Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Too often when we talk of 'spiritual growth' we talk out of guilt and obligation rather than a deep passion to grow through our failure-to take the road of frustration and surprise...the unknown for those of us seeking to take go deeper.
Spiritual growth isn't a 'program' or regiment of prayer, Bible studies, service, and going to church services...it's so much more. Sure, prayer and all the above can contribute to change, but it's more than just simple mechanics or a procedure. You see spiritual growth occurs in the trenches of life, not in a classroom or youth group setting-it's about application and the utilization of the tools God has given us. And in that application we sometimes learn that the Holy Spirit asks us to violate our convictions in order to live the faith we claim-not to just talk of it.
We can talk about love all we want, but loving those who are deemed to be unlovable is how we learn to love. In previous blogs I have mentioned the freedom God gave to us through His son. In John 8:32 Jesus talks about truth and how it will set us free. And the truth is we are free to choose the good or the bad-the right or wrong everyday. Because of our freedom in Christ we can either run to Him or run from Him and choose our own way-or the world's way.
So the question becomes: are we to encourage others to fail in order to grow? Or are we to encourage others to grow which means they will fail? Well here's what Paul had to share in his letter to the people of Philippi.
Paul himself said he didn't have it all together, but urges the people to remain focused on Him. I think we can focus on following Jesus, I mean if we can carry a cell phone with us 24/7 and claim it to be our life line, perhaps we can carry Jesus in our hearts and remember God's precepts. The Psalmist said 'I will about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts-in my previous blog concerning Micah 6:8, I think God's precepts can be found there...let's learn to listen to that desire burning with in and walk humbly with our God.
I would like to close with more wisdom from Mike Yaconelli:
'Most Christians consider being 'stuck' a sign of failure or burnout, an indication that a person isn't working hard enough on their spiritual life. The assumption is, if you are stuck in your spiritual life, you aren't doing something right because 'dedicated' Christians should never be stuck. Nothing could be more untrue.
Getting stuck is the prerequisite to getting unstuck. Getting stuck is a great moment, a call from within. We get stuck when we want to change but can't, when we want to stop destructive behavior but don't, when the tug-o-war between God's will and ours stands still and we can't move.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Have you ever read Micah 6:8? If you haven't, I'll save you some time...here's what it says: 'He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.' (NIV)
Of course, it may depend on your translation, but basically it sounds like around this time of year we take a look back at our accomplishments and failures-of course we don't focus on the failures, but I wonder whether or not in our fond memories and not-so-fond memories we have learned what God has taught us this past year.
I just got done with a Lock-In and showed 'The Passion of The Christ'. After it was done many of the youth said it changed their perspective on Christ's sacrifice. Interesting huh? Many said it evoked some emotions that made them boil within. Which of course was the hope since Christmas was just celebrated, I thought it would be fitting to show the movie that got to the heart of Christmas-Christ. During Christmas we talk of His virgin birth and open presents, but I think we forget that his birth was the 'hope' and that His death was God's gift to us.
I know I wrote about it briefly in my last blog, but I don't think I elaborated on it enough. As we end 2008 I hope that we remember that 2008 even with all it's failures and blessings has a lot to teach us about what God has in store for us in 2009.
I think if we don't do what is good, act justly, love mercy, or walk humbly with God we are only deluding ourselves. When you look back at 2008 do you think about your accomplishments or the things that were made possible through you for God's glory?
It's a challenge to do what is right and to give mercy to those who we feel don't deserve it. And it's even harder to walk humbly in our daily lives when we sometimes forget the provider of all that that we have and enjoy/take for granted.
So where am I going with this...well...ask yourself this as you reflect on 2008: Did you do what was good or did you retaliate? Did you act justly or give back what was given to you 10x's worse? Did you love and give mercy when it wasn't convenient for you or did you discard feeble attempts to reconcile? Have you been walking humbly or did you toot your own horn when it best suited you-so that you looked better than the rest?
I guess when I reflect on 2008 I noticed I failed a lot in 2008-especially when it came to Micah 6:8. Normally, I think I do pretty good, but I know I diluted myself just as many of us do. Classic example was my brother. Regardless of what you know of him, know this...he and I have since become close due to his attempts to move on. Although it was hard and it seemed like he was a broken record...he did shock me when he decided to take responsibility-or at least what I interpreted as an attempt to reach out in his brokenness and uncertainty.
As everyone searches for clarity and security, this much I know. If we were to follow Micah 6:8 everyday...I think we'd make life a bit easier on ourselves. There's no room for ego if God is in charge...it's about walking humbly and being open to His will and direction for you in 2009 and for the rest of your life.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
There are too many who carry with them the scars of physical, emotional, and even psychological abuse. Too many are haunted by memories of a time when they were acted upon against their will-whether it be the 'ball and chain' of divorce, broken relationships, or betrayal...they all can leave someone scared and bitter. There are far too many who are trapped between facing their past and running from it and in today's world there's an increasing number of people whose past abuse has convinced them of their unworthiness. The sad part is, it's the abused who often disqualify themselves from the possibility of God's grace and the love of those around them.
I guess I can't stop going back to the woman at the well who had a transforming experience-a once in a life time encounter with Christ. You see, nothing had changed about her past, but everything had changed for her. She found a new focus, the haunting memories were still her past, but hope was now an essential part of her present.
As messy as our past has been, we are now free to seek the spiritual life with a renewed sense of eagerness and simplicity. When we focus on our 'ball and chain' we are choosing to look back and prevent ourselves from moving on or looking ahead. Now, if we focus on what lies ahead-the openness of God's world is limitless and has no bounds.
So this Christmas choose to be free! Don't be frozen or stuck to your past, be liberated by the goodness and saving grace of Jesus. After all, that was His present to you...to be able to live in the arms of Grace.
My challenge is that each time you open up a present you remember Jesus' gift to you-not just on Christmas morn (the hope), but on that cross (freedom). From my family to yours...Merry Christmas.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I think it's interesting that the major theme throughout the book revealed that we have an image problem. The irony, I think is that we call ourselves Christians, yet don't act like it when we should. For instance our inability as a church to reach out to those in need seeking redemption and acceptance usually don't find it when they visit.
We are too busy building walls that keep the things we find too scary or uncomfortable to deal with outside-outside of our zone. And then we spend too much time defending the fort and have lost sight of Jesus-the cornerstone of our faith.
The lack of positive experiences from our youth and our young people impacts the divisive thoughts they have and even re-enforces theirs perceptions. We say we 'claim the name,' but a line ourselves with what's comfortable. While I know it's been used in past blogs, I can't say it enough, Jesus said 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'
The doors should be open to all and we should listen to their deep yearning for God. They may not know it, but their search is for God and according to Jesus each person is salvageable, teachable, and redeemable if only we were to listen and invest what God has already granted us in our lives-health, wealth, and the ability to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
When Jesus meets our past He doesn't dwell on what we dwell-the bleakness of our future, sure the transition is going to be struggle, but what He sees in our future-is that our past is irrelevant and it's our desire He sees and seeks.
I know not everything resonates with those on the outside looking in and that some are beyond saving, but I don't think it's not up to us to decide that-it's between that person and God whether a change can happen.
Think about it, the woman at the well...she had some knowledge of a coming Messiah and even called Him a prophet which indicates she had experiences in the religious circles of that time, but it was only after running into the Messiah that she began to see how irrelevant her past was. Since He saw through her, she ran back to tell everyone 'Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did'. She found freedom in it and I think that's something we all seek, even those of us who are on the inside looking out-seeking answers that may have already been given but are too hard to swallow.
Do you think we have an image problem? Do you have friends who have harsh criticisms about our God and His church? Is it organized religion that bothers them or their experiences that have left them burned and marginalized? I say take the time to listen and hear the uncomfortable words and truth they say...be slow to anger and help mend some wounds. Know that it will take time to heal and mend this image problem we have...but know it's also worth it! After all, it's for the Kingdom of God and all His people...who are we to deny entrance to a soul seeking individual- regardless of their past, color, political affiliation, or even gender?
Have a slice of humble pie...and share it with your friends.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Remember the talk about how Jesus was quoted as saying: 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.' He wasn't just talking about those who are physically sick-with whom many He had performed miracles, but for those who are spiritually sick, broken, lost, and seeking something to fill that void in their lives.
Many search to fill their void in empty relationships-trying desperately to make things work when they know better. Perhaps lose themselves in keeping busy-taking on more than they can handle in order to keep up with an image that isn't them or to attain something that will never truly be them. Whatever path they take, they often end up broken and left feeling even more empty.
So I give you the Samaritan Woman at the well. Forget what you think you know about the story, read it again anew. I need you to refresh your memory so that we can unpack this a bit more...
Okay, now that you've read it think about it. She had five husbands...talk about a failure. Talk about someone who's a moral disaster and has failed too many times and made too many mistakes-especially in the department of love. The woman is a mess and of all the people she runs into...it's Jesus. Now remember, she's a Samaritan woman going to get water (background: some scholars believe she came to the well around 12pm, when it was hottest during the day and because of her shame-everyone else would go to the well in the morning when it's the coolest) and she encountered Jesus who's tired and requests a drink.
Now, a respectable Jewish male shouldn't be talking to a Samaritan woman (it's okay though because we already know Jesus had the whole 'God' thing wrong-you know, healing on the Sabbath).
Curious, Jesus doesn't lecture or humiliate her...instead He treats her with respect and even takes the time to listen. And instead of focusing on her mistakes He simply reminds her of where her choices have led her.
Interesting huh? Now teenagers are known for pushing the envelope in just about every area of life-pushing the buttons of those around them...especially parents. And even when a child screws up (or when we screw up) and the deserve the whole 'I told you so' speech, some don't get what they deserve (we don't always get what we deserve). They know they're busted and come broken expecting a punishment, but Jesus never did.
Even when a woman was caught in the act and all the evidence pointed to her mistake...He said something so simple, yet so humbling: 'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.' You know what happened? Those who were so bent on busting someone-quick to condemn and point out their flaws and sought 'justice' were humbled by Jesus who merely put them in their place by offering them a different perspective.
Too often we find ourselves standing before the well-our well or void, looking for an answer and seek to find fulfillment. And after we've tried it our way and come back broken-we find someone there requesting our time...the funny thing is He's been there the whole time, we just haven't noticed or listened.
Now, go and be like the Samaritan woman (be free from your past) and the sinner who was dragged before Christ-go in peace and rejoice in the forgiving water given to you. Drink deeply and be whole for when there are condemners remember this: they haven't eaten their slice of humble pie.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Last time I talked about the blind man who was healed because of his faith. What I would like to focus on was what happened afterward. But before I get started I want to start by talking about what Mike refers to as the 'Kingdom Monitors'. This term refers to those who know the Scripture like the back of their hand, but don't know it in their hearts. He says they are the ones who should start celebrations, but instead are the first to condemn any action outside of what they think is right.
Now, depending on your translation the portion I'm about to talk about is called 'The Pharisees Investigate the Healing'. If you haven't read all of John chapter 9 yet, I suggest you take a careful look. You see, instead of rejoicing in this mans new found ability to see, they grilled him with questions like: 'how did you receive your sight?' After he gave them his answer, they argued amongst themselves-and were divided. Then they turned to the man asking him what he thought about Jesus and he thought Him to be a prophet, but they still did not believe. They even went so far as to ask for his parents and out of fear they told the Jewish leaders to ask their again because 'he is of age.'
I will stop there because the meat on the bone for this isn't just the grilling of the poor man, but the part about how Jesus was doing 'God' all wrong-you don't heal on the Sabbath. What's worse is that in today's church there are many who think that there are those who come to church who have this whole 'God' thing wrong too-not wearing their Sunday best, not cleanly shaven, not quiet during the sermon-you shouldn't bring children to church (you take them to the nursery) and if you have a caugh you should stay home.
Like in Jesus' day...He had it wrong and was considered a blasphemer. And when someone has it wrong in church today-whether it be the pastor, a young adult, or someone dealing with a lot on their plate...there's no celebration for trying in spite of their situation-they're told to 'follow the rules'. Remember those unwritten rules I wrote about a couple blogs back???
I think it's sad that the religious leaders were too caught up in an image or a regulatory type of faith or even a right or wrong way of living your faith. Too often we condemn those living an 'unBiblical' life style forgetting that we shouldn't condone it, but we should redeem it through grace.
You see, Jesus has always righted the wrongs. When they asked him why he hung out with those who were frowned upon by most...He said 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners'.
So the next time we condemn, lets remember that we are all sinners and that through Christ we are all forgiven. Put those you know on notice because I think this whole business has essentially ruined the way those on the outside of Christianity or those who have been marginalized by Christians look at us. It's true we have an image problem...but it's not just on the outside of the church, it's inside as well.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
In Luke 18 we read of many things, but the one that struck me was the story of the Blind Beggar. You see, there was a blind man who had heard that Jesus was coming and when he found out Christ was coming near...he said 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!' Now you would think that those who came to listen to Jesus or to be near Jesus would be gracious, but instead they told him to keep quite.
In today's world and in today's church that's all that needs to be said. 'Be quiet'! It would seem that it's now human nature to silence those who interrupt our routine and our understanding. We don't like those who speak up and disrupt the status quo-those who refuse to keep quiet reject the compliance way of life (going through the motions steeped in 'traditions'). The truth is hard to hear isn't it? We would rather have people be silent than say anything disturbing about faith.
Now, interestingly enough when he was told to be quiet it embolden the man to become even louder. Wow, if only we had the courage to be as bold. Because you see, Jesus heard him and something was done-his faith made him whole.
Perhaps it's time we stepped up in faith and shouted louder! Especially for what is right concerning the Body of Christ-God's Church. It's not that traditions are bad, it's just that a lot of 'traditions' aren't rooted in Biblical teachings or principles.
I would like to close with a story that Mike shares in his book: Messy Spirituality. This story talks about a young woman who started working at an inner-city church. As time went on she started working with gang members. At one point she actually got them interested in attending church, but she decided to seat them in the balcony away from the usual congregation members. Once the pastor was done giving his sermon, one of the gang members got up and said 'Dude, you rock!'.
Would you like to know the congregations response? They turned around and were appalled. After the service she was confronted by various congregation members and leaders and told not to invite any more gang members in until they learned to behave because that was 'inappropriate.'
Feeling this was wrong, she continued...she was later fired, not thanked for her hard work and for touching the lives of those youth-rather she was fired and those youth went back to what they knew-rejection and intolerance.
It would seem this church was more concerned about comfort than it was about a group of gang members' discomforting search and struggle with spirituality and God.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Last night unbeknownst to me and our hosts Holly was experiencing some lower back pain. She passed it off as something that was kicking her butt now because of how she might have slept the previous night. Ironically enough, she had the same issue the day before...it turns out, lower back pain is a precursor to kidney issues. In this case, kidney stones.
It turns out my wife, when she woke up this morning in agonizing pain was actually passing a kidney stone! Forget what you think you know about kidney stones-unless you've actually had them, because you're wrong...they ARE worse than you think. As a matter of fact, there's a doctor who's had women who have had babies and kidney stones and when asked which was worse here's what they said 'I would rather have another baby than have pass another stone'. Now, given that's not every female, but it at least gives you an idea of what pain we're talking about...it's intense.
So once you get done reading this, I want you to do me a favor. Pray for Holly's recovery. She's on some good drugs now from the ER, but when it wears off, all she has are some pills.
Monday, December 8, 2008
It would seem that there's an unwritten rule that exists among Christian circles and churches around the country. Pretend. It's where you ACT as though God is control of your life when you really don't believe He is. It's giving the impression that everything is okay when it's not. In our brokenness find a smile and tough it out. Pretend you believe when you doubt; hide imperfections and maintain the image. I think we do too much of that day in and day out. It's easier to pass someone in the mall or grocery store and go through the motions when they ask: 'hey, how are you?' And you answer 'I'm doing fine thank you.' Rather than 'burdening' them with your 'petty' issues or troubles.
It's interesting how today's culture really puts an emphasis on 'image'. You've seen it in the beer commercials or cigarette ads:drink this-get the girls, smoke this-you're cool! The irony is too often we don't know who we are because in our search we've given into things that were easier, but lead us down a path of brokenness and regret.
The truth is that pretending is practical-it's uncomplicated and quick. It has become the 'grease' of relationships-it gives the illusion of a relationship by connecting us on the basis of who we aren't. Here's a good example: FACEBOOK or MySpace
People are able to become who they aren't and give others the impression they're this or that. The same application can be made about going to church too. Going to church on Sundays gives the illusion that we're there for God, to worship, to grow, but in reality, we're a broken people who seek only to keep up an image that is nothing like us.
Think about it, if we were half as committed to God as we were to a basketball team or football team we'd be able to quote scripture instead of tenured coaches, records, and championships. If everything was stripped away and we came to God with where we truly were rather than where we want everyone to think we would have a true community of believers who didn't care if you wore jeans to church because that outward appearance didn't matter-your heart does.
I think it's time we stopped pretending and remembered God's church is the Body of Christ-broken, searching, longing, forgotten, lost; not the embodiment of the same ideals that only care about outside or image. God doesn't care if you have all the money, have it all and those that seem to have it all are usually just as lost or broken as those with little or nothing.
In closing I would like to share with you this quote from Henry Nouwen: 'He who thinks that he has finished is finished. Those who think that they have arrived, have lost their way. Those who think that they have reached their goal, have missed it. Those who think they are saints, are demons.'
Please allow yourself plenty of time to get to one place or another. If you don't have a 4x4 vehicle, remember that you can drive in 3rd or 2nd gear. Take your time-even if you're running late. I think I speak for your boss when I say they'd rather have you late due to weather and driving conditions than in a ditch or even worse.
So my prayer for today-since I know we're gonna get hit this afternoon, is that everyone remains safe and plans ahead. If you're traveling further and have a commute, then have your winter survival kit fully stocked-just in case, and if you're driving in town, remember, just because you have a green light doesn't mean you shouldn't look both ways-someone way be sliding your way because they didn't plan on the red light.
Perhaps later today I will write an actual blog about something 'spiritual' for you to chew on, but for now...chew on this: BE SAFE!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Here's a little background on Elijah. He had just showed the people the awesome power of God on Mt. Carmel in a contest with the prophets of Baal. Except he's now run into a bit of a snag...you see, Elijah ordered the people to capture and kill the prophets of Baal and the major draw back there is that the queen-Jezebel, didn't like that. Which brings us to Elijah's current situation-God challenging him to find God. Now, this wasn't a 'hide & seek' kind of thing, it was more of a wake-up call. You find Elijah talking about how 'I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.' He may sound like he's making up an excuse right? Running away because his life was in danger. In reality, he was running away because he lost faith. He lost focus of what he had just showed everyone else...that his God was the true God.
Even before he began his long journey angels woke him up to some warm bread and water. God had his back, but he lost focus of that and fled.
What does God do in this chaos? He brings him back. He stood before the Lord and witnessed great things, but of all those things...God was in the whisper. A whisper!
So here we are on the very planet God told us to be good stewards of, the very planet we are supposed to change, and in our daily clutter we've missed His whisper.
It's not that we have forgotten The Great Commission-everyone remembers that right?
I think it's time we regain our focus. I think it's time we listened to God's whisper in our lives. I think it's time that we go and make disciples-Elijah got back on track and commissioned Elisha. What would happen if we were to all make one disciple for Christ in addition to ourselves? Wouldn't that be something? Could we bring about change in our world? Might we be able to do Godly things without being ashamed of doing it?
Are you running away from something or someone? Is it God? You know, Jesus himself said this whole Christian thing wouldn't be easy, but he did promise us that he would be with us until the end of time. I think that should count for something.
Lets stop running and stand our ground for God. Go and stand where there's no one but you and God. Listen to him. Take the time to quiet your mind and your racing heart. Regain your focus.
Remember, when things get tough-it's not time to run, we already know what's down that path-brokenness, stress and isolation. It's time to stand our ground and seek our God in the chaos of life we've cluttered.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Go check it out for yourself as I unpack what I think it says in John 21:12-17.
First you must note that this is the third time Jesus has appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead. So they know this is Jesus, the same man who they saw on the cross, the same man who they buried, the same man whose tomb was empty just as he had predicted.
Interestingly enough back in Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus told of the Final Judgment. You know, the one about the 'least of these'.
I felt these two portions of scripture really go hand in hand. First Jesus said ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ And then He flat out tells us, 'FEED MY SHEEP'.
This really got me thinking though, how badly have we forgotten His words? How off track have we become as a Body of Christ? Last month I talked about the early church and how unstoppable they were because of the Spirit? Well, I wonder whether or not many are listening anymore. Are we truly feeding His sheep? Are we really doing all that we can to bring about His Kingdom or are we too focused on us to remember?
I urge you all to remember your place as mentioned in Romans 12:1-5. Here's what we're told: 'Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.'
So it comes down to faith. Jesus did use 'oh ye of little faith,' even to the disciples, but I pray that I too might remain faithful to His call...even to the least of these.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Do you suppose that God has memories of the day we were born, baptized, confirmed, or when we went to college? Do you think your Heavenly Father only remembers your short comings-do you feel as though your mother or father push too hard? Well take heart and crack open that Bible! Here are some verses you might want to check out: Romans 3:23, Psalm 130:3-5, & Romans 12:1-5
Believe it or not disappointment is a part of life. Too often though we become consumed by the pain of failure or even controlled by the thought/fear of failure. When it comes to God I think we need to remember that he chose mere human beings to do great things. All you need to do is think back to Sunday School lessons-Noah, Moses, David, & The Disciples. Noah was thought to be crazy, Moses was a murderer, David was an adulterer, and the disciples...well many times Jesus reprimanded them with this quote: 'Oh ye of little faith'.
Faith, what an interesting concept...sometimes I think we lack faith in ourselves. We're too quick to think less of ourselves in situations in which we were meant to shine. We're also too quick to cripple someone else in order to build ourselves up.
Jesus said all we needed was faith as small as a mustard seed. I know I'm lacking in that department, but I'm working on that...are you? Here's what Hebrews has to offer-Hebrews 11:1-3
Next time you feel as though you're running low on faith and feel as though you're too embarrassed or fearful of failure...remember Rev. 22:17 & 1st Cor. 12:13, because you might be thirsty for something beyond what you're used to. Break the mold! You're about to do great things...
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
But I wanted to at least hop online and say Happy Thanksgiving. I know we all have many things to be thankful for and I pray that you might focus on what's important this Thanksgiving-family. Your family is important because without them you'd feel alone and maybe you do feel alone, but ask yourself this: are you isolating yourself?
If you find yourself calloused or even bruised due to how you feel you've been treated by family; remember Thanksgiving is a time of renewal and you should share your feelings with family.
As many on our Mission Trip would say...start fresh! Don't wait for the 'new year' to arrive, now is the time. Hate is a strong word, but love is even stronger. Perhaps it's time to give love another try this Thanksgiving.
If it gets tough this Thanksgiving know that you're not alone. There are many who don't get to see their family or even get a meal on Thanksgiving. So you should be thankful. Choose to focus on the good, not the bad-that's a ball and chain that gets you no where. Don't choose to feel empty...be filled. Go read 1 Corinthians 11:28-30
Stop going through the motions this Thanksgiving...
Monday, November 24, 2008
My pain got me thinking...how often do people sit among us in worship on Sundays hearing the needs of the church but do nothing? How many sit there thinking that someone else will step up? The sad thing is, too many actually do that. The problem isn't that they're not capable, it's just that their commitment isn't to God. They're perfectly content with letting others step up and too often it's the same people who pick up the slack.
The danger here is forgetting baptismal vows, marriage vows, and our own baptism. As a body of Christ we said we would help this youth grow in the faith or help this young couple in their marriage. Now this isn't anything new really.
In James there are some passages I'd like to share: James 1:22 & James 4:17 GRAB YOUR BIBLE!
So you find that those verses talk about not 'merely listening to the word,' but 'do what it says.' And that 'anyone, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't...sins'.
Wow, really? Well what I think we as God children too often forget is that we come to worship our God on Sunday and the rest of the week we are to go and serve. Be the change and love we want to see in the world.
Francis Chan says that lukewarm people love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves. That their love of others is focused on those who love them-like family and friends.
He also says that it's not that they don't to serve God or others, but that there are limits on how much time, money, or energy they will give to furthering His Kingdom.
So does it hurt when you sit too long? If you know this pain it's time to get up! Lets go beyond our comfort zone and step out in faith. I leave you with this-please go look it up: Matt. 13:44-46
Lets stop playing it safe-we need to take a risk for God!
You won't be sorry that you did, but I encourage you to keep an open mind because Francis Chan has a tendency to hit you in the face with things you never really thought about. So don't be offended, remain open.
Let me know your thoughts of the website...write a comment.
One day they were sitting at the table asking about everyone's day and his youngest son-whose name escapes me now, said 'I joined a club!' Somewhat shocked, they asked what club? To which he replied...'the slow club.' Confused, they asked how many were apart of this club...his response: 'well, I'm the President!'.
Now you need to know something about Mark's youngest...he takes his time when it comes to everything. Getting ready for bed, school, and even eating.
Well, one day his son asked Mark if he wanted a one day pass. Mark did what any dad would do in such a situation...he accepted his sons generous offer. Later that day when he picked up his son from school to walk him home his son reminded him to slow down-walk slower and take notice. So he did, his son would point out various things and he himself saw somethings he took for granted...something we all take for granted-God's creation all around us!
When was the last time you looked up to the stars in awe? When was the last time you watched the sun go down? When was the last time you slowed down to notice God's creations-including your spouse and children?
If it's been a while...then you've earned your FREE pass to the Slow Club. Take time for family and God...slow down and don't be quick to speak. Try silence for once.
I'll be sure to write something else on my next layover...until then, enjoy your free pass.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans…
Originally, I was going to skip today’s workshops/seminars, but ended up in Mark Oestreicher’s ‘Developing Your Own Curriculum’. We got to a point where those in the crowd asked him for some books he suggested on the issue of helping parents understand their teenager. And it evolved into a discussion about a difference many don’t seem to see in the church today-it transcends youth groups and permeates into our older and wiser members too.
I wish to throw out some of the major talking points or issues…
-There’s a difference between childish faith and child-like faith.
-Does God want us to change or grow? And what’s the difference?
Needless to say we strayed from our original topic or purpose of the seminar/workshop but it did produce some great discussions-getting into the dirty and messy parts of ministry.
So lets get to the first major talking point I mentioned. In today’s culture the youth are so inundated with preconceptions about self and how parents are just bringing them down and that there are parents who are ‘cooler’ than their parents because Susie Q and Joe Cool’s mom and dad let them do this…
But we dug deeper…we talked about how there are youth who come to our youth group who are open to change of perspective. About how they have been they’ve been unknowingly trained by their parents to be the way they are. Parents often reinforce the idea that going to church isn’t that important and that this whole God thing is just for show. One of the major examples is when a parent(s) drop off their child for Sunday School and say it’s important that they go, but they themselves don’t stick around. There’s a tendency for parents to say, but not do when it comes to the things they ‘stress’ as important. You see, the parents put too much emphasis on how the church or the school is supposed to be responsible for this or that, but they are the ones that make the true difference. They are the ones that make or break the deal on those important things.
So it’s no wonder that youth-as they get older grow to be so pessimistic. However, we can not miss the opportunity to help them develop as Christians. When a youth asks a question more often than not, they are expressing their doubts. And an answer-a real answer, could help them in their development of a new perspective.
As a Christian, regardless of your age…do you think that God wants you to change or grow? And do you know the difference? If you were to ask me, I think God wants us to grow.
I think God calls us to grow, but it requires a change. We’re too caught up in ourselves-how right we are and how others are wrong-we’re too busy and we lose focus of what’s truly important: having an open heart and an open mind to what God’s trying to tell you.
Are you flexible? Are you willing to be molded by God or are you asking God to bless your plans? Do you have a childish faith that can be too selfish or self-absorbed? Are you growing and making changes that benefit the Kingdom?
If you’re a parent, don’t ignore your youth’s cries for help. Take some time to talk to them, don’t settled for the ‘how was your day honey?’ ‘it was okay.’ routine…dig deeper and really ask like you care. If you’re too busy-then it’s time to make the time (for God and for family). It’s never too late you know…do you remember the Prodigal Son? He squandered his opportunity, but ended up getting another chance…God offers you that chance. He stands at the door and is knocking, but do you hear Him? Are you ignoring Him?
If you’re married…how’s your relationship? Do you have a movie night or a date night? If not, you better clear your schedule for one. And if you want to really grow-find more time…cards and flowers are nice, but nothing means more than your time. *Don’t worry, it’s something I need to keep working on too.
If you’re single take heart. God has plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11) and right now, you need to do all you can to make sure you stay connected and open to His words and direction for you. Perhaps now isn’t the time for you to be in a relationship, perhaps He needs you to do something else right now-like become a youth leader, maybe He wants you to pour your time and energy into furthering His Kingdom.
If you’re reading this…seek God and take a look around. God may be calling you to do something seriously ridiculous.
This was truly an amazing day...I spent a lot of time reading the Bible and some books. Among them was a Mike Yaconelli book. Did you know that he was the co-founder of Youth Specialties?
Well one of yesterdays scripture basis was based upon the Prodigal Son and how the Father's love was beyond comprehension to the other son who was faithful. In case you didn't know, this years Y.S. theme is 'Seriously Ridiculous'. Now what we should find crazy here is the love and faith aspect of our relationship with Christ.
Depending on your translation of Hebrews 11, it describes faith as being 'sure' of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see...interestingly enough, are we really that sure or certain about anything in our lives. Like will we all see tomorrow and will we have a paycheck this week? Jesus told us that we need not worry-check out Matt. 8:20.
I think if Jesus were here today He would say to me and even to you 'Oh, you of little faith'. You and I need to work on the seriously ridiculous when it comes to God and his plans for us.
My challenge is to be ridiculous for God. It's time for change!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
The only problem is...it would probably cost me my job. I will share the details of his talk when I return, but I will say this...Lincoln, NE-look out! When I get back, things are going to be different. Not just with my life, but the lives of those around me. I promise to bring a copy of his talk on DVD for my youth leaders to enjoy-they too may find a fire lit within them beyond words. Since those who are reading this might be lost...do this for me-grab your BIBLE. Read ALL of Acts and then read Luke 8:4-15 & Luke 14:25-35
What you may find out is that the early church was unstoppable! What they did was radical in their day and it may surprise you that the church today isn't unstoppable. You find that we argue and bicker about the littlest things of little importance when it comes to the kingdom of God. I think we as the Body of Christ need to take a hard look at ourselves. Are we like the church of old-unstoppable and one fire for God or just worried and scared about tomorrow?
In the parable of the sower we learn that some of us have become like the seed that feel upon the rock, or the seed thrown among the thorny plants of this world-working too much, too busy for God or His people.
Have you read the blog about Chris Tomlin's newest CD and song? God Of This City-is He really and is He the God of His own church? Or have we tainted it with our own focus, or own agenda that has lost it's sight in relation to God's vision for His people?
I could write forever, but I will stop there. Day 2 was amazing and I can't wait for the end of Day 3. There's already been a lot happening-forgive me for missing Day 2, but it was really that amazing-there are no words. In fact, I stayed up until 2:30am this morning talking to my roommate about God's call for us...and for His people. We struggle and wrestle with God, but there needs to come a point where we see His side of the argument or issue. After all, he is bigger than our situation, political affiliation, or even our doubts about the future-especially when it comes to money. Have faith...
Blessings upon you in this dark time...listen to Him, He's speaking to you in this time of need and transition. It's time to refocus our efforts and hearts on not worldly things, but Godly thing.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I flew from Lincoln to Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and once I got there, I found out we got a new plane. Thinking it was good news, I found out it was bad news. I was originally in 14-B, but got moved to 25-B (which was the back of the plane)! To top it off, there was a baby on board who had plans beyond my control...see, I had hoped to get some sleep-you know, take a nap...that didn't happen. Note to Holly: We are NOT taking a baby on a plane, the whole ear popping thing bothers them.
Anyway, I finally get to Nashville and thought the shuttled would be there waiting-I was wrong...again. I waited nearly 45 minutes before a shuttle showed up and took me to my place of rest. Once there, I checked in and decided to grab something to eat. I got myself a hamburger and enjoyed my moment of peace.
After my meal, Chris Hansen called to see when I was coming to the Convention Center. I told him I had to wait for a shuttle again. I went to the desk, asked when the next shuttle would be in...she told me 10-15 minutes-translation 30 minutes! I waited over 30 minutes before I got a ride.
I know, it sounds like I've done a lot of complaining, but once I got to the Convention Center I got some free t-shirts and got to play some Rock Band! So I had some fun tonight and I'm glad I got a chance to hang out with fellow youth leaders from around the US. Heck, there was even a guy who came from England!
Well, there's Day 1 in a nutshell...stay tuned for Day 2. Until then, God bless and be sure to pray for all of us here at the National Youth Worker's Convention.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
While there's still debate about the 2008 Election, it doesn't matter who you voted for because we have a Lord of this Nation-who is greater than our situation, political affiliation, and anything we can possible imagine.
I urge you all to read 2 Kings 17:9. It talks about how the people lost sight of what was most important-their God. They lost sight of their affiliation to what is right and what is good for others and set up 'pagan shrines'. Much like we have now we focus too much on self in our culture and we have our gods- the gods of movies, internet, texting, facebook, and even sports. In the end...what do we have to show for it? Brokenness & frustration...because there isn't enough time in the day for THE GOD-our true God, the one who sent His son.
Go listen to Chris' song and ask yourself these questions: Is there more that I can do for myself, my friends, my family? How can I improve my relationship with God? How can I grow as a person, friend, son or daughter?
Here's the link:
Friday, November 14, 2008
I'd like to start by asking a general question: In your brokenness, what price did you pay?
I wanted to start with such a question because I know today many are hurting. Many are in search of acceptance, love, and purpose. And sometimes in that pursuit we lose sight of a simple truth. 'Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out' (1st Cor. 13:6)
Love never asks the 'beloved' to do what he or she thinks is wrong. It never tears down convictions, quite the opposite. Which leads me to an illustration I'd like to share-it's one of my favorite author uses.
Max was tired...he checked into his hotel room and went straight to bed. When he woke up, he felt rejuvenated and decided to go for a jog. As he was leaving he waved to the desk clerk...knowing he was in a town he wasn't familiar with, he decided to stay close to the main road. So he weaved in and out of areas, always coming back to the main road-which he knew would lead him back to his hotel room.
Upon his return, he noticed something in the main lobby...breakfast! So he decided to have some toast and oatmeal. He even overheard a conversation and couldn't help but jump in. There he spent over two hours hanging out. When he was done, he decided to take a doughnut with him and some more coffee-chalking his hunger up to the long run. When he rounded the hallway he noticed a pool...he didn't remember there being a pool, but he kept walking and when he got to his room his key wouldn't work. After the third time he looked up and noticed it wasn't his room.
Confused, he went outside and looked up-it wasn't his hotel! He spent over two hours in the wrong hotel...but it felt so right. He was conversing with people, eating breakfast and was in the wrong place.
Confused? Well, sometimes feelings can confuse you. I mean look at our culture today. It encourages us to do whatever we feel is best for us-putting ourselves before others. And in relationships, often there are times when someone has tried or asked us to do something that was wrong and used 'love' to justify it. Stop me if you've heard this before: 'If you love me...'
Now, before this gets too long of a blog, know that it's nearly three days in the making and I felt that God was pulling on my heart strings to share this with you.
So ask yourself this question...do you want to know what love is? If you do then be careful-take a good look around, are you in the right hotel? Be prayerful-it's never too late. Love is a fruit of the spirit. (Romans 5:5) Be grateful-for the love you do have from your family and friends-true friends. And remember 1st Cor. 13:6.
Thanks again for your time...
Thursday, November 13, 2008
It was interesting to see how many of our respective youth walked by us or near us with our full acknowledgment of their existence but none given to ours. I wonder...are we missing something? Could it be that Chris and I might be missing out or that our youth are missing it?
Confused, well don't be. Let me clarify...in Revelation 3:20 it says: 'Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends'. Interestingly enough that's the goal that Chris and I have too...to have lunch with our youth. To catch up and touch base on how things have been since we last met-whether it be at Youth Group or Bible Study.
I had a lot of resources and analogies I wanted to use on this particular blog, but I decided to save a couple for later. So I give you this story instead...
A rich man took a group of friends to Paris following World War I. He showed them all the sights, they had never seen such things. But nothing impressed these men more than the faucet in their hotels. They turned it on and off, on and off, amazed that with a twist of the wrist they could have all the water they wanted.
When it was time to leave Paris and return home, the rich man found his friends in the bathrooms trying to disconnect the spout saying 'we NEED faucets! If we have them, we will have all the water we want.'
You see, they didn't understand the role of the faucet. The spouts carry water, but don't produce it. Spigots are the tool, not the source-the valve directs fluid, but generate it? We know this right???
Or do we? God pours out his love into our lives and we miss it. God gives us family, but we miss it. He gives us friends, but we sometimes miss it. God's gifts come in many packages...but are we missing it? The blessings in our lives?
If you think you're missing it...there's an invitation just for you-John 7:37 'If anyone is thirsty, let him/her come to me, not my prophets (pastors, teachers) or people and drink. Did you catch that...come to HIM thirsty for love, knowledge, and forgiveness.
While Chris and I are here for our youth...we know that we're here for God's mission and purpose and we want to help you find the well you seek.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Many of First Presbyterians youth were non-committal; but upon hearing of the experiences that the youth reported (who had gone) greatly changed their philosophy. In fact, many have already said they're ready for the next one and the total has already doubled the number that were originally represented in the first trip to Estes Park.
Now, I would be lying if I said I wasn't excited...because I am. Not because I get to work with such an awesome friend and fellow youth worker, but because it would seem God has blessed our mission to return to Estes Park. While it's unofficial at this time, we're hoping to return later this upcoming summer in June.
As I took some time today to read some of the 'The Calling' Trip Journal, I began to see a pattern. That the youth who came were on fire! They found a support system and a family on this trip and they know that they're not alone.
However, they do know that their 'mountain top' experience will eventually bring them back to reality-school, family & whatever else might be on their plate and that there will be some hard decisions to make concerning friends, family, and God. All have mentioned they plan to make good on bettering their relationships-especially with God, but know it won't be easy.
I pray that they don't forget the above mentioned, what each said they found-support. And I hope that they never forget that they're not alone. I'm glad that they've taken that first step though...realizing they need to get serious and that it won't be easy. Again, I pray for them and you should to!
Thanks for listening to me blab...
Sunday, November 9, 2008
If you decide to follow along, you'll need your Bible. There's scripture here and nothing here is made up. As I've learned at Youth Specialty events...'the Bible is the only resource one needs to teach from.' *Check out Marko's page on Youth Specialties.
This lesson is to be shared because I think it speaks to so many regardless of age or where they're at in their faith journey. That's why my blog spot is called 'spiritual junkfood'. This is all food for thought...
The Heart Full Of Hurts
Love keeps no records of wrongs…
What do you think about this quote?
Today’s thoughts are tomorrow’s actions.
Today’s jealousy is tomorrow’s temper tantrum.
Today’s bigotry is tomorrow’s hate crime.
Today’s anger is tomorrow’s abuse.
Today’s lust is tomorrow’s adultery.
Today’s greed is tomorrow’s embezzlement.
Today’s guilt is tomorrow’s fear.
The Pelicano is the most unwanted ship in all the world! Since 1986 she has been the ‘hobo’ of the high seas. No one wants her.
The problem isn’t the boat-it is a bit rusty, but what boat isn’t? She’s seaworthy!
The problem isn’t ownership-the owners have kept the license current and taxes paid. The problem isn’t the crew-they may feel unwanted, but they aren’t ineffective.
So what’s the problem you might ask? Simple…she’s full of trash! 15,000 tons of trash. Orange peels, bottles, newspapers, half-eaten hot dogs…it’s the trash from Philadelphia’s long summer of 1986 when all the municipal workers went on strike.
The Pelicano is proof that trash-filled have very few friends. I wonder…can we relate to The Pelicano? Do you feel unwanted at the docks of friends and family? Do you ever feel as though you’re drifting further and further away from friends and family?
Life has away of unloading her rubbish onto our docks-mom and dad work too much, don’t spend enough time with you, brothers or sisters complain too much. The result? TRASH! Load after load creates tension, anger, guilt, bitterness, pessimism, and impatience.
A days load affects us and it can contaminate our relationships. Look at Cain, he had hatred and anger in his heart before he had blood on his hands. And the Pharisees-the so called religious leaders from back in the day killed Christ in their hearts before they killed him on the cross. READ pg. 86
Today’s thoughts are tomorrow’s actions. Do you think it was an accident that Paul wrote that love keeps no records of wrongs? Sometimes we don’t know we have an option-at least sometimes it feels like we have no options.
READ 2nd Corinthians 10:5
You get the impression we’re soldiers (and we are-check out Ephesians 6) and that our thoughts are the enemy. We’re supposed to protect ourselves and refuse the trashy talk and thoughts that can infect our ‘moods’. Listen carefully-CAPTURE EVERY THOUGHT, MAKE IT GIVE UP AND OBEY CHRIST.
The minute trash starts to walk down our docks we need to be pro-active; we should jump into action…’this heart belongs to God’. Selfishness, take a hike, envy, get lost!
This is serious business you know…here’s what Jesus had to say: READ Matt. 22-23
Jesus could’ve given up and gave in, but instead he decided to say ‘get away from me’.
READ Proverbs 4:23
You see, what we focus on is a choice. We could keep a list of our bad days, what was said to us and let it control our tomorrows…we could stand at the gangplank of self-pity. Or we can do something else. READ Romans 12:14
Anger at your parents is keeping you awake. You want to sleep, but you can’t; this afternoons conversation won’t let you. As always, all they did was criticize. No compliments, no applause, just nag, nag. When are you coming home? Is your homework done? Why haven't you cleaned your room?
Why must you deal with this?
The truth is, we all deal with stuff like that from friends and family…but I urge you like Paul does to remember love, remember Christ, and most of all, remember you’re not alone.
Friday, November 7, 2008
This is where you'll get some neat little tid-bits, some food for thought. Don't be shy though, you can write me back and ask me questions.
Look for more later this week yet...until then, have a good one and God bless†