20 Observations at the Beginning of My 20th Year in Youth Ministry

This month, I began my 20th year working full-time as a youth pastor. I’ve had a lot of odd jobs here and there and some regular part-time work to make ends meet, but since April of 1999 my full time work has been for a church. How about 20 observations from the past 19 years?

  1. April Fools Day may be an odd time to roll into a new town, especially when Easter is a couple days later and will be your first Sunday on staff.
  2. We were finding hidden chocolate eggs all over the house as we moved in… and didn’t find others until 6 months later when the furnace kicked in and melted them!
  3. There were other options, but God was clear when He sent us to Auburn. It was a great place to learn how to function as a church leader and I’m grateful for the patience His people showed us there as we grew together.
  4. Clarity doesn’t always make things easy.
  5. Clarity isn’t God’s highest ideal – and He won’t provide it if it will stifle your faith.
  6. One of the Jr. High boys on my first day thought I was his big sister’s new boyfriend. I wasn’t… No one makes that mistake anymore.
  7. I could not have done what I have been doing without LuAnn.
  8. It was funny to think about how differently I began to process what I was saying to students when my own kids got old enough to be a part of the student body!
  9. No matter how much influence you or I think the youth pastor has with a student, Mom and Dad still set the tone for discipleship of the next generation.
  10. A lot has changed in the youth ministry landscape. Much of it for the better… but so has youth culture. We can’t afford to just keep doing what we’ve done.
  11. Every church can rescue the next generation.
  12. God will often use the students who’ve tested us the most to make His Kingdom most visible to the world around them. Some of the most spastic, broken, hyper, depressed, and maladjusted kids I’ve known have faithfully grown to be great leaders of churches, families, & businesses who display God’s love everywhere. Very few would have picked them for this when they were young. God did.
  13. Youth ministry is still looking beyond what a student presents on the surface to see what God sees inside and then helping the student see it, too.
  14. Some of my favorite moments in youth ministry are still the roadside communion stops on the way to CIY Move or 3:18 Ministries in Arizona. Some of the most meaningful ministry happens outside… Outside our walls, outside our plans, & outside our routines. I need to get outside more.
  15. I’ve only worked full time at two different churches. Both situations held surprises I could not have imagined. Prepare to be surprised.
  16. Many students are almost absolutely unaware of how loved they are by God and that He is, right now, at work in the world to show them that love.
  17. One of the most important things we can do is to open doors for them to see Him.
  18. Youth ministry will not lead to lasting transformation of young lives without teaching students to dig into the Word of God for themselves.
  19. Students who gain the tools to read and understand the Bible will not only lead the church some years down the road, they will lead us now.
  20. The best is yet to come.

Oh, What A Tapestry He Weaves…

Somewhere in about 2005, I got to attend a leadership conference called Origins at Mosaic. I remember sitting up in the balcony of the Mayan Theater downtown L.A., a million miles from anyone I knew, hoping the crowded solitude would help me find whatever I needed from God in that moment. I wasn’t quite sure what that was, but I knew I needed something or I was done. Exhausted from banging my head against the same walls over and over, I think what I was hoping for was permission to quit… to take my young family and walk away from the life we’d built to start another. (That’s not what I got, by the way.)

As I waited for the first session to start, I noticed a familiar face, milling through the crowd a few rows away. It was only familiar from the back covers of a couple of my favorite books, An Unstoppable Force and The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus, pastor of Mosaic. Actually, I think the title he used was Cultural Architect and I loved it! We shook hands and when I said I was a youth pastor, he introduced his young daughter, Mariah. I had no idea what their relationship was truly like or what she would make of the life God had given her, but it was great to see a pastor of an incredibly innovative church, leading a conference and writing and talking about the art of ministry and leadership in ways that others didn’t (in ways that resonated deep within me and continue to shape how I work and lead) with his daughter by his side. I noted that whatever else he was pouring into us, he seemed even more intent on developing the leader in Mariah. It was only a moment (one I’m sure neither of them remembers); a glimpse that revealed very little about the actual dynamics of how that would happen, but it was a moment that left a mark.

My own daughter was only a few years old (maybe 5), back at home with my wife and with wide open possibilities ahead of her, but I remember praying that day that whatever else happened in my life and ministry, God would help me develop a relationship with my little girl that would see us sharing hope and life and light together. I hoped that someday, she could look at me with the pride and admiration and hope that I saw in Mariah’s glance at her dad. Later, when he had her come up on stage and sing, I was again struck by the poise and confidence she showed (not to mention an incredible voice). I hoped I would raise such a confident girl.

Today, my “little girl” is about ready to graduate high school, enrolled to start a worship arts program in a few months, and skipping school today to attend the Outcry, a worship conference where one of the featured leaders is none other than Mariah McManus. I am beyond proud of who Emily is and who she is becoming. Last night, as she led our student ministry in a moment of musical prayer, she’d chosen a song co-written by Mariah McManus and it struck me how God has been moving to answer my father-hearted prayers for my kids. And even more so, how He is orchestrating great things for His kids, inviting us to run in faith into a symphonic display of His love that will bring great hope and light to the world. It’s amazing what He does with our faithful response to His heart!

The song has quickly become one of Emily’s favorites. It speaks to the song that we are all made for; the song of Jesus’ greatness and strength and love. The darkness and fear that keep us from singing His song are no match for Him! God is moving. Whether you’re in small town Nebraska or the heart of Los Angeles, He is weaving tapestries out of our lives in ways we can barely comprehend. We are made to proclaim Him, and I can’t wait to see how she will lead others to do that with all of her life.

Whatever you think you need from God right now, take heart. Jesus is greater than whatever you’re facing. You may be facing it for the sole purpose of learning to live in that reality. Let Him breathe in you and show the life that only He can give. The world needs to see it.

A Better Way to Live

Current popular sentiment seems to be that the world would be a more peaceful place if we would all just let everyone do what they want and stay out of each other’s way. Just mind your own business and stay out of mine and we’ll all get along just fine. With a collective denial of any sort of objective truth, people are just left to do whatever they think is right.

It seems like some kind of utopian ideal that would lead to a beautiful world, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it sound like absolute freedom? Given a full head of steam, wouldn’t this idea (to let everyone do what they feel is right) lead to great things? Like respecting each other, and valuing each other’s differences, and celebrating diversity, and lots and lots of positive reinforcement…

It might…

If it weren’t for us.

It turns out that the whole “live and let live” mentality is just putting a nice pretty facade on death and destruction. Even when we intend to do what we think or feel is right, we don’t always actually do what we think or feel is right, do we? Honestly?

You don’t. I don’t. Neither does anyone else you know. When we set our own standards, it’s easy to justify violating those standards without any consequences. The entertainment industry has decided to give us an ugly glimpse this year of the double standards we allow for ourselves. The political realm has jumped in with both feet as well, with allegations and statements that would cause the rest of us plebeians to lose our jobs, even if we were lucky enough to stay out of jail. History is littered with heroes with indiscretions we just don’t talk about to avoid knocking them from their shiny pedestals. (Unless of course, they’re from the other party, then we want that crap splashed across every front page we can point to.)

This is not new. I’ve just been reading the book of Judges in the Old Testament, and it’s a disgusting exhibition of how horribly things can turn when everyone does “what’s right in their own eyes.” When you read this bit of Jewish history, don’t make the mistake of thinking that’s the culture God intended. The book is full of people forgetting what God had done for their nation, rejecting His standards, and replacing them with whatever they wanted to do. The results were a mess. Just like they are today.

There’s got to be a better way to live.

Doesn’t there?


Thankfully, one of Jesus’ own brothers has left us with some great wisdom for living a life that’s not just a false veneer on the inevitable death that is coming. [Here at WestWay, we’re digging in to his letter over the next several weeks and I’m excited to see the transformation from death to life. If you’re in the Scottsbluff area, come check it out at 10:15 on Sunday.]

Also check out this overview from The Bible Project.

How Old is Old?

As a kid, I thought someone who was 65 was really old. I mean… not just a little old, but really old. I figured that I’d start getting old somewhere in the upper 30’s or 40’s because I heard people I knew in that age range talk about getting over the hill and decrepit and all of that. Mostly, the black birthday balloons and jokes about new aches and pains were done in jest, I thought, but I could tell they were getting more and more aware of their impending “old age.” Some didn’t seem to mind, but others seemed to want to deny the aging process with wonder diets, hair dyes, and every bottle of Rogain they could find. (These were pre-botox days.)

This weekend, my dad celebrated his 65th birthday. He and mom were driving through within 50 miles of town on the way home from a church planting leaders retreat, so they decided to stop. We got to have cake, but there were no black balloons and hardly any “old man” jokes at all! I don’t know how he feels about all of it, but I noticed something… I don’t think of 65 as really old any more. Maybe a little old, but not really old. And at 42, while I admit to moving a little slower some of the time, I don’t think I’m as old as I thought I would be by now! My grandpa turns 89 next month and I’d bet that up until some health issues started kicking him around the last few years, he didn’t think he was old either.

It’s interesting how perspective changes isn’t it?

What has changed your mind lately?

Your Service of Worship…

This last weekend, I got to take a van load of some of the best of the next generation to the Student Leadership Summit at Nebraska Christian College. It was great. I graduated from there 20 years ago (whoah!), and had a great college experience, so I always have high expectations when I have the chance to be on campus. Since my daughter will be enrolled there next year (whoah again!), there’s a new layer of processing that’s happening as I think about the college and what they’re doing for the Kingdom and the next generation of college students.

As one of many alumni and a supporter of the college, as a visiting youth pastor and a soon to be father of a freshman, I found myself observing, critiquing, and participating in the event from all kinds of angles.

We got all checked in, and after a fun opener that involved a drum line of trash cans, lids, buckets, stools, and about anything else that the drummers could bang on, the student band took the stage. During the first song, which was fast, loud, and a celebration of coming together in the presence of God, I had two thoughts in quick succession:

  1. This band of college kids is really, really good. The technical proficiency and production were great. The school is doing a great job teaching these aspects in the worship arts department that my daughter is heading into. That’s exciting because she’s got a gift that needs next level development – and I don’t doubt that’s going to happen.
  2. But, I hope they’re still doing as well at developing a spirituality deep enough to sustain young worship leaders in their discipleship walk as they confront the realities of being worship pastors and leaders off the stage day after day in local church settings. Performers are easy to come by… we need leaders of worship.

It’s one thing to be a good musician/performer who can capture and hold a crowd’s attention and garner their participation for a weekend. It’s a gift… and it can be a good gift when it’s used well. But it’s another thing to walk with Christ through a life of leading other people to live lives of sustained worship. And it requires a lot more, I think. Mostly, it requires a depth of relationship with God that strengthens us enough for the task.

Immediately after the first song, the band led a song that was all about NOT performing. I know they didn’t have me in mind when the set list was made… but this was the first part of an answer to my question. “We’ve learned to be good musicians, but we’re after a heart connection with our Maker, not applause.” A second piece to answer the question came at the end of the weekend:

Groups were loading up and heading home. Since Emily needed to do a quick interview to get set up for starting classes next year, we were moving a little slow, visiting with another former student who will graduate later this year. (You WILL finish, Shane, you WILL finish!) My wife, LuAnn made a quick visit to the restroom before we hit the road and found all the affirmation of where the heart of NCC still is. That sounds really weird so let me explain. She found Nina… who had done an awesome job leading from the stage all weekend… cleaning the restroom. After a weekend of a couple hundred kids in the building and all that that entails, the worship leader was cleaning the restroom.

And she was still engaged in worship.

No lights. No cameras. No applause.

Just something that needed done and a heart willing to take action to do it.

Well done.

Looking for Joshua(s)

In Numbers 27, Moses is told by God that he is not going to be able to lead the people into the promised land. Moses accepts this as a consequence of his sin (with a little bit of passing the buck revealed in Deuteronomy), but is still concerned for the people. As he thought about the people of Israel moving on without him, he asked God to make it clear who the new leader would be, “that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.”

God drew Moses’ attention to Joshua (who had been an aid to Moses for decades) and told him to “invest him with some of your authority” so the people would follow. So Moses commissioned Joshua with clear direction from God.

For the last 20 years, I’ve been looking for Joshuas. Don’t worry, I haven’t received any directive from God to go wander out into the mountains to die or anything, but much of my student ministry has been geared toward helping students be the Joshuas in their own story – to find and lead ministries of their own. I love seeing potential (that God has placed within people) catalyzed and made kinetic. The last couple weekends have brought some great reminders for me of how that’s been fruitful.

A Roomful of Joshuas!

One of those moments came over a weekend ski trip – with two recently graduated students as part of the team leading our group. Additionally, a couple other former students were leading another group from a church nearby, and another former student was the speaker for the event. It’s incredibly humbling to see so literally how our influence outreaches us by miles!


“We are what they grow beyond… that is the true burden of all masters.”


I may or may not be qualified to argue with the diminutive green guru, but I think he’s only partially right. “We” are indeed what they grow beyond – the starting blocks that help them launch forward into lives of ministry and service. But the fact that our students grow beyond us is not only our burden… It is our hope. We hope they will do what we have only dreamed of. We hope they will accomplish what we have been afraid to try. We hope they will go where we can’t…

And in God’s grace, they will!

Make This the One Resolution You Actually Keep This Year

It’s that time of year where New Year’s ambition is fading, where resolve has dissolved into a puddle of learned helplessness that leaves you feeling like “This year’s just going to end up like all the others, so why bother trying to make it any different?” Right?

Ok, maybe that’s a bit over the top, but in the next 10 days, most people will abandon their New Year’s Resolutions (again). One recent study showed only 8% of the people making New Year’s Resolutions would keep them! But you’re not going to be one of those people this year. I have a tool for you today that will help you stick with one of those resolutions that may be the most important one you’ll ever make. This isn’t going to help you lose weight or trim any inches off your waist, but it will help you in a lot of other ways.

It’s going to help you renew the filter in your mind through which every other life experience passes. It’s going help you upgrade the filter that sorts through everything else that comes at you every day to decide what’s good and what hurts, what to keep and what to throw out. It’s going to help you track your progress as you break 1 HUGE, life shaping goal (that you feel like you’ll never finish) into 1189 little goals that you can handle (that will be just as life shaping)!

It’s going to help you learn to recognize the Voice of God as He speaks to you and the work of God as He prepares it for you.

It’s going to help you read the Bible this year.

The whole thing.

All 1189 chapters of all 66 books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Before you give up, give this a shot. Maybe you’ve already given up… Start over. Reading just 3 or 4 chapters a day, you’ll read through the whole Bible this year. If you read 11 or 12 chapters, you can read through the Bible every 100 days or so! Click on the image below for a free pdf download of the Filter Bible Reading Chapter Checklist and get started today. Transformation awaits.

What Do You Want?

In Matthew 20, Jesus is about to pass by a couple blind men when they call out to Him. Despite the huge crowd trying to get them to shut up (I wonder why they wanted them to be quiet, anyway…), they shouted out for mercy. And amid the clamor, Jesus heard.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Moved by compassion at their plea for mercy, Jesus offers what they want. He gives them what they ask for. He awakens their long dormant eyes… and the blind men see. Jesus was on the move from Jericho toward Jerusalem, and immediately they followed Him.

Do you know that Jesus is still on the move? He is still working to restore all things into right relationship with His Father. As He is going about His business, He still hears those who call out for His mercy. And He still delivers.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Don’t miss His question. Your answer builds your future. He won’t do for you what you should be doing for yourself, but He will do for you what only He can do – and that is immeasurably more than you can imagine! So what do you want? What are you asking Him to do in your life? Before you take off into 2018 with great intentions… Before you watch your best year ever melt into yet another spring puddle of those great intentions, take some time to ponder. What do I really want Jesus to do for me? (And what does He want to do for me?)

What will you do when He does it?

42 Scattered Thoughts

A few years ago, I posted 37 Scattered Thoughts for my birthday & thought I’d do something similar this year (after the actual day, but… whatever). As I offer this peak into the random things that bounce around my little gray cells, some may make you laugh, some may make you a little concerned, some may even make you mad. All in all, though, I hope they serve to tap something inside you that will open you up to the possibilities of charging forward in an unstoppable kingdom. To keep it short bearable, I won’t offer a lot of context or explanation, so if you need some clarification, let me know in the comments…

    1. I turned 42 yesterday and it didn’t hurt a lot.
    2. Birthdays are a quirky phenomena. Some numbers seem to mean more than others, but on every birthday, you really only got one day older anyway.
    3. This is what my first church has looked like this year:I can think of no responsibility greater than discipling them. If you see me failing to disciple them because I’ve gotten to busy discipling someone else’s kids, feel free to grab me by the face and tell me I’ve lost the plot. Thanks.
    4. I published a book this year! It’s a self-published devotional type of journal that you write along with me. It’s helped me pray and teach students to pray and can help you move forward in your prayer life, too.
    5. The sales of the book have not been overwhelming – though better than what I understand is average for a first time, self-published work.
    6. The responses of people who are reading it has been awesome and affirming! I love seeing it make a difference for people.
    7. It’s not the last book I will write.
    8. I have not written near as much this past year as I had intended. Fear, perfectionism, distraction… each of these has played a role in my self-editing. I feel like they’ve too often choked the words out before they were fully given life on a page (or screen). I’ve also been busy adjusting to lots of new realities that has left me feeling unsure of what to share.
    9. I just edited out several thoughts that started to flesh themselves out into the world of words. Phew… that was close!
    10. I was the oldest player at an alumni soccer game earlier this year. Hopefully that won’t continue to be the case. Come on guys… get in shape this summer so you can make it.
    11. I’m not in shape, either.
    12. I’m 42, so maybe I am. Is 42 a shape?
    13. My oldest daughter is 18 and graduating HS this year. Her plan since Jr. High has been to go to NCC and become a worship pastor. She’s sticking with that plan, and I can’t wait to see what God will do through her and who He’ll inspire through her.
    14. When I was 18, I had plans, too. Big, scary ones that forced me to rely on God to see them through. Looking back, they weren’t really “my” plans. They were His plans that He let me in on – and I didn’t know enough to be as scared as I should have been. His plans are awesome.
    15. I need to forget some things so He can let me in on those types of plans again.
    16. One of my favorite quotes is from Henry Ford: “I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.” Ford needed people who would not be limited by what they already knew, so that they could accomplish what no one else ever had. (Forget What Can’t Be Done is a post I wrote about it a while back.)
    17. The church needs those kind of guys too, and I want to be one again. I used to be better at not knowing limits… so I exceeded a lot of them.
    18. I got straight A’s in school – and underperformed. I hope my straight A kids don’t fall into that trap, too.
    19. Sometimes, I still have underperformed.
    20. I’m full of contradictions like that. Vanity wants to tell me that makes me interesting and mysterious, but probably it just makes people around me confused and frustrated. Sorry.
    21. The conductor of the Boston Philharmonic once said, “It is my job to awaken possibilities in others.” That’s my job, too, but I work with different instruments and the sound is a whole lot more chaotic! Maybe I need a baton… Maybe not.
    22. I was dead until Jesus breathed new life into me. Not just sick or hurting… Not just broken or bruised… Not just prone to wander or outright lost… Dead.
    23. I’m not dead anymore. My life is full of immeasurably more than I could have ever hoped or dreamed because His Spirit is breathing in me; His breath fills my lungs.
    24. I’m not sure what happened, but the last few months, my passion for soccer has re-engaged. Not that it ever disappeared but… I can’t get enough. I found myself watching a game feed that was broadcast in Portuguese the other day.
    25. I do not speak Portuguese. At all. Some German. A little bit of Spanish. Zero Portuguese.
    26. It’s odd how passions can drift or be stifled by other things in life. Maybe that’s natural, maybe not…
    27. I serve on the board for a mission called 3:18 Ministries that is sharing Christ’s love in really practical ways on the San Carlos Apache reservation in Arizona. It was awesome to finally be able to take some students from here down to help this last summer.
    28. Students need to get out of their usual setting from time to time to meet new people, do new things, and connect with God in new ways.
    29. I am not a fan of the creepy, crawly things we met there in Globe, AZ (snakes, scorpions, tarantulas…), but I am a huge fan of seeing my students get to know my friend Tory, whose heart is so full of Christ’s love that it leaks when it breaks for the Apache kids he works with. I hope they’ll have hearts like his.
    30. I think the world would be a much better place if every kid I work with would find that thing that breaks God’s heart that breaks theirs, too. So I try to help them find it, even though sometimes I fear their parents would rather they didn’t. It’s hard watching your kids hurt, but there is good hurt.
    31. My kids are His. That’s even more important than them being ‘mine’. That’s not an excuse to shirk my responsibility to disciple them and just leave it up to God or some youth pastor. Just a reminder that He’s got even more invested in them than I do – and He’s WAY better at working things out for their good than I am. Even the things that hurt.
    32. My favorite books read this year were An Unstoppable Force by Erwin McManus & Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson. The imaginations of these men and their ability to craft great visuals for the church with their words are inspiring to me.
    33. I have 16 books from those two authors. They are among the few books I ever read more than once.
    34. I also read 1984 by George Orwell and The Autobiography of Malcom X as told to Alex Haley this year. 1984 was a little hard to finish and frustrating when I did. Malcolm X was a fascinating mixture of frustration and wonder for me. He was a criminal filled with hate… then he wasn’t. He was a man in transition seeking a peace (sometimes violently) that he could not find. I wondered what would have been next for him had he not been killed. I wondered what he would have been if he’d met the real Jesus instead of the fake, whitewashed version shown to him as a kid. I wouldn’t like that Jesus either.
    35. There is no political solution to the problems facing our nation right now. No party, policy, or legislation can fix what is broken inside us or break down the walls that divide us. But the King of another Kingdom (one that is unshakable) holds the key to binding us together and healing our wounds. In Him there is no black or white – no difference large enough to divide us. I still hold to His hope.
    36. It’s been really hard to be a Broncos fan this year. Hope has been hard to come by, there.
    37. I am a little bit sorry for that abrupt turn. But, hey… I’m 42.
    38. I have had little patience for the fans around me lately. Whether it’s the Husker fans who know just who to blame for all the losing or the Broncos fans calling for various QB’s to sit and others to start or US Soccer fans thinking they know just where to place the blame for the men’s failure to qualify for the World Cup… It’s easy to be a fan from a distance and diagnose simple solutions to problems so complex that, up close, you actually have no idea where to start. Does the world really need that kind of fan? If you really can fix it, get in the game and fix it. If you know how to lead others to fix it, grab a clipboard, Coach, and get to work!
    39. We take sports way too seriously, but that World Cup qualifying failure really hurt. I’m hopeful it will spark a leap in the development of younger players, though. I try not to be the fan with all the uninformed answers, but… we can do better, and I think it starts with coaches and kids. Sometimes, that means mom and dad get a little more training before being turned loose with a bunch of U10’s.
    40. 42 random things make for a long blog post. Sorry. If I’d turned 22, it might not have been any better because I knew everything back then, right?
    41. My 4 kids and wife amaze me every day. I am so fortunate to have been graced with the gift of marrying my best friend early enough that we could set course together and lay the foundations of our adulthood together. It’s enabling us to launch our kids into their own adulthoods from a stable base, from which I know, led by God, they will accomplish great things that other people have told them are impossible. Silly people… Don’t tell my kids that. The launch sequence has begun and as big and scary as that is… We’ll just keep relying on God to do what only He can do.
    42. If you buy my book here (just click on the cover image), He just might spark some thoughts in you through it that will start something much greater than this post. (That’s not because the book is so great, but because He is, and a lot of my words are simply pointing you to His!)

4 Days Dead

Offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.

~ Paul to the church in First Century Rome

A few weeks ago, I found myself standing on a stage with a mic strapped to my face, speaking for chapel at NCC. As a soon to graduate NCC student 20 years earlier, this was barely an event that would have crossed my mind. As a high school kid a few years before that, it would have been a terrifying prospect had that eventuality sparked in the synapses of the younger me. I was petrified of speaking in public and it was the last thing I ever wanted to do. (Speeches in class were the bane of my high school existence – even at the hands of my favorite teacher.) It just would not have occurred to me that I would willingly place myself in front of a room full of people and try to communicate a message to them, let alone one as important as expounding on an Apostle’s message delivered on behalf of Christ to some of His first followers.

Incidentally, my oldest daughter was also in the room. She can see herself on the stage. She’s probably got a piano in front of her, but she can already see herself leading God’s people in musical prayer and celebration of His greatness. It’s all she really wants to do – which is why she’s on the path to enrolling there next year in the worship arts program! A former student who just graduated from that same program was there, too, leading the body to express our admiration and praise to the God who has incredibly blessed us all. It was quite a mix of nostalgia and anticipation as my past (both recent and distant), present, and future all swirled in my mind and heart like an echoing bell reverberating over and over through the landscape of my life.

Whoah. That was a little overdramatic. Sorry.

I can get carried away when it comes to the transformation that has happened in my life over the past 25 years or so. I am not who I once was because I have done as Paul instructed and God has built something different out of the pieces I returned to Him. That’s what I talked about in chapel. I have a suspicion that at least some of the students are a little uncertain as they still cling to bits and pieces of self. I suspect, like me, that they have their hearts set in the right direction and genuinely want to do whatever work God has planned for them… but they’re not quite sure they can handle it. Maybe you’re there, too. If that’s the case, let me reassure you – you’re right. You can’t handle it.

That’s why He calls us to offer ourselves (with all our inefficiencies and brokenness) to Him “as those who have been brought from death to life.” We offer ourselves to the Creator Craftsman who knows just what we’re here for and exactly how to re-shape us so that His life giving image can once again be seen in us. So just how do “those who’ve been brought from death to life” offer themselves to God?

  • With Confidence – There is no longer any fear of death. He’s been there and knocked death’s teeth out. “Where O Death is your victory?”
  • With Consistency – We have a constant reminder of who “orders our steps.” We are free to choose whatever steps we want to take, but only some of those steps will keep us on the path He’s intended and prepared for us. So we give ourselves to Him consistently with every choice we make.
  • With Clarity – We know the stakes are high. We are not made for only here and now – we are made for something more. So we give ourselves to Him knowing this moment will give way to eternity.

Jesus’ friend Lazarus is a great picture for us. Literally brought back from death, he answered Jesus and came out of the grave! He was 4 days dead when Jesus told him to come back. I think a lot of us are “4 days dead” – not really engaged in the vibrant life of someone fully living with the Breath of God within us. Lacking clarity, consistency, and confidence, we pad along through lives that are scarcely more than grave-tending. Just waiting… Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just me…

But if you’ve been 4 days dead for far too long, it’s time to take off the grave clothes, take a shower, and deliver life to the dying around us.

How do those who’ve been brought from death to life offer themselves to God? COMPLETELY