Here’s a quick snapshot of what’s going on in our student ministry for the month of December!
This week, I’ve written exclusively about prayer. You can find the first post here and the second post here. I’ve been reminded lately how sweet it is to just sit and talk with my Heavenly Father. I have felt His comforting presence through my struggles. I’ve felt Him gently nudge me in certain ways. I’ve felt Him tug at my heart. Those times are so precious!
It hasn’t always been that way. In fact, quite recently, I’ve had times where I had decided I wasn’t talking to God (I know…you’re impressed by my superhuman level of maturity). The truth is I was angry at God for not coming through on a specific prayer request. And it was a BIG deal.
I’ve had a couple moments like that in my life. And those moments are there to remind me that God doesn’t work in ways that are congruent with some of the teachings I’ve been handed throughout my life.
So, I wrestled with God. I pointed my arrogant finger at the heavens. I cried tears of regret and depression. It was an ugly cry. I’m glad you weren’t there to see it.
Through the struggle, God showed Himself to be faithful. He came through on all of His promises. It just didn’t look like I would have preferred.
The scariest thing is that my preference became an idol.
I wanted my answer to my prayer more than I wanted the fellowship of my Savior. Lord, forgive me.
In all of this, we’ve learned that God knows best because He knows all. We’ve also learned that we grow closer to Him through prayer. Our hearts are knit together with His. We grow in alignment with Him.
But let’s get to the nitty gritty for a second. We are still supposed to ask God to provide our needs. So when He doesn’t answer immediately, we needn’t give up on our prayers. We need to be persistent in our prayer!
Consider the persistent widow:
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
God is honored when we are dependent on Him! When we recognize that we don’t possess the power to move mountains, we find that our weakness is really His strength!
May we persistently pursue God, because He is worthy of our praise and honor, and because He is able to move mountains by His strength and for His glory!
In the last session of “How To Read The Bible 201,” Jared introduces us to a couple practical tools to help us understand what the Bible is really saying.
A few days ago, I reflected on the idea of God’s love for us (if you want to check that post out, you can click here). We remind ourselves that He loves us so much that He has to say no to some of our prayers, because He sees and knows ALL!
Could you imagine if I granted every request that my 3 year-old makes?
He would be one of two things:
A. An arrogant little jerk who thinks he runs the world.
So, we understand that God doesn’t answer all of our prayers in the affirmative. We know that He knows all, so we back off.
Wait. Be careful. Don’t back off. We earnestly seek Him.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Matthew 7:7-12 (ESV)
Like children, we ask our Father to guide and direct us; to provide and to protect. We ask Him to teach us and we expect good fathers to discipline us. But we don’t just ask Him for stuff. We sit in His lap and smile at Him. We say we love Him. We spend time with Him. I would be one devastated father if all my children ever wanted was my stuff.
Because I am ruthlessly after their hearts. Ruthlessly.
There is power in prayer because it knits our hearts together with the Father’s heart! We hear phrases like, “the power of prayer,” and we automatically recall stories of people having their prayers answered. I’d like to suggest that some of my most powerful moments in prayer were when I poured my bleeding heart out to God, when I honestly felt like He had His back turned to me. On the other end of that, I experienced nearness.
The nearness of God, His proximity and availability, is such a blessing! It’s enough!
I thought I’d post a song that’s really echoed this thought for me (not so much about prayer, but about His presence and faithfulness). I hope it blesses you like it blesses me! It’s on repeat in my ear buds on the daily!
The Jesus of the Gospels sometimes answered questions in a way that puzzled people. Sometimes, it was His methods that stirred people up. At any rate, He is a picture of our Father who answers prayer.
And when it comes to prayer, we struggle a little bit. Because we don’t want our all-powerful, all-knowing God to do what’s best for us;
we want what we want.
We pray for solutions, don’t we?
If you’re like me, you switch into attorney mode and start pitching your case as to why your solution makes sense. “See God?” we say, trying desperately to convince Him that our way is better.
But Jesus sees past the solution of the problem, right into our souls. He knows what we need (not merely what we hope for). And He is fully invested in us (so much so that He would send His Son to be the perfect sacrifice for us). I believe He listens to our prayers, and I believe in the power of prayer; but, I strongly believe that, if God’s love is so strong, that He is letting us experience some of the pain associated with the problems of this life. Because He knows what’s best.
The Abraham that began a new nation would not be the same without having to offer his son, Isaac, on the altar.
The Joseph we know and love in Genesis 50:20 would have never existed without slavery or Potiphar’s wife.
Daniel’s greatest moments happened as a result of being in captivity.
And we are better for what we go through. As I’ve recently been studying the life of Joseph, I keep coming back to the idea of God’s involvement in Joseph’s life. Those were several years of pain and torture! I can’t imagine how hopeless it must have felt to be in jail, after being wrongly prosecuted. Wouldn’t you think that God had abandoned you? I hate to say it, but I would.
And all the while, God was writing His story! He sees us. Because He loves and is pursuing us! His plan is better and He loves us too much to leave us to our own devices! His ways are not our ways! Our solutions, helpful as they may seem, are NO MATCH for what God can do!
Might I suggest to you: You don’t want Jesus to merely answer your prayers. You want Him to mold you into the image of His Son.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
And then, sometimes, I can’t help but think that others are going through the same struggles that I am. And that, maybe, we can find some hope together, as we process what God is helping us to walk through.
Each post will contain one disclosure. If you feel like commenting, go for it. If you’d rather experience the community silently, that’s cool too. I just feel like, as a pastor, someone needs to say it out loud. And here it is…
I constantly compare myself to other people.
I compare the fruit of my ministry to other pastors. I compare my passion to that of other Christ-followers. I compare stats, attendance, and style.
Somewhere down the line, I bought the lie that comparison was a worthy exercise. It’s not. It’s a trap.
But deep inside, I know that there’s a desire to be known, appreciated, and needed. I hate it but it’s there. And I have to wrestle with that.
But maybe, instead of just hating that it’s there, I should look at it from a different angle; because this snare points to something. It is a big, flashy, Vegas-style arrow sign that points to the fact that it is a good thing to be known by God.
Through times of intense prayer, I allow God to remind me that I am loved and that my identity is that I am His son! Through His Word, I am brought to a place of peace and rest in Him.
What business do I have putting my self-worth in things of this world? The One who knows all knows me. That’s a pretty big deal! Thank you, Jesus for your patience with me, when I constantly run to other sources for approval. May we always look to you for our identity!
Jared walks us through part 2 of “How To Read The Bible 201,” as he focuses on Acts 17. In this message, he reminds us that reading/studying our bible should not be a checklist item, but something more.
“I am so done with my stupid family. Seriously can’t wait to get out of this house.”
Really? Because I’m not sure that would go well for you! You want money, but you won’t work at McDonald’s. You want freedom, but you don’t want responsibility. You want food, but you don’t want your parents, who work hard to put food on the table…to be parents.
Some of my students make me want to cuss.
This is mainly because I never acted like that when I was a kid.
Did you catch that? That’s called humor. And it’s not true.
Of course, I had those thoughts when I was a teenager. I would guess most adults did at one point. And that’s what I’m really struggling with; at what point do we file this under “growing up”?
It’s tough for me to do that. Like it’s tough for me to accept that students still throw their lives away after we do everything we can to point them in the right direction. Maybe the reason I’m so mad is that we set out to help students get it right the first time.
Good luck, slugger.
I get it. I set my self up for a huge disappointment. But what do you do? Whether or not the stats are terrible, I’m praying that God will use me to impact a generation!
So, let me talk to the students for a second:
You need to freakin’ calm down. When you say things like the student did in the tweet above, you are simply spitting in your parents’ faces. Even if you don’t have the most involved or encouraging parents, you can’t afford to treat them without respect; mainly, because of the Bible. We are all commanded to honor our moms and dads. And let me finish with this: Some of you freak out when your parents make a mistake, as if they are perfect, but then you freak out when they have unrealistic expectations for you. Think all the way around this issue before you go saying words that can never be forgotten!
Now, let’s talk to the parents:
You knew this day was coming. You knew that because you experienced it when you left home. You knew what it felt like to crave the freedom of living on your own. You were so anxious to be an adult. And then life smacked you around like you were in the ring with Kimbo Slice. You got humble. You got bills. You got a job. You didn’t get summer vacation anymore. You had a kid. You stopped sleeping. All your money started going to items in your budget filed under N, for “Not for you anymore.” And you love it. Because they’re worth it. When they fell when they were learning how to walk, you didn’t scold them. When they were learning how to ride a bike, you didn’t get mad that they didn’t figure it out the first time. And when your kids speak rudely to you about how they can’t wait to leave home, you’ll take it on the chin. Worse, you’ll take it on the heart. You’ll wonder what happened to the kid went that wanted to spend every spare moment with you. But you’ll know…this is part of growing up. You’ll understand that this is just what teenagers do when they get to this point.
I don’t know where you land on this issue, but it hits home for me. My oldest is three years old and thinks I’m a super hero. He loves to spend time with me. And one day, that might change. He’ll certainly learn that I’m not superhuman. And when that day comes, will you just shoot me a link to this blog post? And maybe take me out for a drink.
p.s. It should go without saying that I love my students dearly!
In this series, we’ll pick up where we left off in 101 last spring. We dive into 2 Timothy 3:14-17 and answer the question, “Why is the bible so important?”
1. “I don’t see where this is headed.” This is a tough one, because I would bet, that half the time this phrase is uttered, vision has actually been shared. We, as leaders, need to remember that one vision talk a year won’t do the job. One method of sharing vision will only connect with certain people. We have to paint a picture for our people! If everyone is tied together and heading in different direction, there won’t be much movement; just confusion and frustration. Or even worse, disconnection.
2. “I’m tired of the last-minute planning” (or total lack thereof). If you’re a go-with-the-flow type person like I am, your leadership style can’t echo your personality. Let me be really clear: I have heard this statement from one of my closest friends on my team. He had to sit me down and beg me to stop asking him for last-minute changes/commitments. It’s not a big deal to you; but it’s a HUGE deal to them; if, at the very least, you can just communicate that you thought ahead of time.
3. “You expect way too much of me.” I have a good friend that left vocational ministry to work a “regular job.” The first revelation he had?
“I feel so convicted about how hard I rode my volunteers. I had no idea what its like to work all week and then to volunteer my only free time at a student ministry. Our expectations were way too high, and if I did it again, I’d change expectations and certainly, the way we communicated them.”
This isn’t to say that you throw all the expectations out the window. Just don’t expect everyone to walk in with the same preparedness that you do.
4. “It’s laughable when you ask for sacrifice from others but never sacrifice yourself.” Uh oh. This statement is uttered to the pastor that asks for volunteers on Wednesday night, but can’t volunteer for something on Friday night. This pastor has learned that family time is a must…just not for anyone else. If you’re people don’t see you sacrifice, then you can go ahead and walk off the stage and throw that “brilliant talk” in the trash can, because that’s what it’s worth.
5. “I can’t bring my friends because ____________.” This one is scary. This one is uber personal. You talk about money too much. You make visitors feel like outsiders. No one is welcoming. You have pictures of dead people all over the walls. The whole church smells like mothballs. These are obstacles. It has been rightly said: “The sermon starts in the parking lot.”
Here’s the good news: these things aren’t permanent. But you have to format your life in such a way that you invite people to offer feedback. Every leader needs a sounding board. Everyone needs to listen to outsiders.
Because the worst kind of leader is the one who thinks he or she has it all under control (even if they do). And if you’re one of those leaders/pastors who has a tendency to bypass your team (like me), stop. Don’t be a lone ranger leader.
Recommended Listening: This month’s edition of the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast, called “The Art of Inviting Feedback” (Nov 4, 2013).