Monday, March 31, 2008

Secure Identity

I've been working on our upcoming youth retreat weekend, covering the subject of identity - Who am I in Christ? As with many things that pastors talk about, it is as relevant (or more) to me right now than perhaps the people I'm teaching.

In the past week I had a great discussion with a friend at seminary who used to be a youth pastor and is now a teaching minister in Toledo. I shared with him how much rejection from the teens hurts me, how I struggle when some leaders are more popular or more accepted by the teens than I am, and how I'm always trying to make everyone happy all the time. Obviously, I wasn't blind to how off-base this is, but I'm not going to deny those feelings aren't present.

My friend did a great job reminding me that no matter who we are or what position we hold, when we're saved our identities are made secure in Christ. I guess I'm trying to teach something I haven't quite learned myself, but that's how it goes sometimes, eh?

Colossians 2:9-10 has a little something to say on the subject: "For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority."

We are made "complete" when we team up with Christ. Not partial, not mostly, not fragmented - our identity comes to a complete head when we see ourselves the way Christ sees us. Yeah, I'm not going to be the most popular guy, even in my own youth group. It's not, and never should be, a cult of personality. If they're there to be with me instead of being with God, something's not quite right yet.

My prayer for today is that I will learn to realize and accept this fact in my life, for Christ to overcome my insecurities and establish his own supreme lock over my life.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

He Is Risen!

From Matthew 28:5-7 - The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."

Do Not Be Afraid.

As children of God, we have no cause for fear that Christ will return to exact vengeance for his death or upon our sins. Instead, we are to be filled with peace that all is right, that God has triumphed over the forces of sin and death, and nothing that happens from now until the end of time will change that fact.

He Has Risen, Just As He Said.

Jesus is given powerful credentials in this sentence: not only did he resurrect himself from the dead, but he predicted his own death and resurrection far in advance. If this is not God, then what more do you need?

Come And See...

The angel delivers the first proof of Jesus' resurrection -- in today's terms, we'd call that "full disclosure". God has nothing to hide behind lies and obfuscation. He is a God of truth.

Go Quickly And Tell

This is a precursor to the more famous Great Commission at the end of the chapter. The angel instructs the women not to stay and ponder and wonder at the events of Easter morning, but to GO. To TELL. To share this wonderful news with those who are open to hearing it.

Happy Easter, everyone. He is risen, He is risen indeed!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ack... I Know It's Been A While

And I have every desire to get back into daily devotions and blogging (see how easy it is to get distracted by "life"?). But I wanted to share this experience I had on Sunday night with the senior high youth group.

It's easy to get discouraged some weeks that no spiritual growth is occurring, that the teenagers are apathetic to the Word, and that we're just banging ourselves against an immovable wall in trying to share and model our faith for them. But weeks like this are highly encouraging.

In discussing Easter, I wanted to do something a little different, so I set up a room in the church to be a small sanctuary for our event. There was a cross on the ground, with candles all over it, and I tried to darken the room as much as possible. As the teens came in, I asked them to quiet down and take a sheet of paper to journal thoughts on.

We listened to Luke 22-24 over the course of 25 minutes from my audio Experience Bible. I felt nervous that teens living in a generation that's consumed with multimedia wouldn't be able to sit down and just *listen* for a half hour in the dark. But they did -- they were quiet and respectful and some of them wrote quite a bit on their sheets. At the end I opened it up for discussion, and slowly at first, but then more rapidly, the teens spilled their thoughts on the Last Supper, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. It was totally amazing to hear them get past their apprehensions about discussing faith in front of each other to say some truly deep and thoughtful comments.

God was in that room that night, and I just sat back a bit humbled in the thought that he's going to work in their lives no matter how successful or unsuccessful I might be. As always, it's not about me, it's about him, and it was good.