Category Archives: Spiritual Disciplines
Your ministry is only going to be as effective as your prayer life. I could end this post right there, but I know that every one of you reading this would probably feel somewhat slighted that I only put that much effort into this post. However, the reality of that statement is beyond true, it’s imperative!
Our student ministry at Lewisburg Alliance is currently going through a series called “My Resolution” and the goal of this series is to teach our student how to live out their faith practically through spiritual disciplines. We started the series at the beginning of January by challenging how our students pray, and we wanted to change our students’ mentality from consumerist prayer to reliant prayer. Each week we went through a letter of the acrostic ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). Where I think many ministries fail is not necessarily in their teaching, but in their lack of application and opportunities. We have called this series a “practice and play series,” which simply means that we were going to teach the students how to do something and then allow them to put it into play.
This past Sunday night, our students got to “play.” My students leaders, adult leaders, and myself decided to set up prayer stations for a prayer night, and for the second week in a row I was just blown away by how God is changing the hearts and lives of our students. We set up 19 stations which included:
- Our Community
- The Media
- Our Peers
- Our Schools
- Our Families
- Church Leaders
- Our Country
- Our Burdens
- Future Careers
- Encouragement Notes (Mostly for church members)
- A Station for Our Compassion Child
- Our Missionaries
- The Names of God
- Our Reflection to the World
- Our Relationships (Friends, Family, Peers)
Our leaders arrived two hours before Youth Group and we began setting up our stations, lighting, and sound for each room. Our students and leaders brough their station stuff and it was so neat to see what they had thought up. Our purity station had a wedding dress, our media station had a an X-Box and computer with various websites, and we had a bulletin board where students could put names of their peers that they wanted to see saved.
Normally our time starts in the gym but we directed our students to go straight up to the youth room where the lights we dim and we had quiet music playing. We dismissed our students to go to stations and we gave them an hour to go at their own pace. As our students left with their small groups I went off on my own to pray before I started going to the stations myself. As I walked around I saw the hearts of students who have come a long way. As I looked at our students on their face praying at a station I couldn’t help but feel like a proud father of 20 something students. Not only did students pray at the stations but I found students praying with other students off to the side, beyond the stations! I even found myself at the family station praying for Alicia and I’s future kids with tears in my eyes. Our students had practiced and now they were playing like superstars, like when Lebron and Wade are clicking on all cylinders.
I honestly don’t know what I expected to see come from last night but I know that my expectations were definitely exceeded! I would challenge you to analyze your payer life because like I said from the get go, “Your ministry is only as successful as your prayer life.” Allow prayer in your ministry to change both you and your students’ lives.
Each new year comes fully equipped with its share of resolutions and commitments. How many times have you begun the year and sworn to be a better student, to be a better spouse, to do better with your finances, or to lose weight? Whether or not you make an official “New Years Resolution”, in the back of most everyone’s mind is the desire to be better and do better.
I begin this year with two resolutions. The first is to get back on track with losing weight. When Jason and I got married we were very committed to cutting calories and eating healthier. We lost quite a bit! But ever since we moved to PA for full-time ministry we’ve fallen far off the wagon (living in limbo didn’t help the matter). So here we are again starting fresh! The second thing I want to see myself accomplish this year is to be more prepared and more educated. And to be quite honest, I think this is something everyone needs to spend a little more time on if you don’t already. This isn’t a shotgun reaction to the onset of the new year. Rather, it’s a yearning to grow!
I am currently 23 years old, and 21 of those years were spend in schooling. For 90% of my life I sat behind a desk and absorbed all kinds of information, most of which I sadly no longer remember. I didn’t realize how much I loved learning until the summer of 2010, right after I graduated Liberty University. I found myself without a purpose – I’d go to work, come home, do nothing all night, and then start all over again. I missed learning! I think it’s important to keep that yearning to learn instead of becoming complacent. Speaking of complacent, I have to confess that for the past few months that has been my attitude. I think I got so caught up with all my life changes that I neglected reading or any kind of learning. This year I am going to change that and educate myself on a regular basis.
So lets combat complacency together this year! Here are three key things to keep in mind on a day-to-day basis:
1. Educate yourself in spiritual things (as well as general knowledge). I feel like this one is pretty self-explanatory. How can we claim to be doing student ministry if we aren’t fostering spiritual growth in ourselves? Read the Bible daily and study it! If you don’t know how to study the Bible, learn. Start getting books that will challenge you to think deeper, grow stronger, and do better. Jesus was well-educated, and not just because He is God! He chose to spend time in the temple learning and challenging Himself (and His teachers!). His parables reflect a vast array of knowledge. He could relate to everyone! Paul was educated on the culture (Acts 17) around him, and was definitely educated on the things of God. Why else would the New Testament be filled with books that he authored? The greatest leaders today and throughout history have proven themselves to be well-educated and well-read.
2. Keep your brain active. I’m sure you’ve heard of the studies out there that have proved you live longer and healthier if you keep your brain active – one of the many benefits keeping your brain active can offer. Just like your body needs exercise, so does your brain! Maybe for you that’s little things like playing Sudoku to keep your brain thinking. But I suggest you go beyond that and maybe even read something above your level. Read something that is controversial or that you disagree with to stay well-informed. Yes, you need to grow spiritually, but you need to grow mentally as well or your spiritual growth may be stunted.
3. Be prepared. Paul tells timothy in 2 Timothy 4 to “preach the word; [and] be ready in season and out of season; [to] reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” This principle stands true whether or not you are a teacher of Scripture! We need to know Scripture in and out. Part of that is also reading up on others’ insight regarding Scripture and its application in every day life. Scripture can be useful in a number of ways (reprove, rebuke, exhort, etc), but we have to know it well to handle it well.
Whether you are a youth worker or a parent, I hope you join me in this quest to learn. It has to become a yearning, not simply to become puffed up with head knowledge, but to learn more about God and who He wants you to become.
Here I sat at Bushido restaurant looking down the barrel of spicy tuna roll number 10 and wondering how I got here. Now as is my custom, I want to share this story with you, but I also want to draw a spiritual application and trust me it will get to that point but first the how of how I came to this point.
What is Bushido? According to dictionary.com bushido is the feudal code of the Japanese samurai, stressing self-discipline, courage, and loyalty. Bushido is also the name of a Sushi restaurant in Charleston, SC, which is where my story begins. Bushido is home to the Spicy Tuna Hand Roll Challenge that was brought to a national spotlight when it was completed by Adam Richman on the television show Man v. Food. Now I have watched this show many times, and every time I have thought to myself, “I could do that,” so why was this challenge any different? So here I sat with our camp pastor and camp director getting ready for this challenge to begin. The challenge rules are as follows:
- Challenger must sign a Waiver and Release form
- Challenger must be at least 18 years of age or accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who must sign on their behalf.
- Challenger is NOT allowed to drink milk or dip their food in white sauce, nor is he allowed to eat anything that may help decrease the spice level of the challenge (i.e. no ice cream, no avocados, etc.) Don’t cheat dude! (or dudette)
- Challenger may not substitute fish. It’s called the Spicy TUNA Challenge!
- Don’t make yourself sick! If you go out to throw up or use the bathroom, the level where you are at will NOT be counted (i.e. if you throw up after level 7 then you will have to repeat that level). If, however, you do get sick, please use our bathroom and try to clean up after yourself. Throwing up outside or not cleaning up after yourself will make others sick. Please be considerate and make sure to use the bathroom BEFORE you start the challenge.
- Challenger must eat rolls in order from 1-10 and not backwards. You may sample any level but it will not count towards your progress.
- Deadline to start the challenger is at 9:15 pm (Monday-Saturday) and 8:15 pm on Sundays. This is because most challengers take so long to finish!
Now my goal in all of this was to eat as fast as possible and the first night I downed rolls 1-7. The deal at Bushido is that if you eat the rolls in multiple sittings you are a Warrior, but if you eat them at one time you are a Legend. After the 7th roll I was snotting and crying bad enough to quit, not to mention all of the rice and tuna that was in my stomach (if I could compare the hand rolls to anything it would be like a giant tuna ice cream cone). Well the camp pastor and director had only made it through roll 4 and quit, so I considered myself the man of the hour and that was as far as I intended to take the challenge. However, my camp pastor came up to me and told me that he was going to go back and catch up to me so that we could finish this challenge together. The first 7 rolls weren’t too bad but number 8 was where this challenge began to get difficult. Roll 8 contains a whole Habanero pepper and Rolls 9 and 10 contain Ghost Pepper (Bhut Jolokia) . Now to put this into perspective let’s look at the Scoville heat scale very quickly:
So here Trey (the camp pastor) and I sat getting ready to eat rolls 8 and 9 and feeling more of a man for stepping up to complete the challenge. However, this challenge has a way of taking any manhood you may feel and humbling you. Just to sum up my experience with rolls 8 and 9, I will say 3 things: (1) Those peppers are as hot coming back up as they were going down (2) I found myself laying on the floor of a public bathroom in agony, and (3) Trey compared the pain of rolls 8-9 to someone holding a cigarette lighter to the lining of your stomach. As you may have noticed by now, I would never recommend this challenge to anyone, yet the challenge also was not over and in order to win the prize we still had to down one more tuna roll. Here I sat at Bushido restaurant looking down the barrel of spicy tuna roll number 10. Tuna roll 9 had some ghost pepper but tuna roll 10 had a lot of ghost pepper and when it was set in front of me, I turned to Trey and said, “I don’t know about this”, to which he responded, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T KNOW?!” He was right, the challenge was going to be completed that day. We took some Pepto half an hour before the challenge, and there we began. Now Trey shot a video of this, which neither of us have watched in its entirety, but after about a half hour we received a complimentary glass of milk, a headband, our picture on the wall, and a $25 gift certificate. While this may seem well and good, this does not even begin to describe my intestinal pain for the next 8 hours, the fact that I had to take a muscle relaxer to ease the pain, and that I considered calling someone to take me to the hospital to get my stomach pumped. But the challenge was finished.
Again, I will tell you that all I received was a headband, a $25 gift certificate (which didn’t cover half the cost of the challenge itself), and my picture on the wall of a restaurant that I will probably never go back to. I had to finish for the prize; I had to finish because my pride was on the line. Like I promised, here comes the spiritual application.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Here I was completing a challenge for a headband, a gift certificate, and a picture, but this passage is telling us that the prize we run for is worth so much more. People, we are not running this race with no aim, and we are not just running to win a headband. Our call is to preach the word to all people. These athletes that Paul is talking about would train their whole lives just to be able to win this olive leaf crown and the glory of their town. I sat and ingested the hottest pepper in the world just to have my picture on a wall and get a headband. But isn’t our call so much bigger than this? I was willing to push through the pain to achieve the prize. Regardless of the sacrifice, we need to be willing to beat our bodies into submission for the cause of Christ. It is not easy to think that taking up our cross and following Christ could result in us giving our lives or giving up our livelihood. I have had so many conversations with people asking if they truly want the will of God in their lives no matter what the cost, and the fact is that we have to fight and follow after Christ knowing that in the end the prize is worth the cost. If we place no limits on God, there are no limits to what God can do in us. While it may be hard and painful, the eternal prize is more than worth the wait!