Thursday, August 26, 2010

The 4 Years That Changed My Life

I've been in youth ministry a long time. When going back to when I first started interning at my home church in Philly to today it would end up being ten years working with tomorrows future leaders. Youth ministry is probably one of the most challenging professions a person can choose however it is one of the most rewarding too.

I do not want to focus on all things that they didn't tell you in bible college, that will be for another day.

I want to focus on the past four years. I want to focus on Third Lane Youth.
Third Lane Youth 2007
(In case you ever wondered what TLY was all about)

I have been in a couple of different churches before I came to York First Assembly. The youth ministry we had in those churches grew and we had some great times. It wasn't until we launched TLY that the vision that I always had for youth min became a reality.

We had a live worship band with students and adults that eventually became totally student driven. (I love playing worship with my wife our team from TLY amazing times)

We had a thriving Fine Arts program (thanx to my wife) that focused on Human Videos, yeah its an AG thing...think acting out a song where drama meets cheerleading...sorta. The students we worked with were good...really good!

Fine Arts is a crazy beast for those who don't know what it is, its basically a talent driven program for students to use their talents and be judge on how well they do.

Think America's God Talent Meets American Idol and yeah...its pretty big deal in our denomination.

We made it to the National Level every year and that was great, but we never made it be about the awards and trips.

It was about ministry and discipleship.

We would take the students out to numerous churches and outreach events and the students made such an impact everywhere we went.

I always loved the development aspect of this creative tool, seeing students who would never be a part of something like this step out and make a difference. It never got old to me.

It wasn't that TLY was a youth was more like a Youth Church, a church that felt like family.

And just like family we had our ups and downs, and in youth ministry not many pastors stick around long enough to press thru the drama and to start seeing the fruit.

I have never been a big event youth pastor. My heart has always been to raise future leaders in the church and in the world...(I guess VFCC made more of an impression on me than I thought, thanx Dr. Meyers) We ran TLY like a ministry school and the majority of our students in TLY went on to college especially to Bible College.

Third Lane Youth was always analogy to live life in the Spirit (live in the lane you can't see), to walk by faith and not by sight. It is interesting to me that after preaching about it for four years God would call me to plant and church and really practice what I preach and really step out in faith.

This past sunday the students organized a farewell for us. They made it about us. The impact we had. The good times we shared. It felt good, but honestly I just kept thinking Im so proud of this group of students to see how far they have come in their walk with God. They have been thru alot, we both have, but in the end we stood together in love and in faith.

I didn't realize that the things that made the biggest impression on them were not my sermons, how clever or fashionable I was, (although they did make a pretty funny video about how I dress, stay tuned I'll put that up soon)

It was about the little things I did.

The hanging out and playing video games, going out and talking over lunch, singing American Idol.

That's right I said American Idol.

It was a weird tradition that my wife and I had that if students came over our house we made them sing and play the American Idol video game...You would be surprised the students that would sing...and how they would sing...oh

The farewell service was not about me, it was about them, it has always been about them.

I went into youth ministry to change lives, but in the end it was my life that was changed.

Third Lane Youth 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Phillies Phaith

It was not an uncommon night for my wife and I. We put our little guy to bed and spent some time watching TV, flipping channels, and talking about the day. The Food Network is always a fav and I like to turn back and forth between the latest Ace of Cakes and the latest Phillies game.

Marriage is all about compromise peoples. (If I can only get that Picture in Picture feature working)

Sad to say the remote did not get a lot of action last night. It pretty much stayed on the Food Network. After all, my beloved Phillies were losing 9-2 to the stinking LA Dodgers. (I pretty much loathe all things LA that includes Kobe.)

I have to be honest.

When I saw the score I did not turn it back to watch again for the night.

This is not behavior becoming of the true blue Philly sports fan, of days of old when my dad would wake me up to watch Lenny Dykstra and John Kruk pull out a late night rally.

I went to bed and shut the lights on my Phillies.

I woke up and put on my favorite Phillies Tee after all, thats how Philly fans do, win or lose.

Turning on my Mac to catch the latest clever headline from the Philadelphia Daily News Online depicting another heartbreaking loss. I was shocked to read CHOOCHOOO! in big letters and see the Phillies catcher Ruiz (nicknamed Chooch) dancing with his fellow teammates.

Did they win?
They did!

They pulled off the comeback from being down seven runs!

This made me smile and made me think.

How often do I give up when the circumstances look hopeless?
How often do I assume that there is no time left to turn things around?
How often do I let my fear of disappointment dictate my faith in something or someone?

I wonder when the momentum shift was that started The Phillies to believe that they had a chance. If something was said from one player to another, to not give up, to hold on, to keep swinging.

Sometimes prayers can be like a Phillies game.

There are some types of fans and people of faith that stay to the final inning never giving up hope and being there in the moment when hope meets the fruition.
For the rest of us, its good to know that in the moments when we turn the channel of our faith, God does not turn the channel from us and is still working behind the scenes.

Life is not always like a ballgame but I like to think that I serve God who can surprise us by a headline, or a verse, or something more.

I am reminded of Jesus praying for his disciples in the garden before His death (John 17), they fell asleep, but Jesus didn't. In the midst of His unbearable burden of the cross he prayed for them, He prayed for us.

He undersands the battle of waiting.

"Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good." (Rom8.26-28 Msg)

I don't have everything figured out.
There are circumstances in my life that I wished would be more comfortable.
No matter how big or how small, I have faith.
I will believe, I will hope.

"Though the sorrow may last for the night
His joy (and the Phillies) comes thru in the morning."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

TLY Youth Day/ Comfort or Faith?

I love seeing students leading other students. This past sunday, the students of TLY lead other adults. It was our annual youth day where the students take over worship, minister in special music, and human videos. This year they preached too!

We had two seniors share Matthias Wagman who will be attending Messiah College and Mary Liz Patterson who will be attending Zion Bible college in the Fall.

Both brought unique perspectives about stepping out of the comfort zone and into the faith zone as one of the students put it.

Matthias recently traveled to France and spoke some as well. He shared about a family who they had a chance to fellowship with and plant some seeds of faith. Its cool hearing him read their post card in French...Oui Oui!

Mary Liz followed and has one of the sweetest voices you will ever hear, but she brought some of strongest challenges I ever heard in a message as well.

She shared a story about a photograph of a girl and raven that won the pulitzer prize.

How many times are we as Christians afraid to step out of comfort zone and chase life's vultures.

We closed the message with communion.

I showed this video that I put together about 4 years ago for my first youth service at TLY (then Powerhouse Youth Ministries) its kind of fitting that I would show it on my last youth day.

Its a scene from the Passion of the Christ set to the song The Stand by Hillsong United. When I put this together I never saw the other video montage with a similar scene and other scenes from the movie.

The unique thing about this video is that movie and song are not edited and it is erie and inspiring how it fits together ala Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz.

In the book Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis states his famous "Trilemma"

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

There is a line in the song that keeps replaying in my mind after I watch this video, "What can say what can I do, but offer this heart eternally to you."

We always have a choice in life.

Christ was never forced his views or vision on anyone.

He always leaves it for us to decide...

comfort or faith?