Thursday, December 11, 2008

We need adults to step up!

We need adults to lead the youth of today. I, personally, cannot take each of them under my wing and shelter them from every little thing they don't like. It's a physical impossibility. Quite frankly, I want them to learn to step up and get stuff done whether they "like" it or not. They need to realize this world isn't about them, that it's all God's... it's all His. And the adults (you, me, whoever) need to step up and take an interest in teaching youth how to function in the world while they're here, but to not be like the world. Many of them are very mature in their faith, but they're also very immature as a result of the society they are growing up in.

What do I mean by that? Well, they know the Bible in their head, and some of it has even gotten into their heart, but for the most part it's just recited mantras that will turn people off to the gospel. It's up to us, the adults, to lead them to be leaders. There are natural born leaders out there, sure, but they still need to learn how to lead effectively. Again, this is where the adults have to step it up.

If we want the youth to lead, then we must help facilitate their growth in leadership. This is where the discipleship comes in... you could even call it mentoring. We can't just throw them to the wolves. We can't just say, "Hey you... Go lead!" I take that back... We can, but it will only be detrimental. We (adults) need to come up with a training program, of sorts, so these youth can truly grow not only in Christ, but as a people! Youth today are cliquey. Cliquey people tend to be that way because they don't have direction; they don't have direction because an option isn't supplied to them to do something different; and if it is they're not going to take the initiative to get off their butt and do it unless something, or someone, makes them. Today's youth are not a generation who is outgoing and paving their own way. They prefer to be safe, stick to things they are comfortable with, and bail on anything that is not that way. They operate behind the scenes, prefer to stick to themselves, trust VERY FEW people (and the ones they do trust only earn that trust sometimes after years of trying), and they are extremely unwilling to try something "new" if they're not sure of the outcome. This is the breaking point. This is where their mentors come in.

Mentors have to encourage them and keep pushing them to grow. I'm truly afraid that this generation, in the low-touch society we live in (see MySpace, Facebook, Plaxo, etc) is going to end up a bunch of hermits who live by themselves, who possibly "find love" on places like (or worse), and that they are not going to know how to interact with people. And the worst part? It's not their fault... it's ours. Look at the parents! Most youth today don't have a stable home life, they have multiple people who are supposed to be father/mother figures in their life but usually do a pretty crummy job, they don't have to work because their parents give them whatever they want (because when they were a child they didn't get everything they wanted so they now vow to give their spoiled brats whatever their little wanter wants), and then they come to church and hear about the things of God and they can't even imagine a love like that!

They need coaching in life because their parents are so stinkin' caught up in themselves that they have almost no time to think about their kids... except to buy them something. I'm not saying this is the case with every youth out there, but this is the culture and society that they are living in... whether we like it or not, that's the way it is.

So c'mon adults! Get over yourself and mentor someone younger than you! Who cares if you think you can't do it, or think you're not "mature" enough to do it. These kids don't need some deep spiritual philosophy shoved down their throat, but they do need to be shown the love of Christ. They do need to be shown what it means to live in the world while still living out their Christian faith. So many of them have such unstable family lives, or lack thereof, that they don't even know how they're supposed to interact with other people. The "father" figure comes home drunk, cussing and swearing up a storm, maybe even hits the wife or girlfriend, or worse, hits the child, and that's what the youth thinks is normal... this is what he/she knows, so it has to be normal. Right? Or what about the mother who has custody of the kids, speaks beyond poorly about their father, has a new boyfriend every month, might even be addicted to drugs or painkillers, and the youth begin to think that's normal too? These are real scenarios of people I know, and youth that I know, and it's heartbreaking... yes... but what are we going to do about it? Are we just going to sit here and do nothing? Allow these atrocities to continue?

How about get off your butt and see if that kid is looking for a friend? How about take that child under your wing and show them the love of Christ? How about get involved in their life and maybe even their parents' lives? Make a difference Christian! You're sitting there with the greatest gift that could ever be given to you, and it's available for everyone else too... FOR FREE!! Get out there and share this stuff!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don't Freak Out!

During all the craziness of the past several weeks with the market doing what it’s doing, and the Presidential race heating up, I’ve been inspired to write about our hearts. It seems that no matter who you talk to, they have some input on what’s wrong with America and the world. Many are even convinced that the End Times are right around the corner! Revelation does talk about "right will be wrong, and wrong will be right" though, doesn't it? Between gay marriage being “the norm” and considered “ok” by lawmakers, abortion being legal, our free-enterprise market being influenced by greed, the adult entertainment industry making money hand over fist, murder and kidnapping becoming an every day headline (that we usually skip over and don’t even give a second look), the threat of terrorism controlling our thoughts, consumerism being marketed to anyone age “0” and up, and several other morally reprehensible things taking place, I begin to wonder where we are really?? Is revelation around the corner? Are we really, actually, finally there? It seems like people have thought it was right around the corner with almost every generation though, so I guess that fact brings me back to the reality that it might not even be that bad yet! When I consider all of the craziness going on in the world, the only peace I have comes from knowing God is enough no matter what happens.

Here are some questions that have been posed to me regarding the current state of our economy, what’s around the corner, and the state of our country as a whole.

1. What is God trying to teach us?
2. What is God trying to get us to do?
3. How can we come along side those being impacted worse than us to help comfort them?
4. What role are we going to take in turning this (perhaps long term) into a change where God will be glorified?
5. What immediate steps need to be taken to set the stage for achieving God's long term plans for each of us and the country?

These questions are good ones, and I firmly believe that they are questions that need to be addressed. They get to the very core of our beliefs and our existence while we're on this planet. I also think that the best way to tackle these questions is through a Godly perspective. What I mean by that is this (answered according to the questions posed):

1. God is teaching us that we must seek Him in everything we do. He is obviously trying to teach us to rely on Him, and to get us to realize that He is ultimately in control. I'm sure there is more to it, but I'm pretty sure it starts with us humbling ourselves and realizing that we cannot do anything apart from Him. We start this process by reading, studying, and taking to heart James 4 (all of it) and move through the rest of the Bible from there.

2. Also, we must seek to live as Christ lived while He walked this earth by reaching out to those who are hurting. Christ came alongside those who were hurting and those who needed love. In fact, He still does and always will! We are lucky in the fact that many times He chooses to use us (Christians) as His hands and feet. I think that God is trying to get the attention of Christians across this nation, and that He's giving us a bit of a shove out the door to get off our rumps and start making an impact for Him! For way too long we Christians have been satisfied with going to church, being “good,” and more often than not being complacent and luke-warm in our walk and with the Great Commission.

3. We must not only provide for their physical needs, but also show them the truth and love of Jesus Christ. I'm not saying hit them over the head with a bible, but showing them the love of Christ and telling them why we act in that manner, speaks to something much deeper inside the human spirit. Now, whether they reject it or not is up to them, but it is our responsibility to show others the way to Christ (see Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:14-16, Luke 24:44-49, John 21:15-17, Acts 1:8). We are supposed to reach all the nations of the world for Christ!

4. Again, I don't know what we're going to do as a country, but I sure know what would make a HUGE difference! Can you imagine if everyone in the United States who calls themselves a Christian truly made the commitment to live for Christ every day and every hour?!? Better yet, what if we all spoke the Name and message of Jesus out loud for people to hear? What if we started to show the love of Christ to every person we came in contact with? You talk about a revival of morals, and the revival of a nation! I can't think of a better way to rejuvenate the judgement of our elected officials. When our country was originally established the general populous was of (mainly) the same moral standards. Today, we have moral standards that run the gamut! What we lack are moral values, and there is no better way to revitalize those moral values than holding to biblical values!

5. In the famous slogan from Nike: Just Do It! We need to quit being afraid to share Jesus. He's the greatest thing that ever happened to us... why do we hide it?? God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and a sound mind! We need to quit accepting the issues that require a sacrifice of our morals. Tolerance, in love, can be beneficial to a point, but it should not push our moral values back; our morals (hopefully God's laws) are what should guide the tolerance, and love can sometimes be tough!

We must exalt God above anything else on this earth, which includes country, family, job, money, and anything else this world has to offer. The answers are actually obvious, but they are tough and we often don’t want to deal with them. They are tough to hear, and even tougher to carry out day to day. But you know what? It's doable, and it's necessary for our world to straighten up and fly right. I think that, rather than fighting the issues that everyone sees on the surface, we need to start fighting for the hearts of men so they can start fighting for the heart of God!

What's happened to the "American Christian" (myself included) is that we've become comfortable and soft! We go to church on Sundays and offer empty praise, maybe even sometimes real praise, to God, but a lot of the time we don't even think about God the entire week leading up to the church service! After the service we go out to lunch (some go “out to lunch” during the service), we are served food from those we pay to do it(which is a telltale sign of being rich in most countries), complain about the service we're receiving, maybe even complain about the service we just attended at church, pay the restaurant what is due(probably after scrutinizing the bill), maybe give the server a tip if they were "good enough"(who are we to judge?), get in our vehicle that burns fossil fuel(also a sign of being rich), drive along paved and painted roads, arrive at home where we have a pantry full of food that we probably could've eaten instead of going out (but it's easier to pay someone else to do it), open the door into our home (be it a house, apartment, condo, etc.) which is something that about 60% of the world's population only dreams of living in, then we'll sit down and watch TV, read a book, play a game, or do some other activity and dread the next day that we have to go to work so we can pay for all this. That gets us through about 4-5 hours on one day of the week. The rest of the week consists of going to work, hanging out with friends, catching a movie, talking about how to spend our money(HAHA! Our money!), planning for events in the future, going on vacation, driving to and from work, soccer games, baseball games, dance practice, piano recitals, talking on our cell phones, emailing, and whatever else might take up our time. That doesn’t leave much for God now does it! How about this? How about we start our day with God? How about we keep God’s rules the presiding factor over all our decisions... all day? How about we keep God at the forefront of any discussions we might have... all day? How about we go to God before we do anything... all day? I mean anything! Why not? We know it’s where we need to be, and we even know that life seems to go a lot better when God is our center, yet we rarely remember to even include God in our daily lives.

Let’s get a revival going by exalting the Most High God above anything else that may capture our interest on this planet! Let’s get our hearts back to the core of God’s principles, and abandon the world’s standards that are thrown in our face every day! Let’s get ourselves on the same page as God by reading our Bibles, studying His Word, and getting on our knees! Let’s STOP doing what we’re doing and turn to God... I mean it... Right now! This is the end of this entry...Go pray for God’s heart to become your heart!!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Economic Woes

Ok... Seriously. I'm about sick of hearing the blame game toward politicians on the crumbling market issue. I don't care if you're anit-Bush or for Obama or McCain. This whole financial crisis is due to our own stupidity and the predatory lending practices that many companies were involved in (and probably still are). The housing market boom, then bust, then failure is why Wall Street is in so much turmoil. Emotions are riding high, low, and everywhere in between because none of us know where the market is actually headed, and most of us don't have a clue what it means when the market fluctuates. Here's the thing that ticks me off more than anything else: Too many people out there are so ready to blame congress, the president, the big companies, and pretty much ANY other entity than themselves/ourselves. Yes...these predatory lending type companies should be allowed to fail; I think that's a fair statement. They wrote loans that should never have been written in the first place, and that's their fault. That being said, however, they were under pressure to write the loans because the government, during the Clinton administration, declared that people had to have equal rights to home loans. It's a little more involved than that, but that's what happened in a nutshell. The fact still remains, though, that these companies, though under pressure, still made these bad debt loans when they didn't have to. Another fair statement is that the credit turds who signed on the dotted line without reading their paperwork should be foreclosed on too! They took loans out because somebody told them they could get money! Whoohoo! Now look where we are!!

I mean really, do you think John McCain or Barak Obama really had something to do with people taking out stupid loans? Probably not. Do you think Obama or McCain will be able to fix stupidity? Probably not. Do you really think it's Bush's fault that people don't pay attention to what they're signing even if it's a loan for a house...their livelihood? Probably not that either. Listen, the only thing that's going to turn this country around is if we, as individual American citizens, become responsible for ourselves and quit blaming everyone/anyone else for our financial woes.

Maybe it's not you that did it; maybe you're not the fool who signed on the dotted line of a bad loan. Maybe you are. But that's not the issue. The issue is that it's time for change, and I'm not talking about the Obama campaign.

It's time to:
1. Change the way we think
2. Stop buying stuff with money we don't have
3. Stop buying stuff we don't need
4. Stop buying everything in sight that tickles our fancy at that moment
5. Pay attention to what you're buying, how you're buying it, and what the implications of that are
6. If you have to take out a loan, look at and read what you're signing
7. Take responsibility for your own actions; own up to your mistakes
8. Spread the word about being financially responsible, and just being responsible all-around!

If we ALL watched what we did our country would be a lot better off. The good news is this: It's not too late!! We still live in the greatest country in the world, no matter who's president, and as American citizens we would all benefit by becoming less selfish and start figuring out how we can help others in need so our government doesn't have to. If we were able to do this and help each other out, we might be able to do away with welfare programs all together! Oh no! I said get rid of welfare! Well yeah...I did! Because if we really helped others in need, then welfare wouldn't need to exist! Then there's less money taken by the government in taxes from your check, and you're able to help others, or yourself at that point, out even more! This is just one example of how we can help each other out, our country out, and ultimately ourselves!
Really it's not that hard to figure out. It takes changing our selfishness and the way we think, which will take time, but it's doable! It's so simple! Let's keep this country great before it goes down the tube with our own stupidity and selfishness at the helm. C'mon America...WAKE UP!!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Just a day in the life...

Well, as the title suggests this is about my day so far today. Today it seems like has been packed full of stuff...and it's only 1:20pm! Seriously though, this is pretty much how every day is. There are always stories to hear about people when Keith and I get together to talk about the happenings in the QBC body of believers. We talk about prayer requests, happenings at softball games, surgeries, operations, praises, stuff that needs to be done, tasks for the day, the message he's giving Sunday morning, any particular song requests, and so on and so forth.
Today was usual, talking about all the stuff I mentioned above, but today is also different. As I type we have a new sound system being installed in our auditorium. This is an interesting thing in and of itself. There are those who like the idea of more control over our sound, and some who are more opposed. I have found that church buildings are a very fickle thing, and the congregations that govern them are even more so. This is not a bad thing, nor am I complaining. I'm merely stating a fact and an observation that I've noticed. I think that us all being so different is really a wonderful testament to how God works in anyone's life! I mean, I'm so different (most of you are saying "'re an odd one!") from everyone I know, but they don't even include the people I don't know. Think about it...If we were to consider every person we've ever known or met we'd probably be in the thousands (for number of people). Say you knew and/or met 500,000 people in your lifetime; that's a lot of people! Now, take that number out of how many people live in this world. We're at what, 6.7 billion now? So that leaves us with about 6,600,500,000 people that we've never met, seen, or talked to! The amazing thing about this is that God has the ability to reach every person! I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty cool!
So, back to almost my point in all this. Do you think, on the off chance, that there are other people in the world whose thoughts don't quite line up with yours? I mean, if your friends and acquaintances don't all line up with your thinking 100%, do you think that someone from a different country, lifestyle, and language may think differently than you? Do you think that maybe in your own church congregation there might be someone who disagrees with you in any way whatsoever? I'd venture this answer: "DUH!" Hmmm...I'm battling going on another rabbit trail or staying here...I'll stay here for your sanity.
Now the point, which is simply this: "So what?" So what if you like music louder than the person next to you. So what if you like music quieter than the person next to you. So what if you're older or younger? So what if you prefer the King James version of the Bible? So what if you can't understand what the KJV is trying to say? So what if you don't know what half of the big fancy church words we use mean? So what if the drums are too loud? So what if we're singing a hymn instead of a contemporary song? So what (and this will upset people) if the flag(s) are on the appropriate side of the stage? So what if your church doesn't even flags? So what if someone is sitting in "your seat" this Sunday? So what if you walk in and all you see are a bunch of "blue haired" people? So what if the music is to your liking? So what if the pastor is wearing a 3-piece suit? So what if he isn't? So what if the leaders in the church are spending money on a new building, and you don't agree with it? (have you ever thought, "gee, maybe that's why I'm not in leadership here?") So what if the leaders in the church are spending money on painting the outside of the building? So what if they're trying to make the church look nice so it's more attractive to people? So what if you think this is a wrong approach to ministry?
Do you know what it all boils down to, no matter what? -Because all that matters is JESUS!
Do you understand the necessity of all these differences? -Look at the differences between the disciples who followed Jesus. Though they all thought differently, and all reacted differently, they were striving, though failing like us, to be like JESUS.
Do you understand why the leaders at your church are the leaders at your church? - Because God put them there, and they are striving to follow JESUS!
Do you know why your church building is important in making an impact for God's Kingdom? -Because you MUST reach the community you live in. You MUST reach people like JESUS reached people. You MUST go into Samaria and talk to the woman at the well. You make yourself, your building, and your message applicable to those you are trying to reach! You're (hopefully) not going to speak Aramaic to someone from Japan. You're not going to speak German to your typical American. It doesn't make sense! We must be relevant. I'm not saying water down the message of Christ; far from it actually. But I am saying that we must present that message, the message we've been assigned to reach the ends of the earth with, with clarity. And in order to have clarity, the recipient of the message MUST understand it! How do they understand it? By speaking a language they understand. By being relevant to the culture they are a part of. This relevancy considers the environment they are in, have been a part of, and what they're looking toward.
We, as believers, are all part of this. What has worked in the past may still work, but it's also very likely that we need to break from those traditions and pursue different courses of action in order to be relevant to the community and culture(s) we are trying to reach. Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill church in Seattle has written a book about trying to be relevant to the culture(s) around us in the world today. There are a lot of precautions, though, in trying to reach these people. These precautions are what I will leave you with today, and also a good standard to measure our decision we make every day. The following are from "The Radical Reformission" by Mark Driscoll on page 104:
-Is it beneficial to me personally and to the gospel generally (1 Cor. 6:12)?
-Will I lose self-control and be mastered by what I participate in (1 Cor. 6:12)?
-Will I be doing this in the presence of someone who I know will fall into sin as a result (1 Cor. 8:9-10)?
-Is it a violation of the laws of my city, state, or nation (Rom. 13:1-7)?
-Can I do this with a clear conscience (Acts 24:16)?
-Will this cause me to sin by feeding sinful desires (Rom. 13:13-14)?
-Am I convinced that this is what God desires me to do (Rom. 14:23)?
-Does my participation proceed from my faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 14:23)?
-Am I doing this to help other people, or am I just being selfish (1 Cor. 10:24)?
-Can I do this in a way that glorifies God (1 Cor. 10:31-33)?
-Am I following the example of Jesus Christ to help save sinners (1 Cor. 10:33-11:1)?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Just another journal entry

So I've never really been good at keeping up on blogs, or diaries, or anything of that sort, but I'm going to try a little harder so you can all see what it's like to be me and/or a youth & worship minister in today's society.
As I mentioned in my previous post titled "missions trips and youth camp," I have been very, very busy with everything going on. I would like to say, though, that God is working in my life right now. I see Him allowing me greater access to the hearts of the youth, but He is also instilling a larger flame within me for Himself! I've been back now for just over a week, and haven't settled in to "the routine" yet. Last week was me running around like crazy and organizing all kinds of stuff that I hadn't been able to do for nearly 3 weeks. I had to get all of the music ready, pull all the old music off the stands and file it, pick the songs and organize the music for the upcoming worship service, organize meetings for both youth and worship, organize a retreat, get lessons together, order books and materials for different groups, study Financial Peace University stuff, and that's just getting the list started. It's kind of funny, people ask me all the time what I do and I never know what to tell them. I think I don't know what to tell them because I don't want to tell them everything that I do because it would bore them to tears, they'd think I'm lying, or they'd think I'm whining or bragging about how much I actually do. So I don't really have an answer for them. Maybe if they read this they'll get some idea of what goes on during my day and week. It may sound like I'm complaining right now, but I'm not. I want to make that very clear. In fact, I enjoy being busy all the time, and stretched beyond what I thought my capacity was. I enjoy it because I know that it actually IS beyond my capabilities, so I have to be completely and utterly reliant of God's strength, power, and wisdom. On that list I could have added my prayer and devotion time while I'm at work (which is separate from my personal time) over all of the activities that I do.
"Well, that seems like it'd take up a lot more time..." you might say. I'm telling you, if I didn't take/make the time to cover everything with prayer and give it all to the wouldn't really be His work then would it? Now, I realize that I'm not perfect, and I don't always take/make the time to do this, and that God will still bless the efforts made for Him even if He's not consulted first, but it's soooooooooo much easier to allow Him to work! When I leave God out I usually freak out, and never have enough time, and it seems like more and more stuff keeps piling up......and then it hits me: Have you prayed yet today? Have you sought God's will in this? DUH Jim! Figure it out dummy! It's kind of like tithing (giving some of what God gives you back to God). If you don't give back to the Lord, it seems like you're always short on money for bills, or food, or for whatever you want to spend money on. But if you're giving even 10% of your gross pay back to God, it seems like things are tight but it always works out that there's enough money to go around. Sometimes there's even more that if you'd kept it all for yourself. So wait Jim. You're saying that if I keep all of the money I get paid from my paycheck then I won't have as much as I would giving 10% of my gross pay away? Seems illogical, I know, but try it. You'll see what I'm talking about!
God is a God a greatness, mercy, and grace. He takes care of His people, sometimes even where we're dumb and "forget" to consult Him in EVERYTHING that we do. That brings me to the point of this rambling. God is everything. God wants our all. Our all is this:
Deuteronomy 10:12 (ESV) "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD, your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul..."
The italicized word "all" in this passage translates in Hebrew כּוֹל, and means "the whole" or "all". This meaning is pretty straightforward if you ask me! I know I've already hit on this, but it's so vitally important that we understand what this means! This doesn't mean start our day without God and then throw Him in where we can! This means that before we purchase anything, or deal with our work, or deal with our co-worker, or deal with our spouse, or deal with your family, or deal with your friends, or write a blog post...we MUST include God! And not only include Him, but make sure He's the reason and the source of all our actions!
I was recently on youtube going back and forth with an undiscerning atheist who said that his view of God is "Love me or die? That's rape (few choice words)!" I was greatly saddened by this comment because I know what He talking about. For so long "the church" has pushed right and wrong, do this don't do that, Hell, fire, and brimstone and now it's taking it's toll on those who only see God as a dictator who is standing in the clouds with a lightening bolt ready to strike people. And the saddest part about this is there are a lot of so called "Christians" out there who might agree with them! (such as the lunatics who protest at military funerals because there are gays in the military) So these lost people (atheists and otherwise) see these other lost people (the loons who hate) and think that this is what Christianity is. This is where the people who know who God really is come in. This group of people understand that God works for His glory and for the good of His people. God does this because He is a loving God, and He wants to enter into a relationship with us. Better said, He wants us to enter into a relationship with Him! This does not make us, in any way, equal with God, but it makes us become nothing so that we can become thankful servants of the Most High God and praise His Name forever! Even Christ, who was fully God and fully man, humbled himself and made himself nothing. He was obedient to the Father, even to the point of death. This is the example Christ gave...I choose to follow that example! I will end with two passages:
--Philipians 2:3-11
"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
--This one I will let you read, but pay attention to how Jesus humbles himself. The passage is John 13:1-20. Jesus washes the disciples' feet. The reason this is important is because they did not need their entire body washed, as it was customary that before a big meal people would wash from head to toe before going to the feast. But on there way to the feast they would have to walk and their feet and lower legs would get dirty and dusty. Usually their was someone, a servant, a no-namer, who would be charged with washing the feet of those who entered for the meal, but Jesus took this task upon himself. In doing so, he identified the job that he was doing as the same job as someone who was "nothing" in that day. Think about it...


So, I guess I really need to tell you that I wrote this post only a few days after Reece and Shauna had their beautiful little baby girl. So, here goes:

As one ends, another begins.

Over the last 18 hours I have experienced the death of a dearly loved one, my Great Uncle Dave, and have also experienced the birth of one of my best friend's beautiful baby girl. My Great Uncle Dave was a man full of life, love, and laughter, and he always had a joke or quip to lighten your heart. He lived a full life fathering wonderful children, grandfathering their children, and great-grandfathering their children as well. As I look back on a life that has been lived to the fullest, one lived in love and dedication to family and friends, I start to think about what life is supposed to look like. When a loved one passes, it seems like those effected by the loss always take a step back and reflect on what life is all about. Though Dave is gone here on earth, I, as a christian, have the comfort of knowing he believed in the almighty saving grace that was manifested through Christ's love for us and in his obedience in death on a cross. It's interesting to think that death can lead to life, isn't it?
When we think about life our minds most likely go to thinking about living, breathing, walking, talking, smelling, touching, and whatever else is tangible in our time here on earth. I think how my friend's little girl is going to be experiencing all of this for the first time over the next several years, from the breathing, crying, and bumbling around, to her first words, and steps, and experiencing the wonders of rain and sunshine, wind and calm, seeing a majestic rainbow for the first time, and standing in awe of an electrical storm, and then she'll start asking the inevitable questions, "how?" and "why?" By the grace of God her parents, who are believers, will be able to point her to His power in the storm, and His wisdom in gravity when she falls down while learning to walk, and His knowledge of what it takes for the cycle of life to happen through breath and rain, and they will be able to explain why the rainbow exists and God's promise in that rainbow. And by the grace of God, if it be His will, she will come to understand, and know, what and who God really is. And if if be God's will, she will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ's death on the cross for her.
In my reflection of these two events and Easter so fresh on my mind, I can't help but notice the underlying theme: We can have a new life if we surrender ourselves to God's will and recognize that God has given us new life in Jesus Christ. Just like newborn babes we can experience the wonder and awe of God's love and provision for us through His creation! As our old life, where we were dead in our sin, fades away, we are given new life by simply believing that Christ died for our sins. (Eph 2:1-10)
Lyrics to a song written by David Crowder read as follows:
Are we left here on our own? Can you feel when your last breath is gone?
Night is weighing heavy now, Be quiet and wait, For a voice that will say:
Come awake from sleep arise, You were dead become alive
Wake up wake up, Open your eyes
Climb from your grave, Into the light. Bring us back to life.
You are not the only one, Who feels like the only one.
Night soon will be lifted friend, Just be quiet and wait for a voice that will say:
Come awake from sleep arise, You were dead become alive
Wake up wake up, Open your eyes
Climb from your grave, Into the light. Bring us back to life.
Rise rise to life to life, Shine Light will shine, Love will rise, Light will shine,
Shine shine shine, He's shining on us now
Experience the new wonders that God desires to show you about Himself this month!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mission Trips and Youth camp!

As the title for this post suggests, I am writing about my recent 2.5 weeks spent with the youth group from Quinault Baptist Church. There's a title of an episode of How I Met Your Mother called "Okay...Awesome!" that could pretty much sum up how these two trips went. So, I'll get to it.
The first trip I went on was through an organization called World Changers, and we headed down to Salt Lake City. By we I mean my wife, 9 youth, and 3 other adults. And I would just like to premise this story with the fact that Daja and I had really only been able to get to know the youth during Sunday school, and on Sunday nights during youth group. So in reality, we saw them twice a week, but only one day out of the week. Another premise I should give you is, with Daja finishing up school, and working so often on the weekends, she really hadn't gotten nearly the chance to get to know these kids. So all that being said I'll start this 2+ week story!
We took off from Kennewick on Friday, July 4th, 2008 and headed toward Salt Lake City. This is not a short drive so we decided to stop in Twin Falls, Idaho to stay the night, eat some food, watch fireworks, etc. This proved to be a good decision as the youth were already pretty restless from driving only 5-6 hours. Who knew youngin's wouldn't be able to handle the long van ride?! Anyhow, we completed our trip to SLC the next day. I don't know if any of you have ever been to SLC, but I'll tell you's a hole! I mean, if it's not something that's owned by the Mormons it's trashy! More on that later.
So we pulled into Mormonville, USA and got situated in Granite (Park) middle school and went to our first welcome/worship service that Saturday evening. This next part I'm going to kind of "get through" so I can move on to more important things. Sunday we were all assigned to different groups (which meant splitting our group up...some of us being in a group with absolutely no one else we knew), and we went to our "host" churches for Sunday school and service. After church, we came back and spent the rest of Sunday trying to figure out what exactly we were doing, and where we were going, Monday morning for the "great send-off" at 7am, which, to our group felt suspiciously like 6am (from switching time zones)!
Monday-Friday's schedule was pretty much the same every day:
Wake-up, shower, get ready: 6am
Leave for work-site: 7am
Lunch at work-site: 12pm
Get back: 4-6pm
Dinner: 6pm
Worship: 7:30pm
Church Devotions: 9pm
Lights out: 11pm (which usually was earlier since we were exhausted!)
The food was great, and the work was tough. The work consisted mainly of construction type work, and it was usually to assist/help someone in need. Most of the people we helped had homes that were falling apart, and they were unable to really do anything about it (they were usually disabled, poor, and/or elderly). There were 18 construction groups and several of them stripped and replaced entire roofs. Others did concrete work; some made handicapped accessible ramps for homes; still others stripped and painted window sills, doors, siding, eaves; and pretty much all of us ended up cleaning up yards and doing some other general cosmetics (straightening gutters, staining decks, etc). All of this work was free of charge to the people who lived in the homes, and the expression of thanks and gratitude was overwhelming. We were down there to be a witness for the Lord to those in need in a highly LDS churched area.
All of us were tired, the whole week, and without cell phones, tv, internet, or any other thing that could be considered a distraction, and I'll tell you what......that's exactly where God wanted us to be! We were stripped of our usual creature comforts, and all the other "stuff" that takes up our time, and we were exhausted on top of that, so that all we could do is look to God to be our strength. God moved in the hearts of those who went, and He moved in the hearts of those we witnessed to. There were 8 decisions for Christ on just the work sites, and several more decisions for Christ in the youth that came to the event and realized they didn't know Him. God made an impact, through us, on the community of Salt Lake City too.
One thing that I took away from SLC was that there is an outcry against "church" in general. It seems that the people of SLC have been so "beat up" by the LDS church that most people who live there want nothing to do with ANY church (just because of the bad taste the LDS have made). It was good, though, to see people in the city warm up to us and for them to realize that there is a God who loves them, and that the "church" (LDS) they've been hit over the head with is in error. They were able to see that God is a living and loving God, and that He doesn't make church the ultimate thing in life; He makes Himself the ultimate thing in life (and thereafter)! Ok, I'll stop on that rant because I'll get going and not stop for a very long time. Maybe I'll chat about that at some other time.
So, we departed from World Changers at about 6:20am (Kennewick time) on Saturday July 12th, and we got back to Kennewick aroun 5:20pm. It was a pretty good drive, or at least uneventful anyhow. That was Saturday, and Sunday was a few hours away. Sunday morning was, of course, church and I was here for that (since I'm the Youth & Worship Minister), and we heard a great message from Garry Benfield. Sunday at 6pm was Youth Group, where the World Changers shared what God had taught them over the previous 8 days. Monday July 14th we packed up the van and trailer again and headed to camp Touchet (just outside of Dayton) around noon for Youth Camp!
Youth Camp was great! We had the luxury of some great food, great games, great worship, and most of all great teaching from the Word of God. Pastor Mark Howard, of Sunset View Baptist Chruch, brought the Word to us with the theme of "Boundaries." This was very applicable to the youth, and also very applicable to us adults. The thing that stuck with me most, thought, was when Mark taught on Deuteronomy 10:12 that reads:
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in ALL his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul..."
This sounds a lot like another verse in the bible, and though I've never doubted that this is what God wants, it just hit me like a ton of bricks what it means. When God says He wants ALL of us, what He means is that He wants to be first in every area, and in every aspect, of your life! It doesn't mean that we start doing something and then seek God's advice or will on it, and it doesn't mean that we fit God in here and there where we feel like it. What it means is that we are to fit our lives to His will; His good, pleasing, and perfect will! Again, I have known this for years, but it just never convicted me like it did this past week. I realized how much I "do" and how much I "serve" thinking that I'm doing what God would want me to do, but I rarely ever seek Him to see IF that's what He wants me to do! We Christians can get caught up in serving and doing good for people, and completely forget to ask if that particular thing is even what God wants us to do in the first place! Sheesh! Talk about an eye opener! My prayer since then has been that I will start to put God first in everything I do, not just when I feel like I need help. God wants to be our everything. He wants us to rely solely on Him for everything. I'll end with words to a truly heart piercing song. It's as follows:

Verse 1
God in my living
There in my breathing
God in my waking
God in my sleeping
God in my resting
There in my working
God in my thinking
God in my speaking

Verse 2
God in my hoping
There in my dreaming
God in my watching
God in my waiting
God in my laughing
There in my weeping
God in my hurting
God in my healing

Be my ev'rything
Be my ev'rything
Be my ev'rything
Be my ev'rything

Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the Hope of Glory
You are ev'rything
Christ in me
Christ in me
Christ in me the Hope of Glory
Be my ev'rything

You are ev'rything
You are ev'rything
You are ev'rything
You are ev'rything
Jesus ev'rything
Jesus ev'rything
Jesus ev'rything
Jesus ev'rything

Friday, April 11, 2008

The older Brown chimes in...

Ok, I had better start chiming in with some of my thoughts before all of you think I am oppressing my wife not to have children! I was told by "a friend" who's last name rhymes with "Eder" that I had better start having kids. Apparently Daja, in her blog, sounds so sad about seeing a lot of our friends starting to have babies, and we don't have any yet. This is amplified by her working as a labor and delivery nurse at the hospital where she gets to see new life come into the world almost every time she's at work! See, if I were a female, watching the pain of having a kid would be enough to keep me from having one, but my wonderful wife sees the true beauty of God's miracle in the birth of a child and the starting of a new life. That all being said, I figured I'd better set up a spot for me to voice my opinions as well!
I have to hand it to Daja, she's hasn't thrown me under the bus......too much......and I don't plan on doing that to her either. She's pretty much covered the past couple months of events for us as a couple, so I may not need to go into that stuff too much. There are a few things I'd like to comment on from her blog (yes, you'll have to read hers too if you haven't already!).
Everything she said about Reese and Shauna's baby is correct. However, Jon and Kellie's baby was the first one to come about. Little baby Patterson (well, actually HUGE baby Patterson) was the first, and I'm sure he'll be bullying all of our kids around someday! Well, with his parents being who they are that probably won't be happening, but I can say that his parents are going to have a ridiculously tough time keeping his tummy satisfied! We saw them at Dave's wedding and I can't believe how big that kid is (not Dave, but baby Patterson)! Anyhow, Reese and Shauna's little one, Alivia, is beautiful and adorable, and to be honest, all these baby things do make me want to have one. Actually, I do want kids, and I've always wanted them, but Daja and I are not ready for one yet (not that anyone ever really is!).
So, on to other things...
As Daja went over in her/our (whatever it is) blog, we recently moved to an aparment, and no, we're not still making a house payment! What a blessing this has been for us! We had that stupid house on and off the market for the past 2 years, and were never able to even get an offer on it! That being said, we listed with Coldwell Banker Realty in July '07 immediately after I lost my job. It stayed on the market the full 6 months of that contract, had probably over 100 walk-throughs, but still, not even an offer. Ok, we listed the house at $199,900 just to get rid of it, and it appraised higher than that a year and a half previous. So, the contract came up, and we decided, with me now being employed, to go ahead and try to keep the house and stay in it. About a month later I get a phone call from a realtor, and she said she had some clients who would be interested in seeing the house because they had heard about it being on and off the market from some friends of theirs who live just around the block from the house. The realtor asked if they could take a look at the house, and we decided to let them. One week later they made an offer on the house, we accepted, and they bought the house! I'm still in shock I think! But what a blessing it has been to not "have" to make a mortgage payment that is too high (yes, it's my fault that I stupidly bought the house). The worst part about the house was that I bought it long before I met (re-met I guess) Daja, and we never really felt that it was "our" house. The apartment actually feels more like "ours" than the house did, so we're pretty happy and thankful!
God has allowed us to go through some pretty interesting times during our first year of marriage, and we have learned a LOT from it. Yet he's taken care of us the entire way. We were (somehow) never late on a bill, never missed a payment, always had food, etc, etc, and I am completely amazed how much He loves us and has taken care of us. When we (well really "I") let go of everything and started to realize that I have little to no control of my life, things started looking up (from our worldly point of view). I guess it really should boil down to this, "when we/I started looking up, our situation did the same!"