Serve One; Serve Many

We should not be surprised that God would desire to show up when people honor Him.  It should be expected that God would be where His name is lifted and people are walking in step with Him. So why is it so hard to notice Him in daily interactions? I believe it can be as simple as how we view serving.  We pray for opportunities to love people in Jesus’ name and then ignore the people right in front of us.  We go on trips to foreign countries and give time all the while ignoring the communities we live in and then we wonder why God is not at work around us.

Serving together
Serving together

While in St. Louis, we had the opportunity to spend time in the local community in an effort to renew it.  There were groups serving in dangerous areas of the city in the name of Jesus because that is what He has called us to do.  Our group went to the historic Gustave Koerner House in Belleville, IL, which is not a dangerous spot, but still a community with a need for volunteers.  By comparison to some others, our service project was not too scary or even all that difficult.  In fact, we felt like we could have accomplished a lot more.  But, is that the goal?

There is something so special about getting into a community in Jesus’ name.  In fact, Jesus says that when two or three gather in His name, there He is in the midst.  That is the beauty of this.  While we pull weeds, peel wallpaper, move bricks or pick up trash, Jesus Christ is among us.  We go with Him and people notice.

I was sanding a street sign in front of a little pub in this town when two kids suddenly came out of the alley.  They were followed by their mother who literally stopped in her tracks and looked up and down the street.  She was taking it all in.  After a few minutes she asked me what we were doing.  I explained that we were here for a conference with like 7,000 teenagers and we wanted to help make a difference in local communities around St. Louis.  She was immediately surprised and grateful.  She had just moved to town and had some real concerns about some of the run down buildings we were working on.  Her comment to me was, “thank you for doing this; it is really needed.”

Of course this makes us feel great.  We made a real difference in that community, a positive thing.  But still I walk away with a sense of longing to see these same things happen in my own community.  Sure we live in a different culture where we are, but there are needs all around us.  What is it about local service projects that make people ignore them all while jumping into projects in other communities?  Why is it that when we put service projects together here only a few kids show up to help? Could it be that we forgot how to serve because we just don’t serve often enough?

I believe there is a significant take-away for us in this.  All of us has the opportunity each day to serve someone in the name of Jesus.  It might not be landscaping or even anything large, but there are people everyday who need someone to notice them and serve them.  I believe this is the heart of the Gospel and would make a serious impact on our world if we all got involved.    So, here is my challenge to all of us:  Find one person to serve today and watch how God blesses that.  I know God will show up in that.

The Lego Jar 2/23/13 – Pictures to make you smile

We are to the Lego Jar again.  It is the place where random pieces from the weekend up just like the real Lego jar in our house gets all the Lego pieces that fall on the floor in our house.   This week I share a few pictures that just make me smile.  I believe that they will make you smile also.

Sleeping at dinner

A couple of my kids have the ability to fall asleep at dinner.  I have documented this with one of them. (Drop Where You Stop) (A New Season to Drop Where You Stop) – both of these open in new windows

If you have been paying attention you know that I shared this last week.  I share it again because it makes me smile.

IMG_2687

 

Encouraging a student with cancer

I have mentioned a student who has had a long journey with cancer.  My kids have followed along and encouraged him along the way.  This week one of my sons made this picture for him.  One side was a picture and on the back was a note.

Picture
Picture
note
note

Helping a neighbor

During the blizzard a few weeks ago, we sent out oldest son down the road with a note with my cell phone number on it.  He was to give it to a single, older man with the message of “call if you need something.”  He never called, but he did send this note.  I love it because it captures what it means to be on mission with Jesus in our neighborhood.

thank you note
thank you note

Have a great weekend!  

 

 

Leadership Lessons from Deuteronomy 32

Today I thought I would do something completely different.  Over the last few years, I have developed a “spiritual formation” activity for my student leadership team.  I thought maybe I would share this year’s here, with the hope that it might be of use to others.  I have taken out youth group specific items to make it more useful to a wider audience.

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Leadership Lessons from Deuteronomy 32
For Leadership Teams
Rev. Derek Mansker

What is this?

Leadership is about more than just showing up and having an up front presence.  Leadership is actually about having a heart that loves Jesus Christ and wants to lead others to do the same.  This activity is shorter than years past, but still will help you look inward at God’s specific work in your life.  Our example for what it means to be a leader comes from Jesus Christ.

How do I do this?

Your assignment is simply to read the verses indicated and interact with them in the context of your life.  Please do not just fill in the blanks to get it done.  Take some time with it, think about it and write down things that truly meant something to you.

“You will never become a servant leader until you become a servant to the Leader”  – Gene Wilkes

This activity is about getting closer to our leader, Jesus Christ.


Leadership – Starting right – “Am I spiritually healthy?”

Deuteronomy 32:2-6, 46-47

This section is about looking inward.  To be spiritually healthy is to love God and love others.  Jesus said, “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me.  He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him.”  – John 14:21

The things you say and do indicate what is going on in your life.  Jesus also said, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34

In fact, there is a progression to sin.  Read James 1:13-15 – What is the progression?

Read: Deuteronomy 32:2-6, 46-47

V2 – What does this verse say about the affects of this teaching?

V3-4- What do these verses say about God?

V5-6- What has happened?

V46-47 –  What does this tell us about God’s Word and obedience toward it?

If you are not spiritually healthy, you will not be obeying God’s Word.  The longer you stay there, the worse things become.  The people Moses are talking to here are no different than you are.  They had times when they were excited about God’s work in their midst and they had times when they forgot.  They even went so far as to create their own gods to worship instead of God.

How are you doing spiritually?  Why do you say that?

What has happened to direct you to the place you are at?  (i.e. hardship, questions, doubts, family problems, indifference to God etc.)

“If all you have to offer are words, few people will follow you.  Your example will give them a picture of what you are talking about.” Gene Wilkes — What picture are you giving?


Leadership – Seeing Other Believers- “Am I loving people here?”

Deuteronomy 32:8-14

This section is about looking inward and also outward.  In the context of this youth ministry, it is essential to love God and love others.  That starts right here with people who show up each week.  Jesus said, ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

We need to be aware of the people around us.  That means walking away from situations that are comfortable and walking into more awkward scenarios.  It means putting yourself in someone else’s place and trying to meet them where they are at.

Read: Deuteronomy 32:8-14

V8-9 – How does the Lord view His people?

V10-11- What do these verses say about God’s work on behalf of His people?

V12- What is significant about this verse?

God has cared for his people during some difficult times in the desert.  He had set them free from their captivity and had led them to the place they were in.  He had provided for them, listened to their needs, and showed patience with them.  This is very similar to what we are called to do as ministry leaders.

What are you doing to meet the needs of people around you?

How do you view people?  (i.e. are you a people person, do people annoy you etc.)

When someone irritates you, how do you treat them?  Is it right? Why?

Leadership – Seeing the Lost – “Am I loving people out there?

Deuteronomy 32:15-18, 36-38

This section is about looking at how you are ministering to people you know who are not followers of Jesus Christ.  We need to care about those people who do not know Jesus.  This is something that needs to be a part of your daily life wherever you are.  Jesus said, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. – Luke 15:9

Read: Deuteronomy 32:15-18, 36-38

V15-18 – What happened to the people?

V 15-18 – How is this similar to what people who don’t know Jesus are doing today?

V 36-38-   What is at stake when people choose to worship other things and reject God?

In a world where people are afraid to offend others, are we willing to take the risk and share the Gospel with people who need to hear?  In other words, if your friends don’t follow Jesus does it concern you?  Why?

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I pray this encourages you and challenges you wherever you have influence.  God’s Word provides us with so much for daily life.  I hope that sharing this unique post will be useful to you.

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Referenced Book: Gene Wilkes, Jesus on Leadership (Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1998)

Last Hug Wins

Hugs

I am admittedly not much of a hug person, although I know many people who are.  It is not that I am against showing affection, I just think a hand shake does the job.   Of course, all of this makes no difference when it comes to my children.  If they want a hug, I will always give them a hug.  I often think about some of the horror stories I have read about children who have been neglected.  The saying I have heard that has stuck with me is: “If you don’t hug your kids, someone else will.”  I don’t know who to credit with that, but someone other than me said it.  I believe this is something all parents need to think about.

With three boys in our house, there is never a shortage of activity.  Whenever I leave the house, it is amusing to watch as my boys will come give me a hug.  My 5-year-old will run across the yard in order to give me a hug. It is a mad dash and if I were to leave, he would be devastated by it.   Also, I have recently noticed that he always has to get the last hug in.  He might hug me 8 times in order to accomplish that.

Example of a normal departure

Me: “bye, see you later”

5 yr: “dad, wait, hug!” — He runs over to give a hug.

2 yr: “dad, hug” — He runs over to give me a hug.

Wife – gives me a hug and usually hands my daughter to me to hug as well

Me: “ok, bye”

5 yr: gives another hug, then I walk out the door and he gives me another hug.

This cycle often repeats.

More hugs

The other time this happens is at bedtime.  For a while, I would sing the song “I have decided to follow Jesus” with my boys as we were getting them into bed.  I would stop and have them say certain words. (i.e. Jesus, no turning back)  I forgot about that until recently it came to mind and I sang it at bedtime.  It was quite exciting to watch their faces light up as I sang it with them.  Even though they refused to sing along, they still seemed to connect with it.  Then after all of that, I need to give a few hugs to each boy.  If they feel like they get short changed on a hug, they will call me up to their room and ask for another.

The heart of God is obvious as I spend that time with my kids.  They don’t have an agenda, they just want to love me.  This is true for God as well.  The motivation is not malicious, it is love.  The world can get so skeptical about God and the way He works, but the truth is it is all about love.

Beatriz

One area where this applies outside the home is with our sponsored child.  As I have mentioned before, we sponsor a child through Compassion International.  Her name is Beatriz and she is a 13-year-old girl who lives in poor area of Brazil.  Our role is to sponsor her financially in order to help with her schooling and daily life.  We also get letters from her and correspond with her, as that post I linked to above refers to.  Compassion has a blog and recently they posted some of the ways the sponsored children have been blessed through this correspondence. (read here)  Talk about a practical way to give hugs to people who might not receive all that many!  A simple letter can make a lasting impact on someone.  Taking the time to notice someone who might be unnoticed speaks loudly to them.

Each person can make a difference in the life of someone else, even if you are not someone who really likes hugs.  Hugs can come in different ways and can have just as much meaning.  Maybe this week, instead of having the last word, we can all try to have the last hug.  What if we were kind to people who didn’t reciprocate it?  What if we had people over to our homes who legitimately needed the support or  to be noticed by someone?  It is something to consider because we all know people who might just need a hug.  Last hug wins!

Sometimes you just need to be an electrician.

There are times in life when you find yourself in a position you never thought you would be in.  I have my comfort zones; those areas that I know something about and am comfortable being in.  God has a way of stretching us and making us useful, even when there are no obvious ways.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to take a trip to Gabon, Africa.  Specifically we were headed to Bongolo Hospital  to help with a construction project there.  I am not a contractor and don’t have any background in construction, but I thought I could maybe do some ministry there.  As it turns out, I didn’t need to have experience.  In fact, I learned that if I had ever touched a hammer before, I was considered an expert.

One of the areas that we were to try to help finish was the HIV/AIDS clinic there.  One of the biggest issues was the electrical wiring.  Over the course of months they had several groups come in and work on the wiring, but no one had ever finished. This meant the next group came in and didn’t know what the other group had done.

I went over there with another man from our team to try to make sense of all the electrical.  Step one was trying to figure out what had taken place prior to our arrival.  There was one man who had an understanding of this, at least more than anyone else.

He came in and started feverishly pointing and using a screw driver to open up ceiling tiles.  We had no idea what he was talking about because he spoke French and we didn’t.  Thankfully someone came and translated for us. Basically, we needed to finish putting in 220 volt and 110 volt wiring.  That was fine, except I had no idea how to do it.  The closest I had ever come to this was changing a few outlets in my house. We got started, but immediately ran into snags on this.

What does this all mean?

First, we had the huge wiring mess that ran from a box upstairs to a bundle of wires and then into the building.  This became tricky to figure out because a wire that was red at the box might change colors two or even three times before its final destination.  Apparently whoever was doing the wiring wasn’t worried about color coding the wires.  We sometimes had red wires that had power, sometimes black and sometimes green.  There was even the occasional blue wire in there.  What a mess!

We played with it by turning on the power and testing it with some rudimentary tool that we had.  At one point I heard my partner yell in pain as he received a jolt from the box as he poked around in there. I also made sparks a few times.  Then after we turned the power off, I still got shocked a few more times.  Figure that one out.  I started to wrap my fingers in electrical tape, since I had seen someone do that before.  It seemed like the right thing to do.   It took us two days to sort out the wiring mess and we finally started to label them and make some progress.   Having no electrical training actually turned out to be better than having any because any rule books on this were just thrown out the window.

Watch out!

Once we started to figure some things out, we also had to deal with the people who would hang around there.  Right outside the door was the emergency room waiting area, so there were plenty of people milling around there.  At one point, as I was wiring a switch for a fan, a man walked in and started to watch me.  I acknowledged him and he said something to me.  He quickly realized I had no idea what he is saying to me.  That is alright, he was content to just watch.  At one point I needed to step aside for a second and I had turned the power on for some testing.  All I could do was try to tell him that touching those wires would be painful.  I pointed at the wires and made electrical and explosion noises.  He got the message.

Our wiring diagram

We struggled to make sense of things and left multiple diagrams in order to help the next group finish it up.  We found out months later that they had been able finish it up and start to use the building.  The whole point was to minister to people in the name of Jesus.  God has a way of taking us out of our comfort zone sometimes and using us in our weakness.  I would not be allowed anywhere near the electrical wiring at any construction project here, but there it was what they needed.  When these things come up for us in life, it is God who leads us in it.

One last piece of this for us was interacting with the children who were there.  Yes, they came in and painted things because we left the paint out.  But, they also just watched in amazement and tried to communicate with us.  It was moving for me to experience such unbridled enthusiasm to see what we were doing.

The lesson in this : Sometimes God will take someone without electrical training and make the a master electrician in order to accomplish His purposes.

What should we do about the needs of the world?

Gabon 2008

The world has significant needs to address.  There are wars, diseases, oppression and issues surrounding poverty and lack of basic things like water.  We took a trip to Gabon in 2008 and saw some of these things first hand there. The pictures on this post are from that trip. This week I have been reading a lot about some of these world needs because I want to be involved and I am thinking about how to keep our teens engaged in what is going on around the world.

Two years have passed since the devastating earthquake in the country of Haiti.  As I understand it, Haiti has enough problems without mass destruction and death to deal with.  When this occurred two years ago, I made the appeal to the youth group to give to CAMA Services for their relief efforts.  They gave about $300 in a single offering for the cause.  I thought that was a real good response.  We then gathered some supplies and sent those with a coupe of people who were going to help.  That was awesome, but to me it only hit on part of the problem because it was such a temporary part of the solution.  You see, here we are two years later and there isn’t much of a mention of Haiti anymore.  It seems like the media is interested for a short time and then they move on to something else.  But, the needs in Haiti are very real today and should not be ignored.

I read this blog today on the Compassion International — When Will Haiti Be Back to Normal?  This article asks the question about how we can do better than just normal for Haiti. After all, poverty is high, education is low and death from diseases are far more prevalent than they are here.  So many people are pouring their lives into these places, which is commendable.  But, could we do more?

Mom and Baby- Gabon 2008

I know I received push back from a few of the teens at the time we took the offering because they could not get past the fact that there are people in our country who have needs.  There are people in our communities who don’t have enough food, or money for shelter.  In fact, just this afternoon I went with a man to a gas station to put gas in his car for him.  Yes, the needs are all around us. Even so, does that mean we just stand by and ignore the needs of other parts of the world?  I don’t believe we should forget the poor no matter where they are.

Another place that isn’t getting a lot of headlines, but has real need is in what they refer to as the Horn of Africa.  There is a famine going on that is said to threaten something like 13 million people.  This is something I can’t even fathom, as I look at pictures of children who are malnourished.  I wonder how I would handle being in that place of poverty, trying to provide for my children. Even if the media is not interested in it, we need to be because these are valuable people in need of assistance.  They don’t just need money thrown at them to attempt to pacify a situation, they need solutions.  I don’t know how to fully solve the problem, I just know that more of us need to be involved in it.  The resources are available if we just are willing to help.

Another area that has been well published this week on social media sites is regarding human trafficking.  I can’t wrap my mind around the horror for these young people trapped in that life.  In our modern living here in the United States, it is hard to even understand how this is allowed to happen.  But, we know from various organizations that it happens far more often than we would care to think.  Organizations like the International Justice Mission and people like Zach Hunter are taking this issue on.  Again, this is another way for us to all step up and fight for children around the world that need a voice.

All of the suffering and poverty in the world can be overwhelming, but the truth is we all be part of the solution.  We don’t need to feel guilty for having food, but we can do out part to bless others with what we have been given.  Lives are literally depending on it.  We made this a priority this year for Christmas.  Instead of getting gifts for family, we bought some food for the famine portion of Africa in their honor.  It is not the same as getting something for someone, but in my heart I knew that I was not only helping a group of people, but I was also sending a message to my kids about what was valuable.  It would be wonderful for them to catch that early and be a part of making the world a better place for whomever they can.  Helping others is rewarding and I believe that God is honored in that.

“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25

Gabon 2008

Children can serve alongside their parents and even contribute something!

The lessons never stop coming as to how the time we give can make a difference in someone’s life.  At the same time, I find it a true blessing to take my children along to serve.  For a few years now the youth group has been serving at least once a month at the community center serving a meal to lonely senior citizens.  It is an opportunity for us to get involved in the community, build relationships and just show people that we care about them.  The most recent night was before Christmas and I went with my 4-year-old son.

His motives for going might not be as pure as you would think.  The lady who works in the kitchen really likes him and will give him all kinds of food.  On this particular night, things started off well for him because there was a plate of donuts waiting for him.  Naturally, he had one to start.  Then he moved on to the peaches.  Then it was time for beef stew and french fries.  By the time dessert came around, he was done.  And yet, he wanted another donut.

Every kid's dream

This night we also met a new older man who came in with two ladies.  He came over to see us because I had my son there.  Kids attract all kinds of people and this guy was a real entertainer.  This man wore a t-shirt with a sport jacket, had a slicked back hair style and a ruddy complexion.  He came in early to ask if it was cocktail hour and then proceeded to explain to us how he hangs out constantly with these two women.  I then watched as they bantered back and forth and the women, who I guess were sisters, fought over which one would get to have him over after.  I sort of slipped away, using the excuse that my son was now done with his donut and he needed to get washed up.  This, by the way, was true and perfectly timed.   This man was a character the whole time, asking all of the volunteers for drinks.  I am guessing his routine would get old after an hour or so.

So, we serve the meal like we always do and we hang out while they have an activity.  It has become fun for our group to get to know these people and for them to get to know us.  They were doing Christmas trivia and I really didn’t know many of the questions.   I was proud to know the boy’s name in Home Alone though, which was one they did not know.

What made this night especially sweet, though, was not that I was serving alongside youth and my son, but rather the care ride home.  On the way home we were admiring Christmas lights.  Then, out of seemingly nowhere, my son says, “Hey dad.”  Now, when he says “hey dad” there is usually some deep thought coming, so I was ready.  He said, “Hey dad, I just can’t wait to get to heaven.”  *pause*  So, I asked him why he wanted to get to heaven.  His answer, “Because that is where Jesus is.  I can’t see Him now, but He is always with me.  I just really love Him.”  He then went into a tangent about where Egypt was and slaves, since he had recently learned about that story in Bible School.  In the mean time, I am just blown away with his candid desire to be with Jesus.

Children are so often overlooked for what they can contribute.   Just Christmas Eve my 2-year-old son contributed to the reading of the Christmas story.  I got to the pulpit to read from Luke 2 when I heard over the relative quiet the voice of my child.  What was he saying, “My butt!  My butt!”  No one knows why, but it was certainly a new take on the story.   Churches are guilty of sometimes missing these things because the moment there is noise they try to get them out of the sanctuary so the adults can worship in tranquility.  Yet, I have 4 unique children that might be loud, but can certainly learn and worship right now.   Our youngest is only a few months old, but the rest are able to serve and bless in their own ways.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” – Luke 18:16  Kids are not a nuisance that must be entertained.  They are each wonderful gifts from God that can be used by Him to often teach adults what really matters.  Children don’t need to have it all figured out, they just trust.  We can learn a lot from our kids. I am constantly thankful for these opportunities I have where they just share their heart.  Then as we serve and drive home we can talk about what it means to follow Christ, knowing that as we serve we are doing what He has asked us to do.