Thursday, May 30, 2013

Freedom of Simplicity -part 2

Last week I gave 5 suggestions for simplifying life. This week I want to mention 5 "whys" for simplicity. These reasons were implied in last week's suggestions, but I think it is important to clarify the purpose behind simplicity.

1. Simplicity frees our time for what is most important. Money and stuff is not inherently evil. However, when money and stuff consumes our time, we've lost sight of our priorities. Simplicity gives us more time for worship and allows us to treasure the people God has put around us. As a pastor, I've had the unique privilege of being with people right before their death. I have never once heard a person regret the amount of money they earned or the amount of stuff they owned. In fact, they always wished they had spent more time with God and their family.

2. Simplicity frees us to follow God's calling. What if God asked you to move or switch jobs? What if God asked you to start a ministry or serve more? How difficult would it be to follow God's leading? The more stuff we have, the more we are anchored down. We are no longer free to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

3. Simplicity frees us to give and serve. Most people have the time to watch television and take vacations, but do not have the time to help others and take mission trips. Most people have the money to buy cars and homes, but do not have the money to assist those in need. Again, somehow our priorities have been turned upside down. We will always have the time and money for what is most important to us? What does your schedule and checkbook reveal?

4. Simplicity frees us to enjoy what we do have. Materialism always causes us to be restless and discontent. Simplicity leads to thankfulness and gratitude. We appreciate the things God has given us, but we do not obsess over them.

5. Simplicity frees us to grow in holiness. Simplicity is not the is a "means" to an end. The goal of every discipline is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Simplicity removes the clutter and chains slowing us down in our walk with Christ. Simplicity gives us a greater focus. We must beware of making simplicity into another form of legalism. Again, our objective is not to judge others and make us look good. Simplicity is freedom...the freedom of surrendering our life and will to God.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Freedom of Simplicity pt. 1

"Models of simplicity are desperately needed today. Our task is urgent and and relevant. Our century thirsts for the authenticity of simplicity, the spirit of prayer, and the life of obedience. May we be the embodiment of that kind of authentic living." -Richard Foster 

Let me say from the start that what I am about to write is not meant to criticize others. My goal is not to judge people. Also, I confess that my family is far from perfect when it comes to the issue of simplicity. With that said, I believe the practice of simplicity is one that desperately needs to be heard in our culture. We live in a world obsessed with more. We live in a world obsessed with consumption. If we are not careful, we will fall into patterns of materialism and greed without even knowing it. With that said, here are 5 suggestions we are trying to do as a family...

1. Give things away on a regular basis. Go through your house and give away items you are not using. Not just the junky stuff, but nice things. We do not need 3 toasters or 15 jackets. Get rid of the clutter. You will help someone else and feel better yourself.

2. Reduce the amount of items you own. The more you own, the more you have to take care of. The more you have to take care of, the less time you have to spend on what is most important (i.e. relationship with Christ, family, serving others). More is not always better.

3. Look to downsize. I know this sounds crazy because we live in a world where we are encouraged to buy the biggest house we can afford. We have been convinced that we "must have" a certain amount of space. Again, this is not to criticize those who have large homes. I am simply offering a different perspective. Again, we must realize that bigger houses and bigger yards require more maintenance  and therefore more time.

4. Do not spend money you do not have. Do not stretch your money so tight that you cannot give to others. Look to increase the amount you can give each year. This year may not be much, but next year can be better.

5. Learn to say "No." Everyone wants our time and typically their requests are good ones. However, we cannot do everything and we must say "no" sometimes so we do not lose sight of what is most important. Make a list of your top 5 priorities and be diligent to protect them. Sometimes you will have time to do other things. But if you don't...say no!

We live in a culture that is plagued by the obsession to possess. We have more stuff and yet we still feel strained, hurried, and restless. It seems there is no escape from the rat race. The problem is we will never have enough. No amount of money or stuff can save us. Perhaps we are pursuing the wrong things. Again, I confess that I struggle with the desire for more as much as anybody else. However, when I'm alone with God, I realize the rat race is pointless. I was made to run another race.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Let the Craziness Begin!

As a youth minister, the beginning of summer always brings mixed emotions. On the one hand, I am extremely excited about all the trips and fun events we have planned this summer. On the other hand, the very sight of this calendar makes me exhausted. With our students being out of school, we as a youth group have more opportunities to serve and worship together. We also have more opportunities to have tons of fun as well. At the end of every summer, I always wonder if I’m getting too old for this (and I’m only 29!). Nevertheless, I cannot wait to see how God works in our student ministry over the next couple months. So here are my top 3 things I’m looking forward too!

      1.  In June we are taking some of our Senior High students to Haiti! Except for myself, this will be the first international mission trip for everyone in our group. 
      2. In July we will have a mission camp right here at our church. We will have two mission trips in one summer! Our students will do local service projects around our county and then we will throw a block party for our neighborhood. The party will include food, games for kids, and a movie. At night we will have worship services, games, and small group classes. 
     3. Beginning on July 7th, I will begin preaching every Sunday. I am very hopeful that even more youth will participate and serve in our Sunday morning services. The more that youth are involved in the church as a whole, the more likely they are to stay in church after graduation. Also, on that date we will start Sunday morning small groups for our students. We will have snacks and drinks, icebreaker games, and small group lessons. Youth will be divided by age and gender during the lesson. The lessons will focus on different books of the Bible and the 2-year curriculum will cover the major themes of scripture. The curriculum comes from the awesome people at Simply Youth Ministry. See the chart below for more info.

    As always, the summer will be crazy and will leave me exhausted. But it is the best kind of exhaustion…one that comes from being with God’s people and being spent in the service of Christ.