The Simple Things

ImageDo you remember back to a time when things like good manners and a warm smile we’re valued? A time when people would sit out on their front porches after dinner, saying hello to their neighbors as they walked by, maybe even engaging in a conversation. 

     I feel as though this type of lifestyle has been lost, the world is growing colder with each passing year and that is a sad prospect. What’s sadder still is how, despite new technology “making the world smaller” people are growing farther and farther apart. Imagine you tried to encourage a stranger, say your waiter for example, by doing something as simple as letting them know you appreciated that they took your order and brought out your food. I would venture to guess that their reaction to genuine thanks and interest would be surprise and perhaps even cautiousness. Simple kindness has become something strange and unknown. Shocking us when we run across it.

    Showing kindness is such an easy thing to do though. With this in mind, myself, my fellow youth ministry staff, and around thirty high school kids set out to to do just that. Show simple kindness. We did the most random things, buying the meals of people behind us in line at a fast food restaurants, cleaning up trash at a park or bringing flowers to someone who had recently lost a friend. We also made a point to be cheerful and engaging with all those we interacted with along the way. So at each stop, the fast food restaurants and grocery store, we gave encouragement cards to the employees telling them that we appreciated them and hoped they had a wonderful day. In every case our acts of kindness were met with two reactions, first confusion and surprise and then happiness and thanks. These small deeds really brought joy to people and even to ourselves. All it really we really did was smile and try intentionally to be kind and thoughtful. Its not a hard attitude to pick up on.

    Even as we were driving back to the church we saw a homeless man who was waving at every passer by and so we stopped to talk to him. When we left he had the the biggest smile on his face. (His name was Pete by the way.) All we did was talk to him. It made his day. 

   I’d challenge anyone who reads this to do the same. Stop and talk to people, smile at strangers, say please and thank you, show genuine care and interest in peoples lives, express the love of Christ. Its not hard, showing God’s love and adding joy to someone’s day can be done through the simple things. 

    “Do you know that nothing you do in this life will matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made.” 

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Wonder = Worship

This is a spoken word that I recently wrote for a series at my church on wonder. It is about how creation was designed to lead us to wonder and then to worship. The world was all made to bring glory to God.

The Potential of Teenagers

This weekend I was incredibly privileged to take a trip to Chicago with a group of twenty high school students with the goal of helping the homeless who call the city their home. Now, let me tell you I’ve gone on quite a few trips to serve the homeless and many of the them have been with high school students but I’ve never experience one quite like this before. This trip everyone was so relaxed, so flexible and open. We had no agenda and not a single person was worried about the time or concerned with following a schedule to the letter. When we had our times at night where we took to the streets and handed out food and clothing to any homeless who we came across we would, in many cases engage in conversations with them. On our second night a small group of the students stood and talked with a man named Earl for over three hours. Another group listened to every story and middle aged women named Erica had to tell.Image

(Some of the students, with Earl in the middle, check out the smile on his face!)

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(Praying for Erica before saying goodbye.)

Every single one of the high schoolers I was with was living in the precise moment that they were in. There was not a single care about anything other then who they were talking with or helping. Their hearts were so open to the people they were helping and to the God by whose name all this was done. Because of the hearts and willingness of twenty high school students numerous lives were changed. A man named Patrick told us that we were the first reason he had to smile all day. Another women, Eve told us that we showed up at the perfect time and that we had renewed her faith in God’s power. I think at times adults look at middle school or high school students and underestimate their capacity to change the world. Personally and especially after what I have witnessed this weekend I am inclined to think that teenagers have the ability to change the world more than any other age group. I so enjoyed watching them live out their faith recklessly these past three days. They sacrificed their time and spent their weekend impacting the world for the Kingdom of God. I ask you, could there be a better way to spend a weekend? They not only showed the love of God to the homeless in Chicago but I was greatly impacted as well. Whenever I question my call to youth ministry this will be a time I look back on and know, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. All praise and glory be to God our heavenly Father.

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(Here’s a shot of the whole bunch! Don’t they look great?)

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(Bonus Photo: This is Damon, he’s homeless but I consider him one of my close friends. I was so blessed to get to see him.)

Let Me Tell You About My God!

So these last few weeks have been really stressful. A lot of different challenges have risen up in my life. I’m currently working three jobs to try and pay all of my bills and save whatever little I can for the future. The only of the those that I actually have solid hours happens to be an unpaid internship… Whoops. While working all these different jobs I’m also taking 16 credit hours at college and between classes and work life’s been a tad stressful. With all this going on I’ve felt a bit lonely and frustrated of late. (Sorry if it seems like I’m throwing myself a pity party here, it’ll get better I promise just give me another paragraph or so.) 

       So tImagehen just last week my car broken down, taking away my ability to get to one of my jobs and costing a good chunk of money to fix. But I got it taken care of, I thought I was in the clear and I could finish off the last month and a half of this ridiculous semester in my regular stressful but routine way. My car however had other plans. Two days ago it decided to break down once again, this time with transmission problems. Welcome back stress and worry to the max. I honestly had no way to pay to get this fixed. By the way did I mention that my computer also broke down during this time? Yeah that happened too! 

This is where things start to really get good though. In 2 Corinthians 12 it says this, 

  “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 This past weekend was very difficult for me. I was doing a rather bad job at trusting God with my situation. I felt more defeated then I have in a very very long time. I was completely helpless to change my situation. I was so weak. But, God’s power is made perfect in my weakness. He waited until I couldn’t do a single thing on my own and then all at once he began working. He worked through some amazing people!

    First he helped through my wonderful Father who took off a day of work and drove six hours from Ohio to help me the first time my car broke down. He completely took care of my car for me, spent time with me and fed me. God’s love was given to me in my amazing Dad. Next at the church where I intern with the High School student someone who knew about my broken computer gave me their laptop. Completely unselfishly handing me something of significant earthly value, powering out God’s blessings upon me. That same day my boss, the senior high youth pastor handed me a key and told me I was using his car for the week so I’d have some time to find a way to get mine up and running and also get to the various places I’d need to go throughout the week. 

   Finally he provided me with a way for my car to get fixed. As I was cleaning the dining hall and Grace Bible College (One of my other jobs) I got a call from one of the deacons at my home church in Ohio. A very kind man who for no apparent reason has taken an interest in my life. I’ve come to know him fairly well and whenever I see him he chats with me for a little bit, asks me what I’m learning at college, and always reminds me that he is praying for me. As I was talking to him he gave me the news that the deacons at the church had heard about my car issues had wanted to help pay to get it fixed and back in working order! I must say I stood there in shock for a few seconds and once I hung up the phone I cried a little.

     I was, I am, in awe of how God has taken care of every need I have! I was so helpless but he came through me in amazing ways. And to be honest I wasn’t even doing a good job at trusting him to do that. I was struggling a lot to give my problems over to him. I wasn’t expecting God to take care of me. He did so anyway! The God I serve is so good! He loves me! God! God, loves me! The more I think about that the less I understand it and the more amazed I become. Let me tell you about my God! He cares for me, watches over me, provides for me, considers me his son, and he loves meGod will never fail me! Praise him forever! 
 

 

Gospel, Gospel, Gospel.

I realized as I was deciding upon the topic for my first entry on this blog that the name of my blog and the verse it derives from is about preaching the message of God.

Jeremiah 20:9 But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. 

Preaching the message of God has been something that has been on my mind lately. I’m currently enrolled in a class titled, “Youth Ministry, Discipleship and Evangelism.” The class is 100% focused on the best ways to reach youth for Christ and then, once reached, the best way to help them grow as believers. It wasn’t until today though that I took Jeremiah 20:9 and looked for a application for it in the world of youth ministry. It seems so clear now but mere minutes ago I wouldn’t have seen it if it was tattooed on my eyelids.

The gospel! How often do we share the gospel in our youth groups? An even better question is how long has it been since a student in your youth group came to faith in God? For me the answer is almost three months ago! Isn’t there something wrong with that? If only one student is coming to Christ every three months in my youth group I’m doing something wrong. I began thinking back, trying to discover what could possibly be the problem that was causing such a stall in the creation of new believers. I went straight back to my first question. I’m not sharing the gospel enough. Allow me to share with you a second scripture. 

Romans 10:14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

How can they believe if they haven’t heard? How can they hear if we’re not preaching it? We need to be preaching the gospel to the youth in our ministry at every opportunity! (You should have the chance at least once a week.) This takes us back to Jeremiah 20:9 There were times when Jeremiah didn’t want to preach the message God had given him to preach. People didn’t always like it. However, even if he tried he couldn’t help but preach it. I firmly believe that we as youth leaders should be more like Jeremiah. We should be unable to hold in the saving message of gospel. It should be spewing out of our mouths every chance we get. Lets get to the point to where parents and students ask, “Aren’t you ever going to stop telling the gospel story?” and when that happens lets respond, “Indeed I can not!”

But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot. 

Jeremiah 20:9