Category Archives: Youth Ministry

Rules for Middle and High School Guys

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It is hard to believe but school starts this week in the area I serve as a youth pastor. So yesterday, I did things a little different in our youth group. I split up the guys and gals so we could have some straight talk, my wife went with the girls and I went with the guys…of course. Why did I do this? Well, last week, I came across this post on Sandra Stanley’s blog: Allie’s Rules for High School. You can read it here. As I read through the post, I realized these are rules, or guidelines, I believe any girl in any youth group could benefit from them. As a result, I came up with a list of rules/guidelines for guys to share with the guys in our group. As you read through them, you will notice some similarities as I simply adopted them for a male audience. Therefore, I do not take full credit for all of these and want to give Allie Stanley full credit for the rules she came up with and thank you for taking the time to find ways to encourage the girls in your small group, and as a result, challenge girls around the country. Thank you Sandra Stanley for sharing these rules as well.

Now, I do not believe there is anything special in these rules in and of themselves. Could a guy follow all of these rules and still not have a relationship with Jesus? It is possible. But it is my prayer that if only ONE guy from this group catches on, he could change our area for Christ. With that said, here are the rules for middle and high school guys.

  1. Learn to put God first in everything.
  2. Lead – you are a leader in one way or another. Lead in a way that brings the best out of others.
  3. Stand up for those being picked on or mistreated. It will make you a stronger person.
  4. Live in such a way that when you graduate or move away, you will be remembered for who you were, not simply what you did. Being cool or popular will not take you very far in life.
  5. Go to church – even when you do not want to – and get involved.
  6. Spend time with God and learn to study God’s Word.
  7. Pray, pray, pray and pray some more. If you do not know how to pray…learn.
  8. Be careful what you put in front of your eyes. It is extremely difficult to “unsee” something.
  9. It is not okay to “window shop.” In other words, Respect the women in your life…your mom, teachers and the young ladies around you…and guard their hearts. Women are not an object for our pleasure.
  10. Be careful who you date, it will have a lasting impact on you more than you know.
  11. Set standards and stick to them even if your friends think they are silly. It will keep you from regretting something in your future.
  12. Stay vertical – Don’t do anything with a girl you would not want a guy doing with your future wife.
  13. Respect authority…from teachers, to coaches, to parents to anyone over you. You will always have people over you, learning to respect them even if you disagree with them is essential.
  14. Spend time with your family.
  15. Obey your parents, even when you do not want to. They know you better than you think and they care about you.
  16. If you are involved in any situation you would not want your parents or others to know about, get out of the situation immediately.
  17. Find an accountability partner and meet consistently for encouragement and challenge.
  18. Find an older man outside of your dad to regularly meet with to learn from.
  19. Do not let the world tell you how to live your life.
  20. Work hard at what you do. Do not get involved in anything that you will not be able to give 100% to.
  21. Don’t be afraid to say no. Better to be seen as a wimp than wind up dead.
  22. If you mess up with any of these rules, know this: God NEVER turns His back on us and will forgive. And I will be here for you.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you know a youth pastor, or a volunteer who works with youth or leads a small group of guys, feel free to share this with them.

 


Weekly Scoop

It started with my daughter, moved on to my wife and then finally caught up with me. It is not often I get sick but unfortunately, this time, I caught the bug. I am slowly starting to regain my energy and will hopefully be fully recovered this weekend. With all of that said, I am glad I can still share my Weekly Scoop with you and with that said, here are some links I believe would be worth your time:

Here are a few pictures of baby animals in the womb. It’s amazing we still call them babies, but human babies in the womb are only fetus’? Something that can be easily disposed of? 12 Unborn Animals in the Womb.

Are you working with youth in any capacity? This video is for you: How to Ruin Young People.

Celebrity pastors and the issues they can create: Pastor rolls up in a tour bus.

Fathers can and will fail at something in their parenting…but even our failures can be and are redeemed by the blood of Jesus: Daddy Fails redeemed by Jesus.

Here is a challenging but encouraging read for the mothers out there: Steps to overcome anger in the moment.

Are you making any of these mistakes that hinder your child’s leadership development: 7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors.

Do you often post to social media in the heat of the moment? 5 Question to ask before posting.

Are you considering quitting social media? If so, here are two posts that will help you make the right decision: How can I know if I should quit and Why I kissed social media goodbye.

Thanks again for checking out my Weekly Scoop. Feel free to share this with others if you find it beneficial to yourself. Also, if you read anything you believe I should be aware of, share it with me in the comments.


How Christians can impact the debate on abortion

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The fight continues day in and day out. The issue has divided the government and the country. Ever since Roe v Wade, abortion has stayed at the forefront of many elections. Does the unborn’s right to live carry more weight than the woman’s right to control her own body? Who has any right to say what a woman can or cannot do to her own body? How can someone say the little baby growing in a mother’s womb is anything but a human life, which therefore means abortion is murder? These are just a few issues the debate over abortion tries to answer. When it comes to abortion, the statistics are staggering when you take the time to check them out. They are heartbreaking as well. Yesterday I posted a blog on The Heart of Abortion. The conclusion I submitted is that abortion has two primary power sources, two driving forces: pride and self-centeredness. Abortion would cease to exist if not for those two notions. In yesterday’s post, I referenced this Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.” I briefly discussed how this mindset had a huge part in the abortion movement towards being legal. It infiltrated the culture and impacted people around the country because it sounds so good. The heart should be what we follow because how can our own hearts lead us wrong? I have to submit that it truly has led us down the wrong path, a path flowing with the blood of the unborn. The question facing the church is how can we help trigger a shift in culture’s mindset regarding abortion? How can we help culture begin to value life, even when that life might interfere with our lives or our dreams? Is this even possible? Do we bring about this change by standing outside abortion clinics and holding signs showing how much we dislike abortions? Should we only vote for politicians who are pro-life? Should we boycott any company that supports Planned Parenthood? How can we truly make the biggest impact and change the future in this topic? While these ways might seem best, they miss the true heart of the issue which is the human heart. If we begin with finding ways to address the human heart, nothing will change. It will be like putting a Band-Aid on something that requires surgery. Here are a three ways I believe followers of Christ can begin to bring about this transformation in culture and thinking: First and foremost, remember our battle is not against flesh and blood

As Christians, we are constantly reminded our true battle with anything in this world is not a battle against other people, but a battle against Satan and the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Remembering this will help keep us focused on the true battle. Abortion is simply a product of the Spiritual battle waging in the world right now. If we do not face this issue with this in mind, we will simply try to outshout our opponents, which has never been a true manner to bring about lasting change.  More importantly, as we remember who our true battle is against, it helps us love people as God does and see people As God sees them. When a soldier is in a battle, they are not easily distracted from their task; they are focused on the battle at hand. We as Christians need to have a soldier mentality and not allow ourselves to be so easily distracted with the things of this world; things we have allowed ourselves to believe are more important than they are. I need help with this mindset and if we are to bring about a shift in the area of abortion, we need to remember we are in a spiritual battle.

Invest in the next generation

If the mindset on abortion is going to change, it will be changed by the next generation. If we do not help the next generation see the value of life and how everyone, even an unwanted or unexpected baby, deserves the right to live, nothing will change. For this investment to happen, the church needs to find ways to reach the next generation with the Gospel. We need to get involved in the lives of young people, especially those outside the church. Once again, this cannot be simply putting up youth centers and hoping they come to us, it means we need to get to them. How do we get to them? Move into their neighborhoods, substitute teach in their schools, or coach youth athletic teams. Simply put, we need to get involved in their lives. Think about it, who will be getting abortions in the future? It isn’t the older generation, it is the next generation. We cannot show people how much we care at a distance. If we want people to know we care, it means reaching out to them, it means going to where they are. That is how we impact a generation. This also means getting involved in the lives of families around us which means we need to step outside our houses and spend time getting to know our neighbors.

The other part of investing in the next generation is helping young people within the church truly understand what it means to live as a follower of Christ. The people who are on the front lines of this issue are the young people in our churches right now, the college students down to the middle school and junior high students, even down to elementary students. Those are the people we need to be investing in and training how to live as disciples of Christ. This means we as parents and the older people in the church need to not only model a life worthy of the Gospel, but find ways to get involved in the lives of the younger people in the church. This means if we are not truly giving everything we have for the sake of the Gospel, the youth in our churches won’t either.

“What one generation tolerates, the next will embrace.”

I saw this quote on Twitter and it fits very well in this situation. If we in the church today tolerate a mindset where church is optional and God’s Word is not taught in the home, the next generation will embrace it and church will become even more optional and time in God’s Word will become more sparse. If we tolerate other things being placed over church and over the Gospel, they will embrace it. For us to truly change the mindset towards abortion in this country we have to start with young people and truly invest in them and helping them see there is value to life and no one is an accident. Everyone has a God-given purpose and everyone is loved by God and God desires a relationship with them; that is the message we need to teach the young people in this country.

Live as missionaries

This is by far the most important of the ways we as Christians can make an impact when it comes to the issue of abortion. Missionaries are known as people who go to a certain country or people group and live among them for the purpose of reaching them with Gospel of Jesus Christ. Everything they do from where they live to where they work is based around the purpose of sharing the Gospel with everyone they can. If we are to bring about a change in this country, we have to live with a missionary mindset. I have a friend who models this mindset perfectly while living within what we would call the “Bible belt.” He and his wife and 3 kids had a nice home in one of the nicer areas of Lynchburg, VA. They attended church, they gave faithfully, they helped in soup kitchens and various ministries in their church, and the husband even helped lead a Bible study for a local mission. However, they weren’t satisfied with simply taking time to go into those communities. They wanted something more impactful. They decided to put rent out their house and move into a rented home in what some people would call a more run down area of Lynchburg. They did this because they realized ministry begins with living among the people you want to reach. We can affect people by going to them at various times, but what brings about lasting change is living among people where you can truly have an impact. This is what Jesus did for us. In John 1:14 it says “And the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us…” Jesus traded the glory of heaven for the dust and dirt of the earth to live among His creation. The church in America needs to remember the mission field is not overseas, it is right here in our country. What I know is my friend’s family is going to be presented with more opportunities to impact those around them because they live among them. If he had simply continued to reach out and go to them on weekends or other times, he would not have the same impact he does right now by living among them. Imagine if Christians began invading the ghettos and the poorest areas of cities? Imagine if every professing Christian got rid of the idea of living comfortably? Where in the Bible does it tell us to strive to live comfortably? Everything I read in the Bible seems to show we are to live radically and uncomfortably.

The church needs to begin finding ways to get into the world instead of waiting for the world to come to us. One of the main reasons America is where it is right now is because we went through a period where instead of going to the world right outside our doorstep, we began to get comfortable in our churches and houses and neighborhoods and waited for the world to come to us. The church was never meant to be this way. The church was meant to be on mission. Churches used to be built right in the middle of a town or city but now you find so many churches in the suburbs. We need to get back into the city in order to impact it.

  For the church to bring about a shift in thinking on the topic of abortion, these steps are important ones to be taken. We will not have the impact God placed the church here for if we do not take these steps. If we take Jesus’ mission serious, we have no other choice. However, it all has to start with love. As 1 Corinthians 13 says, love needs to be our motivating factor. Our love for God will lead us to a deeper love for Jesus which will lead us to love people as God loves people resulting in our lives bringing glory to God and us having opportunities to share the Gospel with others. If we truly love people as God loves them, we will gain an audience with them and have opportunities to share the hope we have. We will live lives people notice. Why will they notice us? Because we will be living among them, loving them unconditionally and helping them see how much God loves them through our lives. We will be investing in them though they can do nothing for us in return. As we do this, their hearts will be softened and they will be impacted even if they do not believe in God. The most powerful witness for the Gospel is a life lived completely and fully for Christ because when we live that way, people see no hypocrisy and their hearts are opened through our love. This is truly how we bring about this change in our country. It has to start at the bottom, with loving people where they are, not with simply voting pro-life or trying to outshout our opponents. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Feel free to share any comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts.


The Gospel Transformation Bible

I can honestly say this is the first Bible I have ever reviewed. I can also say I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to see all the Gospel Transformation Bible had to offer. I knew it would be quality because of the reputation Crossway has, and I also knew it would be quality because it was God’s Word. Thus, I was looking forward to having the opportunity to check it out and give my opinion for the blogging universe. Keep reading to gain a better perspective as to why you should check out the Gospel Transformation Bible.

First off, the great thing about this study Bible is obvious from the title; it is all about the Gospel. The introduction in the front says it well:

The goal of the Gospel Transformation Bible is twofold: (1) to enable readers to understand that the whole Bible is a unified message of the gospel of God’s grace culminating in Christ Jesus, and (2) to help believers apply this good news to their everyday lives in a heart transforming way.

Next, this is great for any number of reasons but one of the main reasons is it helps point the reader to Christ. However, I believe for a while now, this has not always been preached from the pulpit though in many American churches. Recently though, there is a movement where the Gospel is taking center stage in the church again, as it should. As I have matured and grown in my walk with the Lord, I have come to understand the Gospel is not just what the New Testament has to say about Jesus Christ and does not just begin with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There is not a different God in the New Testament than there is in the Old Testament. God is one and the same and we come to understand this as we come to understand the Gospel more clearly. The Gospel is preached from the very beginning of Genesis through the history of Israel to the “Gospels” all the way through to Revelation. Everything points to and comes out of Jesus Christ. Colossians 1 paints such a clear picture of how everything is because of Jesus Christ, and everything is for Jesus Christ, and everything is through Jesus Christ. (Colossians 1:16-20) Apart from Him, there is no Gospel; apart from Jesus, there is no grace. This study Bible helps the reader understand this most important fact about the Bible.

As a youth pastor, I get the amazing privilege and opportunity to interact with youth on a daily and weekly basis and in many ways, it has been eye opening. Through simply asking teens the question “What is the Gospel”, you will receive many different answers. This should be a warning sign to the church that we need to take action and help the next generation realize the Gospel does not only begin in Matthew, it begins from the very beginning. Through my time as a youth pastor, I have come to realize encouraging youth to simply “be good” or “act right” or “make good choices” does nothing to really get to the heart of the matter. This is not only true with youth; it is true with adults as well. If the church wants to truly see change, the Gospel needs to be preached constantly and fully. The Gospel Transformation Bible helps us figure out how to do that. The Gospel is the only thing powerful enough to change lives. When people come to God, through Christ, they are not supposed to clean up first and then come to God, Jesus welcomes us as we are and then begins a process of cleaning us up. This is part of the Gospel. The more we understand that, the less judgmental we will be.

With that said, I want to move on because this post is a review, not a sermon. You might be reading this and thinking well that is good for those in the ministry, it will help them teach me better because I do not have time to study all of this on my own. If this is in any way similar to your line of thinking, this Bible is for you. You will not need a pastor to help you understand everything this Bible has to say. This Bible will help you understand how the Gospel can be seen through practically every story in the Bible and help you understand how you can apply this to your life and walk in the grace made available to us all through Jesus Christ. This Bible can help anyone from a teenager to a seasoned adult to a parent wanting a more meaningful time of family devotions understand how all of Scripture contains elements of the Gospel and all of Scripture points to the Gospel.

Simply put, this Bible is worth your investment. It will take your devotional time to a deeper meaning and understanding of how the Gospel is woven throughout the whole of Scripture and how it brings a much deeper purpose to our lives as well as training us to go out and make disciples. Basically, if you are a Christian, the Gospel Transformation Bible should be on your list of things to purchase, especially if you desire a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Christian and a more intimate relationship with the Lord. It is probably a little big for a stocking, but it will be a gift that will reap far more rewards than any video game or smartphone or digital device ever will. Here is a link to the Gospel Transformation Bible on Amazon:

http://rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&npa=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=the027c-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=1433538679

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for this review. Thanks for taking the time to read this review and feel free to leave comments or questions.


Life Lessons from Kanye and J Biebs

This morning on my commute to Covington, I was listening to a local radio station. I do this regularly for a couple reasons.

  1. The radio is one of the easiest ways to stay up on current music and what is popular. As a youth pastor, I believe this is one way I can be prepared to understand youth and what is impacting them daily.
  2. It also helps me hear stories/current events I might not come across scanning news websites online. I read a lot of stories online but listening to the radio helps me come across different stories.

Now, this morning, as I was listening, the DJ’s shared two stories that I was just left shaking my head. The first story was about Kanye West. Kanye is currently on his most recent tour, the ‘Yeezus’ tour” and during a recent radio interview, he said basically his job on the tour is just as hard as “being a cop or being in a war.” Really? Traveling the world, singing songs on a stage in front of thousands of spectators is as hard as being a cop or being in a war? He went on to explain himself:

“I’m just giving of my body on the stage and putting my life at risk, literally,” West said. “When I think about when I’m on the ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing,’ and ‘Coldest Winter’ moment, like that mountain goes really, really high. And if I slipped… You never know. And I think about it. I think about my family and I’m like, wow, this is like being a police officer or something, in war or something.”

Man. Does Kanye have anyone in his life that will speak the truth to him or help him understand what war is about? But, he goes on to try to explain himself even more.

“Like you’re literally going out to do your job every day knowing that something could happen to you. Something could happen to you verbally from the press bashing you, something could happen to you from people not liking you anymore ’cause of your records— you could actually slip on that stage.”

So, being a concert performer is compared to people who put their lives on the line to serve others and keep their country safe and free. Not sure I understand exactly where Mr. West is coming from. He gets paid in the millions to travel and perform and entertain. Cops and soldiers get paid to risk their lives and most of the time it is hardly enough to provide for their families.

Second, Justin Bieber was also interviewed recently and made the statement that he believes he is an object of bullying, by the media and other people. Now, to his defense, I cannot imagine living with so much exposure to the world where every choice is noticed. However, JB hasn’t helped himself with some of his choices. He also mentions the fact he is only 19 and still trying to find out who he is. With that, I can partially understand because in today’s world, many 19 year olds have no idea who they are or who they want to be. But, at the same time, 19 year olds should know how to figure out who they are without making choices like he does. It seems Justin doesn’t understand the idea that there are consequences to your actions. If you go out and act a certain way, especially living in the public eye as he does, there will be a reaction and people will talk.

So what is my point? Lack of accountability and responsibility for actions can lead to unhealthy views of oneself. This is true of anyone. Living above the law, or living where there is no consequences, can do this as well. Unfortunately, this is what our young people are growing up seeing, celebrities making choices a “normal” citizen would get arrested for allowed to go free. What does this lead to? A bigger view of oneself than is healthy. If we want a responsible future generation, we need to hold everyone responsible in the same way. In the church, we need to do this as well. But how? Preach the Gospel. Teaching them to simply act right because God wants them to misses the point. The whole Gospel is the only thing powerful enough to change a future generation of responsible people.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I would love to hear your thoughts so feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.  You can also feel free to share this post with friends if you so desire.


Everyday Church.

Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

Do you believe the time is coming where the church in America is going to have to make some changes with how it attempts to reach non-believers with the Gospel? Do you believe the church in America can continue to wait for the world to come darken its doors? Do you believe that we might be missing something if that is our mindset? According to Everyday Church, 85 million Americans will never come to church. There are various reasons why they will never come to church but that is not the point. The point here is that if we continue to wait for the church to come to us, we will basically miss any opportunity to share the gospel with much of the population. With that mindset, Tim Chester and Steve Timmis approach the topic of how to really do church. With that said, this review is going to be brief but not because there is not much to include. The opposite is true in that there is so much truth within these pages, you will need to pick it up for yourself.

Everyday Church is basically an exposition of 1 Peter. Steve and Tim do an amazing job of breaking down the text and helping the reader understand it from the early church perspective and then applying it to our current culture. They make a point I believe many modern day American Christians would not necessarily agree with in that they say Christians today have been pushed to the margins. No longer are Christians sought after for wisdom and ideas. We are no longer at the center of the culture. We have been pushed to the edges and whenever we speak up, people want us to just go back to our buildings and leave them alone. They want us to stop “judging” them. The best defense Christians have for the faith is Christians truly living out their faith. If we are not living in such a way to make Christ look attractive, then why would the world want to believe? The authors present the book of 1 Peter as the perfect guide to help us rediscover the way to really impact the world with the Gospel and it is through our everyday lives, not our events. Events can make an impact, but it is our lives that truly draw people to desire a relationship with the Lord.

One of the ways they encourage us to live the gospel every day is to stop creating groups in the church to ask non-believing friends to join, but instead to join groups in your community already formed. They encourage us to put more importance on the everyday living than on just the big events. They are not saying avoid them, but if we are to make a lasting impression on our communities, we will need to step outside our walls and meet people where they are.

Read some of the following quotes taken from the book:

“Christians are like immigrants, foreigners, temporary residents, refugees. We do not belong. We do not have the rights of citizens. We are outsiders. We are living on the edge of the culture.”

“We need to do church and mission in the context of everyday life…We must think of church as a community of people who share life, ordinary life. “

Speaking of Christians in our culture today, “We may not often be persecuted, but we are marginalized.”

“We cannot claim to be faithfully proclaiming the gospel to the lost through our Sunday preaching when most of the lost do not attend church. We need to do mission outside church and church events.”

“We need to discover or recover the sense that if this year we are not imprisoned, then it has been a good year in which by the grace of God, we have gotten off lightly.”

“Love and passion and enthusiasm are infectious…You will never attract people to Jesus if you are not excited about Jesus. Enthusiasm creates interest. Passion breeds passion. Loving Jesus is the antidote to legalism.”

The last part of this book I want to touch on in this review is here in this culture today, we need to stop believing that missionaries only need to be sent overseas to preach the Gospel. With 85 million Americans who will never go to church, it is time to start living as missionaries in our own culture. We need to recover the idea that this world is not our home, we are just passing through, and our mission in our short time here is to share the Gospel with the world around us. It takes our lives…the lives that happen Monday through Saturday, not just the life we live on Sunday.

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis have hit a home run with Everyday Church. As I look back through it, there is something underlined or highlighted on almost every page. This book is a must read for anyone serving in the ministry. Tim and Steve both live in Europe and their insights into the church there are profound. It has been said that if you want to see where America is going culturally, look at Europe. Because of this, I believe what Tim and Steve have experienced in Europe and write about will be extremely profitable for us here in America. And as I already said, if you serve in ministry in any capacity, this book is one you need to pick up. Not only will it open your eyes, it could help change how you see and do church.

Thanks for taking the time to read this review. Comments are welcome.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for this review. Thanks for taking the time to read this review and feel free to leave comments or questions.


Weekly Scoop

It is Friday, which means I only had one more day to post my weekly scoop. I want to begin with a quote I saw on Twitter earlier this week.

In a hurting world, we need Christians prepared to commit to Christ wholeheartedly, think deeply, give dangerously, and live authentically. – RZIM Canada

This quote speaks for itself as to the content but I dare you to actually think about it and then take a look at your life and ask yourself if this is how your life as a follower of Christ could be defined.

Now, without further ado, here are the links you should take a minute and check out.

Are you busy? Wondering how to slow down or try to retain a sense of your sanity? Ann Voskamp’s blog will encourage you in a couple ways: 1, you are not alone; and 2, you can remain sane during life’s most insane moments: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2013/09/the-key-to-staying-sane-in-spinning-world/

I read this story the other day of a pastor’s first day on the job. Check it out: http://ireporterstv.co/church-members-mistreat-homeless-man-in-church-unaware-it-is-their-pastor-in-disguise/

For this one, I do not have a link to share but something I was made aware of through the internet this past week is something that will sicken you: sex-selective abortions. They are already being done in some areas of the world. Could this be the next thing to rock our country? Do a Google search to read up on this as there will come a time where you might need to be ready to share your opinion on this topic.

If you have an iPhone, make it work for you, not the other way around: http://adammclane.com/2013/09/23/7-ios-7-hacks-for-parents/

Finally, a link that I believe is a must read for any parent, youth worker, pastor, teacher, etc. When I read this, it was eye-opening and we need to have our eyes opened. So check it out: www.annemariemiller.com/2013/08/19/three-things-you-dont-know-about-your-children-and-sex/

That is all for this week. I pray that these links will serve to open your eyes to the world around you, help you manage your life in a better way or encourage you in your walk with the Lord. Are there any stories you would recommend I check out? Let me know in the comments section.

 


Does it matter how we live?

 

I have been thinking a lot recently about 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. This past Sunday I shared it with the youth and college students at Temple Baptist. It says:

“For the love of Christ controls us because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” (ESV)

The reason I have been thinking about this passage recently is I have noticed a trend moving in the church today, especially in younger people, where everyone can just live their lives the way they want to while professing to be a Christian. One can live however they want to and everything is fine because God loves everyone. We can do whatever we want all because God loves us and wants us to have a good time in this life. He is a God of grace and mercy so you can lie, steal, cheat, lust, etc. as long as your choices are not as poor as the next person.

However, this passage does not in any way give that impression. In fact, it says the exact opposite. First, as a follower of Christ, we should be controlled by the love of Christ. There are many times I have to remind myself about this. If the love of Christ is not controlling me as a follower of Christ, then what is controlling me? Nothing else should control me and have a tighter grip on my life than Jesus Christ. How can the love of Christ control me? It takes work and effort on our part. One does not become a follower of Christ and never have to work at living for God. Daily living for the Lord takes discipline and Bible reading and prayer and allowing God’s Spirit to guide you. This does not come easily to everyone. But that is what it truly takes to live a life controlled by the love of God.

Along the same lines, why should the love of Christ control us? Because of the Gospel. Verse 14 states the Gospel in a simple way, “One (Jesus) has died for all, therefore, all (followers of Christ) have died.” That is the Gospel clearly stated. We deserved to die the death Jesus died in our place, or on our behalf, or for our sake. He died so we would no longer live for ourselves. This is the essence of sin, living for ourselves. It is the very thing that caused Adam and Eve to sin. They wanted to live for themselves and fell for the lie of Satan that God was holding out on them and that their best life was right on the other side of eating the fruit of the tree God told them not to eat of. We are still trying to eat of that fruit even though God has given us His Word to show us the better way to live, His way. His is the way which leads to everlasting joy and peace, not temporary happiness and pleasure.

Moses chose to be with God in the wilderness than have the pleasures of Egypt without Him. By choosing to live for ourselves, we choose to live in the pleasures of Egypt apart from God while still trying to experience God in the wilderness. However, as you read through the Old Testament, we see that did not play out in the Israelites favor. Moses chose to let God lead Him and control his life.

This brings us to the end of the passage above: “might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” The part translated as “for their sake” in ESV, in the NASB is translated as “on their behalf.” When someone does something on your behalf, it is done in your place and no longer needs to be done. This means since Jesus died on the cross, we no longer need to pay for our sins because it is already done. Nothing we do can help pay more or less for our sins. Nothing we do can bring more grace to our lives and nothing can take grace away from our lives. God loves us all the same no matter what we choose to do with our lives. This means God loves the most faithful pastor of a mega church or small town church the same as He loves Osama Bin Laden. Thus, because all God did for us, we are to live our lives to Him. As followers of Christ we can no longer say “it is my life, I can do what I want.” Everything we do, from eating to how we dress to how we talk to what we watch on TV or listen to on the radio should all be done out of love for Christ.

But how is this possible? This seems pretty legalistic and rigid don’t you think? To say that God wants us to consider Him in everything we do is crazy. Two more passages:

Colossians 3:23 – “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

It is not legalistic, it is what Christ desires from us as His followers. Read what Galatians 2:19-20 says:

“For through the law, I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

These verses contain the same idea as 2 Corinthians 5. Lastly, look at Galatians 5:16: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” What are the desires of the flesh? You can simply say it is the desire to live for ourselves. Can you imagine a world where followers of Christ truly had this mindset instead of the mindset that I can do what I want? If we are a follower of Christ, we cannot live the way we want because our lives are no longer our own, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) Can it be any clearer?

To close, I don’t want this post to only sound negative and restrictive because that is not how God presents Himself. God tells us many times that life in Him is the abundant life. Life lived according to His Word brings life. The more we live for ourselves, the more we become slaves to it and to our own passions which is in direct contrast to what God desires for us. God wants our very best. Living for ourselves does not bring us the very best. It eventually leads to a less satisfying life for many reasons, more than I will take time to go into here. But I would urge you as a follower of Christ to look at your life. What is controlling you and guiding you? Only God’s love can lead to the most fulfilling life regardless of your current circumstances and situations.

When asked why we live how we live, may our response be “for the Love of Christ controls us.”

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. It is always my prayer that this encourages you and challenges you in your walk with the Lord. Feel free to pose any comments or thoughts.


Falling in and out of love…

This week, I started my new position as youth pastor at Temple Baptist Church in Covington, VA. As most of you know, I am currently living in Salem, VA as my wife and I have not been able to relocate our family to Covington as of now. This means for the last two days, I have driven back and forth from Salem to Covington. However, it does look like God might be opening the door for Marcie and I to move here in the near future as there is a house we both like and is within our price range. We are still praying though that God would lead us to the house He wants us to have that we can use for His glory.

With that said, I have taken to listen to the radio on my commute and I am surprised at the type of songs that are out there right now. I want to share a quick thought on one I heard the other day. Here is a brief snippet of the lyrics:

Sometimes I love ya

Sometimes you make me blue

Sometimes  I feel good, at times I feel used

Lovin’ you darlin’ makes me so confused

I keep on fallin’ In and out of love with you

I never loved someone

The way that I’m lovin’ you

This song is by Alicia Keys. It has a bluesy type sound to it which is a good fit for the words to the song. As I thought about the words, to me it just described so well the feelings and ideas the world seems to have adopted towards love, and in some cases, life in general. The world portrays love as something that people can fall into, and thus, something they can fall out of. But are our emotions or feelings strong enough to hold our love for someone else? Or do we need to give love a stronger foundation? One that comes from sacrifice and hard work? I have come to realize love is a choice. When I make the choice to love, my emotions follow the choice. I read a quote one time that said “It is easier to act your way into a feeling than it is to feel your way into an action.” I believe this is definitely true. I also believe this is what we as followers of Christ need to be teaching young people. A life based on emotions and feelings will always let you down in the end.

The greatest act of love ever is when God made the choice to send His Son to die for us. He did not have to do this but He did to show His love for us. He made a choice. The Gospel is what it is because of the choice God made. God did not base this choice on emotions or we would never have known grace. So why do we try to base our life on emotions?

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts or comments.

 


Covington…Here we come!!

Well, since my last post not related to a book review there has been a pretty big change in the life of thetoddlynn. My wife and I, and our daughter too, will be moving to Covington, VA where I have accepted the position of youth pastor at Temple Baptist Church. My new ministry will begin June 1st which means my time at Journey will end on May 31st. Marcie and I have had so many memories at Journey and while we are sad that we are leaving and will miss everyone so much, we are also looking forward to this new opportunity.

From the very beginning of this process, God has been clear that this is the next step He wanted us to take. Having lived in Covington for 8 years of my life from 1989 through 1997, I never expected God would lead me back there. When I first heard that a church in Covington would be looking for a youth pastor, my initial response was “no way!” Maybe with a little more emphasis though. However, as I prayed about it and sought after God’s leading, it became obvious I should send in my résumé for consideration. After sending it in, Marcie and I continually committed it to prayer and asked God to make it crystal clear what He wanted us to do. We were hesitant because of the ministry that we had at Journey and how we had built some strong relationships with the youth and did not want to leave that. However, the more we prayed, the more God kept opening the door and leading us towards Covington. Through this whole process God has constantly shown Himself to Marcie and me in numerous ways to encourage and comfort us that this was His leading, and not our own.

Marcie and I have had numerous conversations regarding what God might want for us in the future. I would try to encourage her that with the heart God has given us for students, we needed to be ready to go anywhere and do anything. In my pride, I really thought God was using me to help prepare my wife for some kind of move whereas; God was actually preparing my heart. As I said before, I never saw myself moving back to Covington. I constantly challenge the youth at Journey to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and share the love of God with those students they come in contact with each and every day in school. It is so easy to be passive in our relationship with God when God calls us to be intentional.

Intentional.

That word has been on my mind constantly in the last couple months. What do I want to be remembered for when people look back on my life? When I look back at my life, what do I want to see? How do I want people to say I lived? How do I want to live each and every day?

With intention, intentionally. Not just letting life pass me by but living intentionally. Being intentional with my wife. Being intentional with my daughter. Being intentional with the ministry God has given me. Living intentionally and sharing the Gospel intentionally with my words and with how I live.

The first way God has chosen to help me live intentionally is to follow Him intentionally to Covington, VA where I will get the awesome opportunity to pour into students of all ages, from elementary kids to college students.

One verse that has stood out to me through this whole process, one that I have tried to live my life by is Acts 20:24:

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God.

This is the ministry that God has given my wife and I. This is the course that He has laid out for us. We are excited about this new chapter about to begin but at the same time, sad the chapter we are in is about to come to a close. I am very thankful for social media and text messaging so we will still be able to keep in touch with the youth we have poured our lives into the last 2 ½ years. These last couple years really helped bring Marcie and I to the point we are at right now and it’s been amazing to look back and see God’s constant provision and direction in our lives. Even though it might not have come in the way we would have wanted, it has come in a way that has lead us to lean more heavily on God and learn to trust Him with every area of our lives. He is in control. God never promises us an easy life but He has promised to go with us every step of the way.

The other verse that has been laid on my heart is Matthew 28:19-20 which the way we have translated it says “Therefore, Go and make disciples of all nations…” The word so often translated in our Bibles as “go” really means “as you are going.” It has the understanding with it that as we are living our lives, be making disciples. Wherever God places you in life, wherever He leads you, make disciples. As we begin this transition, we go with that command, to make disciples in Covington, VA. So Covington, ready or not, here we come!!!

I pray this little recap of our lives challenges you. Not because we are great people of God but because we are people trying to serve a great God.

It’s all about the Gospel.