Access & Tools – Scripture

For most of us, actual access to the Bible is not the problem. Unless we’re living in an area of the world where Scripture is restricted or prohibited, we can pick one up from our shelves or open the Bible app on our phones any time. The problem is, we don’t.

Devotion, Bible, EncounterIf our job as His church is to join God in the work He’s doing to make disciples, work that “He’s prepared for us to do,” we need to be able to recognize what He’s doing. Scripture is crucial to understanding the heart of God. When we learn to recognize what He’s doing in Scripture, we train our ‘spiritual eyes’ to see what He’s doing in the world around us. We gain a sensitivity to His Voice when we dig into His Word and allow it to transform our minds.

  1. Get a translation of the Bible that you can read and understand. If you need large print, get large print. If you like the way one translation flows more naturally than another, read the one you understand without a lot of extra deciphering. Having a Bible that you can understand makes it that much more likely that you’ll actually read it.
  2. Find a way of reading that works. Some people like to wake up before God does and read the Bible early. Some of us are a little slower to gain consciousness so it’s better to wait until later in the day! It’s good to read through whole books or sections in a short period of time, but sometimes, we need to stop and chew on just a verse or phrase for a while.
  3. Read with a plan. YouVersion has some great long term and short term plans to follow.
  4. Share what you’re learning. When God brings something to your attention, find a friend or mentor to talk with about it. Learn together. Teach someone else what you’ve learned.
  5. Don’t just read it ~ do what it says. Spending much time with Scripture will result in revealing patterns in your life that need changed. When they’re exposed… change them.

This is an area where the access we need has never been better.

Let’s take advantage of it.

Dear Graduate

Dear Graduate,

Congratulations are definitely in order. I know you think you’ve just accomplished something, and you have… but there is so much more to life. Don’t get stuck as the person you are today. Keep growing, keep learning, keep reading, & keep chasing a great life that pulls you deeper into God’s story than you’ve ever been. Remember, you’re a product of His imagination, not just 13 years of free (or expensive) education. Keep digging into His imagination and give everything to make it a reality.

Please don’t settle for what I’ve told you is possible for your life. My vision is too narrow, my opinions of your capabilities are too limited, and my faith in you is not nearly as big as God’s. Oh, I believe in you, don’t get me wrong, and I want to do everything I can to continue to help you grow. I believe you can change the world… But He made you. He knows you inside and out and has the ability to draw out of you what you and I didn’t even realize was there. In Him you’ll learn things I could never teach you and discover the power that really does change the world.

Don’t tell your mom I said this, but live dangerously. A safe life is just too boring and won’t add a whole lot to His Kingdom, to be honest. Living safely, you’ll make it through ok, but in the end, you’ll still die – maybe a few years later than the more adventurous, but dead, nonetheless. Someday you’ll stop breathing. Your life’s mission is not to take every breath safely between now and then – it’s to be blown by the Wind of God into a life more colorful and passionate than any you could dream up for yourself. A life so over-filled that it brings life to the sliver of humanity that is wherever you go.

Don’t save your best dreams for sleep. Live them every day. Live in such a way that your waking life, completely submitted to God’s heart, thrills you infinitely more than the dreams you dream when you’re asleep. Give yourself fully to Him. Trust me, your subconscious mind can’t compete with the wonders of His imagination! Let God play around in your own imagination, and every once in a while, when you think the Spirit’s about to blow your mind – chase down one of those crazy ideas He puts there and work it out to His delight.

image from Phillip Keller at

Use the best of your creativity to celebrate your Creator. You’ll probably take some classes or have some jobs that seem like they’re sucking the life out of you. You’ll work hard, but feel like it doesn’t really matter. Work hard anyway, because it does matter. Strike back at the monotonous with something beautiful and make sure the world sees your Maker in your creation. Make art that matters and show the world His unlimited creativity. Make a marriage that actually works and show people His kind of selfless love. Make babies and be sure you notice His image in them. (Don’t rush this – and make sure you get the sequence of events right on those last two!)

Don’t tell your mom about that last part either – she’s not ready for it! Probably, she never really will be, because she’s going to go on thinking of you as her baby. That’s ok. Let her love you like that, because when she does, it reminds her how much God loves you both.

Build relationships on that love. Go for walks with Jesus. Deepen your connection with Him as much as you can, and let Him connect you to the people who need you in their lives. Learn to treasure the quiet moments when it’s just you and Jesus… and live fully with Him.

Live. There’s so much more to say, but that one word pretty much captures it all.


May your lungs be filled with the life giving Breath of God.

May His Voice echo in your heart and through your life.

And may His Love reach a dying world through your living.




Access & Tools – Each Other

The mission we are called into is not one we can undertake alone. As we dig in to the The Right Tools and the Right Access series, we need to carefully consider that ours is not a solo assignment. We are in this together. We need access to each other.

We are the church together...

In addition to our access to the Holy Spirit, we also need to pay attention to our access to each other. The journey of discipleship is not one that we are meant to walk alone. In fact, we can’t make it alone. Thankfully, we don’t have to. God has given us each other. In each other, we will find friends and fellow travelers, supporters and comforters; we’ll find those who challenge us beyond what we thought was capable and those who guide us to realize tomorrows we never would have even imagined on our own. One of His greatest gifts to us is each other.

He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ… Under His direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

-Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus

It’s not popular to admit we need each other, but we can’t escape the fact that we are made for each other. Each one has a special work that facilitates the health and growth of the whole body. One of the most unhealthy behaviors in the church today is the way we can compartmentalize certain subgroups. On an individual level, we keep others at a distance and never really give them access to what God has to offer through us. We withdraw when things get a little messy or our toes get stepped on one too many times. But if one of God’s greatest gifts to His Body is each other, that means you are part of that gift, too, for the benefit of others. Here are a few ways to give others access to your life:

  • Make the most of your circumstances and skills. Your abilities, your work place, your circle of peers and friends – these are not accidental. Be diligent in letting God work through these and make sure you’re keeping sharp enough to take advantage of opportunities to show His grace and love when they come along. Don’t just do your job, do a great job at it.
  • Open your doors. Just because your workplace has an open door policy doesn’t mean the people around you feel open to approach. If your door is constantly closed, that sends a very different message and the policy is irrelevant. This works at home, too. Hang out in the yard or the front porch when your neighbors may be around to strike up a conversation. Yes, you may miss some half naked people that no one but dancers ever heard of dancing with other half naked people that used to be famous on tv, but who cares? Really…
  • Don’t shrink back from necessary conflict. I have seen very few things cripple the church more than avoiding conflict. Rather than following Jesus’ instructions about reconciling with our brother, we’ll too often just avoid that brother altogether. Sit on the other side of the building, go to a different service or venue, or join a new church… But when we go to these lengths to avoid hurt feelings, we often fail to bring about the reconciliation that Jesus wants to put on display. Is there someone you need to stop avoiding and carefully restore relationship with?
  • Have meals together. When we eat together, we open time for conversation to go beyond the first couple minutes of pleasantries and actually get to know each other a little bit. Do this regularly and you are giving people access to your life and building bridges that God will work through to strengthen His Body. Take someone out to eat for lunch after services this Sunday. (And leave a tip that reflects your Father’s generosity to surprise your server.)
  • Travel together. As a youth minister, I take this for granted. I get to travel often with a van load of students from our youth ministry to camps or conferences. We enjoy access to each others’ lives because of these trips. But one of my favorite trips was a cross country drive for a conference with our small group of adults. We crowded into a vacation house for a few days, got on each others’ nerves a little bit, and were drawn together in exciting new ways. What if you took your small group or a couple close families to a conference or vacationed together?
  • Work together. Find a Habitat for Humanity project nearby or just find someone in need of some maintenance work, grab a few people to conspire with, and do some some good, helpful work side by side.

God has given us each other in the church to strengthen each other for the journey ahead, but also to strengthen our combined efforts to move forward with a gospel of reconciliation in a world that is desperately in need of it. We are joined with a family that stretches across the globe and a couple thousand years that gives evidence of far greater things to come…

Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)

But let’s not run alone. We should go together.

Access & Tools – Holy Spirit

In The Right Tools & The Right Access I mentioned our need for the right tools and access in order to accomplish the job that is at hand. In youth ministry, and in the church, the stakes are very high, and the job is huge. Without the right access and the right tools, we have no hope of success.

The first access that I want to talk about is the Holy Spirit. At a youth event recently, one of my students questioned the speaker on something huge. He did it after the session and in a polite way, just for the record. This wasn’t a snotty, know-it-all attitude pridefully telling the speaker he was wrong about something. (Like I may or may not have done as a kid!) The speaker talked about how great it would be to to have been Moses, hearing the voice of God from within a burning bush that didn’t seem to be burning up. He talked excitedly about getting to heaven and asking Moses what that was like. My student’s question… “Don’t you think Moses wonders how awesome it is for us to have God’s very Spirit living inside of us?!” Whoah!

The church has been given a spirit not of fear.
Paul’s words to Timothy are a great reminder to us.

Sometimes, it seems that we forget today, the very fact that enabled the early church to survive and move forward with the Gospel of Jesus: His Holy Spirit is alive in His people! The Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit at work within our lives. He is here to comfort with love, strengthen with faith, & encourage with hope. God has given us access to the very heart of who He is in the Holy Spirit. He is here to empower us to do exactly what He directs us to do.

  • Self-reliance – We are taught from the time we’re very young to rely on ourselves. The problem is, the job is a God-sized job that we can’t do on our strength. All the best technology and skill and strategy come up short without the Spirit. We need to rely on His strength.
  • Fear of what we can’t control – The Holy Spirit is not some little candle that we hold up at Christmas time to sing Silent Night to. He’s an all-encompassing, all-consuming fire that will burn wherever He finds fuel. He’s like the wind. You can learn to steer by it, you can learn to harness the power inherent within it, but you can never hope to control it. Is it a risky proposition to set your sail to be fully directed by such a power? Sure it is. But there’s no other way to get to where He wants you to be. Raise your sail and trust Him. He’s not tame, but He’s good.
  • Guilt by association – There are some, even as early as the book of Acts, who have tried to make a name for themselves by misrepresenting the Spirt. Selfish profiteering has caused some to claim the Spirit’s power for their own ends, not His. A lot of well-intentioned Christians have steered clear of too much talk of the Holy Spirit because they don’t want to be associated with these various movements or personalities. This is an old roof that we need to cut away in order to show a better understanding of what the Spirit is all about.

Cutting away these old roofs is critical to gaining access to the Spirit Jesus promised to His disciples. Is there an area where you need to do a little cutting?


Forgotten God from Francis ChanCheck out Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit ~ It’s a great book from Francis Chan that’ll give you a little more to think about regarding the Holy Spirit.

The Right Tools & The Right Access

Any job is easier if you’ve got the right access and the right tools! I’ve been working on some things around the house the last couple weeks and this truth has jumped up and smacked me in the face more than a few times. Thankfully, the hammer has not followed suit!

Our bathroom needs a fan, which requires a little crawling around in the attic. No big deal, except… Years ago, previous owners built an addition, including relocating the bathroom, but when they did they just built the new roof over the top of the old one. Maybe this is common practice when adding on to an existing structure (what do I know?!) but it seems ridiculous to me. It leaves almost no space to work in if you need to! Pull out all your trigonometric skill and tell me the space created inside a triangle with two 12 degree corners. (Incidentally, why is there no symbol on our keyboards for degrees? We have them for % and $ and # and &… why no degrees?!) Ok, back to the trigonometry. The answer is… not enough!

I’m a small guy without any claustrophobic qualms, but I couldn’t even manage to climb through the 15″ hole, make the 90 degree turn and crawl 20′ through the attic to get to the spot where I needed to put in a fan. That’s not even considering dragging the necessary tools up there! I needed access. To get it, I had to borrow the right kind of saw to cut through the old roof. My circular saw was too bulky to fit in the right space. My jigsaw was too short to cut through all the layers. My drill and hammer are not saws at all! So, after borrowing the right tool & cutting a much larger hole, I now have the access I need. (Motivation and focused time to work in the attic is another issue!)

While the bathroom still waits for its fan, the kitchen is just about done waiting for its new floor. There’s no access issue there but I was quickly confronted with the need for the right tools. We got an easy tongue in groove type of laminate floor that basically snaps together. I’ve got a wood block and hammer to tap everything in tight, but when it comes to the end of a row, there’s no way to tap the piece into place because the wall is in the way. I needed the right tools. Enter the pull bar; a 10 inch slice of metal with an angle on one end to fit down over the piece of laminate, and an opposite tab on the other end to pound tap with the hammer in order to pull the piece into place. Nice and easy.

The thing here is, neither of these jobs is very complicated or difficult – with the right access and tools. Without those, though, there’s no way the job gets done.

Life is like that. With the right access and tools, life works.

Church is like that, too. We have a job to do. As Christ’s ambassadors, we are to represent His Kingdom here on earth. If we don’t make use of the tools His Spirit has given us in His Body, we’ll struggle to do well. If we ignore the access to His Spirit in our lives, we’ll only accomplish what we can do under our own power. We’ll bang around and make a lot of noise, but we’ll probably make a huge mess without accomplishing what He’s put us here to do. We could even injure ourselves and others trying to make due with the wrong tools.


I’ll be digging in to some of the tools and access that we need in the next few posts and could use your help to shape them. What tools do you feel are the most important to your life? What do you need access to currently to follow where Christ is leading?

Remember His Mission

I came across this quote the other day in Alan Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways. As he’s describing the need for the church to rediscover and re-engage what he calls the apostolic genius that lies at the heart of every movement of Jesus’ church, he cautions of something else that lurks beneath the surface as well:

Reactivating the Missional Church

There exists in every church something that sooner or later works against the very purpose for which it came into existence. So we must strive very hard, by the grace of God to keep the church focused on the mission that Christ originally gave to it.

-C.S. Lewis

I’m not sure there’s anything I’ve ever done in 15 years of youth ministry that is more important than helping students and their parents discover and take hold of the mission that Christ has given His church. It’s so easy for us to lose sight of why we’re still here. There is work to do. We need to be consistently reminded of our mission to seek and save the lost.

Not to keep church kids out of trouble…

Not to gather the biggest crowds..

Not to build the next generation of tradition-clones…

We are here to resuscitate those who are gasping for real, life-giving breath.

We are here to direct the attention of the thirsty to the one who can truly satisfy.

We are here, church, to reveal the transformation that only God can do and lead people to step into His reconciling grace.

I hope you haven’t forgotten. I hope these thoughts are only a reminder of what you already know and are already living out. But just maybe, the methods of church that you’ve always known have shaded and hidden the real mission. Maybe the apparent success of yesterday has distracted your vision from all that Jesus has really asked you to do today and tomorrow. Maybe “the way we’ve always done it” has so hypnotized your imagination that you can’t recognize the potential of any other way. If so, remember.

Re-engage God’s Holy Spirit in your life and learn again to listen to His still, small voice. Fan into flame the gifts His Spirit brings into your life for the express purpose of equipping you as His Ambassadors. His is “the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”