Thursday, September 29, 2011

Prayer Stations- WNW 9/28

With yesterday being National See You At The Pole Day it was pretty much a given that we needed to spend the evening at Wednesday Night Worship in prayer.  I gave a brief message similar to the one I gave at Niota School's See You At The Pole about the Converge theme based on Matthew 18:20 and then we spent the evening in prayer.  This night was different than most of the times we do prayer stations because usually it is a night of self examination allowing God to search our hearts.  This night would consist mainly of praying for others.  However we did begin with a time of prayer in the main room where I challenged the students to remove any barriers in their own lives that are in the way of their relationship with Jesus.  After they spent some time doing that they were free to move on to the three rooms to pray for specific areas.  Each room had several pieces of paper in the middle for students to read and pray about the specific areas listed below.

Room #1- Pray for Lucifer's Lies
-Spend time praying for the upcoming spiritual warfare drama.
-Pray for everyone involved- cast, crew, directors, counselors, etc.
-Pray for strength and guidance in every step through this.
-Pray for the twelve performances that will take place.
-Pray for lost souls to come to the drama and be saved.
-Pray for Christians to be challenged in their relationship with Jesus and any who have turned away will return to fellowship with Him.

Room #2- Pray for Schools
-Spend time praying for the principal, teachers, staff, and administration involved in schools around the nation and in our area.
-Pray specifically for local schools (the names of many local schools were on one of the walls in this room).
-Spend time praying for your specific school.
-Pray for Christian students to be strong in their faith and be witnesses.
-Pray for lost students to make Jesus their Savior and Lord.

Room #3- Pray for Clearwater Baptist Church
-Pray that God will continue to give our church direction to follow Him.
-Pray that as a church we will be obedient to follow God.
-Pray for the lost who are attending and need to be saved.
-Pray for those who attend and need to return to Jesus.
-Pray for pastors, leaders,  Sunday School teachers, deacons, etc.
-Pray for our youth ministry that we will grow in Jesus and be used for His glory.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

See You At The Pole- Niota School

Today is National See You At The Pole Day and I had the honor and privilege of speaking again this year at Niota Elementary School.  It was great to see the students there lead this event as they led prayers and read difference Bible verses about prayer.  We sang a couple of songs and then I was able to share a brief message and challenge with the students.  They estimated that about 170 students were in attendance which was incredible.

This year's theme for See You At The Pole is "Converge".  The word converge means to meet together from different directions.  I shared that the students had come from different homes in different areas, are in different grades in school, and even attend different churches but came together to meet to pray and honor the Lord Jesus Christ.  In Matthew 18:20 Jesus says to His disciples "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."  People at this time believed that you had to gather many together in order to pray or have a church type gathering.  But Jesus is saying that even if two or three gather in His name that He is a part of it.  I explained that gathering in Jesus' name means we gather to pray with His purpose in mind and not our own.  The Bible reveals many things that are within the will of God, but I specifically wanted them to think about the fact that God wants everyone to repent, be saved, and follow Him.  

I ended by challenging the students to not only converge to pray each year at See You At The Pole, but to converge each and everyday.  I challenged them to pray for one another and for their Christian witness, pray for their teachers, and to pray for their lost friends.  I told these students that Jesus influenced 11 disciples (could have been 12 but Judas didn't work out so well) to change the world.  We get to have See You At The Pole as a result of the work and prayer these men did.  So if 11 men changed the world for God, what could 2 or 3 students do to radically change a school.  I believe that God wants to bring revival to our schools and it must start with students who are committed to praying each and every day and living their lives completely for Jesus Christ.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chris Sligh Concert

Yesterday was an incredible day at Clearwater Baptist Church.  We were blessed to have Chris Sligh lead worship in the morning service and then he did a concert at night.  I have been a huge fan of Chris Sligh since I first saw him on American Idol.  The season he was on was the first season I ever watched and he grabbed my attention at his audition.  After his time on American Idol I began to follow him as he transitioned into the Christian music industry.  I remember hearing the song "Empty Me" and was amazed not only by his vocals but by the lyrics of the song.  So it was a no-brainer when I saw him tweet back in February that he was going to do a church tour in the fall and gave information on his website with some options for the tour.  We chose the option where he would lead worship in our morning service, playing with our church band, and then do the Sunday night concert.  After 7 months of work in regards to dealing with management, contracts, etc. the day was finally here.

Our band had practiced leading up to this worship service, but there was a bit of nervousness since we were actually playing with Chris Sligh.  Once he arrived we practiced with him and worked out some details and we were all ready to go.  I am still humbled that I had the opportunity to play guitar with him, but was humbled more so by his heart in worship.  Chris is a true worship leader connecting well with the congregation and leading us to the throne of God in song.  The set list for the day included:  How Great (one of Chris's new worship songs), How Great Thou Art, Our God, How He Loves, You Are Good (another of Chris's new worship songs), It Is Well during the offering, and Jesus Paid it All for the invitation.  We were excited because after the worship service Chris tweeted about the service in two tweets.  The first said that he did a scary thing by going into a church and leading w/ the church band that he had never met.  The second tweet said that it is scary because a lot of church bands are very, very bad but this band was really, really good.  It was such an honor to hear his comments like that.

That night he did an acoustic concert which was great.  Chris did a mix of some of his newer worship songs along with some of his radio hits and other songs off his albums.  One lyric from a new worship song called "For Our God" really stood out to me:  "We won't affect this generation with the truth if we aren't changed ourselves!".  Chris shared stories of what God has done in his life over the years and recently with his move to Colorado to become the full-time worship leader at a church.  

I am so thankful for this great day we had.  It was truly a refreshing day of worship.  I am glad to have the opportunity to host a concert with such a wonderful guy and hope to bring him back again in the future.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Identity Part 3- Acceptance (Appearance)

We began this week's Wednesday Night Worship with an activity to hype this Sunday's Chris Sligh concert.  Similar to Who Wants to be a Millionaire, we played Who Wants to win Chris Sligh Stuff.  We drew names and Hayden was our lucky contestant.  He had to answer questions about Chris Sligh and the things we have covered the past two weeks of WNW.  He got them all correct and will be receiving a Chris Sligh sticker, CD, and t-shirt.  After that we had a time of worship where we sang Marvelous Light, Salvation is Here, Cannons, and Good (a new Chris Sligh song that our band is playing with him on Sunday morning).  Our mission moment of the week was to pray for the unreached people group of the Tamil Muslim of India.

In this week's lesson in the "Identity" series we continued our focus on acceptance and specifically our appearance.  We all desire to look nice but if we are not careful our appearance can become our identity.  I began with the question "What does your personal appearance say about you?"  I let them sit quietly for a moment to consider that.  We have to ask ourselves if we are trying to hide behind our appearance or if we are trying to draw attention to ourselves with our appearance.  We also must consider if our focus on our appearance causes us to take our eyes off of God.

We took another look this week at the Pharisees and how they tried to draw attention to themselves with their appearance.  Jesus rebukes the Pharisees in Matthew 23:1-5 and makes mention of their phylacteries and tassels.  The Jewish men wore tassels with a blue cord that were attached to four corners of their garment as a reminder to obey God's commandments and to be holy.  The Pharisees were making their tassels longer in order to be more visible and draw attention to themselves.  They also broadened their phylacteries.  A phylactery was a small box attached to the forehead or arm that contained Hebrew texts. These were also worn as a reminder to keep the law and be holy.  They also made these more visible to draw attention to themselves.  I used a funny example of a modern day phylactery by turning my iPhone to my Bible app and attaching it to my forehead with a head band (thankfully no pictures were taken).  I looked ridiculous.  Most trends end up looking ridiculous, and really look silly when we think about how we use trends to attract attention to ourselves.

So there are a couple of things we looked at in regard to this:
1)  Never Dress Inappropriately to Draw Attention to Yourself
-Don't dress in a way that it inappropriate to gain the attention of others.  If you feel that you can only gain someones attention this way then you do not want their attention to begin with.  I even think it goes beyond dressing inappropriately and includes when you are so enthralled in your appearance that vanity takes place.
2)  Don't Wear Christian Attire to Draw Attention to Yourself
-Just like the Pharisees wore tassels and phylacteries, we wear Christian t-shirts, bracelets, etc.  There is nothing wrong with wearing these t-shirts but we have to consider if we are trying to hide behind this identity while on the inside there is nothing spiritual going on.  Jesus further challenged the Pharisees in Matthew 23:27-28 talking about how they are like whitewashed tombs.  This Scripture not only applies to the Pharisees, but also to us.  We must be careful to not try to have the appearance on the outside of having everything together, but on the inside are spiritually dead.  

We each look in the mirror each day and may be disappointed in the appearance that we see.  However it is important to see our value in who God made us to be.  God looks at our heart just as he told Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7 when he was sent to find David.  We must not try to draw attention to ourselves by hiding behind our appearance.  We must also be careful to not try to hide behind the identity of having it all together, while being spiritually dead on the inside.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Identity Part 2- Acceptance (Friends)

In the second week of this series called "Identity" we focused on acceptance and particularly acceptance with friends.  We began the night with splitting the group into 2 groups and having them make a list of as many cartoon/tv show/movie friends.  They came up with a huge list that included Batman and Robin, Mickey Mouse and Goofy, Mario and Luigi, etc.  I tied this into the message later on.  Our worship set then included "Ain't No Rock", "Forever", "Breathe", and "More Like Following in Love".

So as we think about all the friends we have in life: school, church, work, activities, and social media we all at some point or another have the desire to belong to a group or to be friends with a specific person.  The thing we have to remember is that when we belong to a group of friends we often take on the characteristics of that group.  We used the example of Mario and Luigi.  They are brothers in their video game world, but for this example we assumed they are also friends.  We focused a minute on Luigi.  The truth is though that aside from Mario, Luigi doesn't have much of his own identity.  He takes on the identity of being Mario's brother, and being similar to Mario.  There is nothing wrong in wanting to have friends because we were not meant to live life alone.  However we need to check ourselves and see why we desire to belong to a group.  Often times it originates from our insecurities.  The main problem lies when our desire for acceptance into a specific group becomes so strong that we lower our standards, we allow ourselves to be subjected to stuff we normally would not be around, and then we give into sin we would not normally participate in.  If you have to change and/or do things you know are wrong in order for someone to like you, then they are not a real friend.

We then talked about a popular group of people in the Bible.  This crowd had it going on with the way they dressed, their intelligence and education, etc.  When people saw them they knew what crowd they belonged to.  This group enticed people to join and was a group that many people wanted to belong to.  I am talking about the Pharisees.  We look at them and think badly of them for their religious rule and traditions and we know how Jesus called them out on many occasions.  But they would have been one of the popular crowds back then.  When you read Galatians 1:6-10 we see that Paul is writing the churches in Galatia about the false teaching that is going on.  Paul had taught them the truth in salvation through Jesus Christ, and Jesus alone.  However a little bit later they started teaching that Paul had not taught the whole truth and that you had to also observe some of the Old Testament law in order to gain salvation.  The Pharisees had impressed some beliefs on the churches of Galatia.  So Paul here is challenging them with the truth and saying that it is more important to follow and believe truth, than to be a people pleaser and fit in their crowd.  It is never worth following a false doctrine in order to feel a part of a group.

So how can we turn things around so our identity is in Jesus instead of in our friends?  First we have to allow Jesus to be our best friend.  The more time you spend with someone, you begin to take on their identity.  If you spend more time with Jesus then you will begin to be more like Him.  When we read about the love of Jesus in John 15:12-15 we should be humbled and desire to grow closer to Him.  The second thing we can do is be a godly friend to others.  When we think about Job's friends, we usually think about how they were jerks and told him that his sin had brought on the devastation in his life.  But every time I read Job 2:11-13 I am amazed at how his friends were there with him grieving and mourning with him during that time.  How often do we grieve over the pain a friend is enduring?

So we have to think about why we desire to fit in with a group.  We are going to desire to be friends with someone or a group at some point in our lives, but why?  Are we going to lower our standards because we will end up following a false doctrine and give into sin.  It is never worth that.

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Student Video

This past week at Wednesday Night Worship was the first week with our new group of 7th graders that just moved up.  The previous week we had an orientation night for them and their parents.  For this first night at WNW we decided to make a silly video to welcome them and further show a little bit of what we do.  Well actually it isn't a good example of what we do each week but shows a bit of our silliness that shines through some.  I hope you enjoy this silly video.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Identity Part 1- Introduction

This week at Wednesday Night Worship we kicked off the new church year with a new series called "Identity".  In all of our lives there are many times we try to find out identity in an array of areas from sports to academics and career, etc.  I began the lesson by letting students say the following phrase- "My name is ______ and I am a _______".  We had some fill in the blank saying they are a "girl, 7th grader, red-head, crazy, etc."  I then shared that when I hear the word identity I think about superheroes and their secret identity and showed a few pictures of superheroes and we named their secret identity.  When we look at superheroes, they hide behind another identity to keep people from knowing who they really are.  How often do we try to hide behind an identity other than the identity of being  child of God and who God called us to be.

After sharing with the students some of the things that I have tried to find my identity in over my life we dug into the Bible looking at Jacob and Esau.  In Genesis 27:18-24, Jacob deceives his father Isaac into thinking that he is Esau.  When Isaac asked who he was he responded "Esau".  The main reason that Jacob did this was to steal the blessing intended for Esau.  However I believe that he had to be dealing with insecurity.  We read in Chapter 25 of Genesis that while Rebekah loved Jacob more, Isaac loved Esau more.  Even though Jacob was his mother's favorite, he had to have insecurity knowing that his father loved Esau more.  I believe that this also led to Jacob trying to be Esau instead of being who God created him to be.

We then divided into two groups to make lists of everything that people today try to find their identity in which included:  fashion, power, academics, career, sports, friends, tv, food, etc.  We then skipped ahead and read Genesis 32:24-28 where Jacob wrestles all  night long with a man (could have been an angel, could have been Jesus, but not the main point here).  When asked here who he was he responded "Jacob".  At this point he was renamed Israel and went on to further accomplish God's will for his life.  Jacob stopped trying to hide behind the identity of someone else and acknowledge who he actually was.

We all struggle with this in our lives.  We sometimes try to hide behind another identity because of our own insecurities.  I know because I struggle with insecurity on a daily basis. God created every single one of us uniquely and has a plan for every single one of us.  I have a friend who used to look me in the face and say "Nathan, God doesn't make junk and when you degrade yourself you are calling His creation junk".  I have to remind myself of this constantly.  In a moment of transparency I will be honest, even though I preached this last night I am having to preach this myself at the moment.  I know that you and I have been created by the Ultimate Creator for His glory.  I have to be reminded often that I am beloved in His eyes.  

We closed the night by showing this video for Jason Gray's song "Remind Me Who I Am"

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Loving God's Word

In a follow up to last week's message about loving other's and praying for them, this week we looked at loving God's Word- the Bible.  God has given us this incredible piece and we should worship God as we study it.  We looked at Nehemiah 8:1-8 where Ezra reads from the book of the law of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy).  A few things to think about from these verses.  Verse 3 says that the people listen attentively!  They did not casually listen or daydream, but they were hinging on every word read.  Verse 5 says that the people stood up.  They did this in reverence and respect of God's Word.  We read in verse 3 that Ezra read from early morning until midday.  By this I believe that the people did not just stand for a few minutes, but they stood for a long period of time out of their respect for God's Word.  Then in verse 6 it tells us that the people raise their hands, they cried Amen! and bowed down and worshipped God.  They were worshipping God because He has given us such an incredible piece of information to live by in the Bible.  We then discussed two challenging points that I personally have been challenged with.

1)  Do you read or study the Bible?
We were asked this by a professor I had in seminary when we were studying spiritual disciplines.  How often do we read something and then a few minutes later we have forgotten what we read?  This is because we did not study it.  If we actually take time to study God's Word, then it will have a greater impact on our lives.

2)  How much do you memorize?
I looked back at some of my notes from October 2007 where I asked the following question that I first heard asked by David Nasser.  He first asked the question "How old are you?".  Then he asked this:  "Take the number of how old you are- do you have that many verses of Scripture memorized?"  Now there is nothing magic about having the same number of verses memorized as our number of years old we are, but it's something to think about.  We should never memorize Bible verses out of pride or to prove our academic abilities, but in order to hide God's Word in our heart as Psalm 119:11 tells us.  We learn God's Word in order to use it as a weapon against sin.  But how often do we use the excuse "I'm not good at memorizing" or "I can't memorize"?  It is not that we are not good enough, we just do not make it a priority in life.  We all will memorize what is important to us and what we want to learn.  We played a game at the beginning of the night where we each said "I'm going on a picnic and I am taking (fill in the blank).  Then the next person would say the same thing and would add something.  We went around the circle twice and had many things we were taking on this picnic.  We all memorized that list because we wanted to at the time, just like we do with song lyrics, tv/movie quotes, etc.  So if we actually want to memorize Scripture and make the effort then we will be able to.

So this was something that God has challenged me with and I believe is a great challenge for all believers.  We are going to make an effort as a group to memorize more Scripture.  My prayer is that you will do the same.