Thursday, September 26, 2013

WNW 9/25/13- Prayer & Communion Service

Since this week is Global Week of Student Prayer and yesterday See You At the Pole, we decided to make our Wednesday Night Worship a prayer service that would be different than any way we had ever done it before.  Before the night began we packed our Sack-Packs outside on the porch.  I then instructed the students that the night was going to be different and that they did not need to talk unless instructed to do so.  I gave them each a piece of paper and said that they would be using it later, and that in a few moments they would enter the youth house quietly and take a seat.  We kept the youth house darker than normal by not using our LED stage lights and only using floor lamps.  As they were coming in, the band was softly playing some music to set the tone.  We then went into "Sovereign Over Us" by Aaron Keyes, but did the live living room version.  The theme verse for this year's See You At the Pole, 2 Chronicles 7:14 was read.  Then we went straight into the song "Breathe".  

At the end of the song we kept playing softly while I gave directions for what was next.  I told the students that the piece of paper they were given had an order on the back.  There were three rooms with prayer stations and they were given a random order to go to these rooms in.  In each room as a group they prayed over a specific theme.  Students were instructed to read Scripture and volunteers pray out loud in their groups.
Room #1- Pray for the Lost

-Ask a volunteer to read Acts 4:12 out loud
-Call on 3 Volunteers to take turns praying out loud for lost classmates, friends, and those who attend church to be saved.  If you are not one of those praying out loud, then silently pray to yourself.

Room #2- Pray for Leaders
- Ask a volunteer to read Proverbs 11:14 out loud
- Ask a volunteer to read 1 Timothy 2:1-3 out loud
-Call on 3 Volunteers to pray out loud for leaders in one of the following areas:
            -Government
            -Teachers & School Administrators
            -Pastors

Room #3- Pray for our Youth Ministry
- Ask a volunteer to read Luke 22:40 out loud
-Call on 3 Volunteers to pray out loud for this youth ministry in one of the following areas:
            -Strength against temptation
            -Spiritual growth in Jesus Christ
            -To be a witness to others

After spending several minutes in each room, they were instructed to quietly go back to their seats.  We softly played and sang the song "Beautiful Picture" by The Rose Factor.  We sang the bridge again at the end that says "Everything that is not of You, take it away."  I then explained that we were about to take part in Communion and I read 1 Corinthians 11:23-32.  I explained that they needed to take some time examining their heart to make sure they are clean before taking Communion.  I encouraged them to spend some time in prayer allowing God to examine their hearts and when they were ready they could come up to the table that had bread and juice and take Communion.  We kept playing softly as one at a time they came to the table.  Then after everyone was done we closed with "The Lord Our God" (Kristian Stanfill).  I dismissed any that needed to leave but for everyone else we spent a few moments hearing See You At The Pole reports about their school gatherings.  It was really a great night.  Several of the students shared how it had been a special night for them to pray in groups and to take Communion.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

#IFTHEN

This past Sunday I had the privilege of filling in and preaching at our Sunday morning worship services.  Since it was the first day of Global Week of Student Prayer and the week of See You At The Pole, I decided to use this year's theme for my sermon.  I caught the church up to speed on what the week was about and how we have been focusing on Wednesday nights on the thought that in a moment everything could change.  I shared how we believe this can be a week where we see revival break across our school campuses like never before.  It isn't that prayer has been taken out of schools, but rather that we have voluntarily stopped praying.  Often if a child has stopped praying then it is because they have seen it modeled this way by their parents.  

This year's theme for See You At The Pole is #IFTHEN.  I think that it is brilliant that the theme is an actual hashtag which will encourage students to Tweet and Instagram about their prayer gatherings.  The theme verse is 2 Chronicles 7:14.  We love this verse because of the promise it offers.  We know that when we pray that God hears our prayers and brings healing.  We love the promise, but if we are not careful we will miss the real point here.

When I was in college I began as a Computer Programming major before God lead me to change to Business Administration/Finance.  However when I was in programming we would have to first write out what was called pseudo-code which is the program in word form.  We would have to write out every single possibility of what we needed the program to do.  We would write this out in If-Then statements.  For instance, in one class we wrote a program to mimic a coke machine.  We would have to write out every possible scenario in If-Then statements such as the amount of money entered, the beverage selected, etc.  If we forgot just one single scenario, then the entire thing could be thrown off.  The same happens if we are not careful to understand fully what is taking place in 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Here is a little background on what is happening leading up to this verse.  King Solomon has commissioned the temple to be built.  He has collected materials and lays out all the details.  The construction begins and at one point the Ark of the Covenant is brought in and the glory of God fills the temple.  In chapter 6 Solomon dedicates the temple.  Then in the first part of chapter 7 they have a huge celebration of worship.  They offer sacrifices and the glory of God once again fills the temple.  We then read 2 Chronicles 7:11-18.
Verse 11- Solomon has finished building this immaculate temple.  His father David had desired to build this but God did not permit it.
Verse 12- God promises Solomon that He will dwell in this house and it will be a house of sacrifice and prayer for all people
Verse 13-14- God promises to hear the prayers of His people.
Verse 15-16- God's eyes and ears will be on this place.  To have the attention of God is a pretty incredible thing that we often take for granted.
Verse 17-18- God promises Solomon that if he follows God that his reign as king will be successful as it was for his father David.

However, if we stop here then we can get in trouble.  We then read 2 Chronicles 7:19-22.  God knew that the Israelites were prone to backslide into sin and worship other gods.  This applies to us because God knows that we too are prone to backslide and worship other gods and idols.  Sometimes we may be quick to say "that's not me, I don't worship other gods."  But we have to be careful with that.  We must remember that an idol or god is whatever we sacrifice for and what we pursue.  Most often the idols in our life are not even bad things themselves such as work, family, children, church, etc.  When God said "no other gods/idols before me" He did not mean for us to make Him the top of our priority list in life.  God is the list and He does not want any other gods in our lives at all.  His intent and desire for us is that He alone is all that we worship, and He deserves that.  Sometimes it isn't the stuff that is the idol but we are the idol ourselves.  We spend our time doing whatever because it is what we want in life and because it is how we want things so that we feel better.

To visually show what happens when we try to spend time in prayer to God while serving other gods/idols, I had a couple of students join me in stage.  Each took a rope that I was holding and pulled me in opposite directions.  One represented my relationship with God, and the other represented my idols in life.  What happens when we try to maintain both areas of our life, we are pulled in opposite directions and will eventually break.  But what happens is that, as my arms stretched out, I said we end up trying to be our own savior in life.  We try to save ourselves and we call it "sacrifice"- sacrifice for our family, career, our own future.  We try to be our own savior, when there was only One intended to be a Savior, and that is Jesus Christ.

It all comes down to a decision.  As I have been on a journey this year for my health, I get asked often what I am doing to lose weight.  I respond that simply I am eating healthy and exercising/running.  It is always funny to see their disappointed reaction.  People have the hopes that they can maintain their current unhealthy lifestyle and still have healthy results.  You can't have "both-and", it has to be "either-or" when it comes to physical health, but spiritual health as well.  2 Chronicles 7:14 says to "humble" yourself. It does not say that if you pray before bedtime, meals, at church, etc. that God will give you the life that you want.  Instead it calls us to humble ourselves which means that we submit to God.  it means that we give up our own desires to take hold of God's desire for our life.  The purpose of prayer is not to change God's mind.  If you think it is then you're view of prayer is completely wrong and if you think you can support it scripturally then you haven't studied the context of the verse enough.  The purpose of prayer is to change us.  The purpose of prayer is not to get God on our page, but that we get on board with what He is doing.

We closed with a time of examination.  If you're frustrated because you are not experiencing victory in life, not experiencing spiritual breakthroughs, then it is probably because you are trying to live life holding onto both areas.  You are trying to spend some time in prayer with God while continuing to purse the idols and gods in your life.  If you continue to live life this way, it will eventually tear you apart.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Global Week of Student Prayer '13- Prayer Guide

Sunday September 22 kicked of Global Week of Student Prayer.  This Wednesday will be See You At the Pole.  Instead of having a one day prayer effort, this year an entire week is dedicated to calling our students to join together and prayer.  We made the following prayer guide available for everyone this week.


Sunday September 22, 2013
This verse tells us that if we pray, seek Him, and turn away from our sin that God hears us, forgives us, and brings healing and restoration in our lives.  Today, seek God in prayer, asking Him to reveal anything in your life that is offensive to Him.  Pray for forgiveness and turn away from the sin.  Pray that you will make yourself available to grow in Christ during this week of prayer.

Monday September 23, 2013
Today’s prayer focus is on your school, and the schools in this community.  Lift up in prayer our school administrators and teachers.  As you pray for your own wisdom, also pray for their wisdom in leadership.  Ask God to surround them with godly influences that can influence them with the gospel.  Pray that they will lead those in need of salvation to Jesus.

Tuesday September 24, 2013
Today, make your prayer focus on our government:  local, state, and national.  Pray that Christian leaders will rise up, taking a stand for Jesus in the decisions that they make and influence others to follow Him.  Pray for our leaders that need salvation in Jesus Christ.  Pray that they will have opportunities to hear the gospel and that their hearts will be receptive.

Wednesday September 25, 2013
Today at schools across America, students will be taking part in See You At The Pole.  This is a global movement of prayer led by students.  Today, pray for the safety of our students as they are involved in this effort.  Pray for Christian students to rise up and lead their schools to revival.  Pray that this is a moment where only Jesus is glorified, and not individuals.

Thursday September 26, 2013
As you pray today, ask yourself if you are seeking God with all your heart.  If not, confess, receive forgiveness, and pursue God as you should.  Pray that He will use you as His mouthpiece today.  Pray that He will give you opportunities to share your faith with others.

Friday September 27, 2013
Today pray for lost students in our schools.  Pray that they will see their need for a Savior, and pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Pray for our Christian organizations such as FCA, Teens for Christ, etc.  Pray that God will use the students and teachers involved to reach out to those who need Jesus in their life.  Pray that lost students will see that the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ alone.

Saturday September 28, 2013
As we wrap up this Global Week of Student Prayer, spend some time again praying for our government:  local, state, and national.  Spend time praying for their salvation.  Praise God for our religious freedoms that we can worship with no fear.  Pray that this will continue and that our religious freedoms will not be taken away.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Friday Nights Part 2- Underdog

This week at WNW we had our second week in our 2-week series called "Friday Night" and thinking about the idea that in a moment everything can change.  We began the night with a worship set that included "Your Love Never Fails" (Newsboys), "Dry and Brittle" (They Came Running), and "The Lord Our God" (Kristian Stanfill).  We also showed a video promoting next week's See You At The Pole.

I began with a quick review of the previous week with a reminder that we are believing that next week's See You At the Pole and Global Student Week of Prayer can be a moment where everything changes in a big way and we begin to see students following Jesus like never before.  I talked about another aspect of sports that we all love, which is when the underdog out of nowhere wins when nobody expected them to.  

We looked at an example of an underdog, the woman of Samaria, in John 4:5-30; 42.  We broke it down the following way:
Verse 5-6- It is either 6pm (Roman time) or 12 noon (Jewish time).  Either way it is important that is day time as we see in a moment.
Verse 7- We get our first clue that something is up with this woman.  You did not draw water during the day, as the water itself would be hot.  Also the women would go in a group to draw water.  We see that this woman is possibly an outcast.
Verse 9- She is surprised that Jesus spoke to her because Jews and Samaritans did not interact.  The Jews viewed Samaritans as an unclean race.  Also Jewish rabbi's did not interact with women in public.
Verse 10- Jesus gives her the first clue to who He actually is.
Verse 11-  She is thinking only about physical water.  
Verse 12- She uses the term "our" when referring to herself and Jesus.  This lets us know that she has no idea who He is and considers them equal.  This also would have normally been extremely offensive to a Jew.
Verse 13-14.  Jesus let's her know that this living water that He is referring to is unlike anything she is seeking to fulfill herself.  This living water, the Holy Spirit, supplies us with all that we need in life.
Verse 15- She still thinks He is referring to physical water
Verse 16-18- Jesus shows that He is God and is omniscient as He knows the truth about her lifestyle.
Verse 19- She shows that she is starting to see that Jesus is not any ordinary person.
Verse 20- People argued over the appropriate place of worship, so she is confused about this.
Verse 21-24- Jesus inaugurates a new era of worship.  He is saying that you do not have to travel long distances to pray in specific places, but you can worship anywhere.  This is the heart of what next week is all about, students gathering daily in different places for prayer and worship.  Worship isn't about the place, but about the heart.  Since the Holy Spirit dwells in those who are believers, and the fact that God is omnipresent, then worship takes place everywhere.  We often hear the statement that this nation began to go downhill when prayer was taken out of schools. The problem isn't that prayer was taken out of schools, because honestly it cannot be completely taken out of schools as students are free to pray whenever and wherever they want.  They can pray silently and can gather with friends to pray.  So the problem isn't that pray has been taken out of schools.  The problem is that we have voluntarily stopped praying.
Verse 25- She still isn't completely sure who Jesus is, but is beginning to suspect the truth.
Verse 26- Jesus reveals that He is the Messiah.  He did not often do this as people were expecting Him to deliver them from political oppression.  Instead He came to see people free from the bonds of sin.
Verse 28-30-  Grace has been extended to this woman by Jesus.  She then leaves her water pot and heads back to her village to share this incredible news.
Verse 39- Many people come to know Jesus as a result of her testimony.

We look at this woman, and her culture did as well, as someone who was worthless and who was capable of nothing good.  However, when grace was extended to her by Jesus it transformed her, and she made sure everyone knew the truth.  This underdog came out of nowhere and made a difference.  

I challenged the students to extend grace to the underdogs in their school.  Share the love of Jesus with the person who they view as similar to the woman in these verses.  I also challenged them to take a look at themselves and see where they can step up.  Too often as Christians we take a backseat and expect others to be the ones who step up to make a difference, while God is calling us all to step up and lead the way.  We closed with a time of reflection and prayer as we listened to the song "Oceans" by Hillsong United.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Friday Nights Part 1- Momentum Shift

This week kicked off our Fall Wednesday Night Worship season.  I was so excited for us to begin our weekly worship service with the students.  We began the night with a worship set that included "Afterlife" (Switchfoot), "Burning in My Soul" (Brett Younker), "Our God" (Chris Tomlin).  We also showed a promotional video for the upcoming Global Student Week of Prayer and See You At the Pole.

This 2-week series is themed around Friday night football games and focusing on the phrase "What if a moment could change everything?"  As we are leading up to this Global Student Week of Prayer and See You At The Pole, I have the full belief that this can be a moment where everything changes on our school campuses.  I believe this can be a moment where we see Christ-following students take a stand like never before, and see them lead others to Jesus Christ.  This series we will be thinking about this as a game-changing moment in our society.

Most everyone gets really excited about Fall as football season begins (not me as I'm a baseball fan).  However there is something about Friday nights that brings this energy and excitement in the life of a teenagers.  On Fridays, everyone wears their school colors, there are pep rallies, and at the game there is this excitement that encompasses everyone.  You go to the game rooting for your favorite team, and in all honestly you usually know what the outcome of the game will be.  However, I love the fact that sports can be so unpredictable.  Maybe the game is going one way, but then all of the sudden there is a momentum shift.  All of the sudden, the team that was behind has this new energy and in this moment everything changes.  There have been plenty of momentum shifts in lives personally throughout time, which can encourage us to believe a momentum shift can happen on our school campuses as well.

We read the story of the adulterous woman in John 8:1-11 and broke it down.
Verse 1- It is important to see what has taken place before this moment.  In the previous chapter, Jesus has been teaching in the temple, and the people around Him were divided on their opinions.  Some believed Jesus to be the Christ, other thought He was a prophet, while others hated Him completely.  As this occurred, Jesus leaves to go to the Mount of Olives.  Jesus did this often to pray as we read in Luke 5:16.
Verse 2- Jesus goes back to business as usual, teaching in the temple.  He did not allow the fact that people opposed Him to stop Him from accomplishing what was necessary.
Verses 3-6- The Pharisees and the Scribes who opposed Jesus, brought a woman caught in adultery into the temple courts.  In this moment they brought her in her shame with the desire to not only ridicule her, but to try to trick Jesus.  By Mosaic Law, the punishment for adultery was death by stoning.  They wanted to see how Jesus would respond to this situation. If He said to not stone her, then He would lose His credibility as a teacher and rabbi.  If He said to stone her, then His reputation as one who forgave and extended grace would be questioned.  They thought they had Jesus in the corner and would be able to convince others to think like they did about Him.  In this moment, the woman knew her life was over.  She knew what the outcome of the situation would be.  Her life was over in her mind.
Verse 6b- We see a response from Jesus that is honestly unlike anything we would ever do.  He stoops down and writes in the sand.  Theologians debate what He was writing.  But it doesn't matter necessarily what He was writing.  If it mattered then it would be in the Scriptures.
Verse 7- After they persist on a response from Jesus, He says something that speaks to us all.  He told them that whoever had no sin in them was free to cast the first stone at her.  Verse 8- He then began to write in the sand again to give them a moment to think about what He just said.
Verse 9- Here we see a "momentum shift".  It looked this woman's life was over.  However, those who were about to stone her realized they were without blame, and walked away.  What looked to be a definite thing, completely changed in this moment with a momentum shift.
Verses 10-11- We see Jesus extend grace to the woman through forgiveness of her sins.  If anyone had the right to condemn her, it was Jesus who lived a sinless and perfect life.  However He extended grace that she did not deserve.  He did not say to her to go live a better life, try harder, and attempt perfection and then He would forgive her.  Instead, He told her to turn away from her life of sin as He had already forgiven her.  

I am amazed as I read these verses.  I see this amazing amount of grace extended to the woman by Jesus and know that He has extended this same grace to me as well.  I challenged the students that this moment shift is an example of what needs to take place here:
1)  If you have never experienced salvation through Jesus Christ, then that is the momentum shift that must first occur
2)  If you have been saved by Jesus Christ, then you need to extend that grace to others by pointing them to salvation through Jesus Christ
3)  We need to bring a momentum shift in our school campuses as I believe the time is now for revival to break out in our schools.

We closed with a time of reflection.  I challenged the students to let God speak to them about what their step of action needs to be.  We sang "Forever Reign", thinking about the love and greatness of Jesus, and saying that we will run to Him completely.  Afterward we watched another video challenging them to organize prayer and See You At The Pole in their schools.  Then we packed our Sack Packs that we send to a local school to feed 31 students who do not necessarily have enough food on the weekends when they are not at school.  It was a great night and I am so glad to be back to our regular Wednesday Night Worship services.