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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2hpEb1LjYg.

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 youtube.com 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.