Month: October 2012

Jesus- Matthew 1-2

Back from the sickest I’ve been in a really long time… Ugh. Not something I hope to revisit, ever.

In our world it’s easy to lose the picture of who Jesus is and was. I try to regularly read through a gospel and just let his life speak to me. This morning I started Matthew.

Obviously all these things that I notice carry my bias and 21st century, Anabaptist self with them, but I try to lay those down to whatever degree that is possible.

Here are some thoughts:
1:1-  Jesus is the Messiah and the son of kings and patriarchs
1:6- Jesus’ ancestry is not perfect. It includes adulterers and murderers
1:19-21- Jesus had an earthly father with great amounts of faith and trust in God (Not sure an angel could have changed just anyone’s mind about getting a divorce.)
1:23- Jesus name speaks to his purpose- “God with us”
2:1- Born in Bethlehem during the reign of King Herod
2:2- Even as a baby, he was worthy of worship.
2:7-8, 13-15- Herod wants to kill Jesus, because Jesus is a threat to his throne, his kingdom, his agenda. Jesus is still a threat to those things in every persons life, if he is allowed close enough.
2:23- He grew up in Nazareth.

I’d encourage you to get out your Bible, pick one of the stories about Jesus’ life and see what you learn. I promise, if you take the time to read the Bible prayerfully and with a heart and mind open to the Holy Spirit, you will see new things about Immanuel.

Confession and Healing

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
                                                                                                   -James 5:16

Relationships are important. In this passage, James says that our relationships have the ability, through the Holy Spirit, to bring healing to each other. Our sins aren’t to be confessed just to God, but also to each other. When this confession happens, you don’t just listen and then talk about it. You listen and then you pray for healing!

So, today, stop hiding your junk from those who love you and spend some time confessing and praying.

Who do you need to go have some confession with today?

Monday Wonderings (or Wanderings)

I wonder if Jesus would have voted. Would he have set himself up as for or against any laws or leaders? He was about his own kingdom. I’m not certain he would have voted. I’m not certain I’ll vote. (No, I won’t complain about who wins anything if I don’t vote. Or if I do, I still won’t complain, it’s not very helpful.)

I wonder what would happen if every person who loves Jesus chose to to pray for president Obama and Governor Romney rather than debating the truth of their birth certificate or tax returns.

I wonder if the issues surrounding homosexuality will still be issues in 20 years. I would suspect that they will not be. I would guess most of the things that movement wants will have come into law/general acceptance. And people who follow Jesus shouldn’t be scared of that. Not because they should agree, but because the laws of this country don’t give or take away your ability to know, worship, and serve Jesus. It’s all about Him. Always has been, always will be.

I wonder if Langley will start sleeping more this week. I’m hoping so.

I wonder if Kennedy will continue to hear me, her dad, over the boys that seem to be liking her. I pray that she knows her worth is not in a 1st (or 2nd or 3rd or 4th …) grade boy liking her. I’m very thankful that she chose to talk to me about a boy who likes her rather than just talking to her friends. Now, if I can just keep that up into the teenage years and with two more daughters…

I wonder if non-GMO eating is possible for our family without taking out a loan for groceries. It’s really expensive and really hard to find many options in Hutchinson, KS. But we ruined our lives by watching this movie. Oh, what to do…?

What do you wonder today?

Dead Faith

Growing up in church, I always heard, “All you have to do to be saved is believe in Jesus. Just believe and have faith.” And while I believe that statement is true, I don’t think it is ALL of the truth.

Here are a couple verses from James 2:
14: What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them?
17: Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
26: As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
James is pretty clear. You can have faith without actions, but it is a DEAD FAITH.
Dead=Not living
Not living=incapable of producing fruit
We are created to know God and produce kingdom work to bring glory to God. If our faith is dead, this will not happen.
These actions that James talks about are not some sort of legalistic list to make sure we do. You know, read 1 chapter of the Bible a day, pray for at least 10 seconds in a row without distraction, go to church, don’t cuss, don’t flip people off who are jerks when driving… The list could go on and on. 
James is talking about something deeper. He is speaking of actions that flow out of a deep ad overwhelming sense that we are God’s hands and feet in whatever place we find ourselves. If we meet a hungry person, we cannot just pray for food for them. We must answer the prayer! That’s what living faith does.
Let’s shake off any dead faith that tries to sterilize us and live in the power of a God who calls us to a living, active, world-changing and shaking faith.
“Give me Christ or else I die!”

Hugging and Theology

I’m not a hugger. Ask anyone that knows me, and they would tell you I don’t hug people. In fact, I can give you the list of people I feel comfortable hugging:
My wife
My 4 kids
My mom, dad, brother, sister, grandma

That’s it. To put it mildly, physical touch is not my love language. This has been true of me for as long as I can remember. I remember fighting to stay away from kisses from my aunt or great grandma. Or hating visiting my other great grandma because I knew I would have to give her a hug before we left.

But, something has changed.

I have always believed that God can heal people. I grew up thinking, though, that all the miracle stuff of the New Testament was done and over, it didn’t happen now. So, while I believed God could heal people and perform miracles through us, he didn’t. That wasn’t how he was working anymore.

Over the last few months, that belief has been challenged. I have seen someone healed after collapsing in a church service. I have seen someone who was losing the ability to sing and speak, have his vocal chords healed in a miraculous way. I have seen a student who had trouble hearing without hearing aids not need them anymore.

That sounds like a God who not only can heal, but he is healing.

And somewhere deep down in me, this news, that the Holy Spirit is actively at work healing people, has turned me into a person who hugs. Jesus healed people with his touch. I don’t know how that worked, but if Jesus healed through touching people, then touch must be pretty important. So I decided to give people some hugs because Jesus loves them and I can give them a hug and tell them that.

This past week I was talking with a student who is hurt very deeply by some peers at school. We talked for a few minutes and then I asked if I could pray with him. I put my arm around his shoulders (shout out to the side hug!) to pray with him, and the moment I did that, he wrapped his arms around me and held on tight through the whole prayer. That student NEEDED a hug from someone that loved him with the love of Jesus. I think the hug said “Jesus loves you and so do I” a lot more than my words did.

And so, God continues to break into my life and upset my world in awesome and frightening (to me!) ways.

Storytelling

Do you ever tell a bad story? You know, one where you forget important details but somehow manage to describe the unimportant ones? Or it goes on and on and nothing ever happens? Or you just can’t quite seem to get the meaning across?

Yesterday, I tried my best to tell a bad story. The problem was, it was my story, the one I was living yesterday. I was tired and a little grumpy and having an inner pity party after a band practice felt like it didn’t go the way I hoped it would. Somewhere in there, I adopted a “woe-is-me” attitude. About my entire life.

It was pitiful.

And then, in spite of my best attempts at holding the “World’s Lamest Pity Party,” God showed up and reminded me of the real story. Students were at church who needed to meet Jesus. They needed prayed and talked with. They needed to know God heard them. And all of a sudden, my sorry self was reminded of the real story.

The story of a God who so loves the world that he sent Jesus. The story where I get the freedom to not be the main character. The story of the Holy Spirit at work in students lives bringing healing and freedom.

And those are stories worth telling. The pity party? Not so much.

What’s the story your trying to tell today? What’s the story Jesus is trying to tell through you?

“Give me Christ or else I die!”

Youth Ministry and the Law

My time in youth ministry has gotten me up close with the police a few times. Mostly in not-so-fun circumstances, but once, they were responding to a concerned neighbors call about someone shooting a shotgun at the church. When the police arrived they asked us to stop shooting the dumpster… with a balloon launcher and past it’s goodness fruit. Funny! But today, I’m not talking about that kind of law. I’m talking about the law of God.

Back in the day, the Israelites tried to earn their way to heaven by perfectly following God’s laws. They created more laws to follow help them follow God’s laws. And still, no one could seem to do it perfectly. So Jesus came and actually did it. He lived the law perfectly so that no one else ever had to. We are saved by grace through faith, and this is not something that we accomplish, it is a gift from God. So we no longer have to try to earn our way to heaven!

Except in youth ministry. I often feel an immense pressure to teach students how to be good, moral people. I feel like there is an expectation that I will teach them not to watch ‘R’ rated movies, that saying cuss words is wrong, and a whole list of other things that will help them be good, moral people. And lots of the things on the list are true and good and right and will help them be good, moral people.

I have just one problem with that: I am not looking to create good, moral citizens of this earth. I mean, I hope students are good and moral and ethical and all that, I just they are something else first.

I hope they are in love with Jesus, and his bride, the church. I hope they are giving Him all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. And then loving others out of their love for Christ. If they are doing that, the moral choices will be easier. And if they aren’t doing that? The moral choices won’t save them, and I don’t want them for a second to think the goal of church and God is for them to be a good person.

So parents, I apologize if you are hoping I will teach your kid right from wrong. I’m not real interested in that being my job description.

But I will teach your kids about fixing their eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and running a good race with him as the finish line.

Simplifying

I like to read blogs. As a youth pastor I really enjoy reading blogs about youth ministry. So I subscribe and subscribe and subscribe. And read and read and read. And all this subscribing and reading leads to a whole mess of thinking.

On any random day, I will find myself drawn into blogs to think about calendar planning, how to be a better teacher, purity, running a good event, and many other things. I realized over time, that I was thinking and creating less and less for my own youth ministry, and more and more just jumping from thought to thought.

And so, a week or two ago, I did this:
BEFORE:

AFTER:

I kept 4 youth ministry blogs that are people I know or that I feel like “mentor” me from afar. I kicked the rest to the curb!

And I haven’t noticed or missed them at all!

But I have a lot more time to breathe. And pray. And listen. And dream. And create. And that is beautiful.

I think God, in the life of Christ, calls us to live simply because it creates space around us. The space for God to speak to us. The space for people and relationship. The space for silence and meditation on and around the things of God.

But I still have a ways to go, just stop by my office some day!

What places in your life do you need to find simplicity?

Thoughts from My Ordination

I was ordained in the Mennonite Church on Sunday. Coming into the ordination, I don’t know that I had a lot of thoughts about what it would be like. I didn’t expect to feel different on Monday morning, and I didn’t. But I also didn’t expect some of the things I did feel and experience.

  • Having my college pastor, Gary Aronhalt, and his wife, Melanie, for the weekend was incredibly fantastic. We had sort of lost touch outside of facebook in the last few years and it was wonderful to sit and tell stories and reconnect. I love those people. 
  • It has also been a while since I heard my mom play piano and my dad sing. They are really talented. I’m glad a small fraction of their musical talent rubbed off on me. I love those people a bunch, also.
  • Students and youth leaders wrote me letters comparing me to various items of clothing and then dressed me up in them. It was fun. And encouraging. And I looked like this(ps- you can’t see the sweet clip-on earrings or sweatpants):

  • The prayer time. Oh my. A group of men and women came forward and prayed for and over me. And it was a powerful moment in my life. One of the hands on me was pouring the Holy Spirit into me. And I mean I could literally feel it coming into my shoulder and filling my upper body. It was hard to stand under the weight of it. I have never experienced something like that before. But if that was the Holy Spirit, I want more!

All in all, I was blessed by the morning, and I think our church was, as well. I am so grateful that God has called me in this time to this place to be a pastor. And specifically a pastor to students. May His kingdom grow and His fame increase!