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Me & Cassie, our oldest or 4 girls

Me & Cassie, our oldest of 4 girls

Listen, I know you may see me and think, “Joe smiles a lot. His life must be pretty easy, pretty happy-go-lucky for him to be so happy all the time.”

Not quite.
Yes, I love life.
  • Jesus is a never-ending Source of blessing.
  • My wife and children are a great joy.
  • I love what I get to do for a living.

But I assure you that there is more to this story.

Please do not mistake my deep joy for happiness.

Kelcy and I have been through quite a bit of pain throughout the process of saying “yes” to God.

I’ll save you the sob story. But just take my word that there have been painful periods that left us on the ropes, dodging punches and trying desperately to stay on our feet. And there have been times when life laid me so low I literally could not get myself off the floor. We’ve walked through seasons where it seemed as though God had forgotten about us, and we’ve lived to see the other side of those seasons.

The daily and weekly ordeal of laying our will down to His does not get easier as life goes on.

The stakes of following Jesus become higher and higher as the years progress. The level of trust required to say the next “yes” grows instead of diminishes. Over and over, writing Him the “blank check”, saying, “whatever, wherever, whenever” has and continues to come at a high cost to us in many ways.

Throughout whole seasons of my life I have questioned God’s plan and direction for my life.

But every once in a while He gives me a glimpse of how He is weaving a tapestry of testimony all through my life. My God, my Father in Heaven, who called me into relationship with Him through His Son Jesus, is crafting a good work in and through my life.

Do you know what the coolest part is?

He’s not using just the biggest, brightest, shiniest parts of my walk to point the way into His preferred future for my life. He is redeeming the darkest, most depressing episodes of my life in order to point me in the continued direction of obedience for me, my family and my ministry.
Today I had yet another conversation in which God displayed to me His presence in my life. I could not explain it to you in an hour if I tried. You’ll just have to take my word when I tell you that God is redeeming some painful episodes of our life, ones that left us questioning His will but saying “yes” the best we knew how each step of the way. And He is in fact taking the sum of all those “little yeses” and adding them up to a trajectory that only He could fashion for our future.
  • Those years of my life that I battled a crippling sense of defeat and failure
  • The days when I was literally digging ditches for the Lord…
  • All the times I thought God’s plan for my life had been derailed
  • When I was convinced that He was done using my life for the sake of the Gospel…

Those dark times, when I could barely make my mouth say, “yes, Lord”, those are the times that God was forming me. And come to find out, those are the same times God has used, is using, and will use to shape the future of my continued, “yeses”.

Friend, can I convince you to do one thing today?

No matter what, say, “Yes” to Him.

No matter what darkness or uncertainty you are facing, make your mouth form the word, “yes” to the Lord.

Then take the next step He has revealed to you.

  • Are you disconnected from God? Say the “big yes” by inviting Jesus into your heart.
  • Is your life out of order? Do you need to get rid of something? Do it. Say “yes to holiness.”
  • Did you get off track with God? It’s time to step back in. Say, “yes” to Him again.
  • Do you have hurts that are keeping you away from church? God is bigger than those. Come back.

The “yeses” that are said in the midst of pain weigh more than those said on sunny days.

Say that next “yes”.

Joy, deep and lasting joy, comes on the other side, sometimes a long time after.

Big News: Announcing a New Partnership with New Vine Media!

John Carter - New Vine Media

John Carter – New Vine Media

I’ve been friends with John Carter for 20 years. We attended the same high school, but our friendship was birthed in our first years of college. As God called each of us deeper into a life-altering relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, John became a great encouragement to me.

John’s personal testimony speaks to the power of God to save and transform a life. His passion for the Lord is apparent in His desire to get the Good News of the Gospel communicated, with excellence, to as many people as possible.

Who knew our paths would cross so significantly in the future?

In 2002 John and I put it all on the line when we partnered on a bold new venture, planting a brand new church in Vestal, NY. Although many people were saved and baptized, the fledgling work did not survive. Fortunately, the friendship did.

God took our families in different directions in the years following, but a decade later He has given us the chance to work together again.

Today I get to be the pastor of New Life Vestal, a multisite location of New Life Ministries. This is my dream come true.

John is living his dream as well, augmenting the reach of the Gospel through effective media, music and communications. His rich and varied work history has uniquely equipped and positioned John for this venture.

Beginning this week…

Each Wednesday a post from will be syndicated on the New Vine Media Blog.

This partnership will add fresh, helpful content to the New Vine website. It will also extend the reach of this blog.

Check out the first post syndicated on New Vine:

Voice Part 1 - Watch Your Mouth

Voice Part 1 – Watch Your Mouth

While you’re on the New Vine site…

Check out the high quality Christian Artists

Put one of their upcoming events on your calendar

Grab some music from and gear from artists like Jared Campbell

New Vine Media Store

New Vine Media Store

The New

The New

Thank you for taking a look at the brand new

The transition to this new setup gives me powerful tools to amp up the site!

(Please SUBSCRIBE by email at the top, right of this page.)

I’m writing this blog for 3 reasons:

  • I want to help people.

If God can use my mistakes to help others, I’m in! I have paid dearly for the experience I’ve gained so far. I’d like to put that pain to work, as well as the joy that comes from walking with the Lord through it all. (More in the About page.)
  • I want to sharpen my communication skills.

I get to write, speak and teach weekly at New Life. It’s the best job in the world. Writing for a broader audience gives me even more opportunity to develop my communication skills. (Check out a few of the opportunities I’ve had already on the “Joe’s Publications” page.)
I usually don’t talk about the 3rd reason, but I’m going to today.
  • I’d like to earn a little extra income.

I’m not greedy. I make a good income as a pastor.
But in just a few years I’ll be putting 4 kids through college. Then (gulp) I’ll have 4 weddings to pay for. Yikes! If I’m going to have to work a second job anyway, I’d like it to help people.
This blog will always be free. I look forward to offering more helpful, free resources to subscribers.
Down the road I’ll also be sharing some eBooks and other helpful stuff that will cost a couple of bucks.
So thanks for stopping by. I really hope you like the new layout. Be sure to give me some feedback.
Please sign up, leave a comment, and share the site on facebook, twitter or email. Thank you.

These are my top 5 posts so far:

  1. Winning at Relationships
  2. I’m Leaving New Life (Endicott) in 1 Year
  3. Pull the Plug: When You Should Kill a Relationship
  4. Porn by the Numbers
  5. Why I Don’t Read the Bible

This is the series I’m rolling out now: “How NOT to Pray

What would you like written next? Leave a comment below and I’ll see if I can address it.

Thanks again for visiting the site. Please subscribe by email on the right hand of the page.

Don’t worry. I’m not going that far. I’m only moving across the river from Endicott to Vestal. My office will still be at 201 Hill Ave. I’ll still be part of the New Life pastoral team.

So where am I going? God willing, we’ll be launching New Life Vestal on 10/13/13. Pastor Sab has asked me to lead this new work. We have great hopes that through it we’ll be able to reach many more families with the life-saving message of Jesus Christ.

That’s right. After growing up in Vestal, graduating from Vestal, and choosing to raise my family in Vestal, I will get to open the next New Life campus in the neighborhood I love.

There are 100 question marks hanging over the launch of this new campus. Here are a few of the questions I’ve begun to field:

  • Where will the new church meet? I’m not sure yet. I’ve got a list of possibilities, but it’s too early to make a decision. To tell you the truth, I’m much more concerned with developing the people who will launch the church. The facility matters, but in the end it’s just a building. The church is made up of people. If we don’t build them, the building won’t matter.
  • Who is going with you? I’ve begun a roster of people who have expressed interest in joining me in this new work. Bottom line: I only want people who God is leading to join in this new work. I don’t want to convince or cajole anyone into coming. If God has been talking to you about being part of a new work of the Gospel that will reach an underserved population in Vestal and Apalachin, then I’d like to have a conversation with you.
  • Who will do the teaching? Me, plus one or two other communicators that I train. It’ll be live teaching each week. I cannot wait to bring the message on a regular basis. When I get to teach I feel like I’m standing right in the middle of what God created me to do.
  • Who will lead worship? I don’t know. This is an important role that will need to be filled by a leader who can build a great team. Please pray for God to provide exactly the right person to lead that team.
  • Will New Life Vestal still connected to the Endicott campus? Yes. That’s the best part! Pastor Sab will still be my leader. We’ll teach the same material. We’ll also maintain the same look and feel of all New Life campuses. Better yet, we’ll get to share resources, training and all sorts of connection with our greater New Life community. We get to be one church with many locations, reaching our community with local congregations while sharing all the efficiencies of a big church.
  • What do you need? First of all, I need people to pray. Pray God will provide the people, the facilities and the finances for this new venture. I am confident we’ll have plenty of families join us in this mission. I am certain we’ll locate a facility to house a couple hundred of us. The one thing we lack the most is the financing to move forward. It’s going to take God’s people giving above and beyond in order to fuel the mission moving forward. Those who respond to God’s call to invest in His kingdom will not be disappointed in how He makes use of those funds.

I can’t wait to write more about this new adventure as we plan and prepare in advance of the launch. Kelcy and I have been blown away with the many ways God has led the way for us throughout the years. We know that as we turn this corner, we will be amazed anew at the work of God’s hands.

Don’t go to church? Here’s why I do:  Why I Go To Church – Part 1

To follow my blog, just enter your email address on the top right of the page and click “subscribe”. Thanks! – Joe

Why I Do What I Do

August 3, 2012 — 1 Comment

Next week is a prime example of who I am. I, along with a brave crew of leaders, will be taking 70 teens to camp for a week.

I can hear you saying now, “Are you crazy!?” Well, maybe. Pray for me.

The camp is called “Launch”. There are so many things holding down. Peer pressure to fit into the world’s mold regarding drugs, alcohol and sex are just the beginning. A fragile self-image or hurting home life is all-too-often the reality a teen comes to camp with. We want to give them an uplifting week, teaching them how to “defy gravity” in this world.

The week will be filled with some lights-out fun. Horseback riding, paintball, and of course, an epic climbing tower that freaks me out every time I try to amble up it. Sometimes I think, “I have the most fun job in the world.” Hanging around these teens keeps me young (or makes me old quickly, I haven’t decided yet).

But there’s also another component that runs throughout the week. We’ll worship God together, walk through the book of Colossians, and learn how to tap into all God has for us in a dynamic, genuine relationship with Him.

My favorite part of the week, hands down, is getting to share my experience as a Christ follower, passing it on to the next generation. This is the “lane” that, through years of experimentation, I have learned to run in. I searched through my college years for other ways to spend my life. Disturbed with the pain and suffering I saw in the world, I considered careers in medicine, education and counseling. All helping roles, I was longing to fulfill my desire to change the world for the better in some tangible way.

In the end, none of the aforementioned pursuits, as worthy as they are, captured my imagination like ministry. Teachers educate whole generations. Doctors heal the sick and broken. Counselors guide and comfort the hurting. Each of these noble professions, done well, require a calling of their own. I respect and value those who answer that call. As for me, however, I realized none of them were the appropriate destination.

I recently read a quote that encapsulated the way I feel about becoming a pastor to do my life’s work.

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” – Henry David Thoreau

Look around you. My guess is it won’t take long for you to identify hurt, evil and injustice in this world. If you’re human, you have to eventually answer the “why” and “what now” questions. How do we “strike at the root” of evil? How do we make a lasting impact that will leave the world a better place when we’re gone?

The best way I know how to help people is to introduce them to the One who has come to heal the broken, teach all who are willing to listen, and comfort the distraught. Jesus Christ, God eternal, became man in order to display who He truly is. Then, still a young man, He gave Himself over to a grisly death, sacrificing His perfect life as payment for our shortcomings.

If that’s true, that God died for us, and was then resurrected so that we could share in new life, what better message could there be?

The reality of entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ has been the single greatest change agent in my life. Simply introducing others to the God who created and loves them is my life’s mission. Next week I’ll get to do that with 70 teens. Throughout the rest of my life, God-willing, I’ll get to tell thousands of others. That’s why I write. That’s why I preach. That’s why I  train others who want to do the same.

What about you? What’s your calling? Has God designed you to influence the world through another path?

I’d love to hear in the comments.

It has happened! After years of wishing and wanting, hemming and hawing, I have had my words published. I was even paid for it.

Light & Life Magazine

Light & Life Magazine

A few months ago I contacted “Light and Life Magazine“. After a brief back-and-forth with Jeff Finley, Managing Editor, I decided to submit a “foundation article”, designed to give a biblical perspective on the month’s theme.

This month it was published in print and online. Take a look at my very first published article, “Politics Alone Not the Answer“.

Here’s three things I’ve learned through this experience:

  1. “Writers write.” Over a year ago I met with a mentor of mine. I drive an hour a couple of times a year to pick his brain on theology, pastoring, and life in general. I dropped the “I’d really like to be a writer someday” comment into our conversation. He acknowledged the sentiment politely with two words, “Writers write.” Then he moved on. He didn’t pause to indulge my fantasies, but instead gently demanded to see product. The message was clear. If this was such a burning passion, I would stop talking about it and simply write. I would write when I felt like it and when I didn’t. I would squeeze it in between work, family and the rest of life. I would find a way.
  2. “Just start.” I never would have taken this step if I didn’t hadn’t taken the last one. Beginning the blog was the “watershed moment” that signalled the mental shift from non-writer to writer-in-the-making. Making it into print was the next.
  3. “Start at the start.” The first magazine I turned to knows me, and I know them. “Light & Life” is the official publication of the Free Methodist Church USA. This provided me a great “foot in the door”. Jeff was great to work with, guided me through the process, and gave me the chance to ask all sorts of first-time questions. I’m now looking to make connections at the next publication.

I can’t wait to see what’s next.