Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jack's Blessed Hope

So Jack was at the Y and his class was rock-wall climbing. He told me that he didn't try it "because it was to high up and scary and he would rather stay on the ground where it is safe, but, he will be fine when Jesus comes back and we go up to heaven to see Jesus because we will float up and we won't even have helmets....but that will be OK."

To have that kind of perspective at 6 made me think that I need to wait in expectation for the hope that we have that Christ will return. It was relevant to his world at the Y, so I need to think more often.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

So, what did you do over the weekend?

As Christians, we are all looking for that "hook" to start a spiritual conversation about Christ. Whether we follow the Way of the Master line of reasoning where we point out to people that they are murdering, adulterous liars and then show them the fire of hell and tell them to repent or we take the inquisitive approach and ask, "If you were to die today....", we must start somewhere. Paul began talking about philosophy, Judaism and nature and ended up with Christ.

Let me present another option in the menagerie of ideas.

ON MONDAY, ask someone,
"So, what did you do this weekend?" and the dialogue might go something like this

--based on age and culture--"I played golf, X-Box, watched TV, Knitted, drank till I passed out or whatever, so, what did you do this weekend?".

"Really, well I played golf as well, X-box, TV, knitted, (hopefully not passed out drunk) went to an awesome party, AND I went to church"

"Oh, you go to church?"

"Yep, I go to ___________ church. Do you go to church anywhere?"

"No, not really. If I ever go, I go on Easter and Christmas."

"That's cool, what do you think about God?"

And then your conversation can hopefully begin and you tell them the truth about how Jesus through His life, death, burial and resurrection is
Prophet--points out sin and calls you to repentance
Priest--gives you grace and loves and helps you
King--he should rule and reign in our hearts

Now this is all assuming this happens perfectly and in order and they follow the rules. :)

That won't always happen and so we can go confidently into our conversations knowing that God draws people to himself and we are only a conduit to share His Good News and let Him do His work.

Hopefully, we can season every conversation with a little salt and not just try to start some hokey sales pitch of our product. There is a time for everything though and we must be sensitive to the Spirit at all times and inject truth with whomever we talk with.

I had a wonderful opportunity this morning with my 5 year old son. We were listening to my sports talk radio heroes, Mike and Mike. My son knows them by name and can recognize them from their ESPN2 morning show. Anyway, they were talking with Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL. He mentioned how "getting kids involved in sports is the most important thing we could do." I shut it off and asked Jack if he agreed with that guy on the radio. He didn't know what I meant, so I repeated what he said and then Jack told me that the guy was wrong. I asked him what was the most important thing. He answered, "Jesus, because He created everything and He died on the cross for our sins." What better answer could a guy want from his kid. I pray that it is not a conditioned response, but something that God is forming in his heart and mind and continues to be the most important thing in his life.

P.S. don't tell anyone, but Jack loves sports too and all he can think about nowadays is going to T-Ball practice. :)

Marinade on this a while...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

....Or Current Youth Pastor

It is unfortunate that on most of the mail that I receive at the church, after my name is the little 4 word caveat ....Or Current Youth Pastor. Sometimes I wonder why so many churches may have problems keeping youth pastors. There are tons of reasons and I don't want to name any of them, but come on, is it really to the point where we (youth pastors) are on such a revolving door, pick and choose kind of mentality? Someone in fact asked me this week, "so have you had the '2 year, do we like it' talk about being at church?'" That was a fine question to ask, but IS that a common question to ask? If it is, I didn't know it. So if I or anyone else doesn't like their job or location after 2 years do we bail? I sure hope not. And is ministry tough? Yes, because people are tough and when a job concerns people, which most do on some levels, the job is going to be messy sometimes and it may not always be enjoyable.

I pray that loyalty will run rampant through the veins of me and my fellow ministers in the Church of Jesus Christ, and that loyalty runs to Christ, not to a denomination, a pastor, a group of people or a sweet action student ministry facility.

Yes, there are reasons to leave (some good, some bad), but I hope we can do away with some of the ....Or Current Youth Pastor stuff in our mailbox.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Lie In Wait For Blood

As you know, as you read my profile, I am a youth pastor and things like this vido clip from CBS really disturb me. Basically, this is a video of a girl who was lured by some others to come over to the house and unbeknownced to her she was going to be beaten up mercilessly for a thrill and a chance for these students to post the video on YouTube. Allegedly, this beating was the result of a comment on MySpace.

You may watch the video below; parts of it being the beating and parts of it an interview with the victims parents and police. Be cautioned that this is not for the faint of heart or stomach.

This scenario reminds me of some verses in Proverbs, but I am not so sure that is the first thing I would think about if it were my child being the victim of this. My flesh would want to retaliate and avenge my child. But I do know that vengeance is the Lord's, but that is a hard truth that wars with our sinful nature.

Anyway, the Proverb is this, 1:8-19 Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, "Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse"--my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.

Where are the parents teaching this to the kids? Why are these kids left alone to be at home with 8 or so other friends unsupervised? Where is the restraint in the hearts of the attackers?

Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"

God can and he can cure it. Jesus (God) came to save sinners. God can give us a new heart. We need to respond to Him in repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ.

Here it is.


Of course those aren''t words, but they are words used by the apostle Paul when telling Timothy how he should pray for ALL men, including world leaders and those in authority.

Now relating these things to how we pray for others
#1 Supplication--Asking God for the personal needs of others
#2 Prayer--This involves worshipping God and pointing out things about Himself because of another person
#3 Intercession--Asking God's favor on behalf of others
#4 Thanksgiving--Thanking God for others and specific things about them

I am not the best at this because honestly I realized that I don't often ask people what kind of personal things I can pray for and when I do ask and when I do tell people that I will be praying for them, often, I never do. I don't write it down, I forget and then I feel foolish when I see that person and am reminded of that prayer I was supposed to pray and told them I would (yes be yes kind of thing) and then even sometimes I lie to them and tell them I have been praying for them. OUCH

I am not the best at this because honestly, sometimes I am to focussed on myself that in my prayers I forget that it is about worshipping God and when i think about people, often it is not for all people, but a select few on a list I might have written down or in my mind and I certainly do not have my mind focussed on seeing what God has put in other people for the sole purpose of not praising them but praising Him and the grace he has shown them by giving whatever gift He has to them and the grace He has shown me by allowing me to see Him in someone else which causes me to want God to show me grace and help me be like that aspect of Him I saw in someone else so that I can be conformed to the image of Him (His Son Jesus). OUCH

I am not the best at this because honestly I don't know what kind of favor people need from God. I don't slow down enough in the hallways at church, in between the weight machines at the Y, in the hallways of my own home to STOP and ask, "how can I intercede to God on behalf of you?"...well people don't quite much talk that way anymore, but you get the point. When will I stop? slow down? sincerely ask? follow through? OUCH

I am not the best at this because honestly sometimes I don't think about how God has blessed me with other people. Sometimes, I wrongly feel like I deserve others to "bless" me when in reality I deserve to be a lonely hermit with no love because before God saved me, I was an enemy of God (acc. to His words) and did not deserve Love and Grace, but God who is rich in mercy chose me to be saved and chose me to be blessed in many ways by many people so that I could bring Him glory and honor and praise. OUCH

There are two words that I would rather not say again. HONESTLY AND OUCH. But isn't that what God's Word is for? James says that looking into God's Word is like looking into a mirror. It shows you who you really are and that because of His kindness of telling us who we really are, it leads us to repentance which results in saying the word, "honestly" and then we say, "OUCH" because we know we have violated God's precious Word. So I guess I don't want to stop saying those words but maybe saying them less and less. It is only with God's strength and Holy Spirit that I am going to be able to do that. And I know that Jesus who had no sin became sin so that I might receive the righteousness of God.

How could you say "Honestly and Ouch" today and what would it be about? Maybe it means that we all need to be in the word a little more so that it drives us to repentance towards the Holy God and Faith in His Son Jesusthe sinless sacrifice who became sin for us, died on the cross and rose again defeating sin.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I Timothy

Well, I haven't posted anything in a while, but I need to get back to it, so here goes.

I am reading and studying through the Pastoral Epistles (I, II Timothy and Titus). My goal right now is to read I and II Timothy completely through each day up until the first week in June.

I will try to keep some thoughts of mine updated.

I Tim 1:1--Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.

Just as Paul was commanded by God to be an apostle, what is it that God is commanding us to do in our lives? Many churches call this their mission/vision/purpose/whatever statement and try to bottle the "most important" thing that God wants from us. Other people have these same kind of statements for their lives. Not that there's anything wrong with that (JS) and I think it is a good thing to think about our main goal and what God has commanded us, but as I look at the whole of Scripture, there are commands from God that we don't even think of and sometimes pass by like they are just pithy nice suggestions. Let's take for example I Timothy 2:8. Now I know I am jumping ahead of myself but just bear with me. We may argue on this verse whether it is a command or not because Paul said that he desires that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.... Now if that is a desire coming from one of the apostles with God's authority, Timothy probably got on the phone or email right then...well, maybe Timothy actually got a little personal with people and directly talked face to face with them...but anyway, Timothy probably got to it right away forming a prayer group of men who lifted their hands. I don't lift my hands when I pray, should I? I don't know, but Paul said it was something he desired of the people, and if it was good enough for Paul, should I simply just write it off as a cultural position of prayer or a hyperbolic symbolism? I have heard a few things about lifting our hands, it is the common position of someone surrenduring, it is the common position of someone drowning and it is the common position of children when mommy or daddy get home from work. Maybe we are telling God something by lifting up not only hands, but holy hands in and during our prayers.

As I did a common Google search for commands in the NT, I found somewhere around 1000commands. Now some were to the apostles and some to Christians and some to specific people, but the majority of them are very viable for Christians living today.

I pray that I never just focus on one command of Scripture over any other and I hope I always remember that I can do nothing apart from Christ and all I do whether I eat or drink should be done to the Glory of God. God never let me think of your commands as pithy suggestions but as preordained commands coming from the One who created all and the One who has the authority to command.

P.S. I know some may jump on my statement about not wanting to focus on one command over another, because Jesus said there was a 1st and 2nd great command to Love God and Love others. He also said that those 2 summed up the entire law and prophets. What I am thinking of is where to lump all the other commands into those 2 categories and then how do we do them. Welcome to ministry.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

What did Jesus do on Halloween

Last night, the middle school group at New Life Church went out from 6-7pm during beggars night and handed out Gospel of John booklets door to door along with a rice Krispie treat. Neat idea huh? Anyway we handed out maybe only 30, but that is 30 people with the Gospel in their hand that may not have before.

In my group, I had my wife and kids (Jack a pirate, Layla a princess and Ben a bear), 4 boys and another adult. We coached them on what to say (Hi, we're from New Life Church and we want to give you a treat, have a great night.) Simple enough. We did not take any candy from the homes, but my kids did. haha.

Anyway after we did that, we had a fire outside and roasted hotdogs and marshmallows. Yummy. We had only about 1/4 of the normal amount of kids we normally do which was disappointing, but we all know how important candy is. :(

We then played a few games and talked about what God thinks of witchcraft and other things associated with Halloween. The students who were there interacted about ouji boards and horoscopes and mediums and how there is a distinct push on TV and in Magazines to market this kind of thing to young people and make it look very cool. We discussed the best thing about all this stuff and that is that God is immeasureably greater and stronger in all aspects of life than anything the enemy may throw at us.

Anyway, We got home that night and put the kids to bed and I layed down with my son Jack for a few minutes. His first question to me in bed was,
"Dad, what did Jesus do on Halloween?"
I said, "What do you mean?"
"Well," he said, "He died on Easter and was born on Christmas. What did he do on Halloween?"

That is a pretty insightful question from a 5 year old and it was a very, shall we say a little bit convicting question to me after I had spent a good part of the day studying the origins and symbolism of Halloween.

Anyway, I told him that honestly Halloween is about scary stuff and some bad stuff and there is nothing that has to do with God. He perked up with a very confused look on his face because he thought that a holiday celebrated something about God. We went through some other major holidays and what God had to do with them; Thanksgiving--God providing for us
4th of July--God giving us Freedom

I told him that even though it is a Holiday that has nothing to do with God, we were trying to spread God's love and His Word to others tonight by handing out the Bibles and giving treats instead of taking them. We also got to know some of the people surrounding the church and give them some exposure to Christian people.

It was a great conversation to have with him.

I don't want to get into the rights and wrongs of Halloween because the discussion could go on for hours, but I will say that I was reminded that even 5 year olds can understand why we do what we do and I have to be aware as a parent of all that I do. I do know that we are to let our light shine before men as Christians and maybe shutting off all the lights in our homes in order to avoid our neighbors that we probably should know better because we think they are celebrating the devil on a day that God has made for salvation might not be the best way to let our light shine. I have marinaded on the Halloween thing quite a bit and I don't think that total avoidance or total indulgence are the best routes to take. I don't have the perfect alternative at all, but we are set apart for God's glory and any way we can make God more famous on this day and any other day is the best choice. We each have to figure out the best way in our own context. Maybe it is handing out Bibles, having a pre-beggars night bbq for your block, handing out candy with tracts, carving a cross in the pumpkin instead of the scary face or any amount of other things. But please let's get away from the avoidance mentality and figure out how we can ACTIVELY glorify God and make Him famous not make our OWN homes famous for being the lights-out Christians on the block. But also, let's not do what everyone else does just because everyone else does. How can we do it better?

May we seek out knowledge and understanding and wisdom from God in all areas of our lives...even our celebrations.

On another note, in my studies I found a great verse relating to mediums and those that talk to the dead.
Ecclesiastes 9:5,6,10 talk about how the dead have no functions on the earth anymore and contribute nothing to our world in the grave. Look them up and read them and be ever more careful of those shows that have people that claim they can talk to the dead.