Yesterday our church celebrated the first Sunday of Advent. To help our church participate the celebration, our pastors and staff put together an Advent guide. For each week the guide contains a lesson, carol, children’s activity, and a prayer to use with yourself, family or friends. We have designed it for our church family and as a resource for others. Below you can find a link to the booklet to download for you and your church. Merry Christmas!
Our family has been making a concerted effort of traveling as a whole family as much as possible. We are convinced that traveling, not just vacationing, helps our children gain a better understanding of the world, love Jesus’ creation and become generally well-rounded people.
For the last several years, camping at some national parks has been on our list. National Parks are little pockets of Creation that are well cared for and absolutely breathtaking. The Mighty Five in Utah was our destination this year. The Mighty Five include Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park. These National Parks are all located in the Southwest corner of the state, and I can’t say it enough, they are a magnificent display of God's creativity!
If you are interested in a trip to The Mighty Five, I have included our itinerary and some pictures of each destination to give an idea of what to expect.
Our trip spanned from July 29 through August 10. We headed out on Sunday the 29th after spending the morning with our church. Our destination was the great state of Colorado. Denver to be more precise. However, props should be handed out to Nebraska for their fantastic speed limits.
On Monday we made our way to Moab. I should mention that the drive on 1-70 through the Rockies never gets old, and for my wife and I, the drive brings back a lot of memories each time we travel that road. As we neared the border of Utah, we stopped at a cute little visitor center. The guy running the place was an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast. He recommended that we take Highway 128 into Moab because the road followed the Colorado River. The drive did not disappoint. We pulled into our campground, Moab Valley Resort, late Monday afternoon and set up camp for the next three nights.
Tuesday morning marked our first hike of the trip. We were pretty excited to see what was in store. We headed out at 5:30 a.m. to beat the crowd and get to Delicate Arch with good light. We arrived just as the sun was rising, but the color was still fantastic. The rest of the morning we took in several smaller hikes. The kids enjoyed scrambling and rock climbing at each location.
On Wednesday morning, we made our way to the North Park of Canyonlands. We hit up a few small hikes and enjoyed some breathtaking views. The smoke from the California wildfires added an interesting haze to the day; we made the best of it by listening to 99% Invisible’s podcast dealing with wildfires. During the afternoon we cooled off with a swim and then headed to the South Park of Canyonlands for an evening drive.
CAPITOL REEF & BRYCE
Thursday morning marked our trip from Moab to Springdale, UT. We packed up early and headed toward Capitol Reef. It was a beautiful morning. However, the threat of severe storms loomed throughout the afternoon. A favorite memory for my wife was picking peaches from a historic orchard. Capitol Reef is filled with historic orchards of various fruits planted by the Mormons. As we picked peaches, we could hear, but not see, a large booming thunderstorm in the distance.
Before we left Capitol Reef, we picnicked and took in some small hikes and scenic stops. Around 1:30, we made our way toward Bryce Canyon with storms looming. As we drove to Bryce Canyon, we were surrounded by massive storms that closed roads (thankfully, temporarily) that we would drive later in the day.
Bryce was also beautiful; however, we had to take it all in quickly due to the storms. We were able to make one small “hike” to view Inspiration Point.
The drive from Bryce to Springdale was yet another beautiful drive. One of the roads had been closed due to the storms. The storm had caused a mudslide. It was fun to drive through the remnants of the slide and watch the crew clean up the mess of red mud.
We arrived in Springdale, and it was raining quite heavily. Setting up our tent would have to wait. We drove around and became familiar with the city. We also decided to go out for supper to wait out the rain. We found a great little pizza shop in Springdale, the Zion Pizza and Noodle Company.
After dinner, God gave us a perfect window of no rain to set up camp and settle in for the night. We were super thankful.
ZION NATIONAL PARK
Zion National Park was our final and major destination. We spent six nights camping in the base town of Springdale. After all those nights together in a tent, our family would still recommend the Ferber resort campground. Our typical schedule consisted of hiking in the morning and then returning for lunch and swimming in the afternoon. A few evenings we went for walks, and one evening we took in The Watchman. It is an excellent hike for sunsets or sunrises.
I think a significant highlight for all of us was The Narrows, a famous hike of Zion. In the Narrows, you spend much of the day in the water, so you need to come prepared. I was super proud of our family, especially Maddox, as they were all adventurous through the water. We were able to hike over a waterfall and push through to see some pretty fantastic creation.
Some of our other favorite hikes were The Hidden Canyon Trail, The Watchman, and the Weeping Rock. Several trails were still closed due to a massive rainstorm. Someday, we will have to head back and hit Angels Landing.
On Wednesday, our final morning in the park, my older boys and I headed out around 5:30 in the morning to conquer the East Rim Trail to Observation Point. It is an eight-mile hike with around a 3,000-foot climb. They worked hard to enjoy the beautiful view at the top. We headed back to camp for the afternoon and went out for dinner to celebrate their hard work.
A couple of recommendations before I go. First, tent camping is an experience that both lessens the economic impact on your family and gives you a unique experience. Second, if you go to a national park in Utah, hike in the morning. It gets significantly warmer as the day goes on. Finally, the All Trails app is an excellent app for hiking.
We loved everything about our family trip, even when our plans didn’t play out perfectly. We are already working on our next trip together!
Baptism Sundays are some of my favorite days. They are always filled with stories of Christ's redemption. This story from Meredith is a perfect example. There is a reoccurring theme in each of our stories: the sacrificial love of Jesus is sufficient to cover our sin against God and the sins that have been committed against us. No matter what evil horror you have engaged in or evil horror that has been done to you, Jesus can make you clean. This past Sunday, we used a song to follow up our baptisms that captures this truth perfectly called "Clean." The song was written by Natalie Grant and was inspired by a friend of Mrs. Grant. Her friend, a woman who endured terrible abuse, could not speak of the incident because of how dirty she felt. Natalie Grant composed the song to help her see that nothing is too dirty for Jesus to clean. You can listen to the song below.
The fingerprints of God are everywhere in this world, yet it is easy for us to overlook God's handiwork that He puts on display. Or maybe better said, I know that it is realIy easy for me to ignore His handiwork. I find that I often get into a routine and overlook His goodness in my life. Therefore, God puts reminders in my life probably with the hope that I will pay attention.
The winter of 2016-2017 was pretty mild, for the most part. However, in January we had a small ice storm. It didn't do any damage in our area, but that ice storm created a calm, beautiful scene for a few hours. My wife and I threw on our winter jackets and headed outside with our phones and her super fun Olloclip. If you aren't familiar with the product, the Olloclip has both macro and wide angle lens that snaps overtop your phone's camera. With the lens, we were able to capture some interesting perspectives of the ice formations. The ice formation above is smaller than the tip of my pinky finger. However, the lens was able to capture some beautiful "fingerprints."
As I was snapping shots that day, different verses were popping into my mind about God's love as displayed in the act of creation and His care for us as His image bearers. His fingerprints can be seen all over the planet. And even though this earth groans (Romans 8:22) as a result of our sin, His care for the details of life is still evident when we pay attention. I have found that for me, a good practice is to try to think each day of a specific way that God displays Himself. On January, 16 2017, He displayed His hand in creation through an ice storm. Below I have listed some passages for reflection that remind us that God really does care for us, even though the world around us doesn't always seem to give us that assurance. You can also check out the rest of the pictures here.
- In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. Psalm 102:25 (NIV)
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” Revelation 4:11 (NIV)
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. Genesis 1:26–31 (NIV)
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 (NIV)
I want you to meet McClain. He is my ten year old son. He has a wonderfully perfect mom, a beautiful thirteen year old sister, an adventurous sidekick twin brother, and a five year old brother who idolizes his every move. He is all boy--clever, funny without trying to be funny, a super hard worker, a geek for all things Star Wars, a lover of Legos--especially Star Wars Legos, a dirt-digger and outdoor enthusiast. He is also a Christian and wants others to know how Jesus has changed his life. To get to the point, McClain is also a pretty bright kid. No one in our family is a rocket scientist, but we make our way through the world. That is what brings us to the heart of this short bio.
Early on in McClain's academic career, first grade to be exact, we noticed that McClain didn't seem to be able to easily sound out or remember words as he was reading. He was also having great difficulty with reversing letters and spelling words incorrectly. My wife, being a teacher, picked up on this early. For the next couple of years, McClain spent time doing extra work trying to learn to read with different programs at school and at home. His hard work was met with little success. I mentioned that he was a hard worker, but it didn't matter how much or how hard he worked. Reading just never clicked. Often times, he would forget a word just a few words after he had read it.
At the same time McClain was being tutored, my wife did a lot of research on different possibilities. Being a teacher, she had an idea that it could be dyslexia, but we couldn't know for sure. Fortunately, we are blessed with fantastic teachers and staff at our elementary school that helped us search out explanations for McClain's difficulty with reading and encouraged us to get McClain tested.
So in March of 2014, we were able to load up and head to Iowa City to see one of the top specialists for dyslexia and dysgraphia. After eight hours of intense work and testing for McClain, we learned that he did indeed have both dyslexia and dysgraphia. This diagnosis was a huge relief for our family. We were now able to know that McClain's brain processed information differently and could jump on a path of how we could best help him learn to read and write. Because of this diagnosis and a lot of hard work, McClain now reads with ease at his grade level. He also has tools in place to make writing assignments doable.
The video above was created at the request of McClain's elementary school for use in a training seminar. We want to share it with you in case you find yourself in a similar situation. We hope you enjoy it.
Each year we take a family vacation during the summer months. Last year, as we continued that tradition of a family vacation, we put a camping spin on it by visiting Yellowstone National Park. This year we carried on the camping theme by hiking the stunning trails of Glacier National Park.
On July 25, 2015, our family hit the road after a weekend of hanging with our most favorite people in the world, our Willow Creek family! (If you don't have a church home, you should stop by sometime!) That note aside, we set off in the wee hours of the morning on our 1,308 mile journey, just shy of 20 hours. The first night was in the not-so-spectacular, yet friendly town of Broadus, Montana. Even though the sights weren't great, sleeping in a tent allowed us a close up view of a good sized thunderstorm.
This is our second extended vacation in a tent, which has been a really great experience minus the following example. The second night of our trip we made it to our destination, Lost Johnny Point Campground, just 25 minutes outside of Glacier. Due to a grizzly bear being very interested in a dumpster just thirty feet from our tent, we made the decision to move into the National Park. We are well aware that bears are also present in Glacier and are fine with that. They are not generally too interested in humans. However, the catalyst that caused us to move was that someone left a bag of food garbage on our vehicle while we were sleeping. If you camp in bear country, it is a well known fact to keep food and garbage in the appropriate containers. The campground host even seemed somewhat alarmed by this and the bear activity happening.
In retrospect, moving campgrounds was a huge blessing. We ended up staying at Sprague Creek Campground on Lake MacDonald. Sprague Creek is a small campground on the bed of a Cedar Forest. The Lake and the forest offered the best of both worlds. We could go out to the sunny lake for a swim or start a campfire on our site in the cool of the forest.
Similar to our trip to Yellowstone, some meals were cooked over the campfire, and other meals were cooked using a white-gas Coleman stove. We brought a lot of frozen meals for breakfast and dinner that just needed to be heated. Our lunches were always picnics eaten at one of the many very beautiful pull-offs along the Going-To-The-Sun Road or around Glacier. Meals were much easier than we had anticipated. We kept things very simple but pretty tasty as well. We were also introduced to huckleberries and all of the foods that they are used in. If you decide to visit Glacier, huckleberry pie is a must!
The Sights and Sounds
Another similarity to Yellowstone is the absence of noise. There is no cellphone coverage in the park, so we were able to put our devices aside and really enjoy all the amazing sounds of natures. Also, Glacier is known as the Crown of the Continent, and the hype did not disappoint. Both Londa and I enjoy taking photographs, and we had plenty of opportunities. You can see more of the photos I took here.
What to bring
- Jacky from Sports Fitness Advisor wrote a great article entitled, "How to Shop for Camping Tents." It is most definitely worth the read.
- Rei has a great list that you can add and subtract from here. I can't really do better, so enjoy.
Last week I had the privilege to serve at a camp by leading the music portion of our worship each morning and evening. The entire week was pure joy. I don't mean that as a trite statement. The people we were with sang their hearts out every single service. We worshipped together for eleven separate services, and each time was an encouragement to my heart.
The final evening of our time at the camp, my wife and I took a quick walk down to the dock to catch a little of the "golden hour." As we made our way down, we were able to enjoy the rainbow pictured above. We, of course, whipped out our phones to try and capture the moment. Simultaneously, I was second guessing not running and getting my "real" camera. I opted to stay and enjoy the moment, so no regrets.
We were at this camp for about six days. Even though we had cell service, the camp experience is designed in a way that you live in a different little world and are really able to pull away from the normal distractions of life and interact with people as you worship God together. This particular week we focused on putting sin to death and treasure Christ above all else. It was both a challenging and refreshing experience.
As we reconnected to the world today, I was reminded of a song that we sang together this week. In it, the author says that we should praise God in all walks of life, even when the world is "all as it should be." The author place quotes around this phrase because the world is most definitely not "all as it should be." We have completely messed it up. Our rebellion and sin against God will leave no stone unturned. Our fingerprints of stupidity are everywhere.
Fortunately, our hope is not placed in us. We serve and worship a God who keeps he promises, like the promise he made to Noah and sealed it with a rainbow. God will come again, and He will fix all the messes we have made. He will bring justice where there needs to be justice. He will give mercy to those who need mercy.
So, in the meantime, my family will aim to follow God's two greatest commands: we will strive to Love the Lord with all our hearts and love our neighbor (all people) as we love ourselves.
All throughout the Scripture's God places into the lives of his people reminders of himself. So we will remember just how good he is. It is a theme you will find over and over and over again.
For His servant Noah, he used the rainbow as a reminder of his promise not to flood the earth.
For His chosen nation of Israel, He placed a myriad of festivals to remind the nation of his care for them. He even commanded them to place tassels on there garments so that they would remember his commands.
To His Church he has given his us many ways to remember him. Our weekly gatherings, including communion and baptism, are a consistent reminder of the absolute pinnacle of the Christian faith, the death and resurrection, that God has defeated sin and death through Jesus Christ.
Not only is this theme of remembering seen in Scripture, it is built into the very fabric of our human nature. God has stamped his image onto humanity, and a desire to build reminders into our lives is no exception. For instance, every culture on planet earth has designated days that are observed by the people of that nation to remind them of past achievements or difficult circumstances. In the United States, we hold July 4th close to our hearts because it reminds us of the fight for the freedoms we now enjoy.
Families take part in this practice as well. Growing up, my family would roast hot dogs every Saturday night. It was a simple way for our family to remember how much we loved each other. I have many fond memories of those evenings. Years later, my own family is now building reminders into our lives. One of our favorites is our yearly trip to the tulip festival. Each year we go, I reflect on the good times we have had in the past years. It helps me appreciate the people that God has entrusted me with.
This year, as we got ready to go to the tulip festival, I remembered that I never shared some of the fun pics from last year. So, to help me remember these days in years to come, I share them today.
I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. - Genesis 9:13
Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Numbers 15:39-40
Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, - 1 Chronicles 16:12
So, as it turns out, I guess I am just too good of friends with Josh Byers to be able to post a review of his book on Amazon. I learned this when Amazon pulled my review and then sent me a message saying that I would be too biased...I may be. However, I can tell you that I am no more biased than the gentlemen, who will not be named, that left a negative review on the book simply because of his distaste for reformed theology. So with that said, I have posted my simple review below. I hope you enjoy my review. I do mean what I write!
Both the words and the info graphics paint a beautiful picture, illustrating what it means to be a genuine follower of Christ. I will, without a doubt, be using this resource for my own growth and with those God has placed under my care. Thanks to Tim Challies and Josh Byers.
However, You don't have to take just my word for it. You can follow this simple process I have laid out below to make sure the you are making a wise purchase:
- Learn more about the Visual Theology
- Learn more about Josh Byers
- Learn more about Tim Challies
- Come and meet Josh Byers in person, to make sure that he is a trustworthy author, but don't get to know him too well, or you won't be able to review his awesome book.
- Purchase Visual Theology
- Read Visual Theology
- Leave raving review on Amazon about Visual Theology
So now, I leave the decision in your hands. Get a copy! Read it and give it a review!
Last fall our family did our yearly or semi-yearly outing to catch a few family photos for posterity...and now I am placing them on my blog for the same purpose. For the most part, we actually enjoy this little outing, and we had some good bonding time while we strolled the streets of Des Moines, IA looking for some fun spots. I thought I would share them here in case you are looking for some fun photo spots as well.
We ended up in three locations. First, we took a few shots around Exile Brewery, both just north and south of that location. The area around Exile was my favorite place to shoot because of the architecture. Second, we shot the "barn" scenes in Water Works Park. This scene was definitely Londa's favorite. Third, we ended up on some railroad tracks by DMACC on Grand Ave, which is just always plain fun.
My youngest still puts on a pretty natural smile for the camera. The twins boys have entered the "I'm going to think about how to make my face smile, which will look forced and a little constipated." My daughter has moved back into the ability to smile naturally, probably thinking of a sarcastic comment.
All in all, we had a pretty great day, even though we weren't able to enjoy the sun or "Magic Hour". You can check the rest of the pics out here.
Oh, that's right! That isn't the correct saying at all, but "wetter" it was for us. I'll get to that later.
First, our family absolutely loves to travel, and the reasons are many. We love seeing the beautiful and varied design of God's creation. We love the new experiences that each day brings. We love trying out fun food joints, and we just plain love being together and enjoying each other.
So...this winter we hopped in my in-laws RV and headed south for the warm sunny state of Texas. Planning the trip, I envisioned my family on the beach, soaking in the warm rays of the sun and restocking our deficiency of vitamin D. Yeah, I do that when I plan trips: I escape into my mind and visualize conversations and activities that we will be enjoying. While we had a great time on the trip, the plan in my head of baking in the warm sun did not come to fruition in reality...and that's okay.
Don't let the pictures from the trip fool you. Every shot that is sunny was taken in the span of about 45 minutes. The rest of the time was either wet, overcast, or filled with hurricane force winds. (slight exaggeration about the wind)
I am pretty convinced, mainly because Scripture teaches, that God places "interruptions," even seemingly inignificant interruptions, in our lives just to continually remind us that this is not our ballgame. It is His. I am thankful that he does this because I can easily bend towards thinking, "Don't worry, I've got this." In reality, we don't.
James writes to the dispersed Jewish believers and it still rings true today, "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them."
P.S. Even though it wasn't super sunny, I was still able to snag a few fun photos you can find here.
For the past several years, our church has been celebrating Advent during the Christmas season. The season of Advent is traditionally the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. This year, we authored our own Advent booklet for families to use in their celebrations at home. My friend, Josh Byers, is responsible for the formatting and great graphics. Below is the blog post I wrote to introduce the resource:
Have you ever been singing Joy to the World and wondered, "Why we would ever sing that song during the Christmas season?" If you take a look at the lyrics, they are clearly teaching about the return of Jesus as King. Yet, many people would miss the song dearly if we didn't sing it during the Christmas season.
For many Christians, when we think of Advent, we associate the season with the incarnation, which is commonly referred to as the birth of the God-man: Jesus. However, the history of the church paints a different picture.
Throughout most of church history, the first Sunday of Advent marked a season of celebration which God started with the birth of Jesus and which God will finish when Jesus returns as the victorious King.
A closer look at the carols we sing throughout the season gives evidence to this. Joy to the World is one of many carols that teach about the second Advent of Christ.
As a church, we want to use this season of celebration to do the same. Each year we sing songs and read Scripture passages that point our attention to both Advents of Christ: His incarnation and His victorious return.
In addition to celebrating Advent together as a church each Sunday, we are excited to provide an Advent Resource for your families to use in your own Christmas celebrations. We hope you enjoy the season and have a renewed thirst for Christ. Click on the link below to download a free copy.
My wife and I were able to go to the Catalyst One Day Leadership Conference. I love a short little time away at a conference like the Catalyst One Day because it clears my head of the day-to-day grind and invigorates my hope in the gospel. While we both had a lot of take-aways from the one day intensive conference, I want share two of my favorite things.
First, the big take away from the entire day summed up in a sentence would be something like this: Great leaders identify people who are passionate about Jesus and more talented than themselves to grow the church to the glory of God. Being sinful people, this is easier said than done. Many people feel intimidated if they surround themselves with people who can do certain skills at a higher level. However, a truly great leader will not let this sinful reaction detract them from their purpose. They will let people serve where God has blessed them with talent. Jesus' Church is big enough for all of our talents.
Second, the conference was a mixture of great teaching on leadership and great music from the fantastic band from North Point Church led by Steve Fee. The band led us in songs from their newest album, Hear. This album is a fun, energetic album. We have identified at least one song from the album that will fit well into our theological and cultural context. We are looking forward to having this song be make it onto our setlist in the months to come. Click Here to listen to the album on Apple Music or use the Spotify button below.
Here and there, I am described by my closer friends as a perfectionist. I typically push back on that statement, because first, I don't see myself as a perfectionist, and second, I really don't think I am talented enough to be a perfectionist. However, I do know what my friends are talking about. I enjoy creating photos, playing music and doing a little writing in order to point to the glory of our Creator, but I don't really like sharing with the rest of the world what I create because it doesn't measure up to my standards. I don't think it is good enough. For instance, on this blog, most of my posts are in the draft form and will never make it to my site...because I can't get them just right.
My conclusion? Being one of the pastors of our church, I want to do a better job of putting ideas and truths about Jesus out into the public sphere, even if I am not satisfied with them. How's that for an exciting introduction? Because, who am I kidding? I am not perfect; we are not perfect. We can only point people to the One who is perfect. And that is what I want to do.
So. Here it is: a new tune and chorus that I wrote for the church, wedded with a beautiful old hymn text. This is a little difficult for me to put out there, but I think that it is worth sharing. Before you listen, here are a couple of caveats:
First, a good friend of mine, Zach Dietrich, introduced to me to this old, beautiful hymn text written by George Matheson. I have shared the story behind the text previously, and you can find it here. The beauty of the text is what compelled me to work on a modern tune for our church to sing. I wanted to make it our own. I want these truths to infiltrate the fabric of our church. For example, Matheson wrote expressive lines like: "trace the rainbow through the rain." When I read those words, I thought our church needed to be a part of the singing of that striking line.
Second, the recording below was accomplished in one evening before and after some delicious pizza with some fantastic friends...who happen to have even more fantastic skills and amazing equipment. Even though it was done quickly, it was most definitely a team effort from our band. However, this recording was only meant to be a demo for our team members to listen to. It was a single take recording, so it isn't perfect. I am very aware of the imperfections.
Third, here's a quick note about the chorus. The text is stripped from the book of Hosea, the series that we were going through as a church when this song was put together.
So with that said, below you will find the audio and chord charts. I think the melody sings best in the key of C. If you like it and are part of @thecreekchurch, you can sing it with your family. If you lead another church, feel free to introduce to your people. Mathieson's words are definitely words worth singing.
If you have ever been interested in taking a camping trip but have been nervous about camping, let the following information put you at ease! Take the plunge and go for it! Below is a little guide to help you get started.
On July 19, 2015, our family hit the road after we hung out with our church people for the morning. We were on our way to Yellowstone! I have been excited for a long time for our kids to experience the childhood memories that I had floating around in my head of this magical place. The pics below give you a small idea of just how creative our God is in his design of this world. There is even beauty in the brokenness of nature. Anyway, our eleven day journey was underway. The first night we stayed in Wall, SD. This is a fun little place that sticks-it-to-you financially because the hotels in Wall are the only hotels for 200 miles. (slight exaggeration) Even though the hotels are a bit over priced, the fresh doughnuts, nickel coffee, and free water in Wall Drug are a must!
The second night we made it to our destination, Canyon Village Campground in Yellowstone National Park. This campground is centrally located within the park. I have displayed Canyon Village with a marker on the map below. We spent three nights at Canyon Village and four nights at Bridge Bay which is a little further south on the loop around Yellowstone. To give you an idea for traveling, each loop is roughly a two-hour drive, and all of the pictures you see below were taken right on the figure-eight stretch.
Staying in Yellowstone affords you the opportunity to really relax and enjoy working your way around the park with both driving and hiking. If you enjoy camping, the price is super economical in Yellowstone (well, tent camping, that is). We found out quickly that our kids really enjoyed the hiking. Even the little guy enjoyed the trails...most of the time. There are tons of small half-mile hikes that are easily found on the park map. For six days, we explored Yellowstone by both driving and hiking. As you can see in the our pictures below, we got to see a lot of different Eco-systems within a very small area. The beautiful variety is due to the fact that Yellowstone sits on a giant super volcano.
Each day, we enjoyed a campfire in the morning as we ate breakfast and another campfire in the evening as we had supper. Some meals were cooked over the campfire, and other meals were cooked using a white-gas Coleman stove that my wife picked up at a garage sale for fifteen dollars (a great deal!). Our lunches were always picnics eaten at one of the many very picturesque designated picnic areas along the figure eight loop. Meals were much easier than we had anticipated. We kept things very simple. The biggest question that we've been asked is about the bears of Yellowstone. We felt completely safe! Every campground offers bear boxes or requires that food be stored in the car unless it is being consumed. Everyone in the park does a great job abiding by these rules. This also made the campgrounds extremely clean!
One of the beautiful things about Yellowstone is the absence of noise. There is very little cellphone coverage, so we were able to put our devices aside and really enjoy all the amazing sounds of natures (and a few smells of nature, too!). We heard the sounds of rushing water, birds singing, mud volcanoes bubbling (amazing!), vents hissing, and even a bison snorting (that made us run!). It was a lovely time to enjoy our own little family and make awesome memories together.
What to bring
- I started to put together this great packing list but realized it probably already existed. Rei has a nice list that you can add and subtract from here
Check out more of our trip photos in this Facebook Album
For the past few months, our church has been working through the different angles of love that are displayed in the book of Hosea. In Hosea's book, we are pictured as the whore, and God is shown for who his is, altogether wonderfully faithful in every aspect. In response to the series, our people have been using their talents to create artistic projects. We have put the words of an old loved hymn, O Love That Will Not Let Me Go, to a new tune.
This is the story that led to the writing of the hymn, O Love That Will Not Let Me Go:
O Love That Will Not Let Me Go was written by George Matheson on the evening of his sister’s wedding. Matheson's entire family had gone to the wedding, while he stayed alone at home. That night, he wrote of things in his life that caused him immense mental anguish.
Years before, Matheson had been engaged to be married. His fiancé learned that he was beginning to go blind, and there was nothing the doctors could do to help him. His fiancé told him that she could not go through life with a blind man and broke off their engagement.
Matheson eventually went entirely blind while studying for the ministry. His sisters had helped him with his studies--even going so far as to learn Hebrew, Greek, and Latin to be able to help their brother.
Matheson was a brilliant student, and some say if he hadn’t gone blind, he could have been the leader of the church of Scotland in his day. He had written a learned work on German theology. Matheson also wrote “The Growth of The Spirit of Christianity.” Louis Benson noted that this was a brilliant book but with some major mistakes. When critics pointed out the mistakes and charged him with being an inaccurate student, Matheson was heartbroken. One of his friends wrote, “When he saw that for the purposes of scholarship his blindness was a fatal hindrance, he withdrew from the field – not without pangs, but finally.”
Matheson turned to the pastoral ministry, and the Lord blessed his ministry. He regularly preached to over 1500 people each week. However, he had only been able to do this because of the care of his sister. Now she would be married and gone. Who would care for him--a blind man?
His sister’s marriage brought a fresh reminder of his own heartbreak over his fiancé’s refusal to “go through life with a blind man.” In the midst of this darkness and intense sadness, Matheson wrote this hymn in only five minutes, and it was his only hymn that required no editing.
Looking back over his life, Matheson recorded that his life was “an obstructed life, a circumscribed life…but a life of quenchless hopefulness, a life which has beaten persistently against the cage of circumstance, and which even at the time of abandoned work has said not 'Good night' but 'Good morning.'"
How could Matheson maintain such "quenchless hopefulness" in the midst of his life's circumstances and trials? His hymn gives us a clue: “I trace the rainbow in the rain, and feel the promise is not vain.” The rainbow image is an example of just one of many everlasting covenants God makes with His people! God's love will not let me go .
I listen to a lot of music. More specifically, I listen to a lot of music written for the church. Currently, these albums have really caught my attention. They are written by people who have a heart for the church first and music second. I think you will love them as much as I do. If you don't, no worries. I will still like you.
Tyler Giesel is our pastoral assistant at The Creek. I also count him as a friend. I asked Tyler to write about what he has learned since coming to The Creek. Initially, I was concerned that it may be a really short blog post. However, I think you will find his insights enjoyable. You can check out his other writing here.
My wife and I have been attending The Creek for just over a year and half and we have never looked back. There are so many things that people search for in a church. Music, Lighting, Small Groups, among other things. What gets left out most of the time is searching for God’s Word.
People tend to deny the affect that culture has on them when they are looking for a church. What I mean by that is that we live in culture that is completely inundated with shopping. Completely consumed with the next best thing. This isn’t always a bad thing, the newest thing tends to make life easier. Whether it be the new Kitchen Maid Mixer Deluxe 5000 or the new Samsung iGalaxy 7s (see what I did there…), life tends to be more convenient with the latest thing.
The negative thing is that the relationship between you and God isn’t always convenient. In fact, our sanctification (when we become more like Christ) is hardly ever convenient or comfy. God works in ways that are contrary to what the world would think he would work (1 Corinthians 2). And one of the ways that God can work in a way that may seem to be counterintuitively is through pain and suffering.
The Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). It pierces. It hurts. When God confronts our sin through the Bible then many times we run. We think that God is going to punish us and if you haven’t placed your faith in the sacrificial work of Christ on the cross as he bore your sins for free then that is true. However, God confronts those who are his children not to punish them, but rather to bring them near to himself. The punishment is gone for those who have trusted Christ to absolve their sins.
So to bring it back to The Creek and the Word of God. When my wife and I visited the church we decided that it was going to be based on God’s Word and not preferences. When we came we noticed that Scripture was intertwined into everything. The singing, the preaching, the counseling. It was all centered around God’s infallible, inerrant Word. And that’s the way it should be. You want God to speak to you? He has! The bible is a collection of God’s Words preserved for you and me today.
Being a pastor, I have the privilege to meet a lot of people, and I love it! I love hearing the unique stories each person has and investing in the lives of other people. However, one aspect I struggle with is quickly remembering the name of someone I have just met. Remembering a person's name is typically the last piece of the puzzle for me. I will remember a lot about a person before I remember their name. In fact, I will remember so much about a person that I feel like I know the person well before I consistently connect the name with the face. It's quirky!
I like to blame my lack of naming skills on the generic way our society names people. (I know, poor excuse!). Our names don't typically identify any uniqueness about a person or reflect the character of a person. Names, in our culture, for the most part are simply identifiers, identifiers that parents quickly find out get used over and over and over with their children.
However, names have not always been regarded as only identifiers. In the ancient near east, names were viewed as very powerful and the changing of a name was often the change of the person's status. The name of Jesus is definitely no exception. His name is the most powerful name. Jesus is known by many titles, and each of those titles give us information about the very nature of the God man.
This Sunday at The Creek we will sing a song that uses the title Lion of Judah. It is contrasted with another title for Christ, the Lamb who was slain. Jesus is the Lamb because his blood was shed in our stead. He given the title The Lion of Judah because He is from the tribe of Judah, risen and coming again, to set all things right. Saying the names of Jesus is a great exercise to remember the character of Christ. Check out some of the names and titles of Jesus in the list below.
Titles relating to Jesus Christ’s identity
- The exact image of God - Heb 1:3
- The first and last, the Alpha and Omega - Rev 22:13
- The Word of God - Jn 1:1
- The last Adam 1Co 15:45
- The bright Morning Star - Rev 22:16
- The rising sun - Mal 4:2;
- The Living One - Rev 1:18
- The Amen - Rev 3:14
- The true light - Jn 1:3-9
- The Righteous One - Acts 3:14
- The Lion of Judah - Rev 5:5
- The king of the Jews - Mt 2:1-2; 27:37
The “I am” sayings of John’s Gospel
- The light of the world, the gate, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth and the life, the true vine
Titles relating to Jesus Christ’s ministry
- The seed of Abraham Gal 3:16 See also Ge 12:7; 13:15; 24:7
- The Root and Offspring of David Rev 22:16
- The faithful witness - Rev 1:5
- Immanuel - Mt 1:23
- The capstone - Mt 21:42
- The rock - 1 Co 10:4
- The bridegroom - Jn 3:29
- The firstborn among many brothers - Ro 8:29
- The first fruits - 1 Co 15:23
- The firstborn from the dead - Rev 1:5
- The heir of all things - Heb 1:2
Titles relating to Jesus Christ’s authority
- Lord - Acts 2:25
- The head of the church - Eph 1:22-23
- The Chief Shepherd - 1 Pe 5:4
- Prince - Ac 5:31
- Rabbi - Jn 1:38
Titles emphasizing Jesus Christ’s saving work
- Jesus: the Lord saves - Mt 1:21
- Man of sorrows - Isa 53:3
- The Passover lamb - 1 Co 5:7
- A horn of salvation - Lk 1:69
- The consolation of Israel - Lk 1:68
- The deliverer and Redeemer - Ro 11:26
- The author and perfecter of salvation - Heb 2:10
Titles stressing Jesus Christ’s mediatory status
- The Mediator - 1 Ti 2:5
- The high priest - Heb 3:1
- The Son of Man - Lk 19:10