Category Archives: youth

Sometimes, I Don’t Know…

The Thinker
The Thinker by Dano, on Flickr

I feel like I have been down this road a few times. I guess I’m wrestling with God, but He hasn’t put my hip out of joint, yet (I have been listening to Imago Dei Community series called “Wrestling with God”) Or did I just tap out? I’m not sure. I think that I am getting to a point where I am clinging to Him, but I haven’t asked for a blessing. Or have I? I keep asking for the blessing of a loving family, but not just that. I keep asking for a whole family, one that has been healed of it’s wounds. Maybe, in that respect, I am still wrestling with God. I keep hearkening back to the Shane Hipps sermon (Mars Hill, Grandville) on how reasoning in the western world has slowed down faith healing. So, I constantly have to meditate on the passage from Mark, “I believe, help my unbelief.” I usually say this when I feel down, when I don’t think that I’m getting physically healed, or when my family or myself needs to be healed.

I’m beginning to think that my hip socket has been put out of joint, and I am to be renamed. ¬†I’m beginning to think that the “Wrestling with God” series has sparked in me something that says that what I have been doing is about to be completed and I’ll be moving onto something else in my faith.

I’ve seen so much in the last 5 years. I sometimes wish I could go back 3 or 4 years, and start over with some things, but I don’t dwell on it. I can’t go back, and I don’t need another time through it all. I’m coming out on the other side of this reborn, renamed, and with a limp that causes me to seek God, and cling to Him more than where I am now. I want the world, and specifically teenagers to know this difference. I want them to know that if they persevere with their faith, that the wrestling is worth it. I have seen too many “tap out” in favor of what the world tells them. I can think of several off the top of my head that God has me pray for still. I know that God isn’t done with me.

I may add more to the post in the future as I still have to re-listen to Rick Bezet at New Life Church in Little Rock, AR, “I Have Decided To Love His Church.”

Maybe I do know…

A New Podcast in the Works

I’m going to attempt a new podcast in the upcoming months. I’m a little slow on the uptake on getting things done, but it seems like the resources that I need are coming together for me get the hardware and software that I need to do a good job.

The hardware:

In a stroke of bad luck, I broke a pin on the power supply plug for my 4 channel mixer. ūüôĀ While looking for a replacement power supply, I discovered that the supplier was having an end of summer clearance sale on their equipment. So, since Mary and I had the money (we discussed this purchase so that she approved it), I got a 12-channel mixer for a little more than it looked like I was going to have to pay for a power supply on my old mixer. ¬†Not only is it a 12 channel mixer, but it has digital effects built into it so you can make things sound a little more “professional.” It also doubles as a mixer for our church on Sundays, giving us more inputs on the soundboard/amp that we use now.

After vacation and some rest, I was feeling urged on that this podcast needs to be started soon. I began looking for my missing pieces. Headphones, microphone, and some cables. Well, since Behringer sold me the mixer on sale, I looked and found a microphone and headphones on sale, add on a windscreen for a pop filter and 15′ of xlr cable and I spent another $50 bucks. So far so good. That stuff will be here on Wednesday. I have a couple more cables to get, to route the sound into the sound card on my computer.

So the hardware is almost complete.

Software:

Looks like Audactiy which I have used in the past will be my recording software. I just have to look into whether I will have to pay for the codec for high quality mp3s to encode this thing.

I also found a free program that acts as a compressor to level out the volume settings. This will be needed if the future that I have “seen” has Mary and I getting into more podcasts and what those formats will be.

The plan:

Well, this is for our high school students. I’m going to put together a podcast of reading the Bible through high school. So in 4 years they will be through the Bible. Slow? maybe, but the idea is to be able to have short casts of Bible reading and some commentary during the school year, with the goal that they will get through the bible by the time they are graduating. I have a plan and a format in my head. I have to get everything together and so that this will work.

Funny How Things Show up Together

When he was at table with two disciples, the Risen Christ took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread and began to give it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him. (Luke 24:13-35)

On my way into work tonight, my audio podcast devotional Pray-as-You-Go, used this section of scripture that describes the walk to Emmaus. This talks about two disciples who were on there way out of Jerusalem and going to Emmaus when they happened upon a stranger. As the three of them discussed the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection, then the stranger talked about the Old Testament verses that described that these events were to take place. It wasn’t until they were having dinner, when the stranger broke the bread that they realized it was Jesus.

So where is Jesus in your everyday life? Have you recognized him yet?

Related post: Watching for Aslan

Watching for Aslan…

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince CaspianMary and I were watching Prince Caspian before I went into work this evening. When the kids are looking to cross a river, Lucy sees Aslan, but is the only one. Why? she is the only one looking for him. Then later there is a conversation between Lucy and Susan:

Susan: Why didn’t I see Aslan?

Lucy: Maybe you didn’t want to.

I think this is endemic in the church. We get into the Sunday services. We even volunteer, but are we looking for Christ?

Over at the Jesus Creed Blog: Scot McKnight is doing a review of¬†King‚Äôs Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus by Tim Keller and makes this observation about Keller’s take on the rich young man who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. (Mark 10:17-29)

Then he sees Jesus pushing the man from seeing God as his boss (from the laws) to God as Savior, and he compels the man to imagine his own life without money. ‚ÄúAll you have is me. Can you live like that?‚ÄĚ (131). If you want God as savior, you have to get rid of your money as your savior. The issue is the man‚Äôs ‚Äúmoral worth‚ÄĚ (132). ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs our moral worth that keeps us from understanding the economy of the cross‚ÄĚ (133). Which leads him to Mark 12, and the famous Jesus Creed passage on loving God and loving others.

The other day, I noticed the truck making a noise in the front end. It sounds like another wheel bearing. We were also told that by the owner of the ¬†Suburban that we have been borrowing, they may be needing it back. It would be easy for us to panic over these things, but I’m looking for Christ in the situation. The money that we need isn’t the savior. The Savior may get us the money or some other resource ¬†to help us. We have to be looking for Him and hope to see Him, just like when Lucy is looking for a place to cross the river, she is looking for Aslan to help them.

Of course, as the story goes along, Peter, Lucy’s older brother and high king, decides that they can’t wait for Aslan, and they put together an ill-fated attack on the Telmarines. How often do we do this? Instead of looking for Jesus and waiting for his appearance, ¬†we take matters into our own hands. I often see this in teen relationships. I have seen both guys and girls looking for a relationship. Instead of looking for Jesus and waiting for his appearance to give Godly advice, or introducing them to who God would have them go with, they take matters into their own hands. I can attest to this in my own life while in college. I got into a relationship with a girl that I probably shouldn’t have. Mostly because I took matters into my own hands, instead of looking for him for guidance. I see teens doing this year after year.

I’ve ¬†seen teens, get into jams all the time. They don’t look for Him. They only see the typical saviors, money, friends, and relationships. They see God as boss and not savior. Can you imagine your life without money or friends, relying only on Christ to get your through your circumstance? That’s not to say that you can’t accept money to help you through your circumstance, after all Jesus had people helping Him with His ministry providing support as he went from town to town. The idea is to look for Jesus and rely on him to provide.

I think many times we don’t look for Christ in the everyday, and over spiritualize things to such an extent that when He makes an appearance we don’t recognize Him. We just don’t look. Has a friend offered to give you money or advice (Godly advice), when you were going through something? Teens, if your parents know Christ, do you think that Jesus will make an appearance through them? Do you want Him to? If they don’t know Christ, where are you looking for Him to make an appearance?

When truth can be so distant
and hope evades our reach
Peter swam across the water
and found it on the beach – Five Iron Frenzy

Look for Him. He will be there.

The waiting is the hardest part…

I was reading a story at the Huffington Post about something totally unrelated, but the story used the prodigal son parable (Luke 15:11-32) for an analogy.

Really, this all comes down to an illustration of a parable that Jesus told about two sons. In the wide world, it’s known as the prodigal son, but the story is really about two brothers. The story tells us that a younger brother gets the inheritance from the father (demonstrating his hate for the father through wishing he were dead), goes and spends it and then is welcomed home by the father. The eldest son sees this, resents it and hates the father by yelling at him for taking the younger son back.

However, I want to look at this from the view of the father. In this case, in terms of things that I have talked about in a previous post, grace and guilt.

As I said in a previous post, one of the things that we learned in Celebrate Recovery is that it is a process and, at least in Celebrate Recovery, that this process has 12 steps. Several of these steps are at work here.

1. We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.

and

9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

We’ve talked about this before, but I when I read this the other day, I wanted to approach this from the father’s perspective. In this case, with youth who have been going behind the backs of their parents. As a volunteer youth leader for some time, I have seen where the kids even are doing “things” and have a hard time coming clean with it to us. Usually, we in the youth ministry know that something has been going on, whether from friends or just interactions with the students. The thing is that even though we know, they are reluctant to confess. When they do, I have said to them, “yeah, I knew that was going on. ” The thing is, that we wait for them to make the first move. There are times that they need to be confronted, but once the sin has been done and it isn’t going on anymore, they often don’t need to be confronted, but they do need to confess it. The problem for me is the waiting.

As I have gotten older, I have begun asking God, “Is this what it’s like for you?” This is no different. God is the father in the parable, and is waiting for the younger son to come home. As patient as I can be, it becomes frustrating for me to wait for those things that I know that people need to get out of their system. So I wait. I’ve waited with things from one of our sons, and I have waited for kids in youth group to return to the fold. It isn’t easy. So I wonder if God gets this frustrated with us, when we don’t run to him.

God wants to throw a party for us, if we will just come back and confess. Ease your conscience, confess and set yourself free.

Uncle Drew’s Talk on Sex and Marriage-Chosen GR

Drew Spanding has been doing a talks at Chosen for a few years now. I have to say that the talk he gave at Grand Rapids on Saturday was one of his best. I didn’t take notes through the whole thing, but here was a point that has been stuck in my brain since then.

I’ll start with a story that Drew has told in these sessions before. There was a kid in a small group that he ran who once called to ask him if it was a big deal to smoke weed. Drew said it wasn’t a big deal. The kid asked, “so it’s okay to smoke weed.” Drew replied, “It’s not a big deal.” The kid was about to say good by and hang up when Drew said this, “I want you to be a big deal.” I’m paraphrasing this, but the point was that God created you to be a big deal. When you go off and do the stuff like everyone else, then you diminish who you could be.

So what does that have to do with sex and God’s plan? As Drew put it, and I agree, if you are avoiding sex, so you don’t get pregnant (or getting someone pregnant), or to avoid an sexually transmitted disease, then you might as well grab some condoms and go forth. However, if you have faith in God, then don’t, and realize that God has faith in you. In fact, to drive the point home, let’s look at what Jesus did.

First, think of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), the Pharisees and others drag her in front of Jesus. After Jesus tells them that he who is without cast the first stone, they all leave and he then has the following conversation (NIV):

Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‚ÄúWoman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?‚ÄĚ

11 ‚ÄúNo one, sir,‚ÄĚ she said.

‚ÄúThen neither do I condemn you,‚ÄĚJesus declared. ‚ÄúGo now and leave your life of sin.‚ÄĚ

Jesus doesn’t condemn her and tells her to leave her life of sin. We never hear any more about her. However, in a way He has faith in her to go forth and follow Him. Some think that this woman was Mary Magdelene although the passage is unclear.

Here’s a more direct story. Matt 14:28-33. This is where Jesus walks on the water. ¬†Now, Peter asks if he can walk on water. Why, because Jesus is his rabbi and the disciple wants to be like the rabbi. So Peter walks out there. However, he falters as he looks at the winds and waves. So what happened? did Peter lose faith in Jesus? No. He lost faith in himself to be like his rabbi. Drew’s point is this, Jesus has faith in you, but you need to have faith in yourself to be like your rabbi (Jesus).

Are you or have you been in relationship? Does it have to be sexual before marriage? You think that this person is the one, but are they? We often, in the church, fall back on the shame and honor culture of the Old Testament, when we need to introduce people, especially teens to the New Testament. If we do, the doubt they often experience comes from their own self image, and not their doubt in Jesus to forgive. They don’t think that they can be like their rabbi (Jesus).

Remember this, Jesus has faith in you to follow Him. The disciples often messed up, but Jesus always brings them back and they follow. So you think that there is no way for you to get into a relationship without sex? Think again. God will bring the right one. You have to have faith not just in God to do bring the right one, but also you have to have faith in yourself that you can hold on until He does.

Are We All Hanging on by a Thread?

Notice MeI was listening to a couple of things tonight. One was the most recent Mars Hill Bible church sermon by a guest teacher Peter Rollins. They are doing a series on Ecclesiastes. However, one of the stories he tells was of somebody person on a train that loses their wallet which has their ticket in it. Because of this she has a lengthy conversation with the conductor. The story ends with the conductor telling the train rider that there is no problem with the lost ticket, because she noticed him. Most would think that he is noticed all the time, but really he is just a part of the machinery. Nobody notices him.

Then I was listening to some music right after that and the song by The Letter Black, “Hanging on by a Thread,” came on in the playlist, and this part of the song struck me:

Save me from losing myself
I’m hanging on by a thread
Can You see who I am
Underneath my scars?
I’m afraid to fall
So I’m holding on to You
No I won’t let go
I’m hanging on by a thread

The song is asking for God to notice them and love them. That’s what Peter Rollins asserts that noticing your neighbor is loving them. People are in need of love, being noticed is a part of that.

So now I take it a step further. With teens, what are they longing for? Belonging, being noticed, by their friends, in their world, and for some in their families.  Being noticed, being accepted, belonging. The one thing that I have noticed about the TV show Skins, the kids are all looking for belonging. The show is all based on them finding ways to be noticed by their friends, and in many cases finding ways to be noticed by their families. Many times, it is in not so healthy way.

So one of the ways that experts have found to keep teens and young adults to remain in church, is to give them responsibility in church. When the church notices them, they stay in community. Plugging people into the community is key to discipling them.

I have worked hard at making sure that our kids are noticed by Mary and I. I have worked hard to make sure that kids in youth group are noticed. Has it all worked out? Not always. I still struggle to notice and love people sometimes. Things get in the way. If you read Ecclesiastes, King Solomon admits that everything is futile.  In Ecclesiastes 2:1-10, he lists off all of the things that he has experienced: pleasure, alcohol, building bigger houses, accumulations of possessions, etc. Everything is empty. His conclusion? Be content with what you have (Ecc 2:24-26) and enjoy your work. When you skip to Ecc. 12, you find that he has come full circle, honor God, because this all disappears.

One More Guilt Vs. Grace

I was once again thinking over the guilt vs. grace thing. If you want to read my other posts on guilt vs. grace go to here, here, here, and here.

So while I was driving into Gaylord the other day, I was listening to the podcast, Pray-As-You-Go. The verse for the day’s prayer was Mark 8:27-33. I had been thinking about this the other day and so when this verse came up, I decided that I needed to share this.

On Wednesday, James had a great message for the kids about the vision you have, being narrowed by the things and people that surround you. The story that he told was of a girl that he knows in a metropolitan area who knew Christ years ago (The verse from Mark 8 of Peter confessing who Jesus is.). So she knew Christ, but in the course of life surrounded herself with friends that hang at the bar all the time, so the guys she dated were losers. So her opinion of guys were that they were only one thing. She thought that maintaining her purity was unrealistic, because the guys that asked her out were always from the bar and they only wanted one thing.

This goes along with a post I recently wrote about the danger of listening to one story. Watch the video from that post (It’s 20+ minutes), but worth getting through. In this case this girl listened only to her story and girlfriends’ story that all guys are losers, and to her the life of purity and doing the things that God and Christ would want us to do, is a fairy tale.

However, as the author from the TED talk points out she would be suffering from the fact that she is thinking about only one story. The analogy of life and story is a pretty good one. So we often hear from kids that they are stuck in their story. Don Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz, often talks about life as a story, and recently offered a conference about changing your story. Write a new chapter. This also blends in with what James preached on Sunday about vision and how God and Jesus allow you to have a larger vision, and in essence, find away to write a new chapter in your story.

I think that in some ways in Sunday School and youth ministry we have taught the black and white thinking to black and white thinkers (pre-adolescent kids) that when we are sharing what should be transformative, ends up sounding like rules, and behavior modification. And while modification in behavior is a good things in some respects, I think that has left out the grace that God promises through Christ.

I’m beginning to think that the moralistic therapeutic deism that Christian Smith and¬†Kenda Creasy Dean wrote about, is brought about by rules and behavior modification. Recently, I was reading from another youth ministry blogger, that the kids aren’t leaving the church as much as the church is leaving them. What I mean, is that we teach a form of behavior modification, and once they go to school or find jobs in the world, they get challenged. Since they are locked in on a rules based story, once they screw up with something that they think is major, they think that they can’t change their story.

Grace is the key to change this. Not the cheap type of grace that Paul preached against, but one where if you screw up, you can come back, God will take you back, and change your story. We see this in the prodigal son, and in John 21:15-19, which is where I was headed, where Jesus restores Peter.

Remember, Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah, and then denied Him just before He was crucified. Peter was ready to go back to fishing, seeing that he could only see the story that was laid out for him. However, Jesus shows up on the beach and Peter swims ashore (cue Far, Far Away by Five Iron Frenzy). Now Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, 3 times. While it is painful to Peter, Christ restores him. Peter then went on as a leader in the early church. Peter saw that he had a different story to live.

So what situation blinds you to a story that you think you can’t get out of? What is limiting your vision? Do you know that God wants to write a new chapter to your story?

Skins and What I Think

The Cast of MTV's Skin

I’ve been hearing a lot about Skins, the new show on MTV. It is a show that is based on the British show by the same name. I watched the first episode last night when I couldn’t sleep. The first episode wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I can see it getting racier with time. At first, I thought this isn’t reality, but on second thought after a flashback to my late teen years in college. I had a similar discussion with my parents about how I knew some people who lived out some of the movie “St. Elmo’s Fire.” There are some kids who are doing and experiencing these things, and from time to time, some of the story lines may be true for a few kids some of the time. However, the things that most parents will panic about is that their kid is living this life. I understand the Parent’s Television Council’s on this show, but is it possible that they are little overboard on the “most dangerous program ever?” I have to admit I am a bit nervous of teens, especially younger teens watching this and thinking that’s what high school life is about. People in general take a single story and think that’s the way the world is, until they hear more stories. This talk from the TED Talks talks about this very fact. Here’s the lede for it, but watch the 20 minute video from a Nigerian author talk about her experiences with only hearing a single story.

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Kids are very susceptible to this as the speaker points out with her experience with a poorer family from Nigeria when he was a little girl.

However, as a youth worker, I try to keep on the youth culture, and how marketers try to get us to spend our money, especially youth. So what have I learned about this program. That youth workers should view this with the mind that some of your kids may be experiencing these. This is but a subset of the youth culture. Not all of the kids are into this scene. ¬†This show, may get the ax or put on later at night. We must learn that kids themselves need to realize that living from a single story stunts their view of what the wider world is like. Some would argue that we should let the kids see this show, but the problem is there typically isn’t any other show on that tells the stories of other kids that don’t get into the subject matter that Skins delves into. Not to mention that from a marketing standpoint, it would probably be too boring and wouldn’t make any money. I find that there is a fair amount of hype with Skins and that if parents allow their kids to watch it, then they need to watch it with them and ask the questions. You may not get any answers, but the conversation should get you reconnecting with your teen.

One other thing I noticed. Cellphones. Having grown up without them, to watch the way that these kids use them got me to thinking how kids can more easily hide their lives from their parents. An unattended consequence of the advance of the technology. There was a scene where one of the characters was pulling together plans for an upcoming party and loss of virginity of one of his friends. All this while walking from home to school in the morning. The tech wasn’t in place when I was in school over 25 years ago, so it we would have had to resort to the between class and lunch time. It would have been more efficient with the phone and texting, not to mention more covert. This makes me realize that ever since youth culture was started, about 50+ years ago, that youth culture has been slowly separating itself from the culture at large, and that the technology that we adults take for granted helps the kids to continue this separation.

So as youth workers, how do we handle these things. No, not new curriculum. Conversation, story and experience. The same things that Jesus used to reach out to those that the culture found unclean. Pray is key. Eventually, through all this kids are transformed so that they can reach out to their friends and engage the youth culture like we try to do.