Category: Youth Ministry

Pearls are always meant for somebody.

If we aren’t supposed to throw our pearls before swine, then who ARE we supposed to throw them to?

We can’t just keep the pearls to ourselves, because how does that benefit the kingdom?

On the other hand, there comes a point when we just shouldn’t bother to get through to people.  You know, when you keep trying to explain what you are talking about, and you get the same stare back?  The one that says, “I hope he finishes soon, because I want to go do something else – how soon can I split?”.

What I love about God is how easily he can stir our hearts to Him.  How quickly we can go from comfortable to agitated, all because He needs us to do something for Him.  Like go talk to a friend we just walked by and ignored.  Like call someone who we got a sudden thought about.  Like ‘facebook’ a friend who we haven’t checked on in a while.  That stuff, those feelings, are from God!  The Holy Spirit part of God that needs us to be aware of our people and make sure that they are ok!

This story I love.  Last Wednesday at the high school service our new leader, Scott, sensed the tension and agitation in the room.  He changed the whole service around to be obedient to God’s nudge.  At the end, the pastor made time for those kids who were hurting, or lost, or confused, or upset, or dead inside, or angry, or all of those things to just come up and be bathed in prayer.  So MANY kids needed to feel God that night!  I praise God for being there!  God softened hearts by the handful that night, and we got to be there to see it.

I love God’s grace that lets me stumble into His presence even when I am not paying attention.

Do We Ever Say No?

Do we ever say no to a person loving us?  Can a person love someone with agape love (agape pronounced “ah-gah-pay” and meaning selfless love without family or sexual ties or overtones – pure like Jesus loves us),  if they don’t know Jesus?  Matter of fact, can they love with agape love if they don’t know Greek? or what the definition of love is?

My great friends and I had a brief discussion tonight about perfect love.  Specifically, what is the driving force or motivation behind loving someone perfectly?  I was late to a meeting-slant-bible study, and the question/answer session was already started.  The gist of the question was this:  “Can a person love perfectly if they don’t know Jesus Christ?”, at least that is what I heard.

The short answer, of course, is no.  We can’t fathom a love bigger than ourselves without having the life and sacrifice of Jesus to provide an example for us.  The neatest thing about Jesus is that his brilliance doesn’t depend on human emotional/rational understanding.  We RECEIVE his grace whether we can explain it or not.

I brought up, though, my friend who loves people, his family, his life, and sets high standards for himself and his behavior.  He doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ.  (Yes, there is a big discussion about where his moral compass comes from, who defines right and wrong, what happens when he fails, etc.)

However, my question is this: do we accept or reject love from a person who doesn’t know and live the “Jesus way”? I just can’t think of a situation where I would refuse love/kindness/grace from a well-meaning person offering it.  Of course I only mean love in the vein of what the Bible describes as Agape love.  I think people can ‘stumble into’ God’s will, or I guess be used by God, even if they don’t believe in Him.  After all, haven’t we heard the story where a guy says, “Oh, I don’t believe in God”.  And the other guy says, “That’s alright, He believes in you.”

Can they unknowingly model ‘agape love’?

I mentioned CS Lewis who wrote, in The Chronicles of Narnia, about a horse or donkey who loved purely, but had never heard of Aslan.  Lewis’ contention is that love like that is still Godly love; it just hasn’t been explained to the giver yet.  I can’t find the reference so I’ll have to re-read all seven books (good idea, anyway).

Again, rephrased, do we have to UNDERSTAND God to love the way he tells us to?  We love Him; he loves us way better. We don’t get why.

But it doesn’t matter.

Perfect Prayer is Bathed in Tears

God saves every tear we have ever, and will ever, shed.  He has angels save them in bottles, or wineskins, if you read the King James Version.

Why?  When we finally meet Jesus in heaven, one of the things we might do (I don’t really know) is go see this storehouse of our tears, our prayers, our lives.  It will all be recorded, but somehow washed into a perfect clean by Christ’s death on our account.

When the old order passes away, we will have no more tears, no more pain, no more crying.  The way we hurt each other is the old order, and we won’t do that anymore.  There won’t be anyone verbally digging at us to score points.  No jokes that insult a group of people, or single out the different.

I can’t wait.

I know some friends, just today, that found out more of the unfairness of life.  As they cry and pray and search, take a lesson.  Because their prayers are made perfect in weakness.

Drink The Rain and Thank The Clouds?

Water Deep recorded a song, “I Will Not Forget You”.  It starts out with “Many men will drink the rain and turn to face the clouds; many men will hear you speak, but they will never turn around.”

How sad the truth.  How accurate the phrase.

What can we do to help our friends realize that it is God’s voice that caused them to turn around?  Even though God formed the earth to make rain and weather (which makes doubters use science as an explanation), His mercy still falls like a drink of water to a parched throat. 

On a summer’s day, after the sun, wind, and dust of the Great Plains, my throat craves!  I lust after a huge glass of dark, freshly brewed iced tea.  I want to drink it until my front teeth ache, my stomach pooches, and there is still another gut-busting draught left in the glass.

THAT is where God wants me.  Thank God for – not the tea, it’s just the metaphor – the satisfaction to my itch, my unrest, YOUR sense of dissatisaction, unease, that “what am I doing with my life?” feeling.

God sends the rain on the just and the unjust; true.  The difference is this:  His faithful send prayers of thanks to him for mercy.  The unjust merely look for a way to gain from God’s blessing.

What We Hide Under

Sometimes people are desperate. 

They may be hanging on to something, or trying to hang on to something, or upset, or angry, or in despair.  If this person is private, or not able to communicate this desperation, then we don’t get what is happening with them.  All we notice is that our ‘subject’ is off in some way. 

This is the point where we need to have even more compassion and grace than ever.  You, as the friend or observer, MUST notice the difference in their general attitude, demeanor, “way”.  If you miss it, you will just think your friend or family member is being… well, pick one:  awful, a jerk, insipid, traitorous, faithless, back-stabbing, hurtful.  We usually find out later what is really wrong with our person.

Please don’t underestimate what your little push of grace back at them will do for them.  Sometimes only a little nudge will push them back on course, and sometimes only a small bump pushes the comet out of harm’s way.  After all, you can only do your part; love, cherish, save.

I don’t get Job’s decision

Even though he actually came out ahead, Job still had to lose absolutely everything.  He loved a wife, and he loved his kids.  He lost all of them.

Even though he ended up in a new relationship with new kids, didn’t he still mourn his first family?

I pray that God will help me develop that kind of faith in Him.  I know, it should be easy, but my spiritual IQ stays pretty low.  And no, it has nothing to do with being a Husker Fan!

Are We Glad?

Two girls showed up Sunday morning around Sunday School time. They’d been drinking until 530 that morning. The scary thing is they felt like it was ok, they ‘deserved it’ and wanted to do something to ‘feel good’.

Yes, I am glad they were there. I got to talk to them. But how to save them from themselves?

Finding God on TV

So, it was my turn to teach the high school Wednesday night program last night.  My topic was, and will be again on Sunday, learning to be compassionate and merciful and loving to the people of our tribe.  See the post titled Los Misericordiosos for that whole story.

Yeah, so I was racking my brain to find a perfect movie clip to illustrate my point about caring for people; noticing when they need us, ya know.  The Jesus movie, with Jeremy Sisto, was a home run.  I was sure of it.  It would still be great actually, because of the part when Jesus notices Mary Magdalene (Debra Messing) and asks her if she wants to come along.  Ok, well I couldn’t get the DVR/computer/TV to copy the clip right.  I moved on to Schindler’s List, the part where Liam Neeson (Schindler) is upset with himself for not being more careful with his money because he could have saved more Jews. Another home run.  But, upon further review, to do the entire Holocaust and Steven Speilberg’s retelling of it takes more than a four minute clip.

So, God, who we know has a sense of humor, showed me the perfect story while I was watching my favorite show – The Biggest Loser.  Yes, God is part of The Biggest Loser.  Coleen was sad that she only lost a few pounds on the show her trainer, Jillian just practically cried because she knew Coleen would be disappointed and probably voted off the show.  THAT is compassion. 

ABC (or whatever network it is on; I just DVR it and watch it later) pays her a LOT of money to train the contestants and help them lose weight.  She wouldn’t have to get invested in these people, after all, it has been six seasons, so ya win some, ya lose some, right?

Then at the end Coleen is pleading her case to stay on the ranch, and she is just totally at the mercy of the rest of the contestants.  All she had was, ‘please let me stay here’. 

I appreciate God’s message; find people who you care about and SHARE THEIR PAIN.  Sometimes that’s all that matters.

Los Misericordiosos

Yeah, it’s Spanish.  It means a combination of compassionate, merciful, charitable, grace-ful (as in full of grace), humane, even pious.  But all those words in English don’t reach me.  All of those words, to me, have other stuff associated with them.  Like Compassion International, charitable giving as a tax deduction, graceful swans or ballet dancers or “Days of Grace”, by Arthur Ashe.  Whatever king’s nickname was The Merciful, as in Ashot III the Merciful, King of Armenia.  The Humane Society.  Pious as in “holier than thou”.

The deal with hearing God in a foreign language is that all our cultural baggage is swept away, flicked off, denuded.  Music counts as a foreign language, by the way.  God, maybe the Holy Spirit, reaches us in a cleaner way because we are not distracted.  We use a different part of our brains to process foreign languages and music, so we have a chance to be affected.  It is too easy to stay insulated when we are totally in our comfort zone.  We’ve got to look PAST ourselves, SEE the miserable, and FIND A WAY to comfort them.

The Latin roots of misericordia are this:  miseri-wretched and cordia – heart.  I see that as literally having one heart with the wretched of this world.  To FEEL what THEY feel, and to suffer like they suffer.  Misericordia is to compassion/mercy as misericordioso is to compassionate/merciful. 

It means not walking by the kid getting made fun of.  It means defending a friend’s reputation when you hear someone bagging on them.  It means being NICE to that irritating kid (friend or not) who keeps bugging you about, well, anything.  It means patience when you really just want to scream. 

Treating your brother or sister as a special person, not an annoying pest.

Jesus begs us to be los Misericordiosos.

What students want!

Another Wednesday night.  If you get a chance, talk to kids/teens/students outside of the formal meeting room – they are ‘real’ and unguarded.  There is a great chance at sneaking in a relationship with them before they even notice that an adult is talking to them.  Go ahead, be sneaky.  (Although it is funny to see them try to hide the cigarettes.  Like we can’t SMELL?)

In the meeting room, we talked about commandment 10, which is the one about coveting.  As an intro, we asked them to tell us “what object or thing they wanted that a friend or another person had”.

Here is what was on their minds last night:

  • I want my friend’s ‘itouch’ (next generation ipod which can convert into a phone/internet thing)
  • I want a PS3
  • I want a new phone
  • I want a lot of money
  • several girls wanted one girl’s boots

Pretty tame stuff.  Then, after we went around the room, almost all of them wanted to change their answers.  It is so easy to WANT MORE, and this 10 minute exercise with them was a graphic example. 

Now they wanted these things:

  • the ENTIRE Sony electronic library
  • a bigger bank account
  • I want Isabella’s LIFE (from the Twilight series – better read it, cuz it has lots of traction)

What was cool (and a little scary) was how quickly the greed grew. Reminded me of ME.

Our small group time, me and 4 guys, we mostly spent telling stories about bloody accidents that happened to us.  Yeah, I know, but I couldn’t get them to talk about anything else!  Hunting accidents, stitches, split foreheads…  wow.

And that is the lure of the kids; sublime, raw souls tempered with the hilarious!