Friday, February 25, 2011

Gone Astray

One morning this week I was walking out of the youth house and heard a goose flying over.  The sound of a goose always grabs my attention because I know that my granny liked them so it always reminds me of her.  But there was something this time that caught my attention even more.  I only heard the sound of 1 goose, and not a whole flock as you normally hear.  Geese are pretty cool in their flight formation and the fact that when one is tired, injured, or sick and falls away from the group, two other geese go after it to protect it.  They stay with the fallen goose until it either dies or is ready to rejoin the group and they as a smaller group will set out to rejoin the main group.  Well this one goose that I saw was all by itself. It had gone astray from the rest of the group.  Where were the others?  This made me think about James 5:19-20 that tells us we are to go after those who have gone astray.  So I want to ask you today to consider someone you know who has strayed or is straying away from God and that you need to go after.  It may be difficult sometimes to know what to say to them.  However I want you to consider what you can do to lead them to God.  Pray for them and pray how God would have you to talk to them.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Relationships By Design- Part 3

This week we wrapped up our series on marriage and dating and some of the boys could not be happier.  It is funny to watch their reaction about what true love in a marriage looks like because some of them do not care at this point in their life.  But there is still a need for them to hear these things.  As the first two weeks of the series focused on why God created marriage and the roles for a man and woman within marriage, this week we took a look at what must take place before even a dating relationship begins which is a solid foundation with Jesus Christ.

As we looked at Matthew 7:24-29 we thought about how we must lay out a solid foundation in our own lives personally, in our friendships, our dating relationships, and our marriage.  The myth that many people buy into is that they will get everything in line after they get married but the truth is it must occur before even dating.  I pointed out that in verses 28-29 it talks about how Jesus spoke with authority.  This means that He was not simply making a suggestion, but instead teaching them how it has to be.  

So laying a solid foundation in a dating relationship means that both of you must have the main focus of Jesus, are honest with each other, respect each other, etc.  So if you begin a dating relationship and you do not have a solid foundation, then it is like playing a game of Jenga.  You lose your foundation as you begin your dating relationship in the wrong manner, and then when the winds and storms of life blow, you topple over.  If you do not establish a solid foundation before dating, then the person you date will likely become an idol in your life, which will leave you unsatisfied and probably lead to disaster.

So I challenged the students that if they realize that their foundation is not solid like it should be, then they should not date.  If they are in a relationship then I encouraged them to pray with each other and read scripture together.  Each student was given a listening sheet that pink for girls and blue for boys and on the back had a list of questions for them to consider and answer in the dating process.  An example of a question on the boys page is "Am I leading her spiritually?" and on the flipside the similar question on the girls page was "Is he leading me spiritually?".  As we closed the night by the adults praying over them that they will become who God is calling them to be someday as a spouse and for their future spouses I reminded them that "Marriage isn't as much about finding the right person, as it is becoming the right person".

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

10th Anniversary

Ten years ago today I did one of the greatest things I could ever do in my life, and that is to marry my best friend and love of my life Belinda.  It's funny because I think if we had sit down and predicted what the first 10 years would be like and the paths it would take us, we would have predicted and guessed wrong.  Though there have been many hardships that we have faced as a family, this 10 years have been way better than we could have predicted.  I am so thankful to God that He brought Belinda and I together at the right time.  I am thankful that I have a wife who supports me in everything I do.  I am thankful that I have a wife who makes me want to grow closer to God.  I am amazed that I have a wife that loves me as much as she does.  I am so thankful for you Belinda and I can't wait to see what the next 10 years have in store for us.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

30 Hour Famine 2011

This past weekend our students participated in World Vision's 30 Hour Famine where as a group we fasted from food for 30 hours.  This is the third year that we have done this and I think this was the best year yet!  So far we have raised over $1400 and by the end of the week we plan to exceed our highest amount raised ever!  This was such an awesome weekend to spend with students as they learned about hunger and poverty, and about how fortunate and blessed we are.  I am so proud of our students as they never complained about going without food for 30 hours but were willing to learn from the experience.  

These last two pictures are of a fingerprint banner the students made.  For each dollar raised so far there is a fingerprint so on this banner there are over 1400 fingerprints. This represents that through World Vision $1 will feed 1 child for 1 day.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Morning Randomness- 2/21

Here is what my mind is wrapping around this early Monday morning:

-I'm definitely very tired from the past week and would really, really like a cup of coffee from Java on the Square.  Please someone buy Java and reopen!
-Survived my third 30 Hour Famine this weekend which I will post information about tomorrow!
-As usual, my to-do list is pretty hefty for today, but I am pretty sure I can get it all done.
-I thoroughly enjoyed Upward basketball this past weekend.  The kids really came together and played as a team and it was so much fun to watch.
-I really need to wrap up the 150 foot long cable that is laying on the ground running to the youth house.
-I miss my Wii.
-10 more weeks until I graduate seminary.
-Just 2 more weeks of the current classes I am in.
-I do not even have to do the final paper for one of my courses and can still earn an 'A' in the class.  That's not the kind of information that I need to know.
-I just watched Blake Griffin's dunk over the car and that was pretty amazing!
-I really enjoyed worship yesterday.  It was really fun to play.
-This weekend I read Acts 7:54-60 of when Stephen was stoned to death.  I am always amazed of how Stephen looked into heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  I think Jesus may have been standing in respect to Stephen for giving his life for the sake of the gospel.  But then what happens in verse 60 always blows me away when Stephen says "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!".  Wow!  What a testimony!  What an example for us!  I pray that I will always be as humble and loving as Stephen when I face persecution.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Relationships by Design- Part 2

As we continued the Relationships by Design series, we took a look at the specific roles within marriage.  It is apparent in scripture that the husband and wife have different roles, but many times these are taken out of context.  We began the night by looking at Genesis 1:27 to make sure that we all realize that even though the husband and wife have unique roles within marriage, God created them equal.

We then split up guys and girls and took a look at these specific roles that are outlined in Ephesians 5:21-33.
The Role of the Husband:
1) Be Subject to One Another- Verse 21- subject as in the area of serving the other, not having authority over your spouse
2) Husband is the Head of the WIfe- Verse 23- this is not a dictator role.  Mainly this means that he is the spiritual leader of the home.  It is impossible to fill this role without relying on the Holy Spirit.  
3) Husbands Love Your Wives- verse 25, 28-30, 33- Paul mentions this multiple times so it is very important.  The word he uses for love is agape which means a love that only seeks the good of the other.  This is the type of sacrificial love that Jesus showed for us when He gave His life for us on the cross.  You can never love your wife enough.  By loving her it sanctifies her, brings her closer in her relationship with God.
4) Husbands Are to Lead Their Family- 1 Timothy 3:4-5- this is very similar to number 2 and is taken out of the qualifications for the deacon in a church.  However this is the type of qualifications everyone should follow, especially the husband.

Belinda taught the girls on the Role of the Wife so I do not have her notes but only the main points that she covered:
1) Be Subject to One Another- Verse 21- subject as in the area of serving the other, not having authority over your spouse
2) Be Subject or Submit to Your Husbands, as to the Lord
3) Respect Her Husband

As we ended the night we surrounded the students again and prayed for both them and for  their future spouses that they will become who God wants them to be in order to have a godly marriage.  I told them to look at the homework questions from last week and see if these roles may have changed their views on what they are looking for in a spouse and what they need to become as a spouse someday.  I reminded them that marriage isn't as much finding the right person, as it is becoming the right person.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Promise of What is to Come

I was walking to the library this morning to begin a day of studying and writing papers.  As I was walking I had the privilege of hearing birds chirping.  What's the big deal you might ask. You can hear birds chirping all the time.  I am not sure why exactly, but it was a bit motivating to me this morning.  As I heard these birds singing, I was reminded that Spring would soon be here.  I love the Spring weather and am so ready for it.  I was thankful to God that He provides such wonders.  Then I thought about how I never have to worry that Spring will not come this year.  I never worry and think "Oh no, what happens if Spring does not arrive this year?".  We know that unless Jesus returns, we will have Spring.  It is a promise we have that Spring will come.

Before Jesus' death on the cross, He promised His disciples that He would be sending a helper, the Holy Spirit.  When Jesus makes a promise, we do not have to worry that it will not come to fruition, because it will.  We then read in Acts 2 that as the disciples are gathered that the Holy Spirit comes upon them as a "violent rushing wind".  Imagine how exciting it was for the disciples at this moment.  They were able to experience an awesome thing, but also another promise that Jesus is who He says He is.  He follows through on His promises.

So I want you to consider what God has promised you in your life.  The waiting time can be difficult, but knowing the outcome can help us as we wait.  The Holy Spirit helps, strengthens us, and comforts us as we wait as well.  I know for me personally, as I am overwhelmed right now with a full time school load, I have the promise that in May I will be finished and graduate.  Take comfort in knowing that God keeps His promises, and rely on Him during the wait time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday Morning Randomness 2/14

I thought I would share some of my random thoughts that are going on in my head this Monday morning.

-I'm pretty excited that Pitchers and Catchers report today to begin Spring Training for Major League Baseball
-I think I'm pretty much over winter and ready for Spring weather.  I am definitely ready to be able to take the top off of the Jeep
-I feel pretty stressed about all that I have to accomplish this week:  50 more pages of reading due by midnight tonight, 3 papers, 1 test, reading of about 150 pages of notes for that exam, 30 Hour Famine and all the preparation work for that, regular Wednesday Night Worship, etc.
-Today is the last day that McDonald's is offering free coffee.  I'm going to see how many free coffees I can get today.
-I only have 11 more weeks until freedom, I mean I graduate seminary
-Even though we do not celebrate the Hallmark Holiday, or Valentine's Day I want to wish a Happy Valentine's Day to my wonderful wife Belinda.  I love you.
-I like pretty much anything that Phil Wickham sings but the lyrics to his latest single "In My Love" really spoke to me this morning.  
-I read John chapters 19-21 this morning and it never gets old reading about the crucifixion and what Jesus did for us on the cross.  I always enjoy reading John's perspective on everything as well.  One thing that I had forgotten and never really paid attention to takes place after Jesus dies.  Joseph of Arimathea came and took the body of Jesus to place in the tomb.  I knew that but what John says about him in 19:38 really struck me- it says that Joseph was a "disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews".  How sad it is that Joseph of Arimathea allowed fear to keep him from truly following Jesus.  I pray that we will never allow fear to keep us from Jesus.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Relationships by Design- Part 1

We began a 3 week series this week called "Relationships by Design" that is more focused on marriage than dating.  Why would we do this?  Well as I was praying about what type of series do around the month of love I thought that we should take a look at what a biblical marriage should look like.  If we understand what the future should look like from a biblical basis, then it should help guide our steps and decisions today that will lead to that.  The sad truth is that 1 in 3 marriages end in divorce, and it is my desire that none of the students, or anyone for that matter, becomes a part of that statistic.

I began by sharing 3 of my favorite quotes that I have heard on relationships and marriage:
-"Pick a date that will make a good mate"- this is from my youth pastor
-"When you date someone one of two things are going to happen, you are either going to break up with them or marry them"- advice given to me from my sister when I was younger
-"Dating and breaking up is just the practice of marrying and getting a divorce"- this is probably my favorite quotes from one of my close friends and youth worker

We can be thankful that nobody has to go into marriage with no guide or plan to follow.  We have a blueprint from God in the Bible on what a marriage is supposed to look like.  So here is a simple blueprint of what marriage is supposed to look like.  As we grow closer to God, we also grow closer to our spouse.

So what is God's purpose in establishing marriage?
1)  To Provide a Helper- Genesis 2:18
It is nearly impossible to make it through life on our own so God provides a helper.  Now there are some people that God calls to never marry, but He does not call them to be lonely.
2)  To Establish a Connection- Genesis 2:24
When two people are married they become one.  There is a spiritual, emotional, and physical connection, but the main thing to consider here is that there is a connection that occurs.  This connection does not end.  That is why you give your spouse a wedding ring as a gift in the wedding ceremony because a ring has not end just as your connection with your spouse has no end.  Even if a divorce occurs, they will still have a connection that can never be broken.

I then showed them on the back of their listening guide some homework that I wanted them to do later that night.  I asked for them to write down 3 marriages that they admire and why and the qualities in that marriage.  Then I asked them to write down 4 things that they should look for in a person that would make a lasting marriage.  Then they were to write down what they need to do to become the right person that will have a lasting marriage because marriage isn't as much finding the right person, as it is becoming the right person.

We then ended the night with the adults encircling the students to pray over them.  One of the things that I am eternally grateful to my parents for is that they committed early in my life to pray for me and for my future spouse.  I know that Belinda is the answer to that prayer.  So for this series we are going to end each night with the adults encircling the students and praying 2 prayers over them:  1) that they will become the right person that they need to be in order to have a godly marriage;  2) for their future spouse that they will become the right person that they need to be in order to have a godly marriage.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

You Can't Share What You've Never Experienced

Last week at WNW we had a couple of students who shared with the group their personal testimonies.  Afterward we took a look at John 12:20-26 and mainly focused on verse 24.  Jesus talks about death in 2 aspects here.  First of all the death that he would encounter on the cross- giving life to any sinner who would believe on Him.  Then secondly the death that we must all die in order to gain eternal life through Jesus Christ.  This of course is not a physical death that we must die, but a spiritual one.  We must stop living for ourselves and make Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.

Verse 24 says that the grain of wheat must die in order to produce life.  When you plant a seed in the ground, it must break open in order to sprout, grow, and produce the plant that is intended.  We are the same way.  In order to have a testimony of faith, we first must die by breaking open and allowing Jesus to save us.  There are many people in church today who are unable to share their testimony of faith in Jesus Christ.  I am not talking about the fact that they are too shy or too scared.  I am meaning because they have never really been saved.  You can't share what you have never experienced.  So consider today if you are able and are sharing your testimony of faith in Jesus Christ and if not why?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy Birthday Belinda

Today is a day for celebration.  Today is the birthday of my best friend and wonderful wife Belinda!  I am so thankful that God has placed her in my life and that we get to experience life together.  

Happy Birthday Belinda!  I Love You!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

200th Post- How Can I Pray For You?

So this post marks my 200th.  It took me 16 months to reach my 100th post, and just under 11 months to make it to 200.  I guess that means I posted a little more often the second hundred posts.  

I created this blog originally to share my sermon notes and any other thoughts that I wanted to get out.  When coming up with a name for this blog I chose Open Arms because of the parable of the prodigal which is one of my favorite and the song "Open Arms" by Michael W. Smith which I also really like.  As a man in ministry it is my desire for myself and those that I have the privilege of influencing to have our arms open to share the love of Jesus with others.  Sometimes in my posts I am honest and ask for your prayers because I am always in desperate need of prayer.  But today I want to do the same for you.  I want to pray for you and anything you may have going on in your life.  You may be one that reads this blog often or this may be your first time here.  Whatever the case may be, I am asking that you leave a comment with your prayer request.  Feel free to leave your comment anonymously if you want.  Whatever it may be, I want to pray for your needs today.  

How can I pray for you?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Days I'm Thankful For My Calling

To say that ministry is tough is an understatement.  I do not care what type of ministry it is, there are plenty of hard days.  However there are many days that are a blessing and make you thankful for your calling from God.  Sunday was one of those days.

Before church began Sunday morning, one of my students came to me and asked if we could talk.  We stepped out and I spent some time talking with him about salvation.  After several minutes he decided that he wanted to know for sure and so we sat down and at that moment he prayed to receive Jesus Christ and was saved!  We continued to talk for a few minutes and he wanted me to be with him as he told his parents and so we did, and of course they were extremely excited!

Well God was definitely at work Sunday through the worship service and there many who responded to the message.  This student came forward to make it known that he had been saved.  How exciting this is for me as a youth pastor, but that was not all.  A young girl came forward with her dad and grandmother because she had been saved the day before.  My pastor shared that after I had given my testimony at Upward, she realized that she was lost and needed Jesus and was saved.  Wow!  I was a little bit overwhelmed at this moment as I realized that God had used me to lead two people to be saved!  It definitely was not anything that I had done, only that I was being obedient and being usable.  

I am thankful that God has called me into ministry and I am thankful for days like this where he affirms that calling in my life.  I am thankful that God is using me and I pray that I will continue to allow Him to use me however He desires.