This month has been a fun one. It hasn’t been without any of the normal student ministry drama, family shenanigans, and personal health situations. Throughout all of that, I’ve managed to miss my weekly Inscription post all but once or twice. I cannot express how awful I feel about that, especially because I love getting to sit down and share what the Lord has been doing in my life, and praying that it encourages someone along the way.
Throughout all of the crazy that’s happened, God has moved in some incredible ways. One of the situations that occurred was me having a nodule on my vocal cord. Along with that, my doctor assigned me to not speak for 2 weeks. I’m a student pastor, y’all. I don’t have time to not be able to talk, much less for two weeks during the summer. But alas, I followed the directions of my ENT…for a week.
During that time, I got to sit back and watch. I had the opportunity to see my students worshiping, unhindered, at camp. I got to listen to one of my adult volunteers teach, followed by one of my students who is called to ministry, teach for the first time. He knocked it out of the park, by the way.
There are lessons in strugglebus times
Several people have asked what God is teaching me through this situation. The first week of this time, I was so wrapped up in self-pity and frustration that I was missing what I needed so badly. I needed to stop trying to do it all and just listen and watch for God to move.
One of my fellow local ministers shared a passage in 1 Kings 19 with me, and I missed it when he shared it with me. After reading it a few times, I finally got what his point was. The passage was 1 Kings 19:9-13, which says:
“There he went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
At camp, during the second week of my assigned silence, one of my good friends and mentors was teaching about silence with God. He, of course, made the required jokes about how I should be the one teaching the study. But, his passage to teach on was none other than the one my other friend shared with me the week before. The Lord officially had my attention.
Being still is hard, but is necessary
Once I decided to watch and listen to what God was going to do, I saw the Holy Spirit moving in my students. We had one of our students give her life to Jesus, which is amazing on its own. Her back story, however, is what makes everything so much sweeter. This particular student had been fighting the Lord for a while on whether or not she had a real relationship with Jesus. She wasn’t sure if she just had a case of coattail faith. Wednesday night, she relented and gave it all to Jesus. The peace in her persona is undeniable, and is a direct result of surrendering it all to Jesus.
She was one of three students from our group who surrendered it all to Jesus. As I was sitting back, not singing but watching, I saw the look of relief on these students’ faces as they gave Jesus control of their lives. They had heard the soft whisper that Elijah had heard. In the chaos of my own head, I had been trying to listen to the whisper. I’d missed it because I couldn’t get past my own perceived problems. Once I got over and past the self-pity, I began to realize that I don’t have to be able to use my voice to worship God. I don’t have to be able to physically sing to be able to cry out to Him. It’s okay to live vicariously through watching others praise Jesus.
What’s been my takeaway from this whole thing? I’ll be honest with you guys, I’m not convinced that God is done teaching me. I’m not convinced that I’ve really heard the gentle whisper. I’m anxiously awaiting to find out for myself what “life lesson” God is going to teach. I know it’ll happen, but until I know exactly what it is, I’ll keep trying to listen through the noise.
God is Good. He loves us. Sometimes we have to just shut up, grow a nodule on our vocal cord, and listen.
What ways has God used to get your attention and caused you to slow down, give up control, and listen?
A few weeks ago, I was getting ready to begin a series with my student ministry on the book of Acts. I’ve read through all the accounts of the book, and as I was prepping, I noticed that I’d always rushed through part of the Pentecost account, and missed some very important wording. We find this passage in Acts 2:1-4
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (ESV)
Almost every version/translation of scripture that I checked in, with the exception of the NIV, has some wordage that I never thought to get the detail on. A “sound like a mighty rushing wind” filled the house, and “tongues as of fire” stuck out to me. I’d always read that to say that there was a might rushing wind with fire tongues in the house. Maybe I’m sitting on this too hard, but as I thought about the significance of this, I began to do some research as to why Luke would’ve described this the way he did.
Instead of there being a huge wind in the house, there was the sound of a mighty wind and tongues as of fire. Now, like I said a minute ago, the NIV calls them tongues of fire, but that has been the exception to the rule with this verse, outside of possibly some other paraphrase versions. So why am I hung up on this? Well, because sometimes we miss what is actually written there and assume what it says.
Does it matter that there may not have been literal fire tongues above the disciples’ heads? I think so, and here’s why.
According to a commentary I read regarding this passage, Luke was using the best description he could about what the experience of the Holy Spirit descending upon the disciples was like. This particular commentator mentioned that he used the wording because it was only something that God could’ve done. This made me look at things a bit differently because now I understood it to be the Holy Spirit and not some accurately thrown embers floating around.
Again, maybe I’m looking too far into this from a weird angle, but I believe that we sometimes rush through things and assume what God’s word says. This is dangerous. Mainly, I think, because we put words where they don’t belong, or we get them out of order and that can change the meaning of a sentence. The Holy Spirit descending could only be explained in writing, for the reader’s sake, as something so phenomenal that it could only be described as something God did. Now, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know if there were floating tongues on fire, but I do know that the words used are a powerful description of what God had just done.
When we slow down and let God’s word saturate our heart, mind, and soul, we have the chance to hear and understand it more clearly. Don’t do what I’d done so many times before, spend time letting God’s word impact you. Like my last post last week, take time to let His goodness cover you.
Over the last several years that I’ve been in student ministry, I’ve had many opportunities to sit back and examine my own life, as well as observe the lives of those I’ve ministered to and with. The same question continuously comes up, regardless of the context; “Are you spending time in personal worship outside of the corporate worship time?” That’s baptistese for “Are you worshipping God when you’re alone?” I can’t ever really answer that question with a solid “Yes”. I’m going to be transparent with you guys, because I think it’s important, and because I think that many who are in ministry or are devout to their faith go through the same thought process. I don’t spend enough alone time praising, thanking, worshipping my God. Yes, I said it…
Of course I spend time preparing music for worship sets. Yes, I spend hours studying and getting a sermon or lesson ready. But those times that I’m doing these things are typically fairly academic in nature, and aren’t a time of intimate worship. These times are usually in the office where crying out to God might be a tad awkward and a lot disruptive. So, my personal and intimate time with God gets pushed aside until later, and when it gets pushed aside til later, it often doesn’t get around to happening. At one point this past semester, I’d gone 49 days in between readings in my personal daily Bible plan…ouch. If I’m expecting my students to spend personal time in the Word, I need to be consistent with that and leading out in that area of my life.
I’ve had the opportunity this week to sit back and have minimal responsibility during a student camp. Yes, you read that right, MINIMAL RESPONSIBILITY AT STUDENT CAMP!!! It’s been amazing! On top of that, I’ve had some lingering hoarseness that apparently Google has determined is stage 27 laryngical cancer…or something like that (it’s probably just fatigue or a strained vocal cord, a trip to the ENT will shed some light on this soon). So, my camp week has been fairly quiet and observant. I’ve had opportunities to be intimate with my loving God. But, what have I done instead? In between sessions, I’ve gone and napped (which isn’t terrible on its own), and I’ve watched some movies on Netflix. I haven’t spent nearly enough time in intimate worship of my God. Tonight, I plan on shedding the distractions and making some intentional space to just let God speak. To immerse myself in His word. To thank Him, praise Him, and worship Him for who He is. I am anxious to see how He reveals Himself to me tonight, to feel the refreshment of spending time with Him.
I realized today, that I had let my passion fade a bit. I realized that I’d let being busy push Him out and aside. I realized that I haven’t intentionally scheduled time into my day with Him, not as an obligation, but instead, out of appreciation for His love.
Have you lost your passion? Have you scheduled yourself into oblivion and out of a regular one-on-one time with our creator? If you have, the best time to change that is now. I encourage you to do so, whether it means you wake up earlier than you “have” to in the morning, or forgo watching the TV in the evening after the kids go to bed. Find, and intentionally make that time happen. Discipline yourself to give the One who gave it ALL more than just part of you. As Josh Humbert told our students last night, “God doesn’t do math, He doesn’t do fractions with us. He doesn’t want or require part of our lives, He wants it all!”
Don’t make God do math, that’s just bad theology…lol! Give Him all of you, isn’t He worth more than these daily distractions? Didn’t giving His life warrant more attention than just Sunday morning, Wednesday night, and when we think about it?
Hey guys, click and watch the video below! My sweet wife is out of town visiting her siblings so she asked me to fill in for her tonight. I’m not anywhere as accomplished a writer as she is, but I can make some noise on a guitar…maybe that’ll be flashy enough to get someone to watch and listen, lol! How do you answer when the fight calls? When things get incredibly difficult, or seem impossible.
We spend so much time trying to find comfort in the newest things, the most popular self-help book, from Dr. Phil. How often do we really find something lasting from any of those sources? Solomon wrote “Don’t consider yourself to be wise; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. This (emphasis added) will be healing for your body and strengthening for your bones.” Proverbs 3:7-8. We think that we can follow the latest fad, whether it be dieting, quick monetary gain opportunities or any of any myriad of things. God’s word tells us that we shouldn’t consider ourselves wise, but instead to turn from evil.
What evil is he talking about here?
The way I see it, we fight the evil of feeling like we have to compare ourselves to others around us. We base our success and status in society based on if we drive a car that is as nice as our neighbor, or if our house is furnished with the newest, strangely spelled items from Ikea. We even compare ourselves to others spiritually, and that is a dangerous pitfall.
I know that I find myself frustrated with the fact that I’m not a graduate of seminary, much less even an undergrad program yet, and that I don’t feel as accomplished as many of my colleagues in student ministry. However, I can’t let my lack of educational completion dictate how I study and teach God’s word. I can’t compare myself to one of my fellow student pastors who has his doctorate (Ph.D) and has taught at the college level for several years, instead, I have to remember I can learn so much from someone like him.
How Do We Know We’ve Made It?
If we constantly compare ourselves to others, thinking we’ll find relief once we “get there”, we’ll never find refreshment in the Lord, and our bones will never be strengthened. We’ll live in a state of constant dissatisfaction and will be left with a feeling of inferiority because we don’t measure up to someone else’s level of accomplishment.
Don’t lean on your own wisdom, don’t try and figure everything out on your own. Quit comparing yourself to the people on the front of the magazines who are being proclaimed “The World’s Most Beautiful…”. Those things are fruitless and pointless comparisons and endeavors. Instead, be who God made you to be and pursue Him over all things. Let His face shine on you, and let His grace be where your identity is found.
After Jesus had been crucified, buried and resurrected, the grave was empty. The week following, it was still empty. Even a decade later, the grave remained Messiah-less. So now, people can go take a peek into a couple of different suspected locations that may have contained His body for a short stint.
But you know what?
It’s still empty. 2,000+ years later, and there is still no Jesus in the tomb.
Because of that, He’s still king. He’s still on top. We still have the salvation that He gave us so long ago. Jesus doesn’t have to be crucified, buried and resurrected repeatedly for our shortfalls. Once and for all, He died and rose again to give us an intimate relationship with Him.
We get the opportunity to share that good, amazing, and life-giving news with those around us. So, let’s do it!
In Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20 the story of Jesus’ resurrection is recorded. Not only is it recorded that He arose, but it is also recorded that He had very personal interaction with more than just His disciples. He had a fleshly and fleshy encounter with a chunk of people. The Savior of the world came and encouraged those who had just seen Him physically die on the cross a few days before. I’m so grateful that He saved us from our grossness. I’m also grateful that He came and appeared to those who had just seen Him die on the cross. He’s that kind of a personal savior, one that pursues an intimate relationship with us.
Keep pressing on, pressing into Him in times of struggle and in times of comfort. He is faithful and true. I pray that we hide behind the cross so that He is seen, and not us.
I know what you’re thinking. “This is going to be another Easter post, blah blah blah.” Well, you’re right that it’s another Easter post, and I hope you don’t end up saying the “blah”‘s. I’m continually amazed at two things when it comes to the Easter season.
How many people are adamant about discrediting the resurrection of Jesus Christ
How amazing it was, is, and always will be that Jesus did what He did, and why He did it.
I can understand some levels of skepticism when it comes to the resurrection. The closest thing we have to comprehending the resurrection of Jesus is what we see on “The Walking Dead.” Now, stick with me here. I’m in no way likening the Savior of the world to a bunch of people who apparently have died and a virus has caused them to be an unstoppable force that is out to eat everyone. I’m just saying that the show is about the only thing that people who don’t believe in Christ point to when they talk about His resurrection. I always hear “Zombie Jesus Day” and other nonsense like that. This mindset comes from a misunderstanding about what happened. How do we thwart that thinking? Great question!
But first, remember, the cross is heavy.
Thwarting the Misunderstandings
What we all must understand and recognize, is that not everyone will believe in Jesus. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Until someone comes to the point where they understand that there is a need to be saved from sin, Jesus will always just be a dead guy who people sing songs about. But, to those of us who have recognition of the need for salvation, our strength and power are found in the message of the cross. We have to strive and continue to persevere through difficulties in life and go share the great and amazing news of who Jesus Christ is, and what He has done for us. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit will this happen.
It’s Amazing, really
Jesus gave it all so we could have it all. There is no gray area there when it comes to salvation. He didn’t give some so we could have some. It was a complete pouring out for a complete reception. This is heavy, but it’s also a glorious weight that Jesus bore. I am always blown away at the amazing grace that we receive from our Heavenly Father. I enjoy getting to do what I do because of the one who made it worth it all. I sometimes struggle with frustration, anxiety, concern, heartbreak, heartache, and all of those emotions that come with the territory in ministry. However, those are minuscule compared to the weight that Christ took on His shoulders. Therefore, it makes every single difficulty worth the energy because I’ve been given new life.
Press on, brothers and sisters. Pursue Jesus, pray that He hides us behind the cross so that He is seen through our lives.
When we look at the life of Jesus, we see that He loved deeply. He loved so deeply that He gave His life on the cross for ours. That’s the reason that we all hear about, and rightfully so. But what sometimes gets lost in the fray, is the fact that He didn’t come to elevate Himself above all others or to gain notoriety and fame. He came in humility. His purpose was clear from the start.
In Mark 10:45, Jesus even states His purpose. As a pastor, sometimes I forget that I am not supposed to try and act as though I don’t have to serve. Jesus showed us that example through His life. Not only did He say it, but He lived it. Sometimes as Christians, we forget that we’re called to serve those we don’t think deserve it, or those that it’s hard to serve.
This past weekend, I got to see some of my students working their tails off to serve other people. My junior high boys got the privilege of raking a two-acre piece of property. Yes, I said two-acres! I didn’t hear a single one of those guys complain, except when they ran out of trash bags to put the leaves into. I got to see my junior high girls pull weeds and move brush at two different locations. When I asked them if they had a good time, they all responded with an emphatic “YES! This has been a blast!!”
I used to be concerned about asking students to serve during a weekend event like Disciple Now weekend. I used to worry that I’d ruin their fun, and I even planned a Disciple Now event without a service day because of that worry. I look back now and realize that I was asking them to not follow in Jesus’ footsteps by not asking them to serve.
Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to serve. Sometimes it’s hard to serve those who we think don’t “deserve” our help. However, Jesus said it was His purpose on this earth. We’re called to be imitators of Jesus, so therefore, we are called to serve. My prayer is that we find someone to serve today. Find someone who doesn’t treat you right and show them Jesus’ love through your actions and through your words.
I’ve been in student ministry for a few years now. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that commitment to an event is not really that important…at least that’s what it seems like from a student’s perspective. Often, my colleagues and I find ourselves burning the midnight oil in an effort to bolster student interest in painstakingly planned events. This lack of interest can, if unchecked, cause grown men to weep like infants who need a nap. The apathy that exists can be infuriating. However, I know it’s not exclusive to student ministry, adult ministry, or even just ministry in general. What do we need to do to get out of the funk?
Love ’em Anyway
The best thing that you or I can do, is love them anyway. I’m in the middle of the next to last day before our community Disciple Now weekend, and I projected my group to be about 50 strong, and as of Tuesday, we had 18 signed up. IÂ have spent a ton of time mulling over how to create excitement and tow these kids out of the pool of apathy they’re in. The answer to this scenario isn’t in having tons of flashy stuff, smoke and mirrors, or the like. The answer is in maintaining, building, and cultivating relationships with these kids so they will see the value in what we’re offering.
If we’re honest, we know that when it comes to popularity, we can’t compete for students’ attention or affection. That is actually okay. Jesus never promoted that following Him would be popular or full of affection from the world. He did tell us, however, to go and make disciples as we live life alongside those people.
Bottom Line – It’s not a numbers game
When it comes down to it, sometimes we valuate ministry by the number of attenders we have each week. I swore up and down I’d never do that in ministry. I don’t typically do that on a week to week basis, but when it comes to planning an event…argh! The pressure exists to have as many students as possible come on a trip, attend a retreat or camp, or show up at a local event. That pressure comes from the desire to be “the best” in town. Ask any minister, and if they’re honest, the biggest struggle is attendance anxiety. What we need to remember, however, is that when we’re serving the Lord, building relationships, and reaching outside of our church walls for the Lord, those who need to be there, will be there. Simple as that. If you’ve been faithful to what God has called you to do, then the number of empty seats is irrelevant.
Continue reaching out for those who you know need Jesus. Go outside your comfort zone to find them, even if it means it’s right next door instead of on foreign soil.
Jesus calls us to go, as we go, and make disciples, teach disciples. In doing so, we’ll make disciple-makers. It might be a lonely road, but we’re called to travel it in faith.
Oh, and as of publication of this post tonight, our group sits at 32 students for the weekend. Apparently, they figured out that it’s going to be a ton of fun!
Sometimes as we go throughout our day, we struggle with how we should respond to things that are difficult. Sometimes we struggle with how to handle things that make us cringe. Some of those things are the things our own children do, some are things that their friends do, and some are the images we know they’ll undoubtedly take in at some point. Throughout that cringeworthy stuff, God’s Word is clear about who He is.
There is no confusion on who God says He is, but sometimes we like to muddle up that information. We take the word of our society for fact and disregard what’s written in scripture. One of our pastors preached out of the book of Hebrews this past Sunday, you can listen here, and was referencing hearing when God speaks. Hebrews 2:1 cautions that we must pay closer attention to what Christ has taught us so that we don’t drift away from His truth and into the decorated rabbit hole the world offers. When we stay focused, the author of Hebrews also encourages us to consider the promise of remaining in the rest that God offers us in salvation. But, not to remain idle in that promise of rest, but to be willing to share the saving knowledge we have so that no one fails to also take part in that rest.
There, in that passage, is the challenge and the encouragement for us as believers. Our actions ought to be driven by the fear that those we know won’t spend eternity with us in the presence of God. Not that we should spend our time looking over our shoulders all day in fear, but that our hearts should be broken for those who don’t know Jesus. When we live the life God has called us to live, He will shine through us to those who don’t know Him.
As the Psalm says, “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble in His way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and His testimonies.” He provides the instruction, and He leads those who are humble in the way He leads them. He uses us, at times, to bring those who need to know Him to that saving knowledge. We have to spring to action, not remain content in absorbing everything. As Andy Mineo says “When you start to eat, you lose your hunger then grow fat.” We can eat and drink of the Lord, but we’re also called to remain hungry for righteousness, and hungry to see others come to know Jesus.