Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Domino Effect

This week we continued the Courageous Leadership series by taking a look at Joshua 7 and the sin of Achan.  The week I was gone to National Youth Worker's Conference I had Sam Olsen fill in he spoke about the walls of Jericho coming down and the faith that was involved in that.  After the walls came down God commands them what to do in their conquest.  In Joshua 6:19 God commands them to collect the gold, silver, iron, and bronze for the treasury of the Lord.  In other words they are to not keep any of this for themselves, it is the Lord's.  But in Joshua 7:1 we see that Achan goes against this and keeps some for himself.  

In verses 2-5 Joshua sends spies in the Ai.  They come back with the report that they should be able to defeat Ai with about 3000 soldiers, so this is the amount that Joshua sends.  Well things did not turn out the best and the Israelites are defeated.  Thirty-six of their men are killed during this battle.  

We see in verses 6-9 that Joshua is extremely upset with the defeat and is mourning.  He cries out to God asking Him why this has happened and what he is supposed to do.  God tells Joshua in verses 10-15 that it is the sin that has caused their defeat.  God tells him that as long as the sin is still there that they will not win.  He then has Joshua gather the people so that he can find out who has sinned.

Verses 16-21 we see Achan admits that he has stolen items and buried them in his tent.  One thing we have to note is that Achan does not lie nor pass the blame.  He admits to what he has done.  However we see that there are consequences to sin and in verses 22-26 not only does he die, but his entire family dies.

This is a prime example of how our sin does not only effect us.  First of all the sin in Achan's life not only caused Israel's army to be defeated, but 36 men died.  The fact that these 36 men died did not end there.  How do you think their families were effected?  They were effected greatly!  Some people lost their fathers, some lost their best friends, some lost their brother.  These families had to deal with the loss of their loved one, and it was because of someone else's sin.

Not only did Achan's sin lead to his death, but also to his entire family's death.  The truth is our sin never only effects us.  It always effects other someway.  We may think hiding it or if it is something small then it will not effect anyone else but this is untrue.  Our sin is like a domino effect.  When you set up dominos and then tip the first one over it causes the entire line to fall down.  The domino at the end had nothing to do with the fall, but fell anyway.  You probably have been effected by someone else's sin at some point in your life.  I want to encourage you today to realize the seriousness of sin and to commit to not sin knowing that it will effect others.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Foggy Morning

Today has been a foggy morning in more ways that one.  Of course I didn't get enough sleep last night so it was tough to get going this morning.  But as we drove to the coffee shop to meet with students for some early morning prayer, it was a very foggy drive.  It makes it hard to see the road and what is ahead and as a driver can make you scared, nervous, and even possibly frustrated.  But one thing that I noticed was that for whatever reason every once in a while all of the sudden the fog lifted and the view became completely clear.  This made me think about the trials we face in life.  Not only have we been facing trials in our own lives, but it seems like a reoccurring theme in Bible study as of late.  On Sunday nights we are in the book of James and twice in the first chapter he talks about facing various trials in life.  Jesus even said himself in John 16:33 "In the world you will have tribulation".  The fact is we are all going to face trying times.  To be honest though when you are going through a hard time, the last thing you usually want to hear is a message on how God is going to use your trial to shape you.  This is the definite truth, and we should not ignore the fact, but I think sometimes we need to not only look at the object lesson at hand.  Is God teaching us something, of course.  But I also think we should focus on the fact that as the fog clears, God is revealing Himself.  He is making it known that He has been with you all along the journey.  1 Peter 4:12-13 talks about this saying that we should not be surprised at the "fiery ordeal" we are facing, but that also when the fog clears and God has revealed Himself it will lead to worship.  Not only will we worship but it says that we "may rejoice in exultation".  Think about the phrase "rejoice in exultation".  These are not common words we use.  But how exciting it is to know that the fog will clear, and we will have reason to celebrate!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Reveal- See You At the Pole



This past Wednesday was National See You at the Pole Day.  I began the day having the opportunity to speak at the first ever See You at the Pole event at Niota Elementary School. It is great to see students gathering together to lift up the name of Jesus Christ and to pray for their school, community, and nation.

At Wednesday Night Worship we took a look at this year's theme "Reveal" and about prayer in general.  This year's theme is taken from the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:7-13 and specifically from the Message translation where it says "Our Father in Heaven, Reveal who You are."  God reveals Himself to us in many ways- through the Bible, through sermons and lessons, through worship songs, etc.  But I think the main way that He reveals Himself is through prayer.  In order to get to know someone better you must spend time with them talking to them.  This is definitely true in our relationship with God, we must talk to Him.  Our prayers can not simply be us asking for stuff, but be about getting to know about God and conversing with Him.

We were challenged with these 2 points regarding prayer:

1)  What if we took prayer seriously?
If we made prayer a priority and not just something we do then I believe it will be life changing.  We can not neglect spending time with God for something else.  Just the other day my precious nephew Noah wanted to leave a message on his dry erase board for his dad saying "Dad, I'm sorry about today."  When his mom asked what he meant he explained that when his dad had come to visit him at lunch that day at school, that after a while Noah asked if he could go sit and talk with his friends.  His dad said to wait another minute or so because he wanted to talk to him and spend time with him.  After another minute Noah asked again if he could go with is friends and so his dad said yes that is fine. Noah said that later he felt bad for choosing his friends over his dad and had cried about it.  Noah is only six years old and has such a precious heart.  His dad later explained to him that it's ok for him to go talk to his friends and that he understood.  That story moved me to tears when I heard it.  It made me wonder how often we pass an opportunity to spend time talking with our Father in heaven to do something else.  And if we do, do we realize we made a poor choice and are moved to seek forgiveness from our heavenly Father?

2)  What if you prayed for the impossible?
What if you prayed for things that are completely impossible unless God intervenes.  I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Jeff Iorg who is the president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.  He shared that he was listening to a preacher about 30 years ago who asked what was a prayer that they really needed answered that seemed impossible, and to write it down.  He said that he was young and needed financial help so he wrote down that he wanted God to bless him with $500 and that he felt good about what he wrote down.  He said that after a while the preacher said "You know what I'm praying for- I'm praying that cancer will be cured in my lifetime!"  Dr. Iorg said he felt that his request was nothing compared to what he had just heard.  He went on to say that several years ago he was diagnosed with throat cancer and best case scenario was that he was not supposed to be able to talk anymore.  God cured him and he is cancer free and is still speaking and preaching!  God answered that preacher's prayer in Dr. Iorg's life!

We closed the night breaking into small groups to spend time in prayer, praying over specific areas.  I believe that God is calling His people to be disciplined in prayer like never before!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Questions

I am sure that it is pretty obvious by my lack of posts recently and the extent of what I have been posting that my family has been living in tough times. I hate to whine but I feel like I have done a lot of that lately. I will be honest, the past ten years have been hard on so many levels, but we are facing extremely difficult times emotionally as of late. We are physically and emotionally exhausted at a state that I did not even know was possible. We are mourning in a way that I would have never dreamed in my worst nightmares. But as always my head will not quit spinning as my mind works its way through processing so many things. As I laid in bed the other night listening to my iPod my mind was scrambling through many questions. When I was younger I felt like it was a sin to question God on why something had happened or why I was going through a certain situation but I do not believe that to be true now. I think it is ok because as we endure trials, God is shaping us and so we need to converse with Him and learn how is changing us and what He wants us to learn. So for whatever reason I felt like writing out these questions that have been running through my head. I do not have all the answers, and may never. I know that while God is right here through it all we may not get clarity on everything for a while, if ever.

-Why are we experiencing such pain?
-Why am I (and we) so physically and mentally exhausted that most of the time I feel like I am about to pass out?
-Why can't I fall asleep right away even though I am so exhausted?
-Why did losing my greatest hobby in life years ago not only cause me great physical pain that I endure everyday, but mental pain as well?
-Why do people only care about your business, but do not care at all about what you are going through?
-Why is there such a lack of compassion and empathy?
-Why are people so self-consumed that have forgotten or do not care about the mourning that we are going through?
-Why was I was self-consumed in the past that I did not care about the pain others were sometimes enduring.
-Why am I required to spend the most time on the things I care the least about but only get to spend a fraction of time on the things that I want to?
-Why do I feel like I have to be a people pleaser all of the time?
-Why will my vocal chords not heal from where I strained them a year and a half ago?


Ok many of these may seem like selfish or cynical questions and maybe they are. I just wanted to be honest today with a small glimpse of what is going on inside my head. There are many other questions in my head too.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Morning Thoughts

I'm sitting in the lobby of a hotel sipping coffee while I write this as Belinda and I are fortunate to be in Nashville for Lifeway's National Youth Workers Conference. We are both very excited to soak up information, but also be refreshed and refueled as this getaway could not come at a better time.

After what had been a very emotionally draining week, we were able to come to Nashville early enough to attend the Sunday night worship service at Cross Point Church. Wow what an experience! It was great to be a part of a worship service like this. I love being youth pastor and having the opportunity to play in our worship band, but it was a great opportunity to just sit back and be ministered to.

First of all the worship was incredible. Now I don't want this to sound bad but the first thing I said to Belinda when we got in the car was "We don't know how to worship". It's definitely not about incredible music, but that part was great. The sound quality was amazing and loud just like I like it. But it wasn't the sound quality or anything that made it come together. The fact was that the whole congregation was engaged in worshiping at the throne of God! It was really amazing to be a part of it.

Pete Wilson who is the pastor of Cross Point had an amazing message. He began a series called "Empty Promises" about the idols in our lives. I will definitely be downloading each message he preaches during this series. It is so apparent that Pete is not just another pastor, or pastor of a mega-church. Instead he is transparent revealing that he has a true heart for God. In his message he stated that we are quick to say that we do not have idols and that God is #1 in our life. But the truth is we all struggle with idols. He defined idolatry as "anything you seek to give you what only God can give you". A couple of other statements he made: "A need for hurry plus a desire for control will often lead to idolatry" and "My greatest temptation is not to chase after what is ridiculously evil, my greatest temptation is that I'll chase after what is deceptively good".

Afterward we were able to meet Pete and talk with him for a couple of minutes. We were able to share how hard things have been recently and dealing with the loss of Belinda's dad and how it happened. He was so caring as he listened to us. Later that night I tweeted about it and he replied back to me letting me know that he is praying for us. I know that anybody can make these statements but it is obvious how true and pure his heart is and so we know that he will definitely pray for us.

Great start to our getaway. I'll be honest, even though it is work related and I will be doing school work while we are here, I am definitely glad to be away from Athens for a few days. Looking forward to what God has planned and speaks to us while we are here!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rahab- Grace

This week we continued the Courageous Leadership series looking at the story of Rahab and the subject of grace in Joshua 2. We see Rahab who had lived a life of prostitution and would have probably been on the outskirts of society. Joshua sent the 2 spies and she hid them and in their conversation in Joshua 2:8-14 we see that she comes to the realization that the God that they follow and that she had heard about is the only true God. At this point she makes a life change. Not only does she have a part in helping the Israelites conquer this land in the upcoming chapters, but she ends up in the ancestral line of Jesus! The change she made was that of living her life for God now instead of herself.

This is an example of God's grace and an illustration of the grace God provided by sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve. As the song I am listening to while typing this says "You (Jesus) lived to die..." Jesus came to earth to die for your sins, so that you could live a life with Him eternally in heaven someday. So the first question I ask you is the same one that I asked the students last night- Have you ever accepted the grace of God and given your life to Him? If not then please do not wait any longer to make that important decision.

Secondly, if you have already given your life to Jesus, and made that decision to make Him your Savior and Lord then I have this question for you- Are you living your life daily taking advantage of the relationship you have with Him? Do you even have a relationship with Him? Do you wake up each day with the thoughts of living your live only for God no matter what that means, no matter what He may require of you, and no matter where He may lead you?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Too Much Jesus

I was reading an article yesterday about how youth ministry has become weak over the years in the fact that weak theology is being taught (if even at all) and how there has to be a need to get back to biblical youth ministry. I have read similar books like Mark Oestreicher's Youth Ministry 3.0 that talks about this paradigm shift that must take place in youth ministry. There was one quote in this article yesterday that totally rocked me. One person being interviewed about how youth ministry culture must change stated "Most parents don't want their kid to end up too much like Jesus." Wow this broke my heart! The fact that it is true breaks my heart. The fact that any parent would not want their child to be more like Jesus breaks my heart.

So why is this the case? Well for one I believe that some people just want enough Jesus to keep them out of hell. I think that's just the truth. Some only want their fire insurance but never have any desire to grow in their relationship with Jesus, and instead stay apathetic and desiring only what pleases them. I also believe that standards have been lowered. I was just reading on a youth ministry website that if a student is unhappy with church then they should be allowed to take a break for a few weeks to discover why they are going to church in the first place. I'm sorry to be blunt but that's probably one of the stupidest statements I have ever read. I know that the Bible never states that we have to attend church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. But at the same time though it never says to take a break from the body of Christ when you are unhappy. I think this is proof of lowering the standards of expectations of "Christians"- people who claim to be followers of Christ.

I'm not posting this to rant but to say why is this happening? I'm heartbroken over this state of mind. The fact that people think they can have too much Jesus is beyond belief. I could never have enough of Him, and if I ever get to the position to say that I have enough, then I definitely have nowhere near enough of Him. I have been listening to a song lately that has the following lyrics:
...Lord, I give you my life
...Father of love You can have me
...I want to be where You are, I'm running into Your arms

I believe this is the lifestyle we must live. Not only sing a song but be willing to do and be whatever Jesus needs us to be. Don't be satisfied with where you are today. Let's continue to seek more Jesus. Also let's pray that the mindset of those that believe they have enough of Him will change to realize their need for Him is never ending.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Courageous Leadership- How Successors Succeed

We began this week with a new church year, new students who transitioned into the youth ministry, and a new series called Courageous Leadership. We are going to take a look at the book of Joshua and how he became a courageous leader, and how that pertains to us.

When we think of the words courageous/courage and leadership/leader many thoughts come to mind. We think of people who are bold, fearless, and sometimes full of charisma. Moses had been leading the Israelites for 40 years when he passed away and Joshua took over as leader. Following Moses' footsteps was definitely a huge task but Joshua was a successful successor. So how did Joshua do this and how can we all be a successful leader full of courage?

Well after examining Joshua 1:1-9 we looked at the following thoughts on becoming a successful leader:

1) Be Strong & Courageous- this phrase is said 4 times in this chaper. Three times God said it to Joshua and once by the Israelites as they affirm Joshua as their leader. So how do you become "strong and courageous". In verse 7 we learn that we are to obey God's Word. Verse 8 says to meditate on God's Word day and night. I'm pretty sure this means being in God's Word and spending time with Him more than just Sunday's and Wednesday's and maybe a 15 minute quiet time everyday. We need to be enriched in what God has provided for us through His written Word. Also we read in verses 5 and 9 that God is with us. So if we want to become strong and courageous we need to always have this understanding. Why would we ever fear when we know that God is with us.

2) Realize You Are a Leader- Moses has died and so Joshua has now been appointed the leader of the Israelites. Now you may not be the leader of 2-3 million people. But you are a leader wherever you are. It's easy to see this if you have younger siblings, cousins, nieces/nephews, etc. that want to follow and mimic you. There are people watching you always. You are leading people that you are around. The question is though what are you leading them to? Are you leading them toward God or are you leading them away?