See WHO at the pole?

Why is it that our churches are filled on Wednesday night or Sunday evening or whenever the youth gathering is, but when a call to corporal prayer and a sign of unity comes along, there is little to no presence at all?

Taken from the SYATP website.

For the last 25 years, See You at the Pole has been about one simple act—prayer. SYATP is still about students uniting themselves in prayer before God interceding for their generation.

There are two opportunities to unite in prayer with your friends:
DAY: SEE YOU AT THE POLE day is on Wednesday, September 28, at 7:00 a.m. local time. All around the globe, in every time zone, students will be gathering at their flagpoles, praying for their school, friends, families, churches, and communities. SEE YOU AT THE POLE is a day committed to global unity in Christ and prayer for your generation.
WEEK: The GLOBAL WEEK OF STUDENT PRAYER (Sunday, September 25 through Saturday, October 1) encourages students to find new and unique ways, places, and times to pray throughout the week. Whether you attend PUBLIC SCHOOL, PRIVATE SCHOOL, or HOME SCHOOL, gather your friends wherever and whenever and pray! The GLOBAL WEEK OF STUDENT PRAYER is dedicated to prayer and launching your on-campus Bible clubs, prayer strategies, and student ministries.

So we are in some desperate times folks. Some dire straits for sure.

I reposted a picture earlier on Facebook of a young boy standing at the flag pole at his school for See You At The Pole (notice the featured image). The dad said his son sat in prayer there despite no one else coming. This was not the only picture of a lone student standing by himself at the flag pole.

I then heard a story from one of our local high schools that they had only 4 kids come out and they were ridiculed for doing so. I am not sure about the other high school.

The question I have is this. Why is it that our churches are filled on Wednesday night or Sunday evening or whenever the youth gathering is, but when a call to corporal prayer and a sign of unity comes along, there is little to no presence at all? What are we teaching our young people in these weekday gatherings that would keep them from getting around one another and praying for their school? Are we soft on the gospel? Have we led them well?

I like numbers so here ya go.

According to city-data there are 130 congregations of some sort of religion in Oshkosh. Most religions value prayer. Yet 4 kids at the high school of 1200.

– If only 50 people attended a Sunday gathering at all of the 130 congregations that would still only be 6500 people sitting in church on Sunday. In a population of 66K, that means less than 10% of the population is in church. Yet that is the emphasis for most congregations. What happens if we value the city and everyone in it?

– There are on average 2.4 people per household in Oshkosh. That tells me that there is plenty of adults available to disciple the younger generation. Now get this, they will be discipled of something (i.e Pokemon, drugs, drinking). Will they be disciples of Jesus?

When I was not bi-vocational and pastored in a traditional church we went on prayer walks with our youth group before the school year started and we walked the entire north side, stopping to pray at the schools along the way. We would have upwards of 20 kids sometimes in a church that was about 40 on Sunday morning. Ya see most of those kids did not even attend our church on Sunday and their parents did not attend anywhere. We loved them and showed them Jesus for the sake of showing them Jesus.  I was involved with SYATP and attended with the kids, I never saw another pastor and the most amount of parents was 5.

See you at the pole does not define the state of Christianity among our young people for sure. However, there might be some signs to the spiritual leaders of our city to engage them deeper than chubby bunny contests and rug burns on a Wednesday night. Get them out of the church and let them engage their city. Serve and serve and serve those that do not look like them or act like them. Empower them with the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and watch them do wonderful miraculous things themselves through that same Spirit.

Proverbs 22:6English Standard Version (ESV)
6 Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

My fear is that they will only ever know those that they see leading them on Wednesday and Sunday morning. If the numbers are any indication that is not enough.

Pokemon? Whoa!!

Don’t believe the lies that the enemy will put in your path by exchanging bad for something worse and cloaking it in good.

So yes the latest craze in the world is Pokemon Go. The children’s game lived out in virtual reality in attempts to grab those millennials that grew up with the game and wire them into their smart phones or other electronic devices. I have some opinions on this but then I started to think about the fact that it is not my opinion that matters but rather how God sees these things and it caused me to start to search the scripture to find out that very thing. I started in Genesis, and saw that Eden was deceived by evil that was masked as good.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6

Outside of the occasional robbery, local police departments having to warn citizens to stay out of private property and the fact that people are wandering into oncoming traffic because there may be a charizard hidden in the middle of a four lane highway, the game itself is pretty harmless, (FOR NOW). However I have seen many folks that call Jesus their Savior attempt to justify the craze by saying that they are using it as a discipling tool. Now, I totally believe that God can use everything for His glory and His will be done in all things. However, are we a vehicle for the gospel or a vehicle for the enemy?

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 14:12

Let’s not forget how Jesus discipled. He went to men and asked them to walk with him and he invested 3 years of his life with them. He went where they went and he slept where they slept. He ate the same food and met the same people. Discipleship is the giving away of your life for the furtherance of the gospel message. Discipleship is going out of your way to be uncomfortable so that others can see the love of a Savior. Discipleship is an investment in lives around you.  Is this being accomplished when the conversations among 5 people standing in a park together centers around what level or team you are on in this game? Are we doing as Paul instructed the people in Colossi?

17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Then out of this you invariably have the “lesser of two evils” side. “At least people are getting out of the house and getting active”, has been a rallying cry for proponents of Pokemon Go. So it took this game to get the people of God to be active in their world? The charge to disciple and preach the gospel and go out to the ends of the earth is as old as history, yet the lure of electronic gratification has pulled us out of the house. We cannot be lead away from the truth at any cost.

…’For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 

So is this article about shaming Christians into acting like Christians? Heck no. However, we all have the charge upon our lives, to choose wisely the path in which we will travel. If this helps even one person then it has hit the mark.

They say that Pokemon Go has surpassed pornography as the most engaged activity on your phone. Interesting that they keep that statistic isn’t it? Don’t believe the lies that the enemy will put in your path by exchanging bad for something worse and cloaking it in good. Moses saw it and we can see it too.

24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up,refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. Hebrews 11:24

In the end do what ya gotta do, but always remember that without Christ at the center of every thought and decision we can be lead easily away from the things of God and into the realm of virtual gratification and accomplishment, and you really do not have to “Catch ’em all” for Pokemon but you should try to catch ’em for Jesus.

 

Frustration, key to Spiritual growth

“Trials will come and tests will be present”

So on my daily jaunt into work this morning I find myself on the highway and completely over come with thoughts of frustration that border on rage. Why, you ask? Well because other driver annoy the heck out of me and bring me to places that I would really choose not to be. They bob and weave in front of you, and they race ahead to get one place ahead of you so that they can slam the breaks on to make the next off ramp. Are you getting the picture? I think we have all been there.

So in my murmuring and my frustration I start to think about my relationship with God and how that relationship has infused every part of my life, but this one part keeps creeping up on me. We all have that one thing that proves to be such a frustration at times. What is yours? Money, work, relationships? Could it be that there are several things?

In the book of Isaiah the prophet speaks to a nation of Israel to calm their fears and encourage their faith. He refers to them as one unit. We remain to be that one unit today. The body of Christ set forth and set apart for a  different purpose.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Trials will come and tests will be present, because the enemy does not want to see us calm in the presence of the Lord. However, God is faithful and just and he turns our frustration to laser focus on Him for those that trust completely and have made that relationship paramount in their lives.

So the next time that road rage creeps up on you or that crying baby in the doctor’s office or that co-worker is testing your very last nerve at work, take that frustration and turn it to Spiritual growth.

Where are you? vs Where God wants you?

Just a quick look at some of the scriptural places that God desires for us to be and matching those up against where we currently are. We can all take a minute to evaluate how much time we put into seeking God’s face in all things. Thanks for watching.

CLICK HERE to watch the video.

Why do I care?

Did ya ever get those times when you ask yourself, “Why do I even care?”? The times that you wonder why the things that bother you bother you. I mean you are secure in your faith and you hold God in high regard, you are suffering those around you and your desire is to see life lived out in the context of the gospel. That seems to be a pretty good start on why you would not see fit to ask the “Why do I care?” question. Yet we find ourselves asking that question.

Recently I had a friend of mine tell me how he visited a church where he used to go and proceeded to tell me that over the years not much has changed there. The messages are pretty much the same, the people are pretty much the same, and the open pleadings for money have not changed much. He was surprised that this was the case. The Pastor routinely posts publicly about the financial woes of the church and that there is a need to get people to give or they will not be able to pay the bills. He also told me that the number of people in the Sunday gathering was approaching 11 or 12, (people, not 11 or 12 hundred or thousand). Upon hearing this I almost instantaneously went to “why do they insist on making this so hard?”. Then I asked myself “Why do I care?”.

Then another friend of mine told me about how a church he was attending went with a snow producing machine for a Christmas service, that was not to be outdone by light shows and smoke machines on Sunday morning. That was not the part that made me scratch my head though. It was the part where he lamented over the fact that he has people there that he truly loves and have played a pivotal role in his walk with Christ, yet he has not personal relationship with them. I mean how much relationship can you truly have with someone if you have never been to their house right? We are family ya know. I ask myself “Why do I care?”.

Lastly there are the churches near us that have referred people to us, rather than helping them on their way. We heard things like, “they are more suited to people in your situation” or “they have a very good homeless ministry”. They are right in that we do have a good homeless ministry and we are suited to “those” people, but that is only because Jesus had a good homeless ministry and cared about “those” people. We spent time with those people that sometimes were in other congregations all together, yet had never or very rarely even stepped foot in the home of the Pastor of that church. I ask myself “Why do I care?”

Some of the answers started coming to me over the weekend. We hold a Sunday evening basketball training, bible study, fellowship, relational, character building, loving, sharing, growing kind of thing that is really proving to open my eyes more and more to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been studying in the book of Titus and it has been such a great time of growth for the men involved. This week something stood out to me and leaped off the page.

he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:5-7

He saved us because of his own mercy, we are being regenerated with the Holy Spirit, and he is coming back again to get us. The gospel of Jesus Christ demands that we embrace those things. Without them we are children tossed to and fro by any means of doctrine or light show or plea for money or indoor snow storm, okay so I added that last part to Paul’s letter. Speaking of Paul’s letter, the charge in Ephesians 4 is for us to grow up into the fullness of Christ and not be infants forever. There in lies the reason I dislike the reasoning, “I am just a baby Christian” (for the last 10 years), when it comes to serving the Kingdom of God.

It is my assertion that the reason churches find themselves in these positions of pleading for money or directing people away from their own church family is mainly because the gospel message is not released in their midst. They preach it, they believe it, they trust completely in it, but the folks that are attending regularly on Sunday have not been released to embrace the gospel on their own. The Pastor has been held up as the only one that knows what is going on. If it were not so why would we give themselves names like Senior Pastor or Head Pastor? If it they were not believing that they needed to be elevated, why would they build stages and quite literally keep the attenders in the dark while the light shines only on them in a Sunday morning gathering. The prophet Isaiah puts it this way.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all flesh shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:3-5

The very ground that we walk on should be made even so that we shall see it together. Think about that. What if we treated people with that same vision? What if we allowed the Spirit of God to speak through the people gathered and scattered into our world? Would there be a need to beg for money on a Sunday morning? Would there be a need to refer widows and orphans to other fellowships because you are “not equipped” to handle them?

So the question remains, “Why do I care?”. Well I care because God cares. I have prayed Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours, and He has listened and responded. Do I run ahead sometimes? Sure Do I get it wrong sometimes? Yep Am I a broken man in need of a Savior EVERY SINGLE DAY? Absolutely! The thing that I can say for certain is that he loved us first and he guides and directs my path. I am righteous because he is righteous. I am loved because he loves. I am saved, I am being saved and I will be saved.

That’s all I got to say about that, (in my best Forest Gump voice).

Moved by the story

So one of the most interesting thoughts I have had come through my mind over the last 12 years of living life on mission with God, is that the story of God matches up with mine so well. Ya see God’s story has all the pieces that make up a best seller, wait He already has a best seller. Anyway the story that He has laid out was one of creation, a fall, redemption and finally restoration. Yep, it is the story of the gospel, the “good news” for both the Jew and the gentile.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16

That power that I felt was so real when I started to experience the Spirit of God moving through me. Now, I had been in some very dark places in my lifetime and I had very good reasons to be distant from God. You name it and I had been a part of it. All of the things and reasons people use for not being close to God, I was part of that very thinking.

Burned by the church? CHECK
Burned by people? CHECK
Lead by desires of the flesh? CHECK
Seeking gain for personal pleasure? CHECK
Chasing the almighty dollar? CHECK
Bound in addiction? CHECK
Gonna pull myself up by my own bootstraps? CHECK

Ya see in those things is the very nature of God’s story to proclaim hope to a lost and struggling world. God would not have sent me through those things if He did not desire for me to use them later. God’s story has a plan and a purpose that is solely HIS. My story was wrought out of confusion and chaos and the presence of a distant God whose son only existed hanging on the cross of the Catholic church I attend (or told my parents I attended) for most of my adolescent years.

The gospel story is retroactive.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Even while I was in my sin all those years ago, God showed His love for me by sending His son to die. Take minute and think about that one. The God of the universe sent His son to live a perfect life and encounter all the trials and tribulations of a human existence, be accused by people who once called him friend, be betrayed by the closest of those that would deny they even knew him then give up the ghost so those very people could live forever with Him. Because the story is retroactive we get the opportunity to receive the same gift 5 minutes after you read this and then say “You mean that the sin I will commit tomorrow is already taken care of?” YEP! For those that are already submitting to the Lordship of Jesus you still chase the flesh and will always have a sin nature, BUT the scripture says that the Holy Spirit dwells inside you to give correction and aid you in your journey. Think about this one time. What if every time that you sat down at the computer to look at porn or every time you lied or every time you lusted, you would actually thank Jesus. I mean sit there at the screen and thank him for the cross. Think about what He did so that you could sit there and watch porn. Think about what He did so that you could check out some girl/guy at the check out counter at the grocery store. If we took Jesus at His word and we knew His redemptive story and it became normal for us and those that we are walking with, what a difference that would make in our world.

Take a minute today and go over the story of God. Use your own words to talk about it, then find out how your current story matches up with it.

Please always know that we are praying for everyone in our city and community regularly and there are those that are at the point to receive a message that is entirely Jesus’ and entirely yours but they need to see it through a different lens. They are not filing into church on Sunday to catch the latest worship tune or waiting to put their money in the basket, they are in your school at your work place and maybe even in your home.

Share your story and be moved.