"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lord, fill my heart with desire for you

"I have had at times such delicious thoughts on the Lord, I am ashamed to mention them."-- Brother Lawrence

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Seeing God

God has been stretching me in ways I did not expect this summer. I knew I would be taken out of my comfort zone, but I did not know that God would begin to stir questions deep in my heart; radical questions...soul questions.

One thing that God is revealing to me this summer is how deceitfully wicked my heart is. I know that is a sentence most people wouldn't have seen coming...

"What did God teach you this summer as a staff for YouthWorks?"

--"That I am deceitfully wicked."


That just doesn't seem to be the number one response to that question. But this is the message that God is placing in my heart.

Every four evenings a week, I share God's word through talks with youth. This is my job whether my heart and mind are in the right place or not.

When I was working as a part time youth pastor, I never fully grasped what God was trying to teach me in that time, but I think I am beginning to see some of that now. I think one reason I could never stand to be called "Pastor Tyler" when I worked at the church in Warroad was because somewhere deep down I couldn't stand to recognize that a deceitfully wicked man was given the responsibility of speaking truth into the lives of young people. I felt I had no right.

Matthew 5:8 stings when I read it, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." It hurts because where does that leave those with dirty hearts; people like me? It leaves us blinded to God. Our eyes, hearts, minds become so focused on the dirt and the clutter that it is all we see--its all we want to see. How can I help others see God if I am blinded to him?

There are some very obviously impure things that blind us to God, but then there are those things that are pure until we let them have a thrown in our life before God. Matt Chandler reminds us that Paul in Philippians 3:8 counts all things rubbish that don't give us more of Christ. God has been calling me to examine what is on the thrown of my heart. If my heart isn't pure, and if I am not seeking Him, then I am not seeing God. And the scary thing is that I and a lot of people think we are seeing God when we really aren't. Our hearts are to wicked to see Him, and we can be deceived into thinking we know Him when we really don't. I referenced Matthew 7:21-23 in an earlier post, and I reference it again because this is what God is stirring in my heart, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven." It scares me to know that it is possible to think I know Christ, to think I have experienced Him, but to not truly know Him or see Him because my heart is impure, and disobedient. It scares me to think that I invite the creation onto the thrown of my life before the Creator. Have I ever truly put the Creator first, or have I just pretended to. Have you? I pray that I truly know Him; that I haven't made up a fake god that satisfies me, but isn't real. I pray that you know him too.

I know that I can't see or know God fully this side of Heaven, His face is now but a poor reflection until that day I see Him face to face when I am fully reconciled to my king. But I now believe that its not possible to "just get by" with Christ. We either love and serve him as our Lord and Savior, or we don't.

We cannot save our souls, we can only give them to the God who can. A soul cannot be divided, we either give ourselves to Him or we don't.

My heart is deceitfully wicked, keeping me from seeing and knowing God the way I could. I want to humble my heart, surrender my sin, turn from all wickedness, and seek his face. I want to be pure. I want to see God.

"Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land."--2 Chronicles 7:14

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Carrot Top and Chris Martin do not look alike

Here are a few of the people I have been told I look like this summer:

"You look like Jesus"--(though Jesus is not Scandinavian and we really have no clue what he looks like)
"You look like Moses from the Prince of Egypt."--(Once again Moses wasn't Scandinavian...and I'm not a cartoon...but I'll take that comparison.")
"You look like Carrot top."--(hey now, don't be saying things like that)
"You look like Shawn White" --(I am a very pathetic snowboarder...and landed on my back trying to ollie a skate board once)

"You look like the guy from "Twenty Eight Days Later"."--(Just because we are both skinny and have bad hair cuts does not mean we look alike)
"You look like Ryan Seacrest"-- (Seriously? Really?)
"You look like Chris Martin from Coldplay"--(I'm OK with this. He is brilliant...and married to Gwyneth Paltrow)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Arkansas Favorites

Favorite Arkansas words:

Y'all-- as in; "Y'all can go to Sonic for a smoothie during free time if you bring an adult leader and at least one other participant with you."

Fixin-- as in; "I'm eight, fixin on nine" (this example is taken from a girl at VBS today) or "I'm fixin on eatin me some craw fish."

Warsh-- as in "Go throw your clothes in the warsh." or "Go get warshed up for supper."

MY favorite YouthWorks pastimes:

Licking gummy bears, sticking them to the ceiling fan, and then turning it on and seeing how far they fly. (Don't worry, I clean up after myself).

Playing "Hey Cow!" on our way to and back from Mt. Magazine and Fort Smith (For those who don't know this game, when passing a field of cows, you roll down your window and yell, "HEY COWWWWWW!!!!!" as loud as you can repeatedly in an effort to see how many cows you can get to look at you).

Throwing lake weeds on Kevin's back at Cove lake and seeing how many I can get on him throughout the evening without him noticing.

Smoothies at Sonic. Sonic is a beautiful thing.

Favorite YouthWorks moments:

Adult leaders who ask to pray for me.

Washing others feet and praying over them.

When youth come up to me and ask, "can I talk to you for a minute?" and share their pains struggles, hopes and dreams, and then having the opportunity to pray with them.

peaking into my "Happy Fun Note bag", and reading the encouraging notes.

Putting notes into others "Happy Fun Note" bags.

Asking Youth about their goals and dreams.

Playing Ultimate frisbee in the pouring rain. Wonderful.

Leading talks every evening. I love it! This could never grow old for me.

When a group buys me a Sonic smoothie. delicious.

Listening to the sniffles of the snotty noses and the sobs of teens who are broken before God as their feet are washed by their adult leaders and they begin to understand what it meant for their Creator to wash the feet of sinful men. I have never witnessed anything so beautiful.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Lord, Lord?

This summer has been full of new and exciting experiences. So far I've, swam in a mountain lake once a week, hiked a mountain, swallowed two live earth worms, relearned how to do a flip off the diving board, got a Mohawk (another post for another time), seen a tarantula, learned how to line dance, and chopped wild bamboo from someone's yard. These are all fun experiences that make great stories, but the real rewards come in the relationships made. the special moments are in praying with youth after something has just clicked in them and they have seen God, those still, soft moments when God points out something in my own life that I need to work on, and in those moments when I share conversations with others in which God speaks to my heart. As I go into my sixth week of participants coming to our site here in Booneville Arkansas, I want to write about an adult leader from our very first week who blessed my life. Every week we have amazing people here. Every week I get to see God in others, but I am a simple man with a simple mind...it doesn't take me long to forget names even of the beautiful people I've met this summer. Sam is an exception. I have loved all of the people who have come through Booneville this summer, and I pray that God will work in each of their lives. With close to 60-70 participants each week, there are bound to be some who "don't get it". I can say this, because I know at times, I was one of them (and often, I still am). Those people that view their trip as a vacation rather then an experience preparing them to better live as Christians through seeing practical ways to live out our faith through loving service, and taking that home with them. Sam was different. Sam was an adult leader who jumped at the opportunity to share the hope that he has found in Christ. We were painting bathrooms in a park, Sam walked up to complete strangers and shared his faith with them. He challenged the youth to do the same. He lived the example. I don't believe these were nothces on a spiritual belt, but rather an obedient heart to God's prompting. Sam and I had a bond, we both love a preacher named Paul Washer. Paul's sermons have challenged both Sam and I to look at our faith in very new ways. Paul speaks on what it means to be a Christian, and how we can know we are saved. Many North American Christians base their faith in their salvation on a prayer they have prayed one time, rather then the fruit that is evident in their lives. I know that I too have fallen to this fault. Paul says that we cheapen our salvation to make it look like a flu shot...pray a prayer once, and we are set; like an eternal vaccine. But I don't think this meshes well with scripture. It doesn't matter if we know Christ, what matters is that he knows us. Matthew 7:21-23 says,

21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

The key is that we live a life that is submisive to the will of the Father. We are not saved by our good works, rather the way we live is evidence of the relationship we have with Christ. Paul uses this analogy. If he walked up to me and said that he just got hit by a cement truck, but he didn't have a scratch on his body, I would have to assume that he is either insane or lying. So then how is it that someone can say they have met God (who is much larger and a much harder hit then a cement truck), yet walk this life with no evidence of his presence in thier life? Perhaps they are mistaken. I believe a sad truth that we must abolish in our country is that their are many who believe they know Christ, and that Christ know's them, yet their hearts are far from him and they are lost.

Sam got it. He knows the purpose of his service, he knows who he serves, and he knows the hope he has...and he shares it with anyone who has ears to listen. This is evident because he lives it.

I pray that my heart will be in tune with Gods, that I will remember why I am here this summer, that I will surrender myself to the Father, that I will live a life of obedience and repentence. The condition of ones heart is what shows one to be a Christian, not simply a prayer said once upon a time.