Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Younite '13 Videos- Part 1

This is the first of several posts that will cover parts of last week's Younite camp.  We had such an amazing time at Younite this year.  God worked in and through our lives in many ways.  I am thankful for all He has done and will continue to do in us.  Today I want to share a couple of videos.  The first is a video shown at the kickoff service talking about the fact that this was the 5th year of Younite.  I am explaining how this all came about and have some former students share how it has impacted them. The second video is from Saturday morning and is the student band playing this year's theme song "I Believe".

Thursday, July 18, 2013

WNW 7/17/13- Reaching Outcasts

Last night for our summer WNW gathering we covered a Sunday School lesson that we had recently skipped when our church services were at Regional Park.  The lesson we covered was the familiar Sunday School story of Zacchaeus.  We began the night with a quick game called "Cluck, Cluck, Chuckle, Chuckle" while we set in our circle.  Each round there would be someone in the group who was "the clown."  The group's goal was to figure out who it was.  I would say the phrase that the game is named after and ask "who is the clown?" while pointing my fingers at different people.  The trick to it was that whoever spoke first trying to guess who the clown was, was actually the clown.  So after a couple of rounds, people started to slowly figure out the trick to the game.  After several figured it out, I asked who felt left out, and those who did not yet understand raised their hands.  I explained the trick and moved into the night's lesson.

We read the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10.  We discussed what was taking place in each verse.  Zacchaeus was wealthy because he was a tax collector, which meant he had made his wealth from cheating people.  He was a short man so in order to see Jesus he climbed a sycamore tree.  Until recently I did not understand the significance of Luke mentioning the type of tree.  Sycamore trees, however, have slick bark which would make it extremely difficult to climb.  In addition, the branches were high off the ground.  Zacchaeus went to a great difficult effort to be able to see Jesus.  Of course Jesus calls Zacchaeus down and goes to his house.  We do not know all that was said between the two that day, but we do know Zacchaeus had a change of heart and became a Christ follower.  If you only read verse 8 and 9 it would appear that Zacchaeus generosity and works brought him salvation, but that is completely untrue.  This is why it is important to study the context of a verse.  Zacchaeus newfound generosity stemmed out of the fact that he had been changed by Jesus.  Of course the fact that Jesus went to Zacchaeus' home angered many people since Jesus would have communion with this man who was considered an outcast to society because of his evil deeds.  But what if Jesus had ignored Zacchaeus?  Would he had ever made the life change he did?  Possibly not.  This is why it is necessary for us to reach out to those who are viewed as an outcast.  I challenged the students to think about who led them to Jesus.  We should be thankful for that/those people and in response want to be the one who leads others to Him.  Just as in the opening game those who did not understand felt left out or like outcasts.  The truth is, whoever does not know Jesus is left out and it is our responsibility to reach out to them and minister to them with the gospel.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Big Picture- Part 3

This week we wrapped up the after-camp study "The Big Picture."  We began the night playing "The Number Game" where students sat in a circle and had to randomly count out loud to a specific number.  The twist was their eyes were closed and if two people spoke at once they had to start over from the beginning.  Afterward we discussed the difficulties in the exercise and what emotions they felt while playing.  The consensus was that you felt a little bit of anticipation trying to decide whether you should speak up or stay quiet.  We discussed some other moments in life where you feel anticipation and even anticipation in events such as standing before a roller coaster.  We all face moments of anticipation that are intimidation and we need to know what to do and how to respond.  This happens to everyone especially when following Jesus.

We split into small groups and then came back together to discuss as a larger group the following:

Group 1 - Acts 3:1-8
This is the story of Peter and John walking to the temple and a crippled man is sitting and begging.  The man thought that Peter and John would give him some money, but instead they healed him in the name of Jesus.
-Why would the temple be a good place to sit and beg?
-How do you respond when you see a beggar?
-How did Peter and John respond to him?
-In verse 4, Peter told the man "Look at us!"  What did the beggar expect Peter and John to do to him?
-In verse 6, why do you think Peter commanded him to walk "In the name of Jesus Christ?"  Why didn't he just say "walk?"

Group 2- Acts 4:1-20
After Peter and John healed the man and continued preaching Jesus, some people got mad and they were arrested.  While standing on trial Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaimed boldly the name of Jesus.  He was faced with an intimidating situation, but was not alone.
-What happened to Peter and John?
-Why were the Sadducees upset with them?
-Why specifically was Peter able to give such a great response to the Sanhedrin?
-Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you did not know how to respond?
-Why were the people amazed at Peter and John's confidence?

I have always loved verse 13 in this chapter.  While there is nothing wrong at all with theological education, or education in general, nothing can take place of spending quality time with Jesus.  You can learn all the information in the world, but as I have said many times before if you do not make application in how you live your life then it is a complete waste.

The truth is, we will all face moments in life where we are intimidated and unsure what to do or say in following Jesus.  If we have been saved, we can rest easy in the fact that the Holy Spirit is there with us and will help us to respond the way that we should.  Another thing we must consider is what I talked about in the previous paragraph.  Spending time with Jesus daily helps us in these intimidating situations.  We must get to know the One we claim to follow with our lives so that we can be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Honesty With God

The other day we had the privilege of catching up with a good friend who has had a profound impact on my life and ministry.  She was speaking truth to me in regards to my calling long before I was in youth ministry.  We were catching up with each other, sharing struggles as well as to what God has been up to in our lives.  At one point we talked about journaling as it is something she always encouraged me to do.  I shared that for the past year and a half I have been more committed to journaling and how it has been a blessing in my life.  I like to write about what God is showing me through Scriptures, and ways that He is inspiring me as well as correcting me.  However, there are also plenty of days where I am venting.  It often is about a circumstance or situation that I did not bring on, but am suffering from.  Our friend's response to that was that it is ok to vent.  We need to let out our emotions.  I believe it is then we can place our focus back on God and go forward.

The day after this conversation I was reading Psalm 55.  Verses 16-17 say:
16 As for me, I shall call upon God,And the Lord will save me.17 Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur,And He will hear my voice.
If you read on further, the often quoted verse 22 says:
Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you;He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
I believe there is beauty in being honest with God.  We must definitely be honest in our confession to Him.  Though God is omniscient, knowing everything including our thoughts and feelings, we must still be honest with Him.  While I often vent in my journal, I had never thought about making my complaints known to Him in a way that is positive.  Hear me out on this.  I believe that there is a HUGE difference in making your complaint known to God, and whining to Him.  I believe that if you make known to Him what is on your heart without whining about it, it then leaves more room for Him to work in the situation.  

Complaining to Him is not the end of it.  As we see in verse 22 we are to cast our burdens at His feet and allow Him to sustain and strengthen us.  When we do this, we do not pick the burden back up.  Instead we turn our complaint into action.  We first must pray about the situation, asking for guidance and for God's provision.  Then we need to work toward the solution.

I think we sometimes hold inside what we are feeling and are not completely honest with God.  I tend to do this in my own life.  While God knows the deepest thoughts within me, He still desires for my honesty.  The relationship is a 2-way conversation.  As I grow closer to God, I want and need to be honest with Him.  I want to do this in a way that is not whining, and in a way that leads me to further growth in Him.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Scars and Healing

I have posted several times over the past three years about the difficulties that we have faced with the tragedy of the death of Belinda's dad.  I have never went into great detail about all that we have faced for a multitude of reasons.  Some details are unnecessary, while others are too painful, and others for lack of better explanation simply cannot be shared.  The pain has been extreme to say the least.  However one of the greatest things that we have learned and experienced is that no matter how great the pain is, we serve a God that is infinitely greater!  God has taught us so many things through the pain and the healing.  

As June 10 marked three years since this tragic day, some great things have come about.  First of all, we left for MFUGE this day.  It was a tough decision in planning, but Belinda felt that was when we needed to go.  She did amazing that day and was able to share that night with our students how they had played an intricate part in her healing. She shared that on that day three years ago she would have never thought she would laugh on the anniversary.  However they have helped her experience joy on a day that could have been dark.  Also while at camp Belinda was able to have conversations with two other people (her track leader, and our camp pastor) who had experienced the same situation.  Living in circumstances that have been extremely lonely, she felt comfort in knowing there were understood how she feels.  I have seen her make great leaps in her healing.

As we had many conversations in the week leading up to this anniversary, we shared with one another the things that we have learned and the ways we have grown.  I have learned many things, including how I do not want to be toward others.  I have gained a greater desire to be empathetic toward others personally and in my ministry.  I shared that while I wish these things had not happened at all, and that I would never wish them on anyone at all, I am thankful for what God has shown me through them.  Romans 8:28 and Genesis 50:20 are real to me in a way that I would never had imagined before.
Romans 8:28  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.Genesis 50:20  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.
I am extremely thankful for how God has grown us in the midst of these dark days.  I know that I have learned to depend on God when most everyone else let me down.  I have learned that while it is not His will for evil to have its way, He still works in these times.  I know that He is redeeming us and drawing us to Him as we grow closer to that day when "He will wipe every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain;..." (Revelation 21:4).  There will always be deep scars that serve as a reminder of sin in this world, but also to remind of how much healing He has done in us.