Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Hamburger

Happy New Year's Eve to those who read this blog. I do have some exciting news to share. We have some alien-like pictures of our new one. Pretty cool...
The first one is looking straight on at the baby. The baby was very active with feet kicking & dancing, little hiccups and arms moving.

The second one is the indicator. For those who do not read sonograms. Apparently, the 3 marks are what is known in the technical world as "the hamburger: 2 buns with a burger in the middle". This is from my wife who is an expert in all things. The summary is, we're having a girl.
We're still deciding on names. Right now we're just thankful for God's blessing to our family.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Bibles & Kids

I got 2 Bibles for Christmas. One is for reading to my daughter and the other for my own study. The one for my daughter is called "The Big Picture Story Bible". It's exciting because it present the unified "big picture" of the entire Bible concerning God's promise of Jesus. It's wonderfully illustrated on every page for kids to enjoy. Also has short and concise sentences on the pages so you are not endlessly reading with the short attention span of your child. This is the perfect (if there is one) introductory children's Bible.

The other Bible is the English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible. It has tons of study helps and notes to help you better understand the meaning of the Scriptures. Of course, the notes are not God-inspired but they are written by many of the most respected and leading scholars today.
Here is a video introduction to this Bible if you are interested

Saturday, December 20, 2008

God Gives Help - Hebrews 1:3

This passage emphasizes some of the most significant actions of God. As we have seen, God has spoken all throughout history, calling people to repentance and faith in His Son. God revealed Himself through His exact representation, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the heir of all things, creator and sustainer of the universe. Even more, God gave the world His Son for the purpose of providing help from sin. Jesus purifies people from sin through His death on the cross. All these things identify God actively involved in His creation.

Jesus was not afraid to get His hands dirty. He personally involved himself in mankind’s greatest problem – sin. When Jesus went to the cross, he became sin – the sin that you and I commit. He bore our sin, paying the punishment for the wrongs we committed against God. We deserved to die yet God loved us enough to provide a way out. Jesus is our substitution. This has been labeled the “great exchange” in that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Other religions show ways mankind tries to purify their own sin and reach God. Christianity shows God intervening himself into the world of mankind in order to reach them. This is the message of Christmas and Easter wrapped into one gift, giving to us directly from God.

Through repentance and faith in Jesus’ substitutionary work on the cross you become Jesus’ righteousness; purified and forever cleansed. In other words, as you look at the history of your experiences with sin and failures, God forgives you. Your record is wiped clean.

After Jesus provided purification for sin, he sat down at the right hand of God. A priest in the OT temple never sat down. In fact, there were no chairs for him to sit. The reason was because a priests work was never finished, continually performing sacrifices for ongoing sins of the people. The writer of Hebrews says, “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God… because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (10:11-14).

- What kind of help do teens need today? What are teens greatest needs?
- What is the difference between religion and Christianity?
- How do people try to purify themselves from sin apart from Christ?
- What does it mean to live a life of purity? Is this attainable? How does a Christian live with purity?
- Can you think of another example where a single act has great impact on everything else? How does this relate to Jesus dying on the cross?
- Set aside some time where you can reflect on the words of Jesus saying “It [payment for your sin] is finished.”
- Read the following passages to appreciate and understand Jesus’ death on the cross. Write out any questions or comments you have. Share your questions/thoughts with a friend.
Isaiah 53
Romans 3:21-23; 5:8, 12-19;
2 Corinthians 5:21
Galatians 3:13
Colossians 2:13-15
1 Peter 1:18-19; 3:18
1 John 2:2

Thursday, December 18, 2008

God Gives Help, pt 2 & 3

Parts 2 & 3

God Gives Help, pt 1

Our Youth Ministry did this skit before this message. It is in three parts:
Pt 1 - video of skit
Pt 2 & 3 - video of message

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Merry Christmas from the SCBC staff

Click Here:

Who do you think is the better dancer?
I know who my vote is... Hit the comments button below and cast your vote :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Do you have an interruption or crisis? Read Acts 27

We just finished studying the book of Acts. Personally it was a refreshing study and I think it was for our youth ministry as well. The last two chapters were good and honestly I didn't expect to learn as much as I did in the earlier chapters. Nonetheless, here are a few nuggets from Acts 27 One note of disclaimer: The point of these last two chapters is NOT about life storms. It is ultimately about God's sovereignty in ALL of life circumstances in order to continue the spread of the gospel "boldly and without hindrance". In other words, when reading this text there is not an exact one-to-one correlation and application for every detail. However, a broad reading of these chapters within the context of the book you can better understand and apply the below principles.

When faced with life interruptions or crisis…

1) Evaluate your foundation and find anchors (v.27-29).
Paul’s journey undertook quite a storm and ultimately a shipwreck. His travel mates endured about 2 weeks at sea in the winter months. It was like a scene on Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch”. They feared for their lives and did the only thing they knew for protection – they dropped 4 anchors and prayed.
Likewise, when you are faced with an unwanted interruption in your life the best thing you can do is evaluate the situation around you, drop anchor and pray for God to work things out. Every person needs to anchor their soul to Jesus Christ whether in a life storm or not. Other anchors are staying connected to God’s community of faith to comfort you in times of crisis. God places people in our life to encourage and hold us up during such times. Even more, God orchestrates every person’s life circumstances and uniquely intersects lives so that we can learn, share and grow in character becoming the reflections of grace He wants us to become.
Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 1:3-11; Hebrews 4:14-16; 6:19-20

2) Determine to face conflict together with others (v.31-32).
The storm was so bad some of the men tried to escape on their own using lifeboats. Paul’s prophetic vision knew all the shipmates would only be saved if they stayed together. So, the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboats.
Sometimes we look to avoid interruptions and want to run away from solving problems. Seeing Paul’s example should remind us that escape never fully solves the situation. They had to commit to staying together to see their end destination.

3) Care for your physical well being as much as spiritual (v.33-38).
For 2 weeks the 276 shipmates stayed together but they were doing little to care for their physical health. Paul encouraged them all to eat. They did so until they were full. This is a great reminder that in the middle of interruptions sometimes we can get caught up in solving problems over long periods of time without taking the time to care for our own well being. This is true spiritually as well as physically. They both are necessary if we are to survive crisis and work out effective results.

4) Above all, trust God to bring all things together for his purposes (v.44 – 28:1-31).
Paul’s journey to Rome endured a terrible storm, shipwreck and a long detour to the island of Malta. Several months later they were able to get back on the journey to Rome and reach their destination. Even then, God was not finished leading Paul to other places to bring about his plan and purpose for Paul’s life. God is faithful and we must trust his weaving together of circumstances; even in difficult times.

Monday, December 8, 2008

God Gives Himself - What the incarnation means to you


GOD GIVES HIMSELF Hebrews 1:2-3a

This past week I got a new cell phone. I upgraded to the Palm Centro. It was a free upgrade so I couldn’t refuse. Through reading some things this week I found there are over 3 billion cell phones in use today and three-fourths of the U.S. population owns a cell phone.[1] One of the most striking factors of cell use is that people often talk on them while driving. And even more, texting while driving!
“According to Britain’s Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, texting can lead to pain and swelling of the tendons in the thumb and wrist. Call it carpal textal syndrome. The society found that as many as one in six 16- to 24-year olds have suffered ‘discomfort’ while texting (perhaps not too surprising, considering one in three send more than 20 messages a day), and a handful said the discomfort actually radiated farther than the hands, into the shoulders and neck.”
Phsychotherapist Bronwyn Clifford admits, “Texting is a great way to communicate, but mobile phones are not ergonomically designed for excessive texting, and they require repetitive movements to operate them.”
Studies show that people who drive while using a cell phone reduce brain function by 30%. In fact, you are four times more likely to have a car accident while talking on a phone and driving.[3]
Are you able to do two things at one time? Doing two things at once is not easy. But what about BEING two things at once? Jesus did it. He was two things at the same time: both God and man. That’s the point of this Christmas season; God incarnating himself through Jesus. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us!

The greatest gift a person can give to another is themselves. The write of Hebrews says that God spoke through the prophets but the greatest way was through his own Son. In fact, the entire book of Hebrews shows how Jesus is greater than every Jewish system of thought. The target audience would have understood the point that God’s message all throughout history has been to point people to Jesus.

Jesus Christ is the final and full revelation of all God’s message. To emphasize this even greater, the writer describes Jesus’ divine nature stating he assisted in creating the universe. Jesus is the exact representation of God’s being. Therefore, Jesus is God.

You may ask why is this important? What does the fact that Jesus is God have to do with my life? This fact relates to you because not only was he 100% God but he was also 100% man. The writer of Hebrews says, Jesus is like us “in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (Heb 4:15) therefore making him able to relate to every situation we have and will ever face. The point is that Jesus identifies with all our issues.

Last week’s message was that God gave us history. He spoke through prophets and the message they gave to the people was to return home. Ultimately, the people never fully returned. Their humanity was tainted with sin and the cycle of disobedience kept them from God’s presence. God knowing the problem, solved it not by calling people to return to him but instead by going to them. God gave us Jesus, becoming one of us through the incarnation. He overcame the limitations of all humanity (death) and offers it freely, by grace through faith. His death and resurrection provided payment for sin and power to live eternally. God wants to give you himself. At last we are never alone, Immanuel! Will you receive him?

·Why is Jesus the greatest gift God has given us?
·What questions do you have about Jesus’ duel nature – divine & human?
·Why is it more difficult to BE more than 2 things than DO more than 2 things?
·What difference does it make to know that God promises to be with you, never alone?

[2] From Youthworker Journal, Nov/Dec 2008, page 11. Found at
[3] Illustration continues from “They Call Him Jesus” p.27 purchased at

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

MOPS Adventures

I had the opportunity to speak at our MOPS ministry. Here is what I shared:

This year’s MOPS theme is “Adventures in Mothering”. No doubt, there are many adventures that a mother could speak about her children. However, if you had to choose just one which one motherhood adventure would you choose to be the greatest?

I’m not a mother, but as a father who observes motherhood I would have to say the greatest motherhood adventure would have to be the delivery; the miracle of childbirth. Indeed, the whole process of conception to delivery is amazing and one of the greatest joys any person can ever experience.

Likewise, several years ago there was a childbirth miracle that has given many of us the adventure of a lifetime. It is the birth of Jesus Christ. If we could speak to his mother, without a doubt she would surely say this was her greatest adventure in motherhood. I mean, who else conceived a child without the help of a man or modern science (I say modern science because of the infamous pregnant man). Mary was not completely without fear but she did enter her motherhood adventure with confidence because of 2 simple principles.

Let’s read Luke 1:26-38 to better understand these principles that I hope will be an encouragement and help to you as a MOP.

God wants to give himself to you in the adventure of motherhood.
The first principle is taken from the text when the angel first greeted Mary with a promise from God. The promise is, “The Lord is with you” (1:28). These simple, short few words probably meant the most to a young teenage girl about to be a mother. At that time in history God’s presence was rarely sustained in a person’s life. God only dwelt among humanity for specific and temporary purposes. This promise made Mary tremble for she knew something big was about to occur, and it was happening in her life!
Today’s moms need a fresh reminder of this promise. Most mother’s tend to feel isolated as if no one understands their situation and they are left alone, or with little help, to accomplish all that a mom has to do. To put it plainly, in my ministry, counseling observations and personal relationships I have found women need reassuring. This does not mean women are inferior, weak, a failure or any less than the person beside them. It simply means that is how they are wired and ultimately there is only One Person who can fill this reassurance role.
As moms seek self-assurance they tend to look in themselves, in their spouses, their children, books and magazines, in their neighborhoods, in their abilities and accomplishments. However, all these things are fleeting. They will only produce a temporary assuring. Only God, a relationship with Jesus Christ can generate full and lasting assurance. God promises to be faithful in all things and he can be eternally trusted. By admitting our weakness, sin and insufficiency and trusting in His provision for forgiving and covering our sin, God enters our life.

Having a relationship with God does not mean all doubt or fear will be removed from your life. It does mean that you can have confidence to know God will be with you, guiding you in every step. For Mary, that meant the provision of the miraculous virgin-birth. It meant the instruction of naming the child Jesus and the promise of the child’s future provision – in a sense, the parents did not have to worry about the child’s education and career choice. The point is, God wants to be in your life to help you and your family.

Will you invite Jesus into your life?

God wants to give community to you in the adventure of motherhood.
The second principle can be found towards the end of this passage when the angel told Mary that someone else would similarly share in this experience. Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, would also have a child approximately six months before her. This would bring great encouragement to the young Mary as her older cousin shared the joy and difficulty of such a pregnancy. You can read and see the excitement they enjoyed in verses 39-56. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months.

God knew Mary’s personality, emotions and what she needed to get through this pregnancy. So, he allowed her cousin to share in the experience. They would be forever linked. Likewise, God knows you cannot do it alone. Certainly, God is sufficient. But one of the ways he reveals himself and his provision is through the community of believers. He provides friends and ultimately, the church as a source of strength, support and partnership in being a spouse, a mom and raising a family.

The MOPS group that you participate in is only a start of God’s provision for community. God constructed his church, the people of God to walk alongside of you for you to both give and receive help. You were created to be a part of this forever link.

Will you join our community?

Larry King, the popular CNN interviewer, when asked if he could interview anyone from all history, said, “Jesus Christ.” “And what would you like to ask Him?” King replied, “I would like to ask Him if He was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me.”

What is your faith response to Jesus Christ? Will you receive God’s help of Himself and His community into your life?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008



The history God gives is the revelation of himself. Throughout the ages God has faithfully revealed himself to each generation. God is revealed through creation; this is called general revelation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:20). God is also revealed through unique divine encounters; this is called special revelation (Psalm 19:7-8).

Specifically, the writer of Hebrews notes God speaking through prophets about Jesus. The prophets were God-appointed people who would speak God’s message to the people. God’s message may have included prophecy, warning or judgment. In all, the fact that God spoke at all was a sign of grace and mercy for God to initiate communication with his creation. If God kept silent there would be none or limited knowledge of him much less an understanding of his intentions or will. The point is, all of history really is His Story; the story of God working together his purposes to redeem a people for himself. God’s revelation is not simply for information but for the purpose of personally knowing a living God. Jesus is the complete revelation of God to communicate divine truth and offer personal contact with God (John 1:14).

Have you heard from God? God is calling and speaking out directly to you. He wants you to trust him in every area of your life. Are you listening?

· How do you know if God has spoken to you?
· What are some different ways that God speaks (be specific using examples from both general & special revelation)?
· If God kept silent never giving any Scripture or speaking through prophets, how would life be different?
· What do you think God wants to speak to you? If you do not know, how will you find out?

Monday, December 1, 2008


Has someone said this to you recently? If not then you are probably living in a cocoon somewhere. As a youth pastor I hear this response from teens frequently. Even more, I believe this single catchy phrase captures our culture's worldview. In fact, some sociologists have labeled this generation of young people the "whatever generation". When approached with moral, spiritual, or relational issues, the attitude of many is – Ah, whatever. Do whatever feels right. Say whatever you want to say. Have whatever you want to have. Believe whatever you want to think.

I say we should recapture "whatever" from the world. "Whatever" is OUR word. It is OUR way of life. It is OUR way of thinking about things. Why is it OURS? Because of this: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).

So, live the whatever way. Meditate on whatever. Give God whatever. Be willing to be whatever God wants you to be. Have you said "Whatever" to God? Whatever!!!

post adapted from friend Jacques Rancourt e-devotional, 11/30/2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankful Worship (end of series)

Psalm 100

Thankfulness shouts (100:1-2).
The psalmist calls us to shout for joy and serve with gladness. Worship is an action where one cannot remain silent or idle. The believer has every reason to shout and sing to God, being thankful for the many blessings He has given.
Shouting commands attention. For some strange reason youth enjoy shouting at random times for random reasons. Sometimes it is sincere due to elation at a sports event or positive circumstances. Or it can be due to pain or being upset. Other times it is completely arbitrary to let off steam or simply to get noticed. For most, shouting is a response of emotion. God should be the focus of our shout. I understand that may sound strange but let me explain.
Shouting is usually reserved for sporting events or outdoor celebrations. Just as a person can be emotionally excited over a sports team or a music band (hence a fan – fanatical) we should sense God calling us to be excited over His greatness. Above all things in the earth we should be a fan (fanatical) over God. He alone is worthy of the title ‘greatness’; after all He is LORD – Yahweh, Almighty, God of all gods. Therefore, our shouts should be directed to God, being thankful for who He is and what He does in our life.

Thankfulness knows (100:3).
The psalmist directs us to come before him with joyful songs, knowing God is our Creator and provider. The language is such that we may come before the face of God, looking into his eyes to speak to him. It is a personal, intimate knowledge of God.
Teens crave community. Just look at facebook, myspace, email, cell phones, texting and the like to understand the importance of social networks among students. God invites us to personally know Him. To know that God is our Creator. There is a common bond when we understand we are His people and He is our Shepherd. Knowing these simple truths about God causes our heart and lives to overflow with thankfulness.

Thankfulness enters (100:4-5).
The psalmist invites us to enter into God’s presence. In the Old Testament not every person could enter into God’s presence. There was limited access. Barriers were present between sinful man and a holy God. The temple was divided into 3 successive rooms: The outer room where Gentiles could roam; the next was an inner court with an altar had to be passed after sacrifices given. There were also laver filled with water for ceremonial cleansing. The purpose for these were preparations to enter more closely to God. Sacrifices and cleansing had to be made for the forgiveness of sin in approaching a holy God. Lastly, a veil that was approximately 60’ high and 4” thick stood between the next room, the holy of holies. The holy of holies was where God’s presence dwelt. Only the high priest could enter into God’s presence once a year (Ex 30:10, Heb 9:7). It is said that horses tied to each side of the veil could not tear it apart. However, on the day Jesus died this veil was ripped into two. The symbolism of this event shows God accepting Jesus’ once and for all sacrifice on the cross and inviting all to enter into His presence (Heb 10:19-20).
Again, teens must find unconditional acceptance and community in the family of God. Christian parents, adults and youth workers must cultivate caring, loving gospel environments where teens want to enter. However, this does not come easily. It starts by being real. Just as a person could not waltz through the rooms of the temple as they needed to be vulnerable and transparent confessing their sins to God, so it is today in relational ministry. Adults and teens must be honest, develop trust and two-way communication which can result in lives being transformed to worship God in all things. In this way, we can find that “the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

·Have a contest for students to create YouTube videos on the topic of “thankfulness”. The guidelines are
1) Be on topic
2) Be creative & original
3) Be respectful.
·Memorize Psalm 100
·Tell 3 people you are thankful for a specific way they have been influential in your life.
·Spend time as a family discussing things for which you are thankful God has done in your family this past year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Passionate Worship

In this clip you see “Bud” overwhelmed with the excitement of being a part of Santa’s kingdom and the opportunity to see Santa. Similarly, the believer should have a sense of excitement and enthusiasm that they are participating with God in eternal business. Believers who truly know God will be in awe and wonder that God personally knows them and is with them throughout life, not just for a season in the year. J-E-S-U-S is coming, I KNOW HIM!!!
This lesson will explore the passion and eagerness one should have about God in worship. In Psalm 42 you can see 2 characteristics of worship.

Passionate worship embraces emotion (42:1-3).
The psalmist opens with a heartfelt cry to God. He uses the analogy of a deer panting for water so his soul pants for God. This is a spiritual thirst that cannot be quenched with a mere passing of God. He looks forward to the next encounter with God, knowing only the living God can satisfy his desire for true substance.

Observing the psalmist’s statements one can surely sense the passion in his words. Passion has become a buzz word for many in our world today. People have passions for foods, sports, movies, art, jobs, service opportunities, heritage, relationships, and the list could never end. Being passionate is showing intensity along with focused energy and resources toward an activity, idea, object or person. It involves emotions, the will and behaviors. Other synonyms for being passionate are: avid, ardent, adoring, devoted, dedicated, enthusiastic, eager, fervent, fanatical, fixated, obsessive, lust, zealous. While some antonyms are apathetic, indifferent, bored, lazy, uncaring, unresponsive, uninterested, unconcerned, unmoved, unfeeling.

The point is for you to see the contrast of emotion. True worship invites personal affection but even more gives it an accurate focus. Our bodies are made to desire, even lust, for certain passions yet these things only point the fact that physical passions leave one empty. A passion for the eternal, “living God” is what truly satisfies a human heart.

Consider an illustration on passion.
[1] Suppose I bring home a dozen roses to my wife. When she meets me at the door I hand her the roses. She gives me a big hug and a loving kiss in appreciation. Then suppose I shrug her off and say, “Don’t mention it; it’s my duty.” You see, duty to a person (or activity, idea, object, etc.) is good and proper but it lacks meaning if it neglects heartfelt emotion. If I am not moved by a spontaneous affection for her as a person, the duty of giving roses does not completely honor her. In fact, they undervalue her because it shows that she is only worth the physical price of a dozen roses rather than the human expression of true love.

Likewise, our worship duty to God is more than just showing up, perhaps with Bible and offering in hand to display. Our worship duty must include heartfelt emotion and affection toward a personal, loving God who invites warmth and intimacy.

This whole idea has been catching somewhat in younger generations. However, not nearly enough. Students tend to separate feelings from faith. Separation from a dynamic, vibrant, relational faith with a
mental/knowledge based assent in God. Many of our teens have failed to connect the two and it is devastating our churches each year as students graduate into cultural oblivion. They say as the psalmist, “how I used to go with the multitude… to the house of God.” The solution to this tragic dichotomy can be found in the remainder of this psalm.

Passionate worship fortifies faith (42:4-11).
The psalmist acknowledges feeling and emotion as legitimate components to a life of faith. However, in the midst of roller-coaster feelings he reminds himself to anchor his life in the foundational truth of God and his character. “Put your hope in God”.

While true worship embraces emotion it is also balanced with foundational theological truth. As Jesus said, “worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Affections that honor God are rooted in the solid ground of Biblical doctrine. Or else, what is the meaning of Romans 10:2 “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.”?

Unfortunately, again, student ministries lack this latter element as the hype and buzz attract the crowds yet failing to take them anywhere. Relevance and the likeability factor overshadows a living faith with spiritual depth.

To counteract this trend, we must return to the admonishment of the psalmist. Looking at the waves of the world sweeping over the next generation we must look to God. It is the Lord who gives direction from his Word and the power of prayer. It is the truth of God that strengthens and grounds us during challenging times. Our conclusion can be that of the psalmist, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

In other words, as we continue to wrap our minds around what it means to worship God we must understand that it involves our entire being. True worship weds together the heart, the head and the hands. It is about a life with a single passion to know and serve God.

-How can you tell someone is passionate about something or someone?
-What are your passions? What gets you excited? What motivates you to smile and anticipate its arrival? Do you ever feel this way about God? Why do you think that is?
-What is the perceived difference between feelings and faith?
-Read through the synonyms & antonyms of passion above. Which list describes you? Can you give any specific indicators that could confirm this to be true?
- How would you define spiritual depth? List about 10 characteristics of a spiritually mature person. Share and discuss this list with your family members. Schedule a discussion with your pastor/youth leaders for how they could encourage your family to make goals and implement this list.
- Read Psalm 42. Why are verse 5 and 11 repeated?

[1] Adapted from Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, John Piper, p. 93.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Retreat Leftovers - When I grow up...

As I mentioned in my last post I asked students what they dream of becoming when they “grow up”. The answers were fascinating. Here’s a few I remember:
- Astronomer
- Politics/President
- Something with environmental science
- Auto mechanic
- Professional sports athlete
- Athletic trainer
- Youth pastor
- Teacher
- Mother

These students have great dreams. I encouraged them all to not give up on any of these. Can you imagine our churches engaging our culture as fully devoted followers of Jesus in each of these areas? Why couldn’t we change our world for Jesus? I, for one, am excited about the potential that exists in our student ministry.

There is one on this list which was repeated about 4-5 times that surprised me. Mother. There were 4 or 5 teen girls who honestly were dreaming of becoming a mom. It surprised me because most teens are looking forward to “freedom” from the experiences of childhood rather than looking how to care for children. Rather than seeing children as an opportunity to invest, train and mold for godly purposes they are often seen as another chore to take care of. So, I applaud these young ladies in this dream. Perhaps they have such a lofty dream and seek to embrace this high calling because they have had the privilege of godly motherhood modeled for them. Of course, perhaps not, but the point is our youth ministries really are equipping the next generation. As parents, youth leaders and pastors we should capture the vision that we are teaching young people what it means to be a godly mom, father, spouse, etc.

On a side note, this made for interesting [grin] discussion when these students were answering question 2 (see previous post). If you don’t get it, then ask me later and we can have that little talk.

Retreat Leftovers - Importance of Discipline

One of the breakout sessions for the students was how God brings about spiritual change in our lives. I started the session off by asking the students to list what they dream/desire of becoming when they grow up. You would be amazed at some of the dreams these students have (more on that in another post). Then I asked them to list what steps they were planning to help them achieve that dream. This second question is a little bit harder to think about and some of the students had a difficult time explaining the pathway to help them become the person they dream of becoming. As parents, youth leaders and student ministries we need to help equip students to be able to answer this second question. Then we discussed the role discipline plays in fulfilling our dreams and bringing about the needed changes in our life; especially for who God is making us to become.

In all, we realized, the person we desire to be and the influence we dream of having stems from one word – discipline. Desires and dreams are simply not enough to cause movement or change in an individual’s life. Discipline nudges the person toward action and following through. It puts feet to faith. The fact of the matter is we need all three.

Read how one popular person describes the slow process of discipline and spiritual change:
Your nature is a hard thing to change; it takes time… I have heard of people having life-changing, miraculous turnarounds, people set free from addiction after a single prayer, relationships saved where both parties ‘let go, and let God.’ But it was not like that for me. For all that ‘I was lost, I am found,’ it is probably more accurate to say, ‘I was really lost. I’m a little less so at the moment.’ And then a little less and a little less again. That to me is the spiritual life. The slow reworking and rebooting of a computer at regular intervals, reading the small print of the service manual. It has slowly rebuilt me in a better image. It has taken years, though, and it is not over yet.”[1]

Discipline is that slow process God uses to shape and craft us into our created purpose. Its importance cannot be overlooked if you want to mature spiritually. Our student ministry is working on doing a better job at equipping students with these tools for spiritual disciplines. I can't wait to see all these dreams come true!

[1] Cited in The Beautiful Fight by Gary Thomas, 7. Quote from Lead singer Bono, U2 by U2, 2006.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Retreat Leftovers

Well, obviously we are back from the retreat. Tuesday was a great recovery day of which my other adults did not have the luxury. I feel a little guilty about that but life will move on. I was really grateful to have Clint, Kevin, Tommy and Bonnie “be with” us and investing in the lives of students. It was an awesome weekend. Also, I am thankful for DBC, they have a great group and we were glad to hang out and grow with them. The kingdom of God before our eyes!

Anyways, I plan on posting a couple insights I learned that I think are relevant to youth ministry and my mission Growing Godly Generations. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fall Retreat 08

Several students in our YM are headed up to Skycroft for a weekend retreat. Here is a list of the breakout sessions we'll be giving:
· Basic Metamorphosis: How to grow in your spiritual walk with Jesus
· Basic Assurance: How to really know if you are a Christian
· Basic Temptation: How to stand strong in the face of pressure
· Basic Application: Understand the difference between knowing & doing
· Basic Book: Why should you trust the Bible
Pray for spiritual impact in our students.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Today is Election Day. Rather than complain about the candidates we should...

1) Be thankful we live in the United States of America. This means FREEDOM and that we have the privilige and opportunity to vote. Whereas millions of others live under political dictatorial oppression, we can VOTE our conscience and religious values. Voting is more than just for a president, it's also for some very real values in our country - defining marriage, life-abortion (over a million aborted babies each year), gambling and many other issues.

2) Pray for wisdom and discernment and research the candidates and issues of your vote.

3) Remember God is our hope. He is in charge not presidents, government bailouts, media hosts, or anyone/thing else. Read Psalm 2 and Daniel 2:21 for this profound reminder and proper perspective of all eternity.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rewind YM

If you hit the rewind button on our youth ministry you can see where we've been and how God has worked in our ministry. Here are just a few highlights of our youth ministry over the year...

- At least 5 youth received Jesus Christ as Savior & Lord and followed in baptism this year! In fact, our church has baptized 16 people this year. Sadly, some churches do not baptize a single person each year. This is not to brag on us but is a testament to God using the insignificant for His significance!
- ZERO has averaged 35 students since August, up from an average of 30 six months ago and 26 one year ago. This is a slow progression but we keep nudging forward.
- Our Grow Groups have averaged in the 20's which is those students taking the next step in following Jesus in a Christian growth plan. Students continue to memorize Scripture and have personal devotions, reading Bible books that we have been studying (Kings & Chronicles, 1 John, Acts, Worship topics)
- Over 12 students assist as Leaders In Training through our Awana program.
- 8 students participated in feeding the homeless in D.C. over the summerOver 20 participated in a youth mission trip & conference at MFUGE in Greenville, SC. Students served the city through children’s ministry, outdoor labor, drama and various other ways.
- 8 families (18 people) participated in a mission trip to West Virginia. We served the community through backyard Bible clubs with children, free car washes, door to door canvasing, prayer walking and nightly worship services.

I could keep listing ways our YM is being stretched and taking steps of advancement. The point is not to pat ourselves on the back but to remind us we've come so far let's not turn back. There is so much more room to grow and take back what the enemy has stolen. Think about it, at best our student ministry reaches 50+ students. Yet, there are over 1000 students in the local Middle & High schools surrounding us. We're not even reaching 1% of our community. All that to say, God is at work and we must join him. We cannot let up just because we've seen minimal growth. Let's keep going!
"As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent [us]. Night is coming, when no one can work." John 9:4

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Broken Worship

Psalm 51

This psalm is for the guilty. The author, David, is writing a journal entry after he has forsaken all he knew was right. David acted on his lust and committed adultery with another man’s wife. If that was not enough, he had the husband killed to cover up the fact that he got the woman pregnant. David’s heart had grown cold and desensitized to his wrong doing. Yet, God grabbed his attention causing him to see his destructive pathway. What you read in this psalm is the expression of a person guilty, crushed, and broken.

Brokenness comes from guilt (51:1-5).
David cried for mercy, begging God to wash away his sin. His failures haunted his heart and mind. He understood that his actions offended a holy God, he was guilty.

Most people try to avoid feeling desperate and helpless. Vulnerability is not easy when there are few people you can trust. However, it is at this point in our life when we experience brokenness or can become vulnerable that we can actually achieve the most growth. God waits for us to get to this point because it is at this time when we realize our need for him. God does his greatest work with broken people.

Guilt leads to repentance (51:6-12).
David’s knew where to go after his failure. Many times people allow failure to define their future. David confessed his sin, turned from it and begged for God’s cleansing grace.

Students often experience guilt from actions or attitudes they feel sorry about. However, the next step after guilt is what defines their maturity. People can stuff away guilt or completely ignore it, or they can allow it to lead to repentance; a complete turning away from the wrongs. God wired us this way that we might act on guilt the proper way.

2 Cor 7:10 “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Repentance turns to worship (51:13-19).
David’s receiving of forgiveness turned to praise and delight in God. Those who are broken from great sin understand the depth of God’s grace after repentance (
Luke 7:47). Following repentance a person is cleansed, forgiven and restored to fellowship. God lifts your head up to remind you that you are still one of his children. He has not forsaken you. This realization can bring tears of relief, joy, and celebration. This is what worship is all about. Praise to a merciful, loving God.

· Read Psalm 51. What words capture your attention? Why?
· What does it mean to be broken? Have you ever experienced this in your life? When do you feel most broken?
· How can guilt be a good thing?
· Explain Psalm 51:16-17 and why these are key verses.
· What is your typical reaction when you realize you are guilty?
· Who can you talk with about feelings of guilt and brokenness?
· Why is repentance the most important step following guilt?
· Read Luke 7:36-47. How does this story relate to worship?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Making Vision Stick (Andy Stanley)

The next few days I have some extra time on my hands to listen to some cool podcasts and cd messages. The reason is because my wife & daughter are away at the beach with grandparents. So, tonight I was listening to Andy Stanley speak from Thirsty 2007 conference on making vision stick. All I can say is "wow!". God has really gifted this man when he speaks on the topic of leadership and vision. Below are my notes from listening.

(from Thirsty 2007 Conference)

State it simply.
· Short, carefully-crafted sentences/phrases
· Memorable is portable
· In order to do this some stuff will be left out.

Example: My personal vision has become the title of this blog - "growing godly generations". Casting this vision in my ministry is a work in progress for me.

Cast it convincingly. (see Visioneering)
· Vision must compel people to action.
· Your ministry is an answer to some problem.
o You must define the problem. Your ministry vision is a solution to the problem.
o What would go undone if your ministry ceased to exist? How is your ministry different than others; where they are not meeting some problems?
o Your ministry vision must explain why & why now. What happens if your ministry fails to succeed? Why is urgency needed?
o Until you can answer the problem you should not cast any vision.

Repeat it regularly.
· Vision leaks. It’s like a car out of alignment where there is constant side-ways friction.

Celebrate it systematically.
· Recognize the “win” for your ministry. Pointing out specific wins will define to others what your ministry is about. It paints a clear picture and gives definition to the vision.
· Wins leverage momentum.

Embrace it personally.
· Vision is visible. “Your willingness to embody the vision will have a direct impact on your credibility as a leader.” Leaders should personally model the vision or it’s just another phrase on paper. People need to see your angst when you struggle fulfilling the vision. People need to see your inner delight when you are fulfilling the vision.

Vision Evaluation Gauges
· New projects, programs, products or people have potential to stall the vision. New is exciting but everything must be vision centered.
· Prayer must be centered on the vision not peripheral issues. Listen to the prayers of your ministry members to gauge if the vision is captured. If not, recenter the prayers.
· Complaints should reflect the vision. Listen to the complaints of your ministry members to evaluate how you need to better communicate the vision.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Missionary Movements - Healthy Church

In our Sunday morning youth Bible study we are going through the book of Acts. We are seeing the church begin, expand and engage its world. It is good to make comparisons and contrasts to today's church from the Book of Acts. Not for the sake of complaining and tearing down the church. We have enough of that! But, for the goal of becoming a more healthy, effective and functioning body of believers that God can use for His glory. I am praying for my church and ministries I'm involved with have a fresh touch by God's Spirit to this end. I know I cannot do it with my own wisdom, skills, strength and definitely not my looks. We are helpless without God's Holy Spirit to work and bring renewal in our life and church.

One author says this, “The Acts has so much to say to our half-hearted and cold blooded Christianity in the western world. It rebukes our preoccupation with buildings and ministerial pedigree, our syncretism and pluralism, our lack of expectancy and vibrant faith. As such it is a book supremely relevant for our time.”[1]

Below are some characteristics I found from Acts 13:1-3 that begin missionary movements and are reflective of healthy churches. I am going to keep these in front of me as ministry and leadership goals.

1. There was foundational discipleship. Antioch was a home base for Christianity, being the first place believers were called Christians (11:26). The church at Antioch was a refuge to persecuted Christians (11:19). It was also a place of faith instruction for new believers, like Saul/Paul (11:26). Even more, the believers at Antioch showed Christian compassion and generosity to those in need by providing famine relief to Jerusalem, hundreds of miles away (11:29), and spreading the gospel through sending missionaries (13:1-3). All of this arose from the congregation as a whole, not hired staff doing the work of ministry. Antioch was a healthy, stable foundation from which effective ministry could be established and advanced.

2. There was developed leadership. At the very least there were 5 leaders who were said to be prophets and teachers. These men were recognized with specific giftings that aided the church to fulfill its mission and vision. The leadership was shared and diverse, representative of the larger Church. Barnabas was from Cyprus, Simeon probably from African regions, Lucius from Cyrene, Manaen was upper class related to the Herods, and Saul from Tarsus. They had varied backgrounds yet God blended them together to accomplish his world-wide mission.

3. There was authentic worship. Vital to the church’s mission was corporate worship. Noted elements in this atmosphere for worship included fasting, suggesting intense focus on God for specific purposes, and prayer which was reciprocal communication as the Holy Spirit spoke to the church. Thirdly, their worship was faith responsive as they acted on the Spirit’s leading, commissioning individuals to service. Antioch gave two of their best leaders for the cause of missions, no less! In all, worship has a broad meaning in the OT & NT but it is interesting to note these three specific elements.

4. There was evangelistic fervor. Antioch was hub for sending missionaries into regions where the gospel was vacant. This church took Jesus’ command to disciple the nations seriously and at all costs (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Their strategy is important as they started with those who they considered receptive to their message, in Jewish synagogues. However, they also engaged people and places that were hostile to the gospel. Their evangelistic zeal shows how God uses obedience and availability over talent and personality (consider the fact that Saul was once a persecutor of Christians!).

[1] Michael Green, Thirty Years That Changed The World, p.5.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pure Worship

Imagine being in heaven and watching people worship Jesus. As you are watching them you realize you cannot hear anything. You cannot hear the melody of the singing, the words to the prayers or the declarations made by anyone. You ask Jesus why the sound is muted and He tells you that the reason the sound is mute is because that is what all heaven hears when a person’s worship is improper. Jesus only hears and accepts the worship that is proper.

In Psalm 24 you will see 3 keys to properly worshiping God.

Proper worship is God-focused (24:1-2).
The Psalmist, David, recognized God’s complete sovereignty over all the earth. God’s sovereignty is his control over all of creation. David specifically mentions those who live in creation (hey, that’s you & I). The point being made is that all of life must be focused on the fact that God is of central importance to the world. In fact, you cannot view creation without thinking about its Creator.

Youth ministry (as many others) has a tendency to create a mentality of crowd faith. What I mean is rather than individual students having personal faith focused in God they limit God to group activities. Students only read the Bible when they are in group study. They do not pray or enter into any kind of discussion because they fear “public speaking”. Yet ironically, they do not do these things privately either. Personal faith has been reduced to attending events, conferences and gatherings. Rather than having a divine encounter with the living God students seek sensory appeal and crowd buzz. God is calling for so much more. He wants students to meet him and know him, even as face to face (v.6). A lifestyle of worship must be radically centered on personally knowing God.

Proper worship is pure (24:3-6).
David continues his focus on God in asking, who can approach Him? The answer is “he who has clean hands and a pure heart”. This is symbolic language to describe someone with pure character. Unfortunately, there is no one who can ascend to this requirement. It’s a hill too large to climb, everyone falls short because by nature everyone is not God-focused. In fact, everyone is a God-substituter. That means that in our hearts we replace God with things that are our own desires. At its core this is what the Bible describes as idolatry. Our hearts are idol factories, creating gods in our own image to suit our own desires.

The simple fact of the matter is purity brings life. Without purity life is tainted. Randy Alcorn, in his little but profound book “The Purity Principle” explains further:
“Those who turn from God to embrace a God-substitute suffer terrible loss. Why? Because they were made to find joy in God, not the substitute. They swap God’s present and future blessing for something they can immediately see, taste, or feel. But that something never satisfies… Christian men and women forfeit future happiness for the sake of temporary sexual stimulation. Like drug addicts, we go from fix to fix, trading the contentment from righteous living for the quick hits that always leave us empty, craving more.” (pp 12-13)

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” Jonah 2:8

Proper worship is responsive (24:7-10).
David closes his Psalm with repeated declarations. He focuses on God, naming him the King of Glory, strong and mighty. It is likely that the psalm would be put to music and tradition states it was sung at the beginning of every week in the Jewish temple.

Worship is a way for you to respond to God. It is to be celebrative, declaring the greatness and goodness of God. When a person realizes who God is they will not be able to refrain from being in complete awe and wonder. The proper response is for you to lift your attention to the Almighty King.

Isaiah 55:6 “Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.”

John 4:23-24 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is SEEKING such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Once again, imagine being in heaven watching people worship God. This time, you not only can see them worship but you can hear them worship. You hear the rhythmic melody that draws you to sing out loud, you hear prayers being spoken and though you cannot make out what they are all saying you somehow know Jesus can. You also hear shouts of individuals declaring great truths about God. So, you look over to Jesus to observe His reaction and you see tears in His eyes as He smiles with great joy knowing that your worship and that of many others is gladly received.

Taking It Home
· Is my worship being heard and accepted by God? How do you know?
· Is my faith merely a group activity or is it personal?
· Write out a typical schedule for your day. List everything from brushing teeth to going to class to setting your alarm clock just before laying your head on the pillow at night. Where does God fit in your day? Is it the best time?
· What worthless idol am I clinging to?
· Am I merely settling for the appearance of purity?
· Who can I talk to about my purity struggle?
· What is God calling me to do in response to Psalm 24?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Walking Worship

I have always enjoyed walking. As a teenager growing up and going around the neighborhood to play street football or basketball on a dirt court two miles from my house I took lots of walks. On those walks I would often think about things going on in life with family, friends, school and whatever (Note: The whatever for a teenage boy is not rocket science. It is typically about girls, what's for dinner, girls, sports or girls. Hope that clarifies everything). Later on, as I left for college at times I felt lonely being in a place where I knew no one and was pretty unfamiliar with. I can remember taking many walks around the campus praying and talking to God about life stuff (Note: The stuff for a college guy rarely changes from a teenage boy). Even now as I'm married I enjoy walking in our neighborhood with my girls, my wife and daughter. It seems walking is becoming a way of life for me.

THE BIBLE describes our life as a walk as well. As we continue our series on what is worship note how most specifically the Bible speaks of worship as a way of life. That is what this post is about.

Worship walks with genuineness (3:12).
Paul challenges the Colossians to walk in the ways of God. Those who have been raised with Christ are to set their minds on eternal things (“things above”). They are to be different than those who do not walk in the ways of God (3:5-9). They have genuine compassion & kindness for others rather than negative stereotyping individuals. As God’s people they are marked with His character showing integrity and authenticity (3:12).

Several years ago there was a story showing a lack of genuineness. In 1979, distance runner Rosie Ruiz won the New York Marathon. She set a new record at the time of 2:31:56. A year later she did the same in the Boston Marathon. However, after further inspection it turned out that her time lacked validity as she was cheated in both marathons. In NY she was seen catching a bus for a portion of the race. In Boston, she only ran the last leg of the race appearing as if she ran the entirety. Unfortunately, Ruiz lacked the character and integrity that is often missing in our society.

God calls for his people to be real. Too many people are only Christian in name; in other words they are not genuine in their beliefs or behavior. True worship goes beyond mere assent to God, an event or a style of music. Worship is all of life and reflected in a person’s lifestyle. This can often be evidenced by a person’s character.

“Therefore, I urge you brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

Worship walks with grace (3:13).
Another way to walk in the way of God is to be like Him in the area of forgiveness. Paul commands the Colossians to forgive others as God has forgiven them. Rather than seeking revenge, holding grudges or becoming bitter we are to view relationships in view of eternity. In doing so we realize most things we get bent out of shape about do not ultimately matter. Even more, we should ask ourselves if we would want God to use the same standard of forgiveness that we use against others. God’s people are marked with grace.

“if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift… For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 5:23-24, 6:14-15

Worship walks with gratitude (3:14-17).
Above all things, God’s people are to be thankful for His faithfulness, His grace and work in your life. Whatever we do in word or deed should be marked with love and reflect our gratitude for Jesus. Jesus has done so much in giving himself – his sacrifice on the cross, his faithful presence that never abandons, his promise of eternal life – and Christians must look at life with an eternal hope.

-Read through Colossians 3:1-9. Which character qualities do you struggle with the most?
-Choose one of the godly characteristics in 3:12 and commit to implementing it this week 3 times.
-Why should God forgive you of your sin and wrongs?
-How does your forgiveness relate to God forgiving you?
-Who in your life is waiting for you to forgive them?
-Thankfulness brings peace. Write out 10 things God has given you and for which you are thankful.
-Thankfulness motivates devotion. Do you cherish time in God’s word? Time in corporate worship? Time with other believers?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Away But Not Alone

My wife has been away at a weekend ministry convention. She will have been gone four days tomorrow. This also meant that I had the pleasure of watching our daughter for a few days. Actually, on Thursday she stayed with a neighbor from our church. Then when I got home we went for a walk around the neighborhood and spent the rest of the evening crawling around the house eating leftovers from the fridge and hanging out. Friday was much of the same and then a youth ministry planning meeting for our upcoming Fall Retreat (which I’m increasingly looking forward to… hope our students are getting pumped). When we got back Alethia had bath time and then was out like a light. Saturday we slept in til about 9:22am (I like to set my alarm for random times rather than plain round times like 9:20. That’s just me). It was good to sleep in since I was up til 2:30 reading and watching a bunch of random things on the television. Anyways, later on in the afternoon I took Alethia up to her grandparents where she’s staying for the night. She was having a ball attempting to ride her tricycle before I left. When I got back to the house I cut the grass while listening to Matt Redman’s “Face Down” album on my ipod. Oh yea, all through this weekend were about 30 text messages back and forth from my wife saying how much we missed and love each other.

I write all that to say this: My wife was away but I was never alone. I appreciate the fact that we have neighbors and church friends who babysit our daughter. I love living close to family to see them and be a part of our routine life. I am thrilled to be a part of weekend ministry planning’s and praying for God to use our ministries to expand His kingdom. Even more, I am overwhelmed that God’s Spirit fills my life and never leaves me alone. God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” What an amazing promise to embrace, recognizing I will never be alone because of my faith in Christ.

The next time your spouse goes away on a trip, or your kids are out for the evening or perhaps you are away from everyone you know feeling alone in a college dorm, remember to cultivate relationships with others. Go out and meet new friends. Even more, spend some time with your Heavenly Father. He longs to be with you and for you to know Him in deeper ways than you can ever imagine. When you have Jesus you really are never alone.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Youth Group Homework

Last weekend in our small group Bible study our High School students were challenged to write out their salvation testimony. Their assignment has been to write it out and then be ready to share it this coming week. They can share it with others during the week as well. Can you believe that a youth pastor gives homework??? Well, I did and I'm praying the dog doesn't eat it before Sunday. What about you, have you thought how to clearly communicate your salvation testimony?

Here were some questions to help guide their writing and thinking.

ADMISSION – How did I know I needed a Savior?

Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

BELIEF – Who is Jesus Christ?

Romans 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

COMMIT – How am I living for God presently?

Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.

Holy Worship

In 1995 a popular song came out by Joan Osbourne. It was titled "If God Were One of Us". The lyrics are interesting to read considering that the song came from secular pop culture. Here are some of the lyrics:

If God had a name, what would it be
And would you call it to his face
If you were faced with him in all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question
And yeah yeah God is great yeah yeah God is good yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
What if God was one of us

Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
If God had a face what would it look like

And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like heaven and in jesus and the saints and all the prophets

Well... what if you were faced with God in all his glory? What would you see and would you even want to see him? In reading Isaiah 6 we can be certain that we will see at least the following three realities.

Worship calls you to see God’s holiness (6:1-4).
Isaiah saw a vision of God. God was seated on an elevated throne where his presence and robe filled the temple room. Hovering around God were seraphim (literally “burning ones”) who though they are burning with brightness they hid their faces & feet from God’s greater and brighter glory. In antiphonal praise the seraphs shout about God’s character. It is significant that they sing of his holiness above other characteristics, as well as the three-fold mention of it; “holy, holy, holy”. In Hebrew, the addition of adjectives multiplies its importance. Isaiah speaks of God’s holiness 59 times throughout his writing. Worship that does not recognize God’s glory and holiness falls short of true worship.

God’s holiness is attractive. Deep inside it is what we all desire. We long for completion, perfection and being whole. We pursue these desires in the wrong places which become idols or God-substitutes. The irony of this reality is once we encounter God’s holiness we cannot remain in his presence. It is so powerful and overwhelming that we get consumed with the weight of its significance.

Worship calls you to see sin’s influence (6:5-7).
Isaiah’s dramatic vision was overpowering. He saw divine holiness and was never the same. It ruined his old ways recognizing the sinfulness of his lips. Even more, he felt the weight of sin’s influence from the people he lived among. Isaiah’s response resulted in guilt and shame due to God’s convicting presence filling the space. However, God removed and atoned for the influence of Isaiah’s sin. The seraphs purified Isaiah’s lips with a coal from the burning altar in the temple.

When you experience guilt or shame it is important to respond appropriately. God gives you these experiences so you may seek him not run from him. He desires you to confess your sin and find forgiveness rather than avoiding the influence of your sin. God removes the influence of sin and its consequences through the atoning power of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Worship calls you to see people’s need (6:8)
Following Isaiah’s cleansing from personal and corporate sin he hears God’s voice. A person cannot hear God’s voice unless they have found atonement for their sin. God called for someone to meet the missionary task of representing God to the people. Isaiah gave the most appropriate and worshipful response he could, “Here I am. Send me”. Worshiping God fills believers that they cannot help but share this glorious, all-satisfying happening with others.

Worshiping God is not confined to a room, a building or any other location. It is without walls, without limits and goes to the center of every lifestyle; it is your life. God sees your worship in the way you interact not only when you are alone but especially when you interact with others. He expects you to represent him to all those around you.

Taking It Home
· What do you think God looks like? Describe him.
· Why is holiness attractive?
· How do worship services you attend recognize God’s holiness?
· Do you view guilt or shame as a gift from God? If not, how could you begin to see it as such?
· Is worship more an individual or corporate action? Explain.
· Respond to: “A person cannot hear God’s voice unless they have found atonement for their sin.”

Monday, September 29, 2008

Visionary Worship

Psalm 37:3-5 “TRUST in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. DELIGHT yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. COMMIT your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.”

These few verses describe worship familiar yet distant ways. By observing three words you can gain a fuller picture of what it means to worship God with greater intensity.

The psalmist penned this word to point to God’s complete control over all of life. Since God is sovereign over all things you can trust him in every life circumstance you encounter. God promises to provide and protect those who trust in him. In a world that seldom holds promises and little can be trusted, God calls you to trust in him.

Can you envision trusting someone who is completely faithful?

Hebrews 13:5 “be content with what you have, for he himself said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’.”

Many people view a relationship with God as a simple past decision they made, lacking joy and passion. Such a decision minimizes the intimacy and ongoing relationship a believer has with God. Trust in God calls for enjoyment in him as completely satisfying in all of life. Realizing this truth, the believer should intensify his or her pursuit for God. As an athletic fanatic or empty entertainment seeker, a believer should find extreme delight in God.

Commenting on this verse, John Piper says, “The great hindrance to worship is not that we are pleasure-seeking people, but that we are willing to settle for such pitiful pleasures… Being satisfied with all God is for us in Jesus is the essence of the authentic experience of worship.”
[1] Worship is the most important thing you will do and we must have the right object of worship rather than satisfying ourselves with things of lesser value than an eternal God.

Can you envision delighting in someone that overflows with satisfaction?

Psalm 16:11 “In your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

The word literally means to roll in or to lay wallowing. In other words, the psalmist calls you to go all in when it comes to trusting in God. Half-heartedness and lazy discipline are contradictions when it comes to following Jesus. God is looking for passionate, white-hot worshipers.

Can you envision committing to someone that inspires faithfulness without drudgery?

Luke 9:23-24 “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it."

1 John 5:3-4 "This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world."

[1] The Dangerous Duty of Delight, p. 55-56.