This is Love… This is the Power of Adoption…

Wow, I found this story because Tim Challies linked to it on his website here and I’m so glad to have read it.  If you read this and aren’t emotionally moved then you simply don’t have a heart.  Here are the opening two paragraphs, it’s a short but very powerful read, I’ve included the link below.

“When I was just a little girl, like a wee little thing, I had a different mom and dad. And they were kind to me, but they had hurts and they had addictions and they didn’t know how to take care of themselves, much less a wee girl and her little brother.

I mean, they tried. They hung on to us for several years, but things kept slipping and they kept falling and failing and they mustered up what strength they could, but they just couldn’t make it work and they couldn’t make it right. And so the policemen came over and over again, and took us away and my mama cried in the back of that police car, hands cuffed, and she told me that she loved me. And I knew in my little heart, as I looked up at her, tears streaming and mascara running, I knew that she really did love me. She just couldn’t make it work.”

Read the rest HERE

What a powerful story of Adoption, Love, Rescue, Hope.  May we all find that hope and rescue ultimately in our Heavenly Father through the rescue-plan of Jesus Christ.

Why I Love Introducing Students to Missionaries

Last weekend was our church’s “Missions Emphasis Weekend.”  One of the things that really attracted me to Emmanuel when I was interviewing seven years ago was the strong emphasis on world missions.  We always have a missionary share in Sunday School and then since High School Youth Group meets on Sunday nights, we invite one or two of the missionaries join us in order to share about their life and ministry.  I always leave those times encouraged.

Meanwhile, last week I was talking to a friend about missions weekend coming up and my friend gave me “that look.”  You know what I’m talking about… that look that says, “Ugh, really?  They’re doing that again, better you than me.”

Here are a few reasons why I love introducing students to missionaries:

  1. The Great Commission really does apply to every disciple of Jesus Christ.  If I’m trying to build disciples but I’m not introducing students to men and women who have literally left their homeland in order to make disciples of all nations, then I’m seriously short-circuiting my attempts to teach the Great Commission to my students.
  2. Students need to see and hear that missionaries are actual people.  People often thing that missionaries are some breed of super-Christians, and while they are people we should esteem and learn from, most of them are very down-to-earth simple people who have humbly and boldly obeyed God’s call on their life.  These missionaries often started out just like the students in our youth ministries today.
  3. Missionaries remind students that the world is bigger than their problems.  When a teenager is stressed over exams or tryouts or whatever, it’s a great reminder to hear that life is so much bigger than their life/family/school.
  4. Missionaries challenge our assumptions about what’s “normal” and what we “need.”  Culture is a funny thing, because most of us assume that everyone in the world either has or needs what we have or need (or what we think we need).  Missionaries remind us how strange Americans are, and the missionaries who are really bold even challenge our claims that “Americans are better off” by asking us, “Why is it better to have more money?  You have more money, but you’re way more miserable than those who have nothing.”  Teenagers need this reminder (and so do I).
  5. I would love to see some of my students obey God’s call to become a missionary!  There are still thousands Unreached People Groups in the world who literally have no way of hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ.  “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15)

I know it’s not “cool” to have missionaries come to Youth Group.  Most missionaries aren’t trendy, some aren’t the most riveting communicators, others may seem completely out of touch with youth culture.  I get it, I understand why some people would roll their eyes over having a missionary come and speak in their Youth Group, but I absolutely love introducing students to missionaries who are willing to be real with students, who will share openly about who they are and where they’ve come from and what God has done in them as they’ve obeyed His call to the mission field.

Missionaries are the Great Commission in human flesh – that’s why I love introducing my students to them!

Hope for the Lonely

My friend Walt Mueller posted the following video on his blog and I’m really wrestling with this.  Give it a look and really listen to the lyrics as the story unfolds.

I’m increasingly growing convinced that loneliness is one of the biggest epidemics of this generation.  Despite being “connected” to thousands of “friends” through Facebook, Twitter, and Cell Phones, it seems that everyone is so busy keeping in touch with everyone that they never get close to anyone.

I hope I don’t treat my Bible and prayer like I treat Facebook – something I go to for a quick check-in, read a status update, but then mindlessly move on to the next thing mostly unaffected by what I just read.  Sure, Facebook can be a great tool to deepen relationships, but I think that takes intentionality and effort… and I seriously question how much effort most of us put into Facebook.

But there is hope for the lonely… and it’s not found through the internet.  Even as I type I can hear people sighing and moaning, “Ugh, you’re going to say ‘God’ aren’t you, that’s so lame.”  Well, yeah, I am going to say God – but I’ll challenge you to really read your Bible and learn about who God is and what He’s done and then try telling me that God is lame…

We live in a broken and messed up, sinful world.  But God is faithful and close to the lonely.

  • “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” (Psalm 27:10)
  • “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
  • “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
  • “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble, He cares for those who trust in Him.” (Nahum 1:7)

I know people sometimes say that songs like these blow issues out of proportion and that teen loneliness really isn’t as big a deal as people say it is.  I disagree – it is a big deal… and I firmly believe that adults need to make the effort to correct what has gone so terribly wrong in our culture.  We must bridge the generation gap, taking Christ as our hope, our message, and our example (Philippians 2:3-11).

K’naan & Nelly Furtado’s song so clearly demonstrates our need for Jesus Christ, the one who loved us so much to give up heaven, endure loneliness and rejection and suffering for us to the point of dying on the cross.  He did that so he could tell his disciples “And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  Because of Jesus Christ, there is hope for the lonely… will you show them Jesus?

Don’t Be Original (be faithful)

As a pastor, it’s so tempting to feel the need to say something new and brilliantly insightful.  As a youth pastor, it’s easy to feel the need to be edgy and “current.”  I want to teach people something new, I want people to be moved by what they hear, I want God’s Word to resonate.  And yet, I want to be faithful more than I want to be original.

Since my Senior Pastor is on Sabbatical, I’ve been given the opportunity to preach more frequently (which I love, although it always makes for a chaotic week).  While working on the sermon tonight (with the Youth Group lessons in the back of my mind) I’ve been wrestling with the pull towards needing to be original… but I don’t really want to be original.  I want to be faithful – faithful to God who inspired Scripture, faithful to who I am (rather than trying to be someone who I’m not), and faithful to my church.

While in college I remember one of my youth ministry professors saying, “There’s no such thing as an original sermon.”  If I ever do preach an original sermon, it’ll probably be heretical and unbiblical, so I personally try to avoid saying something that’s never been said before.  If I can’t find some “exegetical insight” referenced anywhere credible, then I should really think long and hard before sharing it with others (unless I really think I’m smarter than all the Bible scholars who somehow haven’t noticed what my brilliant mind has seen).

It’s all been said before, and probably better and more creatively than I will say it.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth saying again… because if people are like me then they need to be reminded of what they already know!  Besides, hopefully there are some people in my youth group and in church who are either seekers or new believers who still need to hear it for the first time.

Don’t grow bored with God’s Word – if you ever feel the pull towards being original when it comes to teaching Scripture, maybe it’s time to take a second and ask yourself how much you really understand what you’re considering old, boring, and stale (even if you wouldn’t put it that way).

Of course, this isn’t license to be boring or lazy and give God the “credit” for your bad teaching.  But hopefully this is a helpful reminder to someone other than me.

Am I alone in feeling this pulling to be original?  I highly doubt it, but I’d love to hear from others out there who might find this post… how to do experience this pull and combat it?