Rediscovering Youth Ministry

I lose my keys all the time. When I find them I have a feeling of discovery because I've been reunited with the ability to move my car. Despite their temporary absence they are never truly lost or irretrievable, they just need rediscovering. 

I believe that the North American Church is in the process of rediscovering youth ministry. 

So has it been lost?

Not entirely, but somewhere along the way we've lost the story line. It's like we've watched the first 30 seconds of every scene in a movie. We understand the concept of the plot but don't know the characters or their development. 

There are lots of glimmers of hope in this generation of youth ministry. If we stopped to listen there are countless stories of students engaging in the Kingdom of God. These stories often involve students serving together and finding their communal identity as followers of Jesus.

However, I believe that in the next 20 years the Church in North America is going to undergo a seismic shift as generational transition takes place. Before we talk about where we are going it's important to see how we got here.

Late 80s and early 90s - pre-smart phone generation. "Christian" culture built to be attractive. Youth rooms riddled with fog machines, neon graphics, and dorky dating series. The idea that Christian culture was "anti-culture" was a popularly held notion.

Late 90s/Early 2000s - Lights, fog, speakers. "Acquire The Fire" was a popular event for "churched" teens to attend.  I Kissed Dating Goodbye was a popularly recommended book. 

The last decade  - Increasingly broad disillusionment with how we have done "church" in North America. Many church leaders have taken a step back and said that the way things were done for the last 30 years won't be how we continue. Many are managing decline as we ask what's the next step. 

One of the interesting things about the Church is that it's generationally characterized by trends: the seeker movement, the mega church movement, the small group movement, etc...

Maybe what's next isn't a fad or a trend to reach a numerical goal. I believe that what's next is going to be defining for the local church because it will involve a shift informed by a broader cultural trend. 

As our technology has increased so has our cultural individualism. The smart phone has made us more connected, and more lonely, than ever before. As my brother pointed out today (shoutout to Michael Schultheiss) it speaks to a broader pattern in American culture, one with roots in the ideational and spiritual crisis that beset Western civilization beginning in about the 19th century: the death of traditional values and ways of seeing and understanding the world, and ourselves, and the advance of materialism and consumerism. This is actually what Nietzsche meant when he talked about, and lamented, the “death of God” (definitely not something he was celebrating). 
 

The last 15 years the cultural pendulum has sped up and reached a near-zenith point of individualism. I believe that in the next generation of Jesus followers we are going to see a hard turn away from our cultural individualism. 

We currently consume information so frequently through podcasts, blogs, and tweet-able sermons that we have forgotten how to participate. 

When we participate in church rather than consume church, we are living into our identity - we are being who God made us to be as apprentices of Jesus in the world. 

Another way to think of this is the movie Nightmare Before Christmas. In the movie, Jack Skellington is the leader of Halloweentown - a place dedicated to all things ghosts, ghouls, and goons. Halloweentown, as a community, tells a crystal clear narrative of Halloween. Jack Skellington has created an environment where every resident is an active participant in making Halloweentown what it is.

For Jack’s friends, Halloween is their lifestyle, not a Holiday that they show up for. 

Does that sound anything like the Church? 

We, as the Church, are participants and image bearers in the story of God in the world. We are invited into active participation that leads to the flourishing of other image bearers and the renewal of all things. This means using our time, talent, power, and privilege to partner with God in the ongoing work of creation in the World. 

Is that how you think about Church? As a place where you consume, or as a narrative you participate in with your life? 

I believe that what is next is a shift from a sole focus on individual relationship with Jesus to communal partnership with God's restoring work in the world.

To be clear, I still think people will have a person relationship with Jesus. But I believe the invitation to a life with Christ is going to widen from individualistic to communal. 

This movement will require us to move from being consumers to participants. 

This has always been about Jesus. I believe that youth leaders of all generations really wanted the best for the students in their ministry. The idea of rediscovering is more about finding our keys again so that we can move the Church forward.

This is about simplifying.

We are awakening to the reality that it's always been about a relationship. 

What do you think? Do you work with teenagers that are visibly fed up with individualism and consumerism? What do you think we, as youth workers, should do about it?

Peyton Manning, David Kinneman, and Jack Skellington Walked Into a Bar

I love statistics. When I was growing up I had a borderline obsession with memorizing my favorite player's NFL stats. At one point I could have told you Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison’s touchdown count, passing yardage, and receiving yardage for every season they played together for the Indianapolis Colts. 

In 2013 I was sitting in chapel at Point Loma Nazarene University to hear a guy named David Kinneman speak about church trends. David’s a brilliant researcher and speaker; he leads a company called the Barna Group. The purpose of his organization is to do research and gather knowledge to navigate a changing world. His topic that day was “why millennials are leaving the church.” You can read a snapshot of his research findings here: (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2011/12/barna-survey-on-young-adults-leaving-the-church/). David spoke about church trends, what millennials desire in church, and what the Church has missed in incorporating this generation.

In the last few years there has been a lot of research and writing on how churches can engage with millennials. Some of the best resources have come out of The Fuller Youth Institute and The Barna Group. 

The broad point of the leading research is that the Church is shifting and, in many ways, declining numerically. 

There is truth to the research. As with any generational change, the Church is changing. Millennials want different things in church and have different core values as a generation.

Numbers don’t lie but they don’t tell the whole story.

As we move forward and more millenial-aged people are stepping into leadership we have to ask: are we accepting the present status quo - thereby resigning ourselves to manage decline of the Church, or are we going to work for a future that’s better than the research paints?

There are some who would like to say that this is a “millennial thing.” Those same voices would say that we are an over-saturated, entitled, and idealistic bunch. 

At the risk of sounding evasive I argue that it’s not a generational problem. It’s a family problem. Our ancestral generational sin is that we have allowed church to defined by our consumption rather than our participation. 

This is really about identity. 

In a lot of ways we are like the Israelites - they had been told who they were - the people of God, but for forty years were wandering in the wilderness struggling to live into their identity and reach the promised land. 

We know who we are. The Church is the bride of Christ, partners with God in the renewal of all things, and messengers of reconciliation. 

Despite our knowledge of who we are we often miss the point. We consume information so frequently through podcasts, blogs, and tweet-able sermons that we have forgotten how to participate. 

When we participate in church rather than consume church, we are living into our identity - we are being who God made us to be as apprentices of Jesus in the world. 

Another way to think of this is the movie Nightmare Before Christmas (tip of the hat toDr. John Wright - Bib. Theo. was still the best class I’ve taken). In the movie, Jack Skellington is the leader of Halloweentown - a place dedicated to all things ghosts, ghouls, and goons. Halloweentown, as a community, tells a crystal clear narrative of Halloween. Jack Skellington has created an environment where every resident is an active participant in making Halloweentown what it is.

For Jack’s friends, Halloween is their lifestyle, not a Holiday that they show up for. 

Does that sound anything like the Church? 

We, as the Church, are participants and image bearers in the story of God in the world. We are invited into active participation that leads to the flourishing of other image bearers and the renewal of all things. This means using our time, talent, power, and privilege to partner with God in the ongoing work of creation in the World. 

Is that how you think about Church? As a place, or as a narrative you participate in with your life? 

As our generation moves forward we must recognize that we need the Church. The Church also needs you - not to show up to an event, but to participate with your life. 

Hope in the Midst of Violence

Violence sickens me. We are living in a cultural moment that has become saturated in violence.

Warfare in Syria. 

Church bombings in Egypt.

School shootings in San Bernardino. 

My reaction when someone cuts me off in traffic. 

How do we respond in the face of this news which is, to many of us, half a world away? How do we grapple with the fact that people are living in the reality of this assault on humanity day in and day out? Many of us don’t.

Attacks, bombings, riots, the refugee crises, systemic racism, police brutality, ISIS and a turbulent political season have numbed the collective psyche of Americans in the past year.

This year wasn’t the beginning of violence; rather, it marked a distinct upswing in our perceived climate of violence. As our collective awareness in the midst of a 24-hours news cycle and hashtag activism increased, our capacity to respond with compassion has, in many ways, decreased.

The fascinating thing about violence is that it, like anger, isn't a primary emotion or action; it only comes as a result of being afraid or in pain. 

One of the core questions of humanity is, “Why do bad things happen in the world?” Why is there pain, suffering, loss … and what do we do about it?

The thing is that this isn’t a new question. This is a human question. We’ve been asking this for a very long time.

In the Old Testament, the prophet Habakkuk pleaded with God:

How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! ‘Violence is everywhere!’ I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery?
Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. (Habakkuk 1:2-3)

Habakkuk is essentially questioning God, “Why is there pain in the world?! How much longer do I have to witness this?"

I identify with Habakkuk. The weight of this year and the loss of human life that it has marked, both domestically and abroad, has been devastating.

We have to ask the question: In 2017, and in the face of relentless violence, how do we labor for peace in a world addicted to chaos?

I'm a positive person. This is not a shocking statement for those that know me. But lately I've been finding myself in a state of numb apathy when I look globally and locally. 

This week, in the midst of violence, I'm choosing hope. I'm choosing hope because of the transforming mystery of Easter. Jesus, the embodiment of restorative peace, stepped into violence; taking the full measure upon himself. 

In Jesus, the Kingdom of God was announced and inaugurated on earth. There's a vital piece to Easter that if we aren't careful we miss in our celebration of the resurrection. Because of Jesus' sacrifice we are invited to live differently. It's not enough to celebrate the resurrection by singing songs and listening to a message. Because of Easter we are invited into a cross-shaped, sacrificial, neighbor-loving participation in the kingdom of God on earth. 

We are invited to choose a new response to violence in the world and in ourselves. 

When 1999 was ending and 2000 was about to begin, there were a lot of people who thought the world was going to end. A primitive theory scared people into believing computers wouldn’t be able to turn over into the new millennium and this would cause destruction to everything we knew.

So what did people do? They prepared for the worst.

I remember neighbors who built bomb shelters in their basements, stockpiled barley and grain, and took other steps they felt would prolong their life in a post-apocalyptic new-millennium as long as possible. 1999 came and went. The computers didn’t crash. We’re still here. And their bomb shelters still exist.

If we are to follow Jesus in 2017, we can’t live with this kind of mentality. The kind that preserves only our own life and our own interests. The kind that isolates itself from the reality of the world into bunkers of our own distractions or consumption.

This cannot be our reality.

The Kingdom of God that we are to be part of establishing isn’t a place we will go to “someday,” or checking out of the world as it is but rather, it’s part of transforming and healing the world we are in now.

Our lives must be shaped by the truth that we have a role to play in God’s healing work in the world. And in that, we accept our responsibility to engage.

The world doesn’t just need to hear that Jesus loves them—although that’s very true, the world needs to see that love in action. The world needs to see God’s shalom lived out.

Laboring for peace in a world as broken as ours rejects our most basic temptation as humans to look out only for ourselves and our interests. It partners with Christ in the restoration of all things to himself. The path to this kind of peace, peace that is whole and perfect, remains engaged. It seeks God’s heart for those affected by violence and then it moves to action. When it’s inconvenient, when it’s costly and most of all, when it’s easiest not to.

The hope of Easter isn't the resolution to the story. Hope is choosing to believe in the midst of tension. This year I have irrational levels of hope in the midst of violence because the tomb is empty. 

What do you need to be transformed? How can you choose hope in the midst of violence?

Intergenerational Service Trips

I’ve been in youth ministry for over 5 years and this past weekend I got to experience something brand new to me in ministry. Our church took a group of 37 people, Jr High students and their parents, down to Mexico for a faith adventure.

In the last five-plus years I’ve been part of dozens of camps, retreats, trips, and events. Summer camp has always been the focus of ministry calendars that I’ve helped shape. I believe so deeply in the power and importance of students experiencing a week of summer camp. 

As I was processing this past weekend I started thinking a lot about Sticky Faith. If you’re in youth ministry you most likely know that Sticky Faith refers to the research by the Fuller Youth Institute on long-term spiritual formation in adolescents. One of their primary findings was that 80-90% of high school youth group students will walk away from the Church after graduation. That’s a staggering statistic. The book, and accompanying work books, feature research of churches that are striving to reverse that trend through intergenerational ministry. 

This weekend was a first because it was my first truly intergenerational ministry trip. Here are 4 things I processed and observed.

1) Shared experience. Watching parents serve alongside their children created a lasting shared experience. As much as I believe in summer camp, I know that students will often come home and the only word they have for it was “awesome!” I’m glad when students love camp but the understanding gap is often impossible for parents to bridge when they don’t know the right questions to ask. Watching parents share this experience with their children brought me so much joy to know that they were having formative moments as a family alongside one another. 

2)  Speaking truth. One of the things that I loved was watching students and parents call out truth and affirm one another in the debrief times. There were several moments where people brought the whole debrief circle to tears as they spoke truth about their family member. I love that service trips open doors of opportunity for affirmation to go from being a thing that families do in Mexico to doing in their own homes.  

3) Web of relationships. One of the findings of Sticky Faith is that students need 5 adults in their church congregation that know them, care for them, and form a “web of relationship” in order to be more likely to stick in the Church beyond High School. This weekend was powerful because we got to see those webs of relationship form. I work at a large mega church so it was powerful to see church get a little bit smaller this weekend for our students. My hope is that as they return home the relationships they built with other adults and parents will form this supportive web that they so deeply need. 

4) Children seeing faith of their parents. We know as youth workers that we aren’t the primary spiritual influences in a child’s life - their parents are. This weekend was powerful to watch parents modeling the type of servant-hearted faith they hoped their children will grow to live out. This took faith beyond a conversation and put work gloves on it. I’m excited for the doors that this weekend opened for ongoing dialogue between parent and child regarding their relationships with Jesus and participation in God’s kingdom.

This weekend was part of an unfolding storyline. These four takeaways are like seeds that I pray are watered as they grow and are lived out within the unfolding storylines of nuclear families. 

Three Thoughts

I love to teach, write, and coach. Those three things are the activities in which I feel most alive. Recently, I've wrestled with a desire to write. This wrestling hasn't come from a lack of things to say; but rather from an observation about our current cultural moment.

We are over-saturated. 

The rise of social media, blogging, podcasts, and the accessibility in building a digital platform has added countless voices to every cultural conversation that's taking place. From race, class, gender, presidential actions, etc... - there are more voices speaking out on all sides than ever before. 

For some people this is a great thing. 

For me, it's led to a lot more listening. Listening is important because it lets you hear what the tension behind the statement is. Listening is important because it lets you hear the intentions of a person rather than just forming an opinion based on their actions. This listening has brought me to three thoughts. 

First thought: This realization has nothing to do with who is president, what policies are being signed, or who is being marginalized. Many of us, in an effort to make ourselves heard, will make an enemy out of the opposition. I've been guilty of this more often than I'd like to admit. In a desire to speak for justice, to elevate the voices of others, we often wage war on the person that we deem the arbiter of injustice. Regardless of outcome, I don't believe that equals true justice. Living justly is the acknowledgment that it's better to appear to lose than to perpetuate a cycle of violence. 

Second thought: I believe there are so many voices in the cultural conversation right now because humanity has a shared desire to understand the depths of life. If you watch a road construction crew working you'll notice that they don't start by pouring a fresh layer of asphalt onto the existing road. This would just be skimming the surface of the road and ignoring whatever foundational needs exist under the surface of the road. When doing road work, a construction crew will dig up portions of the road; they will do the unseen work of building a strong road several feet beneath the surface. 

Many people right now have traded being content with a fresh layer of asphalt in their lives for a real, transformative, re-construction - one in which the structure of the person is potentially even changed.

As we seek to understand the depths of life the foundation may be torn up a bit. That's okay. My prayer for myself, and for others, is that I would seek that with grace, humility, and patience. 

Third Thought: I've had a blog for about three years now. I started writing online as an outlet for creative thoughts about discipleship that didn't fit into weekly youth group sermons, to impress future employers, and to serve as a platform to self-promote opportunities for speaking gigs.

In different seasons all three of these purposes have been fulfilled. This blog has led to some important growth for me from the conversations its started with others. I'm excited to start a new direction for the foreseeable future. I want to write more than I ever have. I want to tell stories - more than I ever have. The only difference is that I want to start exclusively telling the kinds of stories that get at the depths of life and how other people are living this out. I want to tell stories of forgiveness, peace making in the mundane, and people working for reconciliation in our world. 

Do you have a story like that? I'd love to write about you, let you write about yourself, or feature your work and story through video and writing in some way that helps more people know about other people that are doing their best to understand the depths of life. 

 

Rhythms and Ruts

Rhythm is a beautiful thing. Rhythm is subtle. 

We've all been to a wedding where someone's uncle flails their appendages with reckless abandon. Highlighting, of course, the absence of rhythm. No fingers pointed but some of us have been that person....

Rhythm exists in so many areas of our lives. Sleeping and waking. Finances. Working. Even what we eat every day has rhythms to it.

Rhythm, when left unchecked, easily becomes a rut in our lives. 

Ruts can lead to frustration, lack of creativity, and even burnout. 

My rhythm of eating at Chipotle (chicken bowl, black beans, brown rice, medium salsa, sour cream, cheese, guac. Every. Single. Time.) three times a week - while delicious - easily becomes a rut and is detrimental to my pursuit of health. Not to mention a budget.

As people that are formed by what we do, our rhythms are vitally important. 

In scripture the Israelites were given the rhythm of sabbath - a weekly time set apart for rest and worship. Sabbath was meant to remind them that they were no longer slaves in Egypt. It was meant to remind them and us that while every major world religion has a holy place where they worship, we have sabbath. Time is our Cathedral to worship and honor God. 

The good rhythm of sabbath and the whole of the 10 commandments became a rut for the Israelites. What was once meant to connect God with God's people quickly became a point of contention. The 10 commandments become the 613 laws that are referenced as "The Law" throughout scripture.

This week I studied Leviticus (a book chalk-full of Jewish law) in my Mariners daily read Bible. Leviticus is full of passages about proper temple worship, ceremonial cleanliness, and how to prepare offerings. These passages are really about holiness.

God's people were liberated from slavery in Egypt and were now being saved for a covenental relationship with God. 

The Israelites had so many rules and laws (remember, 613 LAWS) because their rhythm became a rut. This rut eventually became legalistic to the point that Pharisees devoted their lives to assuring people's full commitment to the law. 

Later in the scriptures we reach the Gospel of Mark. In Mark, Jesus tells people to "come and follow me." He was telling them to leave the ruts they had been occupying and seek something new. Jesus sought to make disciples. He offered a radically new way of being in the world. 

In Leviticus people were striving to be clean for the Temple. In the good news of Jesus the whole thing is a temple. The whole thing (life, you, me, us) was meant to be holy. In Leviticus they were commanded to prepare a gift. In the gospel of Jesus it's all a gift. 

 When Jesus proclaimed, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6)  he was flying directly in the face of the rut culture of Leviticus. For ancient Jews the Law was known as "the way." Jesus doesn't proclaim that he is a way. Jesus proclaims that he is THE way. He was offering his listeners a new way of being in the world. He was offering them something different than a rhythm, formula, or pattern to follow. He was offering them Himself. 

This week I've been reminded that I'm invited to choose a new way of being in the world. I'm invited to choose a cross-shaped way of life that is marked by love for neighbor, sacrifice, and service to others. The invitation that Jesus gave to young disciples 2,000 years ago to "come and follow me" is extended to you and I today. 

Where We've Been || Where We're Going

I love trees. Growing up there was an oak tree on our property that was my multi-dimensional playground. Some days it was a pirate ship. Other days it was a rocket ship. And still other days it was my bunker for the heat of paintball battles. 

I was in Northern California last weekend and visited the property where the dreams of my childhood unfolded. I saw that same tree and was brought into a brain process about roots and how they impact who we are and where we are going. 

This is true at an individual level. Our roots - family of origin, socioeconomic status, race, class, and gender have a strong bearing on who we are today and where we are going. 

This is also true at a national level. Our roots as individual pieces of a larger collective whole has an impact on who we are and where we are going as a nation. 

The truth that many of us are afraid to admit is that the roots of our nation weren't always the prettiest. Now, before I keep going, let me put out this disclaimer: I am thankful to live in America, I enjoy religious freedom, safety, and security that would look different in other nations. I'm incredibly blessed. However, we need to own that the American legend that is taught to Elementary School students is, in many ways, an American Myth. A few quick hits: colonial genocide of Native Americans, the 3/5 compromise, and Native American boarding schools.

Native American boarding schools were established in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to educate Native American children and youths according to Euro-American standards. These boarding schools were first established by Christian missionaries of various denominations, who often started schools on reservations and founded boarding schools to provide opportunities for children who did not have schools nearby, especially in the lightly populated areas of the West. The government paid religious societies to provide education to Native American children on reservations. 

Children were usually immersed in European-American culture through appearance changes with haircuts, were forbidden to speak their native languages, and traditional names were replaced by new European-American names (to both "civilize" and "Christianize"). The experience of the schools was often harsh, especially for the younger children who were separated from their families. In numerous ways, they were encouraged or forced to abandon their Native American identities and cultures. Investigations of the later twentieth century have revealed many documented cases of sexual, manual, physical and mental abuse occurring at such schools.

Those are just three examples of why the last year at a national level doesn't make sense to me. How can we make something great again that has only ever been "great" for a small percentage of white, land-owning, and (historically) slave-owning men? 

Who is it great for?

And when is it great *again*?

Our roots will impact where we're going. 

There are a lot of people saying "this is what Jesus followers need to do..." Some say live as active resistance, march in the streets, and fight systems of power. For others, they are declaring their excitement for these 4 years, rallying people to pray out of an obligation that God had something to do with appointing the leader of the free world, and their hope that this administration will be better than the prior.

Neither group is entirely right. 

There are people of all races, classes, genders, sexual orientations, and traditional political party preferences on both sides of those distinctly different rallying cry statements.

In the recent election, 81% of white, evangelical people voted for Trump. The same percentage of minority, evangelical voters didn't vote for Trump.

We need to acknowledge that we have an identity crises on our hands. Our roots, in many ways, have led us to where we are now - a divided nation and a divided Church.

Walter Bruggemann says it this way: “The crisis in the U.S. Church has almost nothing to do with being liberal or conservative; it has everything to do with giving up on the faith and discipline of our Christian baptism and settling for a common, generic U.S. identity that is part patriotism, part consumerism, part violence, and part affluence” 

People who are "Christian" by culture and not conviction might be the biggest problem facing Christianity today.

The question we need to ask is where are we going?

My invitation is that as citizens of the kingdom of God we need to listen first. Listen to people different than us. People of different races, genders, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, and traditional voting preferences. We need to listen well. Secondly, we need to be people that own our collective roots. Our shared history isn't pretty, and in many ways still isn't pretty. Thirdly we need to repent. Repentance isn't saying something differently, it's living differently.

We need to love our neighbor - the one next door and the one around the world - radically.

We need to love people that are different than us. 

We need to spend the next four years (and the forty after that) celebrating and honoring the image of God in the person in front of us. We need to work for the flourishing of our neighbor.

Where will the roots we cultivate together lead us?

 

Learning to Cease

I’m getting ready for Winter Camp this weekend with my new church. I LOVE camp. I love the moment when a teen gets “it.” When something clicks for them and they understand how loved they are by God.

I love when they see who they are and who they were made to be in the world. When they see themselves as participants, co-conspirators in the story of redemption that God is telling in the world. I love when a student sees their next step towards Jesus and has adults and a life group ready to take that step with them.

On my Sabbath this week I was reflecting that I also love camp because it’s a moment where we are still.

Growing up, my hoarder of a Grandma had over 100 snow globes. When she wasn’t looking I would grab as many as I could and shake them as hard as possible. I’d watch gleefully as the white pellets would soar and bounce off the inside of the glass. After a few moments of not shaking, the pellets would resettle back to the bottom and you could see the figurine or picture inside the snow globe.

Our lives are similar to that snow globe.

For many people a weekend at camp is a time where the things that fill their time stop being shaken long enough that they can see what is actually going on in their lives.

I believe that our sabbath, our rest, was meant to be a space where the snow globe of our lives stops shaking. A sabbath is rest and worship. It is a break from all of the cycles of consumerism and busyness that invades our life.

The sabbath is a day when God has my rapt attention. It’s a day when I’m fully available to my family and friends. The sabbath is a day with no to-do list. It’s a day when I don’t accomplish anything, and I don’t feel guilty. It’s a day when my email is closed. The sabbath isn’t a day to buy or sell – to get more. It’s a day to enjoy what I already have. Sabbath is a day where I remember I do not have to earn my God’s love.

That sounds great, right? But why live an intentional rhythm of sabbath?

In Scripture, we have a few commands and references for sabbath.

2 Scriptural Commands on Sabbath

1) Genesis 2:1-3 “…God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.”When finished with the work of creating all things, God rested. GOD rested.

 God, the creator of all things, found it fitting to rest. If we, as people made in God’s image, are meant to mirror and mimic what God is like to the world then when God rests – we rest.

Bless is translated barak in Hebrew. God blesses the living creatures, humanity, and a day. Just as humanity was instructed to be fruitful and multiply, the inclusion of the sabbath in that blessing tells us that sabbath is meant to be life-giving.

First-century rabbis made a big deal of the principle of “first mention” in the Torah. The way a word is used the first time becomes the definition it holds. Time is the first thing that God makes holy. Consider this, every major world religion has a space that is holy. A space where they go to worship and celebrate their god.

We have time. Time is our cathedral.

Time is our living act of worship to honor God. With our time we recognize God’s worth in our lives.

Our shared goal in sabbath is to savor every second. Because it’s holy. Is this how you think of holiness?

2) Deuteronomy 5:12-15

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the LORD your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the LORD your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day. 

In Deuteronomy Moses shares that sabbath is a day to remember you are no longer slaves to Egypt. A day to remember you aren’t driven by Pharaoh and his ways. 

Sabbath is active defiance against the system that says we need to get more, be more, and do more.

Sabbath is a celebration that we are not bound to the Pharaohs of our day.

I’ve never seen men make bricks or have their value counted by the amount they contributed to an empire. However, I have seen people worship the Pharaohs of our day: systemic consumerism, systemic capitalism, and busyness.

Sabbath is a radical way of living where we say no to systems and say yes to our identity as freed Children of God.

So, my youth worker friends, my prayer for us (because I need this as much as you) is that we will have the courage to stop shaking.

May we be a force of active defiance against Pharaoh.

May we remember our mission to let time be holy as worship to a holy God.

May the snow pellets of your life be still.

 May we remember that the snow globe needs to not shake for a little while so that you can see what you’ve got inside.

How to Fight for Peace in a World Addicted to Violence

Hey friends!

Last week I wrote this article and it was featured on Relevant Magazine's website. I don't want to post the blog directly because it was published by them. However, would love it if you took 5 minutes to read it on their website, share it with a friend if it compels or speaks to you. 

CLICK HERE

Stay tuned for a few new writing projects that are in the works!

The Wind and The Waves

One of the earliest life storms I can remember was getting cut from the basketball team in seventh grade. I was a strapping 4’ 8" tall and was trying out against kids that were a little further along in their entry to puberty. I spent hours trying to perfect my shot, hoping to have something of value to add to the team. When tryouts came around I was easily the worst player on the court. Needless to say, I was cut. I was as devastated as you can be in seventh grade and something doesn’t go your way. 

In the past couple months I’ve walked through storms with multiple families and people I care about. Lost family members, divorces, cancer, and job loss. In my own journey I’ve wrestled tremendously with the question of, "what do we do when the waves get rough and life feels scary?"

I think the ways we respond in adversity and pain are central to what it means to be human. 

Joy and hope are good reinforcers but are not teachers. We learn and grow from the hardships and sorrow we face.

One of the stories that has repeatedly come back to me lately is the story of Jesus walking on water and calming the storm. 

And in the fourth watch of the nighthe came to them, walking on the sea.  But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind,he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him.

I see a lot of myself in the disciple's reactions to the storm and to Jesus walking out to them. 

Often, our tendency is to hide. We cower in fear when we see the wind and the waves rise. Self preservation is a natural first response to danger. 

I love and aspire to the bravery of Peter who takes a step towards Jesus. In Greek and Hebrew the word for faith is most often used as a verb. I admire the faith of Peter in getting out of the boat. I also see myself in him in the way that as soon as he was closer  to the storm he panicked. He took his eyes off of Jesus.  

Immediately Jesus reached and grabbed him. 

Jesus steps closer to the storm to rescue Peter. 

What I’m learning in this season for myself, and for the journeys of so many friends, is that the love of Jesus is bigger than our fear. It’s bigger than our doubt. It’s bigger than our anxiety or our moments of panic. 

My hope for all of us is that we will get out of the boat and, in faith, step towards this truth especially when the waves get rough and life feels scary. 

A prayer that I’m learning to pray as I’m waking up is a simple 7 words, “God, today you have my full attention.” 

This isn’t always easy to pray. But for me, it’s the first step in getting out of the boat.