Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Welcome to the World Torah Kate Yauger

I fell in love again on October 23rd at 12:54pm with a 7lb 15.3 oz baby girl named Torah Kate. It's hard to believe that after 9 months (and some change) we finally got to meet our baby girl. We didn't know if the baby was going to be a boy or a girl. For 8 of the 9 months I was convinced it was a girl. Then, for the last month I wasn't so certain. But, at 12:54pm the doctor said "It's a girl!" and I laughed and cried and was just completely overwhelmed with this blessing from God.

She came a bit unexpectedly. Even though she was a week late, my wife had a doctor's appointment Friday morning. There were no signs that the birth would be coming any time soon. But, at midnight, the contractions started and two hours later Carol woke me up to let me know the contractions were 5 minutes apart. Nobody was more surprised than the two of us!

Our kids have LOVED meeting her! Mercy thinks she has a new baby doll to play with. She is constantly looking at her and talking about her and the way she says "Baby Torah" would just melt your heart.

Ezra is quite the protective big brother already. We have a craddle for Torah and to keep our cats out of the craddle he put two laundry baskets on top of it. He's so gentle with her and loves when he's able to hold her.

Both Ezra and Mercy have red hair and when they were born they didn't have much of it. Torah, on the other hand, has hair as black as night and her head is covered with it! Hopefully we can figure out how to raise a baby with dark hair. :)
My wife and I loved choosing the name for her. The term "Torah" is used for the first 5 books of the Old Testament. Besides the Jewish law being recorded in the Torah, what is also recorded is God revealing Himself to mankind for the first time. The term itself means "teaching, doctrine, or instruction." We like to pick names that we can pray over our kids and our prayer for Torah will be that her life will reveal the Living God to others and will teach people how they can know Jesus Christ.
My wife was absolutely amazing through the entire process. She carried this baby for over 9 months, worked part-time, took care of two kids, maintained our home, helped in our youth minstry, counseled several people, and looked absolutely beautiful while doing all of it. She handled the labor and delivery with such strength and dignity. I am so proud of her and am absolutely in love with her. We are both still a little tired from it all. Neither of us got much sleep the night of the labor and also our night in the hospital. Seriously, those pull out couches they let dads sleep on in the hospital ... well, let's just say "comfort" is not going to be a word used to describe them. But, we are slowly getting back to "normal" and my wife, while still sore, is recovering nicely.
Welcome to our family Torah Kate!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Axis Wrap Up 10-20-10 What They Believe

Our student leadership team led the night at axis this past Wednesday and did an AWESOME job! I felt like we had a really good combination of things on this night and took our kids on a good journey. Our night started with some dancing. We plugged in the Wii and pulled up a song from Just Dance 2 and had our kids dancing to it. Really went over well. We also had some prizes to give away. We spent time worshipping. We heard about what God was doing in the life of one of our kids. And, then we had a panel that discussed what an Amish person, and atheist, and a follower of Jesus would believe (a continuation of our What They Believe series). Our kids did a great job planning the night and I always look forward to setting them loose to plan a night of axis.
One of the good things about our current series is not only is it a way to point out what other beliefs are out there and compare them to the truth of the Bible, but for 3 straight weeks now I have talked to our kids about some of our core theological beliefs. I basically address three things: What the religion believes about God, Jesus, salvation, and the Bible. So, for 3 straight weeks our kids have heard the same thing about what WE believe on these things and I've basically been able to share the plan of salvation with our youth ministry for three straight weeks and the idea that our message is simple: We were created to be in relationship with God and that happens simply through Jesus Christ. I'm thinking the time is soon to give kids an opportunity to make a decision to follow Jesus.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Miscellaneous

- Had GREAT services at Grace Community yesterday. We continued the 5 More Lies series and talked about the lie I'm the Only One. We addressed the idea that sometimes we often feel like we are the only one who may struggle with a certain thing and that feeling of isolation is what often keeps us in patterns of sin. The way to overcome that is through openness and humility. So, at the end of the service, people were challenged to come forward and write down sins that they are struggling with or things they are holding on to. We then took those things outside and burned them. It was a very powerful picture of how God views our sin: "In Your lvoe You kept me from the pit of destruction; You have put all my sins behind Your back." Isaiah 38:17.

- Our due date for the baby came and went yesterday and still no baby. We are anxiously awaiting it's arrival and can't wait to meet the little guy/gal. Hard to believe that for the past 9 months I have been nothing more than a muffled voice outside of the womb but soon enough our eyes will meet and I will be known as dad. Can't wait!

- On Saturday I participated in the funeral for a wonderful woman, Wanda Welling. Wanda was a part of our church for 45 years! She passed away a little over a week ago. During the funeral, people were given the opportunity say something about Wanda. Her son-in-law shared something that, I felt, described Wanda perfectly. He said that when they first met "I stuck out my hand to shake hers, but she opened up her arms to give me a hug." That was Wanda. A great woman who will be missed. We are rejoicing with her now.

- My in-laws are visiting from CT this week. It's really nice to have them with us. Today, they took our kids to the local orchard to pick some apples and some pumpkins. Above is a pic of our dauther. Yeah, I'm totally biased, but she's adorable!

- On Friday night we had our middle school Homeless for the Homeless event. We heard from another guy from Faith Mission in Elkhart. We also watched the movie The Pursuit of Happiness. Finally we made our way outside to sleep on the cardboard. It got down to 33 degrees and was flat out COLD! But, the experience opened our eyes to the needs around us.

- Big Steeler win yesterday over the hated Clevland Browns! I didn't get to watch the game, but because it wasn't televised in our area, but tried to keep up to date with the highlights. Football is such an awesome game to me. Such a fine line separates the good teams from the great teams. I think it was Chuck Noll (former Steeler coach) who said something along the lines of "to win you have to do ordinary things better than anyone else." That's such a great philosophy to apply to life.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Average Teen Sends Over 3,000 Texts a Month

Came across this article on teen texting and thought it was really interesting. And to think that I thought texting would just be a fad.

Axis Wrap Up 10-13-10 What They Believe

We had a great night at axis on Wednesday. Something I'm really learning to appreciate more and more are the conversations I have with kids either before or after axis. Some are brief. Some are "surfacy." And, others are really deep. I had a combination of all of those types of conversations this past Wednesday night. It's honestly something I pray about every Wednesday. I ask God to allow me to have at least one, good, meaningful conversation with a student. God has been answering those prayers every Wednesday and I am so thankful for it.
We also did something similiar to Letterman's "Stupid People Tricks" and we had kids come up and show us some of their "special" talents. We had anything from seeing kids who were double jointed to two kids coming up and just slapping each other. It was really funny!
We continued our What They Believe series on this night by taking a closer look at what Jehovah's Witnesses believe. Here's a brief synopsis of what we talked about:
- JW's believe that there is only one God; they do not believe in the Trinity and would say that it's a teaching of the devil. WE believe that within the nature of the one God there are 3 separate but equal Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This is called the Trinity or the Tri-Unity of God. (Matthew 28:19, Luke 1:35, 2 Corinthians 13:14)
- JW's believe that Jesus is the archangel Michael and that He is the first creation of God, came to earth as a man (and then became known as Jesus), died, and was raised as a ghost/spirit who later appeared in 1914 to the leaders of the JW organization. WE believe that Jesus is 100% man AND 100% God ... the second Person of the Trinity. (John 10:30 - 33, Philippians 2:5 - 11, Colossians 2:9)
- JW's are taught to refrain from independent thinking and to strictly adhear to the decisions, guidance, and scriptural understanding of the Watchtower Society. WE depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we study the Bible and learn to obey God. We feel other peopel can help us in our quest to understand the Bible but ultimately rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction. (Acts 17:11, 1 John 2:26 - 27, 1 John 4:1 - 3)
- JW's believe that their translation of the bible (The New World Translation). The biggest criticism of their translation of the Bible is that the translation is biased and based on their theological beliefts. In other words, their beliefs dictated their Bible rather than the Bible dictating their beliefs. They also beliefe that their two publications (The Watchtower and Awake) are the soul way to find out the truth of what is in the Bible. WE believe the Bible is the final authority. It was given to us by God and we should use the Bible to determine our beliefs rather than vice versa. (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20 - 21)
JW's believe that you can earn your salvation because of Jesus' death on a stake (not a cross). The way you earn it is to follow the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses: Go to several classes a week that teach from their publications and go door to door. They also believe that only 144,000 people will actually make to heaven to rule with Jesus. The rest will live in paradise on earth, but ultimately you have to be a JW to be part of the 144,000 or to live in paradise on earth. Everyone else is simply destroyed. WE believfe that Jesus' death on the cross totally paid for all of humanity's sin and that salvation is a result of God's grace and is a free gift from Him. We do nothing to earn it. We simply accept it. (Romans 3:23 - 25, 10:9 - 10, Ephesians 2:8 - 9, Titus 3:3 - 7).
NEXT WEEK: A Student Led Night looking at various beliefs and comparing them to the truth of the Bible.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Your Kid's An All-Star? Wow! Some day he'll be average like the rest of us

I was introduced to Scott Linscott's blog by a link that Mark Artrip posted on Facebook. Really good and challenging stuff for parents. I see this happening ALL the time in youth ministry. As parents, lets all, MYSELF AT THE TOP OF THE LIST, take the challenge of pointing our kids to God more than anything else. These are Scott Linscott's thoughts below:

The church in America is puzzled. Young adults are leaving in droves. Magazines, books and blogs are wagging the finger of blame to point out who is responsible. Some say it is a failure of youth ministry, some point to church budgets and some nail the blame on outdated, unhip worship services. We parents are shocked that our kids just really aren’t all that into Jesus.

When I look for someone to blame I head into the restroom and look into a mirror. Yupp, there he is. I blame him. That parent looking back at me is where I have to start.

If you’re a parent, I’m might tick you off in this post. But, hear me out. I think that we, as parents are guilty of some things that make it easy for our kids to put faith low on their priority list.

Keys to Making Your Kids Apathetic About Faith

1) Put academic pursuits above faith-building activities. Encourage your child to put everything else aside for academic gain. Afterall, when they are 24 and not interested in faith and following Christ, you’ll still be thrilled that they got an A in pre-calculus, right? Instead of teaching them balance, teach them that all else comes second to academics. Quick … who graduated in the top 5 of your high school class? Unless you were one of them, I bet you have no idea. I don’t.

2) Chase the gold ball first and foremost. Afterall, your child is a star. Drive 400 miles so your child can play hockey but refuse to take them to a home group bible study because it’s 20 minutes away.

2b) Buy into the “select,” “elite,” “premier” titles for leagues that play outside of the school season and take pride in your kid wearing the label. Hey now, he’s an All-Star! No one would pay $1000 for their kid to join, “Bunch-of-kids-paying-to-play Team.” But, “Elite?!?” Boy, howdy! That’s the big time!

2c) Believe the school coach who tells you that your kid won’t play if he doesn’t play in the offseason. The truth is, if your kid really is a star, he could go to Disney for the first week of the season and come back and start for his school team. The determined coach might make him sit a whole game to teach him a lesson. But, trust me, if Julie can shoot the rock for 20 points a game, she’s in the lineup. I remember a stellar soccer athlete who played with my son in high school. Chris missed the entire preseason because of winning a national baseball championship. With no workouts, no double sessions, his first day back with the soccer team, he started and scored two goals. Several hard-working “premier” players sat on the bench and watched him do it. (Chris never played soccer outside the school season but was a perpetual district all-star selection.) The hard reality is, if your kid is not a star, an average of 3 new stars a year will play varsity as freshmen. That means there’s always 12 kids who are the top prospects. Swallow hard and encourage your kid to improve but be careful what you sacrifice to make him a star at little Podunk High here in Maine.

2d) By the way, just because your kid got a letter inviting him to attend a baseball camp in West Virginia does not mean he is being recruited. You’ll know when recruiting happens. Coaches start calling as regularly as telemarketers, they send your kid handwritten notes and they often bypass you to talk to your kid. A letter with a printed label from an athletic department is not recruitment. When a coach shows up to watch your kid play and then talks to you and your kid, that’s recruiting.

3) Teach your kid that the dollar is almighty. I see it all the time. Faith activities fly out the window when students say, “I’d like to, but I have to work.” Parents think jobs teach responsibility when, in reality, most students are merely accumulating wealth to buy the things they want. Our kids learn that faith activities should be put aside for the “responsibility” of holding a job. They will never again get to spend 100% of their paychecks on the stuff they want.

3b) Make them pay outright for faith activities like youth retreats and faith community activities while you support their sports, music, drama and endeavors with checks for camps and “select” groups and expensive equipment. This sends a loud and clear message of what you really want to see them involved in and what you value most. Complain loudly about how expensive a three-day youth event is but then don’t bat an eye when you pay four times that for a three-day sports camp.

4) Refuse to acknowledge that the primary motivating force in kids’ lives is relationship. Connections with others is what drives kids to be involved. It’s the reason that peer pressure is such a big deal in adolescence. Sending kids to bible classes and lectures is almost entirely ineffective apart from relationship and friendships that help them process what they learn. As kids share faith experiences like retreats, mission trips and student ministry fun, they build common bonds with one another that work as a glue to Christian community. In fact, a strong argument can be made that faith is designed to be lived in community with other believers. By doing all you can to keep your kids from experiencing the bonds of love in a Christian community, you help insure that they can easily walk away without feeling like they are missing anything. Kids build friendships with the kids they spend time with.

5) Model apathy in your own life. If following Jesus is only about sitting in a church service once a week and going to meetings, young adults opt out. Teenagers and young adults are looking for things that are worth their time. Authentic, genuine, relevant relationships where people are growing in relationship with Jesus is appealing. Meaningless duty and ritual holds no attraction.

There are no guarantees that your children will follow Christ even if you have a vibrant, purposeful relationship with Him. But, on the other hand, if we, as parents do not do all we can to help our children develop meaningful relationships in Jesus, we miss a major opportunity to lead them and show them the path worth walking.

I want my kids to see that their dad follows Jesus with everything. I want them to know that my greatest hope for them is that they follow Him too.

Mt. 6:33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (The Message)

On a personal note: I know the struggle. My wife and I have lived the struggle firsthand. My son was recruited by a few D1 NCAA schools for baseball and opted instead to attend a small D3 school. My daughter was recruited to play field hockey by a couple D2 programs and ended up playing D3 when the scholarship offer was not enough to make her top school affordable. Both played in “premier” leagues. Both got A’s in high school though we often told them not to stress out too much over it. Both are in honor societies in college and my son now has offers from UNC, Univ. of Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins and Weil Cornell for a Phd in Pharmacology. Neither ever missed a youth group retreat, conference or mission trip because of their sports or academic commitments. Both missed a game or two to attend faith-based activities. Both missed school for family vacations. Both held down part-time jobs in high school and learned to give employers advance notice for upcoming retreats. My son often changed into his baseball uniform at church to arrive in the third inning of Sunday games. Robin and I did all we could to make sure they connected in student ministry even when it meant driving straight from a tournament to a music festival at midnight so that they would not miss out. It was that important to us. My youngest, a culinary student, lost a restaurant job because he went on a mission trip. That’s fine. Thankfully, all 3 have strong faith walks today. That is due only to God’s grace. But, I do believe that our efforts and example helped them long for a community-based faith.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

If Only It Were This Easy

This video just cracks me up! I'm thinking about using it in my next counseling session. This is probably why my wife is the counselor and I'm not. :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Homeless for the Homeless

Sometimes being a youth pastor requires me to spend the night outside in a cardboard box with a bunch of teenagers ... and I'd have it no other way! This past Friday night we did our senior high Homeless for the Homeless event. It's our small way to try to raise awareness in the minds of our kids about the reality of homelessness in our area and that we have the ability to help. We started out our night by hearing from someone from Faith Mission ... a local homeless shelter. Afterwards we watched a movie called The Soloist, which is true story and shows the connection between mental illness and homelessness. Really eye opening. We then grabbed cardboard boxes and went outside and spent the rest of the night sleeping in a box.
I just love teenagers! They were so much fun and had a positive attitude throughout the entire night ... even though the temperatures dropped to the low 50's and we got quite cold. No blankets, no pillows ... just cardboard. We also had some great talks together. At one point there was a circle of about 15 of us just talking for over an hour about spiritual questions. Such a cool experience.
I left the night soar, tired, and cold ... but I also left with a larger sense of gratitude for what I've been given, a greater love for teenagers, and a larger desire to simply help people. I heard Rick Warren say that helping the poor and orphans isn't a CAUSE ... it's a MANDATE ... something that the Bible clearly tells us to do. I want to lead my family and our youth ministry in that direction.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Axis Wrap Up 10-6-10 What They Believe

We started a new series at axis on Wednesday called What They Believe. We'll be spending the next month looking at some different religions and comparing the beliefs of those religions to what we believe the Bible teaches. It should be a really good series and I'm excited about learning more about what other religions belief and also digging in to my beliefs even more. On Wednesday we took a look at Catholicism. I totally understand that in 20 minutes there's no way to really look deeply in to some beliefs, but what I tried to do is hi-lite some of the major concepts of Catholicism and compare them with what we believe at axis.
I really tried to approach this from the stand point of talking about what we are for rather than what we are against. So, as I talked about some of the differences between our beliefs and the beliefs of the Catholic Church, I tried my best to talk about this is WHY we believe what we believe.
There are some core beliefs that we agree on: The Trinity, the Deity of Jesus, the Virgin Birth, the sinlessness of Jesus, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross ... some core things that we believe together. But, there are also some differences too. We would believe in the Bible as the final authority on doctrine. There are many black and white areas in the Bible and some grey areas too left open for interpretation, but we would say the Bible is the final authority. The Catholic Church would say that it's the Bible, Church tradition, and the Pope who together create a final authority.
We believe in salvation through grace by faith. (Ephesians 2:8 - 10). The Catholic Church would believe that Jesus' death was necessary for the forgiveness of sins, but the way to heaven is through following the teachings of the Catholic Church or taking the Sacraments.
We believe that Mary is to be honored and respected for her role in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, but we do not put her on a level just below that of Jesus. (Luke 11:27 - 28) We do not believe that she was sinless (either from birth or from the time the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus inside of here) (Romans 3:23) We do not believe that she remained a virgin after Jesus was born (Matthew 13:54 - 56) We do not believe that she was taken up to heaven before she passed away on earth. And, we would not pray to Mary either.
The Catholic Church believes in a place called Purgatory ... a place of temporal punishment for sin. Those in Purgatory pay their punishment for sin but can be released from there by having prayers said for them and also by having good works done in their name. We believe that when we ask Jesus to forgive us of our sin and be the Leader of our life that ALL of our sin is forgiven. In God's eyes we are made righteous (Hebrews 1:3) (Revelation 1:5).
I really tried to talk about the idea of how much emphasis we put on the Bible itself and also on the whole idea of grace ... simply that God offers us salvation as a free gift. We just need to accept it. "Obedience is the FRUIT of faith, not the ROOT of it. It's the result, not the cause. We are never made righteous by the Law." (Romans 3:20 - 28)

Next Week: Jehovah's Witnesses

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Miscellaneous

- Had a great, but long day yesterday. I was able to play on the worship team at Grace in the morning, which meant I had to be at practice at 5:45am. Played all three services. After our last service, we had a student leadership meeting which went until 4:30pm. Nothing like 11 hours on a Sunday to make you a little tired on a Monday.

- Had a GREAT student leadership meeting. I just loved meeting with our students and, honestly, those meetings are one of the high lights of my month. I love pouring in to them and just really enjoy them also. One of the things we did as part of our meeting is visit a family who has been a part of our church for over 50 years! The wife has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and just isn't doing well at all. Doctors have only given her a few weeks to a few months. So, we spent some time visiting with the family and just thanking them for everything they have done at Grace Community. We are reaping the benefits of their hard work and dedication. We talked with her, spent time with her, prayed with her and then, before we left, she asked if we would sing a song. Well, that really took me by surprise and I just wasn't sure what to sing. I asked if she had a favorite song and she said to just pick one. Well, the song that came to my mind was simply Jesus Loves Me. So, myself and 15 teenagers sang Jesus Loves Me to Wanda ... and I was tearing up the entire time.

- We are doing an event this Friday called Homeless for the Homeless. It's just a very simple thing that we are doing as a youth ministry in an effort to try to help our kids be aware of some of the needs in our community. It's an idea taken from the Momentum Conference that we attended this past July. So, on Friday night we'll be grabbing some cardboard boxes and sleeping outside. We'll also be doing a few other things .... hearing from the director of a local shelter and also watching a movie on homelessness. But, most of the night will be spent outside with the clothes on our back and a cardboard box. I'm just trying to create more of an awareness in our kids and helping them to realize there are needs out there and we need to be aware of them in order to help. We're also having kids bring in deoderant and soap to give to the shelter.

- Less than two weeks now until our baby is due. Man, 9 months has totally flown by! I am filled with anticipation and can't wait to fall in love again with another baby!

- Not a great football weekend for me. My Steelers lost. My Nittany Lions lost. But my fantasy team is looking to head to 1 and 3 after tonight. :)

Friday, October 1, 2010

9-29-10 Axis Wrap Up: Integrity

We wrapped up our 5 Ways to Be Awesome series by taking a look at integrity. It was a small group night for us so those in a small group went with their group and discussed integrity while those not in a small group stayed with me and I talked to them about it. The basic idea that we discussed was that our integrity will determine our decisions. Students are faced with decisions every day ... to cheat on a test, to lie, to keep or not keep the money if they are given too much change back at the store ... whatever it may be. They are faced with decisions every day and how they handle those decisions is based on their integrity. Bill Hybels' definition of integrity/character is "It's who you are when no one is looking." That was the definition I used and just really challenged our kids with the idea that if they are compromising their integrity today as a teenager it will carry with them in to adulthood and soon it will define who they are.
Proverbs 11:3 says The integrity of the honest keeps them on track; the deviousness of crooks brings them to ruin. Our integrity will keep us on track and will set the standard for our decisions.
We also tried something a little different during the night. We'll often have "planned" testimonies where I'll ask specific kids ahead of time to share something. On this night, though, I decided to have an "open" mic and just allow kids to share anything that God may be doing in their life. I started by explaining that I've really felt led lately to give our kids opportunities to share what God is doing because we need to hear it. Their story could be exactly what someone needs to hear. So I gave about a minute for kids to reflect in silence and ask God to show them how He has been working in their lives. I shared how I felt God has been working in my life this week and then left it open for our kids. We had a good response (especially during our middle school time). Afterwards I had several kids come to me and say "This is what God has been doing ... I wish I would have shared it with everyone." So, I'm planning to make this a more regular thing at axis.
Next Week: What They Believe ... we'll be taking the next few weeks to look at what some other religions believe and compare that to what we believe as followers of Jesus.

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