Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year...New Resolutions!

Here are my 2012 New Year’s Resolutions! This year I’m going to attempt to keep at least half of them…maybe.

  1. Eat less pizza.
I put this one every year, but it will not really be possible until I retire from youth ministry.

  1. Teach my bulldog Charlie not to bark at every little sound.
Again, pretty sure this one is impossible.

  1. Spend more time in God’s creation.
“The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.” –Psalm 19:1-2

  1. Exercise more.
This is the token resolution that everyone must write down. So…here it is!

  1. Pray daily for my family and for the faithfulness and renewal of the Church.
A great prayer for the church can be found on page 574 in our United Methodist Hymnal.

  1. Read one of the gospels every month.
Be a lifelong student of Jesus…he’s pretty important.

  1. Dance as much as possible with my daughter Kenzie.
Our Mickey Mouse “Hot Dog” dance is epic.

  1. Have more dates with my wife.
And attending youth basketball games do not count.

  1. Attend a mission trip.
Since I’m the youth pastor I can make this happen every year. This year we’re going to inner city Nashville!

  1. Spend more time in prayer and scripture reading.
Granted, most people think it would be easy for a pastor to do this… “Aren’t you paid to read your Bible!?” However, it is very easy to spend the majority of our time occupied with other important matters. Nevertheless, ministry that is not rooted in prayer and God’s Word quickly becomes fruitless.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

David Crowder Christmas at YS

Our youth team went to Youth Specialties this year in Atlanta. And this year YS did a little experiment.  They told the 4000 youth workers at NYWC  to all record a David Crowder Band song and then upload it to YouTube. They then took all the footage and made this incredible video out of it.

Enjoy! Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dreaming Impossible Dreams

In Luke chapter one, an angel visits a young teenage girl named Mary. Mary was engaged to a young man named Joseph. The angel tells Mary that she is blessed by God and she will give birth to a very special child. He is the Son of God and he will have a kingdom that will last forever. Mary replies by asking, “How can I have a baby…I’m a virgin?” Which is a pretty legitimate question to ask. But look at what the angel says in response:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.’ Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.’”

Think about how impossible this all sounds: an unknown virgin woman, in the middle of nowhere, is going to give birth to the Son of God. Yeah Right!? Mary’s world is about to be turned upside down. How will she explain her pregnancy to other people? I’m not sure…“the Holy Spirit made this happen” is going to be real convincing to Joseph or her parents. There is no doubt that most people thought Mary was crazy. I’m sure someone told her that she just ate some bad sushi and had a crazy dream. We also have to remember that her culture is not like our culture. A woman suspected of adultery could get stoned to death. In fact, Joseph (her fiancĂ©) would have every right to make that request.

Mary’s calling would put her very life at risk. And yet, Mary believes the words of the angel and trusts that God can do the impossible…that God will use her in his plan of salvation. This is an impossible dream and yet Mary responds: “I am the Lord’s servant. I will be obedient to God’s calling.” Wouldn’t it be great if we had the same attitude and response as Mary? Where we could honestly say: “Lord, I don’t care where you want me to go or what you want me to do…but I’m in. I’m your servant.”

Friday, November 11, 2011

Faith Like a Child -Passion

In the gospels, Jesus makes a stunning challenge. He calls his disciples to have faith like a child. When I think about children, I think first about their incredible passion. Children have no problem getting excited. In fact, they get excited about almost everything…Disney World, getting a toy, or even going to the movies. They get excited about things we think of as ordinary. As we get older, it seems that passion and wonder begins to diminish. It typically begins when you hit sixth grade…that’s when you become “too cool for school.” As adults we never seem to grow out of that apathy. It becomes difficult to regain that same sense of excitement and passion…even when it comes to our relationship with God. However, there is one person in the Bible who did not lose his ability to be excited.

In Second Samuel we see King David dancing and singing for the Lord. There was a great celebration of worship because the Ark of the Covenant was finally being brought back to Jerusalem. There was a huge crowd with people laughing and shouting and playing instruments. Everyone was having a great time except one person…David’s wife Michal. It’s says that when she saw David dancing and leaping before the Lord, she became angry and mad. I’m not sure if it was because David was the king and she thought he should behave more dignified and noble…or maybe David’s dance moves were just that bad and he was embarrassing her. Whatever the reason, Michal gives David a sarcastic scolding when he gets back. David replied, “I was dancing and worshipping before the Lord. And I am willing to act like a fool in order to show my joy in the Lord.” Then he says (I love this verse), “I will become even more undignified than this...” Basically saying, “If you thought those dance moves were bad, just wait till next year!” David wasn’t going to let anything or anyone keep him from worshipping God. He didn’t care how foolish it made him look or how it would make him stand out. This was a time to celebrate God’s faithfulness and he wasn’t going to let anyone stop him.

God needs Christians who are willing to be undignified. There are enough people in the world who are bored and cynical. He needs people who are passionate about doing His work…who have childlike excitement about what God is doing in their own lives and what He is doing in the life of the church.

Kenzie had a passion to put birthday cake on my face :)


Sunday, October 9, 2011

BE ENCOURAGED -part 3

If you feel worn out and beat up, so did Paul.

In 2 Corinthians 11, we read the Apostle Paul’s winey chapter. Here he is listing all the trials and tribulations he has been through. He’s not really winey…but he his listing his hardships as a way of legitimizing his ministry to the Corinthian Church. He writes, “Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.” Needless to say, Paul has had some tough days. He did not have an easy road. He went through times where he was worn out and beat up.

We may not experience the same difficulties as Paul, but we all have moments where we feel exhausted and tired. We all have moments where we feel like giving up. We all have bad days…sometimes bad weeks. Here is the encouraging part: God can use hardship to refine us and make us holy.

Now, I’m not saying God causes bad things just to make us stronger. Often it is our own sin that brings hardship…or someone else’s for that matter. Nevertheless, no matter how bad the situation, God can redeem it. God can bring good out of any mess. Paul goes on to say in chapter 12 that he is content with his weaknesses and with his hardships because it is in those times that the power of Christ works best. It is when we are weak and struggling that we become strong because we rely solely on God’s all-sufficient grace.

The apostle James put it this way: “My dear brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” You notice James doesn’t say if trouble comes your way but whenever. The assumption is that we will have trouble. We live in a fallen world and hardships will occur. Then James tells us to see trouble as an opportunity for joy…which sounds a little crazy. However, he is not saying we should pretend to be happy when we are in pain…and he is not saying it is a sin to get upset. He is saying that we can face pain with a unique perspective because hardships have the ability to produce amazing fruit. They are opportunities to learn and grow in our faith in ways we never could have otherwise.

I don’t know about you, but it is during times of struggle and pain where my faith has grown the most. Those were the times when prayer, trust, and Christian friends took on a deeper meaning. Those are the times when you really rely on those things, and they’re not just an “add on” to life. James even believes that our hardships can make us mature and complete. The Greek word here means perfect, fully grown. James is referring to a spiritual wholeness that can only come through trusting God in a season of significant trial. He is telling us: “Let the difficulty and struggle transform you…don’t let it defeat you, but allow God to use it to make you holy.” Be encouraged today…because God can use all things (even bad things) for our good.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

BE ENCOURAGED -part 2

If you feel overwhelmed by your own sinfulness, so did David.

King David was described in the Bible as a man after God’s own heart. But a series of bad decisions nearly ruined his life. He fell into lust, committed adultery, and then lied and murdered someone in order to cover up his mistakes. Yet David learned something we all do, we can’t cover up our mistakes. Our sin always has a way of catching up to us…it will always have consequences. Our junk and our mess do not simply go away. Psalm 51 records the words David writes after acknowledging his own sin. He writes, “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.”

David’s sin was haunting him…he couldn’t get away from it. Have you ever felt that way? You think about the past and you immediately have feelings of regret and shame. You think about the present and wonder if you’ll ever break free from the stronghold in your life. Sin has the power to overwhelm us. It can consume us with feelings of guilt and shame. It can break us down and drive us away from God. However, we do not have to let sin have this power…it is not necessary for us to live life in this way. We should be encouraged by the fact that we worship a savior who came to forgive sin and free us from its power.

1 John 1:9 is a great promise: “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Christ not only forgives us, but purifies and heals our souls…he makes us new again. The good news of the gospel is that:

(1) Our Savior understands our struggle with sin.
(2) He is willing to forgive our sin.
(3) He will give us the power to overcome sin.

When I have a good day and I do my devotions, it is easy for me to believe these truths. However, on my worst days it is really hard for me to believe that. But it’s on our worst days we must believe the promises of scripture over the feelings of our hearts. Do we really live each day in the blessed assurance that we have been saved by grace? After falling flat on our faces, are we still firmly convinced that we are loved by God? Are we really aware that there is nothing we can do that will make him love us less? Faith in Christ implies that we will not allow sin to ruin our life or keeps us from God. We really believe that we are a forgiven people, and we live life trusting in that reality.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

BE ENCOURAGED -part 1

If your feel discouraged or afraid, so did Joshua.

Joshua had a very tough task. He was the apprentice of Moses. But Moses has just died and now Joshua has to lead the Israelites into the promise land. Joshua’s mission is scary for several reasons. First, he is leading a group of people who have not shown a lot of courage and commitment up to this point.  Second, they are going to have to fight a lot of scary/tough guys. Third, he is taking over for MOSES! Talk about big shoes to fill! Can you imagine the comparisons that would take place? You can hear the comments: “Moses would have done it this way" This never would have happened if Moses was here.” I always feel bad for head coaches who have to replace a legend. They are practically set up for failure because the expectations they have to meet are impossible.

So again, imagine being Joshua…he had to be extremely anxious and scared. We know this to be true because God has to repeatedly remind him to be courageous. In Joshua 1:9 God says: “I command you—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” God gives a command: be strong…then he gives a promise: I will be with you! Earlier in the chapter God tells Joshua that no one will be able to stop him. No one will be able to stand their ground against him. He’s telling Joshua, don’t worry about the challenges…I’ve got your back. And this is a word of encouragement for us because the Lord is our source of courage and strength.

In Isaiah 41, God gives us these words: “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” What great promises we’re given: I’m with you, I am your God, I will give you strength. The problem with discouragement and fear is that they have the power to paralyze us. They can keep us from growing…they can keep us from living…they can keep us from taking steps of faith. Oftentimes we look at our circumstances and feel that there are too many obstacles and too many enemies. In these moments, we must not be shortsighted. We have to see beyond the circumstances, and fix our eyes on God…who is always bigger than the obstacles and enemies that confront us.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summer Rewind

As always, the summer has flown by fast! Most churches slow down in the summer, but not youth ministries. It is by far the busiest time of the year and this summer was no exception. Our summer included an onslaught of activity such as tubing on the bay, eating food, Six Flags, mission trip to Kentucky, eating food, soup kitchen, sleepovers, worship, eating food, pool party, small groups, and did I say eating food! Summer is busy, it seems like you blink…and it’s already gone.


But amid all the busyness, memories are made, friendships are strengthened, and lives are transformed. I feel a bit tired, but mostly joyful at what God has done and is doing with our youth group.
Matrix on a roof...don't worry, no one was injured

Look how responsive they are to my preaching






Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Resource from Asbury

JD Walt and Asbury Seminary are offering resources through a site called http://www.asburyseedbed.com/

Looks really neat...check out the link and the video for more info...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Faith and Family -part 2

Get Radical

Last week I mentioned that there are dozens of studies that identify parents as the most important influence on the religious lives of their children. Parents play the largest role in their child’s spiritual formation. Church and youth groups can help, but ultimately they will learn more from their own family.

The question is, “How do parents pass on the faith to their children?” The answer…get radical. Kenda Creasy Dean, a youth ministry professor at Princeton University, states: "Parents who perform one act of radical faith in front of their children convey more than a multitude of sermons and mission trips.”

Getting radical does not necessarily mean doing something outrageous. Getting radical is simply living out our faith on a daily basis. Our kids primarily learn from us by what we do more than what we say. Unintentionally, many parents communicate these truths: (1) Church is something you attend if you have the time. (2) Faith is a good thing but doesn’t really affect everyday life. (3) You can be a Christian without actually following Christ.

Ouch! My intention is not to make us feel guilty…but for each of us to look at our own lives and examine what our actions are teaching the next generation. Will we ever be perfect as parents? No. However, our prayer is to be people who radically follow Christ and show others what it means to be a Christian. Our kids are watching…hopefully we will teach them compassion, service, forgiveness, courage, and faith!

Get Radical Tips:

  1. Give (regularly and spontaneously)—sponsor a child through World Vision and have the whole family help in writing the child letters.  Give away toys and clothes periodically that the family no longer uses. Tithe and give money to the benevolence fund on communion Sundays.
  2. Pray a lot! Go to the altar at church. Have devotions in the morning.
  3. Connect and invest in a church. Attend regularly and find a place to serve.
  4. Attend a mission trip or service project with your kids.
  5. Forgive others and ask for forgiveness when needed.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Faith and Family -part 1

Not Just the Youth Pastor's Job

The professional job called “youth minister” was largely non-existent 30 years ago. Now, most churches have a youth minister on staff. I think this is good in the sense that churches see the need to invest in the lives of young people. I’m glad churches hire youth pastors…I’m one of them!

However, I think the negative outcome of the youth ministry profession is that the church now has the tendency to hire youth ministers to “take care of” the church’s young people. This would suggest that the spiritual growth of teenagers is the job of one person, not for families and communities. Most churches and parents expect youth pastors to use their personal charisma and boundless energy to attract teenagers to the church, and once there to keep them busy, happy, and out of trouble.

Now, don’t get me wrong…I love youth ministry and I think youth ministries can have profound effects on young people. Nevertheless, youth ministries were never meant to take the parents’ responsibility of raising their children in the faith. Youth ministries exist to help and assist families with the spiritual growth of their teenagers. Yet, families and parents will always have the greater impact on a child’s spiritual development.

There are dozens of studies that identify parents as the most important influence on the religious lives of their children. Thus, as a congregation we need to be praying for the parents of teenagers. Their task and call as parents is daunting. However, through the grace of God and the help of the church, families can and will pass on the faith to their children.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Awesome Video -Boom Goes the Dynamite

This is for everyone having a bad day...because at least your bad day isn't on television.

You feel bad for the guy...but it is incredibly funny.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Spiritual Formation Webcasts

Asbury Seminary is offering monthly webcasts by a variety of professors. Here is some info below or check it out by going to www.asburyseminary.edu/.


Strata Series Register Online (July 2011 through June 2012)

NEW! Strata Series on Spiritual Formation: Twelve webcasts, each speaker discussing Spiritual Formation as it relates to their area of expertise, ultimately revealing a strata of holistic ministry.

 

REGISTER now and add the dates to your calendar. You will receive a reminder email a few days before each event, containing a special code for you to enter the webinar. If you can’t make it that day, that’s okay. You can tune in anytime between 12:00noon (Eastern time) on the day of the broadcast and 12:00noon the next day. Webcast Facilitator: Dr. Tom Tumblin, Dean, Beeson International Center

Broadcast Dates
2011-2012 Strata Series on Spiritual Formation as it relates to…
  • July 30 - Lay Ministry: Dr. Steve Martyn
  • August 25 - Family Spiritual Health: Dr. Anne Gatobu
  • September 29 - Relationships: Dr. Steve Stratton
  • October 28 - The Elderly: Dr. Beverly Johnson-Miller
  • November 18 - Intercultural Relations: Dr. Kima Pachuau
  • December 16 - The Advent Season: Dr. Ellsworth Kalas
  • January 27 - Pastoral Ministry: Dr. Steve Harper
  • February 24 - Sabbath Rest: Dr. Marilyn Elliott
  • March 30 - Worship: Dr. J. D. Walt
  • April 27 - Creation Care: Dr. Matthew Sleeth
  • May 25 - Urban Leadership: Dr. Rick Gray
  • June 29 - Our Daily Lives: Dr. Daryl Smith

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Good News You’ll Never See on TV

It’s always interesting to see what stories the news channels will obsess over. One thing is a guarantee…they will usually focus on negative events. Ratings are the main goal and good news simply does not get enough viewers. This is certainly the case when it comes to news about teenagers. Typically, there are only reports about young people when they have done something terrible (i.e. shootings, theft, bullying). You’ll never hear a story about a group of teenagers who spent a whole week of their summer vacation to work on houses in rural Kentucky. A youth group restoring two houses for two families seems very small and unimportant when compared to the latest political scandal, debt crises, and NFL lockout. Yet, most of these news stories being reported on today will be quickly forgotten. And most of these stories have very little eternal significance and minimal effect on God’s redemptive purposes. But from God’s perspective, one mission trip from one youth group has incredible importance and worth. One soul saved and one person served makes all of heaven rejoice!

It was such a privilege to be a part of this mission trip. It was amazing to see our young people work together, worship together, and play together. On the last night we had Holy Communion and a foot washing service. I cannot describe the emotions I felt seeing our youth wash each other’s feet and express words of kindness to one another. I saw a mom wash her son’s feet…a brother wash his little sister’s feet…a husband wash his wife’s feet…friends wash each other’s feet. Yes, the week was tiring and difficult at times. However, there is no greater joy then witnessing our youth take part in God’s redemptive mission. God is working and active in profound ways around our world...it’s just that most of the time it doesn’t make the headlines.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mission Trip Update -part 2

Our mission trip is still going great...no one has been hurt, no one has gotten in trouble, and no one has cried! We had a free day yesterday. We had a relaxing time at a mall and watched a movie together. In the evening we had an epic game of kickball. My decision to play basketball and kickball on top of the mission work was not a good one. Most of us are sore, but everyone is still working hard.

Our devotion was on Matthew 25 as we discussed how seeing the face of Christ in each other and in those we serve impacts our mission work. Jesus tells his disciples in verse 40: "I assure you, whatever you do for the least of these my brothers and sisters; you were doing it for me!" Both the motivation and the importance of service is heightened once we realize that it is Jesus himself who experiences the effects of our ministry...or lack of it. We have had some incredible discussions about appreciation, gratitude, love, and worship. I'm tired...but feel blessed to be a part of this group. Two more days to go!

Youth working hard on the roof


Roman driving the bus...just kidding
Cari and Josh looking cool at the mall

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mission Trip Update -part 1

We are in day 3 of our mission and so far everything has gone very well. Most of day one was spent riding in the church bus. It was a very (very, very) long ride. But we had a lot of fun and Ed (our driver) did a great job navigating us through the mountains.

Day two and three have been work days. Our youth are working extremely hard and have accomplished a lot in a short time. We are repairing two houses for two different families. Below is a photo of some of our youth at their work site. Trust me, they didn't look that pretty at the end of the day. :)

At night we have devotions together. We read scripture, pray, and talk about our day. Last night we look at the fruit of the spirit from Galatians 5 as we talked about what it means to reflect the spirit of Christ in our mission work. Overall, our trip is going great so far and we haven't lost any youth...yet (just kidding parents). I will try to send another update later.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Free Biblical Studies Resource

For all the other nerds out there...I found this free resource from another blog. Tyndale has produced a great/free biblical studies toolbar for web browsers. It has links to Bibles, language tools, and databases of journal articles and books. I've found it very helpful so far...You can download it here and you can check out a brief synopsis of what it can do by watching this short video.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Am I A Pharisee? Learning from Other People's Mistakes


As one reads through the gospels you cannot help but be amazed by the grace and kindness of Jesus. Yet, his boldness and audacity are equally amazing. Jesus was not afraid of confrontation. The majority of his conflicts seemed to take place with the Pharisees. He calls the Pharisees hypocrites, white washed tombs, and blind guides. Why did Jesus and the Pharisees have so many disagreements? Why did Jesus use such tough words for this group? What can we discover and learn from their many mistakes?

First, we learn that outward actions of religion do not necessarily equal a relationship with God. The Pharisees were models of piety. They were faithful to the dos and don’ts of Scripture. They were careful about their own purity. Yet, all their religious activity was fake. Jesus calls them “whitewashed tombs” because their beautiful outward appearance covered the emptiness of their inward lives. In similar fashion, Christians can fall into this same trap. We do all the right things and say all the right words, but ultimately it is all show. We are dead and empty on the inside. It is crucial that are religious activity be the overflow of our love relationship with Christ.

Second, the Pharisees lack of mercy and compassion bothered Jesus. The Pharisees were more concerned about the technicalities of the Law than the condition of people. They often missed the miracles of healing and forgiveness due to their own legalism. Jesus reminds them of the verse in Hosea, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” Again, Christians are tempted to make the same mistake. Often our religious activity can be divorced from our love for God and love for people. We can become so consumed with our own desires, wants, and traditions that we ignore and neglect the needs of people. If our faith begins to make us increasingly impatient and insensitive, we may need to examine who we are following. Scripture is clear…the fruits of the Spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.”

Third, the Pharisees remind us of the importance of losing our life in order to find it. The Pharisees had an agenda and were unable to give it up. Jesus showed a new vision of God’s kingdom and the Pharisees would not accept it. Of course we are not tempted to have the same thoughts and views as the Pharisees did. However, we are tempted to keep control of our own life. We have agendas and sometimes we do not want to give them up. There are times when Christ shows us areas in our life we have not surrendered. There are times when Scripture confronts our prejudices and faulty beliefs. God constantly desires to shape and sanctify our lives. In those moments we have a choice, give up our life and agendas or hold onto them. Jesus tells us, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

Friday, June 24, 2011

Not Alone

I love the story of Joshua’s call to be the next leader of Israel. There are numerous changes about to take place for the Israelites. They are about to go from being slaves and nomads to a people rich with land and resources. They are about to become a mighty nation. Joshua is called to lead this period of transition. In addition, he is taking the place of Moses…talk about big shoes to fill! Obviously, this calling makes him scared and anxious. What if the people compare him to Moses? What if the people don’t like him? What happens if their mission fails? God does not answer these fears with a detailed plan of the future. God does not tell him that everything will be easy, and he does not try to boost Joshua’s self-esteem. Rather, God tells Joshua over and over, “Do not be afraid….do not be discouraged….for I am with you.”

God makes that same promise for us today. He will help us through the times of transition and difficulty. Life can be overwhelming at times. There are so many things to get done and numerous expectations to meet. In these moments we must remember that we do not work alone. We must trust that God can do great things through us...even in the small and tedious tasks of life. We must rely on the Holy Spirit for direction and strength. If we rely solely on our own strength and effort, we will receive the results that own hard work can do. However, if we rely on God, we will get what God can do. So…keep praying and keep trusting and watch how he does things beyond our highest expectations.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Keeping Up With Kenzie

Kenzie had another appointment today and had an EEG as well. The results were very good. There were a few abnormal areas, but she continues to look better and better. Her development is great and the doctor is extremley optimistic. In fact, he said only two percent of children with her original diagnoses develop normally...Kenzie is in that two percent! She will continue to take her medicine and we will have another check up in six months. Nevertheless, her prognosis looks great at this point. God is good! Thanks again for your prayers!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Who is Your Jesus?

Our youth small groups are doing a series called "Deep Justice in a Broken World." The series is adapted from resources provided by Chap Clarke and Kara Powell from the Fuller Youth Institute. It is a great curriculum as it helps young people think beyond simply helping people, and invites students to be a part of God's redemptive kingdom. Our first lesson was on "Who is your Jesus?" and we began by showing this clip from the movie, "Talladega Nights"


In the scene, Ricky Bobby presents a pretty odd views of Jesus. While the clip is suppose to be ridiculous, it helps us begin to think about our own view of Jesus. The reality is that most people have an image of Jesus that is partially true, but often not complete. In fact, we tend to mold and shape Jesus in an image we are comfortable with personally. After the clip, we read different scriptures that reveal different images about Christ (i.e. Little Baby Jesus, Compassionate Jesus, Wild Jesus, Great Moral Teacher Jesus, Santa Clause Jesus, Mr. Fix it Jesus, and Contemplative Jesus).

The discussion went very well as we discussed questions like:
1. Which "image of Jesus" do you think is most common among students today?
2. Which "image" are you most tempted to emphasize?
3. What problems might be created by emphasizing one image and neglecting the others?
4. How does our image of Jesus relate to the way we live? How does it relate to us as we serve others in need?

While we can never completely understand the beauty and majesty of Christ, having a more complete view of Jesus will help us serve and worship him more fully.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

People, Places, and Grace

This past week I was ordained as an elder in the United Methodist Church. For those who don't know, the process of becoming ordained in the Methodist church is a lengthy one. It typically takes 6-10 years. Needless to say, the ordination service is a big/emotional moment. A month before the service, those of us being ordained had a retreat with our bishop. During that time, we were each asked to share our faith journey with the group.


When I began to think of my faith journey, three words immediately jumped to my mind: people, places, and grace. I tried to think of another “p” word that could replace grace. Then I would have a solid 3 point outline with three words beginning with the letter P. However, I’ve never been good at that so I kept the word grace. 

But I immediately thought of people, because neither our callings nor our ministries happen in isolation. God has constantly surrounded me with people who have mentored me, encouraged me, and supported me. I think about my youth ministers and pastors who saw gifts in me that I didn’t see in myself. These were individuals I could learn from and serve with. I think about professors and fellow students who have both inspired and challenged me. I think of good friends who have helped me and held me accountable over the years. I think about my family…my wife and my daughter who have taught me so much about God’s love and goodness.

Second, when I reflect on my faith journey I think about places. In the Old Testament, God’s people made a practice of piling large rocks as monuments to the Lord’s provision. These monuments were to be reminders of God’s faithfulness. While I’ve never piled rocks onto each other, there are certain locations and places that remind me of God’s goodness. Blue Lake is one of them…I attended youth camp there four straight years. It is also the place where God originally called me into the ministry. I think about the churches I’ve served at and the schools I've attended…places where God has shaped my faith and ministry. Like the stone monuments of the Israelites, these locations remind me that there is a God who never fails, never leaves, and never forgets his promises.

The third word that comes to my mind in my faith journey is grace. Paul says in 1 Corinthians: “By the grace of God, I am who I am.” I share that same sentiment. As I look back on who I was and the direction I was heading, it is truly amazing that I am here right now. Not that I’m perfect, but only God’s grace can explain the change that has occurred within me. My life simply does not make sense apart from his presence and spirit. It is his grace that has saved me, guided me, and equipped me.  

Friday, May 20, 2011

5 Year Anniversary

Today is our five year wedding anniversary. God has been so good to me over the years...but he was particularly good when he allowed me to meet my future wife. So, since I'm feeling kind of mushy...here's a mushy video. Love you babe!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Every Leader Needs an Abishai

The paragraph below is taken from an article written by a fellow youth worker named Doug Fields:

“Building a healthy ministry doesn’t happen in isolation. It requires teamwork! In my years of ministry I’ve worked with incredible people–people who are much more talented and gifted than I could ever dream to be. One of the reasons that I’ve been able to pursue a lot of different opportunities is because I’ve always surrounded myself with an “Abishai”. I know, you’re thinking, “Huh? Did Doug not take his meds today?” Every leader needs an Abishai. I realize this is not a very catchy leadership phrase, but this person is crucial to the success of a leader. You need an Abishai!”

Abishai was a warrior and a friend of King David. He is mentioned in 2 Samuel 21. In verses 15-17 we read: “David and his men were in the thick of battle, David became weak and exhausted…Ishbi-benob had cornered David and was about to kill him. But Abishai came to his rescue and killed the Philistine.”

David had several men around him who were extremely loyal and dependable. I believe that every minister needs several Abishais. We need people with whom we can share the joys and struggles of ministry. We need people who can help us when we are weak and exhausted. Ministry is better and healthier when it is done together. With that said…let me just say how thankful I am for my youth team. They are not simply chaperones who help watch teenagers…they are fellow youth workers who serve and love teenagers. They are good friends I can depend on.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Amazingly Awesome Video

 Christian music could only go down hill from here...

Check out the Nu Thang remix on you tube

Friday, May 13, 2011

Core Values

Our youth group just finished a sermon series entitled "One Month 2 Live." What would change about our lives if we had only 30 days left? What would change about our priorities and the way we treat those around us?

One of the things I asked our youth team and students to do is make a list of core values. These values are beliefs that you would like to characterize the way you live and make decisions. So often in life we just kind of survive...we simply get by and forget the bigger picture.

What do I really value? What is most important? Does my life reflect these values? If not, what needs to change? Spend an afternoon in prayer and reflection...make your list. Here is mine.

Core Values
  • Family Man
    • To be a Godly husband and father…loving, caring, and devoted.
  • Always Growing
    • I never want to be stagnant…my prayer is that my faith and knowledge would continue to grow. Pursuing holiness of heart and life.
  • Love the Church
    • My mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
  • Hospitality and Giving
    • Having people over, giving people a place to stay, sharing our resources with those in need.
  • Seek faithfulness, not success
    • Not allowing numbers and people-approval to become idols in my ministry. Being faithful to God and those in my care is more important. The world does not need more great preaches and managers. The world needs more people who have hearts attached to Jesus.
  • Laughter
    • Never take myself too seriously…have fun, enjoy life, and make others smile.
  • Be present…to God, others, and my own soul
    • Never lose site of the bigger picture and the bigger story.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Much Needed Words

Often the Bible gives us the right words just when we need them. This happened for me today. I read one of my favorite verses (Zephaniah 3:16-17)...below the verse is my translation...God's specific words to my heart.


"Do not fear; do not let your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst.
A warrior who gives victory.
He will rejoice over you with gladness.
He will renew you in his love.
He will exult over you with loud singing.
-Zephaniah 3:16-17


"Do not panic or stress out; do not give up or give in.

Yahweh, your father, is closer than you think…he is with you.
A mighty hero who will win.
He will take delight in you with great joy.
He will mend you and restore you with his love.
He will sing over you in joyful celebration."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What the Cross, Easter, and Telling Jokes have in Common

John 19:30
Therefore, when Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished!”

John does not record it, but the other Gospel accounts say that he cried with a loud voice. It was not the voice of the defeated; it was the shout of the victor. The Greek word for “it is finished” means far more than that something was over or done—it literally means that it was “rounded out to perfection.” This word was also used in those times for when something was bought and “paid in full.”

Good Friday reminds us that we each had a debt we could not pay. We have all sinned and we all fall short of God’s glory. We are all guilty and the punishment we deserve is death. Fortunately, the story of the Bible does not end with our sin. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ came and took the punishment we deserve.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says: “For our sake he made him (Christ) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Another translation puts it this way: “God put on him the wrong who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” The debt we owe has now been paid in full by Christ. Redemption is complete. It is finished.

Luke 23:46
And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.

You’ll notice that none of the gospel writers say that Jesus died. He yielded up his spirit. He committed his spirit to the hands of the father—this act was both voluntary and free.

While the crucifixion is sad and difficult to think about…we must remember that the cross was not a tragedy but a victory. This is why we call Good Friday “good.” Let us not be mistaken…the crucifixion was not a moment where evil got the best of God…and then Easter Sunday is a day where God got the best of evil. No…God won on both days. Sinful men did play a part in Jesus' crucifixion, however; we must keep in mind that ultimately God was in control here, not men. The Crucifixion was his plan, not theirs. Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday intentionally. Jesus allowed himself to be arrested. Jesus allowed himself to be crucified. This was not simply a sacrifice…it was a self-sacrifice. No one took Jesus' life...he laid it down. And when he had accomplished his mission—Jesus gave up his spirit.

I read recently that the Greek Orthodox Church had a tradition where the day after Easter they would get together to tell jokes. They felt they were imitating the cosmic joke that God pulled on Satan in the Resurrection. Satan thought he had won and was smiling about his victory...thinking he had the last word. So he thought. Then God raised Jesus from the dead, and grace and salvation became the last words. Because of Easter sin and death are not the ending of our story. That's good news!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Thursday

Today we celebrate Maundy Thursday. This phrase comes from the latin language and is a reference to the new commandment Jesus gave his disciples. Jesus is sharing his final meal with the 12 men who have been following him for three years. He gives them his final sermon. In John chapter 13 he gives them these words: “Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me but where I am going, you cannot come. So now I am giving you a new commandment: love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).

When we think of people coming to Christ, we initially think of camp meetings and altar calls. We usually think of great preachers like Billy Graham and his crusades. Revivals, sermons, and altar calls are all effective tools of evangelism…indeed thousands have come to Christ through such means. However, in John 13, Jesus connects our witness and testimony to our love for one another. Our ability to reach others for Christ is contingent on our own faithfulness and commitment to each other. It is our Christ-like love for people that makes us the light of the world. My own conversion journey is a prime example of this truth. It was in the context of a faithful group of friends and adults that I began to believe the good news of Jesus Christ.

When I was fourteen years old my family moved from Colorado to Alabama. I was not very happy about the move. I was about to enter high school with all my friends and I had no desire to leave the Rocky Mountains for the Deep South. Plus, I had a girlfriend who I had been dating for a whole week and so of course we were in love. This was terrible.

However, in retrospect, this move was the best thing that ever happened to me…it was a part of God’s prevenient grace working in my life. Prevenient grace is the amazing truth that God has been loving us and working in our life long before we gave him two thoughts. Quickly after arriving in Alabama, my family began searching for a church home. One of the first churches we visited was a smaller church close to our house. I remember the overall service being incredibly boring. The preacher read his sermon in a monotone voice and the organ was way too loud for the size of the sanctuary. There was no reason why my family should have joined the church. Yet, I ended up spending the next four years of high school at that very church. In fact, this church was the place where I accepted Christ as my savior and where I received my call to the ministry. The main reason we stayed was due to the care and welcome we felt from the congregation. Specifically, my brother and I felt very comfortable with the youth group.

Both the youth minister and the other teenagers were very welcoming and accepting. Yet, it was not simply the welcome that drew me in, but the community itself that attracted me to the group. Honestly, it is odd that I would have been attracted to the youth group. They did not have a cool youth room. There were no big video screens or a great sound system. There wasn’t a youth band or contemporary worship. In addition, I did not have much in common with most of the kids in the youth group. They were primarily musicians and artists. I was your quintessential jock. I had nothing in common with them. You will never hear me sing a solo in church…unless we want people to leave. Nevertheless, I was attracted to this community of believers. This youth group was different. The young people were unlike the majority of teenagers I had met. They were truly connected to one another. They had fun together and they cared for each other. They talked about Christ as if they really knew him. Now, they were not perfect. Yet, they really loved one another and they really loved Christ. It was clear that they had something I didn’t and I wanted it.

Within a year of being with this group, I accepted Christ. And yes, I accepted Christ at camp after an altar call. Yet, I realize now that my journey toward the altar started long before that night at camp. The youth minister and the teenagers loved me into the faith. It was there I saw a group of people who prayed together, laughed together, and cried together. Their love for one another showed me what it meant to follow Christ. Moreover, it was their love for one another that helped me see and accept Christ. My guess is that many of you have a similar testimony. You probably accepted Christ during an altar call or at church. However, I am sure there was a group of individuals who loved you into the faith. A friend, co-worker, Sunday school teacher, or a pastor…someone came along side of you and invested in your life.

Jesus gave us a new commandment…to love one another as he has loved us. To extend the same grace, kindness, and forgiveness he has given to us. And when we do this...we show the world we are different...we show the world we are followers of Christ.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Keeping Up With Kenzie

More good news! The medicine Kenzie is taking for her seizures is working very well. She has not had a seizure in 6 weeks. She still has some shoulder twitches every now and then. However, her development is great and she is very healthy. We went to the doctor today and he is very pleased with her progress. She will continue on this medicine for the time being and we will go back to the doctor in two months. At the next check up she will have another EEG.

Best case scenario is that Kenzie will out grow the seizures and she will be taken off medicine. The likelyhood of this happening did not seem great at first. But her improvement and health are very good signs that this may happen. Thank you again for your continued support and prayers.

Kelli and I have truly learned the grace of community through this experience. It is very humbling to have so many people and so many churches praying for us. We feel blessed to have such a great family and so many close friends. In addition, we are so thankful to be a part of such an amazing youth group. I found out about Kenzie while away on a youth trip. I was heart broken by the prognosis and crushed that I wasn't at home. However, during this time the teenagers and my youth team really ministered to me. They gathered around me and prayed for our whole family. I was reminded again of the importance of Christian community. It's easy to forget that I need them just as much as they need me.    

Thursday, April 14, 2011

“Do you believe this?”

There is a beautiful story found in the gospel of John. It is a story of death, loss, and hurt. But it is also a story of victory and resurrection. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are all good friends of Jesus. Lazarus gets very sick quickly. Mary and Martha send someone to get Jesus. Jesus is several towns over and does not get there in time. Lazarus has died. Once Jesus gets there, Martha comes out to greet him and says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

You can hear the hurt and disappointment in her words. Many of us have had these same emotions: sadness, confusion, and frustration. Jesus sees her and many others crying. He goes to the tomb of Lazarus. And then we have the shortest verse in the entire Bible and perhaps the most powerful. Verse 35 simply states that, “Jesus wept.” We see in this text that Christ is not removed or distant from our life. When you hurt…he hurts. When you cry…he cries. He cares deeply about each of us and what we are going through.

The story concludes by Jesus telling the people to roll the stone away. He then shouts, “Lazarus come out.” Immediately Lazarus walks out of the tomb. Earlier in the story when Martha stated, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus gives her an interesting reply: he says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish. Do you believe this?

Ultimately, this is a question each of us has to answer. Easter is a day when we are reminded that the answer is YES! Easter reminds us that death and sin do not have the last word.

The Apostle Paul, when speaking about the resurrection says these words: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Do we believe this? If we do, then our earthly life is not the end. Yes, we will still have times of sorrow and sadness. Yet, in the midst of our grief we can have hope and faith….because we believe in a God who makes all things new. We trust in a Savior who brings redemption and life.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Grace that Goes Before Us...

I cannot believe I am about to enter my tenth year in student ministry. Time flies when you’re having fun! Of course, my time in ministry has had its highs and lows. Overall, however, it has been an incredible and exciting journey. By working with people everyday one gets to see the best and worst of humanity. There are moments when I see the change God is making in young people’s lives and I cannot imagine doing anything else. Yet, there are also times when teenagers break your heart by making a terrible choice or decision. Those are the times when you consider working for a bank.

One particular truth that has really helped during these moments is my belief in God’s prevenient grace. This is the grace that goes before us. This is the grace that pursued us long before we accepted Christ. John Wesley asserted that God’s prevenient grace is the love that surrounds all humanity and precedes all of our conscious impulses. This grace produces our first wish to please God, our first ability of understanding God’s will, and our first conviction of having sinned against God. Furthermore, this grace stirs in us a deep longing for freedom from sin and moves us toward faith.

My deepening belief and trust in God’s prevenient grace has greatly impacted my ministry to students. I have realized over the years that the spiritual lives of teenagers are not in my hands. It is a great relief knowing that God has loved these young people much longer than I have. Furthermore, God has been working in their lives long before I ever met them. On one hand, understanding the beauty of prevenient grace removes some of the burden when my ministry is struggling. On the other hand, prevenient grace eliminates the temptation of pride when my ministry is going well. I am reminded that we, as pastors, are merely participants in God’s mission of redemption.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Recognizing Jesus in Young People

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus connects service with judgment. He states that people will be separated into two groups, sheep or goats. Those who welcomed strangers and have helped those in need have welcomed Jesus himself. In addition, the people who have served “the least of these” will be welcomed into the Kingdom of God. In contrast, those who have rejected “the least of these” have rejected Jesus himself and will therefore be left out of the Kingdom. Thus, our service, or lack of it will one day be judged by God himself. Moreover, our service is experienced by Christ…helping another person is to help Jesus. Recognizing Jesus in the faces of youth gives us both the cause for youth ministry and the ability to sustain it. Every young person is worthy of all the care we can give them because in loving them we are loving Christ.

In addition, when we see Jesus in youth we come to realize that God is already at work in their life. We realize that each young person carries with them gifts and blessings of their own. We become more perceptive to what a teenager is bringing to us, to what God might be saying or doing through him or her. Most adults would not consider their relationships with youth as being the place where they meet God’s presence. However, Matthew 25 reminds us that God is truly present to us in our relationships with teenagers. God’s blessing--and joy--and sanctification is in these relationships.

* A couple of great books that deal with this subject:
"Making Room" By Christine Pohl
"Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry" By Andrew Root