Category Archives: Christianity

Weakness Is Strength

As I came out of my class at the Y the other day, I saw what looked like a large coin hit the ground. I asked the lady walking toward me if it had fallen out of her bag. She said, “No” and kept walking so I stooped to pick it up and saw it inscribed with “Wifey.” That seemd like an odd word to carry around, plus it was kind of beat up so I tossed in the trash can on the way to the water fountain.

But as I was filling my water bottle, I thought to myself that I should have turned it over to the front desk not thrown it away. Before I could go retrieve though, I heard a lady ask the front desk worker if a coin had been turned in.

My ears perked up, and my heart beat faster. It was the same lady’s voice who said it wasn’t hers. Yikes, it was afterall! Not wanting her to see me I snuck around the wall out of sight, but within ear shot. Once I knew she had headed back down the hall to class, I went back to the trash can. My plan was to grab it out and turn it in thinking she woud stop back by after class to see if it had been turned in. But the coin was gone. (Don’t worry the trash can was mostly empty minus a gum wrapper and plastic lid resting atop a discarded flyer so I didn’t have to dig deep!)

I assume the woman got it from the trash can herself, but I I felt awful for deeming it worthless and then hiding instead of running to tell her where it was! Who does that?

I’ll tell you. All of us, starting in the Garden when Adam and Eve hid from God after eating the forbidden fruit. This is when God came calling after them, “Where are you?” But clearly he’s God, he knew where they were, and what they had done. What he was really asking was, “Why are you hiding?”

Like Adam and Eve and all of humanity since, we have hidden in shame, trying to cover our sin and pridefully – rebelliously – acting as if we are innocent. Today we do this by wearing the mask of perfection to appear as we have it all together. We do this by covering up with the “fig leaf” of performance so no one will suspect we aren’t as “good” as our behavior begs them to think. And, by living out of our own strength, we deny our weaknesses, suppress our sin, and fail to see how needy we really are.

But not living weak and needy is to live not needing Jesus. Because who needs Jesus if you are strong and perfect on your own?

Lately, God has been showing me weakness is actually strength! What’s funny is I’m reading for the 4th time Barbara Duguid’s book Extravagant Grace with the subtitle: God’s Glory Displayed in our Weakness, but I’m hearing in a new way Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

That means I can be honest about my sin, without fear. I don’t have to hide – behind a wall, my “good” behavior or pride. I can go freely  – not shamefully – to God with all of my sin, and in all of my need for the only suitable covering there is – his righteousness.

Do you know Grace like this? Do you give it to yourself? Do you extend it to others? If you don’t, I hope you will begin seeing the key to drawing nearer to God is not sinning less and less and getting better and better, but becoming weak and dependent. His power – his strength – perfect in my weakness.

 

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Why Youth Ministry Methodology Matters

After a 3-day Rooted Ministry conference in Dallas, I’ve been reading back through my notes and seriously want to share it all. Honestly, it probably will trickle out into this space. Two of the key note speakers this week were Scott Sauls and Jen Wilkin so if you are familiar with their teaching/writing you know why it was so good! Plus, workshops were led by Walt Mueller (founder & president of Center for Parent/Youth Understanding), pastors, practitioners and licensed counselors, like Sharon Hersh (author of 8 books on addiction, parenting, etc), all of whom specialize in the realm of teens. I learned so much from one workshop (my friend Alice’s) on Teen Stress and Anxiety I even typed up my notes in an email to someone.

To back up a bit, Rooted is a ministry seeking to transform the way youth ministry is done through educating, equipping and encouraging youth leaders across denominational lines with grace-driven and cross-centered content. I got acquainted with Rooted a couple years ago after my publisher suggested I reach out to Rooted founder Cameron Cole to endorse my first book. I did, and he did.

Since that time I have been a contributor to the Rooted blog and have traveled to multiple cities for Rooted related speaking events, including this recent conference. And now for the next three years I will be serving on the Rooted Steering Committee.

So why am I so passionate about Rooted?

Statistics tell us approximately 70% of kids who grow up in the church will leave the church upon college and adulthood. Did you get that? Sadly, this number is not inflated! I’ve written about that in the past here.

The reason for this stark reality stems from a lack of gospel teaching to our students. Instead of discipling them in how to read their Bibles as the one story about Jesus so they see his goodness and grace to them in light of their badness, we spoon feed them feel good nuggets, morality and law. We focus more on entertainment, fun and games then the hard truths of Scriptures and the inner working of their hearts. And along the way we lead them to believe Christianity is based on their good behavior not his. All reasons why I wrote Get Your Story Straight.

Instead we need to help teens see their need of a Savior, which includes seeing the depth of their sin. Sin is not just outer behavior, but the inner desires of our heart, the selfish motivations, the idolatry and misplaced identity. When we don’t go there we falsely assume we are pretty good and don’t see our deep need of rescue and redemption.

Therefore it is said, our view of God rises or falls proportionally to our view of sin. If we aren’t that bad, what Jesus did for us living the perfect life and dying on the cross isn’t that great. But to the extent we know our sinfulness, the greater our love for him will be.

To see how this plays out with youth ministry, imagine you have a student who grew up in the church and was primarily taught what to do (have a quiet time, go to church, be nice) and what not to do (don’t drink, have sex, look at pornography). The student followed the “laws” and everyone considered him a “good” Christian. Or, maybe the student didn’t obey, but hid his sin so everyone around thought he was a “good” Christian.

What happens when he goes off to college and messes up?

He is likely shocked by his sin and filled with shame. Phrases like, “How could you do that?” flood his mind as he beats himself up. Yet at the same time he secretly found the sinful behavior to be fun. He still resolves to do better or try harder next time, but he struggles to follow through. Each time he fails to live up to what he should do the more shame is heaped upon him. Eventually, like the friends who are freely enjoying not having to hide their sin anymore, the shame sends him running from the church. “How could God love someone like me?” is all he’s left with.

But now consider the the student rooted in the gospel of Christ. This student knows in her sin she can go boldly to the throne of grace. She’s been growing in this truth for years because she’s been taught to trace her behaviors down to the root to discern her heart. Therfore, she isn’t shocked by her sin and she knows but by grace our human default is sin. There is nothing within her that is worthy, but it is Jesus’ worth and work for her that makes her right. This student is able to live transparently and freely admit her sin without fear of condemnation because she knows He is strong where she is weak. And while she continues to be grieved by her sin, she knows she is always met by God’s unending accepatance and love. She longs to obey, not out of duty, but out of worship and praise. And she knows she needs to constantly hear the gospel preached (at church and being in the word) to reorient her mind back to the truth the selfie world she lives in seeks to distort.

Do you see the difference?

It makes sense to me why kids abandon the church. But it doesn’t have to be this way. What these kids are leaving is not true Christianity. But they don’t “get” that because the gospel has been so diluted or misconstrued.

Let’s teach our kids the gospel of who Jesus is for us, because it is the power to salvation. It is freedom from sin and shame. And we didn’t even talk about how only the true gospel speaks to suffering and serves as the only hope in this broken world.

I love what Rooted Ministry is doing because in helping youth leaders and parents of teens raise up teenagers who know and rest in Christ alone, these students, their future marriages, families, relationships and the church at large will be transformed. To God be the glory! Let’s steep our students in the Word about Christ. Let’s flip the statistics, as we at Rooted like to say!

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“Solar” Deo Gloria Musings from the Eclipse

There was much to love about Monday’s Solar Eclipse, even if it didn’t darken in the way I thought it would considering we live in an area that experienced 85% totality. But to think with only a sliver of the sun showing and it was still daylight just under a dusk-like haze shows how bright our sun really is!

Even more fascinating to me than the sliver of Sun and the crescent-shaped shadows it created was the fact that for a few hours something bigger than ourselves dominated most of America.  With eyes drawn up, instead of inward, we actually stopped thinking about our selves for a bit! And this freed us to unite over a common experience instead of zeroing in on our differences usually more fragmenting than the rays of the sun.

Wasn’t that nice for a time? 

 

 

 

 

 

After sharing my solar eclipse glasses with strangers and engaging in conversations about it with everyone from the grocery story cashier, to the utility worker at the park where we were watching to my friend next door, it made me long for more days of less hurry and more presence with the people around me.

It felt joyous. But it’s no wonder; we were created to revolve our lives around each other, not our selves! So when we experience this it should be joyous.

In creation, God gives us a visual pattern to follow in the way the sun, the moon and the earth orbit around each other. The sun gives its light to earth and the moon reflects it’s light from the sun and the earth produces life from the light. Each eternally connected and necessary. As is the Father to the Son and his Spirit, each godhead serving, reflecting, pointing to the other in what reknown pastor Tim Keller refers to as a Divine Dance. We were made to orbit around each other for one another’s good, and to the glory of God.

So we feel the way we do about everything going on in our country and in our world because it is not how it was supposed to be. And while large-scale or global change is beyond our ultimate control, instead of pointing fingers and focusing on what’s wrong, why don’t we look inward to see how we can effect change in our own circles? Where can we be light and life-giving to those around us? How can we revolve our days to be more reflective of who God created us to be?

After all, one day all the trivial ways we spend our time won’t matter. On that day what the eclipse only points to, the true Son will descend again to earth and the whole world will stop for good.  Scripture tells us every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus to be Lord of all (Phil. 2:10)! This is amazing, but also a frightening wake up call because only those who have known him to be Lord will spend eternity in his light.

Therefore, Christians, may we be light and life to a broken, brusied world whose only hope for repair is to be made new in Christ. He came the first time to make a way to unite a people to himself, not just one tribe, but every tribe. Let’s find that our commonality in Christ is more sure than our different races, ages, life stages, places of residence, vocations, hobbies and so forth. And since this is true, let’s slow down to see how we can be the hands and feet of Christ to a watching world who needs to know the love of the Father.

Soli Deo Gloria ~ Glory to God alone!

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