You Have My Attention: When God Breaks In

image26About 2 months ago, I remember thinking to myself, ‘I can conquer the world!’

I honestly believed there was nothing that could hold me back and nothing that I could not accomplish. I felt like I had the ‘correct’ answers to everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen God do extraordinary things this past year – some of which I cannot even explain! I have been a part of a student ministry that is absolutely flourishing! There is a barely a week that goes by that we do not see students come to know Christ or baptized! Our numbers have drastically increased and our leadership is stronger than I could ever imagine!

On a personal level, 2014 was a challenging year, but also a fruitful year. Our family saw God work in ways that did not make sense – many times when we least expected it. We saw a 3-year debacle over our house on the east coast of Florida end via 2 phone calls over the course of 48 hours. We proceeded to sell the house  for more than we were asking within 4 weeks! We feel blessed beyond measure for the health and joy we have experienced this year!

I truly believe that there is nothing impossible for God, but my pride often gets in the way. I fool myself into believing that there is nothing too powerful for me to accomplish as well. I take the place of God and attempt to accomplish things on my own, ultimately missing what He has for me.

I like to think I am a strong leader – organized, efficient, capable, empowering, and competent. I also tend to think that my character and integrity is most often Christlike. Now, yes, there are those times that my pride and arrogance gets the best of me and, just like Paul, I struggle doing what I know I am not supposed to do and not doing what I know I am supposed to do.

About 3 weeks ago, I was quickly reminded that my ability, my strength, my energy, and yes, even my mind is a blessing from God, the one who gives and takes away. There is nothing I can accomplish outside of who He is. There is no fruit I can produce outside of His love, His character, and His will!

At 1:55 pm on Sunday, December 14th, I came stumbling out of my bedroom and went into a grand mal seizure that lasted about 3 minutes. I tripped over my 4-year old son and ended up falling onto our tile floor. In the process, I also dislocated my shoulder, which is causing me constant pain. As a teenager, I was diagnosed with adolescent epilepsy and was on medication for about 16 years. This past year was the first year that I have not taken any medication, and I was under the assumption I was in the clear – until about 3 weeks ago.

I feel like I have been to more doctors over the past 3 weeks than the past 10 years combined. My wife has become my chauffeur, because legally I am not allowed to drive for 6 months. I am also dealing with the effects of my body getting used to epilepsy medication again, which has caused me to be an emotional basket case on more than one occasion.

It has been a rough few weeks, one that has humbled me and opened my eyes to where my priorities need to truly be. I have been forced to do nothing. My wife even went to the extent of asking me how it felt to have my independence taken away. If it were not for the inability to process my thoughts into words quick enough, I would have responded with some sarcastic comment back at her.

I have realized that I do not have this thing called life figured out. I do not have this thing called leadership figured out. I do not have student ministry, family ministry, or my own relational life figured out. Unfortunately, I have not reached perfection, and if you ask my kids, I still have a long ways to go!

But I do know one thing for sure – God has EVERYTHING figured out!

His love casts out all fear

His grace His sufficient

His mercy is new every morning

Great is His faithfulness

He is MY rock and MY redeemer

He is the beginning and the end

He is the Good Shepherd

He is the great I AM!

And at the end of the day, He has all the answers to all the questions. He has my future in His hands. His purpose for my life far exceeds anything I could ever desire or imagine. I am His vessel, living out the life He has called me to live!

There were several factors that went into me having a seizure and there are still physical, mental, and emotional consequences I am working through. But I truly believe it was God trying to get my attention. I veered off course just slightly and was allowing my pride to take the place of what God had in store for me.

It doesn’t take much of a change in direction to miss what God has for us. For Peter it was taking his eyes off Jesus’ eyes. He was walking on water, with Jesus in his vision, but his eyes were not focused on the Savior’s eyes. For David it was a quick second glimpse off the patio that caused his eyes to lose sight of God’s eyes. For many of us, we feel like we are right there, doing exactly what God is calling us to do, but our pride has caused us to veer just slightly off course. God is in our vision. We believe we are moving towards Him, walking with Him, and living as He has called us to live. But, there is a difference in focusing on the direction of Jesus and focusing on His eyes.

Think of it this way… if I want to drive from Cape Coral, Florida to Buford, Wyoming, simply heading west may not get me to my final destination. Even though Wyoming is constantly in the direction I am headed, getting to my exact location takes more precise accuracy than simply heading west. God is not generic, He is specific. He has a clear plan for each and every one of us that requires us focusing directly on His eyes!

As Christians, we cannot get caught up in our own abilities that we miss the priorities God has mapped out before us. Our first step (or in some cases 5, 20, or 50 steps) often has to be backwards. We must reset our priorities and schedules in order to focus on what is most important.

We have to remain faithful to God’s leading, no matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient that may be. And at the end of the day, we must never forget that no matter what happens, God is in completely control and He has EVERYTHING figured out!

God has my attention, and my prayer is that He either already has or gets yours! We not only need Him, but we must want Him more than anything this world has to offer. I am committed to seeking Him more this year than ever before. My Lead Pastor put it perfectly, ‘Our faith becomes stronger through our intimacy with the Father’

May this year, we grow more intimately in love with Jesus. May He truly remain our first love in everything – every situation, every event, every circumstance, and amongst every relationship!

Finding Success in our Identity

Quotation-Timothy-Keller-failure-work-success-identity-Meetville-Quotes-39615The life of a youth pastor can often be very grueling and exhausting. I have asked myself several times, ‘What is the point to all of this?’ Many churches expect youth pastors to perform and produce tons of success!

But, does success in ministry come out of what you do or who are you? How do you view success? How do define success? Is it based on a number, a positive emotion, or through your identity? If you do not meet expectations do you deem yourself a failure? Is success measured by how much attention or positive feedback you receive after accomplishing a task?

It is easy to get caught up in the unrealistic expectations that are placed on our lives and ministries. Church leaders place high expectations on our ability to grow numbers and see lives changed that often times expand beyond our capabilities and control. Those closest to us often expect us to be able to drop anything and everything to meet their needs. Parents expect us to raise their students in the admonition of the Lord. They place the majority of spiritual responsibility on our shoulders. Students expect us to be the father they never had, the best friend they wish they could have, and their spiritual replacement for God.

Attempting to fully meet these expectations will often lead us to living out of fear and guilt, which then leads us to completing a whole bunch of tasks to seek the approval of others. Nobody wants to be in bad standing with his or her boss. Nobody wants to disappoint close family or friends. No youth pastor desires to have a parent upset or angry because his or her child has not received enough personal attention. The majority of youth ministry leaders are naturally people pleasers who want to maintain a sense of happiness and peace in every area of life.

Fulfilling tasks can easily lead to growth, which deems us as ‘successful.’ Our ministries are growing numerically. Our families seem happy to somebody on the outside. We might even get a raise or promotion!

But instead of finding success as numerical growth or happiness, we must base our success on our identity in Christ! Are we living a life worth imitating? Are we producing disciples and leaders who truly care for people? Are our families living on mission for the cause of Christ? Do the parents within our ministry truly understand what it means to be the pastors of their home?

We often get caught up in unrealistic or unhealthy expectations. We strive to be great and work overtime, but fail to actually abide in Christ and find our identity in Him. Ultimately, we miss the opportunity to produce spiritual fruit based on a relationship with Christ. I have spent quite a bit wrestling through what it looks like to be successful in ministry and to live a life on mission for God.

Matthew 6:21 – For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Proverbs 4:23 – Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Luke 6:45 – A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

The heart contains our identity. It is what gives us life, purpose, meaning, and value. It is where we find the well-being of our lives. What if we viewed success out of who we are, not out of what we do? What if we truly found our identity in a relationship with Christ and not our position or title? Would our ministries look different? Would our calendars be affected? Would our priorities change as we reflect on who God truly is?

What if we looked at our lives and said, ‘I am not a pastor; I am a follower of Christ. I am not a son or daughter with messed up parents, but a child of God! I am not required to achieve the approval of man, because God has already bought me with a price, stamped His loving approval on my life, and has filled me with His grace and mercy! I am not just a husband or father, but I have been hand-picked by God to be the spiritual leader of my home!’

Imagine the fruit, not growth, we would see if we served, lived, and abided out of our identity in Christ! The ultimate success story is to leave a legacy worth imitating and to have Jesus look at us and say, ‘Well done good and faithful servant!’

At the center of every fruitful story is a heart that finds its identity in a relationship with Christ! An increase in numbers does not equate to success. But increased desires to live like Jesus lived and do as Jesus did will always produce spiritual fruit! Above everything else, we must seek God first! As we pour our heart into a growing relationship with Him, we must seek His approval. Don’t live out of fear of what may be. Prioritize family and develop a culture of accountability through authentic community. Never be afraid to stand up for what is most important!

As followers of Christ, we must trust that His voice is louder than anyone around us! Trust that He has a plan that is greater than you could ever imagine. Ultimately, find success in who you are in Christ, not out of what you can accomplish!

What Teenagers Need from a Local Church

Great article on what our students need from the local church!

DANIELKINKADE.ME

Student ministry is an incredible world to be in. Its fun, its engaging, it keeps you young and on your toes, but most importantly you have the privilege to reach the next generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sadly, more than ever, we are seeing a new generation that wants nothing to do with the local church. We can’t give up on them. Students and families need to be reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It can be hard and it can be messy but, we must persevere in this.

Having this in mind, here are five things I believe teenagers need from a local church…

1. Teenagers need to know the Word of God. Whether its Sunday morning, Sunday night, a midweek environment, or small groups throughout the week, students need a specific time each week that they are taught the Word of God. It needs to be fun, engaging, and relational…

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