Archive for November, 2015

“When you don’t want me to move, but you tell me to go, what do you mean?”

November 25, 2015

Why, yes, I did just quote a line from a Justin Bieber song. I know what you’re thinking, “how could I attempt to gleam anything useful for a cheesy pop song…especially from Justin Bieber?”

First, let me say that in any attempt to bond with kids and be relevant in youth ministry, you have to step outside of your comfort zone and admit that anyone in their 30’s and older is, in fact, “old” and by proxy, no longer cool. It hurts at first to admit you are no longer cool, but eventually the sting subsides and you learn to deal with it.

Regardless of how I feel about Justin Bieber and his music, one member of my youth group is a “belieber” and it helps me interact with and relate to her by knowing a little bit of his music. And if I were honest, that song in particular is pretty catchy.

The logical move, for me as a youth minister, is to go from knowing about my teenagers preference in music to knowing what is going on in popular culture. The things that are important to my teenagers may not be important to me, but it is to them. For me, a married man who has graduated from college with his Master’s, high school problems and concerns are simple and irrelevant to the big picture, but for my youth group, those problems are everything. I cannot be an effective minister there for them on any level if I do not know what their world looks like, and that includes but is not limited to movies, music, and pop culture.

One of the first rules of war is to know your enemy. One of the first rules of public speaking is to know your audience. One of the first rules to relationship is to know the person you are interacting with. One of the first rules of ministry is incredibly similar; know where your friends, relatives, family, acquaintances, neighbors, or community is hurting and struggling and go to that need to help, pray, and struggle with them. This is how you show them the love of God.

It is this idea of showing people the love, justice, and life of God that I want to talk about.

Recently, I came across a quote from Rick Warren, a pastor and author, that I found incredibly helpful.

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

It is this tension and seeming contradiction that comes to mind when I think of the lyrics of Mr. Bieber’s song. “When you don’t want me to move, but you tell me to go, what do you mean?” People often accuse the Church of bigotry, hate, and fear for holding to the long-held beliefs of Christianity concerning any number of topics. Abortion, Homosexuality, Casual Sex, Corporate Greed, etc.

“How can a people who believe in God’s love and equality for all people tell people that what they are doing is wrong? How can you say that my relationship with this person is sinful? Who do you think you are telling me that I have enough? What do you mean?” (**See what I did there?)

All jokes aside, to many the faith seems contradictory; we preach love but show no tolerance for certain subjects. To love someone is to tolerate what they do without question or comment; this is a lie.


Want for war or pray for peace?

November 17, 2015

I had intended to write something concerning the terror attacks in France, Beirut, Iraq, Syria, and the bombing of the Russian Airliner much sooner than today, but knee-jerk reactions are rarely the correct way during a time of pain and grief. Our emotions often want us to move in more drastic ways than we really should.

One of the great blessings of my life has been to know and learn from Dr. John Mark Hicks at Lipscomb University. I was my privilege to be his student in several classes while both in undergraduate studies and in graduate school, and while I graduated with my Master’s degree this past May, I read his blog posts and books to continue my personal studies and to feed my soul.

Dr. Hicks recently wrote a short blog about the escalating violence overseas and I found it very helpful. I have copied and pasted that blog below in its entirety and accompanied it with the link to his blog site.

Grace and peace to you all.

“Three prayer requests.

1. Pray for comfort and peace in Paris, but also in Beirut which was bombed the day before, families on the Russian airliner, and for Syria and Iraq where people suffer on a daily basis from the violence of ISIS.

I wonder why we painted our Facebook pages with French colors but not Lebanese or Russian. Perhaps I have some sense–we have a historic alliance with France….and because they are European…or perhaps the events in Paris are closer to home–they certainly are in terms of media coverage.

Whatever may be the case, we pray for France, but we also pray for everyone affected by ISIS’s violence. Perhaps this is a moment to deconstruct our Western centrism and embrace a desire for all human beings to live in peace. Consequently, we pray for all–including Syrians, Russians, and Iraqis–who have, in recent days, experienced the horror of ISIS violence.

Let us serve them as we are able.

2. Pray God will “break their teeth” (Psalm 58:6) and defang their power; pray God will put things right and reveal a sense of divine justice amidst this violence.

Imprecatory prayers are part of the Hebrew Bible, and they are also part of the New Testament, including Revelation 6:10. This is a legitimate way to express our anger, even our desire for revenge, and especially our desire for justice. We have these feelings, and the presence of these prayers are a divine invitation to express those feelings and desires to God.

At the same time, we leave them with God. We express them, give them to God, and plead with God to do something about it. We trust God will one day put everything to right, and God’s justice will reign upon the earth. Prayer places it in God’s hands, and we divest our hearts of any such feelings by pouring them into God’s heart. And God will do what is right, though perhaps not in our timing.

Let us give our anger to God.

3. Pray for a heart to love refugees, immigrants, and others who come to the West as they escape the violence of Syria and Iraq; pray God will give us a love for our neighbors rather than anger.

I pray my brothers and sisters will not visit the sins of ISIS on their Muslim, Middle Eastern, or immigrant neighbors here in the United States.

I pray we will not permit a few terrorists or ISIS fighters to subvert the merciful intent to receive refugees who seek safety and peace.

I pray we will seek every opportunity to share the love of Jesus with people who come to live among us as the world comes to us and we have a grand opportunity (which we have not had previously with many Muslims) to love them as Christ has loved us.

Let us treat our neighbors with goodness and mercy.

May God have mercy!”