Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Remembering Who to Listen to

As I've come back from sabbatical in the last two months I have realized that I had forgotten a few things during my three months away. Things like how often my phone chirps and beeps and rings and otherwise demands my attention. Or how indescribably much I love praying and worshiping with students.

I also forgot how hard it can be to hear God above all the voices that suddenly crowd into my world. I have to be very intentional in making time and space to just listen to God. If I don't, all those other voices will lead the ministry God has asked me to lead in a lot of different directions. And often it will be because I lead things that way because I am responding to the wrong voice.

So I must wait on the Lord. And find myself and my ministry squarely sheltered under Him. I must listen for the still, small voice that calls out in the midst of chaos, and follow it. This is not easy. It is not always fun. But, it is work that I am blessed and called to pursue. It is good and holy work. So voices and noise, complainers and worriers: make all the noise you want. I will listen to the voice of the King. His whispers to me can drown out all the shouting you can do!

"Give me Christ or else I die."

Monday, June 24, 2013

Let Them Jump!

This weekend my 7 year olds tried out for a play. I could not really imagine them making and then performing in this play. They tend to be shy and I figured if they were shy at the audition, then they had very little chance of making it. They were not shy. In fact, Carsen ended up with a main speaking part.
Carsen trying really hard not to be a goofball for a picture
And I learned a bit more about being a dad. Here's what I've felt since they got cast:
Immensely proud. Overwhelmingly scared for them.

What if he can't learn his lines? What if she gets stage fright and can't go on? What if he forgets his lines and is embarrassed? What if...?

Then I stopped as I realized that this is what parenting is. It is leading your child to the edge of something new and exciting and maybe scary and then letting them jump! Shiloh and I will help them get to practices, work with them at home, sit it the audience at performances and encourage them any way we can, but when the time to perform comes, they will walk out on the stage without us. And it is far better that way.

There will be many leaps to lead my kids to in the next two decades of my life. Biking to a friends house, entering art shows, driving, dating, marriage, and more. But I will not be making those jumps. I will have my own jumps to take. The joy as a parent is not in doing these things for them. It's in realizing God has given them the ability to do these things and then watching them jump and do them.

God give me grace to let my 7 year olds jump!

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Good and Wild God

Go read it if you never have!
For whatever reason, a passage from the "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S Lewis is running through my head this morning. It is a scene inside the beaver's home where they are describing the great king, Aslan to the 3 children:
"Is - is he a man?" asked Lucy"Aslan a man!" said Mr. Beaver sternly. "Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion, the Lion, the great Lion.""Ooh," said Susan, "I thought he was a man. Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.""That you will, dearie, and make no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver; "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly.""Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the king I tell you."
I am tired of a safe god. Our God can divide oceans and slay giants! He is a wild and powerful God. Yet we continually look to him to protect us and keep anything in our lives from getting out of order. Maybe we need some disorder.

Coming back to youth ministry this weekend, I am praying that I have many opportunities to experience the goodness of God with students. But I also know that we will experience his goodness in hard places. God show his goodness in our brokenness. This is the message of the cross after all, that God enters into death in order to overcome it.

It is not safe to follow this God. He will call you to dangerous things for His kingdom. He will call you to places where you will lose income or reputation. He will call you to go places and do things that put you very far outside of your "comfort zone."

If you want to follow God, give up your American, first world need for safety, and instead rely upon the goodness of God in the times were you don't feel safe. It's better.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever. 

                                  -Psalm 107:1

"Give me Christ or else I die!"

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Prayer for the Week

This is my prayer this week as I prepare to return from sabbatical:

God give me courage to 
Listen to you attentively
Speak your Word truthfully
Love other people passionately
Wait for you expectantly
For the sake of Your kingdom and glory.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Burning Bush

(Photo from flickr:  Huluppu Tree
Exodus 3:1-5:
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”                                                                                  

As far as I can tell, there was nothing exceptional about the bush that caught on fire. It was not a "holy" bush. It wasn't a direct descendant of the tree of life. The food that it may or may not have produced didn't have special magical qualities known throughout the world. It was just a bush in the middle of the wilderness where the ground was good for sheep to graze.

Until God showed up. Then the bush and the ground surrounding it became holy. They became set apart for God's purpose for God's kingdom. It wasn't holy because of what previously happened there. It wasn't holy because of what Moses had done to make it so. It was holy because God showed up and made it that way.

Here is the beautiful thing for our lives today: God is still showing up in unexpected places and working. He keeps doing it in my life and the lives of those around me. He wants to perform miracles in your midst. You just need to be ready to notice. 

God does not perform these miracles of burning bushes just to show you that he can or to make you feel better. He used the burning bush to call Moses to something enormous. He is calling you to work in and for His kingdom as well. Don't mistake the miracle for the call to faithful obedience. The goal isn't to see miracles, the goal is to see God.

So go and seek after God and watch for places that become holy ground because God is there and He is calling out to you!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Leadership, B.C. Style

Our world cares a lot about people who are leaders or show leadership capabilities. We want to train them and give them opportunities and make sure they create successful companies or communities. This is all well and good. But I think in the church we are not supposed to do it quite the same way.

The spiritual gift of leadership is found in Romans 12 among other gifts like teaching and mercy. I have always been taught that these gifts are given by God to be used for His kingdom. It has, therefore, always seemed a bit off to me that the US church focuses so much on leadership development. If God gives the gifts, then will he not also qualify the one to whom he has given the gift?

I'm not saying we shouldn't work to raise up leaders in the church or impart knowledge, but we shouldn't prize leadership as the ultimate spiritual gift. I once heard Bill Hybels, during his Global Leadership Summit, thank God that he had the gift of leadership and not lesser gifts like hospitality and mercy. That sounds like a mouth that has forgotten that he needs a whole body to work! I have been wondering what leadership development looks like as my church talks about how to do it. I think helping students find and develop their spiritual gifts is incredibly important for me as a youth pastor.

All of that said, this morning I'm reading in the book of Joshua. We hear about Joshua all through the story of Moses. He is around Moses, helping Moses, going places with Moses. Then, near the end of Moses' life, God declares that Joshua is to be the next leader of the Israelites. His first major task will be to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River and into the promised land. He leads them across the river on dry ground as God stops the flow of the Jordan for the entire nation to get across. Here is what Joshua 4:14 says about that day and Joshua becoming a leader:
That day the Lord made Joshua a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites, and for the rest of his life they revered him as much as they had revered Moses.
 Although I'm sure hanging out with Moses helped Joshua as a leader, Moses did not make Joshua a great leader. Joshua didn't get a certificate from any leadership institutes. Joshua didn't even make himself a great leader. It wasn't some inherent quality that people wanted to follow. God used Joshua to perform a miracle and then he was a great leader. No classes, no ceremonies, just God. Joshua was called to obedience and faithfulness and he listened to the call of God to act.

Maybe that is what leaders of the Church are still being called to today. Not fancy techniques, not more classes, not any human thing. We are called to faithful obedience as we wait on God to act and then to lead people in the direction of His action.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Kayaking and the Narrow Road

A couple of weeks ago I spent a beautiful morning on the Arkansas sorta River kayaking with a couple of great friends. We talked and laughed and enjoyed being outside. The river was not raging. In fact, if you weren't careful you would find yourself stuck on a sandbar. But if you payed attention, there was plenty of water to get down the river and enjoy it. On the river, the right path was a winding 's' curve that swept from bank to bank over and over. But, being a river, the right path and the wrong path ran very closely together. It was often hard to tell if a place was the right way to go until you were right on top of it.
(That's a bald eagle flying through the middle!)
All of this got me thinking about Matthew 7:13-14 where Jesus says, 
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
I've always thought of those verses as describing roads that head in two different directions. One goes North, one goes South. But both those roads, the one of destruction and the one to life, are headed to the same thing in my life. My earthly death. After I die, they will diverge quickly and considerably, but until then, the roads are connected.

Which brings me back to the river and those pesky sandbars that you get stuck on when you're taking a picture or watching a bald eagle or just floating without really thinking. They are everywhere! You can easily end up on them if you aren't watching the water.

So pay attention. 
Listen and watch for God.
And follow where he is leading you down the narrow road. Just because it is narrow doesn't mean it will be straight.