Deuteronomy 31:6 (CSB)—Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For the Lord your God is the one who will go with you; he will not leave you or abandon you.”
“Following Christ is a journey, not a destination.” Those words were a wonderful truth shared with me by a friend early on in my ministry. As we began 2022, I wanted to help teach our congregation about the ups and downs of the journey, so we set the annual theme as “The Great Adventure.” Every sermon series was designed to teach our congregation that following Christ grows and matures our faith through a series of mountain peaks and valleys, ups and downs. Now, as I look back over the year, I can confidently say that 2022 lived up to the theme.
At Connection Point Church, we experienced one mountain peak after another. We continued to see an increase in weekly on-campus gatherings. It’s both a joy and a struggle trying to put names to all the new faces each week. The financial stewardship of God’s people reached an all-time high. Our annual MAD (Make A Difference) offering was the largest in our history. Our outreach ministries touched the lives of many in our community as well as globally. We welcomed talented new staff members and opened our own leadership college and internship program to continue developing future leaders. We launched new ministries, and most importantly, we saw the largest number of individuals committing their lives to Christ and publicly declaring their new faith through baptism that we’ve ever recorded in a 12-month span.
As for valleys, we had those as well. The fast growth has caused congestion throughout our campus, especially in regard to the nursery and preschool departments. After just three years in the new facility, we are already working with our architects on designing additional space for kids, parking, entry/exit road, and overall future expansion. It’s a great stress, but a stress nonetheless. An additional pleasant pressure has been refiguring how we help new believers grow in their faith and start their discipleship journey effectively.
On a personal note, the great adventure continued for me and my family as well.
We again experienced the joy of a new grandchild born into our family; welcome to our world, little Savannah. We watched our children follow God’s leadership in their lives, overcoming obstacles and achieving new heights. We also developed many new friendships and had the opportunity to travel to the West Coast. Most importantly, we shared the Gospel and watched God open and close doors by His grace and sovereignty.
As for valleys, we had our share of those, too, just as most families did. I could go on about unexpected health issues, rising inflation, auto accidents, and even a blown engine in our teenage daughter’s car after she had owned it for only two weeks. Yet, it was the loss of family members that hit our family the hardest. In fact, the past twenty-one months have been a difficult journey for our family as six loved ones have entered into eternity, with the most recent one being my mother just two weeks before Christmas.
My mom was a strong woman whose life was marked with the constant companion of sickness. In my life, I can only remember a few years in which my mother wasn’t battling some form of physical illness. Yet, through every battle, my mother held her faith in God and believed He was her shepherd and great physician.
When she felt good, her charismatic personality would light up the room. She wanted to be around people and could join in on any conversation. It didn’t matter if she knew anything about the subject matter or not, she could keep up in the conversation, and before it was over, she would offer you her advice whether you asked for it or not. She spent several years in retail and could sell milk to a dairy farmer. It was embarrassing to take her to a yard sale because she thought every price tag was up for negotiation. She would haggle with the salesperson just for the fun of it, even if she really didn’t want to buy the item. Even when her sickness kept her at home most days, she was our family’s number-one fan and tried to turn every moment into a memory.
For me personally, I’m a creature of habit. I love a daily routine and don’t do well when it gets interrupted. My ideal day starts with prayer, then coffee, followed by time studying God’s Word, then more coffee. Depending on which day of the week it is, I will then move on to administrative duties, sermon prep, staff meetings, or coaching calls. I try to be at the gym for a workout by mid-afternoon and home with the family or take my wife out for a date at dinner time. Yet, with the ups and downs of 2022, I often felt like a train that had been derailed and couldn’t find a way back onto the tracks. My podcasting, blog, and writing endeavors became inconsistent and completely absent at times. I said “yes” to way too many invitations, and the stress took a temporary toll on my health that forced me to back up and get realigned.
Through it all, I was consistently reminded that Jesus is faithful and, as He promised, He is with us and never leaves. My faith was fueled by the LORD’S invitation to come and learn from Him.
Matthew 11:28-29—Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
One of our staff’s core values at CPC is to Stay Fluid. We must always be prepared to make adjustments. I love a statement by Craig Groeschel, leadership expert, author, and pastor of Life.Church in Oklahoma. He said, “You don’t have obstacles; you have opportunities.”
Now that we begin a new year, may we be encouraged to stay fluid. Faith is a journey with ups and downs, and no matter what 2023 brings, God is in control, offers rest, and has sent His Holy Spirit to be our guide.
In the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul encourages with his words, “Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14, CSB). I agree with Paul, but I also wonder if, at times, we don’t also need to reflect on the days that are now behind us, learn from them and then press forward toward our calling. It is the experiences of the year behind us that give us more wisdom and insight for taking the next step forward.
At CPC, the theme for 2023 is “Hearing the Voice of God.” Our key passage will come from Isaiah 30: 20-21, “but your Teacher will not hide any longer. Your eyes will see your Teacher, and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.”
This year will surely come with mountain peaks and valleys, but if we can become sensitive to the voice of our teacher, our helper, our counselor, the Holy Spirit, He will guide us and never fail us.
As for me, I hope to hear His voice, get back on track, and make the most of 2023 for His glory. I will be making some adjustments to my personal ministry. I will continue to podcast sermons, but will also be adding teaching podcasts on various subjects with the help of our staff at CPC. These special podcasts will be available through my ministry and the CPC website. We will be producing both audio and video blogs, and we will utilize venues such as Youtube and other social media sites.
I hope to produce some writing projects in the coming year, as well as be more consistent with blogging and social media posts. We may even be placing a “Contact for Speaking” link on my media outlets this year to help better organize my schedule.
What about you? How will you grow deeper and go further with Christ in this new year?
I encourage you to yield yourself to His leadership in 2023. Invite Him to speak. Discipline your time to communicate with Him through prayer and learn from Him by spending time in the Scriptures. Ask Him to convict you, challenge you and reveal Himself to you at a deeper level than you have ever experienced with Him before.
Keep looking up and following Christ.