You're more beautiful than you think you are... I have been having many interesting conversations with both students and adults, of both genders, about what really matters to them in life. It seems that many people, myself included, live by the fear of man rather than the fear of God. It's as if we are slaves to what other people think of us and we become hindered and paralyzed by this. What's interesting is that many times how we think people see us and what we think about ourselves has become convoluted and twisted. How I see myself isn't necessarily how someone else sees me.

A friend of mine is getting married in a couple of weeks and I'm in the wedding, so this morning I went to get fitted for my tuxedo. As an employee called out my measurements to the another who was taking the measurements down, I became quite uncomfortable hearing the numbers called out aloud... Yep. I could stand to loose about 5, 10, okay about 20 pounds... In the midst of this my mind started racing. I was thinking that if I lost all that weight, I might look like James Bond from the film Casino Royale. How would people see me? Would I draw a lot of looks from the ladies (I say this in jest, just in case my wife reads this)? Would the guys envy me and think I have one of those cool cars parked in the parking lot? Then as the excitement and reality settled in, I came to the conclusion that I am who I am; and that while I do need to loose some weight, I should really be focused on the fact that I just spent the duration of getting fitted for my tuxedo wishing I looked like 007 from Casino Royale, something internally isn't right.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. To be honest I was dreading about getting fitted for a tuxedo. I was embarrassed about how out-of-shape I am. The first jacket they gave me to try-on was bit loose. I knew it! Instead of looking like James Bond, I was going to look like (insert embarrassing description here), and my dream of looking good was crushed!. I was getting a little self-conscious. Then the guy helping me shed some sunlight on my overcast moment; he said that it was much to loose on me and that I had a good physique which needed a jacket that would fit tighter. I realized that how I see myself isn't always the way how others see me. If we could be free for a moment with our thoughts and words we would admit that we are more judgmental about ourselves than others are with us.

Beauty is as much an inner thing as it is an outer thing and probably even more so. Many times we feel outward appearances are the factors in which we are either approved or disapproved by people. So much time and money is spent trying to improve our outward looks that we neglect what really matters and that is our heart. If we come to understand that the heart is where beauty truly is formed then what we look like on the outside really doesn't matter (Please understand that I do believe we need to take care of ourselves physically as well - I'm not discounting that). 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that God does not concern himself with the things that man uses to judge someone's worth which is the outward appearance. Instead he deems someone worthy by looking at their heart. Jesus said it another way when he addressed the religious leaders, who by the way were more concerned with outward appearances, by telling them that it's not what goes inside a person that makes them defiled (outward appearances), but it is what comes out (the heart) of a person that defiles them.

Jesus said, "For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” - Mark 7:21-23

Our hearts drive our true beauty both inward and outward. Jesus came to mold our hearts into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). And because of this God sees us differently than the way we see ourselves. Just like at the end of the video sometimes we need to ponder how other people see us - You're more beautiful than you think you are.

“youth group isn’t everything or shoot most of us can’t stay at a church beyond 2 years....”

Youth group isn’t everything... I read something the other day that has me thinking a lot. I read a tweet that remarked about how a student could’t go to youth group because the student was grounded. I don’t know why or the reason for youth group being taken out of the equation, but it is irrelevant for what I am writing about. I’m not ragging on the person who posted it on twitter, because I have said it myself many times in the past and I know many others who have said the same thing. I have felt the same frustration as the person who posted the tweet. What I am questioning is the thought pattern that myself and others have about the extreme importance of youth group verses the discipline of parents (I must say that the person who posted the tweet was no way implicating this). What I mean is that I have felt many times that if the student only came to youth group more they wouldn’t be a problem at home or at school. I have thought that the program, the youth coaches, and myself are the ones who can disciple the student away from their moral degradation. What they need more of is Jesus and we are the ones to give it to them (Moralistic therapeutic deism). What the student really needs is to model Jesus to their parents or “honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 19:19...

Seriously, since when did youth group and youth ministry programing become the only mechanism that students get discipled? I know I am probably going to piss off many of my professional youth ministry colleagues with this post, but the reality is we and our programs are not the center of discipleship for our students; the parents are, and if they are not we need to figure out a way to get them there. Ultimately, the parents will be the ones involved in the students life for the long haul, not us. Shoot most of us can’t stay at a church beyond 2 years. Youth group isn’t everything... Youth ministry needs to be holistic.

SO what if a student is grounded from youth group! It’s not like they are going miss out on being at church, because they are the church. Hey look at it this way; when this happens, we add to the adolescent penchant for rebellion and this will make them want to come back from more...

Heck, I’ve even grounded my own teenagers from youth group, and I am the youth pastor.

Conversation on Acts-like insurrection strategy...

Recently, I posted about a conversation a few others were having about a new strategy for discipleship and church growth (the original posted can be found here Adam McLane). Within the blog post and ensuing conversation, I commented some of my thoughts to the blogger of the original post... I thought it would be helpful if I shared my thoughts on the conversation. Also, this whole conversation started with a blog post he did on reaching parents of students - The Parent Gap. Below is what I posted in the comment area in response to Adam McLane's blog post on finding a new strategy...

"As a church, we have been praying and thinking about the command by Jesus to in-short “love God and love our neighbors.” Through this, it has caused us to rethink the how we do church, our measurements for success i.e. “wins” and over-all strategy. We are nowhere near having things figured out, but the conversation of being the best neighbor our neighbors have ever had, and loving our neighbors not because we want them to be Christians, but because we are Christians have caused us to have deeper discussions of how church would look different, be different, and act different.

I recently launched a home Bible study this summer in my house for high school students. The book we are studying is the book of Acts. I started off the study by telling the 30 high school students it would be great that if one day “soon”, they were the ones leading a Bible study like this in their homes, neighborhoods, and schools and not me! One student said, “then we would be doing your job and the job of our adult leaders. You would be out of a job!” My response was that it would be great if that happened, because then they would all be doing what Jesus commanded and that is to make disciples, and not just me doing it…

Its hard for those of us who are paid staff to think about “new strategy’s” for church, because it can cause disruption and uncertainty in our own lives and livelihood. I have been on staff as a youth pastor on a couple of mega-churches, and I am currently on staff at a mega-church. I know the leaderships' heart is to make disciples, and to see people fulfill the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20. However, realizing that discipleship really begins with depth, which leads to numerical growth, and not the other way around can be daunting and paralyzing for churches of all sizes… It is a cultural thing in many ways.

One of the commentators above stated this about the America church, “They are looking for ways to “keep” people in church, upping their numbers. The church in America has basically been stagnant for decades.” This can true for many churches and staff persons in the U.S.. However, I am encouraged by bloggers such as yourself, others, and conversations similar to this that are popping up all over the country. I am excited that the Father seems to be moving in the U.S church and the hearts of His people, both big and small to realize His plan for the kingdom."

I hope by sharing this with you, we can continue the conversation and seek to BE the church and not just play church..

Intentional Moments

I can't tell you how many times I stood at this spot (look at the picture to the left of the screen) or somewhere close to it, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge leading into San Francisco. Growing up in the Bay Area, I came to take for granted the times we would go into "The City" to visit family, catch a Giants game, hang out at Fisherman's Wharf, go to Pier 39 where I would hangout at the magic shop and play with all the gadgets and magic tricks for countless minutes (Yes, I said minutes not hours. I wasn't allowed to be by myself for very long). What I realize now that I didn't back then was to capture all the moments around me and appreciate my situation and surroundings. There was no intentionality within me during those moments I had in The City by the Bay. Maybe because I was only 1o years old or younger at the time, but nonetheless I was to busy complaining about being tired, complaining about my sister, about being hunger, and whatever else I could find - I was focused on me, myself, and I, not on the beauty and wonder around me. Isn't that how it is with us sometimes? We bumble through moments and fail to be intentional geographically, situationally, and relationally. You know what though, I think we as parents do this with our kids more than anything else. Recently, some friends of mine had their first baby, and this started me thinking about the time my oldest daughter was born. I had to reach way back into the memory banks to recall any moments during that time and was hard-pressed to recollect anything. Oh, I remember that I drove to the hospital in a gray 1970 two door Impala, which had a driver's door that wouldn't open.I remember it was raining and my wife telling me to slowdown, because the roads were wet. I also remember the "deer-in-the-headlights" look on the doctor's face when she realized that this was really it (she was a very young and new doctor). I have some recollection of my daughter's face when she was placed on my wife's chest for the first time right after her delivery, my daughter had the look of doubt and uncertainty of whether she wanted to be there or not. And you know what, that's it! From that moment on, I don't have a lot of memories of those early time. It is also the same thing with my other two kids. Call me a bad dad  or whatever, but I bet it is the same with you. If not with your child(s) birth, it is with something else that pertains to them. We all do it, we all miss intentional moments with our kids. The thing we need to do is to savor the ones that we do catch, and to create new ones that have yet to be.

This year marks three different milestones for my family. We will for the first time have three teenagers in our house, our youngest turned thirteen years old this past January. Our son turns fifteen years old in may, which means he will be at the halfway point to thirty (plus he is going to shave his chin and upper lip for the first time). And our oldest daughter will turn eighteen years old in October. I got to be honest, I am a little behind in the intentional moments category when it comes to capturing those times with my kids. I was busy "making ends meet" and establishing myself in the world as an adult. My strategy now is to pay attention to those moments where I can have intentional moments and conversations with my three teenagers (Unfortunately, I am still trying to "make ends meet" and establish myself as an adult), even if they are small ones at that. I just want to capture with my kids and teach them to perk their ears to the sounds, flare their nostrils to the smells, and focus their eyes to the sights, and savor the moments that we do catch and create new moments that have yet to be...

So after sitting and contemplating these things and thinking about my friends who just had their first baby, I was compelled to send a text message to my friend telling him to capture every moment with his baby boy and wife. Even the mundane moments. I told him to capture them and be intentional in savoring those moments, because before you know it time passes and you end up bumbling it away and those moments become a blur. My memory of my kids when they were little and the moments in "The City" aren't very clear, but one thing I do know are the intentional moments that I'm catching now and the intentional moments that I'm creating that have yet to be are not a blur.

food for thought...

Recently I read an article that Reggie Joiner wrote for CATALYST. I found the article motivating and challenging. Below is some food for thought from the article. Did you know...

* how you communicate Deuteronomy 6 can either paralyze or mobilize your families? * your partnership with un-churched parents will radically affect the influence of your church? * you can start a revolution in teenagers when you network with other churches? * the environments you create for children can shape their understanding of God's story in their lives? * the way you connect families to other families can exponentially influence a child? * the way you don't say something may determine whether it is really heard? * how you minister to college students may be one of your most important investments? * "speaking family" every week can impact the communities around your church? * your definition of the church can determine if the next generation will walk away to be the church?

The full online article can be found at: