So you think you know their motives?

In reading today, I came across an episode in Joshua (ch. 22) that is a great example of conflict resolution on a social level (this wasn’t just an individual in conflict with another individual). The tribes that were settling east of the Jordan (Reuben, Gad, & Manasseh) had sent warriors to help the rest of the tribes establish themselves. Once everyone was tucked into their new digs, Joshua thanked them for their selfless service to the nation and sent them back to their own clans.
These guys recognized the natural border of the Jordan River and anticipated that in the future, it may become a barrier between them and the rest of Israel. They were afraid they would be left out of the nation, essentially. So they built an altar there as a memorial – to remind the other tribes of the nation that they were family, too, and to remind their own descendants that they were part of the people on the other side of the river. This expression of their faith, however, was badly misinterpreted by the other tribes as an act of rebellion against God.  “The altar” (the Tabernacle altar) was the only appropriate altar – so they gathered to go to war against what they saw as an insurrection against the very God who’d rescued them from Egypt and given them this land. This was a major offense and they were ready to fight!
Wisely, however, they sent a delegation ahead of the war party that was able to find out what was going on. When the people of Rueben, Gad, and Manasseh humbly offered their defense for the altar (they weren’t intending to betray God), and explained their intent (they wanted to stay connected to God and His people), the delegation was satisfied and war was averted. They would remain one people serving one God.
I wonder how well we offer this same grace to people today who express their faith a little differently than we do? Do we stick with the first conclusion we jump to (often the most negative one), or do we go to the group we’ve taken issue with and find out the truth of the matter? Or do we just ignore the problem and let bitterness hold us hostage? It’s easy to gather a tribe within a congregation and nurse a grudge against ‘the others’ but it leaves “the people” less than whole. Don’t let misconceptions separate your tribe from the rest of the body.

Crying over Dirty Water?

A few weeks ago, Josiah was crying at bedtime because I wouldn’t let him drink some juice he wanted. He’d had some water and I told him that was enough. The truth is, he was way beyond tired and the water-only moment was more of a spur that popped the tear-balloon than anything else. But as I was trying to get him to stop wailing he made the comment that’s always in the running for the “most likely to push Dad over the edge” title: “It’s not fair!”

No, son, it’s not fair that you’ve been born into a family where water is readily available, cool for your refreshment (or warmed for those cold days), and free of diseases that will kill you. I said something to the fact that millions of kids will go to bed tonight without any water, and millions more will have to drink dirty water that will kill them. “If you want to cry about something, cry about that.”

I’m sure his dreams were less than pleasant that night. To be honest, I was tired, too, and was probably kind of a jerk about it. But the fact remains that millions of kids will die this year from lack of clean water. Living Water International is doing something more than just “cry about it.” They are providing “a cup of water in Jesus’ name” in places where such a “cup” is needed most desperately.

Last week, I registered for a half marathon in May in Colorado. I wanted to add a little extra purpose to my running, so I have also signed on to use the race to raise money for LWI. (That link will take you directly to a page where you can donate.) Maybe you want to do something more than “cry about it.” Every dollar raised will provide roughly enough clean water for 1 person for a year. Thanks for your help.

Teach What Matters

Several years ago, when I was packing up my office in Auburn to move to Scottsbluff, several of my students were hanging out, helping me load books in boxes and transfer files and get the room cleared out and ready for Eli to work his magic. (Eli subsequently lost the territory to the church secretary and got stuck in a closet somewhere, but that’s a whole other story!) While I wasn’t looking, these students put a bunch of sticky notes in places where I’d find them later. For the first 6 months in my new office, I was finding little notes of thanks and encouragement and “Surprise!” notes all over the place.

I hadn’t found any for a while, but about 4 years later, I found another one! It may be the best one. Tucked into the back of the book of Romans (in a translation I apparently wasn’t using regularly) was a little sticky note with a simple question:

What does the Bible say?

I’m so glad to know that something that matters stuck with them. What I teach only matters if it’s a reflection of what God has already said. What I say only matters when my words dance to the rhythm of His Word. It’s too easy in youth ministry to become “the answer man” – instead, I want to direct students to dig into God’s word for themselves. That way, I’m making disciples, not dependents.

Thanks for the reminder, guys. Keep digging into what matters most.


For Discussion: What are the most important things you’ve been taught as a student? If you teach youth, what are the most important things that you teach them.

First Post of the Year…

For the first post of 2010, I looked back at what have been my first posts for the past few years.

2009… Part 4 of a series I called “Imagine”  I dealt with some obstacles to doing ministry out of imagination instead of memory (an important thought from Mark Batterson). This particular post had to do with using “past success as a vehicle that will launch us into tomorrow instead of a bed upon which to rest or a wall to prop us up.” I really liked this post… wish I was doing a better job of living it out! But to be honest, I just wrote an article the other day about resting on past successes. Maybe this year, I’ll listen to myself more intently. Maybe other people will listen too. Let’s stop repeating the past and create the future!

2008… Who Belongs Here? In this post, I reflected on some thoughts I’d had as a visitor to a church and wondered what a guest experience at our church looks like. As I think about it, the system is still the same here as it was then. The positives are still in place and the deficiencies are still there, too. We can do better.

2007… DIA Din On the way to class at Hope (was that really 3 whole years ago?!), waiting in a very busy airport, I issued this call to truly live – to do more than “suck and blow air… do more than create some noise as we scurry about.” I’m stilling playing this drum. Life is not a series of mundane breaths and busy activities – it is an adventure in bringing praise to our Creator!

2006… Insight from a 3 year old Dakota We were sitting in a Christmas Eve service and Dakota leaned over in the stillness, with wonder and concern in his eyes. I could tell he was a little worried about what he was going to do. The problem? In his own whispered words, “Dad, I’m running out of quiet.” May we be so filled with the presence of God that we cannot possibly keep quiet!

2005… Hope for a new venture My first blog post of 2005 didn’t come until April 7th. That’s because that was the day I decided to start blogging. The theme was hope (not the Obama kind). What if we lived our lives with such hope that all fear was driven out of our lives? I still ask myself this question. There are times when discouragement threatens to wreck everything I’ve been learning in my 10 years of ministry. I need hope to keep going.
It’s interesting to look back at these snapshots of where God’s been leading me (and maybe where I’ve redirected off course from time to time). It’s a strange thing to think of collecting thoughts and throwing them out there for people to digest. I hope someone’s been able to gain as much from reading my blog as I’ve gained from writing it. We have so far to go in our quest to know God. May we glean from each other as much as possible as we travel together…