That’s what Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 when he says, “Rejoice always.” That is certainly a tall order. In my life, melancholy emotions are a recurring reality and I know that I am not the only one. I have been relieved to hear of many men and women of God ranging from Elijah the prophet, to Spurgeon the preacher who dealt with gloom. I recently read that Billy Graham’s family nicknamed him Puddleglum. Puddleglum is a dour character from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia (he is not a dwarf as I said in my message this weekend but rather a Marsh-wiggle, which is some sort of amphibious creature) who always expects the worse. That is a strange nickname for someone like Billy Graham who has been a constant beacon of hope and optimism to the world for many decades. His family knew that though he trusted the Lord he also struggled with pessimism and skepticism like many of us do. But God calls us to fight those feelings and rejoice anyways.
Now when Paul tells us that, he isn’t saying we need to always be happy (that’s not realistic) or that we need go around singing songs from Mary Poppins all the time (that would be super annoying.) But what he is saying is that we should never stop being full of joy. Joy is a supernatural fruit of the Spirit that enables us to delight in God’s goodness no matter what we are going through. Joy operates independently from circumstances. It doesn’t require us to be ordering happy meals in order to for it to function. Joy goes deeper than that. In fact, even when we are suffering we can rejoice, remembering that God uses trials to make us more like Him. Paul’s life attests to this fact, and his great book on joy, the epistle to the Philippians, was written from a Roman jail cell. So whether you are a Tigger or an Eeyore by nature you can rejoice. Psalm 68:19 says, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!”
Merry Christmas from our home to yours! May your life be illuminated this and every day by Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. His visit to our dark planet has given us hope and enables us to shine brightly for Him until He returns. May every breath we are given be used for His glory!
In Awe of Him,
Alivia, Levi, Lenya and Jennie Lusko (from left to right)
I am enjoying some Christmas carols and an eggnog latte while I wrap up my message for tonights worship services at fresh life. This morning the girls and I popped in the first disc of Jesus of Nazareth, which is a yearly tradition in my house. (Disc two finds it’s way into the dvd player the week of Easter.) What a wonderful time of the year. I am so thankful that God invaded our planet! I hope that for all of us, like the Wise Men, Christmas would be marked by our desire to worship Jesus.
Matthew 2:2 “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have come to worship Him.”
To inspire your worship–here is a vid that was recorded last wednesday night at Skull Church when Kristian Stanfill and his band showed up from Atlanta to lead worship. He is one of the most passionate and high energy guys I have ever seen on stage. He will be leading worship alongside Chris Tomlin and David Crowder at Passion 2010 this year. This is one of Kristian’s songs called Kingdom that is on his most recent album, Attention.
Last week I wrote about fragile nature of movements, even powerful ones. Every vibrant work of God has an ever nearing expiration date, that date is the day the humans that make up the movement will expire themselves. We move closer to that “best by” date every day. That is why we must must always have the mindset of our need to pass the baton on to those who will be running when we have “spoiled.” This mentality is a feature that can be found in some of the most prolific stories in scripture. What do Moses, Elijah, Mordechai, Naomi, Barnabas and Paul have in common? Besides a passion for the Lord they all focused time and attention on reaching and raising up young people. As a result, Joshua, Elisha, Esther, Ruth, John Mark and Timothy knew that they shouldn’t let anyone look down on their youth and so the movements continued. If we want what God has done in our lives and churches to continue we must have a similar focus.
I believe that the first step to take in effectively reaching young people (or any people) is simply having the desire to reach them. You have to have a burden from the Lord for them. It wasn’t until Paul was provoked within His spirit in Acts 17 that he went out and preached Christ in Athens. Similarly, we often read of Jesus being moved with compassion in the gospels and then speaking or ministering. If our actions flow from anywhere other than a genuine burden for lost people that comes from the Holy Spirit we will find the challenges to be too great. If on the other hand we ask the Lord to ignite a fire in our hearts and to give us His love for the lost then it won’t matter how challenging the road and how many obstacles are in our way. If our hearts are set ablaze from on high, we will be unstoppable!
Once you have a burden for a particular group, audience or people, next you must take radical steps to target them. I am no fishermen but I know that if you have decided you want to fish for trout there are different things you will bring than if you want to fish for salmon, and that is an altogether different equipment list than will be needed if you are fishing for marlin. Companies realize this–that is why they are constantly addressing and readdressing the intangible attributes of their brands. From Cadillac to Nike to Nickelodeon–companies are never satisfied with how their brand is perceived right now, they know that in a few short years (or months) everything can change and they are constantly targeting youth.
Now in saying that, I know that many will immediately wonder, what we should be willing to change exactly? I suggest you tweak the Style not the Substance, your Methods not the Message. To use the fishing analogy–adjust the bait, chum and lures not the hook, the line or the net. We must not try so hard to be just like the world in order to reach the world and in the process give up what we had to offer to the world in the first place. The message is unchanging but the media delivery vehicles employed, graphic design, vibe, feel, sound and expression should be fluid and changing with the culture. Continue reading…
I have been teaching through the life of Elijah at skull church. One of the things that really hit me hard this week was the fact that as Elijah’s chariot ride to heaven approached God had him focus on raising up his protege, Elisha. While we may not have such an impressive trip to heaven, the reality is that none of us are long for this earth. Reaching the next generation for Christ must always remain an urgent priority in the church if we are to wisely use the time that remains. If we don’t, it won’t matter how vibrant or powerful the work in our day was, because just as “there arose a Pharaoh that knew not Joseph,” (Exodus 1:8) a generation will rise after us that knows not God.
We must not only reach young people, but we need to do what we can to integrate them into the church in a meaningful way. In 2003, George Barna published these troubling findings: “Many twentysomethings are reversing course after having been active church attenders during their teenage years. As teenagers, more than half attended church each week and more than 4 out of 5 (81%) had ever gone to a Christian church. That means that from high school graduation to age 25 there is a 42% drop in weekly church attendance and a 58% decline from age 18 to age 29. That represents about 8,000,000 twentysomethings alive today who were active church-goers as teenagers but who will no longer be active in a church by their 30th birthday.”
I secretly wonder how much youth groups are to blame for this trend. Not that I am opposed to youth groups (quite the opposite) but I don’t think that churches ought to think that because they have a great youth program the “church of tomorrow” is being taken care of and so they can continue to cater everything that happens in the main sanctuary to the adults. Often youth groups tend to be mini-churches within the church. A student could potentially graduate high school without ever feeling like they are woven into the fabric of the larger church body. It makes sense to me that after college they wouldn’t return to a church they were never really apart of beyond student ministry.
At fresh life we have it set up so that through their teenage years students will be connected into the larger church body as they attend and hopefully serve, both at skull church and at weekend services. The student ministries don’t compete with but rather complement what happens in the main-sanctuary. They provide specialized student teachings, small groups, accountability, events and discipleship, but are not intended to be a student’s sole church experience. (That’s why we don’t offer student programs at every weekend service or any on wednesday night.) I see myself as a youth pastor at fresh life as well and always will. (even when I get super old)
Of course for this to work, the style of the services and opportunities for students to serve have to be addressed, and with that discussion there comes the fear that those who already enjoy the way things are in the church will be upset. But that deserves it’s own blog entry. I will muse on that later this week. For now, I’ll leave you with this haunting thought–Every movement is just one generation away from becoming a monument. We must pass it on.
Last week we had a little, early Thanksgiving treat when Danyew performed at skull church. His music is incredible. I heard of him this summer when Phil Wickham played and then hung around for a little Montana vay-cay. We were hanging out and I had asked him who he thought we should look into booking for skull church, especially talented artists that are emerging onto the music scene, but haven’t been heard from a lot yet. Phil Danyew was one of the first that he mentioned and we booked him right away.
He is on Sparrow records, just got off David Crowder’s Church Music tour and last week his new song, wake up, was selected as the iTunes discovery download of the week. If you haven’t heard his music yet, do yourself a favor and check it out! Both him and his drummer were rad guys and integrated really well into the service and seemed stoked to be apart of what God was doing that night. Their holiday travel back home to SoCal became an unexpected adventure when fog rolled in at the end of the night–part and parcel of being a traveling musician–but I appreciate their sacrifice all the same. Here is one of the songs, called silver lining, from their set at skull church.