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Friday, October 24, 2008

We Don't Know Him . . .

I have come upon a disturbing realization. We have been misinformed. We have been duped. We have been given tainted information . . . by ourselves.

We don't know Him. Not really. Not at all like we know each other. We think we know Him, and that is a big mistake. We know things about Him; things He has specifically given us to have a proper relationship with Him. That is entirely different than knowing Him. Even a relationship with Him is different than our earthly relationships. Much more trust is involved on our part, simply because we are far too limited to grasp who He is, and what He is capable of.

I cringe when I hear preachers unequivocably promise His intervention in our tragedy, in our pain and suffering, in our circumstance. I am troubled by the "prosperity" gospel I am hearing. We don't know Him well enough to promise things on His behalf. What if He chooses not to intervene? He has and He will. More often than not, tragedy continues. Pain and suffering are alleviated occasionally, when He wills it. We live in a fallen world. Sooner or later our perceptions meet the reality of WHAT WE DON'T KNOW. We don't know Him well enough to predict deliverance at this or that point of time. His ways are not our ways. His plans are not our plans. Our picture is totally different than His picture . . . it's not even comparable.

The problem is, we think we do know Him. That's where we dupe ourselves. That's where the "Sunday School Syndrome" comes into play. Remember all of the great stories we heard as kids in Sunday School? Those are great examples of God's power and might, displayed in Scripture. We enjoy these as children, smile at them as teenagers, then cling to them as adults.

We cling to them selfishly. When we can't pay our bills, when we can't feed our family, when we can't get what we wanted or expected, we point at Him. We ask why. We wonder where He is. Where is this God who takes care of everyone else? Is there something wrong with me? Why is He allowing this to happen?

This sounds harsh, but we need to get over ourselves. It's not about us. It's not about our ill-bred perceptions. It's about Him and His glory.

The only sure thing we have to cling to is the Gospel. His Word has become flesh and lived among us. We have seen the revealed Christ, our Messiah. We cling to that. We know that. We can stand on that. The rest is Him being who He IS. He doesn't fit in our box; not even in our book.

We know He loves us. That is unquestionable, and the resulting salvation is the foundation for our worship. He sent His son to die. He offers freedom from ourselves and sin. He is our Creator. These things we know from his Word. But we don't know Him like we think we do.

He's not the pious, soft, starchy God we so often think He is. No, He's wild. Untameable. Unpredictable. More than we can imagine. Just because He loves us so much, doesn't mean He is in any way "lesser" . . . even though we are. That's the great mystery of Grace. It is in no way safe, yet provides us the ultimate safety . . . from His wrath.

C.S. Lewis says, "'Safe?'...'Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. but he's good.'"

He's good.

Take a weekend off and away. Look upward on a clear night. Stand face to face with a wild elk. Better yet, walk on the moon, as some have. It won't take long to see that we don't know Him like we think we do. He's bigger, and it is in this fact that I find my comfort. We don't know Him. We can't, really. He's bigger than our thought process. We are so small that we can't even be compared to Him, yet he compared Himself to us, even so far as to allow Himself to taste death . . . for us.

The Relevant loves the irrelevant. The Triune loves the trivial. The Creator loves the created.

We don't know Him . . . but He knows us, and loves us regardless. And this truth eliminates all fear.

That's enough for me to say "Thy will be done".

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2008

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Teen Fire

Those of you who know me well know that some of my greatest joys in life are found in music and youth ministry. I have recently, as of September 1st, taken over a youth program at the Winchester First United Methodist Church. I'm usually the kind of guy who hits the ground running, so that's exactly what I did.

In the last month, we have added our own version of small groups to Sundays, calling it the "Sunday Night Breakaway". It is there that we practice team building and our Word Up moment (a short devotional focusing on our relationship with God), followed by small groups that split the girls and guys up by grade level. Here is the banner I just had made to hang on the outside of the church:

Our main campus (the First UMC church building) has developed a satellite church at our local theater across town on Sundays at 9 a.m. Our Teen Fire logo is based on their logo:

We have also "taken over" the local coffee house on main street from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday nights. The owner is a lady I know from singing there occasionally. She was so kind to let us come in and be loud and boisterous. I call it "The Tuesday Night Special" and it is an informal 2 hours of table games, music videos, great food, great coffee, wii on the big screen, loud music, and a Word Out moment (a short delivery of the Gospel, focusing on our relationship with each other). Rob Bell's NOOMA videos are great, as a side note. We've had numerous kids coming in off of the street to check us out. Last week Brent Vernon, a good friend of mine, was kind enough to come and minister to us. Once per month I have what is called Band of the Month (or artist). Three of us local crazies have formed a band (right now we are calling ourselves The No Names) and we started everything off by performing on 9/23. Brent came on 9/30 and REALLY got us started. His friend Sam was a little rusty but was a smash hit! :)

I've heard that the devil is in the details. Not true. God is in the details. I'm dumbfounded by the incredible amount of work that goes into a successful presentation of Christian fun and outreach. I love the results! Our motto is "Upword Focus, Outward Friendship". I wholly believe that we are all ministers of the Gospel, and that the most effective way we promote the Good News and bring others to Christ is through personal relationship. The whole purpose of the Great Commission lies in Christ's words, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples . . ." (John 13:34-35)

Our motto is based on His words again, when he quotes Leviticus 19:18, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and will all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself". Upword Focus . . . Outward Friendship.

In the wings, I am also working on a skateboard ministry to local skaters. We have about 200 roaming the streets in our little town. Our High School has about 1800 students. I'm working with the powers that be to create a place where these kids can come to skate; a place that's sanctioned and safe. I'm calling it "Project 360 X Ministries" and will focus on the X-game generation.

All this and two days per week to do it in. I'm busy. Saturdays will come for the X Ministries. That's three days. On paper it looks exhausting. When I'm doing it, it is my joy. When each event is over, I crawl home to rest, then plan for the next one.

Just in what I am now doing, there are three demographics of young people I have to reach out to. I've got:

1. My existing kids, who are churched

2. Those kids who are un-churched, coming in off of the streets on Tuesday nights.

3. The X crowd - the bmx and skater kids.

God is good. I thank Him for the opportunity!