October 4, 2011
Working with students can be a real struggle sometimes. It is my job to not only teach them about Jesus but to do so in a way that will reach them and that they will understand. It can be difficult sometimes to remember what it was like growing up with all the the pressures and the desire to fit in and be wanted.
That is why so many students get caught up in the things that they do. They need to be wanted and find a group that accepts them. Then when they find one that they think they will be accepted into they jump at the opportunities given to them to fit in, even if that means abandoning who they thought they were or the values taught to them growing up. Youth today feel so alone. It is mind boggling isn’t it? With all of the advances that we have anymore, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, texting, and so much more, you would think that students would feel closer to each other but they don’t. This is why they feel the need to fit in even more. They just want to belong.
This does not just stop with Jr. High and High school students though. Often times people go through their whole lives trying to figure out who they are. They try the next big thing or go from one job to another because they still do not know what they want. There are always stories of men who leave their job when they get into their 40s because all of a sudden they realize they are not who they think they are, or who they dreamed they would be by the time 40 came around.
People of all ages struggle with this idea of an identity. What we do not realize is there is a place where we belong. It is in the arms of God. He gives us a new identity and that is what defines us. It is not the job we have or the social group we belong to, but rather what God says of us. Many people understand that God “makes me new” but are unsure of what this new being is:
A better version of myself?
A super spiritual nut?
Some social outcast who is further from fitting in?
And the list goes on. What is this person that we are to be changed into? Let’s take a look at 1 Peter 2:9 and see what it says about our identity.
Chosen Generation: The first thing Peter calls us here is chosen. God chose us! We were not the last ones selected on the kickball field, “oh all right, I will take Jimmy since he is the last one.” NO! God selected us. This shows His love for us. He did not have to. He could have given up on mankind but instead He sent Jesus to die for us and chose us to be His!
Royal Priesthood: In the Old Testament we are told of priests who would do the religious duties of the day. They would sacrifice animals so God would forgive the nation’s sins. They were able to enter into the presence of God. Their had to make themselves pure and holy so they would survive this endeavor but they would stand in God’s presence. Now, as Christians, we also get to go straight to God. We can talk with Him and know Him, even better than the priests of old! God desires a relationship with us and that requires we talk with Him (prayer). We do not need someone to go to God on our behalf, we can do that on our own!
Holy Nation: Now this is not talking about the United States of America. As Christians we are different than the world around us. Our values and our thinking is different than everyone else’s. We are a completely different people. Our citizenship is not of this world. We are citizens of heaven, so we must live like it. The Bible is our guide, not some man made document. Out of love for our God we need to make sure we are following His commands (John 14:15) so that we continue to be holy and we need to keep meeting together with other like-minded people (Hebrews 10:25) so we can keep being encouraged and living the way God desires.
People of God’s own Possession: Not only are we chosen by God but we also belong to God! He loves us so much that He claims us as our own. We are called children of God in the Scriptures. He is our Father and desires to take care of us like only a perfect Father can.
These are wonderful explanations of who we are! If these are true, it changes everything! No longer do I need to look to other people or things to define me, God has already done that! What an amazing definition! There is one more part from this verse that I want to point out. It says “so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him…” We have not been saved simply to be saved. We have been saved so that we can live for God. We proclaim His excellencies! We tell others about what God has done in our lives! We live in a way that will honor Him and point other people to Him. That is to be our response, and with a great new identity, I don’t think it is too difficult a task!
What part of the definition do you struggle with most? How have you overcome the urges to identify yourself with other people or things before God?
September 28, 2011
It happens all the time, all around us. There is a phenomena that has crept into our society and we find that it happens more and more all of the time. Children, adults, men, and women, it does not matter who you are, this phenomena could happen to you. You may be debating taking part of it right this moment, or you may be an innocent bystander. What is it that I am talking about? It’s
Alright so maybe I took too much time building it up for something so small that may cause you to stop reading this post all together, but stick with me, it will get better. I am almost sure of that.
I deeply despise having people drop out on me at the last second. I think that everything is running smoothly. I have all the volunteers I have for a youth event all lined up, and the day before (if that far in advance) I get a call (or less personal, a facebook message) letting me know that a particular individual cannot make it. They come up with some excuse, “its a family emergency.” Later I find out their brother-in-law had set up a new airsoft and “desperately” needed help testing it out. Sometimes individuals have a legitimate excuse. Most of the time they are backing out because they have found something else that sounds more fun to them.
Jesus tells a parable in Matthew 21 where a son does this to his father. The father wants his son to go work in a field and the son says “sure thing dad, I will be right out there (my paraphrase). But then we are told the son doesn’t go. Who knows why he chooses not to. All we know is he said he would and then he does not.
Of course this parable is about doing God’s will, not the will of Brandon, but I can most definitely feel the pain of the father here.
There is another son in the story as well (actually it is the first son the father goes to). This one says he will not go but “afterward he regretted it” and went to work in the field. I suppose you could look at this story and find both the son’s words to be unreliable but I would much rather have someone tell me they can’t do something and then change their mind and come to work alongside me.
So what does that take? How do we get other people to come alongside us? How do we get them to answer “Yes” and to act on that answer.
Do it: First we need to make sure that we are reliable people. This will not change the actions of everyone but it can’t hurt. When we give someone our word we need to follow through with this. That does require we don’t overbook ourselves and only say yes to what we know we have the time to commit.
Don’t overbook others: Sometimes we go to the same 2 or 3 individuals for everything. That can wear them down and after awhile it can lead to them saying no either in word or action. Spread out the responsibilities. Make sure to find what someone is good at and ask them to be involved in an area that involves that strength.
Set them up to succeed: Make sure to find what someone is good at and ask them to be involved in an area that involves that strength.
Show appreciation: It does not hurt to give your volunteers some extra praise now and then (more now than far off in the future). This can be done through cards, meals, verbal praise, a volunteer retreat, or anything else you can come up with to show them how much you appreciate them. People are much more likely to stay committed when they know they are appreciated.
Think about what it would take for you to say “Yes” and stick to that answer and do that for your volunteers. It won’t mean you will never have anyone backing out, but they will be a lot less likely to do it.
What other things would you suggest to someone who is having problems with their volunteers not staying committed?
September 23, 2011
I was part of a conversation yesterday about the weather. It went a little something like this:
Man: “Well I’m not sure when they plan on getting done but I know that they are not working today because of the chance of rain.” Me: “When is that supposed to happen?” Man: “I thought it should be already. When I checked the weather this morning at 5:40 the rain didn’t look to far away and usually when it is there at that time, it reaches here by now.”
It actually didn’t end up raining until later in the afternoon. I have had other discussions about the weather or more specifically about certain weather predicting websites. I complain about this one or that one because it was an hour or two off the predicted time for when the storm would be in the area. I expect the “hour by hour” predictions to be spot on. I want to know EXACTLY when and what weather conditions I can expect at any given time. I have found myself getting annoyed and even wondering why I even bother checking the weather anymore. “It’s not even accurate!” I exclaim.
This attitude I have found in myself does not just end with weather predictions. I do the same thing when it comes to watching television. For two years my wife and I have had a tv provider that has given us the capability of seeing what shows are coming on at what times. I can look hours, and sometimes even a couple days, out to see if there will be a show on that I may want to watch. Now, however, our provider does not give us that option. In fact, it does not even give us the option to see the name of the program that is currently on! What kind of service is this?
Funny isn’t it? My desire to know the future has actually grown into an attitude of I deserve to know the future. I am entitled to it. If I do not know it, or have access to it then I am not getting my fair share of information.
Actually now that I think about it, I believe this feeling of entitlement comes from a desire to be in control. I find some small satisfaction and somehow I feel in control of the tv or weather when I know what is coming up. I feel a little more powerful, and in a world where not a lot is sitting in the palm of my hand, it feels good. It feels good to be in the know. We do this with so much more than weather or the tv, but these are fairly non-threatening examples and I will let you sit and think about where you get your power fix from.
We should be having a different attitude. Let’s be honest, this feeling of control I have is just a deception. Knowing that Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman comes on at 4-6 every weekday on INSP does not make me in control of the programming anymore than not knowing (I admit that admitting to knowing when Dr. Quinn comes on everyday does not make me seem very credible with some audiences).
Not being in control though leads to worry right? I mean if I am not in the know of my future then I must worry about it. Wrong. Jesus gives us an alternative. In Matthew 6 Jesus commands that we not worry about tomorrow or what we will be wearing or what we will eat. He tells us that God is in control of those things and that we will be taken care of. So there is an alternative! Instead we must “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.”
We need to change our focus from being in control and having to know it all. We need to let go of the worry because again as Scripture tells us it does not add anything to our lives. We need to rest in the arms of God and realize that He is in control and that should give us the peace that surpasses understanding. Even when we do not know exactly what is coming up, or how we need to handle a situation at work, God know and He will take care of us. We can know what His will is (through Scripture) and let’s spend our time chasing after that instead of things we really have no control over.
Looks like it is going to be a beautiful fall day; maybe that will change. I don’t mind because I know God is in control.
When have you struggled with giving your worries over to God or letting go of something you felt you needed to be in control of?
September 20, 2011
I am currently reading through a book. This book is about how God uses normal, everyday people to do His will. The author wants to make sure that the reader understands you do not have to be some big and famous person to pull off great and mighty things for the Kingdom. I am having difficulty with the way this author is presenting it (feels as though he is putting down the big and famous or cooperate people as if they are not used by God), but he brings up some wonderful points. These points are not something that this author just came up with though. This is something God has been showing us for a very long time.
SHEPHERDS?? We see something amazing in the account of the birth of Christ. Let’s set the stage. Jesus has just come into the world. At the same time there are some shepherds hanging out with their flocks. Fun fact about sheep: they stink. This means that the people who worked with them also stunk. They were not the cleanest individuals. I am beginning to form an episode of “Dirty Jobs” in my mind. Shepherds did a job that nobody else wanted to do. They lived out on a hill away from society
Then, all of a sudden, an angel appears to them, telling them of the wonderful news of the Savior being born. Their lives are changed.
Believed I am amazed at the shepherds response. Instead of thinking about checking it out tomorrow or thinking their was something in the food they had been eating, they believed the angel and went to go check it out!
Their belief resulted in action. Isn’t that how it should always be? Belief is not just something that happens in our heads. Belief changes how we live. When we believe the house is on fire, we get out as fast as we can. We do not just sit around pondering the heat and how powerful the flames are getting. The shepherds believed and it changed them.
More to the Story What amazes me is that for as little as the shepherds knew, it did not keep them from sharing. They had been visited by an angel who told them what they would find and where. When they saw that it was true they praised God and told others about what they saw. How crazy this must have seemed to others!! But the shepherds did not care!
We know so much more! We know who Jesus was, what He came to do, and what He has done for us, but far too often we keep it to ourselves. We are afraid of looking foolish or being singled out as someone who believes differently. We have the whole truth and yet we sit on it! We cannot let the fear of what other people may think keep us back (Jesus told us this would happen, it should not surprise us)!
Let’s take our cue from the shepherd and start proclaiming Jesus to everyone we meet. Let us not be afraid of looking a bit foolish, after all, what the world sees as foolish is really wisdom. Let us cling to the hope that Christ gives us and go out into the world unashamed and unhindered!
What steps are you taking to step out in faith and proclaim the gospel?