Thursday, February 28, 2013

Be Careful With that Bible App!

The other day I shared three reasons on why you should be using a Bible app. With those in mind, I want to share some reasons why it can be dangerous to rely heavily on a Bible app.

  • There can be a lower comprehension level. Because of the nature on e-reading, we have a tendency to read very quickly and to scan through passages. When you are reading a normal book, this may be fine. It is not appropriate for reading God’s Word. We are meant to savor and meditate on the Scripture. If you are speeding through your reading, these things cannot happen. No one wolfs down a delicious steak. Instead, it is slowly eaten and enjoyed. Slower reading of the Scripture allows you to comprehend your reading and allows the Holy Spirit to speak.
  • There is a much higher distraction level. When I read the Bible on my iPad or other device, there is a constant distraction factor. I am always wanting to go to Facebook or check my email. Knowing that these things are just a click away makes staying focused even more difficult. These distractions are not available when I am reading from a physical Bible.
  • There can be a loss of awe for the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God. It is how He chose to reveal Himself to mankind. The Scripture is something to be loved and cherished. It is a treasure. When we treat the Bible as nothing more than another app on our phone or tablet, we are losing an awe for the Bible.

As with any tool, it is possible to misuse them. The Bible app is a great tool and one that I utilize on a regular basis. I would highly recommend that you share the use of Bible apps with your students. Just be careful to warn them of the dangers of using them too much or in place of a physical Bible.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I'm Going to SYMC 2013!

Several months ago, when I was still serving as a youth pastor at my previous church, my wife and I agreed that I should attend the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in March 2013. We saved money from each of my paychecks to pay for the registration, the hotel, and the airfare. After many, many months of saving, I am happy to say that I will be attending the conference March 1-4, 2013.  I will be leaving home on Friday for what is sure to be an exciting time.

To be honest, I have no idea what to expect. There are so many workshops and speakers that I get overwhelmed just looking at the brochure. When I was pastoring, I had a plan for the workshops I was going to attend; now that I am without a church, I am at a bit of a loss as to what I should take.

Here are three things I am looking forward to from this coming weekend.

  1. Meeting up with friends. One of the great joys of Facebook is the ability to connect with others. I have developed relationships with many youth pastors and speakers and I am looking forward to connecting with them and building the relationship even more.
  2. Learning from the presenters. I love to learn and, since my wife will no longer let me take seminary classes, this is a great way for me to continue to put tools in my "shed," so to speak.
  3. Hearing from God. I am ready to be in a place where I am surrounded by other youth pastors and volunteers. I am looking forward to being focused on God and hearing what He has next for me. It has been a trying time without a ministry and I am hoping to hear God speak as to the direction we are to take.

Please note: I will be posting notes from the sessions that I attend at the conference. If you have not already done so, please subscribe to my blog through your email so that you can get the updates as the become available.

Will you be attending SYMC this year? What are you looking forward to the most?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why You Should Use a Bible App


In today's world, just about everyone has access to a Bible app. There are so many different types that everyone can find one they like. Because of this, the Bible can be accessed much more readily. This can be a very good thing, especially in a world where more and more people are biblically illiterate. Here are three reasons why I think you should be using a Bible app.
  1. The Bible app is almost always available. Very few people go out without their phones or tablets. I very rarely go out without my iPod or iPad. For this reason, I almost always have a Bible with me. I can pull it out and read when I have a few minutes or when I am somewhere that a physical Bible cannot go. One morning, on the way to work, I was stuck in traffic for nearly three hours. While I would not have been able to use my physical Bible in this situation, I was able to use the Bible app on my iPad and did my daily Bible reading.
  2. The Bible apps make it easier to highlight and share verses. Most of the Bible apps allow the user to highlight passages and share them on social media sites with relative ease. It is usually nothing more than a couple of clicks and I can share the message that God is sharing with me with my friends on Facebook or Twitter. This is an excellent way to witness to someone or have the Holy Spirit talk to someone you may not realize needs it.
  3. The Bible app makes it easier to read more of the Bible. Because of the nature of "e-reading," it becomes easier to read more of the Bible. I find that I read much quicker when I am reading on my iPad than when I am reading a physical Bible. This can be a good thing (or it can be a bad thing...more on that later). The more exposure to the Scripture, the better I start to understand the bigger picture of the Bible. I use a Bible app when I am reading large amounts of the Bible.
These are just a few of the reasons why using a Bible app can be so effective. With so many having access to them, why not utilize the Bible apps to foster a love for God's Word?
How do you use the Bible apps? Do you like using them?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Items in My Pastoral Toolbox


Every pastor needs to be prepared. There are certain tools and items that a pastor needs in order to be effective. Okay, so maybe saying "needs" is a bit strong, but I can promise you, life will be much easier with these tools. Some are pricey, others inexpensive. All of them are very helpful. These are all things that I utilize on a regular and consistent basis.



A Bible This one should be a no-brainer. You cannot effectively share God's Word if you do not have a copy of God's Word. I personally use the English Standard Version because I like the feel and flow of the language. Other pastors use the New International Version, the New King James Version, or the King James Version. I would suggest that you choose the Bible that you are most comfortable with or that your church uses. I have preached in churches who knew that I was an ESV guy, but they asked that I use the King James.


A Study Bible A study Bible is a great tool to help you understand the Scriptures. Because I use the ESV, I have an ESV Study Bible. My wife purchased it for me for Christmas a few years ago and I could not have been happier. This Bible is chock full of illustrations, diagrams, and notes. It really helps me to understand the overall context of a passage and the way it connects with other passages as well.


A Writing Utensil I am particularly fond of the four color pen. Maybe it is a thowback to when I was a kid and I thought that a pen that could write in four colors was the coolest thing on the planet. I really like the way the ink looks and the way the pen writes. It is also incredibly handy for marking in my Bible because the ink does not bleed through the pages like other pens do. Regardless of what type of pen you use, always make sure that you have a pen with you. Nothing is worse than needing something to write with and coming up empty-handed. I always carry at least two pens in my pocket everywhere I go.


A Moleskine I always try to have a notebook with me as well. This allows me to write down important thoughts, meeting notes, and upcoming appointments. The one that I use is a combination planner/journal. One side of the book is a calendar and the other side is lined for taking notes on.


An iPad Mini I was originally hesitant to purchase an iPad Mini because it wasn't really much bigger than my Kindle Fire. I saved for several months to purchase an iPad and when the day came to buy it, I realized that the iPad Mini was only a little more expensive and I could get twice the memory. This item has been a game changer for me. I absolutely love it! I do all of my reading on the iPad. I have a Moleskine app that allows me to write directly on the iPad and sync it with my Evernote account. It is a fantastic tool. This one may be optional, but for me, it is vital.


An iPad Stylus A stylus is an optional item, but if you are thinking about doing some serious note-taking on your iPad, you will want to get one. It makes writing so much easier and neater. It takes a little bit of time to get used to writing with it, but now I almost never use my fingers for any kind of drawing or writing. These are just a few of things that I have in my "pastoral toolbox." While none of them are essential (well, except the Bible), it certainly makes the daily routine much easier. I know that pastors have gone hundreds of years without many of these things, but, since they are available, why not make use of them?
What items do you have in your toolbox?

Please note: All of the items listed above are linked to Amazon.com through the pictures. If you are interested in getting more information about the items, please click the picture and it will take you to website.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lecrae Shares the Gospel



In case you didn't know, I am a huge fan of Lecrae. He has a way about him that is incredible and his love for Jesus is beyond belief. He recently won the Grammy Award for his album, Gravity. If you don't own it, please, please, please, purchase it immediately.



Here is a video of Lecrae explaining the Gospel in less than a minute. Clear and concise.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sermon - Joshua 1:1-9 - Courage for the Coming Year

This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached on December 20, 2012. There is no video of the message, but I wanted to share it with you anyway. As always, please leave your thoughts below.

In just a couple of days, 2012 will be over and 2013 will be starting. For many of us this is very exciting and for some of us, this is completely terrifying. We are standing on the edge of something new and we are not sure what is going to happen. Could this be a good year, one full of excitement and adventure? Or is this going to be a devastating year, one that drops us to our knees at every turn?

This is the exact place that we find Joshua in our Scripture passage today. Joshua is on the edge of something that will go very, very right or go very, very wrong. The leader of the children of Israel, Moses, has just died and Joshua has been picked to take his place. The children of Israel have never known another leader. Moses has been the guy for the past 40 years. Those are some big shoes to fill!

Illustration: A few weeks ago, I was questioned by a number of the men in our church in preparation for my ordination. One of the questions, and forgive me because I don’t remember the exact wording of the question, had to do with me stepping into the role of senior pastor were something to happen to Bro. Brian. The person who asked the question wanted to know if I would be able to step up to the responsibility. I’ll be honest: I was extremely overwhelmed by the question. Overwhelmed to the point that I was unable to answer the question for several minutes. Just the thought of stepping into the leadership role of something like this church was difficult to grasp.

Illustration: One of the pastors who is extremely influential to a number of pastors, me included, is John Piper. You may have never heard of him, but, trust me, he’s a big deal. He has written a number of books and has been at his church in Minnesota for a ridiculously long time. Recently, he determined it was time for him to step down from the preaching ministry at his church and they began to look for someone to take his place. He preached his final sermon at his church last night. That means next week, the new guy takes over. The thought of stepping into the pulpit that Dr. Piper filled for so many years has got to be incredibly overwhelming.

I am positive that Joshua was feeling overwhelmed. He had just traveled for forty years with Moses and he saw all of the incredible and amazing things that God had done through Moses. He saw God use Moses to part the Red Sea. He saw God use Moses to provide water out of a rock. He saw God use Moses to provide manna and quail. He saw all of these things. And then, suddenly, Moses is gone and Joshua is in charge. It is at this point that God shows up and gives Joshua a pep talk. God sits Joshua down and tells him that everything that had been promised to Moses was still in effect now that Joshua was the leader. God was still going to give Joshua the land that He had promised and that there will be no enemy that will be able to stand before Joshua and the children of Israel.

There were two things that Joshua needed to keep in mind as he began this new adventure as the leader of the children of Israel. First, any strength and courage that Joshua would have must be found in God alone. Second, Joshua needed to make sure that his life was grounded in the Word of God. Let’s take a look at each point as it applies to Joshua.

Point 1 – Joshua’s strength and courage had to be found in God alone.

In verses 1-6 of Joshua 1, there are at least six different personal pronouns where God is telling Joshua something. He promises Joshua He is giving the land to him. He promises that He will be with Joshua. And most importantly, He promises He will never leave Joshua or forsake him. Joshua had only to find his strength and courage in God. Why? Because it was God who was going to do all the work. There was nothing that was going to take place in the life of Joshua or in the lives of the children of Israel that God would not be involved in. Every step that Joshua took, every piece of land that he claimed, every battle that he won would be the direct result of God working for him. Joshua could have strength and courage for what was about to take place because he had God Almighty already working for him. Can there be any greater ally than God?

Point 2 – Joshua’s life needed to be grounded in the Word of God.

Verses 7-8 demonstrate the need for Joshua to be grounded in the Word. Obviously, at that time, Joshua didn’t have the full text of the Scripture like we have today. In fact, at this point, he most likely only had the Law that was handed down to him from Moses. But God tells him that being grounded in that Law is absolutely necessary for Joshua’s strength and courage. Joshua would need to know the Law inside and out, backward and forward. He would need to make it the tool he went to when times got difficult. God made it very clear that he was to know the Law and he was to obey that Law.

And what was the result of Joshua finding his strength and courage in God alone and being completely grounded in God’s Word? The answer is at the end of verse 8: “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Which brings us to this question: What does this have to do with me? It’s great for Joshua and we can read to find out what happens, but 2013 hasn’t been written for me yet. You can’t tell me that everything is going to be great and wonderful this coming year.

You are right and, if you look at our text, God isn’t telling Joshua that everything is going to be great and wonderful. There is no promise of easy days. However, the same things that were needed of Joshua are also needed of us. We must find our strength and courage in Christ alone.

I cannot promise you that 2013 is going to be an easy year. There is no guarantee that everyone who is in this room with us today will be with us this time next year. Not to be morbid, but we are going to say goodbye to some very dear friends this year. Some of us are going to get sick and some of us will have surgeries. This is because we live in a broken world that is screaming out for Jesus to come and fix it. However, as we find our strength and courage in Christ alone, we will be able to face whatever challenges come our way.

At some point in the future, my family and I will have to make a very scary decision, one that will have a huge impact on our lives for many years to come. To be honest, the thought of making that decision keeps me awake some nights. It has been a matter of a lot of prayer and a lot of discussion between Tina and me. I have cried over it, wanting to make sure that I am pursuing God in this decision. And as scary as it is, I know that God will be with me.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Philippians 4:13 says I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

When our strength and courage relies completely on Christ, we will be completely at peace, knowing that God is working for us. Our lives must be grounded in God’s Word. The Bible is full of the benefits that come from being grounded in God’s Word.

  • There is purity from sin when we stay grounded in God’s Word.
    How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. (Psalm 119:9)
  • There is direction for the way we are to go when we are grounded in God’s Word.
    Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
  • There is joy to be found when we are grounded in God’s Word.
    Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. (Psalm 119:111)
  • There is an explanation for the joy we are experiencing when we are grounded in God’s Word.
    but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)

I read the Bible…a lot. I know this is something that you would expect to hear a pastor say. I know, I’ve been told, even by some of you here, that I’m one of those weird guys who just loves to read the Bible. But this is what I’ve found…the more that I read the Bible, the more I want to read the Bible. And as I read the Bible, I am better able to understand the circumstances and situations that come my way. That doesn’t mean that it gets any easier. Doesn’t mean that it is all roses and cupcakes. What it does mean is that I can see God’s hand in my circumstances and I can understand that He has a plan.

Conclusion

As we begin this new year, many of you are thinking about resolutions that you are going to make…and break over the next couple of days. I can’t think of a better way to start a new year than by praying and asking God to help you find your courage and strength in Him alone and to help you become grounded in God’s Word.

If you are here today and you do not have a relationship with Jesus, the Jesus you need to know in order to find your strength and courage in God, why not make today the day that you begin that journey? You may be feeling a tug, urging you that now is the time. If that is you, I would love to have the opportunity to speak with you about the Jesus who left Heaven, was born on Earth, died on the cross for your sins and mine, and who defeated death by rising again. That Jesus wants the opportunity to forgive your sins and present you as holy before God. If you want to talk more, I’ll be down front.

Youth Pastor Encouragement - Why Do We Climb the Mountain?

In his book Leadership Gold, John Maxwell shares a really great story that should describe the feeling of every youth pastor for his students, their parents, and the volunteers that work with him.
Years ago I saw an interview with a guide on 60 Minutes. People had died while attempting to climb Mount Everest, and a surviving guide was asked, "Would the guides have died if they were not taking others with them to the top?"

"No," he answered, "but the purpose of the guide is to take people to the top."

Then the interviewer asked, "Why do mountain climbers risk their lives to climb mountains?"

The guide responded, "It is obvious that you have never been to the top of the mountain."

Many people ask us why we want to be youth pastors, thinking that all we do is play games and eat pizza. For the ones who believe that this is the case, it is obvious that they have never been to the top of the mountain.

They have never had the opportunity to:

  • Have a student call or text them to ask if they can give your books to a friend.
  • Read through the Bible with a student and see God's Word become real to them.
  • See students get excited about bringing their friends to Christ.
  • See a student put his or her faith in Christ for salvation.
  • Watch a student open up and step out of their comfort zone.

These are all the reasons you and I are called to youth ministry. This is why we climb the mountain.

Resources Mentioned:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Where In the World Can I Find Volunteers for My Youth Group?

A friend of mine sent me a message the other day asking about volunteers and any resources that I might know of to help him with recruiting and training new youth group volunteers. Here is what I was able to come up with.

Here are two books that I think will also meet the needs. I will confess that I have not read either of them yet, but I greatly enjoy John Maxwell's writing and learn from him regularly. Both of these books are on my to-read list. And while they do not deal directly with recruiting volunteers, I am positive that both books will contain ways to help improve your leadership and the way you pour into your volunteers.


Developing the Leaders Around You: How to Help Others Reach Their Full Potential


The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork: Embrace Them and Empower Your Team

Please note: I am not even going to pretend that this list is exhaustive or even adequate. If you know of other articles or books that my friend and I should look at, please feel free to mention them below. That would be awesome. We can help each other grow and improve in this area because I'm sure the one thing that we can all say with certainty is that we never have enough good volunteers.

Three Ways I Read the Bible


There are three ways that I read the Bible. I read for devotion, for understanding, and for preparation. Each way is vital to my growth as a Christian, as a pastor, and as a leader. Albert Mohler said this,
"Convictional intelligence is the product of learning the Christian faith, diving deeply into biblical truth, and discovering how to think like a Christian."
If you aren't spending time in God's Word, it will have a detrimental effect on your leadership.

First, I read for devotion. I typically read two chapters a day, utilizing a reading plan of some kind. I read through books of the Bible. This year I have read through Acts, Romans, Hebrews, and I am currently reading through the book of John. These are the the passages I meditate on and pray through. I am looking to grow when I read these passages. This is the type of reading I do every day.

Second, I read for understanding. This is where I read a lot of Scripture. I use Grant Horner's Bible Reading Program. This has me reading ten chapters or more a day. I read this way to help me become more aware of the overall message of the Bible. Reading this much helps me to understand the whole message of the Bible. Needless to say, I don't read this way every day.

Finally, I read for preparation. This is when I read for sermons or lesson. I read the text many, many times to get the flow and feeling of what is being said. I read the surrounding passages as well. I want to be very familiar with the passage. I look at cross-references and try to find parallel passages. This reading is very in-depth. It is also my favorite way I read.

One note to keep in mind: never allow one type of reading to replace another type of reading. While you may find sermon material in your devotional reading or your understanding reading (and you definitely should), if you are not careful, you may find sermon prep becoming the only reading you do. And that is a big problem.

How much time do you spend in God's Word? What reading style do you use most often?




Saturday, February 16, 2013

Book Review: Jesus Is ______ by Judah Smith

There are some books that you read and you can tell that they will be classics in the future. Books by John Piper fit into this category. There are books that are written and you think they may have the potential to be useful to future generation. The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler comes to mind. And then there are books that are written in such a way that they convey their message, but it is doubtful they will be useful in just a few years. Jesus Is ______ is this type of book.

The author, Judah Smith, is a pastor from Seattle. He became the pastor after the death of his father, something he talks about quite a bit in the book. He is also good friends with Mark Driscoll and a well-respected conference speaker.

In the book, Smith attempts to lay out who Jesus is by filling in the blank from the title. He tells us that Jesus is your friend, Jesus is grace, Jesus is the point, Jesus is happy, Jesus is here, and Jesus is alive. Throughout these descriptions, Smith uses a number of personal stories and examples from the Bible as way of illustrating his overall point. The message that he is conveying is an important one, particularly for those who have never heard of Jesus, and for that I commend him.

I have two concerns for the book. First, I think Smith was trying too hard to be culturally relevant. There were a number of slang terms and pop culture references in the book that will be unknown in just a short amount of time. Yes, Braveheart is an awesome movie, but will anyone know it 10 years from now? Does anyone still talk about Napoleon and Pedro? He also uses a number of slang terms that seemed out of place, especially when he was talking about “bling” and “24 inch rims.”

The other area of concern is Smith’s treatment of sin. While he does express the fact that sin is bad, Smith seems to indicate that our sin is no big deal to God and that He may not be interested in setting us free from our sin. This comes from the fact that Jesus defeated sin with His death on the cross. And while this is true, we should not dismiss the fact the sin is an affront to a holy God and that it has the potential to enslave us and keep us from being effective servants.

Smith does put a lot of focus on grace and this is essential for new believers. Too many individuals have been turned off to Christianity because they believe they have to clean themselves up before God will accept them. Smith is quite clear, with many illustrations from Scripture, that this is not the case.

Overall, as I stated, Jesus Is ______ is a book for a certain time. I doubt that it will be an effective tool in the future, but it should have its place in the here and now. While it may not be appropriate or useful for more mature believers, Jesus Is ______ can serve as an introduction to Jesus for unbelievers.

I was provided with a preview copy of Jesus Is _____ by Thomas Nelson through their Book Sneeze program. I was only asked to provide an honest review of the book.





Friday, February 15, 2013

Quotes from Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler

Recently, I have been doing a lot of study on leadership. I have been spending time on Michael Hyatt's blog, watching John Maxwell videos, and reading leadership books. One of the books I recently finished was Conviction to Lead: The 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters. I told my wife that it is a good thing that I was reading it on my Kindle because I would have worn out many highlighters.

Here are a few of the quotes I found significant:

  • The leadership that really matters is all about conviction. The leader is rightly concerned with everything from strategy and vision to team-building, motivation, and delegation, but at the center of the true leader’s heart and mind you will find convictions that drive and determine everything else.
  • I want to be a leader who matters, making a difference with my leadership precisely because my convictions matter.
  • For Christian leaders, this focus on conviction is of even greater importance. We cannot lead in a way that is faithful to Christ and effective for Christ’s people if we are not deeply invested in Christian truth. We cannot faithfully lead if we do not first faithfully believe.
  • Leadership comes down to protecting the story, bringing others into the story, and keeping the organization accountable to the story. The leader tells the story over and over again, refining it, updating it, and driving it home.
  • Leadership that matters grows out of the leader’s own belief that the story is true, that it matters, and that it must both expand and continue. The story must be believed with conviction, told with conviction, and stewarded with conviction.
  • The effective leader changes the way followers think about the world.
  • Passion is not a temporary state of mind. It is the constant source of energy for the leader, and the greatest cause of attraction for followers.
  • The effective leader knows that the expectation of character begins at the top. Those we lead will expect us to live and to lead in alignment with our convictions.

Trust me, there are many, many more nuggets like this in the book. If you are a leader, especially in a Christian environment, you cannot go wrong by spending time with this book.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book Giveaway - Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart

Over on his blog, my friend Josh Evans is giving away a copy of J.D. Greear's new book Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart. You can visit his blog in order to get the details of how you can enter to win the book. You have until Thursday, February 7, to enter, so hop to it!

How I Use an iPad for Preaching or Teaching

A lot of youth pastors are fond of technology, particularly iPads or Kindle Fires. We love to find new ways to utilize the apps and functions in order to help us share God's Word.

While there are a number of different ways to use an iPad for preaching, this is the method I use when I am preparing my sermon or youth group lesson.

  1. Type your sermon transcript or notes in a word processing program. I personally use Microsoft Word for this step. I type out word-for-word what I am going to say. I then use the various tools to highlight and accent different areas of my transcript to help me know what sections are what.
  2. Make a PDF of your document. I have a plug-in on my laptop called CutePDF. This allows you to "print" your document and save it as a PDF, color and all. Just make sure to save your original document in case you need to make changes to it later.
  3. Upload your PDF to Evernote. Saving your PDF to Evernote is vital. It keeps you from the losing the file. I would also recommend uploading the Word document as well. After uploading the documents, be sure to sync your device to Evernote. This will ensure that your uploaded document can be accessed on your iPad. You should also open the PDF so that you are able to access it, even without WiFi.
  4. Open the PDF in the Kindle app. This final step is optional, but it is the one I prefer. I read a lot on both my Kindle Fire and the Kindle app on iPad. I like the side-to-side scrolling from page to page instead of the top to bottom way that Evernote does it. This works best for me.

I realize this may be somewhat cumbersome, but I do it so often that the steps have become second nature to me. I hope that some of this technique can help you as well.

What tools or apps do you utilize when teaching or preaching from an iPad or other tablet?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Please Stop Adding to the Gospel

When I was growing up, I heard a lot about how to be a good Christian. Good Christians dressed a certain way. Good Christians only listened to certain kinds of music (none of which were very good). Good Christians did not go to the movies. The only problem is that I wanted to go to the movies. I wanted to listen to Green Day and dc Talk. So I had a lot of guilt.

Because of this, I did some pretty crazy things. Perhaps the worst was throwing away my music. I had a fairly large collection of cassettes and CDs. After a particularly convicting camp or youth conference, I would get a big black trash bag and fill it with all of my "ungodly" music...only to rebuy it all a couple of weeks later. I cant tell you how many copies of Dookie or Superunknown I have purchased in my life. All because some well-meaning preachers were adding things to what it meant to be a Christian.

The apostle Paul face the same sort of thing in Galatia. There were individuals who were trying to convince the church members they needed to be circumcised in order to be a "real" Christian. They were adding works to salvation.

In Galatians 5:1, Paul encourages the church to be free and not submit to the "slavery" this would bring. The church would constantly be trying to live up to an impossible standard, just as I was by trying to give up movies and music.

As youth pastors, we need to be careful of how we present the Christian life. We need to show our students that certain things are good for us, but not because they will save us. We need to demonstrate that prayer is awesome and vital, but not something to beat ourselves up over. Daily Bible reading is necessary and important, but we should not feel guilty if we miss a day now and then.

Christ saved us for freedom. We need to make sure we are conveying that message. Guilt is should not be a tool in our youth ministry toolboxes.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Update on Goals for 2013 - No Memorizing Has Been Done

Earlier this year, I wrote out a number of goals. These included reading at least 25 books this year, reading as much Scripture as possible, and memorizing the book of Ephesians. These seemed liked fairly attainable goals.

It turns out I was wrong about one of them.

For the life of me, I have not been able to get the memorization going. I'm not sure if the passages are too long, if the wording is too complicated, or my heart just isn't into it. Whatever the reason, I have memorized none of it. I tried, but could not seem to focus. I'm not entirely giving up on it, but, for now, this goal is on hold.

Book Review - Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First

It is an interesting event when you are trying to review a daily devotional. Obviously devotionals are meant to be read over the course of a year. To review one requires that the reader read the book in large sections.

This was the case when I read Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First. This book is based on the popular video series called "I Am Second." These videos include a number of famous individuals who have made themselves second. Videos include Josh Hamilton, Lecrae, Tony Dungy, and Brian "Head" Welch.

The book is broken into a number of different topics, each one beginning with a link to a video. The daily reading contains a Scripture passage, a short reading commentary, a prayer for the day, and a few reflection questions. The daily passage also has its own Twitter hashtag for the reader to share his thoughts from the particular day.

This book is an excellent gift idea, particularly for someone who is a new Christian or someone who might be looking into Christianity. The videos are of well-known individuals, giving the book some credibility. The reading is short and easy to understand. The readings may be a bit shallow for the more mature Christian, but, as I said, it would be a great gift for the new believer.

Overall, Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First is a good read and worth sharing with others. Please note: I was provided with a free copy of the book to read and review. It was sent to me by Booksneeze.com. I was not required to give a positive review.