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Cox Family // 2014

Every year, I compile/edit all the video we took that year. It’s always a pretty massive project and takes me a long time to finish (in this case, 6 months). It covers everything in chronological order from January 1 to December 31, 2014! The crazy thing is that Caden was only about 16 months old when the video starts! I used to scoff when my parents would tell me how fast time flies. I had no clue!

Starting Over

If you’ve ever moved, you know that you need about a year to get into the rhythm of your new season in life. Eight months ago, we dove headfirst into this new season we’re currently living in.

For some, starting over can be a source of stress, pain or regret. Some “starting over’s” are necessary, because the past isn’t acceptable. We have to push forward to a new and better reality.

Yet others are starting over because of a core conviction (this is our category). A disturbing force settles in our soul and won’t let us sit still until we chase down the thing that we know we were created to do.

1929150_508181219158_6637_nOn June 19, 2007, we started over in Bryant, Arkansas . This is a picture of our moving truck (I think we used every square inch)! We never knew that we would live in Arkansas, but it ended up being a place full of people that we DEARLY love and miss. We would spend a little more than 7 years there and I dream of going back to visit almost on a daily basis.

It was new. And then it wasn’t. It became home. And then we left.

Starting over can be fun but it has its challenges, too. I miss the community in Arkansas. I miss walking in Starbucks and seeing people I knew and sitting down and catching up. I miss our church family in Arkansas, where it always felt like home because the people were just that good.

But I can honestly say that our community here in Columbus is so good. Our network isn’t as big and the stories don’t run as deep (yet), but we have been blessed to have met so many great people and re-connect with even more old friends.

Never once did God leave us on our own. He never left us without a support system or a family away from family. And today, I’m thankful for that.

Discipleship isn’t…

Discipleship isn’t:
– one and done.
– accidental.
– easy.
– clean.
– random.
– effectively carried out in a large group setting.

Discipleship is:
– in it for the long game.
– messy.
– patient.
– on purpose.
– centered around the Bible.
– going to require a strong investment in a few people.

It’s my belief that very few disciples are being made today, because very few Christians are willing to make them.

Trusting God

TrustingGodSquareI’m afraid our culture has gotten all too good at believing that our actions will move God to action. I know this, because that thought has crept in my heart. Sadly, it has caused me to mold my spiritual disciplines in such a way that, under the surface, represents itself in the purpose of my spiritual disciplines.

Somewhere along the line, we stopped pursuing Jesus to get close to Him. I’m afraid most of us want to make Him move.

As if God were a Magic 8-Ball and we could just shake Him again and get the answer we want.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve caught it in myself.

There’s nothing wrong with praying for God to move in big ways in your life. In fact, not doing so might just be a symptom of a lack of faith in you.

However, let us rest in the fact that God’s answer is always best!

When There’s No Hope

A few weeks ago, I was working at a local coffee shop, when I looked up and saw a mom and her son at a table next to the window. The boy was playfully gazing out the window, smiling and cracking jokes to himself. He couldn’t have been more than seven years old.

Mom was tired. Bags under her eyes. She wasn’t at Starbucks just to hang out. That caffeine was helping her hang on. Her facial expression told a story. I couldn’t tell you the specifics, but the obvious subplot was clear.

Life has dealt her a tough hand and her son had no clue.

I don’t know about you, but when I was this boy’s age, I didn’t have a clue that there were problems in the world. I only knew that sometimes, you get in trouble for acting up. You don’t get dessert unless you eat your vegetables. And you go to church on Sunday. Other than that, life was a breeze.

I count myself fortunate to have had parents that didn’t allow me to know everything that was going on. Surely, there were financial problems, relational tensions, and health issues. But I didn’t have a clue.

As I watched this boy look back at his mom with a huge smile on his face, I could see that this is one of those situations. The weight of the world is on her shoulders, and he’s light as a feather.

And that’s the way it should be.

But as we grow up, we learn, don’t we? We begin to learn that freedom comes with a price. We experience the hardship that is associated with a broken world. We feel the sting of loss and moments where it seems like there’s no hope.

This is why you thought your parents were weird. You weren’t fully aware of the weight on their shoulders. And you shouldn’t have. But we learn that the real world is full of suffering.

So what do you do when there’s no hope? When you’ve exhausted your resources and you honestly believe there’s nowhere else to turn? Maybe you’ve “tried God.” Many of us have. If you had a bad experience with the church, there’s a good chance that you gave up on God.

Maybe you’re all too familiar with the struggles of life. “How could there be a God?” you’ve asked, pleaded. You shook your fist at the sky.

I have, too. Recently.

And I don’t have all the answers for what you’re going through. But I know this. Our God is strong and loving. And He is not absent; nor is He unaware.

He is near to the broken-hearted. He hears the cries of His people. Call out to Him today!

One-Word Theme For 2015

Cards on the table: I’ve never done this before.

RememberI’ve made a ton of New Years Resolutions. Some stick. Some don’t. And I don’t agree with the crowd that thinks resolutions are stupid because you don’t keep them. If you want to commit to a resolution, then commit to it. Change your habits and make it happen!

So why is 2015 different? Why does it require a one-word theme?

If we don’t know each other, here’s a quick intro. My name is Mark. I’m 31, married to an amazing woman named, Christi, and I have three kids. I’m strongly considering keeping at least one of them.

My family and I have lived in Arkansas for the last 7 years doing student ministry. In September, we packed our lives away in a truck and moved 12 hours away to Columbus, Ohio to plant a church.

And planting a church is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.

I’ve worked harder than I ever have.
On things I’m not good at.
To start something I’m incredibly passionate about.
That doesn’t currently exist.

It requires legal paperwork, incredible balance, and a steadfast focus on a family who have just left their friends in the rear view mirror. I work in an unfinished basement, in which my kids bust in every 5 minutes while I’m on the phone making fundraising calls. It’s legitimately cute one out of every fifteen times.

It’s a stressful thing to start something from nothing. Hence the need for the theme.

Every once in a while, I come up for air and have a moment to sit and think. A couple times, my thoughts have been less than encouraging.

“This isn’t as fun as I thought it would be.”
“I didn’t know it would be this hard.”
“Am I going to be a failure?”
“Everyone is going to laugh if this doesn’t work.”
“When does it get easier?”

In those moments, I cling to Jesus tightly. I know that HE is with me and that this is HIS mission and HIS people. I know that God will see this through!

So when I had a couple moments to think about what the one-word theme might be, I started thinking about all the fun ones.
BUILD.
START.
MOVE.
CREATE.
GO.

Those are energizing, right? They make you want to get out and take the world by storm! But I knew those weren’t right for me. At least not this year.

Because what I need right now isn’t to man up.

So many times in Scripture, great men of God were merely men who trusted in their great God. There would be trouble. They would pray and ask for God to help. They would experience a miracle of God. And then, before they just rushed past the miracle, they would set up a memorial.

When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”

Joshua 4:1-7

Did you catch that? He said, “When your children ask you what these stones mean to you.”

When people ask how you made it through the illness.
When people ask how dealt with that crisis.
When people ask how you kept your head up with that loss.

When people ask, point to the memorial and remember what God did.

My theme for this year is REMEMBER.

Remember that God miraculously saved you at 16 years old.
Remember that He walked with you through hard times (even before you were ready to surrender your life.
Remember that He never once left you on your own.
Remember that His promises are true.
Remember that He’s not done with you.
Remember that He is intimately aware of your pain.
Remember that He is walking with you, even today.
Remember that He hears your prayers.
Remember that, before you were walking through your struggle today, He sent His Son to die on a cross 2,000 years ago, so that you might be able to cry out to Him.
Remember that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, and He hasn’t given up on you.

This year, I want to be great at setting up memorials. My friend Patrick Martin calls these, “stone-stacker moments.” I don’t want to rush past the work of God. I’ll journal and reflect more, being careful to intently watch the bush burn.

Also, my prayer this year is that my identity won’t get lost in the whirlwind of church-planting. Or whatever mess I’m in. I’m a follower of Jesus, a husband, and a dad first. I refuse to let the demands of this life distract me from the few callings that God has placed on my life that matter the most!

Best Of 2014 // Blog Posts, Movies, Music, Books & TV Shows

BestOf2014Every year, I put together a quick list of my blog posts that are most popular. Last year, I added my favorite tv shows, movies, books and albums as well (click here to see last year’s picks). I had fun with that (and with your feedback), so I decided to do it again.

To be clear, the top blog posts are the most popular ones written by me this year (not merely my favorite…they got the most views). The top tv shows, movies, books and albums are all totally my opinion. I’ll also add some honorable mentions in the movie category, because I didn’t make it out to see every movie that did well this year (apparently planting a church and having a kid in the same year leave you penniless).

Top Five Blog Posts Of 2014

5. “Church Planting: The Miracles” – This was a post that told the story of all the miraculous ways that God affirmed that we were supposed to plant a church. These stories are still extremely important to me.

4. “Interviewing A Three Year Old” – This was a fun video post, in which I interviewed my son (then 3 years old) Kipton. We talked about big life decisions and God’s will for a student ministry series called, “How Does God Speak To Us?”

3. “Buy A Shirt. Plant A Church.” – This got a lot of attention because we sold t-shirts to help us move to Columbus, Ohio to plant our church. We were so thankful that all of our friends got involved. By the way, we’re about to launch another shirt sale! Be on the lookout in 2015 for that one.

2. “Cox Family Update // June 2014″ – This was just a short post to update people right before we set out to move to Ohio. The fact that this was the second most popular post this year proves that we have some pretty awesome friends that are praying for us! Thank you!

1. “We’re Planting A Church!” – This was the most popular post of 2014. It was also most important to me, because we finally announced publicly what God had been doing in our hearts for the last three years! It’s extremely difficult to keep the biggest secret in your life under your hat for that long! We believe this announcement was signaling the future for our family for the rest of our lives. We are praying that God would allow us to pastor this church for the next 40 years! For the rest of my life, I want to be a husband to one wife, a dad to my kids, the pastor to one church, and to serve this city.

Favorite Books

1. Ben Arment – “Church In The Making”
2. Alan Hirsch & Dave Ferguson – “On The Verge”
3. Scot McKnight – “King Jesus Gospel”
4. Dallas Willard – “The Divine Conspiracy”
5. Lance Ford & Brad Brisco – “The Missional Quest”

Favorite Albums

1. Elevation Church – “Wake Up The Wonder”
2. Brooke Fraser – “Brutal Romantic”
3. Alt-j – “This Is All Yours”
4. Coldplay – “Ghost Stories”
5. This Will Destroy You – “Another Language”
6. John Mark McMillan – “Borderland”
7. Tycho – “Awake”
8. Phantogram – “Voices”
9. Andy Mineo – “Neverland”
10. Balmorhea – “Balmorhea”

Favorite Movies

1. Interstellar
2. Mockingjay: Part 1
3. Million Dollar Arm
4. Captain America: Winter Soldier
5. X-men: Days Of Future Past
6. 300: Rise Of An Empire
7. Guardians Of The Galaxy
8. Lego Movie
9. Locke

Honorable Mention: I’m looking forward to seeing Selma, Gone Girl, Fury, and Exodus: Gods & Kings.

Favorite TV Shows

1. The Walking Dead
2. Gotham
3. State Of Affairs
4. Suits
5. Brooklyn Nine Nine

What were some of your favorite tv shows, movies and books from 2014? What did I miss?

If/Then

IfThen_BlogGraphic_RectangleI love the Bible. I especially love the promises God makes to us in it.

They give me a glimpse of God’s heart for us and help me through tough times. Recently, I was reading through the second chapter of Proverbs and was reminded of what God promises us through His Word. Listen closely as God is communicating a truth, while inviting us to press into Him.

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding: yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”       Proverbs 2:1-5

Receiving His words, treasuring His commandments…what do these things involve?

Sometimes we try to go after His words, commandments, statutes and wisdom without going after HIM.

We see this in the difference between reading a text message from someone and sitting down and talking face-t0-face over coffee. We see it in the gap between commenting on social media and eating dinner with someone. There are feelings and emotions that aren’t processed until we are in front of them trying to

How can we perceive His words if we don’t chase after HIM!

Don’t miss the beauty of this promise.
You WILL understand the fear of the LORD & find the knowledge of God.
You WILL understand righteousness and justice and equity.
Wisdom WILL come into your heart.
Discretion WILL watch over you.
Understanding WILL guard you.

But don’t do it apart from staring Jesus dead in the face! May we not seek Jesus because of what He can give us, but simply because He is good and He is enough!

His promises are trustworthy because HE is trustworthy.

Successful Big Give Event!

I just wanted to take a moment to brag on my neighborhood for coming through BIG on the Big Give Event we ran last week!

StoweEventReport_IGWe invited all of our neighbors and 4o of them showed up with donations in hand (not including our family)! We were able to bless Stowe Mission with 191 pounds of food (and then some diapers and toys)! It makes me excited to know that several people will have a meal because of the generosity of our friends! Not to mention, we got a chance to hang out with our neighbors and meet some new friends.

So I’d like to thank everyone who got involved in donating to make this happen!

It’s not much of a secret that our family moved to Columbus to plant a church. And while we didn’t pull out a Bible or a guitar or anything, one of our core convictions is that we will always reach out to help those around us!

We know that Jesus said,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”     – Luke 4:18-19

There were a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds in our home last week and everyone was willing to help those who are less fortunate in our city! I was thrilled with the outcome! If I haven’t made it abundantly clear, we love our neighborhood!

We’ve got some difference-makers in Coppertree Estates!

Because We’re Not A “Church” Yet

notachurchyet_2The big question that everyone has been asking me for the last six months is this: “Do you have a building yet?”

The second most frequent question has been: “So when are you going to be a REAL church?”

For the record, I’m not mad or anything. But I am concerned about our picture of what “church” is. Let’s start with a re-orientation.

What is the church? Maybe a better question is WHO is the church? The church is a group of people who are called out by God to live on mission for His glory!

If the church is a who, then what is that building that we go to on Sunday mornings? I don’t mean to get into a semantics battle, but I think our understanding of God’s mission is at stake! So what is it that happens on Sunday mornings? And are we living out God’s call for our lives throughout the week?

Maybe the scarier question is this: Are we BEING the church throughout the week? If not, what exactly is happening on Sunday mornings?

Is it possible that we can attend a service on Sunday morning, but never really do church?

I think so.

Are we living out the gospel? Are we taking Jesus’ words seriously? Does the church need a building to thrive? Whether you’re a church planter that just moved to a new city, a student who follows Jesus, or a mom who’s trying to figure out how to teach her kids about God, the answer is the same for all of us!

If you are a Christian, are you on mission with God? Not “is your CHURCH” on mission with God. You ARE the church. Are you on mission?

Today is the day to:
– Love that neighbor.
– Pray with your kids.
– Invite that student to sit with you at lunch.
– Take the conversation deeper with your co-worker.
– Be generous to those around you.
– Start the bible study.
– Embrace a local ministry and commit to serve in it this year.

How is God calling you to step up and step out to embrace His mission today? Don’t wait for the next initiative that your church starts up. Because if you’re like me, “it’s not a church yet.”

WE ARE THE CHURCH.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

1 Peter 2:9-10