Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Final Week- The Crucifixion

 This week at Wednesday Night Worship we finished the series "The Final Week" as we looked at the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus.  We began the night playing a game of "Draw Something" watching videos of this current popular game and the students had to guess the drawing.  The winning team got a bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs while the losing team got a pack of Peeps because I think they're awful and assumed that would be a terrible prize.  However the losing team ate them up pretty quickly.  It was just disgusting to me.  We then watched a video called "Follow" and went straight into a worship set that included "Son of God" (Lincoln Brewster), "By His Wounds" (Powell, Chapman, Littrell, Hall), and ended the night by singing "On My Cross" (FFH).

After a recap of the past weeks I began the message by talking about symbols.  I asked if anyone had ever walked into the wrong bathroom.  Usually this is unavoidable because there are universal symbols for male and female bathrooms.  They are noticeable by most everyone.  Most religions also have their own universal symbols and as Christians we recognize our symbol as the cross.  Early on there were many symbols that were discussed being used and while any could have been used, only one could truly work which is the cross.  We looked at a few facts concerning crucifixion without going into great detail.  Crucifixion was invented by Barbarians and the Romans discovered it as they conquered different areas of the world.  They perfected the cruel form of execution as they would beat the victim just short of death in order to extend their suffering as much as possible.  The Romans used it as a scare tactic to try to keep people from committing crimes.  In most cases a person hung on the cross 3-4 days and historical records show that one man hung on the cross for 9 days before dying.  Jesus was on the cross for about 6 hours.  Jesus had already experienced a great amount of stress and some blood loss even before his arrest.  He had spent a sleepless night as He traveled from place to place as He was on trial- probably about 2.5 miles of walking.  Jesus was also probably beaten worse than most since He was so hated by the people.

Over this series we have been looking at the question "Who is Jesus" and the previous week we discussed how Jesus is fully man in order to go through what we do and also to die on the cross.  This week we looked at the fact that Jesus is also fully God.  We read Mark 15:33-39 as Jesus breathed His last and died.  We focused primarily on verse 39 when the centurion stated "Truly this man was the Son of God!".  Luke 23:47 notes that the centurion praised God.  This centurion realized that Jesus more than just another man that was crucified.  His use of the term "Son of God" is very significant.  Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of God often, which is one reason He was hated so much and why they tried to say that He had blasphemed.  The term "Son of God' does not mean that He is the actual birth son of God the Father.  In this culture when they used the term "son of ___" it meant that the person possessed those qualities.  For example when the disciples James and John were referred to as the "sons of thunder" it meant that they had thunderous qualities and personality.  So when Jesus is referred to as the "Son of God" it is because He is God.  Jesus is equal with God the Father.  Just as Jesus had to be fully man in order to die on the cross and experience the trials that we do, He had to be fully God in order to be holy and qualify morally as the perfect substitutionary sacrifice for our sin

When we begin to believe that Jesus is fully God as well as fully man, we begin to live our lives differently.  We not only worship Him on Sunday like the crowd did, but we also worship Him on Friday because of who He is.  We do not boo Jesus with our lives because things are not the way we want them to be in our finite human minds.  

We closed the night by reflecting on the cross.  I asked everyone to spend some time in prayer asking themselves the question that we looked at the entire series "Who is Jesus?".  Only you can answer this question of who Jesus is to you.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

October Baby

Well for those who know me well know that I'm not really a movie guy.  I'm not sure why I have never been a huge fan, but I think it has something to do with sitting and doing nothing during that time.  I've also always said that if a movie didn't capture my attention in the first 10 minutes then it wasn't worth seeing.  I do believe my wife has been praying for me in this area as I'm not as bad as I used to be and I do watch more movies with her more often.  However going to the theater is something we rarely do for several reasons including the fact that it costs so much and we try to be thrifty spenders.  We did go this past Saturday and see the new movie October Baby.  It was only in 400 theaters across America and was up against Hunger Games, and along with being a Christian movie had the odds stacked against it.  It still did very well this past weekend despite all of this.  It's a shame because the movie is incredible!  This is by far the greatest "Christian" movie that I have seen.  Not only does the movie have an amazing story about the sanctity of life and how every life is important, but it also has and incredible story of forgiveness that everyone needs to see.  I was literally blown away by this movie and would go back and see it again today!  There are great elements of humor, a really well written story, and characters that are believable.  I want to encourage you to find where this movie is playing near you by going to and checking it out.  You won't be disappointed!  Also be sure to sit through the credits as there is an amazing story regarding one of the actors in the movie.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Final Week- The Garden of Gethsemane

This week we continued our Easter series at Wednesday Night Worship looking at the Final Week of Jesus' life leading up to the crucifixion.  We began the night by playing "Who Wants to Win A Cadbury Egg" with questions surrounding the crucifixion.  Our set list for the night included:  "I Am Free", "Opposite Way" (Leeland), "Because of Your Love" (Phil Wickham), and "God With Us" (Mercy Me).

We all have difficult choices to make each and every day.  We spent some time discussing some of our difficult choices.  Some students shared that where to go to college is a difficult choice that they are facing.  Someone shared that the decision of whether to wear Sperry's or some other shoes was her most difficult choice that day.  We all face difficult decisions because we are human and it is a part of life.  Jesus faced a difficult decision in the Garden of Gethsemane.  As we continue in this series to look at the question "Who is He?" or "Who is Jesus?", this week and next we are looking at the fact that Jesus is fully God and fully man.  He is not part God and part man.  The deity of Jesus is an extremely important aspect of our faith.  So this week we mainly focused on the fact that Jesus is fully man.

In Matthew 26:36-42 we read about Jesus' time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  From the Triumphal Entry to now in these few days there has been quite a bit that has occurred.  Each day of this final week Jesus taught in the temple.  He taught several parables and even taught in response to those who tried to trick Him.  He cleansed the temple by driving out those buying and selling.  He took part in the Passover meal with the disciples and spent time with them in fellowship, teaching them, washing their feet, predicting His death, predicting Peter's denial, and saying that Judas would betray Him. After this He goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to be alone and pray as He often did.  This is a time where He really spends some intimate time with God the Father.  

In verses 38, 39, and 42 Jesus refers to God as "My Father".  Jesus calls God "Father" often and this time it can be noted the intimate use as He says "My Father".  During this time it was a foreign concept to refer to God as Father.  The people were even afraid to say the name of God out of reverence.  But here Jesus refers to Him as "My Father" and if we look at Mark 14:36 He says "Abba! Father!".  The word "Abba" is Aramaic and the closest translation to the English language would be the word "Daddy".

In verse 39 Jesus uses the word "cup".  The word "cup" here is a symbol of divine wrath against sin.  Jesus knew what He was about to face.  He was about to bear the sins of all humankind.  The sins of every person who had ever existed and the sins of every person that will ever exist.  This is especially difficult in the fact that Jesus has never felt the sting of sin because He never committed a single sin.  He is perfect!  He also knows the awful cruel death that He is about to face.  Jesus also knows that He is about to face separation from God the Father, which is also something that He has never experienced.  It is in this moment that we see the humanity of Jesus as He dreads the road ahead.  Now we must understand that Jesus did not for one moment try to back out of what was ahead, but we have to believe that He was tempted in this moment.  I am sure the spiritual warfare going on was intense beyond what we can imagine.  Jesus was experiencing an extreme amount of dread, stress, and anguish as in Luke 22:44 is points out that "His sweat became like drops of blood".  This is a true physical phenomenon known as "hematidrosis" which occurs when one goes through an extreme amount of stress and the capillaries actually burst and comes out through sweat glands.  I have been stressed out, but not to this extreme.  So in this moment we truly see the humanity of Jesus, and He had a decision in front of Him.  He knew that the toughest part of His mission was ahead, and He knew that the angels could rescue Him from the situation if He called on them, but He yielded to the will of the Father.  In verse 42 He says "Your will be done" as He voluntarily surrenders His will to the will of the Father.

So a final question we prayerfully considered as we ended the night is this:  "What is your cup?".  The characteristics of our cup is in no way comparable to the cup that Jesus faced.  But we all face difficult decisions on our journeys in life.  Each of us are facing decisions that are extremely difficult, and we know what the right choice is, we just need to make it.  For some people it may that they need to stop a lifestyle of sin.  For others it may mean that they need to separate themselves from a friend or group of friends that are a bad influence.  Some may need to forgive someone who has hurt them.  Some it may be something as simple as deciding some things to give up in order to make time for a daily relationship with Jesus.  Whatever the choice in life, we can take joy in the fact that we know that Jesus in His humanity faced difficult choices and empathizes with us.  Hebrews 4:15 tells us this and that He was tempted but never sinned.  I pray that you will make the right choices in whatever you are facing today.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Final Week- The Triumphal Entry

This week at Wednesday Night Worship we began a new 3-week series called "The Final Week" as we look at some of the events that took place in the final week of Jesus' life on earth leading to the crucifixion.  Before things got started we hung out and then played a silly trivia game about chickens and eggs since we are in the Easter season.  Then our worship set included:  "Salvation Is Here" (Hillsong United), "Hosanna (Praise is Rising)" (Paul Baloche), "On My Cross" (FFH), and "Jesus Thank You" (Not sure who this is by).

As I began teaching I talked about how the final week leading to the crucifixion took place during the Passover, which was celebrated yearly as a reminder of their freedom from slavery in Egypt.  This is similar to our July 4th Independence Day.  Jerusalem was a city of about 50,000 people but during the Passover it is estimated that nearly 2 million people were there to celebrate. There was a lot going on and a lot of people there to be a part of it.  The question that people were asking was as Jesus rode in was "Who is this man?" (Matthew 21:10).  This question of who is Jesus is one that we must each answer, and not only with words, but with a true reflection of our heart.  Jesus is the most fascinating person in history.  There have been t-shirts, books, even action figures made of Jesus.  He is the most fascinating and most controversial person ever.  Many people ask who is He and it is a question that you must answer yourself.

We took a few minutes to share stories of where we had expectations of something, but then it turned out quite differently than what we thought.  I shared a story of how when I was a kid we waited in line a long time to get concert tickets for my sister for a popular boy band at the time, and was told they were really good seats.  However when we were actually at the concert, the seats were nowhere near as good as we expected and it was quite disappointing.  The people expected Jesus to be one way, yet He turned out to be different.  He was actually quite better than they thought, but their opinion of Him was very wrong.

We first read Matthew 21:1-11 and pointed out a few thing from these verses.  First of all, the Roman government was in control at this time, and the people were under a tough rule.  They knew the prophecies of the Messiah, and expected Him to come and free them from the tyranny of the Roman government.  The Pharisees and the Sadducees had some shared power with the Roman government.  This meant that Jews were allowed to celebrate the Passover, but that the Pharisees and Sadducees had to try to keep them in line and keep the people calm.  If they uphold their end of the deal then they were given a little bit of political power.  As Jesus rode in the city on a donkey, the people laid down Palm branches which were a symbol of victory and freedom.  They laid their coats down (which they probably owned only 1) which symbolized laying down their best for Him.  This was something done for kings during Old Testament times.  They cried "Hosanna" which means "save now".  They knew that Jesus was the Messiah, but they wanted Him to come and take over as king and overthrow the Roman government.

Then we read Luke 19:39-42, where the Pharisees try to get Jesus to calm down the people.  Jesus tells them that even the rocks will cry out in worship if these people are quiet.  Then we see that Jesus weeps over the city of Jerusalem.  He weeps because He knew that their worship of Him was superficial.  He knows that it was only surface worship and not a true reflection of their hearts.  Jesus knew that these people who were worshipping Him on Sunday were the same people who would boo Him and yell "Crucify Him" on Friday.  They booed Him because He was different than what they expected.

Often we turn to God when it is convenient for us or when we are in need.  The most common prayer can be summarized as "Help".  It is ok to ask God for help, but when it is our only prayer and the only time we turn to God in prayer, then it is a problem.  When we ask ourselves "Who is Jesus?" we really must consider our hearts.  Are we the ones who worship Him on Sunday, but when He does not fit our expectations on Friday we boo Him with our lifestyle?

Monday, March 5, 2012

11th Wedding Anniversary & My First Wedding (Officiating)

Again, I should have posted this already, but time has not been my best friend so far in 2012.  On February 23rd my wife and I celebrated 11 years of marriage!  I am so thankful that God has placed her in my life!  It is interesting as I look at really the last 12 years of my life, as there have been many disappointments, hard times and struggles in my life, however I am so thankful that God has given me a partner to share these hard times with.  I could not imagine life without her and do not want to.  I praise God that I not only have a wife, but a best friend!

Two days after our anniversary, I officiated my first wedding.  I had the privilege of doing the wedding of Bridget, one of my former students, and her now husband Cody.  It was a beautiful ceremony, short and simple, but they had picked out some really beautiful vows and things for me to say about love and marriage.  They actually made it really easy for me because the words they chose for me to speak on were really, really good.  However I did reword it a little.  I told them I had to "Nathanize" it a bit to my own regular language.  In fact, just two sentences in I used the word "awesome", which I quickly realized I probably should not use such "youth pastor language".  Their music selection that was played on the piano was really beautiful.  I told Bridget and Cody that I will always remember their wedding date not only because it was my first wedding to perform, but because it is so close to my own wedding anniversary.  It was a beautiful day of celebration and I was honored to be a part of it.  Here are a couple of pictures to prove that I am capable of wearing a suit, which I had to pull out of retirement.  It was funny because some people were not used to seeing me dress that way.  While it is not my favorite attire, it was really how I used to dress before becoming a youth pastor.

Friday, March 2, 2012

30 Hour Famine 2012

So I am just now getting to post about our 30 Hour Famine that we were involved in at the end of January.  This is a weekend where as a group we fast from food for 30 hours to raise money for World Vision.  Through World Vision they are able to feed 1 child for only a $1 a day.  It is great to see all the work that this organization is doing.  Not only are they feeding the hungry and putting an end to hunger, but they are also teaching about the love of Jesus Christ!

It was a great weekend with the students as we looked at hunger and hunger related diseases that affects our world, and specifically in Bolivia, Zambia, Kenya, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.  We played the "Tribe" game that looked at each of these countries specifically and the challenges they face.  The students competed in teams and the coveted prize was to be first in line to eat at the end of the 30 hours.  I can not say enough about how proud of this group of students I am.  They always amaze me.  Our #1 rule is "No Complaining" and while they know it is our main rule, it was never a thought in their mind to complain.  I really saw how they were appreciative of all they have and are blessed with.  My favorite part of the weekend was right before we ended the fast with communion and had a time of discussion.  Several students shared how they had been influenced over the 30 hours and how God had spoken to them.  They talked about how blessed they are and how they thank God for all they have.

We were able to raise $1,198,80 which is enough to feed 3 children for an entire year!  That might not seem like a lot, but that is 3 less children that will die this year, and I am thankful that we had the opportunity to be a part of something that saves lives.  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Prayer Stations- 2/29/12

After wrapping up the "Got Questions?" series last week, it felt like a good time to have a Wednesday Night Worship of Prayer Stations and really spend some time in prayer to God.  We began with a couple of songs: "Song of Hope" (Robbie Seay Band), and "Cannons" (Phil Wickham).  Afterward we got right into the prayer stations.  We did it differently this time by giving each student a prayer guide that gave directions for each prayer station. They could go to each of the prayer stations in any order, except they were to begin the night on the very first one.  Here are the directions given for each prayer station:

Spring Cleaning
Last week we had a workday here at the youth house where we did some painting, and some Spring cleaning.  We got rid of a lot of junk that was of no value and threw it away.  As a result, some rooms are now cleaner and can be used for a greater purpose than storing junk.  Take a few moments and consider your own life.  What kind of clutter and junk are you currently storing in your own life that is keeping you from a greater purpose?  Is there any sin in your life right now that needs to be cleaned out by Jesus Christ? Take some time and ask God to reveal anything to you that you are holding onto and need to get rid of.  Do some Spring cleaning in your own life.

Prayer Needs
At some point in the night, go to the couches where Nathan and Belinda are seated and take a seat in front of one of them.  Take a moment and share with them anything that you would like for them to pray about in your life.  Even if you cannot think of anything, still take some time at this station so that one of them can pray over you.

Look At The Cross
As we approach Easter we will be spending much time focusing on the cross and the death that Jesus died for our sins.  Take some time to look at the cross on the floor and read the verses attached.  Spend some time in worship as you consider what Jesus has done for you by giving His life.  After reading the verses, take a few moments and sit down and reflect on the cross and thank Jesus for His love.
This was in the room in our building that has a cross taped to the ground.  The cross had the following verses attached to it for the students to read:  1 Peter 3:18, Romans 5:8, 1 Peter 2:24, Isaiah 53:5.

A Light In The Dark
In our recent journey through “The Story” we have talked a lot about faith and looked at individuals who by faith followed God in many different ways.  Abraham showed faith numerous times.  When God called him to leave his homeland, he took a step of faith and followed God.  When God told Abraham to take his son Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice, Abraham followed God and was going to offer the sacrifice when God provided the ram.  We read in the life of Joseph how when he was in the midst of difficult and trying times that He followed God.  This is evident by the fact that it says multiple times that “God was with Joseph”.  These men and others show us that while it is not easy to step out in faith and follow God, that it is worthwhile!  Read the following song lyrics a few times and let the words speak to your heart and use it as a prayer to God:
I’ll reach for Your hand in the night
When the shadows swallow the light
‘Cause I’m giving up, giving in
Once again a childlike faith is my only way to see in the dark
While this room is dark, there is still plenty of light to see coming from the center.  You may be in a dark situation in your life at the moment.  You may be dealing with fear, in the midst of a crisis, or seeking God’s direction.  Whatever you are facing, God is the light in the midst of the darkness for you to follow.  Spend some seeking God’s direction if you are in search of it.  If you are dealing with fear, ask God to be your source of strength and guide you out of it.  If you are in the midst of a crisis, ask God to shine on you and give you peace and that His light will guide through it.

In the first box below, make a list of things that you do each week: school, work, sports, sleep, chores, hangout with friends, Bible study, church, etc.
There was a box here to write these items.
-Now go back and write beside each item where it ranks in priority in your life.
-Next re-write this list in the box below, but this time listing them in order based on the amount of time you spend on each from most time to least.
There was a second box here to write these items.

The students had these final directions:
After you have spent some time at each station, quietly go back to your seat and spend some more time in prayer and worship of God.  Feel free to read Scripture, and pray for one another.  Use the space below to write down any reflections from the night, anything that God has spoken to you about, or even to write out a prayer to Him.

After some time we sang "The Stand" (Hillsong United) and it was really a sweet way to end the night.  It was a great night all around and I believe that God spoke to the students.  I loved being able to be a part of the station where I was able to pray for students.  Some students did not have anything specific but just allowed me to pray over them, which was a privilege.  Others had specific things in their lives, struggles, decisions, etc. and I was able to pray for these things specifically.  It was definitely a great night in the student ministry!