Warrior, Wimp, or What?!

Psalm 35 has David praying for God to fight his battles for him.  His enemies are constantly plotting for his downfall, and he begs God to save him.  He is lied about, has traps set for him, and is made fun of.  So, he prays for his enemies and begs God to protect and save him.

Okay, maybe you've got some people in your life that treat you this way.  Maybe there is a person, or a group of people, who are making life so difficult for you at home, work, or at school.  They push you out, speak poorly of you, and want to see you fail.  What do you do?

Read Psalm 35.  David turns to God for protection and help.  And he prays for his enemies.

No, I'm being serious, this is what he does.  Now, remember who David is.  This is the guy who killed a bear and a lion when he was just a kid working as a shepherd.  This is the kid who ran face to face with a giant, dropped him with a rock, and cut off his head.  This is the dude who won more battles than any general before him.  This guy is a warrior among warriors.  He knows how to fight, he knows how to kill, and he is always surrounded by a group of men who would happily kill for him. 

So why in the world is he praying for God to protect him instead of doing it himself??!!  Because it's the right way to handle the conflict in this situation.  It's what God wants.

How are you handling your conflict?  Have you asked God about that plan?  Have you read Psalm 35 yet?

Get to it!

His Face and His Hands

Psalm 27 is a song of courage, that God will protect us and deliver us when things are going south in a hurry.  In it, David says that all He wants is to be with God, and to see His face.  I love it in verse 8 when he says "My heart says of You "Seek His face!  Your face, Lord, I will seek."

See, here's some of what's going on.  Often we want to talk to God and ask for things.  He tells us to do it.  He expects us to ask for His help, and He tells us we should come to Him with our needs.  But other times, we need to just be with Him.  Often times it's discussed as "seeking God's face instead of His hands", meaning we talk to God and spend time with God just to be with Him, as opposed to needing something from Him.

What I love is David's simple determination.  In his heart he knows he needs to spend time with God.  So, He does it.  No debate, no excuses, no "I'm not sure how to do that".  He just does it.  He is confident God will receive him, and that he will see God's goodness here, in this life.

When was the last time you felt a push to spend time with God, and ignored it or put it off?  Today, stop and listen to your heart.  Seek God's face right now.  I am sure He will be thrilled to spend the time with you.  I'm headed that way right now.

A Blueprint for the Worst Day Ever

No matter how many times I read Psalm 22, I am just left with my mouth hanging open.  Read it for yourself, and understand that this is the Psalm Jesus refers back to as He is hanging on the cross.  David wrote it about himself, but it was prophecy about Jesus' death too.  Check it out:

Psalms 22:1-31
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.
4 In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.
5 They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
8 "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."
9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast.
10 From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
19 But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
22 I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him-- may your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.
29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him-- those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn-- for he has done it.

All of the highlighted sections are mentioned either in the crucifixion story, or in Jesus' teachings and life.  The phrase at the end "for He has done it" is seen in Jesus last words, "It is finished".  I mean, this Psalm is written hundreds of years before Jesus is born, and so much of what if fulfilled in the Psalm is carried out by other people than Jesus.  The soldiers, the crowd, the Pharisees.  It's just amazing.  

And God goes to such great length to help us understand that He is in charge.  The worst day in the history of the world was completely planned out before time began.  We may not understand it, but He proves it for us so we don't have to doubt.  And when our worst day comes, if we are obedient to Him, He will equally carry us through it.  Never forget it! 

The Advent on Facebook

This post is a fake facebook page between Joseph, May, God, and others.  Click on the picture, then click again to enlarge it.  It is really funny, and really makes you think.  It's great.


Some we know of, some we don't. We need help with them all.

In Psalm 19 David is writing about how great God is, and this His creation sings to Him, even though it has no voice or words.  He describes how powerful and beautiful the teachings and truth of God are to people who are willing to listen and do what they hear.  Then, in verses 12-14, he closes with a prayer:

"But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults,
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
May they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
Innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

This is my prayer for me, and for you, today.  Forgive what is hidden in us, give us the strength to say no to the things we face, and strip them of their power to control us.  God, may it be like this for us today.

A psalm of David. A prayer of Jason.

Psalm 15

"Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?  Who may live on your holy mountain?

Those whose walk is blameless,
who do what is righteous,
who speak the truth from their hearts;
who have no slander on their tongues,
who do their neighbors no wrong,
who cast no slur on others;
who despise those whose ways are vile
but honor whoever fears the Lord
who keep their oaths even when it hurts;
who lend money to the poor without interest
and do not accept bribes against the innocent.

Whoever does these things will never be shaken."

So Lord, today here is what I ask you:
Help me live a life that people can't fairly accuse me of the wrong things.
Help me to live the life You describe in the Bible.
Help me to tell truth because my heart is filled with truth.
Help me to shut my bitter mouth when I want to put someone else down.
Help me to serve others, not use them.
Help me to speak positively of everyone around me instead of tearing them down to feel better about myself.
Help me to run away from a lifestyle of sin, and never to look at it with envy.
Help me to find the people who fear and love you, and celebrate them in my mind and life.
Help me to make worthy promises that change the world, and keep them when it costs me mine.
Help me to look for and create new ways to be generous every day.
Help me to defend those who are innocent, and never sell them out for a profit.
Because when these things happen, I will be unshakable

Just like You.

Parent Review for Christmas on the Circle: 2010 Edition

Yesterday was our annual trip to downtown Indy for Christmas on the Circle.  This was the eighth time we've done this trip, and it is always a great time!  Here are some highlights:

Ice Skating at Pan Am Plaza - We always have several students who don't know how to skate, and somehow I end up being a skating instructor.  I love helping them figure it out, and it's such a great chance to just hang out with students and talk as we go round and round the rink at .5 miles an hour.  Garrett surprised everyone when we discovered he used to play hockey as a little kid, and he quickly proved to be king of the ice; until the 14 year old figure skater showed up.  She was amazing.  Jacob Gahimer took a fall, and we're praying he's okay.  He hurt his wrist, but was in good spirits the rest of the day.

Circle Center Mall - All the students split into groups and shopped around.  My group went looking for a purple penguin, as Foo needed one for a girl.  So, all seven of us guys hit Claire's first thing.  Meanwhile, we caught Vince and Todd (guy leaders) in the Yankee Candle Store, and Annette in the Lids store.  We're a strange bunch of leaders, no doubt.  My crew spent time and a lot of cash upstairs in the arcade, while everyone else shopped around.  Kyle Weaver cheated and beat me on the Indy 500 game after I lead for the whole race, and he won with one foot to go at the end.  (NO, I am NOT bitter!)  Dinner was fun, as a certain guy student and mom were sitting back to back and grooving at the exact same time, without knowing it. 

Monument Circle - We had snow, again!  So of course, we had snow ball fights, again.  Fortunately this year there were no small children around from other groups, so no one got hurt, just cold and frosty.  It was COLD, but everyone had a great time and we ran for

South Bend Chocolate Company - Great hot chocolate and a chance to get warm.  It's always an even better time to hang out and laugh about a great day.  My crew went in the Bro Closet and found the 2005 Statistical Data book, and quizzed each other on it. (An annual tradition).

When we left, the Colts fiasco let out late, so we all got stuck in CRAZY traffic, which ran us 30 minutes late getting back.  Thank you to all of our patient parents for understanding. 

So, parents, you may wonder why we do this trip.  What is the goal?  We want to accomplish a few things:

1. Relationships - Discipleship happens in relationships.  We want your students to have meaningful relationships with adults who passionately love Jesus.  That takes time.  Our leaders are intentional about spending time with your students on these events to show them love and listen to them.  We also want students to have healthy relationships with other students who love Jesus.  Both are crucial to growth.

2. Memories - We need to put "mile makers" along the road in life to look back on.  As students remember this trip, it cements in a correlation between being loved, having fun, and Christ.  That's crucial.

3. Culture - Downtown Indy is part of our local culture.  We want to provide kids a healthy chance to experience it, as it builds a better understanding of what God is doing, as well as an appreciation for what He has given us.

Thanks for letting us partner with you as you raise your students.  If your kids didn't go this year, I encourage you to sign them up next year and send them.  Let me know if you have any questions!

A Mouthful of Lies

Psalms 10:1-18 (NIV)
1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises.
3 He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD.
4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
5 His ways are always prosperous; he is haughty and your laws are far from him; he sneers at all his enemies.
6 He says to himself, "Nothing will shake me; I'll always be happy and never have trouble."
7 His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue.
8 He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims.
9 He lies in wait like a lion in cover; he lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, "God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees."
12 Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself, "He won't call me to account"?
14 But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out.
16 The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land.
17 You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.

I read this Psalm this morning, and I have to wonder, where am I in this Psalm?  I don't consider myself to be one of the wicked in verse 2.  I love Jesus and try to follow Him.  He's my King, the one in charge.  But I read the description of the wicked; boastful, greedy, prosperous.  The wicked take advantage of the fatherless and the oppressed.  They also revile God's laws, and ignore His ways.

So, maybe I'm not wicked in this sense.  But am I a partner with wicked people.  We read so much about how people are treated in other countries, and about how we prosper as Americans from it.  Either through our buying habits and how cheaply we can get things, or through how we treat other countries and their people.  I don't know, this one just makes me wonder.

the Edge in review - December 1, 2010

Tonight has been a great night!  Here's the run down on the evening.

Game Time - Four Team Kickball.  It's chaos with rules.  Two games of kickball overlapping each other, multiple runners on a base, tons of laughter and fun.  The whole point is for students to hang out and spend time together.  It worked great.

Announcements - 
1. Christmas Service Projects - Wednesday, December 15th we are all meeting for youth group at 6:30 and then heading out for a variety of service projects around the town.  If you'd like to go and help drive, we can use some drivers.  Contact us and let us know.

2. Nerf Wars - Christmas Break, Tuesday December 28th

3. Video Game Challenge - Wednesday, December 29th

Minute to Win It - We did a game called Bobble Head where you have to shake a pedometer attached to a hat 125 times in a minute.  Colten Farnsley did it 81 times, and won some Cry Babies candy.  He was excited, and a little woozy.

Memory Verse Challenge - Our sixth grade girls seem to win almost every week.  Alivia Chenoweth, Korrigan Glackman, Madison Adkins, and Kate Frazee all won tonight.  Congrats girls!

Lesson - The Story
Brian Hogan walked the students through a booklet called "The Story".  It's the gospel in a way that is easy to understand.  Your student should have a copy of the book with them tonight.  Ask to see it, and then go through it and discuss it with them.  If they've lost it, you can find a digital copy on www.edgeandbeyond.org on the home page.  Check it out.

All of the students are in small groups right now, which I think is the most important and best part of the night.

We love partnering with each of you in your student's life.  YOU are the most important influence by FAR.  Never doubt it.  Let me know how we can help work better together.

Dodgeball is Life. No, really, check it out....

Yesterday I got to spend some time talking with an amazing young lady from our middle school youth group.  I love whenever we get to spend time talking, because she is so incredibly smart, and asks super intelligent questions.

So, we were talking about Jesus, faith, demons, life, and a bunch of other stuff, and I needed an illustration.  We walked in the gym and began talking about dodgeball.  It always comes back to dodgeball, doesn't it?

Let's say we're playing dodgeball.  One team has a leader who is clearly in charge.  He gives encouragement to his team, shows them the best places to throw, and helps them come back in the game when they get knocked out.  He really wants his team to play as well as they can, and does whatever it takes to make that happen.

The other team has a leader, but they handle it completely differently.  They convince everyone that there isn't really a "leader" on the team, and that everyone can do whatever they want.  They scare everyone on their team about losing, about not being in control, about what will happen if they screw up.  They manipulate people into playing the game in ways that aren't fair, and don't really help them win.  But everyone on the team is convinced there really isn't a team captain, that everyone is just in charge of their own little game.  It's not true, but that's what they all believe.

Who's going to win?  Yeah, it's pretty obvious that the team with the clear cut leader is going to play better, enjoy the game, and win at the end.

This is how life works.  The Bible tells us that in life, we are either for God or against Him. (Matthew 12:30).  So often we think if someone is "against God" they must be this horrible, evil psycho killer.  Not really.  To be against God just means you are not with Him.  That's all.  You are on one team or the other.  To be on God's team means you've decided that He is in charge, He's the team captain, and He gets to call the shots.  He tells us the best places to throw, when to do it, when to run, and when to charge.  The better we get at following His lead, the better our team does, and the more fun the game is.  God's team, we are told, is powered by love.  Not that wimpy "I love you" stuff from movies.  Legit love.  Love that will sacrifice for the team.  Love that will encourage someone when they mess up, not yell at them for a bad throw.  Love that knows it's better to win as a team than to win alone.  Love that wants the Team Captain to win, and will do whatever it can to see that happen.  Love that is patient, kind, forgiving, hopeful, and more (1 Corinthians 13).

To be against God means we have decided we don't want His leadership, we want to be on a team where we call the shots ourselves, and no one tells us what to do.  The Bible usually will call this "the world" when it talks about it.  We want to do things our way, not His.  So we play on the other team.  Just like in dodgeball, there are only two teams.  There is no third team in this game (Team Love, and Team Fear). 

But there's a catch isn't there?  The Bible is pretty clear that this team full of people doing their own thing really does have a leader, he's just crafty enough to make everyone think he's not really running the show.  Satan is the one in charge, pulling the strings, manipulating the game.  He just wants everyone to THINK he's not in charge, but he is.  The Bible is clear about it.  He uses fear to run his team.  He scares everyone into doing what he wants.  Why do you want to be in charge of your own life, your own game?  So that you can make sure no one can hurt you or leave you.  That's fear. So that you can make sure you get everything in life you want.  That's fear.  So that you can be important or liked by others.  That's fear.  Every move this team makes is based on fear.  It always is.

In dodgeball, the only thing separating the two teams is a line on the ground.  No walls or towers, just a line.  Anyone is free to cross from Team Fear to Team Love at any time.  Team Fear's captain will try to scare you into staying (You can't go over there, you're not good enough.  What if they don't want you?  What if you fail?).  But it's just a line.  You can move across at any point, Team Love's Captain actually encourages it.  He wants you to come be a part of the team.  Everyone. (John 3:16).

So, what keeps you from crossing the line?

Yeah, I Doubt It.....

The book of Matthew comes to an end in chapter 28, verses 16-20 with Jesus risen from the grave.  I would love to know what Jesus tells His disciples during the time after the resurrection, before He leaves for Heaven.  I assume it's the stuff in the Gospels, since so much of the books are things they couldn't have known.

Today, as I read through it, the one thing that hit me was in verse 17.  "When they saw Him, they worshiped Him, bu some doubted."  Really?  Even at this point, some doubted?  You see Him die.  You know He was buried.  Know He is talking to you.  But you doubt. 

It's logic.  Their brains are telling them that this is not possible.  The grave was a fake.  He didn't really die.  People today call it the "swoon theory".  Jesus didn't die, He just passed out, and then came out of the grave a few days later. 

Why include that detail?  It's embarrassing to the new movement.  Here is the start of the church, and at it's core are some guys who doubt themselves.  I personally would bury that little by-line so deep that no one would ever know.  I would have painted the picture of a huge party where everyone was so sure, that no one was surprised He was there.   But Matthew doesn't.  He comes clean.  Some doubted.  I don't get it.

Until I doubt Jesus myself.

He's been so good to me, proven Himself daily for 35 years in my own life, and then I do it.  I doubt Him.  He calls me to believe something that doesn't line up with how I experience life, and I doubt it.  I doubt Him. 

What is His response?

"I have all authority on heaven and earth, and I am telling you to go.  Make disciples out of people.  Teach them to obey everything I've said.  Baptize them, but do it in the name of my Father, Me, and the Holy Spirit.  I will be with you forever.  I promise.  Now go."

Our doubt doesn't slow Him down.  At all. 

So, yeah, you doubt Him.  Ok.  We all do.  That's not the end of the story.  Matthew 28 doesn't end with "but some doubted, so He gave up and went to Heaven, leaving us on our own."  It ends with a promise that no matter how much we doubt, He is with us.

That's a great ending.

And beginning.

Beyond - Senior High Youth Group in Review 11/28/2010

Last night we had a Night of Worship, where the whole night is set aside to taking part in different ways to worship God.  It always amazes me how God will take our small efforts and produce so much beauty and good from them.  Students regularly tell me these are their favorite nights of the year, or that God moved in them in brand new ways.  It's amazing to see and be a part of.  Here's the schedule from the evening:

Open with prayer

Psalms 16:1-2 (MSG)
1 A David song Keep me safe, O God, I've run for dear life to you.
2 I say to God, "Be my Lord!" Without you, nothing makes sense.
SONG - Counting on God
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
SONG - Take It All
Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)
14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
 Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)
14 Do everything without complaining or arguing,
15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe
16 as you hold out the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.
SONG -  We Shine
1 Timothy 1:15-17 (NIV)
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.
16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
SONG -  King
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV)
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
SONG -  Beautiful Things

Skit – Julia and Jacob – Julia Tindall and Jacob Blackburn did a terrific skit about taking Jesus with us wherever we go.  It was very moving, and made all of us think.

Read Romans 9:19-21 (MSG)
19 Are you going to object, "So how can God blame us for anything since he's in charge of everything? If the big decisions are already made, what say do we have in it?"
20 Who in the world do you think you are to second-guess God? Do you for one moment suppose any of us knows enough to call God into question? Clay doesn't talk back to the fingers that mold it, saying, "Why did you shape me like this?"
21 Isn't it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans?
Worship Stations – We had students design and set up different worship stations around the church.  The group was given 45 minutes to move from station to station to experience different ways to worship.  The catch is they have to do it totally in silence the entire time; no talking, whispering, or goofing off.  They did great, just like they always do.  Here are the stations they had:

Prayer Wall – We put butcher paper on the wall and had students write out their prayers to God.  It was very moving to see how honest and heartfelt the prayers were.

Communion – Our students designed a communion table with cards that students wrote their names on and pinned them to a tree, symbolizing their sins being paid for on the cross.  Then the students each took communion on their own.

Play Doh Art – Students were encouraged to create models out of play doh, symbolizing how God controls our life and creates beautiful things from it.

Sand Prayers – Everyone had a chance to write their mistakes and sins on a huge table covered with sand.  Then they wiped them away to symbolize how they had been forgiven.

Reflections – This room full of mirrors was one of the toughest.  Students were to sit in front of a mirror and look into it, and talk to God about how they are "fearfully and wonderfully made".  It was a very moving experience for many people.

Journaling – We had students write letters to God, thanking Him for what He has done in our lives.

We ended the evening singing the song Beautiful Things with just a guitar unplugged, and prayed.  Then students went to small groups.

Some questions you can use to talk to your student about the night:
1. What was one of your favorite parts of the night?  Why?
2. Which was the most difficult for you?  Why?
3. What do you think had the most impact on you?  Why?
4. What is one thing you're doing differently this week as a result of what God showed you Sunday night?


A Resource Worth Looking At

For all of you who have control of a website, you need to check this out. It's a widget you can add to your site that gives visitors a really cool explanation of the Gospel. I love it. You can see it running on edgeandbeyond.org if you want.

Here's the link to it. Check it out.

The Story | How it all began and how it will never end... | The Gospel Story/Metanarrative for your Website and Social Networks

The Early Bird Gets the Lightning Angel

The story comes to an end with Jesus' resurrection.  As I was reading it today, something hit me I hadn't really focused on much before.  Look at the beginning of Matthew 28.  Mary Magdalene and another Mary (Jesus mom or someone else?) get up at dawn to go see the tomb of Jesus.  Now, chapter 27 ended with them sitting at the tomb of Jesus, watching it get sealed up.  Here, early the next day, they are up, together, and heading for the tomb again.  Why this obsession with the tomb?

They took Jesus at His word.  He had told them He would rise after three days.  They have enough faith to go and watch.  So, they are up early, walking to the graveyard.  Who else is with them? 

No one.

Not Peter, the Rock on which Jesus will build His church.

Not John, the one Jesus loved the most.

Not Thomas, who wanted physical proof to believe.

None of Jesus' brothers or sisters.

No one.

Except them.

They are the only ones who see the miracle.  An angel comes with so much power that there is a violent earthquake, he is wearing lightning for clothing, and he is so powerful he terrifies the Roman guards to the point that they pass out.  Mary and Mary are there to see it.  No one else. 

This angel of gigantic power and majesty looks them in the eye, and talks to them.  He gives them a message, straight from God.  They become the first people in history to know that Jesus is alive.  No one else is with them.  They are the only ones.

As you read it, it feels like the angel is waiting for them to come, before he starts the show.  They are his audience, and he makes it well worth their time.  They get this amazing front row pair of seats to history being split in two, all because they took some crazy statement of Jesus at face value, and didn't want to risk missing out on it.

This is the type of faith you and I need.  Jesus tells us that He wants to save everyone.  We all have that person who we don't believe is really on the list, the one too far gone.  Jesus tells us He wants to resurrect their life, to give them a new start, to make them new.  But we doubt it.  Today, let's be like Mary, not Peter.  He was home asleep, she was at a graveyard, meeting with an angel.  Yeah, we will be just like them, filled with joy and fear if we obey.  But some one's life is hanging in the balance. 

Do you really believe in resurrection?  Put feet to your faith, and go.

Beyond - Senior High Youth Group in Review 11/21/2010

Lesson Series - "Live"
Lesson Title - "Unstoppable"
Big Idea - If Jesus is for us, who cares who is against us?
Bible Verses - Romans 8:26-39

Overview of the night
Gym game - We let the students hang out while the Colts lost on the big screen in the gym.  Some of the students played Bombardment (a dodgeball game), while others hung out, talked, and laughed.

Announcements -
1. We have a worship night next Sunday night from 6:30 - 8:30 pm.  Parents are invited to come as well as students.  The band will lead in some music, and we will have several interactive worship stations set up by students that everyone can take part in.
2. December 5th is our Christmas on the Circle trip.  Sign ups are due by next Sunday.
3. On December 12th we will be sending everyone out on service projects for Christmas.  Everyone will need a permission form, and if you'd like to drive, let us know.
4. We will not be meeting on December 19th or 26th.
5. We have Nerf Wars on Tuesday December 28th
6. We have a Video Game Challenge on Wednesday December 29th
7. We have cards students can fill out to turn in prayer requests each week.
8. We have One Minute Bibles available for $5.

Lesson - The lesson was taught by Vince Bradburn.  It's Vince, by the way, not Mr. Bradburn.  Just so we have that straight.  We showed a video called Iron Head.  You can see it here.  Vince did an amazing job of walking students through a section of Romans that was very, very packed. 
His points were:
1.God Helps Us All - God is not picky in who He loves or cares for.  None of us are outside of His passion and love.
2. God Wants to Complete Us  - God has amazing plans for us, and will see them through.  If we trust Him, He wants to make us the best we can be as we become more like Him.
3. Nothing Can Separate Us From God's Love - No matter what we may do, or how bad we may mess up, if we want His forgiveness, He gives it to us every time.
4. Knowing Him and His love for us changes how we face our problems - When we follow Him, we are not ruled by our fears and mistakes, but by His love and wisdom.  It makes all the difference in the world.

Everyone ended the night in small groups.

Follow Up - It was a great night, full of fun and truth.  Here are some questions to ask your students/friends about what they learned:

1. When you think about the four points Vince taught, which one is the easiest for you to believe?  Why?
2. Which of the four points is the toughest for you to believe?  Why?
3. How does knowing that God loves you forever change how you approach your problems?
4. What is one thing here at home we can do as a family to trust God more?


The Story In Each of Us

Jesus dies. It's the darkest day in the Bible. The saddest story ever told. It's the model of every story we cry over, the basis for all truth that moves us to our core. It is what breaks our heart, no matter how many times we read it. It is the story of history splitting in two. Jesus dies.

Matthew 27 follows Jesus through the crucifixion. But it only gets 18 verses (vs. 32-50) Have you ever wondered why? Shouldn't this, the very cornerstone of our faith, be laid out in verse after verse, consuming chapters of the Bible? Honestly, shouldn't the crucifixion have it's own book, giving us minute by minute details in real time? If this is what our belief system revolves around, why does it get so little attention in the story?

I think it would, if it was the end of the story. If it was the climax, where the story ran to, it would take pages to cover. But it isn't. It is only a tool, a step, a phase to get to God's plan. But don't miss what all is going on in this short story.

Get your Bible out and read Matthew 27 today. Picture it in your mind. Listen to the emotions, the pain, the loss, the fear. Imagine all of the players in the story, where they are, what they are feeling. And understand it was all a gift. It was a gift for all of us, one that did not have to be given, but was given in love. It is your story. It is what defines you. Read it today, and ask God what He wants you to see in it. Read it several times, and let it soak in.

It is the story in all of our hearts, whether we realize it or not.

the Edge in review - November 17, 2010

I am stealing this idea from a couple of friends of mine.  I'm going to try and post a basic review of what went down at youth group the night before, so that parents and any students who couldn't be there can see what went on.  If I miss any details, feel free to add them in.

Lesson Series - "What I Really Want to Know Is..."
Lesson Title - "How Can I Know that God is Real?"
Big Idea - We know God is real through faith.
Bible Verses - Hebrews 11:1

Overview of the night
Gym game - We played Four Team Smashball for our game.  It's baseball, only with tennis rackets and tennis balls, and a whole lot of chaos.  We had a great time, everyone laughed a lot, and I have no clue whatsoever who won.  But no one asked, so it's all good.

Table Teams - For our table game, we did a flash game on the screen where the students had to scream as loud as possible to drive a car down a race track.  We went guys verses girls, with the boys claiming the win both times.  Our boys are loud!  They also work together surprisingly well.  You can see a sample of the game here: Race This!

 If you want to see our announcements, they are available here:

Each week we do a drawing for dumb prizes.  If a student memorizes a verse from the Bible, quotes it to their table leader, and can explain what it means, then their name goes in a drawing for prizes.  Last night, we had 16 students enter, five were drawn for prizes.

Lesson - The lesson was taught by Jason Richardson.  He did an excellent job walking the kids through the idea of faith.  His points were:
1. We use faith everyday. - The idea of faith is nothing new.  There are all sorts of things we believe in that we can't see or touch.  (Love, wind, farts, etc.)  Faith is nothing to be afraid of, it's normal.
2. Faith is not the same as pretending. - Sometimes people accuse Christians of just wanting there to be a God, when there isn't.  They think Jesus' followers are playing pretend.  But when we are pretending, we know it.  We are clear about it.  No one accidentally plays pretend.  We know that faith is different.
3. God proves Himself to us everyday. - There are a 1000 things a day that God does to show Himself to us, if we are willing to look.  The issue isn't whether or not He shows up, but whether or not we are looking for Him.  Jason encouraged the students to look for themselves and see if God was trying to get their attention.

Everyone ended the night in small groups.

Follow Up - It was a great night, full of fun and great truth.  Here are some questions to ask your students/friends about what they learned:

1. What do you think faith is?
2. What is something that you can't see or touch that you think is easy to believe in?  Why?
3. What is something that you can't see or touch that you think is hard to believe in?  Why?
4. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being easy, and 10 being crazy difficult, how hard is it for you to believe in God?  Why?

Let me know what else you'd like to know about the night.  We'll try to post these after Beyond on Sunday nights, and the Edge on Wednesday nights.  Thanks!

Playing with a Pair of Kings

Over and over in the Passion story at the end of Matthew, there are these comparisons between two people.  Today, in Matthew 27:11-26, it's the tale of two Kings; Jesus and Pilate.  Jesus is falsely accused in court, again.  It's the second time He has had a false trial against Him in one day.  And again, He doesn't defend Himself against the lies and accusations.  Why?  I think part of it is that He is on a mission, and the lies are necessary to get Him where He is going.  If He is going to die on the cross, it will take lies and hatred to get Him to it.  Nothing else can kill the Son of God.  Truth never could.  So, He embraces the lying and hatred as part of the process to get to where God wants Him to be.  This ability to embrace the hurt, the ugliness, the pain in life so that you can get to your goal is seen in virtually every great leader on the planet.  Jesus is the supreme example of it, on a scale never seen before this story, or after it. 

Then there is Pilate.  A territorial governor desperate to hold on to his little plot of power.  He is impressed with Jesus, and knows He is innocent.  By law, He must be let go.  But to maintain favor with the power brokers around him, he can't let Jesus go.  Pilate is stuck in a swamp of indecision.  His wife tries to point him in the right direction, as most wives do.  He ignores her, and later pays dearly for it, as most husbands do.  He tries so feebly to ride the fence, with a non-decision.  That blows up in his face.  Now he has to sentence an innocent man of incredible character and worth to death, and he has to release an enemy of the state who is out to bring down Pilate's kingdom.  Double fail.  Trying to walk your own path to get to your own good at all costs will always bring this level of destruction.  Pilate had been governing this way for a long time.  He was hated by everyone, because he tried to keep everyone happy.  It never works long term.

Obviously, we are not kings, ruling over kingdoms.  But, we are all people with choices and great influence on others.  Today, tomorrow, this week and month, we will each be faced with choices.  We can pursue our own gain, which will lead to us kissing up to people we don't like to win friends we don't want, or we can pursue God's plans.  When we follow God, He promises to give us strength to face anything, peace to withstand any storm, and wisdom to work through any problem.  But it will require embracing some level of pain.

So, whatever pain you are facing, it is a crossroads for you today.  You can turn towards God's plans, and embrace it all as part of the process to get to the goal.  The way to heaven always has a cross on the path.  Or you can try and ride the fence, and avoid the pain.  But that direction is just a savings account for pain.  You can deposit it today, and get rid of it.  But soon, it will come back on you with interest.  Never a good option.

Which way will you go today?

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I saw this digging around on my blog tonight.  Apparently musings on the Bible by a Hoosier youth pastor are big in Russia.  I'm not sure what to think about the fact that Poland ranks 6th in my top 10.  Hmmm.....

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Abandoned by All. Trusted by a Few.

Ever made a decision that you knew was bad, but you did it anyway?  And then, when the decision is carried out, you're hit with total heart break over it?  Yeah?  Well, Judas did too.  He sold Jesus out for money, and then regretted it.

The problem is, He still didn't understand Jesus, even in his sadness and guilt.

Peter denied Jesus three times, but later Jesus offers him the chance to be forgiven, and he goes on to lead the church.

Judas would have been offered the same forgiveness, had he been willing to face the pain.  But he took the quick way out, and missed out on redemption.  His shortcut ended any chance of forgiveness and joy.

So, what will you and I do today?  We will make mistakes.  We always do.  But what we do after those mistakes is the crucial part.  Do we run from them, create shortcuts, deny God, and ultimately let our mistakes destroy us and kill us?  Or, like Peter, will we be broken by our mistakes, and give God the chance to redeem us and offer us forgiveness?

Mistakes are universal.  We all blow it.  We all wander off on our own, sell God out, and deny Him at times.  It's called sin.  It is going to happen to each of us today, at some point.  But how we respond is what tells the world Who we belong to.  Judas was sad for selling out Jesus, but He still didn't trust Him.  Peter did.

When you blow it today, will you turn towards Jesus, or away from Him?  It makes all the difference between life and death.

Can't Even Make it on FAIL BLOG

Peter hits rock bottom in Matthew 26:69-75.  It's the story of Peter denying Jesus three times in the middle of the night.  Obviously, in this story, there is a huge parallel between Peter denying Jesus in public, and us doing the same thing today.  But I have a different question for us out of the story.

If Jesus went on trial today, and you were hanging around watching it happen from a distance, like Peter was, would anyone accuse you of being with Him?  What I mean is, we latch onto Peter's failure to claim Jesus publicly, and that is what the story is about at it's biggest point.  But, don't miss the fact that three strangers not only were watching Jesus, but the people who hung out with Him.  They recognized Peter as one of Jesus' followers.  He was outed by the fact that He was so tied to Jesus for three years.  People knew him.  They didn't know his name, or what he did.  They simply knew he was one of Jesus' followers.

What about you and me?  If we were at the trial today, would anyone recognize us as one of His?  Or would we seamlessly blend into the crowd?  You see, even at Peter's worst, he couldn't hide who he really was.  But I fear that maybe we could.  Maybe we are so good at hiding our identity, that we just blend in, and would never be accused of being with Jesus.  Honestly, which is worse, to get pegged as Jesus' friend and try to deny it futilely, or never be recognized as His friend at all? 

I've got to step up some, it seems, if I ever want to have the chance to fail at denying Jesus.  Right now, I'm not sure how many people would even ask... wow....

Is the Sting Worse If You Form the Fingers?

I've got to be honest, I absolutely hate the story at the end of Matthew.  I fully recognize that Jesus' death and resurrection are what make life possible for me, and am grateful beyond words for it.  But what He endured is so painful for me to picture.  Matthew 26:57-68 breaks my heart on several levels.

We have Jesus arrested and taken to a bogus trial by the pastors of the day.  The whole thing is illegal and a sham, and a total set up.  How do people who work so hard to follow God ever get to this point?  How do they get to where they are this desperate?  They bring in lying witnesses to tell false stories, and even then can't come up with enough to convict Jesus.  Why didn't someone, anyone, stand up and say "This is wrong?"  It scares me to think about it.  These guys were so enamored with THEIR power, THEIR plans, THEIR dreams that they missed the One they claimed to follow.  Jesus was there, in the flesh, and they missed Him.  Beyond that, they spit in His face and slapped Him and made fun of Him.  They've lost it.  A Pharisee should NEVER have acted like this, no matter what it was that made them so mad.  They went over the edge.  What in my life is something I am so passionate about, so worried about, so desperate to hold on to, that it could take me over the brink like this?

Secondly, you've got Peter.  He has run from Jesus, like a coward.  He has screwed up again.  His thoughts are swirling in his head, and his world is coming apart.  He can only follow from a distance, too cowardly to take a stand with Jesus.  So he sits in the shadows with his enemies and watches God's plan unfold, too far away to be of any use, but close enough to suffer in his heart as it happens.  So often I play the coward and pull myself out of God's plans, effectively neutralizing myself and being completely useless.  My sin and fear can take me down so fast, and unless I take a stand with Jesus publicly, I won't get it back.  Unfortunately, the story gets worse for Peter before it gets better.  More on that part tomorrow.

Finally, there is Jesus.  My Hero.  My Savior.  The One who loves me all the time.  Being falsely accused.  Being made fun of by people who are far beneath Him.  Being misquoted, misunderstood, and mistreated.  He is slapped by hands He created, and spit on by mouths He formed decades earlier.  These tongues that are so quick with hate were created by Him to speak love.  His creation has turned on Him, and He must take it.  My heart breaks for Him in love and sympathy, until I realize that I am just as guilty of all these things.  And He sits in my office now with me, quietly loving me just as He loved them.  His strength in these times is unbelievable and beyond my comprehension.

What an amazing God we serve!  To weave such a complex story, and bring such joy and beauty from it.  He is amazing and powerful!  Spend some time today worshiping this God, because He is so incredibly worth it!
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