Headin' To The Beach...

Tonight at our midweek youth worship gathering we had another great night in our new, temporary meeting place. It is kinda' crazy because while we are going through a lot of changes ministry wise with workers and volunteers, God continues to send us new students. And I thought I was busy before all this craziness started! Anyway, God is faithful and he will provide workers and resources because He loves and cares for the students of Lockhart, TX more than anyone...And it's so good to see students beginning to understand that love.

On a completely different note, Johanna and I are headin' to Port A tomorrow! On Monday, the 30th, we will celebrate 2 years of marriage. Wow! It goes by so fast. I love my wife immensely and am blessed to be serving with a woman who is called to ministry. I have seen so many friends and acquaintances whose spouse hinders them in ministry. It is such a blessing to have a true help-mate. So we are celebrating our anniversary by going to the beach for the weekend. We are actually staying in Fulton and we are so excited! I probably won't blog until we get back on Monday evening, but be expecting pictures of the beach...It is gonna' be awesome just to get away for a while...Until then, hope your weekend is great!


Educated Beyond Our Obedience...

I got to preach at both of our morning worship services yesterday. Teaching is nothing new to me as I get to teach our students every week, but it is always great to have the opportunity to teach the entire congregation. Our Senior Pastor was gone all week, so the teaching duties for the Sunday services fell to me. It's something I love to do and something that I feel God's passion in me when I am doing, so I was thrilled about the opportunity. As I studied up for my sermon, "Examining Our Spiritual Fatness," I ran across two quotes. I preached from 1 John 2:3-6 and talked about how John challenges us not just to know the faith, but to DO what Christ commands, which is to walk as He did, loving others and bearing witness to him. Here are the two quotes I came across, both from authors whose books I have read and thouroughly enjoyed:

"We (Christians and the church) are educated beyond our obedience." - Neil Cole

"Most of us (referring to believers) are educated way beyond our level of obedience. We don't need more information. We need more transformation." - Mark Batterson

Christianity has never had the level of education and resources than we do in America today. Our churches have never been so equipped with resources and classes and studies to educate us about our faith. We have never had access to so many schools and seminaries for theological training. But at the time when we have all this educational opportunity for growing in what it means to follow Jesus and live like Him, we see a huge void of genuine, authentic Christ followers. Many of the members of our churches look no different than the world. In the workplace and at schools, people who claim to follow Jesus live just like those who don't claim to be believers. In our business dealings, its sometimes hard to tell whether the person you are dealing with is a believer or not. On the weekends and in our social lives, so many people who claim to be Christ-followers live no different than anyone else. We have all the education, but we have no transformation. Our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends, our families, and our communities don't need us to be better educated in the faith. They need us to live out the faith that we already know. They need us to model and show and live out the love and grace of Jesus. They need us to really believe what we say we know about Jesus, so that we are people who are transformed into Christ-followers who love our neighbors and our world like Jesus did.


Opening Night At The Attic...

Last night was an incredible night. One of the reasons I have been a little quiet in blogger land lately is because of the amount of work and the long hours I have been putting in at our new youth space for our student ministry. Now, when I say new, understand that it is a very old building and we are renting the upstairs portion...but it is new to us. Tonight was the "Grand Opening" even though we are having a big kick-off event in about a month. It was incredible to see what just a little money and a lot of hard work can do. We spent a little less than $300 and got a ton of stuff donated. I have dreamed of a youth space for student ministry for a long time, going back several years and even at another church. And while we are hoping and praying that this space is just temporary and that are church moves forward with purchasing a much bigger youth space in the next few weeks we are here for at least a few months and it is great.
Our space has a lot of stuff. It is over 3000 square feet and it has gaming systems, tvs, pool tables, air hockey, dart boards, and foosball. There are couches and bean bags to lounge around on and their is even a snack bar/cafe that we have set up for food and drinks. But the coolest thing that our new space has is smiles...One of our youth workers said to me tonight, "There is a smile on every face in here!" And it was true. Not because of any pool tables or games or even pizza, but because our students have a place that is theirs. And its because a few individuals in our church who love students and want to see God work in their lives have chosen to give generously to make this happen.
I am totally stoked about the tool that this building and even our future building are going to be. When people feel like they have a place where they are comfortable and that is their's they are more likely to want their friends there with them. We already saw that tonight as we had several students bring friends that have never been to our midweek worship service at the church before. God has taught me some cool lessons from this whole thing. He has taught me about his faithfulness in providing, he has taught me patience, and he has taught me not to give up on visions that HE GIVES...even if they take years and moves to happen. Tonight was incredible and the biggest lesson of all was probably a reminder about the smiles of students. Those smiles communicate that our students feel cared for, they feel loved, they feel safe, and most of all, through their joy they are seeing people who by their time, giving, ministry, and lives are saying to students that God loves them and has an incredible plan for their lives. The Attic, and any building like it is just a tool, but what a "Wow Tool" it is!


Another Great Yac Quote...

We're attempting to convince the world how good Jesus is by how great we are. This is precisely how Madison Avenue sells toothpaste, automobiles, and underwear. People don't need any more images of success, wealth, and power; they're surrounded already. What they need are their sins forgiven. What they need is healing. What they need is love. - Mike Yaconelli


The Ocean...

I spent the first couple days this week on the road. Myself and a few guys from FBC Pflugerville left Monday to head down to South Padre Island for a youth camp preview trip. We are doing camp together at a condo on the beach this summer and we went down to scope it out. One interesting thing that we found out (because we let Stan drive!) is that when you get to Corpus Christi, and you take the exit that says Padre Island, you go to Padre Island and Port Aransas. And there is nothing that connects Padre Island and South Padre Island. Contrary to geographical logic, South Padre Island is not just the "south" end of Padre Island. It is a whole nother island...three hours away! Anyway, after our detour we made it safe and sound, had some great seafood, and got to check out the place for camp. I took a couple pics, as you can tell, and they're not really the ocean, but the Gulf of Mexico, but the principle is the same. I couldn't help but look out at the vastness of the water and watch the waves come crashing in on Tuesday morning and not think of Chris Tomlin's song "Indescribable." If you've never heard it, it is a song that declares the greatness and bigness of God. And while we try to use words to wrap our minds around who God is and how powerful and great and awesome (and whatever other word we throw in here...) He is, in the end God is indescribable and any of our earthly attempts to do so simply fall short. Tomlin puts it this way:

from the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
creation's revealing your majesty
from the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
every creature unique in the song that it sings
all exclaiming

indescribable, uncontainable,
you placed the stars in the sky and you know them by name.
you are amazing god
all powerful, untameable,
awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
you are amazing god

who has told every lightning bolt where it should go
or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow
who imagined the sun and gives source to its light
yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night
none can fathom

indescribable, uncontainable,
you placed the stars in the sky and you know them by name
you are amazing god
all powerful, untameable,
awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
you are amazing god
you are amazing god


Irresistible Revolution...

Thursday night myself, Johanna, and a few friends went to hear Shane Claiborne speak at Texas State at the Price Lectures. I was really excited to hear what Shane would say because I have heard a lot about him in ministry and missions circles. He lives in a faith community that has done amazing things in Philly. He also spoke at the National Youth Workers Convention in Anaheim last year and cashed his entire honorarium for the event into one dollar bills and then gave them away to all the youth ministers at the convention to go and use to make a difference in someone's life...Needless to say, this guy is the real deal. He has studied theology and sociology and Eastern where Tony Campolo teaches. He knows his stuff, but is so humble and real. He talked about how so many times we as Christians live like we really don't believe that Jesus meant what he said because if we really believed he meant the things he said, we would look and live different. We would be involved in life with the poor, we would work for peace, we would give our money to the needy, we would value each and every person regardless of what the did or didn't have because that is what Jesus would do.

A couple quotes to share from his lecture last night:

Talking about how Jesus was homeless, he said "We worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday."

He also shared a conversation that he had with an Iraqi Christian pastor in Baghdad when he went over to Iraq during the Shock & Awe campaign. Shane was telling the pastor how surprised he was to see so many Christians in Iraq and the pastor replied, "You didn't invent Christianity in America. You just domesticated it."

"It's very fashionable for us as Christians to talk about the poor, but not too the poor. If we really care about poor people, we know the names of poor people."

Needless to say, it was very challenging to hear what Shane had to say. I am extremely blessed. And it really challenged me to examine how I live my life and how I spend the resources that God has blessed me with. I am still digesting and milling over so much of what he said.

Check out Shane's book "Irresistible Revolution" or his website, www.simpleway.org.


As You Go...

Last night at our mid-week youth worship service we talked about the big "E" word - Evangelism. One of the things that I have tried to do since graduating from seminary is to rid myself of church language and and keep from speaking "Christianese" - You know, the language that only church people understand. One important part of communication is that unless the people whom your talking to understand you, then communication hasn't taken place. You may have talked about something and even thought you commuincated something, but unless you are understood by a recipient of the message communication hasn't occurred...That's another tangent altogether though...

Whenever I talk about evangelism, or telling people who don't personally know Jesus that he loves them and wants to have a relationship with them, it usually ends in a time where I get frustrated with the biblical text that we have. Not that the text is wrong or inadequate...It's just that it is in English. You see, I had the opportunity to take about 24 hours of biblical Greek language in college and so many times what the writers say in Greek just doesn't translate well into English. The words fit, but the meaning is lost...I think that that's the case in one of our "most cherished" passages on sharing our faith. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gives us the Great Commission. Most translations of the Bible begin this text with the words "Therefore, go and make disciples..." or "Go and make disciples..." However, there is a lost meaning from the original text that I think Jesus was communicating to us and we ought not to lose. If you literally translate the Greek tense of the word it would read something like this: "As you go, make disciples..." or "As you are going, make disciples..."

All that to say that I think Jesus meant for evangelism to be something that we do "as we go." It breaks my heart that churches have to have evangelism weekends, evangelistic revivals, outreach weekends, and other "special calendared times" where we do evangelism. It's a shame that the vast majority of evangelical churches in the United States have an outreach, visitation, or evangelism "night" each week or month. Not that these things are bad at all, but shouldn't we be sharing our faith in Jesus and his love for people every single day, in the places he's planted us, around the people he has given us influence with...as we go. Sharing the love and truth of Jesus and his desire to have a relationship with every individual is not something that should be contained to visitation night or our evangelistic revival week each spring. Sharing our faith should come out of a fruitful life. Telling people who don't yet know it that Jesus loves them, wants to have a relationship with them, and wants to give them purpose in life should be a part of who we are and what we are about "as we go." Evangelism is not something only done by professionals. It is the call of every person who follows Christ. It is the mandate of every believer. Maybe the reason that churches all across our country are dying left and right is because somewhere along the way we forgot that simple principle...Maybe the reason most churches don't see significant growth is because they are full of people who leave sharing the faith up to the "paid professionals"...What a shame that we have taken the last commandment of Christ and simplified it into a "visitation night" on the second Thursday of each month...Somehow, I think we are missing the mark.

So, for you and I, let's share "as we go." Let's use the influence that God has given us by placing people in our paths - at work, school, and in the community - to build authentic relationships that share and model the love of Jesus. Let's be people who live out and speak out the love of Christ "as we go" in life. Then, maybe, just maybe, our church won't have to schedule that "special" spring evangelistic roundup next year.


Mike Yaconelli...

In honor of my friend Brett, who posted a comment about a Mike Yaconelli quote I am going to post a few quotes from Yac from time to time. If you don't know who he is, Mike Yaconelli was pretty much the father of modern youth ministry. I cannot begin to describe who he was in such a short time or what his impact on the church and youth ministry was. I will just put it this way: He died just a couple years ago and when I heard the news I wept. And to be honest, that doesn't happen very often. There was probably never a greater champion and supported of youth workers and youth ministry tha Yac...So, thanks Brett for the link to some of his greatest quotes...Here is one I really like:

When people look at the Church and see only impostors, they conclude that Jesus is an impostor. But when they see followers of Jesus who are real, they see a Jesus who is real. - Mike Yaconelli


The Weekend Update...

This weekend, while pretty normal and uneventful, did have a couple exciting moments. I spent most of Friday just doing stuff around the house with Curry. We cleaned out the garage and did some other stuff that has needed to be done for far too long. Then on Friday night, Johanna and I went out on a date to dinner and a movie in San Marcos. This was by far the highlight of the weekend for a number of reasons. First of all, we had a blast just spending the evening together. It is such a joy to be married to your best friend and someone who you really, truly love experiencing life with. Secondly, the movie we saw, "Reign Over Me," was great. I highly recommend it but go in knowing that the language is strong and their is one recurring theme that is a little on the touchy side. Johanna thought it was pretty good, but she said it had a couple slow moments, but I thought it was a great flick...You be the judge. Finally, to cap off the night of excitement, we were leaving the movie theater and as we are pulling out down one of the side roads that lead to the theater we notice about 20 hispanic kids running across the street in front of us. As we pass, we look back to see them beating the tar out of one kid. They were kicking him and beating him up pretty good. I bust a u-turn to go back, not really sure what I was going to do now that I think about it, but as we pull up so does another car with a couple of guys who are probably early 20s. About six of the kids that were doing the beat down jump in the car with them and they bust out across the street to the Lowe's parking lot. The rest of the kids run over to Lowe's as well and the kid who was getting beat up runs off. Well, we decided to follow this "gang" of kids over to Lowe's and I call 911 to report all this. I guess the car sees that we are trying to follow him and they take off. So I am booking it through the Lowe's parking lot and then through the side streets in San Marcos while I am on the phone with the 911 dispatcher giving her a play by play, turn by turn breakdown of where we are, so that she can realy it to the cops. I will take a brief pause from the story here to let all of you know that one of my favorite shows of ALL TIME is COPS. I love it and still today will watch re-run after re-run. So as I am chasing after this guy I am sure I heard the cops theme song in the background..."Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna' do? Watcha' gonna' do when they come for you?"...Also, as I am talking to the dispatcher it was like a scene straight out of the show. I am saying stuff like "we are pursuing the car eastbound on Wonderworld Drive. We just took a left and are now heading northbound on Lean St." The lady probably is looking to recruit me for the SMPD I did such a good job. However, the car eventually went down a street in front of traffic and I could not make the turn and he lost me in the midst of a bunch of apartment complexes. As we turned around, the cops past and we gave them the update and the sped off to continue the chase...I wonder if you can call and get an update on the outcome of your 911 calls?

Saturday was not near as exciting as we mostly just did stuff around the house. I painted some mirrors for Johanna and we watched some Final Four basketball in the evening. Yesterday consisted of the typical Sunday. Church in the morning and small groups in the evening. Got a busy week ahead but I have been pondering some stuff for a few days now that I am going to try and post about...Stay tuned.