Your Needs Met

In looking at the OLYL study today I realized a couple of things.  The first is that when it comes to my needs as a human being, I am pretty well set.  We looked at a list of needs that most everyone has.  The list included emotional, relational, intellectual, physical and spiritual needs.  I am not saying that my life is perfect or that everything always works out nice and neat for me, I am just saying that the resources are there for me.  I am part of a great family, I love my church and our youth group and leadership teams.  I have a paycheck that comes in twice a month, I have access to a wealth of knowledge in the people that I am surrounded by, my pastor, my books and other sources.  Most importantly I have a God who loves me dearly, who hasn’t given up on a sinner like me, and sent His Son as the ultimate sacrifice for my soul.  When it comes to the needs of my life, I always can have them met.  The thing is, I don’t always choose to have them met.  Sometimes when I am down I like to stay down in my own little shell.  My wife will ask me what is going on and I go into “operation shut down”.  I close up and want the world to leave me alone.

I know a lot of people just like that, especially when it comes to high school students (plenty of adults too).  There are a ton of things that are going on in your life and for some reason or another, even though you know you are surrounded by people who love and cherish you, even though you know that there is a God of all Creation who wants nothing but the best for you, you try and shut them out.  You have a chance for your needs to be met, yet you decide to go into your shell.  Why do we do that?  I think that one of the main reasons is because we like the attention.  This world that we live in has made it popular to jump and scream (or in this case close ourselves off to the world) to get attention.  Everyone wants to be famous, everyone wants the light shining on them. We try all sorts of ways to get attention, one of which is refusing to have our needs met. We figure if we stay where we are more and more people will eventually come up to us, ask us what is wrong, help us along the way, and after we have received the sufficient amount of attention then we can go about getting our needs met.

There are two things hugely wrong with this approach, but before we look at those, I just want to make sure you are hearing me.  I know that life is tough.  I know that you are going through a ton of stuff.  I know that every day you need to lean on someone for support and love and kindness and goodness.  You need to be built up, we all do (including me).  There are needs that have to be met.  I am not talking about the person that needs help, seeks it, finds it, applies it to life, learns from the situation and then goes about life until they need to do it all over again.  I am talking about the person who refuses it, who has it at their fingertips (whether that is in the form of a youth leader, pastor, friend, family member, or most importantly God), but chooses instead to go on living in pain and grief.  Having made that clear (and I hope that you are understanding me here), let’s look at the reasons why this is dangerous.

The first reason that this is dangerous is because we are trying to get the attention.  If we are trying to get the attention then we are taking it away from where it needs to be, that is God.  We want our lives to shine for Him, not for ourselves (Matthew 5:16, John 3:30). We want it to be about Him, not us.  Now when we have a need that needs to be met, we shouldn’t ignore it because we are afraid that it will take away from God, instead we should go to the source of all things good, God himself, and figure out how that need could be met so that He is glorified.  Kind of goes like this:

  1. You have a need
  2. You go to God to see that need met
  3. God reveals how He will provide for you (which might not be the way that you had in mind)
  4. Need is met and you praise God (glory, attention, and light shines on Him).

When our need are met, God ultimately gets the glory.  When we sit back and refuse to be helped and have our needs met, we get the attention and we leave no room for God to do great things in and around us.

The second reason that this is dangerous is because there are billions of people out there that are in need of help.  There are people that have needs that need to be met and they have no idea who God is.  We know who God is, and when we allow Him to work in our lives through our church and relationships and everything else then we will look around and want to help others in need.  When we wallow in self pity and refuse to be helped we are in effect keeping ourselves from reaching out and helping others in need.  That is the ultimate in selfishness.  Knowing that God is everything to us and refusing to let Him be This keeps Him from others.  You see, when we allow God to do great things in our lives, He will use us to do great things in other’s lives.  So, how are you doing with that?  Are you letting God meet your needs through friends, family, youth group, youth leaders, pastors, Scripture and other ways? Or, are you sitting around trying to rob God of His glory and plugging up the work that God would have His people do in the world?  Look around, see what God has provided for you.  If you are struggling to come up with things come and talk to me, I would love to help you see them so that you can reach your full potential in serving others in need.

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Eye To Eye

Today we read in Acts 3 about a man who was unable to walk since birth.  This man had been carried to the gates of the temple for years so that he can beg for money.  One day while begging he sees two people walking up towards him and asked them for money.  These two men, who happened to be the disciples Peter and John, told them that they had no money but had something better.  Peter called on the name of God and the man was healed.  This man asked for money but instead got a totally new life.

Our study pointed out that Peter and John both looked straight at the man.  They could have been like everyone else and passed him by paying no attention to him or throwing a couple of coins in.  Instead they looked at this man and had compassion on him.  They knew that they had the chance to help change this man’s life and they did it.

It really makes you think about all of the people in the world that are in need.  The billions who are hungry and living in poverty.  The young boys and girls who are kidnapped and sold into slavery.  The kids that have no families because of wars in their land.  It really is so easy to not put a face to the problem.  It is so easy to think of it as just one more statistic that we read.  But behind those numbers are people, people who need what we have.  People whose lives could be change immensely by the power of God.  Here are some people that have been helped because students like you decided not to just treat them like statistics.  Students banding together to help feed and give clean water to the people in Haiti.  Students saying that they will help make a change in the world through God’s grace.

Praying today that you would look at the people around you and see them for who they are.  That you would find the people that are hurting and in need and that you would not ignore them but would look directly at them and share what God has given you.

It All Comes Together

I really hope that you have been paying attention.  I hope that the words you have heard on Wednesday night and Sunday morning are sinking in.  I hope that they are built upon through the study we are doing on how you can make a difference in the world around you.  I pray that you listen in your BFGs and during Wednesday night and Sunday morning worship.  I pray that what we do here at Salem isn’t something that is cool for six weeks and then it is over, but something that totally changes the way that you live. This is what we studied today in our daily Bible study.

We read about a group of people who were just super normal dudes and dudettes who had an encounter with the God of the universe and were changed forever.  They were changed so much that they actually went out and changed the world around them for God’s glory.  We read these stories in the Bible and we think “wow, that is awesome, if God would still work that way it would incredible”.  Well, guess what?  He still does!  He is just waiting for someone like you to get up and follow Him.  Don’t believe me?  Well I have met plenty of people that have done extraordinary things through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Last summer I went to Costa Rica with a group of students.  While there I met a local pastor who spends all of his time, energy and money serving a community of refugees. These people live in houses made out of scrap metal and broken wood.  Their floors are mud, most of them have no running water.  He spends his days fixing homes, handing out food and showing the love of Jesus with them.  Why does he do it?  Because he wants them to know Christ.  He wants to make a difference in someone’s life.

I met a woman in Elizabethtown, NC who spends her life handing out food to the poor and needy.  She operates a food bank for her town.  She said that she was once in that situation and once she got out of it she wanted to help as many people as she could get through it as well.  She feeds people physically and spiritually.  She does it for God’s glory.

I knew a group of students who wanted to help out people in need.  They had heard about an organization that was trying to feed people in need in Haiti.  They heard that it only cost 25 cents a meal.  They could have gone and gotten ice cream, instead, they made the decision to help feed those in need.  The crazy thing is, once they got together they raised over $2,500.  That is 10,000 meals!  They wanted to make a difference and they did.

The thing is we can all make a difference through Christ.  What is God asking of you today?  Is there a specific person that God is asking you to go and minister to today?  Is there an organization that God wants you to serve today?  Is there an injustice that you see in the world today that God has placed on your heart and you think…there is no way that I could make a difference?  Well, maybe this will change your mind.  Take a moment to look through the site, look at the partners that Do Something Now is working with.  Read the stories of how they began their work.  Most of the time it’s just normal people trying to do amazing things through Christ.  You can do it through Christ!  He wants to use you to bring change and love and relief to this world just like he did with the disciples and the rest 2,000 years ago!  Praying today that you all would look around your world and see where God wants to use you for His change and His Glory.

New Study – All Students

Ok, so our church has started a campaign called the oneL1FE campaign.  The point of the campaign is two-fold, strengthening our stewardship and serving our city.  This is a really cool time to be a part of Salem and the excitement level is pretty high.  While we are doing this campaign we will be studying Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado together as a youth group.  Now, most of you received the student guide while you were in your BFG yesterday, but if you didn’t you can pick one up Wednesday night during our senior high worship.  The book covers 4 weeks and there are 5 quick studies per week. We are asking all students to do the study during the week and we will talk about what we learned in our BFG class on Sunday morning.

While we are doing this we will take a quick break from our journey through the New Testament (we are still in Matthew) and post about the daily study we are all doing.  I will try and post Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  I hope and pray that you will join in this study.  A lot of you have been wanting to get going on a daily Bible study, so here is a great chance for you to get involved.  I am really pumped to see what God has in store for us over the next couple of weeks through this study.  I pray that you are constantly reminded to be in the Word and are working through the study.  Feel free to comment on what you have learned as well as we got through the study.  Encourage each other to stay focused on this great opportunity to learn.

Questions on Fasting

Either shortly after or during the meal that Jesus was sharing with the terrible sinners and tax collectors, a group of John the Baptist’s disciples came up to him and started a conversation.  This conversation can be found in Matthew 9:14-17.  The question that started it all was a simple question.  John’s disciples noticed that Jesus and his disciples did not fast the way that they and the Pharisees did.  They wondered why this was so and they asked Jesus.  Now if you don’t know what fasting is it is hard to understand this question.  Christian fasting is giving up something, most typically food or drink but can even be turning off the television, in order to focus on a period of spiritual growth.  The purpose is to take our eyes off of the things of this world and set them firmly on God.  When we rely on him to get us through we learn more about him.  There are many different types of fasts, you can learn more about them here.  If you ever would like to fast please come and talk to me first so we can make sure you do it safely (some people shouldn’t do it at all because of health issues).

In the time of Jesus fasting was done to prepare the way for the Messiah and to mourn for your personal sins.  John’s disciples fasted often because they were helping John prepare the way for Jesus.  When they saw Jesus and his disciples throwing a party and having a good time they couldn’t figure out what was going on.  Jesus wasn’t against fasting, after all Jesus fasted in Matthew 4.  Jesus explained to them that while he was with them, it was time to celebrate.  Jesus knew that he wasn’t going to be with them for long, and while he was there he wanted them to enjoy the moment like guests at a wedding enjoy the time with the bridegroom.  This was totally different then what Judaism had been teaching through the Pharisees and even what John had been teaching through repentance (turning from sin completely).  Judaism and John’s teaching on repentance were the beginning and they both pointed to the Messiah, but Jesus was so different and radical that he totally mixed things up in regards to the Law of the Old Testament and the idea of repentance.  When people look at the law and compare themselves to it they realize how far short they fall and how much they need to repent.  Jesus’ message focused on life, the result of repentance.

This is why he talked about the wineskins in verse 17.  Back in the day of Jesus, wine was kept in goatskins that were sewn into bags, this is how they make them today.  As wine was poured into the wineskins the wine would expand because of the fermentation process.  When the wine expanded it would cause the wineskin to stretch.  Whenever you would pour new wine into old wineskins it would cause the already stretched wineskins to burst.  Jesus didn’t come so that he could fix up old wineskins, he came so that he could bring something totally new, the Gospel.  The Gospel doesn’t fit into the crazy legalistic world of religion.  It is always new and fresh because we have been given a new way to live, a new way to serve, and a new way to love through Christ.

I pray that as we go through this day we don’t lose focus of the newness that we have in Christ.  That everyday is another day to serve and love because he served and loved us.  I pray that we can focus on the life that we have in Christ and we would live for him freely and not be bogged down by the legalism of religion, that we would be set free because of a relationship with the Savior.

An Invitation – Matthew 9:9-13

In Matthew 9:9-13 we are introduced to the author of the book that we are looking at, Matthew.  Now Matthew wasn’t the most popular person in the world, especially among his Jewish brethren.  As a matter of fact, Matthew was probably pretty much hated by his people.  The reason for this is that he was a tax collector working for the evil Roman empire.  These tax collectors were notorious for taking not only what the Roman empire demanded, but also a little extra to put in their own pockets.  These Jewish tax collectors were looked at as traitors.  If you were a first century Jew, the last person that you would expect the Messiah to go to and enlist as one of His close allies would be Matthew, kind of like how you wouldn’t believe that God would go to this guy either.  We find out in this passage why Jesus rolls that way.

After Jesus tells Matthew to follow Him, Matthew immediately did.  I have talked to tons of students over the years about the things that get in the way of them pursuing God, both believers and people who do not believe.  The vast majority of the time I hear this from them “I need to get this fixed in my life before I turn to God”.  In other words, people feel like they need to get everything right before they turn to God.  The problem with that is that it will never happen.  We are nothing without God, we can do no Good apart from God and without His power and help we are hopeless.  God wants us right where we are.  He wants to turn us into something amazing.  Isaiah 45:22 says “Turn to me and be saved all you ends of the earth; for I am God and there is no other”.  We try and save ourselves from the things going on in our lives.  When we do that we just end up in a vicious cycle that can only be stopped by the One True God.  We can only be saved when we turn to Him.  That is what Matthew did.  He went to God immediately, just as he was.  Eventually he was transformed into this great man of God who actually wrote part of the Bible.  It is amazing what God can do when we just give ourselves to Him; bumps, bruises, scars and all.

Later on, probably that very night, Matthew threw a huge party for Jesus.  At this party were the people that Matthew hung out with on a day to day basis, after all, if you are throwing a party you invite your friends.  Verse 10 tells us the type of people that were there, tax collectors and sinners *GASP!!!*  Of course, our buddies the Pharisees can not believe that the so called Savior who forgives sins would actually associate with a bunch of people that were sinners.  The Pharisees start to question this and Jesus hears them.  Jesus gives them just a fantastic answer when He says “It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick”.  I just love thinking about this answer.  This is one of those Captain Obvious moments.  I am sure that the disciples were sitting around saying, “Duh, of course the sick need a doctor, but what does that have to do with anything”, but it goes so much deeper than that.  In order for you to actually need a doctor you need to be sick.  The thing about that is is that you actually have to know that you are sick.  Think about it.  There are probably millions of people that are walking around this world right now that don’t realize that they are sick.  Maybe they have a disease that the symptoms haven’t showed up.  Maybe they have something and they are just ignoring what is going on.  Maybe they have a tapeworm growing inside of them and they don’t realize it for a long time.  They are sick they just don’t know it yet.  This is what was going on with the Pharisees.  They were sick, they just didn’t know it.  They were in need of a Savior just like everyone else, they just refused to look at the symptoms.  The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We are all sick, we are all in need of a doctor to heal us.  Only through Christ can that happen.

Jesus tells us in 9:13 that He has come to call the sinners, not the righteous.  I am so grateful for this, because without Him I am nothing.  I am just a sinner without a Savior, but as I Peter 1:3 says “Praise be to the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”.  I pray that you are praising Him for that today as well, and that you would look around your world and see the sick that are in need of The Great Physician.

 

An Introduction – Matthew 9:1-8

Reading Matthew 9:1-8 today really made me stop and think about a ton of things.  The first thing is that there is no way to talk about Matthew 9 all at once, what an incredible chapter of the Bible.  The second is this awesome story of a group of people trying to help a friend in need.  After Jesus calms the storm on the lake and is kicked out of a local town because He healed a man who was demon possessed he comes to the other side of the lake and is met by a group of people who need Him.  It is crazy to think about how one group of people were so afraid of the power of Jesus that they asked Him to leave, and very soon after there is another group of people that is in desperate need of the saving power of Jesus.  One group pushes Jesus out while the other wants Him there.  It makes me wonder about all of the people that we are around on a daily basis.  The people in our schools, the people in our neighborhoods, the people in our bands and on our teams, the people we meet at work.  There are tons of people that we come in contact with on a daily basis.

The fact of the matter is that there are so many people that are hurting.  There are so many people that are going through life with major issues.  There are so many people that are in need of a Savior.  Not only that, there are so many people roaming this earth that know what the answer to their issues and hurt and pain is.  The only one that can truly help is Jesus and there are literally millions of people that are out there right now that are wanting so bad to be taken to Him.  Now, they might not know that yet, but they are searching.  They are searching for solutions and answers and purpose.  They are waiting for someone to help them find it.  We see this awesome group of friends bringing their buddy to Jesus because they know that there is no other way that their friend can be helped.  What about you?  Is there someone in your life that you know needs the life-changing power of Jesus?  I am sure that you didn’t have to think too hard to come up with someone.  My prayer is that that person would weigh heavy on your heart.  That the Holy Spirit would convict you to share boldly about Jesus with that person.  I pray that you would introduce that person to Jesus, and that eventually that person would come to rely on Him as their Savior.  My prayer is that others would see the change in your life and the lives of the people you minister to and that they would react the way that the crowd in this story did.  That they would be filled with awe and all praise would go to God.