The Big Picture!

Remember the last time you went swimming? How did you enter the water?  Did you put your toe in first to check the temperature, or are you the type to jump right in?  I was at a baptism this weekend and it was real cool to watch the people enter the pool, some would move slowly, others got in quick. But one thing was the same, they all went in without much care for the temperature of the water. I mean it could have been freezing and they would have all still went in.  Because every one of them were focused on the big picture.

You see when we’re focused on the big picture we don’t let stuff we go through to get there stop us.  To often we lose  focus of the big picture and we let the stuff along the way kill the vision or the dream. In the case of the people being baptized, they all knew that God wanted them be baptized. So despite the water, despite all the people watching or even being dunked in backwards, they all just jumped in.  Life is too short to stand on the deck and watch everyone swim. What do you have to lose? So worst case scenario you fail.  So what, it’s not the end of the world, just get back up and try again.

Why are we so scared to fail? I mean really, what’s going to happen if we do? We’re not going to die. We need to focus on the big picture. For me the big picture is  life after this life and the work that God  has for me to do while I’m here. It reminds me of a missions trip I took. I was flying with a group of men to Mexico.  One of the men that I was with was scared of flying. With a nervous voice he asked me if I was scared to fly. My reply was “Jesus told me that I was going to Mexico to build a house , so I must be going to Mexico to build a house.”

Here’s why I believed that I was going to Mexico.  Jesus and his disciples were in a boat and Jesus told them that they were going to the other side. As they were sailing Jesus fell asleep and a huge storm hit, the disciples started to panic and they cried out to Jesus, they woke him up and said that they were going to drown, Jesus got up and he calmed the storm, but the interesting part is what Jesus said next, he said,  why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith. (Mark 4:35-40) You see when Jesus says we’re going to the other side, then we are going to the other side. No storm, no person, no circumstance can stop us. With Jesus leading and directing us there is no risk. So next time the storms of life come, remember, we’re going to the other side.  Focus on the big picture and all the stuff along the way will be a piece of cake.

Cutters…

Did you know that 1 in 10 American teenagers secretly injure themselves and 80% of those are girls?  Why is this? Why are we living in a nation that has so many problems with our youth? What have we done to promote so much depression and despair?  As a father it is my job to protect my family and to provide them with every opportunity to succeed.  Hey men, dads, have we forgotten this? Have we forgotten our roles as men?  The mans role is to lead, to provide, to protect, to train, and to love their families.  I’m not saying that women can’t do theses things too, I’m just saying that as a man I am responsible for the welfare of my family in every way.

According to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield Missouri:

50% of first marriages end in divorce, 67% of second marriages end in divorce and 73% of third time marriages end in divorce.  There are other polls that show anywhere from 41% to 50% of first time marriages in America, ending in divorce.

WHY IS THIS? How is it that we have allowed society to sell us a big bag of lies, that says “if you don’t like it, get a new one”? Isn’t that what we do, if things are hard or if they don’t end up the way we think they should then we just quit and move on to the next thing.  What ever happened to working through our hard times, persevering?  WAKE UP American parents! Our children need us to make good choices, because they are trying to deal with our mess on their own.

One of the ways that our children deal with pain is to cut themselves. Cutting has been around for many years now, it is a practice that is very popular with youth between the ages of 11 and 26.  Cutting is when a person uses a sharp object to make small cuts in their arms or other body parts. The arms are the most popular area because they can easily cut them and they can easily cover them from view.  The act of cutting is usually accompanied by depression.  People use cutting just like addicts use drugs or alcohol.  It’s a way to release pain and stress.  I see students all the time with covered arms or scarred arms.  You see, these young people are dealing with all of our stuff, they are screaming out for our attention, our love our care. They need their moms and dads affection and assurance. In some cases cutting is an early sign of suicidal tendencies.

Signs of Cutting:

  • Withdrawal from family
  • Isolation
  • Always wearing long sleeves
  • Not allowing you to see their arms
  • Outbursts of anger or rage

Young people aren’t equipped to deal with divorce, and unstable relationships, they aren’t equipped to deal with abusive parents or selfish parents. If our children can’t turn to us for help, who will they turn to? In most cases they turn to other young people or to people who will give them the attention that they desire and need.

Please don’t think that I am saying that unstable parenting is the only cause of cutting. Our children can have the best parents in the world, parents that show them love, attention, affection and provide them with all the things to be successful in life. Parents that have a great relationship and a very strong marriage, and still they can get caught up in cutting. It could be the effect of a relationship at school, or a mental disorder. There are a lot of things that can cause a youth to cut, but we as parents need to recognize the signs.

As parents we are responsible to provide our children with love, attention, discipline that leads to healthy growth and emotional stability. We aren’t always gonna make the right choice because none of us are perfect, but we need to consider our actions before we do them. I’m not saying that you will never go through a divorce, or that you won’t have kids out-of-wedlock, I’m just saying be responsible when making choices that will affect your children, they deserve our best.

Helpful Tips:

  • Ask your child how they are and really listen to their answer
  • Spend time with your children
  • Find a common interest
  • Seek council of a professional that deals with cutting
  • Be open and honest with your children

Personal Note:

I have devoted my life to Jesus Christ and I have found that as I allow Him to lead me, the choices I make get better and better. Hey parents you’re not alone, there are plenty of good resources out there to help you raise your kids. And remember that Jesus loves you and He wants to help you in every area of your life, give Him a chance today.

Resources

Focus on The Family

Parenting.org

Mom Sense

Where Are You?

Sometimes I wonder, I mean I know I’m supposed to have faith and that I’m supposed to believe but I see the children crying and dying inside. What am I supposed to tell them , what am I supposed to do? Where are the mothers and where are the fathers? It feels like we are losing the fight, it feels like all hope is gone. I know that I should tell them that you are the answer and that you are with them, but if they can’t see you, how will they know? The hurt and the pain is too great. When they talk their words scream for love and affection. When they cry their tears flood the land. It just feels like the world is winning. You sent me to them, you told me to go to them. You said that you would show me what to do and what to say, but I have no words for them and I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’m dying inside because I just can’t help them.  Where are you?

Escape…

Have you ever just wanted to just get away? Just run away and leave all your stuff behind? Have you ever just felt like the walls are closing in on you and things were just to tough?

I remember when I was a young man , I used to get in my car and drive for hours, I would turn up the music and just get away. That was my escape.

Escape Dictionary.com describes it this way;

1. to slip or get away, as from confinement or restraint; gain or regain liberty: to escape from jail.

2. to slip away from pursuit or peril; avoid capture, punishment, or any threatened evil.

There are times in everyone’s life that we need an escape from something. Many of those times are created by our own bad choices and decisions. But many times we have no control over why we are going through what we’re going through.

How do you escape?

Let’s talk about the first definition.

1. to slip or get away, as from confinement or restraint; gain or regain liberty: to escape from jail.

To slip or get away from, I remember when I was in my early 20’s I got my girlfriend pregnant and I had always said that I would never have kids. I was in a state of shock and I felt that I had lost my freedom. I needed to escape the situation that I was in, so I did, I broke up with my girlfriend, and I ran away. I began to party and sell drugs. The day my son was born I was in Mexico partying. That was my solution, I ran away from the issue but the issue didn’t go away. I began to live a life style that was so opposite of who I really was. I remember selling drugs to a pregnant woman and partying at her house, and I remember thinking that she was the scum of the earth for doing drugs. But it wasn’t her who was the scum of the earth, it was me, I was the scum, I sold the drugs to her.

You see, my need to escape reality caused me to make one bad choice after the other. I lived this way for about 5 years. After two years I stopped selling drugs but for the next three years I kept using them. I had no real relationship with my son for the first 5 years of his life. Don’t get me wrong, I was there in his life and he knew me and we did things together but my happiness and freedom was still more important than my relationship with him. In this situation my escape was created by the choice that I made as a young man, and it cost me dearly.

What about the other definition?

2. To slip away from pursuit or peril; avoid capture, punishment, or any threatened evil.

Without knowing it, I placed myself in a situation that I really needed to escape from. Because of the bad choices that I had made in trying to escape the fact that I was going to become a father, now I was in a situation that had my very life in danger. Although I was no longer selling drugs, I was now partying every night and using drugs every day. I was becoming everything that I hated and vowed never to be. I needed an escape. This time, I needed to escape from the thing that I escaped to. Where would I go, what would I do? You see now instead of me getting away from a confined situation or setting myself free from a situation, I needed to escape to avoid capture or peril. I needed to escape from an evil that threatened my life. I was headed straight to prison or to hell, which ever came first. How would I get away from this? What would I escape to this time?

I remember coming home one morning after partying all night and my mother got up, I remember sitting on the kitchen counter and saying, mom I’m done, I can’t live this way any longer. I remember bursting out in tears and sobbing like a baby, and my mother crying and saying that she and my sister had been praying for me all week. Wow. You see as I began to focus on myself in a very selfish way, I began to align my actions with the devils plan for my life. Before I knew it the devil had me in a trap, he had captured me and he was using me to punish myself and everyone who loved me. This is what James had to say about how to escape;

“Surrender to God! Resist the devil, and he will run from you.”

James 4:7 (Contemporary English Version)

You see I didn’t know how to escape from the thing that I escaped to. But in that one moment on my kitchen counter God showed me that he was my escape, He was my way out.

You see we escape from all sorts of things and escape to all sorts of things, drugs, alcohol, sex, food, self-mutilation, porn, shopping, gambling and the list goes on. But how do you escape from all those things? What’s your escape?

I found my escape in these words of Jesus;

“If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28 (Contemporary English Version)

When life takes an unexpected turn don’t escape the situation by running to something that you will eventually need to escape from. Turn to Jesus and He will guide you through those tough times.

Is America’s Church Dying?

I mean really, is the Church in America even relative? As a follower of Jesus Christ I find it very disturbing to see some of the things that I see everyday. We are constantly bombarded by T.V. ads with half-dressed people every commercial has a sexual theme to sell its products. The news if filled with stories of selfishness and greed.

Where’s the Church??? I thought this was a country built on the Word of God. I mean, do our churches even go outside of their own building to see what’s happening in the world? Now I know that there are some “Mega Churches” out there with 30,000 & 20,000 members and so on. But don’t you think if even those churches lived what they believed that this nation would be a little different? Hmmm maybe not.

You see I think that the Church in America is stuck in its own way of thinking, but over time the way the church thinks has been distorted. Where in the bible does it say to think highly of yourself, or judge people based on the way they dress or the way they talk? I don’t think that the church consciously does these things, I just think that somewhere down the road it has lost site of its purpose and vision.

” Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This is the first and most important commandment.” The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.”

Matthew 22:37-39 (CEV)

Really!!?? We love ourselves, we make sure we eat and have clothes and if we are followers of Jesus Christ we teach our selves about Him by reading the Bible. Do we do these things for others??

Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.”

Matthew 28:19-20 (CEV)

You see, while Jesus walked on earth he built personal relationships with his disciples and with others. He spent time with them and he got to know them on a personal level. Jesus modeled what the church should look like by the way he lived his life. It’s time for the church to get to know the people in a practical sense, not with big religious words and fancy sounding prayers. Just keep it real and simple, that’s what Jesus did.

It’s really very simple, just try to see people the way that Jesus see’s them. If we can do this we would begin to treat people with love and respect and we would bring life back to the church.

Tell/Show The World

As a youth pastor I am constantly having to communicate with others. When I have a vision or direction for our youth group it is very important for me to be able to explain that vision. My ability to communicate is vital to the spiritual growth of our students. There is no difference between me communicating my faith with a group of young people and you communicating your faith with others. The word communicate, means to impart or to make known…wow, that’s pretty simple. So all we’re doing is making known Jesus Christ to those who don’t know Him. It’s like giving the dead life, John 14;6 says I am the way, the truth and the life. When we share our faith we give dead people an opportunity to live. How wonderful is that. There is nothing greater than sharing the gospel. I get so excited about this subject that I could go on for days, but I think I could help you better understand if I let my students explain it to you.

Colton is an 18-year-old student leader and Lindsay is a 15-year-old student leader, I asked them 4 simple questions and this is what they had to say.

Question: What does it mean to communicate our faith?

Response: It’s all about actions and words, we need to be able to show people our faith through our lives. But living it is not enough, we also need to be able to talk about it and explain exactly what we believe. Going out to others and striking up a conversation. Asking people about their faith is a good way to get people to open up. Then we can tell them what we believe. And if your shy or you’re not a good speaker, just have faith that God will give you the strength to get out of your comfort zone and share your faith.

Question: Why is it important for us as Christians to communicate our faith?

Response: Because if we don’t no one would ever know the Truth. The truth is that everyone is meant to bear the image of God. Sharing our faith may lead them to Christ and then they too will bear His image. We also need to communicate our faith to fulfill our purpose on this earth. We as Christians are called to be the salt and light of the earth. You see, sin leads to spiritual death. So we need to give them the one thing that leads to everlasting life.

Question: Are there any verses that can help us on communicating our faith?

Response:
Matthew 5:13-16
“You are the salt of the earth… “You are the light of the world…

John 14:6
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Romans 5:1-2
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

The 11th chapter of Hebrews.

Question: How can we communicate our faith to people we don’t even know? Should we?

Response: It’s very hard to have the authority to speak into someone’s life that you don’t even know. So it’s best that we show strangers the love of Christ through our lives. Just live it! So the answer is yes, we need to make known our faith to strangers because we never know who really needs a touch from God. God may use us at any time to be His hands and feet to people we don’t even know and we have to be ready to be used.

You see students these responses came from your peers, kids just like you. You get it!
You really do understand! All those nights at youth group are really paying off. And here I was thinking that no one ever listens to our long boring sermons. Lol

But seriously students, you are the generation that will change this world, either you will make it worse or you will make it better, but the bottom line is that you will change it. Your generation is like no other generation before you, you are unique. You have a boldness that has never been seen before. You are passionate about whatever you do. You are created to make an impact, for such a time as this. God has set you apart for these times. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Rise up and answer the call that God has given you, stand for what you believe in. Believe who God says you are not who the world says you are. Buy into the truth, that God has created you for great and mighty things. “Tell/Show The World” the glory of God through your life. Get excited and passionate about Jesus and the harvest field. “The Bible says the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2). Be the generation of “The Few” Go and take the gospel to the ends of the earth. You are created to make a difference, go out and live your faith and change the world.

And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Romans 10:15