Friday, January 29, 2010

Thanks for Helping Us Help Haiti

The benefit concert for Northwest Haiti Christian Mission with Remedy Drive was a blast. It started with an email listing a few open dates for the band and fell together more quickly than I could have imagined. That seems to be the trend with the whole experience.

I knew there'd be a bit of a 'built in' crowd because we were doing it on Wednesday night instead of our regular worship time with the students.  I hoped to convince a couple other youth leaders to bring their groups as well, but wasn't sure - we churches aren't always the most prone to changing plans at the last minute. As it turns out, there were several congregations that were willing and able to do exactly that! We had groups here from Scottsbluff, Gering, and Alliance and people from all over the valley that made it to the show.  (My brother and a few friends even came up from Laramie.)

All because I'm such a great publicist/promoter... Ok, that's definitely not it! Maybe it was because everyone out here loves Remedy Drive... That's definitely more likely than the first claim, but I think there was something more happening. We were able to bring people together because we were doing something that matters. This wasn't just about the music - although Remedy Drive and Gabriel Tyce Bruton were great. It was about the church bringing hope to the hopeless. It was about Jesus opening doors and mobilizing His rescued people to be a part of the rescue of others.

I walked into the newspaper office hoping for a little blurb in the community calendar. The benefit concert ended up as a front page article. That turned into a TV interview with the local news station (which was followed up today by another short interview that should air tonight). The response from the community has been great. We raised just over $2300 Wednesday night for NWHCM - in addition to about $10,000 given to WestWay to send to NWHCM over the past couple weeks!

I'm feeling sort of like the little kid who gave up a few loaves and fish at the lake one day. Jesus took them and turned them into a whole lot more! He's pretty good at that... Don't just stay feeling helpless because you feel you don't have much to offer. Give the 'little' you think you have and watch what He can do.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Help Us Help Haiti

I'm pretty excited about the opportunity to host Remedy Drive this Wednesday night.  I like the band, but more than that, I'm excited about the way people are coming together to get relief to Haiti.  All of the money raised at the concert will go to Northwest Haiti Christian Mission's earthquake relief work.

A request for a small blurb in the calendar section of the paper turned into a front page story about the concert and relief to Haiti, and an interview with the local TV station!  Stories of tragedy and triumph keep coming in from news sources and teams at work in Haiti like the medical team we have down there right now. God is working through His Church to raise up hope from the rubble.

If you're still looking for a way to help, check out these options.
Samaritan's Purse

Also, for an up close and sobering look at what's going on in Haiti, check out Mark Driscoll's message from this past Sunday.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why Should We Imitate Christ?

The final devotion for Winter White Wash.
Why should we imitate Christ?

In Jesus, God is reaching out to humanity with the offer to be reconciled to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:20 gives us a place in His appeal as well. We are called Christ’s ambassadors. It’s like God is appealing through you to the people you work with and go to school with: “Come back into a right relationship with me.”

If that message doesn’t flow from your life, you’re not imitating Jesus. We should imitate Him because we need to reflect His Father to the people around us. Their best, first look at God may be when they look at you. When people look at you, are they only seeing you, or do they see a bit of Jesus, too? Is anyone in your life getting to know Jesus because they know you? Who are some people in your life who could get to know Him better if you could imitate Him more fully?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How Do We Imitate Christ?

Here is part 3 of the student devotions series from Winter White Wash.
How do we imitate Christ?

Philippians 2 gives a great picture of the humility of Jesus. Imitating him begins with that kind of humility. Before he ever gave sight to a blind man, Jesus gave up what was rightfully his. Before he ever made wine from water, he “made himself nothing”. Before he was lifted onto a cross in an act that would bring life to all who would take it… he humbled himself.

Without that kind of humility, we can’t possibly hope to imitate Christ. Until we are willing to stop thinking about ourselves and fill our lives with what He wants… we’re just faking it. When you were younger and misbehaving, someone may have told you “that’s not how a Christian acts”. I’m afraid we’ve learned the lesson too well. We’re really good at “acting like a Christian” when it’s convenient.

The difference between acting like a Christian and imitating Christ is the attitude of humility. Jesus fed hungry people, not to look nice on a Sunday morning, but because he loved them and they needed food. That’s just one example. Open your Bible to any of the Gospels and you’ll see that same attitude of humble service in Jesus.

How’s your attitude? Do you find yourself complaining about how your circumstances are unfair more often than you find yourself helping someone else in a tougher situation? Do you feel like you’re being cheated by life… or your parents… your teachers… a group at school or a former friend? The beginning of the imitation of Jesus is to humbly set aside your rights and what you think you deserve and surrender to whatever God wants.

Who Should We Imitate

I wrote some devotions for the students attending Winter White Wash this weekend and thought I'd share them here while we're gone. Here is the second in the series.
Who should we imitate?

I only remember a couple actual vacations from my childhood. One of those was a trip I took with my cousins and brother with my Grandma and Grandpa and mom and an aunt. The cool part of the trip was that we were taking Grandpa’s RV! Us boys got to ride up top, above the cab – Grandpa had us looking out for alligators on the road. Oddly enough, there weren’t very many alligators in southern Iowa, but it kept us quiet - hey, I was only like 5 so don’t judge me.

Our trip started right here in Casper, and the first stop was in the Black Hills at Reptile Gardens. As we toured the exhibit, my mom’s cousin was carrying me and standing on a balcony, pretty close to a railing. I’m not sure how it all got started, but I began spitting onto (or at least toward) the people down below. Needless to say, that kind of behavior didn’t go over too well with my family (except my mom’s cousins that thought it was funny) or the people who suddenly discovered they needed indoor umbrellas! So, what did I do? I blamed the parrot.

There was a parrot nearby who was cracking shells, taking out the seeds, and spitting out the rest. I thought it would be fun to imitate that parrot. I may have thought it was fun, but I ended up getting in a lot of trouble, not to mention causing my mom a lot of embarrassment! I probably shouldn’t have chosen to imitate that parrot. He really wasn’t a good model for me to follow.

Hebrews 13:7 says to “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” We need to choose carefully who we are imitating. Some of the people who have become cultural role models do not deserve that position in your life. “Consider the outcome of their way of life.” What does God want the outcome of your life to be? Find someone who displays that in their own lives and imitate them.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What Are We Imitating?

I wrote some devotions for the students attending Winter White Wash this weekend and thought I'd share them here while we're gone.
What are we imitating?
Do you ever think about what you’re imitating? Take a second now and think about what you are like… If someone were comparing you to someone or something else, what would they compare you to? That is what you are imitating. Is it what you want?

Several years ago, I took a group of my students to CIY in Ft. Collins. As I was walking down the hall, I heard someone call out my last name. When I first turned around, I didn’t see anyone I recognized, but then I noticed a guy who was a friend of my dad. I hadn’t seen this guy for over 10 years, since I was about 12 years old. How did he recognize me? Actually, he didn’t recognize me, but he recognized my dad in me. As I walked down the hallway, surrounded by hundreds of other people, this guy saw my dad’s walk in my walk. I don’t mean that in some abstract metaphorical way, he literally thought I was my dad until I turned around and was obviously much younger than the man he was expecting!

I walk like my dad. I never intended to. I never studied my dad’s steps and tried to mimic his way of placing one foot in front of the other. I never joined a small group to learn his walking patterns or went on a walk-like-Larry retreat. My dad never took me to a class to learn how to walk his way. I just do. I’ve imitated him without ever trying to.

Right now, you are adopting behaviors as your own without ever thinking about them. You are doing things that you could never give a reason for. That’s not a big deal when we’re talking about how a person walks or holds a fork or blows their nose… but what about how you treat others? What about how (and what) you think about God? Many of your behaviors and thoughts will be shaped by what you spend the most time with. (i.e. I spent a lot of time with my dad… ended up walking like my dad.) Think back over the last week – what did you spend your time doing? Who were you with most? What did you watch and listen to? Be careful… because that’s what you’ll soon be imitating.

That’s what makes these words from Paul so critical:
“I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized.”

Does your “time budget” reflect those values from Philippians 4? If not, start now to spend more time with people, thoughts, and media that are worth imitating.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Way Home...

I came across this video today from Aaron Ivey a musician in Austin who is in the process of adopting a boy named Amos from Haiti. Nearing the end of a two year process... but now with the earthquake, being forced to keep waiting... Some friends of mine from college are stuck in this same moment right now, and I can't imagine the waiting (praying for you guys).

But the video for this song took my thoughts beyond anxiously waiting adoptive fathers as well. It made me think of God and His desperation to "find a way to get you home." It cost Him everything to make a way for me to escape the rubble of this world and make it home to Him. I'm the orphan...

But I'm also a father... Praying for Amos and Conleigh and so many more.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Help Haiti

I haven't said a whole lot about the earthquake in Haiti, and haven't posted at all about it up to this point because I didn't feel like I should advocate action until I'd taken some. Honestly, it feels like there is little I can do. I can write a check (and have), but I can't be there doing something useful. Lots of money has been sent to Haiti, and more will continue to be sent, but it's only a first step.

What do you really know about Haiti? Despite the fact that my church sends teams to work there several times each year and I do actually know exactly 1 Haitian... I have to confess mostly ignorance beyond the basic fact that it's the "poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere". But I'm learning. Check out the World Factbook for a quick snapshot of the nation. Dig around and learn of some of the history of the island nation (natives driven out by Spain, replaced by Africans as slave labor, the nation ceded to France, revolt, independence, political unrest...). Learn. Give. Pray.

Northwest Haitian Christian Mission is the organization with which our church works closely. They are located a pretty good distance from the quake's epicenter (the nation is not quite as large as the state of Maryland though, so relatively speaking it's not far away). Port-au-Prince is the hub of the nation, so they will be deeply affected in the coming months as 'normal' supplies will be scarce and difficult to transport. No one in the nation will be untouched by the earthquake. Despite the difficulty to come for them, they are sending their own people and supplies into the wreckage to help in every way possible. This is the church at it's best in the worst imaginable circumstances. They are set up to take donations which will be immediately put to use on the ground in Haiti through this link. That link is specifically for this Earthquake Relief effort, not their regular operating expenses (though you can find links to that giving as well).  Mike Grant is one of the directors at NWHCM who is giving some of their perspective on his blog (when local electricity allows). Jody Castillo is also with the mission and shares her perspective as she tries to keep in contact with her husband, Jose who is in PAP doing whatever he can to help.

In addition to the link to NWHCM's giving page, Samaritan's Purse is another organization that is already in Haiti at work (focusing right now on clean water and temporary housing) through which you can donate, as is Compassion. CNN has compiled a list of a number of other organizations as well if you're looking for something specific. When I give, I want it to be as direct as possible, so the 3 I've listed are agencies that have proven themselves, and were already at work in Haiti before the quake - they already have relationships established that will be necessary to get the assistance where it needs to go quickly.

I don't want to just sit in my comfort and cry about this devastation... Learn. Pray. Give.

Leave Me Alone?

As I read through Matthew 8, I can't help but think about how awesome Jesus is. As he's traveling around, he healed a leper, healed a Roman officer's suffering and paralyzed servant from a distance, healed Peter's mother-in-law, calmed a freakin' storm (!) and cast a bunch of demons into a herd of pigs.

Jesus is incredible and we need to not forget that. (Not just because of these amazing things, but because of who he is.) I love how Jesus stops the crowd for a moment when the Roman officer told him he wasn't worthy to have Jesus come to his house ("Could you just heal him from here?")... Jesus was amazed.

Does our faith amaze Jesus? Is he astonished at how we trust his authority? I'm afraid too often we're like the people of the town near the pig-in-a-lake incident. "The entire town came out to meet Jesus, but they begged him to go away and leave them alone." His authority threatened their system - He made it obvious that whatever control over their little slice of the world they thought they had was only an illusion. So they told Jesus to go away. One of the saddest moments in the Bible - Jesus was there with them, the power to make them whole... and they sent Him away. I know most of us would never say those words to Jesus - but the way we try to control our own lives speaks loudly to our Creator. "Leave me alone. I've got it covered. I can handle this."

But the truth is, we can't. Sometimes in difficult circumstances, you'll hear people say that "God will never give you more than you can handle". That may be the biggest load of crap ever twisted out of misinterpreted Scripture. But He can handle it. He is not surprised by the circumstances that cause us to go Psalm 22 ("My God, my God... why have you forsaken me?"). He wants to see in us a Psalm 23, amazing faith. ("I will fear no evil, for you are with me.") May we remember how awesome Jesus is (even if His followers make some colossal blunders sometimes) and lean on His authority in our lives.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


"I believe there is more in store for the local church... that throws off meaningless things and embraces who God is and what He has called them to do."

I pulled that quote from Perry Noble's post on his blog today because it reminded me of something I wasn't really thinking about yesterday (but should have been). Actually, the whole post was something I needed to hear - What Keeps Me Focused as a Leader. Yesterday, I was out of focus (honestly not just yesterday, it's kind of been an ongoing thing) until a bit of a kick in the butt from God when I started to step back and worship Him. It's always great when those kicks come while you're standing behind a microphone and a guitar in front of a room full of students! [...awkward...]

I've been frustrated lately by some stuff that's outside the realm of my influence, and I've let that affect me way too much... distract me from the One that I'm here for. The One who loves this church infinitely more than I do, and who knows what He's doing with it. But I do believe that the best is yet to come, if we will abandon pointless things, embrace God, and do what He calls us to do.

I have two students getting baptized soon, others just floating with little understanding of why they're here, another feeling worthless and probably trying meth and doing who knows what to pay for it, others who are getting more and more passionate about revealing God to their friends and learning to love as God loves... I'd appreciate your prayers as I try to be the focused leader they deserve. The church is His people living on His mission - don't give up.

Monday, January 11, 2010

So you think you know their motives?

In reading today, I came across an episode in Joshua (ch. 22) that is a great example of conflict resolution on a social level (this wasn't just an individual in conflict with another individual). The tribes that were settling east of the Jordan (Reuben, Gad, & Manasseh) had sent warriors to help the rest of the tribes establish themselves. Once everyone was tucked into their new digs, Joshua thanked them for their selfless service to the nation and sent them back to their own clans.

These guys recognized the natural border of the Jordan River and anticipated that in the future, it may become a barrier between them and the rest of Israel. They were afraid they would be left out of the nation, essentially. So they built an altar there as a memorial - to remind the other tribes of the nation that they were family, too, and to remind their own descendants that they were part of the people on the other side of the river. This expression of their faith, however, was badly misinterpreted by the other tribes as an act of rebellion against God.  "The altar" (the Tabernacle altar) was the only appropriate altar - so they gathered to go to war against what they saw as an insurrection against the very God who'd rescued them from Egypt and given them this land. This was a major offense and they were ready to fight!

Wisely, however, they sent a delegation ahead of the war party that was able to find out what was going on. When the people of Rueben, Gad, and Manasseh humbly offered their defense for the altar (they weren't intending to betray God), and explained their intent (they wanted to stay connected to God and His people), the delegation was satisfied and war was averted. They would remain one people serving one God.

I wonder how well we offer this same grace to people today who express their faith a little differently than we do? Do we stick with the first conclusion we jump to (often the most negative one), or do we go to the group we've taken issue with and find out the truth of the matter? Or do we just ignore the problem and let bitterness hold us hostage? It's easy to gather a tribe within a congregation and nurse a grudge against 'the others' but it leaves "the people" less than whole. Don't let misconceptions separate your tribe from the rest of the body.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Crying over Dirty Water?

A few weeks ago, Josiah was crying at bedtime because I wouldn't let him drink some juice he wanted. He'd had some water and I told him that was enough. The truth is, he was way beyond tired and the water-only moment was more of a spur that popped the tear-balloon than anything else. But as I was trying to get him to stop wailing he made the comment that's always in the running for the "most likely to push Dad over the edge" title: "It's not fair!"

No, son, it's not fair that you've been born into a family where water is readily available, cool for your refreshment (or warmed for those cold days), and free of diseases that will kill you. I said something to the fact that millions of kids will go to bed tonight without any water, and millions more will have to drink dirty water that will kill them. "If you want to cry about something, cry about that."

I'm sure his dreams were less than pleasant that night. To be honest, I was tired, too, and was probably kind of a jerk about it. But the fact remains that millions of kids will die this year from lack of clean water. Living Water International is doing something more than just "cry about it." They are providing "a cup of water in Jesus' name" in places where such a "cup" is needed most desperately.

Last week, I registered for a half marathon in May in Colorado. I wanted to add a little extra purpose to my running, so I have also signed on to use the race to raise money for LWI. (That link will take you directly to a page where you can donate.) Maybe you want to do something more than "cry about it." Every dollar raised will provide roughly enough clean water for 1 person for a year. Thanks for your help.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Teach What Matters

Several years ago, when I was packing up my office in Auburn to move to Scottsbluff, several of my students were hanging out, helping me load books in boxes and transfer files and get the room cleared out and ready for Eli to work his magic. (Eli subsequently lost the territory to the church secretary and got stuck in a closet somewhere, but that's a whole other story!) While I wasn't looking, these students put a bunch of sticky notes in places where I'd find them later. For the first 6 months in my new office, I was finding little notes of thanks and encouragement and "Surprise!" notes all over the place.

I hadn't found any for a while, but I just found another one! It may be the best one yet. Tucked into the back of the book of Romans (in a translation I apparently haven't been using lately) was a little sticky note with a simple question:

"What does the Bible say?"

Glad to know that something that matters stuck with them. What I teach only matters if it's a reflection of what God has already said. What I say only matters when my words dance to the rhythm of His Word. It's too easy in youth ministry to become "the answer man" - instead, I want to direct students to dig into God's word for themselves. That way, I'm making disciples, not dependents.

Thanks for the reminder, guys. Keep digging into what matters most.

Monday, January 04, 2010

First Post of the Year...

For the first post of 2010, I looked back at what have been my first posts for the past few years.

2009... Part 4 of a series I called "Imagine"  I dealt with some obstacles to doing ministry out of imagination instead of memory (an important thought from Mark Batterson). This particular post had to do with using "past success as a vehicle that will launch us into tomorrow instead of a bed upon which to rest or a wall to prop us up." I really liked this post... wish I was doing a better job of living it out! But to be honest, I just wrote an article the other day about resting on past successes. Maybe this year, I'll listen to myself more intently. Maybe other people will listen too. Let's stop repeating the past and create the future!

2008... Who Belongs Here? In this post, I reflected on some thoughts I'd had as a visitor to a church and wondered what a guest experience at our church looks like. As I think about it, the system is still the same here as it was then. The positives are still in place and the deficiencies are still there, too. We can do better.

2007... DIA Din On the way to class at Hope (was that really 3 whole years ago?!), waiting in a very busy airport, I issued this call to truly live - to do more than "suck and blow air... do more than create some noise as we scurry about." I'm stilling playing this drum. Life is not a series of mundane breaths and busy activities - it is an adventure in bringing praise to our Creator!

2006... Insight from a 3 year old Dakota We were sitting in a Christmas Eve service and Dakota leaned over in the stillness, with wonder and concern in his eyes. I could tell he was a little worried about what he was going to do. The problem? In his own whispered words, "Dad, I'm running out of quiet." May we be so filled with the presence of God that we cannot possibly keep quiet!

2005... Hope for a new venture My first blog post of 2005 didn't come until April 7th. That's because that was the day I decided to start blogging. The theme was hope (not the Obama kind). What if we lived our lives with such hope that all fear was driven out of our lives? I still ask myself this question. There are times when discouragement threatens to wreck everything I've been learning in my 10 years of ministry. I need hope to keep going.
It's interesting to look back at these snapshots of where God's been leading me (and maybe where I've redirected off course from time to time). It's a strange thing to think of collecting thoughts and throwing them out there for people to digest. I hope someone's been able to gain as much from reading my blog as I've gained from writing it. We have so far to go in our quest to know God. May we glean from each other as much as possible as we travel together...

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