Some thoughts on leaving our church…

It’s been a few weeks since I turned in my resignation here at AELC. This was probably the toughest decision I’ve had to make in a career yet in my life and it remains difficult even though the decision has been made. I don’t really need to get into all the details of why and how we were led to this decision, but the fact or should I say truth that I would like to communicate is that we simply felt led. I know a lot of times in life we come to cross roads and aren’t sure where to go, but if we can cling to our faith and relationship with Christ, seeking His direction instead of merely informing Him of ours, we can have faith that he will show us the right step. (Mind you, that’s not a guarantee you can’t take the wrong step, just that He will show you the right one. Your job is to seek and listen.).

Nicole and I spent hours in prayer and fasting while coming to this conclusion and before we took the step we had a peace about it, and that was really our greatest confirmation. Not just that we felt ok with whatever happens, but that we knew that God is in control of our lives if we surrender to Him. That is peace, knowing you are in God’s hands and not your own. The fact remains that we will be completely unemployed as of July 1st, and by some of the opinions of folks around us we are completely nuts. (Namely for the following reasons: we have a baby on the way, we voluntarily gave up pay and security, and it may not look great on a resume to have a period of unemployment, oh and I won’t have insurance for a while.) But we feel peace, and for that I would not trade anything in the world. We are sure that God will use us, we are definite that He has called us to a life of ministry, and we are certain that all our bills will be paid and all little tummies full. These things we have faith in and peace about, the rest God will just have to show us one step at a time.

I think what frustrates me the most is that as Christians, we are quite frankly stuck in materialism. Questions like, “how will you make money?’ and, “Why wouldn’t you wait until you had a better job lined up?’ are coming to us from Christians. Where is your faith? Do you honestly believe that when Jesus says He will take care of your every need, that you will starve somewhere on a street corner because you took a leap of faith? Modern day American Christians have so little faith that it’s embarrassing. To start out on a new chapter you have to get all your funding in advance, and take as much risk out of every step of life as possible. Where does Christ preach that? All I’ve heard Christ say about that in the Bible, is when he told people to NOT store up wealth, to give up ALL their possessions, to LOVE people who wanted to kill them, and to LIVE without any worries. To hold up our little step to the teachings of Jesus makes it look like a walk in the park, and yet so many people are wondering why on earth we wouldn’t have done things ‘smarter’. [I’d like to apologize for this little rant, but it is indeed a confession of what’s on my heart.]

As for us, we will be fine. What step is God asking you to make, and why are you so scared to take it?

Animoto Slideshow

youth slideshow.

This is the youth group slideshow that I created for this weekend’s fundraiser.

1/2/11 Message at AELC

Below is the sermon I gave this last weekend at American Evangelical Lutheran Church’s contemporary service.

Sermon on Being Vs. Doing

We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have-for their usefulness. -Thomas Merton

Help me get my FREE 32GB iPad!

If your anything like me, you want an iPad or some other tech gadget but not all of us have $500 to throw at a new iPad. I know that there are a lot of adds/prize giveaways out there that are pretty scammy but I’ve found this one to be legit. In fact, I know someone who has received a video camera, an Xbox 360 elite, a macbook and much more!  It’s pretty simple and all you need to do is complete one offer (emusic.com, netflix, etc.) and give out a few referrals. My total investment to get an iPad was $11.99.

Here’s the link to check it out! http://www.YouriPad4free.com/index.php?ref=6717807

Also, Tim Schmoyer, who has been receiving prizes for a while has a blog post that describes the whole process as well as an interview with the owner of the company. Check it out here.

 

Big News!

Well, I guess it’s time to spread the news…we’re having another baby! Just when you thought 5 Latulippes were enough, we’ve got baby #4 on the way. Many thoughts have gone through our minds over the last few weeks, but most of them joyful and grateful that God chose to bless us once again.

No, we were not planning on this, nor did we think it possible, but God always has a way of surprising us with His plans. It’s funny to think that we just got done getting rid of all our baby stuff around the house, moving into a smaller (2 bedroom) apartment, and a smaller (5 seat) car. It always seems that when we make our plans for life, God has something else (and better) in store.

Right now, we are looking towards a due date of 7/17/11 for the newest in our tribe. Nicole isn’t entirely excited about being 9 months pregnant in the heat of an Arizonan summer, but is excited none the less.

We are a bit concerned about how to get all the preparations ready for a baby, since we just downsized and have no insurance for Nicole to speak of. We do ask for your prayers, as we are not entirely sure how we will be able to do any of this, but we also know beyond doubt that all things are possible through Christ and that all things will work together for the good!

What we are facing

So my wife and I decided that we were going to pack up our home and move into an apartment that my parents own about a month ago. Nicole and I don’t make rash decisions as a team, we tend to pray, discuss, sleep-on, and contemplate ideas like this fully. The truth is that Nicole and I both fully felt that God was leading us to pack up and move to get out of the house. The idea has been to sell our inexpensive (less than 100K) home and get back into renting so that we are more flexible and aren’t faced with a 45 minute commute two times a day with multiple vehicles.

Needless to say, we’ve already moved out and are plugged into my parents’ apartment. We have known this whole time that the market for real estate is extremely poor and folks everywhere are upside down on their mortgages, but we figured we couldn’t be, because we purchased the home for so little 6 years ago.  This week came with some harsh realities. After speaking with some friends from church who have been in local realty for quite a while, we found that our home would most likely appraise for MAYBE 55K less that we owe on it. Wow. Didn’t really expect that one coming. We knew it would be a miracle but we thought that the only properties that were losing value were the ones that were inflated to begin with.

So, we have a few choices:

1) We can put the house on the market for way more than it’s worth. If by some miracle it did get  a buyer, they would have to get an appraisal and they would face the same harsh reality we have and the sale would be lost.

2) Short Sale. This really would be almost impossible for us. we’ve worked hard at keeping current on our mortgage, which in a short sale is a minus…the bank wants to see that you really cannot afford squat.

3) Deed in lieu of foreclosure. This one is tough because I feel we need to make good on our debt. This would entail just giving the bank our home back. We would get a major hit to our credit (credit=crap anyways, plus we don’t use credit to buy anymore, thanks Ramsey) and not be able to buy a home for at least 18 months.

4) Move back into the house and stay there for however long it takes to get the economy back up and real estate climbing. This is the least risky, and yet the most bothersome to me. Somehow we felt like God was getting us ready for something and I feel that moving back in would just be a lack of faith. I rarely if ever see God using people who play it safe and are afraid to take risks. Jesus told people to sell or leave their possessions. I cannot think of a time in scripture where He said to play it safe, can you?

That’s it. That’s what we are facing. Your thoughts, comments, prayers…

It’s all about…

These past few weeks I have been pondering curriculum, events, attendance, and programs, along with high and low attendance, parental priorities, wild rumors, and how to make it all work. So how can I take all these things, manage, create, and run the perfect ministry? How can I get kids to want to show up, give their lives to Jesus, and become fully committed, radical disciples of Christ? I believe that I have a skill set to offer, ideas and plans that are pretty good but they’re never good enough. My very best seems inefficient, unproductive, and incompetent.

It took a dead youth pastor to remind me this morning that all that is irrelevant. As I woke and read a chapter or two out of “Getting Fired for the Glory of God” by Mike Yaconelli (founder of Youth Specialties) it was a painful reminder that my ministry programs, communications techniques, and any skills I may have (or have not) aren’t what it’s all about. So what is it all about? You guessed it…Jesus. Jesus is it. No big programs or ministry planning is going to bring kids to Christ. No parents will be ministered to or even be made happy by what I’m doing. Only Jesus. Only His will. Only His plan.
Every time I get caught up in my incompetency and become overwhelmed by my own sense of inadequacy I hear the words from 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Christ asks us to do what leadership seminars, books, and professional efficiency experts tell us to never do: Work out of your weakness. “When I am weak, then I am strong” starts to make sense when we realize that it’s not about us, it’s about Him.
So what does that look like? I don’t know, but I’m starting to realize that as soon as I start envisioning and planning what it looks like to work out of His strength and not mine, I am reminded that it doesn’t have to look like Francis Chan or Craig Groeschel. It may just look like an unknown guy who spent his life loving the left out kids and teaching them to love God first, and everything else second. Somehow that’s encouraging and disturbing but all I know is the rest is up to God.

Being a person of truth

Lately God has really been working on me to be a man of truth. The first thing that comes to my mind is, “I don’t lie to people!” but what God has been showing me is that people of truth go much deeper than that. How many times have you seen mis-truths, wrong perceptions, or exaggerations and have let them pass by? People of truth are the ones who say, “Wait, that’s not what I heard”, or “Let’s ask them if that’s true or not.” God calls us to be light in the darkness. That goes a lot further than not lying.

A week or two ago I heard about a person who was perpetuating a lie about me. The solution was simple. I needed to confront the person gently, and ask them to help me clear the matter up. The problem was, that was going to be an uncomfortable situation, or an awkward moment (God frequently uses awkward moments, by the way). Instead of clearing the matter up with a moment or two of awkwardness as I called them out on their misconception I just got angry and complained to several of my friends. I perpetuated the problem by continuing negative talk behind people’s backs, which was the very thing I was upset about!
Being a person of truth means not only holding yourself accountable to complete truth, but expecting and insisting on the complete truth with those in your sphere of influence. Where are you perpetuating misconceptions, half-truths, and flat out lies? Where could you be bringing light into darkness even if it is awkward and makes you and others uncomfortable?

Encounter

High School Encounter coming up September 17-19th at Camp ALOMA!

A lesson from Haiti

This week I am back from Haiti and as I get back into the swing of work and home, I am still trying to process just what happened last week. As you might know already it is hard to do a short term mission to the poorest places in the world and then just jump right back into you day to day when you come back. That is why I am useless this week. It is extremely hard for me to sleep in my comfortable pillow top mattress while knowing the people who will sleep on the ground. It is hard to see my excess in light of their lack and at times I feel a mix of guilt and anger. Guilt, because I have so much and anger, because there are those around me who have even more yet care even less. And yet we have so much to gain from the Haitians. Even though they have so little (or nothing in some cases), they have a joy we do not possess in America. Last week our whole team was surprised to see not weeping and depression but a country that has gotten its joy back. It’s almost as if the earthquake there lifted a vale and the people could see God at work. Since the quake, churches have been growing and revival happening. It reminds me of what Joseph said to his brothers. “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” Even though the devastation is severe (in fact, more sever than I can portray), God takes together all things “for the good.”

As for me, I learned many lessons in Haiti, which I am still in the process of unpacking. One that stands out the clearest to me is paying attention to the Holy Spirit. For many of us in the US church this is more of a theory or a good sermon than an actual practice, but after talking to some of the missionaries who have been engaged in the work of God outside of America, Spiritual Discernment is an essential. To listen to where God is leading is a key element in the work of a missionary. The take home message for me is to learn to pay as much attention to the Holy Spirit here at my church. If we cannot listen to God’s promptings through His Spirit, we cannot be as useful to His purposes here on earth. The question that I have to ask myself and I hope that you do the same is this: What does God want me to do right now? Many times I confess that I snuff out the flame of the Spirit with my unwillingness to be a fool. What I mean is simply this, if God prompts you to go pray with someone on the street the first thing that we tend to worry about is an awkward moment rather than grieving the Spirit of God. What is more grieving than to disobey? While we were in Haiti we had amazing translators and a team that went with us as we walked through villages. When we saw someone or felt a nudge we prayed with them. Yes, sometimes I felt awkward going up to people and asking them “How can I pray for you?” but the more we practiced the more natural it felt. The more that we step out of our comfort zones in our lives, the less we care about comfort zones because once you feel the joy and power of walking in the will of God, there is no comparison. For me, the true awkward moment will be standing in front of my God when He asks, “Andrew, why didn’t you talk to that man? I sent him into your path for a reason and you let him slip by.”