Thursday, October 30, 2014

What a Ride!

Over the past eight years I have had the privilege of serving at Vineyard Cincinnati and last week that came to an end. For those of you interested, I will attempt to walk you through my journey over the past several months. But just in case you don’t read the entire post, here’s the only reason… it’s time for a change.

In 1996 I started my youth ministry career by hosting a large event in Piqua, Ohio that I had no business leading. After months of planning and networking with area youth pastors we ‘Packed the Gym’ at the old Roosevelt Field House. It was amazing, hundreds of students showed up. I can remember the moment when I saw with my own eyes the vision that God had given me. But, something much more significant happened that evening. When a hot blonde walked through the backstage door ready to go on stage with her ‘girl band’ my heart skipped several beats. That night I met Hope Kesling and my world went from black and white to color.

For our entire 17 years together life has revolved around student ministry. We have both devoted our lives to students… me in the church, and Hope in the public school system. It has been a crazy ride! Students that we have known since sixth grade have now finished college, married and are having kids of their own. We have had access to thousands of students and we spend most of our time on social media seeing the awesome God adventures they are on.

Over the past several months Hope and I have been discussing, praying and dreaming about our future. It has led us to the reality that life is full of seasons and it’s time start another. There is naturally a lot of fear involved when you walk it out, but fear is not of God.

Vineyard Cincinnati has changed my life. When I think about the change, growth, energy, overnighters, games, Spirit soaked worship, shooting donuts in gym, MSSR, building the Student Union, home run derby in the atrium, Fall Weekends students saying yes to Jesus, newspaper games, a little thing called SOS… and the amazing team of staff and volunteers that I’ve been able to serve with over the years… I get choked up, tears of blessing, God’s faithfulness and all of the Fruit of the Spirit.

But, if you’ve been around the Student Union for any length of time you have heard me say… “God has designed you on purpose for a purpose. There are things that God wants to do in and through you… things that would blow your mind… things so specific to you that if you don’t do them they won’t get done.” God has given me a new mission and I need to be faithful to walk that out.

Creepy things grow in the dark. The light of truth is that it’s simply a time for change. It’s really that simple and any narrative that veers from that is not truth.

I don’t have a complete picture of what our future holds as a family, but we do know a few things. We will stay in Cincinnati. We have deep roots here and we believe that God has put us in The Queen City for a reason.

A few years ago three dudes got in a beat up RV with cameras, production gear and not much of a plan.  Right before they left their Rabbi taught them a new way to pray… and four days later everything changed. Now, years later, that same group of guys (along with an amazing team at Rebel Pilgrim) will continue to tell stories that spark hope and action.

I will share more as it unfolds, but when you hear the types of projects that I will be working on you’ll see that it lines up with my calling to ‘commission a generation for life long ministry’.

Also, my family will be at the Vineyard and the Student Union this weekend to express our appreciation and celebrate all that God has done and will do. I look forward to hundreds of high fives, smiles and an awkward hug from Zak.

Until then… You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way!

matthew milthaler

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

John 2-4

Today's reading is packed with familiar stories of Jesus' ministry.

-Nicodemus is a Pharisee and comes seeking Jesus as night with pressing questions. He was a part of the ruling class and had power and influence. While the disciples jumped at the chance to follow Rabbi Jesus, Nicodemus was taking a risk. He had something to lose, but he was curious about Jesus. Nicodemus was a cerebral guy... "You can't re-enter your mother's womb and be born again. What are you saying with this 'born-from-above' talk? (MSG)".

-Jesus equates the spirit to wind. "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. (NIV)”I found it interesting the contrast between Jesus' mention of the Spirit and John the Baptist's statement in verse 34, "For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. (NIV)"

-Again, light is used as a metaphor. My NIV Study Bible Notes: "A simple word or phrase with a profound meaning; That is the style of Jesus' teachings presented in John. No Biblical author used simpler, more commonplace words: water, world, light, life, birth, love, truth. Yet John used them with such depth that hundreds of authors since have tried to plumb their meaning" (1127).

-John 3:19-21 "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God."

This is beautiful stuff... light is available, but we love our darkness. The thought of exposing my sin to others is not a happy thought. Embracing the light is acknowledging that every action is already done in the sight of God. But, the tone here is not one of shame... it's not about stepping into a spotlight that exposes my sin. Living in truth is more beautiful than that.

-Once again, John the Baptist is embracing his role. He equates his status to one who is attending the bridegroom as she waits. John the Baptist is a manly man, but he uses feminine/masculine language here. John 3:30 is an awesome "life verse" if you're looking for one: "He must become greater; I must become less." The Message paraphrase says: "This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines."

-In chapter four we learn that Jesus was not the primary baptizer. Jesus was sharing his ministry. I love to baptize people, sometimes it's difficult for pastor types to see others do the glitzy ministry stuff. It took some maturing, but now I love to watch our middle school small group leaders dunk teenagers.

-I love the story of the Samaritan Woman... there is so much good stuff there. The woman comes to the well in the afternoon, possibly because she wanted to escape the eyes of the other women or perhaps she slept in from a hard night of partying. It would be funny if the reason was simpler... less dramatic. What if her pot broke and she had to wait to borrow a friends. She may have been looked down on by her peers... but the do seek out Jesus when they hear what she says.

-Today I was struck by verse 29, "Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?" We know that Jesus told her about her 5.5 husbands... but this could have been public knowledge. What else did Jesus tell her about herself?

-Hunger is a strong drive... yet, in his humanness, Jesus was still driven by the work of the One who sent him (vs. 34). When I am hungry I'm more like a bear and less like a devoted disciple.

-God's power is not bound by proximity. Jesus is able to heal the officials son even from a distance.

-In our modern ministry setting it is typical for us to walk people through a prayer of salvation... to make the conversion process "official". I don't see this practice being used by Jesus... or anywhere else in the Bible (at least I can't think of any). The process seems to be more of a decision... or perhaps even a journey as displayed with Nicodemus. We see him three times in the book of John, in his last appearance we read of him bringing spices for the burial of Jesus.


Monday, February 13, 2012

john 1-2

Monday's are different around the Milthaler house. It's my day off, so Reagan, Harrison and I normally go out for breakfast before dropping the oldest off at school. Today is also my beautiful wife's birthday, so the routine also included a trip to Kroger for party supplies.

Whenever I ask graduating seniors about their most significant memories of their time at the Student Union and Vineyard Cincinnati... SOS is almost always on top of the list. It's an intense week of worship, teaching and service. My prayer is that over the next several weeks we will be able to discover and discern the spiritual direction for this year's SOS. I'm going to share my notes from my morning conditioning... if you would like to add something please comment and continue the conversation.

John 1-2

-I love the writing style in the first chapter. Jesus is eternal, he has always been with God... even in the beginning of creation. Yet, the author doesn't simply say, "Jesus has always been". The idea is more complicated than that, yet at the same time simple.All three persons of the trinity are alluded to in the first chapter.

-John 1:9, "The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world".

-John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

God came to Earth and dwelt among us... this is powerful stuff. The entire course of human history has been changed because God got personally involved. But, as we continue to read... he came to save his people, but we wanted nothing to do with him.

-In modern terms, John was the opening act. He is clear about the facts, he is not the Christ, he is not a prophet. The Message version uses the phrase "thunder in the desert" to describe John. He understands his role.

-John 1:30-31, The Message. " task has been to get Israel ready to recognize him as the God-Revealer. That is why I came here baptizing with water, giving you a good bath and scrubbing sins from your life so you can get a fresh start with God."

-Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, but jumps camp and starts to follow Jesus. Andrew is convinced that this guy is the real deal and he wants to share this information with his brother Simon Peter. Andrew brings his brother to Jesus. These young guys are attracted to Jesus... and they can't help but get their friends in the game.

-I've always seen Nathanael as the straight laced guy in this cast of characters. Jesus says, "Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit." Is that in jest? Just before this Nathanael cracks on Jesus' home town. But, Jesus tells him, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

It was a big deal when a boy was chosen by a Rabbi. If you weren't chosen, you didn't make the cut. Could it be that Nathanael was dealing with this reality and calling out to God under a fig tree? We don't know, but we do know it was a significant experience for Nathanael. He he puts his faith in Jesus, and Jesus promises that he'll expereince more amazing experiences in the future.

-Chapter two is shorter, Jesus is at a wedding and the hosts ran out of wine.

-Jesus speaks of this not being his time... how would Jesus have known when the right time was? Why would he change his timeline?

-I wonder if Jesus' power had been on display at home before this wedding. Had Mary experienced his power in Jesus' early years? Did Jesus ever use his power to clean his room, pop a zit or provide groceries when money was tight?

-180 gallons of wine... that's a lot.

-It was better than the high shelf wine that is normally served at the beginning of the party... when taste buds are more attentive. I like to say, "suck doesn't honor God". Jesus displays excellence.

-John 2:23-25 (The Message) "During the time he was in Jerusalem, those days of the Passover Feast, many people noticed the signs he was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him. But Jesus didn't entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn't need any help in seeing right through them."

Those are my observations... any thoughts?


Friday, February 10, 2012

i forgot the password...

it's been a long time since i logged on to this blog... let alone post.

if you are checking in, chances are you got an email from me about SOS. as a reminder, here is the schedule that i'm planning to keep.

Feb 13: Chapters 1-2
Feb 14: Chapters 3-4
Feb 16: Chapters 5-6
Feb 17: Chapters 7-8

Feb 20: Chapters 9-10
Feb 21: Chapters 11-12
Feb 23: Chapters 13-14
Feb 24: Chapters 15-16

Feb 27: Chapters 17-18
Feb 28: Chapters 19-20
March 1: Chapter 21

i'll check back in on monday!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

four years old...

it's really hard to believe that the little baby we brought home from the hospital turned four today. when i see the picture above i see a boy... no longer a baby or even toddler.

on daddy baby day (monday) we bought a rocket with the intention of launching it on his birthday (today). i worked on it all night and i think it looked pretty good... it just didn't work properly. sure it launched... but the shoot never popped out. it was more like a javelin. the great thing about being four years old is that small details don't matter. he never knew there was supposed to be a colorful parachute.

in total we launched it four times... it stuck in the ground like an arrow every time. BUT, it didn't break and still looks great.

we have our last two "daddy baby days" this month... then i have to share him with preschool in the fall. my heart hurts just thinking about it. we have maximized mondays... so my heart is full and i can go to the next stage knowing that i gave him my best. all my creativity and energy went into giving him experiences on those days together.

here's the deal. i work with middle school kids, so i know what's coming. one day he will be unimpressed with my "rocket" craftsmanship and efforts to spend time with him. in the not to distant future he will think everything i do is stupid and embarrassing. so, i savor today.

reagan, your daddy loves you. being a father to you and harrison is the most fulfilling responsibility i've ever had. happy birthday gunner.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

flying pig...

well, it was a little less flying and a little more pig.

my time was 2:54 and i ran the whole way. my legs are too stubby to keep up with the others so i did 12/13 of it on my own. by far, this was way more mentally challenging than physical.

at mile 7 some lady was giving out little cups of jelly beans. i can say with complete honesty that it saved the race for me. that energy boost those magic beans gave me was priceless. besides water and gatorade, she was the only person giving out stuff... and it was EXACTLY what i needed.

i think i may do it again next year... but, the jury is still out. i don't doubt that i can cut 20 minutes off my time if i pack a fanny pack of jelly beans.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

life on mars...

i was a fan of the show "life on mars". come to find out it has been canceled. in my search to find out the details... i came to find out that it was actually a rip off of the BBC show of the same name.

i think it's funny how some of the best shows of this decade have been rip offs of the BBC and others. it's true, there is nothing new under the sun.

i'll admit it... i have an affinity for ripping off others work. i was taught that it was the dirty little secret of youth ministry. but, it appears that it's the norm.

creativity takes space to think and create. all too often we don't have the time to create something new, so we steal.