Tonight is the annual Middle School Ministry Lock-In. It’s a high energy, sugar and caffeine driven, all-nighter. The night includes all you can eat pizza and pop, a 45 ft inflatable obstacle course, a photo scavenger hunt, messy games, group night games (played in the dark), a movie, and we cap it all off with donuts for breakfast.
I know it sounds crazy…it is crazy! Here are some of the reasons we do it:
It’s memorable. Students talk about this event for years to come. Some of the students who have come through our ministry and are in college now, still bring up stories from this event. I think it’s important for students to have fun memories involving church.
It’s a relationship builder. Every year, our team ends up having great conversations with students in the wee hours of the night. Spending extended periods of time with people can seriously accelerate relationship development.
It’s a great evangelistic tool. It’s one of the ways we’re encouraging our students to participate in our church wide Each One Reach One campaign this year. This is an event that students love to bring their friends too. I always do a short gospel presentation and invite students to join us for youth group in the coming year.
On Thursday I spent part of my day away at a retreat center in the area. My goals were to get away, spend some quality time with God, and reflect on the past year. The time was restful, spiritually refreshing, and very meaningful. Have you ever taken the time do something like this? I want to suggest to you that it could be a very powerful growth step in your spiritual life. Jesus did this sort of thing regularly (Luke 5:16). If He needed it, how much more do we need it?!?!
Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way…
I have to schedule something like this rather than fit it in when there’s time. If I wait until there’s time, there will never be a “convenient” time. I make it a habit to put a date down on the calendar several months out and then protect that day.
I need accountability to make something like this happen. I planned this day with a few other youthworkers. We spent time alone, together. We showed up at the same location and then spread out around the facility and did our own thing. Committing to do this with others helped keep it a priority in my schedule.
Regular reflection keeps things in perspective. As I reflected on the last year, I was blown away at what God has done. The ways I’ve seen him at work in our church, in my family, and in me personally are overwhelming. YET, I wasn’t tuned into these things until I stopped and reflected. Regular reflection helps me keep the bigger picture in perspective.
Something is better than nothing. While I would have loved to get a way for an extended period of time (a full day or an overnight), that wasn’t possible. I made the decision to get away for a few hours and it was definitely worth it!
I hope you’ll take some time to get away, spend some quality time with God, and reflect. If you do, I’d love to hear about your experience.
There’s no shortage of depressing news these days. Terrorism, refugees, mass shootings, corruption and cover ups, and senseless crimes committed against children. It’s enough to drag down even the most optimistic among us.
What do you do with all of this?
To be clear, I’m not looking to answer the why does God allow bad things to happen question. It’s not that I don’t think there are good answers to that question…I just don’t believe that’s a helpful question to ask in the midst of tragedies. Trying to understand horrific acts of violence is a fools game…the answers are never good enough. And I would argue that we’re not really looking for answers…what we’re really looking for is something to make us feel better. We’re scared or sad and we think that if we have an answer, we won’t be scared or sad anymore. I don’t believe it works that way. I believe the way toward healing and wholeness (feeling better) is to honor those emotions and invite God to meet you in them. I believe that’s an individual journey each of us need to take, but to give you an idea of what it might look like, here’s what it looks like for me.
As I hear about these tragedies, I feel sad…I feel overwhelming sadness at the brokenness of our world, for the victims and their loved ones, and for the hurting individual who carried out such a horrific act. Through prayer, I take those feelings to God…Like a child who looks to their earthly father for love and comfort, I turn to my heavenly Father and tell him that I’m sad. I’m reminded that God grieves with those who grieve (John 11 – the death of Lazarus). That my sadness is not foreign to Him (Isaiah 53:3). And I’m reminded that one day He will make it all better (Revelation 21:4). This process allows me to be honest about my feeling of sadness and find comfort in my heavenly Father. It helps me feel OK with the sadness and reminds me that it won’t always be this way.
Have you ever brought your emotions before God and invited Him into what you’re feeling? I invite you to try it.
Last weekend, I competed in my first full Ironman. Ironman is a long distance triathlon where you swim 2.4 miles, bike 112, and run 26.2 for a total of 140.6 miles for the day. Events are consecutive and the clock is running from the moment you start the swim until the moment you cross the finish line of the run. It’s a huge undertaking and takes months of intense training.
One of the things that I love about long distance triathlon is the community of encouragement. On race day, we’re all suffering, it’s challenging for everyone! We’re competing as individuals, yet, there’s a sense of “we’re in this together”. I can’t tell you how many times I was encouraged by fellow triathletes, volunteers, and spectators. In a real way, their words of encouragement helped me stay positive and focused on my goal of finishing the race.
Life is hard. We all need encouragement. For those of us who are followers of Christ, we need the support and encouragement of our fellow Christ followers as we seek to live for Jesus. We need someone to come alongside us and speak life-giving encouragement to us. We need someone to say, don’t give up! You’re doing great.
I wonder, when was the last time you encouraged someone? Let me challenge you to find one person that you can offer honest, heart-felt encouragement to in the next week.
Prayer makes me wait. I cannot pray and work at the same time. I have to wait to act until I finish praying. Prayer forces me to leave the situation with God; it makes me wait.”
- Charles R. Swindoll
My default mode is action. This is never more evident then when I come up against a problem. I’m a problem solver, so I immediately start figuring out ways to fix the situation. Even before I have a fully developed plan, I’m at work fixing the situation. This can certainly be a very good quality and has served me well in a number of situations. But, it can also be problematic. The biggest problem I experience with this is that it creates a self-sufficiency – specifically as it relates to my relationship with God. My tendency toward action says…”I’ve got this, I can take care of this myself”. As I type those words, I’m aware of how childish that can sound. My 2 year old always wants to do it herself. She is determined to prove to herself and everyone else that she can do it. The problem is, she often needs help…she can’t do it herself.
I love the idea presented in the quote above. Prayer makes me wait. That waiting, even if for a short time, is a powerful expression of dependency. Going to God in prayer says, “I can’t do this myself, will you help me with this?” I want to prayer to be my first response, not my last resort.
Have you considered serving in our children’s ministry? It’s a fantastic place to serve! Our children’s ministries are actively engaged in making disciples. We’re introducing children to God’s word and inviting them into a relationship with Jesus. It’s fun, exciting, and super rewarding. We’d love for you to join our team.
Consider the impact you could have…
You may be laying a foundation for long-term discipleship
You may be investing in a future world changer
You may be reaching the parents through the child
You may be a much needed source of love and acceptance
You may be creating healthy patterns and meaningful memories
There are many ways to serve in our Children’s Ministry. Whether you have a lot of time to offer or just a little, we can find a spot for you. We provide all the necessary training and resources so that your time can be spent with the kids instead of on preparation.
We currently have positions open in our Preschool Ministry, Elementary School Ministry, and Awana. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more about how you can be a part of our team of adults who love kids and love Jesus.
Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. – Psalm 90:14
Monday, my daughter started 1st grade. Her first day of “full-day” school. She was so ready for school to start and so excited about meeting new friends. We dropped her off at school and she was in the door of her classroom and settling into her desk without even saying goodbye to us. She’s always been that way…independent and ready for anything. We waved from the door and then left to drop my son off at his first day of preschool (it was an emotional day for my wife!). We went about the rest of our day and anxiously awaited the end of the school day. We stood outside waiting for the bus wondering how the first day had gone…would she be tired? did she make new friends? did she have enough time to eat her lunch? did we forget to send something she needed? Lots of questions as we waited. Before long, the bus arrived and she came running of the bus and yelled “That was the best day of my life! Can we have a party and invite all of my friends to celebrate the first day of school?”Lisa and I laughed about that for a while…I’m still laughing to myself as I write this now. It was a really funny moment, but the thing that sticks with me is the sheer joy on her face. Simple. Childlike. Joy.
I want to experience joy like that in my life…true, lasting joy. Joy like that can only come from God. I want to be so satisfied in God that I experience what Psalm 90:14 is talking about.
21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. – Ephesians 4:21-24
Have you ever walked past someone who didn’t acknowledge you? Maybe they looked right past you or even ignored your gesture. I think we’ve all been there at one time or another. My question is, what do you do with that when it happens to you? I believe we have a tendency to make up “stories” in situations like this. We determine the person is “stuck-up” or “rude”, or we explain it away with the story that they “must have had a lot on their mind”. Whatever the story is, it’s important that we realize that that’s exactly what it is…it’s our story of what happened. The facts are simply that we walked past someone and they didn’t acknowledge us. Responding to that person from the story that we’ve made up is like holding someone accountable for something that happened in a dream…they may have appeared in the dream, but what happened in the dream is a product of our mind…not their actions.
Moving from story to reality is a key step toward authentic community. As a church, we want to be a place of real community. A place where people interact in an open and honest way. Where love and grace permeate our conversations. It’s difficult (read: impossible) to do that when we are living in our stories instead of the truth that honesty brings.
So, taking our example of someone not acknowledging you as they walk by…the story may be that they’re “stuck-up”. How do we move from story to reality in this? We need to get more data. We need to take the important step of going to that person and engaging with them on the issue. It’s not confrontational, it’s honest and direct. Think more calm conversation than angry accusation. Very practically, it might look like, “Earlier when I walked past you, I was trying to connect with you and I didn’t get a response from you. I wanted to ask you if there’s something between us that we need to talk about”. There’s certainly a risk in asking that question. You might get an answer that you don’t want to hear. However, I would submit to you that it’s worth the risk if you really want authentic community.
The verse listed above talks about leaving our old sinful ways of thinking and instead to be renewed in our thoughts and attitudes because as Christ followers, we are called to something more. It’s my prayer that here at ACC we would live out our value of authentic community in a way that cuts through the stories and gets at the truth so that each of us can experience grace in the midst of honesty.
Do you find yourself playing the comparison game? Looking at someone else’s life, career, marriage, etc and thinking they’re doing it better than you? The grass always seems to look greener on the other side of the fence. When you play the comparison game, you lose. You either puff yourself up as you think you’re doing it better then them, or you tear yourself down as you think they’re doing it better than you. Either way, you lose. It’s never fair to compare what you know about yourself (everything) to what you know about someone else (only what they show you). What’s more…they have a unique set of circumstances which may be very different from your circumstances. Each person is responsible for their own life and accountable for what they’ve done with what they’ve been given. (Romans 14:12)
If the grass looks greener somewhere else, water your lawn! In other words, don’t abandon your lawn…make it the best that it can be. Invest yourself in having the kind of life, career, marriage, etc that you really want.
I’m loving this song recently! May we always remember that our strength comes when we stop trying to do it on our own and look to the one who is capable of far more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)