Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Things ... NOT in the Bible

Sunday in senior high Sunday school, David Prosser, got me to thinking! He challenged the students with the fact that there are some things not in the Bible that we tell as a part of the Christmas story. Namely of interest to me was the fact that we put Jesus in a stable but the Bible never does! So I started to do some lookinng in to this! And, I came across this blog about Things Not in the Bible (Christmas Edition):

"Mary riding a donkey to Bethlehem, an innkeeper, a stable where Jesus was born, three Kings, camels, and singing angels. Oh, and also, the date of December 25.

None of it is there.

The Bible does not say that Mary rode a donkey, just that she gave birth while she was in Bethlehem. She could have been there for months.

It says Jesus was laid in a manger “because there was no room for them in the inn.” But no stable or innkeeper are mentioned.

Luke’s gospel makes reference to “shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” This would have happened in the spring months, not December. And there was one angel appearing to the shepherds--one. And Luke writes:

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Saying, not singing. And do we know what the "heavenly host" is?

And then we have my favorite Christmas myth: the three kings. No, Virginia, three wise men did not visit the Jesus in a stable on the night of his birth. The Biblical text merely refers to “Magi,” and they visited Jesus months or even years after his birth. It even says in Matthew 2

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea...
After. Not the night of. After. And nowhere does it mention that they rode camels.

It has become so ingrained in our culture’s Christmas narrative, with carols like “We Three Kings” and nativity scenes showing three men wearing crowns and flowing robes bowing before the manger, that this may come as a shock. However, none of that is in the Bible. Even the entire nativity scene is not in the Bible."

So how do we justify these contradictions in the Bible? Do these (and other) contradictions invalidate our faith in Christ in any way? I don't think so. In fact, I think that many Biblical contradictions have to do with historical content and can be easily explained or justified. And, afterall, we do beleive that Scripture is the inspired word of God! And correct me if I'm wrong, but humans (the ones writing it) are fallible, right? And, they were writing from different points of view and with different agendas, right? Finally, anyone who is REALLY seeking the truth will find not only the contradictions but the many answers to them.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Zion Students The Week of 12-14-09

Check out the video below to see this week's announcements. Plus watch interviews with the cast and directors of "Cooking up Christmas."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Student Leadership Meeting # 1

Last month, we had our first student leadership meeting. At that meeting, I shared these thoughts with our leaders! Stay tuned for part 2 after this Sunday when we meet again!

When I think about examples of leadership in the Bible, I naturally am drawn to these descriptions of leaders in the early church: 1 Tim 3:1-13 or 1 Peter 5:1-3.

But THE ULTIMATE EXAMPLE OF LEADERSHIP, of course, is Jesus. My favorite example of Jesus' leadership comes from John 13. Here, Jesus showed the disciples the manner of leadership that they were to have - to serve one another! And what Jesus teaches us here is that to be an effective leader is to be one who is an example of what they want other people to do and be. So watch what he did:

In the first century, people walked to visit family and friends. And they walked in sandals on dusty dirty roads and towels. Proper hospitality meant that the slaves of the house would offer guests clean water to wash their feet and towels to dry them. Sort of like we offer folks a drink or place to sit when they arrive at our houses today.

The act of Jesus taking off his outer clothes and wrapping the towel around his waist meant He was in the position of a menial slave. Without saying it, Jesus is showing the disciples that being a leader sometimes means being a servant, that there are no boundaries of status (I’m better/more powerful than you). And this act of foot-washing was a chore given ONLY to the LOWEST slave. This is not something that any other Jewish or Roman leader would have ever done. So it was a BIG deal!
Here’s the deal with the act that is important or teaches us leaders a lesson from the ultimate example of a leader. Jesus requires that we step out of our comfort zones a bit in 2 ways.

1. Pride:
Over and over, Jesus taught his followers about the value of humility. Now the Jesus is placing his closest friends – the people who would now become the leaders of the church – He is placing them in a situation in which they must act out humility. If I said to you right now, take off your shoes, I’m going to wash your feet, how would you feel? Right, there’s that pride / humility feeling we’d all have. The bottom line - to be effective as leaders we sometimes have to set aside our pride. There will be times as student leaders here at Zion that we will be humbled by God.

2. Independence:
"What would you find most difficult: washing someone’s feet or having someone wash yours?" For me, and for most, the answer was always the same. Having someone wash my feet bothers me a bit more than my washing someone else’s. I confess: I have a very independent streak in me. I do for myself, thank you very much, and these feet don’t need your help. I can wash them on my own, no problem. Besides, I don’t want another person to see the dirt between my toes and under my toenails or the hair on my legs because I forgot to shave this morning. The problem with this thinking, however is that it is far from the spirit of the Christian faith. An independent nature is not a highly valued trait for a leader. In fact, as leaders of this student ministry, we will become a “family” where we are mutually dependent for ministry and encouragement. We might not “like” each other all the time, but we will have to depend on each other. In fact, the disciples didn’t really like each other. Just before this part in Scripture, they had been battling and jealous of each other about which of them were more important in the Kingdom of God. But, when it came down to it, after Jesus’ death, they pulled together and depended on each other to get done what needed to be done. We will do the same.

Each time we meet, our student leaders will spend some time in prayer about what is going on in our ministry. And, I will challenge us to step our of our comfort zones regularly. Being a leader is great and I am so proud of each of our leaders for stepping up and serving on this team. But, it can also be a little scary or intimidating. We worry that our peers and friends will not like the choices we make for the group, etc.

Our students then spent some time drawing their prayers. I didn't make them wash each other's feet, but they did have to trace each other’s feet on paper. On the papers, they listed what they perceived to be thier individual strengths and weaknesses as leaders and what they were most excited and most challeged about on this team. Then, as a “family” we compiled our drawings together to form a doormat. We'll walk the doormat each meeting as a reminder of our chance to be servants!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Senior High Bible Study (12-8-09)

So, it’s Advent! And I'm sure I don't have to remind you that Advent is the season of preparing. And I convicted that there must be something to this whole “preparing” thing because if you think about it, Jesus spent about 30 years preparing and then had 3 years of powerful ministry while on earth. So, it kinda makes sense - preparation is vital.

So, I’ve been trying to “prepare” myself this Advent, whatever that means. I wasn't sure, so I went to Scripture. And, I’ve gotten stuck on these two little verses in Luke chapter 2. I thought I was starting there because the beginning of this chapter is all about the birth of Jesus. But there are some things about this passage that have really struck me and I haven’t been able to move on in my “preparing!”

Here's the background; we have all probably heard the story! The Emporer calls for a census and so all the people have to go to their "hometowns." So, Joseph goes to Bethlehem and he takes his pregnant, fiancee with him. While they are there, it comes time for Mary to have her baby. She has the baby (and this is where I am stuck), wraps Jesus in pieces of cloth and lays him in a manger.

Is there anything that strikes you about the passage from Luke 2:1-7?

Here’s what strikes me about it:

First, we know that Mary and Joseph are having this baby in a barn in Bethlehem. What gets me is - the Son of God's first bed is a feeding trough, the place from which dirty animals eat. Quite a curious place for a king if you ask me. But here’s the thing - Jesus never learned to live like a king. He lived like a servant his whole 33 years.

Think about this. This amazing man’s life started in a dirty barn where he was put in a feeing trough and wrapped in pieces of a blanket. It’s gross. And this is Jesus – you know Jesus = God. God can do anything / God is in control. So why choose to be born in a manger?

It’s pretty inspiring to think about the incredible things Jesus then accomplished and went through later in his life. The turning point in human history was born in a barn. This tells me that no matter where we come from or how small and insignificant we feel, we, too, can accomplish amazing things through serving others. And, we should celebrate all of this!

But, it's easy to get self absorbed during this season and lose sight of these things. I know when my mom asked me for my Christmas list, I was like, oh yeah … it’s time to rack up. Then, my refrigerator died. Completely died and I didn’t know it, so I lost pretty much everything except for a small cooler full of freezer stuff that didn’t thaw out. Do you know how hard it is to live without mayonnaise or ice? I’m on day seven – it aint easy! I’m just saying. The experience made me so grateful in a way because I also realized how much I take for granted and how tough it must be not to have everyday necessities. I mean, I have worked on houses on mission trips where there is no toilet or no floor - but there are people who don’t even have water this Christmas.

Americans, it is estimated that we spend about $450 billion dollars on Christmas each year. Did you know that there are people that don’t have water? And to give everyone in the world water / wells would cost only about $10 billion? It really makes you stop and think how backwards we seem to have our priorities.

Several years ago, there were some pastors who had this same thought. They created a group called "Advent Conspiracy." They have four principles by which they suggest folks go during the Advent season to help re-shift this backward priority. They suggest to worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all during Advent. Their vision is overhwleming and amazing! You can view their web-site here: or watch the video below!

Advent Blessings!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Zion Students This Week

Hey guys! This week's annoucements video was too large to post here. So ... check it out on our channel:

In it you'll see Zion/student ministry leaders (Pastor Tim, Jillianne, Troy Fite, Pres. DJ Corley, and Jesus) as break dancing elves. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Happy New Year! Did you know there was a secular year and a church year? We all know the secular year begins in January. But, the church year begins with Advent! So Happy New Year! Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24).

So this week, I began to wonder, what is Advent and hat does it mean to us? I proposed this question on my Twitter and Facebook pages today. My challenge was to define Advent in one or two words. Here are some of the answers I got: Baby Shower, Anticpation, Getting Ready, Great Expectation.

Then I read this about Advent: "Let’s use our imaginations – I see two parts: ad and vent. Stay with me on this. Ad is short for advertising. Vent is a hole in the floor or ceiling that lets air flow into a room. The two combined form the word Advent. If you follow my “logic” here, a reasonable assumption would be that Advent means advertising airflow. Really? Well, don’t save that for your SAT. But think: If we “do” Advent well, then our very lives flow in a way that advertises Jesus!" What a concept!

So, just how do we do Advent well? We wait! Seriously / Technically Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” During the four weeks before Christmas, Christians celebrate and look forward to both the coming of Jesus. So why all this waiting? After all, this is the 21st century! We can drive 70 miles per hour; DSL lets us surf the Net without a wait; FedEx can deliver in 24 hours. So, why wait?
Why not just jump right to Christmas? Because waiting is a good teacher. To wait well is something that must be learned.

So, let’s take some time to explore waiting in Scripture. Each passage reveals something about waiting well. There are some tips we can use to wait well all year!

1. Wait with “Presence” (said "Presents")
Read Matthew 2:1-2 and 9b-12 = the wise men deliver presnets.

Of course, there’s got to be presents at Christmas right? Or it’s not Christmas! I mean even the wise men brought Jesus presents! So, they must have been the original creators of gift giving! And, two things, they came from really far away and gave some pretty extraordinary / extravagant gifts for that day and time. But here’s the deal, after they gave these “presents,” they offered Jesus their “presence” by worshipping Him. The wisw men went out of their way to claim this relationship and worship Jesus. We can do the same today and claim that relationship and have God present in our lives. The challenge is to have God’s presence so integrated into our lives that when others look at us / interact with us, they should sense that "presence."

2. Wait with patience
Read Luke 1:5-25 = Zechariah and Elizabeth (John the Baptists parents)

Zechariah and Elizabeth had been waiting for a child. Zechariah was a priest; in those days, if a priest didn’t have a male child he could be excommunicated from the church. Zechariah must have feared this but waited and waited patiently.
Also, we read that Elizabeth isolates herself for 5 months after learning she is pregnant. This allows her to prepare for what is likely in her old age to be a tough child-birth. But can you imagine not leaving your house for 5 months? That would take some patience! So we know here that when we are patient in our waiting, good things can happen.

3. Wait for Wisdom
Read John 8:3-9 = Pharisees try to trick Jesus

How does Jesus handle this moment? He waits! Jesus takes time to think and ponder. Then he bends down and begins to write on the ground with his finger. Is he stalling for time or could he be teaching us to wait well by waiting for wisdom to respond in a Godly way? I don’t know about you, but when I get into a tense situation, I have a bad habit of just saying whatever I am feeling, especially when I am upset. But we learn here that we are called to wait for wisdom and that there is big value in it. Our problems (i.e. the stoners) tend to dissipate or not seem as intimidating when we wait with wisdom.

So you can see, there’s lots of waiting! And waiting is certainly a theme of Advent. But, we Americans seem to totally get caught up in stress and forget to anticipate the arrival of Christ! Think about the things that are stressing you right now: schoolwork, Christmas parties, gift buying, parents, friends, family obligations, etc. No matter how much you worry about everything going on or all that you have to do, Christmas is still going to come on December 25. We will still be blessed by Christ's birth.

So how do we make Advent a special time? Wait well! Wait with presence, wait with patience, wait for wisdom.


So, my friend Eleanore just sent me this picture on e-mail. I LOVE this house! Should have decorated mine like this. But, none of my neighbors are really putting up lights (nor have they in the past 7 years).

Seeing this picture made me stop and think. Clearly the lights on the left house probably took a lot of time and planning to get up. At least a days work, right? And, gosh, I can only imagine their electric bill.

The left house, alone, would certainly draw a crowd of drivers-by. But then add house on the right: 5 little letters and an arrow AND they steal the show! But imagine the further draw these houses together have on drivers-by and folks in that city. Further, this picture is spreading across the Internet like crazy.

It's sort of like us and Jesus. Replace the hosues with Jesus (on the left) and you (on the right). Isn't this what people should see when they look at us. A "ditto" sign pointed at the brilliant, bright, and beautiful Jesus Christ? I'm just sayin' ...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Somehow, I've hopped on the twitter bandwagon ... like I need anything else to keep up with! But, I am really glad that I checked it out and am now 100% hooked. Through this great technology I am able to connect to people whom I will likely never meet, but who have great things to say, who inspire me, and who are teaching me much about God in practical ways. I was able to join a youth ministers list; these are people that are doing my same job and live in various places around the world. And, boy, do they have lots to say! I am learning! There are groups for just about everyone and everything on twitter! Much like facebook, but seems a little more intimate for some reason!

Just tonight @RyanTArnold posted this: "God, why do You move in such big ways? Why do You want so much?" Wow! Okay, so I hear God speaking to me in this because over the week-end I watched a live stream of Steven Furtick speaking at the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta. In his time with youth ministers, I got stuck on his challenge: "If the size of your dream isn’t intimidating to you it’s insulting to God." Ahhh!

So I started thinking, what kind of people does God use when God moves in big ways? The best I can surmise - me and YOU! Then I thought about Zacharias! You can read about John the Baptist's dad in Luke 1! He was an ordinary person; like me and YOU! He led a good life, but it wasn’t perfect; like me and YOU! He had some real problems; like me and YOU!

Here's the basic story. Zacharias was a priest. Elizabeth was Zacharias' wife. Scripture tells us they were good people and followed God's commandments. However, they were old and had no children. In those days, this was basically shameful; priests could even be ex-communicated from the church for being childless. It came his time to serve in the temple and go to the inner sanctuary and burn incense (a rare occurance). Zacharias has been praying and praying for a child to no avail. But, when he went to burn the incense, an angel met him and told him that his wife was going to have that child he had been praying for.

Instead of rejoicing and praising God, Zacharias freaked out! The Bible says "He was paralyzed with fear" (vs. 12) and though there was no way someone of his and Elizabeth's age could make this happen. And isn't that just like us wimpy little humans? We’re happy when God does human-sized things or things we’d expect like making the sun come out. But when God moves in God-sized ways, we tend to freak out like Zacharias.

Let's get real ... there was really only one thing extraordinary about Zacharias; HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. He and his wife, Elizabeth, actually walked the talk. It’s not that they were doing great things; it’s just that they were doing everyday life in a great way. And I truly believe that that is how it is with me and YOU!

Here's what I know. God moves when God moves. God can’t be manipulated, rushed or (as I would mostly prefer) slowed down. And often, even those close to God have no idea what God is about to do.

It's simple, really. We've got to learn to trust God. To experience the movement of God in ways so huge, they are frightening and exciting at the same time, we must be able to trust God. Trust, in turn, leads to a strong faith (walking the talk). What makes us trust in someone or something? My answer: an intimate connection. So, I guess we'd better get busy getting close to God! And that, I believe, is exactly why God moves in such big ways and wants so much; so that God can be in an intimate relationship with us to God's glory in those movements!

Video Annoucements

So, Troy and I have decided to try announcements in a little different way from now on! Here's what we created today for the week of 11-24-09. Here's the link to youtube in case it doesn't load below:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Bigger Picture

So lately I’ve been thinking about something, spiritually, and Monday night it sort of exploded and I totally sensed God’s presence concerning this battle I’ve been having (in my head). Let me give you some background. I have this friend, Hope, who is amazing. And we walk together two or three times a week. And so during that hour of walking we talk about lots of things like our lives, things we are thankful for, our struggles, and just lots of stuff. Last night while we were walking, we started to talk about my house that is for sale. I shared that I was frustrated that it had been on the market for a while and had not sold. Yet Hope and I have some friends whose house was on the market for 2 weeks and sold right away! I shared that I knew my house would sell when it was time. I just didn’t understand why God was allowing it to take so long. I know there is a reason why, I just don’t get it.

Now, I know this example isn't something that our students at Zion can necessarily relate to, but there are definitely struggles we each have and we may not understand when/where God is in the situation. For example, struggles with deciding about what college to attend or issues with parents or friends.

The spiritual struggle I have been convicted of lately is in reference to God’s timing. Well really, my timing and what I want versus God’s timing and what is God’s plan. Really, it's a faith issue. And the Bible actually has lots to say about "time." The most obvious one, I’m sure you remember. You know the ever famous verses from Ecclesiastes 3 about time and purpose. There’s a time to die, a time to live, reaping, sowing, dancing, laughing, crying, finding, losing, winning, listening, speaking. Remember all those?

But if you read further in that chapter you see: 11God makes everything happen at the right time. Yet none of us can ever fully understand all he has done, and he puts questions in our minds about the past and the future. 12I know the best thing we can do is to always enjoy life, 13because God's gift to us is the happiness we get from our food and drink and from the work we do. 14Everything God has done will last forever; nothing he does can ever be changed. God has done all this, so that we will worship him.

And this is what I realized Monday night when my friend, Hope, and I were talking. She made my personal dislike of the image of God as parent okay – NOT GREAT – but okay. She said that when we can’t understand why something isn’t happening the way or how fast we want it to, we have to remember that there is a bigger picture and God knows it and is present there. She described it like a parent knowing what’s best for us. And while we may sometimes dislike our parent’s decisions about things, they usually know what’s best for us because they can see the bigger picture! Yikes!

The greatest mistake people make is by looking at all things from a human view point. Waiting for God’s timing is one of the toughest things we have to do. But, I know from times past that it is so worth it. And so, whatever your struggle currently is, I am confident there is a bigger picture. You can’t see it right now, but I assure you it is there. It's kind of like the fog we had earlier this week. While we can't see very far beyond our hand in thick fog, we know there are things beyond it and eventually, when the fog rises, we will see! We've got to learn to just trust God that God will show it to us. Don’t rush it! It’s worth the wait!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cell Phone Olympics and Star Gazing

Tonight at our student ministry meeting we played cell phone Olympics! In these events, our senior high students were challenged to complete certain tasks with their cell phones. For example, they had to go to certain spots in the church and take pictures. They had to get their parents to text them. They were challenged to text Jillianne with their name and favorite restaurant (congrats to Amber Grant for winning the Olympics and a free dinner at her favorite restaurant!).

After our Olympics we were supposed to go outside and do some star gazing. But, thanks to tropical storm Ida, we were rained out. However, we found some great videos on and watched them to learn about constellations and star gazing! The topic for the night was connecting to God. Here's the basis of our talk:

The night sky is divided into 88 constellations, most of which are visible from the United States at different times of the year. On a clear, moonless night, a thousand or more stars are visible. Five of our solar system's eight planets, a few star clusters, a spiral galaxy, and the odd bright comet are visible, too!

It is amazing how small we are and how BIG the universe is, how small we are but how much God loves us. God wants to be in a relationship with us. In the click of a button (on a cell phone) we can be connected anywhere in the world, just like that. But how easy is it to connect with God? If you are like me, it’s not as easy as pushing that speed dial button on the phone. But, God tells us it can be!

So, how big is God? Think of size of the universe. Nearest star is about 4 light yrs away. How far is that? Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. This means nearest star is about 24 trillion miles away from earth. That’s a long way, but it’s just a speck of distance in the universe. Scientists estimate may be up to 200 billion galaxies out there. But here’s how big God is … Read Isaiah 40:12. Isaiah 40:12 tells us God measured off space with his fingers. That's pretty BIG!!

We are called to connect with God (to find a speed dial). So if God is that big, that God can measure the universe with God’s fingers, then why is it so hard for us to connect with God / to find that speed dial button in our lives? Why do we feel alone at times?

Bottom line - it is hard. We do sometimes feel disconnected from God, like God doesn’t care about us, There are many reasons for this. My top two?
1. We fill our lives with so much that we just do not have time for God. In our culture we fill up every free moment that we have to make sure there is never a time where we have nothing to do. From the moment we open our eyes, to the moment we close them at night we are doing things. We are so active with work, food, chores, projects, school, family, friends, entertainment, and any other things we add to the mix that we don’t have room in our day for God.
2. Other times we feel disconnected because we don’t want God to be God. If God is in control of our lives that means that we aren’t. We feel disconnected from God because we are trying to run the show ourselves. Sometimes we feel disconnected from God because we are all imperfect people. Each and every one of us sins and that keeps us from God.

Have you ever felt disconnected from God? I assure you, you are not the first. And it is a battle you may fight for the rest of your life as a Christian. Even in Biblical times, people felt disconnected. Just read Psalm 22.

When we feel disconnected from God it is because we walk away. God has not moved. God did not leave. God did not desert us. God is standing right where we left God. It is us. Because here’s the thing, right, if God can measure the universe (THE UNIVERSE) with God’s fingers, how can we 5 or 6 feet tall people ever escape God’s presence? Where is somebody that BIG going to hide from us?

Later in Psalm 22 we hear:

God has never let you down, never looked the other way when you were being kicked around. God has never wandered off to do his own thing; God has been right there, listening.

So how do we stay connected? It’s really simple actually. Is God at the top of your list? Make a mental list of the top 5 things in your life. Now take away 2. Take away 1. Take away one more. Is God your number one? If God is your number one, then you live your life differently because of that. Things like worship, Bible study, youth group, fellowship, youth trips, mission work, etc. become important. Those are the things that fill up the hours in your day. I am not saying there can’t be other stuff too. But the way you do that other "stuff" changes. God being # 1 means you play ball differently, you hang out with different people, you stand up for the kid being picked on in the lunch room. It’s ironic, because saying God is number 1 is really simple, but the life you are called to lead because of that is not so easy.

Connecting with God ... what's your priority?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Open Ended Questions

I hate closed ended questions. Yes, I said it. Now, let me admit, I am guilty of asking lots of closed ended questions, but I hate it when others do the same to me! I'm going to pick a hot topic, like homosexuality, here because it helps prove my point well about close ended questions. Recently, I was wathcing a video from a veteran youth pastor, Andrew Marin. In the video he does the same.

Let's start with some examples of closed ended questions. It's like these: is homosexuality a sin? can someone change? are persons born "that way? can you be gay and a Christian? are homosexuals going to hell? These questions seem to elicit a one word answer and not much more. Yes or No.

Marin points out that the problem with open ended questions is two fold! First the asker of the question likley already has an answer in mind. Secondly, the asker is probably trying to figure our "which team" or side of the opinion you are on.

We have a great model from Jesus for dealing with close ended questions. As Christians that's what our model should be right? I mean how many Christians do you know that would say ... "nah ... I don't want to be like Jesus."

Marin points out that in the three years of Jesus' public ministry, he was aksed closed ended questions approximately 25 times. Of those 25, 15 of the questions came form His enemies, like the Pharisees, Saducees, Jews, or high priests. 10 of those times, the questions came from his friends, like John the Baptist, the disciples, and the woman at the well. Amazingly, Jesus only answered yes or no 3 times. And of those three times, they were ALL after He was on trial and had been beaten and His death on the cross was approaching.

So, what would Jesus do? What is the model we have for approaching closed ended questions? Don't answer yes or no. Move the conversation to a new and fresh approach. Try this ... catch the asker of the question off gaurd by answering with an open ended question.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Horror Stories of the Bible and Pumpkin Smashing 2009

Tonight at our student ministry meeting, we talked about fear. We discussed some of the things we are afraid of and why we are fearful. We also talked about there being good things to be fearful of and how we deal with fear. With Halloween approaching, I’ve been thinking about the things that scare me. Horror movies are one of my greatest fears. As I read through some spooky, gross Bible stories, it hit me that any of these could be turned into a modern day horror film. So, our 6th – 12th grade students got their chances to be the stars of these scripts as we acted them out tonight! We broke into groups and each group chose a story from Scripture to act out or summarize for the rest of the group. The spooky stories we looked at were:

* Elijah flames to Heaven / Mass murder of boys by bear from 2 Kings 2:11-17; 23-24
* The Madman and the Pigs from Mark 5:1-20
* Jael drives the tent peg through the enemy soldiers head from Judges 4:4-22
* Samuel's ghost / Witch of Endor from 1 Samuel 28: 3-25
* The Writing of a Disembodied Hand from Daniel 5:1-31
* Dry bones come to life / Ezekiel from Ezekiel 37:1-14

Over the past week, we’ve had several stations around Zion where members and friends could stop and write on a pumpkin the things of which they are afraid. The Bible has lots to say about fear! Like Psalm 34:4:

“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears”

And 1 Peter 5:6-7:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”

If anyone had something to fear, it was Paul -

The apostle Paul found his strength in God, He reminds us that, “I …have …been in prison …frequently, been flogged …severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. …I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. …Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. …I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. …[God] 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” (2 Corinthians 11:23-12:10).

The point, as I explained to our students, is we must CHOOSE FAITH OVER FEAR!! When we do that, when God is a priority in our lives, the easier it becomes to lift our fears to God. God then smashes our fears … but out of the smashed pumpkin comes something beautiful. From the seeds come a new, fresh, clean, beautiful pumpkin (with no fears written on it). To illustrate this point we stood above the ground on the breezeway of the Zion FLC and smashed our pumpkins that had fears written all over them. Even the 4th and 5th graders joined in the action. It was a
spook-tacular night … sorry, I don’t know where I get these things! Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Giant

There are only two things that I am really, absolutely, positively scared of: roller-coasters and horror movies. And, I've been thinking about both of these things lately because the state fair was in town and because it is Halloween! That got me to thinking even further and investigating the "spooky" or horror-type stories of the Bible.

So I came the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. You know the story: the Philistines and Israelites are battling and they come to a valley. Both sides draw their "battle lines" and refuse to move forward. The Philistines send forth their best fighter, Goliath. Goliath challenges Israel to send their best fighter forward and fight him. Goliath says that whichever side loses will be the slaves of the other side. But the Israelites were intimidated and none of the soldiers were willing to step forward and fight him. You see, Goliath was 9 and a half feet tall. His armor, alone, weighed 125 pounds. He was so massive that he had a soldier assigned to him just to carry his shield.

For 40 days (or a really long time), Goliath taunted and challenged the Israelite soldiers, among them, David's brothers. One day, by chance, David heard Goliath’s challenge. Now, David was not actually a part of the army, but he had been sent by his dad to the battle-lines to check on his brothers who were in the army. David, willing to fight Goliath, decided he was willing to step forward; he figured it couldn't be any worse than his “shepardly” duties. When a sheep would wander off or be taken away by a lion or bear, David would go after the lion or bear and kill it so it would release the sheep. So David went to battle with Goliath with only a sling and a stone in tow, no armor or anything. He takes one shot at Goliath, hits him in the skull, and Goliath dies. And here's the horror part ... a great battle begins and the Israelites kill all of the Philistine soldiers and their bodies are strewn everywhere. And what's further, after Goliath falls down David celebrates by cutting of Goliath's head and carrying it around. YUCK!

We all have "giants" in our lives. And if our teenagers are anything like I was when I was their age, they are facing spiritual (i.e. how does faith relate to my life), emotional (i.e. argument with parents/friends or tough decisions about college, etc.), and physical (i.e. self esteem) giants. And, it is easy to be intimidated by our giants! Even as adults, we continue to battle "giants."

There are a couple of lessons we can take from reading between the lines of the David and Goliath story. First, David didn't go to battle Goliath but he went to check on his brothers. Our giants are usually the same, they just pop up when we least expect them. Secondly, the more we put the battle off (like Goliath's 40 days of taunting), the more intimidated we can become and the further out of control things spiral for us. Thirdly, we need to celebrate our victories! I'm NOT saying we should go and cut our enemies heads off and carry them around but I am saying we should celebrate and give God appropriate credit.

A warning: we may lose a battle or two. But, the great thing about battles is, they are designed to bring us closer to God. We have to trust God to get us through the fight and that God will equip us with the right tools to win! We're not called to be successful ALL OF THE TIME; but, we are called to be faithful. The bottom line is we can't beat our "giants" if God isn't in our army!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Are you called to be a student leader at Zion?

Zion 4:twelve students will be forming a leadership team! You can apply and elections will be held Wednesday, November 4th. Here's the deal:
*We will elect a President, Vice-President, Secretary, and several age level representatives.
*Turn your application into Jillianne by Sunday, November 1st.
*Job descriptions and applications will arrive in your mailbox next week!

1. A 6th – 12th grade student active @ Zion.
President and VP must be senior high student.

He/She should be a model of Christian living that
awakens a responsive desire in others to follow.
(A leader moves people by example, not by position.)

Having a good reputation is important.

How else will we plan a student events, calendars,
lessons, lock-ins, trips, service opportunities, etc.?

Are you willing to talk to your peers and ask what they
want out our student ministry? Communication is key!

We will meet approximately once a month.

The fine art of a balanced life

I don’t know about you, but, I have a very hard time finding balance in my life. So that got me thinking … today’s generations are the most overcommitted ever. Today’s teens face so many activities to fit in the 24 hours of our day, including schoolwork, youth group / church (hopefully), sports, duties and responsibilities at home, friendships, jobs, technology, and much more. All of this makes it easy to feel overwhelmed! It makes it really easy for God and church and family not to be our priorities.

It’s not easy to live a balanced life. So many people place demands on us (including ourselves). But finding balance is imperative if we are going to accomplish what God has in store for us. And the truth is, we can’t be effective if we’re constantly feeling exhausted, stressed, and / or overwhelmed.

By having faith in God and ourselves, letting God be in control, and a few helpful tips (from this great book I currently reading), I am convinced we can live a balanced life and understand that God called and allowed us to be exactly where we are this very minute … even if it is hectic and crazy or perfect and stress-free.

Tips for a leading a balanced life:

1. God first – ALWAYS. Enough said … see Deut. 6:5, etc.

2. Stay connected to God – duh … pray and praise (worship)! Frequent conversation and time with the other is important in any relationship. And, that does mean church, worship, youth group, Sunday school, service/missions become the ways in which we partially live into that relationship.

3. Get a planner – plan, plan, plan. Manage your schedule and time better will help you avoid dilemmas.

4. Delegate – figure out what only you can do and get help with the rest from those who are willing!

5. Sabbath – that’s a big word for rest. Even God rested, right? Take at least a day off … COMPLETELY!

6. Learn to say “no” – this is tough but sometimes you have to say no in order to keep your priorities straight.

7. Hang with your family – even if it’s just dinner. But what about movie night or a vacation? There’s only one you in your family and you can’t be replaced!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future ...

I don’t know why God hits me with the things God hits me with. And I wonder how often God sends a message my way and I totally miss it. Well, not this morning! I heard a quote this morning as I was driving to worship that hit me where it hurts and I have been in a tailspin ever since. Here it is … get ready … I hope it will impact you as it did me: “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” This quote comes from Paul Boese who was a Dutch botanist, more known for his quotes than his research.

It has become apparent to me that lately I am carrying a lot of emotional baggage in two current situations of my life. This morning upon hearing this quote, I had to stop and wonder: have these simple words provoked the wake-up call I needed to forgive the persons in these two situations who have wronged me? And further, what is my part in wronging them by not forgiving them and being able to move on with an “enlarged” future?

One of the situations is a family matter and I can clearly see how offering that forgiveness would enlarge not only my future, but also other family members’ futures. And, I want to and will do that. It scares me and honestly the reason I haven’t offered forgiveness prior to now is because I am afraid this family member won’t ask me for forgiveness for their actions but will instead continue to point out what I am doing wrong. But I have realized that I can’t dwell on that. This person loves me as much as she can, just not the way I need; I can’t change that and must learn to accept that fact. It will take some time for things to get back to normal, but I am unpacking that emotional suitcase!

But in the second relationship, I remain bitter in spite of the words of Paul Boese. Clearly this is the reason for my afore mentioned tailspin. And, it is a little different from the first situation because I have forgiven my transgressor in this case. However, I have no inclination or longing whatsoever to have an active relationship with that person so how do we have an “enlarged future?” BOOM … God wrestled me to the floor again! Maybe the “enlarged future” is not mine or about continuing a relationship with the person but that “enlarged future” belongs to my ex-transgressor because of my forgiveness? Maybe the enlarged future is mine because I have the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and move on in a positive way. As much as I cared for this friend, my heart has become hardened (like Pharoah’s in the Old Testament) against this person. I know that if I do not separate myself from this person, this person will never change or be able to focus on their issues. As heavy as this emotional suitcase has become and as attached to it as I am, I just have to put it down and walk away. A metaphorical way to think of it is like this: perhaps the “airline” (i.e. God) just lost the “suitcase” (i.e. emotional baggage) and I am now headed home from the “airport” (i.e. our relationship) without the bag. I’ll still hang on to the “clothes” (i.e. our times together / memories / lessons learned) I wore that were in the bag, but I can’t carry it anymore.

You can probably tell, I have been thinking so much lately about forgiveness and the bitterness a lack of forgiveness can cause. And, for sure, God knew I needed to hear Paul Boese’s words this morning. Forgiveness is an emotion and emotions are what drive us (and our behavior). And I would argue that most of us know from personal experience...forgiveness works. When we are wrong, our first reaction tends to be anger and resentment. But not Jesus! Jesus, even knowing that his “friends” and “family” will soon desert him, He breaks bread and celebrates with these same people. I am so thankful for the example Jesus has set forth and for the words of his servant Paul Boese. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cynical Samuel?

A teenager’s relationship with a local church matters. Yet, many teens today, have become cynical about going to church (and even their relationship with God). And let’s face it, there are lots of forces working against students today that keep them from embracing the truth: peer pressure, parents who don’t attend church and aren’t actively in relationship with The Holy themselves, sports, massive amounts of school work, the media, drugs, parties, after school jobs, etc. Louis Mellado – a Spanish youth minister – has written about the similarities between the young Samuel and today’s Christian teenagers. Mellado has noted that some of the forces Samuel faced were similar … yet Samuel overcame them and did not remain cynical.

His mother dedicated Samuel to God before Samuel was born (1 Samuel 1:11). Samuel was not only taken to church, he lived there! Some of today’s teens seem to sometimes resent growing up “in” the church. But Samuel used it as an opportunity to embrace his religious heritage. In my seven years in youth ministry, I have seen this happen (both ways)! But, the on fire, all the time, at church whenever the doors are open students are (sadly) more difficult to come by. Teenagers are pulled in so many directions and are so overcommitted these days. Teenagers are not encouraged to even go to church. Some parents don’t want to “force” their child to go to church for fear that later in life they will “turn” from God for it. I’ve got news …. If you don’t get them here, I can’t introduce them to Jesus and teach them how cool that relationship is and how NOT to turn from it later. I can’t help them recognize how present and active God is in their daily lives and how any Christian topic could possibly relate to popular culture. I can’t introduce them to adults in our church who will mentor and love on them and affirm them. I can’t help them recognize what an important role they play in the kingdom of God. I can’t laugh with them, cry with them, worship with them, teach them or fellowship with them. I can’t introduce them to people whose lives they can impact (i.e. mission and service experiences).

Just read 1 Samuel 3:1b and you will know that God’s presence was rarely recognized in Samuel’s society. Was God not there? Absolutely not; of course, God was present, the people just missed it! Most of us do that everyday. Further, teens are naturally attracted to the world and all of its temptations and offerings. Because of this, as much as we church leaders and Christians do not want to admit it, in many ways we are moving to a secularized society and a post- Christian era. Perhaps teens feel they are on the outside looking in … which brings me to the next point:

One example from Samuel’s day were Eli’s sons … just read 1 Samuel 2 to see their story. Samuel didn’t fall prey to this situation, but, as children become adolescents they are able to see and identify the weaknesses and mistakes of their parents, church leaders, friends, mentors, society. In my experience, this definitely leads to cynicism about the church and most of the rest of the world feels this way too. People love Jesus, but not the church. Oh, I could go on and on about this and how bad I am at it too, and the lessons I have learned, but that is for another blog entry on antoher day ...

We know that from 1 Samuel 3. Samuel knew the Scripture and the songs but he didn’t know God. There is a difference in knowing ABOUT God and being in a RELATIONSHIP with God. So many times God calls us (just like he did Samuel) and we just miss it because we don’t know God’s voice.

Medallo makes a great point. We know Samuel was active in relationship with God. This is what prevented him from being cynical about the church. We know this because Samuel stopped keeping his distance from God. Samuel did more than just go through the motions. Samuel listened more than he questioned and acted more than he talked. What a great lesson for our teens today (and we adults)!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Do you think God is just sleeping on a pillow in heaven?

God is at work in creation, afterall, God is the author of life right? Romans 1:20 reads, “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things God has made.” So, where have you witnessed God’s eternal power and divine nature? This was basically what the senior high Sunday school class was debating this morning. Some of the most common answers were at the mountains or beach. But I also thought of how we can sense God's presence in the changing of the leaves. Or how could anyone doubt God's existence after getting on an airplane in the rain, flying above the clouds, and witnessing the beauty that exists above those rain clouds.

Candice and Paul, who were teaching today, brought in some quotes about God's presence in nature. And one quote, in particular, caught my attention. The words came from Martin Luther. “God is wholly present in all creation, in every corner, behind and before you. Do you think God is sleeping on a pillow in heaven?” I love it!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More thoughts on the mirror

I have been so convicted by the statement from the skit guys "what do you see when you look in the mirror?" Here's the link to the video:

Usually I am rolling on the floor laughing a good belly laugh when I watch the skit guys, but, this is one of their more serious clips! At Sr. High Bible study this morning, I talked about this video and proposed the question "What do you see when you look in the mirror?" to our youth and Pilgrim's youth. Do we see beauty? Do we see a great new haircut? Do we see our imperfections like something stuck in our teeth or a zit? Do we someone pretending to be something they are not?

James 1:23-24 tells us: "If you hear the message and don't obey it, you are like people who state at themselves in a mirror and forget what they look like as soon as they leave ...."

The bottom line is that we all have the imperfections, zits, warts, and bruises. If we don't look in the mirror then we'll never know they are there. That's the thing about mirrors (good ones anyways) - they always tell us the truth. Thanks wicked witch in snow white ... mirror, mirror on the wall. Let's be honest, when we look in the mirror, we're not always going to like what we see. But God does! And, I'm not convinced that God can see the imperfections. We know that God is Emmanuel or God with us. If we think, symbolically, of the zits and warts and imperfections as our sins, then I don't know that God can look on them. Sin is something that God forgives (if we ask) but it is also something that separates us from God. If God is a God with us then how can God check out those imperfections we see in the mirror? God loves us no matter how many zits we have!

And, there are a lot of mirrors / things that reflect our image in our lives (sybolically speaking, of course). Think about a spoon or aluminum foil or a puddle. The image we see there is not clear; it's blury. We can think of this like the world and culture - there's not necessarily a clear view of right and wrong. Think about a broken mirror. In this reflection, things aren't quite acurate all of the time or are distorted. It depends on your view or where you are standing and the reflection changes easily. This is like our friends. Think about a small mirror versus a full length mirror. The small mirror is good but you have to get close to see the strengths and weaknesses of your reflection. The small mirror is like the Bible.

I think what James is pointing out to us is that a "forgetful hearer" is someone who sees themseleves / God's reflection but then goes away and does nothing about it. In reality, we wouldn't walk away from a mirror and jjst forget what we look like or what we're wearing or which was we parted our hair. When we look in the mirror and we see a problem, we fix it. That's just like our Christian journey. When we look in the little mirror or the Bible and we see a problem, we should fix it (or at least try). We all have the zits and warts and imperfections, we always will. But using the small mirror, getting really close, in that we will be shown by God the way to fix those imperfections.

So, what do you see when you look in the mirror? Ultimately I pray it will be Jesus!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

So, as I was prepping for Wednesday night's graveyard scavenger hunt at Zion, I came across a really funny video! It's by the skit guys! I LOVE the skit guys; I got to see them perform live at a conference I attended in the summer of 2007 ... Amazing! They are so funny. They are two guys who have made these videos of just about any Christian topic you can think of. They really have a good thing going and are appealing to youth.
In this video that I saw over the weekend, one of the actors is playing God and asks the other actor who is playing an every day human: "what do you see when you look in the mirror?" The everyday guy starts to explain what he sees. He sees a fairly handsome fellow who could stand to loose a few pounds in a green shirt. But "God" interupts him and says something like: it sure would be nice if you humans could look in the mirror (or at each other) and see My Son, Jesus Christ; I really want you to be the image of Christ.
Wow, that hit me like a ton of bricks. I was so convicted by the statement. I mean, it makes perfect sense; it's what we are called to do and be and see. It's what other's should see when they look at us and our actions. Yet, if someone had asked me what I see when I look in the mirror, I probably would not have given the answer, "Christ."
When I think about Zion or look in at Zion, I have to say, I do see Christ. Just last week we made a plea for you to help us collect backpacks for Lutheran family Services. There were 29 children who had been taken from their homes recently who had NO or ripped and torn bookbags. As of today, we had collected enough backpacks and donations to give LFS 35 bookbags. Way to reflect Christ Zion! I'm impressed and proud to be a part of your family.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dr. Pepper Devotion - 9/30/09

After sharing my faith / life story with the congregation last night at the Zion Coffee House, I invited the youth and their parents out to parking lot to participate in a devotion related to one of my favorite chapter of Scripture. We distributed a can of Dr. Pepper to everyone and we did, what like to call, a Dr. Pepper devotion (because Dr. Pepper is one of my favorite drinks).

Psalm 117, the whole chapter, is only two little verses. But, those two verses contain the answer to some of life’s biggest questions --- questions about who God is and why people are on this planet. This shortest chapter in the Bible gives the “Who, What, and Why” of Christianity. It’s so important that even Paul repeated in Romans 15:11. If I had the privilege of titling the Psalm, I would title it “How’s your praise life?” or “The Basics of Christianity: who, what, why.”

Here’s what the Psalm says:
Praise God, everybody! Applaud God, all people! God’s love has taken over our lives; God’s faithful ways are eternal. Hallelujah!

Who is this Psalm written to?
Everyone … Praise God, everybody. Applaud God, all people! His love has taken over our lives. No matter what language you read this in … the message is the same. God loves us. All of us. I asked the youth and parents to shake up their Dr. Pepper, if they were WHO these verses were written for. Everyone shook their Dr. Pepper!

What should we do in response to God’s love? Verse 1 tells us we should praise God / applaud God What does it mean to praise God? Our youth and parents had several suggestions. But, the Dictionary says Praise means to extol, commend, or honor, often in song. I had the youth and parents sing praises … they did well! I then explained that praise is like bragging on someone --- loud enough that everyone can hear. Finally, I asked the youth and parents to shake their Dr. Pepper up if they are good at bragging on others, themselves, their friends, their church, their favorite sports team when they win (like the Gamecock’s beating Ole Miss), God, or anything.

Our youth and parents shared many of the reasons why God deserves our praise: God died for us, everything good we have comes from God, God first loved us, etc. I mentioned that Verse 2 tells us exactly why God deserves our praise! Because God’s love has taken over our lives … and God’s faithfulness to us will last FOREVER! Even when we turn away, God will remain faithful to us. There is nothing we can do to make God not love us. My guess is there probably aren’t very many in our lives that are like that?

The point of the devotion was that once we have and acknowledge and live in God’s love, amazing things can happen. The Holy Spirit fills us up and we begin to explode and get others wet with God’s love! With that, we shook our Dr. Pepper one more time, popped them open, and exploded them all over the Zion parking lot! Dr. Pepper went EVERYWHERE!! For sure, that is just where Zion’s youth ministry is headed!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

See You Sunday!

Since I'm not from the Lexington area, I've enjoyed just driving along the major roads in that past few days to check things out. I'm quickly learning my way around and where the best iced coffee and Mexican food is located! So, as I was out exploring the other day, I drove past a church sign that caught my attention! The advertisement on the sign said: "Kids in church? Great Idea! See you Sunday." They then listed their worship times. Genuius. Just after driving past the sign, I found my way into a local sandwhich shop for dinner and was greeted by a teenager. Instead of asking for my order, he asked me if I knew who Megan Fox was and if I liked her. He went on to passionately share that he would "sell his soul" to have 5 minutes with Megan Fox. I had to chuckle! Yes, kids need to be in church! (Don't get me wrong there's nothing wrong with Megan Fox or the teenager but selling your soul??).

I wonder if the people in the church were implying (with the sign) that parents aren't briging "kids" to their church? Or, is it a tactic to get parents to know they have a good children and youth Christian education program and worship at their church? It seems to me they are implying that children and youth aren't in church! And, in a way, I think they are right. Clearly, children, youth and adult committment / participation at a church are what makes that congregation what it is. Some churches are known for what they offer children or youth. Some churches are defined by what they offer young adults. Along those lines (and exciting for me)... it is my impression that Zion is known for what it offers families. And, I did see quite a few "kids" in church on Sunday. In fact, the little ones even tried to take over Pastor Tim's king puppet during his moments with the children!

So all of this brought me to this blog entry and wondering why aren't "kids" in church? Logically, my first thought was that we all know this is the most over-committed generation EVER. It's scary! When my son was three we played t-ball and the coach wanted to have practice on Wednesday and Sunday and we had games on Tuesday or Thursday. Well, we just weren't ready for more than one night a week and we switched to karate lessons at his preschool that happened while he was at school on Wednesdays. Even now, on a WEDNESDAY NIGHT (church night) as I look to my facebook page and read status updates, I see parents who have updated that they are getting ready for tonight's practice or are leaving work early to catch their child's game. I wonder to myself why coaches schedule practices on nights or days that are and always have been filled with church activities. But, on the other hand, I can understand that they have to becuase other days are filled with other activities. To me this means that the church must do a better job of understanding these schedules and be open to adjusting their activities. For example, why not push back Wednesday night dinner fifteen minutes? Or, why not have the youth meet on the soccer field before Sunday afternoon's practice for a devotion or Friday night after the football game for some fellowship?

Secondly and because we are so overcommitted these days, I think we have taken up the Israelite practice of worshipping idols. I know I have! An idol doesn't have to be some sort of statue as the Old Testament defines it. An idol can be a thing or practice, like sports, shopping, money, sleeping, being powerful, giving first priority to career over family, or status. These "idols" are very powerful and overwhelming. These things will take away from our committment to church. These things make it easy for us to justify why not to attend or take our "kids" to a Wednesday night program, Bible study, worship, etc.

But, third, one reason we might not get our youth and children to church is the church's fault. I think the church is called to offer programs, worship,and opportunuties to which the community can be excited about and to which they connect. I'm excited to get to be a part of those plans here at Zion and look foward to hearing your suggestions about ways in which we can do that here! Most especially, I am excited for the new contextual worship service that will be starting this Sunday night at 6:30pm!

Kids in church? Great idea! See you tonight or Sunday at Zion!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


So, today in worship, Pastor Tim said some things that got me thinking about our identity as Christians. Obviously, as Christians Jesus is part of our identity. And as Pastor Tim pointed out, Jesus came to serve. Think about it! Even in death, Jesus continued to serve the world. And we know the early church grew through relationships and service to one another. So naturally, service should be what we members of the kingdom are all about!

But, part of our Christian identity and service also has to do with culture. It's like a spectrum; on one end is culture and the other is Christ. Pastor Tim pointed out that Christianity calls us to be almost opposite of culture. In today's culture it is not second nature to serve! We get caught up in our busy schedules, being with our families, or hanging out with our friends ... it becomes all about ME!

I had such an experience this week-end! I had a "shopping date" with one of my friends. She was going to help me make curtains for my freshly painted bedroom and she was also looking for some fabric to go in her guest bedroom. First thing when we met, Eleanore let me know that another friend of hers may interupt our time together via a phone call. She went on to explain that this friend has been unemployeed for the past three years; and recently she lost her car because she could not afford the payments and repairs. This friend had called earlier and asked to borrow Eleanore's car so she could run some errands. Eleanore was not comfortable with that but did feel "obligated" to take her friend to do the errands. However, this was Eleanore's day off of work and she had planned to spend it shopping, having a birthday dinner celebration with her mom, and then was having some friends over later in the evening.

I have to admit it, I secretly hoped that this person would not call and interupt MY shopping trip with Eleanore. I had planned for us to shop and then take Blaine to Chick-Fil-A for some lunch and playground time; while Blaine played on the playground, we could chat away! However, about an hour or two into our shopping time, the friend did call and Eleanore literally had to cut our time short so that she could pick up her friend, run the errands, and then make it to her mom's birthday dinner (only a few hours away). I was disappointed but understood Eleanore's desire to help her friend. Eleanore has a big heart and I have always admired her ability and desire to serve others (i.e. teaching children's Sunday school, working with the youth at her church, her committment to her friends, etc.).

Later that day when I talked to Eleanore, I asked how the errands went. Eleanore explained that it took much longer than she had time for but that they got them all done. But the thing that struck me most was that Eleanore was beating herself up because she didn't go into the opportunity to serve her friend with an open heart. She might as well just not have gone at all because of her attitude. In other words, she felt worse for going with a bad attitude than if she hadn't served her friend at all.

Pastor Tim talked this morning about Israel and how they lost the vision of service and it became about power. Clearly, I lost the vision of allowing another to serve and it became about material things (the shopping trip) for me. But my friend, Eleanore, (despite her self proclaimed bad attitude) never forgot that her identity as a Christian calls her to serve others above self. Despite having and wanting to do other things on her day off, she still went and helped a friend. I am so proud to know Eleanore and I am convinced that her going to help her friend could have made a profound difference in that person's life. It could even mean the difference of employment vs. unemployment for this person. Perhaps if I continue to surrond myself with Christian friends like Eleanore, these attitudes and examples will begin to rub off on me! Though the curtains did turn out nicely, maybe one day it will be second nature for me to serve others first or not get upset when the opportunity to serve another presents itself (even if it is in the middle of MY shopping trip) ...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wednesday Nights at Zion

If you didn't get to check it out last night, Wednesday nights at Zion are awesome! There was great fellowship, great food, great music, and even a great first meeting between the youth and Jillianne last night! There's really something for everyone. You've got to check it out; come next week! Just register for dinner with Bobby in the church office by the Tuesday before at noon!

I was so impressed with how friendly and excited everyone was to be there and see each other. I have to be honest, I was a little nervous. Believe it or not, I really would like to be an introvert; but alas, I operate extrovertedly most of the time. At the end of the day, I am usually exhausted! Don't tell anyone, but, going to an event like Wednesday night dinners is a little intimidating for me because I worry if anyone will talk to me or if there will be anyone there that I am close with or with whom I can hang out! Do you ever feel that way? But, I have to say that last night I felt very comfortable in my introductions and conversations with everyone! I even got a few hugs (I love hugs).

Last night made me think about two things! First, how integral fellowship and fun are to our Christian faith! Acts 2:42 tells us that the early church devoted themselves to many things including fellowship! So it seems to make sense to me that through fellowship we are able to develop deeper relationships within the church and then in effect enhance our own personal relationship with God. I truly believe the church is meant to be a place where we experience in depth relationships and that it can be a place where life long friendships are developed (especially for youth). I've found that when I reflect on my experience as a youth that I generally don't remember the lessons or topics we studied, but do remember the people and the relationships that were important in my life. I remember moments of fellowship and fun on Wednesday nights or Sundays! I remember ski trips and spiritual life retreat and the friends that were there with me.

I heard an anology one time about fellowship that has really stuck with me! Basically, it said that God created family and friends so we could all have relationships that become intimate so we could enjoy one another’s company and companionship. Have you ever noticed in the wild how there are swarms of bees, flocks of birds and herds of buffalos? In some cities they have High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) lanes that get you there faster because your not slowed down by individual vehicles driven by individual people. I beleive God wants you to travel in a High Occupancy Vehicle; when traveling in the HOV lane you pass up most of the jams you would have gotten into alone. The same is true when you’re a part of a healthy fellowship.

A church or a youth group without fellowship would be like a football player without a team; a soldier without a platoon; a tuba player without an orchestra; a sheep without a flock, or like a child without a family. I'm thankful for the strong example of fellowship that I saw at Zion last night and I look foward to forming closer relationship with you.

The second thing I thought about is how important it is to step out of our comfort zone ... even if we don't want to. This is a "biggie" in ministry for me! It's my soapbox! Usually a few things happen when we step out of our box:
1. We find out it wasn't so intimidating in the first place.
2. We have a really good time and learn and grow.
3. Our relationship with God grows.

Fellowship on Zion! Fellowship on!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First Days!

Every day, I read an online devotional that comes right to my e-mail inbox! Today's devotion really made me feel good! In fact, the Scripture choice for today was one of my favorites (1 Timothy 4) which I thought was ironic, yet confirming ,of my choice to serve in a new ministry after taking the summer off. Speaking of that, I've always loved the first day of something ... some of my favoites have been: the first day of school, the first day with a new baby, the first day of driving a new car, the first day of the fair, the first day in my (then) new house! And today was no exception; a change for me, the first day of a new job, a new adventure in ministry!

The bottom line is that change and newness can be scary! For me, change has always been scary because it is something different / not normal. It takes me / makes me step out of my comfort zone. But, when I stopped and thought about change, it hit me how long we humans have been dealing with it! Think about Adam and Eve! Even the Israelites faced newness and change (and did not respond so well, might I add). Just take a look at Isaiah 43:18-19 where the writer probably shocked and offended the exiled Israelites by his thoughts on change and newness.

But change and newness are integral to our life and faith. Paul, in the book of Philippians, talks about change and newness. He says: "but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." I think what Paul means (but doesn't say here) is that change and newness are a reality and are at work in every aspect of life. Think about it! As human beings, we are constantly growing and changing; a work in progress. Nature around us is constantly growing and changing. We're life-long learners - there's always something we can learn from each other, our Master, or ourselves! Further, I think what Paul is saying in the third chapter of Philippians is that we can't be afraid of change. We can't be so stuck on "the old way of doing things" that we miss out on something awesome (but new).

Part of the 1 Timothy Scripture, that I so love, says: "These are the things you must insist on and teach ... Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you ... Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers." What an overwhelming responsibility Paul is charging us with! But I have to say, it is one that I am so looking foward to accepting. I am going to have to work hard to remind myself of this daily and that change and newness are good! Afterall, I beleive with all my head and heart that the Christian life is a pilgrimage—a discipleship of discipline—a moving ahead involving a life of change and newness! So, here's to change and newness!