Thursday, July 24, 2008

Do I Exist On Purpose?

So I've been reading this book by Donald Miller this week called "To Own A Dragon". And it's all about how Donald grew up without a father. Now I had a father growing up, although in my teenage years I lived with my mom and didn't see my dad as much. Still, I thought "This book is going to give me some great insight into the lives of these people I deal with who have no dad." But I didn't really anticipate it hitting me personally.

Then I get to chapter four.

Donald begins sharing in this chapter how he has felt most of his life like a burden to others. How he pulls out of conversations when they get too personal. How he thinks if people really knew him they'd want to run for the hills. So he has spent most of his life putting on this shell of being charming and interesting and light-hearted, being careful never to reveal too much.

Wow. That hit me personally.

I've always struggled with feelings of insecurity. I can't even exactly tell you why. I've often felt that no one really cares about what I think. I struggle with small talk and standing and having a long conversation. I get this feeling that the other people are just tolerating my blathering out of politeness. And it's not that I don't get a lot of encouragement. It is just something within me that doesn't think I really have something to offer. So I really started identifying with Donald Miller in this area. And then he shared the most remarkable revelation.

He had been reading a book by Dwight Eisenhower about his life and rise to success as a WWII general and eventually the President of the United States. He attributed it all to his parents and their belief that "the world could be fixed of its problems if every child understood the necessity of their existence."

Eisenhower understood that his family couldn't function without him. He was an integral part of that unit. This belief translated to his community as he grew older and to his country after that and eventually to the world. He saw that he was created for a specific purpose and things could not work as they should without him fulfilling that purpose.

I wonder what our lives, our churches, our towns, our world would look like if we all understood that truth. I know for myself I would stop thinking about ME so much and what people thought of ME, and I would start thinking about YOU and what I can do to make YOUR life better.

How about YOU. How would YOUR life look different?

Things God Has Shown Me This Week

Coming back from CIY (the intense week-long summer conference we take our High Schoolers to each summer) is always a struggle. You go from a week of constant focus on God and His work to the reality of trying to live out new commitments in your old, bad-habit filled life. But this week has been different than others in some ways. God has shown me many things this week, in my own life and the lives of others. Just thought I'd share a few.

1. My whole existence is because of Him. The fact that I can breathe and my heart beats. The fact that the sun rises every morning. The fact that I have food and clothing and shelter. The fact that I have a beautiful, super-amazing wife and three (almost four) insane yet healthy children is all because of Him and I should remember to praise Him for that.

2. God works in the quiet things sometimes more than the loud things. Watching Wednesday night as students prayed for each other, wrote on the prayer wall, prayed for things on the prayer wall, served by cleaning and moving stuff, bringint friends, talking to people after service, I realized that the change of God isn't necessarily always this big fanfare but often it is a heart that purposes to do the right thing even when no one is watching.

3. That students really want to change. How awesome it has been to hear story after story from young people this week how they are starting to change habits. Reading their Bible everyday. Journaling prayers. Deleting inappropriate media. Watching GodTV and liking it! Let's keep encouraging each other in these commitments.

4. That just about all that we do is because we want to be loved and accepted. More on this in an upcoming post.

These are just a few things I've seen this week. What has God shown you this week?

God Bless.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Have You Taken a SABBATH Lately?

This week I was searching on Google Image search for pictures for our upcoming Young Adults Ministry's SABBATH Retreat. So I typed in the simple word "SABBATH" and was horrified at what came up on my screen. Of the first 18 images, which are sorted by popularity of the topic you input, they were almost all either of wiccan sabbaths or the iconic metal band Black Sabbath. Actually the top three were all witch sabbaths. Of those first 18 there were none that related to Christianity whatsoever.

As a follower of Christ in a nation that claims to be predominately Christian, I wonder have we so greatly neglected to follow one of the basic (It's in the Top Ten!) commandments that these other concepts of "sabbath" have overrun what God commanded when He said: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." (Exodus 20:8 ESV)?

So I am issuing a challenge. For a lot of us here at 180 Youth Ministry we are on Summer Break, which means we may be busy but we do have a lot of flex time. So let's bring back the Sabbath! At the heart of this concept of Sabbath is the principle of resting in God. The LORD goes on in Exodus 20 to say: "Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. ON it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter..."(Ex 20:9-10a ESV). Now that's not to say that God intended for us to be legalistic about not doing any work on Sundays, but doing whatever we want the rest of the week. (Or using that as an excuse to not clean your room or do the dishes on Sundays when your parents ask you!) Jesus said: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27 ESV). What Jesus is telling us is that God knows you need this rhythm of rest and reflection and listening to Him, so make it a habit.

So here's a few ideas of how you can do that this week:

*Get up early and pray while you watch the sun rise.

*Schedule two hours this week to go to your favorite outdoor spot and read the Bible.

*Ask your family to go to the park this week with no agenda other than to be together.

*Fast. That means go without food for a period of time so you can pray instead.

I want to take just a moment to share a cool opportunity with this idea. Every three months our Youth Ministry has a designated fasting date. July 11th is it for this quarter. We are asking those who fast to focus on prayer for our High School Summer Conference (also known as CIY!) which is on July 14-18. Maybe you would want to take that day and declare it a Sabbath. Fast and pray and read your Bible that day.

Whatever you decide to do, I challenge you to take some time this week to rest and remember God. Let me know how your experience goes. God Bless.

Talking About My Generation

Last night was a very special night at 180 Youth Ministry. We invited four key adults from our church's congregation to be a panel to discuss the importance and relevance of church with the youth. The four adults were varied in age, type of involvement with our church and length of involvement with our church. It was so neat to see the youth respond as Edith Boro, an elderly lady from our congregation, shared her salvation experience and her unbridled love for the youth of our church. Lots of great questions were discussed, but ultimately, my eyes saw the greatest achievement of the evening was the youth beginning to see the level of love and support the "older" parts of the church have for them.

If you were here you know the only problem was we didn't have enough time. So I wanted to open up this blog to continue this discussion. First of all, were there any questions we didn't cover that you still want answered by some adults? Secondly, what are your responses and impressions of what was said? And lastly, how can you continue to be involved in discussion and relationship with the older generations in our congregation. I can't wait to hear some of your responses! God Bless.