Thursday, April 30, 2009

Great Night!

Last night our Wednesday Night Worship service was totally backwards.  We really did the things the opposite way last night.  We began with a short devotional then we went over to have worship with the Awana children and the youth band played.  A couple students spoke and they did an excellent job and I'm very proud of them.  We did some upbeat exciting song and did a couple of heartfelt serious ones as well.  It was great to hear the children and youth together singing their hearts our for the Lord!  It was refreshing for me, and even got me emotional a couple times as well.

But before went over to be a part of Awana, we looked at Psalm 40:1-5 which has become a favorite as of late.  Of course when I read this I want to sing the song 40 by U2, or the Starfield version at least.  I wanted to take the night to simply encourage everyone because we all need encouragement from time to time.  I told the students that no matter what they may be going through at school, home, with friends, family, etc. to wait patiently for the Lord and cry out to Him because he hears our cries.  He pulls us out of whatever junk we may be dealing with, sets us on solid ground, then helps walk after that.  He doesn't set our feet on solid ground and pat us on the back and tell us to go on.  No, he helps us walk.  He's by our side, day after day, wanting to love on us if we will allow Him to.  I love what it says in verse 5.  In a nutshell it says that if we were to start listing out all the blessings from God then we would never finish.  It may be hard to see things in that light when we are suffering or going through a tough time, but every second is a blessing from God.  Not only the fact that we are alive and breathing, but that God loves us so much we can't fathom it.  If you're reading this and are struggling then I want to encourage you to hold on, cry out to God, and allow Him to wrap His loving arms around you and hold you tightly.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Two Criminals

As we continued our "Perspectives" series this week we took a look at the two criminals that Jesus hung on the cross between.  We don't know much about the two from the Biblical accounts, but we do know that they were criminals.  If you look at different translations at the two accounts they are mentioned you will see them called criminals, thieves, robbers, revolutionaries, and malefactors.  They are briefly mentioned in Matthew 27:38 and 44 but we see them interact with Jesus when we look at the account in Luke 23:32-43 and primarily verses 39-43.

I labeled the two criminals as "Criminal #1" who insulted Jesus and "Criminal #2" who understood who Jesus truly is.  If you think about it each one of us fall into the category of either Criminal #1 or #2.  We looked at each and how we are just like them today.

Criminal #1 (verse 39)
-Disrespected Jesus and in turn disrespected God
-He hurled insults, scoffed, made fun of Jesus, etc.
-He Questioned Jesus' Sovereignty/Divinity- "So you're the Messiah, are you?"
-Tested Jesus- "Prove it by saving yourself"
-Was selfish and mainly concerned with himself
-Told Jesus to save him
-Thought he deserved being saved, or that Jesus owed him
How We are Like Criminal #1
-We Disrespect God
     -Just like we say "Love God, Love People"- If we love the Lord with all our hearts then we will in turn have a greater love 
       for people.  We are commanded to do this.  Well if you take the flipside when you "Disrespect People you in turn Disrespect 
       God".  Whether it be a friend, parent, teacher, boss, pastor, leader, etc. when you disrespect that person you are in turn 
       disrespecting God.
-We Questions God's Sovereignty/Divinity/Power when we Doubt
-We Test God
-We're Selfish and Concerned With Ourself just like Criminal #1.  We think that people, and sometimes even God owe us.  We 
   think they owe it to us to make us happy, however that may be.  The thing is, nobody owes you anything.

Criminal #2 (verses 40-43)
-Rebuked the Other Criminal (verse 40)
-He Feared God
-Realized he was a sinner and deserved death (verse 41)
-He knew who Jesus was and that he hadn't done anything wrong
-Asked Jesus to remember him and was saved
How Can We Be Like Criminal #2
-Stand Up Against Sin
-Fear and Respect God
-Realize our Sin and That We Deserve Death- And our need for a Savior!

We can be saved and go to church and still have the same qualities as Criminal #1.  I challenge you to ask God to reveal to you which one you are more like: the one who feared and respected God -or- the one who was disrespectful and selfish.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Morning

I want to take some time to post something that really has no relevance to life at all.  My pastor is hilarious when he talks about how absolutely worthless things such as blogs, Twitter, and Facebook are.  He got me all excited when he mentioned in our Church Council meeting this past Sunday how he was going to start "Twittering" in a couple of weeks.  After I announced my excitement that he had joined the modern world he shot me down with how stupid it is.  My first clue that he wasn't serious should have been that he called it Tweeter instead of Twitter.  He always goes on about how nobody cares that you "walked out the door to go to work" and that "you're drinking your morning coffee", etc.  Well in honor of Pastor Wayne, I wanted to share a little bit about my morning.

We met at the coffee shop this morning for prayer with a student.  After I left the coffee shop to head to work I remember I needed to get gas or I would be walking to work which just didn't seem appealing for some reason.  I stopped at the monopoly aka Wal-Mart to get $10 in gas.  As I reached in to unscrew the gas cap something made me go "Ouch!"  I looked in and there was a wasp on a nest the size of a piece of cereal and he had just stung me.  As I'm trying not to scream like a little sissy I go ahead and continue to run my debit card, shut off the annoying Additech gas cleaner commercial that can be heard for miles and get ready to pump some gas.  But first I think I need to take care of this horrible creature that thinks he can ruin my day and so I use the tip of the gas handle to mash him a little which makes him mad for some reason.  I continue to just enough to torture him and not die (wow, as I type this it reminds me of how the Romans perfected crucifixion). Then after putting gas in my car I let a little drip on the pitiful insect.  As my hand started to swell, I remember how allergic to bee stings my father is and I start to panic a bit.  But never fear I was able to find someone with a  little bit of chewing tobacco to absorb the poison and so now I'm almost 100% again.  I just hope the bee didn't contact all his friends by walkie-talkie, or whatever bees use to communicate these days, before he died.  I guess we'll see if there is a riot of bees waiting for me when I leave work.

Anyway I just wanted to share that with everyone.  Probably everyone will lose a little respect for me posting something so stupid, but then again I don't think anyone other than my wife reads this blog and she'll think nothing of it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Surviving the Famine and Gaining Appreciation

Well we had the 30 Hour Famine this weekend and survived, and are all better for it.  Not eating for 30 hours, combined with a spectacular concert, helping with the Special Olympics, doing Bible study, and sleeping in a cardboard box is draining to say the least.  I'm so proud of the students involved.  We had close to 30 students who fasted along with several adults.  The students raised over $1300 nearly feeding 4 children for an entire year.  But along with helping to save children's lives, we gained a greater appreciation for what we have.  We eat wonderful food and sleep in our comfortable beds without thinking twice and sometimes act as if we deserve it.  I know now that I will be more grateful for each meal I eat, and for each night of sleep in my bed.  It really hit me when we were having our final devotion of the weekend before we took communion and ate.  The students took a moment to share what they gained from the experience.  I then talked about how much more love I have for Depi who is the little girl that Belinda and I sponsor through Compassion International.  It breaks my heart that such a beautiful young girl might not have enough food to eat and less than adequate housing.  I can't say enough of how proud of our students I am.  I told them in the beginning that the #1 rule is "No Whining or Complaining" which they followed.  There was no complaining and I am very proud of them.

Friday, April 17, 2009

30 Hour Famine

This weekend the youth will be participating in World Vision's 30 Hour Famine.  This is a time where we commit to fast for 30 hours to gain a little understanding of what it means to be hungry.  Leading up to this time the students have been raising funds for World Vision where $1 will feed a child for 1 day.  Here are some of the startling facts about poverty in the world:
- Each day over 26,000 children under the age of 5 die from preventable diseases such as malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, 
    and acute respiratory infections.  That is about 1 child every 3 seconds that dies and around 9.7 million children each year.
- More than 840 million people in the world don't get enough to eat.  That is 1 in every 7 people on the planet.
- In the last 50 years, 400 million people worldwide have died from hunger and poor sanitation.  That's three times the number of 
    people killed in all wars fought in the entire 20th century.
 - Of the 6.6 billion people in the world today, 2.1 billion live on less than $2 per day.

We learn from Jesus in Matthew 25:31-40 that we are to take care of those who are less fortunate.  We are called to be the hands of feet of Jesus and this is one way that we plan to do that.  

I ask that you pray for our youth ministry and everyone involved in this 30 Hour Famine this weekend.  My desire is that God will show up in a mighty way, and that we will never be the same.

If you would like more information about this you can go to www.30hourfamine.org 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Peter's Denial

We continued out 'Perspectives' series this week by looking through the eyes of Peter.  We know a lot about Peter but when I asked the students what they know about him, the first thing mentioned was that he denied Jesus three times.  It stinks that someone who did such great things can be labeled by his biggest mistake in life.  We took a moment to look person that Peter which included:  he was a fisherman by trade, he was the leader of the 12 disciples, he cut off the soldiers ear when they came to arrest Jesus, his original name was Simon but Jesus gave him the nickname "Peter" or "Cephas" which means rock. He probably gave him this nickname not because his character was already like that of a rock, but to remind him of the person he needed to be.   We know that sometimes Jesus called him Peter and sometimes Simon.  This is probably because Jesus might have called him Peter when he acted like a rock and called him Simon when he needed to be corrected or rebuked.  We also know that Peter spoke when he should have been listening and was an over ambitious person.  Then as mentioned earlier we know that he denied Jesus three times, even after Jesus told him he would.

We can read the account of Peter's denial in all four gospels but we looked at the account in Matthew 26:69-75.  We looked at ways we too deny Jesus today.
1)  If we are asked if we are a christian or follower of Jesus and say no when in fact we are.  This seems very unlikely but is 
      possible because we see that Peter did it.  Most of us think we would never do such a thing, but the other ways we can deny 
      Jesus are just the same
2)  When our actions don't reflect that Jesus lives in us.  This is when our actions are worldly.  Maybe people can't tell the 
      difference in you and a non-christian.  I told the students to think about how someone would describe the person that they are.        If they would describe you as anything other than a follower of Christ, then you have been denying Jesus in your lifestyle.
3)  When we don't say anything and keep quiet.  When we are around sin and people sinning and we say nothing and are tolerant 
      of it then we are denying Jesus.  This doesn't mean that we have to verbally attack them, but we can't be tolerant of sin going 
      on around us.  Also when we laugh at sin.  The thing is, according to Romans 6:23 sin brings us death.  Even the smallest sin 
      that one might think is silly or funny brings death.  It doesn't seem so funny when put that way.
4)  If you never accept Jesus as your Savior, then you are in constant denial of Jesus.  This is by far the worst because if this is the 
      case then you are destined for Hell.  But you don't have to be if you accept Jesus as your Savior.

We look at Peter's mistake and can learn not to fall into the same sin.  We have to remember to that Peter moved on.  We don't read in scripture that he confessed the sin of denying Jesus and sought forgiveness, but we know that he must have.  We know this because he went on to preach and do great things.  We can read in Acts 2 that 3000 people were saved on the day of Pentecost when he preached.  See if you have been denying Jesus in your life, then you first need to realize it then repent and turn to God (Matthew 3:2).  Then if you've never accepted Jesus in the first place, then you can get that right by admitting you are a sinner and ask for God's forgiveness.  Believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose on the third day for your sin.  Then ask him to live in your heart.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Medical Aspect of the Crucifixion

I meant to have posted this last week but didn't get to it.  As we continued our "Perspectives" series last week, we took a look at the Crucifixion from a medical aspect, or from a Doctor's perspective.  I had heard something similar before and even spoke on it myself, but thought of who else to present it than our very own Dr. Sam Olsen.  It's neat how God works things out because I had thought about asking Sam to talk about it and then found out that he was researching and studying the subject himself.  Sam told us about things that are written in the scriptures such as in Luke 22:44 when Jesus' sweat became as blood.  This is an actual condition called hematidrosis that can occur when one is under extreme stress such as Jesus was.  It was a great night as Sam gave excellent insight as a doctor of what our Savior suffered on the cross for each one of us.  

Monday, April 13, 2009

We Don't Have to Search!

Ok, once again I have been neglecting the blog. I've been very busy and even though this week is going to be even busier I plan to make several posts. I should have posted this and another one regarding Easter but late is better than never!

This past week our local newspaper The Daily Post Athenian had a Golden Egg search. Each day the newspaper would have a new clue to where in the city this golden egg had been hidden. Then whoever was to find the egg and turn it in would win $250! As a youth group we decided to work together in order to find it so that we could put the money on our summer camp cost. We went several times looking, even dropping some students off at a median in the highway to look in a huge bush! I wish we had gotten pictures! We didn't find the egg but next year we will prevail!

There are 2 things I want to point out relating to the egg search. First of all, looking at the clues and searching for the egg itself made me so glad that we don't have to search to find God. We don't have to decipher clues in order to figure out salvation. It made me so glad that I don't have to do a special search to find God because if that was the case then I would probably never find Him. God is everywhere and is always waiting with open arms for us to come running to Him so that we can accept His love. How wonderful that is!

The second thing that I thought about was relating to the amount of people searching for the egg. One day my wife Belinda and I decided that we knew exactly where the egg was and set off for it during the middle of the day knowing that everyone was either at work or school. We actually were close to where it was found, but was astonished by the number of people who were out searching for the prize. It made me think of how people can get excited about trying to find $250, but how much do we get excited to search through the Bible to learn how we are to live our lives and to grow closer to God. I think if we would read the Bible with that kind of excitement every day then we would be amazed by what we would find!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Perspectives- The Walk to Emmaus

We began a new series this Wednesday called "Perspectives".  We all have a perspective or viewpoint on people, situations, etc.  Our perspective can be swayed by our background, the people we surround ourselves with, and the Bible.  As Christians we all need to look through the "lens" of God in order to gain His perspective on the world, people, sin, and sinners who are destined for Hell.  We must look through God's lens in order to gain compassion on the world and have the drive to witness to the lost and help out those who are in need.  I challenged the students that along with looking through the lens of God daily, we need to look through the lens of the people around us.  We need to be looking through the lens of our friends, teachers, parents, pastors, etc. to try to gain an understanding of what they deal with and where they come from in the decisions they make.  We have to put ourselves in their shoes.  Since being in the ministry I have come to the realization of the necessity of this.  We must look through the eyes of other people in order to not cast judgement and to have an understanding of how to pray for them.  Throughout this series we are going to look at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus through the eyes of the people involved, look at their perspective, and see how it applies to us today.

We began the series by jumping to after the resurrection and looking at the two on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-34.  These two people had an encounter with Jesus and we see in verse 16 that God kept them from knowing or recognizing Jesus.  Now I'm not going to speculate why this happened, but the point I want to make is the fact that they missed Jesus.  They had an encounter with the Messiah, the greatest teacher and person to walk the Earth, who had died for us all and they missed him!  How disappointing that would be!  So we looked at 2 reasons why today we miss Jesus.

1)  Our Sin Blinds Us
-Isaiah 59:2 tells us that our sin separates us.  This doesn't mean that salvation is impossible because we know in Romans 5:8 that Jesus 
   died for us while we still sinners.
-It's like bad cell phone, radio, or TV reception.  Sin causes us to not to be able to pick up the signal clearly.

2)  We're Not Looking For Him
-I believe this a big problem.  Too many people today are convinced that going to church on Sunday and Wednesday are enough.  That is 
   one of the biggest lies ever told.  We must be seeking fellowship with God daily and constantly.  I love how Jeremiah 29:13 in the Message 
   says it:
"When you come looking for me, you'll find me.  "Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll 
      make sure you won't be disappointed."
I don't know about you but that's about as clear as it can be.  We must get serious about finding God.  Then He tells us that when that 
   happens we won't be disappointed.  What a wonderful promise!

As I closed the evening I asked the students to think about what in their life is hindering them from seeing Jesus.  Is it sin?  Is it the fact that they've made life about themselves and not God in the first place?  Or is it the fact that they haven't been seeking God at all?  If we look back at the main scripture in verse 32 we see that the two were sad that they didn't realize it was Jesus.  They were even disappointed.  Don't be disappointed.  Seek Jesus because if seriously seek Him then you won't be disappointed.