Last night at SrHi, we were finishing up our group before our break over Christmas. Because of how the church calendar falls, we have three weeks off from our senior high youth group. We always do some type of service projects over Christmas with our small groups. This year, I wanted to try something different. We told the students it was in their hands. The adult leader was there to help them sort ideas, but if their group was going to do a project, then it was up to them to design and carry it out. I realize it’s not earth shattering stuff, but it’s a step in our move towards having a ministry of students. (Read my post on this idea here.)
Our 10th grade guys came roaring up to me after small group with an idea. They want to have a dodgeball tourney over Christmas break, and have each team pay admission with canned food items for our community food pantry. Again, not earth shattering, but I love this idea. One, because it is theirs, and they own it. Two, because it’s realistic and can be a win for them. Three, because some guys who don’t normally “lead” in the group came up with it and are running with it. They are doing promo for it, inviting friends from school to get teams together, the whole deal.
These are the types of steps I want to see us take. Small, sustainable, and winnable steps that students can accomplish on their own. Obviously, I don’t want this group of guys to stop at this level, or be content with this level of service. But it is a step in the right direction. As I’ve been around a while, I have definitely learned that it isn’t the hot new program or idea that blows up and everyone jumps on board with that is going to bring about change. It is people, whether students or leaders, who have an idea that moves them forward a step or two, followed up with another one that goes a little further. These movements become momentum, and momentum becomes life change.
So, I’m excited about dodgeball and canned green beans. Where are you seeing success? I’d love to hear.
I began reading the book of Isaiah today, so I’ll be writing about Isaiah for a while. I love that book. It is not usually a book out of the Bible that people point to as one of their favorites. It’s a book written by a prophet trying desperately to warn the people of God to turn, or be destroyed. That is NOT why I love it. It’s often dark, and painful. That’s NOT why I love it. It has some very graphic warnings of what God is going to do to the people who hate Him. That’s NOT why I love it.
I love it because the whole theme of the book is “a remnant will return.” At it’s heart, it’s a book about grace and forgiveness for anyone who wants it. THAT’S why I love the book.
It all begins in chapter one with the warnings. God, through Isaiah, is telling the people that He is tired of their junk. He’s tired of them coming to church and singing and saying one thing, while living a whole other life the other days of the week. He tells them to quit singing songs to Him, to quit offering sacrifices to Him, to quit coming into the church and messing it up. He doesn’t want anymore praise and worship services from them. Instead, He tells them:
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)
That always catches me. God is tired of the hypocrisy and fake faith of his people. But He doesn’t give them lectures on how to run a better worship service, or how to confess their sins corporately on sticky notes and make a clean break. How are they to show their faith is alive? Take care of “the other”. The poor, the oppressed, the fatherless, those without family, the lonely, the needy. Help them, then I’ll know you are legit.
So honestly, where are we with this. God says an actual faith will live itself out in our daily lives, and it will involve how we treat “the other”. Who is your other? A neighbor who is alone and needy? Someone at work who is broken? A family member who is alone and alienated? That kid in the hall at school who is poor? Who is the other in your life? How are you treating them?
According to God, that seems to be more important than what goes down on Sunday morning.
How are we doing?
The pharisee’s challenge Jesus in John 8:12-20. Jesus claims to be the light of the world, who has come to help people in the darkest parts of life. The religious guys want to argue whether or not Jesus can say these things according to the rules. For someone to make a claim about something, the rules they had said that there needed to be two witnesses. They don’t argue Jesus’ mission, they argue the rules about what He can and can’t say.
Why don’t they argue that they are there to help people in their darkest times? Why don’t they stand up and prove that they are carrying out the work of God on the earth? Because they have gotten themselves down a path where they believe that God’s work is about keeping the rules. Everyone needs to look and act a certain way, so that God can look better and be happy with them. Everyone who doesn’t is “out” and they don’t need to worry about them.
Jesus replies that He does have a witness, His Dad, God. He and God the Father are witness enough. He’s right. But that doesn’t help anything.
Here’s what I see in this. I really like to keep the rules. I’ve invested a lot of my life in defining who is “in” (who is like me) and who is “out” (who bugs me, who disagrees with me, who has little to offer me). God is really riding me about this, and I hope it doesn’t stop. Oh Lord, I beg you, please change me in this! Help me to be a light in my world, not a wall. Please help me!