Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Epiphanies, Text Messages, and the Word

No matter how many times it happens, it amazes me how God speaks in to my life.

He chooses a specific idea or concept and begins feeding it in to my mind until the idea takes root and it grows in to something powerful and significant. This idea is never planted in one occurrence though. I'm too dumb ad too stubborn for that.

Usually I'll be reading some bible, and a specific concept will jump out at me. For the rest of the day, that concept will roll around in my head like a full water bottle in the back of a Jeep Cherokee, bouncing from one end to the other, getting everything covered in water until everything is wet.
And before you know it, that's all you can think of.
Everything points to it.
Everything is a reference to it.
Everyone seems to be talking to it.
And then the pastor breaks a book out that is exactly about what's been ravaging your brain hole. 

"Holy cow! I read about this the other day, and it's been on my mind for days! How did you...??"
Oh ya. 
We serve the same God. 

Sometimes I wish God would just send out emails and texts to help us stay on track and follow Him better.

*bzzt bzzt*: Hey Nate. Make sure you fully stop at that stop sign. The green truck won't. btw you'll have a chance to talk about me today. Look for the crying lady at the bus stop :) 
              See you soon--
                   Jesus

How convenient would that be?

But then I wouldn't have these rad inspired epiphanies that fully capture my every conscious thought.

Lately God's put this idea on my mind that seems to be following me everywhere. Not just at work.
In college group.
In my own reading.
I see it in my friends.
I see it in my coworkers.
I see it in myself, and that's the part that amazes me most.

A few months ago, Pastor Bradley came to church and gave a sermon that was exactly what I had been reading two days earlier. The concept was so consuming my thoughts that the next day, I had to cut my reading short because I was only thinking about the words from the day before and only staring at words on a page.
Now Bradley was teaching the same thing.
So I started teaching it in Uth.
Then the college group I attend starts teaching it.
Coincidence? I think NOT!

Here's the concept that has captured me:        the Gospel

 Profound, ya?

Hear me out.
When I say the gospel, I don't just mean that scripted speech they taught us at Dare 2 Share. I mean the living and active work of Christ that is redeeming and saving you every single day. I am speaking of the culmination of God's perfect holiness and His infinite, eternal love manifested in the body of a human being, slaughtered, sacrificed for the unworthy and raised up purely of the power and grace of God. I speak of the only force in the universe that has the ability to not only eradicate the sins committed in our life, but shatter the hold that sin has over us ever since our heart cells began working together to lay down a beat.

The gospel is the reason the apostles were murdered and the reason you're reading this blog.

Understanding the depth and true impact that the gospel has on my own life has been my two month obsession.

I know that at no point in my life will I be able to hold up head high and announce "I now fully understand the complete working of God's grace and holiness in my life, and I have a complete knowledge of the impact the gospel has on my life."
But I want to know as much as I can. It blows my mind that I will spend everyday of my life strengthening my knowledge of God's holiness and my own depravity and still not fully understand or get to a point where I am "good enough". The gospel is the great equalizer. 

Jesus has the right to be with God.
We have the right to be punished.
Jesus takes our punishment on Himself.
Jesus hands us His righteousness.
Talk about an unfair trade.

I've begun to see how our true understanding of the gospel affects every aspect of our existence from the way we forgive others to how much we crave the approval of others. Our fears, our flaws, our habits, our hearts all reveal a piece of what we believe about the gospel.

So these are some of the things that have been bouncing around in my skull, wracking my brain. 

And as a man with an opportunity and an audience, I've been shouting all this at my students every Wednesday night.

When it comes to sanctification, the process of adopting the communicable attributes of God, the most potent and useful tool in our available arsenal is the God-breathed bible.

How can else can we comprehend the works and heart of our creator?

As a result, for the next few weeks, we are walking through the book of Matthew one chapter at a time, focusing on the works and life of Christ and not just the historical events, but how it ultimately applies to their life.

It is through the Word of God that we come to know God.

Man, I haven't made a Stars Wars reference in weeks. I have a bad feeling about this.




Nate T B

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Feelings, Fireballs, and Fruitfulness

If there's one thing I've learned in my year in youth ministry, it's that Starbucks is the unofficial watering hole of church employees and ministers.

I can confidently say that in my thirteen months in youth ministry, I have met at least twenty other pastors and youth ministers inside that Starbucks alone. 

It's a popular place. 

And the reason is obvious. 

(Coffee + Free Wifi) / ([Furniture with plugs] - [sweaty Jr. High boy smell]) + Adult interaction = Pastors on Parade

And that's about the expanse of my mathematical skills.

Anyways! I'm not sure where I was going with that.

So for the past couple weeks, I've been planning, organizing, and shanghai-ing people in to giving up a weekend for camp. 
My seven years of serving at the camp did nothing to prepare me for the administrative fiasco of piecing together this event. 

I wish administration was one of my spiritual gifts. I'm so jealous Of Leiisa and Amanda!

Needless to say, there's still so much to learn about youth ministry.
I would venture as far to say that there is no point at which one would learn everything about youth ministry.
Well... except God.

but omniscience is cheating.

But I digress.

Inside the struggle to get my Uth to camp, I know the importance and impact that camp can have on the spiritual growth of an individual.

It was at camp that I learned my spiritual gifts.

It was at that camp that I received my call to full time ministry.

It was at that camp that God transformed me in the man I am today.

And I want to give my students a chance to experience God in the same way. If I can give my students a chance to experience God in different, powerful ways, then I'm all over that.

But then of course there is the danger of the mountain top experience...

Bah!

Working in camp ministry, the idea of "the mountain top experience" endangered everything that we worked so hard for at camp. It held students in skepticism and pastors in limbo.

It incited fear in the hearts of youth leaders and guest speakers alike.

Let me explain.

The "mountain top experience", or camp fire,  as I like to call it, is the phenomena commonly associated with an emotionally provoking spiritual camp experience.

It is generally accepted knowledge that students, when returning from camp, are so on fire for God because of their emotional weekend. As a result of returning back to society, it can be predicted that many of those tear-soaked decisions made at camp will dry up and wither away becoming fond camp memories of immaturity and naivety.

But why?

Why would we allow these decisions to become invalid once the emotional high has faded back to reality? In what way were any of the decisions made not genuine?

A student may go to camp struggling with a drug addiction. While at camp, in a sob riddled voice, confesses his poisonous habit to a youth leader and vows to kick the habit. But upon returning home, the stresses of life and pressures of his broken home are too much, and the need for narcotics is all to familiar to him. He returns to his old familiar cell of addiction and that memory of his camp decision is all but a cute encouragement.

WHY?

If your response is "because his decision was made solely off emotion", then I'll fight you!

I'll suffer a fat lip before I deny the fact that the Holy Spirit was moving in that kid's life. What other environment could bring him to a point of recognizing his own sin and confession to that youth leader?

What other power besides the Holy Spirit could overcome his addiction to a point of verbalized desire to quit his addiction?

Who could have put the right speaker at the right camp saying the right words to the right student at the right time?

It was God

God moved in that student's heart and brought him to point of realization of his sin. It is by realizing the depravity of our sin that we can be moved by God's holiness and love.

I agree, the return to the drudge of life can level out those powerful emotions and take you back to where you were before, contradicting the decisions made on salvation night at camp.

In 1 Kings 18, the prophet Elijah experiences the ultimate mountain top experience.

It's Elijah versus the prophets of Baal.

Elijah has spent his entire career as a prophet of the most high God renouncing and disproving the false god, Baal, but now the current government follows this false god.

Elijah, enemy of the state, takes a step of faith and challenges the prophets of Baal to a public spectacle.

The prophets of Baal build an enormous altar and lay their bull on the altar and begin crying out to their "god", but after hours and hours of yelling and blood-letting, they collapse from exhaustion: 

no miracle.

Elijah builds an altar from twelve stones, lays his bull on top, and then soaks his altar with well over eighty gallons of water.

He prays a short prayer asking God to make His presence known. As soon as His prayer is done, it says 
"Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water"

The prophets of Baal were seized and God was made known. 

But when he came down from the mountain, things were not perfect.
Things were not easy.
Things were unbearable.

I'm sure Elijah thought that after that massive public spectacle, the nation of Israel would follow God once more, but that didn't happen at all.

The queen of the land lays a bounty out for the life of Elijah.
Elijah goes in to hiding. 
He is alone and hungry.

But God worked on that mountain top. 

I can only imagine the emotional high that Elijah had on top of that mountain, the power and encouragement he felt seeing God work so powerfully.

and the utter disappointment of Elijah when the power and passion of that mountain was turned in to starving to death under a tree in the desert.

But God worked obviously and powerfully in a way that changed Elijah's life.

If we can agree that God moved in that student's life, what can be done for him?

As youth leaders, can we consider every emotional response to a message as a life changing transformation?

Of course not.

But can we in full confidence disregard the Holy Spirit working in the heart of a student in an emotional way?

I vote no.

I'm not the type of guy to make any decision based off of emotions. I find the whole concept of feeling to be...                          
                                      bothersome.

But I have seen life changing decisions made with teary eyes and broken hearts. I've seen razors thrown away and drugs trashed by students with runny noses and quivering lips. I've seen broken relationships with absent fathers mended over the phone with cracking voices and shaking hands.

God moves through our emotional vulnerability and changes hearts and sets the stage for beautiful and powerful ministry to follow.

As camp workers, we have the opportunity to see God working in students in a weekend.

As youth leaders, we have the opportunity to respond to our students' decisions and minister and serve them when the feelings fade away. We have the opportunity the water the seed that was planted by that "super cool speaker" and grow that emotional decision in to a fruitful change of heart that brings glory to our most high creator.

Be encouraged.

God desires intimacy with His people.


So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;  not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory
--1 Peter 5:1-4




Nate T B

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tucson, Transformation, and Testimonies

It's super encouraging when you have the opportunity to talk to someone who really enjoys your blog. I'm up to 16 posts, but in comparison, I'm still pretty new to the blogging world!

Yesterday, I was texting my girlfriend's mom (not weird!), and she wanted me to know that she had just finished reading all of my blogs.

Holy cow! That's fifteen entries of long-winded, theological, random, non-regional diction and pointless anecdotes. She went on to tell me that by reading my blogs she feels like she's gotten to know me better.
And that is very valuable to me.

So I found out that I have 2 loyal readers: my mom, and my girlfriend's mom.

So rad.

The purpose of my blog is to share my experiences and growth as I learn the ins and outs of the world of ministry and try to illustrate doctrine and theology in a way that is impactful and valuable.

Haylee's mom, Claire, then said that she would love to hear my full testimony sometime.

And that got me nervous. My testimony is embarassing! Shameful in some parts, and face-palm worthy in the rest.

She told me
"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb,
and by the word of their testimony;
and they loved not their lives unto the death." 
                                   -- Revelation 12:11

You wish your girlfriend's mom was that cool.

So I guess I could do just that.

I guess this is a warning. There are some things in my life that are disagreeable and wrong, but the point of a testimony is the opportunity to witness transformation.

This might just be the longest blog entry yet.

I was born in Tucson, Az, in my nana's house on the south side of town. The border of Mexico was about an hour South, and Phoenix was about an hour North.

I wish I could say a lot of nice things about Tucson, but I was taught at a young age not to lie. 

Tucson is a dry, hot, ghetto city of detached college students and airmen. 
One thing I can definitely say is that Tucson had culture coming out of its ears. Downtown Tucson was as beautiful and sketchy as you could want with little local businesses and hipsters slowly being choked to death by corporate giants.
And that makes them rare and beautiful.

My parents were the bright light of that city...

My beautiful mom
My mother is the incarnation of Saint Mary Poppins. Her heart is overflowing with love and understanding towards everyone. Compassion was as common as oxygen for my mom, and she changed lives everywhere she went. Walmart, schools, churches, anywhere. She was the sweet girl that you remember from school that was nice to everyone and was amazingly talented and beautiful in every way. Her musical career was halted when she became pregnant with my older brother Daniel.

Dad
My dad is the antithesis of my mom therefore being her perfect man. He is the scary man that you see in the Walmart aisle and decide to go down the next aisle instead even though there's nothing you need there. If my mom is to be described as warm and fuzzy, my dad is frigid and prickly. A large Native man with a history and a glare that could melt a brick wall. Well at least it would appear that way. While I was young, my dad worked probably the hardest job on American soil: a CPS investigator. Before that, he worked in a correction center with children being charged with adult offenses. After CPS, he became a youth pastor. After that, he became the head chaplain at the Tucson Gospel Rescue Mission. Now, my parents live in Prescott Arizona, running a rescue mission for women and children. In summary, he is a very hard man with a love for people in need. 

If my mom is Mary Poppins, that makes my dad Batman. Except without the obscene amounts of money and mad ninja skills.

The trait that defined them both was their unwavering faith in the most high God.

When I was born, cash was tight, but my parents raised me right. I was taught the skills needed to contribute to society as well as survive on my own. They taught me the value of frugality and respect. They raised me with the same love that God gave them.

But I was the trouble child.

Fights in school, bad grades, police, hospital visits, all the typical trouble maker behavior. 

When I was thirteen, I gave my heart to Christ. It was the first time that I truly understood how my parents could love me through all my nonsense, why they were so incredible and influential. I could see God working through them and in them, and I wanted that.

It was shortly after that that I began my search for purpose.

So badly I wanted to be like my dad. I wanted to be powerful and influential. I wanted to shake the ground when I walked and make bad people quake in the shadows.

It was in this period of searching and awakening that I began working at Prescott Pines Camp.

It was the camp that changed my life.

I found purpose. It was the first time that I felt white hot passion  for ministry and serving Christ. For every year I served, I learned more and grew more. The more I learned, the more prideful I became.

Oh, pride, the predecessor of humiliation.

This trend continued through junior high and high school. I grew in the Word and in passion, but in pride as well.

When I graduated from high school, I decided how God was going to use me. I had received my calling for full time ministry and felt the pull towards youth ministry, and I planned out how that was going down. I told God to hold on tight. I had this one in the bag.

God shook His head and lovingly chuckled at my naivety.

At seventeen, with a couple thousand dollars in the bank, I left Tucson and moved to the concrete empire of the Southwest known as Phoenix.

Phoenix is the sweltering, soulless, metropolis that claims the title of the largest city in the Southwest. It is huge.

I began attending a small college called Southwestern College pursuing a bible degree with an emphasis in youth ministry. 

I had a part time job at GameStop to go with my full time education. It was my only income. 

School was everything I had ever dreamed of. It was deep and satisfying and I was challenged in new ways and I felt myself growing. 

And God was waving His hands trying to get my attention.

I was immersed in my ministry, that I had pushed God out of the equation.

It was then that God threw a monkey wrench of grace in to my self-fulfilling death machine.

The college became a university. Tuition skyrocketed. Work became scarce, and paychecks became as dreadful as blood test results.

I had no money. 
No money = no school
No school = no dorm
No dorm = no where to stay = homeless

In a mater of months I went from a full time student 
           to a couch hopping mall employee 
                            to a homeless teenager living in the parking garage of a mall.

I lived like this for months before God reached out to me through a text message. Mom texted me and said I could come home if I wanted.

I removed a brick from my wall of pride.

I went home.

Tucson had not changed. I had. 

I was bitter and angry. Humiliated and disappointed. 

I needed to get back on my feet.

God loved me so so much, and I had no clue. He was standing with open arms saying,

"Nathan, I love you so so much. I always have. Come back."

In a week, I got two jobs just by walking in the front door.

"Here, Nathan, I love you. Take these jobs."

I found a good church.

"Here, Nathan, I love you. Here's a good family to be a part of."

I was working 90 hours a week, oblivious to the fact that God had been pouring out His love to me for weeks.

I was so focused on my failure, my humiliation, my anger, my money, my time, my bitterness, me. I was so selfish. I wasn't praying, I wasn't in the Word, I wasn't in fellowship. I had put my faith on pause and let the church screensaver turn on.

I got involved in an unhealthy relationship.

I started working Sundays.

I stopped going to small group.

I began to question whether or not God had really called me to ministry.
Did I just imagine that?

"Nathan, I love you. Time to wake up."

And then God slow-pitched me a curveball.

I remember sitting in some pathetic Phoenix grass with one of my best friends ever, Tripp, while I was visiting my Phoenix friends. We talked about what had been happening since I moved back to Tucson.
As I began talking about the flat spin my life was in, his jaw dropped.

Tripp
"Dude, why? What are you doing with yourself?" he asked. I shrugged and looked away from his convicting stare.

"I don't know. I guess I was angry. I know that what I'm doing is wrong. I guess I was just waiting for someone to tell me to stop." I responded looking out over the brand new baseball field.

"Then I'm telling you: stop. What would your camp kids think?" He asked. That question made my stomach churn. I felt my heart pound and it was hard to breathe.

When I got home, I got a text that almost made me faint.

"I think I might be pregnant." and in that instant, everything that God had been telling me became loud and clear.

And now, one way or the other, my life was going to be different.

I did something that I had not done in months.

I prayed to the God of Abraham and the lover of my soul. The one who created me and designed me to hate Dr. Pepper and knew I would get my first concussion when I was nine. The God who etched in my fingerprints and counted my hairs was waiting for me to come back. I was the prodigal son, and I dropped to my knees before my wise perfect father, and I begged for Him to take me back.

"God, if she is pregnant, I will be the best dang father I can be. I am committing that child to you now. But if she is not, I am pledging my life to return back to ministry. I will strive after you and love you with all that I am. I will follow you where you lead me."

A few days later she told me that she was wrong. She wasn't pregnant. That same day, I shared my prayer with her, asked for her forgiveness, and we parted ways.

I stayed true to my promise, and God has stayed true to all of His many promises.

Six months later, I'm at camp. I'm a new man. My faith burning white hot, my brick wall of pride, a pile of dust and mortar.
Much to my protest, Danny asked me to come back as head leadership over all the volunteer staff.

I didn't see myself as someone who was prepared to be put back in a position of spiritual leadership so soon after all that had happened.

But the funny thing about God's plans is that they are NEVER what you expect.

There's two things you can always be certain of when it comes to God's plans:
1-- God will be glorified.
2-- God redeems all things to His glory.

So God began working in my heart like he had before.
And I began learning and growing like I had before, but this time, God had the reins.

During that summer, I was so filled with humility and shame of my stupidity. But God redeems.

There was a woman named Jessie who has changed my life at the camp, and one day she came to me and began talking. I could feel the Holy Spirit emanating from her like heat from a stove.

Before I knew it, I was pouring out my heart to this woman, confessing my selfishness and blindness to God's blessings and telling her the whole story.

Then she said something odd.

Nate, Jessie, and B-Joy
"I knew that already. I felt that God wanted me to talk to you, and I have something that I feel like I should say. I don't know what it means or if it means anything to you, but here goes: 'you're not stuck'."

That meant quite a lot to me. I felt like if I went back to Tucson and back to my jobs and distractions, I would slip in to the same pattern. I felt stuck.

A few weeks later, I would be talking to her again. This time, she said creepier things.

"So my husband and I have been praying so much that God would reveal His will in our lives, and He keeps putting you on our hearts, Nathan. I have something else that God wants me to tell you: 'Don't get comfortable. Quit Starbucks. You're not staying very long.'"

And with that, my heart jumped and skipped a beat. I ran in to the forest and prayed aloud for hours.

After that summer, I was contacted my Summit Ridge Church of Las Vegas, Nevada and asked to start up a youth ministry in a church that didn't have one.

So badly I tried to avoid it. I was so scared. But God was in control. Every excuse was invalidated, and every door was closed. My one excuse to stay, Haylee, told me that if I declined this job, I was "an idiot".

And my life has been a wild ride ever since.

Nothing is more exciting than being exactly where God wants you and being able to witness moved mountains and changed hearts.

Holy cow.

If I had to pick a few doctrinal truths to highlight from my testimony thus far, I would have to first and foremost say, God's love is eternal and stronger than humanly conceivable. Secondly, God redeems all things to His Glory. All things were created by Him and for Him. And lastly, that God is always faithful.

Always.

The gospel is more than a few verses in Romans. The gospel is living and active and part of everyday.
God is not a distant deity observing from afar. He is very near and constantly intervening. His hand is so obvious in my life, and I have pledged my life to follow Him with my whole existence.





Nate T B

Friday, January 10, 2014

Unlimited Power, Starry Nights, and the Sabbath

I figured that once the holiday season was over, things would calm down and go back to normal, but alas, I have found myself chest deep in craziness and chaos.

Don't misread me, I love it. I am an agent of chaos. I love the rush and the noise and the adrenaline of go go going nonstop never taking a moment to breath.

But

It has taken its toll.

I just moved in to a new place with a dude from church named Steve, and anyone who has moved in to a new house knows the work and energy required to make all that happen.

We're planning and organizing camp! Can't wait! That'll be so awesome!

Next month, we're doing a paintball day! So rad....

Ridge Uth is the bomb!

I love what God has been doing in the church and in the hearts of our leaders and the students.

This last Wednesday was pretty funny, but also encouraging.

One of my students, Noah, is a vibrating ball of energy and wit, charming and funny, intelligent and snarky. Every youth group has a Noah.

This past Wednesday, I was teaching on our new series, and in the worst spot possible, Noah yells out "Amen!"

Everyone stops and looks at him.

"Sorry I've always wanted to say that."

And for the rest of the lesson, he would try to figure out the best place to say his Amen.

At first, it might be perceived as a distracting action and disruptive, but I didn't see it that way.

I know for a fact that Noah loves Ridge Uth and the bible and is passionate about his faith, but still very young. Noah feels the Holy Spirit moving in him and stirring his heart, and he's learning how to express it properly.

Plus I know for a fact that he listened to this lesson better than any lesson from the previous Wednesdays.

It was so encouraging seeing him so excited for what we were learning. All of the students are always so excited to give an answer or share their thoughts.

I love my students.

It's an amazing feeling knowing that exactly where you are is exactly where God wants you to be. Being within the will of God is the best place to be.

Not necessarily the safest.
Or most comfortable.
Or most financially liberating.
Or even the easiest.

But without a doubt, the absolute BEST.

God is moving so powerfully and obviously, and everyday is so exciting!

Father, thank you for the opportunity to be your tool! Thank you for Summit Ridge Church and the strong, active body that it is. Thank you for your blessings and graces that we receive everyday, even the ones we don't notice. Especially the ones we don't notice. I pray that we would strive and fight with tooth and nail to live within YOUR will and to bring glory to YOU. Continue to bless Ridge Uth in all of the immense ways that you have so far. Thank you for always being in control and ruling my life. All glory, honor, and praise belongs to you.

In retrospect, I can see how God has grown me. A year ago, I'd be in deep poo. I'd be burned out, shriveled up, toasted to a charcoal crisp.

That is, if I were relying on my own strength.

God has empowered all of us to accomplish His will. He uses all of us in ways that affect the universe and eternity even if you are not aware of it.

You have the power to move mountains and crush Philistines and heal the sick and expel evil spirits and change the world! 

God is a God of unimaginable power who created the world with a word and is unparalleled in perfection and immense strength. There are none who are like Him or even compare to Him in any significant comparison. He is the ultimate power, matchless, timeless, limitless, and flawless.

And on the seventh day, He rested.

God rested.

Not because of fatigue or need, but because it was healthy to stop and look at all that had been accomplished and enjoy the beauty of His creation.

In the original Hebrew, one of the definitions of Sabbath is to celebrate.

God made the Sabbath special not because of His limited power or our inability to accomplish much, but because it is important and healthy to take a day to look at the beauty and glory of God and be blown away by it. 

If it has not been observed already, I am a big fan of diction and vocabulary. One word that I had been guilty of misusing was the word awesome

"Dude, that's awesome!" "When you fell down the stairs; that was awesome." "Pokemon is awesome!"

Awesome describes something of such immense power and size that it renders the observer dumbfounded by pure fear, wonder, and awe. 

God is awesome. and the Sabbath was designed to celebrate God's awesome qualities.

The way we celebrate that is not by legalistically forcing religious observance to strict rules.

We celebrate the greatness of God in our hearts. Being awestruck by God cannot be illustrated by refusing to do any physical labor. God established the laws of the Sabbath so that the importance of the Sabbath would be taken seriously.

God desires us to commune and love Him. He doesn't want our blind observance to rules written in ancient languages.

God wants us to love Him and walk in obedience to His statutes.



Do you want to know how to show God that you love Him?


Walk in obedience. 
Follow God's commandments.
Love God with your mind and your actions. 

Spend time being amazed by God.


Just like a child looking up at the stars on a clear dark night, transfixed and mesmerized by the beauty and enormity of the endless beyond, we should take time regularly to reject the daily distractions of chaos and busyness and fix our eyes upon Jesus.






Fix your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And all the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace. 





                      Nate T B

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Lock-ins, Shepherds, and Investments

So I had no idea how much I missed my family until this past week when I went back to motherland Arizona for Christmas. I flew down and surprised my beautiful girlfriend by popping out of a box and spent the week with her family and my family in the beautiful Prescott countryside and the vast steel jungles of Phoenix. It had been.... Goodness I can't even think how long it's been since I had actually spent time with my family. Is it soft to say that I missed hugging my mom?

Whatever

I'm soft.

Anyways! I'm writing this on January 2nd. I'm not at my usual table because there is a large group of people sitting there, but hey, I get a little life spice tonight by sitting at a new table.

So I don't know about ya'll, but I'm tired from last week. I feel like it's been months since we had regular youth group, but this time of year is always psychotic.

I was just talking to a youth pastor buddy of mine last week. He's been in youth ministry as long as I have. When I mentioned our Lock-In, he threw his head back and laughed at me.

I was confused.

"What?" I asked him.
"Brah, that's suicide. Don't do that."
"Ya well we did it last year, and we're doing it again."

Apparently there is some terrifyingly terrible mojo that comes along with having a youth Lock-In. But I guess I missed that seminar.

The time spent with the youth is so valuable. I love hanging out and being goofy with them.

I feel like that is when the most impactful ministry happens. When a student can genuinely see that you genuinely care about them and find them valuable, they see the glory and love of the most high God radiating through you.

And that's rare these days.

I'm still pretty young, so I remember my teenage years. The only people that I felt valued me were Mr
Heintz, my English teacher, Mr. Mayorga, my history teacher, and my parents. The other thousand people I bumped in to in the halls saw me as invaluable,
                                                           dirty,
                                                               useless,
                                                                   stupid,
                                                                       ugly,
                                                                           burdensome.
And this isn't a bash on public school. I grew up in public school since kindergarten, and I ain't never seen no bad with my learnin'.

The more time I spend with my students, the more I realize that I need to spend more time with my students.

The youth these days don't need more books to read or camps to get swept up to; they need to see Jesus through people that care about them.

Youth ministry is the response to a call for help. Youth ministry is not a Jesus-themed baby sitting service to give to relief to frustrated parents. It is a complimentary discipleship ministry meant to reinforce and solidify the teaching of Godly parents, or to provide students without Godly parents a means of experiencing the greatness of God and perfection of God's Word.

And the Lock-In was rad.

The goal of the Lock-Ins is to make awesome memories that last until next year. I think we accomplished that.
Sure, I didn't sleep at all.
Sure, I was grumpy in the morning.
Sure, it was hard, but was it worth it?

Totally.

The intentional interaction and relationships built in those fourteen hours will last forever. When I am old and crotchety, I will remember the night that Noah unpeeled a banana with only his feet and that Seth and Andres were the fastest wheelbarrow team I have ever seen.
I'll remember the night that the green team bet all of their points on the Daily Double and failed epically. And I will also remember that they won.
I will remember the time that Ashley lifted her leg above her head to prevent Elijah from stomping her balloon. And I will remember that Elijah stomped it anyways.

Ministry is about serving with the specific purpose of honoring and magnifying the Most High God. Ministry is a state of the heart that forces you to see others that way that God sees them. All of us are God's created beings created to love and honor Him, we are invaluable,
                                                                          redeemed,
                                                                               loved,
                                                                                   forgiven,
                                                                                      beautiful,
                                                                                          perfection,
                                                                                              to die for.
And if we can somehow create that impression in our students, then not only are we accomplishing our goals as followers of Christ, but we are giving these students a glimpse of God's glorious light that can only be experienced when we are living within the will of God.

For the longest time, I felt personally responsible for the amount of salvations we saw every week at camp. I was the one teaching on stage, I was the one in charge of the counselors, I was the veteran. I put the responsibility on myself. I saw the amount of raised hands as my rating as a teacher and leader.
Looking back, ya, I was wrong. But I put so much pressure on myself. I would tell myself "If you mess this up, some of these kids may never hear the gospel." and that is not healthy.

Our job is not to save kids. That's God's job. It is a work of God's power and His alone.
Our responsibility is to teach the Word, make disciples, and baptize. And that is such a relief.

God knows which students are going to accept Christ and which are going to become missionaries, and which are going to become politicians, and which are going to be good parents, and which are going to prison, and which are going to be actors and which are going to have five children, and so on and so forth.
God created them.

So badly we want to see all of our students and children flourish and thrive within the Word of God and grow up to be revolutionary followers of Christ that shake the world up for Jesus. I know I do.

As followers of Christ, essentially, we are to live out the teachings of the living word of God and be Christ to those around us.

1 Peter 5:1-11  So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:  (2)  shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;  (3)  not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.  (4)  And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.  (5)  Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."  (6)  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,  (7)  casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  (8)  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  (9)  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  (10)  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  (11)  To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Peter saw the importance of leaders and teachers spending time with their "flocks". 

The reason I love the imagery of the shepherd with his flock is because a shepherd would not only tend to his flock on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights. He would spend hours and days and weeks tending and
protecting and feeding his flock. Shepherding was not a part time job. It was hard and dangerous and taxing on the human body and mind.

Peter painted this picture for every pastor, teacher, youth leader, elder, parent, minister, and pretty much anyone who has responsibility over a "flock". 

Today's youth are not the church of tomorrow: they are the church today

Sorry for the late post.





Nate T B