Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reminders- Part 2

This week at Wednesday Night Worship was our second week in the Reminders series.  We switched up the order and started the night by preparing the Sack Pack meals we send out every week.  We then played a round of "Ruzzle" to get their minds working.  Then we sang a worship set that included "Good To Be Alive" (Jason Gray), "Yes You Have" (Leeland), "The Stand" (Hillsong United).  We then watched the second episode of "Reminder Man" before I began the message.

This week's reminder was "Why We Come To Church".  I asked the students to share some reasons why people in general come to church and got the following answers:  socialize, worship, learn, because parents make them, etc.  I then had the students close their eyes and for a moment of honesty between them and God to think about why they truly come to church.  I then gave a brief background on the word "church" sharing that it comes from the Greek word ekklesia which means "the called out ones" or "an assembly".  In order to understand why we come to church, we need to first look at the purpose of the church.  A good place to start for us was by looking at Clearwater Baptist Church's vision statement which includes five of these areas that we looked at.

1)  Evangelism- Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:18-20
-If we have been saved by Jesus, then we are to lead others to that same saving truth.  We are not to only evangelize through church efforts, but also individually where we are daily.
2)  Discipleship- Acts 2:42
-The word "disciple" means learner.  The purpose in discipleship is learning about Jesus and how to follow Him.  It is not enough to simply take in the information for knowledge sake, but we must also put it into practice.  We must also be a daily disciple, feasting on God's Word daily.  If we only are disciples at church gatherings then our relationship with Jesus is suffering.
3)  Fellowship- Romans 12:10
-You must grow close together so that all other functions/purposes of the church work as necessary.  Unity is necessary for the church to function properly.  If fellowship is broken, the whole body suffers.
4)  Worship-  Ephesians 5:19-20
-There are many different ways we worship when we gather.  We worship through songs, prayer, Bible reading, preaching/teaching, giving our tithes/offerings, etc.  If we are saved then we should worship like it.  If we cannot worship freely and pray at church then it is probably because you never do on your own outside of church.
5)  Ministry- James 1:27; Hebrews 10:24-25
-We are to serve others- widows and orphans.  We are also to serve and encourage each other.  We all need encouragement from time to time.

Now that we have looked at the purpose of the church the question still remains- why do we come to church?  We come in order to fulfill this purpose.  The church is made up of a body of individual believers and we are to fulfill this purpose.  We should never ask or seek solely what we can get out of coming to church but instead ask how we can serve the church.

There is one more thing we must think about.  Hebrews 10:25 also mentions "not forsaking our own assembling together".  The word forsake here means to abandon.  It is not that you must be concerned with your church attendance for any kind of statistical standpoint, but we need to be all-in.  I keep using the word wholehearted with the students about their relationship with God.  You must be all-in and serving wholeheartedly the church that God has placed you at.  You cannot do this if you are not there.  You also cannot do this if your time is divided among multiple churches.  You cannot give 100% to any church if this is your pattern, and in turn both congregations suffer as a result.

So we closed the night in a moment of prayer and I asked the students to consider again why they truly come to church.  I asked them to consider if their reason(s) line up with the purpose of the church.  If not then what needs to be done to change that.

Here is the second video in the "Reminder Man" series.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Reminders- Part 1

This week at Wednesday Night Worship we kicked off a series called "Reminders".  We made a big deal promoting it and have filmed a hilarious series of videos for each week.  I also did a backdrop of covering a board in sticky notes.  It took forever but was proud of how well it turned out.  We began the night with a worship set that included:  "Like A Lion" (Newsboys), "Happy Day" (Tim Hughes), "God is Able" (Hillsong), and "O Praise Him" (David Crowder Band).  We then showed the "Reminder Man Episode 1" Video and then I gave the message.

I began the message talking about how we use reminders in many forms such as sticky notes, reminder app on phone, notepad on phone, alarms, etc.  We use these reminders because we simply cannot remember everything.  I use them personally for to-do lists, birthdays, important dates, etc.  Sometimes we want to remember something, but the memory fades.  To illustrate this I showed a picture of the wall of sticky notes we made back in November during the More Than Thankful series.  I asked how many could remember everything they wrote to put on the wall.  Nobody could remember.  Now a lot of the notes have fallen off just like our memories fade over time.  In this series we are going to look at some basic things in our faith that we need to be reminded of in order to grow.  I read a quote recently by Steven Furtick that says "Our spiritual growth often times has less to do with learning something new or deep, and more about remembering what we already know."  Sometimes we think in order to grow deeper in our faith with Jesus we have to discover something new.  However we often can grow more by being reminded and challenged by something we already knew.  

I shared about how my wife Belinda and I have done some crazy things to show one another our love.  One of the greatest things that Belinda did for me was a surprise trip on my 30th birthday.  She told me I needed to work ahead on my school work (I was taking 15 hours that semester to graduate from seminary), and that I needed to work ahead on my youth pastor work.  Then she told me I needed to be home by 2:00 the next day.  She then drove me to the airport and we flew down to Florida to watch the Braves play a couple of Spring Training games.  I was blown away by the gesture, and feel an extreme amount of pressure to return the favor for her 30th birthday that is coming up next month.  We both have done some crazy things to show each other that we are all in when it comes to this relationship.

We then read Matthew 13:44- the story of the hidden treasure.  I asked the students to share what their examples of treasure they would like to find if they were our and stumbled across something amazing.  I got some humorous answers: a unicorn, a llamacorn, a McDonalds, and then even a vending machine that dispenses turkey.  I explained that during this time there were no banks or safety deposit boxes to put their valuable items in.  Often people would bury their treasure for safety during times of war or government upheaval.  It was also common for someone to do this and then die while away at war.  So in this story that Jesus is telling, He says that the person discovers this treasure, and with joy he goes and sells everything he owns in order to purchase it.  I explained that it would be like they went home and their parents tell them that they have sold their car, bed, all extra clothes, video games, iPod, phone, all of their possessions and even their house because they found this amazing treasure that they just had to have.  They sold everything they owned in order to have the money to go purchase this amazing treasure.  If that happened our response would be "you are crazy" or "you have lost your mind".  In this story this would have been the case for him.  People would have told him that the had lost his mind.  But he was not at all upset, he did it out of joy because this treasure was so valuable to him.  It was the best possible investment that he could make.  This is the way we are to pursue Jesus with our whole heart.  When I think about all of the crazy things my wife and I have done in showing each other our love, I am amazed.  But when I look back at my relationship with Jesus, I don't have as many stories about me chasing after Him that way.  As followers of Jesus we should have stories of things we did following Him that make others say we are crazy.  But usually this is not how we live our lives.  It's not that we don't want a relationship with Jesus because we do.  Most everyone wants to go to heaven.  The truth is that we want Jesus, but we do not want it to cost us anything.  We want Him at a discount discount.  We want to have a relationship with Jesus, but we do not want to have to give up anything for Him.  Jesus is looking for followers who are all-in regarding their commitment to Him.

Some people think that there are two types of Christians.  The first being a regular church goer who even gives some money to the church and maybe volunteers to serve in some aspect, but does not give in a way that interferes with their own lives and desires.  Then the second being those who give everything.  They give up their dreams and desires and pursuits and inconvenience themselves in order to follow Him.  However, the truth is that the first type of Christian is not at all what a Christ follower is.  We are to be changed by Jesus in a way that we give up our dreams, desires, things we want, the ways we act, think, and talk, etc.

I closed the night in prayer challenging the students to truly seek where they are in the relationship with Jesus.  I told them to make sure they were not basing it all simply on the fact that they prayed a prayer at some point in the past.  If they never experience true life change then they need to examine where they stand.  I challenged them that God is calling them all to do something or to give up something in order to grow in Him and lead others to Him.  The question is whether or not they are willing to do what it takes and deny themselves.

It was a great night altogether.  I believe it was a great way to kick off this series and I pray that God works in us all.  Here is a picture of the backdrop on the stage that is made of sticky notes.  Also here is the "Reminder Man- Trailer" that we played a couple weeks ago promoting the series and "Reminder Man- Episode 1" that we showed last night.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

WNW 1-10-13

It was good to be back at Wednesday Night Worship this week after having a 2 week hiatus for Christmas.  It was good also in the fact that it had been since before Thanksgiving since we had a regular WNW and I was glad to be able to lead worship and preach.  We began the night with a worship set that included:  The King is Coming (Newsboys), Salvation is Here (Hillsong United), Sovereign Over Us (Aaron Keyes), Always (Kristian Stanfill), and God is Able (Hillsong).  It was the first time we had done God is Able and I think it went over really well.

My message for this night was really a challenge for us to begin the year with.  I intended to begin the message with some discussion focusing on 2012.  I asked them what goals they set for 2012, but it turned out they didn't really set any.  It was kind of the joke of the night about being the "dreamless" group.  I then asked everyone to close their eyes for a minute and think about who they are today, and who they were this time a year ago.  Did you grow any in your relationship with God?  Are you the same person?  Did you maybe even digress in your relationship with God?  We then talked a bit about 2013 and asked them what were some things they hope to accomplish this year.  Some shared about running a 5k or half marathon.  Some have the plans of graduating this year.  Whatever your goals are for the year, and you should have goals, you must have a plan in order to accomplish them.  Another question to consider is whether or not your goals include Jesus at all.  Do your goals have any part in growing closer to Jesus?

So we looked at the rest of the night about our relationship with Jesus and where it stands, if it is growing or not, and what we are doing in order to grow.  We looked at Jeremiah 29:13 which says "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart."  It says that you will find God when?  When you search for Him with all your heart.  There lies the issue most of the time.  We do not search for God with all our heart.  It is not like we are searching for something that is lost.  Instead it means that we must wholeheartedly put forth an effort in our relationship with Him.  It is not that this effort will save us or make Him love us more, but we in turn love Him more and want to serve Him more.  Sadly we do not make this effort in our walk with Christ.  It is similar to this. For years I have told my wife that she needs to drink more water.  She simply does not drink much and used to say "it does not really matter."  I told her that eventually it would effect her health and it did.  Several years ago she got a kidney stone and the doctor told her that it was because she does not drink enough.  But here is the funny thing.  She will go about her normal low amount of water lifestyle and then eventually you hear it.  You can hear her downing a 1/4 of a bottle of water without stopping.  It is simply crazy.  But that is how we treat out relationship with Jesus.  We do things our way until we really want to experience Him and so we go to church, camp, Disciple Now, etc. and gorge for a moment.  At this point in the message I opened a bottle of water and drank it all without stopping to make my point.  We feast on Jesus for a bit, then go our own way and famine for a while until we need our next "fix".  This has to stop.  We have to seek God with all our heart.  We must have that daily quiet time with Him, allowing Him to shape us, mold us, grow us, and even convict us.  

We closed the night quietly in prayer asking the question "Am I giving God my best effort?"  I encourage you to ask yourself the same question.  I challenged the students to make this effort because it is so worth it.  I told them that they need to take a stand for Jesus like never before.  I need some of them to take a stand as leaders in this youth ministry and in their schools.  It is God's desire for that.  I am excited because I believe God is at work in our students and can not wait to see what He is going to do this year.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Favorite Albums of 2012

Today I want to share what were some of my favorite albums of 2012.  They probably will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, but they were all great albums.

Hillsong Chapel- Forever Reign 
I was hoping they would do another Hillsong Chapel and was so excited when I discovered this one.  It is a completely stripped down acoustic set that is just great to listen to at any time.  Plus the song selection is just amazing with so many great ones:  God is Able, Cornerstone, Forever Reign, Desert Song, etc.

Newsboys- Live in Concert: God's Not Dead 
Like I said yesterday, a Newsboys concert is probably the best you will ever go to.  The God's Not Dead tour was amazing and now you can listen to it at any moment.

David Crowder Band- Give Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys])
Crazy long title for a crazy good album.  David Crowder Band's final album together did not disappoint.  34 tracks on this album!  My favorite songs on this album are Oh Great God, Give us Rest  (your heart just resonates with Crowder on this one); Come Find Me; Fall On Your Knees; Let Me Feel You Shine; and After All (Holy).  

Shaun Groves- Third World Symphony 
Ok this album actually came out in 2011, but I just got it this year and it honestly has wrecked me.  There is not a bad song on this album.  Not only musically is it beautiful, but lyrically probably the best I listened to last year.  Honestly this album has challenged me in my faith greater than any other music.  I am thankful that while songs like these may not make it to radio (which is a shame for the industry), I am thankful that God brought this to me.  I guess my favorite 3 are Come By Here, Kingdom Coming, and I've Got You.  But again there is not a bad song on this album.

Phil Wickham- Singalong 2 - I was really excited about this album because the first Singalong was my first Phil Wickham album.  Hearing Phil live in my opinion is better than the studio version (which not many people are like that).  Beautiful album of worship.  My favorites would have to be Heaven Fall Down and You're Beautiful.

Chris Sligh- For Our God & King 
Chris's music career has steered in a different direction lately but I know that God is still using him.  And He definitely still has an amazing talent in music.  You can actually get this album for free at, but is so good it would be worth paying for.  We were blessed to play with Chris when he came to Clearwater in 2011 and we played How Great and Good which are on this album.

Chris August- The Upside of Down 
2012 was a tough year for Chris August as he suffered a pretty severe head injury.  I believe that God used that to work in Chris and some songs were birthed out of that experience.  The title track The Upside of Down is a song that I listened to over and over for a few weeks.  The lyrics of that song are really amazing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Favorite Moments of 2012

I am definitely behind on posting some things regarding 2012, but have a few things I plan to share with those who care to read and know my thoughts.  For those of you I am thankful that you continue to hear some of my thoughts, what God is doing in my life and  the ministry that I am blessed to be a part of.  I want to share today some of my favorite moments from 2012 both personally and in student ministry.

-All the ways that God worked in me.  I can not even begin to thank Him for all that He continues to do in my life.  I guess my favorite moment overall in 2012 would have to be the fact that He continued to allow me to live another year and would use me for His glory.

-Getting to meet people- Phil Wickham, Shaun Groves, and Newsboys.  Phil Wickham has been one of my favorites for several years and I had the opportunity to see him at two shows within 10 days of each other.  One with full band and the other acoustic.  Both were great nights of worship.  It was definitely an honor to meet him.

We brought Shaun Groves to Clearwater in July to lead worship and speak on behalf of Compassion International.  It was also the beginning of our Younite week.  There were 43 children were sponsored.  We had a great day of worship and getting to know Shaun a little bit.  His heart is just amazing.  His manager is also a good friend Micah Watson and it was great getting to catch up with him.

We were also blessed to see the Newsboys twice in 2012.  I have never seen a concert as great as theirs.  I have always been a Michael Tait fan and he simply does a phenomenal job with these guys.  Not only are their shows entertaining, but also a great time of worship.  We were so excited to get to meet them recently.  I also gave them some Younite '11 shirts that say "Running to You" and shared with them that we used their song for our camp theme.

-Seeing some healing in my wife Belinda.  If you really know us, you know that the past couple of years have been extremely difficult.  We lost Belinda's dad tragically, and it is something that we will never get over.  While there will always be scars, I saw Belinda take some tremendous leaps in her healing.  She shared about it in her Upward testimony in February.  Then she again shared it with her track group at MFuge.  These may seem like small things, but were huge in this situation, and I am extremely proud of her.  I am proud of the ways that God continues to grow her and use her.

-Getting to coach my nephew Noah in Upward basketball.  Well I was the assistant coach to my brother in law.  But I was still extremely thankful to have this opportunity.  Noah is such an amazing child.  His love, care, respect, etc. that he shows for everyone makes me want to be more like him.

-Speaking and worship opportunities.  I had a few opportunities outside of my regular weekly duties and really appreciated them.  I actually preached twice on Sundays (which meant that those services were extra short).  I also got to speak at Jamin's 16th birthday/celebration of Biblical manhood.  I was able to share some encouragements and challenges and it was an honor.  I had the chance to speak again this year at See You At The Pole at Niota Elementary School where around 100 students gathered to pray for their school and nation.  As a youth band we were able to play and lead worship at an FCA event at the Athens Middle School.  Speaking at Upward was another great moment.  Each of these opportunities were a blessing to be a part of.

-Our family trip to Disney World.  What else can be said.

-Younite.  This is definitely my favorite part of youth ministry.  Our local camp serving others.  Not only is it a blast, but God works in so many ways.  This year going into it I was having second thoughts on the theme, but God proved me wrong.  The theme "Alive" was definitely my favorite so far.  God used the theme and the verses to impact our students even beyond the camp.  I am so thankful to be a part of this and thankful that God placed this dream in my heart back in July of 2008.

-All the ways that God has worked in our students.  I am blown away by how God is working in and through them.  I have had a few conversations with students over the past few months who God is leading them to missions/ministry either on a full-time or part-time basis.  I am so proud of them and proud to be their youth pastor.

-There are so many more things that I could post.  2012 was a great year and I am blessed beyond imagine.  I am looking for God to do greater things in 2013!