An e-mail I recently received contained this quote from Thomas a Kempis,
“There will always be many who will love Christ’s heavenly kingdom, but few who will bear his cross.
Jesus has many who desire consolation, but few who care for adversity.
He finds many to share his table, but few will join him in fasting.
Many are eager to be happy with him; few wish to suffer anything for him….
Many are awed by his miracles, few accept the shame of his cross.”
I’m reminded of Solomon’s statement that there’s nothing new. This could have as accurately been written today as it was in the 15th Century. It seems the modern fascination with having all the blessings of God without actually taking up my/your own cross has been around a long time.
We’ve made the cross ornamental, when it should be a core identifier of who and whose we are.
We’ve turned it into a decoration to hang on our walls, instead of the self-sacrificing Way that we follow.
We’ve reduced the cross to jewelry.
He deserves better. If we are going to wear His name, we’re going to have to pick up our cross. We’re going to have to actually die to ourselves and live with a willingness to suffer for His sake.
I was reading in Matthew the other day and it really struck me how Jesus displayed in action the message he spoke in words. Not that I’d expect anything different, but for some reason my attention was drawn to this integrity. Jesus talked about not doing good works just to be seen by men, and not making a big show of praying to God. Then he healed and raised people from the dead and cast out demons – and told the people to keep quiet about it. He went off up the mountainside to be alone with His Father – no fancy words or spectators necessary.
He wasn’t looking for attention, he was just doing what He knew His Father wanted.
It got me to thinking about the message I give with my words. I want to see our students living life as an act of worship. Putting themselves in God’s hands and letting God direct them to opportunities to live in the stream of His mission to redeem mankind. So I better do that! I better not just sit in my office, planning lessons I want to teach and sermons I want to preach and picking songs and games I want to play! If I’m not flying in His current the way I hope our students will, then I’m a fraud.
I also thought of the message we present as the church. What are we doing to display the integrity of the Word made Flesh? How are we living as the “salt and light” that we say we are? How are we doing at loving the world we say Jesus came to save? We say, “He’s alive!” Do we live that message or just speak it?
Pray with me that we’d each be sure to live our lives in ways that make His Message known wherever we are.
I read this article today in the Star-Herald that shares some interesting statistics from Derek Weimer’s first year as the Scotts Bluff County Attorney. Just thought I’d pass along the link, just in case you thought this stuff didn’t happen in our nice little town… Read the article, but here’s the one that stuck out most to me:
“453 minor-in-possession cases”
“‘The MIP number ought to bother everybody,’ Weimer said. ‘Four hundred and fifty-three is an obscene number.’ Combined with 80 cases of adults procuring alcohol for minors, Weimer said there is a serious problem in the community.”
Last night was one of the more encouraging Wednesday nights we’ve had lately. The night’s focus was on reframing our problems (moving from complaint to worship) like Paul and Silas (who worshiped God while sitting in chains after being beaten in Acts 16). We talked about some situations of injustice in the world today and how we would respond if we were in those situations (unjustly imprisoned, enslaved, orphaned, impoverished, infected…). I told the students how I’d been both encouraged and challenged by the young people I talked about in the last post about The Core. Then we watched a promo video from BiteBack – a malaria prevention initiative of Compassion.
I asked to borrow a kid’s hat and passed it around, telling the kids that we had an opportunity to do something about an issue of injustice. They gave just a little over $50 when it was all said and done. I hadn’t told them ahead of time that we’d be doing this, and we don’t usually do an offering, so this was a good start. One of the kids said he was going to go around the neighborhood asking to pick up dog poop to raise more money! We’re also going to turn a talent show idea into a benefit for BiteBack
. I’m excited to see what the students will bring next week and how being involved in this project will spur them to think of other ways they can make a difference in the world today.
If you’re in youth ministry, I’d really encourage you to take a look into BiteBack
as a project for your students.
I took a handful of our youth ministry team to The Core last weekend in Denver. I’ve never been able to go to Youth Specialties’ National Convention, but have gone to these 1-day trainings a couple times. Les Christie was the presenter and did a good job talking about the transformation that needs to happen in our lives if we have any hope of transforming students’ lives and our world.
The part that stood out most to me was the third session when he talked about various approaches to justice. He contrasted the short-term physical nature of a lot of youth ministry service projects and mission trips with the deep systemic response that is necessary to truly transform situations of injustice.
The examples of students who’ve responded at this deep-justice level were very encouraging. There were several examples of young people, like Zach Hunter, who have started truly globe-changing initiatives. Here are some links to some of what was shared:
BiteBack – Compassion’s student-induced response to malaria (which our student ministry will be participating in soon).
Hoops of Hope – basketball free throw-a-thon to benefit AIDS orphans – started by a boy who saw 2057 kids per day being orphaned as a big problem and decided to do something to help.
Loose Change to Loosen Chains – Anti-slavery (yes it is still happening) movement started by a 7th Grader (yes, they do amazing things), Zach Hunter (who is now a whopping 15 and lists his occupation as Abolitionist/Student on his myspace page)
Friends United – a ministry started by a HS student to connect special needs students with caring peers (this link is to a video that is well worth waiting for)
“We’re too young to know that some things are impossible, so we will do them anyway.” William Pitt in Amazing Grace
I decided a couple weeks ago to fast from books in order to spend more time reading the Bible. A lot of my students would welcome that kind of opportunity (at least the no books part), but for me, it really is a sacrifice. I’ve been re-reading a book we’re using for a teaching series to keep it fresh for lessons, but that’s it as far as recent book consumption. I still read some periodicals online and off, but no books. I’ve decided to focus my reading time on Scripture instead, which is technically a book (or at least a library) but I guess I put it in a separate category from other books I typically read (you know, the whole divine authorship thing really does warrant some special consideration!).
Anyway, none of that is really the point, so I should probably get to it!
I was reading (in an allowable ministry periodical) a book review of Eugene Peterson’s “A Long Obedience In the Same Direction” (which is not against my ‘no books’ fast) and came across a statement that raised a great question: “Spritually speaking in the church, are we living more as tourists or pilgrims?”
A tourist is there for enjoyment, so when things get rough, he goes home (or moves on to another ‘tour’ somewhere else). The pilgrim determines where he is headed and keeps going, even when doing so is obviously going to be painful and difficult. In my ministry, I want to know where God is leading and go there with determination.
Even right now, I have a pretty good idea of how God is leading our student ministry. But Satan keeps reminding me how tough it will be to overcome the obstacles on the way to where we are going. The tourist in me says, “Find an easier way. Keep the kids happy and occupied and the parents will be pleased and I can keep my job… Don’t push too hard ~ they’re just kids.” (Yes, Dave it is still your 14 year old voice I hear in my head every time the ‘just kids’ phrase comes up…) But the pilgrim knows that whatever diversion I can concoct to make my path a little more smooth is only going to end in us not getting to the right destination. As these two wrestle within me, may God provide strength for whatever lies ahead in the journey.
“A Long Obedience…” will go on my reading list… but not yet. For now, though, I’ll be spending some time with the subject matter of the book, The Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134) May these songs encourage us to stay the course in the difficult legs of our journey.
I was thinking about Ananias and Saphira this morning.
I don’t know why, I just was…
People in the church who had a lot were noticing that other people didn’t have much at all, so they began to sell what they had, giving the money to the apostles to use to help whoever needed it. It’s awesome to see people sacrificing what they have for the benefit of someone else. I think it looks a lot like Jesus, who even though He was God “made Himself nothing” for the benefit of mankind.
We’re not given a lot of details as to how the plot unfolded, but what what we do know is that Ananias and his wife sold some property and brought money to the apostles. A noble act of generosity, but something was not quite right. It seems that they presented their offering as something it was not: they kept back a part but presented it as the whole.
Their deception cost them their lives.
As I thought about these two, I thought about the way we often play church. We come, we do the things we’re supposed to do in a worship service, we drop a check in the offering, we sit politely while someone speaks… but are we presenting our offering (I don’t just mean the check) as something it is not? Are we keeping back parts, while letting people think we’re giving the whole?
Later in the morning, (I wasn’t thinking about Ananias and Saphira and keeping up appearances anymore) I read through the book of Malachi (and my thoughts returned to the ‘less-than-wholehearted’ motiff). Malachi had some pretty harsh words to deliver to the leaders of God’s people. They were offering blemished sacrifices and God hated it. He didn’t want anymore of it.
And I returned again, to wondering how closely we reflect that attitude. “I’ll give God what I can give without really sacrificing.” “I’ll be there, as long as it doesn’t take more than an hour or I don’t have a softball game to watch or there’s not a good football game on or I don’t have to work or… (insert your favorite excuse here)” When will we give God ALL? When will the church of consumption die and live a life reflective of Jesus? When will I bring to God a sacrifice that is fitting and pleasing to Him?