Zoom Zoom… Back in Time

Mix Leadership Team Zoom Zoom

Sometimes you don’t know how amazing a group of people are until you are no longer together. I felt this way the other night while on a Zoom call with my former youth group leadership team. We were missing a few characters. But these people all in some way impacted my life and the lives of many amazing students.

Doing youth ministry is a calling, but it is also a blessing — especially when you get a chance to share unforgettable experiences with young people who you know are going to leave a legacy in the world.

So, I wanted to just brag a little bit on my old team.

PD (Daniel Susenbach) – He was the leader of the pack, the eternal optimist. Daniel has never met a stranger. He is the kind of guy who can make you bust a gut laughing and then believe you can do almost anything the next minute. He is one of my best friends, and if I had to be stranded on deserted island with a group of people, I certainly would want him there.

Tim Matthews (Timmmmmm!) – I think he could literally preach the cover off a Bible, and the young people would be like, “Oh man! Do that again.” Tim knew how to say something that you never forget. He also has an amazing life story, and is a ton of fun. With Tim, you know that following Jesus is never boring. {Tim is not in the picture, nor was on the Zoom call 😦  } Next time Tim, next time.

Joanna Fowler (Mrs. J) – She was always the cool mom and administrator. She made us all look good by being prepared for almost anything. Some people who had her job would be kind of by the book. But she always laughed and made everyone feel special. Mrs. J. was the adult in the room who knew how to keep everyone safe. At the same time, she was able to connect with students.

Jim and Melinda Patterson – Yes, these are two people not one. But they are such a great team. They are an amazing couple who I count as very good friends. I love so much about them, especially how different they are from each other. If I was going into spiritual warfare, I can’t think of a better servant and prayer warrior than Jim (P. Diddy). He knows how to get to the root of the matter, and he is willing to go deep and be there for youngsters. Jim is very wise and loves to pun. I even love that about him (just don’t tell him). Melinda is always the voice of reason in the room. She loves people enough to tell them the truth. And she never seems to let much get to her. Oh, and the Pattersons are hilarious when you see them interact together. I chuckling just thinking about some of my discussion with them in their kitchen.

Mama Karen – She was like a mother or older sister to so many of the Mix students. She has always been a youth worker rockstar.  Oh, and she is a great cook. Three words “Baby Angel Cake.” Inside joke, but trust me… so good. Karen is full of love and her name should be caring because she is like 90% heart. Karen knows how to be a safe person in a world full of unhealthy people.

Heidi – Speaking of funny. Literally, I don’t know if I have ever laughed around somebody so much as Heidi. She always knew how to put the truth in a joke. But don’t let her shenanigans fool you, she was wise and knew how to see through student’s crap. Plus, she has this way that her eye twitches when she is upset. It’s sort of like a super power that keeps her from going insane. Heidi connected well with students and is an amazing friend.

Mike Jefferson – Mike really loved the middle school students. In the dictionary under the word “Faithful” is a picture of Mike. Full of the Spirit and always willing to forgive, Mike is one of those guys who makes a bigger impact than anyone realizes. I learned a lot from his gentle demeanor and approach to ministry. He does have a mental disorder because he is a Washington Redskins fan. But nobody is perfect. 😉

Diane Burns – Always represented how parents might feel well in our discussions. She is an amazing prayer warrior who was willing to be there for students. She raised three world-class kids, who are now adults. She has been a super volunteer for years.

Bryan and Darla – Students loved Bryan, and he connected well with some of the outsider kids. Super witty and smart, Bryan is very competitive. He challenged me to be a better youth leader… just don’t tell him I said that. Darla is also competitive and smart. We once played a game of assassin with rubber bands, she killed me by pretending she wanted to have a spiritual discussion. {I never forgot that Darla.} Darla is very logical and dependable. She is just a super solid person who will do what she says she will do.

Super Honorable Mention: Charlie Coker, Emilie Hyatt (Coker) and so many others…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reasons Why Many People Don’t Answer the Call to Be Christian Mentors

One of the clearest commandments in the New Testament to the disciples, and thus to the Church is to make disciples of all nations. This is one area where we don’t need a call for the Lord. He has already given it. We don’t need to wonder if we are called to help others connect and grow in their relationship with God. That is something all true Christ followers should engage in. And it will look different for everyone. There is no one way to do it.

I will never forget one time when an older man in Virginia said, “I can’t disciple anyone. I don’t know that much about the Bible. I love God, but I couldn’t lead a small group of men talking about the Bible.”

I asked the man, “What do you like to do?” He responded, “I like to work on classic cars.” I suggested, “You mean to tell me that there aren’t some young men in your community who know nothing about cars and wouldn’t love to learn and maybe even drive a classic car after fixing it?” He looked at me and said, “Yeah, I guess that could work. But that isn’t discipleship.” I asked, “Who said? You could teach these young guys about cars and involve some life lessons while you work. You could maybe chat about one Bible verse while you are under the hood replacing parts or changing the oil. All you need to do is be intentional with offering your time and a listening ear.” He said, “Yeah, but what if I don’t know the answer to a Bible question. I replied, “You ain’t God. Just tell you are not sure but will do some digging and praying and get back to them. It’s as easy as that.”

This man left that day with a new definition of discipleship. It isn’t a Bible study or therapy session. Or it doesn’t have to be just that. Discipleship is a walk. It starts with being available and willing to care.

My Discipleship Definition: Connecting people to Christ and leading them to a vibrant relationship with Him, His Church and His mission.

No where in there do you see a requirement to know everything or be a great teacher. Those skills help. But most people just need one thing, your time and attention.

In talking with many people through the years, I have found these four common reasons why many Christians do not answer this call.
1.) Nobody ever did it for me, so I haven’t had a proper model to follow.
2.) I don’t feel qualified because there is so much I don’t know about God and the Bible. Or I am far from perfect and am afraid that I am not ready.
3.) I don’t know who to approach about mentoring and don’t know how to start.
4.) I am too busy doing other things with work, family and ministry.

Reason #1
• You may not have had a good example to follow on this earth. But if God has called you to it, He will equip you to do it.
Matthew 28:19 – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

• Jesus is our example. (Matthew 16:24 and 1 John 2:6)
• Holy Spirit does the heavy lifting.
• It isn’t too late to seek a mentor yourself.
• Every believer should be investing in their own spiritual development.

Reason #2
• You aren’t supposed to be Bible Answer Man. That’s not what a spiritual mentor is.

There is only one true guru, and His name is Jesus.
1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Reason #3
• The Lord will make a connection and place somebody along your path if you pray and ask for it.
• Grow in Christ and others will be attracted to you. (Colossians 3:16)
• Pray and ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit. (John 16:13)

Reason #4
• If Jesus commanded us to make disciples, why don’t you think you have time to do it? What is more important than a prime command of Christ?
• We have to move from an additional mindset to an intentional one where we look to involve discipleship in our daily rhythms. It isn’t about doing more. It is about involving more people in your life and spiritual development. The best way to do this is to make one or two meals per month an opportunity to be intentional to help others grow in their relationship with God and others.
• All it takes is one person. Do you have time to invest in the spiritual growth of one person? This may already be somebody that you know.

In Business As It Is In Heaven

When Jesus prayed “in earth as it is in heaven” did He mean that for business too? I think he did.

Recently, I heard a teaching from Bethel Pastor Bill Johnson on the Christian business website, https://heaveninbusiness.com/. He spoke on the basics of Christian principles in business and suggested that Christians have a critical role to play in the business world. Johnson said that Christians in the work world have a responsibility to show others what the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like. In other words, bring heaven down to earth by how we live and share God’s love. 

When Christians walk into work, we have a much bigger mission than just what is written on the wall. Sure, we need to turn a profit. Even more importantly, we need to leave a positive impact. We need to be the first to apologize and own up or what we have done wrong. We should model out servant leadership. Honestly, is there any other kind of leadership that truly works?

Bill Johnson stated, “You should make people at work thirsty for God.” You don’t have to preach. But you do have to live it out and extend invitations to a bigger mission.  One thing that Bill Johnson said he likes to do is adopt local businesses and just see how he can develop a relationship with the owner and bless the business. He will frequent the establishment and really pray for it. What would happen in the business world if more Christians followed this example? Before we have an encounter at work, we stop and turn our affection to God not that huge work problem. We become aware and conscious of the Spirit of God coming upon us.

Johnson explained, “The Holy Spirit lives in me for my sake, but He comes upon me for the benefit of others to impact the world around me.”

If we are going to bring heaven down to earth, then we better know a bit about heaven. What does it look like when the Kingdom of Heaven invades earth? I think it looks a lot like Matthew 5-7. God turns our value system up side down and makes us truly right side up. A Christian business shines and stands out not by its preaching, but by the freedom and the hope it brings to others. Christians in the work world should be diligent workers and peacemakers – the kind of people you want to have around because they focus on positive things and speaks words of life to teammates.

Pastor Bill Johnson told a story about a major word a group at Bethel received after a time of prayer. He summarized the spiritual truth, “The person with the most hope will have the most influence.” Wow, that hit me like a 2×4. Have I let fear and focus on what is wrong cloud my vision to what could be right? Do I bring hope to my workplace and other relationships?

Johnson said that if we let the size of our problem dominate our thinking we will never realize the miracle that could await. This leads us to focus on the details and not the big picture. It mires us down in all the problems. God wants to raise up business people for His glory to impact the world for good. And the business world is the last great unreached mission field in America. Many of us have been afraid to let the light shine because we didn’t want to make others uncomfortable. But there are ways to bring divine principles to bear in a way that can even bless a secular work environment. A city on a hall is a place that stands out in the dark as Johnson explained. It is a refuge and a comfort for those who are lost.

As the salt of the world, the Church needs to bring flavor to the community. And flavor is influence. Johnson declared that Christians have a duty and responsibility to bless our community including the local businesses with God’s hope, love and generosity.

So, what does this look like for me to live out Matthew 5-7 in the work world? I am struggling every day. Hopefully, each new day I am a bit better than the last day. Johnson talked about how the shadow of the apostles was able to heal people. He asked, “What is released in our shadow?” He then explained, “Your shadow will always release what overshadows you.”

This means if you are full of anger, bitterness, fear or resentment, that will come out. You can’t hide it. If you are full of God’s love, hope and faith, that will overflow and bless others. Those things follow us and leave a positive or negative wake behind us.

So, what’s coming out of your shadow?

 

 

 

Charitable Giving Horror Stories

There are some stories in the Bible that make you just think, “What? Why did that happen? This doesn’t seem like the God that I know?”

One that has stood out to be since my childhood is the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. The short version is that a man and his wife sell property and donate the proceeds to the early church. The only problem is that they held back part of the money for themselves but made others believe that they gave all. In today’s world, this may seem like just a clerical error, but it wasn’t a little thing to God. When Ananias came into the church fellowship to make his presentation he died. So, did his wife a few hours later when she came looking for Ananias.

As a child, I remember learning a song that I never forgot. It was all about Ananias and Sapphira and being a cheerful giver. I will save you the horror. But it left a strong impression on me that trying to make a show of what you do for God doesn’t win you in any brownie points in heaven.

The amount they gave wasn’t the problem. The issue was that Ananias and Sapphira conspired to deceive the church and God. Why did this happen at that point? I am sure that many other people since then have done the same thing or far worse and lived to tell about it. I believe this is more an indictment of our churches and society today than it is a warning about things that happened in the early church. Back then the Spirit of God was moving so strongly that deception in the camp could have disastrous consequences.

When the Holy Spirit moves, He strongly encounters demonic lies and spirits that come against God’s standard. Holiness is serious business. I am reminded of the man who accidentally touched the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament and immediately died. Our sin results in death. That is why we need Jesus and His righteousness.

Today, the warning is about spiritual showmanship or exhibitionism. Any time we do something for public praise, we are on dangerous ground. It is better for us to do something in secret and let God bring it to the forefront if He so desires. Jesus did amazing miracles and then told people to keep it quiet. But today if something happens where God’s power shows up, some are too quick to take credit for it.

There is a thin line here because sometimes we need to go tell others about what God is doing. We need to proclaim righteous causes from the mountain tops, but we just need to check our motives and make sure we are really doing whatever it is for the right reasons.

Are we sharing about a situation to inspire others? Do we want to call others to join the effort? Those are usually good reasons. Or do we want somebody to give us praise?
The deepest lesson here is that even when we deceive others, we will never fool God. In God’s Kingdom, honesty is the best policy because the enemy tends to lurk in the shadows of our lies.

True Love Requires Truth

Have you ever wondered how many lies you encounter in a day? According to researcher Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, the average person is lied to more than 10 times per day. Depending on the life situation, that number can sore to more than 100 ties per day.

Years ago, a study in the UK found that on average, 60% of people lied at least once in a ten-minute conversation. I still don’t know if I believe that one. 

Speaking truth can be hard to do. Speaking the truth in love can seem almost impossible.

So, why is truth critical to experience true love? That may seem like an easy question to answer. But it may also be harder than you think. People today have very different definitions for love. One word can mean so many different things.

The verse I want to explore today is Ephesians 4:14-15.

Ephesians 4:14-15 (NIV)

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

The key concept in this passage is “Speaking the truth in love.” Interestingly, this concept occurs in a chapter with a focus on unity in the body of Christ. We are unified for a mission. And our purpose isn’t to just keep the peace or to make everybody feel good. We are to be unified to grow and reach maturity (v14), striving to reach the fullness of Christ.

Our mission is to seek God’s will and to let go of anything that gets in the way. When this happens, we will no longer act like babies in our faith, that is what Paul said. We won’t be tossed back and forth by various false teaching. We won’t fall prey to schemes of people who are looking to deny God’s truth.

In order to do this, we must speak the truth in love – especially to those who belong to God’s family.  But this can be hard to do.

 

Here are Some Things to Remember When It Comes to Speaking the Truth in Love

  • Many times, Christians only tell part of the truth. We withhold the hardest part because we don’t want to risk a relationship or hurt the feelings of the other person.
  • People tend to error on one side or the other. We are only “love” and will not share the truth. Or we brutally share the truth without compassion and mercy. Which one are you? Truth without love. Or love without truth?
  • Pray for guidance and talk to the other person second. Bathing a situation in prayer can give you the grace you need to navigate any situation.
  • The objective is to come to a restored relationship between us and the other person as well as God. Restoration cannot happen without truth.
  • Restoration happens when we go directly to the other person first. We can go to God for guidance. But we shouldn’t really involve third parties in most situations until our face-to-face efforts have failed.
  • If you are helping to mediate a situation, you aren’t looking to pick sides, you are trying to honor God and others in the relationship as you seek a resolution.
  • Words are not weapons. Be careful what you say that you can’t take back.
  • You can disagree and still love each other. Disagreement does not equal hatred.
  • Check your motives? Do you really love this person and have a relationship to have standing to have this conversation?

 

Love Is Based on Truth, Otherwise It Isn’t Reliable.

Today, the culture is confused about the difference between Love and Tolerance. People will say, “If you love me, you wouldn’t say anything to me about sin.” But the opposite is true. Sin is like playing with a cobra. It can kill you. Let’s look at this video about love and tolerance.

Love is better tolerance. And God’s love is better than human love.

Now That Changes Everything

Everyone wants the good life. But what if the good life isn’t good enough? What if God’s best is different than our ideal dreams?

I wrestled with this today while listening to Pastor Charlie Hill’s message at Steamboat Christian Center. What if it isn’t that our desires are too strong, but they are directed toward the wrong things? What if our desires are trully too weak?

I am reminded of this famous quote by author and theologian, C.S. Lewis. He wrote in the Weight of Glory, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

The forces of darkness want us to run after things that are a lot like Chinese food. These things may taste good in the moment, but they leave us feeling hungry in less than 30 minutes.

I live in a vacation paradise. It is beautiful in Steamboat. But this town also has a dark secret. This county has fairly high suicide rate. I first discovered this reality when I moved to town and talked with a friend who works with the local hospital. He is called in to help counsel and minister to those who are suspected of trying to commit suicide. He told me that he gets more calls than you would imagine.

People come to the Boat expecting this vacation mecca to solve their problems. But funny thing, after a while the world-class skiing, biking and fishing doesn’t seem to satisfy. Many people have pinned their hopes on the  wrong things. Sure, those activities are fun and fulfilling. But I believe that God designed us all to have deep connections both with Him and with others.

Pastor Charlie preached on John 14:6 where Jesus made a pretty radical statement. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This seems like a pretty exclusive statement. What about those who have not known or believed in Jesus? And what do you have to believe to realize this blessing? Is this just a creed you must believe? Or is it an invitation to something more?

Back during Jesus’ earthly ministry, many people wanted to know the way to eternal life. This was a question sometimes asked of rabbis and teachers. Jesus made it clear that other paths lacked something critical — a personal relationship with God through Jesus. This statement wasn’t about keeping people out. Its purpose is to clarify what works. It is found in a passage where Jesus is going to add rooms onto His house so that more people can stay there with Him forever. This is an invitation to deep intimacy. The kind of love that says, “Come move in forever.” Now that is love.

Jesus was making it clear that lives apart from God will never be enough. There will always be emptiness and brokenness. The good life we seek is not found in stuff, other people or experiences apart from God. It can only be found in a deep relationship with God where He makes all those things more enjoyable. You can’t truly have forever fun until you find your for real freedom.

This news Jesus spoke may seem exclusive. But it is open to all. It may only seem restrictive if you rebuff his invitation. Jesus said, “Come to me, and I will give you rest.”

If you want peace and purpose, there is no better place than the arms of Jesus. Please go to a Christian friend or a godly church in your area and chat with a minister or member who can help you. If you have tried everything else, why not try Jesus? You may just discover like I did that He truly changes everything.

Scared But Prepared

At the Vous Conference 2019, Rich Wilkerson Jr., Chad Veach and Michael Todd spoke on leadership in the church. They summed up leadership as simply influence. And we are all leaders at some points in our lives even if we don’t feel like it. The following were some of their leadership nuggets…

  • Rich said that Christian leadership is a walk with God, a journey of dependence on the Holy Spirit.
  • Mike admitted, “I am a leader and don’t what I am doing a lot of the time… The Lord said to me, ‘I need you to be a leader and to step toward the obstacle not move away from it.'” He further encouraged those listening to stand and declare what God has placed on our heart and make that a regular practice in our prayer life.
  • Chad suggested, “You don’t know what you are prepared for until you step into it… You should be living now like what you are waiting for.” “Opportunity knocks but you are complaining about the noise.”
  • Chad challenged, “We don’t go off our feelings; we go off our faith. If feeling is our guide, we won’t lead long.”
  • Mike pointed out that having the right pace is critical to reach our destination in Christ. People take the attitude, “I am going to have to do it because I don’t trust that God will.” Instead of hustle and grind, what if we trust and wait.
  • Mike mentioned that Jesus even had to slow down to live at the pace of grace. He suggested that the silent years between Jesus’ childhood and earthly ministry was a time in the darkroom where he developed. Too many people today are in a rush to get onto the platform and make their name known. Todd commented, “Your wait will never be wasted.” God will do something through those times of waiting if you let Him. We have this fear of missing out or missing our opportunity. But the “right thing at the wrong time is a curse.”
  • Mike added that he learned from the Lord, “Anything you make up outside of me, you will have to sustain outside of me.”

As leaders we are all in the same boat. Sometimes we are affraid to stand up. Sometimes we feel unprepared. But when we follow God’s prompting, He will supply what we lack. When we wait for His timing, we will reach the peak at just the right moment.