Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Thinking About the End

Recently I have seen a couple of signs around cities in Canada and the U.S. saying that judgment day and Jesus' return is on May 21, 2011. Seeing these signs kind of made me angry and shake my head at fanatical Christians who are obsessed with the end times. Then this morning I read Matthew 24 and it threw a whole new perspective at this obsession with the end times.

In Matthew 24, Jesus is talking to his disciples about the end times because the disciples had asked Jesus these things were happen and what kind of signs there would be when Jesus returned. Here is part of Jesus response in verses 36-44: "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only...Therefore stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

When I read the words of Jesus I can't help but notice that he blatantly says no one knows when the end will happen. He says the Son of Man (himself) is coming at an hour you do not expect. When I read that I say to myself "what is the point of guessing May 21, 2011 for the end of the days. Jesus is pretty clear that we do not know."

Another thought hit me as I read Matthew. If we spend all our time writing books, posting signs, and trying to convince people that the end of the world is May 21, we are missing the point of the Great Commission. We become so consumed with the "end" that maybe we because lukewarm and complacent with our faith. If the end is coming on May 21, why would we bother having church or youth group or continuing to grow in our faith? I mean, the end is coming so what's the point.

I think that is why Jesus told us to live in expectation. And expectation does not mean "guessing" when the day will be. It means living with the excitement knowing that Jesus will one day return in all his glory and power. But it also means realizing there are so many people that do not know the saving power of Jesus' grace. Maybe God is waiting for us to continue to spread the Gospel before he comes back? But the point is not consuming our lives trying to figure out when it will all end. Instead, why not be apart of the redemptive plan of God, so when the end does happen, more people will rejoice because they have a relationship with God.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Awesomeness of Christmas

It has been awhile since I have posted on here. Our youth group did an All-Nighter event which took up most of my time with planning and running it. But it was amazing. We had 170 teens from both churches I work at hanging out at the church all night! Totally worth the work and stress put into it!

Christmas is only 4 days away which has gotten me thinking about the significance that Jesus actually came to the earth. Usually we here things like "the real reason for the season" or "having a birthday party for Jesus" which seems kind of corny to me. But as I've been thinking about Christmas I am realizing how amazing it is that Jesus came to the earth. In the Old Testament we read about the prophets, which were basically people that God chose to use to speak to his people. God spoke in lots of different ways in the Old Testament and it must have been amazing hearing from him. But the time from the last prophet spoke to when Jesus came was 400 years!!! 400 years of silence from God. As the people of God it must have been so hard going from hearing God speak to absolute silence for such a long time. No wonder the Jewish people were longing and looking forward to when the Messiah would come.

Then God broke the silence after 400 years by sending an angel to a young girl, probably only 14 years old. In Luke 1:30-33 it says, "But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.'"

After 400 years of silence God revealed his plan to send his son into the world. That is why Christmas is such a significant time of remembering the importance of Jesus' birth. After 400 years of silence God chose to break into history and send his son, Jesus, to redeem people back to himself. That is why Jesus came. That little baby we read Christmas stories about is the savior of the world. He defeated sin and darkness and brought people back into relationship with God. That is why Christmas is so awesome! It is a chance to remember God's plan of salvation and how he loved us so much to send his son as a sacrifice for our sin.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The 6 Billion Dollar Debt

This morning I was reading in Matthew chapter 18 and verses 23-35 really stuck out to me. I had read this story before but as I dug a little deeper the significance really struck me. Basically Jesus tells a parable of this servant have a debt of 10,000 talents. His master forgives him his debt and sends him on his way. The servant who's debt was forgiven found another fellow servant who owed him 100 denarii and choked him, threw him in jail and had no mercy or forgiveness for him.

I read that in the past and would say, "That first servant is a total tool! He got forgiven and then he goes and doesn't even have the decency to forgive someone else?" But this morning I dug deeper and the meaning of the story stuck out so much more for me....ready to have your mind blown???

A talent (the unit of money in the story) was equal to about 20 years' wages for a laborer. So think about today's standards. If someone earns 15 bucks an hour and works 2,000 hours a year that would be around $30,000 a year. That means a talent in this day and age would be worth about $600,000 dollars! And in the story, the first servant owed his master 10,000 talents which would be around 6 billion dollars!!! Isn't that crazy?? I think Jesus specifically chose this large sum of money to get his point across. The master forgave this 6 billion dollar debt and allowed his servant to go on his way.

Then we see this servant approach someone who owes him 100 denarii. A denarii was about 20 weeks worth of common labor and if we use the same calculations as above it would be about 12,000 dollars in today's world. It is amazing to me that this evil servant would not forgive a 12,000 dollar debt when he had just been forgiven 6 billion dollars!!!

The point of this story that Jesus tells is to bring into focus a few things. First, the debt of our sin is unbelievably large. When we chose to reject the will of God and pursue sinful things, we owed him a huge debt! Let's says its like the 6 billion dollars. But the amazing thing is that God, just like the kind master, has completely forgiven that debt. God had every right to condemn us to eternity in hell but instead he makes it possible to get rid of that crazy huge debt.

But so many Christians act like the evil servant in this passage. We have been forgive our 6 billion dollar debt of sin but yet we can't forgive something small like the 12,000 dollars the other servant owed. When I think about it it just doesn't add up. But so many followers of Jesus today simply do not "walk the walk" they profess to follow. Which is why I think Jesus made it clear when he said, "not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

It isn't enough to simply say the prayer of forgiveness. We need to be living out what we believe. Jesus made it clear that life change is the thing he is looking for. We have been forgiven a massive debt of sin. In turn I think we owe our lives to God in actually living out what we believe.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thinking About Jesus

I love reading theology. I borrowed a book from a pastor I work with called "Theology for the Community of God". I swear this book is 1000 pages long and stuffed full of things that sometime make my head hurt. But if I had the choice somedays I could sit and read theology all day long. Most mornings I read my Bible then spend a little bit of time reading theology which usually ends up blowing my mind and making me realize how huge God is and how small I am.

This morning I was reading about the divinity of Jesus. Basically how Jesus is God even though he was flesh and blood and walked on the earth 2000 years ago. Couple things stuck out to me as I was reading. First, Jesus is God but never once used his power for selfish reasons on the earth. And he had chances to do that too. He could have destroyed the Pharisees, or made himself rich and famous, taken himself off the cross, killed his enemies, etc. But so often Jesus "put aside" his divinity or "God-ness" and instead relied on God the Father for his strength and power. And I think there are a few reasons for this.

1. Jesus wanted to show us how to live on reliance of God. People always say "What Would Jesus Do" or tell Christians to just "be more like Jesus". And truthfully that is the goal of being a Christian. So Jesus did an amazing thing and modeled for us how to be a Christian. He lived on dependence of God the Father, frequently had alone time and prayer time, cared for sick and needy people, hung out with sinners, and basically showed us how to have the best possible friendship with God!

2. The fact that Jesus put aside his "God-ness" and relied on God the Father gives us a little sneak peak into the amazingness (made up word?) of the Trinity. I don't think I will ever understand the Trinity fully or get how God interacts as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit yet are one powerful God. But it is amazing seeing the relationship and community between each person of the Trinity. Jesus relied on the Father for his strength each day. The Father entrusted salvation and his plan for people with the Son. And the Spirit ministered to Jesus and went forth from him to his disciples! MIND-BLOWING!

So, I don't think I will ever fully understand who God is fully but it is amazing reading theology and learning little tidbits at a time. If you have never read a theology book, DO IT! It will change your life. There are words I don't understand and sometimes its confusing but that doesn't matter. Spending the time to dive in deep into who God is will blow your mind! DO IT!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Toronto Conference

Well it has been a few days since I have posted on here and it is partly due to me being at the Canadian Youth Workers Convention in Toronto for the past 4 days. Rob and I decided to attend it this year and learn from amazing youth guys like Walt Mueller, Sid Koop, Tic Long, and others. Now I am sitting in the Toronto airport waiting for my flight back home to the warm, beautiful west coast! Few observations about Toronto: 1. It is ridiculously cold. 2. Drivers suck here. 3. The coffee is terrible.

The conference was an amazing time of learning for me. All day Thursday we got to hang out with Walt Mueller, who in my opinion, is an expert in understanding youth culture and media. We looked at music videos, songs, and other media that our teens are totally immersed in today and learned how to engage and process what we saw and how we could look into youth culture, stir it up, see what our teens are marinating in, and give them truth from God's word about what they see. So to put in a few words, Thursday was awesome.

Friday the actual conference began and I was stoked with the amount of SWAG we got. For those who aren't familiar with that term, SWAG means Stuff We All Get. Basically, free things they give you for being there. We got book bags, books, magazines, pens, and all sorts of other stuff to make us "better youth pastors". There was worship times, general session teaching, and then specific break out seminars which focused in on different topics. I went to seminars on how to reach teens in the digital age, the importance of parents in youth ministry, the use of the Word and how everything we do in youth ministry needs to be Bible-based, and finally a seminar this morning about Sex, Christ, and Culture. All of it was so interesting and gave me great ideas of things I want try in youth ministry, things I am doing wrong, and things that maybe I am doing right.

Overall this has been an awesome conference. Well worth it. It has given me a kick in the butt to try new things in youth ministry, take chances, and to not be afraid to fail. The speaker in the very last session this morning told us that one of the things that holds us back in youth ministry is that fear of failure. But we need to expect to fail and be excited when we fail because we can't accomplish anything if we stay inside our comfortable box of doing regular old "youth group".