Archive for Devo Thought

And Nothing Happened…

 in-the-fire Nothing happened?!  That statement has challenged me over the last few weeks.

During our youth morning bible study class, the study was focused around the story of the Fiery Furnace.  You know, the story of the three Jewish boys who chose to stand up for their beliefs when the King told them to bow.  And they said we will not bow, we will not worship you, for we worship God!  And the results was they were thrown into the fiery furnace. You can read it here in Daniel Chapter 3

And about midway through it hit me.  When we look at that story we focus on the three who stand all the time.  But what about the thousands that bowed.  Some people live their faith because they are scared about what God will do to them if they don’t.  But in this story- nothing happened.  There was no punishment handed down from God at that moment for those who bowed to the statue.  Nothing Happened.  But yet something did.

Think about it- there was no big cosmic meteor shower that came to earth and killed all those people who worshipped the statue.  In fact, there daily life was not altered one bit after that.  They continued to live out their existence in Babylon just like they did the weeks and months before this incident.  Nothing Happened.  And you can think it’s just not fair that God doesn’t punish those who do not follow his guidelines. It’s not fair that the only people who were in trouble were the people who stood up for what is right.  Nothing Happened to the other people.

But something happened…and it still happens today.  Think about the story.  When we look at that story, we know the names of those who took a stand.   We see that because of their stand they were tossed into the furnace.  And because of their faith, God rescued them from the furnace and the King realized how powerful God was. And for the rest of the people…Nothing happened!

Exactly.  Nothing.  There was no consequences for their actions, no immediate punishment.  But yet there was also something that happened.  They lost the chance to impact their world.  When presented with the opportunity to stand, they bowed.  And nothing happened.  No impact.  No great encounter with God.  No change in people’s lives.  Nothing Happened.

Don’t let nothing happen in your life…

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Entertainment versus Teaching

It seems that in student ministry, you can always count on two types of teens to be at youth group:
1. The teens who have latched on to their faith and truly want to take the next step in their journey
2. The teens whose parents force them to come, whether they like it or not

You can always count on those two groups to be there.  But here’s the issue- that’s about 5% of the total youth in my church.  How do we get the other 95% to consider youth group as an option?  Well let’s think about it.

What is the number one reason teens in 7th -12th grade do anything?  To be entertained.  Like it or not we live in a society that has become so focused on self-entertainment that if it is not entertaining, students don’t want to do it. So obviously we have to find a way to make youth group entertaining enough to draw students in. 

But I struggle.  I would hate to think that the only reason a student comes to youth group is to be entertained.  I want to help them grow in their faith, grow in their relationship with Christ.  But maybe just getting them to come to youth group over the movies or the skate park, is one step in that direction….

So I struggle with the balance of Entertainment versus Teaching….

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Starting at the End

For the last month and a half, I have been chewing on a question that every youth pastor needs to spend some serious time thinking about.  I mean I always had an answer to this question but I never really dove into the way I should have.  The question is a very serious question.  And one that will shape how I do ministry for the next few years.  Here is the question- What do I want a student to look  like that graduate from my student ministry?

Now at first glance, it seems like an easy question to answer.  I think all youth ministries want the same thing- to develop students who have a personal growing relationship with Jesus Christ, right?  But go deeper, what does that look like?  How does a student live?  In order to measure your effectiveness as a student ministry, you need some tangible things to use as measurement. 

The problem is you can’t really use tangible things to measure a student’s heart.  We can say, “I want students who read the Bible everyday, or share their faith often or attend church all the time” (and all those things are worth noting by the way), but does that really measure the relationship a student has with Christ.  I know in my life as a teen heavily involved in youth group, I did all those things and my relationship was nowhere near healthy with Christ.  They were just things I did.  So I don’t think you can fully rely on those tangible things- but I still think they are important to teach!

So as I have thought about it a lot, I keep going back to four things I want students to be able to do when they leave the student ministry here at Sycamore Creek Church:
(This is by no means a finished thought process, but I wanted to share it with you anyway.  Feel free to add insight!)

1. To own their faith-
They may not be able to explain the deepest things of the Bible, but I want them to be able to state what they believe and why they believe it.  So many students believe because their parents believe, but I want to see students really own their own faith.

2. To be able to confidently say “I don’t know”
There is something about the confidence that comes from the ability to say “I don’t know”.  I really don’t want students to think they have everything figured out in their faith- because then it is not faith, it’s logic.  But i want them to be comfortable enough in who they are in Christ to say “I don’t know”

3. To not settle for “I don’t know” as a final answer- To me, if a student says “I don’t know” and leaves it at that, then they are done growing (true in adults as well!).  But I want students to say “I don’t know, but I will find out”.  That is where the habits of Bible Reading, prayer, church attendance, and all that come into play.   So I want to see students willing to do the work to find out the answer to the question so that the next time they get that question, they can say “I do know!”

4. To be willing to ask Questions- This is where it gets hard.  I want to teach my students to ask questions.  I don’t want them to take everything I say or Josh says or any other teacher says at just face value.  I want them to ask questions.  When you ask questions, you get answers, when you get the right answers, you gain knowledge, When you gain knowledge, your faith can grow and be stretched.

I think if every student that graduated from the student ministry here at Sycamore Creek did those four things, I think we could deem it a successful ministry!

Now the tough question is “How do I guide them to do those things?”….

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If Christmas Never Happened…

I was working on the christmas series for youth group over the last few weeks and I kept coming back to this question- “What if Christmas had never happened?”  What if that first Christmas morning never happened? 

It could have happened.  I mean, Mary could have been like , Thanks but no thanks! (or to rock your world, what if Mary wasn’t the first person God went to? What if the first person said no and Mary then said yes?)  Jesus could have decided He didn’t want to go to Earth- He had that right, He is God! 

So we talked about it Sunday Night in youth group.  We looked at the spiritual and social things that would be different.  Here is a little taste of what we came up with…

Social Differences
– Our Calendar would be different- It would be like year 5768 or somethin
– The holidays would be different
– There would be no gifts- I mean the whole gift thing started with Jesus, remember?
– There would be less charities- most were started by Christian organizations or Christian people
– Relationships would change- what’s the basis of relationships for you right now.  It would change

Religious Differences
– No Hope- see Ephesians 2:12
– No Freedom- read the Old Testament- check out Leviticus 19:19 and 19:27- we would be following all these rules
– No Peace- internally there would be none.  Externally it would be even worse than it is one
– No Death of Jesus- with no birth there would be no death
– No Christians- see above
– No Holy Spirit

Yeah, so life would be different…if Christmas never Happened!

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Am I a Moses?

When you think of Moses, what comes to mind?  Burning Bush, Parting the Red Sea, “Pharoah, Pharoah, oh baby let my people go…”, Rock Water…yea so did I. 

But I’ve been going through Moses’ life with a few guys from my youth group, and my view of Moses has been changing (It will probably change a few more times during this study).  I mean look at the burning bush story:  Moses sees the burning bush, has an encounter with the living God, God tells Moses what he wants him to do, and Moses makes an excuse why he can’t 5 different times (don’t believe me?  Check out exodus 3-4). 

Yet, Moses still did what God wanted him to do.  So it makes me ask myself, Am I a Moses?  First am I doing what God wants me to do?  If so, do I complain to God and make excuses why it won’t work.  What’s funny is God had an answer for everyone on Moses’ complaints (seriously, do you think it was a chance encounter that Aaron was walking to meet Moses at the exact time that Moses complained about being a poor public speaker? If so you need to get your head checked…). Why didn’t he just trust God to work it out…and why don’t I sometimes?

So take a minute and ask yourself, “Are you a Moses?”

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Don’t let the process of doing Christian things get in the way of you doing Christian things

You ever have one of those moments where you are so caught up in how something is supposed to be done that you miss the chance to do that something that you were trying to get done?  This happened to me yesterday…sort of.

We had collected a ton of food for the Pickerington Food Pantry over Memorial Day Weekend.  We did this during our 30 hour famine in neighborhoods and during our church services Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.  As you can see in the picture, we reached our goal to Fill the Van.

So Thursday, after getting back from the beach for a few days, I go to the Pickerington Food Pantry to drop off all the food.  No one is there.  But while I am standing at the door, copying down the numbers for contacts, three ladies come to the door, looking to get food from the pantry.  As I walk away making calls on my cell phone, I hear one of them say, “I really need some food for my family.”

I get in my van, still making calls, when it hits me- I have food, I have a full van load of food, why I am I driving away? Ah, its the process.  I got in contact with someone who was going to meet me in about 15 minutes to open the food pantry so I could drop off all the food. And at that moment, I decided to finally do what I knew deep down I should do. 

I drove back to the pantry, and saw the 3 ladies still standing there, worrying about what they were going to do.  I called the ladies over and opened the back of my van.  I told the ladies to help themselves.  It’s not about the process, it’s about meeting needs.  They all walked away with 2 bags full of groceries…and I still had plenty to leave at the pantry.

One lady asked how I pulled off that miracle.  I told it was simple.  We have a church that loves people and wanted to meet needs.  Even though it didn’t go down the way I had planned, it was even better.  Instead of meeting needs through the process, our church was able to meet needs right then, right away.

Don’t let the process of doing Christian things get in the way of you doing Christian things.  I almost did…

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Snowflakes, God, and a long drive to work…

It’s snowing here this morning, so traffic is terrible. What is normally a 15 minute drive to work turned into a 45 minute ride.  Ice was covering many spots in the road, then you throw in the visibility issues with snow, and you have a recipe of traffic disaster.

So I am sitting in my car, patiently waiting for traffic to start moving again (Ok, not really patiently) and I look out my driver’s side window and what do I see? Snowflakes.  Not just snow, but snowflakes with their full 6-sided shape are gently landing on the window.   I am just amazed.  Each one is totally different, a beautiful masterpiece of frozen precipitation.  And it hit me- if God is willing to take the time to craft individual snowflakes,that will melt in a matter of minutes or at best days, how much more does he care about us?

So the next time you’re stuck in traffic, take a look around.  And you might just appreciate a snowflake like you never have before.

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God.  The skies display his craftsmanship.”
                                                                                                                               Psalm 19:1

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