journey

If only….

journey

Keep walking….don’t go back

If only….

Those two words can capture much regret, disappointment, and sadness.  If only I had said something else.  If only I had not acted on that impulse.  If only I was able to go back and change that moment.  Scenes get replayed and wounds get opened again and again.

Isn’t it interesting how the human heart works?  One moment God is clearly leading you and you are rejoicing, but the moment a challenge comes, you wonder where He is.  Have we really gotten so weak that resistance of any kind makes us retreat?  I guess it really isn’t new, though, is it? In Exodus 16 Moses had just freed the people from slavery.  This was no vacation in the Caribbean; they were slaves.  But the minute it got hard, they complained.  The grumbled.  They criticized their leader.  I mean, really?  Listen to yourselves!   They even fantasized about going back!  They remembered the food they ate there forgetting that it cost them their freedom. (and probably wasn’t as good as they claimed)  They longed for their chains because at least they knew what was next.

But this is not the journey that Jesus Christ calls us to.  The Christian life is not one of ease and luxury.  It is a life of sacrifice and trial.  There will be pain.  There will be challenges.  Your character will be attacked for no reason.  What do we do?  We do not go back to the chains.  The freedom that He bought for us broke those.  Instead, we keep walking hand-in-hand with our Savior.  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Do not go back to slavery again.

Advertisements

The Journey Begins….or Continues

It is a journey

It is a journey

It was over a year ago now that I started to feel a bit unsettled here.  It is not that I didn’t like something about the ministry, but I just sensed God stirring me to something.  I remember asking the Lord to make His will known in my life, but I really did not want to move.  The truth is Cape Cod is a nice place to live and we have established ourselves here.  We had three of our four children here and currently have two kids in school. Moving with youth children adds a while new level of stress and fear.  I had no idea why I was even thinking like that.  I prayed and set it aside.

Then in November of last year the church burned down.  I thought maybe that was this stirring I was feeling.  Maybe God was somehow preparing me for this big change.  In the midst of all the chaos it definitely was set aside.  I was very busy with day-to-day ministry items that all of this was forgotten.  But God does not let something drop and one day there it was again.  God, by His Spirit, pressing this on me once again.  It was at this point that I said, “okay, Lord, whatever you want.”

Over the course of time God has led me to a place where I believed He was asking me to become a Senior Pastor.  That made me laugh because I was only about a year removed from my Master’s degree where I did a thesis on longevity in youth ministry.  I spent a considerable amount of time researching and thinking that whole thing through.  My conclusion was that I was a youth ministry lifer.   I did not want to be one of those guys who started in youth ministry and then moved on.  God likes to surprise us, doesn’t he?

In the beginning of this year I started to feel like God was loosening the roots here.  I recall hearing from a pastor friend of mine that before God moves you He needs to loosen the roots.  That very thing was happening and I didn’t even know what that very thing was.  This was new territory for me and I was being stretched.

I started to bring this subject up with my wife who always seemed to bring me back to reality.  She did not have the same sense I did and I was okay with that.  In fact I was looking for any excuse I could to get out of it.  We went to a conference in June and God spoke very clearly to me that it was time for me to take this step.  Of course my wife was not there yet, or so I thought.  It was amazing how many different people and speakers during this conference brought this to mind.

I got home and was praying for God to make the path He had for us known.  One night the flood gates opened.  I had been on the phone and when I came out and talked with her she admitted that she had the same sense of stirring.  That left us at an interesting place because what do you do with that?  What was I supposed to do?  Who was I supposed to contact?  How does someone even try to process this all?

Little did I know that was just the beginning of a journey for us where God would open doors very obviously.  There is much more to share from there.  For now I just want to leave you with a thought that I had during this time period.  I kept thinking about how God shows up in unexpected ways but with amazing results.  I wasn’t even looking for it, but when God calls it needs to be noticed.   Perhaps it is that we need to expect God to do the unexpected.  Maybe we get a little too comfortable with our mapped out lives.  I know God has put together something amazing for us and we are just getting started.

Have you ever been surprised by God?  How?

More New

We continue to see God bringing about new things in the place of what was before. This week I finally was able to move into my new office space.  It is much bigger than my old office, but I also have less stuff than I did before.   A lot of my stuff that I had was lost in the fire.

Here is a picture of my son sitting at my desk in my old office and then a picture of my new one.

Old

Old

New

New

The journey continues.

Old and New

I have been busy this week gathering things for our new office.  It is strange moving to a new place.  I have gotten used to being home, even though it is hard to get anything done here.  Yet, it feels like a necessary step in the journey we are on.

During our recovery day we were able to pull  two pictures out of the rubble.  They were both in my office and survived the fire and the 1.5 million gallons of water they used to put it out.

Well, today, we managed to finish cleaning them up and putting them in frames.  They are now in my new office.  Below are the before and after pictures.  God is good!

rubble

The day we recovered them

In their new frames

In their new frames

Out of the ashes we rise.

The Journey God Leads Us On

Never a dull moment

Never a dull moment

There is never a dull moment when you are on mission with Christ.  I say that because I have had some time to reflect a little bit over my time in full-time ministry only to be amazed at what God has taught me in it.  Take me back to my college years and I had a completely different understanding of what it meant to follow Christ in this way.  No, it is not that I wasn’t committed.  It was just that in my mind there was a certain predictability to it.  Well, I was wrong.

This journey is a beautiful thing because I find that the more challenging it is, the sweeter the fellowship with the Lord is.  I also find that the challenges I face in ministry are actually a privilege, not a curse.    There is a certain sense that I have had for years now that God is preparing me for more than I could ever have asked or imagine.  This is not a pride hing, it is God’s work.  I simply want to be found faithful in the task at hand.

I took a trip to the mall the other day.  While there I realized that I had not been to the actual mall in a long time.  That didn’t bother me too much because as I walked down the long hallway from one end to the other, I was amazed at the amount of stuff there.  Everywhere you look there are people buying a lot of stuff.   I guess it just isn’t for me.   My 3-year-old son even got to sample some sausage from a vendor.  I should point out that I had much more time to look around because my son was walking at an incredibly slow pace.  The irony is that in the house we can’t get him to stop running, but take him to the mall and he walks slower than anyone I have ever walked with.   The interesting thing is that it made me slow down and look around.  It made me stop to talk with a few people who were commenting on his shopping ‘ability’.   How does someone be faithful in that moment?   Being faithful was being present where I was placed.  It meant noticing the smell that was blowing violently out of Abercrombie and Fitch.  (I am convinced they spray cologne out of their vents.)  It meant stopping to talk with a couple of vendors.  Basically, it meant that my agenda was significantly changed because I was forced to slow down.

Where to meet? When?  How?

Where to meet? When? How?

Currently in my youth ministry I am trying to figure out some important details.  It has become painfully obvious that I took our meeting location for granted all these years.  Now that we have no church building, it involves being a little more creative about how we do these discipling ministries.  What do we do?  When do we do it?  Where do we do it?  How do we effectively reach people with the Gospel?  Jesus still calls us to do them faithfully.  He still promises to be with us as we go.  We just need to trust Him and faithfully be where He wants.  I guess it means thinking outside of the box a bit.

I know that my situation is unique in specifics, but not unique in substance.  All of us on mission with Christ have a specific task at hand.  For some it might be taking care of someone who is ill.  Other people might find themselves leaving a career to stay at home with children.  I know that my plans never involved moving to Cape Cod and ministering in a church family where the building was destroyed by an arsonist.  God had a different journey for me, and I believe His plans are far greater.

So we learn to “be where we are placed.”  I look forward to where God leads me in the future.  I have learned that it doesn’t do me any good to have a bunch of firm plans because God has called me to a journey that is far greater than my plans.  I believe that is a lesson we can all learn, especially at Christmas time when God changed our journey by providing a Savior.  As we all walk on the journey He has us, may we truly know the power of the Savior we celebrate at Christmas.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” – Philippians 3:10-11

Which way?

Which way?

The eyes of so many teenagers (and adults) speak of such confusion.  By the actions people take they are obviously confused about who they are and where they are going. The number of teenagers and college students that are binge drinking and engaging in so many other risky behaviors is more than it needs to be.  Living life from one hang over to the next seems like an empty and dangerous way to live, yet so many people live this life. It is as if they are lost.  Getting lost can be a very scary thing because within it comes a desire to not look foolish while you look for the way.  This leads to behaviors that wouldn’t otherwise be done.

Not all paths are helpful paths, leading us to godliness.  Every decision you make takes you further down a path.  The question is, which path are you on and is it where you want to be?

If we are all on a journey that we call life, then it is important to stop to ask which way we are going and which way we should be going.

 What do the signs say?

In our life journey it is the Word of God that makes up the signs we are to be following.  If you were on a path somewhere, you would stop and look around occasionally to make sure that you were on the right path.  If you have a map, it would be helpful to stop and orient yourself to the map on occasion. This is the same thing with the Bible.  Stopping to check where we are will help us determine what is shaping ou thinking and also our actions. When our mind is affected, it sinks into the heart and shapes the actions you take.  We need to be careful.

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,”  Proverbs 2:1

The Word of God, His commands and directions are what will lead us in the right direction.  If you are not reading your Bible at all, you will have a hard time knowing which way to go.    Of course you can guess, but guessing won’t have the same success rate as God’s way.

 Who are you following? 

Are you all alone on this path, or is there someone ahead of you?  Is the path overgrown and hard to navigate, or has someone cleared a path for you?

 “turning your ear to wisdom, an applying your heart to understanding,” -Proverbs 2:2

Maybe following someone is not always about seeing, but about listening.  That means being willing to take directions, if that person is a worthy person to follow.  I mean, the person it front of you better know the road, if not you will all go off the road.

It is important to know who to follow.  We need to follow God.  When we come to know Him as our Lord, we make a decision to follow Him.  This involves listening.

“and if you call our for insight and cry out for understanding and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure.” Proverbs 2:3-4

How do you maintain a relationship with anyone?  You talk to them.  God wants a relationship with you.  We see that God gives knowledge to those that ask for it.  And then when they find it, they guard it.

Wisdom is something we need to seek because it doesn’t just fall off the trees as we walk by them.   It doesn’t just appear in our brain, but God gives it to us when we seek Him for it.

 Are you staying on the trail? 

 “for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.” Proverbs 2:8

See there is great safety on the trail.  Staying on the trail keeps you from danger, from traps, from places where something will grab you.

Peer Pressure is one that you face everyday.  Being committed to wisdom and going that direction protects you and provides you with the ability to know where the path is and where the path ends.  Of course people will try to entice you to do things that you know are wrong, but you need to know right and wrong. God’s wisdom safeguards your steps.  This wisdom is not just something you fill our minds with, it is something your heart does.

Have you taken a short cut? 

Short cuts are not always the right way.  If you veer off a path, you might find yourself in a dangerous place and maybe even missing out on something.

“Thus you will walk in the ways of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous.” Proverbs 2:20

You need to walk in the ways of good men in the paths of the righteous.  This means standing out, being different and going through some difficulty with the understand that one day you will see things clearly.

Which way are you headed?  What is the path that you are walking?  Are you paying attention to what you are letting steer you?  Are you making decisions based on the truth of God’s Word or based on just what seems to be good?

It is so important to have a clear direction before being presented with some appealing path.  This is where I believe college and high school students run into problems.  They just don’t know who they are and what they stand for.  Each of us needs to know what we are about and where we are headed.  Also, those of us who influence children need to pass that on to them as well.  The only way we will turn this cycle of destruction around is with God’s Word.