Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We're Moving!

I'm condensing down all of my Google stuff under one address, and so I've moved this blog as part of that. For the three of you who read this (thanks mom for being faithful) you can find it pretty easy. Same name, address is almost identical. its Thanks.

Silver Birch Ranch

too long.
could it be?

Age Isn't All Bad

Last night, I had the opportunity to help out a couple of our middle school boys. It didn't look or feel like that is what happened, but I know it is. We have a couple of guys in 6th grade who want to be cool. I don't know these guys well, they are in the group lead by Mike, our other youth pastor. But I know them well enough. They are scared, hurt, and uncertain little guys, afraid of life. They choose to deal with it by being "tough", at least as tough as you can be when you're 12, 5'4", and 83 pounds. They roll in with attitudes that would make an NBA player proud. But they're broken.

They push everyone away. They argue with you, no matter what you say. They have no problem arguing both sides of a discussion, at the same time, and telling you how wrong you are. Needless to say, they can get under your skin.

We've loved on them all year. We've tried to help them. We've taken about 30 different steps to show them a positive way, a healthy way to act. They don't care. So, last night, they laid out their attitudes, and we sent them home early.

Man, the threats out of those two little mouths. The accusations. The feigned hurt. They are impressive, I have to admit.

Here is where my age is an asset. None of that matters. I know that if I don't speak truth and hold a line which requires respect, they will never get Jesus. They just won't. I 'm not mean to them at all. I won't argue with them. But I'm calling them to step up to a base level. I used to think if I did this, I'd lose them forever. Then I went through a long phase of "I'll sacrifice a few for the good of the whole" idea. But now, now I know better. I know that God works beyond and outside of my ministry. I've seen it. Over and over, firsthand. Emails and letters from former students, now in their 20's and 30's, telling me how 10 years after they left our group for the last time, God has gotten hold of them. They tell of His grace and forgiveness, and the power to change.

It's not that I think discipline and being "firm" changed them. I just believe in God. In His relentless love AND power. It is His to work in someones life. It is just mine to be faithful.

So, I don't know if my latest pair of tough guys will be back. If they are, they'll have to agree to live in community at a base level. If they don't come back, I know that God has wonderful plans for them, and that this is all part of His plan.

Age isn't all bad.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Couple of Recommendations

Okay, I have a couple of sermons that I think everyone ought to listen to. It's a guy named Steev Inge from Mystery Church in Joplin, MO. You can get them from iTunes, or from the church's website. I recommend the Life Lived Before the Throne messages, and the One Thing message. If you listen to them, drop me a line and give me your thoughts. They are all working on me hard right now.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Oops, I Did it Again...

I don't like Brittany's song (publicly), but it fits right now. It's one of those times where I made a mistake, thought I could fix it, and now it's worse than ever. I set up a youth trip, didn't think through the dates well enough, and now, I have to cancel it. No big deal, except I've got my whole leadership team on board with the trip, promoted it to parents, posted the dates, and set the whole thing up. Now it's gotta change. I have to admit I'm wrong, ask for a lot of forgiveness, and move forward.

I do not like it when this kind of stuff happens because of my stupidity. I really don't. I like it when someone else does it, and I can be gracious about it. I like it when I plan so well, that I gain tons of trust from everyone around me. But I don't like it when I blow it.

Something I notice though. I am much more penitent and sad about disappointing the people around me, than I am when I disappoint God. If I sin and blow it, I ask for forgiveness. But I don't stress it the way I stress situations like this. Why is that? Why is God's opinion of me so much easier to blow off? I think I assume too much about God's grace. I know He forgives me, He already has. I know He will never leave me. I don't need to earn His love. But I don't take seriously enough my need to live in such a way to make Him proud of me. I don't own the Job factor, where He lived in such a way that Satan couldn't take it anymore. I can't imagine Satan needing to go to heaven and complain to God about me because of how I live. If he did, I can't imagine God trusting me enough to let Satan loose in my life like that.

So, I want to spend more time focusing on what God sees in me, and what He knows about me, and what He feels about me. I want God to be proud of me. I want to be more concerned about what He thinks of me when I mess up, and when I obey.

Just some random stuff rattling around inside of me. What about you?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's Finally Back!

On my micro iPod screen, today I found happiness. The Relevant Podcast is back after three months of desert dryness! I'm so happy it's back! I just miss Lloyd.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cheap Grace is No Grace

I continue to work through these questions about salvation and what I/we are calling our students to. Last night, I met with our senior high leadership team, and we spent some time discussing who we are calling our kids to follow. I've got a growing uneasiness that we may have made Jesus more buddy, or uber-patient father, than we have Lord. I'm still not sure, but it won't go away. The more I pray about it and think about it, the stronger the feeling gets. I can't believe I would have ever fallen into the cheap grace side of things, but I think I have. I've felt this way for well over a year, but it's really coming to a head now.

I mean, we still teach Christ and Him crucified. But I think I may have painted a picture of Jesus that is not strong enough. It seems that our kids hold onto Jesus for as long as He "works", then when something "better" comes along, they bail. Usually it is sex somewhere in the system that ruins them.

I don't think more teaching on sex and abstinence is the answer though. I really think we need, I need, to present a much clearer, stronger picture of Jesus as King, Lord, Redeemer, Lover, and Creator. Sigh...

God, please give me the truth and direction I need to speak to these kids.

Pray for me, for us, in this.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

One Small Step at a Time

We are doing something in our youth ministry that is new for me, and I'm excited about it. We're doing a study series with all of our high school students combined (Beyond and Exit 112). We are doing a guys group on the Doug Fields study Guy Talk.
We have a girl's group going through the book Lies Young Women Believe.

We are doing a simlutaneous group for the parents of the girls, leading them through the book.

And we are leading a group for parents of the guys, teaching them the guys material.

All four groups meet on Sunday nights at the church at the same time.

This past week was our first week, and I loved it! We didn't see huge numbers of parents, but just the fact that we took a step towards doing more family oriented ministry has me so juiced! I'm leading the guys parents group, and we had the best discussion I've ever had in a parent's session. Parents are ordering the books we are teaching from, and diving in. We're providing discusison guides for them to use at home through the week with their kids. Students are seeing their parents come and invest in their spiritual growth, and feeling cared for. It's cool.

And since we're doing it during regular youth group hours, the kids whose parents won't come aren't left out. It just feels like regular youth group to them. The breaking along the gender lines is a creative twist we don't often do, so it adds energy to the discussions as well. We've got five weeks to go, and I couldn't be more excited.

Me < Him

We're reading John 3:22-36 this week as a church. Two things are working on me from this story.

John the Baptist gives his famous "He must increase, I must decrease" speech. How do I do this? I am praying and asking God to show me what this means today for me. I have a strong desire to do it. But some areas of my life seem completely entrenched. I have things I want to go away, and I want to hold on to for dear life, simultaneously. It's tough. So, I'm reminding myself of this goal, and praying the Lord's Prayer. A lot. I know God will be faithful, it's just painful.

The second thing I'm working with is the idea of "whoever believes in the Son has eternal life". I know, I know, simple, basic, 101 level theology. But I'm being pushed on what it means to be a believer, a follower, a disciple. Christ's calls to discipleship are sky high. His parable of the soils is haunting me right now. Francis Chan and his book , Crazy Love, are just feeding the questions. (You REALLY should pick up this book!) So what does it mean to "believe in the Son"? What all does that entail. Does true belief, the size of a mustard seed, produce life change automatically? Does a person who claims faith, but lacks serious growth, only deceive themselves? At what level is growth real? At what level is it just self-help stuff?

I'm honestly not worried about myself, not because I'm so great or wonderful, but I know that I rely on Christ and need Him above all else. I can't breathe if He doesn't show me His grace and mercy every nano-second. I can be selfish and ungrateful, I sin, but I know that I am trusting Him for everything. But as a pastor, how do I gauge what we are calling people to? Especially students?

Anyway, that's where I am today, in John 3.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Time Out

I've been on a vacation for the last two weeks. I haven't taken two weeks off since I was in college. I say that with regret, not pride.

It was simply fabulous! I can not express what good it did me to be gone for an extended period of time. If you have the ability to link some days together to get an extended break, take it. It is healing and healthy. My family is better off, my marriage is better off, and I am definitely better off.

It's funny that God prescribes rest, He orders it and calls for it, but we don't take Him seriously. Then we wonder why our faith is weak, our ministries are a weight, and our burden is heavy. At least I do. My challenge from here is to do a better job at building rhythm. I've worked at it before, but I have to continue to try. I can't give up.

What are you finding that works for you to help with the rhythm of life?