Monday, September 26, 2011

Eyes on Jesus

“Since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:24)

“And the things you’ve heard me say in the presence of many witnesses these things pass on to faithful women and men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)

“Therefore I urge you to imitate me” (I Corinthians 4:16)

As the new school year begins and the ‘to do’ list grows, I find it really helpful to ask, "Why am I doing all this? What is the central focus of all this?" The true answer easily escapes us. Our first impulse is to say our friends. If we start here we are doomed to frustration and disappointment.

The reason we do this is first and foremost Christ. Ministry is about Christ, before who we serve. The call is from Jesus. Our choosing is from Jesus. Ministry done is unto Jesus. The power is from Jesus. The glory is to Jesus. The motive is Jesus.

The great news about this is that I will never fail when my ministry is “the ministry of the costly extravagant gift.” Meaning that ministry is the alabaster jar of costly perfume poured out on Jesus from an overflowing heart of gratitude and passionate love. When I start here I always succeed because I have blessed Jesus.

Now my numbers might not look good. I might not have enough money or leaders. I might see little fruit. I might be criticized and abandoned. Kids, leaders, committee, parents may frustrate me. But I am not doing this for them. I am living for an Audience of One.

Paul said, “I care very little if I am judged by you or any human court; indeed I do not even judge myself…it is the Lord who judges me.” (I Corinthians 4:3-4) My feelings and self esteem are not based on someone else’s opinion or my own (which is the least reliable) but on what God thinks of me, on how God evaluates and sees me. As a result we hear our heavenly Father say, “You are my beloved son/daughter in whom I am well pleased and take great delight.” (Mark 1:11)

This frees us to be unconditional in our relationships and especially with our friends. When I focus on Jesus I can focus on kids, and in my overwhelming ‘to do’ list it helps to think of one kid. Yes, just one kid. I can’t make a difference in dozens or hundreds of kids but I can go deep with one. I can pour myself out on one. I can spend a lot of time with one. I can impart Jesus in an abundant way to one.

So, as we travel on in this year remind yourself this is all about Jesus. He is our starting point, our middle point, and our finishing point. Then listen to Jesus intently tell who the one kid is. My kid’s name is Big D. Who is yours?!

With Eyes on Jesus,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Giving God The Glory

“But when Nebuchadnezzar’s heart became arrogant and hardened with pride he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory.” (Daniel 5:20)

“But you Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself though you knew all this.”
(Daniel 5:22)

“They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not a man!" Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down and he was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12:22-23)

God will simply not share His glory. Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Herod learned this the hard way. This is very sobering to me because I think there is no greater place than in ministry for the temptation of arrogance. In YL Capernaum we see wonders weekly. We get praised for what we do with our friends.

It becomes a temptation to believe our own press. It is tempting to get drunk on the accolades of success. It is tempting to believe we pulled off a successful venture. It is easy to get our self-esteem from our ministry rather than from Jesus. But how do we know when we are doing this? Here are a few tell-tale signs we are keeping the glory from God.

Being territorial or possessive of the ministry God gave us and showing anger when someone is perceived as infringing.
Possessiveness about the donors God gives us.
Jealousy when someone else gets the credit I believe I deserve.
When I can only receive praise but not criticism.
Controlling others. My way is the only way.

There are many other symptoms but these really grab me. So does this mean we cannot have joy in our labor?

Absolutely we can! 2 Corinthians 4:1 says, “We’ve been given this ministry by God’s mercy.” It is a gift and that is the key. When I know this is all a gift it is easy to give glory and credit to the gift giver. But when I feel I earned it and am entitled then I am in trouble. I am listening to the counsel of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Herod rather than Paul.

The Lord wants us to enjoy our ministry and simply recognize it is all from Him. We will get many affirmations and those too are gifts from God. I find it so helpful to receive those graciously and in my spirit return this as a bouquet of praise and thanksgiving to God.

O God, show us your glory in Capernaum that we may glorify you back.
His and your servant,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Devotional By Nick - Recap Summer 2011

As I write it is September 1st. A new school year has begun with all the wonder of what God will do this year and the frantic preparations and pace as we invest ourselves into our friends for another year. Before it gets too crazy let’s do a “Selah” like that of the Psalms. Let’s pause, catch our breath and look back over a sacred summer filled with the wonders of God.

I know we all have amazing stories to share and I have heard some that take my breath away. I would like to share a couple with you as a means of offering thanks to God collectively.

I had the honor of being part of four different camp weeks this summer. I want to describe two of these experiences. The first was our camping experience with our YL Capernaum team in Kauai. YL Capernaum in Kauai is getting ready to celebrate their one-year anniversary on September 11th, so everything is new to this fabulous team of people led by Ana Nunoz.

We had a truly holy week with 17 friends, around 20 buddies, and a group of leaders. All of us whether kid, buddy, leader, or staff felt like we encountered Jesus in a profound way.

The moment that brought this into crystal clarity was the last night at a dessert with all of our participants, including their parents. A 21 year-old young man named Josh, who has cerebral palsy, spoke using his voice box from his wheelchair. He gave what I consider the most profound and elegant testimony of how emotionally painful his disability has been for him and his family. He then described how Capernaum is the first thing in his life to bring him hope and belief that his dreams could come true. He had us play a song that communicated what he felt.

As the song played, his parents arose from their seats and approached their son and wrapped him in their arms while weeping. Then slowly each kid that had been at day camp surrounded Josh, hugged, and held him throughout the song.

Have you ever felt like Moses encountering God in the burning bush? That is the only way I know how to describe the scene. As I watched in silent wonder, I couldn’t get over the feeling that each kid had responded to Josh in this way because he had become their voice; an articulate eloquent voice that stated clearly their struggles and beautifully their hope in Christ that they had received through Capernaum.

Glory to God!

The second experience was this past week at Oakbridge, near San Diego. Our amazing staff couple, John and Nancy Pantellas, serve in the Greater Los Angeles Region under my dear and Capernaum-loving friend Alan Smyth who is their Regional Director. They created and organized our first all YL Beyond Capernaum camp. One hundred and forty campers and leaders attended from California and Arizona. I had the privilege to speak.
What really stood out to me is our ability to go deeper with our friends and challenge them. Their response was dramatic. You could tangibly sense their hunger for Jesus and their response to Him. I have never experienced a YL Capernaum crowd listen as intently as they did, and no they were not asleep. It was a smashing success. We are going to do two four-day camps next summer and seek Pastors and church youth groups to be with us as a way of reaching our goal to more effectively move our friends towards the church.

Glory to God again!

Friends, I know this is only two stories among many. So I have this idea. I would love for each of you to send your most meaningful summer camp story and a picture with it. I would like to compile this into a small book we could use to share YL Capernaum with those around us who know little about our friends with disabilities and Capernaum. If you want to do this, just email it to me at your convenience.

There. We took a breath. We praised God! Now!

Ready!.....Set!....Let’s go!

Into a new year of wonder!
In Christ,