So Great the Father’s Love for Us

So Great the Father’s Love for Us

Father’s Day is a bittersweet day for me. As the June date rolls around, I will celebrate it as one of my favorite days of the year. Why? Because I truly feel I have three of the greatest kids in the world. All three will be in college next year (yeah, Rachel and I could have been a little more strategic with our family planning), and I am so excited to see how God leads their impending adulthood. On the other hand, I have never met my own father. My parents divorced before I was born and he basically ditched my mom and me. While I don’t know the pain of a bad dad like many of you do, the pain of a 100% absent dad is still real. I am thankful that the lack of a dad drove me to be the best dad I could possibly be and to look to my heavenly Father as my role model for being a dad.

This Father’s Day let me encourage you to do three things (the principles apply to moms, too!):

  1. Show your love, respect and gratitude for your father. If you were a fan of the show Parenthood and you watched the last episode, you heard from the patriarch, Zeke, what all dads want to hear. He asked his wife, “We did good, didn’t we?” She promptly replied, “Yes, yes we did.” Let your dad, grandpa, husband, step-dad in your life know that he did good. (Sorry Judson English teachers for my poor grammar there. At least I know it ain’t right!)
  2. As a dad, reflect Jesus. Even though Jesus wasn’t a dad in his earthly form, he does show us the traits that we need to model for our kids. Jesus modeled love, compassion, servanthood, leadership, humility and more. Pray for and work hard at exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 2 of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Being a dad that prays for and with your kids and their mom is crucial as well.
  3. Look to your heavenly Father for wisdom. Being a dad is hard.  Every once in a while there is an easy dad decision. Somehow, though, most of those easy decisions still have a difficult aspect to them. Most of our decisions, coaching and discipline requires a tremendous amount of wisdom. The book of James has great wisdom when it tells us to ask our heavenly Father when we need wisdom. Don’t rely on your manager training, your education or anything else. Those skills are helpful, but the real wisdom you’ll need comes from your heavenly Father.

Have a fantastic Father’s Day. I pray that it exemplifies the values reflected above both this year and in the years to come.

-Eric Rojas, Class of 1990, Executive Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, IL

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Put Me in Coach, I’m Ready to Play

Put Me in Coach, I’m Ready to Play

With baseball season here, my mind floods with many great memories. Whether it is the 22 hour Judson Patridge family bus ride to Florida for spring baseball or now watching my 2 boys play college ball, the memories are abundant and the experiences stellar. But I do recall a time when I was reluctant to give high school baseball a shot. I remember a time when one of my sons wasn’t sure he was good enough for a new team he was on. Fear, doubts, anxieties, and lack of confidence are found in baseball and in many areas of life.

This spring, as a new baseball season begins and evidence of new life is found everywhere, consider reviewing your life goals and your participation in the game of life. My high school senior daughter is practicing these days for a song she’s singing at school. Among it’s sad lyrics is one line that stood out to me – “there were so many things I intended to do with you” – sung from the vantage point of the mother. That’s life, isn’t it? There are so many things that we intend to do and don’t do them. Some of those are things are better left not pursuing. However, there are many life pursuits that you and I should be aggressively pursuing. Those baseball memories I have wouldn’t have ever happened if the goal of getting in the game weren’t pursued.

What are they for you? Maybe it’s writing a book, or losing that 40 pounds, or restoring that broken relationship, or traveling to a dream place, or learning that language, or leading someone into a relationship with Jesus, or getting involved in service at your church or community, or signing up for dance lessons, or going on that missions trip, or…

There are lots of steps in accomplishing these life endeavors. However, here are 3 to get you started.

  1. Pray. Simply asking God to give you the right desires, vision, will power and resources to make these life endeavors achievable.
  2. Tell a trusted friend. You need someone to check in on you, pray for and with you, and to give you a shove along the path. Coaches do that in baseball and friends do that in life.
  3. Put together a first five get started list. I have no idea where the phrase “you eat an elephant one bite at a time” came from, but it actually is true. Big elephants seem overwhelming until you get started. Put together a First Five list. What are the first five things you need to do to get in the game?

If you’re worried about what lies ahead, don’t be. Jeremiah 29:11 says that God’s got you. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Get in the game, friend, because there is a great prosperous, hopeful plan for your life ahead! Play ball!

-Eric Rojas, Class of 1990, Executive Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, IL

The Lion and the Lamb – Moving from Angst to Amiable

The Lion and the Lamb – Moving from Angst to Amiable

I am writing this on March 1 and it is brutally cold here in the Chicago area. As the old phrase goes, if March comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb. I am really hoping that old adage is true, because I need some relief! That got me to thinking about our lives – about my life. I certainly have some lion and some lamb attributes to my life. I wonder if you do?

There are certainly different ways to look at the lion and the lamb. But, as far as connection to the month of March, goes, I’ll refer to the lion and lamb from a temperament and personality standpoint. When I get tired, hungry and frustrated, guess what happens? I roar. Some days I’ll even warn my family – “Watch out – I’m really tired and crabby.” Come on now, I know it’s not just me! There are other days when I’m much more sacrificial, helpful and pleasant to be around. I certainly hope that there are many more lamb days then lion days in my life. However, I have had to learn over the years how to deal with my lion days. I have had to learn how to deal with anger, frustration and angst. There are 3 things that have helped me over the years that I’ll pass on in the hopes that maybe they’ll help you if needed:

  1. I turned and am turning my issues over to God. I actually started that process at Judson. When I re-dedicated my life to Jesus in Judson’s Chapel my foul language and deep level anger issues were taken away overnight. I’m not saying that happens for everyone. But it did happen for me. There were more levels to go, but it was a great kick start. Have you done that? Have you said – God I’m finally ready to give you this room of my house that I have had the “do not enter” sign on?
  2. I turned and am turning to the Scriptures. I know, I know, you’re thinking you’ve heard the “read the Bible and pray” line. Well, for me big changed happened when I started reading and memorizing Scripture. Proverbs 15:1 was one of the first verses I memorized, “a gentle answer turns away wrath.” Transformational. Seriously. Try it out. This Scripture thing really is helpful!
  3. I turned and am turning to an accountability partner. I needed and need to have a partner that was praying for me, challenging me and that was there for me. I firmly believe that some issues can only be remedied with the help of others. God made us as relational creatures and he wants us to be in community and to do life – the good and the bad – with our friends and family. Having one key person that you meet with regularly is critical for your spiritual growth and for becoming a lamb for God. Proverbs 27:17 drives home this point when it says, “as iron sharpens iron, so one brother sharpens another.”

That’s what worked for me and I encourage you to try these steps out for your sake and for the sake of those you do life with. It really is a great path to help move someone from being full of angst to being known as someone that is amiable.

One last note on another angle on the lion and the lamb reference. Revelation 5:5-6 is the true lion and the lamb passage in Scripture. In this passage we see that Jesus is both the conquering Lion of Judah and the Lamb who was slain for our sins. The Lion and the Lamb are descriptions of two aspects of the nature of Christ. I mention that because as Christ-followers we are to be “little Christs” and, ultimately, our goal is to be like Christ. So, while some of us are working on lion aspects of our personality, we need to stay in touch with the Lion of Judah who is the conquering king. Our ultimate goal is that we have conquered our issues through Christ’s power. How incredible it is to have a God that knows us personally and that is a servant-king!

Ok. Now back to prayer for that lamb portion of the month of March. Come on Spring!

What kind of lover are you?

What kind of lover are you?

February 14th is probably the most polarizing day of the year. People in love can’t wait to express that love to their spouses or loved ones on Valentine’s Day. For those having been hurt by love or wishing for love, it can be the worst day of the year. However, whether it is your favorite or least favorite day of the year, you can still be a lover.

We were all created to be lovers of God and lovers of people. I John 4:7 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” Matthew 22:37-39 also states that we are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and to love your neighbor as yourself.” The question is, are you doing that? Are you really doing that?

This Valentine’s Day would be a great time to say, it’s time to take my love of God and others to the next level. What does the next level look like for you? Is it time to turn over that ungodly relationship to God? Is it becoming more disciplined in the spiritual practices of Bible reading, prayer, fasting and Scripture memorization – to name a few. Is it pursuing reconciliation with someone that you have been at odds with for way too long? Is the next level starting to really care for those that are the least of these in your sphere of influence?

No matter what the next level is for you, I know it is a matter of your heart. Here are 6 steps to go to the next heart level in love of God and love of others.

  1. Be real and honest with yourself of where your heart is.
  2. Be real with God.
  3. Cry out to Him.
  4. Live in obedience to God and His word.
  5. Care for others.
  6. Enjoy the fruitful life!

Whether Valentine’s Day is your favorite day or least favorite day, choose to make it a day to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind and to love others!

-Eric Rojas, Class of 1990, Executive Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, IL

To Goal or Not To Goal – That is the Question

To Goal or Not To Goal – That is the Question

For several years, there has been a move toward no annual reviews and no goals in main stream America. Where do you stand on goals? I don’t remember a goal-setting class at Judson, do you? I do remember, having a personal goal of surviving 1 or 2 of the classes, however.

As we head into 2015, we all have goals and aspirations for what we want to do and accomplish in the coming year. Where will we be on January 1, 2016, is a question we all ponder. I would suggest that those that are anti-goals have done goals the wrong way and/or have failed at their goals. I would also submit that the majority of goals that people come up with are worth scrapping. However, I would also propose that goals done properly can be extremely helpful and motivational.

There’s not a lot in Scripture about goal setting. However, there are several verses or passages that point to goal setting. Here are a couple of them. Proverbs 21:5 says “the plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” Philippians 3:13-14 tells us that Paul had one goal – “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” While not a determinate of the maturity of your faith, Scripture certainly speaks to the value of planning and goals.

To make your goals a success, here are 3 keys you can apply in 2015.

  1. Write your goals down. Start by writing a BHAG (Big Holy Audacious Goal) down for 1-3 years from now. Then write down 6 month and 1 month goals after that. Break down your BHAG into bite size pieces in written form. There is a current recent blog about tracking goals at michaelhyatt.com that is fantastic if you’re looking for an additional resource.
  2. Use the SMART acronym to help make the accomplishment of your goals as probable as possible.

S – Specific. Don’t just say that you want to feel better about yourself. Describe what that looks and feels like in specifics.

M – Measureable. Don’t just say that you hope that you lose some weight. Put down a goal number that you can check on later.

A – Assignable. Make sure that someone is responsible for this goal. It may be you. It may be a family member or employee. If it’s nobody’s job, that’s who is going to do it – nobody.

R – Realistic. When you write down SMART goals, this is with the thought of a BHAG in mind. However, make sure that your SMART goals are actually in the realistic spectrum.

T – Time-bound. Put down a date to give you a target to work toward. All of us have some level of procrastination in us and a time-bound goal helps move you toward accomplishment.

  1. Tell someone. Whether it’s a spouse, a friend, an accountability partner or a family member – be sure that you set-up someone that will hold you accountable and be a prayer support.

Goals done well will help you move toward a better you and a better representation of Christ in you in the year and years ahead. Here’s to 2015 and beyond!

-Eric Rojas, Class of 1990, Executive Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, IL

X-Mas: Are you taking CHRIST out of this Christmas?

X-Mas: Are you taking CHRIST out of this Christmas?

Ok, how many of you took Greek with Dr. Erickson? I see those 3 hands. I was one of the lucky ones. What a passion Dr. Erickson had for God’s word and seeing his students dig into it with fervor! Even though I ended up going to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and getting my Masters and had to take lots of Biblical language classes, I never really liked them. However, my intro to Greek with Doc was actually quite fun. As we began to learn vocabulary, one of the interesting words we learned was the word for Christ – kristos. The first letter of that word, Chi, in Greek, is actually a large X. Ok, Eric, where are going with this? Stick with me. As you know, many people think that X-Mas is a secular version of Christmas when in actuality, it’s a shorthand of sorts and has as its origin with the insertion of Chi, X, in place of the English word “Christ”. So, if you ever see me writing X-Mas down on my Christmas lights boxes, you’ll know why. If you don’t believe me, there’s even a Wikipedia page for X-Mas and everything Wikipedia says is completely true!

So, that’s my excuse for taking the word “Christ” out of “Christmas” on my boxes of lights. I hope that you aren’t thinking of your excuse right now. You see, taking Christ out of Christmas is really easy to do. It’s easy for the secular person, of course, but it is also easy for the long-time Christ-follower as well. The reality is that the whole secular world around us is making “Christmas” a bad word. We now have to say “holiday” in our sidewalk greetings. The reality is that the world around us is telling us that we need to get more and more and more gifts this Christmas to keep the economy growing and to show our love to our family and friends. The reality is that the world around us keeps us so busy during the Christmas season that there isn’t much time for much of anything that is of real importance. Do any of those excuses ring true for you?

Christmas is a season of giving. It’s a remembrance of an almighty Creator God reaching down and giving us the gift of His son and the gift of eternal life. It’s a season of giving life and hope to people around us that so desperately need it in the person of and through a relationship with Jesus. It’s a season of being the hands and feet of Jesus by helping out those in need that are right there in our everyday lives – the homeless person we drive by, the single mother at work and the widow that lives down the street. It’s a season of giving gifts of love to our loved ones that are representations and reminders of what God did in giving us Jesus.

This Christmas, don’t take Christ out of it (and, no, you don’t have to get the bumper sticker!). Though there are a million more, here are a bunch of ideas for you to consider to keep Christ at the center: Sign up to feed the homeless at your local homeless shelter, give shoeboxes of gifts through Operation Christmas Child to needy children around the world, take advantage of your church’s outreach opportunities and invite your family, friends and neighbors, go to church and keep on going if you haven’t been in a while, do a Christmas morning devotional and prayer time around Luke 2 before you open the gifts, share the story of your relationship with Jesus with someone in your life, send out a Christmas card that isn’t just about your family but also is about Jesus’s birth and giving glory to God, go see Handel’s Messiah in your town, go caroling using some of the great God-honoring Christmas hymns, and say, “Merry Christmas!”

-Eric Rojas, Class of 1990, Executive Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, IL

The Thanksgiving Choice

The Thanksgiving Choice

Stop for a minute and think about what you are thankful for about your Judson experience? For me, it’s the caring professors, being a part of the baseball team, friends and roommates, and the Christ-centered atmosphere. I’m also thankful for the pranks (how did my friends get me to open up the campus on security at 3am instead of 6am), all-night worship times, traveling to Houghton, NY for a #1 versus #2 soccer game and so much more. What’s on your list?

 

Let’s go a step further – what are you thankful as a result of your time at Judson? Again for me it’s my wife and family, it’s my calling to ministry, its life-long friends and an ever-growing love for Christ that was fanned into flame at Judson. I’m also thankful for the education I received, the training in leadership and the network of relationships as a result of Judson U. I hope and pray that some of your on-going thankful reasons are similar to mine. It’s not that all the memories of Judson are good or that everything was perfect, however, those are the memories that I choose to remember and cherish.

 

Ok, I want to go one final step further. What are you thankful for about God? You may be at a place in your life where you are thankful for everything about God and attribute all of your blessings to Him. If that’s you, don’t stop. Continue to recognize that “every good and perfect gift comes from above” (James 1:17). You may, however, find yourself in life circumstances that are difficult and tough. Life has given you lemons and you see God as the one that grew the lemon tree. Your hurt may be deep and your pain great. I understand, but, more importantly, so does God. Psalm 116:1-2 states this, “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” He’s not a God that was just there for your college days, He’s still there today. Choose to allow God to help you turn lemons into lemonade. Choose to use your pain for good. In this season of Thanksgiving, choose to remember with thankfulness, look for reasons to be thankful and to look ahead with a thankful, grateful heart.

-Eric Rojas, Class of 1990, Executive Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, IL