When In Bryan (Month Five)

Well, it’s been a minute since I made myself sit down and reflect on what life has been lately. Mainly because sitting down and reflecting means processing and processing means time and I’d rather not give myself time out of some pseudo-humble mindset thinking that’s the most selfless and servant-hearted thing to do. It’s funny that I perpetually think this way after so many times of realizing that the most selfish thing I could possibly do is not deal with what’s going on with me and the way I feel and what has been great and what has sucked.

 

Don’t worry, the point of this post isn’t to list out all of those things, just wanted to let you know that’s why I didn’t have a blogpost about December and why this one about January is so late!

 

Some things I learned in December/January:

  1. I can’t change who the Lord says that I am. (see this, this, and this)
  2. People really can care about you. It’s O.K to believe them.
  3. It’s O.K for goodbye’s to be hard. It’s actually really normal. So I shouldn’t act like it’s not hard.
  4. “True peacemakers love God, others, and themselves enough to disrupt false peace.” – EHS
  5. Everyone is different from me. So let them be different. Different is wonderful.

 

I’ve been chronically bad at praying for myself for the past I don’t even know how long. My most consistent prayer in the past couple weeks is for the Lord to teach me 1) to recognize my need and 2) to humble myself and just ask for help (because it’s not like I stand a fighting chance of satisfying my needs anyways, honestly.)

 

So that’s the quick and easy version of where my mind has been the past couple months.

 


 

As for work, my job has been a lot of reading, which I love.

We’ve still been going through “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” as a staff and it, of course, has continually be kicking me in the gut and making me realize that I am not nearly as put together as I would’ve said in August (or December, honestly). So I highly recommend it for anyone. Find some pals, get the book, be honest with each other, and delve up all of the fun things you didn’t even know you were suppressing! It’ll be fun, I promise, you just may have to wait until the end of the book to see how fun it is…

 

The other book I’ve been reading is specifically for “worship” leadership, and it’s called “Doxology & Theology“. I’ve been going through it with a couple of friends and am about to teach through it with some of our band members at church. It does an incredible job of teaching the whys and the hows of worship leadership, and it’s also incredibly readable.

 

My team is still incredible. We’re excited to have Blake back from Sabbatical tomorrow and to finally be a full team again. I couldn’t have asked for a better team and family in this season of life. (The people’s faces that are covered are like so because I am not about to potentially compromise their ability to get into certain countries because they are linked to a church).IMG_5093.JPG

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An American Poem of Hope

I woke up this morning and felt like being creative. So I formulated some thoughts on today’s election and decided to put them in a poem. My hope isn’t found in who sits in the White House in January. My hope is in the King of kings that was in full control over Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Xerxes, Caesar, James, and is still in full control over world leaders today. So, my hope gets to be unwavering and I hope that your hope does too.


 

It’s not about you and it’s not about me.

It’s not about the “system” to which we cling.

It’s not about the firsts that are on the brink.

It’s not up to us anyway.

It’s not about the red, about the black, white, or blue.

It’s not about the information we’re fed on the news.

It’s not about the Millennials, Gen X, or Baby Boom.

It’s not about us and it never has been.

We’ve lived for so long thinking we call the shots;

that the elected representatives are the ultimate crux.

We think we are gods and that God should serve us

and keep us so safe and secure how we want.

This illusion of power of which we’re convinced

has never been real, we’re just wrong once again.

We’ve put all our faith in some liars and cheats

and forget that the King’s in control of all things.

The King’s still on His throne and is over all things.

 

When In Bryan (Month Two)

I can’t even believe it is already November. I feel like October would’ve been nearly non-existent had the LORD not totally began to demolish a bunch of the walls I’ve been building up in my heart and soul for the past five years. This past month has been a lot more emotionally taxing than physically taxing (as September was).

We as a church staff have started reading a book together and spending a good chunk of our staff meeting processing through it together. The book is called “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero. This book has been a consistent kick in the teeth for the past few weeks. Here’s a few things the Lord has been revealing to me about myself (some of which I may write about as the month goes on, but this isn’t the time to go in to detail about all of this).

 

  • I am not good at submitting to leadership.
  • I am not even close to as humble as I thought.
  • I am afraid of being known because really anyone who has truly known me in the past has pretty much dropped me at some point (with a few exceptions).
    • This has led to me choosing to live in the dark on a lot of stuff and let me tell you, I wish everyone would live in the light. It is far healthier and far more bearable and joyful of a life. It far more closely reflects the life Jesus describes in John 10:10.
  • I have an inherent lack of trust for people within the Church.
    • I also generally have unrealistic expectations of people in the church, I think.
  • Love doesn’t hinge on clarity and clarity doesn’t bring forgiveness.
    • Love breeds forgiveness regardless of clarity.

 

And in the midst of all of this demolition of my synthetic inner walls, I’ve realized this as well: I am far less important than I thought I was, but I am far more loved and cared for than I could ever imagine.

I’ve had so many conversations in the past two weeks of repentance and forgiveness. Not because I am fully healed from things that have happened or the lies people have fed me or the abandonment that I’ve faced from people who have used me. No. Those things still hurt. But what’s different now is that I’m not pouring the salt of bitterness and resentment into those wounds while the Lord is trying to bind up my broken heart and heal my wounds. Now I get to sit and be taken care of by the Lord and by my friends and I don’t feel resentment anymore. I can sit and be bandaged and not rip the bandage off to pour in more dirt and salt. My wounds aren’t infected anymore and that is the first step of being emotionally and spiritually healthy.

Please don’t get me wrong, it has been really terrible and exhausting for the Lord to come in like a bull in a china shop and demolish all of my walls. But it has also been so good because I’ve gotten to taste, see, and feel the goodness of God the Father because while he’s come in swinging, he sits there with me while HE builds everything back up and speaks life and speaks identity over me.

“You’re my son.” He says. “Of course I’d fight off all of these lies that have surrounded you.”

October was crazy and tiring, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

In Whom Do We Trust? (Part III)

One of the more dense focal points of the argument against an originally Christian United States is that there was a severe wanting of true Biblical Christianity; a wanting which started during the founding of America. This is especially pervasive as they moved past the founding and into the Second Great Awakening. Fea describes the Second Great Awakening as so:

Humans were no longer…waiting passively for a sovereign and distant God who…offered select individuals the gift of eternal life. Instead, ordinary American citizens took an active role in their own salvation…the new theology empowered individuals to decide their own religious fate by accepting or rejecting the gospel message.[1]

In this philosophy and theology, Americans became their own saviors. They were in charge of saving themselves; whether or not God wanted to save them did not matter. The problem here is that this was not and is not Christianity; this is moralism. The implicit idea of this theology is that humans can be good enough to determine if they may enter heaven or not. In other words, this theology is centered on the idea of self-salvation.

The Second Great Awakening was a force driven by its teachers and preachers. Many of these “Christian” teachers, such as Theodore Dwight Woosley[2], proclaimed that the majority of Americans believed in Jesus Christ and the Gospel. This pervasive assumption led to evangelists such as Billy Sunday that would take the assumption even further and say, “Christianity and Patriotism are synonymous terms…”[3]. This absurd assumption projected Christianity onto Americans and inspired a self-fulfilling prophecy across the nation. This notion encouraged Americans to think, “I love this country; therefore, I am a Christian. God bless America!”

This is just not how Biblical Christianity functions; this is American nationalism. Mercy Otis Warren was another teacher who did not fight for Biblical Christianity but rather fought for this sense of nationalism. She is quoted as saying “religious and moral character of Americans yet stands on a higher grade of excellence and purity than that of most of other nations.”[4] There was an implicit sense of arrogance in the fact that the people Ms. Warren knew were better than the people she had heard about in other nations. A true Christian would see Romans 3:23[5] and acknowledge the equal depravity of all mankind. The practicing Biblical Christian was the exception in this revival, not the rule.

If the United States was founded and purposed in Christianity, then America would look vastly different than it did and does. If the founders of the United States intended for the nation to be attached to a specific religion, then they all would have had at least moderately uniform thought processes on that matter. The part of America that gives people hope – domestically and internationally – is that basic American tenet of freedom and the ability to believe what one wants to believe without ridicule and persecution. The United States was not founded and purposed in any specific religion; rather, it was founded and purposed in freedom – all encompassing freedom.

[1] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 5

[2] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 26

[3] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 32

[4] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 9

[5] The Bible in the book of Romans chapter 3 verse 23

In Whom Do We Trust? (Part II)

It is important to note that a moderate number of the founders of the United States were not Biblical Christians; if they even considered themselves Christians at all. As was previously discussed regarding John Adams and the Treaty of Tripoli, Adams believed the government of the United States to not at all be founded on the Christian religion[1]. He was also a Unitarian and disbelieved the Trinity, an important aspect of the Christian faith. Unitarianism is also part of the universalism movement, which teaches universal salvation to all who believe in any god they so choose. In other words, no matter which god or religion to which you ascribe, everyone will end up in the same place. Thomas Jefferson also did not believe in Scripture as written; so, he decided to write his own bible removing content at his own will and discretion. Jefferson also wrote, in a letter to John Adams in April of 1823,

The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.[2]

Furthermore, because of Jefferson’s manifested beliefs in this letter, one may conclude that Jefferson thought of Christianity as tomfoolery at best. If two of the first three democratically elected leaders were so clearly not Christian, then it is, at best, ill reasoning to assume the nation to be explicitly founded upon the Christian religion.

Another aspect of the debate is the discussion of national mottos; such as, “In God We Trust” – imprinted on coins and Treasury notes – and “…one nation, under God…” in the Pledge of Allegiance. In regards to “In God We Trust”, this was not imprinted on money until 1861[3] and was only done for political appeasement of the National Reform Association, not out of true belief on behalf of Congress or President Lincoln. The NRA brought before the president an entire amendment to the preamble of the Constitution that would explicitly make the United States a Christian nation. This was too great a favor to ask, so the politicians compromised with the committee and put “In God We Trust” on United States coins. A few presidents after that, namely Teddy Roosevelt[4], attempted to remove the motto from money, but every attempt was failed on grounds of tradion. In regards to “…one nation, under God…”, this phrase was added to the pledge in the middle of the twentieth century by President Eisenhower[5]; this was not, by any means, and original phrase, contrary to popular belief.

 

[1] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 4

[2] Schweitzer. Founding Fathers

[3] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 23

[4] Schweitzer. Founding Fathers…

[5] Schweitzer. Founding Fathers…

In Whom Do We Trust? (Part I)

My junior year of college, I decided to take a class called “History of Religion in America Pre-Civil War”. It’s a mouthful, I know; but it was fascinating! We got to learn about Native American religions and the Church of England and Catholicism and German religions and everything the French and Spanish brought over and we also got to learn about Puritanism amongst many other things.

My favorite part of this class; however, was not any of the lecture material. It was one of the papers we had to write. The paper tackled the question of whether or not America was founded and intended as a Christian nation. Growing up in the church and in a Christian school with Christian parents, I always just assumed as much.

This is going to be a three part blog series that contains my answer to the question and my research behind it. Obviously, since this was just a final paper and not a thesis or dissertation, limited (yet, still adequate) research was done. I have changed some of the wording and sentence structure to make the flow a little smoother for a blog rather than a formal paper, but all the content will remain! I hope this series is informative and I honestly wouldn’t mind if it ruffled some of your feathers, too. Friction is a good thing!

 


 

 

For centuries, one of the most extensive and impassioned North American debates has been the question of whether the United States was founded and purposed in Christianity. Many forget the original American tenet was freedom. Even though it came out of religious oppression in England, the immigrants nonetheless migrated not primarily to spread Christianity; they migrated to practice that which they desired. The United States was not founded as a Christian nation. The founders had no intention of the nation being solely Christian, and even those that did want established religion did not, in regularity, practice true Biblical Christianity. This notion is commonly disregarded.

There are numerous documents and even founding fathers themselves that may uphold this idea. For example, Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli – a document partially created by President John Adams – asserted,

“the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”[1].

Fea added that the treaty was “signed by John Adams and ratified unanimously by the Senate” [2]. The fact that is the most important in this case is that the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty unanimously. This means that every member concurred with Article 11 and agreed that neither the country nor the government, in any sense, was founded on the Christian religion. This agreement is so vital to the case because during Adams’ presidency, the U.S. still clang tightly to its founders, as they were still the explicit leaders of the new nation. This is one instance that proves that the founders had no intention of creating a Christian nation.

Another document that corroborates the intention of the founders is the Declaration of Independence. In this document, Thomas Jefferson – the author and co-contributor of the content – states that

“governments…[derive] their powers from the consent of the governed”[3].

One of the points that Schweitzer makes in his article is to “note that the power of the government is derived not from any god, but from the people”[4]. Many consider the United States to have begun with this important document; moreover, if this founding document gave the power of the government to the consent of the governed and not to any particular god or religion, then the United States is not bound by or to any religious code or conduct constructed by any known or unknown deity or holy scripture from any religion at all.

The final document that supports this claim of the intention of the founders is the United States Constitution. The Constitution made it clear – in Article III of the Bill of Rights – that there would be no official or established religion in America[5]. The simple fact that the two documents by which the government and citizens of the United States function on a daily basis both deny any national power or authority to any religious deity, god, or religion affirms the argument against the intention of a Christian nation on behalf of the founders.

[1] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 4

[2] Fea. Was America Founded… pg. 4

[3] Schweitzer. Founding Fathers…

[4] Schweitzer. Founding Fathers…

[5] The Bill of Rights

We Were Made For This

“That is true success in ministry, that you are being obedient to the gospel. Success is not kids becoming more moral or that they even show up to club. Thank you for being on the front lines and for following Jesus in the midst of a crooked generation.”

 

First off, I want you to know three things:

1) you are loved

2) you are noticed

3) you are appreciated.

Now, let’s talk about your ministry. See, I get it. I’ve been there and I’ve done it. Ministry gets hard and Younglife is no exception. Maybe your co-leaders are irresponsible and don’t do what they say they will do. Kids bale, they say they’ll be at club and campaigners and they never show, they cuss you out and consistently tell you to leave. Maybe you can’t even get kids to hang out with you in the first place. You’ve done all you can and the kids you are chasing won’t budge. Maybe your kids are still drinking and partying and smoking weed and having sex with each other even though they always tell you they won’t do it anymore. It’s beyond frustrating and it’s exhausting. I get it. 

 

Have I earned the right to be heard yet? If not yet, hopefully I will after you hear some of my story.

 

It’s a Sunday night, April of 2013. Specifically, it is the Sunday night before my last high school club at which I would be giving the club talk. Why do I remember it so well? Because that’s the night the Lord told me I wouldn’t be a Younglife leader. This rocked my world. “Why Lord? I love this ministry, I’m bought in, I love students, I’ve been a leader for a year already, why can’t I do it?” No answer.

 

So I can’t be a leader. That’s fine! For the next year and a half I was on a journey figuring out my role with Younglife. I wasn’t about to shut the door between me and this ministry completely. After getting back to school for my sophomore year of college, I began to figure out that there was an epidemic in my area:

Burnout

I began to learn about leaders leaving Younglife and really struggling with self-worth and value and many of them questioned their salvation and many others turned their exhaustion towards addictions. I hated that, so I made it my mission to find out why this was so pervasive. As I befriended leader after leader and staff people really all around the country, I learned that it almost always boiled down to one thing…lack of support.

 

You get trained, you get placed, (maybe) you sign a contract, you start doing club and then contact work and maybe you even convince kids to come to campaigners, and often times…the emotional support ceases to exist real quick.

 

By the grace of God, my natural inclination didn’t come. Rather, my heart broke and I had compassion and true compassion takes action. So, I had a new mission: supporter. In Exodus 17, the Israelites are (of course) in battle. Here’s how the story goes:

As long as Moses’ hands are raised, the Israelites are winning.

With every inch his arms lowered, the Amalekites began to gain the upper hand.

Aaron and Hur gave Moses a stone to sit on and then became his strength by literally holding up his arms as they got more and more exhausted.

 

That’s it! That’s what I want to be! I want to be Hur or Aaron for Younglife leaders! This is the charge the Lord has given me. And it took being removed from leadership in this ministry that I love to realize how important this role is. That is why the title of the blog is “We” rather than “You”. Sure, you were made for this and I was too, but we are a team. You hold your hands up, and I’ll be your support to make sure your hands stay up and we keep winning the battle.

 

I’m not alone in this charge, though. It is not just me that is for you and about you. See, I contacted a slew of people (old YL kids, old leaders, old staff people/area directors, past and current committee members, etc.) and asked them this question:

If there is one thing you could tell a Younglife leader or staff person today, what would it be?

A lot of the responses legitimately had me crying. It was so incredibly encouraging to see that my friends are so loved and so supported by so many people other than myself! Some of the responses are advice, but most of them are honestly strictly encouragement. Here we go:

 

From kids:

“Don’t grow weary in doing good, for at the right time you will reap a harvest if you don’t give up.”

“When I was a freshman in high school, I met my Young Life leader for the first time at my lunch table as I was creeped out as he asked me if I wanted to come over to his apartment this weekend. But little did I know that guy would be consistent in my life through my parents divorce, through depression, through terrible choices, through me blowing him off, and through everything sucky that happened in high school. Not only was he there during the bad, but we rejoiced through the good. Like when the time he taught me that my worth was found in being a son of the King, my Daddy, instead of my earthly father who left me. I didn’t realize how much my Young Life leader meant to me until I was a freshman in college. Not one time did I realize that he is the one person that I credit for making me into the man I am today. So what I have to say to Young Life leaders now is that my Young Life leader is the reason I follow Jesus now. It wasn’t glamorous. It wasn’t a big moment. But it was consistency. It was love. And it was the best picture of Jesus I have ever seen by my Young Life leader not giving up on me, by showering me with Grace and Love, and showing me where his unwavering Joy came from.”

 

From leaders:

“We’d say first and foremost, stay connected to the vine, Jesus. Out of the overflow of your love for Jesus will flow good ministry.”

“Your choice to simply step out is brave, any bravery you need beyond that first step I promise your friend Jesus will provide. He has gone before you in every interaction, every football stadium, every lunchroom, every leader meeting, every unexpected conversation. Lean in to Him – he has brought you here and will walk with you. You have a divine privilege to enter club rooms, homes, classes and share Jesus. The only way that will happen is if you abide in His great love for you. There will be moments where you say the wrong thing or make a mistake, but those moments are not lost to our Creator. He is an Artist and loves to weave our weaknesses together with His sufficient grace. So step out in to the scary, know Who has gone before you, and trust in his abiding love to weave together a story of grace as you reach out to lives untouched by His healing hands.”

 

From staff:

“The enemy’s #1 goal is to steal, kill, and destroy and with you as a leader being on the front lines in ministry, you are going to be a target. So fight lies of discouragement (whatever you may hear as you lead) with truth, and the truth is that you are being obedient to your call to talk about Jesus and all that He has done. That is true success in ministry, that you are being obedient to the gospel. Success is not kids becoming more moral or that they even show up to club. Thank you for being on the front lines and for following Jesus in the midst of a crooked generation.”

“God doesn’t desperately need you for his venture to save lives, but He desperately desires for you to participate. It’s for your greatest good that He’s called you to your work. Just like any good adventure, there’s failure and just like every good story God ever told, he works those failures for the good of his people and the glory of his name. Do your best and don’t stress the rest.” 

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving up countless hours, putting yourself in awkward situations and giving up all kinds of energy and resources, so the gospel may go forward and the kingdom may advance  in some of the most broken places in this world. Middle schools, high schools, households, families and generations will never look the same, because you said YES and had the courage to show up. There is so no better way to spend your days than sharing the gospel and your life, both in word and action, with those who do not yet know the fullness of Life. What you do matters! Keep showing up!”

“The first thing that comes to mind is pretty simple and every leader/staff person has heard it before but here goes: You are loved, rest in that above all, and love people from that place.”

 

From committee:

“Each gesture of love that is extended to a kid, every act of inclusion and encouragement, every glimpse into a life lived with Jesus leaves eternal imprints of the kingdom!  Imprints that break the bonds of discouragement and set people free!  Imprints that forever change the direction of one’s life because someone said ‘here I am Lord, send me!’ Put your armor on and keep fighting the good fight!!”

“Your investment in kids matters. A lot! Let your love for others tell the story of Jesus. ❤️”

 


 

Friends, what you do matters. Whether you’re in San Fransisco doing Capernaum, or outside Denver at a school with heavy history, or in Austin at some of the biggest clubs in America, or in Hearne with some really unique situations, or at private schools in Dallas, or in East Nashville with hard situations, or on camp staff working your butt off year-round, or starting clubs in Costa Rica or Africa, or anywhere far and in between those places, what you do matters.

It’s immensely important.

I love you.

Don’t quit.

Thank you for being on the front lines and for following Jesus in the midst of a crooked generation.