Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Work Day - 9/15

Last month we had a work day where we went did some work in an old cemetery on the property of Ms. Pickens.  We actually went there and did some work during Younite 2011 after some damage from a tornado, and it had not been touched since then.  We had a good group of students who came out simply for the purpose of serving someone.  It was really amazing how much more work was done in this cemetery as it is now in process of being restored as it should be.  Ms. Pickens is such a sweet lady.  She is 91 years old but does not appear to be a day older than 65.  She was kind enough to take us through the plantation home that she lives in showing us a lot of really neat items that have a lot of history behind them.  It was really a fun day as we were also able to fellowship as we worked.  As always I was really proud of our students for their hard work and willingness to serve others.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tunnel Vision Part 5

This past week at Wednesday Night Worship we wrapped up the Tunnel Vision series that we kicked off the fall with.  We tried something new this week and had announcements on the countdown video before the service.  I made the announcements using an app on my phone where you can use a picture of someone and record your mouth speaking for them.  So for this one I used Chuck Norris' face.  This was actually suggested by Elaina on our creative team and it went over really well with lots of laughs.  We then went into a worship set that included "Tell the World" (Hillsong United), "Sovereign Over Us" (Aaron Keyes), "Mighty to Save" (Hillsong United), and then we ended the night by singing "I Will Follow" (Micah Watson).  This week was also the first week we had with our first set of LED lights installed!

I began the message by briefly reviewing what we have covered in the series so far and how we have been challenged to look beyond ourself.  We read John 13:14 that really sparked the whole series and thinking about serving others.  This week we wrapped it up by focusing on missions and how we have the important assignment of sharing our faith.

We then spent a few minutes discussing some events that have been so big that they altered world history.  I showed a few pictures of some that I thought of (some serious and others no so serious) like the invention of baseball, the beginning of Apple Computers, Christopher Columbus' discoveries, Neil Armstrong on the moon, 9/11 Tragedy, the birth of Jesus and His death and resurrection.  We then discussed another event that really altered world history and that was when the Holy Spirit came and empowered the apostles.  They had experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in miracles they performed, their teaching, etc.  But now the Holy Spirit was empowering them in a way they had never experienced and it was the purpose of sharing the gospel with others.  We focused on Acts 1:8 which is the most popular verse when it comes to missions.  In His final moments on earth before ascending to heaven, Jesus is telling the apostles about their mission ahead.  He is telling them that they will be empowered with the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses.  The word "witness" in the Greek means "one who dies for his faith" as it commonly occurred.  We then looked at each of the regions mentioned (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth) and had some people share about some of them.

-Jerusalem- this is where you actually live.  For us this is McMinn County.  I had a former student Ariel share about how God is using her to reach people here in our Jerusalem.  She shared about her experience ministering in Crossover, which is a ministry for people with special needs and their families.  She shared about how God has not only used her, but impacted her as well.  In the past week she had specifically been able to minister to a family who lost their mother due to cancer.  She also shared about the opportunities available at the college she attends and challenged the students to live their lives for Jesus where they currently are.
-Judea- for us this is the rest of Tennessee and surrounding states.  This is generally the places we hit on our MFuge trips.  I specifically have a heart for some of these cities myself.
-Samaria- this is even further out.  For us it is the rest of North America.  I shared about a former student Seth who is currently serving in Massachusetts and hopefully we will be able to hear from some of his experiences in the future.
-Ends of the earth- this is everywhere else.  I had Doyle share about how God has placed a desire in his heart for the people of China.  He shared with the students that it is because they need to know Jesus Christ.  He told them that God may not call them to China, but they are to be obedient to wherever God calls them.  I told the students that God is using Doyle here as well as in China and that we are called to serve in all areas, not simply choosing one like multiple choice.

As we wrapped things up, I challenged the students that when we stop living with tunnel vision, then we begin to see how large the world is and how many people need to know Jesus Christ.  I closed by sharing the story of a great revival that took place in England in the 1800's.  From this revival the people went out to tell others about Jesus and some specifically went to northern India.  One family accepted Jesus in northern India and the chief of the village dragged them to the city and told them they must renounce their faith in Jesus Christ, and that if they did not they would be killed.  The man said that "he had decided to follow Jesus, no turning back".  When further prodded he then said "though none go with me, still I will follow".  As he was about to die then man sang "the cross before me, the world behind me".  After dying the chief and others were so moved that they refused to renounce their faith in Jesus and that they were willing to die for Him that they too were saved and the famous song "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" was birthed.  I challenged the students to let God show them where they need to follow Jesus and how He can use them now.  We then sang that song.  Afterward I said that following Jesus is a celebration and we let Jamin rock out a bit as we sang "I Will Follow".  I dismissed but several stayed around to help work on the sack packs that we are sending to EK Baker to go home with students each week.

It was a great night all around.  This has definitely been a challenging series for me and hopefully for the students.  I pray that God will continue to challenge us to look beyond ourselves and serve others so that they can come to know Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sovereign Over Us

My wife and I recently had the opportunity to attend the Student Life Refuge Conference at Brook Hills.  This conference was for youth pastors and their wives and was a time to worship and be challenged and spend some time in the refuge that is God.  Aaron Keyes led worship during all of the sessions on the last day of the conference and he really did an amazing job.  I was impressed with his heart to lead people in worship and he did that well- he led us to the throne of God.  I am always a fan of songs and artists that are not your common radio played stuff.  I like deeper lyrics than that average Christian song that is played on the radio.  One of Aaron's songs has captivated me in a way that a song has not done in a while.  His song Sovereign Over Us is not only melodically a beautiful song, but takes lyrics from several verses: Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28, Isaiah 55:8-9, and Genesis 50:20.  I cannot wait for our youth band to learn this and introduce it to the students.  This is definitely a song that everyone should purchase here on iTunes!  Read these lyrics and let it be a time of worship today and be sure to check this song out.

There is strength within the sorrow,
There is beauty in our tears 
You meet us in our mourning,
With a love that casts out fear 
You are working in our waiting,
Sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding 
You're teaching us to trust 

Your plans are still to prosper, 
You have not forgotten us 
You're with us in the fire and the flood
Faithful forever,
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us 

You are wisdom unimagined, 
Who could understand your ways 
Reigning high above the heavens, 
Reaching down in endless grace 
Youʼre the Lifter of the lowly, 
Compassionate and kind

You surround and You uphold me, 
Your promises are my delight 

Your plans are still to prosper, 
You have not forgotten us 
You're with us in the fire and the flood
Faithful forever,
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us 

Even what the enemy means for evil

You turn it for our good, 
You turn it for our good and for your glory

Even in the valley You are faithful

Youʼre working for our good, 
Youʼre working for our good and for your glory

Monday, October 8, 2012

Unconditional Love

Yesterday I got to be the master teacher in Sunday School giving a short summary of the lesson and then after breaking into small groups getting to lead the 9th-10th grade class.  The lesson was about David and Absalom and everything that began with Absalom killing his brother Amnon after he had defiled their sister Tamar and raped her, then his overtaking the throne and eventually dying in battle..  Kind of a tough lesson to teach and honestly we could have spent a few weeks on the topic as it spanned over 5 chapters in 2 Samuel.  The verses we looked at were 2 Samuel 13:1-14, 21-29, 37-39; 15:1-14; 18:1-15, and 31-33.  There were so many points to think about here but one that stood out to me the most while studying and preparing to teach is David's reaction in 2 Samuel 18:33 after he receives the news that Absalom had died in battle.  David is not simply sad but is heartbroken and grief-stricken.  Why?  Why would he be so broken over his son who had killed another of his sons, wrongfully taken over the throne causing David to flee, etc.  It is because David's love for his son was unconditional.  It did not matter that he had done all of these terrible things to him, David still loved him and wanted the best for him.

I can't help but be reminded of God's own love for us when I read this.  Of course David's love for his son Absalom is nothing like the agape love that God has for us, but is symbolic of it.  God's love is unconditional.  There is nothing that can separate us from God's love if we have been saved (Romans 8:39).  Wow!  I can't get over that and hope I never do.  This does not give us a license to sin or live our own way, but should draw us closer to Him.  We should wake up every day with the desire to only live for Him and to bring Him glory.  We should serve Him not out of duty but out of love and respect we have back to the God who has given us actual life through Jesus Christ.  As I continue to grow in Christ I am trying to grasp a little better (even though as humans we will never fully grasp) the love that God has for me.  I am trying to not only believe in my head that His love for me is so real, but believe in my heart in a way that allows me to continue to be transformed by Him daily.  Today if you are struggling with God's love and how He could actually love Him then I want you to know that it is real and I want you to allow His love to grasp you in a way that you have never experienced before.  I pray that His love would transform your heart so that you can then in return tell others about His love so that they too can experience this great love.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tunnel Vision Part 4

We picked back up on the Tunnel Vision series this week at Wednesday Night Worship.  We began the night with a worship set that included "The King is Coming" (Newsboys), "Enough" (Chris Tomlin), "Blessed Be Your Name" (Matt Redman), and "Good" (Chris Sligh).  Before the message I showed the video "Me Linebacker" with Derwin Gray which was good for laughs and an intro into the message.

I began by talking a bit like I did week 1 of this series about how we are all selfish people at the core of our sinful nature.  We need to turn our selfishness into selflessness, which is caring more about the needs of others than our own.  In addition to selflessness we talked about what it means to be a good steward (manager) of what we have been entrusted.  The main characteristic of a Christian is generosity.  A selfish Christian is an oxymoron.  When we give our life to Jesus Christ, we follow Him in total abandonment and begin to put others before ourself.  Why would we have this way of thinking?

A)  Everything is His
-Psalm 50:8-12Psalm 24:1-2
-God created everything.  It is all His and is on loan to us.
-At this moment I asked everyone to close their eyes and take a few moments to think about all that they have been blessed with:  family, friends, health, possessions, etc.

B)  If it is all His, then what is our responsibility?
-I laid out three points that I think we should do for God.  We should do things though not our of duty, but because of our love and devotion to God.  If He has blessed us and loves us beyond measure, then we should serve Him in these ways.

1)  Give Back To Him
-Proverbs 3:9
-We are to give Him our first fruits, or in other words our best.  We are not to give God our leftovers.  This applies not only to our finances, but also our time as time is such a precious commodity.  
-I didn't go into the aspect of tithing in this message (I actually had prepared some but didn't feel led to go into it).  Here is my brief view on tithing:  It began with Abraham (Genesis 14:20) so it is not simply something under Levitical/Mosaic law which Jesus came to fulfill and not abolish.  With this being said I believe that 10% is actually a good starting point since we live under grace and not under the law.  We should not be limited to a percentage, but give above and beyond, and give out of poverty not wealth. I could elaborate much more but now is not the time.

2)  Only Desire Enough
-This is a tough one because if we are all honest, we actually desire more than we need.  
-Proverbs 30:7-9
-I was honest here with the students and shared that I am not 100% there on this one.  I want to desire only enough (no poverty and no wealth), but I am as most people are- wanting more than I need.  I want God to give me the desire to only want enough.  I shared with Belinda afterward that at this moment of transparency I honestly felt like everyone was giving me evil looks for feeling this way and being honest about it.  I think though if we are all honest we fit this as well.
-Shaun Groves shared this with us back in July (which I still plan to post about soon).  He challenged us to take our share and pass on the rest.  To take only what we need and pass the extra on to those in need.  He even has a song called "Enough" which you should check out that is taken from Proverbs 30:7-9.

3)  Manage Well/Use Everything For His Glory
-We have been given by God what He entrusts us to manage well and use for His glory. This means everything: our money, talents, spiritual gifts, possessions, etc.
-1 Corinthians 10:31Colossians 3:17
-Everything we do we are to do with the effort and attitude to please God.  We are to use all or possessions for the glory of God.

C)  Everyone Has Something To Offer
-Often people will think that they have nothing to offer to serve God by serving others.  If we are a Christian, saved by Jesus Christ, then we have the Holy Spirit living in us equipping us to serve Him.  This means we are capable of much more than we can imagine or think.
-1 Peter 4:10
-We have Spiritual Gifts (not talents) that we have been given to serve God and are to be a good steward of.

I closed the message by asking the students to spend a few moments in prayer considering whether they have been living selfish or selflessly.  I challenged them to ask God to show them how they can be selfless and be a good steward and to make a commitment to give back to the One who has given us everything.

What is really neat about this night is that we have been in the process of starting the Sack Pack Program at EK Baker Elementary School.  I shared this with the students back in August.  This was the first Wednesday night we were able to prepare these for students in need.  It went hand in hand not only with this Tunnel Vision series but the message for the night, something that only God could orchestrate so well.  Another neat thing is that we are preparing these sacks for 26 students each week.  We prepared one earlier in the day to see how it would look so we needed to prepare 25 more.  We handed out the bags and we had 25 students exactly last night.  Each student was able to be a part of serving others this way.  It was really a great way to end the night as we prayed over the sacks and prayed that the families receiving them would be impacted.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Concert 9/28/12- The Hundred More Years Tour

This Friday we took the students to The Hundred More Years concert featuring Francesca Battistelli, Sidewalk Prophets, Andy Cherry, and City Harbor.  It was definitely one of the best shows we have taken students to and they really had a great time.  Francesca is an amazing singer and she did not disappoint.  Sidewalk Prophets did an amazing job as well.  I am always eager to discover new artists and so Andy Cherry and City Harbor were both great to hear.  I have really been enjoying listening to City Harbor's EP.  They have a great sound!  Here are a few pictures from the night, even though they did not all turn out the best.  It was a great night of worship and fellowship and we had a blast hanging out with our great students!