I’ve begun an amazing 90 day journey through the Bible.  I’m currently on my 3rd and already very aware that there are a LOT of pages in God’s word.  I digress.

I’m getting toward the end of Genesis, reading about the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob so far.  While I’ve read these accounts numerous times over, the parallels between generations has struck a chord more this time than previous occasions.  Why?  Because, they all seem to repeat the mistakes of their fathers.

This is both disheartening and encouraging.  It saddens me that my kids will inevitably make some of the same mistakes as I have. I am however encouraged that men with some big, glaring mistakes in their lives can go on to live big lives for God, basking in His favour.  The Bible doesn’t just give us the good stuff, it includes the failures, the missteps, and the dirty laundry.  I’m glad it does.  I need to be reminded of how easy it is to get off track and hopefully not make the same mistakes that others have made before me.

I read this post this morning by someone blogging their way through the advent season.  Read the post, it’s pure gold.  It got me thinking, what messages do I send to my kids, to my youth, to my family.  What a great perspective.  Am I giving away the fruits of the Spirit?  Am I praising those that do?  Am I finding ways to encourage those that exemplify the fruit?

Tim Schmoyer just posted some great insight into dealing with adult youth leaders that may not quite give the spiritual direction and leadership that’s expected of them. Signs that a youth leader is lacking in maturity

Tim got me thinking about the expectations we have of our leaders.  In the church as a whole, we expect, or at least we should expect our leadership, elders, pastors, under-shepherds, deacons, to be holy, seeking hard after God (cf. 1 Timothy 3).  The standards for elders and deacons are set very high, with a call to holy living, being above reproach, and integrity.

What kind of expectations do I have of youth leaders?  To be honest, I feel their role within the church is highly critical.  Youth leaders are significant in the development of adolescents toward the overall mission of the church, making disciples who are going into all the world…. We partner with parents (hopefully), connect our students to the greater vision and ministries of the church and basically do all we can to be their spiritual directors and mentors given the small amount of time we have with them.

It’s a massive responsibility that I don’t consider often enough when it comes to holding myself accountable and when it comes to recruitment.  Do I and the leaders I have the privilege of serving with consider our role in the lives of students as a high and holy calling?  I’m not saying every youth leader has to be elder material, but we should be striving to be men and women that are so full of the Holy Spirit that we reflect Christ in every interaction and opportunity.  (Can you tell I just finished Francis Chan’s new book?)  More on that book in posts to come.

Thanks to Tim Schmoyer for the wake up call toward maturity and living out the example of Christ.  May we lead with passion and compassion.

I lead a small group that is ever so slowly working our way through the book of Philippians. We’re into the last half of chapter one and could potentially spend a lot of time there. My studies today have been tons of fun as I’ve looked at two words from vs. 20; eagerly expect.

The idea of eager expectation, as Paul wrote it, comprised of three parts that fascinate me. The first component in the greek is indicative of being/turning away. Then, the compound uses words whose roots are the head and watching.

If you put this all together, when Paul says “I eagerly expect” (Philippians 1:20), what he’s saying is that he’s watching something with a singular focus, turned away from other objects. (Motyer, The Message of Philippians). In other words, Paul’s only attention was on Christ, and as he looks to Him, he will not be ashamed but will instead be courageous in the face of his trials, for the glory of Christ.

Paul didn’t compartmentalize his life, he was 100% focused on Christ and Him glorified. Everything in his life filtered through that objective and mission. He was looking to Christ, knowing that everything he would do must be done with Christ in mind.

So, I eagerly expect that I too will be unashamed, that my focus will be so singular that the hope of Glory, (you know, Christ in me), will be evident in all areas of life.

As this blog showed some time ago, moleskine notebooks are my method of choice when it comes to keeping a log of my thoughts. In using those wonderful little black journals I have no pressure of keeping such thoughts organized or even coherent. There is a slight problem with such a system, the more I write and study the more my notebook struggles to keep up with all the differing thoughts at once. It’s not your fault oh trusty moleskine, it’s mine.

With that in mind, I will strive yet again to keep a public log of my thoughts and studies right here, at my old friend The New Gray. Posts will come more frequently and comments would be greatly appreciated. Just know that whether there are comments or not, I’m gonna keep posting. I need to. My life needs a bit more order and this might be one way to assist in that endeavor. Or, I may fail. Time will tell.

At least if I keep posting, my all time favorite college VP will quit bugging me to post more often!

The other day I was watching an old TV show called Early Edition. The premise of the show is a guy gets the newspaper a day early, therefore knowing what’s going to happen ahead of time. He spends his days rushing around trying to prevent disaster after disaster. It’s a fun show, even if it is a bit unrealistic.

In the episode I was watching, traffic lights in one very busy intersection had stopped working. Our hero jumped into the middle to bring some order to the chaotic scene. He immediately takes charge of the situation, acting as traffic director, instructing all cars how to move through the stopped up intersection.

Not surprisingly, the awaiting drivers became impatient and started honking their horns, many not realizing that the man is going out of his way to prevent a major accident, at great risk to himself. You get the feeling that the drivers are secretly asking themselves, “Who does this guy think he is, getting in my way?”

If you have been keeping up with our Bible reading plan, yesterday and today you would have read of the Apostle Peter’s own intersection of life and faith. In Acts 10, the vision comes of God telling Peter to eat something that would have been considered unclean in that day and age. God tells Peter not to “call anything unclean that God has made clean.” (vs. 15)

This is a major revelation for Peter, one of those watershed life-changing moments. Peter has a choice; he stands at the intersection of what he’s always believed and the life that God is inviting him to live now.

Thankfully for us, the church, Peter did not stay at that intersection honking his horn. Instead, when invited to do the unthinkable, to enter the home of a gentile and eat with him, Peter did it, and God used that entry in mighty ways. He began using Peter to direct the traffic at a very tricky intersection.

When something that extraordinary happens, something that by Jewish law was unacceptable the chances were good that questions from other church leaders of the day would follow. Peter was invited to explain his actions to the believers in Jerusalem, facing significant criticism as he arrived. Again, he was at an intersection. He could have easily pacified those questioning him, saying it was a one-time thing, it wouldn’t happen again, etc. Instead, Peter steps up, explains the vision and the visitors, and makes this statement:

“So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?” (Acts 11:17)

You know what happened next? The other apostles had no further objections and praised God for this new open door to the Gentiles! Their agendas had changed by the power of the Spirit of God, and they praised Him for that change!  Instead of standing at the intersection dwelling on how things had changed, they praised God for how He was working and got involved!

Who were they to oppose how God was moving among all people? Their willingness to go where God directed led to the rapid spread of the good news of Jesus Christ.

When we come to intersections in our lives, those moments when we feel God stirring in not so subtle ways, how will we respond? Will we go where the Lord leads us, or do our best to make our own way? God may lead us to some big, even hard things. Thankfully, wherever He leads, we are assured that He will equip us with every thing we need to direct the traffic of life along the journey.

Zack attack is back! Can’t wait for the reunion!

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This blog has reflected, to a small degree, some of my thoughts as I’ve tried to work through hitting the proverbial wall in my personal and ministry life.  As far as I can tell, we all go through this at one time or another, just look at David in Psalm 40, but one of the keys when coming out of that muddy pit is what we learn from the experiences.  Chris Folmsbee just posted a great list of thoughts on what he would do differently if he could go back and do it again.  It’s a good list as you can see below, and one that has given voice to a lot of my own personal thoughts.  Though I’ve been at this for nearly 8 years, it’s more and more apparent how much I have to learn.  

Below is the list, I’ll add my own thoughts to this list in the coming days, but here’s Chris’s take for your perusal:

Recently, I was sharing some thoughts regarding the future of youth ministry with a   group of local lead and executive pastors.  I was asked, “If you were to go back and do youth ministry again, as you once did, how would what you know now change how you would lead a youth ministry?”  I had a few items off the top of my head (some are listed below) but I pointed them all to this post for a more robust list of things I might do differently.  So, if I were to go back and lead a youth ministry again I would…

  • Act theologically before methodologically
  • Be more of a spiritual director than a program director
  • Hire a parent to be a part of our youth staff
  • Spend more time investing in interns/co-pastors
  • Experiment with more learner-centered education models
  • Ask less of my volunteers and yet equip them more
  • Communicate change to the church leaders, staff and parents more
  • Create more opportunities for students to “learn up” instead of me “teaching down”
  • Celebrate the successes in the lives of students with greater regularity and intensity
  • Worry less about the retreat themes and spend more time with the students on the retreats.
  • Take students on way more spiritual retreats
  • Work hard to be more collaborative with the youth workers in my city
  • Take more time off to be with my wife and kids
  • Be more intentional with a confirmation process
  • Find time to laugh and play more
  • Be more grace-filled with students who were goofing off and causing trouble
  • Try to learn more from the staff instead of thinking I have all the answers
  • Take the criticism of others more seriously and less defensively
  • Meet with my spiritual director more often
  • Take personal retreats more often
  • Be way more missional and a lot less attractional in my approach or model
  • Try and get more pulpit time to advocate for the students in the church and community
  • Pray more and develop a team of people to pray with
  • Provide inspiring training for the parent of the students
  • Call the students to greater levels of holiness
  • Spend a lot more time creating opportunities for students to practice justice
  • Allow the more artistic students opportunities to express themselves and their love for God.
  • Teach much more conversationally
  • Try to enter into the joy, pain, loss, doubt, hurt, etc. of the students and their families

I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined and heard my cry.

Psalm 40:1

 

Yesterday, I posted that waiting implies actively trusting God to move.  We wait patiently, with the understanding that God’s plans are perfect even in the midst of the noise of life (more on that in another post).  

David finishes his thought (vs 1) with an incredible picture of God’s relationship with us.  “And He inclined to me and heard my cry (NASB).  In other words, God stretched out, or reached out to hear the cries of His child.  The word hear that’s used in vs 1 goes deeper than simply hearing to an actual understanding.  When it’s put together, it goes something like this:

And He stretched out to hear me, to understand my cries.  

This morning, as I do every Wednesday morning, I met with a friend to discuss life, how we’re growing and/or struggling and to pray together.  My friend shared that he is trying to practice the presence of God more and more, seeking to live in the reality that God is with us, always.  So, as he goes through his days, he’s trying to picture God right there with him, connected and close, all the time.  He pictures a God that has inclined to Him, stretched out to be where my friend is at that very moment.

That’s what David is getting at in vs 1.  Our God is God who stretches out to be close to us and hear our cries.

I’m speaking this weekend at a special service to honor our graduates.
I’m going to be sharing with them from Psalm 40 and as I’ve been prepping, I’ve gotten stuck on one phrase this morning:
I waited patiently
Other ways to translate include looked for, hoped for, expected, all indicating that waiting is itself an action, a posture of obedience to God.
Waiting stinks in my opinion. It’s hard, it takes discipline and it tends to be uncertain. And I certainly don’t enjoy uncertainty!
When you read the words of David, one that didn’t always wait well himself, you get sense that somewhere along the line he’s learned that faithful waiting is necessary in our journeys with God. He had tons of examples to pull from, Moses, Job, Joshua and Caleb for starters.
So when he says he waited patiently, we know he got that it was significant. We also know that He fully expected God to do what God said He would do.
Waiting connotes faith, knowing that God will guide as His timing dictates. That’s a lot different from our perception of waiting today isn’t it? So, for me, the question of the day is: how am I waiting patiently?