Stop freaking out you are scaring the children.

img_20161011_074743Today I am sitting in my office and thinking thank you Jesus it is Friday and Sunday is coming.  As I go through facebook, twitter and news sites I am disheartened. I am tired of it all. I am tired of the media stuff I see all around me. I am tires of the memes and misleading articles about this candidate and that candidate.  I am tired of all the anger and hate. I am tired of people looking back at past this person wronged me and now I need to hate them forever.   I am tired of all the damage in our world and I am tired of all the sin. I am tired from my own sin, I am tired of hearing about the brokenness all around me. As I was sitting in my office today all I could think is how can I lead my kids through this?  How can I lead my children from fear to hope?

As parents and adults we are scaring our children.  We are teaching them to live in fear.  I have been at a number of meetings lately with adults who are bemoaning the Church is dying, the country is going to fall apart, what are we going to do?  Her is my response stop it.  Stop it right now.  Stop spending every waking hour worrying about who is going to be elected, stop worrying that our church is missing kids, stop worrying about everything. No matter who is elected in a month the World is not going to end.  The government isn’t going to collapse and the Church isn’t going to blow up.  Above all remember who is in control.

Jesus is in control.  He in control of the Church, the government, and the world.  He is doing amazing things everyday if we just take the time to look around.  I have spent the last 2 weeks meeting with 10 baptismal families.  These are families with young children who are focusing on how they can help their children be a part of the Church so they can be connected to Jesus. It is amazing.

Lets just stop freaking out.  Let stop and be in prayer for our leaders. Lets stop and be in prayer for our friends and enemies.  Lets stop and be in prayer for our Church.  Jesus in control and leading the way.  Lets turn that fear into hope.

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

Revelation 4:4-6

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Why I do short term mission trips!

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I know some in the youth ministry world are against short term mission projects.  They say things like the people don’t need your help, or if you don’t have a long term relationship nothing really changes.  Going to some far off place is nice but you have needs in your community that should be served first. I have a different view on these types of trips.

About a week ago I spent 8 days with students, parents and 300 other kids I had never met before to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the community of Prince George, Virginia. This is my 12th week long mission trip as a leader. I did 4 as a high school student and one trip for 3 weeks in high school as well. I can say without a doubt I am a week long mission junkie.  I love it and honestly the couple of summers I didn’t get to do it my whole year felt off somehow.  You may be thinking how can one week of service really do that.

For the last 13 years I have gone on these trip through an organization called Group Mission trips.  They are a fantastic organization to work with mostly because they do two things really well.  First the work is all set up.  They screen residents, plan the jobs we will be doing, and provide directions for all the projects.  This is no small task.   I have never in 13 years had an issues with work not needing to be done or trivial.  We make a real difference in the lives of those people we come in contact with.  Second they help my students and I get out of our comfort zone through breaking us up into crews of kids we have never met before.  It is a brilliant system because if doesn’t just get you to meet other students. By taking you out of your comfort zone it helps students and adults to have confidence to get to know others in their own youth group.   I cant say enough about the system and what they do.

Lastly Mission trips like this put everything into perspective for me as a follower of Jesus.  You see when you get to know a resident for a week you get to know them and their life story if you are willing to listen.  You often hear stories of brokenness, death, and sin.  You meet people who have never had anyone to listen to them, people who have never heard anyone care for them for no other reason that this guy named Jesus.  It is truly a powerful experience.  These experiences help put life in perspective for me.  It helps me walk back into my community and have empathy for my neighbor.  They help me see all people as if they were Jesus.

So today as you walk around, take the time to hear your neighbor, hear the person who is next to you in line at the grocery story and care for them.  Ask how you can help.  Share about this Jesus guy who helps you get through this life.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Matthew 25:34-35 NIV

 

 

Generosity in the Church never ceases to amaze me.

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Over the 12 plus years I have been serving in ministry I have been amazed by many different peoples generosity.  This Sunday was one I really needed.  You see this past weekend I was sick.  I mean dog tired sick. I have run my body ragged between a trip to Disney, VBS, Hosting a day camp and strategic planning.  My body has literally been saying to me “Steve just STOP IT or else”.  I was sick all weekend and Sunday morning I just wanted to lay in bed.  I had been literally coughing all night and hadn’t slept except for about 2 hours from 8 AM-10 AM. I was miserable when I walked into St. John but I was there to help lead the service.  In all honesty I should have stayed home, but God had another plan.

To open the service I made a few announcements.  The most important one to me was a need we had for donations for a couple of our students who needed help to be able to attend the mission trip this summer. Throughout the service Jesus gave me the voice and allowed me to avoid coughing uncontrollable during the prayers and other parts I had to lead.  It was truly a miracle that I made it through the service. Praise God He is faithful to me and got me to the other side so I could see His great goodness. I am so glad I was there because I got to see Jesus move.

At the end of the service I had three people I come forward and ask what they could do to help.  One even wrote a check for the amount we needed for two of the students.  I was amazed.  I know I shouldn’t have been amazed but God brought those people forward to help reach a need for our young people.  I should never be surprised by the generosity of Gods people for His mission.  I am so glad Jesus brought me to that moment.  I got to see Him work.

Today as you may be feeling down, or tired, or broken be reminded that Jesus is continuing to work in the lives of His people. He is working to bring about His good and we are blessed often when we can see it. My prayer for you today is that you see Jesus work his miracles working in your lives.

VBS…Make the walls shake with Joy!

I love VBS. Now that I have that off my chest…DSC_1880 For some people VBS is a painful experience they have to live through.  For some youth workers VBS is some of the hardest times of their lives.  That is not me.  I love VBS.  I love those 15 hours of pure joy over five wonderful days.  I love the laughter, joy and Jesus we get to share with students for that week. It is some of the best times in the world.

I probably love VBS so much because it taught me something about Jesus that I will never forget and still love today.  You see I came from a Church that did VBS over the top awesome.  For a Church that worshiped 300 on a Sunday we had well over 550 students at VBS.  We packed the place to where we had kids everywhere and adults had to stand because you couldn’t sit is a pew.  (Luckily the fire marshal never showed up because I am sure we broke fire code)  But seriously, VBS to this day still brings me back to some amazing times in my faith journey and I learned some amazing things about Jesus those weeks..  We are now 20 days from VBS here at St. John and I can’t wait.

I learned one very important thing at VBS growing up that I pray is something I teach kids every year.  I learned Loving Jesus is fun.  Knowing Jesus is fun.  Singing and dancing for Jesus is fun.  Jesus brings us joy.  Once when I was a teen at VBS serving in music leading I was walking in late to the morning program because I was picking up my friend. When we walked in the kids were singing and the walls were literally shacking.  Not the speakers were cranking… The kids were singing so loud you could see the walls shake.  To this day I cannot  get that image out of my head.  I want my kids and all kids to sing so loud for Jesus the walls shake.  I want them to know him so much that the joy of His grace spreads to our community and world.  I look forward to sharing in the joy of the Lord in a few short weeks.  I am almost giddy with excitement.

Today as you walk with Jesus remember the joy we have in Christ.  Share that Joy with others. Maybe you aren’t in that season of Joy but I pray you can get there. I pray you can see the walls shaking because the joy of Jesus is being shared….Oh and if you are in Rochester Michigan come join us as we share Jesus with some amazing kids. I promise you will hear a joyful noise!!

Let us never grow tired of sharing Jesus

20160504_111210I am tired.  I have been busy these last few months.  I haven’t written a blog post is over 3 months. It has mostly been due to being busy and tired.  I often forget about how tiring ministry can be.  We can be  tired because we are overworked, or struggle to find purpose.  Most of all I think we are tired because we grow tired of sharing Jesus.  We forget our joy in sharing the story of Jesus and his forgiveness. We do this because we lose focus on what we are doing in ministry.

yesterday however was a fun and exciting day.  I am a Star Wars fan.  I really enjoy the fun of the light sabers and music, and the  wonder we see in those films.  I had the joy of leading chapel yesterday.  I handed out light sabers to the ushers at chapel and I had them play Star Wars music for chapel as the kids walked in the room.  It was a great moment watching many of the kids come into chapel excited to see what would be done today.  We of course didn’t put our primary focus on Star Wars.  We focused on Jesus.  We used Star Wars as a way to share Jesus with students.  We used light sabers to foscus kids on the light of the world.  We had so much fun as a group. What I noticed most today was the joy I had in sharing Jesus with kids.  Too often we forget about this joy because we are so focused on work to be done, or the projects to be completed.  We focus on the conflicts in our churches or the pain being caused to us by our sin.

Those things above don’t go away when have are good days but when we can focus on sharing Jesus we see God working in the lives of people we can have joy.  So let us instead focus on sharing Jesus.  Let us never grow tired of sharing Jesus.

For those of you who are reading this and aren’t full time ministers.  I would challenge you in your daily life, when you are feeling tired, to focus on the joy of sharing Jesus.  We all are busy with life but if you can focus your time on sharing Jesus in our work, family and daily lives we can find joy. We may be tired today but let us all never grow tired of sharing Jesus with everyone we meet.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29-31 NIV