walking on water...

How many of you readers have ever found a song you love so much that you can listen to it over and over again? Or for those who hate listening to the same song twice, how many of you found a movie or tv show you love so much that you can watch is over and over again? Throughout our lives, we tend to pick things that are our favorites; i.e. favorite band, favorite food, favorite dance, favorite color etc. We have lots and lots of favorites. It also begs the question, what is your favorite favorite?

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?)

befuddled...

The other day, I was sitting on my couch, trying to let the time pass by. As I wandered aimlessly through the channels, almost numb to what was on because I was flipping through as fast as the digital cable box would let me, I decided to order and OnDemand movie. I flipped through the many different types of movies, I came across Year One, starring Jack Black and Michael Cerra.

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.

i feel the need, the need for speed...

The title of this post is a quote from a very famous, very awesome movie. It stars the loveable and tiny Tom Cruise. He is a fighter pilot for the Navy. He flies planes all over and blows things up. He has a best friend, nicknamed Goose. His nickname is Maverick. Know what movie I am talking about? For those of you who live under a rock and have never heard of the movie I am writing about, it is simple. Top Gun. Enough said. Theoretically I can end the blog post here. Top Gun is a great movie. One of my favorite lines from this movie, I try to apply to my life. I feel the need, the need for speed. Mostly I use this when I am driving down the interstate at....well for the law people who could be reading this, an accelerated rate of speed.

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.

And for all those who want to know what my air moses' are. Well, look below:

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.

overrated...

Last week I wished I was Michael Keaton. You want to know why? Last week was one of those weeks where everything comes crashing down on you at once and you have no plan of attack. Last week was the week from..hades! Satan really got my gun and it wore me slap out. By Tuesday, I was ready for my life to be over so I could go and meet Jesus early!

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.

say what...

This morning, as I lay on the couch trying to half watch a TV show and sleep, I went to my DVR to find something good. As I turn to the DVR menu, I see that one of my favorite shows, "Family Guy", was recorded. Since it being 6 AM and nothing else is on except ads for the magic bullet (which I want for Christmas to all those who read and want to know what to get me), I pressed play to watch the show.

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.

laziness is what I long for...

What a week, blog readers! This past week has been an emotional roller-coaster for me; from being on a youth ministry high I got from a youth ministry conference, to being do depressed you just don't want to move. This week has been nuts. You know what though, God has really fired me up today. I have been on the ball about things. There has just been something about me today that when I look in a mirror, I think to myself, "Nice." I think it's fair to say I got my swag back, and I found some of it in my swag bag from the NYWC (National Youth Workers Convention for the lay person).

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.

stopping by the woods on a snooo...

So there I am. Standing in front of 60 parents, all who are there to hear me dominate my other classmates. As I stood there I froze. I was a nervous wreck. I took a step back, cleared my throat, walked towards the mic and said, "Stopping by the Woods on a Snoooohh." I look down and to my dismay, I have peed my pants in front of 60 people and all my classmates. So much for winning the top prize, so much for all the hard work, all I needed now was a new pair of pants and probably a change of country would have been nice as well. I actually did it. I couldn't believe myself. So a new pair of sweat pants, button up shirt, and clip on tie later I sat back down on stage. At the end of it all, I won third prize, because I wet my pants.
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.

time after time...

I had an epiphany this morning around 5:39. I was falling asleep to my TV on, and you know when you are in the stage between a dream and reality you are pretty sure you can see or hear anything and you can sort-of react to it? Well that happened to me this morning. My epiphany is so incredible that I must share with with my readers, or just me because I may be the only person who reads my own blog.

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!

sack of potatoes...

Have you ever started to cross the street at a busy intersection? You are looking both ways, making sure no cars are coming and waiting in anticipation for the walk sign to turn to that little man that's not red, so we can cross "legally". After the light turns, you start to walk, and boom you faceplant on the ground in front of a lot of cars and the people walking beside you and now walking on you?

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.

humbled...

Today I write my blog post with a different outcome on life. You see, being humble is very important in life and today I sit here...corrected and humbled. Let me give you the back story of this, then I will tie it all in with Christ. I hope that whoever reads this blog can really feel Christ pour out through my posts.
It was a nice Tuesday afternoon about lunch time. Some local pastors around the Griffin/McDonough area and I went out to lunch together. Now the two pastors that I ate lunch with are both HUGE UGA fans. One even stated, "Consider this a giant rolling, red G (for the UGA symbol)."
As many of you know, I am a very big Auburn fan. Well the Auburn vs. UGA game was in a couple weeks from this lunch and me being the inexperienced youth pastor and young person that I am, I talked a lot of smack. I even did it on facebook.
WELL, come Sunday morning, I woke up humbled. As you see, UGA beat Auburn for the 4th year in a row. This was a sad day for me. However, I know that all the smack talk I did has a price and I will have to live with this fact for the next 363 days. All the smack I talked, well as they say, "Insert Foot Here".

All that being said, as I read my Bible this morning, I came across the story of the man who wanted to follow Jesus. This man has said that he lived a good life, has done everything according to the laws and scriptures, and wants to know what to do to follow Christ. Christ said that he must sell all his possessions and follow Him. The man could not do it.

Why do we struggle so much with all the things that we "have"? I thought Auburn had a decent football team. Regardless of football, I have been humbled in the fact that, I really don't own anything. Christ has blessed me with a position in life that I am in love with, and I can't do anything but lay down on my face and thank Him for all He has done for me. Each day I wake up, I see that Christ has given me another day to follow Him.

I talked with my senior high youth last night about discernment in the things that they do. How they should look at their lives and see where Christ is and is not in their lives. As I sat there telling them this, I remembered and shared with them the grief I felt, just that morning, about Christ in my life.

As I was sitting in the pew for Sunday morning church, I hit the icon on my iPhone for my Bible, but instead I hit the facebook icon (which is right next to it). I was hit with something write then. How often do I spend on facebook? How many times a day do I sit there and read about everyone else's lives and what they are doing? Then I thought, how often do I sit and read about God and update my statuses with Him?

We spend so much time in the possessions of this world and the things of this world, that we forget about the only possession that matters. That is that the spirit of Christ possesses us to go out and speak about Him in love to all those who want to hear it. We must share our faith with those around us, even if they know God. God can speak in many ways.

My prayer today is that you will spend less time on facebook, less time text messaging, less time watching TV, and spend more time living for God, understanding His word, and speaking to God about everything (update statuses with God) and talk about Christ to anyone who will hear it.
Soli Deo Gloria (To God be the glory)
Amen.

tradition...

As I sit here in my office and I reflect on some things in my life. God has really put on my mind about tradition. Tradition plays a part in many peoples lives. We have church traditions, football traditions and much more. Jeff Francouer, a former Atlanta Braves player, grew a beard and worse his "lucky" underwear when he played for the Braves. This was to help him get out of his slump. It became a tradition for him to wear his "lucky" underwear to help him get better. We, in Atlanta, now expect the Braves to loose because it has been a tradition.

I was reading some facebook updates on Saturday, during a tradition of mine, and came across Geoffry Grubbs facebook post. It stated that he was going to a GEORGIA TECH game. Now for those of you who don't know Geoff, he is about 6'3 tall. He weighs a good 188. He is bald, old, and wrinkly. More important than all of that, he is a HUGE University of Georgia fan. He even has a UGA symbol on the back windshield of his truck. Now, I am not one to call out people, but this old man (who got the senior citizen discount) went to a GA Tech game. Don't believe me? Here is the proof...
A man who professes one thing and turns his back on tradition. I can say this, I am proud of him because UGA is terrible this year. But I can also say this, this picture was photo shopped. He did attend a game, however.

I want us to look at the traditions in our lives. We go to places that are full of traditions. We have things in our lives that become traditions after so many times of doing it. However, when tradition stops or changes, we get mad.

People get upset when you change tradition. Why is that? Why do we get mad when someone familiar changes? Isn't change supposed to be good?

I use Geoff as a humorous example of changing traditions, but the fact is that change can be a good thing. Every day I read my Bible, I learn more about Christ. My perspective changes. When I attend a new church, my traditions change.

We sometimes are so used to the norm, even in church, that the traditions become our Jesus. As I sat in my apartment this morning, I got on my knee's to pray and I opened my Bible. I thought for a second, that I do this almost every morning, but do I do it simply because I am used to doing it? Has tradition become my Jesus?

Today, I write my blog post about changing tradition. Get out of the norm. Christ is constantly evolving my mind and heart around Him. I am always learning new things about Christ, and finding Christ in new ways in my life. After I have these experiences, my views and traditions of Christ change.

Tradition is a good thing. It is good to be able to do some things the same way, but times change and so do the ways that we need to look at Christ. As I talked with one of my students last night, they asked me why we couldn't do things the way they used to be? This made me question my abilities as a youth minister. I felt as though I had done wrong and wondered what I can do to bring it back to retro.

Christ shows us that we must give everything to Him and die to ourselves daily. Christ has given us gifts to use for Him. We must show Him the love and the relationship He desires for us, in order to live for Him. So therefor we must die to ourselves. Sometimes dying to ourselves means that we must die to the old ways and start new. My life went from one extreme to the other when I became a believer. It is my prayer and my hope through this blog post, that you will examine your own lives, as I examine mine, and find the traditions that are meaningless. Find the traditions that will further your walk with Christ on a daily basis.

rebuilding...

Tomorrow will be 2 weeks to the day that I heard the worst news of my life. It has been a strange 2 weeks. I feel numb. I have been more sensitive to things, I see the importance of things and the unimportance of other things. I have taken a lot to heart in the past few weeks. Sunday was a very rough day. I had a lot of things that got to me and it was hard for me to function. There is a lot to this. Let me explain my thought process here.

2 weeks ago I heard the worst news in the world and I just didn't know what to do. I was leaning on those who may have dealt with this before or have helped people through it. This whole time, I was leaning on those with wisdom around me and trying to get others to tell me how to feel or react. However, the only thing I wasn't doing was leaning on God. I was praying, but it was almost an anger prayer to God. Nothing in my life really made sense. I then became numb. My feelings stopped, my heart became guarded, and I shut down spiritually. This is not the way to go.

SO, as we move ahead in this story, we come to yesterday. After a very emotional and strange Sunday I was determined to work through things. I came into the office. I came in wanting to be organized. I had a determined spirit about me. I asked God the night before, laying in bed, to take it all from me. Take everything. Let me live in Him. Even after this prayer, I still felt as though I had failed in my ministry somehow. Somehow, I let down the parents and the students, the church, and most important, I felt as though I let down God in the direction He desired this youth ministry to go. I was broken. I was broken and numb.

Now, I sit here in my office, and I have a determined spirit about me again today. I was here at the church for 12 hours yesterday, and I am feeling refreshed. I spent time with the one I love, I spent time with God this morning, and even yesterday I was writing and idea board up on the chalk board for different talk series ideas, ministry ideas, and outreach ideas. God, and some talking with an old friend Eric, really put a new fire in me. As I was reading my iPhone Bible app (yes, I am that guy) I came across the verses in 2nd Corinthians.
2 Corinthians 13:5-6
5Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 6And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.

I have not failed God. Christ Jesus is in me. I have discovered that I have not failed the test. With Christ in me, I can do anything. Christ has told me I will do greater things than He. I have amazing things yet to do and it is all because of Christ that I am able to live and do these things in the first place. Wait and see readers, wait and see what God has for me.

People in my life may have failed me, but Christ never will. If He did, He would not be God. Keep your hearts, thoughts, and life on Christ for He is the only thing we can cling to in all area's of our life. He knows what goes on and what will go on. He desires to be with us and to love us and to know us. If you're Geoff Grubbs, He (and everyone else) knows how many hairs are on his head and if you have a lot of hair, He loved you even in your mothers womb. We must accept the grace and love the Christ has offered to us.

My numb feeling is coming and going. God is constant. He is the reason my heart beats. He is the reason I am breathing right now. I will fail those around me. I will fail God. In the end, I know that I am leaning on God.

organized...

There are many things that you learn as you grow in the ministry. I have been a youth minister for about 4 years now and I am still learning so much and how to run a successful ministry and have a sustainable ministry as well. One of the biggest things I need to learn is organization.

I lack the simplest organizational skills, but today I made a 6 week plan. I remember hearing from my mentor that I need to always be 6 weeks in advance in my planning. I thought I listened, but NOW I know for sure. God really burdened me last night. As I laid in bed, I prayed to God to give me some guidance and wisdom in the situation I was in.

If we are not organized, it is hard to run anything successfully. I have learned this the hard way, but I know now how to be. Today is day 1 of a new type of ministry for me. I am reculturing my youth group and I am excited to see what God is doing.

And just to show you all how awesome my youth group is, we went to a destination unknown last night. We went to Southern Belle Farm here in McDonough. Here is the group shot of us being....us.
God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!

Geoff, my mentor, has let me in on a lot of the inside track of ministry. The one thing he has always stressed is organization. It is hard for a ministry to run when you don't have organization. It also opens up a way to tweak plans if something is not working right with your group.

Geoff is a great man and has been in ministry a LONG time. He is old and that is cool, but I thank God every day for putting him in my path. God really uses Geoff in my life. Now this is not a blog post solely on Geoff, though I am sure he would love that.

The purpose of this post is to say one thing. Being organized in your life opens up a lot of different ways to let God work through you. If you are organized in your prayer life, this can overflow into your study time with Christ. The study time can pour into your ministry as you grow to know and mature in Christ. Organization is key. Christ will work through you regardless, let us just be a vessel for Christ to use us and to help us be organized around Him.

a picture is worth a thousand words....


I can only imagine what is going through your mind right now.

My Halloween Costume for 2009.

Any Questions?

communication...


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.

When I watch that commercial I reminisce of the times when people would tie to cans together with a string and communicate. They would play telephone with this contraption that was made. The vibrations from one person's voice would carry through the string to the other can. You could literally talk to one another around the corner or even from one end of the yard to the other. It was a child's telephone with only one other person.

Communication between people and even animals has been around since the beginning of time. God communicated and the world was formed. The animals have ways of communication. Even today, communication is one of the most sophisticated things that we have. We will never understand the full amount of communication that is out there.

God craves our communication. The tin can on a string is kind of like our communication with God. We talk to Him directly. There is only one other person on the end. He sits there and waits for us to talk to Him, to show Him thanks, to ask for forgiveness, to tell Him about our day. God communicates back. However, the communication God sends to us can be in many different forms. Some we will never see, because we miss the big picture. Other times we see God in huge ways, when we are really in tune with God.

We always fail at communication. In order to maintain any type of relationship, we must communicate. We can communicate on a sub conscience level as well. Our movements in our body, the way we look, how we breathe, all these are other ways to communicate as well.

I remember a time in my life when I said I would pray for someone and never did, or just forgot. I normally would listen to people, say I would pray for them to make them feel better, and then go about my day as if nothing happened. What if God did that to us? What if He just sat there, listened, and never communicated back?

I try to remember this. Communication has failed in parts of my life and has hurt me in others, but I try to make it known what I am feeling at all times. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I try to communicate with everyone and be transparent with everyone I meet. I want to be as real as possible to all those around me.

The commercial campaign will stop eventually and I will find another commercial I love, but subtle reminder of how we can and should communicate with God.

crash (part 2)...

This week has been the most emotional week of my life. I don't even know where to begin. It is kind of out in the open now amongst the people who know me and my family. On Wednesday morning, last week, my father walked into my office and told me he was leaving my mother after 32 years of marriage. There. I said it. Every time I think about it, I get hurt. I feel as though I have been deceived by this and I feel as if my entire world has come crashing down. I feel as though I have hit a tree head on at 85 miles per hour. I am still numb.

Looking back at my actions this week, I was angry. I was saying things I didn't mean. I was thinking the worst of my father, because he is the one who pulled the trigger here. Both my parents are at fault, but in the end, I know that God is still on the throne. Divorce is an ugly word. I never liked it, I don't believe in it, and I will never accept it. I believe that anything can be worked through. It is just hard to see such bad things happening in your life.

I have had a lot of prayers from those who love my family and me. This week has caused me to step back and look at my ministry, my walk with Christ, my relationships and a lot of other areas of my life. This week I have questioned God. I have asked Him why this is happening? Why does He let this happen? It has caused me to search deeper in my faith because of it.

On Sunday night, I told my youth group about my parents divorce. I told them about the struggles I went through and the emotions that I felt. I told them what I saw. I told them how I looked at things. I then took a turn in the message. I looked at Acts chapter 2. The community comes together to help solve a problem of one of the people in the community. When one person has a problem, the whole community comes together, dropping everything they are doing, to find a solution to the problem. I told my students that I am their youth minister, but it is time for them to minister to me a little.

I was never more vulnerable in my life. I felt weak and transparent. There was no hallmark group hug or anything of that nature. The point of the night was to get the students to question God about things that they don't understand. It was a bonding moment with us as a group. Whether or not it effected them in a way that I will see now or never, I know that God used me that night. Maybe I reached one student, but to me that is success.

We tend to get so bogged down in life with the little things. When the next pay check is coming in, a report you have yet to finish and it is due in 2 hours, who is going to feed the dog. There are also times that we get stressed about the small things. Suddenly, when a crash occurs, we tend to let all the small things go, and we take a step back.

The past few days, I have been able to take a step back. I have looked at my actions and my life and have seen where I was to where I am now. I have come down a long and lonesome road in my life at times. When I should have leaned on God, I tried to lean on my own understanding. The life of a Christian is that of submission and death and new life. We submit to the will of God, we die to ourselves, and we have new life in Christ. This is a daily thing we must do to live in the will of God. My friends and family are still part of my life, and I truly believe that God put many people in my life that know Him for a reason. I have a great inner circle of people who hold me accountable for my actions and who love on me when I need it. They know that they will always have that in return.

Life is basically starting over for me. All the traditions I knew are going to change. The holidays will be difficult. Life will have to alternate to the new part of my life. I do know this, God is still on the throne in my life. God is working constantly. He is looking at the actions of my parents, but He is still looking at my actions as well. God has really helped me mature in a week. I feel more empowered by Christ than ever before. I have been able to search my faith, question God, and grow deeper because of it. Don't ever think it is wrong to question God. This is what causes us to find out what we truly believe and this is how we mature in our faith.

I am numb. I will still be numb for a long time. The shock has not worn off. The anger is still there. However, God is still on the throne in my life.
"Out of the muck and mire, my God lifted me up. God picked me up off the ground and led me back to the path. He walked with me, He held me, and now He is guiding me in a new path. The dirt is off my back. My shoulders aren't so heavy. He walked with me, He helped me, and now He is guiding me in a new life. God wept with me when I turned around and saw where I was. God turned my eyes to the light of the world. His son, Jesus Christ. As I walked closer with God, I grew to love Him more. He knew everything about me, and yet He still hugged me. He walked with me, He held me, and now He is guiding me to a new relationship. As I walked with God, He showed me His son. Jesus hugged me. After the hug, I looked down and I was white as snow. I was clean. No more muck and mire around me. Only light and love. He walked with me, He held me, He showed me His son. Jesus and I spoke daily. I told Him what I was doing. He laughed at me sometimes and other times He was sad for me. Sometimes I forgot to talk to Him, but He was still there with arms wide open. He walked with me, He held me, He loves me. Christ's reign is on the throne of Heaven. Jesus is the lord of the world, who saves us all from the muck and mire. Jesus has set my life and my heart on fire. He walked with me, He held me, He loves.....you"- Mark Ashby

crash...

Yesterday, my world came crashing down upon me. Without saying any details, the whole image I had of my life and other areas of my life came to a screeching halt.

I am numb. I guess this is how it feels when you have that surreal feeling in you. You just don't know what to do, don't know what to say, you have cried all you can, you can't feel anything anymore. I am depressed, sad, mad, angry, furious, upset, devastated. All the emotions run together. I am numb.

Yesterday, as I sat in my office, I yelled and cried and begged for my life not to change. I sat there in my office chair, broken. I never thought this would happen to me. I never thought that my life would come to such a dramatic halt.

The clouds are grey today. This is very fitting for how I feel. People have been deceived by the evil one. It is time for prayer. It is time for a violent prayer. Times when we know we are going through hard troubles in our lives, people have the tendency to either rely or deny God. I was surrounded by people who love me yesterday. I saw the love of God in so many people. Prayers are being said. God is listening.

The only thing God can do at this point is soften hearts and intervene in lives. Sometimes the shock value wears off. I will not let this rest. This battle that I am about to face, with those closest to me, will be the biggest battle I have ever been in. My life is about to be a full vessel for God to use.

I spoke a lot out of anger yesterday. I was caught off guard. After speaking with many people about my new found situation, the thing I can do now is talk to God personally. I believe for a little bit of time yesterday, I shunned God. How could I do such a thing? How can I turn on the one thing that is now the most constant thing in my life? I had a friend share this verse with me...

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.

Prayer:

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.

Amen.



woahhhhh....

It has been over a week since my last blog. Over the past week I was on a vacation with two of my closest friends and met some new people along the way. This week I had a chance to just sit back, relax a little, and just hang out. I was able to see some awesome things, experience things that most people may never do, and meet some people that have opened my eyes to a different way of looking at people.

As I was on the cruise this week, we went to 3 different ports of call. We did lots of snorkeling, fed and held giant sting rays, and lots of other things. The one thing above all else that made my vacation was that of meeting the people at our dinner table. You must be thinking, wow Mark, really? After all the weather and things you did, the people at your table? Yes! They were amazing people from Rhode Island. I think we were sat together for a special purpose.

Mark Batterson writes that things don't just happen. Things that you think just "work
out" are divine appointments God puts in front of you. These 3 people(Gary, Jenn, and Melissa) opened up to us really fast and just meshed so well with the 3 of us. What an experience.

It was during this week, and all the time we spent hanging out, that I continually prayed for them. As I sat there and we talked about our lives, which were very different because of us being from the south and them being from the north, I really wondered how amazing it was that we all got along so well. Even sometimes in our discussions we mentioned the fact that it was crazy how
we just got along right away.

The reason I mention these 3 New Englanders more than the sun, beautiful waters, etc. is because God really opened my eyes to how I view people. These 3 people we
never met before the trip, changed my life. It was a divine appointment with God and Jenn, Gary, and Melissa.

One night, during the week, we started to talk about our jobs or careers, and the question was asked of me, what do you do? I told them I was a youth pastor. I could see their reaction right away. It was from then on that I tried to make it my mission to show them I can be real with them and my title as my job does not define me. What would define me is the love
that I show them despite the title and that the love of Christ would shine through the most.

Towards the end of the week, one of the 3 asked me several questions that were on a deeper level. This person seemed interested in what could be or what I do. I pray for this person a lot now. I hope this person can find what they are looking for.

This whole week was an amazing experience. From the beauty of the earth that I got to
experience to the people we met and became friends with, God really opened my eyes to some wonderful experiences. I will end with 2 things, a story and of course, pictures fr
om the trip.

Before I tell the story, let me preface the story first. One of the big things we talked about between our 2 groups was how we said different things and how our accents really shined through. This made me think of communication and how we communicate to others. It also made me think how I could communicate the love of Christ to these people without shoving it down
their throats to turn them off of God. So here is the story....

There was a man who had a family. Every Sunday this man's family went to church but he
stayed behind. He didn't want to go. They lived in a small town in the north, and worked as farmers during the warm seasons. The man's wife asked him each week if he was going to come, and he said nope! He would rather watch football. Christians are too hypocritical
and they don't want someone like me around. Well the man's family left for church. So the mans sat down in his chair next to the window and turned on the game. Right as he turned on the TV he heard some loud noises coming from his barn outside. He just turned up the TV but the noise got louder and louder. So he put on his shoes, his robe and walked outside to the barn. When he walked
in, he saw a bunch of birds screaming and squawking. He tried to scare them off by screaming, but the birds sat there. He then thought for a minute and went inside and got some bread, and put bread outside the door thinking they would come eat it. Nothing happened and the birds continued to sit there. Out of frustration, the man screamed loudly at the b
irds. He then thought to himself, if I can just communicate with these birds, then they would understand what I want.
If I can somehow reach them and tell them to be quiet, then they would know what I was trying to communicate with them. Suddenly the man had a revelation and fell to his knees. He then
realized that God wants the same of him. If God can just communicate with him so that he would understand what God wants for him.

We must realize how we communicate is the very important and showing the love of God to those who don't know him or have been turned off by something; is
also very important on how we show Christ to others. Maybe I impacted the 3 this week, maybe not. Only time will tell and prayer.

Now for the pics!

weekend rewind...

Man this weekend was amazing! We had so much going on. The biggest thing was the lock in we had with the students. Our group had 14 students show up and we had a blast. Here was what we did:
1. We got there to over 50 students from Griffin.
2. We played a mixer game.
3. We played Sardines.
4. We had a bonfire.
5. We extinguished a problem in the bathroom.
6. We played Capture the Flag.
7. We ate gutter ice cream (see picture below).
8. We went to bed (sort of).
9. Told the story of the homeless man that stayed in the church and scared the crap out of 8 youth.
What a weekend! Sunday night, even better! We had 3 students show up to senior high youth last night and I challenged the students to step up and step out. I also challenged myself. I spoke out of Acts, chapter 2. I lit candles and cut off the lights. It was a very intimate setting. Then I shared a personal story of my walk and where I struggled as a teenager. I then challenged the students to turn the corner of spiritual walks and really get to know Jesus and what He can do.

What an amazing weekend! I am really excited about what God has planned for our group. I will be gone next week due to me being on vacation, and be prepared for a great long blog about that, but until then just know that God is moving whether we have 100 or 3 students. God works through many and few. Where two or more are gathered, God is there also.

God really opened my eyes to a lot of things this weekend. It is time in my life to turn the corner and move forward. In the words of our friend's down under, it is time for a "fair dingem" ministry. This means that it is back to the basics. Building relationships with everyone in sight, showing love on anyone who walks my path, and be genuine. Ed Young, a pastor I hold dear to my heart, said in a facebook update, "Don't try to be someone else. You be you! Because if you aren't you, there will be a hole in history, a gap in God's creative order." We must learn to be who we are. We must be vulnerable and real to those around us.

I was at lunch on Thursday with my mentor Geoff. I watched him interact with our waitress, and he may not remember this but as we were leaving we saw the woman in the booth behind us and she was eating alone. Geoff said hello, asked her how her day was, and then said have a good day. He was intentional. This man is a walking example of Christ. It is amazing to see how God will use just about anybody to change the life of anyone. I pray that God uses me in this manner.

oh what a "knight"...

Let me tell you about my amazing life and my amazing day yesterday. It is days like yesterday that only further confirm my work as a youth minister.
Last night we had the competition between 3 different churches in a field. We called this WAR GAMES. What a blast we had. And let me tell you first and foremost, there are some things that sound good on paper, but when you put it into action, it doesn't always seem to turn out the way you pictured it. I call this the "sandcastle theory". This is where you picture this awesome sand castle in your mind and then you start to build it, and it looks nothing like the castle you imagined. However, that being said, WAR GAMES was a huge success.
Just take a look at some of the pictures and then I will get into the God part of all of this:








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.
Now let's dive down a little deeper into this event we had. It was all about WAR. We had the egg war, the flour/water balloon war, and it was all in fun yet we didn't get to do a lesson due to running over the time limit.
However, I will tie this into the lesson that I was preparing to tell the students and that I got to tell the students at mid high group.
When I was little, I was fascinated with castles. I would love to read about them and just learn all I could about those times. I wanted to live back in those times just so I could live in a castle. Then as my knowledge progressed about castles, I learned more about how the castles were built, why they were built, and who lived in them and around them. Then I started to get into the whole medieval times. I loved to learn about the knights as well. One of my favorite books was King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (The great illustrated classics of course).
I was so into castles and knights that I got into legos and all I wanted was to build the lego castles. They would sit on display in my bedroom floor and no one could touch them but me. It was a great childhood.
I was also the weird kid. When I would go outside to play, I would put on a trash bag, grab the lid from the trash can, find the gardening shovel, and put on a helmet of some sorts and pretend to fight the knights of the air. They were the invisible army of bad knights who would attack my house or castle. I would defend it all over the yard and sometimes I would die and lay in the grass. People probably laughed at me and drove by thinking, "there goes that Ashby kid again...". In fact, I am pretty sure I get that now.
However, when I dressed up in my armor, nothing would hurt me. I was protected. My body armor (trashbag), my shield (trash can lid), my sword (gardening shovel), and my helmet (helmet) were what protected me from the bad knights.
However, and here is the kicker, we are also protected from Satan with the Armor of God. Paul talks about it in Ephesians 6:10-19.
The Armor of God
10Finally, 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.

We can protect ourselves from God. And sometimes people will say things about us when we wear the armor of God. I will tell you one thing, when I am battling the spirits of Satan, I would not have any sharper sword than the word of God by my side.
Remember earlier how I mentioned the "sand castle" theory? Instead of building the sand castles of our lives to how we picture it, let's build the sand castle of our lives with God's help. It is then that He can build walls strong enough to protect you from the enemy. You will have a beautiful sandcastle ready and waiting for you, when it is built on the foundation of Christ.
Be a knight with the armor of God protecting you. Let your creative Creator build the sandcastle of your life. If He can make you and me, He can build something so beautiful to live in.
Thinking on last night...Oh what a "knight'!

Jesus spoke, faces fell....


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.
WARNING: You may get chills and your face may or may not melt because of the sheer awesomeness of God and how He works in some ways I will never understand. The shirt to the left explains my feelings about God...





So there I was in my office, ready for another Wednesday. I was actually just ready for the day to be over. I was bored, really just ready to go home. It was about 11:30ish and I was running through my emails, trying to figure out some things and who I should email.
Every day, I get a daily e-votional from Ed Young Jr. He is an amazing pastor out of Texas and if you know me, I talk about him a lot. Well usually I will glance at his posts, but for some reason I just felt like actually reading through it. (This is a good reason I could be in a slump, in fact it IS the reason I am in a slump). It was about building our foundation on the rock and not on the sand. After reading it, I thought to myself, you know this is true. We should build our house on the rock. Then I had my Bible next to me and I decided to go through and look for some underlines of the scripture, which is something that meant a lot to me at one time.

I opened up my Bible to 2 Peter chapter 2. There was one part in there that was highlighted but I decided to read a pretty big portion of the chapter instead. It really scared me! It started talking about building up your ministry around yourself and not on the foundation of Christ. I was thrown back in my chair. I started to get chills. God was speaking to me! Literally! It was one of the coolest things that have happened to me in a long time!

So then I went on over to 1 Peter to see what he was talking about and why he wrote what he did. I was in awe of what God said to me here. Look at this:1 peter 1:22-25
22Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24For,
"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.

wow. That is all I can say when I read that. I will have many flowers in the field of my life, yet they will all fall because God remains forever! Victory in the end.

So I went to my youth and decided to share with them. God spoke right through me, and I really hope they understood it. After I read these verses I went home and I prayed loud, hard, and angry. I prayed a violent prayer. The prayer was shame at myself for letting me get this way. For letting me build an altar around me and not God. My foundation was around myself and Peter says that those will crumble and fall. It is amazing that we talk about foundations and rocks because Jesus called Peter the rock. He would set the foundation for Christianity as we know it. Let's look further into 1 Peter chapter 2 and see what he says about Christ being the foundation and the rock.

1 Peter 2:4-8

4As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For in Scripture it says:
"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.

WOW again! Look at this. Jesus is the capstone. The stone the builder's rejected, would become the capstone. I had to look up what a capstone is and the capstone is the final choice; the finishing touch; the crowning achievement. I'll wait for the goosebumps to subside. Did anyone else just get chills?

Christ spoke to me. Though not audibly, I felt like He was sitting right in front of me and was yelling through a bull horn at me!
The Bible study last night, well let's just say that it was pretty amazing. God really spoke through me. I explained that today is day 1. Right now God has laid aside this time as a divine intervention with Him. We were all going to meet Him there and lay Him as the capstone and build our foundation upon His word and upon Him. I must be built up in Christ in order to teach Christ to others. How awesome is out God that He speaks directly to us when we need it the most. I needed this boost and this galactic slap in the face.

Is Christ your foundation? After all is said and done, is Christ going to be the capstone of your life? Is He the crowning achievement? My foundation is laid in Christ. I fell off the path, but baby I am back and ready for action. As should you be! I pray for those that read this blog post today get fired up in Christ and can feel the passion of Christ just through the words typed on this website.

Prayer:
Abba, may the capstone of our lives, be nothing less than you! May you bring the fire of passion in our lives and open our hearts and minds eyes to see what you see. Help us see the needy, the sick, the poor and help us have compassion upon those around us. Let us not miss an opportunity to build up more of our foundation upon you. We thank you for the life we can breathe today and how we can feel you all around us! Oh happiness that your grace is enough for us and the entire human race!
Amen.

Now pick your face up off the ground since it was just melted off by the power of Christ and go out and share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who need Him most!

pov (point of view)...

As I sit here in my office and I look around, I see floral pattern couches, floral pattern things hanging from the windows, orange cones, and 4 windows with the view of outside the church. This is great! I have an awesome office, that is messy beyond all belief and if someone came in here right now to have a meeting, I would be embarrassed to say the least.

I am the only person who can see through my eyes. You're probably reading this post and saying wow Mark, how obvious. My question to you is, how do we see through God's eyes? How do we have the vision that God has, so that we can see the un-loved, the untouched, the depressed, the lonely, the needy? How do we get on an HNL ('hole notha level) and get God's POV, or point of view.

Today, I got to teach in the Chapel service for our Academy. I got to teach to the K-2 kids and they are awesome! They are full of energy and life and love and it really brings me joy to see their faces. Today I shared a story of a rubber duck and how this person loved the rubber duck his parents gave him. In fact, it was his first gift from his parents. He had that duck seven years and then his dog got a hold of it. The duck was destroyed and the kid found the remainder of the pieces of put them in a box and buried the box out back. He loved that duck with all his heart, but it was time to let go.

1 John 3:1 says, 1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him."

John writes here that the Father has lavished us, loved us, so much that we can be called Children of God! And that is what we are! I get excited thinking about our creative creator who loves me that much. He lavishes on me.

To see the pov of God, we must first accept Christ to become a believer. We must then walk a life that is worthy of our calling to God and it is then that we will see what God sees. We will have God eyes. We can easily get wrapped up in gifts and the rubber ducks of this world, and when we do we tend to lose focus because the focus is on horizontal and not vertical. Have a vertical view of life, between you and God and let God use you. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.

Having the God POV helps us show the world that we are children of God and that God wants to lavish on them as well!

who is my Jesus....

So it is Monday again, and everyone knows that Monday's are generally slow. We sit on the edge of our seats while we watch the minutes pass by and just can't wait for that lunch break, or even to just get home and be with the families. Here is my schedule for the day:

1. Staff Meeting @ 3:30
2. Work on Ski Retreat Materials
3. Return phone calls and emails from last week
4. Finish Wednesday Night Bible Study
5. Get Praise Band music together for Thursday Practice

and a few other small and insignificant things. It is also quiet around our neck of the woods today because our Academy for students is out due to the fall break. We had a small youth group last night as well, but God definitely showed up as we had one of my best friend's, Jeffrey Samplaski, come in and speak to my students about making Jesus real in their lives. He spoke on how Jesus can make us feel from a nobody to a somebody, just because of His approach and because of His love. Jeffrey also spoke on the path that Jesus took. He took the unusual path, not the path that most would take. He said that we should all tread this path with three things: Worship, Prayer, and Scripture.

It was a very eye opening experience for me to listen to him speak. He is a very dynamic speaker and his love for God really shined last night. It was great to see him and Clint come up for a few hours. I was really dared last night and not challenged (you had to be there).

Yet, I woke up this morning really thinking about my youth group. I missed a lot of them last night, and I know a ton of them are out of town for one thing or another due to the fall break, but I really missed them. I was, however, excited about the ones that DID show up! It was so much fun! When I woke up, I turned on the TV to watch some of the Today Show and I also opened up the facebook application on my phone, since I don't have Internet at my apartment. I was looking at the status updates of a lot of people, and they all said something about Kanye West. I was intrigued by this because I had no clue what they were talking about.

I found out that Kanye West got on stage, during the acceptance speech of Taylor Swift for Best Female Video of the Year at the VMA's. He stole the Microphone from her and said that Beyonce' had the best video ever. Beyonce' of course was embarrassed, however, when she won for Video of the Year, she showed her true class and let Taylor come back and finish her acceptance speech.

Yet, when I looked at the video on youtube and I looked back on facebook and saw all the status updates, I wondered where every one's priorities are in life. I am even a walking example of this as I woke up and turned on the TV to watch the news.

It is crazy how two events that have nothing in common with each other can really share one common ground for a great message: who is YOUR Jesus? What are we doing in this world to advance the Kingdom of God? Just because I am a Youth Pastor, does that give me a get out of jail free card? NO!

Jeffrey spoke last night at youth and it really spoke to me. He shared some deep insight into his life and how one day he just felt like he was nothing. He found a different spin on the story of the woman at the well too. Jeffrey told us of how Jesus went out of His way to make this woman feel like someone when she felt like a nobody. I am not saying that I feel like a nobody, but there are times I just feel bad about myself because of the lack of work I am doing for the Kingdom and the more work I am doing for myself.

The things I do for me are trying to make a name for myself, trying to leave my mark in youth ministry somewhere, and trying to do the best I can at a career I love! Yet, where is God in the mix of all this? Has my work become my Jesus? At times, I feel as though just because I work at a church, I have this aura about me. This is far from the truth. I was really humbled by this.

It is funny when you think about it. I can say that God spoke to me in some funny ways this morning. He spoke to me through facebook and Kanye West. WOW! What an amazing God that loves me! He reaches out in the oddest ways, off the regular path, to reach me and make me feel like a somebody.

This is not a blog post to make you feel bad about yourself. In fact, it is the exact opposite. The title of my blog, sometimes it takes a shipwreck, is from a book by Mark Batterson called Wild Goose Chase. And for those who have read my blog from the beginning know I have mentioned this book many times before. "sometimes it takes a shipwreck" is a chapter in the book that speaks about the finding the chase of the Holy Spirit in your life, and sometimes it takes a shipwreck to get your attention. This morning The Today Show, facebook, and Kanye West were my shipwreck! I learned an old saying in my Sunday School class yesterday morning. Amy May said that we can not put of things for tomorrow because tomorrow does not exist. We will always put it off on tomorrow. It is my PLEA that no one puts off God until tomorrow. Let God show you His amazing love and how, even through a crazy turn of events that happen, He can speak to you and show you He loves you. My Jesus is not Kanye West, facebook, or even TV. MY Jesus is a man who created the whole world and even though I sin constantly against Him, He loves ME enough to die for ME to bring ME new life and to show ME that He cares and loves ME anyway.

Now, my dare to the readers of this blog are simple. In the last sentence of the paragraph above, take out the ME and insert YOU in the blanks.


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