Friday, September 21, 2012

The Book - Axis Wrap Up 9-19-12

Clash Night at Momentum 2012

We had another great night with our students on Wednesday as we continued our series on the Bible.  I shared an illustration about something that happened to me in youth ministry in 2003.  We went on a mission trip to inner-city Philadelphia to a place called Urban Hope.  It's a fantastic ministry in a very dark part of the country.  The West Kensington area of Philadelphia is one of the most difficult and dangerous places in the country to live but Urban Hope is a light in that area sharing the love of Jesus.  That's why we partner with them.  Anyway, in 2003, I took a group of middle school students to Urban Hope.  When we arrived, I was sharing with the students how wise we need to be in that area.  It's a dangerous area, so we need to use common sense ... don't go out at night alone, if you see a drug deal don't go up and say "How ya doing?" ... stuff like that.  Anyway, one student who came from a very difficult home talked to me afterwards and said, "I'm not afraid."  I asked him what gave him his bravery.  He said, "Well, if anyone tries to start anything with me, I'll get 'em with my 'shiv.'"  He then pulls out a fork wrapped in duct tape and filed off at the end!  Well, you can imagine my surprise to see him with an actual "shiv."  I think I said two things ... first, "Give me the shiv."  Don't think I had to ever say that to anyone before.  Second ... they use automatic weapons here.  Your "shiv" isn't going to be much use to you.  Dude, think about what you're doing here!

Anyway, that event got me to thinking about the spiritual battle we are in that is talked about in Ephesians 6:12.  And, how often we are under prepared for our spiritual battle.  We often use a "shiv" when the enemy is equipped with automatic weapons.  In other words, the battle for our soul is serious business and we need to be equipped with the right weapons of defense AND offense.  We talked through the spiritual armor of God and how we can fight the most powerful weapon of the enemy (his lies) with the most powerful weapon of all ... the Word of God!  The best way to fight Satan's lies is with God's truth.  The Bible will always tell me the truth ... when I like and even when I don't like it.  

Hebrews 4:12 says "For the Word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."  There is no other book that can be described as living and active ... alive and full of power.  I don't fully understand it all, but when you combine the words of God with the spirit of God living in us you get something alive, you get something powerful, you get something that is meant to transform us!  God has not preserved the Bible for centuries just to allow us to have something nice to read.  He has preserved it to allow it to change our lives!  

In my life that plays out when I focus and meditate on the truths of the Bible instead of the lies of the enemy.  So, for instance, if there is a time I feel inadequate and like I have nothing to offer, I'm believing a lie.  The Bible says "We are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago."  (Ephesians 2:10).  If there is a time when I feel my past mistakes creeping up and I wonder if God truly does forgive me, I'm believing a lie.  The Bible says "I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins."  Jeremiah 31:34.  If I feel like I'm not good enough, I'm believing a lie.  The Bible says "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."  (Philippians 4:13).  So, it's a matter of taking ownership of my thoughts and weeding out the negative (the enemies lies) and meditating on the positive (the truth of the Bible).  

We then broke up in to our Chat Groups and gave kids the opportunity to address some of the lies that teenagers often believe about themselves and how the Bible addresses those specific lies.  It was a great night for us!

We also had some fun.  Check out this video from our new game called "Will It Smash?"

Friday, September 14, 2012

Date Your Kids

I have a strong belief in the importance of "dating" my kids.  Before I was married I dated my wife.  I wanted to express my interest in her.  I wanted to let her know that I was pursuing her.  I also dated her because I simply had fun with her.  We really enjoyed being with each other and going on dates was a way to show that.  And, it was in the process of dating my wife that we fell in love with each other and eventually married.

If "dating" expresses interest, shows pursuit, and is fun, to me it just makes sense then to date your kids.  If anyone needs to know they are loved, they are pursued, and they are fun, it's our kids.

Literally from the time our kids have been old enough to take out of our house, I've dated them.  Sure, the conversation was a bit one-sided at times (I've been on a few other dates like that too) but it was an opportunity for me to invest in my kids one-on-one.  They need that.  They want that.  I have a responsibility to do that and I want too!

Yesterday I was able to take my son to the movies.  It was a 5pm matinee and we were the only ones in the theater.  It was so much fun!  We laughed, we ate some popcorn and Skittles, we talked.  It was a blast for both of us.  My son went to bed talking about it and woke up talking about it.  And, the really cool thing is that I'm not sure who had more fun ... him or me!

Earlier this week I took my two daughters out for a doughnut.  We laughed and cuddled and I read books to them while they smothered their faces with doughnut icing.  It was so much fun and I loved every minute of it.

As a dad, I have the responsibility of investing in my kids ... not just telling them that I love them but showing them as well.  I take my daughters out because I want them to feel valued and to know how they are to be treated when someone begins to pursue them.  I take my son out and spend time with him to show him how a man is to act and to let him know how important he is to me.  And, our dates have taken on all sorts of different looks ... sometimes it's Starbucks and other times it's a walk in the woods.  Sometimes it's an evening at the movies and other times I get to shop for nail polish.  Sometimes it's time at our house that I dedicate just to them and other times we're in the back yard playing.  It doesn't matter what you do.  The important thing is just to do it.  Time spent with your kids is never a waste and is an investment that will last through the years.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Book - Axis Wrap Up 9-5-12

We kicked off a new series at axis called "The Book" on Wednesday.  It's a 4 week series we will be doing on the Bible.  I'm really excited about it.  We'll tackle several different aspects of the Bible during our series, but on this Wednesday we focused on the importance of not just reading the Bible but actually doing what it says to do.  

I used the illustration of letters that I hold on to from my wife.  I keep every card and note she's ever sent me.  The reason I do it is because of who they are from.  They are from the woman I'm incurably in love with ... my best friend ... my wife.  That's why the letters are important to me.  I used that to illustrate why the Bible is important to me.  The Bible is God's letter to us.  What makes it special isn't the fact that it's amazingly written, the best selling book of all time, and contains great "advice" for life.  Who it's from is what makes it special.  It's a letter from God, the Creator of life, the One who loves us more than we could even know.  And, specifically, this God has changed my life and, because of that, I want to read His letter and do what it says.

We looked at James 1:22 - 25 which reads Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

We talked about the idea that the Bible is meant to do more than just penetrate us.  It's meant to activate us.  If we believe that coming to church or our youth ministry or simply listening to someone talk from the Bible is what following Jesus is about, we are deceiving ourselves (verse 22).  Knowing is good.  But, knowing should lead to doing which leads to growing.  

I used the illustration of being pretty overweight a few years ago.  I was 250 pounds ... which on my frame looked more like 350!  I knew I needed to lose weight.  I knew what I needed to do.  I needed to cut back on sweets and carbs.  I needed to eat more fruits and vegetables.  I needed to exercise more.  I knew all of that.  But, knowing it isn't what caused me to lose the weight.  DOING it is. 

Simply knowing the Bible is not what embracing Jesus' way of life is about.  The blessing comes from the doing.  James 1:25 says "But the man who looks intently into the perfect law (the Bible) that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does."  To grow in our relationship with Jesus we have to:

1) "Look intently into the perfect law."  In other words, spend time in the Bible.
2) "The perfect law that gives freedom" Realize the Bible is meant to set us free, not handcuff us.  Embracing Jesus' way of life as outlined in the Bible brings true freedom.  Sin handcuffs us.  The words of God free us.
3) "Not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does."  Again, the blessing comes from the doing.  

If you're a follower of Jesus, you have the presence of the Living God inside of you.  When you combine the Presence of God plus the Words of God ... well, that is a winning combination.  

We ended our night by challenging our students to begin something called the E100 Bible Challenge.  The challenge was to read a specific set of passages from the Bible (100 of them) by December 19th ... the last Wednesday we will meet in 2012.  I was pumped to see the majority of our students sign up for it and take the challenge and can't wait to see them rise to meet it.

We also challenged our students not just to read the Bible but to do what it says.  This month we are challenging all of our students to pray (something the Bible tells us to do) and specifically pray at the See You at the Pole event on September 26th, and also to share Jesus with their friends by giving the friends at school something called a Life Book.  We will be doing this at the end of the month.  

It was a great Wednesday for us.  I loved seeing our kids get excited about the challenges ahead.  We also had lots of fun with games and just hanging out together.  You can check out some pics below.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thinking of Our Utah Hikes

Last year at this time, my wife and I were on one of the most amazing experiences of our lives hiking through a Canyon in Utah called The Narrows.  The trip was Carol's surprise present to me for my 40th birthday.  She worked hard and saved up an entire year to make it happen and it was such an amazing week with my wife.  We often say that we'd rather pay for an experience   instead of stuff.  I'm so thankful we have that philosophy and this trip provided memories we will never forget.

I was reflecting a bit on the experience today and enjoying the memories.  You can read about our trip below if you'd like.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Yes You Can - Axis Wrap Up 8/29/12

Have you ever thought that God sees you differently than anyone else?  Have you ever thought that God sees you differently than maybe you even see yourself.  The Bible tells us that "The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him."  (2 Chronicles 16:9).  God's eyes are searching ... not for the most talented, most popular, best dressed, etc.  His eyes are searching for people whose hearts and motives are fully committed to Him.  It's those people that He promises to strengthen and support.  

We wrapped up our "Yes You Can" series at axis this past Wednesday night with the main thought of God uses the least likely.  All throughout the Bible, God has a history of choosing the least likely, the least popular, the ones with "issues," the ones who don't have it all together. God specializes in choosing the least likely.  To illustrate that we looked at the story of Gideon in Judges 6 - 7.  It's a powerful story of God choosing the least likely person to do something powerful.  God chose a man to lead a battle ... a man who, when first introduced in the story, is hiding and fearing for his life.  He's a man who describes himself as "the least in my family."  Throughout the story, Gideon struggled with self-doubt.  But, God said, "Am I not sending you? ... I will be with you."  We used the thought again that those 5 words are life changing.  "I will be with you" is greater than any of our fears and any of our excuses.

The reason God uses the least likely is so that "no one may boast before Him."  (1 Corinthians 1:27 - 29).  It's the idea that God often uses the least likely so that when the "wow" stuff happens, we can't take credit for it ... all the credit goes to God!  Even in the story of Gideon, when his troops were outnumbers 4 to 1, Gideon goes to God for help.  But, instead of getting more troops, God actually takes away soldiers and leaves him with only 300 men.  The odds are now 450  to 1 ... but when the battle is over, Israel is victorious and all the credit goes to God.

Our kids were challenged to never make the mistake of asking God to use them so that THEY look good.  The ultimate end in doing the good things we're called to do is so that our "light will shine in front of people.  Then they will see the good that we do and praise our Father in heaven."  (Matthew 5:16).  How awesome would it be to see God use us, but instead of people saying "Wow, you're amazing."  they say "Wow!  God is amazing!"  That's the  goal.

We finished the night by casting some vision for the fall and letting our kids know that they will be challenged to do some specific things that will make a difference.  The initial thought they may have is "I don't think I can do that."  But, I reminded them that God says "I am with you."  That's where our confidence and courage comes from.  It was a great way to end the night and our students left fired up about some of the things coming up for us this fall.

Check out some of the fun pictures from our night below ... some "Feats of Strength" and testimonies of what God is doing in lives.

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