Out with the old.
I recently started watching this show on A&E called Hoarders. For those of you unaware of the show, let me give you a quick run down. Each show is made up of 2 peoples stories. Each of these people struggle with a psychological condition known as hoarding, which is the uncontrollable desire to accumulate “stuff” and the paralyzing fear of getting rid of any of it. Now on the surface, this may not seem like a good reason to make a TV show, but the more I watch it the more fascinating it gets. These people are living in situations where they have so much stuff, most of it junk, that they cannot live not live normal lives. They are literally drowning in possessions. Some of these people suffer from this condition so badly that it becomes a health issue because there is so much trash in their homes that they should and do become very ill.
I bring this show up for a few reasons, first of all I can relate to these people. No, I don’t accumulate massive amounts of junk, but in my life I build up collections of things, both physical and otherwise, that cause problems in my lives. I bet if we all looked at ourselves we could all admit to ourselves that we have things we hold on to, even though they cause us problems. Secondly, I bring this up because it is the start of a new year which means we have a choice to make, continue in our normal habits or decide to wipe the slate clean.
For years when I was in High School I took every chance I could to continue living on a path that caused trouble in my life. I was a bit of a rebellious kid and definitely had an attitude problem. I went to a small Christian school and there were tons of rules we had to follow every day: Dress codes, codes of conduct, things of that nature. I tried every day of every year I was in school to find my way around the rules. Most days I didn’t outright break rules, but if there was a way to bend a rule, you can bet your ipod that I would find it and exploit it . In my 4 years in high school, at least a dozen additions to our school’s dress code were made based entirely on my ability to find and exploit weaknesses in the policy’s wording.
Now I don’t tell you this to encourage you all to follow in my footsteps. Really I’m telling you this because I finally realized how much more I had to work in school to keep up. I had homework, sports, music, art, presentations, and on top of all of that I “had” to find ways to bend the rules. Really I was shooting myself in the foot. I was always exhausted, stressed, and worn down, yet somehow I had to find the energy for normal school stuff like homework, sports, and dating. I wasn’t punishing the school with my actions, I was punishing myself. Wearing myself thin fighting against a system that eventually would always win.
In the New Testament there was a guy named Saul. He was a very prominent Jewish man who made it his agenda to persecute followers of Christ. Saul didn’t go around sneakily finding ways to get around what Christians were doing, no, he was upfront and outright doing his best to fight the Christian machine. He would find Jesus followers and stone them to death. He would bring them up on charges of blasphemy, theft, and other charges that would give Christians a bad name. Then one day it hit him… literally, the voice of God struck him down… on a road… outside of a city called Damascus. He was on his was to subvert Christians when God spoke to him, shown Himself in bright light and blinded him.
I’m sure you all know this story, but for those that don’t, let’s read a bit.
Acts 9: 1-9
The Blinding of Saul 1-2 All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master's disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem. 3-4He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: "Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?"
5-6He said, "Who are you, Master?"
"I am Jesus, the One you're hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you'll be told what to do next."
7-9His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn't see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing.
After this whole ordeal, Saul’s life changed around pretty quickly. He went from killing Christians to being one of their most outspoken representatives. He made so much of an impact that the Jews that knew him before even tried to kill him.
Saul was a lot like the people on that show Hoarders. He was gathering up hatered for followers of Christ, for no real reason at all. God came down and intervened and made him into the most powerful voice of Christianity the world has ever known!
Looking back, Saul had a choice, keep being a tool that hunted Christians like they were Deer in Wisconsin, or Spread the love of God to anyone and everyone who would listen like a fire!
Flash back for a second to me in High School. Every day I had a choice to make, and that choice was killing me every day, much like the people on Hoarders, and much like Saul. Every day we have a decision to make, do we continue to be what we think the world wants us to be, or do we strive to put past us all of the crap that we’ve put on ourselves and instead pick up and share the love of Christ with everyone we can.
It’s the start of a new school year. I wanted to commemorate that with a bit of an overhaul of the youth room. New paint, new lights, a new layout. All of these things were a concerted decision that were made to make this place more effective. It is your room, a place where you can come and take ownership, learn about your faith, and, God willing, bring others to to share God’s love with them. This is your place now, no one before you has called this room their own in this way.
Now think about yourselves, how can you make a change. How can you be the person that God is calling you to be, the person who has never been here before? What is it that you know is a negative in your lives that you can put in the past? Is it gossip? Cliques? Drinking? Swearing? Stealing? Cheating? Maybe its acting inappropriately on the internet. Whatever it is, God is calling you to pray long and hard about it and if it is keeping you from being closer to Him, its probably about time to put it out in the dumpster.
We know God grants forgiveness, it doesn’t matter what the sin, he will wipe it away. It’s also pretty rad that God has put people in your lives that are here to help you on your path. I’m not dumb, so I realize most of you wouldn’t talk to your parents about any real issues you may be having, but you have a room full of people here that love you and care about you and are here to help you. Remember that, and if you don’t feel like you can talk to anyone else, know that you can talk to me. I;m not here to judge you or tell your secret problems to anyone else. I’m here to show you the Love Christ has for you and me and all of us.
So lets start this year off right. Let’s stop collecting junk that is killing us, and instead make the changes Christ gives us to live a life to its fullest.
Due to a technological issue (silly intermittent WiFi) Tonite's Blog will be a picture retrospective of the past 2 days. Enjoy the shots of the kids hard at work and relaxing at play from yesterday and today. When we get back in Illinois, I will write up a bunch of info, but it's been a long few days and a bit of sickness has seemingly taken over the camp here so its off to bed for all of us.
See you in a few days!
Greetings from the Great White North... ok well its not really white, its pretty green right now as winter is in 1 of their 2 seasons.... summer.
We have been having a great time up here. Let me give you a glimpse of what we have been up to for the last 36 hours.
Yesterday we arrived at Lutheran Island Camp in Henning, MN and had a great night swimming, playing games, and worshiping God. We then promptly went to bed as to be awake at 4:45 to pack and hit the road for Inger.
So yeah, we got up round 4:45 and packed up the vans, ate a quick breakfast and hit the road. With a stop in Brainerd to pick up some supplies for the day's service project, we hit the reservation around 10:30 am.
Thanks to a great suggestion from Russ, We decided to re-coat the local basketball court. This was a project that took quite a bit longer than expected, actually we spent all day working on it but it looks great!
Not to let you all think we only re-surfaced a basketball court all day, a large group of the youth began leading our Vacation Bible School Time. Playing Games, Singing Songs, and Leading a Bible Study with the Children of the Ojibwe tribe.
Once we wrapped up the VBS and The Basketball Court, we shot up to an awesome local wilderness resort for a night of Pizza, Ice Cream, and Relaxation Minnesota Style.... You know, Chillin lake side at Sunset.
If you ever have the means to do So I highly recommend you try it... i'll give you a buck if you dont.
Anyway, now is the time for lights out as we rest our tired (and some, old) bodies for tomorrow's day of sharing the Love of Christ with the children of the Ojibwe.
Please keep us in your prayers that our mission trip would be a success and that the children would have Christ work in their Hearts.
Also pray for health and safety while we are up here and during our travels!
Feel free to comment and check back tomorrow for update numero tres!
So the annual Minnesota Mission trip has officially begun. For those of you keeping track on the trip, this page, as well as facebook will probably be the best place to get daily information on what we are up to.
So lets recap whats been happening so far. 13 youth and 3 Adults left St. Charles for Minnesota. In an all time youth group record, we only made 1 stop between St. Charles and Minneapolis. I am amazed at this face seeing as though most kids like to stop at almost every gas station/ truck stop on the side of the road.
Anywho, we got up to Minneapolis, had a nice evening at the Mall of America. A lot of the kids hit up Nickelodeon Universe, the indoor Theme Park @ M.O.A. Others hit up some stores... among items purchased, matching heart necklaces by the girls, Nintendo mints for the guys, and a replacement pair of Ray Bans for myself. Wrapped up the evening with a solid Dinner at Ruby Tuesday as a group.
It was great to share a meal as a group. On these trips a lot of times its every man or woman for themselves, but being able to share in the breaking of bread and fellowship with the youth as a group is amazing. According to my co-leaders, my new nick name is Abe Frohman. A dollar to the first non-trip participant who picks up on the context of that nickname.
Any way. Today is off to a slow start. Had a quick run now blogging in the lobby of Microtel, Bloomington, MN. Had a quick Breakfast with Russ, Dan, and Ron. And in about 2 Hrs. we will be hitting the road to head up to Henning, MN home of Lutheran Island Camp. Excited to see the people and the camp again. Bright and early Tomorrow we will be hitting the Road for Inger where our Mission work will begin.
Please keep us in your prayers as we travel and share the Love of Christ with the people we encounter on this trip.
Amazing things are in store for the group and I know God's blessings will show themselves... I'm excited to see what they will be!
Oh and Happy Birthday to Andrew!
God's Peace and Love!
" Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven't stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you'll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us."
Colossians 1:9-12 (The Message)
It has been a busy, stressful, hectic few weeks here at Youth Ministry Head Quarters (I think i will call my office that from now on, btw.)
Breakfasts, Retreats, fund raising, Confirmation... All of these things in the span of about a month.
I have some friends that joke with me that I have the easiest job in the world. I take youth like you out to eat, bowling, and watch movies. I always laugh when people say that to me, because they have no idea what I really do in a week. Generally speaking, my days are filled with tedious data entry, record keeping, meetings, seemingly pointless phone calls and the like. There are days that I feel overwhelmed, stressed, and honestly wonder why I got into the youth ministry business.
When those days hit, I try to think of what God has really called me to do, not only at work, but in life. Yesterday was one of those days, and a friend shot me this verse in a message this morning and I had one of those "duh, of course" moments.
I'm sure you've had them too, when something is so obvious that you totally miss the whole point.
I know that God isn't calling me to just hang out with kids for a living, He's calling me to do the most important job there is, Spread his Word to people who need to hear it. You guys. What a blessing to be in the position I am in, hanging out with the coolest group of kids there is, having fun while doing it, and being able to share the true Love of Christ through it all.
When times get tough for me, I have to remember that God never promised a walk in the park. He told us we would have struggles. But what gets us through is amazing. We have people who pray for all of us. God gives us wisdom to see where He wants us to go in life. He is Proud of us!
Times get tough, no doubt, but God gives us the strength to bear the troubles, just like he gives us the ability to enjoy the blessings he gives us. I love how this verse puts it:
As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us."
He gives us the strength to get through everything! We can handle all things that come our way, and not just the "grin and bear it" kind of strength. But the strength that leads to joy in a job well done, through Christ.
I guess what I'm trying to get at is this:
I have hard times, you have hard times. Days come where we don't see the point of trying any more because we feel so far from the finish line. When those days come remember the promise God gives us, He will make us strong. He will give us the strength that leads to overflowing joy, a joy that cannot be contained. At the end of the day, that joy is what people will see when they see us, and let me tell you, Joy is like a cold, it is crazy contagious!(but it wont make you sneeze on people)
Get out there, do your best knowing God will get you through it.
It's a marathon some days, not a sprint. When you sprint, you get tired fast. Pace yourself. Let God show you the path to win the race.
Have a great weekend!
See you on the flip side!
Well,well, well... I think we all know who I'm talking about with the title of this blog post. The coolest dude we all know:
I mean really just look at that specimen of coolness: V- neck t shirt, Calvin Klein vest, hair swooped over the left eye with oh so delicate care, winter hat in the spring. I mean really that is one cool looking dude. Dare I say ( to use the terminology of the 80's) a Righteous dude.
Now I know what your all thinking, " OK Sean we get it, your cool."
And if your thinking that, youd be right.
But really what is cool? Is cool a rockin pair of Converse on your feet? A sweet pair of knock off Ray Ban's on your face? Sipping a latte while typing a blog on your macbook?
No, in reality none of that is cool. Every idea of "cool" is just some made up thought by a mass of people. I've noticed this of late and it made me think of a Bible verse I stood by in High School.
Romans 12: 1-2
Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
The idea that we are working with is "Be in the world, not of it".
Lets break this down for a second, ok? Awesome.
We are all here, at our computers, reading this little blog. In doing so, we have proved that we are in the world. If we weren't we couldnt be reading this spiffy lil blog.
Ok another example: Are you Human? (yes) Are you breathing (yes...i hope), are you alive?(again, i hope so), are you on planet earth? (Yes.... props to my astronaut buddies reading this in space)
So as long as we are alive we are in this world... we just need to deal with that fact. Yet just because we are in the world we do not need to be of the world. Or to put it a different way, we don't need to do all of the things the world's doing.
Example time again:
Just because you are at a car dealership does not make you a car salesman.
If you are with some friends hanging out, and they all decide to have a drink, you dont need to have one with them.
Whoa, Sean. That was a jump right there. Car salesman to drinking. I think i lost you.... no worries lil buddies, just follow with me on this one.
The whole point is we were created by God and we are living in this world, but we know this world is full of sin, right? right. We know that God is not about sin, He's about love and living a life that is good for you, right? right.
So we live in this world, but we do have to be a part of all that jazz that isn't good for us. The stuff we know God isn't about, we don't need to be about it either.
We dont need expensive sunglasses, fancy hair, super good looks ( like mine)
to be cool. We need to be the awesome creations the Lord has made. We need to live lives of Love in Christ.
I mean really, what's cooler than Loving somebody? nothing, thats what. Sometimes people see the "cool kids" and they are making fun of others. Dude let me tell you, its easy to make fun of people. anyone can do that. For real. Stop for a second and think about that one dorky kid in math class. you know the one with the pants that are a little too short, and the shirt that went out of style in 1998. It is super easy to make fun of someone, but why would we do that? If being cool means standing above the crowd, than Loving others, even old duder in math class, is about the coolest thing we ca do.
Now this next bit is a bit cliche, but its the truth, so check it:
For God so LOVED the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him would have Eternal Life.
See that? Right up there? just above this sentance? That is what cool is all about.
Loving others is cool. Living in this world the way God wants you to live is cool. Following trends isn't cool. It makes you a follower... and from my personal experience followers arent remembered as much as leaders in history.
Think about it was it "Lewis and Clark and Jeff, the guy that followed them"?
NO! it was Lewis and Clark. They lead the way, they are remembered for their discoveries.
Be a leader. Be Love. Be in the world, but dont punk out and be of the world... thats just weak sauce right there.
Peace and Love,
So I woke up yesterday and hopped in my car to head to work. As is my morning routine, I like to roll down the window and feel the cool air hitting my face, but to my surprise, the air wasn't cool... it was downright comfortable. This lead me to think of 1 thing.... SPRING! And that made me think of another thing....Cleaning.
Now I'm not a super messy person (most times), but about once a year I like to do a serious cleaning of the my office and the youth areas here at church, and yesterday was that day. Throughout the day I was reminded of God and his love for me....and all because I was cleaning. I'd like to share some of those moments with you... I'm sure when you get down to it, you'll be able to relate.
So anyone who knows me knows that the youth closet is always my messiest space...mainly because no one really uses it except me, and its basically a glorified pop storage room. But in reality there was just so much junk in there! Arts and crafts supplies, pop boxes, big containers of stuff... i mean, for real, there was tons of junk. Now this junk needed to get gone... and fast. But as I was going through the process of de-junkifying the closet, I though about God. I sat back, throwing anything that i didnt see as useful away, really without a whole lot of thought, and then it hit me... I am this junk. I mean think about it, I'm probably the one who put the junk there, which means i procured it somehow. So I was the junk. In reality, I am junk everyday. If I were God, I would see me as pretty useless sometimes. I go through my days, sometimes I listen to God and what he wants for me, and sometimes I don't.... I'm pretty sure that its more often that I dont. But if I were God, I would just pick me up, put my in a bag, and throw me away...and without a thought! But God, in his amazing love sees all of us as useful, even when we choose not to be.
Check this verse out from Romans 8:
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Even when we sit back and mess up our lives, Christ loves us. He loves us so much he died for us... and that hit me yesterday.The other thing that reminded me of God also came from my time cleaning out the youth closet. A few years back when we took our annual trip to Minnesota to work with the Inger kids, we brought with a few bags of cement to make stepping stones for the kids. What a great time! However, we didnt use one bag and when we got back to church I put it in the youth closet. Now somewhere along the line, this big ol' bag of cement split open... now I dont know if you have ever had the pleasure of cleaning up an 85lb bag of cement, but if anyone ever offers to let you help, do the following:
1. take a deep breath
2. make sure you have on running shoes
3. (and this is important) RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN!
The problem with cleaning up cement is that it never all gets cleaned up. There always is this little powder stuff that hangs out as a reminder that there was once a big pile of cement on the floor.
Now I know what you're thinking... Sean, Cement has nothing to do with God.... and you know what, you're probably right... but you know what does?
I thought to myself, i should get a mop and clean this stupid powder up... that would make the floor look super good. And it occurred to me that God and i both like to make things clean.
God didn't use a mop, but he washed us. When we were baptized, it was like God took a mop to our sins. With that water, all of our sins were washed away.
As smart, old timey Theological types put it :
" In Baptism, the old Adam is drowned and the new Adam is born"
That old Adam they talk about is our sin.
We. Sin. A LOT.
All of us do, I do, you do, even ( and get this) Pastor does.
But through baptism, we are washed clean in Christ. Through his blood we are made as white as freshly fallen snow. ( uh oh...lets not say this "S" word)
So remember, we can be junk sometimes, but because of Christ, we are washed clean and seen as totally useful in God's eyes....
See.... Cleaning is a good thing kids!
Now listen to your parents and go clean your room.
So every spring I go to my brothers house to hang out and sometimes I help him work on his yard. In his yard is a small tree and when summer comes these small, odd shaped balls grow on it. For the longest time, none of us knew what they were. That was until one afternoon in the fall when we were sitting outside and we looked up. Sure enough, those weird little balls had grown into pears. Now I love pears, but when i pulled one off the tree and bit into it, something was not right.
You may be asking yourself, "Self, why in the world is Sean telling us about his love for pears?" and heres the reason. Plain and Simple trees produce fruit. Apple trees make apples, Orange trees make oranges, and as sure as the day is long, Pear trees will make pears. But there is a catch...
Trees only produce good fruit when they are good trees. Trees that are abused or not taken care of will produce nasty fruit. Have you ever seen an old apple tree that hasn't been taken care of? The apples that come off of it can be pretty gross. Then again sometimes they are good, but since the tree is in bad shape no one picks the apples off the branches and they rot on the tree.
Now this may sound weird, but we are branches that produce fruit. Again your probably saying to yourself "Self, Sean has officially lost it. He can't even tell the difference between a person and a piece of wood.". Well if you were thinking that, You'd be wrong. We ARE fruit producing branches. God is our tree and we are His branches.
Check this verse from John 15
"I am the vine and my father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn't produce fruit and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more."
Jesus is pretty clear about this one. He is the Tree, and we are His Branches. His father takes great care to cut away the dead branches and nurture the branches that make fruit so they will make even more!
Lets keep reading...
"You have already been pruned for greater fruitfulness by the message I have given to you. Remain in me and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is not on the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. Yes I am the vine and you are the branches., Those who remain in me and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. Anyone who parts from Me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers . Such branches are gathered into a pile and burned. But if you stay joined to Me and My words remain in you, you may ask any request and it will be granted!"
So we know that apple trees make apples, and orange trees make oranges, but what fruit does God's tree make? Well as branches, I think it would be a great idea to know what we should be producing, so here we go!
"But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control."
So there we have it, When we are in Christ and his words, the spirit allows us to bear God's fruit of Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.
So just when you see an apple on a tree you know that it is an apple tree, when people see in us the Spirit's fruit, they will know the tree that we come from, that is the Tree of Life in Jesus, carefully and lovingly taken care of by God the Father Himself.
But wait! There's still a little bit more... Remember when I talked about the apple that stays on the tree too long? Think back...(or read that part again...dont worry, I'll wait)...
..Oh hey, welcome back! Now what was I saying? Oh yeah fruit. So when a piece of fruit stays on a tree too long it rots and gets super nasty. We can be the same way. If we hold onto the fruit that the Spirit gives us, it starts to become no good. So we need to share that fruit with others around us.
So what do you say? How about we get out into the world, let the Spirit grow fruit in us, and then lets get out there and share it with as many people as possible! Friends need our fruit, Family needs our fruit, even total strangers and enemies need the fruit we have to give. Lets not allow our life giving gifts to rot away. Share them, as much as possible and through that sharing let the world see what tree you come from!
Have a great week.
Lately, I've been spending a lot of time studying the book of Proverbs. For those of you unfamiliar with Proverbs, simply put a proverb is a wise saying. Therefore, the book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings that can have practical application to our Christian lives.
Recently, while reading the Proverbs, I ran across Chapter 31. This chapter deals with speaking up for people who cannot speak for themselves. This idea, the idea of giving a voice to the voiceless has so many different applications.
As Christians, it is not only our duty, but also a privilege to stand up for those unable to do so for themselves. Great examples of this are standing up for the sanctity of life, giving a voice to the unborn child who by some is viewed as nothing more than extra human cells which can be destroyed. As we know, unborn children are just as much God's beautiful creation as anything else in this world, yet they are unable to speak for themselves, so we give them that voice by standing up for the right to life.
Another example of giving a voice to the voiceless is standing up against social injustices. The current state of both the country and the world makes people very easy to exploit and take advantage of. This can happen in many ways through workers being exploited by employers, the homeless being taken advantage of by local government, and even by religious organizations taking advantage of their members in order to have monetary gain. In all of these situations, God calls us to make a stand.
Proverbs 31: 8-9
"Speak up for the people who have no voice,
for the rights of all the down and outers.
Speak up for justice!
Stand up for the poor and destitute!"
In a world that tries to look out for itself, we need to look out for others. Now I know what your thinking,
"But Sean, how in the heck can i stand up for people without a voice? I'm just a kid. People don't really listen to people my age"
Well I'm here to tell you that your argument is trash. God isn't just calling adults, He's calling all of his children, young and old, to be His voice in a world that chooses not to listen.
So then how can we do this all? Simple. Get up, Get out, and Do it.
There are so many youth out there who are standing up for what they think is right. Some of these youth organize fundraisers for countries like Haiti or Darfur. Some start student organizations to start changes in their community. All of these are great things! Why not do the same for what you believe in? I would bet that there are others out there who feel the same way, and while 1 person can make a difference, many people can make even more of a difference.
This month, some of our youth members are standing up and speaking out for an organization called The Life Center in Elgin. This organization is in the community helping out single mothers and young girls and women who have "crisis" pregnancies. This organization is giving a chance for those unborn children to have a voice. As a youth group we will be raising money to help support this ministry. This is a great chance to stand up for justice!
Some young adults ( people not too much older than you) are standing up and supporting other those who are in difficult situations like homelessness, drug addiction, and those coming out of prison through an organization called Mission: USA. This group helps people involved in gangs, prision, and the street lifestyle find Christ and change their lives. They do this by standing up for these people who, due to various reasons, cannot stand up for themselves. They share Christ's love with them by helping them through life's struggles, helping them find jobs, helping them find shelter, and getting those involved in substance abuse into rehabilitation programs.
A handful of you have even helped out recently with Feed My Starving Children. You packed up food that will go to people in other countries who are unable to help themselves. Through giving of yourselves, you have made someone else's life that much better. I thank God for all of you who have participated in this and I pray that more of you will join in this Friday as the church will again be participating.
All of these are great opportunities to help those who have no voice, to stand up for justice in an unjust world. Think of other ways you can help those around you in need. Maybe it's something as simple as inviting a neighbor who has lost their job over for a meal once or twice a week, or maybe its something as large as starting up a student organization at your school to collect money and supplies for people spreading God's Word in third world countries. Whatever you do, keep Christ at the center of your work. I challenge you to do just as the Proverb says: Speak Out for Justice! Stand Up for the Poor and Destitute!
Christ did the same for us on the cross, lets all try to give of oursleves for others like Christ did for us.
I pray that God blesses you with a safe weekend. Bundle up! It's cold out there!
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)
Real, Christ-like love. It can’t come naturally. Otherwise, why would Jesus have made it a command? He must have thought that somehow, someway, believers have the ability through the Holy Spirit to live a life of genuine love. Not only do we have the ability, we also have the responsibility. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that self-sacrificial love is the way that the world will know we are children of God. Notice that Christ did not say: "Men will know that you are my disciples, if you know many verses and have your theology solid..." or " Men will know that you are my disciples, if you attend church, and avoid all sin..." He simplified it for us- love one another.
How do we show this love you ask? I think it is best expressed through our unconditional acceptance of people regardless of race, creed or color. No matter if that person is kind to you, or treats you like dirt. If you agree with their lifestyle, or stand against it, all of these things are quite irrelevant when it comes to obeying God and loving others. If you set up any pre-requisites for loving others, then you are disobedient to Christ and ineffective in your witness.
Let's look at how this idea played itself out in the life of Jesus.
In John 4, Jesus is in a tense situation; He is a Jew, living in a land occupied by Romans. The Romans don’t like the Jews, and the Jews return that idea. Still, when Jesus is asked to heal a Roman official's son, He does it immediately — no strings attached, no power plays, no games.
Jesus does not hold grudges, he doesn’t require obedience before showing His love. He cares about people regardless of their personality, position, or possessions.
Luke 9:51-56 shows Jesus and His disciples walking through Samaria. Jesus was trying to teach a group of people who were rude and unresponsive. Ever met anybody like that? I know I have! What is your typical reaction? His disciples' reaction was to ask Jesus: "Do you want us to call fire down from heaven and destroy them?" Jesus basically replies, "No way! Are you crazy?" Evidently in Jesus' mind, anger, revenge, prejudice, and unloving attitudes are unacceptable.
As Christians we are called to hold each other accountable. Yet we should not use accountability as an excuse to harbor hatred or indifference. As well, we should not expect those who do not know Christ to live as we do. Unbelievers need to be shown that they will be completely accepted by the family of God. This acceptance should not come because of any qualifications or actions on their part, but because God loves them just as much as He loves you. God loves people unconditionally. So should we.
There are people in your schools who are lonely and don't fit in. Many feel ashamed and outcast for whatever reason. If we make anyone feel like an outcast because he/she is different, are we really showing Christ in our lives? If we check people out to make sure they're cool before we share the gospel, we are allowing our own perspective to interfere with God's work. This is a tragic mistake and blatant sin.
Often the error of non-acceptance turns people away from God and Christianity — possibly forever. They run as fast and as far away as they can in the other direction, seeking out other religions and organizations that will embrace them. At that point Satan and those he has lied to will stretch out their welcoming arms. If the enemy has the ability to "love" and welcome people, then we better be able to do it too.
Remember, people will go where they are accepted and stay where they are loved. Is your world a place where people want to stay?
Think About It:
1. Do you know anyone that could use some love expressed through acceptance?
2. Do the people in your circle of friends know you as a follower of Jesus because of your outward expressions of total love? Why or why not?