Time Block

This summer I have been going through a book called ‘Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry’. I would highly recommend it to everybody in ministry, whether it be vocational or voluntary.

Something short and sweet that I have taken from this book is a time block schedule. Doug Fields talks about how there are parts of his day where he is more creative and focused on writing lessons/series breakdowns for youth group. There really is no catch here; he suggests that you do that work at whatever time a day you are most effective! Now that may sound like common sense, but many people in ministry are frantically running around each week like a chicken with their head chopped off. That’s bound to happen no matter what, but it can be less stressful if we would formulate our schedules around our strengths.

For me, I am most creative and driven right when I wake up in the morning. So I’ve made it my goal to do all of my writing and critical thinking right when I get in the office. My afternoons are a little more planning, meetings, and just some odds and ends.

So what is it for you? Does it take you a while to get things rolling? Well you should probably not do your detailed work in the morning that requires lots of thinking. Whatever it may be, Doug Fields just encourages all leaders in ministry to find their groove and to just go for it. It’s easy to let busy schedules and appointments get in the way of our “time blocks”, but that’s why healthy boundaries need to be in place of your ministry. For example, Doug doesn’t do ANY meetings in the mornings. That’s his time to think, write, and do what he would be distracted in doing if it were done in the afternoon.

 

Find your groove and roll! I promise that things will run smoother and your stress will decrease.

 

The Beautiful Offense of The Gospel

The Beautiful Offense of The Gospel

If there is a primary problem in the people of God, it’s that despite what Scripture says, they still think the world revolves around them. As I write this, I’m pointing my stubby finger right at myself; so don’t worry I’m not ignorant to the fact that I do it too! We all do… But does that mean we just acknowledge this universal pit of selfishness and never attempt to move out of it?

Now most people know that the Gospel means “Good News”.. But what most people don’t realize is that the Good News wasn’t brought by us! The only part that we had in the Gospel was the darkness that it shed light over and cleansed. The Gospel is translated as “Good News”; but why did there need to be good news?
The truth is that the Good News of Jesus Christ is seen as good news because it entered into a very dark and dirty world. Take note that the filthiness of the world and hearts of people were inflicted by themselves. We were helpless, homeless, and hopeless…. and then Jesus came. In our rebellion, Jesus came and called us to himself. You see, we were the reason that made the Gospel necessary… and that’s not a good thing.

The Gospel, in its simplest form; is hope for an otherwise hopeless people.

I think that for us to truly accept that hope, we have to realize that we were not the initiators of this Good News. Jesus came to us… He saved us…

Think about this: The Gospel is telling YOU that without it; you are nothing. That without it; you are dead.
There is great offense for the pure Gospel in the world we live in because for one to truly accept it, they have to acknowledge the fact that they are otherwise powerless.
You may be thinking “Okay well where the heck is the beauty in this?! All I see is me being a punk and needing to be saved by somebody better than me.” Well, you can look at it that way; but that comment still sounds like it’s coming from a heart that is more interested about its own.
Show me a selfish man and I will show you a broken and tired man. Think about all the responsibility we put on ourselves when we make the world about us! We weren’t meant to carry that load, that’s what makes the beauty of the Gospel so amazing.. It can’t be put into words, it’s simply amazing and from our point of view; can even seem illogical.
The Gospel lays platform for the prompting of a universal proclamation. The question is what are we proclaiming? How are we living? How do you see yourself in the story of the Gospel? Who is the hero?
Jesus loves you so much that he saved you from what you deserve. The weight of the world was put on His back for a reason and not yours; He can handle it and we can’t.. I don’t know how else to say it; but we just need to stop making things about ourselves. We are to make much of Jesus, not much of ourselves.  God is infinite in His wisdom; and He says that the one who loses ones life is actually the one who finds it..
The implications of the Gospel should direct us to selfless motives; living lives of adoration of Jesus, but also living our lives with an understanding of our place in the story of the Gospel.
If we are able to allow the Gospel to soften our hearts; then we will experience the true beauty in the Gospel and will attest that its offense truly is sufficient and incredible Good News!

3 Ways to Successfully Juggle Your Emotions

Everyday I wake up and it’s a crazy day. It really doesn’t even matter what I’m doing. In fact, it’s not whether or not it will be a crazy day, but it’s measuring what level of crazy it will hit for the day! Ever feel like that? We’re all, for the most part, pretty busy people. When we hear about having a crazy busy schedule, we usually think of a list of things needing to get done. That’s true; busy schedules can often involve an overload of chores, going to your kids basketball games, traveling for your job, writing papers for school, and it goes on and on. And while those things are respectively difficult to handle, I’ve also found that there are other ways in which our days can be filled with craziness.

While we are literally busy with our everyday life, we forget about our emotions which we constantly feed. We are all a people who are internally starving for something to fill us. All of us have wanted something somewhere along the line; whether it be a raise, a new car, to be picked first in kickball… you know what I mean. We ALL have wants which proves the point that we are all internally and specifically emotionally starving. Wants and desires directly correlate with our emotions, so the big question is this: What am I supposed to feed myself? Obviously we, whether we submit to it or not, can agree on what is healthy and not healthy to physically eat. But what about on the inside?

I want to give three ways to help direct and dictate your emotions that the Lord has shown me.

1.) The first way is to examine your heart and see where your emotions have led you.

We live in a jacked up world, and if we could see the unseen emotions of the people (and ourselves), we would be even more overwhelmed with discomfort. There’s good in the world, but can’t we agree that not EVERYTHING is good? So where does all the bad stuff come from? Heck, where does all the good stuff come from? Well, it comes from a position of emotion, and our emotions are founded in our hearts. If emotion is rooted and pointed in a direction of selfishness, then the result will be something bad. Our intent will be to exploit ourselves. Do you ever struggle with always wanting to be right or always wanting attention, whether it be from a guy, your co-workers, or your friends? Well, that’s probably because there is a degree of selfishness in your heart which is pushing you to do those things. If we have a selfless heart, then we will have selfless driven emotions which will prompt us to serve and be humble. There’s a reason why selfless people are so sensitive, and that is because they have their emotions and heart in alignment with how God wants them to be placed. So see where your emotions have brought you, both good and bad.

2.) The second step is to simply prune. Pick out the good, and take away the bad. This sounds easy, but it’s far from that. It’s sacrificing sometimes what we know and usually what we have been used to. I know that when I rip off a Dora the Explorer band-aid from my elbow, it hurts really bad. And for the record, you shouldn’t judge. We have all been there.. Ha! The point is that sometimes pain is good. It pulls us back to where we need to be. One of my best friends broke his nose in high school. It was actually really funny, we called him Nose-Man, but that’s beside the point. The doctor had to push his nose back into place, ouch! I’m sure it was an awful pain, but he couldn’t just have his nose crooked the rest of his life could he? And some of you are limping on broken legs because you refuse to allow them to heal the right way. Surgery can be painful as well as recovery; but that process is all moving in a direction of healing and purity into the way things were supposed to be. So while you decide what’s good and bad, don’t think that you have to man up and push forward with everything that holds you back. Aren’t you tired of carrying that weight on your shoulders? Well, while our world thinks that everything magically falls into place, that’s unrealistic. Things don’t just get better, we have to be willing to do what it takes to get better.

So we’ve seen where our emotions have led us; some cases make us feel good an other cases bring up a bad taste in our mouths. Then we went through the process of harvesting, which involves deciphering whether or not particular emotions are good or bad and getting rid of that which isn’t suit for healthy production. And now we’re at step three!

3.) Talk to somebody regularly. Just like we weren’t meant to carry the weight of our imperfections, neither were we meant to throw them away by ourselves. It’s true that it starts with you and I to call out what needs to stay and what needs to go, but our nature is always to come back to what we’re used to. We like pleasure more than pain, and sometimes pleasure involves us taking a passive stance of tolerance on what really needs to be done with. So talk to somebody. Accountability is a good word, but I don’t want to use it. Sometimes when we use that word we see a picture a relationship where you go over a check list and see how you’re doing. And while it’s obviously good to go over what you talk about, there are good ways to do it, and accountability is a good way but I think we have sometimes twisted the word to look less personal. So I like to use the phrase “do life with”. Find somebody that will “do life with you”. Somebody that will walk with you, somebody who understands you and is aware of how influential good and bad emotions are for you. Don’t get the guy who nods his head all the time and asks you everyday and then that’s it. Go to somebody who is personal, sensitive to your emotions, and loves you for you.

We are constantly robbed of the emotions in which God intends for us to have and are instead given replacement emotions that are scary. You CAN have the life God wants for you to have, but you can’t fulfill His plan and your plan at the same time. Make His plan your plan. Make a statement today to say that you are dropping what is weighing you down so that you can rise up and stand firmly where you belong.

Set Free

Every other Tuesday I have the privilege to sit down with some high school dudes and just chill. I mean I plan out an outline of a topic; but we basically just talk about things, and I love it! It’s been good for me, and it appears to be good for them too.

Last time we met we looked in John 8. It reads “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

“What in the world does it mean to be set free?”  Well I think that one could conclude that the person asking that question hasn’t been “set free”. By the grace of God, he has set me free from past sins. Verse 32 says that knowing the truth will essentially set you free. There are deep implications of what “knowing the truth” actually entails; and it doesn’t just mean intellect of the truth. It doesn’t mean memorizing Scripture, or teaching Sunday school.. It means experiencing the truth. In your encounter of experiencing the truth, you will finally be set free.

One student asked “How do I tell my friends about the truth? Because I want them to be set free!” Such a good question. I believe that the truth isn’t always something to be told, but can also be something shown. The best way to tell somebody the Truth is to show them it. That means living in light of the Truth; being genuine, loving, sacrificial, graceful, and humble in your actions.

 

Being set free isn’t a one time thing; we all get bound down by sin time and time again. That’s when we keep coming back to the Lord to set us free. So you are either in two positions in reading this: 1.) You need to be set free. or 2.) You need to show somebody the truth. Notice that you could also be in both of those groups (I know I am).

Let go of what’s holding you back and allow Jesus to set you free. Look long and hard at your life and see if you truly are telling the Truth of Jesus to the people your around by how you live every day.

 

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A Week in Indianapolis

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ICC High School students are going to Indianapolis this Sunday for a summer service trip! This is the first time I’ll be going on a high school trip as staff, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Would you pray with me for the trip? Here is how you can:

1.) Soft hearts –> We have a nature of making much of ourselves, particularly in times when it’s not supposed to be about us at all. Would hard hearts be broken on this trip, because hard hearts don’t have Jesus in them. Students have a rough time growing closer to God in the summer; we all do! So with that being said, there are definitely going to be students on the trip whose hearts haven’t been in line with God’s and that’s why we should pray!

2.) Inspiration –> There are quite a few students on this trip who have never even been to our youth group, which is just unbelievable. I’m praising God for that! I’m also begging God that they would be inspired; not just by the people they serve, but that their experience would lead to a real inspiration of God himself. Pray that they would leave the week changed to the point of doing something about it when they get back.

3.) Honesty –> It’s never easy to be honest about our mess-ups, especially the ones that we’ve never let anybody know about. The difficulty of confessing sin, while it may be really uncomfortable, should not inhibit it to happen. I’m praying for our leaders as they spend time with their students throughout the week, and I’m hoping that they open up their lives to their leaders. I’m praying that the Lord would assure the students that sin can’t be dealt with on their own and that they NEED help.

 

I’m super pumped for this trip and am confident that it will serve as a defining event for students!

Heading Home

 

I’ve been digging in 2 Corinthians this week, and it has been absolutely fantastic. As I was reading through chapter 5 today, I caught glimpse of one of the most beautiful pictures in Scripture.

This is essentially the picture that is being drawn here:

We, as Christians, are in this world. Sense we have already claimed the name of Christ into our lives to set us free, we are no longer of the world. We are in the world not of it. Another way to say that is this:

“We live here, but we don’t belong here.”

So if we don’t belong here, the question we now ask is “Where do we belong?” That’s a fair question isn’t it? There is a simple answer, but sometimes we don’t take it for what it is. Sometimes the answer is so profound that we can’t even believe it. It’s so insane that we can’t even accept it as the right answer. In doing that, one usually questions whether they belong anywhere.
There is an answer, you and I do belong somewhere. We were created and made into the image and likeness of God to serve Him, die, and spend eternity with Him in heaven. We were created for eternity. This is why we are constantly searching for things in this world that will satisfy our needs. And sense we were never created to belong here, we will never find it here.
We do find it in the Kingdom of God in heaven. Heaven is our home.
Sometimes we lead ourselves in believing that we were created for this world. It’s hard to not get distracted in thinking so. I mean, we are in this world. We see it, we feel it, we taste it. Heaven isn’t a place that we see right now, is it? We can’t go on talking about our “home” for too long because our knowledge of it is scarcely limited.

“For we walk by faith and not by sight” –2 Corinthians 5:7

One translation says “We live by believing and not by seeing”. We don’t have to see our home, we can feel it. By faith and trusting that our home truly is where God says it is, we are given assurance that doing all this on earth (serving, loving, worshipping, tithing, forgiving) will one day result in seeing the Savior that we worship here face to face in the living room of our home.
So don’t get too comfortable here. Don’t get too comfortable in your church. Don’t get too comfortable in your marriage. God created all of those things with eternal implications. Going through a rough spot in your life? Maybe you are having doubt about the power and capability of God.. Set yours eyes not locked on the present day but rather look on to the greater day that will come when we are taken home.
We don’t look at people or situations from a human perspective anymore, for we know Christ and know where we belong (authors translation 2 Corinthians 5:16)
May we see and live out of an eternal perspective. May we posture our hearts in that way, and would Jesus reveal His future glory to you today.

Try

This summer I am interning at my church in Iowa and I’m loving it so far. The Holy Spirit is constantly assuring me that vocational ministry is my calling, and loving people is the driving force in whatever kind of ministry I end up in.

As I was teaching middle school students yesterday (please pray in advanced for the next time I teach those goof-balls!), I was reminded how true the words I spoke were for me personally. If you’ve done any teaching in church, you’ve probably had that before! It’s like you’re preaching to yourself.

A pivotal point that I made in my time with them was a simple application; “try”. Now I obviously went into more detail on what exactly I was telling them to try (don’t worry, it wasn’t drugs). I think you can track with the implications of that word though. Being a Christian requires effort. Effort doesn’t necessarily promise salvation in the sense that our works save us; but I do believe that there is truth in saying that our efforts and works have a way of proving our salvation and where we are at with the Lord.

The hardest thing to do in following Jesus is to try, the easiest thing to do is give up. True isn’t it? If you’re running a marathon; what’s the hardest thing to do in that? Actually running the marathon right?! Which would make the easiest thing to result to is simply giving up.

Don’t give up this summer. Don’t compromise. Keep going! Keep walking! Give God your best and He will bless it. If you are off track, that’s totally fine! We all get off track. But few people get back on track after they’ve already fallen. From the point of their fall, they usually just coast for a while; and if they decide to come back, they are more broken than they were when they fall off. Don’t do that!

We are all so loved by Jesus, and that love can be seen in more ways than one could count; so it’s time for you and I to respond to that and it starts by putting forth an effort.

Without a plan, you pass up a work of God

I have to admit, I’m not a very organized person. I’m the kind of guy who is convinced that he will remember to do everything that I’m supposed to, and then just completely forget! The other day I had to get something at the grocery store and I forgot what I was there to get; man, that was scary. I thought that was an old person thing to do! Ugh, whatevs. I finally came to the conclusion that I need to make a list of things or else I will surely forget to do them.

From my own experience, I think it’s safe to say that the hardest part of obedience to Jesus is following through with what you set out to do. Ever have that happen to you?

You said you would trust Jesus in something.. and you didn’t.

You said you would put an end to a certain sinful nature.. but you still find yourself running back even though you want to stop.

You said you would change your attitude towards something.. but you still complain, get bitter, and start drama.

 

We’ve all been there. Those three examples all start with the right idea in mind, but all make a circle back to the same toxic behavior. Good intentions of obedience may explain disobedience, but they never excuse it. 1 John says that if we claim to be in Christ that we must live like Christ. Pretty high expectations, huh? “Oh hey yeah you’re supposed to be perfect like Jesus, any questions?”

This is a really serious topic because like the three examples I listed a paragraph ago, I see many Christians, myself included, going into things with the right intentions and motives. But then shortly after our commitment, (for some it’s even been the same commitment over and over again) we are right back where we started. If you’re like me, you probably beat yourself up about it and get disappointed. This is the key; even if you’re intentions are right; if you don’t have a plan to fight sin and pursue Jesus, you are playing right into the trap of Satan. Many of us are trying to end sin, but we aren’t going at it with the most effective angle and tools that the Lord provides for us.

Here are a few things that you can try that I have continued to run to nearly every day:

1.) Journal –> I’ve found that God has spoken most clearly to me when I am in a consistent routine of journaling  prayers, thoughts, questions, and notes from Scripture reading. If you haven’t tried it, you should!

2.) Consistency in the Bible –> I’ve been in multiple Bible studies where somebody always explains how they want to read the Bible but they don’t know where to start. YouVersion has a great app and website with tons of reading plans. There are topical plans ranging from a week to a whole year! If you want to read your Bible and don’t have a plan, find one on this website! (https://www.youversion.com)

3.) Be Honest –> Matt Chandler says in one of his sermons that to be 99% honest is to be dishonest. We may not admit it, but few of us can honestly say that we are being completely, 100%, honest with somebody about our sin, past, and struggles. The danger in that is an overlooked form of self-harm that we don’t even realize we are causing ourselves. James 5 says that we are to “…confess our sins to another so that we may be healed.” This text implies that without that confession to a Godly friend or mentor, we cannot purely heal. We can’t walk in obedience because we haven’t let go of the past by telling somebody about it. Being open about sin can be one of the hardest things one’s walk in obedience because they are sacrificing their pride, their efforts to do things, and maybe even embarrassment, as they are just ashamed of their sin. But hear me loud and clear; those sacrifices are foundational in being sanctified into the image of Christ. Don’t let our society’s failure to be sober-minded distort the essential act of being open about where you are at to another Godly man or woman.

Write it down:

Writing things down is one of the most undermined discipline in Christian living. With that being said, it’s also one of the most effective ways to get things done and reflect on how you are doing. So before the end of the week, if you don’t already have a plan or schedule that you abide in for your personal walk with Christ, then that’s a priority that you should make TODAY!

Many of you are so close, you’re just struggling with your follow-through. Don’t be embarrassed to tell somebody about that, we are all there! But don’t put your head down and try and do it yourself. The whole point in the Gospel is to reveal to us, as sinners, that we need a Savior. We can’t work, earn, or produce any satisfaction that is holy and righteous. Don’t put weight on your shoulders that you were never designed to carry.

Make a plan, stand firm in that stance, and I promise that God will leave you speechless with all that He reveals to you in your efforts towards obedience! Don’t forfeit a plan in exchange for shame in yourself for all your failures, let Jesus wash your shortcomings clean in the midst of you personal plan to follow and commit to Him every day.

Draw Near or Drift Away

I’m sure most of you are like me when I say that I love summer! We start counting down the days in like October, make vacation plans with our families, spend way too much money on fast food, and of course sleep till noon.

I love summer and look forward to it every year, but at the start of each summer I always seem to feel the tendency to drift away from God. Do you ever feel that way? As students, summer can sometimes give us more opportunities to drift away from God because we have more time on our hands. But regardless of what will happen, the truth is that at the end of the summer we will all either grow closer to God or drift away. There is no third option or medium ground in-between the two, it’s one or the other.

 

So what will your summer be like? Do you have a plan? It’s crucial to have one because Satan also has plans against us to stunt our growth in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:11).

May this summer bring fun and memories, but may you also draw close to God this summer and may you be able to say confidently in August that you grew closer to Christ.

 

Don’t drift… Draw near!