Easter Weekend Recap

This past Saturday White Fields had our annual Easter Outreach, an Easter egg hunt and festival that we do in Roosevelt Park, right next to where our church meets at the St. Vrain Memorial Building in downtown Longmont. We had a lot of great volunteers who made the event a success both in terms of hosting a fun event for our community and sharing the message of the hope that we have because Jesus Christ died for our sins so that we can be forgiven and justified, and rose from the dead so we can have everlasting life. We estimate that 1500-1700 people attended this year.

A crowd watches the puppet show at our Easter Outreach which shares the meaning and message of the Resurrection

We want to say thank you to the Longmont Times-Call and Boulder Daily Camera for covering the event once again this year. When we saw the article come out on Saturday night, we were disappointed that it failed to mention that White Fields was the sponsor and host of the event. In past coverage of the event, White Fields has always been mentioned. Several members of our church and others who attended the event wrote the Times-Call about this, and yesterday morning the editor called our church  to let us know the online version of the article had been updated. We were impressed with the quick and gracious way they handled it.

Our daughter made the paper.

Sunday morning we had two services at White Fields. We broke attendance records, we had visitors from the outreach on Saturday, and we had people respond to the gospel for the first time to become Christians.

After lunch our family (minus one who had to work) headed up to Winter Park for a family get-away. Yesterday my son and I snowboarded.

Right next to Winter Park ski area is the western portal of the Moffat Tunnel, a train tunnel built through the Continental Divide in the 1920’s. My family is actually part of this tunnel’s history: my great-grandfather worked in it as a welder during its construction and his brother died in it in a dynamite explosion.

I hope you had a great weekend celebrating Jesus’ resurrection!  He is risen indeed!

Marriage Retreat Weekend Recap

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Blue skies and the Mummy Range in RMNP behind us

This past weekend we were up in Estes Park with some couples from White Fields for a marriage retreat we organized together with a couple other churches.

For Rosemary and I, this was our first time team-teaching together, and it was a great experience. We taught a session on the importance of Christian community and the local church for a healthy marriage.

In preparing for the retreat, our thought was to get away from the things which we don’t like about marriage retreats, such as:

  • The awkward sex talk
  • Going to a great location and then spending all of your time cooped up inside a building listening to lectures
  • Brow-beating lectures about what you need to do “more and better”

I have been to marriage events in the past where instead of strengthening and encouraging marriages, the retreat seemed to only fuel existing discord and frustrations, so that on the car ride home the wife was saying: “Were you listening to what the speaker said? Those are all the things that I’m always telling you that you need to change and do better!” – and the husband saying: “Did you hear the part about how important it is to have sex even if you don’t feel like it? That’s what I’ve been telling you for years!” And both wonder why they spent $200 to get in a fight, when they were doing alright before the “retreat.”

Instead, our vision was to host a true retreat – and focus on the experience rather than a particular speaker. Our theme was connecting with God, your spouse and Christian community and our goal was to encourage, give some tools, biblical guidance and challenges, and create a setting where couples could be refreshed and reconnect with each other and spend time with other couples.

The retreat turned out even better than I had expected. Some great admin work was put in by the staff of Calvary Belmar in Lakewood. Brian Boehm of Trail Ridge Counseling taught one of the sessions and presented some great material that Rosemary and I will be looking at for weeks to come. Brian and his wife Nicole did a ton of work to make the retreat special and they deserve much of the credit for it being a success; they designed and led several key parts of the weekend.

If retreats are done right, they can be awesome experiences. We look forward to doing more of these in the future.

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Mule deer at the retreat center

The US Election and Some Reasons to be Hopeful

This past weekend I went with the elders of White Fields Church to Allenspark, where we had a marathon of meetings, but in such a beautiful spot that we could also enjoy some hiking and the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

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Sunrise on Mt. Meeker
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We happened upon this mama bear and her 2 cubs in a tree near Lyons

We had a great time together, but I was surprised how exhausted I felt at the end of it. However, I feel very encouraged about where our church is at and where we are going.

Speaking of exhaustion and encouragement: the US election is coming up in 3 days.

I’m exhausted by the campaigns, by the division it causes, I’m exhausted because both of the major party candidates have major character flaws and neither of them are someone I can be excited to vote for.

However, I am also hopeful. Yesterday I ran across an article by Carey Nieuwhof that was a breath of fresh air. True, he’s a Canadian, so he doesn’t really have any skin in the game, but then on the other hand, they have Justin Trudeau and pretty much all of the things conservative Americans are concerned about happening in the US have already happened in Canada – so maybe a Canadian is the exact person who can speak into our situation.

Here’s the article: Despairing about the US Presidential election? 5 predictions that point toward hope.

Here are the 5 predictions he gives:

  1. There will be renewed interest in the sovereignty of God
  2. The church will look to Christ more and to the state less
  3. Living out your values will become more important than ever
  4. The tone of public discourse will get worse…or better
  5. The work of the local church will be more important than ever

Carey expounds on each of these in his post – it’s worth reading, but the tone of what he is saying is something I have found curiously lacking from Christian leaders during this election season.

I, for one, cannot lose hope – because as a Christian I know that 1) God is sovereign and 2) the best is yet to come.

How Much Should Parents Disclose to Their Kids About Their Past Struggles and Mistakes?

Last week my wife and I went on a hike with another couple from White Fields Church. We hiked up Glacier Gorge in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s the perfect time of the year for that hike, and the fall colors were out in full force. It was great.

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On the way home we were having a conversation about raising kids, and the question came up of how much parents should disclose to their kids about things that they did when they were a younger – whether it be inappropriate sexual relationships or alcohol abuse or drug use, or that time I got expelled from school, or that time I lit a trash can on fire or tried to take up smoking when I was in 8th grade…

The fear on the one hand, is that if you tell your kids that you did those things when you were their age, that they will feel justified in doing it themselves, because they will say, Dad/Mom did it, and he/she turned out okay… 

We didn’t really come to any definitive conclusion about the matter that day. Today I came across this text in a book I am reading: Cary Nieuwhof’s Lasting Impact. He was referring to some research that has been done on the topic of what contributes to kids who are raised in Christian homes abandoning or keeping the faith they were raised in:

How transparent should parents be with their kids about their own struggles? The Sticky Faith research suggests parents could foster more authentic dialogue by opening up with their children and being honest about some of their own mistakes, whether those mistakes were made in the past or even more recently. Even if it’s just apologizing for losing it in the moment, being open and saying you make mistakes can go a long way in creating a meaningful dialogue. The honesty can start when your kids are young, too. “It is never too early to start implementing some of these principles and to make your home a safe place to talk about mistakes,” Kara said. It’s also never too early to have faith conversations with your kids and talk to them about your own faith. Many parents are afraid to open up out of fear they’re not far enough along in their own faith journey to lead their kids. Kara noted, “Our research isn’t saying you need to be more spiritual than you already are; our research is saying to share with your kids the spirituality you already have.” The fact that they see the faith you have trumps any worry about them seeing any faith you don’t (yet) have.

It would seem that what matters isn’t only telling your kids about some of the mistakes you made in the past, but explaining to them why those things were mistakes, what the repercussions of them were, and why you wouldn’t want them to make those mistakes themselves.

A further aspect, which cannot be neglected, is that we must show our children the gospel. That means helping them to realize that the fulfillment of their deepest desires is found in nothing less than the redemption and new life offered to us in Christ.

I read this great quote from Paul Tripp this week:

Your job as a Christian parent is to do everything within your power, as an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer who has employed you, to woo, encourage, call, and train your children to willingly and joyfully live as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(article here)

 

Peaked Out Weekend

This past weekend was a busy one for us, full of many good things.

It began on Saturday with the Longmont Sunrise Stampede. My wife and 8 year old son ran the 2 mile race, and I ran the 10k. On the one hand, we were excited to run a race here in Longmont, but an added bonus was that the race went to support a great cause: proceeds went to help fund special education in the St Vrain Valley School District.

I was proud of my son for finishing his first race, and getting a time he could be proud of.

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Before the 2 mile race

I finished my 10k race in 54:51 which was a personal record time for that distance and even better than I had hoped to do.

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At 9.5 km of the 10k race which ended at Silver Creek HS

We then went up to Bailey, to a picnic for pastors and their families put on by Crossroads Church of Denver, my old church which sent me to Hungary.

We then went to Denver for the Lego BrickFest, which our kids loved, and then finished the day by having dinner with family and friends.

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On Sunday we had church. I taught on Colossians 3:1-11 in a message titled “A New You”, about which I got a surprising amount of positive feedback. One of the key concepts I discussed was the “Already… but Not Yet” nature of the gospel. If you’d like to listen to it, you can find the audio of that message here.

I got an email after church that a couple from Texas had been at church that day, and that they had come because they read this blog and were in the area! That encouraged me to be writing here more.

Right after church at White Fields, we went down to Littleton, where the Colorado Hungarian community was having their annual picnic for Szent István (St. Stephen) Day. István was the first king of Hungary, who after converting to Christianity as an adult, established Hungary as a Christian kingdom in 1000. He was declared a saint on August 20, 1083 and because of that, August 20 is the national holiday of Hungary.

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Hungarian language church service in Littleton

At this picnic, I lead a church service in Hungarian for the Hungarian Reformed Church of Denver, at which I preached on one of my favorite scriptures, Matthew 13:44 – “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” I really enjoyed preaching in Hungarian again! I get to do it sometimes when I visit Hungary, but felt great to do it here in Colorado.

On Sunday night, I left home at 11pm with two friends from church to climb Longs Peak.

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My wife took this picture of Longs Peak and Mt Meeker as we drove into Longmont Saturday evening. We love when the light highlights the layers in the mountains.

It was the 2nd time I’ve climbed it, and it was just as beautiful and difficult of a climb as I remember it being! It’s a 15 mile round trip hike, with 5100 feet of elevation gain. The most difficult part of the hike, mentally, is the last 2.5 miles, when you descend back into the forest and it feels like it will never end. The most technically difficult part is probably “The Trough.” Here’s a description of the route.

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The view from the top of Longs Peak looking South-West towards the Indian Peaks. The lake on the left is Barker Reservoir in Nederland.
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The Twin Peaks – Longs and Meeker, from the split off to Chasm Lake

Today the kids went back to school, which is bittersweet for us as parents. On the one hand, we are going to miss having them around, but on the other hand, it was a lot of work keeping them occupied and on task at home, and we see how good it is for them to be with the other kids and learning.

We took a trip last week up to the Mount Evans as a family to celebrate the end of summer vacation. It was my wife and kids’ first time up above 14,000 feet.

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Mt Evans summit (14,270 ft)

I can’t get enough of these Rocky Mountains…

 

The Impact on Kids of Dad’s Faith and Church Attendance

Dream Lake landscape  Rocky Mountain National Park

According to LifeWay Research Group, Father’s Day is the holiday with the single lowest average church attendance – statistically lower than Labor Day, Memorial Day and even the Fourth of July.

This is interesting, especially when you consider that Mother’s Day tends to be the day with the third highest church service attendance, after Easter and Christmas.

So, Mother’s Day is one of the most highly attended Sundays of the year, and Father’s Day is one of the lowest. What does this tell us?

Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, gives this assessment:

“Clearly, mothers want to be present for the affirmation that is typically offered in most churches, but families also are present knowing their attendance will honor their mother.

The attendance difference between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is telling,” said McConnell. “Either churches are less effective in affirming fathers, or families believe Christian fathers don’t value their participation in worship services.”

Surely there are other factors involved, including travel and the time of year. On Mother’s Day school is still in session, on Father’s Day it isn’t – so families travel to visit relatives, or go on vacation.

But all these factors and statistics aside, here’s what’s really striking: when you see the research on the impact of a dad’s faith and practice on their families.

According to data collected by Promise Keepers and Baptist Press, if a father does not go to church, even if his wife does, only 1 child in 50 will become a regular worshiper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of what the mother does, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will attend church as adults. If a father attends church irregularly, between half and two-thirds of their kids will attend church with some regularity as adults.

If a mother does not go to church, but a father does, a minimum of two-thirds of their children will end up attending church. In contrast, if a father does not go to church, but the mother does, on average two-thirds of their children will not attend church. 

Another study, focused on Sunday School, found similar results on the impact of fathers:

  • When both parents attend Bible study in addition to the Sunday service, 72% of their children attend Sunday school when grown.
  • When only the father attends Sunday school, 55% of the children attend when grown.
  • When only the mother attends Sunday school, 15% of the children attend when grown.
  • When neither parent attends Sunday school, only 6% of the children attend when grown.

Another survey found that if a child is the first person in a household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5% probability everyone else in the household will follow. If the mother is the first to become a Christian, there is a 17% probability everyone else in the household will follow. However, when the father is first, there is a 93% probability everyone else in the household will follow. 

Here’s the point of all these statistics: Dad’s impact on the kids’ faith and practice is HUGE.

Dads, let me encourage you with these words which Moses spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the dads of the new generation in Deuteronomy:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

 

 

 

Strength to Press On

I love Colorado. Especially this time of year, when everything is green.

I grew up in Colorado, but growing up here, I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have. I started to appreciate it a lot more in my later teenage years, but soon moved away. The 10 years that I was away, I lived in and traveled to amazing and (sometimes) beautiful places in Europe, but all that time I dreamt about the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The only problem I have with Colorado is there’s not enough Hungarian-speakers here 🙂  When I moved back to Colorado, I determined to appreciate and enjoy the grandeur and beauty of this place as much as possible. 

Today, as I was biking outside of Lyons with a friend, I started reflecting on a regret I have: something I would change if I could roll back time. It’s not a major one – and it’s certainly not too late to correct.

Here it is: If I could roll back time, I would have done more things as a younger man to train myself in endurance. It’s not that I don’t have endurance, but I wish I had even greater endurance than I currently do – and I wish I had started training myself in it earlier in life. Had I done so, my endurance level would probably be higher than it is now.

Endurance is key to success in climbing mountains, biking, snowshoeing, backpacking and hiking. It’s also key in many areas of life. Paul the Apostle encouraged us to “run with endurance the race which is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The race he was speaking of was the life lived following after Jesus Christ and pursuing God and his will.

At church on Sunday I shared this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Christianity is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively dong the will of God.”

That race isn’t a 100 meter dash – it’s a marathon. And marathons require endurance.

Endurance is something that can be gained, it is something can be cultivated, something you can train yourself in – and we would all do well to do so. Having a successful marriage requires endurance. Having success in raising a family, in doing a ministry – it requires endurance. Anybody can have a burst of energy and make a “flash in the pan” – but in order to regularly produce lasting fruit over a sustained period requires endurance. 

I also believe the promise of God’s Word, that to those who seek after Him with their whole hearts, God will give the grace and endurance to run this race and finish it well.

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:27-31 ESV)