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Monday, March 24, 2008

Youth Pastor Conference

Hello everybody. I am writing this post a lot sooner than I usually do, because I have something to write about. I know I said that I would probably do my next post as a vlog, but I changed my mind. Maybe next time.

This past Monday I got to go to Universal Studios Hard Rock Cafe for a Youth Pastors Conference. It is put on by Student Leadership University and a few other sponsors and it is absolutely free. Not only that but after the conference you get a free ticket to go to Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios for the rest of the day. It has always been one of the highlights of the year for me ever since I began youth ministry.

It is always fun to catch up with old friends from college or from the past who are at this conference. I got to see my first youth pastor who led me to Christ 12 years ago, JJ Johnson. I got to see my college pastor who married Heather and I, Jason Waters. And I got to hang out with a lot of other friends of mine as well.

This year I went to the conference not really thinking that I would benefit too much from it. I feel as though I am in a good spot, I don't feel burnt out at all, I don't lack in motivation, and I love our students and even their parents. So I was excited to go, to hang out, to advertise my website and to enjoy a great time inside of the park. What I got though, was so much more than I ever could have expected.

The key not speaker for this event is a man by the name of Francis ChanIf you have not heard of Francis Chan yet... you will. He is the most amazing speaker I have ever heard in my life, and it is for one reason only; he is genuine. This man has such a heart for God that it makes you want to be a better Christ follower just to be around him.

In listening to Chan speak I got to thinking that maybe a problem I am having is that I am "under-spiritualizing" things. You can tell from Francis that he has a close relationship with God and that relationship is what is guiding every decision he makes. He often asks this question, "If you were left alone on an island with no preconceived notions and a Bible, do you think that your church would look like our church does now?" The answer is an emphatic NO. We have so changed what the Bible says a church is supposed to look like into what Americans would like a church to look like.

He said at his church they decided that if they are to love their neighbors as themselves then they should give as much to their neighbors as they give to themselves. So 50% of their overall budget goes to do local and overseas mission work that will help their neighbors. This is a man that truly follows after God.

Later on in the day we heard from John ElderidgeThis man said some totally un-Baptist things. This man said things that would cause quite a stir in most of my circles. This man said some things that would be chalked up as heresy by some people in Christianity. This man said that he hears from God.

He said that the Bible is full of examples of people who were able to hear from God, and we call them exceptions "Yeah but that was the Old Testament." "Yeah but that was a long time ago." and this man says don't you think that if God put all of those people in the Bible that He would want them to serve as examples and not as exceptions.

He gave story after story of times when he heard God speak to him and the confirmation that came through the circumstances. He said one time he was going to take his family on a vacation to a dude ranch and he asked God if it was okay. God said no. Elderidge was disappointed but listened, and that summer during the week they were going to go on this trip there was a massive wildfire that spread through and destroyed the dude ranch.

I believe the sincerity of this man, and I hope that he is right, because wouldn't it be awesome to have that kind of relationship with God.

Finally we heard from probably my favorite preacher around right now. I tivo his messages and have seen him speak on TV on quite a few occasions. His name is Ed Young and he is known as the creative Pastor.

He talked about the big elephant in the room that Pastors would never talk about. He said the elephant was (and then he made an elephant noise) betrayal! That at some point in every Pastor's life they will be betrayed by someone. And usually it is someone who is close to you. He said it is like Judas, they get close enough to kiss you, so they're close enough to dis you.

But he said there are positive aspects to being betrayed by someone. And then he told us a true story.

When they were in the building process for Fellowship Church they wanted to make a 4300 seat auditorium but they could only afford to make it a 2000 seat auditorium. Then a man came through and said that he was going to give them millions to build the church they wanted. He showed them papers that would prove that the money had been wired over to the church's account.

Long story very short, after months into this building project they found out the man had lied and had made up all the documents and that there wasn't millions of dollars, there was nothing. Obviously Ed Young was hurt and was betrayed, but he said that if it weren't for this man betraying him that they wouldn't have had the faith to build the 4300 seat auditorium that they wanted to in the first place. Absolutely amazing!

Anyhow, I left this conference not even the least bit excited to go to Islands of Adventure, but I was very excited to get back to my people and do ministry. I left with a vow that our youth ministry was going to be a spiritual one, and that I was going to hold our kids to a much higher standard than I am now, and I am convinced that they will thank me for it one day.

God bless you all, and spend some time today thanking God for all of the many blessings that He has given us.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Facing the Giants

Hello faithful blog readers. I wish there was a way that I could inform you when my blog has been update, but I don't know how to do that. Anyhow I have a web cam now thanks to my father-in-law and I think that sometime soon I am just going to put on a vlog (video log) and not type a word. That would shake things up a little bit.

Things have been alright lately. Except for a couple of things. Our good friends Patrick Peterson and Bobby Colletti have left the beautiful, sunny splendor of Florida to live with some family in New York. We truly miss them and it has been a difficult time for some of us. We made this video before they left to honor their memory. Enjoy.

Besides them leaving, I suppose everything has been pretty ordinary. We have had some great success with our evangelism explosion ministry that I referred to in my last post. A good percentage of our church have been participating in this endeavor and it has been really exciting to intentionally carry out the Great Commission.

I went to the Tigers/Braves game yesterday and got a really bad sunburn. The game ended in a tie too, which is really bad. I also got the privilege last weekend to lead a Bible study for a youth group that I was formerly youth pastor of. There are very few things in life more rewarding than to see young men that you poured your life into still walking with Christ years after you have been away from them. It was a very special night for me.

My wife and I have become addicted to guitar hero and now the American Idol karaoke game. (which I am really bad at) People just let us borrow there stuff and they leave it at our house and then I play until I fall asleep with a guitar or a mike in my hand.

I need to end with something of Biblical relevance. I spoke with the students on Wednesday night briefly of the story of David and Goliath, but we looked at it a little differently than usual. We used this is the closing slide from the story.

In this familiar story we know that the small David overcame, beat, and decapitated (see above) the giant Goliath. But the part that we easily forget is that God is the one that made that happen. God is the one who beat Goliath, not David. And the other part that we fail to forget is that God has not changed. The same God that used small David to beat huge Goliath is the same God who is watching over your life. This is the same God who knows the number of hairs that are on your head. This is same God that knit you together in your mother's womb. This is the same God who will never leave you or forsake you.

When you come up against giants in this world remember this story and remember that God is always with wherever you go and know matter what you're up against.