new year, new what...

Here we are on the last day of 2010. We have about 14 hours until lots of people start ringing in the new year. We see people on TV partying, we listen to performers sing on TV, we watch a ball (or peach) drop depending on your geographic location, and we have our own little parties at home with friends or family. Yet, we always make new years resolutions. We always plan to do things better this year than the last one. We always want to better ourselves. But why do we do it?

Are we really making resolutions to better ourselves? Are we just keeping up with the trend and tell people we are going to change ourselves? What if you had a fantastic prior year and you don't want to change anything? My feelings on this are simple, I had an incredible year. I had a lot of highs and a lot of lows. Through it all, God was and is still on the throne. Everything I went through, be it the lowest point of my life, or the greatest day when I married my best friend, God was with me all along the way. He never left my side.

I opened up a journal I had from last year. I started reading some of the things I said. Since today is New Years Eve, I focused mostly on the last few months of my 2009 journal. Here were one of the entry's I found:

December 29, 2009
The end of the year is almost up. It has been a good ride so far. I know next year I plan on reading my Bible more. I just feel like my relationship with God is scattered all over the place. I am doing more of what I want rather than what I feel God wants of me. 2010 is all about God and less about me.

See you in 2010!
MA


This is crazy. I tried to make the year more about God and less about me. When I look at the beginning of this year, I started off on the wrong foot. I was doing more of what I wanted, I let things get the best of me, and I ruined a lot of bridges and relationships I had established. This was all due to the sand that I built my house on. The one common denominator is that God never left me.

When I finally married my wife, I was at the highest point of my life. God was still there.

When I go through the days of this past year in my mind, I see a person who has grown. God matured me. God removed me from situations that were bad for me and has placed me in a situation where I could only and solely depend on Him. Once I got out of the hole I dug myself into, I see that God lifted me out of that hole.

When people ask why we go through bad things, my answer is simple. When we ask God to come into our lives, be lord of our life, and to save us from utter destruction, we ask a huge thing. Our life instantly changes. However, Jesus is not going to enter our hearts just so we feel the warm fuzzy feelings of being a Christian. He is going to come into our lives to help us, guide us, nurture us, care for us, love us and be with us. We will suffer at times as He did. We won't walk on clouds all day every day.

God loves each of us, anyone within the voice of this blog and beyond. For my new years resolution, I am not putting God first on my list. The reason...God is already first. He can't be anything else but first. Traveling through the pits and despair that I felt, I thought I had abandoned God. I was stripped of relationships, reputation, and every ounce of arrogance I had in me to the point where I had nothing left but to cry out to Jesus. As soon as I did, Jesus was there with me crying out in pain.

I have had an incredible year. Some people caught me at the lowest point of my life and they only got a small snap shot of my 25 years of living. Others have loved me and loved on me regardless. Jesus cried with me, laughed with me, and loved with and on me the whole year. Every day, every hour, every minute Jesus was there. In 2011, I have a feeling He will be there the same amount of time.

I am not making a new years resolution. I am going to do the things that are expected of me, I am going to be the best husband I can be (yet I know I will fail at times), I will be the best youth pastor God has called me to be (but I know I will let God down at times), I will be the best Mark Ashby I can be and God wants nothing less.

We are not all going to be famous, be millionaires, or be happy all the time. The reason for this post is to help you see one thing. God called you to be you, no one else. I am not called to be Doug Fields (as much as I would like to be) or my best friend Eric Hendrickson. God has called Mark Ashby to be Mark Ashby and expects nothing less. Jesus knows my strengths, my weakness, my likes and dislikes. Jesus knows ME personally. He knows you the same way.

So for 2011, don't put Jesus first. Don't make expectations of yourself that you don't think you can reach. Be the best YOU you can be. Be the one person Jesus made you into. We can always better ourselves, and we learn from mistakes and wins in our lives. We change and adapt but the one constant in my life is Jesus. He is the always constant and will always be.

So today, I am being the best Mark Ashby I know how to be. I will laugh, I might cry, I might get mad, but I will love Jesus and love anyone else I come in contact with. I will fail, but in the end, Jesus picks me up and helps me move forward. Tomorrow is the start of a new year, but today is all I am focused on.

Nativity Dance...

It has been a month since I have posted the last blog post. Since then, a lot has gone on and things have been going great in my life. However, I am not here to write about what is going on with me. Right now, I want to share something that I feel is just amazing.
We just passed through the Christmas season and we, as youth pastors, have read about the nativity story to our students. We usually try to make our version really cool and try to put a different spin on things, to make the students really think about Jesus stepping down from Heaven to join man.
However, a friend of mine, Eric Hendrickson (www.uscerock.com) did something above and beyond to make the nativity story stand out. Most of us who don't live under a rock and watch youtube from time to time, have seen the video of the wedding entrance where everyone is dancing to "Tonight" by Chris Brown. It is a really funny video. However, Eric took it to the next level with his students. He put together something called, "The Nativity Dance". It was inspired by Lars Rood (www.larsrood.com). Take a look at this video and see how youth ministry SHOULD be done...


Counterfeit Jesus: Part 1- Two Kingdoms

The reason this blog post is called counterfeit Jesus is because we need to rethink what we know about Jesus and who He really is. It has become common to us that we see Jesus as our soul protector and He wants us to be safe and secure from the bad things of this world. I would bet that the Jesus of Nazareth that walked around during His time would not even recognize the Americanized version of Jesus we have made Him today. We westernized Jesus into someone who wants us to share His love. That is true, but Jesus didn't want us to be so comfortable to share His love with everyone, He wants us to be radical Christians. I am not saying be extremists for your faith, but I am making a call for Christians to be more bold. Here we will talk about how three simple verses in Luke's account of the birth of Jesus set up such a radical challenge to the kingdom earth had and the way people thought about God.

The birth story of Jesus is a story that a lot of the church misconstrues into something that is common. We see it as the birth of Jesus, the son of God; which is very true! However, we don't see the story behind the story. When I read the birthing story from the Gospel of Luke, I normally read over the first passage. Here is what Luke 2:1-3 says,
Luke 2
The Birth of Jesus
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

When I read this, I normally thought and was taught that this was the reason that Mary and Joseph were going back to Bethlehem. When taking a closer look, this was not the only reason that Luke made this account. Here, he is setting up a time when two kingdoms are about to collide.

In High School, we are taught that Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC because many of the Roman senate thought he had too much power. Before his death, he adopted a grandnephew and named him heir to the Roman empire. After Caesar's murder, Octavian did three things:
1. He adopted the name Caesar.
2. He set out to kill his father's murderer's, which set up a decade long civil war.
3. He set up games that were in honor of his fallen father.

During the games, a comet appeared and many saw this as a sign of the divinity of Julius Caesar. Octavian used this against his enemies. If his father was a God, this meant that he was the son of a god. After this, a decade long civil war engulfed the Roman region. In 31 BC, Octavian defeated his rival Mark Antony. This was the beginning of "peace" in the Roman empire. People labeled Octavian as the "bringer of peace". Priests included his name in prayers and they made his birthday a national holiday. Soon Octavian was given the name Augustus which means "the illustrious one". He became known as a "savior" and was starting to earn his own divinity on earth. After all, he was the son of a god.

Caesar went on and started to bring "peace" in the region, but it was by the sword. His divinity was political and "divine" in his own eyes. You either chose to be part of the Roman Empire and worship Caesar Augustus or you were killed.

The reason for this quick history lesson is to set up something major. Luke's mention of the census was to set up the stage for how Caesar was trying to take control of the Roman Empire and how far his power reached. The census was to show his power and to see how far his empire reached. Luke set up the stage for the birth of Jesus. In one corner you have the Roman Empire, the greatest kingdom on earth and in the other you have the birth of Jesus who was ushering in a new kingdom. One that would challenge the being of the Roman Empire to the core.

When we look further into The Gospel according to Luke chapter 2:-14,

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Here we see, hundreds of miles away, angels appeared to the general common shepherds to tell them of the birth of Jesus. The angel was very clever to tell them how Jesus was born also. The announcement of Jesus' birth was in direct opposition to Caesar Augustus and the Roman empire.

The two different empires were established when Jesus was born. The amazing part about these two passages from Luke is that we see that the story is not just of Jesus being born and that Mary and Joseph were going to Bethlehem for a census. We can clearly see Luke is showing that Jesus, even from birth was starting to be a radical Christian. He came into this world, already setting up issues and problems that challenged the authority of that day.

I am writing this blog to see if we can challenge the way we think about God. Challenge what we know about Jesus and start to act as Jesus of Nazareth did. He challenged the authority of the day to get people to worship the true God. I am asking us to seek the true Jesus that walked the walk and talked the talk. We see a Jesus who does one or the other, and in a lot of churches this is how we are taught. Rethink what we know. Don't love the westernized Jesus, we need to love and show the love as the Jesus of Nazareth.

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving! It is refreshing to know I can be thankful for so many things. Family, Friends, a great church family and youth group, an amazing wife, and a God who loves me unconditionally.

distractions...

If there is anyone out there who watches ESPN, follows college football even a little bit, or reads the sports section of the newspaper, I am sure you have heard about all the alleged allegations about Cameron Newton. For those who live under a rock, Cam Newton is the quarterback for the Auburn University football team. I am an Auburn fan. I went to Auburn. Yet, Cameron Newton has been under a lot of fire in the media as of recent. There have been a lot of alleged allegations regarding his recruitment to Auburn, to play football. There have also been a lot of other alleged allegations about how these stories are coming into the media.

The problem with these stories are that a lot of them are pure speculation. How many times do we sit there and we speculate about something, only because we have a little bit of information about the situation? We make judgments so quickly, without full knowledge of what really happened. Cam Newton has been a champion in dealing with all of his allegations and having negative media and press against a 21 year old man.

Sitting in the office with my senior minister, we briefly talked about how Satan can intervene himself into something that is bigger than he is. When our focus is taken off of God, it is a small win in the eyes of Satan. However, when we are doing things for the Kingdom of God, Satan is going to turn up the heat to get our attention off of God's work.

Wednesday night, I used an example of a student named Zach Hunter. Zach is a youth who at 17 was challenged by his youth pastor to do something to change the world. Zach started thinking about things in the world that were still prevalent around the world. He chose to fight slavery in the world. Human trafficking is where humans are bought and sold on an under ground market. Zach chose to hit this head on. He started the ministry "Loose Change to Loosen Chains". He wanted to break the bond of slavery.

Zach's youth pastor told him to "Be the change!" Zach took this literally. I used the illustrations from the Bible, out of 2 Corinthians 4: 3-6 which state

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (New Living Translation)

3 If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. 4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

5 You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ."

I also used 2 Corinthians 5: 20 which states:

2 Corinthians 5:20 (New Living Translation)

20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

Here are two points out of 2 Corinthians where Paul is saying that the gods of this world have veiled our eyes to not see the glory and image of God in Christ Jesus. Distractions take our eyes off of the main goal. When we have a large goal, it takes smaller goals to achieve the bigger goal.

I challenged my youth group and also myself to "Be the Change" in the world around me. When I am doing God's work, Satan is going to send his distractions in my life. Nothing has been more obvious. Seeking the wisdom of those who I work with and by leaning on Christ in the time of despair, I see that God is clearly going to prevail.

At the end of the Bible study on Wednesday night, I did a little exercise with the students. I turned out all of the lights and I told all the students to bring out their cell phones. I told them to keep them off for a minute. I shined my pone into the darkness and asked everyone if they could see it. Then I asked everyone else to turn on their cell phones. The room lit up more and we could start to see details of the room in the darkness. Then I told them to turn their phones off again and I kept mine on. I asked the students if they could still see my phone in the darkness. They all said they could. We turned the lights back on.

I then read the verse John 1:5:

John 1:5 (New Living Translation)


5 The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.

The light shines through the darkness and it can never be extinguished. The great part about this verse is that Love wins! I am going to be the change and I am going to let the light of Christ, which is inside of me, shine through the darkness of where Satan is trying to be right now. The darkness can never extinguish the light. In the end, Love wins!

And in the greatness that is there is a band called "The Darkness". This was a hairband that got lost in time and they had a huge hit called "I Believe in a Thing Called Love". I thought I would share this video with everyone. I do believe in a thing called love, and love wins in the end.

the honeymoon effect...

There are some things in life that I just really enjoy. I love a sunny day but for it to be about 70 outside. I love the smell of a just opened can of tennis balls. I love watching football and pretending I am really good, while playing on Xbox. There are just so many things that one person can enjoy.

This week, I started my new job as the youth minister at my church. This will be my fourth church, but I plan on having a sustainable youth ministry for a while at this church. Things have been great so far! I met with the students on Wednesday night, I have been developing media for the student ministry like crazy!

It got me thinking though, that in our lives we go through MANY phases of how we react to things. It is like watching a child on Christmas morning open up all their new presents to play with them for so long, and then they forget about them. They have this instant high about the new things, then as things gather age on them, things start to cool down. I compare this to youth ministry. When we start a new year, a new job, or a new plan, we get really excited about it. We do so much to promote it, we do so much to do our best, then as we grow complacent with what we have or our job, we start to slack off.

I read in an online article that said, "We can plan and plan and plan and youth ministers can have a 6 year plan. The first two years really start to go according to plan. Year three hits and suddenly your plan is not working anymore. You start to wonder what happened and then you try to adjust the plan to keep it on pace. However, nothing works. Suddenly, you are just going with what doesn't work because it takes too much time to try to adjust to the changes needed."

We look a our lives, our ministries, and our plans and we see complacency in some areas, excitement in others, and things that are going to be left on the back burner for a long time. I want to keep this level of excitement for the youth group. In youth ministry, or in any new area of life, we have the honeymoon effect and then it wears off. Just as I want to love my wife to the best of my ability and what she deserves, I want to maintain the same level in all areas of my life.

Some of you are thinking that this is impossible. We are going to go through ups and downs, we are going to hit a low point and we will hit really high points. Life is much like a roller coaster; there are twists and turns, ups and downs, but in the end we all end up on the even keel. I never want to be complacent with my life, marriage, or ministry.

God has blessed me with a lot of things in my life. It is only my duty to honor Him in all I do in all areas of my life.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:8-9).” - Bible

“Be patient and you will finally win, for a soft tongue can break hard bones. (Proverbs 28:13)” - Bible

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Psalms 30:5)” - Bible

“And now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (I Corinthians 13:13).” - Bible

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:12).” - Bible

“The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked (Proverbs 10:11).” - Bible

“Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and never succeed. (Proverbs 12:24)”

the ultimate youth pastor...

Being a youth pastor, I learned a lot of what I know from my mentor Eric. I learned the ins and outs of youth ministry from him and others. Most of all I learned from experience. My first job I was thrown into the lions den and just prayed to reach the top.

Some of my best times in youth ministry is when I had exactly no idea what I was doing. I don't recommend going straight into a youth worship with no planning or anything of the sort. I saw this video the other day and it really got me thinking about how often, me especially, we try to be the cool guy and try to fit in with the students in our group. Watch this video and see how we can break the ultimate stereo type of being a youth pastors...

The video can be found here.

When we try so hard to be like students that we don't minister to them, we try to just be like them. I understand wanting to fit in and trying to relate to them, but here is my take on this: If we are ministering to students and loving them regardless, preaching the word of God to them and walking along side them trying to help them find their God given path, I say you are fitting right in.

I am no expert in youth ministry, but students will come because they already like you for who you are, not who you think they want you to be. Even though this video is a parody of what some youth ministers are like, try to be more like yourself and be responsible. Follow what you feel God is leading and make sure your ministry aligns with the vision and mission statement of the church. The youth ministry is a branch of the church, not it's own church.

supply and demand...

This morning I was listening to 104.7 The Fish and they were sharing clips from Kevin and Taylor in the morning. I am guessing they were off the air today because this was from a previous show. However, they played a clip from an interview they conducted and it was just a normal listner. However, what she said was pretty profound in my opinion.

Philippians 4:19 says, "And the same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus." Usually, when I scan this passage, I would think that God is going to take care of me in my hard times, never let me down, supply a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and clothes on my back. However, after listening today, it turned my perspective a little.

When this passage says that God is going to "supply ALL your needs" I believe that He is going to be faithful to walk with me through all my trials and mountain peeks of life. God will provide for me not only with the physical things of life, but with the mental parts, the heart aches, the joys, and all other emotional and mental needs of my life.

I know we can claim these kinds of things all the time. I know I have said, especially recently, that God is going to provide for us, look what He has done in the past. Yet, when I am living and breathing today, I see that God's provision and grace never leave. They also do not show up at random times.

I can't use God like a vending machine. I can't demand all of these things with out doing the things He commands me to do. I can ask God for things and be patient. In the stillness is when we can hear the loud voice of God.

Today, I am challenging myself and all of the readers of this blog to really see where God is providing for you. He is supplying everything we need, even when we think we don't need it. God has watched out for me and given me the things I need at the perfect time for His plan according to my life (that was a REALLY oddly worded sentence). God loves us all and we must share that love with those around us. Speak softly and Love greatly! These are things that God supplies me with even now as I write this blog post.

When my greatest commandment is to love God and love others, I have faith in my God that He will supply me with these things. We can't demand things from God, He is not a genie or a vending machine. I will not be perfect in this, but as John Wesley stated, "I can only strive for perfection. With God's help, I will achieve this goal on while working and walking with Christ for the rest of my life."

a comedy of errors...

I find a lot of things funny. I have a pretty easy sense of humor. I laugh at simple jokes, I watch funny tv shows, funny movies, and even listen to comedians from time to time. I like to laugh. Today, when I look at certain church leaders, I like to laugh.

It's almost comical how churches treat those inside the church. People go through rough patches in life, but it is REALLY sad. When leaders of the church are bashing those around them, they are also bashing those who also work in churches or sit in their pews. It is a power play. They have the power from the pulpit to condemn all of their congregation and workers to do what they "philosophically" believe is right.

I have seen some pastors even near me right now use their power to degrade and disrupt what God has ultimately planned. And why you may ask? Well, it seems to me that they like to hear their own voice enough and if they can hear their voice in other areas outside their church, well they bring a traveling soap box with them.

Church leadership has changed. Since the economic downturn, churches have had a lot hard times. Fiscally, churches are probably the last places to be hurt. It starts in the retirement funds, the business' hurt, then churches. Due to this, churches don't prepare themselves ahead of time. I am not bashing all churches here. There are great churches out there with incredible leadership. However, when times are tough, turf wars start, and the leadership of the church watches out for numero uno in their eyes: themselves.

It's also funny to see how pastors who preach love, grace, peace and forgiveness in the pulpit do JUST the opposite of that. I am just an observer from the outside looking in. I will be working for a church soon and they have the attitude that should be in most churches. A team atmosphere that is still seeking to align all the ministries with the vision of the church. Everyone is supporting each other and comes to the care of those in need, NOT themselves.

What has happened is completely backwards of what Paul was doing in Acts. In the Bible, it says, "they added to their number daily." yet we are sitting on our hands and trying not to be bold for Christ. We will be bold in front of everyone, either from the pulpit or from the pew. We will do this when we get noticed.

You may ask why I am criticizing the church? I am just as guilty as the next. I have judged people from my position. I have said at one time, "I am better than them." Yet, I have been humbled and God has really shown me the direction to take my ministry to students, to my family, and to ALL of those I encounter. I am not perfect, nor do I claim to be.

All I can say to pastors out there is to really take a look at your own walk. Are you watching out simply for what you believe and then preaching your filth to the congregation on Sunday's for a show? Are you on your soap box claiming one thing and doing another? Slight of hand is cool for magicians and on TV; not for the behavior of the person who helps lead the spiritual lives for hundreds to thousands of people. Pastors know who they are. They know who they want people to believe they are. God knows their heart.

I know my heart. My heart has been damaged many times by my many short comings, failings and sins against God. I have been redeemed and changed from these past ways. Instead of us calling each other out, let us take the challenge set before us and lead people to Christ in any way we can. The way I know how? I lead people by developing dynamic relationships with them, living with them THROUGH THICK AND THIN, praying for them, and trying to really show them God in the situations of their lives (both good and bad). Again, I am not perfect nor will I ever be until I meet Christ face to face.

Are we going to answer the calling we were given? Are we going to REALLY answer the call or let it go to voice mail and get to it later? Quit preaching and teaching filth and blasphemy and start living a life worthy of your calling and your relationship with Christ. I try daily. I fail and succeed daily. Step up or step out of the pulpit. Step off the soap box and let's try to really start this revolution. Instead of listening to your own voice; via pulpit, podcast, tv broadcast, blog, video blog or your own notes, let's listen for the stillness of God. For it is there that we hear His thunderous voice.

I am going to take my travel size soapbox and walk away, but I know I am walking and living for a Christ that loves me and DEMANDS me to love others regardless. Am I showing it all the time? No. Do I try to? Yes. Where are you aligning yourself? With yourself or with Christ?

Isn't it funny that when we are listening to God, we can really start leading on the right foot? Funny...

almost a year: a review...

This past year has been one of the best and worst years of my life. I lost touch with reality for a while, I had no clue where I was, I was walking around blindfolded in a dark room. I am pretty sure my heart stopped about five times this year, I resigned from my last youth ministry position, I saw my world crumble down before me, and now I am starting to build my life back up. This all started a year ago in October.



First off, I was at a great church with great leadership. I had an amazing job that I really let my ego inflate. I wasn't grounded properly. One day in October, that all changed. My father called me one day and said he wanted to come by and say hey. I thought nothing of it, I was sitting in my office doing some planning and reading, so I told him to come on by. 20 minutes later, he arrived. I was excited! I loved my dad! I loved seeing him. However, that was a day I wish never happened.



My father walks into my office and we sit down and just start shooting the breeze about life. He asked about my then girl friend and my now wife. We were just talking like any father and son should, but then I asked him why he came here. I asked if he was in the area or if he really just missed me that bad. My dad sat there a second, about to cry, and I thought maybe a family member had died. Little did I know, one would be dead to me later. My father told me that he and my mom wanted a divorce.



I broke down into tears. Sitting in my office, I cussed at my father, I called him a quitter, I yelled at him. I begged him not to. I didn't understand why. I didn't even know that my parents were having problems. I thought I could help fix it. I knew it wasn't my fault, but why would this happen to me. I was talking with my wife's parents about marrying her, this couldn't be happening. I went numb. I cried and cried. After my father left, I ran down to my pastors office. I was asking him what can I do. I begged for direction. He helped calm me down and told me I needed to let them work it out. I still had a big ego, I could fix anything. I told him I was going to go see my mother.



I went to her house and she was on the floor crying. None of us could believe what was happening. Our seemingly happy family had suddenly become a statistic in a category that we thought would NEVER apply to us. I prayed with mom and tried to comfort her. Never once have I seen anybody so hurt in my entire life. I was a broken son in a now broken family.



I was determined that this was not going to effect my work or my personal life. I was just going to try to do my youth ministry, my rec ministry, my normal social life, and try to dodge questions better than a politician. All I did was sweep this under the rug. Never ONCE did I give it all to God and ask Him to take this from me or at best walk me through it. I turned my back on God to try to deal with this load myself. All I know is, if I was Samson, God had cut my hair because my strength and zest for life was suddenly taken from me. I was depressed.



I would go into work day in and day out feeling numb, tired, and that I didn't want to be there. My mind was in my work, but my heart was not. I was trying to juggle three different branches of ministry from the church, my personal life, and now the broken marriage of my parents.



It was not soon after all of this happened, that a friend of mine (Eric Hendrickson) talked me into going to the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta. This is an event hosted by Youth Specialties. Eric was telling me about these courses we would be taking, the fun I'd have, and it would really get me excited about youth ministry again. It was something that I was looking forward to doing.


November came around the bin, and quickly approached the NYWC. I was getting more and more excited. Eric was going to be staying with me, we would hang out, worship together, take classes and just catch up on old times. It was fantastic. In the back of my mind, this was only a stop-gap between my parents divorce and the Thanksgiving holiday that was coming up. Also, during this time, my brothers and my mother were no longer talking to my father. However, I was secretly texted and calling my father with updates and questions, trying to figure this all out. I loved my dad. It hurt not to talk to him.



During the NYWC, my eyes were lit up like a kid in the candy store. I was grabbing as many free things as I could. I was bouncing from booth to booth signing up for everything. I was buying books, T-Shirts, hats, games, everything that I could grab within arms reach. I was getting so fired up about youth ministry again. This was the break that I needed from life to really get my spirits lifted. I heard speakers like Perry Noble speak about youth are the church of today and that we need to be more fired up than ever! I LOVED IT! I heard Andy Stanley talk about how important and vital youth ministry is and how the generation that was rising in youth leaders today were that of a servants heart. I ATE IT UP! I heard David Crowder Band sing in concert. I about fainted. I heard Donald Miller speak about his life without his father. SLAM! My world came crashing down and I literally felt and heard the words Donald Miller was speaking. I suddenly thought of my parents divorce. I thought of how my family was being torn into 5 fragmented pieces of a once great shell.



After NYWC, Eric left and I brought back some amazing ideas and curriculum from the convention. I was getting excited about my job again. I was praying more, living more in the word every day, journal, yet I still did not give my all to God. I was holding back.



Thanksgiving came and I was selfish. I was sad my father could not be there with us. I was sad that my family has been broken and hurt. It felt almost forced to be a happy family. It was great to see kin in TN, but it was not the same. During all of this, people would tell me they're sorry, they are praying etc. Never once did someone offer to sit down and talk with me about it. Never once did people say I know what you are going through. People would send their condolences via facebook, email, or a card in the mail. It's too bad that talking face to face or even on the phone would mean more to someone at this point in life. I got angry.



I was not angry at God, I was angry at myself. There were rumors that my father was having some affairs and this is the reason they were getting a divorce. I never thought that would be true. I got mad at my family who kept telling me that they had proof but couldn't show it to me or tell me where they got it. I was livid with my whole family at this point. I wanted nothing to do with anyone, but I still wanted to support both parents. I never thought my dad would do this.



I found out soon enough through the evidence that it was all true. My dad had multiple affairs throughout his and my mothers marriage. I was devastated. My own father lied to me in my own office. He sat cold like a stone and told me to my face that there was no one else. My life had come crashing down.



The only person that really knew all my pain was my girlfriend at the time. She had no clue how to react or what to say. She felt as numb as I did. We were both devastated. I had already come to the conclusion that she and I were going to get married. I prayed hard about that. I had to have some good to cling to. For me, during a lot of this time, it was her. She was and still is to this day my rock here on earth and my absolute best friend.



December rolled around. In 24 years of life to this point, I had always seen my dad's side of the family. Time for new traditions. I didn't see any of them. Christmas came and went, and I was continuing to down spiral. It was time I spent more time with God.



In January, I really hit the Word on a daily basis. Sometimes more than a few times a day. I was starting to get my life back on track. I even got engaged to my beautiful best friend. Life was really good. I felt like I was being myself again. However, I was harboring anger towards my father. More than anger at times. If I thought about him, my heart rate jumped. I would turn into the hulk, minus the huge muscles and green skin. It was more of high blood pressure and the flushing whiteness of my skin. I looked like a beefy Casper the angry ghost.



A few months passed and the problem was still in my heart that I could not let go of this anger. I was still trying to juggle three different branches of ministry, and I felt overwhelmed. The church and I came to an understanding and I left my position, effective immediately. I felt as though I had let tons and tons of people down. Worse, I felt I let God down.



The next few weeks were tough. I was lying in bed, sleeping in, not doing a whole lot of anything. Finally one day, I decided to get up and start gardening. I went and took out all my old plants at the house and started to put new ones in. These had to be nurtured. They had to be cared for in order for them to grow and flourish. It gave me something to look forward to.



I started to journal again. I started praying more and more. I took the quote from Beth Moore that says, "My life at the lowest point was a minute by minute battle with God. I would cry out to God in anger, frustration and heart break. The great thing, was the God always heard me and with my minute to minute battle, Christ was battling with me second to second."



I started to care for my garden. My garden was my retreat. I would work for hours in the sun, digging, slaving over root systems, knocking down dead and over grown bushes. I was giving my house some curb appeal. A friend and I were talking one day, and I would not get off the subject of gardening. He told me that he truly thinks this was the thing that saved me from my breaking point. He says God planted the seed in me long ago and it was NOW coming into fruition. It took your gardening to realize that. I was shocked and for one of the few times in my life, I was speechless.



Now we are back here in October of 2010. This year has flown by. I am now married to the most beautiful, wonderful, loving, cute, friendliest, kindest woman in the world. I now have a new job where I will be doing ministry in the church setting again. I am finally in a place where I am honoring God, giving everything to Him, and letting my life be honoring to Him. He has always been there with me. He never left me by my side.



Isaiah 55:6 says, "Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near."

Philippians 1:21 says, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

2 Corinthians 7:1 say, "Since we have these promises dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God."

Psalm 143: 10 says, "Teach me to do your will, for you are MY God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground."



God never left me. The reason I wrote his novel of a blog post today is because I want people to know that there are all kinds of struggles out there. There are many that you may not even realize, yet that are hurting and waiting for that sign from Christ. We can be that sign that people are looking for. If our heart beats for God, it beats to serve God and those who love and need Him.

my own little world...

I am sitting here watching a TV show on tru tv called "Operation Repo". This is a show about a bunch of nasty looking people taking other peoples cars because they don't make payments. It shows the reactions of the people who's car is getting repossessed, how the repo men and women handle it, and the general day and life of the repo office. This is a very odd show. It is like a car accident, you kind of keep looking at it because we can't turn away from it.

Watching this show, sitting on my bed, and now blogging to my 3 readers, I am realizing that we are wasting time in our lives. I sit here, glued to the tv screen and computer screen trying to pass the time by. What happens to the lives of those who step out? What happens to those who are not just sitting on their butts and hands waiting for life to come to them?

These circus people on Operation Repo have to face a lot of different people every day; all walks of life. We all encounter tons of people every day as well. What are we doing to help change the world for the Kingdom of God? We are letting time pass us by and letting the world get the better of those around us. It is time to change. It's time to wake up, we have things to do!

Matthew West says it best in his new song, "My Own Little World" off the album "The Story of Your Life" :

In my own little world it hardly ever rains

I’ve never gone hungry, always felt safe

I got some money in my pocket, shoes on my feet

In my own little world

Population: me



I try to stay awake during Sunday morning church

I throw a twenty in the plate, but I never give ’til it hurts

And I turn off the news when I don’t like what I see

It’s easy to do when it’s

Population: me



What if there’s a bigger picture?

What if I’m missing out?

What if there’s a greater purpose

I could be living right now

Outside my own little world



Stopped at a red light, looked out my window

I saw a cardboard sign, said “Help this homeless widow”

And just above that sign was the face of a human

I thought to myself, “God, what have I been doing?”

So I rolled down the window and I looked her in the eye

Oh how many times have I just passed her by?

I gave her some money then I drove on through

And my own little world reached

Population: two



What if there’s a bigger picture?

What if I’m missing out?

What if there’s a greater purpose

That I could be living right now

Outside my own little world

My own little world



Father break my heart for what breaks Yours

Give me open hands and open doors

Put Your light in my eyes and let me see

That my own little world is not about me



What if there’s a bigger picture?

What if I’m missing out?

What if there’s a greater purpose

That I could be living right now

I don't wanna miss what matters

I wanna be reaching out

Show me the greater purpose

So I can start living right now

Outside my own little world

My own little world

My own little world

How many times are we stuck in our own little world? Oblivious to the things around us and those hurting around us. Sometime we are often so hurt ourselves, we let ourselves get down in the dumps of the world. We need a revival in our life.

Being in the absolute pits of life as I have been recently, God has truly brought revival into my life. I will be doing ministry in a church setting again. God has shown His provision to my family. Even in the darkest pit, God's light was still there. Genesis 1:4 says, "And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness" NLT.

If you sit in a dark room by yourself, and you turn on a light, what happens? You are able to see the light and see the things around you. I believe in Christ as I believe in the sun; not because I see it, but because by it, I see all things.

#stumin...

You know, it's funny. The generation of youth ministers are on the incline because of people like MarkO, Doug Fields, Duffy Robbins and many others. These people have helped pave the way for youth ministers to be a real ministry in a church. Youth ministries are now seen as a real branch of the church. In the beginning stages of youth ministry, it was available in churches, but either the pastor or a volunteer would be leading the group.

However, today, we are seeing a youth culture that is craving more and more. In a microwave economy, we see ministries and students involved in those ministries want more and more at a faster rate. The demand for the product is higher than the producer can produce the product (that made sense right?). As youth ministers, we are asked by our churches to do a lot more and the students want more as well.

And now there are youth ministers rising up, and it is not in a good way. Youth ministers are getting defensive against the churches saying their demand is too high, their pay is too low, and we will do a little bit more than the minimum for the maximum result. Youth ministers are getting into a turf war with churches. One big reason is that older adult leaders in the church will see the youth as the church of tomorrow. However, you ask a youth minister, they will tell you the youth are just as important as the older adults in the church. THE YOUTH ARE THE CHURCH OF TODAY!!! seems to be a battle cry of a lot of youth ministers. Youth ministry culture is at a cross roads and some of us are not sure where to go.

That is why we lean upon the people who have helped pave the way. Most people will look at those before them to help pave the way for them, or to help that person form their own path. I can agree and disagree with the new turn that youth ministry is taking. I can say that the youth are just as important as the rest of the church; students are the church of today as well. The part I disagree with is that churches see youth as the church of tomorrow. The trend amongst pastors is that the youth ministry is one of the most vital branches of the church.

My call to youth ministers is this: even though we run a ministry, it is not it's own church. When youth ministers are entering this turf war between the church and them, it is a ground that starts to build the student ministry on their own foundation, thus building it's own church. I am a firm believer that the youth ministry is just a branch of the church. We are trying to align our ministry to the vision of the church so that we are not teaching against the vision that the church as a whole is trying to accomplish. Try not to enter turf wars. Sit down and talk with your pastor about direction of the youth and see what they have to say. Most pastors have worked in youth ministry, so they can offer some help in that area.

Be encouraged by the vision of the church. Be excited about aligning your self with the vision of the church. Be the branch that bears just as much fruit as other branches of the church. Support the other branches as well, but focus on how to grow your student ministry so that students follow through onto college and adulthood, loving Christ and following God's will for them.

real world parents, NYWC, youth culture as a whole...

I have been out of youth work for just about 6 months now. I try to stay consistent on the ins and outs of youth culture and the youth worker's world. There are so many things going on, that it is difficult to really keep up with the latest hot book or new topic that should be talked about. One thing I can say that I never faced up or even talked about in a youth setting is bullying.

This morning, I logged onto the Atlanta Journal Constitution's website (http://www.ajc.com/) and I came across an article that was written by an AP reporter on a teen suicide. However, this was one of 4 teen suicides that happened in ONE high school. Most reports would lead that these students were "bullied to death".

I sat and read this article, wide eyed at the fact that there is more bullying going on than people realize. I was bullied in high school as well. It never drove me to the point of depression where I could not go to school anymore, however in Mentor High School there have been 4 teen suicides due to "bullying" in the past 3 years.

Mark Matlock has written a book and a seminar called "Real World Parents". This is a seminar that helps parents be more involved in a students life. It helps them with parenting their children into believers of Christ, mentoring them, loving them through the hard times, and it also allows an open dialogue between parents and children that is more archaic than anything in today's families. Matlock likes to post on twitter, the Real World Parents Blog, and Real World Parents website articles and posts that can help parents understand youth culture more. Youth culture is constantly changing and the generation that parents grew up in share similarities but are way different to the standards of their children's generation.

Similarly, Youth Specialties likes to put on a convention twice a year called the National Youth Workers Convention, or NYWC. It is through this that youth workers and volunteers can get together, worship and learn new techniques to keep them up to date on how the youth world is revolving. It can also teach us, as youth workers and volunteers, new ways to reach students in their world, without changing our own view on the world.

Recently, at NYWC San Diego, Doug Fields was a speaker in one of the big room seminars. Doug Fields, who is probably one of the most famous youth pastors around and has helped shape youth ministry into what it is today, told a story referencing teenage suicide saying unless a student was going to kill himself he needed to, "go home". I was not there to hear the talk, but I do know that it was referenced as a joke. The sad part is, teenage suicide is not a joke. Youth ministers and workers alike can overlook this constant attack on students, even in their own groups. If we are going to speak to 3,000 other youth workers and help guide them and up lift them, do we really need to joke about turning students away from the church and tell them to "go home" unless they are going to kill themselves. Out of context or not, this made me sad to hear someone I look up to say something like that.

The reason I am writing this blog post today is because something very real presented itself to me in the article I read about teen suicide. Youth workers alike are not paying attention to the real issues that are hitting teenagers today. Another blog a friend of mine, Eric Hendrickson, showed me a few months ago talks about the mistakes a lot of youth workers make. One of the top five things was that we are relying on the newest book and curriculum to help us keep our finger on the pulse of youth culture. Youth workers are taking these books and curriculum as gospel and spilling it out on our students without really reading over things, and trying to relay it to our own group so that they understand. I am guilty of this as well.

We must really seek where we are getting our Gospel from. We must also try to dive into the youth culture head first and try to be as relational as we can with the students we encounter. The sad part is, as youth workers we sometimes get along with some students more than we do with others in our group. Without trying to show favoritism, we sometimes make fun of the odd students behind their backs. We want to fit in with our students and we really want to be funny and be the person everyone wants to hang around, but we can be just as much of a bully as people that students encounter at school.

A book that I would recommend to all youth workers is Unfiltered Relationships by Andrew Root . This book lays out in detail how a real youth worker should be. I was changed by this book, however it does not shape my life on youth ministry. It had a profound impact, but nothing more. I build my world around the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and I try to be the best youth pastor I know how, for Him.

This is not a smack in the face of youth ministers and workers that read this blog (if any do!). However, this is a time for us as youth workers to really rise up and see where youth culture is going today. We must equip ourselves and brace for impact as we jump into the deep end of youth ministry. We need to disciple students as Jesus did with His disciples. We must create and atmosphere that is inviting and loving to students of all kinds. We must try to have our hearts AND ears AND eyes open to all our surroundings to really understand youth culture. As a youth worker, minister, pastor, leader, volunteer, or warm body we must try to create an atmosphere that focuses on the students but also connects parents with their students. It is a true family environment that we must achieve to have successful relationships within and outside the church walls.

Psalm 23 for youth workers

I got this from Whyismarko.com I think it speaks right to the heart of youth ministers and really gives us a perspective that we may not usually see as youth workers. I hope this is encouraging to all who read it, as it was for me. Thanks MarkO!

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death*,

*the shadow of death =
fear of losing your job
the small group of parents who want you gone
budget cuts and wondering what’s next

I will fear no evil*,

*evil =
the idea that you’re not good enough
the idea that maybe you’re not called to this
the idea that you’re too old, or too young, or too untrained, or too uncool

for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies*.

*your enemies =
those who spread rumors about you
those who complain anonymously
the lies of the evil one who attempts to seduce teenagers away from the gospel

You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever

ministry minutes...

In youth ministry today there are a lot of blogs, books, DVD series, curriculum and t-shirts that explain the next great thing. As a youth minister myself, I often find myself clinging to a lot of the ideas of the big wigs of youth ministry to help form my own opinion about youth ministry. A friend of mine told me a quote by John Welsey today that says, "Every seven years I am burning my old sermons. I should not be doing what I am doing if I can not continually change and be creative."

I look at a lot of different types of curriculum to find an idea or to really just outline for myself. How many of us have really even claimed some of the things that Doug Fields or other youth pastors have written, and said that we actually thought of it first? Youth ministers have sort of become lazy. I am just as guilty as the next person.

When trying to be creative or write your own curriculum, here are some ideas I have about helping the creative process:
1. Ask for help! We should not be too proud to ask for ideas of subjects the students want to talk about. If you have great relationships with your students, they will be pretty honest with you about subject matter they would like to hear about and discuss.
2. Try to be creative. We do not have to reinvent the wheel to keep students attention. We can dive right into the Bible and really grow our students. However, heed the warning that we don't want groups that can be a mile wide and an inch deep or vice-versa. We need to have enough disciplining to help our students want to crave more of the word.
3. Try to be original. It is great to use curriculum that has already been made and really mold it into our own to fit the group we have, but we should try to be a little more original than that. We can try to fit our own style into the students lives and into our youth groups.

Before I ever give a talk I ask myself these questions and I am thinking maybe they can help those who read this blog as well.
1. Is this REALLY what God has put on my heart to lead this week?
2. Have I gotten lazy with my work?
3. Is this going to mean more to me than the students?
4. Have I prepared enough for this lesson to answer questions after or during?

I hope this helps those who are serving in youth ministry. Whether it is volunteer or paid, keep doing a work that can often be underrated and unappreciated. However, remember we are there to help students grow closer with Christ and help equipping them to be disciples in the world outside the youth room walls.

circling the bandwagon...

Here are some obvious facts about my life:
1. I love sports. Mostly football, but if there is a sport on that I am even remotely interested in, it's on my TV screen or even my phone checking the score.
2. I can be a fair-weather fan. I cheer when teams do well and I don't when they lose.
3. I used to be a bandwagon fan, before I really understood a lot more about players and coaches and what it takes to put a team together. Also, what it takes to be a pro athlete.

When I encompass my passion for sports, it seems to make the other passions of my life seem very minuscule. I can tell you a lot about the stats of players, the condition of injuries for players on my favorite teams, even HISTORY about my favorite sports teams. However, I don't know if I can honestly say these things about my spiritual life.

It's funny to me, to look at my life and I can give you a quick ESPN update of my life in about 3 minutes but I have to make way for the more passionate things that I care about during this season of my life. It just so happens that this season of my life coincides with football season. Funny how that happens.

Why do we get so passionate about the things we love and hate at the same time? Last night is a prime example. Many of my friends are UGA football fans. Now that their team is losing, it is time to fire everyone in the front office and start over. The bandwagon has left the building.
Alabama, Boise State, Ohio State. These are teams people love when they win, however won't even wear a hat and t-shirt that supports them when they are losing.

Why are we so passionate about football? Why can't we be as passionate about God in our lives and how real He is today? I know why, everyone has jumped off the bandwagon of the spiritual lifestyle.

People today, I am as guilty as the next, jump from book to book and mega-church pastor blog to mega-church pastor believing in the gospel of the pastor or author. However, I can tell you my fan base is the author of life. How rude can I be to shove God out of my life for 4 quarters while I scream cheers for my team and hate for the other. What has the UGA football team ever done to me, an Auburn fan? They beat my team a couple of times? Ouch.

It is my simple observation, that I have A LOT of reorganizing to go on in my life. People are constantly jumping from one bandwagon to another until that ride is over. Then they find another one to jump onto, because it is the popular choice. People jump off the Jesus bandwagon when life sucks, but if it is good we give all the praise. Didn't Ludacris thank God for the Grammy he won?

I went through a HUGE rough spot in my life recently. It has been the worst year of my life. That is because I was jumping on my own bandwagon and trying to get others to join me. The problem, there were no horses leading it. I was pulling my own bandwagon and had FEW if ANY followers. Then, after pulling all that weight, I questioned where God was! I screamed and yelled at Him, telling Him He is the worst thing.

I do the same to UGA football, Alabama football, and anyone who opposes my team; which in my eyes is the GREATEST FOOTBALL TEAM EVER ASSEMBLED! (Yeah right!) I am now circling my bandwagon and making camp. I am setting up for the long haul because during the cold winters of my life and the nice cool summers days of my life, Jesus will still be there and will still be on the throne. That is something I can cheer for.

MY challenge to myself and those that read this blog is to try to change the seasons of your life right now. Don't make them in sync with sport seasons, try to find the rhythm and the heart beat of God. Make camp and jump on the bandwagon that is the most consistent bandwagon ever assembled. Today I choose God.

interruptions...

These days there can be so many distractions around us. While I type this blog post, I am trying to watch TV. I am not a multi-tasker. This makes it hard for me to do more than one thing at one time. I type a few words or a whole sentence and then I look up at the TV screen to see what I am missing. I am easily distracted by things. There is an old bumper sticker that says, "I have ADD and....look a squirrel!" Story of my life.

However, I talked with a close friend of mine. He has been beaten down by people, and it is distractions that bring us down. It always seems that when we are down, people keep coming in and knocking the wind out of our sails.

I want to encourage those who are currently being beaten or just feel stagnant in the world today.

Psalm 34:19 A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;

Proverbs 2:7 He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless

Psalm 5:12 For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Psalm 9:9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.


When we are in our ministry places, whether we work in a church or in our work place, or even those we encounter every day; we have a lot of interruptions that can distract us from our work. When we have some good things going, the Devil is going to try to fight against more and more.

While I was talking with my friend today, he was telling me of his frustrations. People who are distracting the ministry from being at it's fullest potential. While I was in my last ministry position, I was trying to please so many people to keep from making them mad, it hindered my ministry to being to its fullest potential. While I was sitting there being Peter People Pleaser, I was NOT pleasing the God who loved me.

So many times we get these interruptions by the evil one that we can only focus on these things. We constantly strain our vision to the vision of others. WHY CAN'T WE FOCUS ON WHAT CHRIST WANTS? Has it ever occurred to people that disrupt the flow of a good ministry that they do not always know what is best?

As a person who works in a church and does ministry for a living, I can understand the interruption to try to find the corrective lens to fix the focus of our ministry to fit those who are upset. We must keep our eyes on Jesus. Only then can we disrupt the interruptions and continue the flow of a ministry as it should be.

As I finish this blog post I am going to st......funny commercials are great!

picking up the crumbs...

Yesterday was the first time since April that I updated my blog. It felt really good to be posting my thoughts and feelings on an issue that has been around for a while. Today, I have another issue that is on my mind and heart.

Pursuing Christ is the longest and hardest journey we will take until our lives here on earth are over. My life, over the past year, has taken such a long and curved path I felt lost, afraid, alone, and scared. Due to all of these emotions, I lashed out. How many times in ministry do we feel so backed up against the wall that we just lash out because our emotions get in the way of how God is going to be moved?

That is what happened to me. However, it was not people puting their problems on me, it was purely my fault. I let the world get the best of me, I tried to defend my castle and I lost the battle in a huge way. It cost me my job, my realtionships I had built, the reputation I once had and my credibility within certain circles of people. I let myself get a strong hold on the world that I live in and not to the world where moths and rust cannot destroy.

I lost a lot of my focus. After all of the foundation under me came out from under me, I no longer felt alone. When I was stripped of all my pride and the house that I built on the sand, God rushed through my life like water bursting through a dam.

I have since started to pick up the crumbs of my life. I had to start over. I had a major reality check before I could realize where God was leading me. I am now on the incline, with Christ by my side daily. Let me share a few things of where I went wrong:
1. Daily Reading- I tried to read daily. Did you catch that? I tried to read daily, but it wasn't my Bible I was reading. I was reading the latest blog post by the current cool pastor. I was reading the newest book to shape and form my own theology around.
2.Prayer- I was praying, but only before meals or after a talk. I didn't have the best prayer life. I was only praying when I needed something. God was my grocery store and I took only what I needed.
3. Supplication- I was feeding myself from the Gospel from books and other people rather than the Father Himself.
4. Application- I was not applying anything I was teaching or learning to my life. My pride got in the way and clouded my vision and judgement of everything around me and caused my ultimate demise.

These are the things I feel a lot of youth pastors may go through. We learn the new hip topics, keep up with the culture, try to fit in, and lose our focus of the things that really matter. As I pick up the crumbs from where I was and try to start fresh, learning from my past mistakes, I pray for those who may be going through these motions in the first place.

infomercial evangelism...

Steven Furtick is preaching for 24 straight hours today. Steven Furtick is also "pimping" his new book, Sun Stand Still. This is a new and innovative way to be "audacious" in ministry. To be an "audacious" Christian, we must read his book to ask God to do big things. Is this really the way ministry has turned out to be today? Let me first off be clear, this is not a bash at Pastor Steven Furtick or Elevation Church. This is simply a vocal opinion about how the church has constantly evolved into a mold that is going in a very dangerous direction.

There is a term that is trending in the Christian Evangelical world today called "mega churches". These are churches that average over 5,000 people on a single day or weekend for their services. More and more, people aspire to be the top dog in ministry to get noticed, write books, have cool tweets, awesome blogs that transform lives, and now ministers are taking the road to reach people via facebook, twitter, foursquare and any other media outlet to reach "those who are not in churches".

Through all of this, it seems to me that pastors of these larger churches that are currently on the rise, are trying to sell Christ to people who are looking for the missing link in their lives. I can compare people like Perry Noble, Steven Furtick, Ed Young Jr. and more to Billy Mays. Yelling at people and trying to sell a product to people in order to get them to believe or buy into the idea of being a Christian.

The sad fact is, pastors that are walking down this dangerous road are constantly transforming their own image to appear more of a "real person" to the normal, common folk. Today it is skinny jeans, flannel shirts from Buckle, and converse allstar shoes to complete the image of the younger generation.

When I read the same Gospel that the pastors are reading, I see a Jesus that never changed His image to fit the common folk around Him. He constantly preached and built relationships with everyone whom He encountered. I love the story of the Woman at the well. Jesus speaks to a woman who has a lot of problems, but still loves her.

Mega Church senior pastors know some of their congregation. Those who have given them money since the beginning. Where is the relationship building? Where are the changed lives? People are growing in faith, but if Furtick, Noble, Stanley, Giglio, Young and all the others retired from ministry tomorrow, what would happen? Would the church crumble before our very eyes? Would people be seeking Christ in a different way? Or would the church as a whole follow Christ beyond the point that we can ever fathom?

I am not saying that there aren't things right with these churches. The great part is, these pastors can convey the message of Christ in ways that are so creative and innovative, we can take from that and tweak it to our own style of ministry. Each one of us that are believers are in ministry from the day we start believing.

I respect all of the pastors I have mentioned in this blog post. I am trying to call out a new way of ministry that is nothing new. We need to have an unfiltered relationships with all we encounter. We need to love with a love that surpasses everything people can imagine. We need to act and speak the word and actions of Christ to everyone. We must pray continually. We must be joyful in Christ. We must talk with Christ and listen to Him everyday. Our lives must be built on the foundation that Christ changed this world and our lives and through that we can HELP transform others lives.

If we are too focused on trying to sell the product, but don't believe in the product we are selling, are we really that effective of a salesman anyway? Why do we have to try to change something that has been constant for more the 2,000 years? I am no Billy Mays. I can not sell a ketchup Popsicle to a woman in white gloves. What I can do is love those around me and those I encounter. I can speak to them in love and I can my hardest to tell them about the Jesus that saved me from the train wreck my life was headed towards and now I am on the right path. I do not build my life around me. It is not MY legacy I am trying to leave. I am trying to leave a legacy of Christ that fits only His ultimate design for my life. I will never make the Sun Stand Still. Then again, I am not trying to. I am not a disciple of the next infomercial evangelical to come along and have a huge church. I am a disciple of the God Most High. Love God first. Love others as God loves us.

back to back...

April 7, 2010. That was the last post I put up. A lot has happened in my life since then, but I am not here to talk a whole lot about me. This post is to talk about getting back to basics, or in simpler terms, just getting back!
It is amazing to see the provision God shows us when we put our trust into Him. For so long, we look to put God behind us and let the things of this world get in the way of our vision. I used to think that my plan and God's plan were right on par with each other. I had every thing planned out, but God was nowhere to be found. Readers, GOD DOES NOT FIT INTO OUR BLACKBERRIES OR IPHONE SCHEDULES!
So often we try to just schedule a time to pencil God into our day. We like to put our back on God, but we also use that position to lean on Him, just not while we face Him. It is sad to see where I and so many people have come.
I had an amazing experience a few weeks ago. I shared with God how much I had been hurting. I told Him I needed Him, just not on my terms anymore. It was as if a light bulb went off in my heart. God said to me, you must look at how I have provided for you this whole time.
God's provision comes in several ways:

1. We can't see God's provision until we align with His vision.
We are BLIND to God sometimes but Christ can heal the blind! John 9:1-7

2. Turning our back on God, we only use I-vision

We need to wake up and see what and where God is moving! Spend time with Christ in the quiet place and let His provision come over you.
God has provided much for me and my future bride as He has weeded out the bad of our lives and shown us where He needs us to go. As we embark on our new journey, we are not getting married to please ourselves, we are getting married to please Christ.
Don't turn your back on Christ. Lean on Christ for Him to share HIS vision and provision for you.

Hold Us Together

VERSE ONE:

It don't have a job

Don't pay your bills

Won't buy you a home

In Beverly Hills


VERSE TWO:

Won't fix your life

And find easy steps

Ain't the low or the limp

Or the government



PRE CHORUS:

But as soon you needed...

CHORUS:

Love, will, hold us together

Make us a shelter

to weather the storm

And I'll, be, my brothers keeper

So the whole world will know

That we're not alone

VERSE THREE:
It's waiting for you

Knockin' at your door

Every moment of truth

When your heart hits the floor




PRE CHORUS TWO:

When you're on your knees then...

CHORUS:

BRIDGE: x2

This is the first, day of the rest of your life

This is the first, day of the rest of your life

'Cause even in the dark you can still see the light

It's gonna be alright, s'gonna be alright

How To Love...

One day, when I was sitting in one of my sociology classes at Auburn, my professor raised a very unique question. He asked, "Is there one thing that connects all beings together?" Several people raised their hand and some said things such as, "Our instincts our what connects people together." He said that is true, but not the answer he was looking for.
Sidebar for just a second: This professor has done a lot of case studies and has been in the sociology filed for 25+ years. He knew what the answer was and he also stated that it took him traveling the globe, studying people in social situations, writing papers, having a family, and discovering God that he finally came to this conclusion.
The professor continued, "This is the one thing that we all know in different forms. We can use this, hate it, make it better, we can show it, express it, read about it, and much more. What is the one thing people crave from some, yet it connects all beings together?"
Our class sat silent as we didn't know the answer. Suddenly a hand went up. It was a very shy type of hand raise, because this person did not want to be wrong. She said, "Is it Love?" The professor jumped up and screamed, "YES! Love is what connects all beings together!"

This professor I had is a close friend of mine, in fact we still communicate through email every now and again. I also have his permission to talk about him in this blog, but no names will be named.

Through out that class session, we talked about nothing but love and the many different types of love we all have, crave, need, show and express. He left us with the thought that, whether or not you believe in God or a higher being, through out different religions, love conquers all.

As I left this class that day, I do believe that I was changed! From there, I went on to grow in my life, my ministry and my relationship with Christ. I was reading a devotional book this morning, and the scripture came from 1 Peter 1:22 which says, "You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart."

Through Jesus, we were cleansed from our sins. This only happens when we obey the truth that Christ offers us and God shows us. Through this cleansing of our sins (the greatest expression of love that has ever happened and will ever happen) we must go and show SINCERE love to each other as brothers and sister. We must love deeply with our WHOLE HEART!

What an uplifting verse! I can't believe what God has shown me from this verse and how through this, I am brought back to my time at Auburn and reminisce of my times there. I learned a lot while in school at Auburn, but I have never learned as much as I can about life and love expect through reading the Bible and sharing and showing my relationship with Christ.

There is a lot of political things going on now that has caused a nation divided almost. Whether we feel one way or another, does Christ not call us to love each other,enemies and neighbors, but we must first love God and ourselves?

Family, it is time that we put away our petty differences!We can stand on the front line for God or we can wait quietly in the back! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? MY GOD has CALLED me to LOVE those who I encounter on a DAILY BASIS! This does not mean I can go out and push people off because I do not want to talk to them at that time. A walking and talking relationship with Christ is not sunshine and smiles all the time. There are times we go through ups and downs, yet the real relationship that Christ shares with us is through both the good and bad. HE WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU! Why do we forsake Christ and turn our backs on Him?

I think I, and a lot of people, have a mentality sometimes of the prodigal son. We can do what we want, turn around and be forgiven, then live life as we want to again. HOW FALSE IS THAT STATEMENT! Share the love of Christ, the grace that He offers everyone, to everyone so that His kingdom will be advanced on this earth so that ALL will know who Christ is.

As I close this post, please note that I am challenging myself to be a better sharer of Christ's love that He has shown me. I will try to not be selfish and worry about myself and how I will make it through this life. I will depend on Christ for all matters that come through my life and I will seek Him out through the best of my ability and through that I will share the love that I know to my brothers, sisters, enemies and neighbors. Will you?

How To: Be a Nerd...

I am about to reveal how much of a nerd I really am. Are you ready for this? Hidden beneath my strong physic and my physical stature, I love to watch the show....Star Trek: The Next Generation.
................................................(this is me pausing while you laugh)................................(done yet?)..........

Star Trek: TNG is about the starship U.S.S. Enterprise. It has a very large crew and is the lead ship for The Federation, which is an alliance between Earth and a bunch of other races of different beings. I told you I was about to reveal my nerd side.

This show, however, is a very popular show, as it was during its time as well. They show it on Peachtree TV here in Atlanta, and I DVR it to watch it later in the morning. Occasionally I watch it while it is actually showing. Yet, whenever I watch it, there seems to be some kind of lesson that can be taken from the voyages of the Enterprise and it's crew. I watched an episode this morning that I wanted to share a little about. This is the second part of my How To portion of my blog.

I have had a lot happen to me over the past week. I resigned from my position at my church and I am now, technically speaking, a free agent of sorts. The reason I did this is to grow in my faith in Christ to better myself for my ministry to students, as this is my life's calling of course. Last night, and this morning I have had a revelation of sorts.

Let me explain. Last night, there was communication to me that made me very upset. This was because it had to do with my church and I am guessing my wounds are still fresh. But let us look at the Star Trek episode this morning.

Here is the plot: Picture this if you will. The Enterprise is on course for a rendezvous at a star base in the Protaznic Sector. Oh, and here is what the Enterprise looks like...

The Enterprise is on course when they detect an anomaly with their computer sensors. Suddenly, the ship is being pulled by a 2-D gravitation and a life form that is unknown to the crew. While being pulled in the gravitation, the ship's counselor, who is a batazoid (a species that can read feelings and thoughts of those around them) loses her powers.

This is unique to her because she is half human and half batazoid. This whole experience is new to her because she has never had to rely on her human instincts alone. She had to depend on something she didn't know. However, as time passed, she learned to develop her skills and finally become functional again. In the end, (SPOILER ALERT), she gets her powers back, right before the ship is sucked into a black hole of sorts.

As she got her powers back, she learned that the life form was acting on instinct and they were going to a place that was common to them. It was their home, of sorts.

I look at Star Trek:TNG and I look at my current situation as a Christian and too often I try to depend on myself, something safe for me, and I don't try to step out and go where God needs me to be. I need to be on the front lines, however, when we look at where God wants and needs us to go, we often try to hide from God.

So the How To section of this blog? Secretly watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and then reveal it to the whole world you watch it and can most definitely apply it to your life.

The good word portion of this blog? Psalm 91:1 -Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Find your place in God. Find the comfort of life through the one that gives you life. Don't depend on yourself to find solace. Go to grow. What I mean is, go to your quiet place, where you can GROW in Christ and in prayer.

how to...

I have had a lot of time over the last few days to really evaluate myself, my ministry, and my walk with Christ. When one looks at their own life, we look at the bad and the good. Sometimes we can have such rose colored glasses that we tend to miss on the opportunities that God gives us.

So for a while, I am going to do a How To blog series. I can only hope and pray that those who read this blog will read and understand that I am not telling you how to live your life. I will tell you from my own personal experiences about how I have lived my life and how God transformed my life to better myself for the things He has planned for me in the future.

Today's How To: How to not be religious but a follower.

Read with me the words from The Gospel according to John.
John 3:1-2

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God."

John 19:38-40

After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

Nicodemus is well known throughout the Gospel according to John. He was a very religious man and he came to Jesus in the night, asking about how to be a follower of Jesus. I believe that the story of Nicodemus is also well known because when we continue reading, we find a very famous verse, John 3:16.

Aside from one of the most recognizable verses in the Bible, most people seem to think that the spiritual journey of Nicodemus ends after chapter 3 where he leaves Jesus confused. This is not the case. Look at chapter 19 of John. We see that, after the death of Jesus, Nicodemus shows back up to help with the burial of Jesus. Nicodemus was a very religious man. However, he needed more than religion alone. When he comes to Jesus in chapter 3, Nicodemus is in search of something more. He needed to follow Jesus. We see this as evidence in chapter 19. Jesus gave Nicodemus the opportunity and He continues to give us the same opportunity even today.

When I first started in ministry, I was so excited about what I was doing that I became cocky. I tried everything to look good, but on the inside, I wasn't growing. The past few days, I believe that I have truly started a pattern of life that will change my ministry beyond all belief. God is in the business of the supernatural and some things can't be explained in the natural world. I believe the God is all powerful and loves me unconditionally. As I continue to seek Him and His direction for my life, I am no longer going to be religious in life. I will be a follower of Christ.

You're FIRED...

Donald Trump. Vince McMahon. There are many tops CEO's in the business world today who get a kick out of saying, "YOU'RE FIRED!". In fact, there are some times when a friend and I joke about how to fire people with a little feeling as possible.

To end people's hopes and dreams would be terrible. It would be awful to tell people they are fired. However, what if instead we fire people, we fire them up. Why don't we try to get people excited as opposed to knocking down their dreams. Let's build them up.

Let's start out with prayer today. And I am going to try to be as real as possible with this blog post. In order to see some sort of growth in this world and in my or your own community is to be honest and build up people.

How often do you prayer for people when you say you will pray for them? Is prayer a cop-out for Christians to do no action? I was reading a blog of a pastor in South Carolina. He states that his church is doing a new series called "Practical Atheists". What is a practical atheist? Someone who says they believe in God, yet live their lives like HE does not exist.

How many people have been going to church for 10, 20, or even 30+ years and have never changed? It is because they say they believe in God but they don't want Him to impact their life.
Look at Acts 12:1-16. This is where one Apostle was killed and another was set free. Sometimes God delivers us from our trials and other times He let's us walk through them. However, the constant in all of this is GOD IS STILL GOD!

When people pray, and God says no. We all have this jacked up, legalistic theology that God owes us something and He should never say no to us. God does this out of love. He is not some genie we can just ask for something and with the wiggle of His nose and His head do a little motion and poof there is our prayer answer. No, GOD IS GOD and it is OK to say no to us!

Think of those who have children. You want the best for your child, even if they don't see it, you do. So some of you say no to your child for the better of your child. Even though they can't see it right now, you are showing them love.

There are things in this world that God says, "Don't pray, OBEY!" This is where God's word speaks clearly. For example, if you say you should pray about having sexual relations with someone you are not married to, is God going to tell you it is OK? ABSOLUTELY NOT! It is an EMPHATIC NO!

Christians use prayer as an excuse for inactivity. Let me ask you this question. Are you praying your way out of something you behaved yourself into? That came from the mouth of Andy Stanley. WOW!

Parents, you can not just pray your child into being a follower of Jesus. You must show it by example and you must be more passionate about raising disciples for Christ rather than the all star athlete! In order for my ministry to grow, I must be passionate about my ministry. I CAN NOT CONTINUE TO SIT ON MY HANDS AND MY KNEES AND NOT DO ANYTHING! I must live to my calling and be passionate about Christ in such a manner that this passion POURS into those around me and in my ministry. If I am not passionate about raising disciples of Christ, what am I even doing in ministry?

Scripture says that we must pray for those to be healed, whether it is physical, spiritual, or mental. A man can not tell me he can pray himself out of porn addiction. There is no way! There needs to be physical healing, mental healing and spiritual healing. It is going to take more than just him doing it too! Look at what scripture says we must do in James 5:16

Pray for those who need healing. Pray for those around you. But don't use prayer as a cop out for no action. Raise and be a disciple of Christ and LET CHRIST IMPACT YOUR LIFE. Don't be a "Practical Atheist"

the crazies...

Last night, while watching the tail end of the Super Bowl, I saw a commercial for a movie coming out called "The Crazies". I thought to myself, "Wow. Has coming up with a title become that lazy?" Then another commercial came on and I kind of forgot about it. Yet, for some reason, that is the only commercial that sticks out in my head today. Also, the more I look at this title and resonate on it, I can see that the title "The Crazies" has infested our local church and the minds of many great Christians in sitting in the pews and chairs of the church today. Here is what I mean.

It is more often than none we, as Christians, prefer to visit God on Sunday's rather than having God invade our lives. How true is this statement? I find it amazing as a youth pastor that we have become so bleak to our mundane programs and our big events to cash in on the large numbers that we have forgotten the reason we are here in the first place. The reason I am here it to develop relationships that span more than just a student giving their life to Christ. I am here to live in the highs and lows of my students lives and to live their true fears and understand their hurt and be there with them during this hurt.

I forgot for a while to really let God invade my life. I was worried about low numbers, why I am not reaching students, this that or the other. I lost my focus on the why's of life and not the how. How I can I let God in my life more? How can God REALLY use me?

"Fishers of men is who Jesus said He would make us to be. (Matthew 4:18) If we are going to follow Jesus then our hearts must beat for the lost." If are hearts are not in the right place, we can never let God use us to our fullest potential. Readers, I pray that we can have a heart that does beat for the lost. If we are stuck on our visitation days with Jesus, when are we EVER going to let Jesus in?

We (the church) have a HUGE responsibility – we are here because we are personally responsible for the evangelization of the entire world before the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ. IF Jesus is really INVADING your life, then where is the evangelism? It is hard to find it sometimes because we are too timid and scared of those around us. Most everybody fears rejection, yet Jesus was rejected by the world, and even those who followed Him the closest, to open up the flood gates of what can revolutionize your eternity. We must step out in our faith and REALLY LET JESUS USE US! The church can not sit on the hymns of the 1800's and in the chairs of the contemporary services, we must step out and step up!

You want to know what I truly believe right now? I believe that there is a rising generation in the church that is more mission minded, more evangelical than ever before. I believe that the church is about to CHECK MATE the devil! The problem is that people are trying to protect themselves and those around them from what the world really is. I am not saying that everyone needs to grow up right away. What I am saying is that this generation that wants to help grow the church, we need to fuel the fire and the passion that Christ has given them! This morning this thought hit me, “HE SAVED ME!!!” And seriously…I could not get past it! I was blind but now I see, I was lost but now I am found, I was dead and now I am alive…ALL BECAUSE OF HIM!!! I’ve NEVER gotten past the cross…and am BLOWN AWAY because HIS GRACE REALLY IS FREAKING AMAZING!!!
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