How Do You See Obstacles?

I loved being in church yesterday morning. I always enjoy being with my church family, but yesterday was extra special, as I got to sit back and watch our young leaders glorify God with their talents.

Our Impact! youth group is so appropriately named because our youth leaders are not only making an impact on our students, but they are teaching them to make an impact in their schools, homes, and workplaces. Yesterday they made an impact on me!

I have the privilege of leading worship alongside many of our young musicians and singers each Sunday, but there is something special about watching them worship God and lead others in worship of Him. Rich led us in an original song which he composed, and the message of God’s love through that song was so moving.

Then Josh, our youth pastor, challenged me to look at obstacles in a different light. He wove together the thoughts about the paralytic’s friends who didn’t let anything stop them from getting their friend to Jesus (Mark 2:1-5), with the simple truth that our faith-in-action can be as simple as giving a drink of water to a thirsty person (James 2:14-18 and Matthew 25:34-40).

Here are three thoughts I tweeted real-time during Josh’s message, and these thoughts are still working on me—

As I take Jesus to others, I don’t want to let obstacles become roadblocks; instead, I want to see those obstacles as opportunities for God to do something amazing through me. This will not only build my faith, it will win others to Christ, and it will glorify God!

If you live in the Cedar Springs area and have students that are in 6th grade or older, I encourage you to get them to Impact! each Wednesday evening.

A Beautiful Mess

I’m a neat-and-tidy guy. I like everything to be in its place, so clutter drives me crazy.

So you can imagine how this proverb initially stuck me…

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest. (Proverbs 14:4)

A loose translation goes like this: If you want something to be productive, you sometimes have to put up with a mess.

Oh boy!

I’ve been learning that lately. In my interim role at the En-Gedi Youth Center, in our own church’s Impact youth group, even around my house the “messiness” means people are there. I could have everything all spiffed up, but then that would mean no kids … no laughter … no ministry … no life-changing interactions.

So I’m learning that I’ll take the mess to get the interaction with others.

Lord, help me appreciate the beautiful messes in my life!

Judge Or Father?

I’m still thinking about the powerful worship time we had in our Impact youth service on Wednesday night. I can’t think of another way to describe it, except to say that it was intimate.

We sang a song written by Michael Gungor called Wrap Me In Your Arms. The lyrics are simple:

There is a God who loves me
Who wraps me in His arms
And that is the place where I’m changed
And that’s where I belong

Take me to that place, Lord,
To that secret place where
I can be with You
You can make me like You
Wrap me in Your arms
Wrap me in Your arms
Wrap me in Your arms

Far too many people view God as a Judge. Make no mistake, God will judge all of humanity at the end of the age, but in the meantime, Scripture portrays God as a loving Father who wants to wrap us in His arms.

I love the picture in the story Jesus tells of the prodigal son: The young man who ran away from his father and squandered all of the wealth he had taken with him. When he reached the end of his rope, the wayward son turned toward home. If you were thinking of returning home after embarrassing your father and throwing away his money, would you want to return to a judge or a father?

The young man did turn toward home, and his father ran to him and wrapped him in his arms! How amazing!

On Wednesday night I encouraged our youth group to simply stretch their arms out toward their Heavenly Father and feel Him wrap them in His arms. It was so special to see tear-streaked cheeks and outstretched arms in the loving embrace of a God who loves anyone who turns to Him. Awesome!

I encourage you to do the same.

If you’ve blown it … if you feel distant from God … if you feel like you’ve let Him down … if you feel like you’ve embarrassed Him … see Him as a Father who is longing for you to return to Him. He will not judge you, but He will wrap you in His arms and make everything new.

If you wait until your life here is over without ever turning to God, then you will have to face God the Judge. Don’t wait! Embrace God your Father today.

You Can’t Lose

I was really challenged by the message Andy Lapins brought to our youth group.

Andy opened with a simple question, “Have you ever been afraid to tell someone about your relationship with Jesus.” My hand went up, along with just about every other hand in the room.

Andy followed up: “Why? Why are you afraid to share this good news?” The number one answer: Fear of rejection.

Andy then asked us, “If you share the good news of Jesus with someone and they accept what you have to say, is that a good thing or a bad thing?” We all answered, “Good!”

Then he asked, “If you share the good news of Jesus with someone and they neither accept it nor reject it, but you know you have planted or watered a seed, is that a good thing or bad thing?” Again, we all answered, “Good!”

Then he asked, “If you share the good news of Jesus with someone and they completely reject it—they curse you out or tell you you’re a weirdo—is that a good thing or a bad thing?” We all answered, “Bad!”

To which Andy said, “Really?!?” Then he dropped these two Bible passages on us:

  • So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:14)
  • Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. (Luke 6:22-23).

Andy followed up, “So what do you think now? If someone rejects you for sharing Jesus with them, is it a good thing or a bad thing?” Now we all answered, “Good!”

You can’t lose when you share Jesus with others!

There are only three possible outcomes:

  1. They accept Jesus = good thing
  2. You plant or water a seed = good thing
  3. You earn rewards in heaven = good thing (cha-ching!!)

I challenged our youth group to write “Cha-ching!” on their status line on Facebook whenever they shared the good news of Jesus with a friend.

Regardless of the outcome, you can’t lose! So go tell more people about Jesus today!

Contending For The Faith

This Wednesday we’re starting an important series in our Impact youth group called “Spiritual Self-Defense.” Training our students how to defend what they believe. Jude wrote that we need to learn how to earnestly contend for the faith.

I’m also mindful of Peter’s instruction: But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully.

As I’m preparing for this, here are a few things I’m trying to keep in mind. Perhaps you will have some additional things to share with me:

  • Earnestly means wholeheartedly. So I want to convey passion for biblical truths.
  •  Faith means an added dimension beyond scientific proof. Not in place of science, but beyond it. Albert Einstein observed, “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”
  • Focusing on the lordship of Christ is the primary focus of Christian apologetics.
  • I need to prepare to answer.
  • My answers need to be logical and well thought out.
  • My answers need to lead people to the hope that is only found in a personal relationship with Jesus.
  • My defense of biblical truths need to be courteous and respectful.

In addition to our training times on Wednesday, we’ll also offer “sparing lessons” in our weekly men’s and women’s Bible studies. If you’re interested to learn more, come and join us at 7PM over the next few Wednesdays.

Stepping Up To The Challenge

I shared with you earlier how my faith was challenged and stretched when my leadership team believed we could hit a much larger missions-giving goal than I had thought. (You can read about my little faith here.)

On Wednesday night we challenged our Impact students to believe God to do big things through them, and we asked them to make a faith promise. To say, “God, if You will help me give this amount to Speed The Light, I will do it.” Last night I was able to sit down with my leaders to tally up the cards that were turned in. Just in their faith promises alone our youth group has already committed one-third of our total goal!

I’m so proud of our students! I’ll keep you posted on how we’re doing. Please pray for us that we’ll be creative in finding new ways to raise money for missions, and that we’ll continue to have our faith stretched.

Rockin’ for Haiti

We are hosting another benefit show at Calvary Assembly of God. Our first show was a fundraiser for Latin America Child Care, and it was very well received.

This rock show is a fundraiser for Convoy of Hope. COH is a wonderful humanitarian organization that is bringing food, water purification systems, and other vital personnel and supplies into two areas that have been ravaged by earthquakes: Haiti and Chile.

It’s just a $2 cover charge to get in. Currently we have three local bands scheduled to perform. All our proceeds will go directly to COH.

Join us on Friday, March 19, doors open at 7 PM.

Campfire Stories

Have you ever just sat around a glowing campfire with your friends? During those times I’ll bet that some cool conversations took place.

  • Maybe you heard a story about a friend that you had never heard before.
  • Perhaps you got some insight into someone’s way of looking at life.
  • Or maybe you had a chance to share something that had been on your heart for a while.

Last night in Impact we had a great campfire time. We didn’t light any wood on fire. Actually, our worship time was really passionate and intimate, so the Holy Spirit lit a fire for us. Then instead of our usual setting with all our chairs facing the speaker on the platform, I asked everyone to turn their chairs into a big circle.

To wrap up our Be You series, my favorite guest shared. (Hint: she’s my first and only girlfriend.) We heard a great reminder that it’s our job to prepare ourselves to be ready to walk through the doors that God opens for us. Betsy reminded us that God isn’t going to open a door that we’re not yet ready to walk through. So we study, and pray, and prepare, and get degrees, and take classes, and stay ready. Then when God says, “Go,” we can say “Yes!”

I loved our campfire last night, and I’m definitely looking forward to more times like this.

Video Scavenger Hunt

O Me Of Little Faith

Last night I took some of my youth group leaders to a Speed The Light banquet. For those of you who don’t know, STL is missions giving from youth, with the funds going to help missionaries speed the light of the Gospel. Many times STL funds go for items like 4-wheel-drive vehicles, sound systems, video production equipment, and the like.

Understand that up until a month or so ago our group had never really been exposed to STL. Our grand total to STL last year was $0. That’s right, nothing.

So I took them to this banquet to help them get a better understanding of what STL is. I’m a huge fan, so I wanted them to catch the vision for STL too.

Knowing that we were going to be asked to make a faith promise for 2010, I had a dollar figure in mind. I figured this amount would be doable, but a stretch, for a youth group that hadn’t given anything to STL yet.

Our District Youth Director Jeff Kennedy asked us to huddle as a team to talk about our faith promise amount. He said, “Remember: if it’s truly a faith promise, your amount will make you sweat.”

So I asked my team, “What amount do you think we can do?” And they totally blew me away! They came up with an amount three times LARGER than I had been thinking.

I joyfully wrote in that larger amount on our faith promise card. As I did, I heard the Holy Spirit chide me a bit, “O you of little faith.”

Thanks, team, for dreaming big—bigger than me. Thanks for having such big faith. Thanks for stretching my faith too.

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