Saturday, July 31, 2010

"I Survived VBS"

We should make up "I Survived VBS" t-shirts and give them to all the incredible folks who year in and year out go beyond the call of duty to serve the Lord and display the love of Jesus to children. All kidding aside, this year's VBS, at least in my book, was extra special.

I did want to share something that was truly amazing last night. So get this, all week long the kids brought in their "co-pay" (translation: missionary offering). This year we decided that all the money that came in would literally go to Timbuktu to the Elijah House whose mission is to feed and clothe children in the name of Jesus Christ. One of our dear friends is P.J. Hartzell. She is the wife of Rich who serves as an elder at Grace BFC (Wallingford, PA). P.J. went to Timbuktu last year and has a real passion for that area.

Okay, so last year at our VBS the kids brought in a combined total of 37.7 lbs of coins. The boys brought in 23.2 lbs and the girls had 14.5 lbs. The total sum of money was $245.32 which all went to the Gloucester County Child Evangelism Fellowship ministry.

This year, and this is so cool, the kids brought in a grand total of 111.2 lbs of coins!!! The boys won the competition for total weight (boys had 61.6 lbs to the girls 49.6 lbs). However, when the men had the money counted up it was the GIRLS who had the most money! The girls' total alone was $351.16. The boys' total was $340.35. So the grand total was $691.51. How amazing is that!!!

Thank you, Father, for working in the hearts of the children to be so generous. You truly are a God who does abundantly more than anything we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). We give you glory for all the boys and girls who came to VBS this week. May they grow to love and serve you with their whole hearts. Amen.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Four nights of VBS are in the books. Speaking of the number four, there were four precious young children who spoke with me last night about trusting Jesus as their personal Savior...Praise the Lord!!! Please pray for these children, as well as the rest of the group, to learn to love God more. Pray for the families who brought these kids to VBS, many of whom do not regularly attend church.

I challenged the group to bring their friends so that we could hit 60 in attendance last night. Do you think we made it? [Drum roll, please...] YES! We had 60 on the button last night! It was so much fun, and once again Miss Karen did an outstanding job of teaching God's Word. Last night she spoke about Nicodemus and the reality that we must all be "born again". It was fantastic!

Here are a few snapshots from the week so far:

Only one more night of Bible school remains. It has been such a blessing to see folks working together for the kingdom of God. We have met several new families this year at VBS. Pray that God might use this week to change their hearts for eternity.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Change of Heart

All week long we've been sharing with the children who come to our VBS about their need to have a "change of heart". The Bible tells us that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). It says that the "wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23). We are told in Ephesians 2:1-2 that, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world...". I realize that nobody wants to be told that they are a sinner. Some people get angry when you try to share this with them. Others simply shrug you off and pretend not to care. However, the reality of the matter is that all people stand in need of a change of heart!

What about your heart? Has your heart been transformed by the love and grace of God? Have you accepted God's free gift of salvation by believing in Jesus and accepting his sacrifical work on the cross? If so, then how has God's presence in your life made a difference?

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." - John 3:16-17

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

VBS Pics

We had 55 kids tonight at VBS! It was another great night of Bible school. We are more than half way through this year's VBS. Here are a few pictures from "Heartbeat Hospital"...

Only two more nights of VBS left! I really believe that God is speaking to the hearts of these young children. Please pray hard with us that some of the children will decide to trust Jesus as their Savior.

VBS Update

Last night we had 50 children at VBS...praise the Lord! It was a terrific night with hardly a glitch. Unfortunately I'm having a few technical issues with photos, so you'll have to check back tomorrow.

In the meantime here's a question for you...

What is your greatest memory from any Vacation Bible School that you've been a part of?

I'd love to hear your response...NO, REALLY, PLEASE RESPOND!!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's VBS Time!

"Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" - Matthew 19:13-14

You've got to love Vacation Bible School, right? I mean, seriously, who doesn't count down the days all year long until the kick off of VBS? I know that my family certainly does! Whether your church calls it Vacation Bible School, Community Bible School, a Backyard Bible Club, or you've come up with your own clever catchphrase, young and old alike all scream for Bible school...(or was that ice cream?)...

Or, do they? Depending on your context (Northeastern U.S., the South, Midwestern U.S., etc.), your church's VBS outreach may be a huge success, or it might more accurately be a moderate success topped off with a huge, week-long headache. We all know that, in general, church attendance is down in the U.S. The schedules of your typical American family are literally spilling over from overcrowdedness. It's seems that many people are choosing to allow the MOST important thing in life (i.e., devotion to and love for God) to fall by the wayside in favor of more time for chasing the Almighty Dollar, spending time at the beach, or simply to "rest" (translation: avoid church people, waste time on the computer, etc., etc.) at home.

Now, I'm not naive to the reality that the statistical "success" of many VBS programs is actually the result of churched families shuffling their kids from one church to the next. However, let me say, in my opinion, for the record: That is not a bad thing at all! What is more precious and wonderful than hearing your child's excitement over the fact that they get to attend another VBS program? Besides, the best form of advertisement for VBS is our children inviting their friends, right? My daughter, Gabbie, was literally jumping up and down yesterday morning because she knew it was the first day of Bible school. I still have vivid memories from VBS as a small child. God uses these outreaches in untold ways to draw children's hearts closer to Him. We should all be so thankful that God is longsuffering with us and still saves souls! Add to this the reality that the overwhelming majority of people (approximately 85%) who accept Christ as their Savior do so before the age of 14. Doesn't this make our efforts for things like VBS all the more important?

But here's the deal, we certainly do need to have a vision for reaching new children and families with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm not sure how many years churches have been holding summer outreaches like VBS, but just think about all the people (perhaps even yourself) who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior through something like VBS. It's truly amazing! There are people in our neighborhoods who need to accept Christ. The tragedy for many churches is that their annual VBS programs may be the only time when their members actually do outreach. How sad is that?

I praise God for any endeavor that leads local churches and their members into their community as a witness for Jesus. In fact, I would be in favor of VBS every week...(okay, so perhaps that would be going a little overboard)...

One of our first outreaches at New Beginnings in the summer of 2008 was a Backyard Bible Club styled VBS that we called Camp Koinonia. Last year we changed the name to Camp Hidden Treasure (since even the elders at the church were having a hard time pronouncing bad!). Now, keep in mind the fact that the entire church was about 35 people in July 2008...At our 2008 VBS we saw 48 different children come to at least one day of Bible school (an average of 30 per day). Last summer's VBS saw 56 different children with a daily average of 44 (we were averaging about 55 people per Sunday after one year).

Last night we had 42 children for opening night. We praise the Lord for everyone one of them! Check back each day for some observations and photos from "Heartbeat Hospital" at New Beginnings BFC.

Father, we know that you love every boy and girl who will come to Bible school this week. We trust You for their salvation. Help us to teach, care, love, and serve them with the grace of Jesus Christ this week. May many children turn from their sin and place their faith in Jesus Christ. May you cause other young hearts to fall more in love with Your Son, Jesus. Lord, please anoint Miss Karen as she vividly communicates Your living Word each evening. Watch over our week and may You bring much glory to Yourself through our labor in Your name. Thank you for every leader and helper and for their special gifts and heart for the children of your kingdom. Amen.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Where's Tim?

"Where's Tim?" These are the words from my two-year-old, Luke, that I've heard nearly every day for the past two months. "Who's Tim," you ask? Well, Tim Radcliff is a new friend of mine and yesterday he finished a two-month church planting internship with the BFC at New Beginnings.

Tim was literally my shadow from June 1, 2010, to July 25, 2010. He did a little bit of everything during his internship, except perhaps my laundry (don't think that I didn't consider having him do that though). Tim assisted with many practical tasks like office work and mailings, as well as some more specialized skills like preaching a sermon and leading a Bible study. He did some community demographics work and even went door-to-door conducting a face-to-face survey with over 80 people. He was a huge help when the TFE (Teams for Evangelism) group from Bethel BFC (Emmaus, PA) came down. If you've ever been to New Beginnings then you know that there's never a dull moment around here. I think Tim has a pretty good understanding of this now. For a small church we can sure cram a lot into eight weeks, huh Tim?

I am especially going to miss our weekly dinners with Tim over at the house. Gabbie and Luke came to love Tim. He was great with them. I'm also going to miss our Playstation 2 matchups on MLB 2009 and NCAA 2011. For the record, I crushed him in baseball and, come to think of it, I forget how things turned out with the football game we played this past week...

Seriously, I am very glad that Tim came to Woodbury Heights this summer. We had a chance to celebrate his last day at church yesterday with a nice cake and great conversation about many of the lessons he learned. The Apostle Paul writes to his young protege (who happened to also be named Timothy) in 2 Timothy 2:1-2, "You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." Well, I'm not sure how much I was able to really teach Tim during the past eight weeks. It is my honest prayer that he was able to observe some Christlike characteristics in my life. I pray that he has been exposed to the heart of a loving pastor and evangelist. I also hope he's learned "what not to do" through patiently enduring many of my failures. I know that I am certainly going to miss him.

Father, please bless Tim in his future ministry. Help him to remain teachable and patient with others. Continue to fill his mind with Your Word, and help there to never be a disconnect between that knowledge and his heartfelt obedience. Please bless he and Kaylena in their upcoming marriage. May Your face shine upon them and be merciful to them. Thank you for the time You gave Tim to New Beginnings. Amen.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Phillies Phun

I went to the Phillies game on Friday night and got to see Roy Halladay pitch quite a gem...6-0 shut out against the Rockies! Thanks, Mike, for taking me out to the ball game!

Which sport do you think would have been Jesus' favorite and why? Here are your options:
1) Football
2) Soccer
3) Baseball
4) Basketball
5) Hockey
6) Other

Let's see who can be the most creative with their response!

Please enjoy these totally awesome pics from a night at the ballpark:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

An Ode to MDN

I love my father-in-law. Yes, you heard me right. I realize that most of you who know Mike may find that hard to believe. But it's true. So, I'd like to give you at least ten reasons why I love Michael Donovan Norquist...

10. He used to take me golfing (yes, Mike, it's been a while...).
9. He's got a sweet big screen t.v. that he lets me watch (sometimes).
8. He took mercy on me nearly eight years ago and gave me a summer job sweating my behind off at his chemical company.
7. My kids absolutely adore him (again, I know this is strange).
6. Come on, he's got great hair (it's not fair that my father-in-law has so much more hair than I do).
5. He has helped us do our taxes for years.
4. He amazes me with how he can sit in a room for so long without talking to a single soul.
3. He is a great worship leader (and uses this gift at NBBFC regularly).
2. He took me to the Phillies game on Friday night (Diamond Dugout seats and Roy Halladay on the mound...YES!!!).

And the number 1 reason why I love Michael Donovan Norquist is...

1. His love for the Lord and obedience to God's will has served as a great example for me and has impacted my wife in profound ways.

Thanks for being a friend, Mike, and a great father-in-law. I pray that one day, when I'm old like you, I can give praise to God for blessing my family like He has blessed yours. You're the best.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Heavenly Man - Part One

Reading is something that I greatly enjoy. However, I have tended to read within a relatively small genre. I don't enjoy reading fiction or self-help books. I struggle to stick with works of history and I'm certainly not into "Chick Lit" like my darling wife is. So most of the time I find myself reading either 1) The Bible, 2) books about the Bible, or 3) books written about persons or topics from the Bible. I guess it could be a lot worse, huh?!

Last week my friend Adam lent me a copy of THE HEAVENLY MAN: THE REMARKABLE TRUE STORY OF CHINESE CHRISTIAN BROTHER YUN. (Adam just returned from his honeymoon and apparently he read like seven books during his time in Ireland....REALLY, ADAM, come on!!!) I was certainly familiar with the name (Brother Yun), but I had never read anything firsthand about this pretty incredible man of God.

I've been reading as much as I can each day and am about half way through the book. I thought I'd share a few thoughts here related to what I'm seeing so far. First, I have already come to a deeper appreciation of the house church movement in China. There are many different expressions of "church" in our North American culture. However, I'm pretty sure that I haven't seen or experienced anything like the description of suffering and witness of the Chinese house church believers in this book. For this reason alone, I'm glad I'm reading this book. I personally believe that we (in our comfortable North American context) have a lot to learn about what it means to be the body of Christ. Believe it or not, there other (perhaps more biblically oriented) expressions of the church than the ones you and I are most familiar with.

Second, as I'm reading this book I feel as if I'm experiencing the same thrill and excitement as when I read through the ACTS OF THE APOSTLES (Book Five of the New Testament). There is something simple and powerful about the expression of the church found in this book. I'm sure plenty of folks take issue with the record of visions and miraculous things that happen in this book. My counsel to those who take such an approach: Be careful about standing in a seat of judgment when it comes to the acts of the Holy Spirit (cf. Mark 3:29; Acts 7:51). Maybe we would experience more of God's power and presence if we lived more biblically. (I say this to myself.)

Finally, I have been personally and deeply challenged by the courageous witness of Brother Yun. At times I have found myself wiping away tears as I read the accounts of his torture and tremendous faith in Christ. There is a refreshing singleness of heart to the character of Brother Yun. The Scripture flows through this narrative in ways that point the reader towards a loving and faithful God. Now, I'm only halfway through, so I'll hold off recommending this book to anyone who may be reading this....but so far, I've been moved and blessed by every page.

Father, may the things we see, hear, say, and do be pleasing in Your sight. Reveal to us those things which need to be "put off" and that which, once again, needs to be "put on". You are a loving and faithful Father. Amen.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thankful Thursday

In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.
-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"T" is for THANKFUL...and today is "Thankful Thursday".

I am thankful for a loving, faithful wife. Laurie, you mean so much to me. You display a selfless, giving love for me each and every day. This love too often goes unnoticed and under-appreciated. You are an amazing mother and a wonderful partner. I think we both agree that it is hard to imagine how God could fill our lives with "good things" any more than He already has.

Ephesians 5:20 states, " thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ..."

What are you thankful for today? Have you stopped to thank God for all the "good things" in your life?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Deeper Devotion

About nine months ago we started a weekly Bible study for men at New Beginnings. We started out with maybe five or six men. Today, we had thirteen men at our Bible study! Each week is really such a joy. The men are open with their insights and struggles. I really believe that the Lord is using this context to grow stronger, more spiritual men at New Beginnings.

We are currently reading and discussing a book authored by Jerry Bridges called THE PRACTICE OF GODLINESS. It has been a helpful guide to our consideration of the life that God desires for us to live. Today we finished our discussion of chapter four which is titled "Seeking a Deeper Devotion". Here are some thoughts from this challenging chapter:

1) God wants us to grow in our devotion to Him in three specific areas: our fear of God, our love for God, and our desire for God.

2) There are several "means" by which we grow to have a deeper devotion of God. These are often thought of as spiritual disciplines, or spiritual habits:

3) Here's a nice quote: "This is godliness: God-centeredness, or devotion to God; and Godlikeness, or Christian character. The practice of godliness is both the practice of devotion to God and the practice of a lifestyle that is pleasing to God and that reflects His character to other people."

So what about your life? Are you seeking a deeper devotion to God? Do you even know what that means? Do you see the importance of having a consistent and intimate daily time with the Lord?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Starting Small

Today we begin with a simple thought from the deepest, most reliable source of wisdom in the world: God's Word...

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:14-16

Do you struggle with having the right attitude to match your supposed right actions?

How different is your life from everyone else in our culture?

Has the Word of Christ effected your life so much that you respond differently when things don't go your way?

Father, help us to start small by making sure that our heart attitudes reflect your heavenly will. Help us to make a difference today not merely by what we do but also by how we do what we do. Amen.