Thursday, January 26, 2012

MFUGE 2012 Promo Night

This week at Wednesday Night Worship we had a night that focused on our summer camp for 2012.  We will be going to MFUGE in North Greenville University June 4-9.  We began the night with a worship set that included:  Tell The World (Hillsong United), Blessed Be Your Name (Matt Redman), Sweetly Broken (Jeremy Riddle), and Son of God (Starfield).  Throughout the night we showed several videos about MFUGE.  We showed last year's video of us, a promotional video, and one of student testimonies.  Two of our seniors, Kaite and Mitchell, shared their experiences at MFUGE and how God has shaped their lives through their experiences at camp.  I talked about the theme for this year which is "The Pursuit".  The theme verse is Ephesians 1:22 "And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church."  The life questions that will be looked at during the week are "Does Christ have complete authority over your life?" and "What evidence exists that Jesus Christ is Lord of your life?".  This is going to be an intense week as we search our hearts in this manner.  I talked about the track options which include:  Children's Ministry; Social Ministry; Painting, Construction, and Yard Work Ministry; Creative Ministry; Games and Recreation Ministry; and brand new this year Evangelism Ministry.  I believe this is going to be an incredible week.  The deadline to turn in registration forms and the $50 deposit is this Sunday January 29th.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Got Questions?- Part 2

We continued our Got Questions? series this week at Wednesday Night Worship, and it was really a great night.  We covered a tough topic but it went really well and I give God all the glory.  We began the night with a really sweet time of worship that included the songs "Hosanna-Praise is Rising (Baloche/Brown), My Glorious (Delirious), Starry Night (Chris August), and Our God (Chris Tomlin).  Afterward we dove right in and got a great response from the students.

The question for the night that we had drawn out of the box the previous week was "Can we change God's mind with our prayer?".  This is definitely a tough question to handle and people fall on both ends of the spectrum.  We went through our 4 questions in order to grasp a rounded view then determine a solid Biblical answer.

What does the world say?
Most everyone agreed that the world in general believes that the answer to this question is yes.  It was even discussed that people believe that if they complete their checklist of doing good deeds for God that He will honor their requests.

What do we think?
I asked the students if this is a question they had ever asked and what was their first general thoughts.  They were split in half on who had considered this before and who had not.  Some good discussion began that showed that us that we can have our own opinions, but must dig deep into the Bible to determine a solid view.

What does the Bible say?
In order to determine an answer we looked at several attributes of God in order to get a small understand of His nature.
1)  God is Immutable-  This means that God is unchanging (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17).  God's character and nature always remain the same.  All change of character implies imperfection.  To say that God changes means that He was imperfect before and that the change is for the better.  God cannot change for the better because He is already perfect.
2)  God is Righteous- This means that God always does what is right (Psalm 119:142).  Included in this is the fact that God always answers our prayers the right way, maybe just not always the way we want.  
3)  God is Omnipotent- This means that God is all-powerful (Matthew 19:26).  No person or thing can control God (Daniel 4:35).  He always does according to His will and not our own.  God is under no obligation to anyone (Romans 9:15-16).  
4)  God is Omniscient-  This means that God is all-knowing (Psalm 147:5, Psalm 139:4-6).  God knows everything about us.  He knows what choices we will make in life, but He also knows all possible outcomes of any of our choices.  This does not mean that God's foreknowledge is causative.  There is no denial in free-will.
5)  God does not repent (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29)-  The word repent means to change your mind, turn away from sin.  First of all, since God cannot sin, there is no need for Him to ever repent.  But when we look at this subject and the question of whether or not we can change God's mind with our prayers, some people say that the Bible has contradictions which is completely untrue.  If we first look at Exodus 32:14 as one example, it appears that the prayer of Moses changed God's mind on the judgement He would take out on the Israelites.  However this is a great example of where you cannot take one verse out of context, and that you must also study the Bible and not simply read it.  If we look at the Hebrew language that the Old Testament was written in, the word for repent is naham. When this word is applied to humans it means to change your mind and turn away from sin.  On the other hand when it is applied to God it means to relent, to grieve, to feel deep emotion (to sigh).  We have probably all grieved at some point in our life and have had a deep sigh involved with that.  What this means is that in this moment, God is deeply grieved over the sins of His people, and when they turn away from their sin and repent, He embarks on another course of action.  In these instance it isn't that God changed His mind, but that people changed and turned away from their sin.  This is the case in Exodus.  The Israelites turn from their sin that opposed God.  I cannot read this and think that Moses actually changed God's mind.  To say that would be to say that Moses knew better than God in the situation.  If we believe that God is perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing, and unchanging then we can't say that He changed His mind as in the way we change our minds.  We change our minds when we see a better solution and that is not what happened in the mind of God in this moment.  

How does this apply to our lives?
For those who believe that the purpose of prayer is to change God's mind, they would then ask why they should ever pray.  Here are the reasons we pray:
1)  Jesus commanded us to pray and modeled prayer for us (Matthew 6:5-7).  Jesus didn't say "if you pray", or "if you feel like praying".  Instead He said numerous times "when you pray".  Jesus didn't try to change the mind of God when He prayed in the Garden in Luke 22:42.  If anyone could have changed God's mind it would have been Jesus.
2)  You can't have a relationship with God if you don't pray.
3)  The purpose of pray is not to change God, but to change us.  We should go into prayer with the desire for God to change our hearts and work in our lives.  A good indication that we are unwilling to change is that we stop praying.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I Need You Lord

I just wanted to share a quick thought of what is going on in my heart today.  To be honest over the past couple of weeks I really have experienced a bit of personal revival I feel.  Mainly in part that I have been better disciplined in the simple things such as journaling and spending more time in prayer and Bible study.  In the midst of this though I am almost feeling a bit under attack.  I'm not really sure how to explain it fully.  I know that is usually how things go, but it is never fun.  However I think the best way to describe my prayer today is through the chorus of the song "Miracle" by Shane and Shane.  These words are the cry of my heart today and may be yours as well.

I need You Lord,
Even more than the air I breathe
I need You Lord,
Right away
I need You Lord,
Every minute of every day
I need You Lord,
Right away

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Got Questions? - Part 1

This week we began a series that we will do for a few weeks called "Got Questions?".  I had the students submit questions they have about the Bible and we will answer one or two each week.  This can be tough as these students are smart and have submitted some tough questions, but it is good as it challenges us to find answers in the Bible and to stretch our brains.  It hurts our brains but it is good for us!  We began the night with a funny video and a worship set that included:  "So Much", "One Way" (Hillsong United), "I Will Follow" (Micah Watson), "How He Loves" (McMillan/Crowder).

I began the night by sharing a bit about why we are doing this.  The best way to learn is by asking questions.  We should never be ashamed to ask questions.  The disciples were constantly asking Jesus questions in order to learn.  We briefly looked at a few examples of the disciples asking questions in Mark 4:10, Mark 7:17, Mark 9:11, Mark 9:28, Mark 10:10, and Mark 13:3.  As we ask questions, we need to know where to find the answers which of course is the Bible.  I told the students that there may be some questions we look at that we cannot find a 100% definitive answer because it will fall into a gray area.  It is then we must decide what we believe based on the Scripture and not waste time arguing and debating the subject.

Each week we will look at the selected question in 4 areas:  1) "What does the world say?"; 2) "What is our opinion?"; 3) "What does the Bible say?"; and 4) "How does this apply to our lives?".  We use the phrase "knowledge is power" but it only is power if we make use and application of the knowledge.

This week's question that we began with was "Does the Bible say anything about dinosaurs?".  So looking at each question here is what we discussed.
1)  The world says that dinosaurs existed millions of years ago.
2)  Most everyone in our group had the opinion that dinosaurs existed, but was thousands of years ago as the earth is not millions of years old.
3)  So looking at what the Bible says here are the things that I covered.  First of all the word "dinosaur" is not in the Bible.  The Bible was of course not written in English, but the word "dinosaur" was not invented until the 1800's.  The Hebrew word "tanniyn" was used and could be translated "sea monster", "serpent", or "dragon".  When we read the account of Creation, Genesis 1:24-25 tells us that God made animals on Day 6.  This would have included dinosaurs, and dinosaurs are animals.  Then we looked at the two possibilities of dinosaurs mentioned in the Bible, the Behemoth and Leviathan in Job 40:15-41:8.  It has been long debated what these creatures are, if they are dinosaurs, or maybe the behemoth an elephant or hippopotamus, and the leviathan could possibly been a crocodile.  The truth is, we cannot 100% possibly say one way or another if these are dinosaurs or other animals. We were not there to see these creatures ourselves so we cannot say for sure.  Here is what we do know is that in these verses God is showing Job how big He is.  God is showing that even His power is shown in creatures.  However I cannot determine myself what these creatures are.
4)  So how can we apply this to our lives?  I challenged the students to know what truths are spoken in this area, but to never argue about it.  In addition we should not obsess over these subjects.  Why?  Because this has nothing to do with salvation.  A problem I have is that people will be obsessed with this subject and other theological questions, when it has nothing to do with Jesus and salvation.  People waste too much time debating some of these things while people are dying and going to hell.  So my thoughts on how to apply this to our lives is to make a decision and not spend much more time on it and move on.  It is my personal belief that God has placed things like this in the Bible to test us and see if we will waste a lot of time debating what this animal is, or focus on more important matters like reaching the lost.

At the end of the night we drew the question to look at next week which is one that will really stretch our brains:  "Can we change God's mind with our prayers?".

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Isaiah 29:13

I read Isaiah 29:13 during my quiet time today and what a sad verse it is for those it fits.  As God is sending warnings to Jerusalem about the way that they are living He tells them that they are going through the motions of serving Him but that their hearts are not in it.  They are acting like they are worshiping Him for whatever reason, but they have no desire to worship Him in their heart.  As I read this and I am of course reminded of when Jesus quotes Isaiah as he warns the Pharisees in Matthew 15:8-9 and Mark 7:6-7 about living this way.  At the same time I am challenged to consider my own worship through song, Bible study, prayer, the way I treat others, etc.  How terrible it would be to know that this is what God would say about my worship.  I know that there have been times that I have simply went through the motions of worship in all of these areas, and for that I am deeply ashamed.  I am challenged today to always let all areas of my worship of God be genuine and true.  I want to worship Him with my everything.  I challenge you to read Isaiah 29:13 below in the different translations and ask God to challenge you in your worship and reveal to you if you have only been worshiping Him with your lips, or if you been worshiping Him with your heart.

Isaiah 29:13 (NASB)
Then the Lord said, "Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,

Isaiah 29:13 (NCV)
The Lord says:  "These people worship me with their mouths, and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Their worship is based on nothing but human rules.

Isaiah 29:13-14 (The Message)
The Master said:  "These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their hearts aren't in it.  Because they act like they're worshiping me but don't mean it, I'm going to step in and shock them awake, astonish them, stand them on their ears.  The wise one who had it all figured out will be exposed as fools.  The smart people who thought they knew everything will turn out to know nothing."

Monday, January 9, 2012

He Always Feels Like It

Do you ever have those days when you just don't feel like it when it comes to your relationship with God?  What I mean is do you ever have days when you do not feel like praying, studying your Bible, and spending time in fellowship with God?  Of course you do. Maybe I am presuming too much about everyone but I know in my own life I have those days.  There are simply days when I become selfish and do not feel like taking the time to read Scripture and pray for those arounds me.  Maybe I am alone in this but I am pretty sure that I am in the company of many.  Well I had one of those days recently and I did a lot of thinking regarding that feeling.  

First of all I am ashamed to admit that I would ever not feel like spending time with the God of the universe, the creator of all things, and the one who loves you and I so much that He would send His very own Son Jesus Christ to die for me.  Why would I not want to spend time with that person?  The only answer I can really think of is selfishness.  If we do not want to spend time with God then it can only be because we are being selfish and are more concerned with ourselves.  It may mean that in that moment we would rather be spending time with someone else, watch television, play video games, read another book, etc.  Whatever takes the place of God in this time becomes an idol in our life.  That may be a harsh statement, but I believe it is the truth.  

The next thing I thought of is that I have to understand that it is not that "I have to" spend time with God, but rather "I get to".  It is a privilege to be able to spend time in prayer and fellowship with God.  We must be thankful that we have the Holy Spirit to intercede on our behalf and do not have to do things like they did before Jesus came.  We can freely go to God when we need or want to.  That is something to rejoice about!

The main thing I considered is this:  God never feels like this about spending time with us. God never says "I just don't feel like spending time with you today".  He always wants to spend time with us.  He always feels like it.  Our feelings would be hurt if God didn't want to spend time with us.  So we need to consider how much it hurts God when we don't want to spend time with Him.  I am currently reading a book by Brennan Manning and he says this:  "What does the Christian life look like, once one is smitten by the love of Jesus Christ?".  I do not think that there is a concrete answer to that but one thing that I believe falls under it is that we desire to spend time with God and cannot get enough of Him.

Friday, January 6, 2012

My Favorite Albums of 2011

As a music lover I wanted to list my favorite albums that came out in 2011.  There many great albums and here are the ones that stand out as the best.

-Jason Gray:  A Way To See In The Dark
This is my favorite album of the year by far, which I did a review of a while back.

-Michael W. Smith:  Glory
This is Michael W. Smith's second all instrumental album.  Michael is my all-time favorite artist and this has some great music to listen to and enjoy.

-Newsboys:  God's Not Dead
I have always been a huge fan of Michael Tait but when he first joined Newsboys I was a little reluctant.  No offense to any fans but the Newsboys hadn't been one band that I particularly cared a lot for in the past, but now I am a huge fan!  Earlier this year I got their album Born Again: Miracles Edition and it is phenomenal.  This album is as well and is one that I am currently listening to a lot.
-David Crowder Band:  Oh For Joy
David Crowder Band doing Christmas music.  What's not to love here?  The album cover with them as nutcrackers is one of favorite covers of all time.  Definitely a good album and I am so glad they did this before releasing their final one.
-They Came Running:  The Way You Shine
This is a local band and one of my favorite that includes one of my best friends.  I have been a fan since they formed in late 2007.  This is their first full-length album and is one that everyone should purchase.

So what was your favorite music from 2011?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

WNW 1/14/12- New Year Challenge

It was good to be back at our Wednesday Night Worship service last night as I started off the year with a challenge for the students.  We began the night with some discussion of how everyone's Christmas and New Year were.  We watched one of our favorite classic videos "My Spoon Is Too Big" which is silly and pointless but hilarious at the same time.  I have a huge banana that is now sitting on the stage at the youth house so I figured it was appropriate to show the video.  We then went into our worship set which included "Song of Hope" (Robbie Seay Band), "Salvation Is Here" (Hillsong United), "Running to You" (Newsboys), and "Always" (Kristian Stanfill).

I began the message by talking about how big of a year 2012 is going to be.  We looked at some of the big movies, music, books, events, etc. that will take place in 2012.  I then asked the students to take a minute to write down one thing they plan to accomplish this year.  Some shared what they plan to do this year which included:  learning to play the piano, learning to drive a stick shift, flying on a plane for the first time, etc.  I then talked briefly about the fact that anything we want to accomplish in life can be done if we focus on our relationship with God.  It is then that God will lead us to accomplish it or change our hearts to something else.

We read the Parable of the Two Sons in Matthew 21:28-32.  One son first refused to go work but then actually went and did the work.  The other son said he would work but never did. So which one was obedient?  The one who actually went and worked.  We can have the desire to follow God and say we will, but if we never do it then we are disobedient.  The question we have to ask ourself is which son are we most like.  Are we obedient and following God, or are we all talk?  We have to allow God to examine our hearts and reveal to us whether or not we are being obedient to Him.  Do we say we will follow Him, but it is all talk and no action?  

After a prayer time with examination I gave them a small homework assignment and some ideas for some resources for them to use.  I asked them to go home with their sheet of paper that they used earlier to write their goal down, and fill the paper with all the goals they have for 2012.  I showed them in my journal the page that I wrote my goals on.  If we write these down we will have a visual reminder of what we are working toward.  I then went through the calendar dates through July showing them the things that we will be involved in to help them grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.

-30 Hour Famine- January 27-28:  This is a time where we fast from food for 30 hours to gain a small understanding of hunger.  The students raise funds through sponsors and all the funds go to World Vision to help feed children in need.
-Super Bowl Outreach Party- February 5:  We have food, games, and watch the Super Bowl and at half-time we watch a video where NFL players share their testimony and give students an opportunity to make a decision to follow Jesus Christ.
-Winter Jam- February 12:  The lineup this year includes Skillet, Building 429, Sanctus Real, Kari Jobe, Peter Furler, and others.
-Total Life Encounters- March 2-3:  This year we are going to this conference in Pigeon Forge.  The theme is Victorious and is based 1 John 5:4-5.
-Disicple Now- April 12-15:  This is always one of my favorite ministry events.  Students are in homes for the weekend for some intense Bible study.  During this time students grow closer to God, are challenged in their faith, and grow closer together.  The students are always challenged to live out their faith and serve others after the weekend.
-Graduate Recognition- May is the month where we honor those graduating high school.
-MFuge- June 4-9:  This year we are going to North Greenville University in South Carolina. The theme is "The Pursuit" based on Ephesians 1:22.  This year is going to be a great year at camp.
-Younite- July 25-28:  This is definitely my favorite ministry event of the year.  This is our second summer camp where we serve our local community.  We have some great ideas cooking for this year's Younite and am looking very forward to this week.  We always see God do some amazing things in the lives of the students and those we serve.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Favorite Moments of 2011

I am behind on posting things such as this but I have a couple of posts I want to make reflecting on 2011.  Today I want to share my favorite moments of 2011.  The year was full of it's many ups and downs, but through it was God is victorious and for that I am grateful.  So here are the moments in my life that stand out as my favorite from the past year.

-Celebrating my 10th Wedding Anniversary with my wife Belinda.  We really did not do anything big but the date fell on a Wednesday which is when we have Wednesday Night Worship.  I got the youth band to work with me and we surprised Belinda at the end of the night by playing the song "The Other Side of Me".  The song had significance as I surprised Belinda at our wedding by singing it to her.  It was definitely a fun time.
-My 30th birthday surprise.  Belinda really did something amazing by planning a surprise trip for me to celebrate my birthday.  I knew something was up because she told me a specific time I needed to be ahead in my school work.  Then one night she told me that I had to be home from work by a certain time.  She then took me to the airport and we flew for our first time, which was very cool.  We flew to Orlando to watch a couple of Atlanta Braves Spring Training games.  It was something that I had always wanted to do and so we had a really great time on this short trip.
-Seeing students grow in their faith.  Around our Disciple Now weekend in April we really saw some students take the next step in their faith.  It has been a great thing to see.
-Baptizing my first student.  It was definitely a humbling and exciting moment for me.
-MFuge.  This was the best summer camp we have been to.  The week went smoothly and the students really grew as they served in Williamsburg, KY.  The messages, theme and Bible study were all great.  Then of course one of the highlights in the week was seeing a student surrender to ministry!
-Younite.  Wow!  What a great time this was.  I am so excited that God leads us to do this as we see it have an impact on those we are serving as well as the students.  I was so glad how it all turned out and am excited to start planning Younite 2012!
-Chris Sligh in concert at Clearwater.  This was something that was really cool to be a part of.  Not only did I get to bring Chris (who I have always been a huge fan of) in to do a concert, but our worship band got to lead worship with him that morning!  Afterward he tweeted that we were a good worship band.  Definitely a great moment!
-Getting to speak before students.  I love getting to do this every week but also had some other cool opportunities.  I was asked to speak at the See You At The Pole event at Niota School for the second year which was great.  Then at the end of the year I was asked to speak during one of They Came Running's Christmas concerts.  Getting to speak about Jesus in the middle of a concert of one of my favorite bands was really cool!
-Getting an iPhone.  I had wanted one for years and finally got it.  It has no eternal significance but I thoroughly enjoy it.
-Getting to see Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant in concert together.  Michael is my all-time favorite singer so I always enjoy seeing him.  It was really cool getting to see him and Amy together.  It was definitely a great show.
-Graduating from seminary.  Belinda and I decided for me to take a full load of 15 hours in the Spring in order to graduate because we were both very tired of me having school work all the time.  It made for a very hard few months but I'm done and couldn't be happier about that.

There are many other moments that were great in 2011 and I am so thankful for all that God has done in me and my family.  I look forward to all He is going to do in us and through us in 2012!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Throwing Out The Garbage- Starting Anew

So this is that point of the year where every website and blog has their encouragement and ideas on how you can start fresh this year with a better life.  I should have posted this a few days ago as it has been on my mind for several days.  On the very last day of 2011 I was doing something that I really don't enjoy which is driving to the landfill to dispose of our garbage.  It's not that it is a tough task by any means, but that the landfill is on the other end of the county from where we live.  As I was driving I thought to myself how significant it was that I was ending the year by getting rid of any garbage we had to make things clean at home.  I thought how this should apply to our own lives, and myself included.  This is definitely a good time to start things anew with a fresh focus on Jesus Christ.  However we must first get rid of any garbage in our lives whether it be sin, past hurts, burdens, etc.  Then we must focus on moving forward in our relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is then that Jesus Christ can make us new and form us into what He needs us to be.  Of course I am reminded of one of my favorite songs "I Am New" by Jason Gray with this.  Watch the video below and if you are in need of a fresh start, do it today.

Ephesians 4:22-23- that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind

Isaiah 43:19- "Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it?  I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.