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Good message? & Never Too Early…


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How do you think of a good message or series for students? There’s the argument of “topical” or “expositional”. Or maybe you just get a good idea, find some bible verses and your ready to preach. Maybe you think your students need to hear about a particular topic so you craft some messages to fit. Maybe you preach the lectionary or some other version of predetermined passages.

How do you think of a good message or series messages for students?

I probably do a mix of all the above. Some methods are better than others but none is right or wrong, in my opinion.

The current series we are doing, Never Too Early was a mix. I really wanted to dive into some scripture with my students and 1 Timothy kept coming to mind. My initial thought was to walk verse by verse through it. But then i started reading through the Old Testament as a new years resolutions and some of those stories really began to pop. So instead of just looking at Timothy as a young leaders i thought, let’s look at the life of a handful of young people in the bible who God used to accomplish his purposes. Almost immediately after this was the route i decided to go i ran across this video at church, PERFECT!

That’s was how this one came together and so far so good. 
We focused the first message on the disciples in general and how most of them were probably teenagers and the very core of Jesus’ movement to change the world.
The second week we took a look at David. He’s a no brainer. The older brothers overlooked because, as the scripture says, “humans look at the outward appearance (things like age and experience) but God looks at the heart.” And then we talked about David taking off the armor given him to face the giant because he realized the only way he would win the battle was by faith in his God, not by trying to be someone else and living in someone else’s armor or shadow.

Next week we will look at Timothy and focuses on the verse “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example…” This will be followed by Samuel and then a wrap up message to the series.

Doing this gig has it’s challenges. One of them is coming up stellar content that really connects with students… EVERY WEEK! The advantage i had in my previous gig was that i spend a couple months crafting messages and was then able to deliver them multiple times over a few months. And if a message was REALLY good i could keep in the rotation for up to a year. 

Things are a bit different now but i’m excited about how it’s stretching me and i look forward to working with other youth pastors like myself to collaborate in providing high quality biblical content to students and their families.

If you up for some collaboration let me know!

Grace and peace
erik

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Bible reading in the new year…


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Screen Shot 2011-12-17 at 3.03.24 PMI’m sitting at Starbucks today… i mean 5bucks (a clever nick-name some friends came up with)… sitting here getting ready for my Sunday School message tomorrow and since i left my bible at home i’m using the YouVersion online bible. I have YouVersion on my phone, iPad, and today i’ve been using my computer to read it. LOVE IT! Honestly i haven’t used YouVersion all that much but today i saw their bible reading plans. BRILLIANT!

So i’ve decided to make my first New Years Resolution… READ THE ENTIRE BIBLE IN 90 DAYS!

YouVersion has a reading plan that takes you through the entire bible in 90 days. So i’m going to do it! Starting January 1st i’ll be reading, i think it’s only 3 or 4 chapter a day. Which i’m ashamed to admit is more than i read currently. I’ll be posting here on my blog about my progress and you can also follow along on YouVersion. But i’m excited about it!

I’m sure i’ve read pretty much all of the bible at one time or another but i’ve never just read it all the way through like this. I’ve never done this primarily because i don’t think it’s the best way to read the bible but i think this is going to be good for me! And i’m excited about it. Remember, it’s more about quality than quantity when it comes to bible reading but if your up for the challenge why don’t you read along with me.

Grace and peace
erik

PS :: I think this is going to be a great way to get ready for Lent and then Easter. And since this is 90 days it should take us right up to that time of year! PERFECT!

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Good = Hard // A Ministry Update :: 2.0


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Some dude once said “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Kinda famous right, i think it’s famous because so many of us feel that in our bones. It’s something that resonates on a really deep level!

I just posted a little diddy about my last months and the excitement of my coming month. I have some really great ministry stuff going down these days and i am really excited about it! It’s probably the 2 best months of ministry i’ve had in the last 2 or 3 years.

So it really seems like the best of times. GOOD

But this past month has also been extremely difficult. = HARD

Maybe not the worst of times literally but pretty hard. Doubt, struggle, temptation, contention, selfishness… the list can go on and on but it just seems like there is a spirit of tension in my house and in my life. I do think that when the best of times come there is an enemy who wants to give us an earthly reality check. But i also know there is a Jesus who want to give us an eschatological reality check. Meaning, Jesus want us to experience heaven now, he wants us to have the abundant life of eternity here and now. Maybe only a little taste, an already but not quite yet kind of deal but i’m afraid i’m letting a reality of sin and selfishness steal my taste of God’s abundant future and the gift he has for me now!


I hate that!

And as i write i feel like God is speaking, telling me that the thoughts of failure and dead ends are lies and maybe i need to be remembering verses like this one…

“We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.”

Colossians 1:11:14 (the message)

So yea, life is good and life is hard, all at the same time but God is good and i pray that all of us in our times of struggle, temptation, and despair would remember that we’ve been set up in God’s Kingdom because he loves us regardless of our performance or success and regardless of our mood or emotions. And we have to be honest, with ourselves, with our communities, and with God because life isn’t easy even when lots of things seems to be great because even then some things can be really hard and maybe, just maybe, that is when we need to lean into the reliability of the scripture, the companionship of our community, and the compassion of the Holy Spirit.

I write all this at the risk of being an internet over-sharer… and i’m not a huge fan of “that guy” but i think honesty is important and i think we need to hear the struggles just as much as we hear the hoorays. We need to remind each other of God’s goodness and his unswerving (look up synonyms – awesome) love for us! And in writing, i needed to remind myself! Cause we need to do that as well sometimes as well.

Grace and peace

(because you’ve been set up in the kingdom that has come in the person of Jesus!)

erik

and PS :: for some reason i’m aware of my abundant run-on sentences in this post. Which is weird considering how bad at English grammar i am (you’d think i was born to write in a different language). So, sorry about if you are the kind that cares about those kinds of things. And a warning, if you are, this blog might not be the place for you. But i invite you to stick around either way!


Shalom

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Sovereignty & all things…


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Don’t you wondering how this whole sovereignty thing works? This idea that God has all things in his hands and works ALL THINGS for the good of those who love him. You know, all that action.

Don’t you wonder?

Doesn’t it just seem like life tosses crap our way all to often. And beyond that life tosses HUGE curve balls our way from time to time.

Psalm 136 seems to think that All that God does is because his steadfast love endures forever. I like the idea but when you think about and if you are honest, it’s hard to embrace that sometimes, isn’t it? It’s hard to think that God’s steadfast love does some of that things that happen in our lives, it’s hard to think that God’s steadfast love caused some of things we read about in the bible.

There is a story told by old Jewish guys recounting the story of the Israelites cross the Red Sea. You know, the whole parting of the waters deal. The story (from these old Jewish rabbis) is that the angels began to celebrate when the Israelites cross over but God rebuked them saying that it wasn’t a time to rejoiced because some of his creation has just been destroyed in the waters, a.k.a. the Egyptians.

It’s seems like God’s heart is bent that way, to love and protect his creation but sometime the things that happen in our world and more specifically in our / my life makes me wonder where he’s at and what he’s up to.

Just some thoughts as I’m meditating on Psalm 136 this week.

“for his steadfast love endures forever.”

I HOPE!
Erik

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Sunday readings…


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Two of the scripture reading for today were extra thought provoking…

#1. Gen. 1:1-5

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

// If the darkness wasn’t good why didn’t God just get rid of it? Why did he only separate it?

Just a thought i had this morning.

 

#2. Mark 1:4-11

4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

 9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

// Father Thomas preached on this passage this morning. He mad a great observation. John baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin, correct. But if that was the case why did Jesus need to be baptized by John considering he was without sin?

Isn’t that a fascinating question. I thought it was. And Father Thomas made some great points as he preached this morning on this very question. You should go listen to his message, it was really good this morning. (it will probably be posted in the next do or so.)

SO, what do you think about those questions? Any ideas, observations, thoughts?
Do Share!

Grace and peace
Erik
 

 

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Jesus :: what are you doing?


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“Jesus got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves, but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “ Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

QUESTIONS:

Is it not natural that in the middle of a storm, when the waves are crashing in and about to consume you, that you would cry out to the Lord? And more than just natural is that not a good response, to turn and cry out to the Lord?

Fairly recently I heard Rob Bell ask the question, “What do you think God is doing?” He went on to explain that your answer to that question will reflect your theology, your thinking and speaking about God.

I think that’s true.

So what do you think God is doing these days?
My life is currently in upheaval and when I hear that question, “What is God doing?” my honest response is, “Good question.”

The mental image that has come to my mind is that God is juggling a lot of balls or spinning a lot of plates. My plate is dwarfed in term of importance and seriousness of need and so I wonder if God has quite spinning my plate momentarily or has dropped my ball!

Simply; it feels like the waves are engulfing me!

I understand the poor theology of this mental picture. But these days I feel much more solidarity with the psalmist than I do with the disciples.

What do you think God is doing?

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Psalm 127 // A reflection…


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.V 1-2
Unless the Lord builds the house,
        those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
       the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
      and go late to rest,
 easting the bread of anxious toil;
      for he gives sleep to his beloved.

I have been reading this psalm all week and it seems extremely fitting for my life! Last month everything changed for me and the ministry God has called me to do. At least it feels like everything has changed. It’s tempting to just push through and try and build life and ministry on my strength and on my own efforts. But with a psalm like this God reminds me that my striving and pushing through are all in vain if He is not really the one doing the building and opening up the doors.

But there is a tension here isn’t there? How much do we sit back and let God construct our “house” and orchestrate the song that is our life and ministry? And how much to we strive, using the abilities and energies that God has given us? I heard a story of lead pastor who puts in 60 hours work week at the church and also puts in 20 – 40 hours (in the same week) into the business he owns and runes. The church he planted has blown up, they have three campuses now and are one of the top 10 fastest growing churches in America according to Outreach Magazine. It looks like God is using this mans efforts, his striving. I happen to know someone on his staff who told me this but he said it in on a positive note following it with, “and he still has a great relationship with his family, ect. ect.”

How does one know when our “toiling” in vain or is in line with the proper effort that God and his work deserves.

Just thinking about that today.

Shalom
Erik

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Publication of piety…


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Here are some thoughts that have been running around my little head for awhile, just thought I would get some input…

So… i want to share my experience; when I fast, when I serve the homeless, when I tithe to a certain organization I really believe in, when I read the bible, preach a message, bla bla bla…

But the avenue of the blog begs the question, “am I bragging?” Am I publicizing my piety or lifting myself up or am I just sharing my experience as a short of public journal of my journey.

If I blog / on-line journal about my experience am I still not letting my right hand know what my left if doing? Am I sufficiently hiding my “piety” / my Christian practices / my faithfulness to what God is leading me into? Do I even need to try and hide my “piety”?

(PS: I hate the word piety. It has such negative connotations that I do not intend to give it and maybe aren’t inherently there. But yea, piety…)

Another PS.S. is the fact that I don’t hardly EVER fast, I NEVER actually help the homeless, tithing is hard but I do and giving beyond my tithe is even harder… I don’t list these things because I do them often I list them because I don’t do them often but I hope to do them often as I grow and find opportunity. My question is when and if I ever do these things that might be considered pious should I write about them. Should I share my experience our should I “in secret” do and keep it there.

Just something I thought about as I was thinking of ways I want to serve and follow Jesus.

Be Peace

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Jonah; actually reading the story for the first time


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Ok, I am a Christian who believes the Bible, the holy Scripture is God breathed and extremely useful for teaching Jesus followers how to live our lives! I want this book and the stories contained in its pages to be formative in my life… TRUE!

Now to the book of Jonah…

(another quick fact about yours truly; I graduated college with a degree in religion / Christian ministries, I’m a “preacher / bible teacher” along with other titles. I have also (almost) earned a masters degree in religion (8 hrs left), starting seminary… bla bla bla…)

As for the book of Jonah, I don’t think I had ever read it!

At least not in it’s entirety until last night. Sad, I know! Now i knew the story, I could even recite certain sections that I had read and referred to before but the entirety of this HUGE book, all four chapters of it, I don’t believe I had ever read. I blame part of this on my late start in the Christian scene. A lot of people I know grew up in Sunday school, had the story read to them as they watched the flannel graph taking shape. I didn’t go to Sunday school until high school and didn’t really learn a lot of those OT stories until college.

Crazy enough but man that Jonah, what a story. Maybe it’s just a story, maybe it’s true, maybe it’s fictional, either way it teaches us the same lessons about life and following God.
I could go on and on with my exegetical insights from the story of Jonah but I won’t. I’ll just end with saying that the stories of the people in the pages of the bible are truly packed with good stuff. Ordinary, stubborn people being used by God to do some amazing things, often in spite of themselves not because of. This encourages me to follow God, to have the heart of David who despite his flaws and HUGE failures was still a man after God’s heart and was used to do some amazing things. OR a man like Jonah who doesn’t seem to understand his role in it all and is frustrated because God’s going to do what God’s going to do and seems to want to just be left alone. If I were honest I could admit to those feelings from time to time but as Jonah knows God is gracious and lucky for Jonah and me, God is still gracious, gracious to people like us!

Yea, GOOD STORY! I feel like I read something new, learned something new… it’s a little sad but it exciting at the same time.

READ ON!
~~Erik

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