Help Wanted...

One of my duties as a pastor at my church is to serve as the “pastor of the day” a couple of times a month. This means that, during my day, if someone calls in to the church looking for help, prayer, food, counseling, or assistance with anything else, they are directed to me. If someone wants to meet with a pastor, and it’s my day, then they are directed to me. This is scary and intimidating to me for many reasons. (But you’re a pastor!)

One of the reasons that this scares me is I’m afraid that I won’t know what to say. I’m afraid that someone will have a problem, they’ll poor their heart out to me, and then I’ll look at them with a blank look on my face…only to shrug my shoulders and say, “I don’t know.” (This has kind of been a running fear in my life. The fear of “I don’t know”. I hate not knowing.)

I’m also afraid that I’ll give somebody the wrong kind of help, and they’ll be harmed from it. Like if somebody needs money for food, I give them said money, and they go out and spend it on booze or drugs. All because I gave them a band-aid rather than helping them treat their real problem.

Here’s what I know: We are called to help people. We are called to love them. We are not called to know everything, nor are we called to make sure that they use our gifts of benevolence for what we intend.

I remember a conversation with my friend Kurt over spaghetti about this. He said that he and his family were out and about one day, when they saw a man with a sign: Homeless. Please help. Kurt said that he is always a little hesitant to help these guys because he’s not sure what they’ll use the money for. In a rare moment of wisdom, I said to him, “Yeah, I’ll bet that’s how God feels sometimes. He gives us stuff, and we pervert it in the way that we use it.”

Sometimes, we don’t help people because of how we THINK they MIGHT abuse our gift. We don’t know (See…there it is again) so we assume. What if God did that? What if God withheld gifts from us based on how we would use them. And remember, God KNOWS exactly what we’re going to do with what he gives us. And He still chooses to bless us.

The next time you see someone in need, like the person who is always standing outside of Fashion Valley with a cardboard sign, or the person who you see everyday, but never talk to, ask yourself, “How does God see this person?”

It’s kind of like what a very wise theologian named Big Kenny once said; “Love Everybody”…


A Living Book (and Other Strange Tales...)

Here's another peek into my heart: There's only about three or four people who I would sit at their feet and listen to whatever they wanted to talk about. (Heck, I'd probably take notes.) There's David Olshine; my mentor from college, Katie Edwards; the big sister I never knew I wanted, and Rob Bell. (I have a couple more, but I won't bore you with a list.) Rob Bell is the teaching pastor at a church called Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, MI. I first heard him (and OF him) at Willow Creek's student ministries conference in 2003. Instantly, I felt a connection, and wanted to hear more.

Most people would say that they've had a teacher over the course of their life that, for some reason or another, they learned more from because of their style, manner, or whatever you want to call it. When it comes to learning about God, Rob Bell is it for me. I could listen for hours...days even. Seriously...give me some Dr. Pepper, some PB&J, and a bed pan and I'm good to go. (Sorry. That might have been gross to some of you.) I've been downloading Rob's sermons from his church's website for about a year now. (Check it out! www.mhbcmi.org) He even produces and teaches in a set of short length videos that are kind of like music videos...of sermons. (Sorry. That's the best way i can describe them!) They're at www.nooma.com

So, needless to say: when I heard that Rob was coming out with a book, I pre-ordered a copy. I've been reading it for the past week or so. Yesterday, I came across a passage that struck me.

Some of you will say "Duh!" to this.

Let me just type it out for you:

Is the greatest truth about Adam and Eve and the fruit that it happened, or that it happens? This story, one of the first in the Bible, is true for us because it is our story. We have all taken the fruit. We have all crossed boundaries. We have all made decisions to do things our way and then looked back and said to ourselves, What was I thinking?...Their story is our story. We see ourselves in them...It is an accurate description of how life is...

Here is another example: The Israelites leave the kingdom of Egypt where they are slaves, and God brings them into freedom.

It happens.

Every day.

For many of us, that is our story. We were in darkness and God brought us out. And we continue to identify areas of darkness in our lives, and God continues to bring us out....

It happened then; it happens now.

How is it that a book written over 2,000 years ago on another continent, by people who are long since dead, speak so personally to me? Because it is about me. The stories aren't just campfire entertainment, they’re biographical accounts of people who encountered the same struggles, joys, victories, and defeats that I do everyday.

I’m a pastor. Maybe I shouldn't be impacted by something like “The Bible is alive, or filled with stuff that applies to your life, and should be important to you.” But I am (impacted). I’ve prayed for three years for God to instill in me a hunger for His word. Not to say that I wasn’t interested. Just not passionate. I feel like this is the beginning of a grand adventure.

So, maybe today you can read all about you…


You Have to Keep the Beat...

So, I'm back in San Diego from the convention. Lots of sweet stuff happened. Lots of awesome talks between folk. I guess that you could say that, in general, a good time was had by all. I had a major moment of "Hey Josh, this is God. Pay attention to this! I'm going to teach you something!" on the last day. And it came from a drummer named B-wack. Go ahead, read the last sentance over again. B-wack.

On the last day of the convention, I was standing listening to, watching, and singing along with the David Crowder* Band. Now when I am at a concert I tend to watch each band member individually for at least a couple of songs. I am fascinated at the way each musician plays. Especially drummers. So, naturally I watched DCB's B-wack (Dude, that's his name on the website.) whilst he "layed down some beats". While I watched, I began to think about something.

Anybody who has ever played in a band knows that the drums are the heart of the band. if something happens to the drums in the middle of a song, everybody else gets off beat and falls apart. Without precision percussion played perfectly (Ha! So glad I'm typing this!) the band just doesn't work. People look at the "lead" singer as the person who leads the band. But it doesn't matter how good he can sing or how charismatic he may be in front of a crowd, he has to follow a beat. So, as such an integral part of the band, B-wack has to practice and constantly make himself better. (And he's already so good!)

The same principle applies to me as the leader of a ministry. God has appointed me to be the pastor, or the "drummer" of a ministry to Middle School students. As the leader, it's absolutely integral to the health of my ministry for me to be constantly "practicing" by doing things that make me a better pastor.

How do I do that? I become better by following the beat that is set for me by my drummer. When I follow the greatest drummer of them all, Christ, I am constantly transformed to be more like Him. I am made into a better leader. Christ is the heartbeat of me. I am the heartbeat of my ministry. (Not as the object of worship, but as the person who says, "Hey everybody, Christ is the answer! And I know Him! Come follow me and I'll introduce you!"

You're probably a leader in some aspect of your life. You might lead in your home, or at your job, or maybe in your group of friends. You "keep the beat" for someone. Whose beat are YOU marching to? How do you stay on that beat? Keep practicing to make yourself better so that you can lead others to the greatest drummer of them all...


You Have to See This...

For those of you who know me, this is probably not going to come as much of a shock. But, for those of you who stumbled across this blog accidentally, or those of you who are in the process of becoming my BFF, this may come as quite the surprising revelation. Or maybe it won't. I am a nerd. I'm also a dork. But that's a whole other post. I am a nerd because I love comic books, science, reading (everything), and have an absolutely astounding memory for anything and everything entertainment related. Seriously. Just ask my friend Allison. So, now that you are that much more acquainted with that part of my personality, I want to tell you about the best show you will never again watch on TV.

It's called Firefly. It's available on DVD. Here's my advice to you: stop whatever it is that you're doing, immediately buy the DVD, and enjoy. If you like Joss Whedon, or if you just like to be entertained by intelligent, hi-larious, action-packed, beautifully shot television-at-it's-best, then you will love this show. The best way I can describe it is a space-western. Or...sci-fi with no aliens. And did I mention a movie based on Firefly comes out this Friday? It's called Serenity.

I will see it no less than 4 times. I promise.

Anyway, I'm leaving town tomorrow with my volunteer staff to go to a sweet conference in NorCal and I don't know if I will have the internet up there, so I just wanted to tell you a little about something I think is sweet AND awesome.

You can thank me later...


My First Post...Awwwww...

You know, the funny thing about saying that you're never going to do something is that, sometimes, you still end up doing it. Welcome to my web log, or for those of you enlightened techies out there, my blog. Now, before you read on any further, there's something that I want you to know: I am not publishing a blog to divulge my deepest darkest secrets. Nor will include pretentious, self-pitying poetry. (Although I do enjoy a good haiku!) You won't find inappropriate pictures or friend lists that include people that I've never even met. But, you will find stuff that I'm in the middle of thinking about. You will find things, people and places that inspire me. You will find that I don't have it all figured out. And I hope that you will find that it's OK to be in the middle of "The Process"...