Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Prayer for Capernaum

My Lord and my God! Like Thomas we fall on our knees before you. We touch your wounds – you the wounded One who is a friend of the wounded in body, soul, mind, and spirit. You, Jesus, have brought Capernaum into existence because you love the least of these. You, Jesus, are the host of the Banquet to be held in your home. You, Jesus, call the Mephibosheths of the world to dine at your table with you, the King.

You sent me your servant and all my fellow servants named Pam, Amira, Suzanne, Lyn, John, and hundreds of other servants around the world. You have sent us into the streets, the alley ways, the country lanes, and far away places to get the “crippled, the lame, the blind, and the poor” in order to give names to the nameless, voices to the voiceless, and a place at your table.

We are in awe at what you have done in 25 years. We worship you and are in wonder, like Mary, turning these things in our hearts, that by your mercy you would give us this ministry. Because of this we will not lose heart. We will continue to be among your little ones treating them gently like a mother with her nursing babies and like a father urging, encouraging, and exhorting his own children.

Good Shepherd we tend your flock. We feed your lambs and lead your sheep as you have led us. Jesus, Good Shepherd, please send your Holy Spirit to us and lead us for the next 25 years to go into the far country even if only for one lamb. Let us always seek the statistically meaningless one lamb. We lay our lives down in worship at your feet, Good Shepherd of Capernaum.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wild, Crazy and "Stupid" Ideas

“Without a vision the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18)

“Some men see things as they are and say why; I dream things that never were and say why not?”
~Bobby Kennedy

“I have a dream” ~ Martin Luther King

“The best Young Life work is yet to be done.” ~ Jim Rayburn

This morning I was reading the newspaper over a strong cup of Peet's coffee when an article grabbed my attention. It was about Israeli scientist, Dan Shechtman, who won this year's Nobel Peace prize in chemistry. The award was for his discovery of a new crystalline chemical structure that seemed to violate the laws of nature. His colleagues mocked him, insulted him, and exiled him from his research group. Shechtman said he never doubted his findings and considered himself merely the latest in a long line of scientists who advanced their fields by challenging the conventional wisdom and were shunned by the establishment because of it. The article goes on to say that the discovery fundamentally altered how chemists conceive solid matter. Since the discovery, quasi crystals have been produced in laboratories and a Swedish company found them in one of the most durable kinds of steel; now used in products such as razor blades and think needles made specifically for eye surgery.

This all got me thinking. We can learn so much from the scientific community regarding their fever pitch curiosity and relentless pursuit of the endless wonders of the created world. I find that we as Christians rarely possess a spiritual curiosity like this and that we in ministry can settle into a routine that rarely changes.

Jim Rayburn said, “The best Young Life work is yet to be done.” What if that is true? What if there are things that God is longing to show us about reaching kids and how we do ministry? He is an infinite God; the Creator of a vast universe that literally explodes our imagination to wonder and drops us on our knees in worship. What if God has so much more for us? What if we could put our agendas aside and open our minds and hearts wide to what God wants to show us in our lives and ministries?

What blocks us from a Nobel Prize type of discovery? I believe the answer lies in two primary places; in us and in others. There reside the voices of negativity. Nothing throws water on a fire faster than the “we can’t do that; it’s not possible” mentality. Some of the greatest discoveries in history were met with ridicule and even assassination. God forbid that we assassinate each other when someone brings up a wild, crazy, “stupid”, never done before idea.

I want to encourage us to listen to God for wild, crazy, stupid, never done before ideas with YL Capernaum. I want to encourage you to color outside the lines. I want to exhort all of us on how we respond to a new idea. It is so easy for us to react immediately in a negative way!

Instead, let’s listen and not respond. You know...”be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” as James tells us. Listen and pray. Maybe even take a few days to seek the Holy Spirit asking is this from you. Let’s continue to be pioneering. I believe this is in our DNA in YL Capernaum.

Has something been stirring in you that seems impossible? Don’t shut it down. Pray. Share it. Maybe even step out and try it. What’s the worst that could happen? Mocking, ridicule, exile, and failure? Or maybe God’s Nobel Prize for ministry. I’ve got to go now because I have this “stupid” idea I am working on!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

God Disciplines Those Whom He Loves

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:1-11)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The heading to Hebrews 12:1-11 in my bible reads, “God Disciplines Those Whom He Loves”. And in those eleven verses the word discipline is used 10 times. It is striking to see the word so often in so few verses.

The passage begins with an exhortation to run the race before us and never give up. The writer encourages us with the fact that we are surrounded with a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on. The race is obviously a marathon fraught with challenge and difficulty so great that we are tempted to give up. How true to life and ministry! Over my past 28 years on staff and my 39 years in ministry I have been at the end of my rope so often. “Can I keep going?” has been a question I have asked often.

Then the writer gives us an even greater motivation to faithfully run our race. It is the way Jesus ran His race. A grueling, suffering race like no human being will ever experience. It is a race that cost Him His life and so much more. The writer encourages us to fix our eyes on Jesus. We are encouraged to follow His example. To watch the way he did it. To imitate Him not only in carrying our cross but to do it for the joy set before us. The joy is that we faithfully complete our assignments and hear the Father say well done good and faithful servant.

Then the writer reminds us that we are under the Father’s discipline. We are told earlier in Hebrews that Jesus learned obedience through suffering. Jesus experienced the Father’s discipline in His ministry. Do we think for a minute if He did that we won’t?

As we faithfully engage in our ministries, God is using our ministries to discipline us, shape us, and grow us into the likeness of His Son. Mother Teresa stated that our troubles are signs that God trusts us. Then she declared, “I wish He wouldn’t trust me so much.” I relate to that. Sometimes don’t you just want to say, “Okay God, stop. Enough.” But the truth is God is a watchful, attentive, loving Father with a plan for us.

In Amos God states to Israel, “I chose you out of all the nations of the earth to be intimate but you went after idols. That is why I must punish you.” We are His special possessions: sons and daughters. We can’t get away with anything. So, 10 times the writer talks of God’s discipline that is painful and not pleasant but will also lead to our holiness and fruitfulness.

Trust that the Father loves you when it gets hard in ministry. When there is suffering. It is an active sign of the Father’s activity. Our ministries are being used by God to shape us. Take a few moments and think on that. How has God shaped you in the last year through your ministry? Then fix your eyes on Jesus and keep running the race.

Under His Discipline,

Monday, October 3, 2011

Should We Expect Someone Else?

“John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”

At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So He replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”” (Luke 7:18-23)

Dear Team!

As Jesus’ ministry gains momentum, John the Baptizer’s prayer in John 3:30 is taking place: “He must increase; I must decrease.” Another translation says: “He must become greater; I must become less.”

John has faithfully fulfilled his ministry but it has resulted in a dark jail cell on a bogus charge. It is in this dark place that John begins to doubt what his whole ministry was about. Two of his disciples come to him telling him the news of Jesus’ ministry.

His fermenting doubt rises to the surface. Did it go something like this? “I was faithful. I was sure my cousin was the One. The Messiah. I proclaimed Him loudly, relentlessly, and faithfully…and I ended up here. I know I was meant to decrease but to this point? I am sure this will be the end of my life. I’ve not only become less, I’ve been forgotten. Did I miss it? Was I wrong? And what is Jesus doing? My disciples tell me all the wonderful stories but He has not taken power. I am so confused. God did I miss your plan? Was it all for naught?”

John turned to his disciples saying, “Would you please go to Jesus personally on my behalf and ask him, “Is He the One to come or should we expect someone else?” And so they left to find Jesus.

As they finished teaching, John’s disciples approached him. “Master, we have a message from your cousin John. He asks, are you the One or should we expect someone else?” Jesus looked deep into their eyes on John’s behalf with empathy and compassion.

Then Jesus called his disciples and a handful of other followers. John’s disciples recognized some of these men and women as people who had been blind, lame, or deaf. Even one had been a leper but he stood there whole and happy.

Jesus smiled and then laughed with His friends. Turning to John’s disciples he said,
“Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard with your eyes and your own ears. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the Good News is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man; blessed are you my cousin, John, who does not fall away on account of me.”

John’s disciples hurried back to John where they are allowed to meet him in his cell. The sound of John’s chains rattle in his dark putrid cell. In this darkness he is given news of light. John listens intently. He hears between the lines the familiar voice of his cousin he has always so deeply loved.

John hears through a transformed mind what this Messiah is doing. He can hear Jesus say, “John my dear cousin, do not doubt in the dark what you saw in the light. You were right. The Son of Man has come announcing the Kingdom of God. And this kingdom comes unexpected amongst the least and forgotten. It will topple the kingdom of this world by what the world sees as foolish and weak. What is foolish to man is God’s wisdom. What is weak to man is God’s power. No longer doubt John. The wisdom of God and the power of God rest upon you even in your cell. Blessed are you for believing in me when there is no reason to do so.”

John sits with this in meditation. He knows now the Messiah is the One who is great and has become less in order to invade and change this world from the inside out. It is the heart that He is out to conquer rather than nations. John knows now it is a matter of time before Rome crumbles.

As I think of this, it is so true to our experience in ministry. We answer Jesus’ call. We serve like John, relentlessly and faithfully. We are ever so confident of Jesus and all that He is. Then we run into a season of the dark cell. A season that can be triggered by loss, tragedy, abandonment, plans disappointed, and we are thrust into this cell of doubt. Like John, we wonder if our ministry is a mistake. We wonder in confusion about something we were so sure about. We doubt Jesus and ourselves. We cry out to Jesus.

He turns our attention not to what we have done but what He has done. He turns our attention to the little ones in our ministries. He compassionately speaks to us and turns our attention to our own ministries. As if to say, do you not see these little ones I have brought to you? Look with new eyes on the wonder of God’s work in your own ministry. Go there and be encouraged in your doubt and darkness that the Messiah has come and you have rightly proclaimed him. Blessed are you YL Capernaum Teammate that you don’t fall away on account of Jesus not doing it the way you wish.

This year when doubt assails us and in the darkness of the cell let us return to our video highlight reel of what our Savior has done in our midst. When we gather let’s bring stories to each other as John’s disciples did to John. And let us find renewal, strength, and a renewed focus on Jesus right in the midst of our cells.

May you be encouraged by Jesus who has called you,