Death Brings Forth Life

Here I sit, it is the end of May.  I've been in Marquette and a part of Redeemer Lutheran Church for the better part of ten months.  And in that time I have had the privilege to get to know plenty of people.  But there were two ladies that stuck out in particular.  They were best friends and they both underwent some severe medical trauma while I have been here.  The thing that I remember most is always being able to see a smile on their faces tagged with a hearty greeting every Saturday evening worship service.

They began to show signs of aging about six months into my internship and I never put much thought into it.  But there came a time when they both were in the hospital at the same time.  In the same room.  What a blessing they thought it was to be roommates during this time.  I can tell you one thing, when I went to the hospital to visit them, they always were optimistic.  They always showed God's love and were tough till the end.

And now it is that they both have passed away.  They have gone to be with their Heavenly Father.  Death no longer is in their future.  It is through their death that they received life eternal.

It makes me think of death as the cumulation of all sin.  Once we die, there is nothing holding us back from being in Perfect fellowship with God.  Do we have to wait until our earthly life is through to experience this?  Some would say so.  But I understand the words of Paul the Apostle in Romans chapter 6.  The entire chapter speaks to this act of being dead to sin and alive to Christ as if it happens right now, at baptism.

"The death [Christ] died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God." Romans 6:10  Christ did away with death and sin that we shall have life and life to God.  Praise and Glory be to God forever and ever for this great and wonderful act of grace.

This post is in honor and remembrance of Laverne Morris and Joyce Mills who are truly friends forevermore. 

Pyramid Scheme of Ministry

We often look at pyramid schemes as a negative thing.  Something that will take away and cheat you out of the things you want.  Well, in ministry I have learned that pyramid schemes may be effective.  I have spent the past several months beating myself up because I can't make it to everything the students are involved in.  I feel like I'm cheating them out of a quality youth minister.  I've been reading through Doug Fields' book Your First Two Years in Ministry and he talks about the art of multiplication as opposed to addition.

He sets this example:

"If I set aside one hour a day to spend with two students Wednesday through Friday, I can meet with six students each week--24 per month.  But if, during those same days, I spend 30 minutes a day training a leader to spend time with students and 30 minutes a day with a student, at the end of the week I've connected with three students and three leaders.  If each of those three leaders spend time with three students during the week, together we'll have ministered to 48 students a month, which is 100 percent more than I could have met with by myself."

Does this mean that me as a youth minister am ignoring the students?  I used to think so, but in fact, I am giving the students someone better to connect with.  I believe what a teenager needs today is to know that someone cares.  Then that student has someone to connect with, someone to look forward to going to church with.  This adult who would mentor the student and be available more often than I would make a larger impact in that students life.  It is simply stated that I am looking out for the greater good of the student.  I still connect with every student, I'm still there for every student; every student simply has a closer mentor to connect with on a regular basis.

I'm diving into a new territory here and I pray that the Lord guide me as He has to this point.  And I also pray for the students of Redeemer Lutheran Church, that they continue to walk in faith and are encouraged in everything they do.

Individual Spirituality - Oxymoron?

We live in America.  We have grown accustomed to a certain type of living.  It isn't a bad thing, it is just different; counter-cultural to the way the Bible and Christianity is presented in Scripture.

I am struggling through how to relate Christianity and Scripture which is so focused on community and the body of believers working as one to a society in which people strive to earn their own way of life.

I know for a fact that God's Word speaks to all people no matter who you are or what you do so it isn't a matter of God being selective in who He's writing to.  I also know for a fact that God loves the entire world and sent His Son for the entire world.

The thing that I think is causing me to stumble is individual spirituality.  You have your Jesus and I have mine.  My Jesus provides water for the crops that I'm planting, and your Jesus gives you opportunity to earn money to buy the things you need.  Are they not the same Jesus?

The God of the Universe knows each individual person's needs and cares for them in that way.  This is whether you are a believer or not a believer.  For in Matthew chapter 5:45, "[God] causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."  That passage is within the context of loving your enemies and praying for them.  God loves and provides for all people.  Where does individualism come in?

Picture a garden.  What do we do with a garden?  We plant the seed, till the soil, pick weeds, maybe prune bushes.  Do we make the plants grow?  Our Heavenly Father is the one who grows the plant, we take care of the soil.  Now if the world is the soil, and faith is the plant, do you see the picture?  God grows faith through the work of the Holy Spirit, but we as humans need to nurture the soil.  Plant the seed.  Can we do this alone?

In our individualistic society how does the soil get nurtured?  Maybe you can take care of your own garden soil, but what good is a huge garden full of soil for one plant to grow in?  God wants us to share our gardens! Don't get me wrong, God works miracles in those who have individual spirituality, but let's share these miracles with the greater community of believers!

This is not meant to be a legalistic thing, it brings me such great joy to be a part of a community who supports each other and builds each others gardens up and helps to nurture soil that God uses to produce bountiful fruit.  Fruit that can be shared throughout the community: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

If God had meant for us to be alone in our faith, the Bible wouldn't have so much language about working together as believers and a community of faith.  The Body of Christ is full of great news of working together to bring glory and honor to God above all else.  God knows exactly what we as humans need, and that is a support network, people to trust, to share joys and sorrows with.  That is how the Church today can bring the Good News to an individualistic society.

So to wrap it all up, is individual spirituality an oxymoron?  I'll let you answer that one.

Christian Pharisees

I have been going through some major struggle in the past couple months.  The big thing that I am struggling with is church involvement on the part of God's people.  Thanks to some words from Doug Fields' book Your First Two Years In Youth Ministry I have found some comfort.

When I examine the Christians of today, I see the Pharisees.  I see people who are outwardly Christian and say they are Christian but there is no involvement in the Church at large.  Now do not get me wrong, I am not intending to be judgmental because I am in the same vein.  There are times when I feel like I'm putting in my time and doing the things that people can see in order to proclaim the Good News of Jesus.  Doug admits in his book that Christianity and spirituality is an inward thing.

Faith is a heart thing.  We cannot look into other people's hearts.  But does that mean when we see lack of involvement in Church activities and service that are produced by good faith that we should just ignore it because we cannot see their hearts?  By no means!  The Church needs God's people!  The Spirit works through God's people and if God's people do not have time for Church are they being Spiritually fed?

So here is my dilemma: How do we as God's called servants who work for the Church instill this faith in action to God's loved children?

What if we weren't afraid to show the satisfaction and joy that God gives us when we serve Him in love?  There is another book that I have started reading called The Pleasure of God written by John Piper.  He calls this feeling of satisfaction and joy, Christian Hedonism.  Hedonism is traditionally the concept that happiness is the sole good in life.  When there is a Christian spin on it, Jesus and our salvation found in Him is the sole good in our life.  Let's live by it!

Glitter In My Hair...

You better hope that you get invited to the wedding so that you can see the wonderful work that Kristi and I slaved over this past week.  Over 30 hours of work to produce 250 wedding invitations.  And as we winded down we kept thinking about when our kids grow up and get married how we will look back and give them the best advice ever: do not bother trying to make your own wedding invitations just order them.

But seriously, I had a good time making our wedding invitations this week.  It gave Kristi and I lots of time to talk and dream about future endeavors.  The more we made invitations the more I thought about how many people we were going to invite and quite possibly how many left over invitations we will have.  And then the big news came about the end of the world and that took the invitations into a metaphorical spiral.  Was I invited to heaven?  Well, at the time it was in question, but after that I felt stupid.  Of course I'm invited to heaven.  Jesus Christ gave me the invitation and RSVP'd for me!

Sometimes we get so caught up in who we're inviting rather than who will come.  Let me try and break this down.  Rather than inviting a few family and friends, what if we invited everyone we knew and then whoever came came.  It's kind of like God's Kingdom in my eyes.  God has invited everyone into the Kingdom, it is now down to who will accept the invitation and believe in the Way.

Anyway, back to the concrete.  I had so much glitter everywhere.  The invitations that we made were a wet emboss so we stamped a clear "glue" and then poured glitter on it and then heated it with a tool and it was embossed.  Well, Kristi is not a huge fan of glitter so I had the job of stamper and glitterer while she ran the heating gun.  So the entire week I had glitter all over my face and in my hair.  To this day, I probably have glitter in my hair...

Oh the things we do for love.  :)