Early Reflections from the 2012 SYMC

SYMC 2012.

Simply Youth Ministry Conference.

I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by so many passionate youth leaders that want to see kids grow in their relationships with God. It’s also been refreshing that the speakers and conference organizers really want people at the conference to take a step back, breath, and rest in Jesus’ arms. It’s a conference with workshops, but it’s also an opportunity to receive. This is important since, as leaders, we have a tendency to give and give and give…

I felt particularly blessed by a worship leader named Tim Timmons. I previewed a few of his songs before the conference and wasn’t particularly drawn to his music. However, it’s amazing the way your perspective about someone changes when you experience them in person and as you learn their story.

His presence on stage instantly changed my opinion. He is passionately in love with Jesus, and it’s clear that he passionately wants that love to be made known. Also, he sang a song that really spoke to my heart. It was called Child of God, and it really fits the family theme that my youth ministry in Hong Kong has steadily explored the past couple of months.

There’s no video that I’ve found, but check out the song on iTunes (album is called Sons and Daughters) and the lyrics.

The other cool aspect about Tim Timmons is that I found out he’s lived with a type of incurable cancer for the past nine years. Nine YEARS! I wouldn’t have known except for the fact that I did some research on him. Moreover, he’s pressing on and recording faith-filled and passionate music. His latest project is called Let’s Be Beautiful. I encourage you to watch the video and learn more.

I’ve really appreciated the music and worship at SYMC. I’m blessed, feel refreshed, and I’m looking forward to another full day tomorrow.

Submitting To Authority

Romans 13:1

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

1 Peter 5:5

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

BUT…

Acts 5:29

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”

I’ve been struggling to obey authority. However, it’s NOT because I don’t WANT to obey authority. I don’t have some special desire to seek the destruction of institutions, nor am I an anarchist. Rather, I have trouble obeying authority when there is a conflict of interests and a lack of respect for the person I’m supposed to submit to. I really want to see my boss lead with a spirit of humility, just as Jesus did when He washed His disciples’ feet.

But I think that’s only part of the problem.

light will shine

I know that I’m part of a human institution, and because of that there will always be conflict. I’m human. I’m sinful. Therefore, part of the problem is within me. I have some soul-searching to do in the very near future, and I hope that I can come to terms with my role and youth ministry position within my church. I need God to help heal the deep struggles in my heart.

Hopefully, a light will shine and pierce the darkness within and without…

In-N-Out

The Ad in HK

Today my youth group took a trip to an In-N-Out promotional event. From what I gather, In-N-Out only has store locations in 5 of the 50 states of the US. Upon hearing that it would bring its burgers to Hong Kong, our youth group dripped with anticipation. After church today, we took a special field trip up to the rented restaurant in a fleet of rented vehicles (also known as taxis). Upon arrival, they were all sold out. Well, at least we were told that, and the time was only 2.5 hours into the 4 hour event. What a disappointing field trip. That’s like telling kids that Disney World is closed after traveling to Florida.

Burger Fail

Anyway, that’s not what I really wanted to reflect on. Rather, I wanted to reflect on and write about the sermon topic this Sunday at church.

For the month of January, the youth group is discussing the much anticipated topic of sex. Yep. Coitus and everything else related to it. Today was particularly focused on homosexuality and our identity in Christ. As you might imagine, this was not the most comfortable talk to prepare for, but it has been one of the most engaging and enlightening topics to date since I began the job.

To clarify, this is not a post to get into the details of my beliefs on homosexuality or anything related to the LGBTQIA movement. Rather, I feel more sure of my beliefs, and I believe that I can have better, Christ-centered conversations with other people, no matter their view on this culturally-relevant subject.

As I’ve drawn closer to Jesus, He’s drawn nearer to me. As I’ve sought Him out, He’s shown me part of His grand perspective. It’s not about our identity in our sexuality, but rather our identity in Him. It’s not about filling myself with information and having all the right answers, but it’s about filling myself with God and relying on Him to show us the most excellent way to live. It’s about love and our value found in Christ.

Today was a good day.

Channeling Frustrations

Some days, weeks, or even months can be filled with challenges and frustrations. That’s why it’s important to have a good outlet or two or 14. Today, I accessed them all.

I’m very thankful for all my outlets. This post is dedicated to them:

  • Jesus – “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)
  • My wife – You are amazing and a God-send. Thank you for your listening ear and encouraging words
  • My accountability partner – For agreeing to pray for me regularly
  • Good friends – That put up with my ranting and raving and also listen to me and provide good advice
  • The HK Youth workers – Thank you for praying over the Island ECC staff today. So many of you are also tons of fun (especially that intense foosball game today!)
  • The Witthoft family – You are good friends, ideal mentors, and extremely gracious

Prayer Warriors

Now if only I were healthy enough to play ultimate frisbee at this time… I would have used that outlet too!

Make haste, O God, to deliver me! 
   O LORD, make haste to help me! 
Let them be put to shame and confusion 
   who seek my life! 
Let them be turned back and brought to dishonor 
   who delight in my hurt! 
Let them turn back because of their shame 
   who say, “Aha, Aha!”

  May all who seek you 
   rejoice and be glad in you! 
May those who love your salvation 
   say evermore, “God is great!”

Psalm 70:1-4

Complaining and Grumbling

My pastor spoke to the whole church staff today and confessed (as he also did this past Sunday in front of the whole congregation) about his recent bout against complaining and grumbling. He said that he has generally been a joyful guy, quick to praise, and slow to complain. 'Stop complaining' photo (c) 2009, Aitor Calero - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/However, he said that as of late, he’s noticed some of that contentedness has been replaced by grumbling. This is the thing that he would like to focus on giving up to God, hoping that our Lord will help turn this attitude around before 2012 is over.

Since then, I did a quick search on Bible Gateway typing in “grumbl” (to include past, present, and future tense). I found it striking that nearly all of the results fell into two categories:

  1. The Israelites complaining against Moses while wandering through the desert
  2. The Pharisees complaining against Jesus’ works or Jesus telling the Pharisees not to grumble

'There is absolutely no reason to complain or bitch!' photo (c) 2010, Walter Lim - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I find it ironic that the top complainers seem to do so while God is showing Himself mightily. When God is working great wonders, we seem to find the nerve to complain with a renewed intensity.

God has been doing mighty things in my heart these past months. This is fantastic news, but it also worries me because I’ve been doing some complaining to God throughout. In other words, I’m just like the wandering Hebrews and the ancient Pharisees! Now that I’ve recognized this, hopefully I can do some changing myself. With God’s help, I’d like to turn this around in the near future.

“Lord, give me the humility to repent and the courage to change!” Amen.