendar makes me exhausted. With our students being out of school, we as a youth group have more opportunities to serve and worship together. We also have more opportunities to have tons of fun as well. At the end of every summer, I always wonder if I’m getting too old for this (and I’m only 29!). Nevertheless, I cannot wait to see how God works in our student ministry over the next couple months. So here are my top 3 things I’m looking forward too!

      1.  In June we are taking some of our Senior High students to Haiti! Except for myself, this will be the first international mission trip for everyone in our group. 
      2. In July we will have a mission camp right here at our church. We will have two mission trips in one summer! Our students will do local service projects around our county and then we will throw a block party for our neighborhood. The party will include food, games for kids, and a movie. At night we will have worship services, games, and small group classes. 
     3. Beginning on July 7th, I will begin preaching every Sunday. I am very hopeful that even more youth will participate and serve in our Sunday morning services. The more that youth are involved in the church as a whole, the more likely they are to stay in church after graduation. Also, on that date we will start Sunday morning small groups for our students. We will have snacks and drinks, icebreaker games, and small group lessons. Youth will be divided by age and gender during the lesson. The lessons will focus on different books of the Bible and the 2-year curriculum will cover the major themes of scripture. The curriculum comes from the awesome people at Simply Youth Ministry. See the chart below for more info.

    As always, the summer will be crazy and will leave me exhausted. But it is the best kind of exhaustion…one that comes from being with God’s people and being spent in the service of Christ.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Big 3

Kurt Johnston had a great article over at the Junior High Ministry blog. In his blog he discusses what he believes are the three most important aspects of youth ministry. He clarified that pointing young people to a relationship with Jesus should be assumed, and so did not include that in his answer. I would encourage you to go and check out his input and below I give you mine. I think the "Big 3" is important to think about periodically because it helps us to remember the big picture of our ministries. 
1. Sustainability–Is what we are doing sustainable for the long-haul? Are we building a healthy ministry? Is the way we are doing ministry depleting our resources and leading us to burnout? 
2. Sanctification–Our youth ministry needs to help people “grow up in Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). One question I ask myself: “Is the way I am doing ministry allowing me to grow closer to Jesus?” If not, then I need to reevaluate what I’m doing. If I’m not growing, how can I expect my volunteers and students to grow?
3. Developing a Team of Youth Workers–Creating a group of adults who are not merely chaperones, but are caring and supportive youth workers. Young people need adults who will invest in their lives.
What are your Big 3? Anything you would add?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Always Greater

“When I saw him (Christ), I fell at his feet as dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid! I am the First and Last.’” Revelation 1:17

The season of Easter always remind me of the greatness of Christ. Jesus is bigger than we can ever imagine. He is more than a friend, pal, or good teacher. He is all these things…but more.

In Revelation, the Apostle John sees the risen Christ and immediately falls to the ground. Jesus is unspeakably glorious. He is beyond description…he is beyond words.

I always want to be awed and amazed by Christ. I never want to treat my relationship with him as unimportant. I never want to be indifferent or casual about worshipping him. I want to be overwhelmed by his presence because he is the Alpha and Omega. He is the king of kings and the lord of lords.

It is amazing that such a majestic Savior would offer us love and friendship. No one is greater than Christ. No love is higher than his love. Yet, he offers himself and he offers his love to any who will receive him. His grace is truly amazing…and his grace even includes me!

“The secret of the mystery is: God is always greater. 
No matter how great we think him to be, his love is always greater.” –Brennan Manning