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Monthly Archives: August 2009

We are learning as a family the value of setting up traditions. One tradition we just launched is if one receives a gift for his birthday he has to give something like it away to someone in need.

Our youngest celebrated her birthday and we decided to implement this. Instead of doing it for her only when she received the gift we made all the children sacrifice a toy. What my middle child did blew me away. She brought her favorite toy out and told us to give that away to a child in need!

What I realized upon reflection is that she was mirroring the actions and attitude of her mother, my wife, a Pastor’s wife. My daughter had learned from my wife how to be self-sacrificing and give up things that she held dearest in order to benefit someone else in need.

You see no matter what gifts, talents and abilities pastor’s spouses bring to the table, they in some way or another live a life of sacrifice for the cause of Christ. I watched my wife get off work last weekend, help load up a car, drive over 400 miles between Friday evening and Sabbath morning so that I could minister to members she had never met before.

I am confident that she would be further along in her career as a nurse, have a wider circle of friends, be more well rested and probably more involved in the local church if not for her connection to me and my ministry.

But most times without complaint, she supports, stands and cheers and smiles while God leads us in a life of sacrifice. She ,like my little girl, has given up some of the dearest things in life to help those in need. I love her even more for it.

Take some time to thank your pastor’s spouse. She deserves it.

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Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. Hebrews 10:24

This post is really a way for me to get answers and your perspective on an issue. It’s concerning the issue of competition in youth ministry. Now as an upfront disclaimer, so that no one calls me a hypocrite, I’m very competitive (to a fault – praying on it) and I’m a sports enthusiast. But I still have questions.

I work in and love youth ministry. I’m passionate about seeing young people come to know Christ, and live out what that means. I have watched what we have done for youth ministry so many times at major events, and so much of it revolves around competition.

We compete in who knows the Bible more, how well we march and drum, who can recite a poem better and so on. To be clear, all these programs are quite entertaining, youth learn valuable skills and even grow in their Christian experience.

But at the end of the day, even though we say they are all winners, we still announce the “winner of winners” and hand them the bigger trophy and give them the loudest applause. If we only look at the winner then we can be tempted to think that this competition model is great. But I challenge you to do what I do when winners are announced – look at the children who don’t win. Watch their faces and how disappointed they are.

I wonder if they hear the same message from us that they hear all week long in popular culture and school, “you’re just not good enough” or “he or she is better than you.” Should that be the message that the church of Christ, the great equalizer, shares with his precious youth?

Now I know some will say, it’s a means of making them all do their best and if there were no competition how would we motivate youth to march, drum, read the Bible, memorize poems or create wonderful art. I can’t say I have the answers to that. That’s why I’m just asking:

1. What does the writer of Hebrews means when he says motivate each other to good works?

2. How can we encourage youth to do positive things and still not send the message of better than or worse than?

3. Is there a place for competition?

4. Am I just crazy (I’ve heard that before) and should we leave well enough alone?

I’m just asking? Can you help me out?

Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 18:3 NLT

A few young adult men have started a basketball camp at our conference center in Kansas City. It takes place at 10 am on Sunday mornings – a time that is usually earlier than most Adventists like to be up and about. It’s been a real blessing seeing the interaction of the young boys and these dedicated men.

Now truth be told most of our boys are just learning the fundamentals of the game. The coaches are doing great just by keeping them from running into each other sometimes. But they are learning and getting better.

My son is 6 and he is in a group where the ages range between 5 and 8. Today I saw a really awesome sight. In my son’s group they were practicing shooting. Imagine these boys using all their strength to get the ball up to the 8 foot basket. They each had a turn and I would say they were hitting on about 50% of the tries at first.

But the best part happened later on when they began to encourage each other. They began cheering each other’s name as they got ready to shoot. They would congratulate one another whether they scored or missed. But when one scored the celebrations looked like the pandemonium over a game winning shot at the NBA finals. I sat in awe. Each boy got more excited for someone else’s success than their own.

What if we lived like that as adults. I celebrate with such abandon when you were blessed with a job, your children did well, or you got a spiritual victory. Even if I wasn’t experiencing my best day (even when I lost my job and my kids weren’t acting right). I suspect we would all be winners because when you win, I win and when I win, you win.

You see those boys taught me that we are all connected. We are on the same team. Your victory is my victory and vice versa. Let’s try celebrating someone else’s success as if it were ours and watch us all become winners.

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[d] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Matthew 6:31-33

Yesterday I took my family to a baseball game. It’s becoming a bit of an annual tradition to go to one game each summer. I’m an unapologetic Yankee fan and we live in Kansas City. I support the Royals because I have no choice.

I go to the games to see the athletic skill, to hopefully see a few home runs and some Sports Center highlight reel plays. My family on the other hand enjoys another part of the experience. They have fun, not watching the game, admiring the fielding, being blown away by the velocity of the pitching nor the power of the hitting. They enjoy what happens between innings and during stoppages in play. They love to do the claps, to get up and dance and to see if Ketchup will defeat Mustard and Relish.

They don’t enjoy the game, they enjoy what goes on as bonus features. The reason for this is they really don’t understand the game. In the game yesterday Ichiro Suzuki hit a home run and made an amazing catch to end the game. Neither of these things fazed them because they don’t know who he is (perennial All-Star and future Hall of famer) and didn’t really pay attention to either feat. I guess we get caught up in the bonus stuff when we don’t understand the game.

That is like the folk who watch the Superbowl only for the commercials. It’s entertainment value isn’t based on what the two titans of the gridiron do on the field but what Budweiser, GoDaddy and Monster.com come up with during their 30 seconds and what happens during half time. They don’t understand the game so they are wrapped up in the bonus features as if they were the main attraction.

I realize it’s like that with us and life. If life were a game, then many of us would be living for and getting excited about the bonus features: the weekend, getting a new car, finding the dress we like in our size, climbing the career ladder, catching the eye of that person we’ve had our eye on. We live our lives with an almost single-minded pursuit after these things.

Well the one who invented the game and mastered it, Jesus, says that all that stuff is just bonus (it get’s added on). He says the real deal is seeking first God’s Kingdom. Put His agenda first. Run after that. Chase after things like lifting up humanity, worshiping and serving God and dying daily to ourselves. Keep your eyes on that. Don’t miss that in your pursuit of the bonus stuff. In fact take your mind off the bonus stuff….He’ll throw it in for free.

I need to teach my kids and wife the game of baseball so that they’ll want to sit and watch during the game and get up during the breaks rather than the other way around. Jesus wants to teach us the way to win the game of life…Let Him do it.

You know the talk. The one you put off for a while. The one you hope you don’t have to have. The one you hope someone else does for you.

I’m not talking about the sex talk parents or the drugs talk. It’s not as easy as the birds and the bees. It’s the talk where you have to confront someone about something they’ve done wrong. Either where they’ve offended you or their behavior is offensive to others.

Maybe it’s just me but I get anxiety just thinking about going to someone to tell them about what they’ve done wrong. It’s even more difficult when has to do with faults rather than deeds.

But Jesus is a great example. In John 4:16 Jesus is dialoging with the woman at the well. She tries talking about other issues. But Jesus gets to the issue and has one of those “let’s not go there” talks with her. He confronts her on her sin. And ultimately she accepts the grace that He offered.

Maybe part of love is having difficult talks with those we love. It’s telling them in love when they are wrong and not avoiding the “let’s not go there” talks. What really holds us back is trying to protect ourselves from possible backlash or even losing the friendship.

But real love takes risk. Even the risk that it can be misinterpreted. Jesus tells us in Matthew 18 that part of living as Kingdom citizens is going to others when they offend us and telling them.

Well this may be an admonition for me more than anyone else. There are a few friends I need to have the talk with this week. And maybe there are people who need to have the talk with me as well. Maybe you have someone you need to have the talk with as well. Confront in love. Let’s go there.

Let me start off this post with a confession:

I had fun at summer camp and I don’t feel guilty about it. I know some of you are questioning my Christianity since there’s a commandment in there somewhere that says “Thou shalt not have fun.”

Alright, this is tongue in cheek, but sometimes we act like that at church. I’ve heard the comment too many times, “all the kids are doing is having fun.” In the past I would defend the program and try to point out deep theological and spiritual lessons that were being taught. Now I simply say, “so what?”

I’ve changed my mind. Having fun at church, in a church program, does not need to be defended. It needs to be applauded.

These past summers while I worked at camp, I’ve realized that children and youth today have experienced too much brokenness and sadness for an adult life time. The loss of parents, the breaking up of homes, terrible home situations and more. Their childhoods have almost been taken away. I’ve seen some who are uncomfortable smiling, laughing or even playing.

As we’ve played silly games like “who sold out”, “walk around”, “feed the baby”, “bullfrog”, I’ve seen faces crack a smile. I’ve seen some fall into the sweet release of laughter. I’ve seen some even learn how to play and for those moments the innocence of youth returns.

What if church were a place where a kid can be a kid? What if we were the people who taught children that they can lay down their burdens and have fun with us?
What if like Jesus we bid them come: find hope, find joy, find laughter, find fun?

What if we didn’t apologize for having fun but we celebrated having fun?