When The Church Repels You

IMG_2393There’s something unique about sitting down to talk with your young adults pastor and you’re absolutely convinced you should be leaving said young adults group…and then by the end of the breakfast with him you’re questioning every single idea you had in your head.  No, it’s not as fun as it sounds but it’s absolutely necessary.

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What about the Change?

IMG_0842I’m about to bloody my theological knuckles, so buckle up.  Strap in.  Brace yourself.  And hold onto something.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

I figured I should put that warning there since there’s a chance I’ll be metaphorically and rhetorically crackin’ skulls with today’s post.  And I can’t take credit for the inspiration of these words.  I blame the twitter user ENT Monkey.  Dude even has a website.  It all started in the early morning hours today with this tweet.

I got a kick out of it because it felt like a nudge in my side.  You when someone pokes you and taps you on the shoulder to draw your attention to something?  That was this tweet for me.  I responded.

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How Ministry Makes Us Better

You could also probably title this post “Volunteering Makes Us Better” but I like the ring of the original.

There is great truth in the statement.  I’ve been doing children’s and youth ministry since 1992.  That’s 21 years of my 31 years on this planet.  And I can tell you this right now – if those 21 years had been spent outside of ministry and volunteering – you wouldn’t recognize the man sitting at the keyboard right now.  You probably wouldn’t want to hang out with him.  There’s a good chance he wouldn’t care about much outside of his own world.  The women in (and out) of his life probably wouldn’t touch him with a ten foot pole.  He’d be a jerk.  Douchebag.  Probably a slacker or even a player.  There wouldn’t be a humble bone in his body.  Oh and he’d have the language of several sailors and the respect of several less.

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King of Anything

That’s the song that’s playing in the background as I sat down to write this and that’s the title of the post I’m going to stick with for the moment.  It’s been a few months since I put hand to keyboard.  I’ve been on a rollercoaster ride in life.  My work schedule changed, responsibilities temporarily flipped and everything put on its head.  And in turn everything else in my little corner of the world went sideways.

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A Preteen Anniversary

Author’ note – This is part one in a series in which I look back on three years of volunteering in Preteenministry – and how that’s forever changed me. It’s been a fantastic journey and I’m hoping something I share here will impact the kingdom for Christ..

On June 6th, 2010 one of those ministry moments happened. It wasn’t a big splash or a major announcement. It just began. And three years later I can look back with a wide smile knowing full well God’s proud of the work we did in Him, through Him and by Him. You see, we started something that had never been done in our church before. A idea that 5th and 6th graders didn’t belong in elementary ministry or student ministry. That in that unique age group there was significant passion, sufficient promise and some very serious lovers of Jesus. And we were right.

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An Absalom Moment

imageI’m not a Bible Scholar by any stretch of the imagination. Nor have I been theologically trained in much of anything aside from teaching in children’s and youth ministry. So when I get into my devotions I’m usually quite blind to the history of characters or the deeper strings involved within – which makes me slightly nervous to be writing down my thoughts here. I’m always nervous I’m going to take a logical leap over a shark or two and fall face first into the sand.

Which is why I love today’s devotional. It’s a fairly simple tale that helps me remember that I shouldn’t want to be all those things in order to feel better about myself – or how I read His Word. His name was Absalom and he was the son of King David. The verse referenced is 2 Samuel 15:3-6.

The idea here is that Absalom promotes himself and builds up his image with the people of the kingdom into something that wasn’t his to have. The key quote here regarding Absalom is that he, “…stole the hearts of everyone in Israel.” Absalom’s selfishness was the cause of his sin – his want to be the next big thing. It’s a cautious reminder – and there are a plentiful bushel of warnings in God’s Word – about promoting ourselves above Him and the plan He has for our life. I’ve come to understand pieces of God and me over the years – by no means am I anywhere close to figuring it out – but I’ve learned that I’m not the most important kid on the block. I am second to Him. We were created to point to Christ and spread the glory, praise and honor across the globe.

I sometimes get a big head – and when it happens I just want to throw myself into a deep hole and never come out. I’m ashamed that I thought I somehow knew better, was better or was that thing I tried to portray. It’s a constant battle and consistently under construction.

The key section of tonight’s devotional that sticks with me is under the “PRAY” section. It says this – “Spend time inviting God to remind you that he loves you just the way you are, that you cannot earn his approval. Welcome God to show you your true identity as His child, an identity that is defined not by what you do but by who you are and to whom you belong.”

Boom goes the dynamite.

God’s Track Record with Me

imageWhen God moves, you’d better watch out. And I’ve seen him move, I’ve felt him clearing His throat and I’ve missed the “DUCK!” command when He suddenly shifts directions in the midst of something. It’s one part terror and one part awe. It’s one of those thing I’ve come to have a healthy respect for because those moments when the paradigm shifts, when the rug is pulled and when the clouds clear – those moments are the most amazing.

Tonight’s devotional is from 2 Samuel 7:18-29 and it’s content is King David talking to God about these things that have happened to bring him to this point – and in his conversation with The Big Guy David relates his understanding of the ‘Why’ as it concerns the promise to God’s people and the long term effect of bringing praise and honor to God from all corners of the Globe.

It’s a fascinating verse to read – and that’s the extent of my writing on today’s devotional. I’m going to go and dig into this chunk of verses with a highlighter and a critical mind. I’d encourage you to do so as well.

I use the term “marinate your brain” more than I probably should – but it’s exactly what I mean. Letting your brain soak in His Words for a good long while. Stir in the juices of contemplation, consternation and compassion – and let it sit for awhile longer. Take in the words, the phrases and the meaning of it all on a deeper level.

There’s reading The Bible and then there’s chomping down on it like a voracious and starved Lion on the hunt that won’t be satisfied until it tastes the depths of His Words for Us.

Honoring and Valuing Others

imageTonight’s devotional is hard. The story so far is we’ve taken a hop and a skip past the story of David and Goliath. We’ve found ourselves in 1 Samuel 26:7-11 in which David and Abishai are sneaking into Saul’s camp. A moment comes when David’s companion notices that the current King is splayed out in the center of camp. A perfect moment is at hand. David could strike down Saul and the rest would be history.

And yet David does not seize the day (or the spear) and instead replies that he would not dare kill God’s anointed. He proclaims that Saul will either die in his bed, by God’s Hand or in battle but he will not be the one to do such a thing.

It’s a heavy concept to wrap our head around – the idea that David would have the wherewithal to resist the opportunity to kill the tormentor. Not just that but that he would have the depth of faith to give it up to God and His plan for Saul – this speaks volumes. It also is a direct challenge to us and the drama we allow to fill our lives. In the devotional book it challenges me to, “…think of the people you consider your enemies. Pray for them and ask God to help you honor them, even though doing so may seem impossible. Seek out intentional opportunities to honor those who dishonor you and to value the lives of those who do not value you.”

To say that today’s devotional is a whopper would be understating it. There’s much to chew on here, more to marinate on in the brain and plenty to stew in the heart about. So, grab a chunk off and see what you come up with. Faith in Christ is never stronger than when pushed, prodded and poked with a stick.

And God Help You!

imageI know I probably shouldn’t have been in bed before midnight on a Friday night. I knew that eventually God was going to give me a good shake or two for thinking I could avoid my quiet time. And I was right. So here I am at 11:30pm sitting in a barely lit corner of my living room hastily putting words to keyboard remembering that God has an incredible sense of humor. That sometimes I don’t get.

Tonight’s devotional is from 1 Samuel 17:31-40. It’s the classic story of David and Goliath in which King Saul puts the momentous armor on the little boy and watches as he shrugs it off. This same boy will come to haunt the old man after this moment because God has chosen David to be the next King. The path he takes to becoming King is one of the most incredible stories in itself and it is a telling one that leaves Saul and his son dead at the end.

I have my favorite parts of this story. The imagery of David ripping apart Lions, Tigers and Bears (oh my!) in defense of his sheep is a powerful one. In imagining it tonight I turned my thoughts to Jesus and His Love for us – and how he would tear through the legions of Hell in defense of His Beloved Bride. It was a heartening reminder to me of the greatness of Jesus and how little I remember the depth, width and intensity of His Love for us.

The other part is a recent addition to my list and it comes tonight. It is Saul’s reaction to David’s impassioned speech about his actions protecting his flock and how God protected him then. David emphatically says that God Alive will deliver him from the Giant Goliath. Saul’s reaction? In the “NIV” it’s, “Go, and The Lord be with you.” In “The Message” it’s put plainly – “Go. And God help you!”

David’s absolute faith in his fate and his complete lack of worry leveled me tonight. In reading through the notes in my devotional it spotlights the idea of making the choice to move, “…the attention of our anxious hearts away from the waves and direct it to the One who walks on them.”

I’m a worrier. I’m big into carrying stress, fears and everything else for myself and others. Tonight reading this gave me a good ole’ fashioned Gibbs slap to the back of the head. I’ll leave you with what the devotional suggests to do. “Look at Him and say, ‘Lord have mercy.’ Say it again an again not anxiously but with the confidence that He is very close to you and will put your soul to rest.” The words come from Priest and Author Henri Nouwen.

And so that is my challenge today and through the weekend. Lord, have mercy.

Have mercy.

Let Me Be Avenged

It had to happen eventually.  Samson’s life had to come to an end.  And it’s a terrible end.  Blinded in both eyes, captured and made a fool by the enemy.  His hair cut, his strength gone and those that destroyed him partying all the night while he lay shackled.  And yet in the end this once strong behemoth that felt the stirrings of the Spirit of the Lord and who has fallen will stand up one last time to pray to his God for one last storm of strength by which to avenge the Philistines for his two eyes.

It is an epic and legendary ending to a story that began in Judges 13 with his mother and father being visited by an Angel of the Lord.  A story with a heartbreaking arc that ends in bloodshed and the loss of the title character.  But it does not alienate God or change God.  It reflects the choice God made in responding to Samson’s request with a “Yes” and allowing him to avenge against those that destroyed him.

God is certainly fascinating.