Friday, June 24, 2011

I will rest when the work is done.

This summer I've undertaken some extreme responsibilities.  I took 13 teens to a youth camp without a lead Pastor, lead a group of them who I had no idea who they were or what they lives were like and yet still God showed me grace and gave me the words to say, the words they needed to hear.

Its amazing to realize that no matter who you are, what your back ground or what intelligence level you are at God can use you if you are ready and willing to be used.  Before this time I never really believed that God could give me a word like that so that I could share with others, it was truly a blessed time and I am so thankful that God made my heart receptive to his word.

Now comes another challenge: URBAN ENCOUNTER.  This is a summer program that my church holds every year allowing youth groups from around Texas and other states to come and stay with us, participating in work projects, ministering/praying with the people living in apartment complexes in the Fort Worth area and this year getting a much deeper into the presence of God.  At first I was a little apprehensive about participating, UE takes up a lot and I do mean A LOT of time.  You exhaust yourself until you have nothing left, you spend every moment that you have either at the church or on site somewhere working. When you get a free moment to relax, its usually spend sleeping stretched out on the chairs in the sanctuary or in one of the nursery rooms.  You spend all of your time with the same people and that can help bonds grow stronger, but it can also get on your nerves. You minister to those who maybe are there to truly hear what you have to say or might be using you for a free meal, either way you are called to love them as Christ loved you.  You meet people and children from completely different backgrounds, but somehow at that moment God brought you together for a purpose and you must learn how to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit so that he may use you as he wills.

I was pondering all these things on one of my morning runs this week: God how am I going to handle all of this? Sometimes I just feel like I need a break because I am tired and I teach year round, this is summer I'm supposed to be relaxing etc... at this point I was about halfway through my run and I began to slow down, feel heavy and weary and in that moment God gently spoke these words to me:

You can rest when the work is done.


So I thought on this statement as I ran and continued to press forward to the finish line of my run, and a scripture came to mind.


[Acts 5:42]
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

If you haven't read Acts, then you are missing out!  It gives us a picture of the early Christian church, the radical ways they lived and fellowshipped together and also how they functioned as the body and how they began fulfilling the great commission of Jesus Christ to "go and make disciples of all the nations."[Matthew 28:19] These men, these who followed God with all their hearts, forsaking anyone and anything else gave over and surrendered everything in their lives to do the work that God had set before them.  And so I must look at my own heart and understand that I must be willing to never stop teaching and witnessing and sharing the good news. This is not a call to only myself, but to everyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

This can be a hard thing to swallow.  But it is truth, how can we go on with our lives knowing that Jesus devoted his life to teaching us, loving us, dying for us....and here we are some of us living as if we are unaware of the greatness and holiness that is his name in which he has authority over all creation.  And how can we live knowing that some people in our world have not yet heard of his wondrous love? Therefore who will God intrust to go, who will be willing to stand up and say "Here I am! Send me!"[Isaiah 6:8]?

And so this is a challenge not only for myself but you as well.  Live your life daily as if your work has not yet finished, live it so that others will know instantly that you are a son/daughter of God and see the love God has for you and them as well. Know the weight, the responsibility that you carry. This isn't a game, it isn't something you do on the weekends for fun, but it is the most important mission you will ever carry out in your life.  To proclaim to others the good news of Jesus Christ, Redeemer and Savior of our souls with how you live and what you say.

I hope that this has encouraged you in someway today, please let me know your thoughts.

A.

Monday, June 20, 2011

TODAY IS WORLD REFUGEE DAY.


Question: What does it mean to be a refugee?

Answer: This is someone that has been forced to flee his/her home country because of war, persecution or violence. Due to this they cannot return to their country.

Since meeting Everfound I've been doing a little research and since also today just happened to be World Refugee Day this seemed like the perfect moment to give you guys some information and websites about the topic.

This spread sheet is from the UNHCR --> The UN Refugee Agency.  It gives you the number of refugees living in the United States from different countries around the world from 2000-2009.  The numbers are staggering, but it also makes me wonder how many people out there are still in need of refuge from the violence and persecution that they experience every single day.  Do we really know how many there are? No, but we can pray and trust God knowing that he has it all in his hands.

This is my prayer for all the refugees in the world:

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Please keep those who are refugees in your prayers on this day, and for those who are facing war, persecution and violence in their countries now let us pray that God would give them strength and courage to face what is in front of them with confident hearts in our Jesus.

Mosaic Family Services Inc. is another excellent source for more information about refugee's and what you can do to help.  Please check out their website and inform yourself and others as much as possible.

Martyrs: Contemporary Writers on Modern Lives of Faith
On a side note, recently a friend and I went to a public library book sale these were books that were withdrawn from the shelves for one reason or another. I picked up a falling apart book called:

Martyrs: Contemporary Writers on Modern Lives of Faith edited by Susan Bergman.

I have to say that I am not even through the first writer and I've already been brought to tears several times, because of the fact that 1. These people deserve so much better than what they've suffered and 2. I realize that the way I live is not enough and I am unworthy to even speak the name Jesus Christ.

This first chapter is written in such a wonderful way, it is not only highly informative, intelligent(I've had to read it over and over again just to get what Bergman is explaining), but it is also poetic and captures my heart with every word. And at one point after describing several instances of martyrdom she simply says: "How to draw close to them?" She is speaking of when Paul wrote to the Corinthians "When one member suffers, all the members suffer..."

How can we, how can I, live with this knowledge of persecution and violence towards my own people and live life so non-chalantly? How can I take the Word of God so half heartedly and make light of what people are WILLING TO DIE FOR?  So today I encourage you who are reading, take a stand for what is right and pray for those who seem so far away, but share in the same inheritance that we have through Jesus Christ the one and only Savior of our souls and rightful recipient of all the honor and glory in the world.

Tell me, how do you feel about this?

A.

Friday, June 17, 2011

We are a Kingdom people.

What do you get when you have hundreds of teens + a handful of youth sponsors + a secluded spot in the country + worship + a powerful Word?

CRAVE CAMP 2011

To describe my experience in a few words I would have to say I was stretched to the brink of myself, but also that I found a new humility and a new found appreciation for anyone who leads a youth ministry.  

To be placed in a position of authority is a huge step for me, to be in charge of 14 people takes a lot of strength of which the only way I was going to have any was to rely on God one day at a time. I found myself thrown into a group of teens that I didn't know, dealing with boy crazy girls and girl crazy boys, unorganized chaos of a youth camp and I suffered hours upon hours of burning hot Texas weather. 

However I also found myself being filled up by Christ in the morning through quiet times, receiving an awesome Word from Jay McPherson, encouraging teens and seeing them transform and open up about their lives/hardships/dreams/prayers, had an amazing time of truly abandoned praise and worship with a band called Everfound, took a lot of pictures with my camera and I got to have a lot of interesting conversations that inspire me to keep pursuing my calling as well.

Jay McPherson really brought the Word to the teens this week.  His main message was about being a Kingdom Worker.  That how we live our lives, how we carry ourselves shows who we are as a people in Christ.  He brought in some staggering information like:
"Out of 1,000 non-Christians asked to choose one word to describe Christians the top three answers were: 1. Hypocritical, 2. Judgmental, and 3. Anti-Gay."
And so he questioned the silent crowd: I wonder if we asked people what they thought about Jesus if they would say those same things? No, they wouldn't. They'd say that he was sinless, honest and true.  That he had compassion and forgiveness abounding, and that he loved all people no matter what.  And he challenged us to take what we'd learned and show those in our sphere of influence who Jesus really is and what it means to be a follower of Christ.

And so in this one of the main themes this week was edification of fellow believers.  We are constantly as a people tearing each other down and as the body of Christ we should be building each other up, leaning on each other when we need help and we should be able to be vulnerable enough to ask for prayer when we need it. I shared this passage with my small group ( TEAM PINK!) one morning as it seemed like they needed a glimpse of what the kingdom of God should look like:
[Acts 2:42-47]
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
This is a radical idea.  They fellowshipped together, broke bread together, they had everything in common.  This is what I imagine the kingdom of God should be like if it were established on earth with sincere and glad hearts we would serve one another and devote ourselves to the teachings of God and live our lives as living sacrifices[Romans 12:1-2].

Jay often left us with a question to respond to or a statement that really impressed upon my heart, here are just a few:
  • God loves and calls all people unto himself and desires all people to actively respond to that love through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • The kingdom of God is the way of the SERVANT.
  • What does it mean to be citizens of Gods kingdom?
  • Jesus is more interested in the interior of a persons heart(the internal condition) than the exterior appearance.
  • God doesn't say to us, "I'm content with 60% of your heart/life." He wants it all.
  • God uses broken people to do the work of the church.
These are just a handful, but I really feel as if I let God use me in a way to inspire some teens at this camp.  I saw many transformations even in some young people that weren't from my church, to see it was phenomenal and I am so blessed to have been able to witness something so heart changing. This small glimpse gives me hope for the next generation that will rise up and take their place as world changers.  I am filled with joy.

Another interesting thing about this years camp was the band.  Everfound is made up of four brothers from Russia who's family was forced to leave because of religious and political persecution.  I am going to see if I can perhaps get one of them to do an email Q&A to enlighten us about their testimony and also about the state of the church and about persecution of Christians in Russia currently.  I talked to a few of the band members and it was just so amazing to see how God has brought them through so much and how they use their gifts to glorify God.

© A. Quinn Photography
I took a ton of pictures and they will be posted after I sort through them on my facebook page.
A. 

Prayer Requests:
1. Everfound left late last night to travel for more than 12 hours to their next show and have to be on the road again for another camp starting on Monday. Please pray for rest and strength as they keep using their gifts and talents for God.
2. Pray for the teens from CRAVE Camp 2011, that the fire they experienced on the camp grounds would continue and not die out as the summer goes on.
3. Pray for all the youth leaders and Pastors that volunteered their week for these teens, they need rest and rejuvenation after this amazing yet long week.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lead as He leads.

Youth Camp.

It's the thing that most church going teens look forward to all year long.  It's a chance to catch up with last years friends, a chance to make some new friends, a chance to get away from the city, but most importantly its a chance to get a fresh encounter with God.

This year, as our youth pastor is away for a family wedding, I have the opportunity to be one of only two sponsors that take our teens to this camp(did I mention I'm the only one who has been to youth camp with our church before?).  I'm a bundle full of nerves and excitement all at the same time.  Typically I'm more of a behind the scenes type leader, but now God has put me in this position as a leader for a reason.  I am praying that God gives me strength and wisdom during this week.  I want my heart to be open to what he wants to teach me and how he wants me to guide these 14 young people through His Word this week.

I want to lead as Christ leads, to know when to inquire and to know when to let others speak. To hear His Spirit prompt me in a certain direction and to know when the Spirit is prompting the youth and to let them hear and to let them respond as He directs.


[John 12:49-50]
For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

I pray that this week my lips would not speak out of my own mind, but out of my mouth would flow the words and wisdom of my Father, and my Savior.


Prayer Requests:
1. Wisdom and Patience for this youth camp
2. Gordon Griffith is currently in the States gathering some footage for another short documentary, pray for wisdom and hope to get the job done to the best of his ability.
3. A few friends of mine returned from a month long ministry trip to Japan, pray for rest and recovery.

Monday, June 6, 2011

This season.

I am in a season of training. A season of breaking down and building up. I am in a season of continual surrender and although it seems hard, I know that this is God's way of giving me what is best.

Things tend to happen to me while I'm driving in my car.  For instance there is a particular road that I drive every single morning on my way to work.  It goes through some industrial buildings, nothing really special about it, it winds and curves and ends up where I need to be.  Most mornings when I drive I'm a little zoned out only focusing on the road, the stop signs and the stop lights any traffic around etc...but on one particular morning I looked up into the sky and noticed something that I had not noticed before.

Dallas.

Just above the horizon in front of me was the Dallas skyline.  How beautiful it was when I looked up as the sun was just rising and shining just enough to make a slight silhouette of the buildings.  I wondered how could I have missed this?  I've been driving this way to work for a year now and had never noticed it before.

In that moment God began speaking to my heart.  Its our typical human response to, instead of seeing the destination and keeping our eyes and hearts focused on that, only focus on the path in front of our feet.  How long it seems, how at certain times the scenery isn't as pretty as we'd hoped, when we find obstacles in our way or have to take a detour, or when we try and take a short cut it doesn't exactly go as we plan and we have to back track....and we do this very often, all the time in fact.

Its really the same as our journey with God.  We are so focused on the path and trying to figure out how to get to where we need to be, we forget where it is we are going, WHO it is we are running to.

Seeing that Dallas skyline, that I had no idea was right in front of me or how I would even get to it from where I was, but that didn't matter.  In the same way we see where God wants us to be right in front of us and we have no clue how God is going to get us there, but that is why we have faith.


[Hebrews 11:1]
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

It doesn't matter if we can see the whole picture, the entire journey, the map of it all, but what matters is that through Jesus Christ we have that blessed assurance and faith that He knows what is best for us and will guide us there if we just keep our eyes on Him.

A.