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 Lord...it 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 what...it'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