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Can I Really Be Used by God? Me?

Read Mark 5:1-20 – This is becoming one of my all-time favorites in the Gospel, love this story`

Background

In the timeline of Mark, Jesus had just got done sleeping on the very first water bed in the bottom of the boat…before calming the storm.  (Get it, because there was water in the bottom of the boat, and Jesus was sleeping, oh forget it.)  He then steps off the boat and is immediately greeted by a demon possessed man.

Demon-Possessed Man

This man had incredible strength – no chains or shackled could hold them down.  It says these metal restrains were broken into pieces.  Dude was strong.  This poor man suffered day & night – crying out and cutting himself with stones

The Demons

Just like earlier in Mark (1:24), we see the order of power.  These demons knew right away who Jesus was, and declared His deity.  The demons, who Jesus was calling out, asked Jesus’ permission to enter the pigs.

The Change

Verses 15, 18 – Look at the contrast here.  This man goes from screaming & cutting himself to asking to follow Jesus.  I love it.  He was so excited to be free, he wanted to follow Jesus wherever he went. He was like, “Where can I get an application to be a disciple?”  “Hey Peter, scoot over…John you mind if I sit there?”  Then Jesus said, “Whoa, whoa…now hold on a minute”…obviously appreciating his new enthusiasm.  And then gives the demon possessed-man some basic instructions.

Jesus’ Basic Instructions

Here’s what I want you to see…Look who Jesus sends out with the Good News:

  • A man who was possessed by thousands of demons.
  • A man who was out of his mind
  • A man who would scream day and night, cutting himself with stones in a graveyard
  • He was an outcast to society

And what does Jesus tell him to do?  Go tell the people of this city how the Lord has changed you from the inside-out.  Tell others about God’s mercy.  And when this man told others about these things…what happened?  At the end of our passage – it says people “marveled”.

3 things to remember from this passage:

  1. Never underestimate a life changed by Jesus. No matter who you are, what you have done…God can use you to do MARVELOUS things.
  2. Never doubt a life can’t be changed by the “Son of Most High”. The change is remarkable, people will notice, and God can change anyone He wants to.
  3. If Jesus told a demon-possessed man to be the carrier of Good News…what does that mean for us. These basic instructions of “Tell others about how your life has changed and share about His mercy”.  These are instructions for us too, and we need to be sharing, and watch other marvel at the Good News.
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Do You Need the Gospel Everyday?

Book Review:  New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp51yvuw5hol-_sx331_bo1204203200_

The Good:

Biblical.  Imagine that!  A devotional that is actually devoted to God’s Word.  Not only does it provide additional Bible reading for each devotion, there was often passages of Scripture weaved in and out of each page.  The Bible was the foundation for the writing.  This was not simply thoughts of a writer for a daily pick-me-up.  This was a devotional written how it should be.

Honest.  Love the honesty of the writer throughout.  Often, he would reveal how he fell short of the exact content of the devotional.  The raw, honest struggles that were revealed allows the reader to connect with the author in a more personal way.

Deep.  You won’t need a shovel to get depth on this one, but you may need to take a break before you climb out of the deep well of thinking.  Man, this dude brings it in theological constructs, Biblical insight, and Christian life application.  Good thing this is a daily devotion and can be taken one day at a time.

The Bad:

Lists.  There is a pattern, outline, array, summary, framework…I think you get the point.  The author enjoyed lists.  He would often list out a description of something in multiple ways, and the reader had to wade through the list to get to the point.  The good part of this is many times those lists contained some real gems that needed underlined and examined.

The Grade:  A.  One of my all-time favorite devotionals.  Seriously, with the depth, insight, and challenge…Paul Tripp brings the thunder to help produce real growth and knowledge of your spiritual condition.  It is worth your time and is valuable to your quiet time with the Lord.

 

2017 Youth Ministry Goals

Another year and more goals for the Lord to accomplish!  It’s great to look forward to another year of serving in youth ministry and another year of God doing amazing things.  This is just the tip of the iceberg…because I know God will do so much more.  But still, it’s always good to put goals out there to aim at as the Lord directs our shots.

Goals for 2017

  • New Book! –  Blessing to announce my 1st book has been published and my goal is for 1,000 copies to be sold to help people fall in love with God’s Word.
  • New Curriculum Plan! – Hard to believe this is my 6th year ministering at MBC, which mean a new 6 year plan will be put in place—with the input of parents, students, and research this plan will be implemented in the fall of 2017.
  • Mentoring – Teach a 2 week Mentoring series to encourage mentoring of generations within the church.
  • Short Term Mission Trip – Due to monthly local mission project, the 3 year cycle is now work trip, out-of-state, international trip. This year we will be traveling for our work trip.
  • Life After High School Series—Special speakers to speak on after high school temptations like drugs, how to witness after high school, and leader advice for the young adult years.
  • Public School Partnership – Continue to find ways to partner with local schools to serve them and bring the hope of Jesus Christ to students.
  • Social Media Interaction – Bolster ministry social media footprint with student leadership help and more interaction on Facebook.
  • Implement G.R.O.W.T.H Chart– Encourage parents to follow chart of spiritual growth for their students and provide training and help for students to reach these spiritual goals.

 

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How Christian Music is Made

Hilarious parody of the “behind the scenes” of Christian music.

The Promise of God in Threatening Pain

Athletics can be difficult.  Recovering from a defeat, when you gave up the winning score.  Trying to move on after being cut from the team, when all your hard work seemingly has gone down the drain.  Or to see your season go up in smoke, just because of a simple twist or turn the wrong way, and your injury takes you out for the year.  But what does God promise during these times?  Let’s turn to a National Football Player who suffered one of these fates, and allow him to teach you through God’s Word and promises.

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http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-promise-of-god-in-threatening-pain

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Book Review: Dangerous Calling

Book Review:  Dangerous Calling by Paul David Trippdangerous_calling_banner

The Good:  Maybe I should have labeled this section of the review “The Great”, because there is some great stuff in here.  The author begins the book with an honest and humble look at his own personal sin struggle with anger and pride.  You can’t help but examine your own life through the author’s guts and transparency.  Throughout the book, you can tell it is written through blood, sweat, & tears of ministry.  Each chapter screams ministry experience and is written out of love for other pastors.  There are must read chapters all over the place.  For example, chapter 3 is a must read for all professors and teachers, from kindergarten to grad level (I actually sent the book and chapter number to my alma mater for their refreshment).  Chapter 4 is a must read for all pastoral search committees, and I mean A MUST!  I can’t remember the last time I was sending a book’s title to specific people to tell them you have to read this chapter.  Incredible ministry insight throughout that provides priceless ministry training to both young and veterans in ministry pure gold.

The Bad:  The only bad would be there is slight repetitiveness towards the end of the book, taking away from the incredible content of the majority of the book.

The Grade:  A.  Given to me at a leadership conference at a ministry balance seminary.  Boy, am I thankful I read it.  This book very well may be the best, and is definitely the most honest, ministry book out there.  In terms of providing valuable insight into longevity in ministry, ministry balance, and burnout prevention…this book was a home run.  Each person in ministry should grab this book.  Notice I didn’t say just pastors, I’m talking anyone in leadership ministry positions, they need to read this.  You hear me, although this is written to pastors primarily (especially in the latter chapters), there are ministry principles in this book that ministry leaders need for their spiritual health.

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Why Thanksgiving?

What’s your answer to the question, “Why Thanksgiving?”  Here are some possible responses:

  • ThanksgivingBecause I love me some turkey & stuffing
  • It’s a great excuse to get together family
  • It marks the day before the biggest shopping day of the year (some people live for Black Friday sales…I get nervous sweats just thinking about it)

But what about being thankful?  Why should we be thankful for more than just the fourth Thursday of every November?

Turn in your Bibles to Psalm 100:5.

Here we find our answer.  “Why Thanksgiving?”…well, because God is Good, The Lord has Limitless Love, and The Father is Faithful.  Are these reasons enough for you to be thankful?  I sure hope so.

As you think back on how good God has been to you over the years…As you ponder the limitless love of the Lord that finds its peak in the sacrifice of His Son on the cross…As you review the ways the Heavenly Father continues to be faithful…how could you not be thankful?

Well, if you can’t be thankful after reviewing these wonderful aspects of the Creator God, maybe you need to take the opportunity to get to know Him, and give your life to Him.  Allow Him to forgive your sins, and trust Him with your eternity.  You do this, and trust me, you will never be more thankful around the table, and you will always have something to be thankful for!

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Mission Trip Training – 10 Steps to Prevent Disaster

What is the best way to prepare for a mission trip?  In a word…TRAINING.  You want to avoid the Romeo who tries to ask out the missionary’s daughter or the insurance deductible for what is left of the new orphanage wing…Well, here are 10 steps that will help prevent disaster and set the table for God to work.  (Disclaimer:  Accidents, Trials, and Difficulty can/will occur during mission trips, but there are some difficulty that can be avoided)MissionTrainingPortfolio

1.      Application Process

Mission Trips are serious business.  They must be handled differently than a trip to an amusement park.  You don’t just put a sign-up list on your bulletin board with cool font and clip-art graphics.  No, most of the trips are designed for those students serious about serving God and getting their hands dirty for Jesus Christ.   So what do you do?  You have an application process.  Have each student fill out an application, get references from their parents/guardians and another adult, and must be turned in by the deadline.  Following the application, have them interview with yourself (include parents & other leaders in the interview).  Lay out the expectations of the trip, the assignments, the attendance policy, and the behavior expected in each participant.  If the student cannot meet the expectations, it is in your and their best interest they are not part of the team.

2.      Here’s Your Notebook

Make it look official.  Give each student a notebook with the assignments, place for notes, support letter samples, contact information, prayer requests, release forms, etc.  Students will be able to keep their program assignments and other materials in one spot, and will be advised to take their folders on the trip.  Although it takes some work to put these notebooks together, it is well worth the effort.

Lessons for the notebook notes include Evangelism training, Bible studies on Missions, and assigned reading review.  Guest speakers from the church provide a great way to connect the generations in this effort.  I’ve had elementary teachers and children workers come speak on child evangelism, working professionals speak on leadership or give a “How to Paint” tutorial, and Spanish teachers teach us about Latin culture.

3.      Strict Attendance & Expectations

When I say strict, I mean it.  I give the students one excused absence from training which would include vacation, sickness, etc.  If they miss more than one, they will receive an extra assignment.  Two absences will result in a meeting with the parents.  Why so strict?  I want these students to take this trip seriously.  They will be representing Christ and our church in another state/country, and skipping training shows they don’t see the trip as important.

Also, as part of their attendance each time we meet, I ask each student about the following:  Devotions, Church Attendance, Book Reading, and other assignments.  If there is consistent neglect of these things, additional assignments, and/or meeting with the parents will occur.  If the negligence continues, the student may be dismissed from the team.

4.      Get Your Church On Board

Each year, we prepare a short 15 minute presentation to the church about the trip.  The students present the trip by preparing a PowerPoint, explaining the training, preparation, funds needed, and trip tasks.  A student also will pray for the trip following the presentation.  This shows ownership of the trip and the church will most likely get on board when they hear about the trip from the teenagers themselves.  (And when you get back, makes sure to organize a testimony service)

5.      Unwrap Gifts

unwrapThe last few years I have required that each incoming/new student fill out a Spiritual Gift Inventory.  Using the results of the inventory, I place each student in the groups that best suit their gifts and abilities.  Why would I place a shy introvert whose gift is serving in the lead teaching role?  Similarly, why would a type-A, brilliant communicator with a teaching gift be put in a primarily behind the scenes role?  Sure, there will be times when you go out of your comfort zone, but the primary role should be one that reflects their gifts and abilities, which will in turn allow them to reach their greatest potential for God’s glory.

Tasks and responsibilities could include/but not limited to:  Communicator, Work Coordinators, Team Encourager, Communication Assistants, Ministry Coordinators, Photographers, Prayer Coordinators, Public Relations, Praise Band Member, Teaching Team, Hospitality Team, Cleaning Crew, & Supply Team (Stay Tuned for Task & Responsibility explanation list later in the blog this month)

6.      Unity Doesn’t Just Happen

Unity takes so much work.  This past year we did a unity game and it was complete silence, frustration was high, and people were getting offended by their misuse.  But, we kept at it, continued to do unity games periodically in training, and the final unity activity gave me goosebumps…communication, laughter, leadership, encouragement…that was worth the effort.

7.      Provide Leadership Opportunities

Stretch your students to reach their potential in leadership.  Give them responsibility.  Allow failure, but be there to pick them up when they fail at times.  If the teens aren’t pushed and are not taken out of their comfort zone, your spiritual growth opportunity will decrease significantly.  Allow them to lead music, teach lessons, take the pictures, share the Gospel, lead the devotions…You let them lead, and it may be more work in the outset, but the blessings will be so much more than you ever expected.

8.      Practice Makes…It’s Never Gonna Be Perfect

This is a no-brainer.  You have to schedule time to practice.  Whether it is puppets, music, teaching lessons…give them time to practice during training.  Allow students to be leaders during these practices, particularly the upperclassmen running these practices of their particular part in the program.

9.      Don’t Forget About the Gospelmission-trip-checklist

Speaking of practice, give the students opportunity to practice sharing the Gospel, both real and imaginary.   Here’s what I mean.  Each year, I set up the gym like wherever we are going.  I typically ask 2 or 3 small groups to come and participate in a mock evangelism event acting like different kinds of people.  One year was a park in inner-city Chicago or New York, and other year we were at a camp with a whole bunch of adults acting like elementary kids.  It gives the teens opportunity to practice in a less-pressure filled environment.  As the teens mature and gain more experience, take them door-to-door or to local parks to talk to people about Jesus.

10.  Prayer

Last, but certainly NOT least, is prayer.  Inside the notebooks should be a list of prayer requests that you have for the trip.  Encourage students to pray for these regularly.  Design a prayer card with the team’s picture on it and send those out in your support letters.  Have those cards available in the lobby of the church for people to grab and put on their refrigerators.  Also, as seen in the responsibility list, designate 1 or 2 students to be prayer leaders.  Have these leaders design a prayer book for the trip, and during training have them lead the prayer time and also keep track of individual prayer requests along the way.

See 10 Keys to a Successful Student Mission Trip for more trip information and resources.

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Texting Kills More Teen Drivers Than Drinking

This is getting out of hand.  If you didn’t realize, automobile accidents are the #1 cause of death to teenagers.  Now we know the main cause of these deaths is now texting.  Please have a conversation with your teenage drivers about the seriousness of texting in driving…and maybe have that same conversation with yourself. Image

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