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Action vs. Blah Blah Blah

I must start this post by stating that yes, it is a bit ironic that I would use a long blog post to state that we need more action and less words in our society. Oh well, here we go!

If you look at the news any given morning or evening, it can be fairly depressing. Just a quick list from this morning:

  • NFL Star turns himself in on child abuse charges
  • Continuing unrest in Ferguson
  • The fight against ISIS
  • Pennsylvania State Trooper killed in ambush

And, as always, the list goes on and on. Here is where I see the problem: We all feel the need to post on social media or comment on news articles about what our opinion is and argue with those who disagree because obviously anyone who disagrees with us is a moronic fool who couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him the c-a.

I have two suggestions:

1. If you can’t say “but I might be wrong” when entering into arguments that are a matter of opinion, then keep your mouth (or fingers) closed. There are some things I believe very strongly about our society and government. I believe them to my core. BUT I MIGHT BE WRONG! This allows us to have a conversation where I don’t have to vilify you for disagreeing with me. Disagreement is ok, really.

2. Actions speak louder than words. The specific action that speaks most loudly is love. So you think the current rash of NFL players facing domestic abuse charges is terrible? Love and hug your kids/grandkids/niece and nephews. And become a big for Big Brother/Big Sister. Choose an action that fights back against hate and violence.

Ferguson have you hot and bothered because of wayward police or thug kids? Be a voice in your community for racial reconciliation. Go to church with people who are different than you. Make friends with someone who you need lots of hand motions to communicate with because you speak different languages. Say thank you to some policemen.

Maybe for you it’s the fear of ISIS invading America. Be a person who sows peace. Create peace in your home, your workplace, your neighborhood.

Maybe your issue is taxes and welfare and the economy. Think our government gives to much to the poor? Then you better start helping the poor, because the only way the government is stopping is because the people have it covered.

I do not know how to fix all the problems in our world, nor do I want that job. But I do know that if I choose to live a life that reflects the love of Christ, God’s kingdom will grow.

Here is what James 1:19-22 says about it:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Actions speak louder than words. So what are you going to do?

Lessons on Encouragement from Kevin Durant

Image

photo from espn.com

Kevin Durant is one of the two best basketball players in the entire world, and yesterday he won his first MVP award. He gave a heartfelt speech that including naming his mom as the real MVP for the job she did raising him as a young single mom. Durant also spent time thanking each one of his teammates for the part they have played in making him into the player and man he is. It was very moving.

During his speech, he thanked two of his teammates, Caron Butler and Kendrick Perkins, for encouragement they gave him in moments that he didn’t believe in himself. You can view those two portions here and here. This was someone at the top of his profession in need of people to believe in him and call out the greatness they saw in him.

I want to challenge you to think for a minute about people in your life. Some of them, especially those that are young, need you to call things out of them by seeing their gifts when they cannot see them. They need you to love them through their failures. They need you to believe that they are ok, even when they cannot believe it.

In the church(and especially in youth ministry), this should be happening all the time. We should be praying for each other and calling out the goodness and beauty of the Holy Spirit within each follower of Jesus. The church will be a different place if we look for and encourage the spiritual gifts found in Scripture. 

I’ll leave you with a list of gifts and encourage you to read through them slowly and ask God to bring people to mind that you need to encourage.

  • Romans 12: exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, prophecy, service, teaching 
  • 1 Corinthians 12: administration, apostle, discernment, faith, healing, helps, knowledge, miracles, prophecy, teaching, tongues, tongues interpretation, wisdom
  • Ephesians 4: apostle, evangelism, pastor, prophecy, teaching

Reasons Stay at Home Moms are Crazy Awesome

Our children in a calm moment. Photo Credit: Blue Muse Photography

Our children in a calm moment. Photo Credit: Blue Muse Photography

The past three days I’ve been a stay at home dad while my wife goes to a couple of conferences. I’ve taken care of my children plenty of times, but never all day for more than 1 day. A few thoughts on why stay at home moms are crazy awesome from my less-than-half-a-week foray into stay at home life:

  • Someone is always hungry. If a stay at home mom cleans something up in the kitchen, someone else will immediately be dying of starvation. So they are always preparing food and cleaning the kitchen.
  • Kids can get toys out at roughly the same speed it takes for a rocket to leave the earth’s atmosphere. They somehow manage to get toys out while they are cleaning other ones up (and by “cleaning up” I mean “ignoring”). So stay at home moms are always cleaning up toys that are in the way of some other chore they need to do.
  • My son will somehow use between 3 and 1,000 cups to get drinks everyday. At the end of the day, there is no more counter space, just places to hold Carsen’s cups. No joke, I just put 9 cups into the dishwasher from yesterday. This means stay at home moms are always dealing with dishes.
  • We talk all the time about the mood swings of pregnant women, but I hear little about the mood swings of a 1 year old. 1 minute I am the greatest person on the planet because I can reach the Cheerio box and the next minute I am a villain for daring to suggest nap time. While she is mad at me, I am also the only one that can comfort her. So, stay at home moms are always causing meltdowns and then being a counselor.
  • My kids are creative. Creative comes from a Latin word which means “there will be thousands of tiny pieces of paper and crayon all over your floor at all times.” So stay at home moms are always sweeping or vacuuming the floor.

What I’ve listed is just a drop in the bucket. I’m certain the list of things a stay at home mom is always doing would rival “War and Peace” in length. I didn’t even get to books or ouchies or hugs and kisses. So, the next time you see a stay at home mom, give her a hug, tell her she’s doing great and for goodness sake give her some chocolate!

Just don’t be surprised if she doesn’t pause for long. She may hear water running in the hall bathroom, and that is never a good sign…

Remembering Who to Listen to

As I’ve come back from sabbatical in the last two months I have realized that I had forgotten a few things during my three months away. Things like how often my phone chirps and beeps and rings and otherwise demands my attention. Or how indescribably much I love praying and worshiping with students.

I also forgot how hard it can be to hear God above all the voices that suddenly crowd into my world. I have to be very intentional in making time and space to just listen to God. If I don’t, all those other voices will lead the ministry God has asked me to lead in a lot of different directions. And often it will be because I lead things that way because I am responding to the wrong voice.

So I must wait on the Lord. And find myself and my ministry squarely sheltered under Him. I must listen for the still, small voice that calls out in the midst of chaos, and follow it. This is not easy. It is not always fun. But, it is work that I am blessed and called to pursue. It is good and holy work. So voices and noise, complainers and worriers: make all the noise you want. I will listen to the voice of the King. His whispers to me can drown out all the shouting you can do!

“Give me Christ or else I die.”

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!

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!

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.

Jesus is Bigger than the Giants

Do you have some trouble because of following Jesus? Do you have enemies that need conquering? Do you see giants on the horizon that strike you with fear? If you choose to follow God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, then life will not always be easy. Jesus even told us as much in John 16:33 when he said, “in this world you will have trouble.”
The great news is that the verse finishes with Jesus saying, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I remember these words when I read the story of the 12 spies who go into the promised land to scout out the Israelite’s enemies in Numbers 13-14. Moses sends the 12 spies and when they return they all report that it is a land flowing with milk and honey that would be a great place to call home. But 10 of the spies report that there are numerous enemies including some giants that would probably defeat the Israelites should they choose to try to take the land.
But the spies Joshua and Caleb said something different. They called people to remember all that God had done while leading them out of Egypt. They called people to put their faith in a God who continually showed that He was their God and they were His people.
The people chose to live in fear and the punishment was that no adult except Joshua and Caleb ever saw the promised land. They wandered the desert for 40 years and experienced the consequence that came with their lack of faith.
We are faced with the same choice when Satan and his spiritual forces are attacking. We can cower in fear and run away to stop the attack and stay safe or we can move forward while remembering the story of God includes Him as the victor and King. Yes, it be hard. Yes, there will be times that it is scary. Yes, there will be moments when you don’t see your next step clearly. This is necessary where faith is concerned. But God will give you his peace and will be with you every step you take.
Take heart, Jesus has overcome the world. The forces of darkness cannot stand against Him!