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Casting Christmas: Who Do I Identify With?

In December, we went through the series called “Casting Christmas” at Connection Church.

Shawn asked us to reflect at the end of the sermon by asking:

Which character do you identify with?

Good Reputation like the prophets
Faith like Mary
Trust like Joseph
Patience like Simeon
Resilience like Anna
Proclaiming like the Angels
Watching like the Shepherds
Present in the moment like the Animals
No Room for Jesus like the Inn Keeper
Prideful like Caesar Augustus
Vengeful like King Herod
WILL YOU SEEK HIM TILL YOU FIND HIM like the Wise Men

It takes some introspection to figure out which one of these characters I identify with the most. And it is not me who is like positive characters, but it is the work of the Holy Spirit inside of me who has developed these characteristics in me…but I do a good job of being prideful on my own!

Maybe another question we can ask ourselves is, “Which of these characters would you LIKE to identify with more?”

If you reflect on each character’s role in the story, even if it is a short time scene like Anna or Simeon, you can still see how the character trait is displayed. Though, it has taken years for that trait to be developed.

What do you want the Holy Spirit to develop in you during 2015? Write it down and put that paper in a place where you will see it daily. Ask God to work in you! He will answer.

Lord Teach Us To pray

One of my favorite authors on prayer, E.M. bounds, said “Faith, and hope, and patience and all the strong, beautiful, vital forces of piety are withered and dead in a prayerless life. The life of the individual believer, his personal salvation, and personal Christian graces have their being, bloom, and fruitage in prayer.”

The disciples understood the importance of this discipline of prayer. They simply asked, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). I love what Jesus does next. He simply shows them. He doesn’t give a lecture or a five-point sermon. He just begins to pray.

I truly learned how to pray by praying with great men and women of God. I would watch them pray, listen to them pray, and ask them to pray for me. Some of the most powerful times of prayer were when my childhood pastor, Paul Radke, would lay his big Texas sized hands on me and pray that God would use me greatly.

Prayer works! Prayer is necessary! Prayer moves the heart of God and turns His attention towards you. Prayer is the way in which we can communicate to our creator in the most moving and intimate way.

When I was a teenager, I read two books that helped me in this spiritual discipline of prayer. Leonard Ravenhill complied all of E.M. Bounds lengthy books on prayer into one book called “A Treasury of Prayer”.  Also Dick Eastman’s book “The Hour That Changes The World” was such a practical help.

As a young minister, I adapted Eastman’s idea and that is now how I pray today. It is simple and easy to follow. I have included a graphic below for you to use in your own personal prayer time. Pray for a few minuets on each topic and move to the next.

Prayer works!  Carve out some time in your schedule and pray. Make prayer a priority in your life and in your daily routine so that you will see the benefits of living a life of prayer.

Prayer Card2

Just Set the Table

After two years of Master’s Commission and four years of Bible College, I remember sitting in my office as a youth pastor years ago wondering if God had made a mistake. Why did He choose me? What in the world should I do? How am I supposed to lead this group of students?

I remember doing the only thing I knew to do and that was to PRAY! Unfortunately, I was praying the wrong prayer. For about 6 months, I remember praying that I would be able to “Create the hunger for God” in students lives… One day He corrected me. God simply whispered, “Shawn, it is MY job to create the hunger. It is YOUR job to set the table.” WOW! That statement totally changed the way I viewed ministry.

At Connection Church, we are currently wrapping up our sermon series on the “Family Table” this Sunday. This has been my favorite sermon series we have done here at Connection Church. Thanks to our amazing media team, you can watch any of the past sermons right here on our website. This Sunday we are “Setting the Table” for God to do what only He can do, create a hunger for Him in our families. We prepare a biblical message, allow time to seek God, and reflect to respond to His commands.

Psalms 34:8: “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” So in ministry, we are to prepare the meal, set the table, and let God create a hunger for more of His goodness in our churches and in our families.

5 Important Family Questions:

During the past three weeks we have been in a sermon series called “The Family Table”. This series has yielded some great feedback. The entire idea behind the series is to define the “seats” or the roles of each family member as seen in Scripture. God has specific designs for the man, the woman, the children, and the family unit. You can click here to listen to the past three messages.

If we take the time to have a discussion with our family and answer the 5 questions below, we will make great progress and lasting change in our families.

  1. Am I telling myself the facts or am I just lying to myself? Sometimes it is easier to ignore a problem instead of deal with it. In the long run, it is never the solution. Honesty is tough and brutal sometimes, but completely necessary if there is going to be peace in the home.
  1. How can I respond better? Reactions often stir up a fire instead of quenching it. Your response in the moment can either light the fuse or disarm the bomb. What will you do with your words? Will you use them to build up those around you or to tear them down?
  1. What outside forces am I allowing to influence my emotions? So much in this life drives us. Work, your boss, stress, traffic… Are you allowing these things to dictate the temperature in your home? Before you walk in the door from work, try to take a deep breath and ask the Lord to help you let the day’s problems stay at the door. Walk in and simply be present!
  1. What would you change if you knew you only had 30 days to live? Not to be morbid but why wait until your deathbed to say the things you need to say? Change starts with a decision to make things different. Get a clear picture of what you want your family to look like, and then work everyday on moving closer to that picture. The process is simple. Eliminate everything that is not in that picture and lead your family to change… NOW!
  1. What can I do today to add value to my family? Start small. Get your wife her favorite Starbucks drink. Take your son to the Lego store. Bring your daughter to get a pedicure. Perhaps you could simply take them for a bike ride or go play at the park. Do you know how to spell “LOVE” – “T.I.M.E.” Your time is the greatest thing that you can give to your family today.

Clear off the table full of work, cook a healthy meal, have a conversation, and ask the tough questions. Answer them honestly. The first word is always the hardest to say. So get it out there and move forward to a healthy and functional Family Table!

5 Challenging Statements

As a church planter I meet with our leadership team as a whole once a month as well as one on one meetings throughout the month to hear their heart and spend some time dreaming.  Recently I challenged our leaders at one of our point team meetings with 5 statements and questions that I believe we needed to face head on.  I told them these statements will not coddle us or stroke our ego but to grow as leaders and to grow as a church these statements demanding a response.

1.  Limitations are everywhere and easy to see but opportunities are waiting in every limitation.

*We will either be defined by our limitations or we will look for the opportunities within them and succeed.

2.  Do we see problems constantly or are we working hard towards creative solutions?

*Working through crisis often times brings out the greatest innovation.

3.  Are we honestly doing our absolute best for God?

*Work with a sense urgency without the panic of emergency. 

4.  We need to be inspired once again to believe for the CRAZY!

*Inspiration comes when we give God space to do the impossible.

5.  Are we making excuses or are we making things happen?

*Often times the ones who say it can’t be done are passed by the ones doing it.

Church planting has been the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life, as well as the most rewarding.  Before we launched Connection Church in Highlands Ranch, CO someone told me, “Your strengths will be tested and your weaknesses will be exposed”.  There is not a truer statement that has ever been spoken.  I am so glad God has chosen me in spite of my weaknesses and certainly not because of my strengths!

I believe the above statements transcend more that just church planting but into your life as well.  What will your response be to these statements?  The attitude in which you approach life day to day will set you up for the greatest success or the greatest failure.  The things that you do have control over is your choices and your attitude.  Proceed with Purpose!

The Training Plan

“I got suckered into this!” That was my words when I hit the “register now button” on the New Orleans Half ironman event website. Coming up in April, I get the honor of performing my lil sister’s wedding in New Orleans.  It’s going to be an AMAZING party!  I was talking to my cousin Jason who lives there and is very much into the sport of triathlon and I simply said,  “I wish there was a Tri that we could do together”… His response made my heart sink a little. He told me that the weekend of my sisters wedding just so happened to be the weekend of the New Orleans 70.3 Half Ironman Event… He had me… I was in!

I immediately counted the days on the calendar and realized I only had 90 days to train and prepare my body for the hurt that is 70.3 miles of swimming (1.2), biking (56), and running (13.1).  This would only be my second half ironman and to do it in New Orleans was just icing on the cake. (no cake during training!)

I knew i needed a plan. I looked through my old plans and searched new plans and settled in on a 13 week training program.  I had been running here and there and a little biking so I was not starting from scratch but I knew the training would be tough for me right out of the gate.  However, Its the training and the plan that will prepare me for the day of my race.

Hebrews 12 comes to mind where Paul, who I believe wrote Hebrews, says “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.  So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.  Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.”

You see a race this distance cannot be faked.  What I mean is, you cant just go out there and do it, you need to be prepared.  Nutrition, Strength, Mental, Physical, Emotional and Endurance every area of your training will be tested.

Shouldn’t we prepare even greater for the “Race of Life” that we strive to live each day.  The race that God intends for us to run.  The race and course that He has marked out for us.

Hebrews chapter 12 starts off by giving the analogy of a huge crowd of fans cheering us on in this race.  The one who is cheering the loudest for you is Jesus himself!  The training plan that God has given us is His Word.  It is not only a plan but also a map of the course, and it gives tips along the way.  It lets us know where the aid stations and where some of the dangers of the course might be.

You see a training plan alone will not get me ready, I must implement that plan and follow through with the plan.  I must put the time in and the effort to get the results.  God desires us to succeed and to win.  To win we must train.

1 Cor 9:24 says “So run this race to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”

So how is your training going?  Do you have a plan?  Are you putting into practice the very plan that God has laid out for you?  Lets open up the plan and lets get to work!!!

Date Night Gone Wild!

We started out the date night with a fight!!! not the most romantic way to begin… Amy and I were given a gift card for our 10 year anniversary and we were headed to Simms Steakhouse in Denver.  Our “discussion” was not about money, or kids, or even understanding each others needs but our fight was about the greatest thing that we have… TIME.

This is always a subject that gets “talked about very loudly”… TIME… No matter who you are you only have 24 hours each day to get things done and to enjoy life.  The president of the United States, a CEO, a pro athlete, a stay at home mom or dad, a businessman or any employee, we all have the exact same time each day.

What separates the successful and the “not so successful” is how we manage that time. How we schedule and plan and prepare to make the most of each and every day dictates the outcome.

As a follower of Christ, dad, husband, church planter, triathlete in training, Fit Pastor coach, friend, and leader my schedule gets a little out of hand sometimes.  Truth is, I am in control of that schedule.  Sometimes I am the one that lets it get out of hand.  So I’m busy, does that mean I’m successful?

When people ask how are things going we tend to say a phrase that just aggravates me, “Well I have been so busy”.  As if busyness equals success.  The truth is, God’s design for us is not to go till we drop, but to step back and make the most of the TIME He has given us.  Jesus considered the lilies, went to the mountains, took boat rides, went on long hikes, climbed mountains, played with the children, and all the while, carrying out THE MOST important mission of any man to walk this earth, bringing salvation to a lost and dying people!

Our fight before our AMAZING date night was not about MORE time but simply making the most of the time.  Being present in the moment and being fully focused on the task at hand or the people you are spending time with is the goal.

Focused time, devoted time and undivided attention is what my family needs and craves, and truly that’s what God craves.  

 Ephesians 5:16 tells us to “Redeem the time” or to make the most of every opportunity!

So plan your schedule to the minute, have a busy calendar, have alarms going off all day reminding you of things, I know I do, but also STOP and keep the main thing the main thing, make the most of the moment, and be present in each and every facet of your schedule.

By the way, the date ended WAY better than it began… The best part of a fight is making up!!!!

Plant Seeds Today That Will Bloom in Generations to Come

My youngest son turns two years old today!  It amazes me how quickly he has grown and developed his own unique God given personality, so much different than my oldest son who is almost 7 years old.  Raising two young men is a huge responsibility.  They will be someones husband one day, someones father and someones leader and friend.  The information I give them today will be the foundation of the future choices and decisions they will make that will either help or hurt those around them.

The other day I was studying for a message and I wrote these words, “Plant seeds today that will bloom in generations to come”.  I cannot get away from this phrase!  It haunts me and stirs emotion deep within.  What am I planting in my boys today that will bloom in generations to come?  Anger? Lust? Doubt? Fear? or Am I teaching them to be Independent thinkers and trust their choices, To respond rather than to react, to Love deeply rather than to Lust.  I am the farmer, and their little hearts are the soil in which I can plant any number of these things.

As my sons mature and grow into their life, My desire is the be a good farmer.  To help them produce good crops and to establish a way of living that is God centered and others focused.  My desire is to raise them to live a life according to 1 Theselonians 4:11-12

We urge you to love even greater.  Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we have taught you.  Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

What seeds are you planting today?  What are you passing down intentionally and unintentionally.  Amy and I have made it our goal to be more intentional about creating the environment in our home in which to raise our boys to become men.  Men of God, Men of promise, Men of character, and Men of integrity.  Sow wisely…

“Fat and Sassy” My Story

I grew up in south Louisiana just outside of New Orleans living the “Fried Life” as I call it.  My family set me on a path that was not the healthiest pattern of eating and living. I developed patterns that effected me later in life that caused me to slowly gain weight.  I wasn’t the heaviest in our family so I had this false sense of, I’m doing ok, and by comparison I was. I played sports all growing up, mostly baseball, but nothing that pushed me to better my health and fitness.

I was called into the ministry and I entered a Master’s Commission program then went off to Bible college at SAGU in Texas and onto the life of a Student Ministry Pastor. Late night pizza, not much rest, pressures and stress of ministry and slowly gaining 5 pounds a year took its toll.

Sure I dieted and tried everything from Atkins to Fasting. I even once tried to get people to do a Daniel fast with me with the main intention of me losing weight. I would lose pounds and then simply gain them back.  Over and over this happened, each time gaining even more weight than I initially lost.  I was unhealthy, unfit, stressed, exhausted and 50 pounds overweight.

I decided in 2008 that enough was enough. I had gone to the doctor and was told I needed to be on blood pressure meds and that my cholesterol was high among other weight related complications.  Basically I was eating myself to death.  I made a promise to myself that things needed to change.  By this time Amy and I had been married 3 years and our son Mason was just born.  I determined that I was going to live the healthiest year of my life, spiritually, emotionally and physically.   I started eating better and drinking only water, cutting out sugars and sweets and most of all I started running.

It started small. I ran 1 mile and thought I was going to die.  I began to add more and more distance and had an idea to train and run a 5K race.  After running that race I wanted to run more and better my time.  I began to race myself and challenge and push myself to be faster than before. Every time I shaved off even a few seconds it was like I won the Olympic gold medal.  I pushed myself even further and ran my first 10K that year.  In 2008, the year that I turned my health around, I lost over 40 pounds.  Most importantly when I went back to my doctor he told me that my blood pressure and my cholesterol were in great shape and there was no need for any medications.

I wanted to do more, lose more and overall maintain this new healthy lifestyle that I worked so hard to achieve. I refused to go back to the way I was.  In 2009 I ran my first half marathon and since then have completed five more.  In 2011 I ran my first full distance marathon in Denver, Colorado and finished in under 5 hours.

It still wasn’t enough… I continued to push myself. I moved on to the sport of triathlon.  This is where i found what i was looking for.  The drive, the endurance, the training and the pushing your body as far as it can go and then pushing some more.  I started small with the sprint distances and then on to the Olympic distances.  In 2013 I was 65 pounds lighter than I was when i first started this health and fitness journey back in 2008. I had trained and prepared and completed my biggest challenge when I crossed the finish line of my very first 70.3 half ironman event.  I couldn’t believe what I had accomplished, all while leading Youth Ministries and now currently planting a new church in Denver called Connection Church

I am currently coaching for the Fit Pastors Network and training for my second half ironman in 2014 and have dreams and desires to cross the finish line of a FULL ironman event and hear those beautiful words… “Shawn Reine, You are an Ironman”!

Whats YOUR story?  Revelations 12:11 says we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our Testimony… Our Story… My prayer for you today is for you to take a moment and realize you have a story worth sharing.  Go tell the World!!!

Reaction

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Yesterday I had a severe allergic reaction to one of my allergy shots.  Things escalated pretty quickly.  I injected my allergy shot just as I have for the past 5 months and no reaction, just like normal. I dropped Mason off at school and decided to swing by the house before i headed out to work and my neck began to itch and then my throat began to close and before long i was in a full blown full body reaction to my allergy shot.  I had my Epi pin out and ready to use it in case my throat closed completely.  It was a scary situation.

After the ordeal and lots of Benadryl plus a trip to the doctors office I began thinking about that word… Reaction… I had no control in that moment how or why my body reacted that way.  It reacted that way to a shot that’s main purpose is to bring help and healing.

As a church planter and father of two boys I find myself sometimes reacting to situations around me more than assessing them and responding correctly.  If we let them, things can escalate quickly, and if all we do is react to these moments we will find ourselves in scary situations. Reactions look bad.  I was swollen, red, itchy, puffy, coughing, wee-zing, and couldn’t breathe.  Reactions do not look pretty.

The Amplified Bible says in James 1:19 Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.

I believe what God is telling us here is to assess the situation, then respond accordingly.  Its easy to fly off the handle or make hasty and rash decisions, but we honor God when we don’t just react to our situation but we respond.

Today I would ask that you slow down, take time, think through the problems or situations going on around you and respond to them in a proper and Godly way.  Lets stop reacting and start responding!

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