Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Immanuel, God with us

“And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid Mary.” (Luke 1:30)
The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call Him, Immanuel, which means God with us. (Matthew 1:23)

Do not be afraid YL Capernaum sisters and brothers, because you hold with you,
just as Mary did, Immanuel, God with us.

When you are in fatigue and spent, Immanuel
When you don’t know what to do next, Immanuel
When you lose someone precious, Immanuel
When your family feels broken, Immanuel
When you are afraid, Immanuel
When you are discouraged, Immanuel
When you are ill, Immanuel
When someone you love is ill, Immanuel
When you are falling in love, Immanuel
When your dreams come true, Immanuel
When you feel wonder and mystery, Immanuel
When you have joy inexpressible, Immanuel
When the sun comes up again, Immanuel
When the sun goes down, Immanuel
When you are at club, Immanuel
When answering endless emails, Immanuel
When a former club kid contacts you from 21 years ago
on facebook and tells you she is walking with Jesus, Immanuel.
When in deficit, Immanuel
When in surplus, Immanuel
When you are awake, Immanuel
When you die, Immanuel
When you wake again in Heaven, Immanuel
This Christmas dear sisters and brothers, Immanuel, God with us!

Have a blessed Christmas

Friday, December 11, 2009

Things To Ponder

My name is Mary. You probably know me as Jesus’ Mother. I like to ponder and reflect with my friends and loved ones. I have been doing that this morning with the disciple whom Jesus loved, my dear adopted son John. Jesus gave him to me as a son at the floor of the cross. I can never forget that horrible day that was turned into redemption by my son.

That got me thinking back to His birth. John and I are at the Starbucks in downtown Ephesus; a place John has taken me to in the years following Jesus’ resurrection. As I looked at John, my beloved John, memories arose like a steam from my hot coffee rising heavenward. It is still a miracle of awe to me that I was chosen as a 14 year old poor girl in an insignificant town to be the Mother of God. I knew I would say “yes” after I got over the magnitude of my angelic visit that contained a message for the ages. I knew because I had dreamed of being the handmade of Yahweh and being significant to His plan. I think we have all had these feelings. It took a simple “yes” to turn that dream into reality and change the entire course of my life.

I don’t want you to think I said “yes” lightly. I knew “yes” meant a road of unknown suffering, rejection and possibly death. My dear Joseph, who loved Jesus as I do, protected me from that. He could have walked away but he chose to embrace me and the path of suffering. The night of the birth was frightening and confusing, but glorious with mystery. The child came so fast that we could not get a place. A kind innkeeper gave us shelter with his livestock in a barn. I was thankful just to find a place, Yahweh be praised!

The one I kept in my womb and pondered for 9 months emerged from my womb. This birth was no different yet it was the birth of all births. As I took Him to my breast and nursed Him, I touched his nose and said, “You little one are the Word become flesh.” The Shepherds and Magi, who came in beautiful acts of worship, could only add to this supreme moment. They had been led by the Holy Spirit to see this Immanuel, God with us. God has come to dwell with us; all His power and majesty came to dwell in the smallest and most fragile of beings.

As John and I sipped coffee, I looked deeply and lovingly in his eyes and said, “Son, He came as one so little and least, for people like me. A little girl was chosen among men and women. And so, He comes for all but I think He really loves little, least ones like me. In any case, I am His mother and saw Him over the years reach countless number of lepers, sick, dying, disabled and women, all those who counted themselves “the least” and cursed. He came as a baby embracing fragility and weakness in my arms.”

And now John, I, and the entire family of God spread around the world proclaim my Son to all who know themselves small and least. We tell them there is a man named Jesus who came to live in them just as He lived in my womb for 9 months. We proclaim this Jesus who would stoop from heaven to live with us.

“Hmmmm….John, I think we need to ponder this some more.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Through Childlike Eyes

Dear Capernaum Brothers and Sisters
In celebration of our recently published club talk handbook, I would like to share with you a club talk I gave last week. It was on the incarnation but I did it differently than any time I’ve done it before.

Our Del Mar/Branham High School club meets on Wednesdays and it is spectacular. Our Area Director, Shelley Smith, has done a first rate bang up job of pulling together about 30 kids and some wonderful leaders, and it is the club I volunteer in. As a matter of fact, it is the first YL Capernaum club that began on March 10, 1986 and 23 years later it is still going.

So it was my turn for the club talk last Wednesday, which I always count as an honor and privilege to speak to kids about Jesus. We meet in our beautiful Lighthouse Club Room every week. I began the talk by placing myself in our sound room behind kids so they couldn’t see me. Using a microphone, I addressed them as God. I told them I’ve seen them and heard their cries, questions and longings. I called out some of their names addressing in a “veiled” way some of the things I knew they were dealing with.
Manny, I know you are concerned about your friend in the hospital.
Carmella, I know you wonder if I exist
Stashu, I know you wish you could talk and people would take time to understand.

I did this with a few kids and then I said, “I want you to know I am coming to visit you.” Then I walked out of the sound room.

One of our leaders stood up, playing the role of John the Baptizer, and cried out loudly, “There He is! Jesus! He is God, wrapped in skin. It is Him.” The funny thing is that our leader Eric looks like how I would picture John the Baptizer. Then I went to every kid in club with a personal message for each.

One beautiful girl named Gracie has Down Syndrome. At the beginning of club we celebrated three kids’ birthdays. Her birthday was coming up in three weeks and she could not understand why we were not celebrating her birthday. She burst into inconsolable tears. So I came out and went to her and said, “Gracie, I am Jesus. I know your birthday. As a matter of fact, I picked the date of your birth and then I made you. I celebrate your birthday every year. I will not forget it. Your birthday will be celebrated here.”

I wish you could have seen Gracie’s face. Her eyes, they sparkled in holy sacred wonder. I realized in that moment, this was not a club talk. In that moment for Grace, I was Jesus. As a matter of fact, every kid responded this way. Some jumped up to hug me, but each and every one of them met Jesus in a life changing way that day, and so did I, because they were Jesus to me.

“Unless you become like little children, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” A child simply believes and responds with wonder. How often we make the Gospel complicated, or make Jesus complicated, or make our own relationship with Him complicated. I want to be like Gracie. Jesus must be who He says He is and He said these wonderful things to me and it must be true because Jesus said it. I love you Jesus!

Wow! What a way to live. I gave the club talk but my beautiful friends gave me Jesus. May we not be swayed from the simplicity of purity of devotion to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 11:3)

One of His children,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wrestling with Life

As soon as Jesus got out of the boat He was met by a man who came out of the burial caves. This man had an evil spirit. Mark 5:2

Jairus, an official of the local synagogue came up and when he saw Jesus he threw himself down at his feet and begged him as hard as he could, “My little daughter is very sick. Please come”….Mark 5:22-23

There was a woman who had suffered terribly from severe bleeding for 12 years…if I can just touch his clothes. Mark 5:25,28

While Jesus was saying this some messengers came from Jarius house and told him, your daughter has died. Mark 5:35

Jesus paid no attention to what they said, but told him, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.” Mark 5:36

My YL Capernaum teammate Colleen and I read Mark 5 yesterday. We read it after we had talked about a litany of many dear friends of mine involved in suffering and tragedy. In early August while I was in Macedonia, a former club kid named David, whom I dearly loved and had known for 21 years, died. Later on that month another club kid named Petey, lost his mother and cried out at the funeral, “It hurts so much. Why? Why?”

In the past few weeks another club kid named Gerry has been fighting for his life. He is near the end of the life expectancy of a person with Muscular Dystrophy, he is 23 years old. At the same time three of the dearest couples in my life are either getting divorced or are on the edge of ending their marriages. Another friend is fighting schizophrenia. Another friend has a mother who was found incoherent at her bedside and is struggling with dementia. And I have been in an ongoing struggle with a physical issue.

As Colleen and I talked about all of this, we both recognized just how tough life can be: tragedy, suffering, confusion, desperation, disease, and death. It can seem in the context of such stressful times that we could all collapse. What hope do we have? Yet when I read Mark 5, I am greatly encouraged. Do you know why? Because Jesus was right in the middle of desperate, hurting peoples lives. He was there ministering, healing, blessing and encouraging.

I have to remember and you have to remember in dark moments of our lives and in the lives of those we hold dear that Jesus is in our midst, He’s in charge and He has the last word. Not desperation, decline, weariness, disease, depression or death! But Jesus! Say it again, Jesus! He is our hope. He is our deliverer. He is the one we can turn to in our own desperation. Jesus never failed to respond to desperate people who had faith. This is a combination Jesus finds irresistible.

So my friends where are you desperate, confused or afraid? What are you wrestling with what possibly no one knows, personally or in ministry? Lack of money? Lack of leaders? Wondering if it is worth it or if anyone understands? Or even cares? Self-doubt? Too many changes? Weariness? Physical issues? Being too hard on yourself, for your sins or the sins of others?

Whatever it may be, know that Jesus is in the crucible of these life situations with you and He says, “Don’t be afraid, and only believe.” My daughter! My son! Your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed from your trouble. (Mark 5:34) Life is complex but Jesus directs us in the middle of these complexities to look into His eyes and hear His voice. I pray that for you and for me.

Always in need of a Savior,


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Words of Wisdom (Part II)

Chapter 4
A word on one of the strategies of the enemy, isolation. We minister in solidarity with our friends who regularly experience isolation, rejection and misunderstanding. Ministry leads us, by its nature, into identifying with those whom we serve, so we will share in Christ’s suffering as we share in the sufferings of our friends. We will experience some of the pain as they experience isolation, but God has given us a remedy and defense, each other.

Be intentional in fellowshipping with your YL Capernaum brothers and sisters. Fellowship through phone calls, email, visits and praying with each other. Don’t just facebook, be face to face. Beware of thoughts of discouragement. Beware of thoughts like, “Who am I to do this?,” “No one really cares,” “What difference am I making?” “I am too tired to go on.” “I am tired of criticism.” Remember the enemy will do anything he can to get you to quit. Rise up sister! Rise up brother! You are warriors. Fight the good fight of faith. Do you believe our brother John, when he says, “Greater is He who is in you than He who is in the world.” Live for an audience of One. Listen only to His voice that says, “You are my beloved in whom I am well pleased and take great delight in.” Remember Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit.” You are chosen, which is the wonderful good news we give our YL Capernaum friends.

Chapter 5
Never stop going after the most remote and forgotten kids. Do not play it safe, go after the kids with the most severe disabilities, those that no one wants to get near and serve. Your Heavenly Father rejoices over you as you do.

Dream your dream and offer it to God in faith and prayer. Choose the impossible because when it happened you will know it was God who pulled it off. Remember these Scriptures:
What no eye has seen, what no ear has hear, all that God has
Prepared in the hearts of those who love Him. I Corinthians 2:9

Call to me and I will show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.
Jeremiah 33:3

And now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond
All you dare to ask or imagine, Ephesians 3:20

Dear friends, do you believe this? Remember we have a God who created all the stars and calls them by name and because of the power of His might, not one of them is missing. Ours is a God bigger than any challenges we face: the need for leaders, committee, donors, money and the strength to persevere. So dear sisters and brothers as my friend Antwon always said, “Be encouraged!” And so I say to you as my sister Lydia always says to me, “The best is yet to come!” Read and share this letter with all who love YL Capernaum.

May the Father’s mercy, the Son’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s fellowship be yours.

For Him


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Words of Wisdom

From Nick, along with Pam, Suzanne, Liz and Amira, willing slaves of Christ Jesus!

Chapter 1

To true heroes of faith, serving in YL Capernaum, our ministry is a village of comfort for our friends left out in the world’s cold. May the comfort you give our friends be yours in abundance as you labor relentlessly with lavish generosity and joy in God’s city called Capernaum.

It’s because of your faith that Jesus makes our YL Capernaum friends whole, yes; He has seen your faith. You have worked together doing whatever it takes to get our friends in front of Jesus. You have ripped holes in rooftops to make a way of access to our friends who so often see the sign posted that reads “no entrance” to wherever they go. No challenge is too big or small. As our dear brother Skeeter says, “YL Capernaum is the place where the first word our friends hear is “yes” rather than “no.” Dear sisters and brothers you are God’s yes to our friends!

Chapter 2

We thank God for you night and day. We never cease to pray for you and thank God for you. You are our joy and reason for constant worship and praise to our God and Deliverer! And this is our prayer to the Father of Mercies and God of all comfort, may He fill you with His Holy Spirit to accomplish every good work with our YL Capernaum friends. May you serve for His pleasure with gratitude and limitless joy. May you dress in the full armor of God and be wide-eyed alert to the fact that your faithfulness has aroused a ruthless, relentlessly evil enemy of God. May you overcome in God’s power for His glory. Be on your guard sisters and brothers, wear the armor. Wield ever more skillfully the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God that you may slash and kill every negative thought that opposes the will of God. Beware of his insidious attempts to use your own thinking and words against you. Rise up in Christ in the victory that is yours from Him and guaranteed to you. Be baptized daily in the Holy Spirit who is our source of wisdom, strength and fruit.

Chapter 3

Keep going back to the ABC’s of our faith. Remember, He is the vine, we are the branches and we can do nothing a part from Him. Remember He is God and you are not. Remember Jesus is the Savior and you are not. Let His Spirit flow in and through you and produce the fruit of YL Capernaum. Beware of attempting anything in ministry in your own strength, which can only result in discouragement, failure and pride.

Guard your lives! Take a lesson from our friends we serve that are often dependent on others to live. Copy their example of an open posture of receiving with gratitude. For we can help no one unless we acknowledge our dependence on our Heavenly Father and humbly receive what we need from Jesus. Ministry is not a sprint, it is a marathon. The race is not to the swift but to those who keep running. You must exercise spiritual discipline. Immerse yourself in the Word, let it shape and form you. This takes unhurried time, ceaselessly pray, pray for yourself, your team, your YL Capernaum sisters and brothers all over the world. Be patient with each other. You cannot love kids if you do not love each other. Be hospitable, kind and encouraging to one another. Practice forgiveness; always greet one another warmly with genuine love from the heart and with a holy kiss. In all this our YL Capernaum friends will be drenched in the overflow of Jesus from your lives to theirs.

Chapters 4 & 5 to come next week.....Nick

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Amazing Women

Luke 8:1-3
After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
Today I want to celebrate the amazing women God has called to YL Capernaum. If you are a brother reading this, please celebrate our sisters with me. If you are a sister, allow yourself to be celebrated. Over the course of my life, God has blessed me with amazing women.
There was Jane Thomsen, my spiritual mother, who tolerated, loved and sometimes disciplined a loud, obnoxious 16 year old with way too much energy (me). A number of times she had to make me sit next to her in Campaigners, but she was so patient and mothering and saw something in me. And then there was my Campaigner group, which comprised of Mary, Linda, Donna, Krista, Cindy, Marti, Cheryl, Brenda, Laurie, Helen, Becki and me! The 12 disciples comprised of 11 senior high school girls and one junior boy. When I became a Christian they watched out for me like a little brother. They made me memorize Scripture, came to my games and prayed for me.
It was a woman named Mary Ann who believed in me and empowered me to begin YL Capernaum. I talk to her regularly to this day and every time I call her I can hardly keep from crying. On every call she says, “Nicky, I am so proud of you.” It was a woman who gave me my first chance to speak at a camp for assignment. Dawn Finch! She believed in me and let me use the gift God has given me. It’s the only time I’ve been asked to do so and it was one of the great months of my life.

During three different decades of my life (20’s-40’s) God brought of women in each decade who have profoundly influenced and shaped my life more than anyone else. They have all been angels, mentors and nurturers to me that have loved, believed, challenged, confronted and defended me like a mother lioness. In the recent past I had a few years of the greatest joy in Christian community, I have ever known. This was when my teammates locally were Lydia, Shelley, Donna, Debbie & Otila. My admiration to this day for these women, who love Jesus like few I’ve ever known, has forever changed me. These are amazing, godly, prayer warrior women.

As YL Capernaum has grown, God has placed me with even more women who are so gifted and talented that it leaves me speechless. Right now I get to work closely with Pam Harmon, Suzanne Williams, Jen Exsted, Liz Stiger and Amira Corby in leadership of YL Capernaum. They are gifted, creative, talented, competent and committed. We are moving forward around the world through their godly leadership. Yes, YL Capernaum is alive with Esthers, Deborahs, Mary Magdalenes and Priscillas.

Last and most is the woman of God has used the most to influence me, shape me and teach me, my lovely wife Sue. I have witnessed the hand of God through her life and the voice of the Holy Spirit so intimately. There is not a positive thing I’ve done or a success I’ve had that she is not an intricate part of as well as my chief source of strength and encouragement. For me she is the 1st Lady of YL Capernaum.

So there you have it. Sisters, keep doing what you are doing, keep leading us. Brothers, let us continue to be our sisters’ biggest cheerleaders and support. Together we form the family of God in all its diversity and beauty. We need one another.

Thankful for all of God’s women, my sisters


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jakin and Boaz

Dear Capernaum Friends!

I read today in 2 Chronicles 3:17 of the two pillars Solomon erected for the Temple. They must have been magnificent. I was struck and amused that he named the pillars. I do not name any of the architectural pieces in my house, although lately I have been calling the doorknob on our backdoor “stupid” because it doesn’t open easily. Solomon was a bit more mature than me. He named the pillars Jakin, which means, “He establishes,” and Boaz, which means, “In His is strength.” Wow! Pillars are central to a building, they hold up a building. Paul called Peter and James “Pillars of the church.” Pillars are not foundational but they come close. Solomon was not making an architectural statement, he was using architecture to make a life and ministry statement. The statement was: He establishes and in Him is strength.

He Establishes
What a pillar to build my life and ministry on. It doesn’t say, “Nick establishes,” rather “God establishes.” Is this not great news? You and I are not responsible to establish YL Capernaum. This is God’s business. It is God’s business to establish leaders, donors, kids and a ministry plan. You and I do not make good pillars, unless one of our names is “God establishes.” The pressure is off, God is God and I don’t have to be. I have to repeat this countless times a day when I all too often start taking responsibility for YL Capernaum to be healthy and grow. I know when I feel the stress in my body and spirit I’ve turned “He establishes” into “Nick establishes.” Save me and save us from that lie.

In Him is strength
This pillar reminds me that as God established I am involved. Ministry is a marathon not a sprint. We become weary unless we run the race in Him who is our strength. If we do not run with Him we will run in vain and probably drop out due to exhaustion and discouragement. I have been reminded more times over the past 10 years that the enemy is out to kill, steal and destroy us. In my own strength I am nothing but a casualty waiting to happen.
But, this is the good news; I can live my life and my ministry, “In Him who is strength.” Praise God! Again I will say, it is not about me, it is about Jesus. “I can do all things through Him that gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) “Faithful is He who calls you and He will bring it to pass.” (I Thessalonians 5:24) “Since we have this ministry, by God’s mercy, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1)
Isn’t Jesus‘ example amazing, because He fully lived His life on the twin pillars. His Father established Him and was His strength. How is it that Jesus lived this way and I continually seek to live by the false pillars that cannot hold up my life? These false pillars are: I establish and in me is strength.

Sisters and brothers, I am going to have my 15-year-old son Zack, who is an amazing artist, paint 2 pillars to put up in my office. Pillars named “Jakin” and “Boaz” to remind me that He establishes YL Capernaum and in Him is my strength to live out this glorious call.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Success by numbers?

…for wrath came upon Israel because of the numbering (census) – I Chronicles 27:24

God has not called us to be successful but faithful. – Mother Teresa

David took a look around in his midstream success and wanted to measure it, and judgment came because of it. This is not a comfortable verse or highlight in David’s ministry career. God did not want him to do this but he did anyway. I think God wanted David to keep doing his will faithfully and leave the numbers, fruit and success with Him.

I can really relate to this. Before I started YL Capernaum I competed with others about numbers. How many did you have at club last night? I was always hoping my club had more. Consequently if my numbers were not up, I felt even lower. It was a source of pride and idolatry that affected my self-esteem. And then came YL Capernaum. This was God’s answer to my obsession with results and numbers. I was entering a world of the small, the weak, the insignificant and the broken. This is a world where numbers would never be huge. And this was doubly true because all our kids were in wheelchairs. Numbers would be determined by transportation. So our maximum number for club would be 15. On top of that, it would be way more labor intensive along with a need for way more leaders in ratio to kids. Not only that, but my club talks didn’t seem to work as they did with typical kids. Early on, I realized I couldn’t even be sure of what conversion is.

In beginning YL Capernaum, God smashed to pieces my need to see results or measure success by large numbers. Early on I read from Zechariah, “do not despise small beginnings.” It made me realize how God moved from His place of significance to the insignificance of wrapping Himself in human flesh. YL Capernaum revealed Jesus to me in a new way.

So friends, I want to say to you, fix your eyes on Jesus and not your numbers and fruit. God has called you to be faithful not successful. The Holy Spirit is in the fruit producing business while like Apollos and Paul, we only plant and water. You are God’s chosen loved one which is measured by God’s grace and not your numbers or fruit.

For the least by one of the least


Friday, September 25, 2009

Lord, Now What?

Dear YL Capernaum Team

On our recent trip to Macedonia we retraced Paul’s steps on his 2nd Missionary Journey which led him to set foot in Macedonia from the Aegean Sea. Sue, the boys and I waded in the Aegean Sea in Kualla which is modern day Neapolis, the port where Paul landed before he ventured 10 miles in land to Philippi.

I picked up three rocks to remind me of Paul, the Holy Spirit who directed Paul and Lydia, who became the first convert in Europe. As I looked at the rocks and felt the water lapping up at my feet while my boys laughed and played in the sea, I was overwhelmed by this thought. The thought was that Paul paid attention to the Holy Spirit and the vision he was given; because Lydia said “yes” to Jesus and the gospel came to Europe and 15 centuries later to America. Ultimately that same Gospel came to me and all the members of my family, because Paul said “yes.”

And yet Paul had been frustrated twice before this vision. The Spirit of Jesus blocked him twice as he sought a strategic plan of ministry. There is nothing wrong with strategic planning as long as the Holy Spirit is given permission to block them and give us dreams and visions as it states in Joel 2. Paul could have ignored the dream, he did not. He and his team travelled by pure faith to a place they had never been without knowing exactly where they would go to proclaim the gospel.

When he landed in Neapolis, where I waded in the water, he probably prayed, “Lord, now what?” I prayed that very prayer on August 1, 1986 in my first minute as a new Area Director of a new ministry called YL Capernaum. The Spirit faithfully directed Paul to Phillipi and they went. Paul looked for a synagogue in Phillipi to preach Jesus to the Jews, as was his custom. One problem, no synagogue, which meant there was no quorum of 10 male Jews to form a synagogue.

Paul once again probably prayed with is team, “Lord, now what?” Someone in passing conversation might have said that to a group of God fearing women gathering on Sabbaths at the river. The Spirit directs even random conversations in our lives and so they went down to the river. So Paul and his group went down to the river. There they found a group of women praying and worshipping. This would not be an ideal way to start a church in Paul’s day but Paul follows a God who loves, esteems and calls women every bit as much as he does men.

One woman stands out, Lydia! She probably stood out by the way she was dressed. She was rich and passionate and open to God. She was hospitable and a leader. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying. She received Jesus and persuaded her entire household to receive Jesus and be baptized right at the river. A river that to this day has a chapel dedicated to Lydia. So the church of Philippi began and the gospel travelled on the Via Egnatia through Europe and ultimately to Rome and Caesar where Paul would bear witness to Jesus and suffers martyrdom.

Because Paul listened to Jesus, because he said “yes” to the Holy Spirit without knowing why or where he was going and yes, even to the cost of being flogged and imprisoned in Phillipi. Dear Capernaum sister and brother, what is the Spirit saying to you this year? In this moment, where is he leading you? Don’t be afraid to say yes and ask the Lord, “now what?” I did, 24 years ago and God used that yes beyond my wildest dreams. Yes Lord! Now what?

For all the Lydias we are sent to,


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

He knows your name

Dear YL Capernaum Teammates

What is your favorite part of the Bible? In my reading, I just happened to land on one of my favorites. It’s the genealogies in I Chronicles. Endless lists of hard to pronounce names with an occasional descriptor of the person. I am not kidding, or drunk. I really love this! I mean how cool is it that God loves people so much that He puts their names in Scripture for all recorded times. How cool is it that He doesn’t share an impersonal history with us but personalizes history with names.

In our increasingly impersonal high tech world, we forget how sacred names were to the Hebrew people. They were sacred because names are sacred to God. He revealed Himself to Moses with a name – I AM. That name became sacred to the Hebrews, and God returned the favor by recording their names to say how sacred they were to Him.

If the Bible was written today, I believe there is a good chance some of our names would be on one of those glorious lists…..

John of Norfolk, Skeeter of Greenville, Becki of Diablo Valley, Sean of Dallas, Jen of Minneapolis, Jenny of Springfield, Pam and Suzanne of Nashville, Allie of Las Vegas, Zhanna of Kazakhstan, and on and on it would go, a sacred celebration of God’s people.

We are named, we are known, we are celebrated and we are sent to kids who are often known by their disability rather than by their name. But God through you and me has not forgotten them. We get to tell kids that Jesus knows your name and calls you by name and that He intends to write your name in the eternal book of Life.

Take a look at your kid’s directory, or at your YL Capernaum directory. Let your eyes linger on those names. Celebrate those names and pray for those names. As a matter of fact, begin reading I Chronicles and add your name and some of your friends’ names. Now call a kid and call an YL Capernaum staff person you do not know and tell them Jesus knows your name and that their name and yours is in His book.

My name is Nick of San Jose, and Jesus knows my name,


Monday, June 15, 2009

The Elite Three and 39

Dear YL Capernaum Sisters and Brothers ~

The past couple of months I have been reading, slowly and meditatively, I and II Samuel. This morning I read in II Samuel 23 of David’s death. Right after that there is a fascinating and moving account of David’s men who surround him. In The Message version they are called the elite three and then 30 other men deeply loyal to David.
I have been struck throughout Samuel of David’s incredible heart for God. He is tender, fiercely loyal to God, passionate and courageous. He does great things with God out of his passionate love for God. But II Samuel 23 reveals another reason for why David is great. It is because of the elite three and
the 30. The elite three have given their lives to David. Their mission was to serve David and make him successful at all costs. An exploit of great danger was recounted when David wanted to drink water from Bethlehem’s gates; the three risked their lives to bring him this drink. There were also a powerful 30 in David’s life, a larger circle of those tremendously loyal to him. But twice in II Samuel 23 it is said of some of the 30, “but they were not the elite 3.”
This really made me think. I actually wrote down in my journal who my elite 3 are and who my mighty 30 are. As I did this, I realized that God has given me incredible people over the years who have committed their lives to God to make me successful and to make the vision of YL Capernaum come true around the world. Later this year I think I am going to gather my elite 3 and mighty 30 to honor them. I know there is nothing I have done that they have not had a part in making happen. My mighty women and men of valor and loyalty!
What about you? Who are your elite 3? Who are your mighty 30? Who is committed to you unconditionally? Who wants to only serve you and make you successful in the vision God has given you? Who are your armor bearers? Who will cover you? Who protects you, risks for you, and prays for you?
If you don’t have people like this, pray God will send them to you. I will pray this for you. Take some time to think who these people might be in your life and spend some time thanking them. “These are the names of the mighty men whom David had…” 2 Samuel 23:8 “…Then three of the thirty chief men went down and came to David.” 2 Samuel 23:13 “…These things the three mighty men did for David.” 2 Samuel 23:17

To all of our elite threes and our mighty 30 women and men!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

God is working for your good!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)

Dear Sisters and Brothers

A verse we hear so much that we get numb. Often it becomes a cliché, a pat answer when someone doesn’t know what else to say. Unfortunately the over use hides the revolutionary nature and comfort of Paul’s words to us. The question is, do we really know this? What if we knew that in all our circumstances God is working for our good.

For instance….
In that broken relationship, God is working for good!
In your deficit, God is working for good!
In your weariness, God is working for good!
In your need for more leaders, God is working for good!
In physical suffering, God is working for good!
In the person that annoys you, God is working for good!
In unfair criticism, God is working for good!
In your losses, God is working for good!
In people who have disappointed you, God is working for good!
In the parent who got angry with you, God is working for good!
In plans that didn’t work out, God is working for good!
In that failure, God is working for good!
In that character trait that you deeply struggle with, God is working for good!
In your sleepless nights, God is working for good!
When no one says thank you or takes you for granted, God is working for good!

Do I know that? Do I believe that? And what if it is true? If true, it says that God is a deeply loving and involved Father who works in unexpected ways behind the scenes of our lives. We are not left alone in circumstances that feel so overwhelming. God is at work, like a master creating a tapestry of dark and light colors, we are that beautiful masterpiece. We are in the making. So whatever your circumstance, God is at work for good. Be encouraged, God is not finished with us yet.

…And He who began the good work in your will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

A work in progress,


Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Dear YL Capernaum Family,

It’s May and you are crossing the finish line to another year. Before we enter summer and the camping season, stop and take a breath. In the Psalms you will occasionally see the word ~ Selah. This was a call to stop. Take a breath, meditate and don’t move on too quickly.

One of the dangers we all face in the spiritual life is hurry. Running to the next thing so quickly we cannot even acknowledge or celebrate what God has done. So dear sisters and brothers, Selah, stop and take a deep long breath. As a matter of fact, why don’t you take a morning or a day and don’t use the excuse that you do not have time. You are paid to be spiritual, that is the number one item in your job description is to love Jesus Christ and that comes by “wasting time” with Him.


What has God done in your life this year?
What has God done in your ministry that makes you rejoice?
How have you grown?
How did God surprise you?
How has God provided for you?
What have you learned in any trials or suffering?
What has God been saying to you?
What scripture has gripped you?
What was the most significant conversation you’ve had with a kid? Leader? Donor?
What has God put on your heart for the coming months?

Selah! Selah! Selah!

Before you go on, stop! Celebrate! Acknowledge God! Worship! Rest!

Remember Jesus is the Messiah who saves the world. You and I are not. Jesus is not judging you by your to-do list, but by your heart.



Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Do you really believe I can do this?

As Jesus left the house, He was followed by 2 blind men crying out, “Mercy, Son of David! Mercy on us! When Jesus got home the blind men went in with Him. Jesus said to them,” Do you really believe I can do this?” They said, “Why yes Master!” He touched their eyes and said, “Become what you believe.” It happened. They saw.
Matthew 9:27-31

I am so struck with how many desperate people came to Jesus in the gospels. They came with desperate situations and with enough faith to come to Jesus with their requests. And Jesus loves their faith. He never refused. He always affirmed it and rebuked those who lived in fear rather than faith. Like the time the disciples cried out in sheer terror, “Don’t you care that we are about to drown?” After Jesus calms the storm in a massive display of other worldly power, He turns to the disciples and says, “Where is your faith?”

I have to hear that often from Jesus when I feel I am about to drown in a sea of life and ministry needs and challenges. But when I approach Jesus as the blind often did, I find myself shakingly say, “I do believe.” Then Jesus says, “Become what you believe.” The essence of the equations is this:

My problem + my faith = God’s opportunity to display His glory

He is bigger than any challenge or problem face:
We don’t have enough money or donors -> God is my provider
My health and energy are depleted -> God is my healer and restorer
I am being relentlessly critiqued -> God calls me loved and His delight
I wonder if what I do matters -> It matters for God, for eternity
I don’t know what I am doing -> God knows what He is doing
I messed up again -> God knew you would and forgives relentlessly
There is someone better that could do this -> God chose you
I seem to be the only one that cares -> God says I care more than you
The needs are endless and overwhelming -> God sent Jesus as the Messiah, not you
Has God forsaken me? -> Jesus asked that too from the cross
Today it all feels awesome, I am in the center of God’s will!

God dances with you in celebration. Friends, whatever the challenge remember this:
God is good! God is in control! God cares!

In faith,


Am I Playing It Safe?

I’m at the baseball field watching my beautiful son, Joel, play baseball. It’s his senior year. He is the starting second baseman and lead off hitter for his team. He is also captain of the team. He is a 3rd year all league varsity player. He has had tremendous success along with great respect from his teammates and manager…oh, by the way, he just caught a pop up to end the inning against Carlmont…anyways, as I was saying with success and respect like that, and the possibility of the best year ahead, you would think he would keep doing what he has been doing, and yet, he did the completely unexpected. He decided to become a switch hitter, and because he is right handed he would bat left handed against an opposing right handed pitcher. Which meant he probably would be batting mostly left handed.
If you have not played baseball it would be hard to express just how difficult what Joel is doing. He is subjecting himself to second guessing and criticism from his manager, team and other parents. In the face of all that he has taken the risk. The result so far has been astounding. In six at bats he has 2 singles, a double and a walk. I stand amazed, proud and convicted. Why? My son has set an example for me of not playing it safe when that would be the easy thing to do, and because of it he is growing to new levels and victories in his baseball career while inspiring others.
It makes me think, am I playing it safe? Am I willing to take the risk? For those of us on staff for awhile our risk is to settle in and go through the motions. That is what Abraham could have done. He had it all in Ur. He was established, successful, a beautiful wife, life was good, and then out of the blue God calls him to an unknown land with an unknown plan. How is that for strategy? Amazingly Abram says “yes”. I would love to sit in on his conversation with Sarai that night. I imagine it would be something like this
Sarai – Hi honey, how was your day?
Abram – I heard a voice today.
Sarai – Sit down honey, I know it’s been a long day you are doing way too….
Abram – No Sarai, I heard a voice and it was the Creator, you know Elohim. He told me to pack up everything with you and leave
Sarai – silence
Abram – No really, we have to do this
Sarai – So you said….
Abram – Yes, I said yes, when can you be ready?

Can you imagine doing this? Friend, what is God saying to you? Where is He calling you? Are you willing to do the absurd if God asks? Are you willing to leave your comfort zone, even if no one believes in you, second guesses you and you have an extreme possibility of failure?
The people that change the world do not play it safe. For every successful invention Thomas Edison had, he estimated 100 failures. Babe Ruth struck out more than most and hit more homes runs than everyone, except two players. Let’s launch, let’s risk, let’s step out in faith, let’s listen to one voice only – His voice. And if His voice directs us/you to a crazy venture, let that Voice drown out all the negative, second guessing voices of reason. I want to follow in the footsteps of Abram whose daring faith changed his name to Abraham. I want to follow my son Joel. I want to follow the Son!

Switch hitting for Jesus,


...but the Lord stood by my side

At my first defense no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood by my side and gave me strength so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen
2 Timothy 4:16-18

Paul is near the end of his life. He is old and on death row. It is a time when he most needs support. So his statement at his first trial, “no one came to my support but everyone deserted me,” is shocking. And it must have shocked Paul. Where were his Christian friends when he needed him? His statement conveys a sense of disappointment and momentary confusion. How lonely it must have felt for Paul who contrary to popular opinion was very much a team player and a people person.

Like Paul we too encounter deep places of disappointment in ministry. The person you thought you could depend on turns their back on you when you needed them the most. The donor you counted on doesn’t come through. The great new volunteer leader you recruited turns out to be a lot more talk than action. Someone you love speaks behind your back. You find yourself confused because something you thought would happen did not. All this leads to profound disappointment and questions towards God. But then Paul’s writes his next line.

Before self pity could fly in and make a nest, Paul says confidently, “…but the Lord stood by my side and gave me strength.” Paul latched onto this truth, that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us. (Heb 13:5) In his aloneness Paul realized he was not alone. He grabbed onto the Emmanuel anchor – God with us. He gained strength when life circumstances had made him week kneed. Beyond even that, Paul took his disappointment to another level. It was so that God could use him to proclaim the Gospel. Paul looked at tough disappointing circumstances as a great opportunity to let Christ be proclaimed.

What about you? If you are feeling alone can you go to the core of your faith? God is with me and stands by me in what I am going through and He will be my strength. Yes, strength! He will give you strength to continue to proclaim Jesus Christ in your dangerous, desperate, disappointing or confusing circumstances.

Paul continued to assert his confidence in God by saying he was delivered from the lion’s mouth. Paul was aware that the Adversary was doing all he could to destroy his ministry and his own life. But Paul knew that “greater is He who is in you, that he who is in the world.” We must not forget we are engaged with a ruthless enemy who would love to kill us and our ministries. We must remember with confidence it is God who delivers us in every trial now and all the way to our dying breath, when we are brought home safely to His Heavenly kingdom. When we know this we can say with Paul in our most disappointing times, “to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Standing beside the God who stands by us,


Just Wanted to Take Time

And Jesus chose twelve to be with Him. Mark 3

Dear Capernaum Brothers and Sisters,

It was 1973; I was 19 years old and a first year Young Life leader at Leland High School – my Alma matre. Joe Kempston was our new Area Director, who had just moved from Washington, and he was my Senior Leader for my club. After the first night of club, he invited all the guy leaders out to coffee. As he looked across the table at three wide eyed 19 year olds, he said, “I just wanted to take time to be with you guys and get to know you.”

It is now 35 years later and I remember that moment like it was yesterday. I learned from Joe that I was more important than club, ministry – even kids. That little gesture by Joe has formed some of my key ministry values for all my life. The funny thing is I doubt if Joe even remembers it. What power to change lives in a simple Holy Spirit led gesture. Joe created a memory for me that changed and has led my life.

In an increasingly impersonal world, don’t pass by the smallest of opportunities to take time with someone, to speak a kind work, to pick up the phone and give an encouraging call. Put people in front of business and our own agenda. Do your leaders know they are more important to you than club and ministry in general? If you supervise other staff, so they know they are more important to you than ministry. Do you “waste” time with them, simply to be with them?

I am struck that when Jesus chose the 12, the primary criteria was “to be with Him.” This is the practice of Christian “with-ness”. We do it well with kids and I encourage you to make sure you do it even better with your staff and volunteers. The dividends are huge for both their lives and ministry. Who will you call today? Who will you take out today? Who will you encourage today? Whose life will you change for the next 55 years by a simple gesture of invitation? As a matter of fact are any of you free for coffee today?

Much love in the Lord,