The Whore Loved Him More

Want to feel better about yourself? Let me help.

Years ago I was at a party. I drank too much, but as a realized I was about to throw up I simultaneously realized that my legs wouldn’t work. Puke was coming but I wasn’t going anywhere, so I did what any reasonable person would do; I pulled my collar out and puked down my shirt.

About that same time I was at another party. The party was over and it was time to go home. I was completely wasted when I got to my car so I decided to sleep right there in the driver’s seat. I woke up in the middle of the night covered in puke again. Oh, and I had crapped my pants.

Want one more?

I went out drinking with my brother one night (there seems to be a common theme here…). On our way home, my brother floored it through the neighborhood, getting a good laugh out of me. You know how some intersections have a dip in them? We hit one of those at about 60 mph and went airborne. We landed and immediately smashed through the back yard fence of someone’s house. There we were, two of society’s finest, in someone’s back yard at 2am. My brother threw it in reverse and we sped home.

Did I say home? I meant to my cousins’ house. I was staying there because I had been kicked evicted from my previous residence. They were a Christian couple with two small children, and the Guard boys were crashing at their place for a while.

We were locked out that night, so my brother went around to the back door. He got in, but forgot about me, and I think I forgot about him… I was woken up by my cousins and their kids as they were leaving for church. They opened the front door  and there I was, passed out on the Welcome mat.

How do you explain that to your 6-year-old?

A few years later I put my faith in Christ and he forgave me. When he forgave me, he forgave a LOT of sins.

I was a parasite, and everyone knew it, but I fell in love with Jesus.

How can you NOT love Jesus?

For example… Jesus is at a fancy party that was thrown by a Pharisee, a member of the “religious elite” in Jesus’ day (Luke 7:36-50).

Things get interesting when the party gets crashed by the town whore. She shows up uninvited, ignores everyone at the party, and falls at Jesus’ feet. She’s a wretched outcast, and she wears that reputation, but she’s heard about the grace of Jesus… and she worships him.

Right there on the spot he forgives her, then he tells the Pharisees that SHE loves God more than THEM! Bold move.

The whore loved him more.

Why?

She knew how bad she was and how bad she needed the grace and forgiveness of Jesus.

I was the whore in the story, but now Jesus calls me His.

Derek Webb explains it well:

Couch Races

Here’s an event idea for youth pastors.

Last week we had 14 teams face off for our first-ever High School Ministry Couch Race. We transformed our church’s parking lot into a simple race track. We piled hay bails at the sharp turns, but thankfully nobody crashed into them! We decorated with race flags I found on Amazon for next to nothing, set up some speakers, and I did the color commentary. We got couches from local thrift stores from $6-$20.

We had 14 heats, then the 2 teams with the top times raced to determine the overall champion. I got some fun trophies from a local trophy shop to award our overall champs, 2nd place, last place AND the couch that was “Most Likely to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse”. That team got Chuck Norris bobble-heads.

It was a GREAT way to kick off the school year- giving a handful of our groups something to work on together. The kids are already asking for us to do it again next year.

Take a peek: 

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/50449583″>Couch Race Recap</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/missionhs”>Mission HS</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Youth Ministry Game: “spiTRIVIA”

I’m not usually a fan of youth ministry games, but this one was phenomenal last Wednesday night.

 

I brought two pre-selected spitters onto the stage, both pre-selected adult volunteers. They sat down knee-to-knee on their pre-positioned stools and their pre-fitted goggles on.

I then selected two student volunteers to play the game, one representing each of the spitters. Before any of this happened, I bought 18 different liquids that you would hate to have in your mouth OR spit on you. I poured each of them into a plastic cup and placed that cup inside of a numbered paper bag.

Here’s how the game works:

You rotate asking the students questions that you’ve prepared in advance, some difficult and some easy.

When a student gets a question right, they get to select a numbered liquid that their spitter will then spit on the other contestant. When a student gets a question wrong, the opposing team gets to select a numbered liquid that they will spit on the other contestant.

Someone is always getting spit on. You get the question right, your contestant spits. You get the question wrong, your contestant gets spit on.

Some of my favorite picks were vinegar, tabasco sauce, chunky salsa and of course… Pepto Bismol.

My Horrific Beginning as a Youth Pastor

It was 2001, and I was given my first chance to teach as the new HSM intern. As I look back, I feel like I spent months preparing that sermon, but it was probably only a couple weeks. The big day finally came and it was time to show the High School Pastor my notes.

He stood in front of me and read them over for a few minutes, furrowing his brow once in a while. He looked confused, even a little bit surprised.

“You can’t teach this. This isn’t what we believe as a church. You’ve got to teach something else.”

A few months later the church entrusted me with leading the Tuesday night outreach program for the Children’s Ministry. They were taking a big risk, but apparently they saw the potential in me. The program had hundreds of kids coming, and dozens of volunteers. There were two men leading the ministry before me who had to step out for good reasons, and they both agreed to help me transition in as the new leader. We scheduled an official “pass the baton” meeting between the three of us, where I’d get all the information I need and leave ready to own it.

As they both sat across from me I was nervous. Really nervous. I kept repeating that old phrase, “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called” over and over again. Apparently it worked because I calmed down… so much so that I fell asleep.

Right there in my chair. As they both watched.

“Did you just fall asleep?!”

Yes, yes I did.

A few months later I was super honored when they asked me to be the Junior High Director. I planned my first event, promoted it like crazy, spent hours and hours setting it up… and one kid showed up.

We had like 150 students coming to our gatherings every week as I took over, and none of them came, except this one kid.

Have you ever wanted to get away?

Ya.

Don’t ask me why, but we had set up hay bails in the back yard. Him and I went outside, along with the volunteers who were there, and we both somehow ended up standing on our own hay bail. Mine was about 5 feet from his, so I wondered… can I jump from mine to his?

I sure could.

As I landed on his bail it flipped, and so did he, landing really funny on the hard ground.

The fall broke both of his arms.

Think about this the next time you’re discouraged, or feeling like a failure. Remember me… and feel better about yourself.

Whose party is this anyway?

Heard this story by Robert Nordling, a professor at Calvin College.

A number of years ago our son was invited to his friend’s 4th birthday party. Bursting with anticipation, he was most excited about finding his friend a birthday present. Finally the great day arrived. We drove our son over to the little boy’s house, took him to the door, met the hosts and then said goodbye. We arrived back a few hours later and quickly saw a much less enthusiastic boy get into the car. We could tell right away that something was up. We asked,

“How was the party son?”

“Oh, alright… I guess.”

“Why? What’s the matter? Didn’t you have a good time?”

“Yes… but I didn’t get any presents!”

“But… um, son, it wasn’t your party.”

Unconvinced and unconsoled, he sat for the rest of the ride home generally depressed by the seeming injustice of it all.

That story comes to life every week in some churches when people’s hopes aren’t met. Tens of thousands of people with thousands of different “worship preferences” attend church every Sunday all over the world. How many of them walk away with the same attitude as that little boy when they say things like, “I didn’t get anything out of it…”.

That story reminds me that worship isn’t an experience for me, it’s a gift for God, on Sundays or any other day. It’s not ultimately about me, it’s about Jesus. I’ve been invited to the party, but it’s not my party. My focus should be on God- not my feelings, likes, dislikes, preferences, emotions or opinions. God should be at the center, not me. I should adjust my preferences to accommodate his feelings, likes, dislikes, preferences, emotions and opinions. If anyone should receive anything on Sundays, it’s Jesus.

Preferences are fine, and it’s OK to like or dislike certain things. We’re human; that’s normal. But our worship should be God-centered, not man-centered. The difference is huge.

I’m Going to Africa

I’m taking 25 high school students and 5 adults to Malawi, Africa tomorrow night. We’ll be there for two weeks, participating in a number of activities. We’ll be visiting some people who are very ill on our very first day, many who have AIDS. Malawi is one of the poorest countries on the planet, and I’m taking our team right into the heart of the hurt. Our next couple days will revolve around the thousands of children that live there. We’ll take part in their feeding program, which we’ve been honored to help make possible through the generosity of the people at MISSION Community Church. We’ll also spend time working on roofing, making bricks, distributing blankets, mosquito nets and other needs, training their youth pastors, and of course… playing soccer. I’ve got some college-level soccer players going on this trip, but apparently they are about to get schooled by the home team in Malawi.

Please pray for us while we are gone. Pray that God would open our eyes and hearts, that He would stretch us, use us, and be glorified through everything that happens. Pray that our team would be united as one! We have a very diverse group of students and staff going with us, which is a good thing 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stage Fright

I was with 15,000 other people in Philips Arena for the Catalyst Conference in 2004. The place was packed with pastors, church leaders, business leaders and students. We were all hungry to learn from the best and brightest. Andy Stanley was there, Reggie Joiner, Erwin McManus, Chuck Colson, John Maxwell and many other amazing speakers. All of those guys are primarily speakers, but they’ve all written books too. One guy who was scheduled to teach twice on the main stage was Ted Dekker. He is a best-selling author, and at the time his books were selling better than anyone else’s.

I was excited to hear what he had to say about storytelling. I had my pen ready, my notebook out, and he approached the stage for his 45-minute presentation. He was scheduled to do a 2nd session later that week on that same stage.

Two minutes later he walked off the stage and we never saw him again. He got the worst case of stage fright I’ve ever seen.

He couldn’t finish a sentence. He couldn’t find his thoughts. He couldn’t make sense of his notes. He literally froze.

He’s sold more than 5 million books, but on that day he couldn’t make it 5 minutes on stage.

It made me think about what it’s like for some pastors. We’re expected to be good at everything! Speaking, leading, administration, planning, coaching… you name it. I had no idea what I was doing for my first few years of ministry, but I could speak, so I was in charge! I wasn’t the best leader available, but I was the best talker, so I was the man in command.

It makes me think that some people should just teach, and not lead. Some people should just lead, and not teach.

But when do you suck it up and try again? Should Ted give public speaking another shot? Maybe he already has. Should I try to learn to dance even though that has always ended horribly (in public and in private)? Should I face my fears and my weaknesses, or find my strengths and improve on those?