Mar 9, 2017

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT | Gideon

Read Gideon's full story in Judges 6-8.



Have you ever felt yourself go into "survival mode"? When was that? How did that make you feel?

This is something I am constantly wrestling with. My personality is such that I like to get things done. I am often prone to taking on more than I can really handle. And it gets to the point that I'm just going from one project to the next without giving any of it much thought. It's really easy for me to get caught up in the details of day-to-day "survival" to the point that I lose sight of the end goal.
It's in times like that I have to hit the reset button. I have to take a step back and look at the big picture. Why am I doing these things? To what end? When we first see Gideon, he has no big picture in mind. He's just doing what he has to do to survive. It take courage and intentionality to keep your end goal in mind. For me, if I'm going to move forward and not just tread water, I've got to be focused on the larger goal of disciple making. If the things I'm doing aren't building disciples, then I'm doing it wrong. God's plans are always bigger than our own. Gideon got that wake up call. And most weeks I need it, too.

Have you ever asked God for a sign? Did he give you one or not? How do you know?

Generally speaking, I don't go through life looking for signs all around me. I don't know that God has much to do with where I should eat or what I should wear or what my schedule for the day should include. However, on the bigger decisions I believe God has almost always given me a clear sign. I haven't always asked for them, but God gives them anyway.
For instance, I felt God's call to youth ministry stronger than I've ever felt him before or since. And with both of my full-time ministry jobs (both in Illinois and here in Indiana), God has made it clear through a series of seemingly unrelated events. They seemed coincidental at the time, but clearly it was God working in the situations to take us where we needed to be. I've found in my life that when God gives me some kind of sign, it cannot be ignored!

Read James 1:13-15 again. How could success actually be dangerous for you? Have you ever experienced that cycle in your life?

As a minister, I know that we are especially vulnerable to the temptations of success. Just look around at headlines across the country that keep popping up. Pastor after pastor fall from grace because of matters related to success, wealth, fame, and power. Deep down I want to be successful at what I do. But I know that if I try to make it happen on my own, that success will be hollow. Unless I am following God's lead, there is a real danger in being dragged out with the current of cultural success into places I never could imagine. Would I like to make more money, have a bigger house, lead hundreds of students in weekly Bible studies, and get a contracted book deal from a major publisher? Sure! That sounds awesome! But...unless God leads me into those things, I'm setting myself up for even bigger failure. Desire is not neutral. Unless our sole desire is to do the will of God, then all other desires are evil and can drag us down to ruin and destruction before we even know what's happening.
For Gideon, his success, power, and fame were his downfall. I do not want the same to be said for me.

Mar 1, 2017

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT | Deborah

You can read Deborah's story in Judges 4-5.



1. Are you a leader (Deborah), a follower (Barak), or a rebel (Jael)? How does God use all three types of people?

I see myself mostly as a leader, but I am often a follower, too. I am rarely ever a rebel, taking matters into my own hands. I feel like I have always taken on the responsibility of leading. I enjoy what I do, and I try to use the gifts God has blessed me with to lead his people well. However, there are plenty of times when I am happy to let others take the lead. I can relate to Barak quite a bit when he didn't want to step out in faith without the presence of Deborah beside him. But I think that good leaders should also make good followers. We can't be in control all the time. We need to delegate tasks, we need to be held accountable, and we need others to step up and take charge occasionally.

I think it's quite clear that God uses all three types of people in his kingdom regularly. I think we are all called to be followers, but followers of Jesus are also supposed to lead others to him. In the kingdom it's called servant leadership. The last shall be first and the first shall be last. Whoever wants to be great must become the servant of all. But...we also need rebels on occasion. We need those people like MLK, St. Francis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and even Paul, who are willing to go against the norms of society, even against the status quo of the church, and usher in real change and transformation.

2. Read Ephesians 6:12 & 1 Peter 5:8-9. Who are our enemies today? How are we supposed to fight against them?

The New Testament makes it clear that "our battle is not against flesh and blood." In other words, if we encounter a living, breathing, human being - that person is not our enemy. The true enemy is evil itself - the devil, the corrupt powers and systems of oppression, the insidious ideas and rhetoric of hate and division. God's people must fight against these enemies by standing firm in the faith, by loving radically, by self-sacrifice, by putting our trust in God and not the "lesser-evil" of systems.

3. What do you think Deborah would say to God's people today?

I think she would tell us to stop focusing on things that don't matter. We are in a war. Not culture wars, not worship wars, not mommy wars, but a war between the kingdom of God and the powers of darkness. Distraction is a tactic of the enemy. Fear, worry, complacency - these are his weapons. But God is on our side. He has gone out before us and guaranteed us the victory. The battle is not against flesh and blood, and it cannot be won by traditional weapons of war. We have the greatest weapon on our side - the unconditional, overwhelming love of God. The glory will not go to the mighty, to the swift, to the clever. The glory will go to the least of these, to the one who lays down his life for his friends, to the one who loves his enemy to the point that his enemy becomes his friend. Stop arguing with each other, stop obsessing over Twitter and Facebook. This is war, soldier. Get busy loving.

Feb 23, 2017

Winterfest 2017 | IDENTITY

Here's the highlight reel from our trip to Winterfest in Gatlinburg, TN. I couldn't have asked for a better group of students and adults to work with. Thanks for an awesome trip!