2012-2013 Grace Student Ministries Music Video Introduction

I just got back from a trip to inner city Philadelphia with a team of Grace Student Ministries students and staff. It was a great trip, we able to serve and be challenged to walk nearer and more faithfully with our Lord Jesus. But not only that, we had a lot of fun.

We decided that over the next 12 months we’re going to be shooting a music video (how that fits into a missions trip, I’m not sure). At every big youth group event, we’ll get some footage of students and staff singing along to the song that we chose for 2012-2013. In the end, it will look something like this. It will be an awesome way to remember the year, and a memorable gift for the seniors. Our first shot was in Philly, on the “Rocky” steps (where Rocky Balboa ran to exercise). Here it is:

Last words, lasting words

Last night was my final youth group meeting with First Baptist Church Canoga Park. Most of the time we celebrated– which, of course, means we got extra pizza, candy, and a ton of soda. Sandy brought in homemade cupcakes that we gorged ourselves in. I gave my final talk, which was short and periodically interrupted by Emma saying, “Hi daddy!” Then we all prayed together and thanked the Lord for the time he gave us.

I started my talk by telling them I had three goals for them. More than anything, I wanted them to love three things. Having heard me speak to them over the last year and a half, I hoped they would be able to identify these things. If they couldn’t, I knew I hadn’t done well in communicating them. But they did not disappoint. Here are the three things:

1. Love Scripture. They got this one right away. My conviction is that you love Jesus to the degree that you love his Word. The two cannot be separated; anyone who professes love for Christ must to desire to hear from Christ. That’s why Jesus said, “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (John 14:24). Isn’t, then, the opposite true– “whoever does love me will keep my words”? My goal was not to make them legalistic, thinking that reading the Bible every day would guarantee them a spot in heaven, but to remind them of the truths of salvation– that whoever has been converted has been regenerated, and whoever has been regenerated, has new tastes, loves, and affections. And there at the top of the list of new affections is love for Scripture. So I told them, over and over again, love Scripture.

2. Love the Gospel.  After we talked about loving Scripture one last time, I asked again: What’s the second thing I want you to love? It took them a little bit, because they kept saying “Love Jesus” or “Love the Lord” to which I would say, “Yes, but be more specific!” The reason why I wanted more specificity is because it’s popular to love Jesus, and nowadays it’s possible to “love Jesus” without actually being a Christian. When they finally got it, I said, “Yes!”

Once they got this one, I did what I do often: I asked them the ever simple, ever pressing question: what is the gospel? I never assumed they understood it. I’ve explained it countless times to the same students. I do this because you never know when it will hit them with Holy Spirit power. I remember being a senior in high school, sitting in Mr. Nandor’s Bible class, and finally understanding what Jesus’ death had to do with my salvation. I knew Jesus “died for my sins” by I didn’t understand what in the world that meant, and how the transaction occurred, or how it was effective.

So when I speak to these students, I address the great doctrines as much as I can (without using the hard-to-understand theological jargon). I’ll make sure they understand how the active obedience of Christ is imputed to us, how Christ’s death was a penal substitutionary death, and how God’s wrath was poured out on him instead of us, and how the resurrection guarantees our future hope. I’ll mention those terms briefly, so that they become familiar, but it’s the concept I’m most concerned about. And last night they did surprisingly well in explaining the gospel to me. Sin, judgment, Christ’s perfect life, Christ’s sin-bearing death, his resurrection, God’s justice and mercy were all mentioned. I’d say they were pretty thorough.

But I didn’t only want to them know the gospel. I wanted them to love it. So I constantly told them how practical it is. I (hopefully) taught them how to preach to themselves.

3. Love the Church. I don’t want to produce theological eggheads who are too sophisticated for the church. I also don’t want to breed individualistic spiritualists who see no purpose for the church in their walk. I want them to love the church as they love Christ, because the church is Christ’s manifest presence on earth. After speaking on this point for a bit, I read them Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” What a sweet way to end our time together– hoping in the risen Christ to build his church!

I hope these last words are lasting words– that they stick for a long, long time. May God use them, and every other word I’ve spoken to the students, as a means of grace. “The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed”– and I pray that mine have been driven deeply into their hearts.

I am thankful for each student in the youth group I’ve been able to serve. Many prayers have gone up for them. I trust the Lord has much good for them in the future, and I look forward to continuing our relationships, and seeing how the Lord grows and uses them in the future.


The Grace of God in My Life Lately

God has been gracious in answering prayers. The biggest, most obvious one has been the renewal of my prayer life, revitalized by The Autobiography of George Muller that I’ve been reading lately.  Seeing the greatness and faithfulness of God in Muller’s life is one of the most inspiring stories I’ve ever read.  I’ve never come across a book with such an impact on my heart, Bible aside.  It has driven my to my knees with an inflamed passion to pray and draw others to prayer.  If you’ve never read it, you need to.  It will change your life.

Secondly, our meet on the Fallbrook High School campus, IMPACT, was highly attended.  This was a gracious answer to prayer.  Many students got to hear the gospel.  My prayer is that the seed of the gopsel that has been planted would flourish, and that many would be saved.  Nothing is too hard for God.

Also, last night five of us prayed for the youth ministry like we usually do on Wednesday nights.  As soon as we were done praying, several Jr. High students burst into the room, two of whom we had just been praying for by name.  We played a few games and then went and talked about the gospel.  There was one little boy named Louis, who was so afraid of hell that he started to cry and I taught.  His brothers tried to cover his ears, but I told them to let him listen.  I have never seen such a young boy so afraid of hell before.  Eventually I was able to tell everyone about Jesus Christ.  The boy listened intently.  Afterwards, I had him sit next to me.  He began asking questions like “What if I forget?” and “What if I still sin?”  We got to talk about eternal security, and how God forgives our sins and give us the righteousness of Christ.  I told him that the Bible is God’s word to us, and it tells us how we ought to live.  The boy, who was hispanic, and was young enough that he was still learning to read English, told me he would get his brother or his mom to read it to him.

After the meeting ended, the kids left and were beginning to walk home when suddenly I heard them running back up the stairs to our meeting room.  The boys again burst through the door with little Loius, tears now dried up.  He intently asked me, “Can I have a Bible?”  I rejoiced in my heart and gladly gave him one.  And as abruptly as they came, they left.

I am going to finished with a quote from George Muller’s autobiography, which has been a source of encouragement to me:

“It appears to me that believers generally have expected far too little present fruit from their labors among children. They hope that the Lord will some day confirm their instruction and answer their prayers which they offer up on the children’s behalf.  The Bible assures us in that everything we do for the Lord, including bringing up children in the fear of the Lord, our labor is not in vain. We have to guard against thinking that it does not matter whether we see present fruit or not.  On the contrary, we should give the Lord no rest until we see fruit.  Therefore, in persevering yet submissive prayer, we should make our requests known to God.  I am now looking for many more children to be converted.” (pg.  132-133)

Radical Ministry?

set_apart_logoI feel a call to radical ministry. I always wonder what that looks like in youth group terms. And it’s hard to feel like you’re doing something radical when you spend most of your time planning. Whether it’s messages, meetings, or minutia (alliteration is always sweet). I think my idea of what is radical has a lot to do with its ties to mission.

Here are some things I’ve done recently:

1) Build up a kind of strategy for organic, personal outreach and emphasized it with the group. The series went something like this:

* What is an oikos? (Focused on teaching what an oikos was–an oikos is 8-15 people God has placed in your sphere of influence so that you can minister to them– and how to identify yours)

* Why an oikos (Focus on why oikos evangelism is effective)

* How does it all work (Focused on the heart behind the evangelism-what is the motivation?)

* How it can fail (Focused on how outreach will fail without first being true followers of Christ)

2) Organized a mission/vision statement that focuses on the three aspects of the youth ministry, which would look something like this:

* Set Apart (this is who we are, who we want to be)

* Operation Infiltration (this is our mission, our two-word summation of the Great Commission to go. Our goal is to infiltrate our worlds (oikos) with the gospel.

* Oikos (this is our mission field. It’s our 8-15 people God has strategically and supernaturally put into our lives.)

3) Everything we do is based around cultivating these things.

* Sunday mornings are focused on biblical teaching as to how we are to be Set Apart for God’s use.

* Our small prayer group meets before every Wednesday night to pray for the kids in youth group.

* Wednesday nights are an outreach program that kids can bring their unsaved friends to. It’s intentionally programmed to be made for unsaved kids to come (but the gospel is not watered down!)

* Other events are opportunities for kids to invite their friends (oikos) so we can build relationships and extend our sphere of influence.

The kids in the youth group are responding with enthusiasm with the right motivations (I think) but we have yet to see numerical growth…Which is okay!

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”