Category Archives: Teaching and Learning

In the Moment, I forget the Past

Sometimes, in the moment in life of something hard or difficult, I forget what God has done with me in the past. In a moment of fear or trepidation, I forget that the God I serve has been a God of peace and wisdom and has led me through these types of times in my life.

I saw the following come across my facebook newsfeed from Youversion. I have been doing daily readings with Youversion for quite some time (because they are delivered to my phone and they can be read out loud to me as I drive). I am really looking forward to this particular five-day reading of God’s Word because it will remind me of God’s faithfulness in the past. Personally, it’s something that I must get better at if I am going to celebrate God’s goodness in the future!

If you are reading the five-day plan with me, comment below!

Click here for the Five Day Reading plan focused on God’s faithfulness in the past.

Advertisements

Jesus in the Old Testament

At youth group this summer, we have been discovering Jesus in the Old Testament. Those of you that are biblical scholars may argue that “Jesus was never in the Old Testament, at least not his name or his person!” And I would agree. But Jesus is all over the Old Testament in terms of pictures of Jesus through the sacrificial system, references to Jesus in prophecy, finding the trinity throughout scripture, and seeing people long for a Messiah. I have loved searching scripture to find places where the gospel is pointed to and then illustrated in the Old Testament. The people of God often lived far from him (Israelites) but they were still loved by him and accepted by him as his chosen people. God made a way for them to be in relationship with him. It was temporary and it was graphic but the sacrificial system was a beautiful picture of ‘perfect’ lambs and animals being slain and taking the punishment of sin, which was death. They took the wrath of God and satisfied God in a way that he could dwell among the people that he had chosen.

Throughout all eternity, the plan was to have Jesus, a member of the Trinity, come to earth and live a perfect life. It was the plan to have Jesus be the perfect, spotless lamb among sinful, messed up people. It pleased God to crush him (Isaiah 53.10) and it was oppressive to Jesus. I was reminded again last night of the horror of being rejected by God that Jesus experienced. As Jesus was taking his final gasps of air, he cries out asking God why he had forsaken him. It was this moment that defines what we don’t want to have happen in our lives because of our sin. We don’t want to be in a place where God forsakes us (in a just way) because of our sin. We have to have a way out. We have to escape the punishment for sin, which was illustrated in that moment as Jesus was taking the sin of the world on his shoulders and accepting the wrath of God.

The ironic part about this moment is that it was a moment of rejection for Jesus and, at the same time, it was a moment of acceptance for the people of God. Those that believe in Jesus, count on him as the payment for sin, and follow him, God accepted them as Sons and Daughters (Galatians 3:23-24). Jesus paid the penalty for those that desire to know God and follow him.

Not only did Jesus pay the penalty, he also overcame death. He beat the physical limitations of what sin brings. His body was brought back to life and he resurrected. He beat both spiritual and physical death because he was part of the Trinity, because he IS fully God and fully man.

This beautiful picture of the gospel, the good news, is why I follow Jesus and have devoted my life to him. The Old Testament is replete with examples of our sin and the punishment that we deserve. It is full of illustration of what Jesus did for his people highlighting the sacrificial system that the people of God had to live out. And I love to see the parallels of God’s Word. What parallels do you see between the Old Testament and Jesus? I would love to read what you have discovered here.


Youversion.com

I use www.youversion.com with my mobile phone. I use youversion during my own study with God in the morning, to take notes on a Sunday morning, and when I need to look up a verse throughout my day. It’s a great tool. Recently, in our auditorium, we opened up a wireless access point that allows people to use their wifi enabled mobile devices to connect with youversion during the service. This is a great opportunity for those of us that maybe would prefer to take notes digitally and read from a screen to connect in a different way with the service that is happening. On Sunday mornings, when the service starts, I open up my “youversion” app (which is free) and click on the “live” button within the application.

Then, I type in the zip code of where I am at and find the West E. Free service that is offered. This gives me a chance to take notes, then email them to myself. It allows me to take notes on the scripture that is being talked about and it has options for me to share what is happening in my youversion using twitter or facebook so that others can get connected with this tool.

I thought I would tell you about this so that you can begin to use youversion too. It’s a great tool made available for use by a church for folks that are seeking God through scripture. If you have some sort of mobile device, ipod, ipad, or something that connects to the internet, check out www.youversion.com.

 


Youth Ministry 2.0…or just something Jesus said.

I’m always struck with the amazing complexity that we have made ministry to be. The complexity of programming, lights, cameras, music, speaking, technology, and some sort of event that people are ‘invited’ to be a part of. I’m always amazed that we have to tell the people at our event to “connect with someone.” The truth is, Jesus said it best when he said, “A New command I give to you, that you love one another, As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know if you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13 I guess that sort of takes all of our “growth strategies”, tips and tricks for success, and gimmicks to get people to a program and throws them under a bus. You see, when WE, the body of Christ, love one each other, ALL men will know that we are fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. I have always been in search of what a “Fully devoted follower of Jesus” looks like and there seems to be an answer from Jesus in John 8, 13, and 15. They are simple things that define a disciple, and yet they are things that when we live will radically transform the world. (It’s all theory until we have to love someone who is unlovable, until we have to remain in Christ even through a bitter struggle with death or a death of a loved one, so I am not implying that it is easy to live, rather it is easy to theorize.)

This point was driven home to me in the area of youth ministry. It was fascinating to watch Derwin Gray last night give his message as he talked about loving students. He didn’t address the “method” in which we do ministry, he just assumed that our method was loving teenagers. And that was powerful.

I remember working in Northwest Iowa and hanging out with 5-10 students that made up the youth group when we first started. They loved each other. They cared deeply for each other. And then the group starting to grow and they continued to love each other (there were growing pains as they had to decide if they were an open or a closed group) and they moved on into college and still maintain some connections today. But that was attractive ministry. Attraction is an interesting word because the things that I think will attract people rarely do and the things that seem to be worthless and the worst possible plan and method surprise me with ‘attraction.’ I’ve seen kids love coming to a youth group that was talking about sex. I’ve seen students not show up to a large event that was geared right for them with blow up games, etc. Surprising attraction…But you know the one thing that consistently students will show up for? It’s relationships. The relationship between small group leader and student, the relationship between student and students, between youth pastor and student. Relationship is what students consistently show up for. Every person wants to be loved and be connected. I think that it is time to dump methodology to grow an organization and return to what Jesus said. Youth ministry 2.0 is simply “Discipleship loving.” It doesn’t mean that we stop programming things but everything that we do must have some sort of relational element. We must do it together. And loving each other has to be the mark of the time together.

There are some people that are much harder for me to love and then I think about the love of God and wonder if I am one of those “harder to love by God” folks and yet, his Son, in his deity said, “I’ll love them enough to die for them. I will exhibit the ultimate sacrifice because I love them.” And that is what our faith is built upon.

I will continue to love out loud and follow Jesus Christ and the crazy dream that he has given me to make disciples of all nations!


Started the Parent Resources Blog

Recently, I started my parent resources blog. I have always known (through philosophy of ministry classes and observation) that parents have the most influence in their teenager’s life and it has been the last couple months that have solidified that in my mind as I have worked on my project of coming up with pairing Child and Adolescent development with faith development. There are not alot of resources that do this. Many resources talk about faith development and the sequential steps of faith development. Probably this is because it really is sequential because people come to Jesus Christ later in life and so sequentially they need to know the steps of growth. But I am also struck with the Old Testament when it talks about raising our kids in a way that is following God. It is in these passages that I realize that the church is to literally raise a generation of Christ followers again and again and again. People have said before that the church is only one generation away from death. And that seems to be true.  We must continue to invest in the lives of our kids and know when they are ready for the next step in their developmental journey both physically and spiritually. I hope to have this practical tool done by the end of December or early in January. I will post it for people to look through and use in evaluation and moving forward in the way that they parent their kids. In the meantime, the blog is started for parents of teens at West E. Free Church to use as a way of knowing what is happening as well as being resourced well for parenting. Click here to head there!


Revisiting Orange

I am revisiting the book “Orange” for the second time this year. As I process the first few pages, the author describes some parenting paradigms that I don’t want to miss or throw out. He talks about how our culture perpetuates the idea that we need to make our kids happy and that the reality is that we must hold to the values of what we deeply desire for our kids.I have written these in my calendar and will review the following twice a month until outlook fails to work for me.

  • what matters more than anything is that my kids have an authentic relationship with God.
  • All my kids need to know that I will never stop pursuing them or fighting for a right relationship with them.
  • My personal relationship with God and with my wife affects them more than I realize.
  • Just being together can never substitute for interacting together in a healthy way.
  • A mother and a father are not the only adult influences that my kids need.

God, help me to be the dad that you have called me to be and help me to lead in the church the way that you have called me to lead in the church. May I not give up my own values for the sake of convenience!

 

 


From Passion to Practicality

I have some really good friends that are dreaming something big. They are praying, processing and seeking scripture in regards to what God would have them do in their lives and it is exciting to watch and possibly be a part of. This week, as I have prayed for them, I have been struck with several stories past where I have seen God work in some of the same ways that he is working now. I am no longer surprised when God’s spirit intercedes and takes control of a situation or a group of people and let’s them know that there is a dream that is way bigger than themselves that they are to be a part of!

Years ago, at a camp in central Iowa, God gave me what was the closest I have ever experienced to a “vision.” I was working with middle and high school students during a two week period and I remember clearly hearing and understanding that I would do this vocationally when I got just a little bit older. It was after we had devotional time at night and I had just taught a simple lesson from the book of Mark to teenagers. They seemed to get the lesson that we were talking about that night and it was exciting. Then one of them said, “Chris, I think I am going to be some sort of pastor or something when I get a little bit older.” We talked about this for a little while and it was clear that he was not just blowing smoke but that he actually meant what he said. I was excited. After that conversation was when I could clearly sense God’s spirit working in me to say that I would continue to do that. We baptized that particular student at camp the next day and today he is in full time ministry and has planted a church in inner city Las Vegas. It’s a crazy place an he is a courageous young man for Jesus doing crazy things for his glory and honor. I never thought that out of that night of teaching the simple lesson in Mark that this particular individual would go to the height that he has in leadership and loneliness. He recently told me that even though he is experiencing exactly what he believes God wants him to be experiencing, it is extremely lonely to do ministry in ‘sin city.’ He told me that he would love to experience community in a Christian community and that someday, the church that he has planted will grow with believers that are seeking God. I get excited every time I think about what he is doing there.

Then there is another student that I worked with for just a few brief years in Orange City. She came to Orange City already having an idea of what God wanted her to do and there were all sorts of mentors and people that had inputted into her life. Her Senior year she continued to ask what God had for her and she was thinking on the edge and trying to grasp what God truly had for her life. You see, for her, college wasn’t exactly where she saw herself. She saw herself jumping in the trenches of ministry overseas right away. It was not culturally popular, but she ended up doing something crazy and taking some time after school to do a “mission year” where she experienced all sorts of things. She followed God wholeheartedly. She bucked the cultural norm that was surrounding her and gravitated towards what God has for her. And she is living in the midst of the Holy Spirit doing some amazing things. I recently got a newsletter from her and she is doing great. God is working in her life and ministry that she is a part of.

And then I think of one other student that I worked with in Orange City. I started working with him when he was a freshmen. He was a great puppeteer and a great kid. I enjoyed his attitude that said that he would do whatever it took to love people and live out truth. His personality was such that he was well liked by people. He began working with the middle school group of students that we had coming to our youth group and invested in their lives significantly. He desperately wanted them to understand the faith that he has. And then he decided that he wanted to be a youth pastor. He did something crazy. He went to college to be a youth pastor. And today, as long as he keeps his nose clean, he’ll do great when it comes to working in the local church.

As I processed the group of friends that I have right now that are thinking crazy things, the word crazy comes through all of the stories that I mention above. It is crazy to think that we can do anything on our own, but with God, crazy things are possible! When we begin to let ourselves imagine and be inspired by the word of God, I think we are challenged with it’s mission and challenge to us.

God had some crazy things for me to do in my life and he has crazy things in store for the future for me. I never dreamed that I would be a resident of Wichita, KS leading a student ministry that I am currently leading and working with a bunch of guys that are passionately following God. I never dreamed that I would be in the midst of a Holy Spirit movement that I can’t control. And the future gets even crazier. That’s why it is good that I don’t know it!

To those guys and girls that are imagining and dreaming big things to glorify and honor Jesus Christ, dream big, be imaginative, remember the power of the gospel and don’t be boxed in by cultural standards and expectations! Run hard after him and remember that Our God supercedes ALL of the cultural, relational, and constricting sinful vices that hold us so tight!

 

My prayer is that I never stop imagining or dreaming of what God can do because “he can do more than I can ask or imagine!” That doesn’t stop me from dreaming though!