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