Tag Archives: command jesus

John 9, My favorite Jesus Story

One of my favorite questions to ask people is, “what is your favorite Jesus story?”  (a trick I learned from my older brother Jeff)  I love this question because it tells us a great deal about each other.  It tells me if a person actually reads the Bible or if they just regurgitate stuff their pastor has said.  It tells me if they have certain theological dispositions and tendencies.  It lets me briefly peer into their inner workings and attitudes towards religion, faith, and culture.  I thought today I’d share one of my favorite Jesus stories with you.  It will come in multiple parts, this is part one.

In John 9 there is a man who was born blind begging on the side of the road.  Jesus’ disciples ask, “whose fault is this man’s blindness?  Did he do it or His parents?”  Now, this question indicates a very peculiar understanding of life.  These men believe that bad things happen as a direct result of our individual wickedness.  To be sure, sometimes we suffer consequences of our sin in a dramatic and dire way.  For example, you end up in Jail if you break the law.  You may get sick and not be able to think as clearly if you are enslaved to alcohol or mind altering drugs.  Or you may end up losing jobs and being broke because you cannot overcome some sort of addiction.  Whatever the case, there are certainly consequences for individual sin that sometimes have great ramifications.  But, this is not the case with every trial and infirmity.  This poor blind beggar is simply blind.  Sin exists in the world and as a result death and infirmities plague EVERYONE.  This man is not guilty of being blind.  He simply is blind.  His own guilt is no greater than anyone else’s and he may actually be more righteous than the disciples!

To be clear, the true indictment should be laid on the community that surrounds this man.  The question the disciples ask is, “why is he blind.”  The question Jesus would have them ask is, “why is no one doing anything about this?”  Jesus asserts, “This man is blind so that the works of God would be shown.”  Cases of infirmity, sickness, and disease exist so that we can show the love of God to one another and recognize our common need for Christ.  So this story begs the question, where is the community of redeemed believers who follow God?  Why have they not taken care of this one?  Jesus kneels down and heals the man.  In Jesus’ example, we are beckoned to do the same thing for the broken around us.

Read the scene carefully, He doesn’t say a word to the man.  Just puts some mud on his eyes and says, “go wash that off.”  It must have been the weirdest thing that man had ever had happen to him.  I’m a little surprised that there is no record of the blind man’s verbal response.  I imagine that this must have been almost offensive, as Jesus’ healings often seem to be.  (He is always initiating healing with a rather offensive statement.  C.f. Jn 5:6, “do you want to be well?” or Mt. 12:13 to the man with the crumpled hand, “stretch out your hand.”)  I can only imagine what he was thinking, “what do you mean, ‘go wash this off!?’ of course I’m going to wash this off, you just put cold wet mud in my face you big bully!”  And yet, once he has washed it off, he was healed.

We are called to work this mission.  We are called to bind up the broken and take care of those who have shattered souls and lives.  It is in these broken people that we find the love of God is most fruitful.  It is in the broken community gathered around to aid each other that we see the Life Eternal at work.  So, get to work Christian!  Find some broken people and lift them up!

What’s your favorite story?

How to Keep a Youth Guy: ten ways my church encourages me to stick around

youthpastorThe current reality of tenure in youth ministry is atrocious.  I’ve see youth guys come and go at a rapid rate since I started in the ministry and have mourned the losses to my fellow churches.  I have been at my church for almost 8 years now as the Student Pastor (official title).  I serve at First Baptist Church in a small town south of Houston Texas.  Last weekend I was privileged to stay with some great friends and through the course of our conversation it came to light that their church has not been able to keep a youth pastor for more than 2 years.  They asked me why?  Why is it that Youth Pastors leave so soon?  What can they do to help them stay?  How do we change the paradigm when the average tenure for a youth pastor is 17 months and 3 years for a senior pastor?  (I know, you’ll find different numbers everywhere.)

Well, my church is awesome!  So I thought I’d share with you 10 things they do that encourage me to stay.  They are not in any particular order.

  1.        Treat the youth pastor the same as all the other pastors.  When my church looks at me, they see a pastor (or at least that’s what they communicate in their discussions with me).  I am asked about theological issues and Biblical issues by youth and adults.  I am asked how I would structure things and my input is valued as a premium.  Church members listen when I give instruction and I don’t have to fight for authority.  When I speak, the members grant me the same respect and gravity that they would my fellow pastors.  So respect your youth pastor, he’ll stay longer.
  2.        Make sure your staff gets along.  As a congregation you can give them opportunity to get away together.  This will breed fellowship among the leaders that is invaluable.  Nothing will kill a youth pastor quicker than an unbalanced and contentious staff relationship.  If your senior pastor micro-manages your youth pastor, he will leave.  If your staff treats the youth pastor like he is second fiddle or a child and refuses to take what he is saying seriously, he will leave.  Now, to be clear, there are youth guys who fit the stereotype mold and they might need to be kicked a little by their other pastors.  But, most of us are hard-working, have some semblance of what makes a good leader, and we do what needs to be done.  My church provides time for the staff to get away and enjoy each other and we are very connected as a result.  I frequently feel as though I am serving with brothers who are laboring along-side me.  I am never second fiddle and they include me in decisions.  I am not treated as a child, but as a brother.  We are colleagues and friends, and that’s what most youth pastors want and need in a staff.
  3.        Help without being asked.  Assume he needs you to do what you notice needs to be done and then go let him know you want to do it and do it without needing him.  This doesn’t happen all the time, but my church is great about helping when it looks like I need help.  One of my favorite memories was when some adults came to me and said, “we love your emphasis on teaching our students, we see this need, we’re going to do it for you.”  That was an incredible blessing.  Take note of what your Student Pastor does well and fill in the gaps without being asked.  If we don’t want you to, we’ll tell you.  While this is awkward it is far better than standing back and being upset at him for not asking for help.  By nature Youth pastors tend to think that they are supposed to do EVERYTHING.  When you come along-side them and just start doing the work, it frees them up to focus on what is important.  My church is awesome at this!
  4.        Pay him the same scale that you pay the other ministers.  A horrific reality of youth ministry is the pay scale.  I know of Pastors who make well over $100,000 serving with youth pastors who make less than $30,000 with no benefits!   This is an atrocious wrong.  My church pays me well and the rest of our staff is paid well too.  Pay your youth guy equitably and you’ll see marked improvement in his attitude toward the position.  I know a youth guy that makes $25,000 a year and is expected to work 60 hours a week (we counted them) under the supervision of a pastor who makes $75,000 a year, has less education, less experience in ministry, works a flat 40 hours a week, and has all benefits paid.  Needless to say, I have his resume if any of you are looking for a hard working youth guy.
  5.        Don’t ask your youth pastor when he is going to get a real pastor job.  You may mean well, implying that he is a great leader or preacher and you think he should take a greater leadership position.  But your complement comes with a devaluing of the position he is already in.  We are pastors already.  Value the position he is in as well as the job he does in it.  Treat the position as a permanent one and do not assume a corporate ladder mentality.  Most of us are not seeking to climb the invisible ladder of supposed success.  Most of us are just happy to work in a church and genuinely feel as though God wants us where we are.  So remember, he is called youth “pastor” because he is already a pastor.  Complement his preaching or leadership, ask him about his future, but be careful not to assume he is only there to step his way up.
  6.        Have his family to your home for dinner and/or go to his house.  Relationships are incredibly valuable for youth guys.  We don’t have many deep relationships because our career is built around relationships with 12-18 year-olds.  Believe it or not, hanging out with a bunch of 16 year-olds on your free nights is not as fun as it sounds.  The only adult fellowship most Youth Guys get is the staff at the church.  Student pastors need adult fellowship beyond the staff.  You can accommodate this need by providing a small group opportunity for him and his family or you can just be intentional and eat with the guy.  Invest your time in your youth pastor as a friend and he will be much more likely to rethink leaving.  Another positive to this is that he will take your advice more readily.  We are much more likely to listen to people who know us and who we know well.  So, love your youth guy and he’ll stay longer.  There is a particular man at my church who took me aside when I got here and said, “what do you need in ministry.”  I told him I needed a friend.  It is partly because of him I have turned down some positions, so that I could maintain that friendship.
  7.        Submit to his leadership in public and discuss disagreements with a humble heart in private.  By nature of the position, youth ministry is filled with leaders who are self-conscious about their abilities to lead and insecure about their authority.  We are very aware of the criticism of others and are extremely sensitive to disrespect for our position.  If you have a disagreement with your youth pastor, model humility for him.  He needs to learn humility, model it by submitting yourself to his leadership, even if it seems unnecessary to do so.  In doing this you will show him what humble leadership is, and will encourage him to learn well how to lead well.  He will stay longer.  My experience at FBC has been loaded with people who will submit to my decisions even if they think I am wrong.  They will respect my position and give me latitude to make mistakes.  As a result, I am still here.
  8.        Forgive his mistakes; he will make a lot of them… especially if he is good at his job.  Let me explain.  If you’re a youth pastor who loves students, you’re going to take some risks.  You’re going to over-plan, under-budget, and offend EVERYONE in the process.  (if you’re a youth guy reading this and you haven’t offended someone yet, you must be young or dense.) But these mistakes are done out of love for the students and a deep desire for Jesus’ name to be made great.  He is not intentionally offending anyone, unless he has stated that offense is his objective (lol, sometimes it’s necessary.) So, he is going to make mistakes.  He is going to be obnoxious.  And he is going to fail you.  He needs to know, failure is ok.  He needs to have the freedom to do so.  Let him run with abandon after a new idea and let it blow up in his face!  Let him fail and you will have a much stronger youth guy in the position.  He needs the freedom to exercise his creativity and the tenderness to be taught when he fails.
  9.        Don’t give him pointless tasks that are unrelated to his passions and/or job.  I remember my first weeks at FBC.  I was incredibly nervous I was going to upset my senior pastor because I was unaware of some unknown task I needed to do.  I was sure that I was going to be asked to set up tables, organize a party, fix some problem.  I was very concerned and was even getting jittery about it.  I walked into my senior pastor’s office and asked “Jim, what is it you want me to do!?”  Jim Doyle sat back in his chair and said, “Teach our students the Bible and run a comprehensive youth program.”  In a rather irritated tone I asked, “when are you going to ask me to set up chairs, or plan a party!?”  Jim smirked, “I’m not… I want you to teach the Bible and run a comprehensive youth program.”  After clarifying my job description, I left his office before any tasks could be added.  It was then I realized how much FBC values this position.  I’m not asked to do menial tasks.  FBC asks me to do things that are related to my job and I’m not asked to do things that are inconsequential.  Often I am told that I don’t need to do certain things because they would take time away from the teaching of the Word or the Students.  Find your youth pastor’s passion and assign him any extra tasks that may relate to that passion, otherwise, let him work without any additional weight.
  10.    Overlook offenses.  Youth pastors can be extremely busy dealing with students and are incredibly emotionally involved with their students.  Further, good youth pastors are much more concerned with your holiness than your happiness.  As a result, we will often offend and sometimes forget that we need to shepherd adults as well.  We may be inconsiderate, callous, or just plain unaware of and toward offenses.  Forgive them without having to be asked.  Model humility and mutual submission by forgiving and forgetting offense without having to bring it up.  He will feel the love from you and you just might be what keeps him there.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been forgiven offense without having to be asked.  It is probably why I am still here.

So, I hope that helps…  If you’re a youth pastor, what are some things that your church does to encourage you to stay?

The Disciple John

fire_from_heaven

James and John often make me laugh.  Did you know that John has only a handful of lines in the Bible? Surprising, I know, but there is reason that what he says was not often written down.  There is very little personal testimony of John’s character from his own mouth and the little we do have reveals his own goofy character.  One of my favorite scenes is when James and John see Jesus rejected in Samaria in Luke 9:51-56.  The sons of thunder see Jesus rejected and they ask Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them!?”  I imagine the Biblical account leaves out the extended lecture that they received from Jesus.  It simply records, “Jesus rebuked them.”  What is even funnier is the story immediately before.  Jesus has just told them that the

greatest among them is the one who would be the least (verses 46-48).  Then John answers Jesus, “Master we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and he was not with us, so we tried to make him stop.”  Jesus corrects the misconception and moves on.  Now, here in these two snip-it’s a little of the Character of John is revealed.

In the first story, James and John are clearly zealous for the name of the LORD.  Much like the Jews that Paul references in Romans 10:2, “they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.”  You see these two young men had not yet learned the way of Jesus.  Indeed they don’t learn it until the book of Acts.  They think that Jesus came to destroy his enemies and lay fire to those who

would reject him.  They fail to see the love that Jesus has.  Luke records in verse 51 and in verse 53 that Jesus’ face was “set towards Jerusalem.”  So he is focused on getting to Jerusalem.  James and John are probably under the assumption that this is a victory march and they are about to see Jesus lay the smack down on the Religious Elite, the half-bread Samaritan Jews, and the Roman oppressors!  But the way of Jesus is different from the way of the world.  Glory for Jesus is found in death and humiliation.  Glory is found in making the enemy your family.  Glory is found in bending over backward to establish the necessary forgiveness for the salvation of the lost sheep.  James and John think that one must triumph by violence and strength.  But Jesus is going to show them that triumph is found in peace and meekness.  Jesus is going to die, not kill.  James and John do not see

that Jesus is going to die, they think Jesus is going to win.  But the agenda of victory for Jesus is to die so that He God can win, so that the enemy might be saved.  The character of James and John is one of zeal without knowledge.  They persist in proclaiming what they think of Jesus, without actually searching out Jesus’ will.  Did you notice, they don’t say a word to Jesus before proclaiming with pride their intent to burn up those He came to save?

How does one know the will of God?  In John 7:17 Jesus says, “ If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”  In this simple statement Jesus calls everyone to

conform their life to the will of God.  Make your will to DO His will and you will know.  James and John needed to conform themselves to God’s will before they could understand God’s mission.  Only in laying aside their own desires and striving to desire God’s will are they able to understand God’s heart.   Indeed they would soon understand fully as their master is about to show them.

In the preceding story, John proclaims proudly, “WE STOPPED HIM!”  Again, John is not concerned for the good of the people here.  People were being rescued from demonic oppression in the name of Jesus.  But instead of recognizing the Love of God poured out through a willing vessel, John is concerned for his own agenda.  John was on the team, this other guy was not!  This other guy did not

follow Jesus in the same manner that John and the 11 did, therefore he must be stopped!  John imposed on this other brother the necessity of worshiping the exact same way he did.  Surely you can’t know Jesus unless you do the same thing John was doing!  Again, Jesus corrects John.

You know…  the disciples are often wrong and I like to laugh at them.  But I am

no different.  I sometimes insist that people must worship the same way I do.  They must have the same kind of music, the same preaching style, the same kind of building or they cannot possibly be worshiping correctly.  They must observe the same worship times and teach their children the same way I do.  They must read their Bible the same amount of time I do and they must listen to Piper, Chandler, MacArthur and balance that out reading Bonhoeffer, Hirsch, Mclaren, and Tozer.   (Now just s disclaimer: The Bible is the authority over how Christians should worship, and we need to be careful to obey Jesus through His Word!  But let’s be honest, there is a lot of stuff we do that has nothing to do with the Bible and is therefore not worth squabbling over.)  Like John, I am often zealous for what I deem is right… and yet I find myself having to seek the Lord all the more to understand His love and attitude toward those I deem worthy of death.  Then I find myself asking forgiveness for wrong motives and a self-aggrandizing vision.  So, I keep walking with Jesus and striving to understand His way, I will eventually grasp this love and will be conformed to the image of Him who created me. (Col 3:10, Phil. 3:10

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Stuff on My Wall, Final Post

I love art!  Art (all types) speaks to the soul in a way that nothing else can.  It moves the heart to understanding of God that cannot be compared to a lecture or sermon.  Because I believe this, I surround myself with works of art.  So on this back wall I have some great works I’d like to share. 
back wall

 

Lion2

The first one is the Lion overlooking the world.  I painted this a few years ago.  My wife and I have a favorite book: Safely Home, by randy Alcorn.  It is a fiction story about the last Christian martyr in China.  In the midst of the book there is a description of a statue of a Lion with his paw on top of the globe.  Alcorn describes the lion as tender yet fierce.  The lion holds a balance of strength and meekness, between grace and near reckless ferocity, between fury and patience.  Alcorn describes the lion as standing over the Earth with a look of power and justice.  I tried to capture that in this lion.  I keep it on the wall so that I can be reminded of Our Lord, the Lion of Judah.  He is not tame!

waterfall

Second, the picture of the waterfall (sorry for the reflection of my desk in the photo).  I was given this picture by a former coworker from back when I worked retail.  Written in the bottom right of the frame is “John 4:14.”  In John 4:14 Jesus says, “…but whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  This artwork is a black and white photo of a waterfall coming out of the rocks!  Hopefully your picking up on the symbolism from the Old Testament.  If you’re not, read Exodus 14 and following… that will get you started.

Safely home

Third is a picture from Safely Home.  In this picture Jesus clutches the last martyr to his chest.  The martyr is holding some crowns in his right hand and is slumped over in the chest of Jesus as if to illustrate complete and total comfort from the exhausting work on his heart.  An angel stands in the back with the martyr’s white robe held out as if presenting it.  I love this picture because Jesus is not sitting on the thrown.  He has leapt off the throne and grabbed the martyr, clutching him close, obviously before the martyr could even complete his bow.  To the right on the floor lay the chains that once bound the martyr on earth.  They are cast off to the side.  This is the image of Jesus meeting his children in heaven!  He does not remain on the throne, He is so excited to see His brother, He runs to hold the servant close.  This is a picture drawn from the character of God found in the Gospel Parables.  It is beautiful and I am excited to see my King in person one day.  “At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, in Heaven and on Earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!” –Philippians 2:10-11

Power of One

Finally, one of my favorite stories is pictured below on the shelf.  “The Power of One!”  In this world of racial discrimination and humanity wickedly oppressing other members of humanity, there are few stories as powerful and horrifying as the oppression of the Zulu people in South Africa.  Apartheid is one of the greatest blights on human history.  In The Power of One, a young white man grows up to teach reading and writing to the Zulu people who are socially, economically, and physically oppressed.  The Zulu people were not able to receive education and therefore were enslaved to a system the relegated them to poverty and death.  The young man works hard to liberate a people who are oppressed and this is that story.  This book inspires me to work hard for justice!  We are to be agents of righteousness in this world.  And, where there is injustice, we must work hard to be the justice and fight for justice for the sake of the Gospel.   If you don’t like to read, there is a fantastic movie version with Morgan Freeman!  Warning, it is graphic, rated R, and has violence and language in it.

Don’t worry, this is the last post of “stuff on my walls.”  We’ll get back to more serious things soon.  What do you have on your walls and why?

Matthew 4:19

 

Lately I’ve been thinking about when Jesus looked at Peter and Andrew and said to them, “follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mt. 4:19) As I read through the Gospel I have enjoyed seeing how Jesus changed the hearts of his rag tag bunch of followers.  They begin their journey with Him in near complete obedience.  That’s because they have taken upon themselves this Messiah’s promise.  Don’t be mistaken, this is a promise.  Jesus tells them, “Follow ME!” that’s a command.  Immediately following the command Jesus says, “and I will make you…” that’s a promise, “fishers of men…” that’s the end result.

Now, to Mathew 4:19.  Now what’s intrigu
ing about this passage is who does the work.  The passage is not about making yourself a fisher of men, but it is about following Jesus.  You see Jesus was saying, “Follow me” that’s the command.  We follow Him!  In our obedience to Christ, we will be lead into evangelism.  The promise is “I will make you fishers of men.”  Did you see that?  Jesus says that He will mold you into fishers of men.  The passage is saying, “OBEY.”  If you will obey Christ, then you will be made into fishers of men.  Easy.  So, reading this passage helped me to realize something.  We become fishers of men when we know Christ.  The more we know Christ, the more he shapes us into who He designed us to be.  The more that happens, the more we fish.

Now, fishing in Jesus’ context was hard work.  You couldn’t just sit on the side with a pole.  You were casting nets, dragging them in, finding the schools of fish, up early, home late, and you probably lived pay check to pay check.  Your hands were calloused from the nets, and you always smelled like fish.  So, when Jesus looks at these to fishermen and says, “I’ll make you fishers of men.”  I don’t think they thought, “How wonderfully relaxing and comforting that will be!”  I think they rolled up their sleeves and said, “Let’s do this!”  My point is: following Jesus is not always easy.  Following Jesus means we are going to be transformed into His image.  He is going to have to chip away a lot of nonsense.  But, we are invited into a journey that is well worth the work!  To follow Jesus means to be changed.  It means to journey on a lifestyle that will take discipline and hard work.  Further, it means that Jesus is going to mold us into disciplined hard workers.

Now it is necessary to take note that Jesus doesn’t tell Levi, “Follow me and I will make you a money counter of men.”  His response is always, “follow me,” but it is not qualified in such a specific manner again.  So this begs the question.  Was this promise only for the fishing disciples?  I don’t think so.  I think He doesn’t repeat the same pattern because it only made sense in this context.  Matthew was not going to be transformed into a counter of people, that would be contrary to Christ’s mission.  But, in this passage there is an underlying principle.  That is, a journey with the Messiah is going to so change who you are.  It is going to change your life and you are naturally going to be evangelical.  If you follow Jesus, then you will be a witness.   Christ has moved, and you can do nothing else.