God is Always Good , GOD IS ALWAYS IN CONTROL

These are a few verses and thoughts on my mind lately.

Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.”

Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as he rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.”

Have you ever felt like God wants to do something in your life but people keep on getting in the way? Other people keep messing up God’s plan for you? I have definitely had moments where I have struggled with that. Moments where Jesus and I knew what we were doing, we had a plan, but obviously all these other people who keep “getting in the way” are not as “in tune with Jesus” as I am! (wink)
These two Proverbs have reminded me recently that sometimes we start thinking that we are in control of the ship, sometimes we believe that other men (Presidents, Leaders, Bosses) are in control of our lives, changing the very course of our future at a whim.

Rest assured, God is in control. I have seen the masterful devising of men, I have seen hearts both good and bad in authority, but they are not in charge. God is always in control.

What an incredible comfort.

It is my responsibility to live by faith and trust that God is the one steering this ship and even the hearts of all them that lead.

Psalm 37:23  “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.”

My Apologies

I have not blogged in far too long. What is crazy is that I love to blog about what I have been learning, and I have been learning and thinking about so much over the last month, but I have not made the time to blog a priority. So I owe whoever reads this, maybe just myself, an apology. It is really neat to write down what you are learning, because you can always go back to this and remember what you have forgotten that you learned. 🙂 Well, here is something that God has been teaching me.

Silence and Solitude

I have been reading a book called: Spiritual Life: The Foundation for Preaching and Teaching for my Spiritual Formation class at Liberty University, and I have already learned so much. In this book, one of the greatest lessons that I learned was about Silence and Solitude. Westerhoff begins this section by asking a profound question: “Why are you not willing to spend one hour each day with the self that you inflict on others the rest of the day?” He asks this in the context of people never taking time to be alone, in quiet solitude, just to listen to their thoughts and communicate with God. Westerhoff explains that all throughout the word of God, we see moments where God speaks to someone in a time of silence. What is so ironic to me, is that WE NEVER EXPERIENCE SILENCE. At least I do not. I get up in the morning, take care of the kids, run around getting ready. Run to work, stay busy all day, and then at the end of the day there is always something busy to fill by time. In further detail, any spare moments of potential silence is taken up with social media like facebook, twitter, and instagram. I am not against these, but they are definitely time space fillers. It seems like my tendency is to check these things as soon as I wake up, all throughout the day, and then just before I go to sleep. When do I experience silence and solitude? If I do not experience this, then how do I expect to hear the still small voice of God in my life. I have been challenged to make time for silence in my day. It will be tough, but I keep going back to my time at the wilds as both a camper and counselor. I remember waking up in silence in my cabin, going down by the creek to do my devotions in silence, talking to God in silence, hearing God in silence. I have not made that kind of intimate time with God a priority in my life, and I know that it is vital to a growing relationship. I want to hear God, and I am willing to silence everything else to do so, if that is what it takes.

The ironic thing is that God decided to teach me this lesson while we have my two nephews staying with us, and the house has been anything but silent. This lesson is one that I am serious about, but it will not be easy this week! 🙂

Some tips for establishing silence in your life:

1. Set Boundaries on time fillers / wasters. (facebook, twitter, instagram, etc.)

2. Schedule a time to be silent.

3. Set a Place where Silence is possible. (not on a city bus, or subway)

4. Turn off any possible distractions. (cell phone, ipod, ipad)

5. Let people around you know so that they can help protect that time for you.

A Walk Through The Bible… PART 1

I have often been bothered by Sunday School. In my experience growing up, there were many different churches that I was a part of, both big and small, where the Sunday School program was simply a mini church service before the real church service. Frankly, I never understood the purpose of it. I did not appreciate getting up extra early to attend a lower quality and less organized mini church service where we sing, take an offering, go over announcements, and listen to a message, before the “real” main service where we did the same thing again. In fact, as I try to remember the lessons that I learned in Sunday School growing up, I realized that a lot of time was wasted.

In my opinion, Sunday School should exist for one main reason: DISCIPLESHIP

Sunday School should be a time and a place to LEARN about Gods word. Not necessarily to be preached to, the pastor is already going to take care of that, but it is an opportunity to teach our Biblically illiterate world about the Bible. Hence the name: Sunday School.

At Suncoast Youth Group we take this seriously, in fact, we are methodically walking through every book of the Bible memorizing a concise summary about each book. Each Sunday morning we fellowship for a bit, and then we go through the books of the Bible. Many have asked about our list of books and the summaries we have chosen. I have basically read John Phillips commentary and chosen something very similar to his summary. I would never claim that these are comprehensive summaries, but they are definitely more thorough than most people in our church would know. Most of our teenagers are learning more about Gods word each Sunday than I knew even after four years of Bible College, and we do it in a relevant, fun, and exciting method of learning. I am so proud of our teenagers, and I am thankful that they are so diligently learning about God’s word!

_______________________________

Genesis: Creation, Fall, Flood, Babel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph

Exodus: Getting God’s people out of Egypt

Leviticus: Getting Egypt out of God’s people

Numbers: Census, Complaining, Change

Deuteronomy: Moses Preaches: Backwards look, Inwards look, Forward look, Upward look

Joshua: Authority Change, Battle, Conquer, Divide

Judges: Judges

Ruth: Kinsman Redeemer / a Romance between Ruth and Boaz

1st & 2nd Samuel: Eli, Samuel, GIVE US A KING, Saul, David

1st & 2nd Kings: One nation divided into Israel (North) / Judah (South)

1st & 2nd Chronicles: A Parallel to I and II Kings but from Gods perspective

Ezra: The Second Exodus

Nehemiah: Gods people build a wall

Esther: Esther, Mordecai, Haman, Gallows

Job: He Had it all, Lost it all, Gave God the Glory, Got it all back

Psalms: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

Proverbs: Practical Wisdom for all ages, comparing the wise and the foolish

Ecclesiastes: vanity of vanities: All is vanity / He had it all, and it was not worth it.

The greatest thing about this study, is that the teenagers did not just memorize a list of information, but they use the list of information to explain the story of the entire book in their own words. I tell our teenagers that they know more about the Bible than their parents do. Is that the case in your home? Get studying Gods word! Sunday School teachers? Let’s not waste time!

Dealing with Teenage Death

This past week I was watching the news about the disasters in Japan while getting dressed one morning, and I could not help but reflect on how blessed I am to wake up in peace with my family by my side while many people around the world are waking up to what they wish was only a nightmare. These disasters are very real and very painful for much of the world.  However, because we are constantly bombarded with information about people around the world who are struggling to survive because of this or that, it is common to grow caloused to the seriousness and the pain of death. That is, until it happens in your own neighborhood.

Yesterday, Marcus Freeman and his girlfriend were headed home on I-75 from a dentist appointment. On the way home Marcus lost control of the vehicle and was killed shortly after the impact of the crash. With news and technology in todays world, news travels faster than ever.

Within an hour of the accident you can see concerned teenagers posting comments on Facebook asking for details and asking to know that everything is OK. Then over the process of a few hours you can begin to read the shock and heartache in the comments made by friends and loved ones as the news spread.

Marcus passed away leaving behind countless friends that are trying to understand how something so tragic could happen to someone they knew so well.

Many times we understand that those things happen in the world we live in, but not to us! Not in our neighborhoods. However scripture says in Hebrews that: “it is appointed unto men once to die”, and the Psalmist wrote: “What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?”

There are two main issues that occur for a teenager during a tragic death:

1. The teenager grieves over the loss of a friend, or acquaintance.

2. The teenager is stunned at the realization that death is possible even at their age.

 

So the question is: (With the hope that you never need to ask it)

How can we help teenager grieving over the death of another teen?

1. A teenager needs unconditional love and patience during a time of mourning.

2. A teenager needs a listener not a teacher during a time of mourning.

3.  A teenager needs adults to understand different gender responses:

– Guys tend to hold things in and respond out of anger. Provide a safe environment for guys to be emotional.

– Girls will generally have very obvious emotions. Provide support and appropriate physical comfort.

4. A teenager needs the people closest to them to be available for communication and support.

5. A teenager needs to understand the importance of being honest, open, and transparent about their emotions.

6. A teenager needs to be encouraged and told that it is a good thing to seek help and counseling.

7. A teenager needs people to be OK with silence and give them space if they appear to need time alone.

8. A teenager needs to be able to continue with as much normalcy and continuity in life as possible.

9. A teenager needs to share the good memories and funny stories about their deceased loved one.

10. A teenager needs to be encouraged to think about others and not only on themselves during a time of loss.

 

Take some time to pray for the Freeman family and the O’Boyle family today and post any prayer requests of other tragedies that you may need prayer for in the comment section below.

I Hate Monotony!

I Hate Monotony. I hate it when life gets so routine that the weeks and months fly by, and instead of achieving goals and reaching for the stars we find ourselves sitting around wasting time.

Monotony is a straight line. Christ tells us in the Gospel of John that He came so that we will have “life more abundant”. I don’t know about you, but I do not visualize “life more abundant” as a straight line. What are we missing? How do we allow life to get so boring, when Jesus said that He has come to bring life, and life more abundant?

Here are some things that I think causes our life to fill up with a straight line, instead of filling up with abundance.

1. I think our lives get monotonous when we get too busy to think.

Sometimes it is so important to get away. We must set aside time to go somewhere alone, and allow our mind to challenge the status quo. We must reflect on where we are and where we want to go. We must reflect on the things that are most important to us.

When I am speeding down the interstate at 120 mph (not that I would know), it is not easy to have a time of reflection, or an important conversation. If I am going to focus on meaningful conversation or reflection, I must SLOW DOWN.

2. I think our lives get monotonous when we are not serving others.

It is far to easy and normal to live every day looking for ways to serve ourselves. The trouble with being passionate about serving ourselves, is that it never really brings the joy that it promises. When I am constantly trying to entertain myself, I soon realize that IT DOES NOT MAKE ME HAPPY. What?? I thought whenever, I want something, and then I get it, I am supposed to be content. Tried it lately? It does not work. Life gets boring when we are constantly trying to please ourselves and we quickly find that we cannot be satisfied. Only when we follow the example of Christ and serve others do we find that genuine peace and fulfillment. Now let me be clear, I have in no way mastered this, many days, I still wake up trying to please myself, (just in case it works this time…but so far, no success) but I only find real joy when I serve others.

3. I think that life gets monotonous when we stop focusing on all that we have and instead focus on what we do not have.

Have you ever watched the wealth channel? It is so neat to watch a show about those amazing Yachts and dream about one day cruising the world on your very own private yacht. The fact is that when I see  all of those cool things on TV, it makes me think less of what I already have. As a result, I begin to look at my nice home, cool tv, and paid off car and think: “Man, I don’t have ANYTHING like that!! My life is SOOOO BORING!!!”

That is what Satan wants. If I am displeased with everything that I have I am more vulnerable to fall into some kind of sin. When I am too busy to spend time with God, when I am too self-centered to serve others, and when I am  too distracted by what I dont have instead of thanking God for what I do have, I then enter dangerous territory, where many Christians, and many families have fallen by the wayside.

Don’t live your life in motonony, instead, slow down, serve others, and thank God for what you have, and you will be on the right track towards an abundant life.

Wilds or Bust!!

This is a blog that we wrote for our church last year to share specifically, how to pray for our teenagers and sponsors while at camp. The information is still completely relevant! Please pray for us! Thank you!

 

Well today is Friday and we will be heading to the Wilds in just about 48 hours. I cannot express my excitement in words. We have gone two other years since I have been the youth pastor at Suncoast Baptist Church, but for some reason there is a little bit more excitement this time than before. I believe it has something to do with the fact that God has really been working in our youth ministry and in our church for the last two months in a very special way, and I believe that God has been preparing hearts and futures for this week.

I have been begging our church to pray for our teens for the upcoming week and if you are reading this before camp, or during camp then I ask you as well to lift up this week of camp in prayer. Here are some things you can pray about.

Pray for Safety

We are leaving Sunday night after church around 9:00pm and we will be driving overnight in 4 large passenger vans. It is a 12 hour drive , so please pray that we will get to camp safely with no issues at all. We will leave the camp on Saturday morning around 8:00am and we will be driving all day long to arrive back at the church sometime around 10pm or so.

Pray for Good Attitudes

We are traveling for a long time with 49 people. There will definitely be frustrating issues and stressful situations, so please pray for our teenagers and our chaperones that we will all be long-suffering and very patient.

Pray for Tender Hearts

God will do the greatest work in the teenager that has the most responsive heart. I believe that God will change our teenagers and our church and our city if our teenagers will soften their hearts to the Lord and completely surrender to Him.

Pray for Salvation

We are taking several teenagers that have not began a relationship with Christ. Please pray (especially on Wednesday) that they will clearly hear the gospel and turn to Christ. PRay that their salvation will be powerful, memorable, and genuine!

Pray for God’s Calling

I believe that God will call some of our teenagers to attend Bible college, and some even into full time service into the ministry. Pray that our teenagers will see that not only as an option, but as an honor and a privelege.

If you have not been praying, please start right now. We are leaving in a short time, and it is going to be the best week of some of these teenagers lives. I know that the summer that I graduated from High School, I went to the Wilds, and that week was the turning point in my life. I know that God wants many more turning points this next week!

Thanks for reading! Now Pray! 🙂

A Refreshing Day… WITH TEENAGERS?!?!

Well if you were to ask a hundred adults how they would want to enjoy a  refreshing day, I bet none of them would say that they want to enjoy a refeshing day with almost 20 teenagers. Believe it or not, today I did just that. I know, it may be hard to believe, but I spent the day (from 10:00am – 5:30pm) with almost 20 teenagers and I had such a great time.

We decided to make MLK Day an activity to hang out with each other instead of sleeping in until 3:00pm.

The day started with a couple board games, then we went outside and played a huge game of basketball. After that we had lunch, then we talked about some exciting plans for our youth ministry for about an hour. After that, we went outside and played football for a while and then we came in and “Jammed” to some awesome music.

It was definitely an action packed day, which might make you wonder how I could call that refreshing. Well, the fact is, it was not physically refreshing, but spiritually and emotionally refreshing. I was able to spend the day with several great teenagers! They were so much fun to be around. We spent time talking about what we can to to make our youth group even better. We spent time learning some new things on the guitar and piano. We even spent some time recruiting a few teenagers into the Church Orchestra! (Yay! Jessica!!!)

It was such a delightful day!

It makes me wonder… WHY IN THE WORLD IS IT SO HARD TO FIND YOUTH WORKERS?!?!?!?!

God has truly blessed our church with some sharp teenagers and they are in some of the most important decision making days of their lives. I would think that if there were people who want to make a difference in someones life, that I would have a waiting list of workers trying to get in to work with the teenagers. But instead, I am with the teenagers each week, alone… Did you get that? 35 teens and one adult. Think about the impact that our church could have on teenagers, with just a few more adults. I am praying that God will provide some adults that want to get involved with some teenagers to encourage them and edify them in the Lord during some of their most difficult days…

Here are a few misconceptions that I believe keep people away from serving in the youth ministry.

1. Teenagers have bad attitudes.

Maybe your teenagers have bad attitudes, but honestly, most teenagers don’t. See, when my 2 year old son is around his mommy and I, the kid can be really naughty!! Seriously, but as soon as he is somewhere else, with someone he is not as familiar with, he magically turns into an angel. That doesn’t change when they become teenagers… Ok, well maybe they aren’t angels, but they do not hate everyone all the time. The way to get past the apparent attitude is to build a relationship with them… By the way: You are probably the same way, you are a little bit friendlier and warmer to the people who have formed a relationship with you.

2. Teenagers think that they are too cool for me.

No they don’t. They are so insecure that they ACT like they think they are too cool for you, but inside they know that they are not. What they need is someone who will build and edify and love them (unconditionally). If they are receiving the encouragement that they long for, once again, the walls will come down.

3. It is the Youth Pastors Job to reach our teenagers.

Wrong again. Sorry, but it is not. God says that it is the parents job, so parents… come get involved. I often hear the excuse that, “my teenagers don’t want me around them and their friends.” If they don’t want you around, there is probably a reason… Fix it! Stop nagging them, or getting on to them about being silly… Major on the majors and minor on the minors.

My parents weren’t perfect, but somehow… they were cool! And my friends loved having them around! Be cool Mom and Dad!  (not weird… that is embarrasing) Get involved!

4. I could never teach a lesson to teenagers!!!

You don’t have too!!  Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” Many times, they are not listening anyway… they are watching… Be the real deal and it will rub off. That is better than any preaching you or I can ever do!

5. Teenagers don’t want to talk to me.

Yes they do… they are just insecure! So, stop being insecure yourself, and GO TALK TO THEM!!!!

6. I don’t know how to get involved.

I am so glad you asked… see the nearest youth pastor TODAY!!! and sign up! Get involved as soon as possible! Seriously! If you put it off, then you will forget about it and your youth pastor will continue to be all alone week by week! What a refreshing time you are missing out on!!! Get involved today!!!