Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Gift of the Moment (Magic Kingdom)

Me and the fam are in Disney this week. Yesterday was one of the greatest days I've had in a long time. I'll put some pics up soon. Amazing thought came to me yesterday as I drove into the parking lot of the magic kingdom and my 2 boys were screaming and laughing and bouncing out of their seats with anticipation. I'm bouncing out of my seat also, not because I couldn't wait for space mountain but because I couldn't wait to see my kids enjoy the day. They did, it was incredible, I soaked it all in, it was a very spiritual day for me. When I watched Caden my youngest jump into tiggers arms and my oldest asked Mickey Mouse to kiss his boo boo (tiny cut on his hand) on his hand. When Cole road his first roller coaster and then strapped himself back in and got mad when he couldn't ride again or when I stopped with Sarah for a minute and we just quietly took it all in. I knew these moments were a gift from God. Too often I miss these gifts, and it doesn't take a 3 day pass to the magic kingdom and a plane to Florida for us to find them. They are there everyday, when I wrestle with my boys, when my best friends and my cousin and I laugh over lunch, when the family sits down to dinner and the boys actually eat and we laugh and I look at my wife from across the room and we just smile and enjoy the moment. This is what matters in life, this is what I should thank God for everyday. The gift of the moment! To know that I am here with the family and God is here enjoying every minute also. "every good and perfect gift comes from Him"

"May we never miss the moment and may we recognize in the moment the voice of God, the embrace of our Father, the touch of the almighty and the love of a father who is so excited to see his children's joy!"

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Goldfish Gospel

Saw this earlier today, pretty funny.

Live fish are never a good idea!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

School of Love

In a few weeks we are starting a teaching series called School of Love examining the story of the prodical son and how captivating the love of God is. Simple story, simple idea but as I dig into my prep I am amazed at all the Lord is teaching me. I am finishing a great book by Henri Nouwen called the return of the prodical son. An awesome break down of the story, its incredible to me how a story I've heard a million times can still have deep insight into the heart of God for me. So Sunday after church I was home alone with our boys and my oldest was having a rough day, and making the day rough for dad. Nothing made him happy and he woke up from his nap just ticked off at the world. It took over an hour to settle him down, I held him, hugged him, got him chocolate milk and tried every movie, game or toy we had. Eventually he slowed, his tears dried up and his anger turned into smiles and laughter. I broke him down with love. Isn't this how the Lord works for us? Slowly, quietly, patiently loving us in the middle of our anger, confusion, frustration and sin. We try to fight it, we try to squirm away, to imagine that His love can't be unconditional. In the end for all of us His love breaks us down. The same thing is true for so many people who are unchurched, who meet someone who loves them with the love of Christ and breaks them down until they meet Christ. The same thing was true for the father of the prodical son, the son wanted to leave to get out to run away to a distant land but eventually he heard that quiet voice saying you are still my son and you are still my beloved.

"May the love of the Lord break us down each day and may we rest securely in his arms."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Starving At the Feast (pt 1)

I’ve never really been around the hungry. I know I’ve used words like, “I’m starving” or “if we don’t get to Chick- Fila soon I’m not going to make it.” I’ve fasted a few times in my life and I’ve given up my hunger for food in order to show my greater hunger for God and his righteoussness. I have friends who have fasted for months at a time, I'm certain I couldn’t do that. I’ve worked in a soup kitchen many times, what youth worker hasn’t. I’ve taken countless trips to Mexico for missions work. Even with all of these experiences I don’t believe I have seen the hungry. At least not hunger in a physical sense but I see spiritual hunger everyday.

I see the girl who hungers for the affection of any male because she has never received any from her father. I see the young man who hungers for a kind word of any kind because he has never fit in and all the other students make sure he knows how different he is. I see hunger in the eyes of the child who is just dieing for anyone to believe in him. I see it in the eyes of the college student who just can’t seem to find her direction in life. I know you see it too it’s all around us. If you work in youth ministry you work with hungry people. Hunger for love, for affection, hunger for change, or hunger just for something bigger than that they re experiencing. Hunger takes many forms and if we limit it to only a physical hunger than we limit our ability to meet the needs of those around us. In ministry we have become experts in fun events, worship, and messages that matter. We have mastered the art of messy games, cool bands, conversations with a junior high boy (that is a difficult skill to master) and we love to interact with students and equip leaders who value relationships. We have developed strategy, considered purpose and followed the business world with catchy missions statements and flashy programs. We have still however, failed in so many ways to feed or understand the hungry generation that we are trying desperately to reach.

I sat in a worship service recently where students raised their hands in worship and sang the words, “we are hungry for more of you.” That moment, although many of the students had no idea, may have been one of their most honest few minutes they have spent with God. I know how the disciples must have felt in when they stood in the middle of the 4000 thinking out loud, there’s too many of them and they are all need so much let’s just send them home. Then Jesus steps into the story and tells the disciples to gather up all they can find and bring it to him. How pointless it must have seemed to grab a few scraps of fish and bread and bring it to Jesus. Jesus steps into my world the same way when I feel beaten up by a parent who has no idea what ministry is about, or when the kids continue to just not get it. His still small voice calls out to me just as it did to the disciples saying, “Ben, bring me all you have and I will take care of the rest.” So I drag myself to Him with all of my flaws and all my inadequacies and I say, “Lord this is all I’ve got.” Probably just like the disciples did with their few fish and seven loaves. It’s just me and there is so much hunger around me and I want to meet all these students needs and I want to feed all of them. I’m sure Christ smiles in the same way he did with the disciples. The same kind of smile I give to my 3 year old son when he is trying so hard to do carry something on his own when I’m right beside him willing to help. A smile that reminds the disciples and me that it is not about us. It’s about Him! I am so much more useful when I just get out of the way and watch Jesus work.

After just 2 months in ministry, I was so frustrated that I considered calling it quits. I was battling with so many thoughts of my inadequacies and a real knowledge that I just wasn’t good enough to manage all of these students that had been entrusted to me. I was all alone working with a junior high ministry of around 50 kids and I had no idea what I was doing. I spoke to a trusted mentor who gave me simple advice. Just stand behind the cross and allow people to see Christ through you. He told me that my job was not to be the best communicator, the greatest worship leader or the best organizer but my job was to be who God made me to be. To love Him and love the students around me, all I needed to be was who he created me to be. After a night of sincere and honest prayer, I woke up on a Sunday morning and taught a lesson to a small group of 10 extremely frustrating junior high boys. The kind of kids that no one else wants in their small group so you (the youth minister) take them. Three boys accepted Christ into their lives that morning and I baptized them later that year. I know that my teaching in those days was probably not what the experts would call “good.” In fact, it was terrible, a mile wide and not even an inch deep. The Lord chose to use me that day not because I was a polished speaker who understood transitional sentences, audience participation and experiential learning. He used me simply because I was available and because He is God and I am not. In our world of the professional youth worker we have sometimes lost sight of the fact that our job has never been to feed the hungry. Our job is simply to take the hungry to food. To bring them to presence of God and allow him to move.

"May the Lord allow us to move out of the way so that he can work, may He constantly teach us that it's not about us and may He always be willing to take our scraps and turn them into a feast!"


Cheesy Church Signs

Ok I love cheesy church signs - Tell me some of your favorites! I like our Sundays are better than Baskin Robbins - that is my favorite!

I sat on Jesus last night

Ok I need to share this, it has no relevance other than it will end up in a message I teach soon http:// - My son Cole has just turned 3 and recently, must be halloween approaching, he has become greatly concerned with monsters. We have tried everything to help with the fear and the actual sleeping. I started off with a flashlight that I gave him, good idea if you want your three year old to stay awake all night shining the light on every corner of his room and eventually jumping on the bed. Then I moved to monster spray, a fake spray that I would cover the room with. He enjoyed this but for some reason I could never cover the room adequately and I was always forced to add more monster spray in the corner, by the closet or on his toys. We tried to argue the actual existance of monsters and ghosts but we didn't get very far because as we were explaining it apparantly some actaul monsters came into the room and sat beside us. So my wife Sarah tried to go to the Jesus route, in an amazingly gentle and beautiful way she explained to him that Jesus loved him and was always there to protect him, that even when mommy and daddy weren't in the room with him Jesus was watching him. She left the room and it was quiet for around ten minutes then we heard a yell. It was my turn and I wandered into the room and layed next to him in his bed. Cole announced to me, "Daddy there are monsters all over the place and now you just sat on Jesus." It was one of the funniest things he has ever said! He told me to move because Jesus didn't like me sitting on him. I went back to my room and simply said a quick prayer for Cole that he really would someday understand the presence of God, the love of God and the great care he has for his people and I prayed for protection from the monsters. A few weeks ago I sat in front of 600 junior highers trying to explian spiritual transformation, how God changes us from the inside out, and I felt like I was pulling out all the no monsters tricks. Every phrase, verse, story I told just seemed to me to create more confusion in some of our kids. I guess sometimes all I can do is explain the truth in the best way possible, and pray our students understand it and hope that I don't sit on Jesus in the process.

How do we know if our kids are getting it?
How do we know we aren't going over their heads?
How do we know if we aren't challenging enough or if we are challenging too much?

Tell me what you think!

"May the Lord bless each word we speak, may they be used to reveal His glory, love and power."

How do I know if it Worked?

Hey guys every few days I am planning on dropping a question, an idea or a concept for us to talk about. This week is really crazy for me because we are doing the Imagine conference on Thursday and Friday at Southeast Christian church. I have been a little overwhelmed because I decided recently that I would not only do Jr High at our place but I would also oversee our leadership conference. I am doing 2 seminars at the conference this year. The first is a breakout session for the student ministry segment called "Teaching Truth Reaching Relevance Communication that Speaks" and the second is one of the student main sessions called "The Creative Experience - How to Make it work." I will post the notes and manuscript of what I teach on sometime this weekend on yahoo group - sign up below. James Hauser one of our high school ministers who is agifted teacher is also leading a session, maybe you can post your stuff also James. (Thanks for being a part of this!) James teachings can also be downloaded on our podcast at itunes directory under southeast christian - h2o mine are under southeast christian - lift.

Anyway with all of this going on this week I am a little nervous and I got to thinking about a simple question - How do I measure success as a teacher?

If I were to be honest I would say that many times I measure success by how many pats on the back I get or how many good jobs I receive in the lobby after the service. I know this isn't what it is about so how do you guys measure success. Its ultimately about transformation and about the lights clicking on in our students lives. I hope that each week as I help students understand truth, I also open more questions in their lives. I love it when students ask questions after I teach I really feel like when this happens I am helping them process something. Tell me what you think guys, I'm excited about journeying through this stuff with you!