Friday, April 30, 2010

Disciple Now Kick-Off

Thursday night was our Disciple Now kick-off and it was incredible. We kicked the night off right with some pizza. After that we went to the sanctuary where the Total Life band led us in worship. I then got the group leaders on the stage and had them play the game "Face the Cookie" from the tv show Minute to Win It. There was some group time where the student were able to talk with their group leaders for the weekend and go over the house rules. I announced our Saturday activity which is the Amazing Race and showed the silly video I made. Then they wrapped up the evening with a couple more songs including "Opposite Way". Below are a few videos from the evening including our silly Amazing Race video.







Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sweet Worship

I didn't preach last night at WNW but I want to share a couple of my recent experiences. I've been reading through Psalms lately which is always a great encouragement to me. I love reading pure praise from the psalmists. It's also very raw as they hold nothing back. I love to worship. I love worship in the form of music. I love to lead worship through guitar and song. It's definitely a part of me that is special and important.

We recently went to a Shane & Shane concert. This was probably our 5th or 6th time seeing them but it never gets old. Not only are they incredibly talented musically, but they pour their hearts out which is so contagious. It was definitely a sweet time of worshiping my Lord, alongside my wife. I love the title track off their latest album "Everything is Different". The song is about how when Jesus comes to our life, there is a total change that takes place. The line of the chorus that has stuck in my head is "You made a way when there was no way". I think that completely sums up worship of Jesus Christ.

The other experience was last night at WNW. My dear friend Tanner Hutsell did a devotional and even selected a few songs for us to sing. One thing I've done a couple times recently is when I introduce a new song to the students I will do it two weeks in a row in order for them to learn it better. It makes me nervous to do this even there there is a purpose, and especially when it is a slow song, probably because I tend to be an over-thinker. We introduced Hillsong United's song "The Stand" last week. We had done the chorus before but never the entire song. So we were doing the song again this week. I sometimes read the expressions of people's faces while I am leading worship. I think everyone at some point should get to experience being on stage during worship in a church service to see the looks on some faces. Some are full of joy, some you can tell really love the song, some are totally worshiping God, some don't want to be there, some don't like the song, and some you just don't know what they are thinking. Well I took a minute to read faces last night during this song and was really blown away. As I looked around it was such a sweet moment of worship for me as a leader. Several students were just singing with their eyes closed, hands were raised, and it seemed as almost everyone was singing with all their heart. Wow what a moment! Definitely one of my favorite times leading the students. We should always experience worship this way as we outwardly express the inward change that God has done in us.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Disciple Now


This weekend will be our students' Disciple Now weekend. I loved being involved in Disciple Now when I was a teenager and I love planning them as well! If you don't know what goes on in a Disciple Now weekend it's this: students are in a home for a weekend Bible study aimed to disciple the students, help them grow their relationship with God, and help them to grow with other students. The theme for this year is Inhabit: Set Apart and is based around Daniel and his friends helping students develop a lifestyle of being in the world without conforming to it.

There will be a kick-off concert Thursday night and a time where students will find out who their group leader is, get to know them, etc. Students will arrive to their host-homes Friday evening and do two sessions. Stay the night and wake up Saturday morning to do two more sessions. Then during the day there will be an event that I will announce at the kick-off this Thursday (along with a hilarious video I'm working on and will post later). Then Saturday night we will be blessed to have a private concert with Jason Gray. Afterward students will go home and have a final wrap-up session. Then students will come to church Sunday morning and then go home.

Please pray for our students this weekend that this will be a life-changing moment for them. I know that God wants to do a mighty work in our students. Pray also for their group leaders as they lead Bible study that God would speak through them. Also pray for Jason Gray as he will be doing the Saturday concert. Pray that God would bless him with safe travel here and back home in Minnesota, as well as that God would pour through him.

Finally here is a little video I made to announce the concert to the students last month.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Psalm 147

1Praise the LORD!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant and praise is becoming.
2The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
He gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds.
4He counts the number of the stars;
He gives names to all of them.
5Great is our Lord and abundant in strength;
His understanding is infinite.
6The LORD supports the afflicted;
He brings down the wicked to the ground.
7Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
Sing praises to our God on the lyre,
8Who covers the heavens with clouds,
Who provides rain for the earth,
Who makes grass to grow on the mountains.
9He gives to the beast its food,
And to the young ravens which cry.
10He does not delight in the strength of the horse;
He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man.
11The LORD favors those who fear Him,
Those who wait for His lovingkindness.
12Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
13For He has strengthened the bars of your gates;
He has blessed your sons within you.
14He makes peace in your borders;
He satisfies you with the finest of the wheat.
15He sends forth His command to the earth;
His word runs very swiftly.
16He gives snow like wool;
He scatters the frost like ashes.
17He casts forth His ice as fragments;
Who can stand before His cold?
18He sends forth His word and melts them;
He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow.
19He declares His words to Jacob,
His statutes and His ordinances to Israel.
20He has not dealt thus with any nation;
And as for His ordinances, they have not known them.
Praise the LORD!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Prom Prayer

Tonight is the prom for some of our local schools. This can be an exciting night for the life of these students, but at the same time has potential to be one of danger. Students will be faced with many temptations. Please pray for students around the nation that will be attending proms tonight and over the next few weeks.

Dear God,

Please bless the students tonight who attend prom. Bless them with a great night that will be full of good memories. Lord at the same time please give students guidance in making wise decisions. I pray that you would use Christian students to take a stand against sin. Give them boldness to say no to whatever opportunities may be presented. Use them to encourage others who may be weak against temptations. Lord place barriers that could possibly turn those who are tempted away from sin. Please protect everyone in travel and give them wisdom in how they drive. God I believe that these things are your desire, and believe that they are possible. I pray that tonight can be a night where students do the right thing which will have an eternal effect. God lead them to go the opposite way of the world. Lord I thank you that I have the opportunity to work and minister to students.

In Jesus Name

Amen

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Peter's Perspective- Following At A Distance

Last month I wrote a post about Peter following Jesus from a distance after he was arrested in the garden. I haven't been able to get the thought off of my mind and felt that God was leading me to wrap up the "Perspectives" series with it. This is very similar to some of the things that I spoke on during the "Crazy Love" series looking at a lukewarm person and serving leftovers to God, or serving Him half-heartedly. What I've learned is that when God leads us to something repeatedly then it is definitely something we need to hear.

All four gospels point out this fact that Peter followed Jesus at a distance and we looked at the account in Luke 22:54. Luke uses the equivalent of the word "followed" meaning he was following Jesus as a disciple, but the phrase "at a distance" meaning from far away. Sometimes Christians can do a good job of this and in turn blend into their surroundings. The people around them may never know they are a Christian. I believe we do this because we want to be close enough to Jesus to receive the benefit, but not close enough to be required to do something for God. Here is a list of characteristics of someone who follows Jesus at a distance:
-Someone who follows Jesus at a distance comes to church but does not listen to the message.
-Someone who follows Jesus at a distance hears the message but does not apply it in their lives. James 1:22 tells us to be "Doers of the Word, and not hearers only". We don't need to fill our minds with more information, we need to apply this information. I read a quote yesterday that said "I don't need more information to grow my faith- I need to surrender control".
-Someone who follows Jesus at a distance depends on the church for their relationship with God. Your relationship with God is a daily thing, not Sunday and Wednesday only.
-Someone who follows Jesus at a distance does more complaining than praising. Probably because they are not content with what God has given them whether it be possessions, people in their lives, etc.
-Someone who follows Jesus at a distance does not want anyone to know that they are a follower of Jesus. Matthew 10:32-33 is a pretty clear warning from Jesus to those who deny Him.
-Someone who follows Jesus at a distance will go to prom this Friday night, do things they know they shouldn't such as gossip, talk about others and either how bad they look or lust over how good they look, drink, have sex, etc. but come to church on Sunday like they did nothing wrong.

So what's the solution? If you find that you are following Jesus at a distance then draw near to God because He will draw near to you- James 4:7-8. Make the effort to spend time with Him. Because someone who follows Jesus closely instead of at a distance will be transformed and changed and will no longer blend in the crowd.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Time

Well if there is one thing that there is never enough of in my life it is time. Most days even when I have accomplished a lot in the day, I usually find myself at the end of the day thinking how I could use a few more hours. I heard Belinda say this on the phone yesterday and even on more than one occasion to someone else: "We're never at home and when we are Nathan is having to work or do school work. We don't have enough time." First of all I hate that I even have to hear these things come out of her mouth because if I'm honest then I don't think it's at all fair to her. Which some might say "then do something about that Nathan". Well I am, constantly trying to figure out how I can finish school as soon as possible by doing things like taking a class that is an entire semester crammed into one week in May. Its actually about three weeks before we take the students to summer camp. Yeah not the best timing but what do you do?

I'm not writing though to complain about my lack of time, but to challenge myself and all of us to examine our time. I recently filled in to teach Sunday School and the lesson was about tithing and how in Nehemiah 10:35-36 they had faith to give their best to God in tithes. While studying I thought to myself about the concept of tithing, which I have many times considering I have a finance degree and have taught financial courses in the past. We read how they tithed their money, their harvests, even dedicated their first born son to God. Many times people don't even tithe their income, but what about our time? Does anyone actually tithe their time to God? I know I don't. If the word tithe means 10% then if we were to tithe a portion of our day to God it would equal 144 minutes or 2 hours and 24 minutes. Does anyone dedicate this amount of time to only spend it with God? I'm not talking about going to church or doing church stuff. I'm also not trying to say that this is necessary and it is a sin if we don't. I'm just raising the thought. I had never thought of this before. However I hate the excuse "I don't have enough time for a quiet time, or to read my Bible, or pray". It's crazy! I'm not here to condemn anyone about how much time they spend alone with God, I'm just asking you to examine yourself about how much time you spend with Him. Just something to think about today.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Necessity of Pollen

Kind of an odd title don't you think? We woke up this morning and its been raining and dreary all day. The kind of day where you just really want to stay in bed and do nothing. At the same time though there is a bit of gladness in everyone because of the rain. I'm not sure about other places but right now there is so much pollen that everything is nasty, and everyone is also having allergy problems. The pollen on one of our vehicles was so bad that Sunday they wrote "Wash Me" on it. Pollen is annoying, nasty, and even makes you sick. But there is a need for pollen. It is part of the reproduction cycle of plants. Thats about all I can say because I have very little scientific knowledge or interest. But it is necessary for the pollen to exist or we wouldn't have some of the beautiful plants we get to look at this time of the year. But then it is so sweet when the pollen is washed away with a good rain.

Every time I read some of David's Psalms it really speaks to me. Many times we see David crying out to God for help and relief from the enemies he is facing. I can personally relate sometimes in life how he feels. Now there has never been anyone out to kill me (well at least I don't think so), but I have had people who have opposed me. Opposed my motives, even when biblical, or even other things that are silly such as having my ears pierced. But whenever I or we face these times of opposition its usually during those times that we cling to God. We draw to Him and learn to depend on Him. It may be His will for us to go through these trying times as a test from God. However at the same time it is not His will for the people to cause the problem. But I look at these in relationship to the pollen. We want relief because these times are annoying, nasty, and even make us sick (sometimes physically). But is necessary for the beautiful picture of our growing relationship with God. Then the sweet rain comes when God removes the situation, and we bloom from the experience. If you are going through a hard time right now then hold on, ask God what He would have you learn, and cling to Him to bring you through it. Then when the rain comes rejoice! This is what David does in Psalm 3 when he had fled from his own son Absalom. He begins by crying to the Lord, clinging to Him, but in the end praises God by singing "Salvation belongs to the Lord".

Monday, April 19, 2010

Memories

In the past months I've written about both Christmas and Easter memories that I have had in my life growing up. Each week at our Sunday night Bible study I begin the night with a random question, pretty much just to get the students discussing and talking before we begin the study. The question usually has no relevance to the lesson but is aimed to get them comfortable talking in the group. This week I asked the question "If all of your memories were erased but two, which two memories would you want to keep". It's a pretty tough question to think about. We got some good answers and then one student even asked if we could forget one memory what it would be, and a few chimed in their response to that also.

I explained that the first memory I would want to keep would be my wedding day but it was a tough choice for my second. I went on to talk about how for some reason I've lost many of my memories growing up. There are seriously parts of my life that I just don't remember any more. It's pretty sad to even think about that for me. I know that my friend Jason and I have talked about how we both have experienced this, and have had similar experiences in life and so we think we may have pinpointed the issue. Without going into detail my experience that I would like to forget is the one thing that I think may have triggered my memories to be clouded and even forgotten. But God has in the past few months done something incredible. I randomly remember some of these forgotten memories. Some are good, some are bad, and some have no relevance to anything and so it's odd that I remember them. Nonetheless I am remembering things that I had forgotten, and I'm so thankful for that.

I had one of these moments this morning as I was getting ready at home. I had a conversation yesterday with a lady about our time of salvation and how it changed us. I talked about how young I was (5 years old) but that I knew that Jesus has saved me. What brought up the discussion was because I played a part of Jason Gray's "For the First Time Again" on my guitar and talked about the story behind the song. It was written because we sometimes go through seasons of needing to remember our salvation experience. We become cold, jaded even and need to remember what it was like when Jesus saved us. It was a nice conversation talking about our experiences. I believe this aided in leading me to a memory this morning. I remember before being saved going through that season of knowing that something was missing in my life, which of course was Jesus. I remember even acting out because of the conviction I was trying to run from. It was a time of my life where I faced confusion, which we know only comes from Satan. My memory is that of one night sitting in bed during this time and my parents were there beside me. I remember my parents praying for me and my dad specifically praying that this confusion would go away from me. This is what would be my second memory that I would want to remember. I know that my parents aren't perfect, and none are. But I know how my parents love me, and how they taught me the necessity of prayer, and praying for others. I can't imagine what my parents must have been going through at this moment as they were praying for me, hoping I would make the decision to accept Jesus. I can't imagine it at all. But I do know the love that they showed me through this, and the example that they set.

I don't know if we will ever have our own children. However if we do, I was taught the importance of praying for you children, and for others. I am so thankful that I have parents that did that for me. I want to encourage you if you have children to pray for them, and teach them about prayer. If you don't have children, still understand the necessity of praying for others. You may not even know what they need prayer about, but allow the Holy Spirit to lead you as you pray for them.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Random Thought Thursday

We didn't have our regular Wednesday Night Worship service last night so I don't have notes to post today. Instead I just thought I would write out about everything random in my mind right now.

-I totally forgot that the offices were closed today until I pulled in and nobody was here.
-It's kind of nice being in the quiet today
-I really need to wash my Jeep inside and out since it's pretty much green with pollen
-I'll probably need to buy a surgical mask before attempting to clean my Jeep
-Really glad baseball season is back. Watched a couple innings of the Braves last night on tv at my sisters house.
-Still glad we cancelled our satellite a while back
-The San Diego Padres has the ugliest alternate home jersey and away jerseys I have ever seen. They regular home jersey's aren't that bad but the others are just hideous.
-I'm pretty much addicted to playing Animal Crossing online while we have wi-fi at my sister's house.
-I'll probably have wi-fi withdrawals when we go home
-We had a decent turn out for prayer meeting last night but I still can't understand why anyone wouldn't come to that. I guess it's because prayer isn't "exciting" enough to some.
-Even though our student numbers were down last night they still almost outnumbered the adults
-I finished my reading for this semester but still have my final exam to take. I'll be glad to be able to read my Bible at a slower pace for a while and be able to really chew on what I'm studying
-I'm really trying to figure out how to graduate seminar as soon as possible. After this current class I'll only be 1/4 of the way done. I'm trying to figure out how much I can take and it not take away from everything else in life more than it already does.
-I know I always whine when I talk about seminary but I want to be done sooooooooooooo bad
-I'm extremely excited about Disciple Now weekend at the end of this month and am praying for revival to begin in our student ministry and in our church
-I need to start planning major details of my next Wednesday Night series. I know what it's about and it's going to be fun and tough at the same time. A lot of work will go into it, but should be exciting for the students, but at the same time will step on all of our toes.
-I think I'm about to stop working for the day to go out and enjoy some beautiful sunshine.
-I wish I could steal my wife away from work for the evening to enjoy the beautiful sunshine together.
-I'm still amazed at how I "married-up"!
-I really am blessed to have some students in our ministry that truly listen to God's Word, and take what God says through me to heart. Excites me to see God using me in that way and exciting to see God working in their lives!
-One final note: I began reading through the Psalms again as I was reading through Revelation for school. Today I read in Psalm 3:8 in the Message translation that says "Real help comes from God." How often do we read something of that manner, hear it preached, even say it but not believe it?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Not Saying What You Should

In my position as a youth pastor I sometimes have to be careful how I say things. Like recently I was asked a tough question in a group setting and I had to be careful to answer biblically, and not necessarily allow my personal opinions to lead me to answer out of emotion. I will say however that my opinion on the subject discussed is biblically based, however I also needed to be sensitive to the group. There are also times when I need to say something that may be tough, and may even be offensive to those who are in sin. I often use this quote in talking with friends about ministry: “The Gospel is offensive to those who oppose it.” I remember a tweet by Steven Furtick aimed toward pastors that said something like this: “Pastors in your sermon you are going to get to a point where you think ‘I can’t say that’- but go ahead and say it”. That has stuck with me and so I try to be sensitive to the things that the Holy Spirit is leading me to say. At the same time I need to discern the difference in that and saying something strictly out of my emotion. Recently however when I was talking about the Crucifixion from Jesus’ Perspective I had one of these moments. I was recently burdened by what I can only explain by a bit of apathy in students. We had been prayer walking in preparation for our Easter service, but only had a few come each time. When I said something about this the complaint was made that it was too early (10:00 am). But at the same time I know how willing many are to get up at this time for something if it fits their agenda, and statements have been made to reflect such. As we drove home from church that Sunday I cried as I talked to Belinda about it. I was so burdened by this apathy. So I knew it fit in my message about Jesus and how He never complained when He faced the cross. I knew I needed to address it. I gave this message and I got to that point of saying something about the complaining about stuff such as prayer walking, but I didn’t say it. I knew I needed to say it but didn’t. I played it safe instead and just spoke about complaining in general. I know I might get another chance, even in the next series that I will be doing. But what if someone was there that night and was supposed to hear that and I didn’t say it? I felt terrible afterward for not doing what I was supposed to do. I felt the burden, but I guess I gave in to the thought that I might offend someone in the process. I became a bit like Pontius Pilate I guess.

I want to more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and do and say the things that I am led to. You might be in a position to lead others and so you may have these opportunities on a group basis. Be bold if you are and say the things that you need to. Even if you are not a teacher or preacher you still have the opportunity to influence others and so if God is leading you to say something bold then do it. Do it lovingly. Be careful not to say it out of emotion. Don’t look back with the regret of not saying something that you should have.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Like A Dog

We are house-sitting this week for my sister and her family while they are on vacation. Belinda has written a couple of blog posts about the time there on her site. The main reason we are staying there is to take care of their dog, a rat terrier named "Paco". Well Saturday night before they left they let Paco out but he never came home. They left for vacation at 3 am but there was still no sign of him. We even ran to there house during the day for a brief moment to see if we could find him but had no luck. Then as we arrived on Sunday night after church he met us on their street and followed us their driveway. As we went in he ran in and made a few rounds looking for my sister. As we were carrying our belongings in, we left the door open and he ran back out and out of our sight. He ran away again! Here he was back at home, safe and had the option of enjoying his home like he is intended to. But instead he decided to return back into the unknown, and potential for danger. He ran back into the wilderness! I was so irritated when he did this but I couldn't help but be reminded of Provers 26:11 that says "Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly." Not saying that was what Paco was doing, but I was reminded of how I can be when I return to do something wrong when I know I shouldn't. It's as the psalmist writes, like a dog returning to its vomit. That's a pretty disgusting thought, but so is sin. Why do we sometimes return to sin when instead we can have the option of staying home safe with God and enjoying walking with Him? I don't have an answer. I don't know why I sometimes do something that silly. I don't know why others would either. But it may be because we don't see how disgusting and vile sin is. I personally want to walk in the presence of God, unhindered by sin. We all should want that. So lets all pray for the strength to stay home instead of wondering into the wilderness.



On a side note- Paco came home yesterday when a neighbor brought him back to us. He will now only go outside on a leash while we are there!

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Birthday

This past week was my 29th birthday. It was such a good day. I showed a picture last week of the shoes that my awesome wife got me. My mom got me some iTunes gift cards and my sister and her family got me a gift card for my favorite coffee shop Java on the Square. The kids at afterschool had made me a card and sang to me. It was a Wednesday so I got to lead worship and deliver a message to the students, which is what I love to do. But afterward the students had a cake and ice cream for me and showed a surprise video they had made. It is hilarious, especially if you know our students. Enjoy this video they made.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Doubting Thomas

We continued with the "Perspectives" series this week and began the night with the following question: What are you doing now that requires faith? It's a tough question to ponder but one that we need to consider daily. We looked at the Apostle Thomas this week. We don't know a whole lot about him, but what we do know we usually see in a fairly negative manner. We know him as "Doubting Thomas" and it's a label that we never want to receive. You may be wondering what that initial question has to do with Thomas, but I promise it ties together.

Like I said before, we know very little about him but here are a few things that we do know. He was also called Didymus which means "the twin". Apparently he had a twin but he or she is never mentioned in scripture. Thomas is only mentioned in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke when the list of the twelve disciples are mentioned. The only times we read him speak are in the gospel of John. Each time he is listed as one of the twelve disciples he is mentioned in the middle of the group. If you study much about these twelve men or read such works at John MacArthur's Twelve Ordinary Men you can see the inner circles within the twelve disciples. With Thomas always mentioned in the middle lets us know that he would have been fairly close to Jesus, not as close to Him as Peter, but closer than Judas Iscariot. Thomas was probably a pessimist, always seeing the dark or worst in situations. I don't say all of this to completely knock him down because I am sure that he did great things, but we can also learn from this example from him. When Lazarus was sick and after two days Jesus was going to go to him, the disciples tell Jesus that he will be killed because the people there hate him. In John 11:16 Thomas speaks up and says that if that's the case then they should go die with Jesus. This shows both him thinking the worst that Jesus would die by going there, but also that he was willing to die with Jesus. Then later on when Jesus tells the disciples that He is going to prepare a place for them. Thomas then speaks up in John 14:5 saying that they don't know where He is going and how do they know the way. Jesus then responds with the popular verse 6 by saying that He is the way, and the truth, and the life...

Now we get to the place in scripture that we truly know Thomas for in John 20:24-29. We see Thomas doubt that Jesus has risen from the grave. We can take this and focus on topics such as doubting the existence of God, doubting the deity of Jesus Christ, or even doubting salvation but I want to look at another aspect. Doubt is the absence of faith. Faith is the complete trust or confidence in God. So when we doubt, we have lost confidence in God. We no longer believe that He will take care of us, and we even stop believing that He can use us. I believe it is in these moments when we choose comfort over anything. We don't try to reach others with the gospel and instead choose to remain where it is comfortable. The progression goes like this: we doubt that God can use us - we lose faith - we choose comfort above all else. But we read in Hebrews 11:6 that it is impossible to please God without faith. So we must be willing to stretch ourselves, have faith that God can use us, and seek to spread the gospel. I admit that I'm guilty of falling into the trap of comfort. I shared with the students last night that where some might have trouble getting in front of a group to share a message or lead worship, I thrive on that. I love doing these things. But to talk to someone face to face and talk directly to them about their faith absolutely terrifies me sometimes. Actually most of the time. But I have to be willing to trust that God can use me, will speak through me, and not have doubt.

In closing I talked about how in The Chronicles of Narnia that when Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are telling the children about Aslan, the lion representation of God. Lucy asks the question "Is he safe?" Mr. Beaver replies "Of course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the king I tell you." God is good, but he isn't always safe meaning he may allow you to be in an uncomfortable situation, or even sometimes experience pain in order for Him to be glorified. If it takes that for Him to be glorified and for the world to come to know Him then isn't it so worth it? So ask God to search your heart and ask yourself this question: What am I doing that requires faith?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Walking On Air

Today my wife gave me a pair of Nike Air Max 360's for my birthday. I have wanted a pair of these shoes for a few years now and the bargain shopper that she is grabbed an incredible deal on them. I can't even begin to share how awesome my wife is to me. I love her so much. Anyway these shoes are like walking on air because there is actually an air pocket that runs the whole length of the shoe. I've never had shoes this comfortable! How often do we have a great day or experience and say something like "we're walking on air"? It's in those moments that it seems like nothing can go wrong and we even gain a sense of control in our lives. That's when things go grim though, we think we are in control. We must understand that we are not in control and that all blessings are from God. If you are reading this then I hope you are going through a season of blessing and joy in life. But I'm sure that is not the case for everyone. If it isn't then hold on, God is going to bring you through it and wants you to cling to Him during this season. If you are experiencing good times then thank God for it. What are you thankful for in your life right now? What is God blessing you with at this moment. Please share it with me and with others. Not to brag, but to encourage others that God is at work! Here are some things that I am very thankful for today:
-My incredible wife Belinda
-My new shoes
-My family
-My calling to serve God in full-time ministry
-My Jeep because it has been awesome weather this week
-The beautiful spring scenery
-My Jesus who accepts me and loves me when I fail
-The plans God has for me and is leading me on
-And so much more.....

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Celebration Isn't Over

This past Sunday we celebrated Easter the way we normally do which is everyone together at the Athens Jr High. We do this so we can all be together in one service as well as invite the community. This is not a small task as we have to take everything down from our sanctuary, move out to the school, set up, take back down once the service is over and set back up at Clearwater. It takes a lot of hard work and we counted on Sunday that we had put nearly 30 hours into it. I'm so thankful for the volunteers that serve in this area doing sweat labor that most people have no clue that goes on. It was an incredible service to say the least. Every song lyric, every drum beat and piano note, every electric guitar riff, and every word spoken was incredible and God breathed. This was definitely a great way to celebrate that our Savior and Lord is Risen! On Monday I read a tweet from Pete Wilson, the pastor of Cross Point church in Nashville that said "Imagine the hope and anticipation the follower of Christ had the morning after Easter! This celebration isn't over my friends." After that he re-tweeted a message that said "Has your day been different because of what we celebrated yesterday?" These are some pretty powerful thoughts. The celebration of what Jesus has done for us must continue. Examine your heart and ask yourself: "Am I living my life differently because of what we celebrated on Sunday?" Or was this year maybe just another Easter? I pray that it wasn't and that we will all continue the celebration.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easter Memories

I was thinking about doing several Easter memory posts like I did around Christmas but will just make one post. One reason is that I don’t seem to have many Easter memories. I’ve noticed that there are what I call “blacked out” moments in life where I don’t remember much. I understand that this happens when you get older, but too when you’ve suffered from an extremely stressful event which I did several years ago and when that happened some of my memories faded. However it seems that recently I am randomly reminded of memories and so it’s always cool to share those with my wife. Anyway here are few things that stand out about Easter over the course of my life so far.

-When I was about 3 or 4 I won a basket of Easter “stuff” like stuffed animals and other things. I don’t really remember much of what was in the basket. I also know that this is probably the only thing I have ever won in my life.
-This one is silly. I remember once when we were kids that my dad had hidden easter eggs inside the house (it must have been raining outside). We had found them all but one and couldn’t find it when my dad kept saying “I’m blind, I’m blind” hinting that the egg was stuck in the blinds of the window. So if anyone that knows me wonders where I get my silly sense of humor, then there you go it came from my dad.
-I remember when Cadbury eggs were runny on the inside. Today they are more solid. But back then when you ate a Cadbury egg, it was an event because the stuff was all over your face and hands. You even had the option of enjoying it hours later by licking on your face some more.
-When we colored Easter eggs my favorite part was mixing colors to see what I could come up with.
-I have always hated Peeps. I’m not sure there is a memory with me hating them but I felt like I needed to say it. I mean who wants to eat that nastiness?
-I remember enjoying going to sunrise services as a teenager. Enough said.
-My senior year of high school we had baseball practice on Easter Sunday. Coach said we had to since we had very important district games on Monday and Tuesday. However they allowed us to wear shorts as consolation. I even remember the guys who didn’t go to church cussed about us having to practice on Easter Sunday and how terrible it was.
-Our Easter service at Clearwater in 2009. This was the service where my partner and one of my best friends Jason Cribb was introduced as our new associate pastor. I’m very thankful that God led Him here!

What are some of your Easter memories?

Crucifixion from Jesus' Perspective

This week in the "Perspectives" series we took a look at Jesus. I know what you're thinking, "how could you ever completely grasp everything about the crucifixion from Jesus' perspective?" Well you can't and we only covered a portion of what took place in the Garden of Gethsemane before Jesus was arrested.

Every day we are faced with things that we must complete or are expected of us. Work, school, home life, hobbies, etc. We're all involved in many areas, doing some things by choice but some things are required. When we are required to do something I think we have three choices in how we will go about it: 1) We can be ok doing it and so we do it gladly; 2) We don't want to do it but we do it anyway but complain the entire time; or 3) We don't want to do it and so we don't. I believe everyday we have a choice to make on how we will carry ourselves when performing anything.

We focused on Matthew 26:36-42 when Jesus goes out to pray in the garden. Jesus says in verse 38 that His "soul is deeply grieved." Luke 22:44 even pays attention to the detail that Jesus sweated blood. This is a phenomenon called hematidrosis where someone suffers from such deep stress that their sweat glands hemorrhage causing them to sweat blood. Think about times in your life when you thought you couldn't be any more stressed out but you probably weren't stressed enough to sweat blood. Jesus was grieved and stressed because he knew he was about to endure physical pain unlike any we can imagine, he would be carrying the sins of all mankind, and God would have to turn his face away because He wouldn't be able to look at all that sin.

Jesus refers to a "cup" in verse 39. This is a symbol of God's wrath against sin used in the Old Testament (Jeremiah, Isaiah, Psalms, etc.). Jesus states here in and verse 42 that He desires God's will to be done. Jesus never said that He didn't want to do it. He stated that if it is possible for the cup to pass then that would be good, but He also said that He wanted God's will to be done even if it meant He had to endure this death. The thing that I've been humbled about and was lead to this is because of the fact that Jesus never complained. He didn't say He didn't want to do it, or that it would be too hard, or that He was too tired, or could someone else do it for Him. No, He knew that this is what God sent Him to earth to accomplish and He also knew that God's will is best. He didn't complain one time.

I've been so burdened recently about how we can complain about serving God when it doesn't meet our desires, expectations, or simply be something we want to do. It's so hard for me to see apathy in people who are caught in "doing religion" instead of having a genuine relationship with God and seeking to serve Him however He would lead them. It breaks my heart when students whine about prayer walking being too early for them to get out of bed but will gladly get up early to do something that they want to do. I say all of this to ask you to examine yourself. Ask God to examine your heart and see if you are serving Him willingly. Or do you complain when it comes to doing something for God. Jesus never once complained as He was about to carry the burden of your sin, and the sin of everyone else. He never complained.