My top 5 from July 14-20

  1. No matter who we are, where we work, or what we do with our lives, each of us will influence someone. It may be a coworker, a child, a friend, a spouse; the question isn’t who are we influencing, but how are we using the influence we have? This blog post from Pastor Rick Warren talks about the power of influence each of us has, and how to use that influence to build the kingdom of God here on this earth.
  2. Evidently things have been heating up pretty rapidly in Israel. Not that things have ever really been calm over there…but here is a recent article (beware it is a long one) that gives a really strong take on the conflict, and discusses the premise of is peace possible in this area of the world that has been at war almost since Abraham. This article also gives a timeline of events that led up to the most recent clashes in and around Israel.
  3. Finding God’s will is a commonly talked about topic, but do we always handle this question in the right way? There are different tacts people take when answering the question of how to find God’s will, how to live in it, what He wants from us, or how we are supposed to live. This Relevant magazine article (evidently I often read articles from this magazine!) deals with God’s will and how sometimes we go at it the wrong way. I hope this encourages you to live for God wherever you are and to bring Him glory in all that you do!
  4. This is a solid article on leadership. It is not always possible to implement, because often volunteers and leaders are difficult to find. However, the principle in this is a good one for any leadership role, no matter where you might be working. The right people in the right place can take something mediocre and make it great. If you have great vision, then the right people in the right place will change the world because they can carry that vision through to heights never imagined. This is what Jesus Christ did with the disciples. He called 12 men willing to give all they had to follow Him, trained them, and entrusted to them, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the Gospel throughout the entire world (Acts 1:8).
  5. This last one is not actually an article, but it is a helpful tool that I have just started using this week for Bible study and taking notes. It’s really helpful! You just create an account using your email address, go to whatever passage you are reading, and you can view a commentary, notes on what the Greek or Hebrew means and how different translations have rendered it, and can make your own notes and have them saved on the site (which you can access from anywhere via your phone or any device with internet capability). It’s been really handy and I look forward to using it more in the future!

Top 5 from the week July 6-13

  1. This first blog starts off talking about being a newlywed…which Connie and I are! So I initially saw it and thought it looked interesting. As I began to read it became really encouraging and uplifting, and made me realize that media has taught us a lot of false messages about what marriage is supposed to be like. I hope this encourages you, even if you’ve been married for awhile or if the whole topic of marriage freaks you out and makes you want to run and hide. I think this has a lot of wisdom in it.
  2. There have been a lot of things published about Short-Term Missions Trips–both good and bad. This list of 7 things about STM is a good understanding of some of the benefits that come through any type of missions trip. It is understandable that some STM projects go awfully wrong, but going into it with the right attitude and joining God in His work around this world can bring so many benefits to our lives and the lives of those we serve. (I might as well add a second article about short-term missions I read this week too)
  3. This is a leadership article, but really it is for any of us who have ever, or will ever, deal with defeat. It is usually easier to sort of curl up and quit after a crushing defeat (like the Brazil vs. Germany game). But, a true leader of character is able to set the tone through even crushing defeat. It’s normal in life to not always win and for things to not always goes right, or even go well. So, all of us will deal with defeat or failure many time in life. How we handle it sets the tone for our next victory and our next failure.
  4. The author of this article writes, “Outward change doesn’t last unless inner change is driving it.” He uses a play on words (I’ll let you click on it to see what the play is), that is slightly offensive at first, but really brings home the point he is trying to make. Being a Christian means we have shifted from the old life to the new life and have begun living in the abundant, full life offered by Jesus Christ.
  5. This is an intriguing article about doing ministry in the context we are currently living in. Mark Howell writes about 5 of his new assumptions about ministry that should be taken into account when you are in a ministry role, whether inside or outside of a local church. Some of these assumptions are sad to read, but are a present reality.

I hope these articles whet your whistle, encourage you, and challenge you to some type of action.

Proverbs 9:9 – “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”

The loss of memory

Connie (my wife) has been witness to many of my puzzled looks. She will be talking to me about something she told me a few hours, or days, or weeks prior and I will just give this blank look, basically saying, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. Have you ever told me about this before?” Then she jogs my memory and it slowly comes back to me, and I now remember that we have had this conversation before, I just forgot about it. This happens often with outfits she wears, places we’ve visited, etc.

I don’t have a good memory. But, the purpose of this blog post is not about my bad memory in reference to life situations and conversations. The purpose of this blog is to highlight the importance and necessity of Scripture memory, and the way that many have moved away from memorizing the Bible.

When I was in Olympian Club, the most awesome Children’s Ministry program ever, memorizing Bible verses was, what seemed to me, the primary drive and focus of the program. We memorized verses every week, got prizes and medals and trophies for the verses we were able to retain the memory of. We would have quizzes weeks later to see if the verse had stuck in our memory. Also, we had to memorize the reference (where the verse is in the Bible), the verse word for word from the NKJV, and then end with the reference again. It was hard work! But today as I’m blessed to teach the Bible, I go back to those verses over and over again that I have memorized, because they have become a part of who I am as not just a Bible teacher, but as a person and man of God.

 

Why have we moved away from Bible memorization? It seems like the older students get, graduating from Children’s Ministry and coming to Youth Ministry, memorizing the Bible takes a backseat (unless of course at a youth camp, conference, or retreat). I realize this will be out of context from the verse, but I feel like saying with James 3:10 (HCSB) “…my brothers, these things should not be this way!” This isn’t what James was talking about, but the situation he was dealing with was distressing enough to exclaim like that, and I think the lack of having Bible verses memorized is something that should cause us all to say that this is not how it should be!

 

What makes memorizing the Bible so important?

  1. You don’t always have access to the Bible right when you need it.
  2. We are supposed to be ready in season and out of season to proclaim the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:2), but if we don’t have it memorized and we don’t always have access to a physical or electronic copy of the Bible, how else can we proclaim the Good News?
  3. It is necessary to be prepared to give an answer for the reason for the hope that we have as Christians (1 Peter 3:15), and that answer comes from God’s Word.
  4. Satan attacks us at our weakest moments when often we don’t have a Bible nearby or solid Christian friends close by to counsel or encourage us. Jesus used Scripture memory to defeat Satan (Matthew 4:1-11), so we can too.
  5. Satan knows Scripture, but he twists and distorts it (Matthew 4:1-11). We must know what the Bible says and be able to bust it out at any time we need in order to be more than conquerors through God who loved us (Romans 8:37)

Top 5 Posts I Read This Week

I’ve recently been thinking about why I even have a blog. I’ve heard the good and the bad side of blogging, read some awful blogs, read some incredible blogs, and seen things everywhere in between. Sort of my dream for this blog is that it would be a hybrid tool to tell my family and Connie’s family and our friends about what has been going on in our lives, to challenge people to live out their faith in daily life, to encourage other friends in ministry with the ministry we have here at Calvary Baptist Church, to help people grow and strengthen their faith, and to point to Jesus hopefully through it all. In the name of growth and challenge and encouraging, I am going to start reposting blogs that I have read here on my blog.

 

There are so many different blogs out there I thought it would be cool to sort of be a hub where I could compile a bunch of different blogs and place them here for easier access or something. There are too many blogs to just put a new post up for every post I read, so I am going to consolidate them into a list each week of blogs that I have read that impacted me in some way. Here we go, I hope you enjoy!:

  1. My lovely wife sent me this post from Frank Powell‘s page and it’s a really good one. Millenials tend to get a bad reputation, but they have so much collective power in this world… It could be used in such a powerful way if it could be harnessed and used for the glory of God.
  2. Doubt is sometimes a difficult topic to talk about. This article from Relevant Magazine talks about one guy’s struggles with doubt and how he helped to reconcile his doubt with his faith. Doubt can get carried away, for sure, but it is not always unnecessary. After all, there will be people who doubt your faith, so if you have never doubted and had to wrestle with your faith and struggle to understand the greatness, goodness, love, mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, then how will you answer someone on the day they question you?
  3. As a new youth director, this particular topic really caught my attention. Do I place students in boxes based on one or two things I know about them? Or do I recognize the multi-faceted personalities that embody every single person? It is easy to make generalizations, but the issue with a generalization is that it ironically leaves so many people out.
  4. This post is on a site called “New Man” but I think it is something we can all relate to. It is so easy to get too busy. Satan so effectively uses distractions and busyness in our lives to draw us away from a vibrant, growing relationship with Jesus Christ. They can even be really good things (like marriage, kids, sports, running, work, etc.), which makes it even more effective for Satan’s plan to make us inactive and mediocre. Don’t let him win this battle over your life. I pray none of us is every too busy for God.
  5. All of us are leaders in some capacity. This article talks about the power of fear to cripple leadership, and to keep our focus on the right Person (hint: not yourself). It is easy to let fear get in the way of what God wants to do in and through you. I know that I let fear get the better of my leadership capabilities when I was younger. I was afraid to step up, but there really is no good reason not to step up. Life is more exciting when we are living it to it’s fullest.

I hope these points are as encouraging to you as they were to me this week!

Proverbs 4:7 (NIV) – “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”

One Month In

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It is July. Wow, the past month has flown! I have been married for just over six weeks and this is the fifth week of being a full-time Youth Director! Life is good :)

 

There has been so much going on in the past month that it almost feels overwhelming. Even though life is good and I love everything I’m doing, it requires a lot of time. A couple of previous posts I wrote, I Feel Like an Adult and The First of Many, describe a few of the time-consuming things that are Connie’s and my adult life.

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Here’s a cropped picture from the back of the bulletin…looks pretty official!

 

Coming to a new church as a staff member is really a unique experience. There are 500+ people to get to know, and somehow be able to remember their names. I came from a church that I had been at for 24 years, so I knew almost everyone’s name and everyone knew mine. Now everyone knows my name, and I am only beginning to know theirs. However, it brings with it an excitement. There are 500+ people to know, but that means that there are 500+ stories that I get to hear of how God has been at work and continues to be at work (of course not everyone has experienced a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but there are many, many who have, and that is awesome).

 

With only four weeks down (and many more to go :)) it has been a crazy time of planning, calendaring, meeting, adapting, adopting, praying and studying. I have so far come up with the summer schedule, both of events and teaching, but the Fall schedule still looms over my head as something that needs to get finished…and soon!! I have also developed a teaching calendar so I know where we are headed, the topics we will be dealing with, and how they can coincide and build off of each other. It feels good to know where the teaching is going. It somehow makes the lesson planning and studying and praying easier as I know where we are now and where we are going.

 

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Developing a Youth Ministry team is a slightly intimidating task as well. There needs to be a good balance of youth and wisdom in the workers, as well as a visibly growing relationship with Jesus Christ, and the ability to connect with students where they are at. This is a unique skill set that not everyone has. I have been blessed that a solid team has already been in place, and I have had the opportunity to meet with most of them and hear their heart for the youth, and it has been comforting to know that they share my passion and excitement for the youth. It will be an interesting time training a leadership team where some have been in youth ministry since before I even started college, but that is the wonder of ministry and the awesomeness that is God. Age is just a number to Him, and He gives wisdom and vision and discernment irregardless of age.

 

Even though I’ve only been here a short time, I have already experienced some of the blessings of being a youth pastor. For example, I had the opportunity to witness a couple different youth sharing the gospel to a group of children. When we went to Detroit, it was a passion of ours to empower the students to do the work. When it came time to share the gospel at the end of the Backyard Bible Club, it would have been natural for me to get up and share the gospel, but we wanted the students to do it. We asked a few different students if they were comfortable doing it, and we had two respond that they would do it. It was a special opportunity to witness them proclaiming the gospel and see small children come to know Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior as a result.

 

ImageTo bring this to a close, though there is so much I could share and write about, it has just been such an incredible blessing already in being a youth pastor. From day one, and now beginning month two, I have felt a great sense of calm and peace that this is exactly where God wants me. Not just the church, but the exact ministry of youth. This is what I feel I have been born and bred for, and it’s such a cool feeling. So what else can I say other than echoing these words of the Psalm 103:1-2 (NLT):

“Let all that I am praise the LORD; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me” – Psalm 103:1-2 (NLT)

Detroit Missions Trip 2014

Last week, week three of my new job, we took 14 students and 5 “adults” (am I considered an adult now? I guess maybe I am… weird how time flies), on a week-long mission trip to Detroit! It was an incredible experience and God worked in so many ways!

Here is a team picture before we left:

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While we were in Detroit we had the privilege of helping out at Central Detroit Christian on Monday and Tuesday. We painted a lot of different things, built a gutter on the side of a building, mulched a walkway through a garden, weeded a garden, and really helped to ease some of the burden off of their own workers. CDC does so much good around the city of Detroit. They have 8 different business that seek to employ people who are trying to turn their lives around and get back on their feet. They have a produce truck that drives around like an ice cream truck, but selling fresh produce because it is such a rarity for people in these struggling neighborhoods to have good or fresh food. It’s a great ministry. They have even gotten so much publicity for their work that the First Lady has ridden in the produce truck!

 

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The evenings on Monday and Tuesday found us serving in a Men’s mission and a Women’s mission. We split into two teams and we were able to experience both missions. We helped out in the kitchen, served the food, and discovered the incredible passion the other workers there have for Jesus Christ and the Word of God. It was here, on Monday night, that some of us met Walter, who sat and talked to us for at least 15 minutes about his faith in Jesus Christ and was one of the most passionate Christians I have ever met. He is in love with Jesus and it was contagious.

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Wednesday was spent in preparation for the Backyard Bible Club we were running on Thursday and Friday. It was a great team building day, and we had a lot of fun. We ran through the skits, the music, the teaching, and the games. We got to play kickball in the rain later in the day and it was just a great time of building unity bringing the team together before sharing the gospel on Thursday and Friday.

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Thursday and Friday were just awesome days. We woke up early and headed to downtown Detroit, to one of the most dangerous zip codes in America. We went to the Hellman Rec Center and served in whatever capacity they needed. Here is where we did graffiti removal, trash pickup, prayer walking, canvassing, and sharing the gospel. The Rec Center is where, in the afternoons, we played games with the kids, sang some fun songs, and had lessons about extreme love and extreme forgiveness. The kids really seemed to understand the lessons. The gospel was shared by the students both Thursday and Friday, and kids responded each day. It was an amazing experience. 

As we were canvassing, there was a timid man some students interacted with. They prayed for him and invited him out to the Backyard Bible Club and told him about the free hot dogs on Friday. They thought that was the end of their interaction with him. But, after they had finished knocking on the doors on that street, they were headed back and this man motioned them back over. The students began talking to him more and more about Jesus Christ and having a relationship with Him. One of the students, Adam Harris, had the opportunity to share the gospel with Antwon, this middle-aged man, and lead him to Christ. It was so cool to see God moving and working and drawing men, women, and children into His kingdom right before our eyes!

Here are some pictures from Thursday and Friday:

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This is just a short summary of what we did and what God did through us in Detroit. It was hard to leave. The kids had already bonded with us after only two short days of spending time with them, serving them, and showing them the love of Jesus Christ. There are many stories that were left out, and many things that God will continue to do in us and in the area we served in now that the trip is over. The most exciting part is that the story is just beginning.

 

Pastor Matthew Vroman, the pastor from East Side Community Church in Harper Woods that we served with at the Rec Center, called me this week already and told me that he had the opportunity, because of the work we had done at the Rec Center, to pray and share from the Bible at a gang funeral this past weekend. We left Friday and Pastor Mat was already able to have an inside impact on a gang there in the area because we helped go in and break down some barriers there. God is definitely doing a work in Detroit! Keep the city and it’s people in your prayers, and pray that us leaders and our students would continue on the contagious passion of living for Jesus Christ boldly and sharing Him with everyone we meet.

Pursuit versus Avoidance

A couple of years ago I was preparing a lesson for a group of college students, and a principle from Scripture came out so clearly to me, and it has been stuck in my head for awhile, as I think and talk with people about dealing with different life issues.

 

avoidance

This idea came to me, as I’m sure many others have thought of before, but it was so powerful. It’s so easy, and so common, to try to “not” do things. Right? We avoid things. It is just natural. We avoid awkward situations (though some, like me, sort of thrive in those environments, but most aren’t big fans). We avoid going outside of our comfort zones; we many times avoid too many risks or “outside of the box” ideas.

Especially in Christian groups, we often avoid talking about certain topics for fear of offending (as even saying this may offend some…oops) or making others feel awkward. We avoid confrontation. We even sometimes avoid calling sin what it is.

Here’s the kicker: we even avoid encouraging and lifting up others. We sometimes avoid being confident because it may be interpreted as pride or arrogance.

 

When I thought about this, it kind of made me sad. Many of these ideas of what we avoid just now came to me, they weren’t fully formed a couple of years ago. But, I think it is true we avoid a lot of things. My question is this: WHY?

Especially some of those more positive things we avoid…WHY? Why avoid encouraging? Why avoid being confident in who you are and what you are capable of doing (after all, isn’t it spiritual to be confident because God gifted you and made you talented, so why not have confidence in how He made you??)? Why avoid confrontation, done in love and with the right attitude, but why so often avoid it?

Many of the things we tend to avoid can be so beneficial to our lives. They can bring more joy and fulfillment. They can bring more unity and wholeness to our lives. They can bring a greater sense of purpose and passion in life when we confidently understand that we are capable of changing this world.

 

pursuit

There are some things in the Bible that we are instructed to avoid. For sure. But, there are also many things in the Bible that we are told to pursue. It is so easy to focus on the negative isn’t it? I know it’s easy for me. But, we are in a battle of pursuit every day. We all pursue something, or someone. For many, these things change and vary.

 

But there are some incredible things the Bible tells us to pursue. One of these lists comes from 1 Timothy 6:11:

“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. PURSUE righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”

Now who wouldn’t want to pursue, or chase after, living right, imitating God, trusting in the Creator of the Universe, love and a habit of patience, as well as an attitude and a focus dominated by gentleness and compassion? This would be one pretty awesome person who lived all of these out. And the great thing is that it is possible! Paul, the writer of 1 Timothy, did not write here for people to pursue something that could never be attained… but he writes it so we know what to pursue and we know that it is possible to live such a great life, even an abundant fullness of life like Jesus promised in John 10:10.

 

So, I don’t know where you are at in life right now. But make a conscious choice right now to pursue these things. And explore the Bible for other things to pursue, like the fruit of the Spirit or wisdom (the entire book of Proverbs talks about pursuing, chasing, getting wisdom. Check it out.).

 

The Christian life is not passive. It requires a daily pursuit. So, live in this struggle between avoidance and pursuit. Recognize it. Own it. And instead of avoiding doing certain things, pursue Jesus Christ and see where He takes you. He often takes me into places or circumstances I would normally want to avoid at first, but then the blessing is so much greater than I could ever have experienced doing something under my own power… Try it out. Pursue Him.

My first John Maxwell book

My dad has been reading John Maxwell for years. He has been using his books in leadership training and various other contexts for awhile now. I have heard the name John Maxwell, and knew he was associated with leadership books, but had never really taken the time to read one of his books.

Recently I’ve been hearing more and more about him, as my dad has told me more and more quotes from the books and suggested more and more often that I read some John Maxwell books.

Well, I finally took him up on that invitation, and read the book, “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently.”

I now understand what all they hype was about.

This book is a goldmine. It took me a little while to wade through, just because there is so much useful content in this book. I just had to share that it is one of the best books I have read to date. He both connects and teaches and inspires in and through this book and makes things clear that connecting is so important to relationships, and it can be learned! So no matter how good or bad someone is at connecting, improvement can happen!

I’m not sure which of his books I will read next, but I just fully joined the John Maxwell bandwagon and think reading his books is one of the wisest investments of time anyone who will ever be in any leadership role can make. Check out this book or one of many others he has written! You won’t regret it!

One thing I hate to hear

There is something that, honestly, I hate hearing about. It makes me mad and upset, breaks my heart, and kind of brings out a “James and John” type of response to mind (they were the ones who wanted to call down fire from heaven and destroy a city…aptly nicknamed the Sons of Thunder).

 

This thing that so disturbs me is when I’m talking to someone and they don’t care about God–or the church or the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for them and the eternal life He offers if they would simply trust in Him–because of people who claimed to be Christians and yet were so quick to judge or condemn, talk down to, and drive away these people who were in desperate need instead of love, encouragement, and a listening ear and heart.

 

Does the world need Jesus? Yes, absolutely, 100%, without a doubt. I believe that with all my heart and it is the reason that I am in ministry today.

Does the world need us to be the judge, jury, and executioner? No. People go through enough pain and suffering and hardship that we don’t need to add to it.

 

Jesus says that the world will know His disciples by their love for one another (John 13:35) and Jesus also says “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” So why not be known for showing the love of Christ? Showing the love of Christ doesn’t condone sin and leave it be as is, but it gently rebukes, lovingly corrects, and always reveals Christ in every action. Jesus didn’t condemn the adulterous woman in John 8:1-11, but He loved her enough to forgive her and instruct her to “go and sin no more.” Jesus added value to the lives of people. We have the same opportunity.

 

I recently read in The Prayer Factory by Sammy Tippit a story about a woman who kept trying to get her husband to commit his life to Christ. He writes, “For many months his wife was concerned about his spiritual warfare. She continually witnessed to him, but he did not respond. Finally, she quit talking to him about God and started talking to God about him. He then surrendered his life to Jesus.”

Now, this doesn’t mean to stop talking to people about the Good News of Jesus Christ, but it means bathe that in prayer. Don’t judge or condemn others, but love them enough to pray for them. While praying for them, begin a relationship with them, and love them to the Lord. God is good. And faithful. And true. And He is the redeemer and transformer of hearts and lives.

Be the type of person in someone’s life that leads them even one step closer to coming to faith in Christ…not the type that drives someone away from the loving embrace of Jesus Christ.

 

I hope this encourages you today to step out of your comfort zone and love someone you may have previously written off :)