Monday, November 23, 2009

chapel story

this morning, I spoke at our school's chapel, just like I do eavery monday. I spoke from the Christmas series that I did last yaer for the youth group- its a series calll AMONG US; where I start with the cross, and work backwards through jesus' life to His birth at Christmas. its an idea that I swiped from erwin mcmanus.

so today, I started with the Cross- its a Gospel message, and I made up my mind that I was going to swing for the fences and give it everything I had.
towards the end of my message I said something like, "check this verse out- my daughter quoted it for me a few weeks ago, and I almost burst into tears...actually, I might just burst into tears right now:
romans 5:8: "but God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
and right there in front of 200 middle schoolers, I did just that-
I burst into tears.
God is love.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

small group story

its 6:30am, I just finished my Thursday morning prayer meeting, and I wanted to share a story before I forgot it.

the guys I pray with on Thursdays lead a small group of middle school boys with special needs. by the time these guys got to their small group, a lot had already happened that night. there was a lot of emotion in the air. we had just played a long, crazy game, and these boys did a great job, but ended coming in third place. also, earlier in the night, one of the boys from this group was in tears over something that happened while he was playing a videogame in our game room. when this small group started after the group game, another boy, I’ll call him Joey had his back turned to his small group and had his face in a chair. when the leaders of the small group asked him what was wrong, he too was upset over coming in third place in the night’s game. another boy was being silly as usually and was sitting upside down in his chair. honestly, I don’t know how these guys do it, but they always manage to have incredible small group meetings with these boys; and they always show an amazing level of patience and grace. these guys are heroes.

the night’s topic was evangelism. one of the leaders mentioned that a great way to tell someone about jesus is to just tell them your story of what Jesus has done in your life. the boys loved the idea and began to take turns telling their story. the first boys that went was the boy I mentioned earlier, Joey. he told the boys that he prayed to receive Christ in his bedroom, the day that he had been diagnosed with autism. he shared that he felt helpless and cried out to God, and God met him there, and that he had been following Christ ever since. this silly, emotional group of boys were silent and locked onto this boy as he wept and shared how good God had been to him and how his diagnosis led him to Christ. the men who were leading the small group shared that they knew that they were in God’s presence as Joey shared.

they shared with me how they were reminded of what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12, “But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

my friend Joey is strong; and God's power flowed through his weakness and his story on Tuesday night. God's grace is enough for Joey; its enough for me, and enough for you.
there are some other details to the story, and I guess I could write some more, but the words of Scripture are so profound in this moment, that its better that I just let them speak:

“But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

God is love.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

lectio divina:: john part 2

Like I just said, I just finished the gospel of john. Towards the end is the familiar confrontation between Jesus and Pilate. The Jews bring Jesus to Pilate and want Pilate to crucify Him. The only problem is that Pilate doesn’t want to. He questions Jesus and doesn’t see anything that Jesus has done that is worthy of crucifixion. Pilate passes Jesus off to hero, but eventually it’s just Jesus and Pilate again. What is he supposed to do? He doesn’t want to execute this guy but there is a rabid crowd outside that wants Him dead. Even piate’s wife had a dream the night before and warned him to leave Jesus alone. There is this interesting part at the end of john where Pilate has Jesus flogged and has him handed back to the Jewish leaders. He says, “Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”
The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”
When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”
Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it was given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”

So at this point, Pilate is wondering if this guy might really BE the son of God-
But then the Jewish leaders kick their game up a notch. They say: “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.”
So in a sense, they say, “if you let Jesus go, this will get back to your boss and you will be fired.”
What do you do?

We all know the story- Pilate released Barabbas and had Jesus crucified.
I always feel sorry for Pilate. He seems to be put in a no-win situation.
As I was thinking about this today, it dawned on me that I feel sorry for him because I often feel the same way as a youth pastor.

There are things that God wants me to do- but they aren’t popular.
God wants students to connect in groups, to study the Bible, to say no to sin, to be held accountable, to pray and to serve the poor. those things don't pack the house out like games and pizza.
I want to do those things because I know that those things are right, but there is this sense in me that there is this rabid crowd out there that doesn’t want what’s right. They just want games and candy and free time. They just want to flirt or break things and end the serious stuff as early as possible. And there is this sense that if I don’t keep this rabid crowd happy that it will get back to my bosses and I’ll be fired.

and its not just with students- with anyone- there are moments where you think to yourself, "I should say something" or "I should do something." but you don't for fear that this person will not like you ro respect you or stop being your friend; so instead of doing what's right, we just cave in, to keep everyone happy.

Now- none of those things are reality, its all just in my head. Just like Pilate, I need to do what I know is right, whether it’s popular or not.
We all do.

God is love.

lectio divina:: john part 1

I just finished reading through the gospels and specifically, the gospel of john. there is a mysterious unnamed disciple in john’s gospel named “the disciple jesus loved.” this disciple is mentioned 5 times in john’s gospel. this disciple reclined next to jesus at the last supper. this disciple was put in charge of taking care of jesus’ mother, mary. this disciple was one of the first to be told that jesus had risen from the dead, and he was the first of the disciples to recognize jesus after He had risen from the dead. and this disciple was the one that jesus was speaking of when He said that He would not be martyred.

it doesn’t take long to figure out that “the disciple that jesus loved” in the gospel of john, is john himself. when john wrote this gospel this is how he referred to himself; but I think it was more than that- I think it is how he saw himself. john had a constant sense- even into his old age (because the gospel of john was written late in his life) that he was the recipient off Christ’s love. “the disciple whom jesus loved” wasn’t a nickname for john, it was his identity. it was who he was; and how he saw himself.

what if we all saw ourselves that way? wouldn’t that make life easier and less stressful? what if we all were able to say, in our most difficult moments, “I am loved by Christ, right now. Right now He loves me and is directing His love toward me. I am the disciple whom jesus loves.” maybe that would help us to keep our cool and to make better decisions under fire. maybe that would help us to be gracious even when we are under pressure. maybe that’s what helped john stand up to the roman empire and refuse to stop speaking of Christ. maybe that’s why they exiled him instead of beheading him- because they could tell just by being with him that he was loved by Christ. understanding that you are loved by christ changes everything.

when you are loved by jesus, that is enough. you don't need to put on a song and dance to get others to love you. you are already loved; perfectly and infinitely. you don't need to be afraid, because you are loved- and just as the scriptures say, "perfect love drives out fear." love changes everything.

you are loved by God. He loved you so much that He gave His life for you on the cross. the bible asks the question, “if God did not spare His Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” jesus calls you friend. you are the disciple jesus loves.
believe that.

God is love.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


its been a long time sisnce my last blog. I've been crazy-busy I guess. either that, or just not really inspired by much; either that, or just too distracred to take the time to put inspirational thoughts into the computer.

I still have not eaten fries in 2009! although, I have enjoyed some tater tots, onion rings, and some hashbrowns. but do those even count as fries? I'm on pace to get my 250 workouts before the year is up too.

my car broke AGAIN last night- there goes another $500.

work is a blast- the middle school volunteers are amazing and so are the students. we painted the youth room! it looks awesome- kind of like the cover of this book:

jane reminds me every day that she is less than a month from turning FIVE.
here is another one of her funny stories with some serious sound effects at the end:

funny story from rob walter on Vimeo.

God is love.