I had the awesome privilege of speaking at Jr. High Camp. (June 22-27) It was an amazing week. Over 190 campers got to experience a week of fun, study, worship, friendship building and physical challenges in the beauty of God’s creation in rustic North Dakota.
As a values-based organization, the Army uses expressed values to provide its fundamental ethical framework. The Army’s values lay out the ethical standards expected of soldiers. It uses them to judge its systems, processes and
decisions. Army values and the ethical decision making together provide a moral touchstone and workable process that equip soldiers to make ethical decisions and take right actions confidently. The ethical aspects of some decisions are
more obvious than others.
The church is also a values-based organization. The core moral values of the Ten Commandments, the prophets, the gospels and the letters of the apostles have shaped the way Christians view the world. It gives believers a spiritual course on which to set the lives. Just as the Army tries to shape and mold soldiers with values that will help them succeed. Ministers and churches need to providespiritual direction for their congregations.
During Junior High Camp, we focused on what it means for Christ to be the conquerer of not only this world, but also our lives. In the Army, we used an Acronym to help us in our Battle Planning and Mission Evaluation entitled METT-TC. METT-TC is a mnemonic used by the United States Army to help commanders remember and prioritize what to analyze during the planning phase of any operation. During the main sessions at camp, we explored these 6
factors of METT-TC, and discussed them in detail as they pertain to our walk with Christ.
METT_TC is a concise, bite –size overview of the battlefield. The METT_TC gives commanders the necessary information needed to combat the enemy and in turn achieve victory. We will spend time unpacking this concept as it applies to the spiritual battles we find ourselves in daily. We will spend some time analyzing the battlefields of life and how through Christ we can be more than conquerors. Students discovered a new way to evaluate their spiritual life and develop the tools and insight to navigate the battlefield of culture and adolescence. My prayer is that these tools will help them to be victorious in the Spiritual Battles they face in the future.
As Pastor’s, how should we respond to the changing tide of culture. We should not be worried that the waves of changing culture might drown us. Instead we must begin to see the changes as opportunities, and as such we must be able to ride the crest of that wave like a pro surfer. We must ride that wave into our Communities, States, and Country sharing the Good News of Christ all the way to the shore!!!
In honor of Father’s Day, I wanted to share this story with you. The Christmas Season has taken on a very different feel over
the past two years for my family. In 2007, my Dad passed away and on Dec. 23, 2008, we lost my wife’s dad very unexpectedly. Afew yeras ago, I was in a very reflective mood when Christmas Day rolled around. Both of our Dads loved Christmas. They were like two little kids when it came to the holidays. They loved to play with
their Grandkids and loved to see their faces lights up as they opened
gifts. It was truly a precious time to spend with both of them. A few years ago, I got a little more insight as I had the privilege to sit in each of their “chairs” for a while.
When we went over to see my Mom, I sat in my dad’s recliner
and looked around the room and thought about the perspective my dad had seen from this chair over the years. I saw a glimpse of what he saw as my kids loved on their Mamaw and loved on each other. I was an awesome sight to see. As we were leaving, my mom said she had something to give me. You see up to this point I had never really asked for anything of my dads. I never wanted to be one of those kids that fought or bargained over a loved ones possessions after they had died. As she came back into the room, she held out her hand and said, “I want you to have this. It was your dad’s.” As she opened
her hand, she revealed my father’s wedding band. She told me that dad would have wanted me to have it. I slid it on to my finger and thought that the last time this ring was worn it was on my dad’s finger. I was overwhelmed. My dad had molded what a godly man should be
and do in a marriage. Now as a symbol of that faithfulness and honor, it has been passed on to me. It renewed my love for my wife and family in a way I had never expected. Thanks Dad!!!
Later we went to Candace’s moms for dinner. It is always odd walking into their house and not seeing Jim sitting in “his” chair.
That chair became an honored position for him as he watched over his
family from that leather perch. When it came time to open gifts there was only one chair open for me to sit in, Jim’s Chair. As I sat down in that honored seat, I began to see what Jim saw. I saw a family that he loved dearly loving each other. We had so many talks about the importance of family and how important it was for us to be together, especially at the holidays. I understand now more than ever why that was true for him. The view from his chair was worth more than any gift that I could have been given this Christmas.
Christmas is about the greatest gift that has ever been given, Jesus Christ. It is about the love the Father lavished on the Son, and the obedience of the Son to follow. I saw a glimpse of an earthly
father’s love lavished on his family. It helps me appreciate even more the relationship I have with Christ. We all need to be reminded of that from time to time. Thanks you Jesus for the view from Papa’s Chair.
At times, ministry can be very hard on a family. Sometimes our familes, get the left overs of our energy, time, attention, and focus. Take some time and evaluate what is important in life. In honor of our Wedding Anniversary, I want to dedicate song to my wife. She is very patient and sacrificed a lot to allow me to follow the calling God has put on my life. Below is a song that beautifully describes the way I want to live my life and points to a solution for making my wife and children a prioirity. Listen to the words and marinate on how they apply to you. Please let me know what you think. Enjoy!!
Twenty-One (21) years ago today, I married the love of my life. She is my best friend and a great mother. She has more faith and trust in God than anyone I have ever met. She has taught me so much. I still can not believe that I get to spend the rest of my life her!!! Below is a link to the song that I sang to her at our wedding 21 years ago. I stand by this promise today on a even deeper level than could ever be described with words!!!
How do you experience God’s Presence? God’s presence in our lives is unique to each indivdual. We can not put God or the Holy Spirit into a box and carry them with us. There is a difference between God’s Actual Presence and God’s Felt Presence. We have created a culture in the church that at times tries to manufacture God’s Felt Presence. When we lack that felt presence, we feel like God is far away. God’s Presence is more that a warm, fuzzy feeling. Check out this article from Tony Kriz. He does a great job articulating the confusion that we have created, and gives some great advice on how to change our approach to seeking God’s Presence.
As a Father, my greatest wish is that my children fall in love with Jesus and follow Him all the days of their lives. As much as I want to be there to help and protect them, they need Jesus more than me. He is the one they need. Listen to this song by Shane and Shane. It illustrates this concept beautifully. If you have children, let this be the prayer of your heart!!!
Over the past 5 years, I have noticed a shift in the area of Student Ministry. Student Ministry is shifting from being Entertainment / Attractional Model to a Disciple Making / Missional Model. As a Student Minister for 25 years, this shift is monumental. We must be willing to intentionally make a generation of disciples and not create a generation of well-educated, picky consumers.
I have realized that instead of leading people to say the prayer of
accepting Christ, it is more about coming out of our upper rooms of prayer empowered by God’s Spirit to lead them to a face-to-face encounter with God and a spiritual formation process played out in the cycle of believing, behaving, and belonging. This establishes a grid by which we measure our lives in relationship with Jesus. Rather than focusing on church attendance, donations, and the number of programs and events, I see that my journey must focus on getting to know Jesus intimately for who he really is and becoming shaped and formed by the power of God’s Spirit in very specific areas of my lives. In doing so, I will be better equipped to fulfill the “zip-code” ministry that God has called me to.
In order to be effective in Youth Ministry we must practice and teach the importance of authenticity. We need to help students see the authenticity of who Jesus really is. We need to help our students see that Jesus is more than just a person to call on in times of trouble. He is God in the flesh. He is a person who understands us. We can truly say that Jesus “gets me”. He knows my thoughts, my needs, and my dreams. He is not just a problem solver. When we understand this concept, then we can see the power of the cross revealed. We see a God who came in the flesh to show us how to live, how to die to our sins, and how to be raised to walk in His righteousness. Students want to be understood. They are looking for a place to belong. They want someone to understand them and identify with their struggles. We can help them see that Christ is that person. If we become an extension of Christ’s life, we can impact this generation in a mighty way. By investing our lives in students, just a Christ invested in the disciples, we will see much change.
We must keep the BIG picture in mind. We have to put people before programs. We can not underestimate the power of presence. Just being available and listening to students share the successes and failures in their life; we will make a great impact. We also must realize that we can’t minister to everyone. Not everyone wants to be ministered to. We must also practice the 50-50 rule. The 50-50 rule means that we need to balance our time between our students and our leaders. We must be able to spend 50% of our time with students and 50% with our adult leaders. Remember we are a model of relational ministry. We must be able to balance these two areas.
We need to be real and authentic with our students and leaders. Jesus was able to do this very well. His disciples saw Him in His full
glory on the Mount of Transfiguration and in His brokenness in the Garden of Gethsemane. Authenticity is really at the heart of the true ministry. When Jesus was baptized and the Father spoke his
affirmation over his son by saying “in whom I am well pleased”, we see who Jesus really was. His divine nature and human nature
were transparent for all to see. All we have to do is look. His miracles testified to his deity while his sorrow and brokenness in the Garden displayed His humanity.
My family has played a big role in shaping my life. As a child, I was expected to act like a “little man”. I had to always act appropriately. I was an imaginative child. I liked to play and was wild at times. My parents wanted me to be a well behaved child, and I was. I have seen over time that my childhood was cut short. I remember at Christmas time, we would go over to my grandparents and all my cousins would be out in the yard playing football. I was not allowed to play because I had on new clothes. I had to sit and watch. I have to watch myself now because I find myself being that way with my kids. I have decided to let them be kids. So what if their clothes get dirty. Life is too short not to be a kid as long as you can. I find myself wanting to cut loose and be a kid with my students, but I feel as if I need to be the “little man” and set the example. I am torn at times. Having fun would not compromise my ministry, it would enhance it. I have
learned to relax and have more fun with students and it has taken my ministry to a new level. I have become more genuine and my students can tell. I have become a real person to them and not a dry, adult leader.
Authentic Ministry is what every believer is called to. We are the
body of Christ. We are an extension of His saving grace. We must be willing to step outside of our comfort zone, and “dwell” with those who need to experience the love and grace of Christ.