Thursday, July 30, 2009

You know your Sunday School may be missing the mark if...

I can't embed this video or I would, but check out this link to a newscast about a car chase in UT. The car was taken and led police on a chase because the 7 YEAR OLD car-nabber didn't want to go to Sunday School! Simply amazing...

Quick Link to Another Faith Related Post

Just read a short post on Ben Arment's blog - it follows the same line of thinking I've been on regarding faith lately.

He says, "I have never seen God move mightily without first requiring me to act in faith. Nor has He ever given me proof that He will deliver me."

I think of Esther's "If I perish, I perish..." or Jonathan's "Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf." They didn't know what their outcome would be - they just jumped because it was right. They acted in faith. Both got to see God move mightily, but they didn't have to have proof that He would do so before they acted.

What step of faith is God waiting for you to take? What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Certain of the Unseen...

The end of Hebrews is inspiring me right now. Not in a Hall of Fame, 'check out these incredible stories' kind of way - but in a 'Hey Mike, the very thing that is frustrating you to no end right now is what is leading you where I want you to go right now so suck it up, have faith, and persevere' kind of way. Someone said something several weeks ago to which I had an immediately vehement reaction (and nearly a vomitous one, at that) and to which I still disagree. I will have to admit that my hope ran low for a while.

But in reading through some of Hebrews today, I have found an inspirational bank of hope. People who had nothing but a promise (or even less) are commended for the perseverance that was birthed out of their faith. They didn't see God immediately delivering on the promises He was making... but they still acted as if He would deliver. They knew that the nature of God meant that He would keep His promises, so they lived as if He would keep them. So...

Abel brought a better sacrifice.
Enoch pleased God (which is impossible without faith) and was taken without dying!
Noah built an ark to save his family.
Abraham left his homeland for an unknown place.
He also lived as a foreigner (as did Isaac and Jacob) as he awaited the fulfillment of God's promise.
Sarah was enabled to have children (even though she was way passed the phase of life when that is possible).
Abraham offered his son as a sacrifice (essentially offering the only thing he knew of as a possible means for God to fulfill His promise).
Isaac blessed His sons (out of order).
Jacob blessed Joseph's sons as his own (again out of order).
Joseph looked forward to a future exodus of his people out of slavery.
Moses' parents hid him - not fearing Pharaoh.
Moses chose a slave's heritage over a prince's privilege. (And "he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.")
Moses kept the Passover.
The Israelites miraculously escaped Egypt.
The walls of Jericho fell.
Rahab was spared (to later gain a place in the lineage of Jesus).

And so much more... The common thread in the story of the Pentateuch is the faith of God's people to God. They didn't believe what they saw. The evidence told them that they'd been abandoned by God. The facts told them they were a former band of nomads that now were slaves far from home - nothing like a great nation as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. But God told them otherwise. And they were certain of what they did not see.

As I said a couple days ago, faith is not mindlessly assenting to the evidence at hand - it is being certain of what we do not see. Their certainty in the unseen promise of unseen God was the very faith that bred in them the perseverance it took to follow God through to the end.

Some facts are telling me right now it's not worth the fight and I should just give up...
A lot of evidence is stacking up to convince me that my efforts are in vain anyway and should be abandoned...

But Truth is telling me something else. He is reminding me to "run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus..."

May you be sure of your hope today and may you be certain of what you do not see.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Keep Learning

"Youth ministers fail because, instead of investing the effort to learn something new, they spend their energy defending what they think they already know." from Mark Devries' Sustainable Youth Ministry

I think this applies across the board when you're dealing with leading people. If I'm not learning, then I'm just going to be covering the same territory over and over. That's wandering, not leading. It's time for a lot of us to stop wandering and learn to lead...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Great Solution for Growing Ministries

We are working on a new website here through Clover. Their sites look great and are really easy to set up and use. If you've thought about a new website, click the link here and demo a site. I've demo'd a lot of their options and love the way their sites are laid out. Can't wait for ours to be finished and functional... We need a new face online!

By the way, if you buy a site through this referral link, I'll get a hundred dollars. That would be pretty nice. Just sayin'...

Time to Work

After two weeks of camp, I'm back in the office today. I enjoyed both weeks, but I'm tired. Honestly, I could use a break, but the mission trip is coming in two weeks and there are still some loose ends to tie up before then - plus all the wrap up from camp (reports and gathering up the last of the late payments, etc.).

This last week, I took some good time to reflect on where I'm at and where my ministry is headed. There's some stuff there that I don't really like. Not sure what to do about it, but could definitely use your prayers for wisdom, the humility to recognize it as wisdom, and the courage to do something about it when wisdom has been made known...

Meanwhile... there is some awesome stuff happening that is really exciting. People are tired of sitting 'in church' and are trying to figure out how to 'be the church'. I love that - I pray that more people would stop 'going to' church! It's awesome to see God moving in His people, stirring them to service through things like the soup kitchen (which has seen more people volunteer in the last 3 or 4 months than I remember seeing in the last 3 years), Habitat for Humanity (we had a group putting up a roof, installing insulation, and painting a home last weekend), and stocking our community food pantry.

Also, I'm really excited about the Coldwater mission. This trip is going to stretch our group like nothing we've done before now. Faith is not mindlessly assenting to the evidence at hand - it is being certain of what we do not see. I am certain that God is at work in this world. It is time for us to exercise our faith and join Him in His work.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Camp Monday

First day of high school camp is in full swing. The campers are building some benches and picnic tables for the camp, so I had a couple minutes to jump on here and say hi. We drove in last night, having an uneventful drive and got settled into the cabins. Actually the girls settled into a lodge and the guys shoehorned themselves into a cabin that would be great for half of us.

After staying up talking too early this morning, I went to bed and couldn't sleep. 1 snorer, 1 kid moaning like he just got smacked in the head with a pylon, and one nameless sleepwalker screaming "I said I'm coming." as he headed for the door at 3 AM then calmly being talked back into bed by me... And he completely remembered it this morning! Fun stuff.

Several weeks ago, I assured my cross country runner that she'd still be able to run this week if she came to camp. Gotta be ready when the season starts and you don't want to take a week off... I get it. So...

"I'll run with you."

Man I'm an idiot. The first hill was a killer. It was the only hill, but the problem is you don't realize as you're driving into camp, how much elevation you're losing. So as we ran back toward the highway, we went up hill for about 12 minutes, then turned around and came back over the same route in 8.

Should make for a good nap this afternoon... yeah right. Just hope my lungs are recovered by tonight when I lead music!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Camp Video Fun

Funny questions recently heard

"What does consumer mean?" - Asked by a very concerned daughter who just noticed a warning on her favorite blanket that mentioned something about the seriously punishable offense of tag removal. She noticed after she tore it off and was afraid she may have been in trouble... (Maybe we should save our warnings for more serious offenses?)

"Where is Mowdagrass?" - Josiah asked me where I was going as I put my shoes on yesterday. "To mow the grass" was my reply. Location, location, location! When I told him "the backyard" the light bulb came on.

"Getting ready for a marathon?" - A lady in the yard with her dog asked me this when I went for a run last night. At first I thought proudly, "Yes... yes I am." I quickly realized I was only a mile into my run, and I shouldn't look so tired so soon. "Got a long way to go for that." was the only reply I could manage.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Hitting High Gear

Tons of stuff going on in the next few weeks. If there's a 'busy season' in youth ministry this is mine! (Actually there are 4 busy seasons in youth ministry, each about 13 weeks long with a 7 second break in between.)

Next week, I'll be leading worship for high school camp, so this week I'm getting the last few things ready for that - actually had some fun practicing this morning with everything but a bass player. Looking forward to the week.

We'll get home Friday and get to see some great friends and family that weekend. I'm really looking forward to them being here because we really haven't gotten together for a long time. Just wish I could be here the whole time they're here.

I'll turn around on Sunday and head back to camp for Jr. High week. I'm teaching a class that week, so I still have some stuff to prepare for that, too!

Following those two weeks, I'll send my daughter off to her own week of camp, and spend that week and the next pulling together the last few strings of the most exciting effort we've had to date in the youth ministry here. After HeavenFest on August 8th, we're embarking on an adventure called coldwater. You may have read about it here already, but basically we're taking a mission trip with no agenda. We don't know where we're going. We don't know what we're doing. We are begging God to lead us to the poeple and communities that He needs us to be in. I'm more excited about this trip than anything we've done in the last few years!

You might think that a trip like this would require little planning, but you would be wrong. I'm definitely feeling the crunch right now - to be ready for... anything.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Misappropriated Allegiance???

I love the fireworks of 4th of July celebrations. One of my favorite summers was when I ran a fireworks stand with some of my students (and my Jamaican brother in law). I like the thought of living in a nation of freedom, where I am free to think and speak as I wish. A nation of possibilities for everyone. It truly is a privilege to have been born and to live here in the United States. One that I appreciate deeply.

But I'm also a citizen of another nation. We don't claim independence, but rather complete dependence on our King. The preferred way to get things done is not democracy, but rather allegiance to the will of the King. We have no elected representatives, but there is a man whom the King chose to mediate between Himself and His people. This Kingdom is where my primary alliance lies - it is the Kingdom of God.

I'm reminded lately, that these two kingdoms are not the same. The United States of America is not the Body of Christ. "Americans" are not His chosen people - those who choose to follow Him are. Throughout the history of humanity, God has sought to bless all nations, not just one. Even ancient Israel was shown favor in order to extend that favor to the rest of the world. And so, He has chosen people from every tribe and nation to carry His standard and establish the presence of His Kingdom.

There is an argument brewing in America about whether we are a "Christian nation". Definitely, our nation's founding had certain Christian principles at its core*. But just as definitely, we are not a nation full of Christians. The danger in claiming this Christian nation status, is that we fail to recognize the need to continue to establish the presence of the Kingdom of God here in America.

This is a great country, and I'm so thankful to live here. But we cannot afford to equate America with Jesus' church. Enjoy your Independence Day celebrations, but don't forget as great as this nation is, her citizens still need a savior.
* Good perspective on Mark Batterson's blog today regarding the faith of some of our nation's founders.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Guerilla love in action

Vince Antonucci is a church planter who recently moved from Virginia Beach to Vegas. (Yes, that Vegas.) He has a book coming out called Guerilla Lovers about surprising people with the love of God. Apparently, his wife got an advance copy...

She loaned their car to a total stranger!

Check out the link to his wife's post about the incident and his response.

This is the kind of love that will shock and awe a world that is looking for the real thing.

Random? or not so much?

"What we might think of as a random outreach is anything but random when God is guiding it." - Dino Rizzo

This quote from Servolution is perfect for our upcoming coldwater mission. We are going to draw a direction or maybe spin a compass or something to "randomly" choose a direction. Then we'll pull a number out of a hat to "randomly" choose a distance. We'll drive. We'll pray. We'll serve. We are going to have to trust God to guide us to the people and places that need us. And that is where the randomness is anything but random. God is already at work in each of the places we'll go. Like a matching set of magnets, He is already working to draw together the capacity of our group and the needs of the people and communities we'll visit.

There was pretty good feedback from the meeting last night and I'm really looking forward to the group taking shape. I want to make sure that God is putting this team together and praying that He will convince each person He wants to come. No coercion, no manipulation - just an invitation to join God in His mission to restore humanity to His Kingdom.

Student ministry always has had an air of flexibility for me. There's always been an extent to which I've just had to roll with the tide and change plans quickly when needed. Honestly, that's one of the most attractive aspects of youth ministry for me. But nothing I've ever done in youth ministry has ever felt or seemed as "random" as this. Nothing has had more potential to allow us to see beauty birthed from chaos so immediately and tangibly.

I hope you'll join us in praying for coldwater - above all, that God is guiding and that we are following. May we see Him in whatever random chaos we jump into!

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