Month: June 2013

Let Them Jump!

This weekend my 7 year olds tried out for a play. I could not really imagine them making and then performing in this play. They tend to be shy and I figured if they were shy at the audition, then they had very little chance of making it. They were not shy. In fact, Carsen ended up with a main speaking part.

Carsen trying really hard not to be a goofball for a picture

And I learned a bit more about being a dad. Here’s what I’ve felt since they got cast:
Immensely proud. Overwhelmingly scared for them.

What if he can’t learn his lines? What if she gets stage fright and can’t go on? What if he forgets his lines and is embarrassed? What if…?

Then I stopped as I realized that this is what parenting is. It is leading your child to the edge of something new and exciting and maybe scary and then letting them jump! Shiloh and I will help them get to practices, work with them at home, sit it the audience at performances and encourage them any way we can, but when the time to perform comes, they will walk out on the stage without us. And it is far better that way.

There will be many leaps to lead my kids to in the next two decades of my life. Biking to a friends house, entering art shows, driving, dating, marriage, and more. But I will not be making those jumps. I will have my own jumps to take. The joy as a parent is not in doing these things for them. It’s in realizing God has given them the ability to do these things and then watching them jump and do them.

God give me grace to let my 7 year olds jump!

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The Good and Wild God

Go read it if you never have!

For whatever reason, a passage from the “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S Lewis is running through my head this morning. It is a scene inside the beaver’s home where they are describing the great king, Aslan to the 3 children:

“Is – is he a man?” asked Lucy“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion, the Lion, the great Lion.”“Ooh,” said Susan, “I thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”“That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you.”

I am tired of a safe god. Our God can divide oceans and slay giants! He is a wild and powerful God. Yet we continually look to him to protect us and keep anything in our lives from getting out of order. Maybe we need some disorder.

Coming back to youth ministry this weekend, I am praying that I have many opportunities to experience the goodness of God with students. But I also know that we will experience his goodness in hard places. God show his goodness in our brokenness. This is the message of the cross after all, that God enters into death in order to overcome it.

It is not safe to follow this God. He will call you to dangerous things for His kingdom. He will call you to places where you will lose income or reputation. He will call you to go places and do things that put you very far outside of your “comfort zone.”

If you want to follow God, give up your American, first world need for safety, and instead rely upon the goodness of God in the times were you don’t feel safe. It’s better.

Give thanks to the Lord,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”> for he is good;<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”>
    his love endures forever. 
                                  -Psalm 107:1

“Give me Christ or else I die!”

The Burning Bush

(Photo from flickr:  Huluppu Tree
Exodus 3:1-5:
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”> his father-in-law, the priest of Midian,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”> and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(C)”> the mountain<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(D)”> of God. There the angel of the Lord<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(E)”> appeared to him in flames of fire<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(F)”> from within a bush.<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(G)”> Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(H)”> to him from within the bush,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(I)”> “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(J)”>
“Do not come any closer,”<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(K)”> God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”                                                                                  

As far as I can tell, there was nothing exceptional about the bush that caught on fire. It was not a “holy” bush. It wasn’t a direct descendant of the tree of life. The food that it may or may not have produced didn’t have special magical qualities known throughout the world. It was just a bush in the middle of the wilderness where the ground was good for sheep to graze.

Until God showed up. Then the bush and the ground surrounding it became holy. They became set apart for God’s purpose for God’s kingdom. It wasn’t holy because of what previously happened there. It wasn’t holy because of what Moses had done to make it so. It was holy because God showed up and made it that way.

Here is the beautiful thing for our lives today: God is still showing up in unexpected places and working. He keeps doing it in my life and the lives of those around me. He wants to perform miracles in your midst. You just need to be ready to notice. 

God does not perform these miracles of burning bushes just to show you that he can or to make you feel better. He used the burning bush to call Moses to something enormous. He is calling you to work in and for His kingdom as well. Don’t mistake the miracle for the call to faithful obedience. The goal isn’t to see miracles, the goal is to see God.

So go and seek after God and watch for places that become holy ground because God is there and He is calling out to you!

Leadership, B.C. Style

Our world cares a lot about people who are leaders or show leadership capabilities. We want to train them and give them opportunities and make sure they create successful companies or communities. This is all well and good. But I think in the church we are not supposed to do it quite the same way.

The spiritual gift of leadership is found in Romans 12 among other gifts like teaching and mercy. I have always been taught that these gifts are given by God to be used for His kingdom. It has, therefore, always seemed a bit off to me that the US church focuses so much on leadership development. If God gives the gifts, then will he not also qualify the one to whom he has given the gift?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t work to raise up leaders in the church or impart knowledge, but we shouldn’t prize leadership as the ultimate spiritual gift. I once heard Bill Hybels, during his Global Leadership Summit, thank God that he had the gift of leadership and not lesser gifts like hospitality and mercy. That sounds like a mouth that has forgotten that he needs a whole body to work! I have been wondering what leadership development looks like as my church talks about how to do it. I think helping students find and develop their spiritual gifts is incredibly important for me as a youth pastor.

All of that said, this morning I’m reading in the book of Joshua. We hear about Joshua all through the story of Moses. He is around Moses, helping Moses, going places with Moses. Then, near the end of Moses’ life, God declares that Joshua is to be the next leader of the Israelites. His first major task will be to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River and into the promised land. He leads them across the river on dry ground as God stops the flow of the Jordan for the entire nation to get across. Here is what Joshua 4:14 says about that day and Joshua becoming a leader:

That day the Lord made Joshua a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites, and for the rest of his life they revered him as much as they had revered Moses.

 Although I’m sure hanging out with Moses helped Joshua as a leader, Moses did not make Joshua a great leader. Joshua didn’t get a certificate from any leadership institutes. Joshua didn’t even make himself a great leader. It wasn’t some inherent quality that people wanted to follow. God used Joshua to perform a miracle and then he was a great leader. No classes, no ceremonies, just God. Joshua was called to obedience and faithfulness and he listened to the call of God to act.

Maybe that is what leaders of the Church are still being called to today. Not fancy techniques, not more classes, not any human thing. We are called to faithful obedience as we wait on God to act and then to lead people in the direction of His action.

Your thoughts?

Kayaking and the Narrow Road

A couple of weeks ago I spent a beautiful morning on the Arkansas sorta River kayaking with a couple of great friends. We talked and laughed and enjoyed being outside. The river was not raging. In fact, if you weren’t careful you would find yourself stuck on a sandbar. But if you payed attention, there was plenty of water to get down the river and enjoy it. On the river, the right path was a winding ‘s’ curve that swept from bank to bank over and over. But, being a river, the right path and the wrong path ran very closely together. It was often hard to tell if a place was the right way to go until you were right on top of it.
(That’s a bald eagle flying through the middle!)
All of this got me thinking about Matthew 7:13-14 where Jesus says, 

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

I’ve always thought of those verses as describing roads that head in two different directions. One goes North, one goes South. But both those roads, the one of destruction and the one to life, are headed to the same thing in my life. My earthly death. After I die, they will diverge quickly and considerably, but until then, the roads are connected.
Which brings me back to the river and those pesky sandbars that you get stuck on when you’re taking a picture or watching a bald eagle or just floating without really thinking. They are everywhere! You can easily end up on them if you aren’t watching the water.
So pay attention. 
Listen and watch for God.
And follow where he is leading you down the narrow road. Just because it is narrow doesn’t mean it will be straight.

The Long Winding Road

Have you ever wondered where God was taking you? Or you knew where God was taking you but didn’t understand why it was taking so long?

Deuteronomy 1:2-3 give us a quick glimpse into what it means to follow God:

Normally it takes only eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, going by way of Mount Seir. But forty years after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses addressed the people of Israel, telling them everything the Lord had commanded him to say.

For you math lovers out there, that means it took the Israelites 1327.3 times longer to get to the East side of the Jordan River than it should have. That’s like taking 22 hours to complete the 1 minute walk to your next door neighbors house. The Israelites didn’t love this. In fact, there are a few times recorded in the Bible where the Israelites start grumbling about wandering in the wilderness instead of being in Egypt where life was good. God was taking forever, and they would rather return to slavery than keep waiting!

But here is the thing about God: He is much less concerned with getting you somewhere than he is with making you into something. He wanted the Israelites to learn to be His people. That was much more important than getting immediately into the promised land. He wanted to make sure they understood who He was (God, not god) and what he required of His people (holiness through obedience and sacrifice) and it took a LONG time for them to learn.

Don’t rush God. If you feel like you are wandering around in the desert of your life right now, find contentment that God is working in you to make you into His image. Don’t try and push ahead of God, that will get you beat up and knocked around. Look for where he is leading you next. It’s ok if you’ve been there before. When trips take a 1000 times longer than they are supposed to, sometimes you cover the same ground a few times. Remember God loves you, has a plan for your life, and will not forget about you.

Wander.
Listen.
Learn.
Follow God in the desert.
He will lead you out of it when the time is right.