Friday, September 18, 2009

Persecuted Christians

Did you know that people are still being persecuted for their faith in Christ?
I just finished a wonderful book called "Jesus Freaks II" by DC Talk and Voice of the Martyrs. It is the second volume in a series about the history of Christian martyrs. These books ought to be on the shelf of every Christian, especially U.S. Christians, to remind us of the religious freedom we enjoy. It also ought to remind us to remember in prayer those who are sharing the Good News of Jesus in a hostile environment.

"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." (Hebrews 13:3)

"So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel..." (2 Timothy 1:8)

"May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains." (2 Timothy 1:16)

May we be like our brother Onesiphorus, not ashamed of our imprisoned brothers and sisters, praying for them, refreshing them.

If you would like to find out more about today's prisoners, click on the link to the right, and add the page to your favorites. You can also sign up for emails updating you on persecuted Christians.

*A HUGE "thank you" to Voice of the Martyrs for bringing this continuing problem to our remembrance.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What a Summer...

I've been reflecting on this past summer in my youth ministry. From my standpoint, it was an utter success. Let me quickly add that the success was not due to me.

I really feel like God has been teaching me something this summer: To get out of His way! My M.O. is to plot, plan and fret. I tend to freak out if I don't at least have a basic plan.

But, sometimes, God isn't in "the planning."

Sometimes, He is right there in the moment when you don't know what to do or say or think. The best thing you can do is copy Jesus, and then God shows up.
We've had some huge events this summer. But the "bigness" was found in the small, special moments. At other events, God showed up in surprising ways that weren't at all planned.

Here is a brief recap:

It's Summer Lock-In - This was our first event of the summer. During our 2 a.m. devo, one of our teen girls asked to be baptized! I could NEVER have planned that!
Sam Thomsen Memorial Concert - We invited Aaron Shust. He showed up, along with God, and we had an incredible evening. There was healing through music that night. And we raised over $2,000 for local charities.
Nebraska Youth Camp - continues to be a special place for our teens. Four were baptized out there, one a friend of one of our teens who went to camp for the first time! I always have great conversations in the unplanned moments at camp.
30 Hour Famine - We snuck this event in at the end of the summer. We only gave the teens ONE WEEK to raise funds. Since we did it in August (rather than the usual February) we slept outside in cardboard boxes. Have you ever slept in cardboard boxes? When it started raining, we rain inside the church building. Homeless folks can't do that. We raised over $3,600 to feed hungry children around the world. That means 14 kids will be fed for the next year.

And I haven't even mentioned the impact of our wonderful interns (thanks Sara and Mitch!), or feeding homeless men at Siena Francis house, or all of our wonderful visitors and new friends, or SoulQuest, or...well, you get the picture.
Praise God for an awesome summer!
God, help me to STAY out of your way. Continue to work, despite me and through me.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lunatic, Liar or Lord?

There is a famous quote by C.S. Lewis that goes something like this:

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.”

Lewis here argues that the claim of Jesus to be "the Son of God" leaves us three options. Either Jesus was a lunatic, a liar, or He really was/is LORD.
After reading the book of John, one thing really sticks out: Jesus asked God to let people see who He really was. He was always complaining that people didn't understand.
So my next question is this: Would a liar publicly ask God to reveal his true identity? It seems that a liar would want to steer people away from his true identity!
So, for me, it seems that I can logically remove this one from the equation. So, is Jesus a lunatic? Or is He truly the Son of the Living God?
Of course, I choose the latter.
So does this mean that I am defined by this equation, too? Either I am a lunatic or really, really smart! I dunno...sometimes I feel like both! I feel like a lunatic who "gets" something that a lot of other people don't get. As long as I'm not a jerk about it, that's OK with me.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Blind Humans

As a race, humans are very blind.
Oh, not the kind of blindness where you can't physically see something. No, I'm speaking of the blindness where something is made clear, but we still don't believe it.
I often think, "How could people have witnessed ALL of the miracles of Jesus and still doubt?"
Here is a man who walked ON TOP of water, fed a mountain-ful of people with a handful of food, re-attached an ear with no medical equipment or stitches, and successfully told a violent storm to "Shut up!"
Our jaded-ness is not held to religion, though. Have you ever doubted any of the following...?
- someone saying they love you.
- a doctor telling you that you're in bad shape.
- a doctor telling you that you're's all in your head.
- weathermen
- yourself
Just because you doubt something doesn't mean that it's not true.
May God heal us of our blindness.