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Be Alert!

26 Jul

I have been inspired to meditate on 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 over the next 5 weeks.  Our interim pastor, Dr. Leonard Dupree, preached on 1 Cor. 16 this past Sunday morning, and these two verses in particular spoke to me.  They are a series of brief, pointed commands.  And I believe that they outline some of the key elements to being a strong disciple of Jesus in today’s world.

I really like the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation of this passage.  Here it is:

“Be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong. Your every [action] must be done with love.”  –1 Corinthians 16:13-14

This week, I’m meditating on what it means to “Be alert!” Other translations say, “Be on your guard.”  I see this applying in a number of ways:

  • Be alert to open doors of ministry.  Earlier, in 1 Corinthians 16:9 Paul talks about a great door of ministry opportunity that has opened for him.  What doors of ministry opportunity is God opening up for me every day?  Am I missing them because I’m not on the alert?  Am I failing to see people with compassion the way Jesus did?
  • Be on your guard against temptation.  1 Peter 5:8 warns us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  This echos the warning God gave Cain in Genesis 4:7.  What are my spiritual blind spots I need to be especially aware of?  What wrong attitudes or motives do I tend to struggle with?  Do I have a tendency to complain, to get my way at any cost, to be judgmental of others?  What are my weaknesses that Satan tries to capitalize on?  Greed? Lust? Pride? Materialism?  I need to be on my guard and alert to these tendencies so I can avoid those pitfalls
What about you?  How do you need to be more alert and on your guard in your personal and family life?  What ministry opportunities do you need to keep your eyes open for?  What areas do you need to guard against temptation and wrong attitudes?  What are your blindspots?  What kids are falling through the cracks in your ministry?  What issues and topics have you been avoiding teaching on or addressing with your students?
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Ever-increasing Wonder

24 Sep

I’ve been to the Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls, and Iguacu Falls.  I’ve seen all the impressive sights in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Rio de Janero.  I’ve even seen a real-life Space Shuttle launch!  Each of these amazing sights gave me a feeling of wonder, awe, and humility.  I’ve been struck by the ingenuity of man, the granduer of creation, and the glorious power of God.  With each of these experiences, I was sure that it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen!

But nothing…not a single Wonder of the Natural World…not the most amazing feat of human engineering could have prepared me for what I was a part of yesterday.  None can compare with witnessing the birth of my first child, my baby girl!   Not a million Space Shuttle launches, not the deepest crack in the ground, not the largest waterfall in the world are as miraculous or awesome as meeting my daughter and hearing her first cry.

I know this sounds incredibly cliche, but it is as true as anything else I could say:  the birth of a baby is nothing short of a miracle!  That there is an entirely new, unique person in this world today and that my wife and I made her!  That she is a living soul, uniquely crafted by the Creator God.  That when Christ died on the cross, He died for her!  Amazing!!!

I believe in miracles.  I witnessed the greatest I’ve ever seen yesterday.  But I know that it is only the first in a long line of daily miracles I’ll experience watching her grown and learn and become the person she will be.

How I REALLY Feel About Fundraisers

12 Apr

Tonight is our annual Youth Pancake Supper fundraiser for our trip to Student Life Camp.  People don’t realize how much work and planning goes into one of these…not to mention the overhead cost of 30 boxes of pancake mix, and TONS of bacon and sausage!  I know I’ll feel better about it all tomorrow, but right now with it looming right over me I just wish that we could find a way to operate our student ministry WITHOUT fundraisers!

I know, I know…there are a few benefits to fundraising:  the students get the experience and value of working hard for something, it’ll make them appreciate the camp trip more, it’s a great opportunity for the church at large to see our students in action, etc., etc.  But certainly there are better things we can do to accomplish those same goals that DON’T have all the added stress of begging people for money and worrying about bringing in enough to actually make a “profit” for the students.

Here’s what I’d really like to do…I’d love to stand up in front of the church one Sunday morning, and say something like this:

Here’s the deal folks.  You don’t really want to eat pancakes.  And we don’t really want to cook them.  You don’t really want to worry about pink flamingos showing up in your yard one morning, and I don’t really want to drive teenagers around town late a night moving pink flamingos from yard to yard.  You don’t really want to pay $5 for a spotty car wash, and we don’t really want to give up a Saturday to wash your car.  You don’t want teenagers begging you to buy something or give them money every time you see them, and we don’t want to beg.

So why don’t we just put all this fundraising to an end, make everyone happy, and give us all a big sigh of relief.  Just fish out your wallet or checkbook and give whatever God leads you to give to invest in the teenagers we’re reaching through our church.  And we won’t ask you for anymore money again.

Refreshingly honest and bold?  Brash and presumptuous?  What do you think?  Will it work?!  I don’t know.  But for right now, I’m beginning to have a craving for bacon and syrup.

Making Room for New Life

21 Mar

Here are the most joyful words I think I’ll ever type:     I’m going to be a DAD!       Woohoo!!!

My wife and I are finally going public with the great news!  And I’m so glad, because I’ve had this idea I wanted to blog about for a month now.  The child hasn’t even been born yet, and I’m already learning some great spiritual truth from him/her.

After almost 9 years of marriage, we’ve accumulated a lot of  “stuff.” Our house is of modest size, and we have no intention of moving anytime soon.  So…when we found out we were having a baby, we began discussing the question, “Where will the nursery be?”  Good question.  We have two guest rooms, one of which is the office/catch-all room.  Closet space is at a premium in our house, and both of those rooms’ closets are STUFFED to exploding!

Thus began the painstaking work of cleaning out our junk.  And I use the word “junk” lightly, because a lot of the stuff we’re having to part with is good stuff, some of it very sentimental.   Both our parents long ago dumped all of OUR childhood memorabilia on us.  So we’ve weeded through photographs, certificates, trophies, Pinewood Derby cars, greeting cards, things I made in 2nd grade which my Mom graciously kept hidden in her sock drawer for 25 years, you know…junk.

So as we have been trying to whittle down two “junk rooms” worth of stuff into one–making the guest room a guest room/office/catch-all room–I’ve been reflecting on life and ministry (as I am often want to do).  And here’s my thought:

In order to make room for new life, we have to clean out our junk.    (Well, I never claimed it was profound.   But maybe it’s profundity is in its simplicity.)

In order for us to be able to have a baby (and all the gear that seems to go with it) and in order for us to be able to hang on to trophies, certificates, and Pinewood Derby cars (or tea sets and stuffed animals, whichever the case may be) for our child, we have to get rid of our own stuff.  We have to prioritize and decide what we need, and what we don’t.  What can we sell on ebay, garage sell, give to Salvation Army, or throw way, and what do we really need to keep?

And it’s equally true in life.  Life can become so cluttered with junk:
  • nostalgia for the “good ole days,”
  • burdens of hurt and regret,
  • fears of the future,
  • out-of-order priorities,
  • myths and out-right lies about ourselves or God or the world,
  • schedules too full of work,
  • schedules to light on rest and reflection and just being with those we love,
  • greed and materialism, I could go on. 

And we hang onto these things so tightly…craming them into the closets of our heart, until there’s no room left for God to do anything NEW in our lives!  We feel cold, barren, and adrift in life.  We cry out to God for revival, for direction.  But until we clean house and get rid of the junk, new life won’t come

The same is true in our ministries. 
  • What programs or events need to reevaluated? 
  • What goals or agendas need to be questioned? 
  • What presumptions or principles need to be inspected? 

If we want new life to come to our ministries, we need to make room.  Sometimes we need to take those long-held and well-loved traditions, and put them away for a while.  Take that annual event that’s been done since Noah left the Ark and just…NOT do it this year {Gasp}!  Take that sacred cow and make some hamburgers for your next youth fellowship.  You’ll be suprised how good it’ll taste!

God is birthing something new into our lives…literally.  But God is also bringing about a newness of life in me spiritually.  And I need to throw out some stuff to make room.  God has been birthing some new things in our Student Ministry as well these past couple of years, and we’ve had to do the hard and painful work of cleaning out the junk (and some of it is good junk).  But it’s been worth it!

May you go…and do likewise.

An Open Letter to YouthWorks

23 Nov

When a beloved organization or franchise changes hands and comes under new leadership, it can illicit a variety of responses.  Some react out of excitement, hope, and optimism for the future.  Others express great concern or even outright anger and hatred!  And there is certainly cause for both reactions.

Take for example, the movies Batman Begins (and The Dark Knight) and the new Star Trek movie.  These are such beloved franchises with dedicated (obsessed?) fans.  When Chris Nolan and JJ Abrams were announced as producing/directing new movies in these franchises and that they would bring their “take” on them, the reactions ran the gamut I mentioned above.  The fear?  Not that things would change.  Things needed to change in these tired, worn-out, campy movie franchises.  Or else new leadership wouldn’t have been needed.  The fear was that the new people in charge wouldn’t understand the soul  of Batman or Star Trek.

Now, I’m not implying that Youth Specialties was getting tired, old, or campy.  Far from it!  YS and all it ecompasses (including NYWC) are more on the cutting-edge of youth ministry and the emerging culture than ever!  Guys like Marko and Tic GOT IT.

But the fact remains…new leadership IS in place.  And for the National Youth Workers Convention, that means YouthWorks are the new directors and producers of our beloved franchise.  Do they GET IT?  Do they understand the Soul of YS, NYWC, and of youth ministers?  That remains to be seen.

So here is my “open letter” to YouthWorks about what I see as the “soul” of NYWC:

To Paul Bertleson and the leadership of YouthWorks,

First, you have my supportive prayers as you take-up the mantle of training, inspiring, celebrating, affirming, equipping, and resourcing the youth ministers and youth workers of God’s Church arround the globe.

Second, I will give you all the benefit of the doubt.  As a youth minister who came to a church on the heels of someone who was well loved and served there for 8 years, I understand the importance of giving the “new guy” a chance to shine and show us what he’s about.  I will give you space to be who YOU are as an organization and see the vision, personality, and uniqueness you bring to the table.

Finally, I want to express to you two hopes I have as you begin this journey with us, the YS family of youth workers.

  1. First, I hope that you will value those at YS who have a history with the organization, who have invested so much of themselves into it, and have shaped what it is today.  The current staff of YS are a brilliant, caring group of people who love Jesus, kids, and youth workers.  I’m sure the same is true for the staff of YouthWorks.  I only ask that the two staffs are melded together, and not approached with an “in the new, and out with the old” mentality.  I trust that will be so.
  2. Second, I hope that you will strive to understand and retain what I see as the SOUL of NYWC in particular.  This soul is unique among youth worker publishing and training companies.  There is something singular about YS that sets it apart.  YS has never settled for the status quo.  They’ve always had a way of rocking the boat, of being a prophetic voice, of stretching our hearts and minds, of challenging us to reacher higher, deeper, and farther.  I pray that NYWC doesn’t just become another “pep rally” for youth ministers or a platform for one particular approach or philosophy of youth ministry.  KEEP ON honoring the diversity of churches and youth ministry approaches.  KEEP ON inviting speakers who will challenge our presuppositions and stretch us.  KEEP ON providing space for youth ministers to be still, be quiet, and discover the rich heritage of contemplative and creative approaches to worship.  KEEP ON affirming and celebrating and loving on hurting youth workers.  That is the soul of the NYWC, of Youth Specialties.  And I pray it always will be.

Grace and Peace to you, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  May you be blessed in the months and years to come with wisdom, clarity, and the opportunity to shine as stars for the Glory of God and benefit of His Kingdom.

A fellow youth worker and friend,
David Lambert

 

Warhouse Wordle

28 Apr

Wordle: The Warehouse
Wordle.net is awesome! Have fun with it! Use it to create a message of encouragement for a friend, to take that inside joke to the next level, or to create a beautiful work of art from a poem, a prayer, or your favorite Bible vers!