Fix your eyes on Jesus

Can imagine, as a Jesus Follower, if we actually did that and if we really took those words seriously!?! Just imagine the life change in us that would happen. Just imagine the change in our families lives and friends.

New glasses

Today I get to go to an optometrist. Actually, my wife, Bekah and I get to go!

And, I am excited!!!! 

Get this and I’m not proud of it! My wife hasn’t had new glasses since 2007 and I’m not much behind her. And, our Church, Thrive Church, came together and blessed us with a terrific Christmas gift of new glasses for the three of us!! Just so humbling!!

Everything will probably change for me as I get new glasses. Ok, not everything, but a lot will. My eyes and what I will be able to focus on is about to change dramatically. I squint a lot right now. I struggle to read things far away. Shoot, I struggle to read things close up! But, that’s all going to change.

And, that will make life better. Unknown

As a Jesus follower, the author of Hebrews 12:2 encouraged us to fix our eyes on Jesus to focus on Him. Focus on how He lived and to live our lives in the same way.

Here’s how the message version says it…

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. 

In 2015 I’m doing everything I can to keep my eyes on Jesus.

To focus on Him. To Live like Him. To be Him to as many I can. To be as focused on my life mission as He was.

 

My biggest hurdle in 2015

2015 is looking pretty darn good.

Which, to be honest, 2014 will be tough to top! I had a great year in 2014. It wasn’t easy by any means and actually it was one of my toughest yet, but it was a great year.

The only negative I can muster up about 2014 is…my health. I mean, leading a church…especially a super young church is not easy. We dealt with a ton of not so fun moments, financial stress, growing pains and leadership challenges. But, even with all that, 2014 was great.

It was just my health.

My back surgery was so much harder than I ever thought and it took me a long time to bounce back. In fact, bending is still a constant struggle and the pain from that is still not fun. The simple act of getting out of bed or putting on socks, yeah, these are extremely painful tasks for me!

I miss running. Playing basketball. Swinging a baseball bat or a golf club. Wrestling with my boys.

So, for me, that pain and struggle has given me excuse after excuse to let my weight go. The discipline of eating well, while dealing with the pain is just something I flat out failed at in 2014.

That’s my biggest hurdle for 2015.

I just can’t continue to live the same way. But, changing, like everyone knows…well, that’s hard! Actually, hard doesn’t even cut it. Its a ridiculously hard battle and I am way down deep in the hole. I’ve tried to change for months and each time, well, I fell back into old habits.

Every time in the past, I have been able to work out. I have been able to run. This time, I just can’t.

So, here I go. This is my biggest hurdle to 2015 and one that I’m ready to take on.

I would love your prayers for strength and courage.

A little bit of Saturday randomness and ramblings…

I can’t believe Christmas is in 4 days. Someone asked me today what I’m getting for my wife and I said, I’ll think about that after I get through Christmas Eve. Hah! Guess that won’t work.

I really LOVED this post by Perry Noble about the Church. He’s so right on and I couldn’t agree more.

I always have great hope for the future, but I’m kind of sad today. It just really breaks my heart when christians are so awful to each other. IMG_3277

I know this is really selfish, but I need chairs in my office for people to sit in and I really like this one.

I gathered together with a group of people at 7am this morning to pray for Thrive Church.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? I still can’t believe people would get out of bed to pray outside in the cold weather! So awesome!

My wife continually blows me away. She serves and serves and serves!

I love how much my kids love their church.

I’ve been praying for tomorrow at Thrive all year. Desperately praying God moves in the lives and hearts of everyone who gathers together!

 

A dad, a son and a grandson…One of my favorite moments ever at Thrive

Yesterday was an awesome day. IMG_3302

There was a moment at Thrive that was very special.

I asked my 12 year son, Bobby, and my dad, Bob, to come up and each pray for the Christmas Offering. 

I can’t even begin to tell you the joy I have about serving together in ministry with my family.

My wife loves our Church. My 14, 12, 10 and 6 year old love our church. My parents love our church.

Now, my kids may not always love it. I know that is a very real reality.

But, for the time being, I love my that family serves together at Thrive Church.

My dad is one of our humblest volunteers. You will never hear him complain. His body aches, his back hurts, he knees are bad. And yet, he’s at the church every Sunday morning at 7am to unload and set up church.

One of the things that I will never take for granted is that my childhood was rooted in God. I am so thankful that my parents talked about God, studied God, taught me to pray, taught me to serve and now do the same with their grand kids.

It’s just awesome.

And, to know that my kids get to witness their grand parents help build our church together, yeah, that’s just an honor.

A dream a long time ago

When Bobby was born, it was awesome. To be able to introduce Bobby Raitz to Bob Raitz was a life highlight! Well, not long after that, one of the ladies at our church told me she had a dream about my family.

Honestly, I was a bit skeptical. She told me in her dream she saw my dad teaching dozens of kids. Ok, that part made sense because my dad was my youth pastor. She went on to tell me that saw me teaching hundreds. Ok, again that part made sense. I was a youth pastor and I had been traveling and teaching at camps and retreats.

Then she said…she saw my son teaching thousands.

Wow. I still don’t know what to think about it. But, I will tell you this. I will support whatever path of life any of my kids feels is the one God is calling them too.

But, if God calls them to ministry, man, that would be awesome!

So proud to be Bob Raitz’s son and so proud to be Bobby Raitz’s dad.

An early morning prayer walk

This last month, I started a new habit…prayer walk

Taking an early morning prayer walk around the building that my church meets in.

I have done this in my neighborhood for years and I have spent tons of time walking around other buildings and other neighborhoods.

But, it wasn’t until recently that I started doing a prayer walk around the movie theater that Thrive Church gathers in weekly.

I’ll post more about the ‘why’ I take prayer walks later in the week, but selfishly…I love the time I spend on these prayer walks!

It’s so refreshing, it’s so powerful, it’s so calming and it’s just an amazing time.

Here’s what I prayed for today:

-Gods blessings and favor on our church

-Lost people would find Jesus and broken people will be healed

-The found would be challenged to take big steps of faith

-That God would use our time in this building to challenge and encourage us to go BE the church

-Thrives kids and youth to be poured into and released to help lead our church

-Thrives future kids and youth directors and for the funds to be raised for those positions

-Thrives future college ministry leader and for favor with students at CMU

-Our staff team and for God to increase our giving so we can increase their pay

-For Gods hand and favor for our outside fundraising efforts

-Spouses of Thrivers who aren’t followers of Jesus

-For continued growth (spiritual, numerical, financial)

-That we would outgrow this building

-We would always be focused and passionate about helping the next person find and follow Jesus

A crazy humbling moment…

Today I have the honor of being a part of Kensington Community Church’s Church Planting Network meeting.

They host this gathering for pastors and church planters 2-3x a year and it is just a fantastic experience!

Now, I’m a little partial to Kensington. I have always admired this church and over the years I have spoke many times for their Jr/Sr High Ministry. And, they are one of the churches that helped launched Thrive and their Executive Pastor serves on Thrive’s Management Team.

Needless to say, it’s a crazy honor to be a part!

And, Kensington is a model of being an open-handed church. They have helped start more churches than I can possibly imagine!  It’s just unreal! They give and give and give!

There is nothing like being in a room full of pastors and ministry leaders. It’s just awesome. To hear what God is doing in so many churches is crazy inspiring. To rub shoulders with ministry veterans and rookies is just awesome.

Today there was a moment that just totally blew me out of the water.

Greg, the director of the Church Planting Network asked me to share a few words about our launch. Which, are you kidding me?!? What a GREAT honor! So, I shared what God is doing in Mt Pleasant at Thrive.

Then, Steve Andrews the Pastor of Kensington asked everyone in the room to pray for me and to pray specifically for my back.

It was one of the most humbling moments I’ve ever experienced. Pastors laid hands on me and prayed!

Wow. Just humbled and blessed. 

 

The answer to worry is…

I don’t know about you, but from time to time, I struggle with the disease of worry.Pray-Hope-Dont-Worry

It’s not all the time, but sometimes it just totally takes over. 

It honestly can come out of nowhere and then bam…it’s all encompassing.

Almost like it hijacks my thoughts. 

When it gets to that point, it takes over more than my thoughts. It can take ahold of everything. And, before I know it, my back could hurt, cold sores could form and I could just get sick. It’s crazy!

Can you relate? 

I don’t know what you worry about, but here are my biggies:

1. Finances.

2. My families safety and protection.

3. Will my kids stay focused on God.

4. My families health.

I worry about other stuff, stuff like: Will Thrive Church make it? Is Thrive reaching people? My back and my problems there. Are my kids making right decisions. And, an absolute litany of other things.

Can you relate?

In the book of Matthew, Jesus comes along and he has to say quite a little bit about worry, he begins with getting right to the point…

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life”

BAM! He just lays out the answer to worry. No lead up, no warming up the crowd…just…don’t worry.

He goes on to say…“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

And another BAM! Makes total sense, right?!?

So why do we invest so much time worrying! 

I don’t know about you, but I can start to dwell on a worry and it just takes over. My mind races, sometimes my heart races, I can cold sores, headaches, back pain and the list goes on and on.

So, here’s my question. If I really believe Jesus is God’s Son and He is my Lord and my Savior and the Leader of my life…shouldn’t I take to heart the truth He gives?

If worry doesn’t add any positive to my life. If all it adds is negative, then I guess I should worrying?!?

Ok, but how? How do I stop?4397162_700b

When worry begins to head into your thought life…

Immediately…

And I mean IMMEDIATELY…

Begin to Pray. 

Consume yourself with talking to Jesus.

Tell him about your worries.

Pour out to him what’s going on.

Cry to him.

Call to him.

Be with him.

Ask him for his help.

More on that last part tomorrow.