Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Take on Parenting & Student Ministry

My wife and I have been involved in college ministry for the past 3 years or so.  We have been feeling some what of a call into youth ministry for the last few months and are praying and seeking the Lord for where he would use us.  As any of you who know me know, I am a twitter fanatic and read a tweet mentioning Psalm 78 and decided to dive into this passage and once again the Lord revealed His glory through His word to me.  I think that this passage can be a great foundation for parenting and student ministry.  Here is my attempt to put my thoughts into words and cast the vision this passage gives on these areas of life. 

This passage starts with giving instruction to listen to the teaching that is about to be given.  Verse one takes a stance that I feel more parents and youth workers need to take; but tend to shy away from out of fear of how it will be taken.  While not a single person on this earth is perfect (and neither was the author of this passage) I think it is important with our children and youth to tell them that they need to listen to us.  The challenge is to take this stance humbly.  We have all fallen short of the glory of God and from a personal standpoint have no leg to stand on when it comes to this; however because of our Savior and the experiences He has given us we do have a leg to stand on.  God puts everyone through a certain set of experiences as part of His master plan and if we take a stance of "you can listen if you want" we are taking our divine experiences and putting our own worldly limitations to it.

In verse 3&4 we are basically told that we are to use our experiences, which always involve "the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord" to tell parables of what God has done in our live.  What I love about this is that by using parables (which Christ used often) we take our circumstances which do not usually fit with anyone else and make the lessons learned extremely applicable.  Also by doing this we take the glory away from us and point it to the Lord.  It is easy for me to sit and tell my story, and say "if the Lord can save me he can save anyone"; but in all likelihood that will just cause people to go Wow, what a story.  They might even say "praise the Lord".  However, if I can take my story and make the lessons learned relevant to the current audience the the Lord can begin to work on the people with the struggles they are facing.  Not to say He can't work on them in the previous example (He is God), but it just points the glory to Him and not the story.

Verse 7 is a verse I think all parents and student ministry workers should write on their heart.  I know for me, the biggest prayer I pray for our two girls is that they would "put their trust in God".  I did a little research on the Hebrew word for trust in verse 7 (NIV) and the Hebrew word is Kecel; which means hope, confidence, and also the flank of an animal.  When I looked for this word used else where there are 3 parts in the old testament where it is used not referring to the flank, and two of them are in Job.  Both point to putting our hope in something other than the Lord.  When I think about this verse and what it really means to follow Christ I like that the word used is trust, hope, and confidence.  Basically the reason we do everything we do.  As long as our girls make this decision then they will not forget his deeds and will always keep his commands.  That is the goal right?  For both Student Ministry workers as well as parents, that the people we are sharing our experiences with through parables we want them to put their trust in the Lord. 

Verse 12 is another one that I think we all should write on our hearts and really focus on.  If you think about both the Israelites as well as believers today both have seen with their eyes and felt in their hears the miracles the God does.  However, we still struggle to live a life that points only to God. Just as the Israelites, we ourselves make idols of the world and worship them even though we have had a personal encounter with Jesus.  This is something we have to correct if we want to shift the current state of youth as they move on from High School.  This lack of living discipleship has to be main cause for the reason high schoolers walk away from church.

All in all we have to use our testimonies and take the lesson's the Lord has shown us and apply them the the real life situations and struggles that our children and student's face on a daily basis.  In addition we have to continue to live our lives in a way that reflects who we are in Christ.  If we can do this with the authority given to us by the Lord, in a humble way; I genuinely believe that we can change the way student's see faith and keep it their hope as they move on to the next stage of their lives.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Marriage - a gift from our Creator

As I sit here rocking my soon to be one year old little girl I am pondering a lot of different things. One big thing is that tomorrow will be 7 years since Liz became my wife. With every storm that we have weathered our relationship with each other has become so much stronger. The biggest thing though is how marriage strengthens our relationship with Christ, if we will allow it.

The bible compares a believers relationship with Christ to that of a marriage between a man an woman. As I sit here and write this I begin to wonder where would my faith be without my marriage. Non-existent. For me/us God brought us together in the 9th grade because he knew that I needed another strong influence in my life to draw me to himself. Including our dating years we have been a couple for 14 years and of that (as of tomorrow) 7 have been in the covenant of marriage.

When we started dating way back in the 9th grade everyone, including myself, believed I was a Christian. It is apparent to me that God placed her in my life at that early stage because he knew I needed to be made aware of my sinfulness and need for a savior. It was through many great times and many terrible times that I began to fully understand what the grace of Jesus really looked like. As we navigated our way through high school and college I began to make some wrong decisions which ultimately led to a dark place in my life. However, no matter how dark of how many times I treated her wrong she never stopped loving me. She was always the ray of sunshine in my darkness, because she had the creator of all living inside of her.

Through this living, breathing example of grace I came to know the Lord. As we continue down this path of life with careers, kids, and ministry she is still that amazing example of His grace. I write all this not to just build up my wife (or try to earn brownie points :)) but rather point all the glory to our sovereign Lord who has been such a clear master of our story. So many times I think we look at our relationship with Christ and say it should mimic the earthly marriage. While I do think it is a great picture I think our marriage should mimic our relationship with Christ. For me, and I dare to say most people) if our marriage mimic'd our relationship with Christ most would fail.

We tend to put more effort in to our earthly marriage than we do in our relationship with Christ. For you married men out there. How would your marriage be if you only gave your wife praise maybe 3 times a week (Sun morn/sun night/wed)? What if you only spent maybe 30 minutes a day in genuine conversation with her? How about if you never mentioned her to your friends? Not too well. My prayer is that we all would make our relationship with Christ that priority which would cause our marriage to be better than anything we could ever create.

See, she did it again. I did not intend for this blog to take that direction but I love how the Lord uses spouses to draw us to himself.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Storms of Life

I have spent the last week diving deep into Acts looking at what the first church looked like.  There are a million possible blogs about this but tonight as I read Chapter 27 and the first part of Chapter 28 I came across something that is so applicable that I couldn't wait.  The Word of God never ceases to amaze me, and to be candid I struggle with how anyone can sit down and read it with an open mind and not be radically changed by it.  While it was written so long ago it is so easy to see that God was in total control of these people's lives and that He knew that the experiences that these people were going through and would subsequently record would be applicable until His return.

If you look in Acts 27 Paul has been put on a boat to go to Rome to appear before Caesar.  As the boat sails along it is quite apparent that they have more obstacle filled days rather than smooth sailing days.  I don't know about you but there are many periods in my life where it feels like I am in choppy waters way more than smooth water.  What is so promising and hopeful about this passage in Acts 27 and the first part of 28 is it gives us a real life example of what tends to happen in our lives.  Here these guys are just trying to get to Rome and yet every day it seems like something gets in their way.  They are facing winds going in the wrong direction and just basic challenges, and then the storm hits.  They run a shore.  However, they meet some folks on this island that could use a little miracle.  Turns out the head of this island's father was sick and in bed with dysentery.  Now I don't know if you know what dysentery is like, and I pray none of you have experienced it but I would bet its like prepping for a colonoscopy but the same result out of both ends; and non stop.  In this time period this would have no doubt killed him.  However, Paul was able to pray over him in the name of Christ and heal him.  After seeing this man healed many came to be healed as well.

It is easy to parallel this with our own lives.  How many times in our own lives do we think we are coasting along and everything is peachy.  We have our destination picked out, and everything is going great.  Maybe its the "perfect job" or the "perfect house", or whatever it may be.  Maybe its just that you are an all American kid who is good at sports and presents a religion image.  We tend to get in the mind set that we have it all figured out.  Then all of a sudden the wind starts to blow a little harder.  We go off course a little bit, or a lot.  What tends to happen though is that when the wind blows us off of our course it is actually blowing us closer to God's course.  If we ignore this direction and continually try to correct back to our course the wind will get stronger.  Maybe we start to make more wrong decisions, or make wrong decisions that have a much greater impact on our lives.  If we continue to fight to stay on our course then God will throw the full blown storm our way.  When that tends to happen we have to just let go and see what happens, and usually the first step is wreckage.  We hit the shore of God's island that it breaks us into pieces.  We realize how bad we need Jesus.  Then, as we begin to follow God's course we realize that the storms we went through were just bringing us to the point where God can the most glory for what he has done in his life.  When we are able to take the circumstances we faced and share our experiences with those circumstances to people facing the same challenge it is apparent that God blew us off course to become a part of His story/His miracle.  At the same time, as our lives change it tends to draw others in to Him as well.  Just as when Paul healed the man, when people see how Christ heals our sickness of sin they want to be healed as well.

At the end of the day as scary as it feels we have to just let go of that big steering wheel of the boat.  And trust fully that God has a better course than we do, and while it may be painful in this world we should face life as Paul did:

24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My wife - Professional Mom

One of the beauties of social media is the ability to lift people up publicly.  I was really trying to think of a way to honor my wife for the amazing mother that she is and I feel the Lord led me to this blog.  I wrestled with it because I do not want it be about me, but rather point to an amazing woman who is following Christ with her whole heart.

My wife has the hardest job in the world, for 15 hours of each day she is caring for, investing in, and teaching children.  We have two girls, one is 3 and the other is 1; and at the same time she works two days a week at church in the Parents Day Out program where she has 3-4 toddlers.  What I think is so amazing about my bride is that when she is spending time with any of these kids it is not just about providing child care to her.  She genuinely wants to invest in the lives of these children and point them to Jesus.  I take for granted so many times what an amazing ministry she has.

No matter what the fit, tantrum, or argument that comes from our 3 year old (who is a very good little girl, but we all have our moments) my wife never tells our little girl that the reason she is telling her to do something is because she said so.  Rather, she points to the fact that the Lord tells us to love one another.  She is always quoting the memory verse from first look.  Its not all about the bad either, when our little girl is being perfect (which she generally is) my bride makes sure that she tells our little girl that not only does it make mommy happy, but it also makes Jesus happy.  Every time I hear this my heart melts, because there is nothing more important to me than for my little girl to surrender her life to Jesus.  With my bride continually investing in her life with this sort of leadership our 3 year old has already asked some very intuitive questions regarding faith.  She understands that Christ died on the cross for our sins and that he rose again on the 3rd day and is still alive.  My bride along with the folks of first look and parents day out have done such a good job planting that seed that I am honored to get to see it grow.

One key part of faith is not just speaking, but doing....and I take for granted what an amazing doer of faith that my bride is. First of all, for 15 hours out of her day she is investing in the lives of children.  We have made the decision that her investment in the lives of our girl is more important than her to provide an income.  This takes sacrifice.  That along with the time that she sacrifices is such a real life tangible picture of the selflessness that Christ demands of us.  She puts her ministry ahead of herself.

Now I know I am biased, but I felt it necessary to give God the glory he deserves for the amazing creation of his that just so happens to be my wife.  Thank you Lord for giving me such a clear, living, breathing example of you in the person of my bride.  I pray that I would not take for granted the ministry that she does every day and that I would strive to live out my faith with the same reckless abandon as she does.