Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A True Mission for Youth Ministry

May 31 2016
Scripture: Psalm 71:17-18 (NIV)

A True Mission for Youth Ministry

"Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come."

In the Youth Ministry World  a lot of effort can go into cultural relevancy, professional programming, strategic social media usage, and such, all in attempts to get teenagers interested in coming to church. These are all great tools for ministry and I believe it's important to think about and implement such things. For me though I found a great reminder within my Bible when I was reminiscing with King David in the Psalms today. David hits a great point in his reflections to God his Divine Teacher, when he states a purpose, or a lifetime goal of declaring God's power to the next generation, His mighty works to all who are to come. 

Now I know that Kind David was never a Youth Pastor, but I believe his words summarize the true mission for youth ministry, and a personal mission for life as a Christian as well. This was very refreshing for me to be reminded that the most important thing about youth ministry is not the lights sounds, relevancy, or ministry strategies, but to simply "declare God's power and love to the next generation and to all who are to come." The means by which I get the message out can never replace the message itself. 

"Lord Jesus, thank You for the reminder that my goal in life and ministry is more than the temporary things of this earth, but the eternal life that can only be found in You. Let me do all for Your glory and always keep the power of the gospel at the forefront of my efforts in ministry. Amen."

Monday, May 30, 2016

Itching Ears and Honest Lips

May 30 2016
Scripture: 2 Chronicles 18:13 (ESV)

Itching Ears and Honest Lips

"But Micaiah said, 'As the Lord lives, what my God says, that I will speak.'"

Nearly all the prophets were prophesying that the wicked Ahab, king of Israel, should go up to fight his enemies, for God would surely bless his conquest. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, must have had an uneasy feeling, for he asked if there were any other prophets left. Ahab crossed his arms and replied, "There is one, but I hate him, because he always prophesies bad things for me, never good."

Nonetheless, a messenger was sent to Micaiah, who told him to just cave in and agree with the other prophets, whether it was true or not. Micaiah boldly said that he would only speak what God says, nothing else. Yet as he approached the king of Israel, in a moment of weakness, he muttered what the king wanted to hear. But God gave Micaiah a second chance, as Ahab did not believe him and urged him to tell the truth. He did and the king did not like it and had him thrown into prison until he supposedly would return from his conquest. 

In this world today, people are not as interested in hearing the truth, as they are listening to what they want to hear. I am, along with all the other Christians, Christ's ambassador. But just like Micaiah, sooner or later, I am going to have to make a choice: Do I stand speaking God's word, even when it's not popular, or am I going to say whatever this generation is itching to hear (2 Tim 4:3)? 

When that day comes, I pray that my response will be like Micaiah's; "What my God says, that I will speak." It may cost me, it did for Micaiah, who was struck in the face and thrown into prison for relaying God's message to Ahab. But I can cling to the truth that Jesus spoke, "So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven" (Matt 10:32).

"Lord Jesus, I thank You for the bold example I see in Your servant Micaiah. As the world drifts from You, let me speak Your words, even when it costs me. Amen."

Friday, May 27, 2016

Limitless God

May 27 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 39:28 (ESV)

Limitless God

"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, His understanding is unsearchable."

Isaiah must have been sick of hearing the Israelites, who were God's chosen people, saying that their life was hidden from God. They must have felt like they slipped through the cracks and fallen out of God's graces. 

"God disregards us, He's too busy, He doesn't care for me anymore, He's abandoned us."

"Have you not known?"

"Of course we have."

"Have you not heard?"

"Of course we have heard."

"Then why do you forget that God is larger than life, a limitless God? He's never left you, for He is everlasting; He created all the little details that make you who you are, along with the furthest ends of all that has ever been created; He is not too weak to notice you, for He never tires; His understanding is so much bigger and fuller than we could ever comprehend. And the best part is, those who wait on the Lord shall be renewed and soar like eagles." (Isaiah 40:31)

I am convinced that what I believe about God determines how I view Him. Sometimes, I feel a lot like the Israelites. I get so wrapped up in me and my world that I begin to have tunnel vision, and my belief about who God is changed to be more like a genii in a bottle, than Almighty God. When I don't get what I want, then I become sour toward my view of God, and begin to buy the lie that He has let me fall through the cracks. 

But when I step back and observe who God really is, I see myself in light of His glory, and realize that He is worth waiting for. We were created not to be sour, but to soar with Him. But I must be willing to take the time to wait on God, and ask Him to renew my strength.

"Lord Jesus, You are truly amazing. No god is like You. Help me to view You as You really are. Please renew my strength each day, and let me soar with You forever. Amen."

Monday, May 23, 2016

Coming to God's Rescue

May 23 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 37:14-15 (ESV)

Coming to God's Rescue

"Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it, and Hezekiah went up to the House of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord."

The King of Assyria had already conquered many nations along with their idols and man-made "gods", and were foolish enough to think that the city of Judah and the Lord would be as easily conquered. King Hezekiah received their letter of intimidation questioning, "We have you surrounded. Where is your God now?" In desperation Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, asking that they would be saved, and all the nations would know that the Lord is the one true God. 

Hezekiah knew that God could do it, or else he would not have asked, and fallen victim to believing that God was powerless to help His people. God granted the request because of Hezekiah's prayer and struck 185,000 soldiers of Assyria dead overnight, and they left. Hezekiah didn't even need to lift a sword.

There are times in my life when people question God's existence saying, "Where is your God now?" I immediately feel as though I have to somehow come to God's rescue, mustering all the answers I can think of that prove His existence. The truth is God doesn't need my help to prove that He is real. God is the true God whether "the King of Assyria" or anybody else believes it or not. 

Then my mind goes to the question, "Why doesn't He reveal Himself the way I ask Him to, like Hezekiah?" This reminds me of when the religious leaders mocked Jesus on the cross, demanding that He come down from the cross if He was truly God. His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). Perhaps, just like why Jesus had to stay on the cross, there is a reason why God would not say "yes" to every request. God doesn't depend on my apologetics to reveal Himself to the world, yet when I pray, not a single word escapes God's ears.

"Lord Jesus, You are the one true God. Help me not to lose sight when the world rejects the truth of who You are. You have a plan; help me to trust it. Amen."

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Walk In It

May 17 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 30:21 (ESV)

Walk In It

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'"

Personally for me this verse stuck out like stepping on a sharp jagged Lego piece barefoot in the middle of the night. I know the fact that I cannot change anything about my future by worrying and I'm better off trusting God with it, but it's still a struggle to practice daily. I am genuinely excited about the possibilities the future holds, but at the same time I am paralyzed by the unknown. 

As I was sitting down to breakfast this morning I continued my conversation with Isaiah, God's prophet, by reading his account written in the Old Testament. Normally in my Devotional Time, I like to preference the context of the passage, so that I don't take Scripture and form it into what I want it to say. Yet I do believe that this verse spoke to me about what is true when it comes to the future. 

Though Isaiah was speaking to those who lived in Zion, I believe that Christians today have an everlasting guide in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is "the voice behind you" who guides us in the way to go. This was so encouraging to me, for I sometimes fear that I may mess up and take a wrong turn, but if I seek the Holy Spirit's leading, he will confirm the way and encourage me to "walk in it". 

"Lord Jesus, thank You for the comfort of Your Word that reminds me not to worry so much and to believe that You have counted all my days. Help me to listen carefully for Your Spirit's voice directing me. Give me ears to hear and eyes to see. Amen."

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Mighty Men of Courage

May 14 2016
Scripture: 1 Chronicles 19:13 (ESV)

Mighty Men of Courage

"Be strong, and let us use our strength for our people and the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to Him."

Joab was the commander of King David's "Mighty Men". These were the elite warriors, which only consisted of the top 300 who proved their valor. When Joab saw the two enemy armies, the Ammonites and the Syrians, closing in around his troops, he made a decision. He told Abishai, his brother, to face the one army, while he would face the other. Even when death was staring these men in the face, they displayed great courage, not letting the desperation of avoiding defeat and death sway their battle plan. They trusted God's will completely, even with their lives. Joab was not certain he would survive this day, but his response to "be strong", and trust that God would do what seemed good to Him, is amazing!

If I want to be one of God's "Mighty Men", I must model my idea of courage after such  men of faith. When I'm surrounded by many things, like my future, or stressful situations, or the constant demands of this life, there is a part of me that wants to go hide in a corner and weep. I bet there was a similar part in Joab as well. But the difference is that Joab's courage out-weighed his fears. He used his strength for others and for God, and he abandoned himself, "For God and country!" This man faced way more than I have ever faced in my life, but what if I were captured by terrorists? Would I have the courage to trust God, even if I didn't get to escape with my life?

"Lord Jesus, thank you for Joab and his model of courage to stay strong and keep fighting. Help me to become a mighty man of courage no matter the cost. Amen."

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Why Revenge Doesn't Work

May 11 2016
Scripture: 2 Samuel 19:23 (ESV)

Why Revenge Doesn't Work

"And the king said to Shimei, 'You shall not die.' And the king gave him his oath."

After King David's mourning for the death of his son in the rebellion, he marched back to the "King's City" of Jerusalem. On the road he sees the familiar face of Shimei, who cursed him as a man of blood, throwing rocks at him and his men when they fled from the rebellion. This time, Shimei comes to the empowered king begging for mercy. David's men wanted to have this man killed for the disgrace he had shown the king. But David took the opportunity to prove Shimei wrong and spared his life. 

There always seems to be that one person that makes your blood curdle. That person that seems to hate you for no good reason. They may attack your character, or weaknesses, or leadership, and even kick you when you're down. Everything within you wants to show that person up, and let them feel the wrath of your vengeance. But "getting back at" or "getting even" with someone is nothing more than responding hatred with more hatred. The problem with revenge is that you become what that person was accusing you of being. If David killed Shimei would he have gotten what was coming to him? Yes, but then David would have become the man of blood, and proven Shimei to be right about him. 

But if you respond to hatred with love, you can change the way they think about you, and maybe they might even begin to like you. If you are a Christian, the world is going to hate you, Jesus promises that (Matt 10:22). But when you respond, not as the world does, with love, then the reason for hate disappears, and opinions change. So when you feel like taking revenge on someone, remember NOT to give them a reason to hate you, and they may change upon seeing what the real you looks like.

"Lord Jesus, thank You for the truth of Your word. Please help me to not respond with anger or vengeance, but with love and mercy. Let the way I live my life change the way people respond to me, and bring them closer to You. Amen."

Thursday, May 5, 2016

He Hurts Like We Hurt

April 6 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 16:11 (ESV)

He Hurts Like We Hurt

"Therefore my inner parts moan like a lyre for Moab, and my inmost self for Kir-hareseth"

In the middle of a series of prophecies to the reigning cities of the day, the Lord decrees righteous consequences to each one. He pours out correcting punishments telling the people to weep over their cities. But something here seems a little different about the "Righteous Judge" than the cold unsympathetic attitude one might expect from the "Old Testament God". Here He says He weeps and moans in the inmost parts of His being for these people, and what they have to go through. In verse 9 it says, "I drench you with My tears." It's not that God doesn't care when He disciplines us. In fact, He weeps for His children. He hurts like we hurt. 

When a father must punish his child and he sees the tear-filled eyes look back at him, he cannot help but feel compassion for his child. Does this mean that the father should boycott the consequence that the child needs to learn the lesson? You could, but that is not truly helping the child in the long run, because throughout life there are choices and consequences. If the father let his child do anything consequence-free, it is setting up that child for failure in the real world. 

Yet even when God disciplines us, His children, He feels our pain very deeply. Jesus wept bitterly for Jerusalem, over their unbelief. He didn't shake His fist at them shouting, "You'll get what's coming to you!" No, God cares; He comforts you at the hospital, He mourns with you at the graveside, He hurts at the sight of evil done to you. God cares.

"Lord Jesus, thank You that You truly care about me and the struggles I face everyday. Your comfort is soothing and I know that Your arms are wrapped around me tightest when I hurt the most. Amen."

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Heart of the Problem

May 4 2016
Scripture: Matthew 15:17-18 (ESV)

The Heart of the Problem

"Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person." 

The Pharisees had their priorities all mixed up. They made their faith into a checklist of tasks you have to do to be saved. One of those tasks was to ceremonially wash their hands... a lot. They had clean hands, 99.5% germ free, no doubt about it, but their hearts were a different story. They ridiculed Jesus for not making his disciples wash up before dinner one evening. He shocked them by his answer that the problem here wasn't in the rituals and procedures, but the condition of the heart. Its not about doing the right things, but becoming the right person. 

One can master the art of putting on a good front, completely hiding whatever heart issues lie inside. But there is no fooling God, for He sees right into the deepest depths of the heart and knows what true washing needs to take place. So it doesn't really matter how clean and neat your life looks on the outside, if your heart's not in it, it will show by how you react and treat other people.

The only ones who know if the heart is sick or not is yourself and God. Sometimes God uses others to point out growth areas that you are unaware of. But this is more than if you are dressing up for church on Sunday, or occasionally forgetting to pray before you start eating your meal. This is about if your heart is aching to be more like Jesus everyday. For when your heart is in the right place, your actions will follow suit. 

"Lord Jesus, thank You that You care more about my heart than how many time I wash my hands. Wash the deepest desires of my heart to become more like you. Don't let me become legalistic, but change my ways to reflect You more and more. Amen."

Monday, May 2, 2016

Peace of Mind

May 2 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 26:3-4 (ESV)

Peace of Mind

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is an everlasting rock."

Peace of mind must have been harder to come by back then, than it is today. Big intimidating nations like the ruthless Moab were always before the Israelites. Isaiah prophesies of the great day when God will make all things right, and the Song of Judah would be one of peace. Perfect peace will come to the one whose mind is fixed on God rather than the present circumstances. God is an everlasting rock who is trust-worthy forever. All people will pass away and will eventually be forgotten by the living, but God is everlasting, the Beginning and the End (Rev 22:13). When trust is placed in this amazing God, He promises a peace beyond all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

I remember a giant rock at my summer youth camp that we called the "Rock of Ages", because it was so large and unmovable that it must have been there for ages. Every year I returned to camp, I would sit on, stand on, jump off of, the Rock of Ages. I depended on it being there, because it was a great spot for spending quiet time with God. I remember spending tranquil moments of peace with God, surrounded by the beauty of nature, sitting on the Rock of Ages.  

God is my Rock of Ages, never moving or changing in character (Malachi 3:6). He is perfectly dependable, and when I focus on Him, I have peace. But sometimes I lose that peace because my mind wanders from my Rock of Ages and forgets His dependability. It's up to me to keep my mind fixed on the Rock, and God will grant the peace.

"Lord Jesus, thank You that You are my Rock that is everlasting. Help me to keep focused on You instead of my circumstances. You have perfect peace, let me find it in You. Amen."

(Rock of Ages - Riverside Bible Camp)