2016 ELECTION: What I shared with our Youth Ministry

It’s a weird day we live in.

As a youth pastor, the struggle is constantly growing: how do I guide our youth ministry through these times? Racial tensions. Identity issues. The Presidential Election. My plan on Election Day (Tuesday, the day before our youth ministry meets) was to preach a message, regardless of who would by then be known as the “President Elect.” Had it been a different result, my message would have been the same. *click here to listen to the message*

I preached out of 1 Peter 2:11-17 – Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

I think this passage gives us some great insights on how to respond in times where not everything makes sense. So we talked through a few things I think we should always remember, not just during election season.

1. We’re always Christians first, so our opinion comes second. We never want our opinions to become so important that it gives those against us ammo to throw. Too many Christians (even people I know and love) are so loud with their opinion that they’ve completely lost the respect of those who are different than them. They got to be “right,” but at what cost?

2. We always show respect to everyone. We don’t show people respect because they deserve it. We show respect because it’s what we do as Jesus people. When respect becomes our default, we take away any ammo that our “enemies” might’ve tried to throw. In our conversation, in our attitudes, in our disposition, in our intention, we show respect. Jesus loves people, and people are valuable. That includes those who literally hate everything we stand for.

3. We always stick together. As much as it’s important that our lives reflect Jesus to “outsiders,” it’s just as important that we stick together as followers of Jesus. We can’t do it alone. We’re a family, and in these days, family needs to stick together. This season has tried to divide, and in some cases has worked. I won’t let that happen in our community, because being together is more important than being the same.

4. We always honor God. This is the ultimate goal: that God would be honored in what we say in conversation, in what we tweet, in how we treat others, in how we see the world.

5. We always honor authority. It’s interesting that Peter didn’t conclude this letter with, “Honor the emperor, fear God.” Instead, he concludes it with, “Fear God, honor the emperor.” It was as if to say that how we treat our earthly authority – whether good or bad (the emperor here murdered Christians, often covering them in tar and setting them on fire as a source of light) – is a reflection of how we see God. Our earthly authorities, from our President to our pastors to our parents, are flawed. God still placed them there, so we honor them. We can disagree and still honor. We can feel unfairly treated and still be kind. Always honor.

Ultimately, we always lead with hope. This is what sets us apart. When many are freaking out, wanting to move to Canada, leading with fear, we cling to the very thing that will never disappoint: our hope because of Jesus.

 

 

*I didn’t plan to blog this, so my points here do not go as deep or connect as well as they did in my message… just felt like sharing.

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Late Night Thoughts: A Year Later

I kind of went the whole day today not really thinking about it… Today was Wednesday, so a lot of my day is focused on meeting with interns and preparing for youth. I mean, I thought about it a bit, looked at some pictures, shared my wife’s post… but it wasn’t until about 12:30am that it really hit me. I’m currently up late preparing for our Youth Pastors Lunch that we’re hosting (about 10 hours from the time I’m writing this), so naturally I’m thinking back to the one we did last April – the one where, just days before, we tragically lost some of our best friends, Josh & Vanessa Ellis, along with their baby Hudson.

A year ago today.

I guess I’m more vulnerable late at night… Suddenly I’m flooded with so many memories. The time Noelle and I preached some of our first messages ever at their camp 8 years ago (a camp at which they were both single – maybe I can take some of the credit for bringing them together? Maybe…). The time they told us at our house that they were pregnant. The time Noelle and I drove to their house – against their wishes – and told them we were pregnant. The many times we’d eat barely-decent happy hour and talk about our frustrations and joys with our youth ministries. So many good memories.

It sucks that we don’t get to have any more of these. No more Gibby whining that Hudson won’t play with him. No more hearing Vanessa’s super loud laugh. No more hearing Josh’s Homestar Runner voice.

But as much as Josh & Vanessa left us too early, they also left us with a lot. Every good thing about them was more than just a front, it was who they were. It was a disposition. As I’m reflecting on their lives and on this last year, here are a few dispositions they had that I’m reminded *again* to live by. Continue reading