In light of the cold spell we’ve been having lately I’ve been starting to anticipate our first real snow. You know, the kind of snow you can go out and play in. The kind where sledding is really fun. Maybe you’re looking forward to it like me. Or maybe, once you get a taste you’ll probably hope that it goes away as quickly as it came. You could be the person who’s not looking forward to it at all.

Or maybe you’re facing snowstorms of a figurative kind…

How are you weathering those?

A few years ago we had a snowstorm that gave me some good time to think, to shovel, to play, and to shovel some more. During that shoveling, one question came to mind. How is youth ministry like a snowstorm? I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to answer that question but the more I pondered it the clearer it became.

Think about a snowstorm. Snow gets poured in from above covering everything and creating a beautiful and often messy landscape. Once the snow is done we begin the process of removal only to have it drift back again, sometimes even higher than before. The irony is that we can’t really stop it. We just lace up our boots, don our gloves, and start all over again.

Youth ministry, and particularly discipleship, is often the same way. Snow flurries are dumped in from all sides re-creating a beautiful yet messy landscape we call life. And the more I think about it the more I realize that it happens to all of us, not just youth. So we lace up our boots, don our gloves, and “dig in.” We shovel through life together. Then the wind comes and it drifts back in again.

I am reminded of Jesus and his disciples in Mark 8:13-21. Jesus and his disciples had been traveling and reaching out to large numbers of people and were likely very tired. They were in a boat, they were hungry, and they had forgotten to bring food with them. The disciples were talking amongst themselves trying to figure out what to do. The “winds” of hunger and frustration began to set in. At this point Jesus found it necessary to remind them of all that they had just been through, in particular Mark 6:30 through Mark chapter 8, and he rebukes them with a simple yet profound phrase, “How is it that you do not understand?”

Aren’t we often just like that? Buried under another drift and digging out again, we need to be reminded and maybe even rebuked. Don’t be surprised, the snowdrifts will come. Sometimes we cause them and sometimes we don’t. Each time, however, we “dig in” and “dig out.” This is the essence of discipleship. This is learning to love God, to read the Word, to love each other, and do it all over again when we fail. This is living life together.

Who are you weathering the storms with?

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1. Babies need milk. So do we (1 Peter 2:2).

2. Babies can’t do anything by themselves. We can’t either (John 15:5).

3. Babies make messes naturally. So do we (Romans 3:23).

4. Babies are loved without strings attached. So are we (Romans 5:8).

5. Babies are precious. So are we (John 3:16).

6. Babies need rest. So do we (Isaiah 40:31).

7. Christ was a baby who grew up and changed the world. So will we (Acts 1:8).

What other lessons can you learn from a baby?

So what do you do with the Word?

1. Meditate
2. Memorize
3. Model

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12, ESV).”

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV)”

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:11, ESV).”

“and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2, ESV).”

ME: “Why did you do that?”

DAUGHTER: “Because I wanted to.”

These have become famous words around our house that can’t really be argued with. It is an honest answer from a heart that knows it did wrong. What more can you say?

A couple of weeks ago I began thinking about why our youth make the decisions that they do. That is probably a question that will never be answered. Sometimes they don’t even know. Maybe they need to answer “I just wanted to.”

However, one thing did come to mind. As I began to think about all the “situations” I’ve encountered recently they all had one thing in common. In each scenario the youth didn’t think they would get caught.

They were only thinking about the consequences…

That was a lightening bolt for me. Maybe some of you realized this a long time ago. I guess it’s something I knew intrinsically but it just sort of clicked for me.

After that revelation I began to put together a way to help youth think about more than just the consequences. I wanted them to think more about the underlying principles associated with what they were going to do. What resulted was a lesson that I called “Truth or Consequences.” In the lesson I used two basic ideas, whoops and whoa.

Here’s the main portion of what I wrote:

WHOOPS!

Whoops is an expression of mild surprise. You might hear this word when you drop a glass or wake someone up. You might also hear it if a 3-year old has an accident in a public place.

Whoops is also the expression one might use when they’ve been busted. When that happened you might have thought “I didn’t know that was going to happen!” or “I almost made it!” or “Why did I do something so stupid?”.

In other words, whoops is finally understanding the consequences of your actions.

But there is another way…

WHOA!

A whoa represents stopping. When you want to stop a horse you say whoa. In theory, that helps the horse to understand how he or she is supposed to respond. Whoa might also be an expression you tell someone when they’re asking you to do something you know is immediately wrong.

Whoa also means stopping to make a decision based on basic truth’s rather than possible consequences.

Where does one find those truth’s or principles? I believe they are found in God’s Word. Take a look at the following verses on truth (Psalm 119:169, John 14:6, John 17:17, 1 Peter 1:22, 2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

WONDER!

Do you tend to be more of a “whoops” person or a “whoa” person? In other words, do you make your decisions based off of principles or what consequences you might face?

What would it look like if you started applying “whoops” or “whoa” to your daily decision-making?

Is it sensible to make decisions based on principles or truth’s rather than consequences? Why or why not?

Examine some of the situations in your life and ask God if there’s something you need to start doing differently.

It’s that time of year when you start to wish it was winter again. Go outside and look at the lawn, then you’ll know what I mean. Time to get out the mower, change the oil, and sharpen the blades. Yesterday, as I was getting my hair cut, I began to think about the similarities between mowing, getting a haircut, and spiritual living.

Sometimes things get a little rough around the edges and they need a little trim. One day we get up, look in the mirror (or out the window), and wonder how things got so disheveled. What does it take for God to get our attention? Will we respond to God’s prompting or will He have to get out the heavenly hedge trimmers?

And when your haircut is done, don’t forget to leave a tip, a token of thanks.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights (Proverbs 3:11, 12).

Can you think of other similarities?

Do you have any things that bug you? Little pet peeves maybe? I do! I’ve probably got too many. Some people might even say I’m paranoid.

I can’t help it. There are some things that weird me out!

One of the worst is drinking or eating after people. I can’t stand drinking after someone or having them drink after me. It’s actually sort of funny because I don’t even like drinking after my wife. I know, I know (don’t even go there). It’s even worse when it’s my daughter. Mommy can share her cup or her food but don’t touch daddy’s!

Those that know me really enjoy giving me a hard time about it, especially those in our youth group. One of the worst things I can remember doing, related to this, was a missions event that I did while on a beach project with Campus Crusade. All of the students on this project were divided into various groups and our group had a bowl of rice set in front of us. One bowl full of rice, and we were to eat it with our hands. I finally got hungry enough and ate the rice. Oddly enough, after sharing spit, slobber, and spiritual lessons, I gained a new sense of community that night (and I didn’t get sick).

How do you feel about people eating or drinking after you… spiritually? I realize it’s a bit of a stretch but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. In John 21 Jesus tells Peter to feed his sheep. We can only feed people what we ourselves have eaten.

In 2 Timothy 2:2 (ESV) we are told “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” It is our responsibility to be passing on what we have been feeding on. In fact, those people are supposed to be so well fed that they can feed others!

Are you feeding other people? If not, maybe you should consider finding someone that can eat after you. Spend time together sharing with one another what you are eating. Digest the Word together.

What is your diet like? Is it junk food or do you have a healthy balance? Do you eat regularly or when you feel like it?

Take some time to think through these questions and come up with a plan, a menu if you will. Then all you need to do is dig in with both hands (or forks) and enjoy the feast!

Bon appétit…

The past several years our youth group has gone on a camping trip down to southern Indiana. We spend the weekend relaxing, playing games, and having fun. The entire place encompasses about 10 acres of the most amazing land you could find in Indiana. In the middle is a small lake with some big fish. Many a night has been spent trying to catch those catfish! On top of that, the owners have planted and maintained a beautiful herb garden as well as walking paths and places to be alone.

One of the elements we try to add in during our camping trip is a daily devotional. This year we decided to write the devotional based off of some of the herbs and various locations on the property. Obviously, if you try this for your own group, this won’t work for everyone. However, if there is something you’d like to use or modify please feel free. Maybe you could just picture the scenes and go through the devotional yourself. Any way you use it please enjoy the “Herbal Meditations.”

1. Cross on arch in herb garden (John 19:19) – Jesus was mockingly called the “King of the Jews.” Is he the “king” of your life? How can you tell? Can others tell? Discuss how “kingship” is shown in people’s lives.

2. Doll in the lake (Exodus 2:3) – Why was Moses set adrift in the river? Who are the people that provide protection for you in different areas? How does God protect us (Hebrews 13:5-7 & Joshua 1:5)?

3. Love in a puff (Matthew 28:19) – I thought of 2 things when I was told about this flower. One is the idea of the Trinity. What do you know about the Trinity? The other is the idea of relationship. The Trinity forms a perfect example of relationship. Who do you admire most in your family? How well is our youth group doing at being family? What suggestions do you have. How can you be part of the change?

4. Grape arbor (Jeremiah 8:13) – If you had to be a fruit what would you be and why? Go to John 15:5 and read it together. What is “spiritual fruit?” What fruit are you producing? How can you even produce fruit (v. 4)? Do you consider yourself a disciple? Do you know what a disciple is? Read verses 8-10 from John 15.

5. Cedar tree behind the garden (Psalm 92:12) – The cedar is describes as a strong tall tree. In a guitar, cedar is used as a soft wood for the top of the guitar. It is very responsive to the lightest touch. Are you responsive when God says something to you? Do you know how to listen to God? The verse also says that the righteous will flourish. What does righteous mean? Are you flourishing? Are you being righteous?

6. Mint (Matthew 23:23) – Spices were presented at Christ’s birth and used for burial at his death. Here we see them being offered by the Pharisees. Why did Jesus say “Woe…?” What should they have been doing? Turn to Micah 6:8 and read that verse too. What does it say that we should be giving? What do each of them mean? Are you giving them?

7. Frog rock (Revelation 16:13)
– Frogs are used here and in Exodus 8:2. In both cases it is not a good thing. In one passage they are a plague and in the other they are coming out of the mouth of the dragon, Satan. Frogs are a lot like our tongues or our talk. They could represent both good and evil. Go to the book of James and read the following verses (James 1:19, 26/3:1-12). What do you see as you read these passages? Too often we are a plague with our words. We even bring death (Proverbs 18:21). Spend a few minutes discussing this as a group.

8. Crown of thorns (John 19:2) – Jesus Christ took on human form, came to earth, lived a perfect human life, and died on the cross, taking the penalty for our sin upon himself so that we might know a full life with the Savior. This is also known as the incarnation, God becoming flesh. What do you know about crucifixion? It is probably one of the most barbaric forms of death ever invented. The world tells us we are good. The Bible says we are not (Romans 3:23, Psalms 14:1-3, Jeremiah 17:9). Therefore, Jesus had to come and die so that we might live. Take a few minutes and consider what that means for your life.

9. Prayer rock (Matthew 26:36)
– What is your prayer life like? Be specific and be honest. Why do we tend to be so weak when it comes to prayer? Pastor John Piper says that “until you realize that life is a war you don’t know what prayer is for.” Do you think you are in a war? Who is your enemy (Ephesians 6:12)? In a battle there are 4 groups of people (as far as I can tell). One is the enemy. Another is the person who fights the enemy. A third is the innocent bystander and the fourth is a P.O.W. The prisoner of war is out of commission and really ineffective in the battle. Which one of the four people are you? Spend some time praying by yourself. Finish by praying together out loud.

10. Barn (Joel 1:17)
– Turn to Proverbs 3: 9, 10 and read it together. What are the different sources of wealth that you have? What are the things you are giving to God? What things are you holding back? Some versions use the word “firstfruits.” What does that mean? Look up inside the barn at the hay loft. In the right season this loft is stacked full of hay. The hay could represent God’s provision for you. God will not leave you lacking in what you “need.” It may not always be what you want but it will be what you need (Matthew 6:25-34). Is it hard to trust or believe that God knows what He is doing? Why or why not? God will give you what you need.