Monday, September 29, 2008

Camp War Eagle

I spent the past weekend helping Eagle Heights with their fall retreat at Camp War Eagle. I spent the weekend as a small group leader, sound/video guy, setup and tear down, etc. Great weekend in ministry full of great opportunities to catch up and visit with old friends. Camp War Eagle has a few memories for me, both good and bad. I worked there 3 summers ago. Met alot of great friends, ministered to some great kids, and had some frustrations along the way. It was the cause of my 1st shoulder dislocation. Now that I've had 6, I really wish that that first one wouldn't have ever happened. God showed me a lot about ministry, mainly the importance of long-term discipleship compared to the camp "bring 'em in, ship em' out." 

This year had a bit of a personal aspect that I wasn't really expecting or ready for. Last year, while interning for Eagle Heights, we had our fall retreat at War Eagle. I talked Kiley into being a small group leader for us. I think it was the first time that I had ever done ministry with Kiley. She did an incredible job and had an incredible impact on the lives of her students and I felt that we grew closer as brother and sister than we ever had before. I was looking forward to many more years of having her help in ministry whenever I needed it. So, needless to say, I missed not having her bouncing around this weekend giving me a boost from her off the wall energy. (I tend to stay up way later and wake up way earlier at these retreats and could've used somebody to add to my energy level). I love you Kiley and miss you daily.



Thursday, September 18, 2008

Refocusing

God has really caused me to rethink my "ideal" youth ministry since coming to Harrison. I believe the icing on the cake came last night. So often in youth ministry (any ministry, church, or anything really) we get so focused on our programs, camps, retreats, mission trips, etc that we lose sight of our primary objective. We get so consumed with putting on a good "show" with high energy games, funny, high-quality videos, worship, and lessons that we don't leave time for what really matters. On Monday, I met with a guy in my youth group after school for a bible study. We spent like an hour and a half going through Ephesians 1 (that's only 23 verses) and just talking about life and ministry. I go to the school lunches pretty regular during the week, I'm fixing to make my 3rd trip this week, but haven't ever really thought about impact that sitting at a lunch table with a kid can really have. It's always just kinda been, show up, hang out, and leave as kind of a routine scheduled part of my day. But I realized just how valuable that time can truly be last night. Yesterday while at lunch, I sat with one of my students that was sitting alone outside. I didn't really think anything about it, but last night his mom came up and thanked me because I sat with him. I probably sat with him a total of 10 minutes, but it was the highlight of his day. Often times, we don't really just how impacting a relationship can be, whether we are in "professional ministry" or not. 

My challenge for those in ministry is to not lose sight of what matters most. Don't get so busy planning and organizing that you neglect spending time with students. Christ didn't lock himself up in an office planning out his next big event, trying to figure out a video to go with his lesson, or a great game to kick things off. He walked beside his disciples, lived life with them, teaching them as they walked side-by-side while reaching out to those that were lost. He went to those in need rather than staying in one spot waiting for them to show up to his program. There was nothing organized about his ministry, just discipling those that were walking with him and teaching the gospel to those that hadn't yet chosen to follow. My youth ministry vision once involved high energy games, funny videos, incredible worship services, and powerful messages. (not that there is anything wrong with those things, as long as we don't lose focus of what does really matter) Now it has shifted to personal, meaningful relationships and challenging students with Scripture. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Well...

...I was reading in Acts this morning and had another one of those "why in the world are we not committed enough to do that today" moments.  

Acts 7:54-8:1 - "When they heard this (this being Stephen's statement that they had persecuted the prophets then persecuted the Righteous One that had been predicted to come), they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was there, giving approval to his death."

Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, we are called to continuously be filled with the Holy Spirit to the point that we are overflowing. Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and look at what he experienced! He looked up to heaven "and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." If that doesn't get you fired up to be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit, nothing will. So, he begins to tell these people who are ticked off at him about his Kingdom experience and they cover their ears and yell at the top of their voices.  Haha, I just get this mental image of a little kid (or probably me last week) putting their hands over their ears and screaming "la la la la la" whenever somebody is trying to tell them something they don't want to hear. Ever done that, I have. Then they drag him off and stone him to death. I don't know about you, but I have never been stoned for being a believer. I have, however, experienced numerous times when I've tried to witness and whoever I was trying to witness to simply did not want to hear what I had to say. Usually when we try to witness but people just ignore us, we get discouraged and give up. Stephen kept sharing to the point that the only way they were gonna shut him up was to stone him to death. As he is dying he says "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" and died. Sound like anybody else that died in the New Testament? (Jesus' crucifixion) And it makes perfect sense that it does. We are called to live a Christ-like life and that includes a Christ-like death. Jesus didn't quit preaching of His coming kingdom when people didn't want to hear it; Stephen, being the Christ-follower that we should all be striving to become, didn't quit preaching of Christ's Kingdom either. He lived a life of Christ and died the death of Christ. How much living and dying for Christ are we willing to do in our comfortable "Christian" society? 

A key part of this passage is the last verse "And Saul was there, giving approval to his death." This is the same Saul that becomes Paul, an apostle of Jesus, in just the next chapter. You think maybe Stephen's death and willingness to die for Christ might have made a major impact on Saul? The same Saul who became Paul, the world's greatest missionary. Even if somebody may oppose you now to your face, may later turn to Christ because of the impression that you left and how you responded (either out of commitment or giving up in disappointment).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Whoo!

Ok, so yea wow busy. Thats one way to put it. Since my last post, which was Wednesday morning, I have been a little occupied. We were supposed to start a bible study Wednesday night, but my books didn't come in so I spent Wednesday afternoon preparing a lesson for that night as an introduction of the theme of the bible study. (more on that another time). Then we had bible study and I ended up getting home around 8 or 9. We were supposed to start playing our "friendly after church basketball league" at 8 that night but it was decided to wait a few more weeks b/f we got that up and running. Needless to say I was extremely disappointed since I've been anxiously awaiting the start of that for the past like month. Just have to wait a few more weeks I guess. Thursday, I spent the morning working on my lesson for tonight, went to the junior high lunch, then went to the high school tennis match at 3:30, then 9th grade volleyball, 8th grade football, and finally 9th grade football. For some reason the football games took forever and that last one wasn't over with until 10. Afterwards, I got a call to help some people with video stuff for a retreat that I was helped with over the weekend. Got home around 1:30 AM and was in the office Friday morning to finish the video stuff. So, this camp was a 4th, 5th, and 6th grade retreat put on by Eagle Heights and I was easily persuaded to lend a helping hand. Friday afternoon after finishing the videos, I packed up all the sound and video stuff that I needed as well as a bunch of rec stuff and headed to Drasco, AR to start setting up with Miranda. The camp went great, especially for a bunch of young kids that had never really done anything like that before. Watching these young students worship was completely different than high school students and especially adults. Needless to say, I was very impressed. Had a great weekend, except for the technological headaches that were caused by certain pieces of equipment. Dwain, the worship leader for the weekend, and myself had a great time just wandering around and talking about ministry and life, picking on kids, and goofing off; usually if you see us together, we are probably laughing. Good week/weekend, extremely busy. Now its time for Sunday night Youth. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Call to Missions

I was reading in Acts yesterday and a passage really jumped out at me. I've always heard Acts 2:4 as a verse used to validate speaking in tongues. "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." I have always heard those that support speaking in tongues use this verse not only to validate themselves but often times to set themselves on a spiritual pedestal as if they are more filled with the Holy Spirit then other believers, even to the point of saying that someone doesn't have the Holy Spirit if they don't speak in tongues.  After reading this passage (in context) yesterday, I really think that this is more of an eye-opening passage toward God's heart for missions and preaching the Gospel throughout the world. Acts 2:1-12: "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues (or languages) as the Spirit enabled them. Now they were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: 'Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phyrgia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs - we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues (or languages)!' Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, 'What does this mean?'"

Those that were filled didn't just start speaking in tongues that nobody understood or that needed a translator. They started speaking in different languages "as the Spirit enabled them." People from all over the nation who all spoke different languages heard this and came (probably saying "Wow, what in the world is going on and why are these Galileans speaking my native language?"). They asked "What does this mean?" (You may be asking the same thing) This means that God has a heart and passion for the Gospel to be shared throughout the world in every language. They were able to speak the different languages "as the Spirit enabled them," they each spoke different languages as God prepared them and called them.  God is calling you to share His Gospel somewhere in this world. Are you willing to listen to and obey that calling? Or are you still doing everything in your power to ignore it? Are you making excuses like "I don't know other languages, or I don't have time or energy or resources or the courage?" God will equip you, it's just a matter of you bowing down the King of kings and obeying his call. Your mission may be here in the US, at your work, across the street, in your classroom, at the restaurant, I don't know. I feel confident that my current mission field is among youth, but our mission field is so much bigger than that. What about my neighbors at my apartment? What about the person who sits next to you in class? What if God really is calling you to learn another language or culture? 

I've been talking to a friend who has an absolute love for India and she has been telling me about all the persecution of Christians that has been going on over there. Like 4,000 homes and 100 churches have been burned. Christians dying for their faith everyday. My heart breaks for our brothers and sisters in Christ, yet even more so, my heart breaks because of the apathy of Christians here in the US. John 15:20 says, "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also..." If we are truly living a life sold out to Christ then we should be suffering! We are so comfortable and so ineffective that Satan doesn't have to worry about attacking us in order to slow down the spread of the Gospel. Satan loves when a Christian abandons his faith more than anything, but a close second would have to be a Christian that poses no threat to Satan's worldly kingdom. 

I kidnapped a few things from my friends blog for that last paragraph. (Miranda, I hope you don't mind). But I do want to encourage you to read her blog. God has definitely used her to open my eyes to missions and I think she'll have the same effect on you. You can check out her blog at http://agirlinlovewithindia.blogspot.com or follow the link in my bloggers anonymous area. 

Alright, I've gotta get back to the daily grind.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Variety Post

So, apparently its been a while since I last posted.  This has come to my attention from a number of people calling, emailing, etc.  My excuse for not posting is simple, and I'm pretty sure I explained a while back how I started a blog at the worst time in the youth ministry year, I've been a little on the busy side. And when I haven't been busy, I haven't felt like blogging. (And if you say, it doesn't take that much time to post.... for some reason it usually takes me like an hour, yea my mind works slow and takes a while to process thoughts into words which is why I was always writing papers into the wee hours of the night in college... that and procrastination, but anyway). So this is going to be a variety post in a sense ranging from what I've been doing to what I've been learning and maybe a bit of randomness in between.

School is underway, which means that ministry has changed from being spur of the moment to being much more scheduled and organized (and if you know me, then you know I'm not the best at being scheduled and organized).  With school comes sports, and in ministry terms means going to the school and sports events (which I absolutely love by the way).  For example, last Thursday I went to the junior lunch, was there from 11-12:30, then went to the 8th grade football game @ 5:30, then went to the 9th grade volleyball game as soon as the football game was over (shout out to my girl Kelsey who is an absolute stud on the volleyball court), then went to the 9th grade football game as soon as the volleyball game was over (another shout out to my boys Kyle and Craig who tore Huntsville up). More school lunches and games this week, woohoo!

So people in Harrison are beginning to discover my gifts and passion for technology, electronics, etc.  Needless to say, they are truly discovering that I am a blessing to the town as more than just a youth pastor.  Jack at Eagle Heights of course knows about my abilities and has been more than eager to put them to good use.  Greg, our director of family ministries has been very observant of me and how I've used those gifts in my youth ministry and has been excited to put them to use for the church as a whole.  We had a staff meeting yesterday and were talking about the possibility of adding lights to our chapel for a Sunday school class that meets in there.  I was doing my best not to say much, then Greg decided to announce my knowledge and that I look at it and give my "expert" opinion. (expert...haha) It then came to my attention that I was needed to run sound at some point in the future for our traditional service. I also have a number of electronics that are slightly messed up waiting on my attention to take apart and try to fix when I have time.  My couches look like a waiting room with patients waiting to see me. I guess my passion for taking electronics apart in order to fix them started at a young age. I remember once when I had a super nintendo I believe.  This was back when the power supply was a box that plugged directly into the wall.  Well, my super nintendo wasn't working right and I came to the conclusion that it was something wrong inside of the box plugged into the wall. Being the very young kid that wanted to fix stuff that I was, I began to take the box apart to fix the problem. The one thing that I hadn't figured out at that point was that you should unplug the box b/f taking it apart... oops!  Needless to say there was a little spark and a little talking to from dad after that one, BUT I did fix the problem! And now I unplug things b/f going to work on them. 

So, I read something today that really grabbed my attention about what I talked about the other day on the issue of eternal security. Deuteronomy 13:1-4 - "If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes places, and he says, 'Let us follow other gods' (gods you have not known) 'and let us worship them,' you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.  It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere.  Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him." Again, I don't believe that we can lose our salvation, but I do believe that we can abandon it. Why would God test us if it wasn't possible for us to "fail the test." He allowed Job to be tested to prove his love for God.  He allowed Judas to be tested, Judas abandoned his faith, "Satan entered Judas," he failed the test. 

I had more that I was gonna talk about, but I think I'll save them for another time. This went longer then I expected. Hopefully I can remember what I was gonna talk about long enough to write about it next time.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Friend or Fan?

Why is it that rainy days make me so tired and unproductive? I mean seriously. Here I am sitting in my office not able to focus on anything, therefore being VERY unproductive (and I don't even have a window in my office... maybe I need one). I'm working on the school year youth calendar, but being very indecisive. Bad combination. Aye aye aye!

In other news, I've been wanting to post something about what I talked about at youth a couple weeks ago, but I couldn't ever find the video that I wanted to go with it. I don't know if you've seen any of the ESPN Radio TV commercials, but they are great and this is one of them. It's not the one that first came to my mind, but it's the only one I could find and it definitely gets my point across.

Friend or Fan?

video

Matthew 7:21-23: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you, Away from me, you evildoers!"

I read this passage and can't help but think of sports fans. I think of a Razorback fan who feels that Darren McFadden is the greatest Razorback football player ever. (I'm not saying he's not, just providing an example). Well this DMac fan goes around the country talking him up and telling everybody how good he is and is gonna be in the NFL etc. Goes to all of his games. He wears his jersey to games, to the mall, to work, shoot even to church. This fan has all of his trading cards, posters, autographed footballs, the works. He IS DMac's biggest fan. One day, he sees Darren McFadden and goes up to him talking to him like they've known each other for years, right? The only problem is that DMac has never met this person in his life. This person may be DMac's biggest fan, but he's not his friend. As much as he talks about DMac and brags about him to others, there is no relationship there.

I often times see this in "Christians" too. We walk around telling everybody that we see how great Jesus is and how happy we're gonna be in heaven with Him. Go to all his games (church). Wear his "jersey" (christian apparel and the Bible) to games (church), the mall, work, shoot even to real games (ever seen the "John 3:16" signs at a football game?) Has all of his "trading cards and souvenirs." Shoot, even I have a "dancing dashboard Jesus." But then, someday we'll actually meet Jesus and start talking to him like we've known him for a long time. The only problem is that Jesus has never met this person... ever! This "christian" may be Jesus' biggest fan, but he's not his friend. As much as he talks about DMac and brags about him to others, there is no relationship there.

Jesus is pretty blunt in saying that it doesn't matter if you cheer for him on the sidelines. He wants a relationship with you, if you don't have that he will tell you plainly: "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"

Are you a fan of Jesus or a friend of Jesus?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day... The most relaxing day of the year?

So after working in ministry for a few years now, I think that Labor Day may be the most relaxing holiday for somebody in youth ministry.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, 4th of July, Mother's Day & Father's Day (both on Sundays), New Year's, and even Halloween are all surrounded and filled with special programs and/or events with either the church or youth ministry.... or both. But I would have to say that Labor Day is great!  The offices are closed, old friends are off work and able to come "back home," just great.  

Needless to say, I had a good Labor Day. Got to Springdale a little after 11.  Visited with mom and Mini, discussed some theological issues, and helped Mini with some more stuff with her Mac.  Then ate mexican with mom, dad, and Mini; it wasn't Salsa's, but we had a great time!  Then drove over to Siloam to meet up with my old roommate Matt and some other old JBU friends.  Hung out for a while, went to our old professor/advisors house and visited with him, ate at Zaxby's (pretty good by the way), then played sand volleyball with a bunch of old JBU friends.  We had a blast, wore ourselves out, and was covered with sand by the end of the night.  I am so thankful for my friends and family and the blessing that they have all been on my life.  And the opportunity to spend a day relaxing and visiting with them was greatly appreciated.  I hope you had a good Labor Day too!