Sure, we can pick a favorite favorite! What tops every favorite more than the other favorites of your life? Is it funny to anyone else that we often pick our favorites of everything, but so often they change? It is called the flavor of the week. Most people tend to take on the trend of the media, and let the media dictate who to hate and love.
I was talking with a very good friend of mine recently and he mentioned that the trend he is noticing on teenagers today is that the youth of today are becoming expert grocery shoppers. They go to the store when they need something, but only pick the few items they need, pay and then leave. He says that youth are becoming grocery shoppers of faith. All to often, youth are berated by the media about what and who to like. What is in and what is out. Whats hot and whats not. Not only youth, but we as Christians tend to pick our favorite parts about God and leave the rest for someone else. We then go the the church to pay for everything we want, and maybe not need, and then leave for the rest of the week to live off of what we just had to have. Does anyone else notice this trend?
What is your favorite thing about God? What is the hardest thing to love about God? According to the Barna group, 87% of American's from ages 10-25 say they believe in God but do not practice a life style that is fulfilling to the Bible or that they do not share a relationship with Him. This astounds me. How much picking are we doing? Why are we such picky people? One thing in my life I can not be picky about is God.
My favorite song by audio adrenaline is "Walk on Water". I have no clue why it is, but I love the beat and it lifts my spirits when I listen to it. It is a great song and I just love it. It talks about having faith and if we keep our eyes on Jesus we will be able to walk on water too. What a great vision to have. The problem is, I need to keep my eyes only on Jesus and not the things of this world.
Fellow readers and bloggers alike, let us unite our eyes on Christ and search for Him in this world as we remember His birth, but look at His return to earth. In the words of another favorite song by David Crowder* Band, Oh Happiness, "Oh Happiness! There is grace enough for us and the whole human race." God's grace that is offered to us and everyone is enough, but we must have our faith and our eyes on Jesus, because then we, too, can walk on water.
(note to the readers: I have totally tried to walk on water, exclaimed to God I had enough faith to do so, and fell right through. Try this and see if you walk on water. If not, what can we do to increase our faith in Christ?)
This movie looked funny when it was in theaters but I did not think much to go see it because movies cost me my front left tire to go see now. I pressed the order button and began a new cinematic experience. This movie is about Jack Black, who plays a person near the beginning of the earth. He is a horrible hunter and an awful gatherer. He is no use to his village. So he decides to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He suddenly begins to start thinking outside the box. He starts to questions things.
"Why is this fruit? Why do we eat fruit? How can we speak to each other so that we can understand one another? Why do we wear clothes? What is this fur?" He continues to ask questions about life and how he doesn't understand how it all came to be.
I sat and watched this movie, laughing sparsely at the weird and crazy antics of Jack Black, and thought to myself, "You know, how often do we question our surroundings? How often do we really try to think deeper than just the normal aspects of our lives?" As I went into this deep thought, it was time for me to leave and I could not finish the movie (which I hope to do after today).
We can learn a little from Jack Black's character in the movie. How often do we really question what is going on around us? Are we so blind to the world that we just let life pass by without really questioning the wonders of God's creation or why we live here and not somewhere else? Have you ever wondered why we really exist? Are we all connected in some form or fashion? How is God really in everything?
I was told as a youth that is OK to question God. In fact, God does not want us to live inside this bubble of a life. Christ wants us to grow more in knowing and trusting in Him. When we question God and the things of this life He has placed before us, we can seek out God's answer for us. Too often, we see people trying to find happiness in their own lives, that we too often forget the world that Christ has surrounded us with.
Recently, I learned a lot of new information about my father, Steve Ashby. As I looked up to this man for my whole life, my hero, I have seen that he has now fallen to the ground. I often get the image in my head of the Saddam Hussien statue falling off of it's stand, because the tank pulled it down (see picture for reference).
This happened when America invaded Iraq. It was the downfall of a statue. It was the sign of the times changing. People, this blog post is a shout to wake up. We must pursue the Holy Spirit.
Mark Batterson, an author and pastor, writes about the fact that we forget to find the chase of the Holy Spirit. We too often forget that we must follow the Holy Spirit wherever it leads us, and not when it is most convenient to us.
Befuddled is a funny word. It means to be confused. I am often confused about where the Holy Spirit will lead me next, but I do know that Christ has a plan and a path laid out for me. There will be times I will walk my own path and times I will follow the path Christ has laid out for me, however; during these times, I know that Christ will always be with me. I am befuddled about the Holy Spirit, I am befuddled about my surroundings and where Christ is in my life, but most importantly, I know that my JOY and happiness come from Christ.
Right now, do you know where you are? We are right in the middle of the Christmas season. Through this season, we try to get through it and we go for speed to get things done. Well, why don't slow down and smell the poinsettias? Christmas is for Christ and we need to slow down and let God be God during this season. During this season, as we focus on the birth of Christ and we celebrate that Christ came to earth; let's turn our focus on the second coming of Christ. How can we prepare for the second coming?
Is this a blog post about the end times and that the end is near because 2012 is coming and the myan calendar is always predicted things....absolutley not. This is a post about using the speed that God gives us to further the Kingdom of Heaven. We must act in a haste, because the Bible states that the second coming of Christ shall be like a thief in the night.
1 Corinthians 9:24 (New International Version)
24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Christ is the prize and we are not using the speed we should to catch up to Christ. Why are we not running the race in such a way to get the prize? How can I run this race better? Maybe if I didn't procrastinate, maybe if I gave more thought to others, maybe if I spoke in a manner that was in loving and not condescending, maybe if I loved as Christ loved me, then and only then can I reach the prize.
I do have the need, the need for speed. I have the need, the want, the desire to chase after a God I know is real. He has changed me in such a way that He can only be real. I know that I am not chasing after a mirage in the desert. I see Christ as the prize, and I will run the race.
Even if I wear my nasty sandals, which everyone knows I wear even to this very minute right now. I will run the race until I reach the ultimate goal of honoring Christ in all that I do. I may not finish first, because let's be honest, I am fat and lazy, but I do know one thing. I can roll over that finish line. Maybe I can bounce. Or maybe, just maybe, I can run as hard and as fast as I can in my air moses (as seen below) and win the race and get the prize, Christ.
Nice. Don't be jealous of these fly sandals that I have had for years and years. Know this, even if my feet stink at the end of the race because these sandals are so old, I will have at least finished the race and honored a God who love me for honoring Him.
Now you are probably reading this and going, huh, I wonder why Mark would want to be Michael Keaton? Well let me burst your thought bubble and explain why. Last week, I had about 4000 things to do on my desk and no plan of attack for them. I was caught WAY off guard, even though I knew in the back of my head what I had to do. Micheal Keaton was victim of this as well. He had so much to do and he figured, well if I can be at 2 places at once, I would get twice at much done. So he cloned himself. And not just once, when he figured this plan would work, he cloned himself again and again. This movie was called Multiplicity. Though I have never seen the movie, the idea seemed great.
And then we move into the weekend. Let me just preface this by making this statement: I have learned a lot about talking smack too early. That being said, the football weekend was awesome. There were several plays at the end of the games that would make me want to jump up and scream. And of course, my Falcons disappointed me when we couldn't even move our offense down the field.
All that being said, the title of this blog post is overrated. You see, when I looked at Florida's football team, and my pure hatred for Alabama, well I thought it was a no brainer. However, much to my dismay, Alabama won the SEC championship and is now going to play for the national title. I hate to say it, but Nick Saban is a good coach. But I want to look back at Tim Tebow a little. His team and him have looked unstoppable at times. However, the mighty have fallen.
Sometimes in my life, I like to think of myself as on top of the world. In my career and life, I look only to strive to be the best. However, when we get so bogged down with the things of the world we tend to forget about Jesus and the life that He has given us. One thing I do know is that Christ has never been nor ever will be overrated.
When I looked at Facebook on Saturday night, after the SEC championship game, I saw so many people making fun of Tim Tebow crying after they lost. Well, I know one thing, if I were in his position, I would do the same thing. But my question to the readers of this blog is simple, why can't we have a passion for Christ like we do for football or for something else in our lives?
I tend to put things of the Christian world on the back burner. I tend to want to be the friend rather than the youth pastor sometimes. Why do I always put Christ on the back burner? Where is my passion for Christ? Where in my life do I sit on the edge of my seat to wait to see what happens next? Is this only during football games, or should this passion be directed elsewhere?
I can look at football and relate because it has always been part of my life. Why do I wake up some days and just want to go back to sleep? I have seemed to displace my passion for only the things in the world and not out of this world where they can not be destroyed. You see blog readers, my life needs to be a passion for Christ. I need to take a step back and have an out of body experience where I can look at myself through God's eyes. I need to have that passion from within that makes me cheer when something great happens. That makes me leap when someone scores on for the Kingdom; that makes me cry when someone loses; that makes me get goosebumps when I hear something of God.
The common facebook status I saw was, And Tebow Wept. Well you know what, Tebow did cry for his passion for the game. Our passion for Christ should make us cry as well. How often do we look at our lives and the things going on for the Kingdom and cry? My challenge to you and to myself is to look at our lives and find that passion that drives us to the point of tears. Make the Kingdom of Heaven shout and jump and sing in celebration for the way we are winning souls for Christ.
This week, the show revolved around Brian the Dog. He has written a book and received a letter in the mail that said he was to get an award for his book. Little does he know, that this award was made by people who were "special" and they loved the book because of its simplistic writing style. On the way home, after having a few, Brian hits a dog and kills it. He tries to cover it up and bury the dead dog's body in the ground. Stewie, the evil baby genius, sees this and tries to make Brian feel bad about this and tries to make Brian scared. So eventually Brian confesses to the murder of another Dog and everyone laughs at him because it is basically one animal killing another. This is natural. Brain feels outraged because he feels as though animals are mistreated and not considered as valuable life.
The whole point of this show is to show that there is value in life in everyone. As I look into the depths of my life, I look into those who are closest to me by relation. I am seeing some lines being drawn and many walls being built up. Life gets ugly when we take out the value of another person.
So many times I walk down the road and I get stuffy and if I see someone begging for money or food, I walk the other way. What kind of signal am I sending to those who need help? I can offer something to these people, who may not even know who Christ is. I walk around as a light that is a city on a hill. I can not be put out. Yet, I am the one trying to cover the windows so the light does not shine through.
Why do we so often hide our inner thoughts and feelings about Christ? Why are we so scared to be intentional and relational with ALL those who are around us? As I see the walls in my own family being built up and lines being divided by those who I never thought would do so. It is sad to see where my life with my family is headed, however, I know that God has bigger plans for me.
As I look ahead to the future, I see promise and success for what God has placed on my heart. I am here on this earth to do one thing, advance the Kingdom of God with the gifts I have been given. It is time to be intentional and authentic. I will stop avoiding those who need help and be relational with all those around me. Christ has made me as a city on a hill that the light can not be put out.
Not that I have not embarrassed myself enough on this blog, for the whole world to see....(what have I gotten myself into), I am going to share a part of my life with you that has defined the past 4 years of my ministry. To give you a back story of my life to this particular point in the history of Mark Ashby, I have only ever committed to things I really found interest in. This may strike a chord with a few of the readers out there, but the other things I "tried" at, I just didn't give my full effort because I didn't care. It's like a baby, the baby is good at sleeping and cries when it needs food or a diaper change. The things I "tried" at were just my diaper changes.
So here I am, a huge man of about 90lbs and 12 years young and I am ready to take on the world. My older brothers set a lot of the tone and path for my life. They were both boy scouts and in fact one of them made it to Eagle. Pretty impressive...for his resume. Mine, not so much. My stint in scouts lasted about 2 days. My reasoning, I didn't want to cook my own food or set up my own tent and be embarrassed, so I quit 2 days in. Remember that little thought bubble that pops in my head when I look at the mirror, "Nice."
Well, that is quite embarrassing. You see, I have not committed fully to the power of the Holy Spirit. How many times in your life have you sat down, wanting to do something, and only give it a half effort because of one reason or another? Why do we always make excuses only to maintain our lives and not pursue the goal?
Fellow readers and bloggers alike, I have been put to shame. You see, at this youth ministry conference I saw a 16 year old boy who has helped change the world and has even written a book. HE IS ONLY 16! This is amazing and his ministry is incredible.
As Christians we need to step our game. We need to have a place and a time where we quit maintaining our lives and let God be the leader. Let God be the best guide for us as we step out of the laziness of our lives.
Oh, and just so you know this is all back in first grade during my "Poetry Week". It's all true and it really happened. The prize I won was a kite, which my older brother surely destroyed as soon as I opened it.
Why am I telling this really embarrassing story? Well the reason I blog about it, to the whole world, is because right now, at 11:59 A.M. the day before thanksgiving, I am feeling vulnerable. I feel sick. The things I once knew are now not there anymore and it hurts my heart and spirit to see everything fall apart before my eyes.
My life has been changed because of my parents going through a divorce. However, as I cast everything onto Christ, I look at the strength of one of my parents. This parent has become more and more grounded each time I talk to them. It strengthens me to do this. I am only so blessed to be where I am today.
My other side of me is hurting for the other. I have pain for both, but my loyalties seemed to have shifted. A good friend told me that it is not about me. This is between them, yet I still feel like I am in the middle. I pray that no one knows this pain.
Through all of this vulnerability, I am able to stand firm on the one thing. Though the house may have been broken down for lack of care to it, my foundation in Christ is as solid as ever. Christ has shown me many things and has opened up great discussion with my students, my girlfriend, and many others. I have been able to find perspectives from all different avenues of life. God has really made me stronger, even though I feel vulnerable to it.
Christ said that I will do greater things than He. I firmly believe that Christ has blessed me and will continue to do so. Though my family is in disarray and everything seems to be falling harder and faster each time I get a phone call about something, I see that Christ has still done many great things.
Through our weakness, Christ can shows us a new way to lean on Him and try to grow and understand His plan for us more and more. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable.
Also, as thanksgiving approaches, know that I am praying for those who read this blog. It is a blessing to be able to somehow keep a small memoir of my thoughts on the internet for all to read. Christ has done many things and greater things are yet to come!
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and may God bless the table you are at.
So there I was, half dreaming and half awake and I sit up. The TV was on an 80's movie that probably speaks to the heart and life of every person who has ever seen it. You know what movie I am talking about....."Howard the Duck"! This is such a great movie! It has a live action duck, who is transported from his home planet, which is inhabited by what else than anthropomorphic ducks, to planet earth. It is here that Howard meets a struggling singer named Beverly. Howard and Beverly start a hilarious comedy team as they travel around with "Cherry Bomb", who else but Beverly's band, and they encounter the Dark Overlord, who is the bad guy and the only way Howard can go back to his home planet.
So what happens next? Well Beverly gets captured and Howard and some scientist, played by the great Tim Robbins, comes in and blow up the overlord. The only problem, Howard can no longer go back to his home planet. So what is an anthropomorphic duck to do? Only what any other anthropomorphic duck would do, become the band manager for "Cherry Bomb", Beverly;s band. He also PROMOTES the scientist, Phil, from being a scientist to an employee of the band! All is well in the world of Howard the Duck and the year of 1986.
Now what does all that have to do with anything? Being in the trance of half asleep and half awake, I slowly came to the realization, that I needed to change the channel. However, when I started to finally come back to reality, and realized that the movie I was watching was not some really crazy dream about a duck-man named Howard, that we as Christians tend to be half awake and half asleep when it comes to the things of the Gospel.
I am no great mind of the Christian world, and I surely can not write like the champions of the book world, but I do know one thing. My relationship with Christ is what matters the most and it is about time I WAKE UP. Look at Howard the Duck, the whole movie his mind was set elsewhere. Not on the things of this world, but on the things of another. His focus was to try to get home. Some of us, including myself, are so infused with our own lives, that we let our minds wander.
Howard the Duck can be considered a philosophical person, or duck-man, in my book. Right up there with the greats of Socrates, Sir Isaac Newton, and Elmo from Sesame Street. Our mind's need to be focused on the things of Christ, a Kingdom mindset, rather than the things of this world. We should be focusing on spreading the gospel to many around us. Howard's message was simple, (and I quote) Howard T. Duck: "That's it, no more Mr. Nice Duck". WOW! Words of wisdom from a fictional duck. But you know what readers, it is true. It is time that we not be so passive with our thoughts on things and time we stand up for what Christians believe in this world. It is time we wake up from our half slumber and open our eyes to the glory and grace that Christ has to offer all. It is time that we, Howard T. Duck: "No one laughs at a master of Quack Fu!"
Don't laugh at the Master anymore. He created us in His image to be creative in a way that we can all share the gospel to anyone. Here is an example from my good ole' memory bank. I was sitting on a bus at Auburn, and a guy came in and sat next to me. The bus was full that day. He sat down and I began to play with my phone because I didn't feel comfortable sitting next to people I don't know. He looked over and saw that him and I shared the same kind of phone. We talked about our phones, which was one of 300 I have owned in my life (ask me about it later if you see me), and that opened up a conversation about the church I was attending at the time. The next Sunday night, he came. Now I don't think he came much more than that, but the night he came it was an opportunity for him to hear the gospel from a much better speaker than myself.
God can open up anything and make it relevant, we must simply have a Kingdom mindset so that His knowledge and grace overflows into our cups so that we can pour into others.
Oh, and for those of you who were wondering what my epiphany was this morning, it was this: I need to make sure I turn on the heat somewhat in the winter because I woke up shivering from the cold and it is OK to spend a little more money for my comfort in my own home. Bet you didn't see that coming!
The reason for my visual of crossing the street and busting like a sack of potatoes is simple, in the ministry, we tend to be those people that walk all over the person who fell. However, this weekend, I was really inspired by a lot of great speakers at the National Youth Workers Convention presented by Youth Specialties. I got a chance to step outside of the box of my office, and step into a world where people were hurting just as I was, having troubles like me, and also going there to get a lot of free tshirts. My swag bag was so heavy this first day, I am pretty sure I lost 4lbs just by lugging it to the car.
At this conference, and at many conferences like this, a lot of people go into the conference with the mindset for the quick fix. A lot of people go in thinking that there has to be a new way, and a simpler way to do youth ministry. I went into the conference thinking that I was going to find THE ONE THING that will change my ministry around. During the whole experience I encountered three things that I will know for the rest of my life:
1. You have to have some sort of facial hair to be a youth pastor. I am pretty sure if you took all the facial hair from all the youth pastors at the convention, including some of the girls, then you could give the world a hairy belt.
2. Skinny jeans are apparently the new craze. I know one thing is for sure, if skinny jeans are the key to youth ministry, I will never live up to my potential.
3. The most important thing I learned was simply this, connect with the kids and be relational with them. It is that simple.
These are things I already knew, yet it meant a lot to hear it from the champions of youth ministry. Reggie Joyner spoke last night and stated that we need to check our systems for updating. If we come to the conference next year and nothing has changed, what did you do with what you learned?
This weekend, I was shown a light into my own ministry and my own life. I can not pour out into the lives of students, if God is not overflowing my cup. If I am to be the leader God needs me to be, I need to be more in Him and through that be more relational with my students. I need to meet my students where they are.
Jonathan Mckee put it best. He said that in order to understand the youth, I have to understand their culture. He gave the example that a family friend of his was going to move to China to be missionaries. They could not just move right away. Some things they did might be offensive, or just flat wrong. However, he said that this family studied the culture, language, and anything else they could for a year before they left. They wanted to have it down so that they could fit right in.
One of the things I gave to God this weekend was my own free time. I am going to do nothing but spend time in the world and Word of God as much as I can. However, with that I am going to dive my students down. I am going to raise up servant leaders that will change the world.
Get ready McDonough First United Methodist Church and c3 student ministries, there is a revolution of love, facial hair, and no skinny jeans coming. God has re-ignited my passion for youth ministry and I believe I now have a clear understanding of what and where God wants me to lead this group of students. Be prepared.
The other day I was watching TV and I a commercial came on that I love. It is an advertisement for an Italian food company. The food that they make are so good, it reminds them of the food their grandma's used to make. The commercial starts off with a guy at the table and he sits there with a can tied to a string. He say's, "Ring, Ring. Ring, Ring." The cook on the other end picks up. They start talking about the food, and even though it is a diet food, it still tastes great. This commercial makes me laugh every time.
Psalm 34:18 (New International Version)
18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
What a special blessing that is. God is near me. He heals and saves my crushed spirit. I will never stop learning about the grace and sufficient love of God. He heals me in ways I can never understand.
My God loves me so much. My God loves all. He died for all so that we can open a relationship with Him on a personal level. I trust in God. He has never let me down.
My plea to those who read this blog is simple. We go through hard times. We go through hard trials in our lives. God really tests us and our faith. We question God. Many times in our lives, with our sin, we turn our back on God. God will always be there with open arms. God loves on all. He has experienced what we have been through. He knows our pains, He hears our cries. Love on God and love those who don't know God. We all fall from our paths God has laid out for us. God can be there to help us back on the path.
The Evil One likes to take and deceive those who love God. People have been deceived and it is time to call the evil one out. Even in the darkest room, a light will always shine through the darkness.
Abba. Light of the world. You shine through the darkness. The evil one knows who you are and runs at the sight or even the sound of your voice. Bless me father. Be with those who is being deceived. God we depend on you in times of trials and tribulation. We sometimes forget to bless you in the good times as well. Our priorities get out of focus and we lose our balance on the path that you have laid for us. Jesus, I know that the veil was torn. You did this so we can come straight to you. Heal the hardened heart. Bless the broken heart. Save us from the muck. As we lay here, dirty sinners, your grace makes us new and clean. Have favor upon us, Lord. Be with us. Even the man on the thief on the cross asked for forgiveness. You said to him, today you will be with me in paradise. Father, when I hear these words, and the words of the Psalmist, I know that you comfort my heart. Take this anger and aggression away from me. Help me lean on your understanding and not my own, for I have no understanding in this situation. God my life came to a screeching halt yesterday. We are fearfully and wonderfully made in your image. Your fingerprint is in each of us. Sometimes it takes a ship wreck to learn where we have gone wrong. The ship wreck has happened and now it is time to save the broken. Lord I am yours. use me and love me. Love those who need it most and help me be a vessel for you and your love to pour through onto the hardened heart. I love you God.
Looking back, the egg toss= not a good idea. Next time, it will be a little more organized and we will have more time. It's ok though! We had a blast just getting egged, having flour thrown at you, and feeling like a pancake would when being made. As Jamie put it best, "Operation Pancake" was a huge success. I would concur.
The Armor of God10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
19Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Yesterday was an eye opening experience for me. I would like to share with all 12 people that read my blog about how God totally changed my life yesterday and how He is going to continue to help me grow in a way that is unimaginable. I had a wake up call yesterday that scared the mess out of me and just humbled me to the point that the god was worshiping was god of Mark and not the God of all creation. This is an amazing story.
"All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25but the word of the Lord stands forever. And this is the word that was preached to you.
"See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame. 7Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
"The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone,8and,
"A stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
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