Ephesians 5:21-33: Be Subject


Ok, you gotta love a bible study that finds it's illustration in The West Wing, right?

There's a lovely scene somewhere around the third season where the President and the First Lady are coming home from church. In the midst of their sometimes rocky marriage, the couple is fighting over the sermon given in Church that morning. It was based on our scripture from this morning.

The First Lady, known as an open and passionate Feminist, is arguing that men need to love their wives and give themselves up for their ladies, and thus the President should be submissive to her. The President, having a little bit of fun, tosses back that wives must submit to their husbands, and that she should be submissive to him. They go back and forth for a little bit, before the President launches into his own mini sermon about what the passage is really about.

You would think that clip would be on YouTube. It's not. They had this, which was equally as funny but nowhere near related to the point:

The point in the President's eyes (and mine too) is not who should be submissive to whom. The point is that we need to be subject to one another. Paul uses different words to emphasis very similar points here, that in a Christian household, we shouldn't be looking out for our own interests, but rather should be looking out for the interests of our spouse. Sarah and I work very hard on this with some of our language. A friend of ours taught us that we shouldn't use the phrase "You are mine" but rather offer up "I am yours." It might seem like a subtle little difference, but honestly it has meant a world of difference in more than a few situations.

Now the obvious surface point you could pull from this for youth ministry is that we need to teach kids how best to handle themselves not only in marriage but in their dating endeavors. But I mean, come on, that's a little bit too easy for a Tuesday night, don't you think?

What if we looked at it with this question: How often are you subject to your students?

I had a neat experience today. I was taking out the garbage when a group of our students drove by. They're on spring break, and told me the wanted to come by and find where I lived. I actually thought it was pretty awesome (though under no circumstances want them just randomly showing up all the time. Sometimes I'm in my delicates!). We sat on the porch and talked for a bit before they left, but I found myself playing the host for them. Offering drinks, snacks, etc. In essence, I was being subject to them.

But what about when we see them at the church? What about at youth group? What about when we come to their school? When we make our plans for our ministry, are they plans that benefit us or are they plans that say "We're here to serve you in Christ?" Again, it might seem like a small difference, but I bet it can make all the difference.

Tomorrow we'll pick up 6:1-9



Ephesians 5:3-20: Rise and Shine


Greetings again bloggers!

Ever read a scripture and just get absolutely kicked in the pants? I just did!

Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and bulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Yeah, not going to lie, I'm bad at this one. I like to make crude jokes. I like to laugh with the boys. I like to fit in at the parties. I swear when I stub my toe. I sometimes swear over significantly less important things. I watch shows like Futurama and Family Guy. I am a horrible human being.

And if you want to talk about a hypocrite, I am first in line brotha! When the kids walk into the church on a Wednesday night, and they have a bit of gutter mouth going, I turn all kinds of Mrs. Brady on them! I will tell kids that they shouldn't use such words, as in the very same words I used that morning when that guy cut me off in traffic. They shouldn't talk about such inappropriate things, such as the ones that were on the TV show I'm so in love with the other night. I tell them not to do the very thing that I am most often guilty of!

Is it me, or is it that telling students (and myself for that matter) that "swearing is bad, don't do it" just isn't getting the job done? I can tell myself that from now until the end of time, and until it's replaced by something else, I don't think it will ever truly take hold. And I'm not talking about replacing the F-Bomb with the word "Freakin" or any other Christian swear words. I'm talking about replacing it with something wholesome and good.

Paul writes that instead of these vulgar words we should let there be thanksgiving. What if we worked on replacing our destructive language with thanks and praise? What if even in the most upsetting situations we were able to find the positives and build people up? What if instead of trying just to get through the day without saying a word we wouldn't want our mother's to hear, we let our lights shine, illuminating the world instead of hiding from it?

I know I have something to work on. Because the truth of the matter is you can tell the kids what the Bible says or why they shouldn't say those words for days and weeks and months and years, but if you haven't learned the lesson yourself, if you're not living it, they'll never change their ways.

Hows about 5:21-33 for tomorrow. Feminists and Fundamentalists beware!



The War of Art: A Book Review!


(Note: I started working on both of these posts earlier in the day, but I was really disappointed with the writing. This is saying something, as most of my blog posts go up without any editing at all! Anyway, sorry for the delay. Enjoy!)

Hey gang!

Bible study forthcoming today. But in the meantime, I read a book! We should throw a small parade or something.

I actually found The War of Art from Donald Miller's blog. I have been thinking a lot about improving my skills as a writer, and when his list of books you should read crossed my eyes, I hopped on Amazon and got to the reading. I started with the War of Art, and I'm instantly hooked on it!

The basic idea of the book is that to be a creative artist, you have do dedicate yourself to the task at hand. Steven Pressfield takes the romance out of being an artist and reminds us that it takes some pretty serious work to give birth to our creations. The book is mostly geared towards those artists who are full time freelancers, but I think there are a few applications for the rest of us as well.

1. Resistance is brutal.
Pressfield actually personifies that demonic force that keeps us from getting our stuff done. It's in the room with me right now. It's standing between me and the pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen. It's winning. Some people call this "writer's block", but when Pressfield labeled it as Resistance, it opened the door to all kinds of different areas of our lives than just writing. Resistance talked me into quitting the gym. He's talked me out of finishing my next sermon. He's a crafty little devil he is!

2. Act Like A Pro
This was huge for me. When I first started writing songs and playing guitar, I saw it as a kind of hobby. It wasn't what I did, it was what I did when I didn't have anything else to do. And yet, when I'm not in a band, when I don't have a place to let my music out, I feel empty and hollow. It's taken me forever to come to terms with labeling myself a "musician" or an "artist," but that's exactly what I am. Pressfield would tell me that it's not only ok to call myself what I am, but to embrace it and run towards it as though I was a professional. An amateur only pecks away at their calling from time to time, as though it were some kind of hobby. A pro runs full speed after what they love, willing to toss it all overboard for the next gig or the next project.

Spiritually, the book goes everywhere and seems to embrace a multitude of faith ideas from Christianity to Muses and Greek Mythology. However, if you can work with that and some pretty colorful language from time to time, I think this book is a huge help to worship leaders in particular. I wouldn't chuck it out for youth pastors either though, because we face resistance on a near daily basis. You can pick it up from Amazon by following the link below!



Ephesians 4:25-5:2: Angry


Greetings Earthlings!

I wrote this post while up at Splash Lagoon on our Middle School retreat, but we had a severe lack of internet access, so I'll save it and actually upload it when we get home.

Have you ever had a student do something to make you so angry that you couldn't breathe anymore? We once caught a couple of kids smoking pot in our parking lot during a kickoff event. I remember bringing them to my office, probably red in the face, and shaking uncontrollably. I don't know that I've ever been so angry.

There have been smaller offenses over the years. Those times that the boys won't go to sleep. Those times that the pranks get a little bit out of hand. Those times that no one has the obvious answer during a bible study. If we're honest, they make us a little bit angry. But what are we to do with that anger?

Paul writes that we should actually get angry, so long as we do so without diving into sin. I think the reason that we get so upset at our students sometimes is that we realize that they're capable of so much more than they're offering up. But in this passage, we learn a little bit about how to best manage our anger.

Don't let the sun go down on your anger- This one is basically universal to all avenues of our lives. Going to bed angry sucks. Plus, you'll probably not be able to sleep. Plus there's an awkward situation over coffee, and coffee should never be awkward!

Let no evil talk come out of your mouth- It's ok to be angry, but sometimes when we're angry we say things that should never be said. We aren't thinking, because our brain has likely been essentially short circuited. Sometimes it's just best to walk away, and save your thoughts for another time when you're more chilled.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God- This is kind of a mysterious verse, and a lot of people have been trying to determine the precise meaning. Thinking through this particular situation, and how to deal with anger, I wonder if it means that we as messengers of God's word need to be a little more careful with how we use the Spirit's resources? I wonder if we shouldn't waste the Spirit's time when we could easily resolve our own conflicts.

So get angry, but don't be dumb about it!

Tomorrow, 5:3-20

Ephesians 4:17-24: The Old Life


(That could be one of the creepiest pictures on the internet right now...sheesh...)

Hello friends,

Sorry I fell behind again by a day. Failure is not an option, so we're just going to pick up and keep going like that never happened. Thanks for sticking with me.

In almost 4 complete chapters of Ephesians, this is the first time we come to a direct command from Paul. Everything we've been working through has been a reminder of the life we ALREADY HAVE in Christ Jesus. You don't have to work to be an heir of God, you already are. You don't have to earn God's love, you already have it. Your sins are already forgiven through the abundant and plentiful Grace of Jesus Christ.

So when we finally come to the first direct command from Paul, what do we find him encouraging us to do? He's telling us to leave our old lives behind.

Depending on what your old life looked like, this might not be the hardest thing in the world. It's not too hard to leave behind years of rejection, abandonment, lies, and torture. Which, when you think about it is exactly the kind of life we were surely living before we came to know Christ in our lives.

If you put all your hopes in the relationships in your life, from your friends to your romantic interests to your peers to your colleagues, I can almost guarantee that they let you down at least once. Probably more than that. The truth is, the love of almost every person in the world is conditional. They only love you if you love them back, or provide them with something they want. Sad, but usually true.

So often I see youth ministers or youth ministries that are entirely set up on convincing people that they need Christ as a type of fire insurance, a means by which to avoid the terrible consequences of hell. While that is part of what Christ provides for us, I think we stand a much better chance of showing them how much better their lives could be with Christ. Showing them exactly how much the life they're leading without him is letting them down. Almost everybody can get behind that, right?

For tomorrow, we'll work on 4:25-5:2



Ephesians 4:1-16: Making every effort


Greetings bloggers!

We're back for another theme that was sounded a couple of days ago. If Paul sounds a similar theme twice in the same letter, it's fairly clear that it's something of importance to him and thus should be to us. So let's take another in depth look at the issue of unity.

There's a sentence right up front that sets the whole thing into perspective."...making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." I really think this sentence could be challenging to those of us who work in ministry.

Some of us talk about how much we reach out to the other churches in our area. Maybe we do a once a month get together with our youth groups. Maybe we get excited because we network together with different denominations for a monthly lunch. But let's face it, the majority of us don't get together once a month, and even if we do once a month doesn't exactly sound like making every effort.

My heart breaks when the Church divides itself further. It truly does. There was a commercial a couple of months ago that I think puts things into perspective a little further for us:

I like the line "There was a time when 8 different brands made sense. Not anymore." I think if we were honest with ourselves, the Church would say "There was a time when splitting into completely different denominations over differences in doctrine made sense. Not anymore." I think we've fallen into a trap of listening to our own perspective so much that we've completely dismissed anyone else's perspective, we're just too busy defending our walls of faith.

Paul also writes in this passage that "We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine..." Which I'm sure can be interpreted to mean that we should stand firm in our doctrine and not let other people convince us to be changed or moved. But what if we're being tossed to and fro by our OWN doctrines? What if we're so caught up in the traditions of our past leaders that we forgot to spend any time being rooted and grounded in the faith and teachings of Jesus Christ? Because in comparison to the surpassing love of known Christ as Lord, the Book of Order is pretty weak.

John Wesley (someone I'm growing to respect a great deal!) said faith could be broken up into four equal areas: Scripture, Experience, Logic, and Tradition. If you put too much focus on any one of these areas, you will have a lopsided faith. If we focus too much on defending our traditions rather than being a unified body of Christ, we will not be effective at sharing Christ's love in the world.

So today, my challenge to us would be to make EVERY effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit. Not just some, not just a monthly meeting, but EVERY effort. What do you really know about the people who disagree with you? Do you truly know their doctrine or are you basing your thoughts on a cartoon version of who they are? Have you sat down with someone to try to figure out where they're coming from? Today, make EVERY effort to maintain our unity.

Tomorrow we'll go short and read from 4:17-24



Neue thinks I'm J-Lo


I was driving home from Pine Spring Camp today, catching up on some old Podcasts I'd kind of fallen behind on. If you find yourself in church ministry in any way shape or form, you need to be hooked up with Neue. It's a magazine/resource box brought to you by the fine folks at Relevant Magazine, and they have a really awesome heart for where the Church is headed. Anyway, I was listening to their podcast today, and I was really challenged.

They were interviewing Glenn Packiam, and they compared him to Jennifer Lopez. People say that she's a "triple threat" because she knows how to act and sing and dance, and does each fairly well. They noted that Glenn is a preacher, worship leader, and author all in the same package, and that made him a sort of "Christian J-Lo."

Wait...that's me too!

But the interview was interesting on a number of levels. How do you balance your ministry when it has so many aspects to it? It doesn't often flash across our minds at Westminster because we're all pitching in on different levels, but when you realize that Ed and I run both a weekly youth ministry gathering (plus all the outside events that go with it) and a weekly worship service (including both preaching and worship leading) and do a fair amount of writing both for things in our church (newsletters etc) and outside (again, more on this later!), you realize that our time gets pretty widely spread around.

How does a person balance this ministry? It's something I've been struggling with lately. At times it seems like I put a lot of energy into the youth ministry side of things at the expense of the worship leading. Sometimes it's the other way around, I'm so focused on the Bridge that I lose a little bit of my edge with Veritas. God's strength is awesome when I am less than awesome, and covers me and helps me to keep a careful balance. But all the same, it's something I'm working through this week.

To those of us who are "triple threats" (or double threats, or whatever...) how do you balance the different aspects of what you've got going on? What insights can you share with us?

Because the last thing anyone wants is me dancing in a skimpy outfit singing Jenny from the Block.



Ephesians 3:14-21: Strengthened


Tired doesn't even begin to describe it.

How often have you said that in your ministry? I feel like lately I've been saying it more and more, with each week that passes. Ed and I actually discovered that through some flaws in our thinking (not the first time...) we are booked every weekend from now until April 23rd. We'll be home for Easter, but come on, Easter has it's own insanity associated with it for those of us who work in the Church.

We've all been there before, where there simply isn't any energy left in the tank. Maybe it's your ministry that's wearing you down, or your life at home, or your marriage, or your family, or whatever. There are undoubtably times where we would rather just pass out on our couches than take a look at one more permission slip or retreat plan.

Today's scriptures speak directly to those of us who are worn out.

In verse 16, we hear that Paul is praying for us to be strengthened in our inner being with power through the Spirit. Even as I'm sitting here in my office, these words speak tremendous hope into the fabric of my bones. Paul starts it all by reminding us that we need to be on our knees in prayer to our great and glorious Savior.

So if you're with me, and you're just beat up and tired, this bible study is for you. Take a moment to pray, and invite the strength of the Lord to be with you. For as much as we know what it's like to be tired and worn out, I think most of us can relate to that mysterious strength that shows up when we need it most. That ability to counsel a student who shows up in your office at the last minute of the day. The ability to survive a lock-in without the aide of any caffinne or other stimulant. I'm not talking about easily explained adrenaline rush, I'm talking about that burst of energy that leaves you saying "there's no way I should be able to do what I'm doing right now." I believe strongly that that's the strength of the Spirit.

To all of you who need that strength right now, I'll be praying for you.

Let's do 4:1-16 for tomorrow.

AND: I have an extra post coming up later tonight! Check it out!



Ephesians 3:1-13: Game Plan


Hey gang,
Sorry I missed Saturday and Sunday. It was a great and crazy weekend with Tree Anthem, and in all the fun an excitement I just fell behind. Time to get back up on the horse though!

What's your game plan for youth ministry? Or maybe perhaps better framed the way Doug Fields would have it, what's your youth ministry's purpose? Why do you exist? Another great way of thinking through this question is to ask yourself if you were to close down your ministry tomorrow, who would be offended? Would your students? Would their parents? What about the local schools? What about your congregation? And why would they be upset?

At Veritas, our purpose statement (which recently got a facelift to be a little easier to say) is to provide opportunities for students to experience Christ's redemptive power through discipleship and fellowship, to react appropriately through worship and mission, and to think revolutionarily about reaching out to others in the community. We have a goal, we have a direction we're headed. We know the game plan.

In Ephesians 3, Paul tells us that his mission statement comes to him through the power of the gospel of Christ. Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God's grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ... Because of the gospel of Christ, Paul has the conviction and the desire to see to it that non-Jewish Gentiles get in on the great stuff that happens to a person covered in Christ's grace. At this point in the story, most of the other Christ followers were focused on reforming Jewish believers. Paul was one of the few with a heart for the Gentiles.

But I think the major lesson to be learned here in this passage is that our mission statement or purpose statement need to be fueled by nothing other than the gospel. If you have a youth ministry simply because the church up the street has one, you need to rethink your approach. If you exist only to provide entertainment to your students, you need to rethink your approach. If you define success only by the number of students walking through your doors and not by the (much harder to measure) change occurring in their lives, you are doomed to fail. The truth is, it's only by the gospel of Christ that we have any hope of success at all.

So I encourage you this morning to take a hard look at why your ministry exists. Why do you do the things you do? What motivates you to come to work in the morning? If it's anything other than to share the boundless love of Christ with your students, you might need a reboot.

For tomorrow, let's rock out 3:14-21.



Ephesians 2:11-22: The New Humanity


Greetings bloggers,

I know this is late, but Tree Anthem is out on a retreat, and this was the first chance I had to sit down and work on our devos together. It still counts!

Tonight's passage speaks to me on a profound level. I'm a little bit lost for words in the passion I have for the Bride of Christ, the Church of the Saints. The long and short of it is, I'm tired of the division. What used to be one united Church is now several churches, denominations fighting over the smallest of theological differences, and leaving most of their members confused about the direction Christ has for them.

Listen to Paul:

But now in Christ Jesus you who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace...

Because I'm such a Rob Bell fanboy, I've loved the phrase "the new humanity" for a while, even though I've never really been able to wrap my mind around it fully. I don't know what the new humanity looks like in it's purest and most beautiful form. But I believe firmly that I'd recognize it when I see it, and I'm not recognizing it.

Every division within ourselves is a step further away from the new humanity.

I understand that we have some pretty serious disagreements on some fairly serious issues. I understand that we can get a little bit feisty when it comes to things like women in ministry and how often we serve communion and infant vs. believer baptism. I understand that there comes a time when you need to hold fast to what you believe, and not make compromises. I get that.

What I don't get is why we aren't making more of an effort to reunite the Church rather than to split and splinter it as much as it will go. Why aren't we doing our every effort to be united under the flag of Christ, reaching out to a weary and desperate world in need of his love and of his grace?

When you think of it in terms of youth ministry, you can come to some pretty scary questions. Namely, are you teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ or are you teaching the gospel of John Calvin or Martin Luther or John Wesley or Joel Olestein or even in my case Rob Bell(the list goes on and on and on)? And if you are truly teaching the gospel of Christ, are you taking steps to reconcile yourself to all things (Hebrews 9) including the churches in your community who believe differently about particular details? Does your youth group participate with other youth groups in town, or is there tension there? Are you willing to set yourself aside to become the youth leader Christ has called you to be?

I don't know what the new humanity looks like. But I'd love to see it in my lifetime.

Tomorrow we'll kick it with Ephesians 3:1-13



Ephesians 2:1-10: The Gift


I'm writing this from our back porch of our new house. There are birds a-singin and a crisp cool breeze. The only thing that taints it even a little bit is the fact that Marley and Melvin had me up at about 5:30, and I haven't been able to get back to bed since.

I thought about not doing the bible study blog today. I left my good bible at the office, and I took the morning off to attempt to recoup the lost sleep from this whole week. But first of all, this thing is starting to get habitual for me, and that's good both for my writing and for my faith walk. And secondly, I have the entire internet as my accountability partner, so I figured I'd be hearing from you guys.

That all had me thinking about the teaching I did last night at Veritas. I don't know if it was just that I was having an off night, or if it was the subject matter was a bit weighty, but the kids seemed to be lost in what I was teaching. We were working through what it's like to live as a Christian both in church AND in our normal, every day coming and going lives. We talked about what kind of movies we watched, and what king of music we listened to, and what kind of words we were more comfortable saying outside of the church than we were inside the church. And as I was looking out over the crowd, I realized I was seeing a lot of blank faces.

I wonder if we too often put too much emphasis on the works of our faith. I mean yes it's important that we get ourselves into spiritual disciplines, and it's important that we live like Christ followers in the communities we've been called to live in (work, school, etc...). But as I was reading this morning's passage it occurred to me that maybe we don't focus enough on Christ's REMARKABLE gift of grace. In Ephesians 2:8-9 spells it out pretty excellently: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God--not the result of works so that no one may boast.

This isn't to say that there isn't some response to the grace of God. There surely is. But as I keep replaying the tape in my mind from last night, I wonder if we established that the way we live our lives is meant to be a response to God's grace, not a means by which to earn it. I wonder how many times I remind our youth group kids that the grace of Christ is enough to overwhelm us with love, that he chose to redeem us and loves us enough to give himself up for us (more on this later I think...). And I think sometimes I get even a little caught up in my performance of my "works," to the point that I forget that I am a redeemed child of God.

So today, as you spend some time with or thinking about your students, pray that you could show them the gift of Grace in some remarkable way. Chances are the best way to do that is simply to be overwhelmed by the grace that God has offered you.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go check out a new coffee house in town. Let's do 2:11-22 for tomorrow!



An Open Letter


Hello Penguins,

It's been a while since we had one of these chats. Frankly, I've felt like you haven't needed me in a while. We're in first in the Atlantic. We're in second in the east. Only that dirty Russian and his buddies have an edge on us, and let's face it they've been playing their butts off this year. That's ok. From a humble 4th place last year we went dancing with Stanley. Imagine what we can do two seeds higher!

But there's this thorn in our sides.

Oh Marty. In years past, we had your number. We used to be able to chase you right out of that net you were minding. Sid delighted in making you look like a fool on national TV. But these days you have vexed us, and we are dumbfounded before you.

Pens, take a look at that RIDICULOUSLY large ring on your finger. You are the Stanley Cup Champions. He's just a man. He's a man that essentially pooped his pants on the international stage this year. Plus he'll be wearing a different mask. Maybe he won't see as well.

Let me speak to a few of us individually here:

What gives? You've been cookies all season against just about every opponent. Something about those Red jerseys has been sending you around the bend. Let's put a stop to this tonight! You are the Flower (a nick name that simply cannot instill fear in the heart of anyone). You've gone over a year without a shutout. That ends tonight. I'm callin it right now. You keep your eyes on that puck and keep it out of your net. If someone's messing with you in the crease, you know what to do. Put an end to this nonsense.

Oh captain my captain.
Marty told me you played like a girl at the olympics. Doesn't that make you mad? Don't you want to go crazy and have a 5 point night? Tavares did it. You don't want that little punk showing you up do you? Go get 'em tiger!

Ponik...Ponikar...can I just call you Poni?

Word on the street is you're being given a shot on Sid's wing. Are you kidding me? Lesser people would be made kings on that line. You need to prove to every single Penguins fan in this city that you were worth the almost nothing we gave up for you. I'm thinking a hat trick ought to do the trick. Seriously, just put your stick somewhere near the net. Sid will figure out the precise angle the puck needs to hit it to make it into the net.

They've had our number all year boys. That comes to an end tonight! Go get em!

All business.

Ephesians 1:15-23: Have you heard?


Good morning bloggers!

This morning we're taking a peak at Ephesians 1:15-23.

I was struck right off the bat at how Paul had heard about the faith of the Ephesian church from a great distance away. How do you suppose that happens? How does the reputation of a community as a body of believers spread itself across oceans and great distances? I mean, if you find yourself the leader of a youth ministry, wouldn't the absolute best compliment be to hear from someone else that your students have a reputation of being Christ-like?

I'm sure our logo does that...

If we're honest in our approach to the ministry we're called to, this should be priority one. To have a group of students who are living as Christ has called them to live. I'm not at all impressed by numbers or cool youth rooms any more (well I am, but that's beside the point). What impresses me is when I see a group of students collectively living as the Salt of the Earth, the Light of the World. That's when I know I've done my job.

Paul even takes us a step further toward showing us how to accomplish this goal in our youth ministries, and that is to pray for the church (or in our case, our youth ministries). I think this goes much bigger than just praying that we have a big crowd on a Wednesday night or that no one gets hurt during the dodgeball game. The line that really resonated with me in this passage was that Paul prayed for a spirit of wisdom that they may "know what is the hope to which has has called (them)."

How much time do we spend praying not just for our ministries, but for the students who make them up? Do we keep track of the joys and concerns that are offered up in our youth groups?

Take some time this week to pray for your ministry. Keep a little notebook or something in your pocket during youth group this week, and just listen to what everyone is talking about. Write down some things you need to pray about for your kids. Maybe then our reputations will grow as Christ followers in our communities.

I don't know about you, but I'm having fun with this! We'll do 2:1-10 tomorrow!



Ephesians 1:1-14: Already There


Alright, J-Blog Bible Study: Here we go!

Have you ever been driving, completely lost in your own thoughts, and wind up where you were going without remembering the details of how you got there? This happens to me all the time. I don't know if it's some distraction caused by the number of thoughts in my head, or if I just get way to into a song on my iPhone or something like that. But it happens with frightening regularity. I wonder if I've ever hit any pedestrians... (that's not funny!)

Now imagine you find yourself in this situation. You planned to go from point A to point B, and after stepping into your car you come out of your hazy dream-filled state at point B. You're there, but you can't at all remember how you got there. You don't remember doing the work involved to get from point A to point B. So, as you stand directly on point B, you reason that because you don't remember traveling the distance, you must not be at point B. There's no way! You can't have the reward without having done any of the work.

It seems silly in that example, but there are times in my life where I do that with Christ's grace. I stand as a forgiven child of God, but I don't really remember doing any of the work involved in getting here. I don't remember giving up my favorite sins. I don't remember giving up some of the key decisions in my life. If I haven't done the work to be redeemed, I obviously must not be redeemed.

Paul would slap me silly...

These first few verses seem to put the rest of the book into perspective. We're already there. We've been "blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" through Christ. We were "chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love." "In Christ, we have also obtained an inheritance." Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but it doesn't seem like there are instructions for how to accomplish these things, they're already done for us through the blood and redemptive love of Christ.

I think sometimes we as Americans can get extremely caught up in trying to earn our salvation. I think youth workers have it even more so. We feel like if we aren't gunning at full break-neck speed, that we aren't going to be as worthwhile or worthy to Christ. That line of thinking is a lie, and we need to eliminate it. Jesus will not love you more if you plan one more lock in. He won't be more impressed if you increase your weekly attendance from 45-50. You will be no more or less redeemed if you fail. You are simply a beloved child of God. We're already there.

So take a few moments today to reflect on that. Set your to-do list aside, turn your computer off, and let yourself be loved. Let Christ speak to you through this passage, and let him remind you that you've already been saved and redeemed.

Tomorrow we'll rock out 1:15-23. Later gators!



Everyone Else is Doing It!


Ok, let's start here. This photograph is among the first to show up when you type in "peer pressure" for Google images. Does that guy even look like HE enjoys drinking? Unbelievable...we could break that down for a while, but there are bigger things to get to here.

As I was thinking about how the blog has been essentially ignored for the last little while, I realized that a lot of the blogs I read have some sort of daily devotional. Basically, the author of the blog reads through a book of the bible, and gives their comments on it. As I thought about it, this makes a tremendous amount of sense. It gives us something fairly regular to talk about here on the blog, plus it will keep me in line with my scripture reading.

Here's how we're going to do this around here. I'm going to read through Ephesians (I've been meaning to go through it for a while now), and add my comments here on the blog. I think what I'll do is just use my trusty NRSV Bible, and read from heading to heading rather than trying to tackle a chapter a day. If you've got a NRSV, feel free to follow along with me!

But then we're going to take a specific twist on this study. Let's take a look at how the Bible speaks to us as youth pastors. I've long said that we can learn how to do our job a touch better from what the Bible says, so let's actually do it! Are there gems in there that we can mine and learn how to minister to kids better with? I think so!

I'll have other posts too. Wouldn't want the worship leader stuff to get forgotten. And who will post youtube videos if I disappear?

So watch this afternoon for the first segment! We'll read from 1:1-14, so if you have a spare minute today and you'd like to take part, read along!

More later today!

I will blog more...starting NOW!


Good evening friends!
Man alive, there are so many things going on in my world right now! It's insane! I've been doing tremendous amounts of ministry and worship leading at Westminster. I've been playing gigs with Tree Anthem. And I've been working on some writing projects with some pretty big name folks (more on this later). But In all of that, I've felt like the blog has been ignored. SO...I've resolved to write at least one blog post a day.

But this thing is supposed to be about you, the readers! So while I'm working on some thoughts of my own, I was wondering what you all want to read about. Are there issues in youth ministry or worship leading or Pittsburgh Sports or really anything in life that you would like some clarity on? Not promising I have any clarity to give away...

Let me know in the comments. Then keep tuning in!



Testing out some new software


Hello friends.

Just testing out some new software. New blog post could be coming later today. Or not, depending on my mood!