I’m willing to do dumb stuff to help teach a point; especially if it makes it enjoyable and memorable. This might take the cake.
We just finished a teaching series called “Copycat,” in which we talked about what it looks like to imitate Christ. We talked pretty explicitly about how imitating Christ isn’t the same as acting.
One week, we talked about our favorite character portrayals in movies (mine being Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”). We found that imitating Christ has way more to do with going after His heart and mind. It’s there that you’ll find His will, intentions, desires, mercy and grace.
Here’s where “dumb” comes in. Lots of times, at the cross section of youth ministry and the bible, you’ll find illustrations to help teach the point. In this case, I did 50 bad celebrity impersonations to open up the discussion. This is what I came up with.
A lot you youth pastors are going to see students tonight.
You’ve been planning what to say and what to do.
Depending on your leadership style, you might actually have a plan.
Or you might be totally freaking out right now.
Whatever the case, I have a question to ask you:
Years from now, after your current students are married with kids, jobs, mortgages, car payments, and all the stress that comes with life…Who will they be pouring into?
Maybe a better question is this:Who is pouring into them right now?
And can we be honest for just one moment? Small groups don’t count. In the inner recesses of your brain, when you’re really honest with yourself, you know that you can’t call that 45-minute time slot each week “discipleship.”
I’m talking about the one-on-one, life-on-life, emptying all that is inside you into a student.
The good, the bad, and the ugly.
The Scripture that means the most to you. The Scripture you’re still wrestling with.
The stories. The wins. The losses.
The call to “teach them to observe what I have commanded you.” Make disciples.
Let me ask it again: Who are you pouring your life into?
The cool thing about discipleship is this: it makes an exponential impact. If you pour into them, they’ll pour into students later. Disciples are not disciples unless they make disciples.
Challenge: Pray and ask God to reveal just one student that He wants you to begin a discipleship relationship with. Commit to pour into that student on a regular basis (once a week would be a fantastic start) for two years.
If that freaks you out, I just hope that you’re involved in something else that Jesus commanded. I hope that the stuff that is taking up your precious hours is more important than making disciples.
A couple follow-up questions to put some wheels on this conversation:
1.What do you want to be able to say about your students by the time they graduate? That they had good attendance at all your worship services? Or that they actively participated in their faith? These should help to focus and align your programs, systems and practices.
2. Does your student ministry have a discipleship (not leadership) pipeline? In other words, what do your systems look like? Your systems tell your students what you think is important. So what are the next steps that students take if they are “all-in”?
3. What are the big changes that you’ll need to accomplish in order to fix what’s wrong with your systems? We can’t move into the future unless we identify our obstacles. HINT: “Not having enough budget” is not an appropriate answer here.
This is the last installment of a series of posts exploring the Book of Hosea. Check out the first five posts here.
It hasn’t been easy studying this book. In fact, it’s been downright gut-wrenching.
It’s not easy to come face-to-face with your sin, especially when you are a “professional Christian” (pastor).
Layered deep beneath the surface, though, is the realization that this sin tells a story of what’s going on in our hearts.
Jesus spoke about this concept by using the illustration of a tree that bears fruit. Simply put, you know that kind of tree you’re looking at, based on its fruit. Apple trees grow apples; not oranges.
Jesus would go on to say that you know people by their spiritual fruit; whether they are sowing to the spirit or to the flesh. He spoke about sheep in wolves’ clothing; someone that had “the look” down, but inside, their heart is rotten (Matthew 23:25).
If you read the Book of Hosea, you’ll definitely come to grips with how you’ve turned your back on God in practical ways. However, you can go down the wrong path easily here. This is the thrust of the message of Hosea. We can get everything right on the outside, and the inside can still be rotten.
And that’s the point: Our temptation is all too often to run to clean up our checklist. We’re more worried about the external stuff (our words/actions/etc) than we are the internal stuff (what’s going on inside our heart).
If this issue has been a complex one for you, let me attempt to simplify it: What happens in your heart echoes in your actions (Good heart, good fruit).
Merely “cleaning up your act” is the wrong course of action. GOD IS AFTER YOUR HEART! Maybe it would help to think of your relationship with God in more…relational terms. He refers to you as His bride. That makes God your Husband. It may be odd for us guys to think of God in those terms, but the image is there. And marriages don’t thrive in purely nominal forms; there must be passionate pursuit of the other as well as a continued desire to ‘be last.’ It is in those terms that the following quote brings such clarity to what God wants for us.
“Love God warmly as your Husband. Don’t just serve Him dutifully as your Lord.”
- John Piper
This is not just about what you do and don’t do. This has everything to do with your intimacy with a God who gave up His son to buy you back, even when you were turning your back on Him. This is all about an infinitely perfect God Who passionately desires that you would passionately desire Him!
Go after Him today. The fruit is simply a natural outgrowth of your intimacy with Him.
This is the fifth installment of a series of posts exploring the Book of Hosea. Check out the first four posts here.
One of the most important elements of this story is the theme of significance. More specifically, its what (or who) we find our significance in.
Gomer is the poster child for people who find their significance in something other than God. What’s most scary about this story is the setting mirrors ours in America in 2013. For the most part, we’re a successful nation with plenty of resources. To a degree, we’ve become complacent in the midst of our success.
We wouldn’t ever say it, but our actions reflect our beliefs.
We don’t need you, God.
We can take care of ourselves.
We can provide for ourselves.
We don’t even really need rescuing.
Because nothing is wrong here.
Thanks God, but we’ve got it.
We have taken the gifts that God has given us and used them for our own selfish purposes. We have taken the resources that He has given us and built monuments to ourselves. We have used the talents He has given us for worldly pursuits. We have used the bodies He has stewarded us with for our own selfish pleasures.
We’re not too far away from the mistake that Gomer made. And God’s response is clear:
“And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal. Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness.Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand.And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts.And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my wages, which my lovers have given me. I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall devour them.”
These are sobering words from our God. Let us not misuse what God has given us.
Even moreso, let us not, like Gomer, look to human efforts to fulfill a God-given desire for divine intimacy. He has created us to have a relationship with Him; to know Him.
So, really…what are you finding your significance in?
The car you drive?
Your kid’s success?
How many people retweet you?
The way he looks at you?
That promotion you’re after?
Let’s remember that Jesus is the only One worthy of our worship. We tend to drift away from this, but if we pay close attention, we might find ourselves worshipping the temporal things of this world.
This is the fourth installment of a series of posts exploring the Book of Hosea. Check out the first three posts here.
The Lord purchased us.
In 2013, we learn this, most likely, in the New Testament first. We are taught verses such as the following.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
This must be, without a doubt, one of the most gut-wrenching elements that God endures: watching his children continually turn to worldly pleasures in this life, when all along, he paid for them.
We know that Jesus would pay the ultimate price for humanity, in dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins as the perfect sacrifice.
We also see the scope of Hosea’s love for Gomer, in that he paid to get her back. Not only did he pay for her, but it says that he had to pay in currency as well as possessions to make up the price.
“And the LORD said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.’ So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.”
The picture is clear: God loves you so much that He will BUY YOU BACK! You might even say that this is not a huge task. After all, He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). But God did not merely pay a debt; He paid OUR debt with HIS Son. I’m sad to say that I don’t think I would ever pay this price for someone; especially someone who would turn their back on me repeatedly.
This is the love of God; unfathomable and precious. But it doesn’t stop there.
As a Christ-follower, I am called into a life of this sort of self-sacrificing love.This love has been given to me, and I am stewarded with reflecting this same love to others; even, and especially, my enemies. This is why the narrow path is really that narrow. Paul speaks to this to the Romans and the Corinthians. He shows us that Jesus exemplifies the kind of love that dies for its enemies (Romans 5:7). He speaks to the fact that, because we have received this love, we are to be ministers of it (1 Corinthians 5:11-21)!
Jesus sums it up perfectly in the following verse:
This is the third installment of a series of posts exploring the Book of Hosea. Check out the first two posts here.
It’s entirely possible for God to let you run into trouble. It happened all the time in Scripture. I think of Noah, who was laughed at for decades as he built the ark. I think of Abraham, who faced the decision of sacrificing his own son. I think of Moses, who had to lead a group of people who couldn’t seem to remember how good God had been to them. I think of the Judges period, in which the nation of Israel flat out didn’t get it. Repeatedly.
What’s interesting about these cases is that none of them are the same. They weren’t all disobedient. Shoot. Look at Job. He was simply obedient and all Hell broke loose in his life!
The only common denominator in these cases are that God had a plan and was drawing men to Himself by that plan. Maybe the only other common denominator is that none of these plans were easy.
Hosea’s story is no different. Gomer, his unfaithful wife, must have pushed him to his limits. I’m sure there were times that Hosea sat in his bed and pondered whether or not he had the capacity to continue in compassionate pursuit of her.
What I love about this story is that it is a testament to the difficulty of a life lived for God.
There is community in this (Hebrews 12:1-2). When I look around at the spiritual heroes in my life, I rarely take their hardships into consideration. For the most part, I am continually reflecting on their heart for God and their impact in peoples’ life.
I forget that God had them on a path for years, shaping them. I forget that he was molding them, using these events in their life to invite them into greater opportunities.
I forget that God has stretched me using seasons of struggle.
Let us not shake our fists at God when we encounter hardship. Let us not forget that His discipline is to be welcomed, because it is good (Hebrews 12:6). It is like the exercise of our souls, pushing us to a healthy place at which we will be able to encounter God at a new level.
““Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth. What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me. Gilead is a city of evildoers, tracked with blood. As robbers lie in wait for a man, so the priests band together; they murder on the way to Shechem; they commit villainy. In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing; Ephraim’s whoredom is there; Israel is defiled.
For you also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed, when I restore the fortunes of my people.
Hosea 6 (emphasis mine)
The example of Hosea is clear: God will keep us through our struggles. Perry Noble has said something that has brought clarity to this in the past as well. He says, “If God brought you to it, then He’ll bring you through it.”
This is the second installment of a series of posts exploring the Book of Hosea. Check out the first post here.
When you encounter tough passages in the Bible, it can hit you impact you in different ways. In some cases, this is why a lot of my non-Christian friends end up that way. They perceive a false dichotomy between the angry God of the Old Testament and the gracious God of the New Testament.
It’s also entirely possible to wrongly perceive that there are contradictions in the Bible; in which the Bible might command one thing in one place and command an opposite thing in another place. At any rate, these perceptions can be tough to reconcile…until you begin to pursue God’s heart for them.
The Book of Hosea begins with one of these apparent contradictions. God commands Hosea to marry a whore. In other portions of Scripture (Proverbs 5, for example), there is an explicit warning to stay away from women like this. While Proverbs may be using figurative language for anything that would lead you away from God, I believe there are specific, literal interpretations to passages like this.
“My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless…”
The warnings in this Proverb are clear. And I would bet that Hosea was well-acquainted with these exhortations. It must have been hard for Hosea to follow through with this, but I imagine He knew God’s heart in this situation. And that is simply this: God wants so dearly to have His people back. He is relentlessly pursuing them and they need an intimate portrait of how deeply He loves them. What a story!
So what’s the point of all this? Let’s begin this week’s study with Hosea’s response to God’s plan.
1. OBEDIENCE: We don’t have record of Hosea arguing with God. He simply obeyed. And this wasn’t a simple task. This was a lifelong, close-to-home command. I know that Hosea probably learned a lot about God’s heart in this situation, but it doesn’t mean it was without pain. Radical obedience counts the cost, but always trusts in God to deliver.
2. COMMITMENT: Hosea wasn’t just asked to give an illustration, he was asked to BE the illustration. There is no question of Hosea’s commitment to God at this point. This speaks to the participatory nature of the Gospel. There is no such thing as a servant of God merely being asked to communicate truth. We are called to LIVE the truth. It’s only at that point that we communicate truth out of the overflow of living it.
3. SURRENDER: In all practicality, Hosea gave up the rest of his life to obey this command. I don’t know a single soul that is that committed and self-sacrificing; to marry someone who will consistently turn their back on their spouse, only to return to open arms.
I don’t know where you are today, but I can say this with full assurance to the Christ-followers in the crowd. If God has saved you, He is calling you to live a life of sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). Full devotion to God is sacrificing your own life to pursue the calling He has on your life.
This is my prayer today: “Lord, help me to be so radically obedient, committed, and surrendered to You today. Show me areas in my life that need these elements. Help me to see areas in which I need to LIVE the Scripture, and not just read it.”
Check out Part 2 of The Hosea Love Story that Irving Bible put together.
This morning, we spent some time in Hosea, contrasting the faithfulness of God and the unfaithfulness of His people. It has been a humbling process studying the first few chapters in Hosea, as God calls him to marry a whore. In essence God was asking Hosea to speak to a generation using his own life as an illustration. This may have been the toughest assignment any prophet has ever been given.
Inherent in the message is this:
“Go show them what it’s like to be married to an unfaithful woman; a woman that will undoubtedly scar you. Pursue her. Show the people of Israel this picture.”
As I studied, I found myself wishing there was a way to expand on what is happening in this short book. There is so much more than just the surface-level story about a man and a prostitute.
So, this week, we’ll dive in a bit deeper. We’ll explore the different facets of the story, as well as how those facets apply to our context today. As for today’s post, we’ll re-hash where we were today.
We learned that this story shows us that:
1. God desperately wants us to return to Him.
2. There is a strong potential for us to misuse God’s gifts.
3. God’s love reaches to the ends of the earth for His people.
4. God’s passionate desire for us is to passionately desire Him!
I hope you’ll come back this week, as we’ll dive a little deeper into this story. To wrap today’s post up, I thought I’d share the video that introduced today’s message. Irving Bible created this video, as well as five others. Each day this week, we’ll hit a new portion of this text, and I will post a new video for that day. Big props to Irving Bible for helping to tell this story in such a beautiful way!
If you haven’t heard about Macklemore, it probably won’t be long before you do (if you have a teenager, ask them about the song Thrift Shop. They’ll know.).
His name is Ben Haggerty, he’s from Seattle, and he is one of the breakout musicians of 2012. Some would say he’s just another hack trying to get his name in the top ten. Others would say he’s redefining modern rap.
A friend shared his music with me when it released last October. I didn’t know who he was, but I thought he had talent.
Then I got to the fifth song on the album.
It’s called Same Love. It opens with the sound of a warm and inviting, yet distant organ that instantly conjures the image of a church in your head (I’m sure this was on purpose). The first line further caught my attention.
“When I was in the third grade, I thought that I was gay, cuz I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight.”
The rest of the song is nothing short of captivating. Musically, I really like it. Lyrically, it is telling of one of the major conflicts of our generation: rights for homosexuals in marriage. This has been a hot-button issue for a while, and I don’t intend to simplify it. I do, however, want us to listen to the words and the heart of this song.
I don’t even want to change what you believe. I just want to shine some light on the perception of the Christian community. If perception is reality, I think we’ve done a poor job of showing love.
With this post, I just want to look at 7 portions of Macklemore’s Same Love, with the hopes that we might learn something.
1. He brings us to the heart of the matter. Disagree with me if you like. The homosexual community is hurting and I’m afraid “the Jesus people” are the ones throwing the darts. The heart of that matter is not that homosexuals are going to Hell. Rather, it is that God loves us and He is pursuing us! Woe to those who step in the way of that Pursuit. Liars are going to Hell, too, by the way.
2. He shows us the perception of fear-based belief.
“And you can be cured with some treatment in religion. Man-made rewiring of a predisposition, playing God. Ah nah, here we go. America, the brave, still fears what we don’t know. And God loves all His children is somehow forgotten. But we paraphrase a book written 3500 years ago.”
There are times in the song that he seems to be talking to the church and nation interchangeably. I can only speak to what I believe, so I’ll say this: My strongly-held belief that God has a plan for us comes from the Bible. What I want to say is that my belief is not based on fear; its based on my Father’s plan. That’s it. The Bible is our written authority.
3.He reminds Christians that it has never been okay to use our words flippantly.
“Gay is synonymous with the lesser.”
First and foremost, I’m guilty of this. I don’t know many people who aren’t. What is inexcusable is that we throw these words around as if they don’t hurt people. And we don’t care. Maybe my frustration comes from the Christians who will call someone a fag, but get up-in-arms when someone says something ugly about them. At any rate, the central issue is not what Christians believe the Bible says; it’s that too many Christians mindlessly spit venom.
4. He’s calling the church out.
“When I was at church, they taught me something else. If you preach hate at the service, those words aren’t anointed. The holy water that you soak in has been poisoned.”
This is a true statement: I don’t know any pastors who intend to “preach hate.” This speaks to a couple issues. First, the perception of our Biblical belief is that its hateful. I can handle that. Second, our well-intentioned preaching is drifting into off-mission religious bullhorning. That, I’m not okay with. This is my plea to pastors: YOUR WORDS MATTER. Please preach the Truth. But please preach the truth the way the Truth told you to preach. Follow the example that Jesus set for us. If anyone deserves your bullhorn, it’s the people inside your walls.
5. He reminds us that our ungracious words hurt.
“A world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are.”
As a youth pastor, I have the honor of walking with students through their struggles. Unfortunately, this world crushes the heart of several of these precious students. The dangerous thought that enters their heart is that this life is just too hard for someone who struggles with homosexuality. Christian or not, they are taking their own life because of the hardship associated with their decisions. I don’t think “the gays” know where you stand on homosexuality. We need more grace. What if we actually became…friends with the people we preach to [gasp!]. Crazy things might happen. I know this: If you are actively involved in someone’s life, you’re not going to spit venomous words. In other words, our unbridled tongues show the nature of our nonmissional focus.
6. He appeals to unity.
“Whatever God you believe in, we come from the same one. Strip away the fear. Underneath its all the same love. About time that we raised up.”
I can’t help but picture Acts 2. I’m not after an interfaith movement. I’m not even after unity at the cost of Biblical authority. I just think that Jesus knew what He was doing when He prayed “that they would be one.” And the truth is this: there is one God. At the end of the day, He has spoken on this issue. Homosexuality is not God’s plan. But Jesus sure spent a lot of time with those who weren’t exercising God’s plan. And what’s more, when he “introduced God” to them, in the context of relationship, many of them changed! It’s not as if you can change them anyways. That’s God’s work. It’s our job to speak the truth in love.
7. He’s telling a story about pain.
“Love is patient. Love is kind. Not cryin’ on Sundays.”
You can believe what you want. The hurt and pain is evident. Please understand that I am not fighting for a faith community that repels pain. It’s inevitable. I’m simply afraid that some of the pain that people feel comes from our unbridled tongues. This lyric haunts me.
If I sound like I’m supporting the agenda for homosexual marriage rights, I’m not.
If I sound like I’m supporting the agenda against homosexual marriage rights, I’m not.
I will unapologetically declare that I think there’s a better way to introduce people to Jesus. And I’m afraid that our “preaching to the gays” has way more to do with impressing the people in the seats than it does with loving people. In fact, if we had the blessing of seeing Jesus, in human form, speak/act to this issue today, I’m betting all my chips that He would redirect our angst for justice into love.
Let us use our hands to point people to Jesus, rather than to hurl stones at the ungodly.