Monday, August 31, 2009

Give God Your Best

It's a theme I harp on with the students and at NewSong. If God really is God of our lives, then we should be giving him the very best that we can in every way that we can.

The question always is, "What's my best?" Obviously none of us are perfect so we can't give God perfection. But we should be giving the best we can. How do we know when we are actually giving our best?

The example I've always used is with music. If you were told you were to give a concert somewhere in town, how much would you practice? How well would you know the music? How hard would you work to be ready for that day? Then that's how hard you should be practicing for God and for Sunday. It seems like a lot, but doesn't God deserve it?

Obviously that goes for more than just music. What about what we give, how we serve, when we teach, when we do anything for God.

I was reading Malachi earlier today. It's a book that makes me wonder what we really going on in Israel at the time, because a lot of it is about cheating God. And here's part of the first chapter...

Malachi 1:8 ~ When you bring blind animals as sacrifices, that is wrong. When you bring crippled and sick animals, that is wrong. Try giving them to your governor. Would he be pleased with you? He wouldn’t accept you,” says the Lord All-Powerful. (NCV)

Malachi is saying that when you give something to God, in this case an offering, but it can mean anything, time, effort, gifts, talents, think about as if you were giving it to someone else who is important to you. If you would be embarrassed to give your gift to them, why then would you give it to God, Someone way higher?

Just something to think about as you live your lives for Jesus. Are you giving Him all you should?


Friday, August 28, 2009

Food And Fireworks At Our Fingertips

The other night I was working my way through some pictures Lorie and I took months and months ago (I know, we're ahead of most people, looking at pictures we took!) and it was fun but there were so many.

The big bulk were fireworks. My lovely wife really, really, really enjoys fireworks. And now that we've entered the digital age, our attitude for taking pictures is take as many as you can, you can always delete the bad ones. so there are literally 9no lie) hundreds of pictures of the sky filled with color. And some are pretty good, she's good with that camera.

As I was doing this, I got a little hungry and ended up going to the kitchen to get something to eat. Looking in the fridge I was at first thinking there was nothing to eat. Then I stopped. Our fridge is full. And what we don't have we can get at Kroger a block away.

And it got me to thinking how lucky I am to experience things that most of the world will never get to. Just in this one night, I got to eat fresh food, much of which the rest of the world has no access to, while looking at pictures of fireworks. How many people in the world have never had the chance to see the sky painted with light and sound?

In a few weeks our church is doing a church-wide study campaign called "Hope Lives" in which we talk about global poverty and how we as the church can help, living out God's love as His hands and feet. In the book for the study it talks about how we have so many opportunities we have that no one else has. What drives me even more nuts, most people aren't appreciative of them, and some never even take the chance to take hold of them.

When I lived in Grande Cache, I was lucky enough to live in the mountains, able to walk up a mountain in a day and see rock and forest for a hundred miles. And yet, in that town, there were people who did not appreciate God's beauty. They had lived there twenty years and never taken the time to climb a hill...

Don't take it for granted. Be thankful for all you've been blessed with and take advantage of it!


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Do What Is Right

Still reading in Zechariah, it's a fun book. I've hit a section that is also in Hosea and other prophets, almost a theme if you will.

The people have been behaving badly, shocker. They are doing things that upset God and caused their own destruction. Now all these people and prophets want to make God happy. So how do you do that?

Zechariah 7:2-3 ~ The Jews of the city of Bethel had sent a group of men headed by Sharezer, the chief administrative officer of the king, and Regem-melech, to the Lord’s Temple at Jerusalem, to seek his blessing and to speak with the priests and prophets about whether they must continue their traditional custom of fasting and mourning during the month of August each year, as they had been doing for so long. (LB)

So there are all these problems and the Jews (and priests) want to ask God if they should keep practicing religion as they should, would that make God happy? The answer:

Zechariah 7:8-10 ~ Then this message from the Lord came to Zechariah. “Tell them to be honest and fair—and not to take bribes—and to be merciful and kind to everyone. Tell them to stop oppressing widows and orphans, foreigners and poor people, and to stop plotting evil against each other. (LB)

Hmmm. Really? This group of people are lying, taking bribes, acting mean and violent, treating widows and orphans badly, being horrible to foreigners, or worse, poor people and laying out plans to do unspeakable evil to each other. And they wonder why God isn't happy! I mean, He should be, despite all this we are going to church on Sunday like we should, right?

Living for God is so much more than an hour on Sunday. How about we actually start living the other 167 hours in a week like God wants us to live? Not just in a religious "read your Bible" way, but actually living out the love of God every minute of every day!

After all, if you were God, what would you want more? People living for you, or people directly disobeying you, but sucking up one hour a week since it's their duty to...?


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The What Now?

I was watching an archeology program on the holy land (I know, I'm a party animal) and throughout the show they tell little trivia facts about what they're looking at. Right up my alley. Then this one comes up. The Bible is the most popular book in the world. It's also the most shoplifted book in the world.

Now I had to think about that for a second. Forget the fact that most churches will probably give you a Bible for free (we will), people are stealing the Bible more than any other book. The book that teaches people not to steal is being stolen...

Now on one hand that worries me, as obvious above. But really, someone who is going to steal a Bible is probably someone who needs to read the Bible. I had a friend, Andrew, who's backpack was stolen one day. The thing he regretted most was his Bible being in there, all the notes, it was a gift, etc. But even he said, "Well, maybe God thinks they need it more than I do."

So here's my idea, let's stop the shoplifting and start the giving. It could make a world of difference. After all, imagine what our churches would be like if everyone in them were so hungry for the Word of God they would actually risk jail time to get it...


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Small Things

There's a verse in Zechariah I have heard so many times, I'm sure you know it:

Zechariah 4:6 ~ “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘You will not succeed by your own strength or by your own power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord All-Powerful. (NCV)

It's a great verse, gives hope, trust in God, all great things. But the reference is so much bigger. This was God talking to Zechariah about rebuilding His temple, a huge undertaking for people who are basically enslaved by other nations. God has a big dream that Zechariah can't seem to see. But then a few verses later, God says this:

Zechariah 4:10a ~ "“The people should not think that small beginnings are unimportant." (NCV)

How often do we do this? We make big plans, have all these big dreams, but when they don't seem to succeed in a week, a year, five years, we give up. There are very few big things that did not start small. Patience and persistence are needed.

Just today I was reading about a church out in California. A rather large church, around the 20,000 mark. Thirty years ago guess how many they had? 3 (4 including the pastor). It was two couples. That's it. Now these people are impacting thousands, maybe more. And I know of many churches that started that small, some even here in Fishers.

Don't worry about things being small. As I recall Someone saying, even a mustard tree starts out as a tiny seed...


Friday, August 21, 2009

What Vegetable Are You?

This summer Lorie and I tried our hand a little garden in our backyard. It's not huge by any stretch of the imagination, but it's there. We've got a few cucumber plants (which Lorie loves) and some parsley (which Clover loves) and then we've got this other one. I say that because we have no idea what it is. It's got some nice little flowers on it, and it looks pretty, it's the biggest one of all, but we have no idea what it is. It has no fruit. At least with the other things, we can see what's growing on it (it's hard to miss the cucumbers), but with this, ???

It got me thinking to our faith. There are a lot of people out there who say they are Christian. And they might be in the right garden, they may even have the biggest vines (as our plant has), but without fruit, what are you?

And after all, we know what Jesus thinks about plants without fruit...

Matthew 21:18-19 ~ In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, He was hungry, and He noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then He said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up. (NLT)


Thursday, August 20, 2009

You Have To Ask

Still reading in Mark, I hit the story of a blind man named Bartimaeus. Here's the story.

Mark 10:46-52 ~ Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” When Jesus heard him, He stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.” So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, He’s calling you!” Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus. “What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!” And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road. (NLT)

Now, are you going to tell me that Jesus didn't know what the guy wanted? Forget that Jesus is God and all knowing, everyone knows what this guy wants. Jesus has been healing people for a few years now and there's a blind guy yelling down the road (obviously not following Jesus, he's blind...) for Jesus to have mercy on him. What could he want...?

And then Jesus asks the guy, "What do you want Me to do for you?" Everyone knows, so why did Jesus ask? Because God wants to be asked. He wants to know exactly what we want and by asking we give Him permission to do what He needs to do.

We need to do our part. A section many people know:

Matthew 7:7-8 ~ “Ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you. Yes, everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And everyone who knocks will have the door opened." (NCV)

Notice it starts with you. You need to ask, then God gives it to you. You have to search, then you will find. You have to knock, then the door will open. That's how the world works. You have to be proactive in what you want from God and ask Him.

So if you're trying to figure out why something in your life isn't happening, have you asked God? Not have you thought He wants to do it anyway, not have you assumed God likes the idea, have you actually asked? It might make a world of difference.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rich Christians?

At Drink Deep, our Sunday night Sr. High program, we are talking about Stewardship for the rest of August. The idea that God owns everything was our discussion last Sunday and this Sunday will be money and giving. I know, popular topics for Christian living here in America. But I think it's more important here and now than anywhere else. Why? Because we have the riches, I just don't know if we have the heart...

I've been reading through Mark lately, and in that wonderful little gospel there's a story of a rich man who comes to Jesus saying he wants eternal life, and what must he do to get it. Jesus says to obey all the commandments, which the rich man says he has done (yeah, right! Have you read all of them? There's 613 in the Torah, and he hasn't broken one? Anyway...). So Jesus adds for him to sell all his stuff and give the money to the poor. Instead of an, "Okay Jesus, let's do it!" the man walks away sad. He can't part with his things.

Sound like America? We can't part with our stuff, that's no secret. Lorie and I went and looked at a house the other day someone was selling, the former tenants had destroyed it because they didn't like the idea of the bank foreclosing on them. I mean, how dare the bank say I can't own something I didn't pay for!

The reality is we love our stuff. More than Jesus sometimes I'm afraid. And I'm not saying that for shock effect. Even in our own church there are many families who have given absolutely nothing to God. Not a single cent. Are you telling me in Fishers, a town in one of the richest counties in the world, we can't afford to give anything to God? Yeah right. I think Jesus said it best:

Mark 10:23 ~ Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” (NLT)

It's hard because the rich have more to give up (or so it seems, because they have so much that they think is theirs anyway).

I don't want money to stop me from getting to heaven. I don't want something I own being a hindrance to my spiritual growth, to my relationship with Jesus. Do you?


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Better To Throw Yourself Into The Sea...

More from Mark. But I will set this one up a bit.

If you've been reading this blog, a few weeks ago you would have seen some stories from students working in Toronto on our summer mission trip. I know some of you have because you've been nice enough to mention to me, or even mention in a sermon, about my mad dancing skills from the Kids Club I worked at. Well, there's a reason I do that, here's the verse:

Mark 9:42 ~ “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in Me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. (NLT)

Here's the basic truth, I'm not the biggest fan of working with small children. I like them, just the more of them there are, the more the voices in my head start talking about violence. But there's a reason why I do it if asked or if I'm needed. This verse.

See, my dad was a Kindergarten teacher, he worked with kids all the time. So I spent some time growing up helping him, helping at Sunday School, and since he did it and people knew I helped, also with the youth group doing puppets, singing kids songs, etc. I got kind of burnt out on it and wasn't that big of a fan of kids. But then there's this verse.

Look at it closely, see what Jesus is saying. Basically, from the Troy International Version, "Teach these kids about Jesus. If you don't, you better kill yourself because you don't want to know what I will do if I get my hands on you. - God." That's what He's saying, if you cause a child to sin, kill yourself before God gets a hold of you. Now, I've read Exodus and God can be very imaginative when He wants me to suffer. I don't want that...

The reason I will dance and act stupid with kids, God puts such a high price on children and their soul. So if that's what God thinks, who am I to not give everything to the same cause He has? (As a little plug, Pastor Aaron is looking for leaders for our new children's program, Awana. Maybe it's time you helped out some little souls...)


Monday, August 17, 2009

On The Same Team

I've been reading through Mark lately and happened upon this passage:

Mark 9:38-40 ~ John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.” “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us. (NLT)

Isn't it sad that churches fighting each other started before Jesus even left and is still going on two thousand years later? That's basically what's going on here. One group of followers of Christ is upset at another group of followers of Christ because of what they are doing for the Kingdom of God.

That may sound harsh, but it still happens (and quite honestly, it needs to stop). Yesterday we had someone at our church who would not participate in communion because they only do it at their church. Um, aren't we all doing the same communion, reenacting and remembering the same last supper with the same Scripture being used from the words of the same Jesus?

We are all on the same team. Part of why I like being a youth pastor is most youth pastors get that. Teenagers aren't as "tied down" to a church as adults or children. They will go to different churches. And that's okay with me. Part of the reason I like to get to know the other youth pastors in town so I can say, "I know Pastor ___, he's a good guy," and it puts the parents at ease and allows the student to know it's okay to learn about God outside of the four walls I work in (I know, shocking, but it can happen).

Church, let's all get on the same team. There are enough other battles to fight without adding more among ourselves...


Friday, August 14, 2009

Your Own Jesus

Mark Hall (lead singer of Casting Crowns) has a new book out entitled Your Own Jesus. I understand his thinking behind the book and agree with it, the idea that many people do not know who Jesus is for themselves, they have merely inherited their faith from their parents, friends, pastor, whoever. It's true, we need to know who Jesus is for ourselves, we cannot rely on someone else to have our faith for us. All for it.

But I disagree with the title. This has been coming up in conversations lately with me, the idea of our personal relationship with Jesus. My own Jesus. Frankly, I don't have "my own Jesus." I don't decide what Jesus is like and make Him out to be who I want him to be. He is who He is no matter what I believe (remember, "I Am That I Am"...?).

I think in a way we've made Jesus too personal. It's like my relationship with Lorie. Do I have a personal relationship with her? Absolutely. Is my relationship with her entirely personal? Not at all. She's my wife. We were married in a room full of people. I wear a wedding band wherever I go. When we're out in public (generally) it's quite easy to tell she's my wife. Even when she's not with me, my ring, how I talk with people, it's pretty obvious I have a spouse somewhere.

My relationship with Jesus is not entirely personal. Yes, I have time alone with Jesus and personal belief's, but I'm a youth pastor. I stand up in front of people to talk about Jesus. When I walk into the high school, people know I know Jesus because of my job title. My relationship with Him is not a personal little secret. And most of the things I believe about Jesus are not personal. I didn't make them up or come up with them. I discovered them, I chose to agree with them, and I choose to live them out.

What about you? Is Jesus your personal Savior in the fact that He saved and has a relationship with you, or is He personal as in your personal little secret that you can control and decide what He is like? Are you living in a way people can see Jesus in you...?

Matthew 5:14-16 ~ “You are the light that gives light to the world. A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden. And people don’t hide a light under a bowl. They put it on a lampstand so the light shines for all the people in the house. In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven." (NCV)


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pray For You Constantly

I remember hearing the story of a missionary who had been overseas for years and came back to North America. While back he was asked to do all the normal missionary things, go speak at churches, conferences, drum up support, etc. Since he had been overseas for so long they arranged for a driver for this man.

Now the driver noticed something about this missionary, he was always mumbling. Not to other people, he spoke quite eloquently to them, but when he was alone in the car he was always mumbling to himself. The driver didn't think much of it at first, but as he drove him more and more places, he realized this man never stopped. Always, always mumbling.

So the driver decided to listen to the missionary's muttering voice. And you know what he heard? Prayer. This missionary was praying all the time.

One of the first verses I tell people to memorize is I Thessalonians 5:17. It's short yet powerful. "Pray continually". Now it seems like something easy, but have you tried to literally pray all the time? My mind is so scattered I don't know how anyone can do it. But Paul did it. This is how I Thessalonians starts:

I Thessalonians 1:2 ~ We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. (NLT)

Paul was praying for the people of that church constantly. Tell me, what do you think would happen if you prayed for your church constantly...?


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Follow The Food

For those that don't know, Lorie and I have a mini-zoo in our backyard. Basically it's a bird-feeder and corn (and the odd peanut), but we've gotten attention from the locals. There are at least four chipmunks around our house, a family of squirrels, another family of rabbits living under the bushes next door, raccoons and countless birds. It's fun to watch them in the mornings.

For the past few weeks, we haven't put any food out. With me gone on the mission trip, Lorie in Illinois, our trip to Toledo, etc. we just didn't put anything out for them to eat. And of course, they all vanished. So a few days ago we finally restocked everything and this morning, of course, over a dozen birds and a few four-legged friends were outside. It's very simple to find animals. Follow the food.

A basic principal of life. Animals live around, hang around, stay around where there's food. And it's no different for us. There's a reason that most older cities are on some sort of water (how many American cities have a river running through them). We like to be where our needs are met, where the food is.

I think the church is the same way. (As I type this, a squirrel just came to the deck doors looking for more food). People need their souls to be fed. How that looks is different for everyone, and sometimes churches need to feed people their vegetables even when they don't want to eat them, but all in all, I hope that our church is feeding people. We can't be simple entertainment, there should be sustenance, followed by growth.

After all, even Jesus used food as an analogy for His role in our lives...

John 6:35 ~ Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever." (MSG)


Saturday, August 08, 2009


Last night I was watching MLS (that would be soccer) on ESPN and it got me to thinking. I remember playing soccer (and we've done it at church before too), but when you get pros together, they play a certain way. The good ones anyway, they pass.

When you watch amateurs, the bad players kick away, the good players hog the ball (they don't trust anyone else to have it, and with good reason sometimes) but with pros, they're all good, they all know it, so they trust each other enough to pass the ball.

It reminded me of an Oiler game I went to years ago. A friend of mine, Cherolyn, won two tickets, and because she had left early I picked them up for her, and managed to go with her because of it (thanks Cher!). Gold seats, they were awesome. But I remember sitting with her at the game, they were playing the Kings. We were close enough to hear Robitaille swear. But what I remember is it was her first ever time at a pro game. You can watch it on TV, but it's not the same with so many things going on behind the play. And within about thirty seconds she said it. "I can't believe all the passing."

It's a lesson I think people who follow Christ can learn. Even Jesus passed. He could have done everything, but He didn't.

Matthew 16:15-19 ~ Then Jesus asked them, “And who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because no person taught you that. My Father in heaven showed you who I am. So I tell you, you are Peter. On this rock I will build my church, and the power of death will not be able to defeat it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; the things you don’t allow on earth will be the things that God does not allow, and the things you allow on earth will be the things that God allows.”(NCV)

What would the church be like if we had more passing...?


Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Bigger View

I'm sitting here working on our next session of Drink Deep coming up this month about Stewardship. I really hope you all aren't sick of hearing about it, seeing as we did a little about giving in July on Sunday mornings.

But I'm just thinking about how small our view of God is sometimes. God owns everything. And we as good little Christians say that, and it sounds good, and I think we believe it. At least to the point our tiny little minds can handle. Think about it for a second. God owns everything. That chair you're sitting in, God's. The money you used to buy that computer you're using to read this, God's. That oxygen you're breathing, God's. Every tiny quark in the universe belongs to God.

If we were to look at the church today, are we living with the mindset/lifestyle that everything is God's? From how we treat just the church building, do we see it as God's house, or is it "our" church that we built with "our" money for "our" Sunday morning worship?

I don't know, I think "Hope Lives" will be fun next month (be watching church newsletters, etc. for more information on that :)

Psalm 24:1 ~ The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. (NIV)


Monday, August 03, 2009

When You Feel Alone...

Isn't it funny how in this world we live in that is so incredibly inter-connected, you are never away from anyone thanks to cell phones, email and facebook allow us to keep in contact around the clock, we have world news at our fingertips, most have neighbors not far from their home, cars allow us to travel further for work than the average person would travel in their entire life 500 years ago (and thanks to airplanes we can travel across continents and oceans in hours)...

And yet people still feel alone.

Today I read about people who were "alone". In the Amazon (Brazil) there is a tribe of people called the Metyktire Tribe. They have been living in the rainforest unknown to many people for a long time. How long? They met their first ever person from outside the tribe in May 2007. Think about that! Just two years ago these people believed there was no one else on the planet outside of their little tribe!

Can you imagine how overwhelming that must have been? "Hey, nice to meet you. I'm one of 6 billion people here you didn't know existed." Think of all the times they could have used a doctor, education, electricity, who knows, anything that we take for granted everyday (I say that while sitting in a padded chair at a computer with the A/C on, and they were in the rainforest...).

I think for many people, we realize we are not alone, but we don't know who to trust, and that leads us to be alone. Thank God there's Someone who will never leave us (or forsake us).


Saturday, August 01, 2009

How Little Control We Actually Have

Sorry, not going to be wordy today. In the past week a couple of things have really hit me, and the hardest part about them is there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. As someone who likes to fix things, that is really, really hurting me. I've always believed there is a solution, and there always is, it's just not always one that I personally can get to.

One of those old memory verses from Sunday School is running through my head (thank you for making me memorize Scripture when I was 8). Proverbs 3 says we have to trust in the Lord with all our heart. And with where I am today, that's all I can do, trust. He's the same God who cares for every hair on my head, He's the same God who parted the Red Sea for His people, He's the same God who sacrificed His Son for me.

Sometimes, all we can do is trust...