A Voice to Hear and Obey

YUM 2013

The Coryell Clan recently fulfilled one of the items on its “Bucket List.”  Jen and I identified a few things we wanted to do with our four kids before they begin leaving the nest in a few years.  One of the more challenging items was a western US trip including a stop in the Yellowstone and Teton National Parks.  Following hours of driving across our great nation we arrived in the Tetons.

            Several people had given advice regarding what to see and where to go in this beautiful park.  Unfortunately, our time and the kid’s energy were limited so we needed to hear and obey some expert advice.  We pulled the family van into the Jackson Hole visitor center just south of the Tetons.  Walking inside I found a young man working for the chamber of commerce.  I explained our situation including the time we had available and energy the family had left.   We had hiked 10 and 7 miles on the previous days respectively.  The man, who had been a ranger for seven years in this park, gave us his insight and several maps to guide our way.

            All of us receive advice, some times multiple times a day.  Often this advice is helpful. On a few rare occasions the advice we are given is amazing, life altering insight.  The young man’s advice was in this category.  We asked to see scenic non-crowded sites.  We saw lakes reflecting mountains, 360-degree views, and enjoyed hikes the whole family could complete with the strength that remained.  We asked for advice on where to see wildlife.  By the day’s end we encountered two moose, three black bears, and two grizzlies.

            We listened to stories many people shared about their trek through the Tetons.  Many were disappointed by their experience because they didn’t hear and obey an expert voice.

            Christian Endeavor’s heart is helping youth daily hear and obey God’s voice.  God is the ultimate expert ranger.  He not only created the world but also allowed His Son to take on flesh and walk upon it.  Guiding people toward hearing and obeying God’s voice requires two steps.  The first step is encouraging daily scripture reading.    The Coryell Clan received amazing advice from the man at the visitor center.  This provided everything we needed to have a fruitful experience.  God speaks to His children through His written Word, the Bible, providing a fruitful life for those who plug into His advice.

            The second step is obeying.  We could have listened to the ex-ranger’s advice and ignored most of what he said.  Instead, we trusted his insight, experienced amazing sites, wildlife, and even an incredibly kid-friendly dinner with a pile of nachos a foot high!  Youth and adults need to daily hear God’s voice speaking through the Bible and then obey what we hear Him telling us to do.  Isaiah 30:21 reads, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”  Wayne Grudem explains in his Systematic Theology, “Day after Day, year after year, Christians find that the words of the Bible are indeed the words of God speaking to them with an authority, a power, and a persuasiveness that no other writings possess.” Allow youth in your church to hear and obey God’s voice.

Seek

Glance at your favorite news site and you’ll come face to face with a human obsession, SEEKING!  That is right, seeking.    As I scrolled through the news on one small screen people were seeking information in two court cases, seeking a ship’s location lost in Lake Michigan, seeking championships in several sports, and finally, a grand search for health and beauty.  We are obsessed with seeking!

News sources know in the Internet world they have a millisecond to capture a viewer’s attention.  A person’s very presence logging onto a news site represents a search, a search for what is happening in the world.  But news sources know connecting people with a deeper search inside their mind causes them to linger on their site.

Humanities obsession with seeking propels men and women toward incredible joys or deep depravity.  Jesus’ words recording in Matthew 7:7-8 encourage us, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.”  A person who seeks depravity, will certainly find it.  A person knocking on the door of things yielding temporary fame or victory will find him or herself wanting more in the near future.

Pause and consider what you have been seeking.  Is it beauty, health, fame, victory, financial security, justice, freedom?  Pause again.  Now consider a question from Oswald Chambers in his brilliant “old school” devotional “My Utmost for His Highest.”  He asks, “Have you ever sought God with your whole heart?”

This question cuts to the heart.  I love God.  I’ve tried to honor and serve Him.  I’ve prayed; I have read my Bible almost every single day of the past several decades.  I’ve even had patterns of fasting, journaling, and sitting in contemplative silence . . . but have I ever sought God with my whole heart?

The second half of Chamber’s sentence may require pulling out a dictionary, but when understood the sentence brings stark conviction.

Chamber’s wrote, “Have you ever sought God with your whole heart or have you only given a languid cry to Him after a twinge of moral neuralgia?”  I pondered that statement and recognized too often I seek God because I know I should.  I know it is the right thing to do.  Sometimes love acts that way.  Love is commitment and because I love God I commit to daily have time meeting with Him. But Chambers challenges our seeking to go far beyond this.  He challenges us to seek Him with our “whole heart!”

As you have read these thoughts consider three steps:

Step 1:  Take a look at your life.  Understanding your thoughts, actions, and motivations, what are you seeking with your whole heart?

Step 2:  Consider how you would answer Chamber’s question- “Have you ever sought God with your whole heart or have you only given a languid cry to Him after a twinge of moral neuralgia?”

Step 3:  Visualize what seeking God with your whole heart looks like.  Determine the first step you need to take to move in that direction.  Seek God, and take the step!

Uncertainty

Uncertainty

Unexpected devastation struck the people of Moore, Oklahoma leaving them with pains of uncertainty.  Tornadoes rained down from heaven wiping out people and the possessions they held dear.  Read on to reflect on this tragedy, the hope we find in Christ, and the optimism we discover in knowing Youth can make a difference in uncertain times.

I’ve never lived in the mid-West.  The closest I’ve come to tornado chasing is having a youth group student do a summer internship-studying twisters across the US heartland.  I’m certain you won’t catch me doing that!  One time a tornado touched down in my parent’s woods leveling everything in a one hundred yard path.  I remember how the plant life bowed in the same direction.  The twister flattened every simple weed and complex tree. I stared in awe at the awesome power unleashed upon the innocent forest.

Moore’s tornado was estimated to be two miles wide.  Two miles wide! My brain went back to that childhood scene when I saw what 100 yards of devastation looked like . . . two miles wide!  Uncertainty fills people as they grapple with what they experienced.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 blasts away uncertainty explaining we grieve with hope unlike those who grieve without hope in Christ.  It is common to ask why natural disasters occur.  We can develop some pretty strong theological statements to provide an answer.  These statements deal with the entrance of sin and death into the world through Adam’s sin, but the pain experienced through tragedy is still raw and very real. Stop and think about the people of Moore, Oklahoma.  What plans did they have for the rest of the day, May 21, 2013? How about the next week, month or year?  It is uncertain how the people will piece their devastated lives back together.  What remains certain is that God who masters the wind and the waves, is also master of the tornado.  We’ll never know why He allowed this event to happen.  We can watch for the good He will bring out of tragedy.

I have had the chance to stare at hundreds of teenager’s lives.  Many of them seemed steeped in uncertainty.  Yet God did miraculous deeds through their lives as they fully devoted themselves to Christ and His Church.  One teen comes to mind who in 8th grade was so disruptive in Sunday school his teachers were considering kicking him out.  They came to me in desperation.  I didn’t know what to do with him, so we started getting together.  We did everything from watch field hockey games to play laser tag.  Eventually, God began to break through.  This boy eventually became the leader of the youth ministry and led many youth to Christ through his verbal witness.

I don’t know how and I certainly don’t know why God chooses to work this way, but God consistently does amazing work during the moments when our lives are unsettled and uncertain.

Christian Endeavor is a tool God uses to help bring certainty to churches with uncertain discipleship efforts. CE raises the commitment bar, provides excitement, and challenge through leadership opportunities.  Our time on this earth is short, I’m certain of that! Be a catalyst to unleash God’s power through creative youth genius.  Then watch time and time again as God brings something amazingly beautiful from the land of uncertainty.

Chick-Fil-A, Equipping Leaders!

Equipping leaders is in Christian Endeavor’s lifeblood.  The positive stories we receive from youth workers we have empowered,  encourage us in our purpose to Biblically develop youth as Christ-Centered leaders.  For me, modeling this with the C.E. Team is important.  Recently we ate lunch at a local Chick-Fil-A.  I made contact in advance with the restaurant’s owner/operator because I have been impressed with their customer service each time I have pulled through the drive-in for waffle fries!  The leader gave us two hours of his time when we only asked for fifteen minutes!  Four critical insights were shared that are essential in our efforts to equip youth as leaders.

 

  1. Requirements for hire- Teens interviewed at this Chick-Fil-A are watched for their eye contact, smile, engaging conversation, and ability to stay connected to a conversation.  These four items are not as easy to live out for our tech-trendy teens as they may seem.  Youth and adults alike put their noses in phones instead of eye to eye with people in their presence.  Jesus engaged the people He met.  The four requirements for hire listed above help youth be better equipped for life and leadership.
  2. Solutions not Problems- The staff at Chick-Fil-A are taught to bring solutions if they are going to bring problems.  This approach develops proactive thinking, avoids whining, and trains people as problem solvers instead of problem enhancers.  The Body of Christ needs young leaders equipped to stand and make a difference by working toward solutions.
  3. Raise the Bar- Chick-Fil-A does not settle for low expectations.  Society tends to minimize the impact youth can make.  At Christian Endeavor, we agree with Chick-Fil-A, don’t accept or settle for low expectations!  Holding this attitude with youth in your church causes them to see the value both you and God see in them.
  4. Skills can be taught, Character cannot- I disagree on this one, but I’m not hiring youth to run a multi-million dollar business. Chick-Fil-A’s position makes perfect sense because they don’t have time to mold a youth into someone with trust, honesty, and integrity.  These things take time to nurture and Chick-Fil-A must hire people for immediate productivity.
  5. The CE Leadership Academy, Imagine the Impact, teaches character comes before competency.  Developing skills before deepening character can cause a person to be successful without being humbly grounded in Christ.

 

Thanks for handing off ministry to youth so they can carry the cause of Christ.  Let me know how we at C.E. can serve you on the journey.  Peace!

 

DC

In _____ We Trust

In _________ We Trust

159 years have passed since Secretary of the Treasury, Solmon Chase, had the words “In God We Trust” etched upon the two-cent piece. By 1909 the phrase appeared on almost all US currency. President Dwight D. Eisenhower passed legislation in 1954, in the midst of the Cold War, that this phrase would appear on all currency. In 2013 we need to ask as a country, as people of God, as leaders of churches, families, and ministry organizations . . . are we trusting God?

Last month my family moved into a house on the other side of our town. We did this so we would have a place for my mother to live with us. We were overwhelmed by decisions on the house we were selling, the house we were buying, and the addition that needed to be built. On top of that every spare minute was invested in painting, hauling, or planning. There is a reason why an Internet search for “life’s most stressful events” has moving near the top of many lists. (Jen and I believe the only reason it doesn’t appear on someone’s list is if they haven’t had to do it recently!) One day I felt the Lord put a thought in my head, “Trust me for today.”

As stressful decisions or situations arose I began to say, “We need to trust God for today.” I read the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. The phrase “give us this day our daily bread” was written to explain the trust people needed to place in God. Money had to be earned daily to provide food for the next day. I realized the “daily bread” my family needed was strength through His Holy Spirit. We needed to trust Him! Leaders today, either junior high or high school youth who are being trained to lead youth through Christian Endeavor or adults leading in other areas of life need to evaluate where they place their trust.

The whole idea led me to study the concept of Trust in scripture. I was able to draw three conclusions:

First Conclusion- Nothing Else Works! God, in His unmatchable wisdom, wrote about many things human beings try to put their trust in. Ezekiel warns against trusting in one’s looks, while Psalms and Proverbs explain the fallacy of trusting in people, ourselves, or things people create. We need to face it; we have a sinful nature susceptible to temptation and being drawn toward trusting in anything other than God. Psalm 118:8 words encourage us to trust in the Lord instead of man because “Nothing Else Works!”

Second Conclusion- God invites us to Trust Him. Remember the last invitation you received? It may have been for a party, meeting, or some kind of celebration. You were probably either excited about the invitation or immediately began looking for ways to get out of the event. You’ll be more excited about a fun time with your best friend than enduring a social gathering where you feel like you don’t belong. In Proverbs 3:1-6 God invites us to Trust Him. What is your reaction to this invitation? Do you embrace it with joy as you would an invite to your favorite activity? Or . . .

Third Conclusion- God can be Trusted. God always keeps His promises, but He does it on His time schedule. Genesis 15 describes how Abraham was unsure what the future held. God explained to Abraham that his descendants would inherit land, but not for 400 years, and then His people would be saved from sin, but not for 2000 years. Our attitude in our culture longs for immediate response. God doesn’t bow to our culture’s longings. He knows exactly what He is doing and will act in His due time.

Fill in the blank, IN __________ WE TRUST. Everyone trusts something. Decide today where you will put your trust.

It’s A Wonderful Life!

Ahhhhh, the Christmas season!  Traditions and memories abound, it’s a wonderful life!  Along with decorating the house and gathering family and friends, many enjoy watching their favorite Christmas movie or TV special.  Loved ones badgered me for years to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  I admit I wasn’t thrilled about seeing a black and white movie.  This year I finally gave in.  It is hard to top the stories ending.  An angel saves a broken George Bailey. Bailey faces years away from his family in prison and doubts he ever made a difference in anyone’s life.  The story ends by proving his doubts off target while restoring his broken life.  He touched many more lives than he ever imagined!

I fall into the same trap as George Bailey.  Life’s demands cause an overwhelmed feeling of lacking skill, finances or time to do what is needed.  Life’s events, like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that needlessly ended many lives, cause paralysis of heart and mind.  These crisis moments make even the strongest Christian say, “It’s a Wonderful Life?!?!?!?”  We shake our heads asking,  “What good have I ever done?” and “Is it worth it?”

We will never know the purpose for everything that happens, but we do know God has given us a wonderful life.  Scripture states that people are fearfully and wonderfully made.  (Psalm 139:13-14) Designed in the image of God.  (Genesis 1:26) We are also told God’s grace is sufficient according to the power He gives us through the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).  The combination of His grace, power, and strength working in us sends an incredible message to a world in need of Christ. We are billboards for the “Wonderful Life” we experience now and for eternity.  We are told to live such good lives in front of people who don’t believe in Christ that they will give God praise.  (1 Peter 2:11-12) Life presents us less than wonderful circumstances but we can still have a wonderful life.  Our response during trials impacts countless lives that want to know if we believe in the God we claim as Lord and Savior.

Now that we have started 2013 and challenges from flu epidemics to “fiscal cliff” ramifications await our response, will you live as if “It’s a Wonderful Life?” or “It’s a Wonderful Life!”

Blind Spot

BLIND SPOT

Exceptional leaders, the very best of the best, have blind spots.  Discover how to recognize your blind spots in order to more effectively lead for Jesus Christ . . .

Recently I was shown a life area where everything had changed.  Everything changed except me!  My intentions were pure but I had a blind spot.  I was trying to lead my family in daily devotion times before school. For years this worked.  We used creative prayer methods, scripture readings, singing and dancing together- we did whatever we felt would honor the Lord.  It was real and it was fun!  This fall the joy disappeared and devotion time became more like tooth extracting.  I shared my frustration with a friend who gently asked probing questions about my family.  He inquired about each family member’s relationships and activities.  He also uncovered that our family is moving across town where an adjoining apartment can be built for my mother.  He probed with more questions about this transition and the changes our family will make in the process.  Following this questioning time, my friend explained how life was changing but I hadn’t adjusted.

I sat back in my chair dumbfounded by the simple truth revealed to me.  I was 100% sure my friend’s observation was on target.  How could I have been so blind?  My friend affirmed me as a leader, and then explained every great leader has blind spots.

You have blind spots too.  They are diminishing your kingdom impact.  Be better equipped for future leadership opportunities by taking the following three steps:

Step 1-            Admit you have blind spots.  This takes humility.  1 Peter 5:6 reads, “humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand and he will lift you up in due time.”

Step 2-           Ask God to show you your blind spots.  The rest of the world sees something you don’t see.  The Holy Spirit can reveal things you cannot see.

Step 3-           Build relationships with people who will lovingly speak truth into your life.  My friend loved me enough to show me something I couldn’t see.  Anger and frustration could have been my reaction, but my friend cared enough about me to share one of my blind spots anyway.

Even the most exceptional leaders have blind spots.  Commit yourself to understanding your blind spots and lead “For Christ and the Church”.

Dave Coryell is Executive Director of Christian Endeavor Mid-Atlantic

 

Perspective

Perspective

Perspective.  The glass is half full or half empty.  It depends upon your perspective.  Rain falls in the summer time bringing joy to the farmer and dismay to the vacationer.  It depends upon your perspective.

I was in grade school during the Cold War years.  I remember seeing U.S. President Reagan and Soviet President Brezhnev on the news, in our school magazines, and even in comic strips.  These countries boycotted each other’s summer Olympics.  They developed enough nuclear weapons to blow up the world several times.  Movie producers routinely chose Russian’s as sinister villains.   Russia was the enemy.

Recently I invested a week teaching Transformational Leadership at a Russian seminary.  As a boy I watched on television as the Russian government parades its Red Army with tanks, troops and missiles through Red Square so the world and its foe, the US, would cower in fear.  A strange sensation enveloped me as I stood in the place I had only experienced from a distance.  I looked around Red Square and gained a new perspective.  When asked what the Red in Red Square meant I still responded from childhood memories.  I thought “Red” must stand for Communist or Blood (the Russian execution block still stands in Red Square today).  I was surprised to learn “Red” is the Russian word for beautiful.  My tainted perspective caused me to look for the dangerous, sinister meaning behind a word that merely described the square’s breath-taking beauty.  As I laughed, cried, strategized and prayed with Russian brothers and sisters in Christ my perspective was changed indefinitely.  My perspective changed.  Your perspective may need to change too.

Christian Endeavor provides a youth equipping perspective.  One’s youth ministry perspective impacts how they approach this important church responsibility.  Youth ministry is not successful just because lots of teens show up.  Youth ministry is not successful if teens show up and adults conduct all of the work.  Discipleship doesn’t look like that, and neither should our youth training ground.  Youth ministry is not successful unless there is life-change happening. Youth ministry is successful if it is done Biblically with an intentional eye toward equipping youth as Christ-Centered leaders.  This is C.E.’s youth ministry perspective.  Consider your perspective.