Thursday, October 20, 2011

Identity Part 5- Child of God

This week at Wednesday Night Worship we finished the series called "Identity" that we had been looking at over the past several weeks.  We opened the night with a funny video about how to fit in and then went into our worship set which included "Dancing Generation", "Holding Onto You", "Son of God", and "I'll Lead You Home".  Right after the last song I showed a video called "Who I Am" that showed four teenagers as they began their day and each talking about how the world is pulling them in many different directions.  The question that they each have to face is "Who Am I?" rather than "Who does the world want me to be?".  I began my message with a quick summary of what we had looked at each week within this series and how basically at times we try to hide behind different identities in life because of what is going on inside of us.  In other words our insecurities lead us to want to feel accepted, and when we act on that it can put us in a dangerous situation where we allow ourselves to be exposed to sin.  I shared a quote by Rhianna that I read recently where she said in regards to the person she is on stage and in the public eye:  "That's not me.  That's a part I play".  In other words she is saying that she is hiding behind that identity, which is very sad to me.

Each topic that we have looked at throughout this series I have said that instead of that identity, we should seek to find our identity as a child of God.  That is a churchy phrase that we use often but what does it really mean?  Well the short Sunday School answer would be that you are saved.  We looked at John 1:12-13 to get a clearer picture of what it means.  We read in these verses that in order to be a child of God, you must be born of God.  You must have believe in Him.  You must have accepted Him as your Savior and as Lord of your life.  Verse 12 says that then we have the right, or we are then given the title of child of God.  We must be born of God in order to be called a child of God.  We can not say we are a child of anyone that we have not been born of.  In addition we will receive the inheritance which means we have an eternal relationship with God.

After identifying what a child of God looks like, we discussed what this identity looks like. You can truly be saved and be a child of God, but it not be your identity.  We looked at these six things that should take place in our lives when we are striving to live daily as a child of God.  There are plenty more but these are six that I felt like we should cover.
1)  You are more concerned with what God thinks about you than what others think- Galatians 1:10.  We covered this earlier in this series as well.  We also believe what God says about us through His Word and do not believe the lies of Satan and others.
2)  You are a bond-servant/slave of Jesus Christ- Galatians 1:10.  Paul refers to himself here as a bond-servant or a slave of Jesus Christ.  This means that we realize that once we are saved, then we no longer own our own lives, but instead we are owned by Jesus Christ and are to serve Him as such.
3)  You have a clear picture of who God is which dictates how you live your life.  We have been talking about this through the "I Believe" study in Sunday School.  What we believe dictates how we behave.  If we have a clear picture of who God is through the Bible, then it will guide how we live our lives.
4)  Your misery in life turns to joy- James 1:2-4.  We realize that the trials we face are a time for us to grow closer to God and be shaped by Him so He can use us.  Our perspective of everything changes and we understand that our trials produce perseverance.
5)  You choose God's will for your life instead of your own- John 6:66-69.  When the people in this chapter heard the truth from Jesus, they chose their own will instead of God's will for their life.
6)  You want Jesus above everything else- John 6:66-69.  The people chose the world instead of Jesus because it was no longer convenient for them and it required a lot for them to continue to follow Jesus.  When you place your identity in being a child of God, then you understand that it is going to be hard at times, but even when it is hard it is so much more worth it than choosing the world.

In closing I told the students that each one of us fall into one of three categories:
1) You are fully seeking your identity as a child of God.  You are growing daily with Him and allowing Him to use you.
2) You are saved- but you are seeking your identity in other things.  You are hiding behind other identities because of your own insecurity and desire to fit it, and are choosing that instead of a close relationship with Jesus Christ.
3) You are lost and your identity has nothing to do with Jesus because you have never made a decision to follow Him.  

You have to ask yourself today "Who Am I?"

Friday, October 14, 2011

Corn Maze 2011

This past Saturday we took the students to the corn maze.  We had a great time as they bounced on this crazy inflated dome thing (I have no idea what to call it), they raced pedal cars, took a hay ride, did the corn maze, etc.  It was a great day and here are some pictures of some of the events.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fields of Faith 2011

Last night instead of our regular Wednesday Night Worship service we joined with other teens in our area for this year's FCA Fields of Faith.  This is a nationwide event for teens to get together and pray, worship, etc.  Since it had been raining the moved it inside to the gym which actually worked our pretty well.  After some pizza and games, there was a time of worship and then three students shared their testimonies which was great to hear.  After that our very own Kaite got up to share her story and how Jesus has influenced her life and how He has called her into ministry.  She then shared that she along with other students would be performing a skit called "Set Me Free" that they will be doing in our upcoming Lucifer's Lies drama and how we all must accept Jesus and allow Him to set us free from the sin in our lives.  Afterward an invitation was given and a few students came forward to say that they had placed their faith in Jesus.  It was a great night and as always I am so proud of our students at Clearwater in how they are leaders in their schools and share the love of Jesus with others.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Music Review- "A Way To See In The Dark"

Last month one of my favorite Christian artists Jason Gray released his next album "A Way To See In The Dark".  If you have never heard of Jason Gray you need to check out his previous albums that have had great songs such as "More Like Falling In Love", "I Am New", and "Blessed Be".  I have had the privilege to host two concerts with Jason Gray at Clearwater which you can read about.  Aside from Jason's unique music, he is the real deal.  Any encounter with Jason and it is obvious that he is a man that has been changed by Jesus and that Jason is making it his life effort to follow Him.  Jason's desire to reach out to people can definitely be heard in his latest album.  Twelve strong songs make up this album and for a little more you can purchase the deluxe edition with eight more tracks that consists of some alternate versions of songs on the main album, as well as some that did not make it.

The first song that is a favorite of mine is also the first single called "Remind Me Who I Am".  This song talks about how in the midst of pains in life we sometimes have to be reminded of God's view of us in the fact that we are His beloved.  This song has a great sound and the line that stands out to me is "In the mirror all I see is who I don't wanna be, remind me who I am".  As someone who struggles with self-esteem issues this song definitely one of inspiration.

My favorite song of the album is called "Good To Be Alive".  At first it caught my attention with its sounds because it is quite a bit different than the normal Jason Gray song.  Mixed in with some piano riffs and catchy beats is a message that is definitely true that we are blessed in our lives, even in the midst of the pains we suffer.  The chorus goes "I wanna live like there's no tomorrow, love like I'm on borrowed time, it's good to be alive".  The bridge and ending speaks volumes with the promise to God "I won't take it for granted, I won't waste another second, all I want is to give You, a life well lived to say thank You".

The title track of the album "A Way To See In The Dark" is another favorite of mine as it talks about seeking God in the midst of the dark times in our life.  The powerful chorus goes:  "I'll reach for Your hand in the night, when the shadows swallow light, 'cause I'm giving up giving in, once again a child like faith, is my only way, to see in the dark".

Like I said the rest of the album is just amazing and there is not a single bad song.  Some other great songs are "The Sound of Our Breathing", Nothing Is Wasted, The Other Side, Jesus We Are Grateful, and on the bonus disc "Before I've Done Anything".  This is definitely another favorite in my album collection and I hope you will add it to yours soon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thoughts On The Passing Of Steve Jobs

I can't believe it has taken me so long to write about the passing of Steve Jobs, but I still wanted to share some of my thoughts.  I have been a fan of Steve Jobs and his innovations as they have had a huge influence on my life and the way I do things.  I have always been someone who enjoyed technology and so as Apple started gaining major ground several years ago it caught my attention.  Shortly after I came on staff at Clearwater as youth pastor I was constantly struggling with my laptop and all its issues when one day I was fed up and grabbed the church's 21 inch iMac which was currently being unused and carried it into my office.  After a few minutes I was hooked on it and it wasn't long until I purchased my first Macbook.  I now am a complete Apple fan using a Macbook Pro which is the only computer my family owns and I use as my work computer, an iPad which I mainly use for chord sheets to lead worship, and of course my iPhone.  So now that I have gotten that out of the way, here are some of my thoughts surrounding the sad passing of Steve Jobs this past week.

-First of all, life is fragile and short.  Steve passed away at the young age of 56.  Life is short and we must live it to the fullest.  We should live each day for God like it is our last on earth.  Hopefully it will not be, but that is out of our hands.
-I am saddened with the thoughts of "what could have been" if this terrible disease had not taken his life.  Of course it is amazing that he has left 4 years worth of innovative products to be created, but if he had lived longer what might he have invented?  This of course reminds me of the life of Rich Mullins and how he passed on way too young.  I always wonder what worship songs we would be singing today if he had not passed on so young.
-I read something where he made mention of the time he did not spend with his kids because of work.  I sensed that there could have been some regret.  I personally do not have children and am unsure if I ever will, but I am reminded of the importance of my family.  I have been reminded of this much over the past couple of years as there seems to be less time in each day, there are more work strains on my life now than ever, and the fact that I have lost loved ones in the past few years.  My family must remain a priority in my life.  As a matter of fact my order of priorities must be:  1) My relationship with God;  2) My relationship with my family;  3) My ministry/job.  Sadly many people combine #1 and #3 and push family aside.  Also just as sad is that some people expect you to do that.
-I think about the legacy that Steve left as businessman, innovator, creative genius, etc.  This makes me think about the legacy that I am leaving.  I especially think about this as it ties into my next message as we end the Identity series next week.  Am I seeking an identity that will leave a legacy that people will like about me, or am I seeking to leave the legacy that pleases God.  As I was studying yesterday for my next message the following thought came out.  It is bold but understand what I am saying.  My thought was this:  "I do not want my legacy to be that I was a youth pastor, I instead want my legacy to be that I am a man of God who was willing to do whatever to serve Him and not caving to the pressures of the world.  In addition I want to be known as a Godly husband and family man."

So what have been your thoughts on the passing of Steve Jobs?  Has it made you think about life in any way?  As Steve said in one of his famous speeches "Nobody wants to die".  Nobody wants to go through any pain or suffering that leads to death.  However we do not have to worry about what will happen after if we have made Jesus Christ our personal Lord and Savior.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Identity Part 4- Accomplishments/Success

We began this week's WNW with a quick activity where the students were on teams and had to try to find items that began with each letter of the alphabet from their pockets, purses, and wallets.  Afterward I asked them how competitive they were in trying to finish this, or any competition they are involved in.  After some discussion I gave them all a piece of paper and asked them to write out their greatest accomplishment in their lives so far and had a few to share.  Then I had them take a few minutes and write out some things they want to accomplish in their lives or things they want to be successful at in their lives.  Some of the students shared and then I told them to date the paper and put it in their Bible to keep for later on and to look at it often.  We then had a worship set that included:  You're Worthy of My Praise, God With Us, All Who Are Thirsty, and Starry Night.  During our Prayer Time/Mission Moment we prayed for the Unreached People Group the Huayao Tai of China.

As the message for the night continued in the "Identity" series and focused on Accomplishments and Successes, I began the talking about how we all have a desire to achieve and succeed.  We all want to be successful and good at whatever we do whether it be sports, school, jobs, hobbies, etc.  I believe that this is a God-given desire in every human being.  The problems exists when this desire for success becomes mixed with our flesh and sin and we look to make success fulfill us in a way that only God can.  We end up with what I referred to throughout the message a success-based identity where we will do anything in our power to succeed in order to try to gain the approval of others and make ourselves feel better.  

We looked at Ecclesiastes 2:9-11 and talked about the life of Solomon.  Solomon had anything and everything he could ever wish for.  When God told him he could ask for anything, Solomon chose to ask for wisdom because he realized that as king he needed wisdom and knowledge in order to rule over people and make correct decisions.  Solomon not only inherited many great things, but he was successful as a king and achieved great things.  In verse 11 though Solomon says that it is all vanity, futile, and pointless apart from God.  He realized that all the accomplishments and success could not fulfill him the way God can.

So when we allow ourselves to have a success-based identity it leads us to do the following:
1)  We try to achieve success regardless of what it does to the people around us.  We do not care who we hurt in the process of accomplishing what we set out to do.  When this occurs it also may be that we are more concerned with recognition than the actual accomplishment itself.
2)  We confuse who we are with what we do.  Our giftedness does not define who we are.  Our giftedness does not change God's love for us.
3)  We struggle when others succeed.  This is a definite when you have a success-based identity.  Instead of being able to celebrate when others are successful, you become jealous.
4)  We lose our focus on God's will for our lives.  Not only can we lose our focus, but we can misinterpret God's will for us.  I shared a personal story of how after a couple of very successful baseball seasons, I was at my dad's office at work one day when a lady told me that she believe that God had a plan for me in baseball.  I was extremely excited because what I mistranslated her to say was that she believed God would have a plan for me to play baseball at a professional level.  I misinterpreted what she told me and instead had my own idea of God's will.  I was so focused on the success in baseball, that I missed the true will of God.  I do believe that God had a plan for me in baseball, but that it was in the present and that I missed it.  I went on to play another 6 years of baseball, and kept my mouth shut most of the time when it came to my faith.  I did not participate in much of the things that others were involved in, but I never spoke the truth about how Jesus had impacted my life.  I wasted those years chasing a dream that was outside the will of God because I had developed a success-based identity and lost my focus on what God really wanted me to do.

I want to challenge you today as I challenged the students and I continue to challenge myself with everyday:  do not become so focused on being successful and achieving something that it becomes your identity and you lose sight of God's will in your life.  There is nothing wrong with having goals and dreams of things you want to achieve in your life.  I told the students that I hope they all accomplish the things that they wrote down at the beginning of the night.  However I do not want them or anyone to chase them and lose sight of God because just as Solomon came to realize, it is all pointless apart from God.