Don’t Give Up on Others

September 28, 2012

You may or may not know this about me, but sometimes I get frustrated. I mean fists clenched, jaw set, my mind can think of no good things frustrated. In these moments of complete frustration it is hard for me to think of a way out or possible solutions.

Instead of taking charge of the situation and deciding to be spurred on to change the outcome or not allow the drama in my life, all too often I just accept the situation as is and decide nothing can be done about it.

I’m guilty of feeling this way about people as well. I like to see people grow into the individuals in the community of Christ that God desires them to be. But sometimes there are set backs or temptations and people fall. Many times I am available and help those who are struggling.

However, there have been times that instead of being willing to help, I get frustrated and begin to write the people off. “Well, I guess their faith is no longer important to them.” I thought about how I have done this in the past. There is one struggle that I become aware of in someone else and I immediately begin to wonder how they could just throw out their faith.

It is so wrong of us to think or feel that way. Yes, we should be concerned when a brother or sister in the faith is struggling. We should be concerned when we see less of them than normal, or when some of their actions are changing for what seems like the worse. We should not give up on them though.

In these moments of struggle, temptation, questioning, or weakness are exactly when our brothers and sisters need us most! They need to know we are not giving up on them or just assuming they are “too far gone.”

Think of times when you have gone through the same thing and think about the people who were there for you. If there were no people there for you, think about how much of a difference that would have made.

We can’t just give up on people. They are too important. God sent His Son to this world to take away the sins of the people we are giving up on. He followed through to the death. We need to have absolute commitment and follow through as well.

My encouragement is just to not give up on others. Keep praying for them. Keep loving them.

If the person is your child, don’t give up.

If they are in your youth group, don’t give up.

Don’t give up on your neighbor

Don’t write off your sibling

Keep being there for your roommate

Whoever it is, don’t give up. Right now may be the time they need you the most.

Share it

September 27, 2012

I don’t like to look stupid. I know that may come without saying, because most people don’t like it, but I really  do not like it.

When meeting people, I am often pretty quiet. I think it’s because I like to evaluate the people I am meeting. I want to hear and see what they are like before opening myself up. My mother-in-law made the comment once that she thinks I said about 3 sentences the first few times I met her.

I am beginning to realize, and maybe I’m a bit slow in this realization, that there is a lot of stuff happening in my head at any given time. I have quick thoughts, long drawn out thoughts, or a series of them all strung together. The problem is, so many times I never share them with anyone.

So I have these thoughts floating in my head; sometimes I write about them, sometimes I think about them for months, and then other times I forget them until much later.

My wife and I talked yesterday about a couple things she has been thinking about for a few months. Sharing stuff out loud helps make it so much more real. It is no longer just some abstract idea. When it comes out of our mouths it has the ability to now take form. We now have someone we can share these ideas with.

Sharing our thoughts really does make a huge difference. Sure, there are all kinds of reasons to not share. Someone may make fun of us, push back on the idea, poke holes in it, not understand, or they may tell someone else.

But some of those reactions, like the push back, may actually help our ideas to grow. We grow as individuals so much more in community with others than we ever could by ourselves. This is why it is so important to find someone with whom you can share your thoughts.

That idea you have, may just change the way you live your life. It might end up helping so many people around you, and maybe even others you don’t know. Your idea could turn out to be a blessing, or develop into a book. It may be just what someone else needs to hear.

You have no idea the power in your ideas, and you won’t begin to discover it until you share it with someone else. So find someone, and tell them what you have been thinking.

Is there an area of my life where I need to be making a sacrifice to further the Kingdom? Am I missing opportunities to take a stand for my faith on a weekly, or even daily basis?
If young people can make this sacrifice once a year, what should I be doing? As a Youth Minister, husband, father, friend, son, brother, cousin, employee, and citizen (and so much more) there are constantly people around who I could be leading closer to Jesus. What do I need to be doing differently? What do I need to sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom?
This is an excerpt from my post on Hammer on Anvil this week. You can view the whole post by clicking here. Thanks for reading and I hope you are challenged to live a life closer to Christ!

Alright it is confession time. What I am about to admit here on the internet where everyone can see may seem a bit ridiculous to you. In fact, there are times it seems a bit ridiculous to me. This is humbling to say right here to you, but I am going to just come right out and say it.

I am afraid of balloons.

Someone thought it would be funny to fill my office floor with balloons…

It’s true. They terrify me. I hate the way one looks all blown up, stretched to it’s limits, just waiting to explode. I hate the way I never know if it is going to pop or not.

I was never a fan of balloon games in Youth Group growing up. I didn’t like to sit on them, blow them up until they blew up, or stomp on them. You can call me cruel, but these are games I will not lead in my own Youth Group. I know that seems a bit unorthodox, a youth group that doesn’t play balloon games, but it will just not happen. They stress me out too much.

I could tell you more, but I think I have been transparent enough for one day. I will sit here for a moment and allow you to wrap your mind around that bit of information and to maybe pick yourself up off the floor from laughing yourself to tears.

Alright, let’s move on.

The thing is, Christianity is a bit ridiculous to those who do not understand it. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who [m]are perishing, but to us who [n]are being saved it is the power of God.”

It seems foolish, ridiculous, just down right strange. The way we are called to live as Christians does not make sense to the world.

We are to turn the other cheek when someone treats us wrong. (Matthew 5:39)

We should forgive others who have wronged us, even when they continue to do so. (Matt 18:22)

Christ tells us to trust God and not be worried about our lives (Matt 6:25-34)

God calls us to love our enemies and pray for them. (Matt 5:44)

We give up sleeping in on Sunday mornings to meet together in worship. (Hebrews 10:25)

There are so many things we find in Scripture that go completely against how the rest of the world lives. It doesn’t make sense to others why we would serve people and show them love when they don’t deserve it. It doesn’t make sense why we would “die to ourselves” and live our lives in abandon for Christ.

I know those who have gone to do ministry in one way or another and their family and friends do not understand why they would take a cut in pay or move somewhere they don’t know anyone.

My family has struggled with the fact that I work on the weekends so I can’t just skip going to church, even though I would be going to theirs.

Our faith may seem ridiculous, even to other Christians, but God expects us to live it out each day. It doesn’t matter what other people in our lives say about us. We should be living everyday completely for Christ, no matter how strange it may seem.

What are ways living out your faith has seemed ridiculous to those you know?

There was a video shared on Facebook that showed up in my news feed a few days ago. The video is apparently a few years old but it was brand new to me. It’s 5 minutes long but it really got me thinking. You can view the video by clicking here.

This video shows Penn Jillette talking about an encounter he had recently had. It was right after one of his shows. There was a man standing off who approached Mr. Jillette and began to talk with him. After just a little bit the man handed him a Bible and shared his faith a little. Now Penn Jillette is an atheist and this man knew.

What I found so amazing was Jillette’s admiration of the Christian. Throughout the video he says the man was respectable, looked him in the eye, and was a really nice guy. At the end of the video he says he still knows there is no God but this guy had really left an impact.

But the line that really stuck out to me happened at about the 3:30 mark. Jillette asks, “how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?” He’s asking, if you know there is a hell and people are bound for it, and you do not tell them, what kind of pure hatred is that?

How many people have I shown this hate? I sit comfortably by and watch as they live their lives, unaware of the future that awaits them. They are living apart from God but I don’t want to say anything for fear of hurting their feelings, or making the situation awkward between us.

How much do I hate them?

Or how great is my own self-love that I would put it above the souls of others. Getting off the couch and telling others would be so inconvenient. What if they have questions? What if they are smarter than I am? What if they don’t like me? What if things are never the same between us? Now think about how they feel at the end of their life when they realize you knew where they were heading and you never loved them enough to warn them.

We share Jesus, not because we think we are better, but because we love. I think that is what Penn Jillette was getting at. This guy seemed genuinely nice and cared enough about him to tell him about Jesus. It’s that genuine love that attracts people. They may not always agree with us, but we can still share in a loving way.

I’m glad Jesus wasn’t worried about how we would react to His message. He just came and told it anyway. It was life changing. Sometimes it was hard to hear, but He still told it because of His great love for us.

That’s what should prompt us to tell others. Because just sitting around and refusing to share, may be the greatest expression of hate we can give.

To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sand a dirge,
and you did not cry.
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, He has a demon. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and you say, Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. But wisdom is proved right by all her children.

Instead of welcoming John and the Savior with praise and following their teachings, the people of the day, most specifically the religious leaders, were acting like children…..
So instead of following, what was their response? The religious leaders came up with lies. John abstained from certain foods and actions so they called him demon possessed. Then Jesus came along, partaking in the things John did not and they called Him a glutton. There was no pleasing the religious leaders. They acted childish and without wisdom.

You can find the rest of this post at Hammer and Anvil by clicking here.

In Good Company

September 18, 2012

We are going through “The Story” which is a curriculum made to go through the major themes of the Bible in 31 weeks. This week during the youth group lesson we focused on Jesus being tempted in the wilderness found in Matt and Luke 4.

Yummm. Cookies (aka temptation)

Here we find Jesus, right after His baptism being led into the wilderness, by the Spirit. He is tempted by Satan while He is there. We are given 3 of these temptations. One is to turn stones into bread (Jesus had not eaten for 40 days). The second listed is to worship Satan and then Satan would give Jesus rule of all the earthly Kingdoms. The last one we are told of is for Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple. For this one Satan even quotes Scripture to try and coerce Jesus to jump, because angels would come to protect Him.

There are a few points that stick out to me in this account.

This happened right after Jesus was baptized. Jesus was coming out of a spiritually high moment. God said a few words, and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove. There is no doubt Jesus felt close to the Father. This is when Satan decided to attack.

Satan attacks who Jesus is. For the first and third temptation, Satan says to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God…” It’s like Satan is saying, prove to me that you are who you think you are. I need some proof. Satan pulled no punches and when straight for Jesus’ identity.

Jesus quotes Scripture each time He is faced with a temptation. Jesus knows His Scripture so well, that when He is presented with a situation that would take Him out of the will of the Father, He quotes Scripture. He does not sit back and whimper. We are not even told that Jesus prays to God to take the temptation away. He quotes Scripture and Satan moves on.

Satan leaves until “an opportune time.” Verse 13 lets me know that this is not the only time when Jesus was tempted. Satan planned on coming back to try to get Jesus off track again. It was not just a one time deal and once Jesus beat Satan, the deceiver never tried again. Satan would be back.

When I study this text I am always left encouraged. I think about the times when I am tempted. It is often after a major spiritual high. Great things are happening, youth group has been “successful,” my family has had a great day, I’ve just experienced a week of CIY or camp, or any number of events. Then I get hit with one of so many temptations and I wonder what I’m doing wrong.

I may actually be doing something right. This is exactly when Satan came to tempt Jesus.

Satan likes to attack who we are. When we become Christians, we have often left a life of sin. The temptation is usually there to believe we are not actually a new creation. We are just fooling ourselves and everyone around us. Even though Jesus never sinned, He was faced with that temptation as well.

It is so encouraging for me to see that Jesus went through temptations to fall away or to pursue His own will, and He overcame. Jesus is not asking me to go through anything that He didn’t face. I’m in great company when temptation comes knocking!

I am so blessed to be in the company of the Son of God. Jesus faced temptations and so do I. How awesome! That encourages me to be like Him in those moments of struggle.

Jesus quoted Scripture in those moments. I need to know my Bible so well that when I am tempted I am able to quote Scripture to battle it! God has provided a way out, and it is found in His word. Jesus knew that, so I need to follow His example.

Its also important for me to remember that temptation is not a one time deal. I will be tempted over and over, but each time I have what it takes to overcome because I find myself in the will of the Father and in the company of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit.

Remember that when you are tempted, you are in great company, and like that company, you too can overcome!

Devotion to Christ is Simple?

September 14, 2012

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” -Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:3

I have recently assembled two different barbecue grills. They were different kinds and both came with their own set of directions. Now, I am a bit different than most guys you may know. I have to read the directions. If I don’t, and I get somewhere in the process of putting the object together and it is wrong, causing me to backtrack, I get pretty frustrated.

I like it when the instructions are written out as simply as possible. When I am able to read about each piece, alongside a detailed picture, I do well. Lucky for me, I only misread a couple times with each of the grills so assembly was very simple.

When I read the verse I pasted at the top of this post, it caused me to stop for a moment. It almost sounded like Paul was saying that following Christ was simple. My first thought was he tells his readers that there is nothing to it, its just simple.

This sounds great, but is that what Paul was actually saying, and if so is following Christ really all that simple? Is it simple to leave the life we lived before Christ? Is it simple to get rid of sin and addiction?

The answer is yes and no (I know, I hate that answer too).

It makes me think about the Joker in the movie “The Dark Knight”. He has come up with a plan that would allow crime to rule once again. His plan? “It’s simple. We kill the Batman.”

For anyone who has watched the movie, you know it wasn’t all that simple to actually kill Batman. In fact he didn’t accomplish it. It was not simple to actually carry out, there was a lot of work that went into the plan, but the plan itself, at its most basic level was simple. He would do whatever it took to carry out this plan.

I think this is what Paul is trying to say. Our focus should be on devoting ourselves to Christ. It should fill our minds and flow from our hearts. At our most basic level, our lives should be about devotion to Jesus. It’s that simple, meaning there is just the one thought, or the one goal.

When we find ourselves in a situation and we are unsure of what we should do, we can ask ourselves “Will this show devotion to Christ?” and that should give us our answer. No matter what outside influences may tell us we have to keep evaluating our lives to see if we have a pure and simple devotion.

There are no, “I am devoted in these two situations, but not these two over here.” That is complicating the matter and not the simple, pure devotion we are called to display. Our devotion to Christ should permeate our entire lives.

It is what our lives are about. Then, when we are devoted to Christ and only Christ, we will not be led astray by the one who has been deceiving since the beginning.

Stop using your family as an excuse. “God has been calling me to do inner-city mission work for years but my wife really likes where we are.” or “I would listen to the call of God but now is not a good time financially”
 
I’m too old.
I don’t have the time.
I’m not skilled in that area.
I wouldn’t even know where to start.
 
I don’t see any of the people Jesus calls, making excuses. Instead they just follow, knowing that the details will take care of themselves. 
This is a section of my blog post at Hammer and Anvil today. The post is called “Hey, I Just Met You, Now Come Follow Me”. You can view the whole post by clicking here. I post every Wednesday on Hammer and Anvil and I will always have a link from this site to the post. I’m not the only one who posts on that site, so be sure to check out the other writers!

There are times when I feel like I am too good to do a job. I’m sure I am not the only one. We don’t like to admit this, especially in the Christian community, because we like for people to view us as humble. When it comes right down to it though, there are jobs that we look at and think, “No way will I ever do that! I am not going to lower myself to that level.”

The jobs are different for everyone:

Fast food worker

Stay at home mom

Trash collector

Dishwasher

Meter Reader

Or any number of different jobs (Disclaimer: I am not saying these jobs are of least importance, these are just ones that I have heard people say they would never like to do).

In Jesus’ day there were jobs like the ones I listed. They had to be done but nobody wanted to do them. In John 13 we read about one of these jobs.

Jesus and the 12 have gathered together for the Last Supper but nobody has washed their feet. You see, back in this day, there was a servant who would wash the feet of those coming into the house. The roads were dirt and everybody wore sandals, so when traveling, their feet got really dirty and needed to be cleaned off (we just have people kick their shoes off before entering the house).

For whatever reason this didn’t happen, so Jesus gets down and starts washing away. The disciples were completely baffled! This was a job for the lowest of servants, yet the man they have been following for 3 years, their “leader”, was down washing their feet!

At the end of it all Jesus told his disciples, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s.”

As Christians we have really loved this example. At church camps, youth group times, or retreats, there are often times when we bring people forward and we wash their feet to show how we are lowering ourselves and serving them. Honestly, it’s a great object lesson.

Except it doesn’t mean what it used to. There was a speaker at NYR (Nationwide Youth Roundup) one year who said he keeps a toilet bowl scrubber in his office because that is the current job he considers most like the feet washing of Jesus’ day.

What Jesus was trying to get us to see is that we should actually “consider others better than ourselves” (Philippians 2:3, yes Paul said it here, but this is what Jesus was teaching). This considering of others is more than just something we say, but we actually need to do it!

As Christians, we need to take jobs to serve others. We need to not think, “I deserve better than this! I can’t believe I am the one to have to do this job!” We should rejoice over the opportunity to serve someone else and in that service, provide an opportunity to see Christ in our lives.

This week, find a job that nobody wants to do, and get it done. Do it so that you can serve someone, not for the praise you may receive.

Do it because Christ died on the cross for you and never thought, “I deserve better than this! I can’t believe I am the one to have to do this job!”

What are some jobs that nobody wants to do, but would create an opportunity to shine Christ into someone’s life?