Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pondering a Japanese Steakhouse Dinner

I hope that all of you have enjoyed this Christmas Season...I know that I have. In fact, this has been one of the most memorable weekends of my life. A "White" Christmas was a reality this year and my daughter Rylee was a joy to watch as she opened her gifts. (It's amazing how a fever of 101 does not stop a two year old at Christmas.) But the part of this weekend that I have chosen to speak on today did not actually even take place this weekend (It happened Thursday night) however, I have been thinking about it all weekend.

Thursday night Em and I had the pleasure of going to one of our favorite restaurants (Tokyo Hibachi) and dining with some very special people. We did not eat with family members. We did not eat with childhood friends. We didn't even eat with people that are our age. We met, had dinner, and spent the duration of the evening with four young adults. Chevy, Perry, Katherine, and Josh all range from 18-20 years old and to say that I was excited about going out with them would be an understatement. In reality, I was thrilled at the opportunity! The tipping point of my excitement was when I was getting ready before we left. As I was brushing my teeth, showering, fixing my hair, and doing my normal routine before going out, I was suddenly overcome with emotion. As I began to think of the company that Em and I would be with, I began to cry. There were even moment when I literally stopped moving, looked up, and told God "thank you" as tears rolled down my cheeks. I eventually got myself together and we were out the door. The dinner was great and we all had a great time as I knew we would.

I am an emotional person. Now I don't cry in movies. I don't weep when people yell at me or make me mad. I don't even cry often. But on this particular night, the tears flowed easily from my eyes. I began to think of how grateful I was to have these young men and this young woman in my life. I also thought of how they all wanted to be spending this free night, before a holiday weekend, with Emily and I. You're probably wondering what the big deal is. After all, Emily and I are youth pastors so we hang out with people younger than us all of the time. But what made this moment and this group special was that I began to see how these people were a part of our legacy.

We have worked with teens for more than five years now. We have had the honor of serving and getting to know so many different students over the years. Some have been a lot of fun and others have.....well...not been as fun to deal with at times. That's youth ministry! Ask any youth pastor, social worker, or high school teacher and they will give you the same type of analysis of today's students. Unfortunately, some don't always stay as close to us or to the church after they have grown older. I personally have deep feelings of regret when thinking about the lives of some the students that have been under our leadership. Did we do enough for them? Did we pray enough? Did we call them enough? Did we do everything that we could to keep them on the "straight and narrow?" These questions still haunt me sometimes as I think back on some of the names of the students we have dealt with.

I believe that the dinner that we had with those four young adults was a gift from God to me and Emily. These four lives are now out of high school and stepping into, or have already stepped into the next phase of their lives. They love God with an incredible passion and each of them understands how God has raised them up and will use their own personal "stories" to benefit the Kingdom. I believe that they will all touch many lives with their testimonies and every life that they touch is an extension of our efforts into their lives. What an amazing and humbling thought???!!??

I have always wanted to be someone that made a difference, not just in my own little part of the world, but in as much of this earth as I could. I can't "save the world" but if I can make a difference in a handful of lives, then who knows how many more they will touch. Think about Mordecai Ham. Not many people know who he is. Ham traveled the US as an evangelist throughout the 1930's. At a meeting just outside of Charlotte, NC, a 16-year old boy walked forward and accepted the invitation by Ham to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of his life. You probably HAVE heard of that 16-year old boy. He went on to preach the Gospel of Christ to more people than any other man in history. That boy's name was Billy Graham.

The millions of lives that were changed under Dr. Graham were all just an extension of Mordecai Ham's legacy. Those lives can be thankful just as much for Mordecai Ham as they can for Billy Graham. If Ham isn't faithful to the Gospel, then who knows whether or not Graham hears the saving message of Christ.

This is why it is important to pour into other people's lives. What good is it to live life just for one's self anyways? You never know the difference you may be making in others. The next Billy Graham may just be sitting at the dinner table with you!    

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Come and Go With Me to My Father's House"

A verse of scripture has been on my mind a lot over the last few days. Hebrews 10:24-25  "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Growing up, going to church was never an option. If the doors were open, we were there. It didn't matter what was going on that day or night. I attended all of the worship services for Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, all Sunday School classes,  Wednesday Night Family Training Hour, Revival services (no matter what night of the week it was or how long the services or the revival itself lasted), Christmas Cantatas, Easter Sunrise services and EVERYTHING ELSE IN BETWEEN! From a young age I quickly understood the importance of going to church, not just for me,  but for everyone else! In reality, no one ever had to make me go to church. I wanted to go. Sure the reasons I wanted to go varied from week to week, especially in my teen years, and to be honest, many times I went just for the "social" aspects of youth group.

Many years have gone by and I have grown up quite a bit. I have my own family now and I am able to make my own decisions. No one MAKES me go to church anymore. It is my choice to go every week and I feel that I am obligated by God to make sure that my family attends every week with me. In fact, every Sunday morning since Rylee has been born, I walk throughout the house before we leave for church singing "We're going to the House of the Loooooord!" Unfortunately this sometimes does not inspire the rest of my family. (Most of the time Em and Rylee look at me with an annoyed look on their faces....but I sing it out anyways!) For me it is a joy to go to the House of the Lord! Sunday morning is not always the easiest day to get up. Em and I don't always get along on Sunday morning. (She is most definently NOT a morning person and I, as stated in my previous Blog, am a morning person....a conflict is bound to arise at some point) Most of the time we barely get out the door on Sunday morning. But when we get there, I know that it has all been worth it.

What concerns me is the amount of Christians who do not attend worship services on a regular basis. Some feel that they do not have time. Some find no joy in going. Some look for any excuse that they can to get out of going. Some feel that they must only fill a monthly quota. Some don't come because they don't like the people. Some don't come because they don't like the music. Some only show up for holidays and special occasions. Some don't come because they don't like the preacher, and yes, even some don't come because they do not like the youth pastor! What bothers me the most is that some Christians don't come because they do not see the need. I feel that this is a dangerous state to find oneself in.

I don't care who you are, how long you have been married, or how good your children are, your family needs to worship in the House of God TOGETHER! All families have trials and strife, but the families that I have seen crumble the fastest, are families that did not unite together in weekly worship together. There are exceptions to the rule of course. I also understand that not all kids that are raised in church grow up to become life-long believers in Christ. I do however know that children watch very closely to what their parents view as "priorities." Children will emulate mom and dad and most of children's convictions are passed on by mom and dad. So what do your children see as a priority to you? I know many moms and dads who would never miss a softball or basketball game. They do everything that they can and spend as much money as necessary to make sure that they can cheer on their child. But when Sunday comes around, there's always an "excuse." What does that show a child or teenager? Why would you expect them to grow up with any desire to be faithful to a church if you have not shown them the importance?

So now I go back to the verse from Hebrews that exhorts us to "not give up meeting together," and to "spur one another on toward love good deeds." We need each other and each of us needs to be willing to give of ourselves so that we may be a blessing to God and to one another. I need my brothers and sisters at my church just as much as they need me. So ask yourself this question..."How many people have been in need of me lately?"

See ya Sunday! :)   

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Snoozing Struggle

Why did you get out of bed today? Seriously....why did you do it? We all have those mornings when it's rainy and cold outside and the most comfortable place to be is in the refuge of your own bed. To actually push the covers off and step out of the bed is a difficult task. A day awaits you once you have taken that first step . Maybe you already have your day planned out with work, school, appointments, etc. The fact of the matter is that no matter what we have "planned" for the day, nothing ever goes the way that we plan it to go. Appointments have to be canceled, schedules have to be moved around, and adjustments have to sometimes be quickly made as the days plays out. So why even get out of bed? So much uncertainty awaits you once you finally emerge from your slumber. Maybe you are like me and you delay this confrontation with life by hitting the SNOOZE button on your alarm two or three times before actually emerging from bed. It's not like the extra 14 total snooze minutes helps with your sleep deprivation. It's just a delay to the inevitable. The truth is that we feel that we are unprepared to start the day. Again, we don't know what to expect and although some people enjoy the excitement of surprises, others (including me) don't favor them as much. I believe that there is a bit of fear inside all of us as we ponder the question "What do you have for me today God?" I should probably say that I am optimistic by nature and that I am also a "morning" person. Generally once I have gotten out of bed, I hit the ground running and it is pedal to the metal for the next 18 or so hours. But the hesitation is there. In reality I must get out of bed. How will my bills be paid, my family be fed, and the luxuries of this life be met unless I go work at my job? I have no choice, I must get up! What good would it be to lay in bed and just waste away? It's obvious that getting up IS a necessity and we really do have no other choice. Even though we know this is true, we wrestle with this conflict daily. On those days when I do hit the snooze button once, twice, and on Thursdays mornings after a long night, sometimes THREE times, I often quote the words from an old AudioA song, "I want to say a prayer before my feet can hit the ground. Lord I give this day to You." Isn't that what it really all comes down to? To trust God for the things you know are about to happen is one thing, but to trust Him for the things that you know nothing about is another! So I guess I really don't have a SNOOZING problem...I have a TRUST problem. Can you relate?