I have been spending the past few days in my Proverbs journal for my devotions then I read a chapter from Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson. I am challenged all around right now. While Provers gives daily wisdom Wild Goose Chase is challenging my to step out of my cage and go after the God-given desires of my heart – because no one else can chase them for me….only I can chase them for myself. It has really been a great book. I am going to recommend it to a few people (probably loan it out) when I get done with it. It’s so good. The ‘wild goose’ is the Holy Spirit which is the English translation of what the Celtic-Christians call the holy Spirit ‘An Geadh-Glas’ which translates ‘the wild goose.’ I love Marks candor in the book. Mark is the Pastor of the National Community Church in Washington, DC. Once I am done with the book I will give a full review on it – but for now I don’t want to spoil the book other than to say it is good – really good.
The one thought I have really been challenged with was when Mark was talking about the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan.’ Here is what he said;
Hurry kills everything from compassion to creativity. And when you’re in a hurry, you don’t have time to get out of your routine, do you? No room for Spirit-led spontaneity. No time for Wild Goose chases. Here is the great irony: the priest and the Levite were probably on their way to the temple. They were so busy loving God that they didn’t have time to love their neighbor. And that is when our routines become counterproductive. Let’s be honest. We can get so busy doing “ministry” that we don’t have time for ministry.
This is so true. I’ve seen it in my own life over the past 6 months. I have been asked to do things and have become so busy doing “ministry” that I have forgotten to do ministry. God has really been convicting me of that big time. So I made a phone call and apologized for not being as proactive as I should have been in some things that I said I would do. There is freedom in forgiveness and freedom in seeking forgiveness. How have you gotten so busy doing “ministry” that you haven’t been able to do ministry or have become so STUCK in your routine and so GUARDED with your time that you have blocked things that God wants for you? I know I have but I am trying hard to undo those things.
I am looking forward to journaling through Proverbs and finishing the Wild Goose Chase over the coming weeks. There is something more satisfying than pursuing spiritual fitness than physical. Without both we will die though – that’s something to think about.
I joined our gyms ‘Winter Meltdown’ this past week. It’s a 12 week contest to lose weight and get in shape for summer. The winner gets the entry fees from four different Anytime Fitness clubs in the area. Honestly even if I don’t win I’m already a winner. It will definitely help keep me motivated to drop the rest of the weight I want to lose by summer. I’m down another 4lbs this week. That’s pretty exciting for me.
What’s even more exciting is pursuing God the way He wants me to.
When I heard the news of the earthquake in Haiti I couldn’t believe it. An earthquake so severe that some are even calling it ‘apocalyptic’ of nature. There is no doubt that it is bad. Then this morning they were rocked with another earthquake of a 6.1 magnitude. This little nation is just getting hammered – hard right now. The pictures are just devastating. So many people have lost their lives. So many families impacted forever. Missionaries have fled from Haiti because of fear. Some are saying this is Haiti’s judgment from God for being a nation of voo doo and not worshiping God. Others are getting mad at some who are vocally outspoken in saying that. If we carefully read through the OT we know God judges nations who turn from him or who never acknowledge him. In Romans we know God says he turns people over to their desires sometimes. These are tough passages in times of devastation like what is going on in Haiti.
Here’s my thought: God has set the stage for His Gospel (a message of hope) to go in to Haiti to reach this little nation. Lately I have been feeling a tug at my heart for Haiti – it’s devastation but also the brokenness of the people there. I don’t know that God is calling me to do anything more than pray for Haiti. I do know in the past couple of days I have had a few conversations of going to Haiti in the future to help with relief/ rebuilding. Each of these were unprovoked by me. I was approached. I can’t say for sure God is calling me to go but the more I think about it the more I want to go.
Still I’m not sure it’s God saying, “Go.” I do know this – I will continue to pray about it and ask some questions. Maybe find a good ministry to volunteer through if God opens that door. God calls some of us to give money and some of us to go and do physical labor and help to share the Gospel. The thing is that whatever God calls us to is no more important than the other. It’s about being a good steward of what He is calling you to do with your time and resources.
What is God calling you to do for Haiti or for your local church? Maybe it’s pray. Maybe it’s send money. Maybe it’s go. Whatever it is He is calling you to be a good steward of that.
…is to help people. Honestly I love giving of my time and helping someone if I can really help them. I had a few opportunities over the past few weeks to help people who were in need. I loved it.
The first was for Pastor Jay. Deb called me and wanted to know if I could install a CD player in his car since his didn’t work. The trick was he wasn’t to know about it and we were talking about it on Tuesday. I was going to try to put it in on Friday. I was hoping to have gotten his car from him while mine was in the shop but there was no chance in that happening. I jut got the vibe that I wasn’t going to be able to convince him to let me drive it for the day. Wednesday Deb and the kids went to Wal-Mart and picked up the CD player and install kit. The amazing thing was that the kids KNEW and still kept it a secret. So two weeks ago on a Friday night they went to eat at a family from church’s house. So while they were gone I got into the car and installed the CD player. Jay and the boys were leaving at 4am Saturday morning to go to the Iowa game against Minnesota. Once they got home he needed to go and fill his car up with gas and when he did - BAM! – there was the new CD player. He called me and I was already on my way to the gas station to get some mile. Once I got up there it was funny to hear his reaction and see the total surprise on his face.
The second was for my parents. This past week while I was home they wanted me to lead worship, speak and break some things for their youth group. It was great. I talked from Ephesians 4 and how we need to leave our old sinful self behind but also how we need to begin a relationship with Christ. My dad was pretty thankful for me being there. The night overall was good even though I botched the songs and the message wasn’t that great. The kids were surprised when I started breaking stuff. Below is a picture of the stuff I broke.
The third was yesterday. I went over to Pastor Jay’s and installed an HDTV for him that he bought for their family. Although the install was simple I enjoyed being able to help them out with it. I love doing audio visual installs whether they are big or small.
I do love helping people. I love being an encourager and helping to cheer people on too.
This year we are making an intentional effort in sharing with our students everything that comes with our faith journey. I am excited. Last week we walked about baptism, the symbolism of baptism and how we are supposed do it out of our obedience to Christ. We had 12 kids sign-up last week saying that they wanted to be baptized. So very cool.
Tonight I am teaching on communion, the importance of communion and what it is and what it’s not. After I teach on it tonight we are going to lead our students in our first ever communion service in our student ministries. I am excited about this for a couple of reasons.
- it’s importance that we can understand elements of our faith even at an early age
- it will be one more way to help our students understand the importance of a healthy walk with Jesus
- we will be uncovering one of the “mysteries” of Christianity to them
- God can use it to grow them and make them strong through a better understand of who He is
I am looking forward to tonight. I will be using 1 Corinthians 11:23-34. We will not be passing trays…rather we will have some big loaves on the table with a big cup of grape juice. They will be able to tear a chunk of bread off and dip it into the grape juice. Obviously beforehand we will be giving them a time to get right with God and with each other.
I am looking forward to what God is going to do tonight.
This is a video that has by done by our church plant pastor in Poznan, Poland. This is really been a God thing that this has happened the way it has. Tomek and Damaris Otremba (and their 2 children Christian and Polyana) are here with us this week. This coming weekend Tomek will be preaching in our church. They really are great people. We also do church planting in another country but right now for security reasons (for their personal safety) we aren’t allowed to talk about it on our blogs.
Watch this video. There are some great things happening in Poland right now.
In my last post I posted the first part of my story of how the church hurt me. Let me re-cap a little bit. Our new youth pastor had been hired for about 6 months. We were into the new school year and kids stopped coming. I found out later it was becuase our leaders were not allowed to go pick kids up anymore. I was confused and didn’t understand how that fit into Matthew 28:19-20. I had asked my parents if I could go somewhere else and was told no becuase we didn’t quit things. We were part of that church through thick and thin.
Here’s the rest of my story…
About 6 months later I started to hear things. Mainly becuase my parents were hurt badly along with some other adults that we were close to. My parents tried their hardest to keep things hidden from us. Eventually it came out. They were told by our youth pastor and senior pastor of the time that they were, “oppressed by demons and were open windows that were allowing demons into the church.” My parents along with a few other couples were told this. When I found out it made me even more confused. I became very bitter at the leadership of our church. Thoughts and questions started running through my head. Were my parents oppressed by demons? How were they letting demons into the church? If it were true what exactly did this mean? I starting growing further and further from our church. I went on the weekends and tried my hardest to be involved and not let it bother me.
Things simmered down for a while. I was in college and remember numerous times of talking to my dad and him telling me that the church tried to vote them out along with some other people. By now everyone in church knew what was going on. Eventually that senior pastor left. I’m not sure if there was a connection or not. I’m sure my parents didn’t handle every conversation with much grace at the time. Over a few years our youth pastor did go to my parents and apologize for everything. Now my parents are still attending and are involved in the AWANA ministry there.
It took me a long time to trust anybody in the church again. I saw a side of church people that I never wanted to see. I was hurt deeply by people I trusted and people that I thought really cared about us as a family. The truth is sometimes the church hurts you. Most of the time it is unintentionally. Still it hurts. I know I have hurt people and I will hurt people again. I will have the best intentions in mind but I am human.
I was talking with a guy yesterday who I have known for a few years. I can honestly say that I don’t know him extremely well but I do know he is the type of guy I would like to get to know deeper. Possibly someday. We were talking about when the church hurts you and what that process is like…so I decided to start a series on my experience with being burned by the church. First of all there are some things I want to point out before I get to far;
- I have (actually our family) has been (in the past) deeply hurt by the church
- I am not against the Church at all. In fact I am a youth pastor at a church
- Not all hurt that comes from the church is intentional
- I’m not perfect and I have hurt others and probably will in the future un-intentionally as well
I never knew that you could be hurt so deeply by people who were supposed to love you and look out for you. At least that’s what I thought the church was supposed to do as I was growing up. Once I got in high school I learned a different side of the church…a side I wish I never knew about. A side that I have seen too many times within churches I have been involved in. Honestly I feel very lucky right now to be here where I am at. Our church doesn’t have the type of drama that I have seen and for that I am thankful…very thankful.
I have some trepidation even writing out on my story on my blog but I know there are so many people out there that have been hurt by the church so maybe this can help. I wish my story was easy but it is complicated. So here it is…my Story: Part 1
I remember when I was a freshman in high school. Our church was setting out to find a new youth pastor. Our first youth pastor was still employed by our church but he was taking the role as the Minister of Family Life. Things were really starting to happen. our junior high group was growing in leaps and bounds. It was 1990 and they were drawing around 80-100 middle school kids every week. There was a bus ministry. Once I was able to drive I even helped picking up kids on my way to youth group. You couldn’t help but get involved. The atmosphere was contagious. New families were coming to church and so our youth pastor moved in the Minister of Family life position. Things were going pretty good.
Our new youth pastor got hired and everyone liked him. He seemed like a pretty cool guy and he loved kids. Everything was going pretty smooth. About 3 months into the new school year I had noticed that we weren’t doing bus routes to pick kids up on Wednesday’s. I thought it was odd so I asked my dad since he was the one who normally ran the routes. He told me that our new youth pastor had decided to not run the routes anymore and that if kids wanted to come their parents would bring them.
Let me pause for a moment. I know our youth pastor was a good guy and he was trying to do what he felt God was leading him to do. I honestly did get along to the best of my ability with him even when things were going wrong. I’m not trying to make him out to be a bad guy…I’m just relaying the story from my view.
So we stopped doing bus routes and within 3 months our middle school group was down to 20 kids…mostly church kids. I was really confused as to why he didn’t want to reach out to other kids besides the church kids. I really didn’t understand at all. Soon after that my parents stopped helping with the middle school program along with 3 or 4 other couples. I knew that there had been some disagreements between the leaders and our youth pastor and they decided to step aside…so I thought.
I had no idea what was happening but you could tell it was good. I tried to stay out of it the best way I could but when your parents are coming under fire along with some other adults you really respect you really start to question a lot of things even as a sophomore in high school.
I started asking my parents if I could go to another youth group..one where my friends went and they always said, “No. We belong to this church and even though things aren’t great this is where God has brought us. This is where you need to be right now.” It was tough for me to hear that but looking back I’m glad my parents took that stance. It instilled within me a core value that I can never shake and for that I am thankful. They did however let me go once in a while with some friends to their youth group but rarely did that happen. Our youth pastor began asking why I never invited my friends to our youth group. Honestly I was embarrassed to bring them. I brought them one night and when we left they said, “Man that was horrible. You really go to this youth group every week?”
It was tough being in our youth group at that point in high school. I thought things were as low as they could get. I didn’t fully understand the situation though. It got worse. Much worse.
I will post part 2 in the coming days.
I have the privilege of preaching John 15:1-17 this weekend in church. here is the passage;
1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.
- Jesus (John 15:1-17)
I don’t want to share too much here but I was wondering what some of your thoughts are on the passage. I know some issues raised are;
- abiding in Christ
- eternal security
- doing what Jesus commands us to do: love our neighbors
- we are no longer considered servants but friends of God (yet at the same time we are still slaves to Christ who is our Master)
What are your thoughts?
When I was younger I attended a Baptist church. It was through AWANA in that church that I placed my faith in Jesus Christ. I will never forget my leader, Roger Bolander, for allowing God to use him. Roger is now the pastor of Rogers Park Baptist Church in Rogers Park, IL. While attending the church I grew up in we often did responsive readings as part of the worship service. Yes we really were a baptist church. Of course being in the 3rd grade I just thought these readings were part of the way church was done since they were in the back of the hymnal. As I got older and attended different churches through college I began to ask, “What happened to the responsive readings?” I really missed them. I grew to appreciate the responsive readings as a way of praying and communicating with God.
Unfortunately we have not used responsive readings too often in our student ministries here in our church. It is something that over the course of the next year I hope to implement more. Not to become a completely liturgical youth service but to share with them another way of communicating with God. I was reminded through an email from Youth Specialties I receive today of a responsive prayer for Easter. This prayer comes from the book The Book of Uncommon Prayer by Steve Case. You can buy it here. The reading is below;
The disciples saw him arrested, beaten, and die.
Jesus came back!
The saw him wrapped in rags and placed in a grave.
Jesus came back!
His enemies said, “There! That should take care of that!”
Jesus came back!
Centuries of leaders have tried to say he was never real.
Jesus came back!
Denturies of leaders have tried to put him in a box.
Jesus came back!
They tired to limit him.
Jesus came back!
They tried to dillute him.
Jesus came back!
The tried to drown him out.
Jesus came back!
We, too, have pushed him away.
Jesus came back!
In our actions and words, we have betrayed him.
Jesus came back!
We have screamed at him in agner.
Jesus came back!
We have used his name in vain.
Jesus came back!
Time will not see him fade.
Jesus came back!
With the Father and the Holy Ghost, he will live forever.
Jesus came back!