Thursday, September 27, 2012

WNW 9/27/12- Awaken Prayer Service

Since yesterday was National See You At The Pole day we spent our time at Wednesday Night Worship in prayer.  I began by sharing that with the students and how it was to be a night spent in prayer and worship, not talking or focusing on anything else.  We began by spending a few moments in prayer asking God to speak to us, empty us, remove distractions, and make us ready to have an experience with Him.  I then read Ephesians 3:14-21 which was the theme Scripture for SYATP.  I then directed them to the screen to read some verses and focus on God (Psalm 18:1-3, Psalm 9:1, Revelation 15:4, Psalm 27:4).  We then went into our first song "Beautiful" (Phil Wickham).

The next four prayers focused on the four parts of the this prayer that Paul prayed for the Ephesians in 3:14-21.  Each of these are not four separate things he is praying for, instead they are intertwined.

1)  Prayer for Strength (verse 16)
-I asked students to consider if they feel weak.  We spent this time praying for inner spiritual strength that only comes from God and to make sure we are only seeking Him for our strength.

Song- "Awesome God" (Vicky Beeching)

2)  Prayer for Depth (verse 17)
-When we gain strength in God, it then leads to a deeper relationship and experience with Him.  We must have a deep foundation in God in order to grow and so our faith will not waiver.  I asked the students to consider if they are seeking Jesus on a deeper level and if not then why.  I challenged them to pray for a greater desire to experience Him deeper.

Song- "From The Inside Our" (Hillsong United)

3)  Prayer for Apprehension/Comprehension (verse 18)
-Depth in God enables us to begin to apprehend and grasp (somewhat) God's great love.  I asked the students to ask God to show them His great love, because His love is the greatest love of all.

Song- "Son of God" (Starfield)

4)  Prayer for Fullness (verse 19)
-When we begin to apprehend/comprehend the vast love of God, the result is that we are filled with the fullness of Him.  Being filled with the Holy Spirit is often misunderstood.  What it means is to be at the point of total surrender to Him, willing to do whatever He leads us.  I challenged the students to pray to be filled, to be willing to go out and serve Him however He leads them.

I then read Ephesians 3:14-21 again and challenged them to go home and read it themselves, spend time praying these things again, and continue to draw nearer to Him.  We then sang "Forever Reign" (Kristian Stanfill).  I ended by saying to the students that it may have been a different experience for them, but that is good.  I told them that God desires to have a deep relationship with each one of us, and it is up to us to take advantage of that opportunity.

We closed the night by hearing reports from students that were involved in See You At The Pole at different schools.  We heard reports from Athens Middle School, EK Baker Elementary School, Mt. View Elementary School, McMinn Central High School, and Niota Elementary School.  It was good to hear how the students were not only involved, but also excited at the turnout and involvement of other students gathering together to pray.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tunnel Vision Part 3

This week was part 3 of our "Tunnel Vision" series.  We began the night by playing "Tunnel Vision- The Game".  We showed pictures of our series graphic with the center missing, but part of another picture from outside the tunnel showing.  Students had to guess what they were looking at before we revealed the whole picture.  We then went into a worship set that included "Dancing Generation" (Matt Redman), "Starry Night" (Chris August), and "Running To You" (Newsboys).

I began the message asking the students to share some of the qualities they share with their best friends.  What we heard was that friends usually have similar likes which makes their friendship grow.  I shared that Belinda is my best friend and we like a lot of the same stuff.  However there are some things we do not like the same, but it is not a big deal.  But what do you do when you have a real disagreement or difference with a person?  It affects how we view them and in reality we begin to view that person as inferior to us.  We think that if they were just like us then they would be better.  We start to think that they need to fit our mold of what a person should be like.  The truth is our mold is irrelevant.  God's mold or design for us is really all that matters.  He designed us with the desire that we will seek Him first and have a relationship with Him.  It is by His standards we are to live, not our own.  So we looked at the thought of not having a tunnel vision view of other people.

We read in Romans 15:1-7 where Paul is talking about self-denial on behalf of others.  Those of us who have been saved and now strong in Him and are to lift up and help those who are weak.  It's not that we boast in saying that we are stronger than them, but we have been given the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ and it is our responsibility to lift up those around us.  

We looked at how we should not let our view of people lead us into sin by:
1) Ignoring Them- Romans 15:1
We are not to simply tolerate the weaknesses of those around us but we are to help them by carrying their burdens and showing them love.
2)  Gossip/Tear Them Down- Romans 15:2
We are to edify one another and build each other up.  I have never been physically beaten up, but I have been beaten down by words time and time again.  Our words have so much weight to them.  We can encourage and discourage people simple with the words we use.
3)  Keep You From Unity In Worship
We come to church with the purpose of unifying and lifting up the name of Jesus Christ. If we are attempting to worship and there is someone who we have offended, we need to make things right.  We do not need to be a hinderance to others and especially not to the work of the Holy Spirit.
4)  Think That God Doesn't Love Them or Can't Save Them- Romans 15:7
If we have been forgiven by Jesus, then we should certainly forgive others.  Sometimes we see people who have committed terrible sins such as acts of murder and terrorism and we think they are too far gone for God to redeem but that is certainly untrue.  Jesus died for all and we should pray for them.
5)  Keep You From Sharing The Gospel With Them
Do not withhold the truth that can save them simply because you have a problem with them.

So in closing I challenged the students to consider how they view people.  Do they view people from within the tunnel, not seeing them as the person God created and loves?  I challenged them to make amends with those who they may have differences with.  I ended with the thought to not let your sin keep you from sharing Jesus with others.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tunnel Vision Part 2

Last night at Wednesday Night Worship was our second part of the Tunnel Vision series.  We began the night with a worship set of "One Way" (Hillsong United), "Song of Hope" (Robbie Seay Band), Christopher read Isaiah 6:1-6 before we sang "You Are Holy-Isaiah 6" (Radiant Worship), and then after the message we sang "Arms That Hold The Universe" (Fee).

I began the message asking students to share some of the largest things they have seen- buildings and landmarks.  We had things shared such as the Sears Tower, Grand Tetons, St. Louis Arch, etc.  I then asked the students to stop for a minute and think about how big God is.  This is another one of those questions that makes your head spin.  We sometimes try to think of the biggest building or landmark we have seen and think that He is a little bigger.  The truth is, God is much larger than anything we can imagine or visualize.  Our limited finite human mind cannot comprehend the greatness of God.  But instead of thinking about how big God is in regard to size, we focused on how we are not to have a limited view of God in regards to what He does or how He does things.  We are not to have a tunnel vision view of God and try to make Him fit a mold of what we think He should be.

We read Isaiah 55:8-9 and I gave a little bit of the background of the book of Isaiah.  Of course the book is written by and about Isaiah the prophet who was given a tough message to give to the people.  These verses are a reminder of how God's thoughts and ways are way beyond ours.  The way He chooses to do things is always perfect.  It is not he way we would choose to do things because our ways and thoughts are not perfect.  Sometimes we wonder why bad things happen in the world.  One reason is because of sin in the world.  Another reason might be to get our attention.  Then sometimes we just cannot understand on earth, but we have to trust that God has a great plan through it all.  This should not frustrate us but draw us closer to Him and grow our faith in Him.

I shared some dangers of having a tunnel vision view of God.  The first one is that we believe that our problems are bigger than He is and that He cannot intervene.  This is so far from the truth because He is so much bigger than any problem we face in life.  Also when we have a tunnel vision view of God we lose sight of why we are here on earth.  We forget that we were created for His glory and to serve Him.  In turn we end up going through life living for ourselves.

But when we begin to see how big God is our perspective of things change.  Even though we can never full grasp His greatness, our understanding that His ways are greater than ours changes our mindset.  We begin to have faith that God can intervene in our situations and we take comfort and rest in the peace that He provides us.  We begin to see how big God's love is not only for us, but for everyone on earth.  We see the cross that Jesus died on for us and it becomes our motivation for everything we do.  Then the main thing is that we begin to believe that God will use us. We stop believing the lie that He cannot use us, but instead we desire to be used for His glory.  In this moment God starts using us in ways that we cannot even imagine or comprehend.  He uses us where we are currently planted and He provides dreams for where He wants to use us in the future.  I know that in my own life when I come to the point that I believe that God can use me, that is when I am finally in the position to be used by Him.  It is in this moment that He provides opportunities and opens doors for me to share His love and have a godly influence on others.  My prayer is that you will not have a view of God that limits how He can use you for His glory.

Monday, September 10, 2012

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today Belinda and I are wearing yellow in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day.  Yellow is the color that represents suicide prevention.  This is also National Suicide Prevention Week in the United States.  The heartbreaking truth is that every 14.2 minutes someone dies in the United States by suicide.  As a family who has been affected by this tragedy we understand the pain involved.  Belinda's father took his own life over two years ago and while God has done a great work in us and brought healing, we still have a long way to go.  Today we are praying for anyone who has been affected, that God will work in their hearts and provide healing that only He can.  We are also praying for those who may be considering this, praying that they will turn to God for the comfort and strength they need.  I pray that they will see how only God offers all the answers that we can not find on our own.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tunnel Vision Part 1

This week we kicked off the new church year at WNW and it was such a great night!  It was the first Wednesday with the new students and so we showed a funny video that showed them a little bit more about what we do in youth.  We began with a worship set that included:  "Like A Lion" (Crowder/Newsboys), "Salvation is Here" (Hillsong United), "Always" (Kristian Stanfill), and "How He Loves" (McMillan/Crowder).

We started a new series called "Tunnel Vision".  We even built a small tunnel that you have to walk through as you enter the youth house.  As a child I always enjoyed getting to ride through a tunnel when we were driving somewhere because it reminded me of driving into the Bat Cave like Batman.  As I am now the one driving it's not as cool as it was when I was a child.  However when in a tunnel you can only see what is directly in front of you.  You can not see what is to your left/right/above because the tunnel blocks it.  Some people actually suffer from tunnel vision and lose their peripheral vision making their vision see like they are actually in a tunnel.  As humans we can be the same way as we are often focused on ourselves more than anyone else.  We are all selfish in our sinful human nature.  When we only think of ourselves it is like we have tunnel vision as we only focus on what is directly in front of us and what is important to us.

Jesus often taught on how we are to think of others and serve them.  One of the greatest teachings of this is in John 13:14-15 where He washed the disciples feet.  This took place right before His arrest and crucifixion.  Jesus was spending some final moments with the disciples and he taught them this lesson of serving others.  It was custom during this time when someone visited to your home that a servant would wash their feet.  As the people wore sandals their feet would have been pretty dirty.  So washing someone's feet was definitely a way to humble yourself and serve someone else.  The disciples should have been washing Jesus' feet but instead He was serving them and washing theirs.  He said that we are to do the same.  Not necessarily physically washing the feet of others, but to consider the needs of those around us, humble ourselves and serve them.

So what prompted Jesus to teach them this lesson?  More than likely it was because the disciples had been arguing over who was the greatest in Luke 22:24-27.  We do this ourselves as we sometimes try to outdo others and 1-up them with our stories.  Jesus teaches them that though the world views the one being served as the greatest, that actually the servant is the greatest.

So why is serving others such a big deal?  Why did Jesus teach this often?  When we look at how long eternity is and how short our lives are in comparison, it starts to make sense.  I used the Francis Chan rope example to tie this together.  Sometimes we are so focused on the short part of time that we spend on earth that we miss the big picture of eternity.  We do not need to be so focused on all the trivial matters of the short time on earth that we miss the opportunity to serve others and share with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Eternity is long for everyone, which is why it is so important for us to share with them the love of Jesus so that they may also spend eternity with Him in heaven.  

So as I closed I challenged the students to think and look beyond themselves.  I challenged them not to live life in the tunnel, but consider the needs of others.  Everyone received a "mini tunnel" (a small piece of pvc) that says "Look Beyond Yourself- John 13:14".  I told them to put this somewhere they will see it before they leave their home each day as a reminder to think about the needs of everyone they encounter throughout the day.  

We ended by giving aways some door prizes and it was fun to see their reactions.  It was really a great night.  It was sad as we missed the presence of those who graduated and moved on, but exciting to see new faces.  I believe that God has a lot in store for these students and I am excited to be a part of it!