Denying the Cool Factor

I was intelligent enough to prepare for at least one of my two talks this past week at Christian Alliance International School’s (CAIS) Spiritual Emphasis Week Camp. My first talk was about the life of Paul, one of the greatest early Christians and missionaries the world has ever known. I prayed and prepared to not only inform kids, but also to encourage them to be more Christ-like. I think it went well, and lots of kids told me so afterward. (You can see my presentation on Paul if you want.)

However, my second talk was not anything like the first.

I was to speak on engaging culture. There was no description, and I was definitely at a loss on where to start this huge topic. Seriously, it’s extremely broad. So what does a guy do when you feel overwhelmed? You’d think I would prepare way in advance and pray even more earnestly. But nope. I did what too many of us too frequently do. I procrastinated until the very last minute, and I only worked on the talk so I could save my butt from utter disgrace.

And the worst part? I tried to rely on my own knowledge and coolness.

As I look back it’s only too obvious how silly I was. I know that I should have prepared more. However, it’s funny that I thought I might be cool! Ha!

After my talk I joined the kids in a time of ministry and worship, and God worked in my heart. First, He helped me calm down after the debacle in front of 75 kids and about 10 adults. Then, he showed me my mistakes. And finally, He reminded me how much He loves me.

The next time I feel overwhelmed and stressed, it’s best not to rely on myself. Rather, I need to point to Jesus and rely on His strength. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). The greatest things in life are not about me nor my perceived coolness. Rather it’s about Jesus and the glorious victory of Him overcoming sin and death and bring us into God’s presence.

Amen and Amen.

It’s Not About Me

Today was Ash Wednesday. It was rather weird not attending a church service where ashes were placed in the shape of a cross on my forehead. I kind of missed that.

However, I haven’t forgotten about Lent. I still want to observe the 40 days leading up to Easter and spend some extra time reflecting on God. To help me do this, I’ve taken up reading and praying through a devotional book called ONE. It is the result of a large-scale collaboration project between 25 of the English-speaking, international churches in Hong Kong. That is a testimony in and of itself!

Today’s devotion was about preparation. (Seems fitting!) The goal behind it was to place us in John the Baptist’s “shoes” and learn what it means to put Jesus first and ourselves second. “He must increase, and I must decrease.” (John 3:30) I totally agree. At least in theory.

The problem is that I am nearly always doing things for myself. I know in my head that God loves me no matter what I do or don’t do. But I guess I still want to please Him and show Him I’m wholeheartedly His. It’s almost as if I feel like I need to earn His love. (Which no one needs to do by the way.) I guess this looks like a place for the Holy Spirit to step in and do the work in my heart and life that I can’t do by myself!

The other cool thing about today’s devotion is that it reminded me of a message I heard from Noah Ward, a teacher at the International Christian School. He gave a message about being third. It was simple and straightforward: God first, others second, ourselves third. Noah even had business cards made so we can keep them in our wallets as a reminder each time we open it that we should be living with a servant heart. I still have that card, two years later.

“Lord, help me live fully for you, as a response to the fullness of love you have for me. Amen.”

Let’s Talk About Sex Baby

It was an awkward day with the youth group. I delivered part one of a three part sex series. Unfortunately, today wasn’t even the most uncomforatable topic. On the other hand, the kids responded pretty well considering all of them were under 14 years old.

'Preach It, Brother' photo (c) 2008, Steve Snodgrass - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I had the privilege of basing my sermon off of a message delivered by Tim Keller. He’s such a wise and rational pastor, full of dry, but quick wit. I’m a big fan. If you haven’t heard anything by him, I highly recommend subscribing to his podcast from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York.

'SEX' photo (c) 2008, Stuart Caie - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

 

Today I didn’t talk about the human body, puberty, or the mechanics of sex. Rather, I talked to the kids about being in close, intimate relationship with Jesus. In my preparation, I’m having my eyes opened to understanding the way God desires for us to meet with Him all day, every day. By knowing Him more, I’m able to become a man after God’s heart, and following Him becomes less of a set of rules and rituals and more about living in response to God’s love. It’s great, and I wish I could remember how to live like this more often.

Coming up next week we’re talking about our sexual and gender identity. Oh dear. Lord help me and all the kids!