Category Archives: God

Gott Mit Uns…What does that mean?

Gott Mit Uns

The phrase “Gott Mit Uns” on this German military belt buckle that includes an eagle and a swastika was a new phrase for me and I was unsure of what it meant. After I did some digging I discovered that this phrase “Gott Mit Uns” means “God With Us”. This phrase was engraved on the German Wehrmacht soldiers belts but not on the SS soldiers. The Wehrmacht who wore this symbol “Gott Mit Uns” were the standard military force of Germany while the S.S. where a special unit of bodyguard and fanatics who protected Hitler who eventually grew to become a great force. While the S.S. forces had a different motto we cannot deny that the regular military force of Germany became highly influenced by Hitler and this elite military force.

I think this naturally leads us to ask, “How could the German army have the phrase ‘God With Us’ on them while committing so many horrible crimes against humanity?” While I think this is a very important question it is also something we have seen done throughout history. People have used God’s name time and time again to show that God is “on our side” no matter if what they are doing is consistent with who God is. We can look back throughout history and see the devastation that happened in the Crusades over many years that killed an estimated hundreds of thousands of people. While the Christians, Muslims, and Jews were fighting to take back the Holy Land it was being done in the name of God from their standpoint, or another way to put it would be Gott Mit Uns, they believed that God was on their side and a part of their cause. We have also read how Muslims have yelled, “Allah Akbar” which means “God is Greater” while killing innocent people. We even fall into this trap in America today where we call ourselves a Christian nation, we continue to say, “In God We Trust”, and at the same time we commit atrocities that are so unlike Christ.

Before people jump through their computer screen at me and accuse me of saying Americans are the same as the Nazi soldiers or Muslim Extremists please understand that this is not my point. My point is that throughout history in both secular and religious cultures God’s name has been used to support causes that honestly are not that Godly. Around this point, people are usually pretty quick to point to the devastating destruction that was done in “God’s Name” in the Old Testament. Yet, we need to remember to view who God is and what God does through who Jesus is. In the New Testament in the book of John 1, it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The text goes on to later say, “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us! So if Jesus is God in the flesh then we look to him to see how we are called to live.

I think one of the biggest challenges we see with this calling is when Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon would have been incredibly controversial because of a simple phrase, “You have heard it said…”. Six different times Jesus says this phrase and points out something that had been passed down from generation to generation from Moses that needed to be understood in a different and more challenging way. Think how many times we as a people do something because we have been taught that is what is right even if it not truly the best picture of who Jesus has called us to be. Think of how many times acts are called Christian yet fail to reflect Jesus. Jesus went on to say that he did not come to destroy the law, but he came to fulfill it. Jesus not only met the requirements of the law but in the Word of God becoming flesh he was completing the law. When we look at Jesus we see him ushering in a new kind of kingdom, a kingdom that is not of this world. The way of Jesus is the way that leads to healing, redemption, and restoration. The way of Jesus is not an eye for an eye, but of seeking to pray for and love our enemy. Instead of Jesus’ kingdom being brought in by force and dominating others it was ushered in by him dying on the cross so sin and death could be conquered!

So when we say “God With Us” I fully believe this is true because Jesus has come and dwelt among us; However, I think a more accurate thought for us to reflect upon is are we with God? As Christians are we seeking to form God into our image and desires or are we seeking to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ? When we read the words of Jesus in the Scriptures and we see how he called his followers to live are we choosing that path? Are we picking up our cross and following him or are we asking Jesus to follow us? So once again, yes God is with us but are we with God?

 

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Where was God?

With the horrific event happening at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut last week, one of the things that has bothered me the most is that some have said this horrible tragedy has happened because “God is not allowed in the schools anymore.”

To start off with God is the almighty ruler of the universe, so this idea that God needs someone’s permission to be able to go somewhere is ridiculous.  I believe when we make statements such as “God is not allowed in the schools anymore” we are showing how small our view of God truly is.  Now I understand what many people mean by that statement, which is that class prayers are not offered, students are not taught about creation instead of evolution (I believe in creation), and students are not reading the Bible as a part of their English classes.  My question is if these things are not happening does that mean God is not present?  In my humble opinion not by a long shot.

I attended a public high school before I went to a Christian university and now seminary.  In my years in high school I prayed each day and no one stopped me.  Several students and I also led  a Bible study/prayer group once a week at the school before school started which usually had around 20-30 people at it.  I would bring my Bible to school sometimes or a devotional book so I could read it if I had spare time and no one made me put it away.  I would on a regular basis tell people about my faith in Jesus Christ at school and invite friends to events at my church.  Did I get made fun of for doing these things sometimes? Sure, but in my mind it was worth it.  I chose wise times to do these things so it was not interfering with what the teachers where doing in the classroom and didn’t cause problems with other students education.  I understand though that others may have faced more ridicule for doing these things in their school than I did.

I say all of this to say no one has taken God out of the schools.  There are Christian students and teachers in public schools across this nation who each day are sharing the love of God with those around them, saying a prayer for their classmates, and sharing the hope they have in Jesus Christ.  So do we have class-led prayers? No, but I don’t think we need that for God to move in a powerful way.  What do we need then?  We need people of faith that are willing to just say, “God I will follow you” and then take those steps of faith.

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After the Elephant Room…

For the handful of you who read my blog and know I usually post Monday-Thursday might have noticed that I didn’t post last Wednesday or Thursday.  On Wednesday I had the privilege of attending a simulcast of the Elephant Room in Canton, Michigan outside of Detroit.  At the conference they had pastors Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald, Crawford Loritts, Wayne Cordeiro, Steven Furtick, TD Jakes, and Jack Graham.  The discussed numerous topics that impact our churches and communities.  In the next week I will be sharing several things that I feel God spoke to me about during that event but today I wanted to share with you something that happened afterwards.

About 5 p.m. the event ended, I got in my car, and reached the first traffic light on my way back home to Toledo.  When I was coming to a stop my car made a sound similar to gravel being put into a garbage disposal and then my car learched forward.  I put my car in park, got out, and looked underneath and saw nothing.  So I got back in drove the car over to a gas station, called my wife to let her know what was going on.  I then drove over to an empty parking lot across the street to see how the car would drive and if I would be able to make it home….it didn’t take long to see that was not going to happen.  I also quickly realized that if I called the tow truck I had no idea how to describe where I was so I got back in the car and very carefully drove the minute or so back to the church where I knew the address.

After I arrived back at the church I noticed that the drivers side front wheel was beginning to tilt in and then it happened, I heard a clunk and the whole front left side sank down on the wheel.  When the tow truck driver arrived they quickly diagnosed that my ball bearing was broken on the car.  I rode with them in the front of the truck and got towed to a local shop where they began working on my car.  Thankfully my lovely wife was not working and was able to drive an hour to pick me up.

Before my car had broken down I was only a minute or two from getting on I-75 where in Michigan the speed limit is 70 mph.  If that part had completely broken when I was driving 70 mph instead of sitting in the church parking lot I probably would have spun out uncontrollably until I hit something which could have seriously hurt or killed myself or others.  Why do I bring this up?

I think at times it can be easy to pray for those things we see happening around us such as a test coming up, a rough relationship, a sick family member, financial problems, or a personal struggle that we see but what about those things we don’t see?  Those events in our lives that never happen that God protects us from?

When I got back to that church and as I waited the 45 minutes for the tow truck to arrive I prayed for a couple things 1. That the cost of the repairs would not be so much that I would have a heart attack and then have to go to the hospital.  2. I thanked God that He looked out for me and let my car break down when it did.

That might seem kind of strange thanking God for my car breaking down but honestly I think it is those things that God protects from that we never have to experience that we should be just as thankful for.  We can see the blessings that God has given us in our lives and the hurts that are around us but have you taken time to thank God for the ways he has looked out for you when you didn’t even know?

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Filed under God, living for today

The Missing Piece

    I have been in the field of youth ministry for 10 years now and throughout these years I have noticed that something is missing.  I don’t believe I am going to share anything life shattering with you as many others have noticed the same thing.  When it comes to youth ministry we are encouraged to talk to teens about issues they face like peer pressure, drinking, sex, media, and many other things.  We are also asked to provide opportunities for teens to bring friends to youth group, fun events like bowling and paintballing, as well as local service events and mission trips.  Please understand I think those are fine things and are a part of youth ministry.  Teens do need to learn how to apply the Bible to their lives in their every day situations.  When you offer fun events it may attract a teen who otherwise might never have even thought about coming to a youth ministry event.  Offering local, national, and international missions events is a wonderful way to have teens experience things that are outside of their normal every day lives, it helps take the focus off themselves for a little while as they reach out to somebody in need, as well as spread the name of Jesus Christ.  However, in many situations we are missing something….They need to know the story of God.

As Chris Folmsbee author of Story, Signs, and Sacred Rhythms points out teens need to understand who God is, what God is like, our relationship to God, and what God is doing in our world around us.  This has to be the starting point of what we do in youth ministry it can’t be a side note.  Our youth ministries can’t be fun, games, some service, with a little bit of Jesus thrown in.  We have to start with the gospel that Jesus Christ is Lord.  There is no other God except our God, He is the holy, almighty, all-powerful, all-present, all-knowing God of the universe.  We have to help teens understand the whole word of God both Old Testament and New Testament.  When we just give them the New Testament we are cheating them on only giving them part of the story of God.  There are those people out there that would be perfectly content if students graduate from our youth ministries being “sober virgins” where they don’t go to parties and get drunk and they don’t have sex before they get married and they would consider that a success.  In my opinion if this is all that happens we have failed our teens.  Our desire for the teens in our church should be so much more than just trying to graduate nice, moral teens because that will never bring radical life change to our world.

Know that I am not telling you to go to your youth ministry calendar and cancel your youth game night this Sunday or to postpone your summer mission trip but what I am asking you to do is keep the story of God at the center of everything you do.  If we miss this crucial piece then nothing else will matter.  If we leave out the revelation of God then we will be nothing more than a social club or a community service team.  So as you look to the weeks ahead in your ministries remember to the story of God at the center of all you do.

How are you helping teens understand the story of God?

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Restless

   Some of you who read my blog know me better than others but those who know me well know that I don’t do things half way.  I am a very passionate person especially when it comes to the ministry I serve in.  I have served in different jobs where I was able to go to work, do my job, check out and go home and not think about work until the next time I showed up but ministry is much different.  Before my current ministry position I served as a postal ramp agent for a company that shipped out most of the mail from the state of Ohio to all of the other states.  While I worked hard, tried to have a good attitude, and help those in need so I could set a good example in my faith I honestly didn’t feel a passion for U.S. Mail.  I am glad I could do a good job, make my fellow employees laugh, and try not to freeze working 3rd shift at the airport however I was not passionate about people’s mail.

Things are so much different in my current ministry position….I love it…but last night I was restless.  I tried to go home and unwind afterwards but the teens were on my heart.  As I thought about  the day I was thankful for the opportunity to be able to preach in the contemporary service earlier in the day and I prayed for those I was able to minister to.  The best word that could describe how I felt last night was restless because I want so much for people to have a life of surrender to Jesus Christ.  I know how powerful it can be when a teen shares their faith with their friends, I know what kind of impact it can make when a parent takes that time to guide their child in their faith, I know the power of a Christian when they are in prayer for those around them, I know the love that is available when we as a church care just as much for those who don’t know Christ yet as those who are already at our churches.  When we surrender our lives to God and we die to ourselves and let him live through us we can see the power of a risen savior….we begin to expect the supernatural.

This is what kept me awake last night…this desire to see a people filled with the Holy Spirit reaching out to a broken and dying world with the hope of a new life in Christ.  I wish these thoughts would not have kept me up till 3 a.m. because that alarm clock came awfully early this morning but I never want that passion to die.

How about you…what is making you restless?

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Refuge vs. Escape

Are we seeking refuge or are we seeking escape?  This was a question that the Holy Spirit brought to my mind this morning as I reflected on Psalm 11.  When David asks, “I have taken refuge in the Lord.  How can you say to me, ‘Escape to the mountain like a bird!”  So the question is what do we do when times get tough?  When things are weighing down on you from all sides where do you turn?  Are you seeking refuge in God or are you trying to escape using other means?

This doesn’t have to be as intense as David’s situation in the psalm where his wicked enemies were overwhelming him almost to the point of death but we will encounter many struggles in our lives with family, finances, ministry, friends, and the list could go on and on.  What things are you dealing with right now?  In this time of trouble are you casting your care upon God or are you trying to escape on your own through worry, through drowning yourself in media, by isolating yourself from others, by pretending there are no problems, by keeping busy, or maybe by turning to alcohol or pornography?

We were never meant to live on our own.  We have a savior that is waiting for us to rely on him, to put our trust in his goodness and faithfulness.  He is already extending his hand to us in our time of need but will you reach yours out to him?

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Lies!

I believe that Satan tries to tell us many lies that will distract us or tear us away from the truth that God wants to share with us.  I think one of the lies I bought into early on in my ministry was I had to look bullet-proof, no struggles, and have all the answers.  I have no problem now saying I have struggles, I cry, I get overwhelmed, and I am ok saying I don’t know to a theological question.

I think I believed this was the best way to minister was to buy into this lie.  How could I actually answer a question about God, Jesus, or The Holy Spirit with I don’t know?  How could I share that I have doubts or confusion at times in my walk?  What if I told people I struggled with depression and anxiety would they still want me to be their minister?

However, when I really began looking at the people God worked through in the Bible it became crystal clear that it is in our weakness that He is strongest!  That these things I struggled with didn’t disqualify me from the ministry but actually made it possible for God to work through me in an even greater way!  I chose to stop believing the lie that I had to have all the answers and have no struggles and started believing the truth that God wanted to use me in a big way, to go into the world and make disciples of Jesus Christ.

What lies have you bought into in the past?

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Filed under God, Moving forward, Religion