Community is one of those things where everyone has an idea of what it is, but for whatever reason everyone defines it differently. Well after thinking through it, praying about it, and spending a ton of time studying…i want to attempt to (re)define what we mean when we use the term “community” here at CBC Youth.
Community Begins With The Gospel: Hopefully we don’t miss the starting point. We can talk about all these aspects of community - our likes and dislikes and whatever, but if we fail to define community outside the context of the Gospel, we are in trouble. The Gospel says that over and over again you and I are saved by grace through faith. That you and I are rescued by the life and death of Jesus Christ out of darkness into his marvelous light. So those who have submitted their lives to Jesus as their Lord & Savior are saved from their sins and are given a new identity. This is the Gospel. This is where everything starts.
It has been 57 days since the start of the 2013-2014 school year. I’m always humbled to see how God moves and how his timing is perfect. We started off with good structure, philosophy of ministry, and everyone plugging into their respective parts. We even pushed a little be more on the church membership understanding for our youth and leaders. So it was a good start i think.
But now we’ve run straight into the thing we warned each other about - fatigue. By now, our school schedule is in full swing. Tests are coming at us left and right. Homecoming, concerts, and competitions are every weekend. And man with school, home, friends, and church…it’s emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausting. And i know that all you want to do is sleep…forever.
7. Acknowledge that parents love, care for, and do more for their children then you will ever do. Your role in their lives may be significant, but you’ll never take the place of a parent. (Doug Fields, Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry)
[after preaching] “i suppose this is why I believe in sovereignty. cuz if someone got anything meaningful out to tonight…it was def. because of the holy spirit”
I don’t know if anybody would be dumbfounded that Christians are commanded to pray. I don’t even think that Christians can even argue that the theology or doctrine behind prayer is so hard that it stops them from praying. We all know that we should. We all know that “God moves when his people pray.” But the question is why don’t we?
I think the typical answer is that we’re too busy. I hardly find someone who will say that they don’t understand prayer and that’s why they don’t do it. And while being “too busy” seems like the go-to answer, i believe it stems from a lot of deeper issues:
1. We don’t believe. Deep down inside most of us only pray because we know it’s the “right-thing-to-do” but we pray without faith. We don’t trust that God can actually do what we’re praying for. And because of that, we don’t pray bigger prayers. We don’t pray for people to really get saved, to be released from sin, for God to heal…we pray and at best, we hope that God does something but if not, then oh well.
2. We’re too busy. But not because we don’t have time in our schedule to fit in a prayer time…but really because we don’t want to stop and acknowledge our dependence on Him. We can’t stop working because inherently we believe that our worth and value is wrapped up in what we do. Stopping (i.e. Sabbath) is “unproductive” because it doesn’t advance our self-worth.
3. We are God. It comes down to this. We don’t pray because we believe we are in control. We can handle it and we can overcome. It’s why we don’t pray when things are all good in our lives. Because we’ve earned it. So it makes sense that we don’t humble ourselves before the true God because we have made ourselves to be God.
And the scary thing that i’ve seen in the church world is that even the Christian at times gets so confident in themselves or their programs that we forget the source of power that fuels everything. We rely on our own strength and we focus our eyes on everything else (even Christian lyrics) but we don’t ever fall down and humbly pray for help. I always say this to our youth…we can do everything right…we can have the best friggin’ programs in the world, but unless God moves the heart of the people, it’s all worthless. Let us never be so confident in programs and people that we forget the power that comes from prayer. Prayer is one of the weakest postures a human can take…that truly shows where his power is found.
An aspect of PRAYER is “thanksgiving”. It is our response to who God is and where He has placed us. So we give “thanks” for everything because He is over all. Part of “thanksgiving” is also encouragement. Strengthen the saints. Encourage the weak. Speak to one another with words of grace.
Find someone today to encourage and appreciate. Let them know why you appreciate them. Do this today.
The past Sunday we were blessed by a message from Psalm 73: A Psalm of Asaph. In this particular Psalm, the author is brutally honest about the seeming reality of the world around him. For him, it seems that the more faithful he continues to be…the worse it becomes for him. He laments how it seems as though everyone around him is wicked and what’s worse is that they don’t care and what’s even worse is that there seems to be no consequences.
I don’t know how often this happens to me. I say, “I’m the only one who’s doing ministry”, “Nobody else is doing anything.” And it becomes a pity party for one. But if we can be honest, doesn’t this happen to many of us? Like you’re just working and serving and remaining faithful and you look around and there’s nobody around. And you begin to look out and see the culture living it up (in whatever worldly sense you can think of). They’re enjoying whatever they want without penalty and there you are broke and broken.
But in the middle of this Psalm we see verse 16 & 17 “But when i thought how to understand this, it seemed tome a wearisome task, until i went into the sanctuary of God; then i discerned their end.”
When we fix our eyes on us…we end up blaming - God, others, or ourselves. It becomes about our righteousness and how much we’ve done. Or we envy the sins of others but aren’t willing to admit it so we tear them down with religiosity. But what this Psalmists remembers is that we don’t focus on us - we lift our eyes to the Lord. We remember the Gospel and why its better than anything else. We remember the deadly grasp of sin and we remember our ignorance when we used to live and partake in it. And we don’t lose heart in remaining faithful but we fix our eyes on our perfector and sanctifier.
So let me challenge you friends to see differently. It is only when you and I enter in - to that relationship, to the sanctuary…that we can see clearly. #dontloseheart
Gospel-centered thanksgiving is a response of a person who understands the character of God.
Psalm 100:1 A Psalm for giving thanks.
1. Because God is worth praising (vs. 1-2)
2. Because God is LORD over all things, we can thank Him for everything. (vs. 3-4)
3. Because God is good, we can thank Him for his steadfast love (vs. 5)