Boundaries are a good thing!

This past weekend we kicked off a brand-new series for the New Year called Boundaries.  We all have the greatest of intentions for the New Year; goals, resolutions, projects, and new habits.  These are all awesome things to plan, but my question to you is this, do you have the margin in your life to devote the efforts you need to make these changes?  The reason I bring this up is because I struggle with this.  There are new things I want to do, but my life is so full that there is no room for anything new.  That’s what this new series is all about; Boundaries – when to say yes, and how to say no.

The book Boundaries was written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend many years back.  It has been my go-to book when counseling people over the years.  I am excited to take some of the wisdom from these incredible Biblically centered principles of boundaries and lead our church family through them.

You can check out the first message in the series here where we kicked off the subject of boundaries and make some very practical discoveries from Galatians chapter 6 about the loads and burdens we carry in life.

Creativity

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

We serve a God that is creative and has given His creation that ability as well. For some, this creativity is expressed  with written words or works of art made with our hands.  For others it is expressed through dreaming up new ideas or innovations.  We are all gifted uniquely and should use our gifts according to our own ability.

For the past few years God has been working through the gifts of some very talented musicians and songwriter here at Palm Valley Church.  This new music video is their latest work.

Can I tell you how proud I am of the heart behind their work?  As their Pastor, it brings me joy to share this with you because of their desire is to use their gift to draw people towards Jesus and what the purpose of Christmas is.

Luke 2:8-11. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

That last phrase…He is Messiah, the Lord.  This is not just another baby.  A king is born this night, the savior they had all been waiting for.  The repeating chorus of the new song “This Child” emphasized what this baby will one day accomplish.

‘Cause one day this child will empty a grave.

At the hands of this baby death will be slain.

His Kingdom will triumph, Jesus will reign.

Heaven will open, so don’t be afraid.

So enjoy this gift of music.  Share it with friends and family and if you are not connected to a church family, we would love to have you join us at Palm Valley Church this season.  For Christmas Service times go to www.palmvalley.church

 

To listen to the whole album, you can find Palm Valley Music on your preferred music streaming platform.

Are You OK?

Are you OK?

Has anyone asked you that question lately? If not, I am asking you today because I care.

Mental and emotional health is one of the most challenging issues facing our culture today. One in five adults suffers from mental illness, yet only half who suffer will ever seek treatment. As a culture, and even in the church in general, we have placed a stigma on mental and emotional health. Too many people are afraid to speak up.

The stats are alarming*.

  • The average time lapse between initial symptoms of mental illness and treatment is 11 years!
  • Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death among people ages 10-34 in the US.
  • The overall suicide rate has increased by 31% since 2001.
  • The suicide rate among our veterans is twice as high as the general public.
  • At least 8.4 million people in the US provide care for another adult with a mental or emotional health issue.
  • These caregivers spend an average of 32 hours per week providing unpaid care.

As a pastor, it breaks my heart that so many people suffer in silence. I want people to feel comfortable about letting someone know they are struggling.

So, what are we, the church, supposed to do?

For the month of November, we focused on the issues of mental and emotional health. We took the time to shine the heart of God on topics that may be difficult to talk about. We preached sermons.  Brave members of our church families shared their stories. We recorded podcast interviews. We held our first ever mental health seminar with 150 attendees.

Over these weeks, countless people came forward for help. Many of them for the very first time felt comfortable enough to let the people around them know that they were not OK.

Even though the series has ended, our work is only beginning. We need to keep the conversations about mental health going. If you missed the series, or if you do not attend Palm Valley Church but would like to check out some of the resources, check out the page www.palmvalley.org/areyouok for links to the teaching series, podcast episodes, testimonies and more.

If you or someone you know suffers with mental or emotional health, I believe you will be encouraged through this series. There are practical applications for you and connections to additional resources. You will also learn how we, as followers of Jesus, can care for our fellow brothers and sisters who are suffering in this area.

*All mental health statistics taken from The National Alliance on Mental Illness, (https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers)

A Conversation with God. Week 1: ASK

How does one begin teaching a child to talk?  After the usual ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ words come, the focus typically begins to revolve around the question: ”What do you want?”

Are you hungry?

Are you thirsty?

Do you want the ball?

As a parent we cannot wait for that time where our children can communicate with us what they want and need.  It is not that we want to become the servant of our children and fulfill their every request.  It’s that we love them and want to help them.  We want to establish the fact that we are the ones in this world that they can depend on.  As a father, I want my children to come to me first when they are in trouble or need help.

When Jesus taught his disciples about prayer, he said this in Matthew 7:7-8:

 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

A major component of prayer is asking.  It’s not the only thing, but it is a big one.  Of the 20 instructive passages about prayer in the New Testament, 10 are about asking God for what you want and need.

Because this idea of asking comes to us so naturally, it is here where we are beginning our teaching series on Prayer: A Conversation with God.

To see the whole message from this past weekend, check out the following link: https://www.palmvalley.org/messages/conversations/

In the weeks ahead, look for additional posts that will unpack the prayer aspects of seeking and knocking from Matthew 7.

The Rhythm of Rest

We live in a culture that does not celebrate rest. Don’t get me wrong, most people feel like it’s important and we enjoy it when it comes. But we don’t celebrate working at a sustainable pace. In fact, our culture doesn’t even encourage it. Don’t believe me? When was the last time someone at your work received employee of the month for leaving every day on time and using all their allotted vacation? I can’t think of one either—and I am responsible for selecting employee of the month at Palm Valley Church!

According to Psychology Today’s article, The Tell-Tale Signs of Burnout … Do You Have Them?,burnout is the physical and emotional exhaustion that is the result of working at an unsustainable pace over time. Symptoms include chronic fatigue, insomnia, increased illness, loss of appetite, anxiety, anger, tension, irritability, pessimism, detachment, apathy, hopelessness, lack of productivity and performance, isolation, loss of enjoyment, depression, forgetfulness, impaired concentration and physical symptoms like chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath.

So, what does a sustainable pace look like? How can we avoid burnout in a culture that celebrates and rewards people who work themselves to exhaustion? It starts with a weekly rhythm.

“There are daily and weekly rhythms designed into us as human beings. Living within these rhythms brings health. Fighting against them breaks us down physically and emotionally over time.”

God set out a rhythm for work and rest in the very opening statements of the Bible. He didn’t start with a command or rule. He started with an example to follow.

Genesis 2:1-3   “So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. 2 On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.”

God did not rest because he was tired or worn out from His work. Creating the last herd of elephants on day six of creation did not push Him over the edge. God rested for one reason—to set the example and expectation of rest as a weekly rhythm. Because this example is set out in the Bible, it is often mistaken as a spiritual practice. Some believe that the seven-day cycle of work and rest is a religious construct and does not apply to everyone.

From Subversive Sabbathby AJ Swoboda, “The seven-day work week is not something that can, or should, be tinkered with, although some have tried to. In 1793, France, in an effort to increase human productivity, de-Christianized the calendar by modifying the seven-day week to a ten-day week. New clocks were invented to reflect the revised week. The experiment radically failed: suicide rates skyrocketed, peopled burned out, and production decreased. Why? It turns out humans were not made to work nine days and rest only one in a week. We were made to work six days and rest one. The seven-day rhythm is sacred. The seven-day work week is not the result of human ingenuity; rather, it is a reflection of God’s brilliance.”

Not only is this Sabbath day of rest an example to follow, it is also a gift to be enjoyed. Jesus, when questioned about His healing activities on the Sabbath, makes the clarification that the day of rest was made for man, not man for the day of rest. It is a gift from God to be enjoyed.

So how do we establish this rhythm of rest?

Pick a time

We have to be intentional about setting time aside for rest. Ideally, this is a consistent 24-hour block of time. However, there are so many factors that play into this; changing work schedules, multiple jobs, conflicting schedules with spouses, single parents, the list could go on and on. The point I am trying to make is that there are many reasons not to rest. Work hard to carve out some time. You might start with several blocks of time in your week; two 12-hour or three 8-hour blocks. Start there for now.

Prepare for it

Work hard to make sure you are ready to rest. When I go on vacation, it seems like my longest, busiest work day is the day before I leave. I am tying up loose ends, making sure I have coverage for all my responsibilities, and wrapping up projects. I do this so that when I leave for my vacation I can really unplug and not worry about work. What would it look like to prepare this well for your day of rest each week?

Practice it

I don’t mean put it into practice. I mean practice doing different things on your days of rest and find what gives you the most refreshment. Start with some simple questions:

What fills me? What activities make me fill energized and rested? Fill you day with these things.

What drains me? What activities drain my energy and leave me feeling depleted? Try to avoid these activities on your day of rest.

There is no set list. What fills one person might be a drain for another. The point is to leave this day or period of time refreshed, energized and ready to re-engage with work.

Want to know more, check out my message on the Rhythm of Rest here.

#WeArePVC – Week 1

Family Life Ministry Highlight

Summer is an incredibly busy time for our Family Life team at Palm Valley Church. This team consists of all the ministry we do from birth to high school students. The summer is full of camps for each age group, fun activities, and mission trips. All of this is in addition to the weekend services designed specifically for each age group that incorporate music, drama, teaching, and small group activities. Countless hours are put in by our dedicated full- and part-time ministry staff as well as the real heroes, the PVC members who serve in these areas using their God-given gifts and abilities.

In the past, we would take time after each major event and spend a few minutes in service highlighting what God did through our summer camp and mission trip experiences. This year we decided to kick off our #WeArePVC series with an entire weekend highlighting all the efforts. It was amazing! There were students leading worship and sharing their personal testimonies about their mission trips. We saw video highlights of camps. There was even a quick peak at some of the amazing actors we have that put together incredible dramas for our PVC Kids camp. If you missed last weekend, you can check out the service online here.

Then I took a few minutes to share why we put in all this effort. For me, it goes back to a verse in the book of Judges.

Judges 2:10

After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel.

What an incredibly tragic statement! Who was this generation that failed to prepare the next one? Who was this generation that dropped the ball? One could argue, it was one of Israel’s greatest generations, it was Joshua’s. This was the generation that saw God part the Jordan River and then entered into the Promised Land. They saw God fight their battles as cities like Jericho had its walls fall down at the sounds of the shouts and trumpets. When this generation were children, they saw God lead them through the desert from slavery by his physical presence in a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire at night. God fed them for forty years in the desert by providing manna from heaven. This generation experienced God’s presence, faithfulness and power on a daily basis—yet their kids grew up and didn’t acknowledge the Lord.

As a father and pastor, I read this passage and it inspired me to be intentional with the next generation. I want to put intense efforts into reaching, teaching, inspiring, equipping and empowering the next generation to lead the church.

There is some discouraging news, we are losing the fight.

Currently in the United States we have a trend where each successive generation is rejecting God at a higher rate.

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This is why we put so much effort into our Family Life Ministry. It takes intentionality to change a trend like this.

  • Intentionality in prayer – we cannot do this without God.
  • Intentionality is resources – we cannot do this without financial investments.
  • Intentionality in effort – we cannot do this without gifted members serving.

I am not a doomsdayer. I have hope. My hope is in the fact that as much as I love the next generation, God loves them even more!

Palm Valley Church is a place where children and students matter!

The Missions Question

The Missions Question

When I get asked about the work Palm Valley Church does in Cote d’Ivoire, Mexico, and Haiti, it usually goes something like this:

Why would you travel long distances to serve people when there are problems right here in our own community? Shouldn’t we fix homelessness (replace with: addiction, orphans, foster care, etc.) here before we help others?

I understand this question. I mean, it makes logical sense. Work to fix problems in the areas that are the closest to us, then travel out from there. The problem with this way of thinking is that it is contrary to Jesus’ instructions. Check out the Great Commission given to the disciples and to all of us.

Acts 1:8 (NASB)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

The wording of this passage is very intentional. The geographical progression uses the word AND not THEN. The strategy was not meant to be progressive in the sense that when one location was completed, the next was to begin. There is a tension in the belief that we are supposed to be engaged in all three.

There is also the fact that if one area had to be completed before moving on to the next, we would never go beyond our own communities. Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you.” Therefore, we will never completely solve the problem.

So how do we manage the tension of AND?

Honestly, most of our resources at Palm Valley Church are dedicated to our own community. In fact, our most successful evangelistic program receives more financial support, staffing support and volunteer support than anything else we do. It is so successful, that every weekend people from our community come to Christ. Every year, hundreds of people from our community are baptized. What is the program? What is this amazing evangelistic tool? It’s our weekend worship service.

At Palm Valley Church, our weekend worship service is designed so that people who are far from God and those who are invited to attend will be welcomed and cared for. Every weekend, we communicate with them in a language they can understand. We teach principles from scripture that can be applied immediately to their lives. And we provide an opportunity for them to hear and respond to the Gospel message. Our members personally inviting their friends and neighbors to church is our most effective tool in reaching our community.

We also use resources, both financial and manpower, to meet the physical needs of our communities. Our work in the community over the past three years has impacted almost 15,000 children and families. Our partnerships with local government, schools, and non-profit organizations answer the call of Jesus to help “the least of these.” Palm Valley Church members have also made a significant impact in the local foster care crisis as many families have opened their homes and lives to children in need.

We do all of this AND go to the “remotest parts of the earth.”

The financial resources are a fraction of what we use here, and the hours spent are a fraction of what is given here. But we are called to do BOTH.

We do it with joy.

We do it with sacrifice.

We do it because we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to go.