Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Doing Your Daily Duties

In a discussion with college students I led recently, we stumbled across the title of what will need to be a future book I write. For now it will simply have to be this blog post.

Doing Your Daily Duties: How to Avoid Becoming Spiritually Constipated. I know, I know, you would totally buy this book. Just let me write it first.

Our discussion, when it wasn't appealing to my third grade sense of humor, touched on the matters we say we want to accomplish each and every day. Things like prayer and Bible study to be sure. But also an unrelenting focus on the things that matter to God.

We acknowledged that we want these things to matter to us, but often times Netflix and the desire for a nap crowd out the time we have. I think it goes almost without saying (though I'm typing it right now) that the matters of God carry more for us than anything else we find to do. And yet?

Had we a Savior tapping on our shoulder to remind us of what we say we value, it would be easy to let Earthly things dissipate. However, the soft whisper of His Spirit does not often equal the smack upside our head that we actually require.

I concluded that our need for community is still great. Let's be honest; it's no fun to watch someone suffer in their bowels, spiritually or otherwise. So accountability, when offered with grace, should not be withheld or rejected. 

Our daily duties are not something to be left undone.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Call to Worship, Or Called to Worship

When I became  youth pastor at my current church, I had a job description that probably looks very similar to many other youth ministry job descriptions. Maybe all job descriptions. There was a line towards the end of the list of my roles that said; other duties as assigned.

It's a bad thing to have that line in a youth ministry job description for two reasons. First, you shouldn't use the duty around youth pastors. After all, we hang around middle schoolers and this just begs us to chuckle at the use of words that can have double meanings. 

Secondly, and more importantly, those other duties (snicker) can begin to swallow your time whole.

I digress. 

I was leading in worship and shared some thoughts, but I thought I would use this space to expound.

Have you ever had one of those Sundays when you simply wanted to get into the worship time? Maybe most Sundays are a battle between how your reality looked the rest of the week and your desire to engage in worship. It's not that you don't love God. It's just that the rest of life really gets in the way. It can be really distracting.

However, let me offer two details.

We are always worshiping something. 

If not something greater than us (God), then something lesser than us (false gods). Or even worse, we will hold ourselves in the highest esteem. It's a simple equation. Look at your last week and find out where your greatest energies were directed. That's what you worship.

Don't get this confused with the things we do as an act of worship for God. After all, I believe God did create us to worship in our work. And if everything we are called to do, both work and play, is done with a heart full of joy and thanksgiving, then we are living a life of worship.

If that's true, then...

You should bring your worship (of God) with you.

If Sunday morning is where your worship of God begins and ends, then I would suggest that worship of God is not what you have been participating in. Perhaps what you worship is some habit of appeasing your parents or your spouse. Maybe your worship is only a shadow of what is actually true.

But if God has been what you have been worshiping, then that overflow will come in and unite that worship with everyone else who is bringing in their worship. Unity, who knew?

So, the next time you enter a church, be sure you're ready to worship. Perhaps you will be so ready you will want the worship leader to stop talking so you can get to it. But, seriously, let him speak. After all, he did prepare.

So, who has your worship?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Love is Patient

From time to time I will be posting a short teaching moment I had with the young children who attend our church preschool. This one involved a purposely mistaken drawing of my home. I say purpose;ly mistaken so you don't think I live in some weird world.

So, I started coloring again. I was going to wait to show anyone, but I just couldn’t wait. I’m going to show you a picture of me at my house on a sunny day.

Doesn’t this look good? What do you think? Am I a natural artist?

These kids, who I've noticed struggle with staying in the lines, were quick to notice my mistakes. Of course, that was the point.

It looks like I got a lot of things mixed up in my drawing. Sometimes we get things all mixed up in life. Do you ever fight with your brother or sister? Have you ever told your mom or dad no? Have you ever refused to share? Ever been grumpy?

Did you know that sometimes even moms and dads get things mixed up? Even adults get angry, sometimes we fight and say things we should not. We need to do better.

Fortunately, God loves us, even when we mess up. And one of the things we can learn about love is that love is patient. That means God is willing to wait for us to do better. And while He waits, He loves us and forgives us.

We need to show love this way as well. We need to be patient with our friends and wait our turn. We need to be patient with our brothers and sisters and share our toys. And we need to be patient with our parents, when we need them to help us.

Because love is patient!

I’ll have to fix this drawing, but it might take time for me to learn how to be a good artist. I’ll have to practice patience.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Called Out in Church

Have you ever been called out in church? I have and I’ll never forget it.

I was sitting in the back row of church, safely away from my parents and, I thought, anyone who could see me not listening to the sermon. That particular Sunday, an older leader in our church was filling in while the pastor was away.

A teenager at the time, I was doing what I’m sure none of the teens in our church do. I was passing notes and making jokes with my friends, who were very clearly being a negative influence on me. (Insert tongue in cheek here.) That’s when it happened.

The substitute-preacher called out, “You boys may think this is funny, but death is a serious thing!”

Fortunately he did not call us out by name, although that did not end up keeping me out of trouble from my parents after church was over. Since I could not actually tell them what the sermon was about, I had no defense.

The only solace is that I’m sure I won’t be the last person to have been called out in church. Nor was I the first. The letters we read in the New Testament were often read in a church service, then passed around to other churches. If we read the letters like sermons, then we often find shout-outs at the end. This was Paul’s pattern, greeting people he knew in each town.

In Colossians 4, one such shout-out ends up looking like a call out.

“Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” ~Colossians 4:17

‘Hey Archie! You’ve got a job to do; don’t forget it!’ Honestly, I see this verse and try to imagine what the previous conversations have been like between Paul and Archie. I imagine that while Paul was in Colosse, these two established a relationship and discussed what God might have for Archie to do. And now Paul was reminding him to get it done.

Today this sort of thing would likely be done by email or text message. We rarely see private conversations being held in public worship services and I’m not suggesting that I might try that from the stage.

However, I will point out that we have very likely had conversations. If we haven’t, then you and God have. I’ll also point out that much ministry is happening within the Church today. But we haven’t escaped the declaration by Jesus in Matthew 9 that ‘the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.’

Many exciting things are happening right now. Make sure you’re a part of completing the work ‘you have received in the Lord.’

Monday, October 5, 2015

Loving God, Teaching Preschoolers

I told you I would be sharing how my preschool chapel times go throughout the year. I'm attempting to teach God's love, which is actually a bigger topic than we ever give it credit for. Here was my introduction to the topic.

I like to play games that involve a ball. One of the reasons is because balls do not have an end.

See this ruler? It has a beginning and an end.

A ball does not have an end. It just keeps going and going. That’s like God’s love for us. God’s love has no end. He has loved us ever since He made us. He will always love us, no matter what.

There is a second reason I like this ball. You can share it. A ball is more fun when you play games with it with other people. With a ball, you don’t keep it to yourself. You share it with others. God’s love is the same way. It’s better when we share it.

We’re going to try an experiment. I want to toss this ball around. If we want to show love, we will toss it to someone else. But in order to show love, we will toss it gently. It would not be love if we tried to keep the ball to ourselves. It would also not be love if we tried to hurt someone with it.

Believe it or not, this actually worked out pretty well, except for one thing. Preschoolers are not very good at catching. It's a good thing I chose a beach-ball. 

In the Bible, there was a guy named Paul who tried to define love for us. He said that if we didn’t have love, we were like a gong or clanging cymbal. Nobody wants to listen to that very long. 

They were getting squirmy at this point, so I pulled out some mini-cymbals and got their attention back pretty quick. They agreed that it was an annoying sound. Win!

Our goal is to live a life of love. The next time you see a ball, I want you to remember that a ball is like God. The ball does not have an end and neither does God’s love for us. A ball is something to share, just like we want to share God’s love with others.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Teaching Little Children the Most Excellent Way

Every year I share in the chapel duties for our Church preschool. Being a type-A, I like to plan it out for the entire year. I will be given 12 opportunities (give or take) to grab and keep the attention of 60 preschoolers. Yes, I am willing to be crazy and loud and funny in order to accomplish this.

Sometimes it works. Other times my wife, who is the preschool director, just gives me the nod as my signal to pray and close and hope for better the next time. After all, sometimes leading a mini-Bible study with little ones is like herding cats, although I've never actually tried this.

To give you an idea, I have tried many extreme object lessons; juggling, dancing, playing guitar, telling silly stories, etc. Mid-stream I will have one of these young kids raise their hands. I mistakenly assume they are about to ask some good theological question based on my amazing teaching. More often I hear their new dog's name or some silly comment about bodily functions.


The challenge is always to find a topic or verse that can be broken up into small toddler-size chunks. So one year I chose to teach the fruit of the spirit, since it’s a nice list. Another year I focused on stories of Jesus interacting with different people. This year I thought I might tackle the topic of love. 1 Corinthians gives us a nice memorable list. The kids might even memorize a few verses along the way.

After reading it through a couple of times, I realized how complex love can be. But I will forge ahead because, after all, it is the most excellent way. I’ll post my chapel ideas here and let you know how it’s going.