Filed under: leadership, life, people, relationships | Tags: anger, appetite, christianity, contentment, david herndon, drunk driving, ephesians 4, fruits of the spirit, gossip, lust, news, people, relationships, self-control, sxsw, sxsw accident, time management, words, youth ministry
“Suspect in deadly SXSW crash charged with capital murder.” That was the headline I read on USA Today. I usually follow the SXSW headlines hoping to catch wind of a new band about to break or a new film I need to see. This story stopped me in my tracks. A drunk driver plowed through a crowd of festival attendees, killing three and injuring dozens more. How does this happen? How does a person get this out of control? More importantly how do I protect myself from losing control?
He can explain himself. He can justify it. He can make excuses. But it doesn’t matter. The damage is done and the headline is written.
Drunk driving through the crowd. Three people dead. That’s his headline for the rest of his life.
One more drink, one more TV episode, one more word in the argument. Our all-you-can-eat buffet and reality TV society even seems to encourage a lifestyle of losing control. Lack of self-control brings down our politicians and religious leaders. It takes the lives of our party-hard teens. It costs us our jobs. It hurts our friendships. It makes us the most obese country in the world. It passes around STD’s. It breaks up our families. It ruins our lives. Yet when life gets tough and we get frustrated, our instinct is to lose control.
Rough day? Have a few drinks.
Arguing with your spouse? Use a few expletives.
Feeling unhappy? Put it on the credit card.
We might not drunk-drive through the crowd, but when we lose self-control the results can be just as harmful.
Depending on the translation, the word “self-control” appears roughly 74 times in the Bible. Self-control is about social responsibility and personal holiness. Paul says it is a fruit of the Spirit – evidence of Christ at work in our lives. Self-control is the root of the Great Commandment. We express love to God by expressing love to others. Self-control is more than just new age self-improvement. Self-control is about caring for others by caring for yourself.
Self-control speaks more of our devotion to God’s kingdom than any other discipline in life.
Self-control is not just about refraining from (insert vice). Self-control is about being human. Self-control is about reflecting God’s image. Self-control is about thinking of others first. And since we really don’t have any control in life, its really about depending on the One who does.
We need self-control in our WORDS. Mike Foster wrote a fantastic article about refraining from gossip. You should definitely read his blog. Ephesians 4 further encourages us to think twice before we speak. There are many things we can say for many reasons, but the heart of the matter is why we are saying them. If your words are not beneficial for those who hear it (including yourself), then perhaps you should stay quiet.
We need self-control in our ANGER. The bible is clear (also Ephesians 4). Anger is not a sin, but what you do with your anger could be. Self-Control draws the line between reasonable frustration and savage brutality. Knocking the chair over now relieves stress, but later you have nowhere to rest. Yelling now feels good, but later no one is listening to you at all.
We need self-control in our LUST. Sexual sins carry bigger consequences because they are against your own body. Our society isn’t doing us any favors in this area, but when we objectify others for our personal pleasure we have failed humanity. We cheapen our own lives by devaluing others. If we cannot exhibit self-control in our own purity, we will certainly be a pollutant in others’ lives.
We need self-control in our APPETITE. One more drink, one more bite, one more dollar, one more rep, the newest car, the nicest restaurant – these things are not evil in themselves. But when we begin to love things and to pursue things with a majority of our time, energy, and passion we are in a dangerous place. Most likely the ones who get caught holding the check are those around us.
Finally, we need self-control in our TIME. On one hand we are a society of 80-hour-work-week execs, and on the other hand we are 24/7 gamers and Netflix autoplay. Rest too much and you’ll be constantly discontent. Work too much and you’ll never be satisfied. You will know when you find someone who lives the balance between work and rest. They are productive and successful and yet they still know how to enjoy life. They don’t have the most/best, but they have what they need… and are content with it. A one-dimensional schedule produces a one-dimensional life.
Perhaps the problems we have in our relationships are less about how others treat us and more about how we treat ourselves.
If we can have self-control in these 5 areas our faith, our families, our lives, and our world will be drastically better for it. We all have seasons of frustration, discontentment, loneliness. The temptation is to go a little crazy until you feel better. But God is not a God of extremes. He is a God of control and order, and He calls us to be people of control and order.
Self-control is about depending on God. Self-control is about loving others.
Without self-control we are just drunk driving through the crowd.
That’s not what I want my headline to be.
Filed under: leadership, people, relationships | Tags: biomechanics, christianity, daniel whittingslow, eagle scout, foster parenting, god's image, greatness, halo, jacob benton, leadership, over under clothing, people, relationships, youth ministry, zachary mccalvin
The other night several of my students were being awarded Eagle Scout and I had the privilege of speaking in their Eagle Scout Ceremony. I was cub scout myself for about two months, but once I lost at the pinewood derby I gave up altogether. Not these guys. These guys are amazing young men. I was overwhelmed during the service as the workload to become an Eagle was described. These young men have spent over a decade working towards this accomplishment, growing in Honor, Loyalty, Courage, and Service.
As I observed the award ceremony I couldn’t help but think, “These guys are better than me.”
That’s a good thing! Its what every youth minister wants – for those you lead to become greater than you. Its not that I had anything to do with them becoming Eagle Scouts. They did that all on their own through hard work and dedication. It is just so encouraging to see what great men they have become, because there have been times in our past when I wanted to strangle these kids! I couldn’t help but take a brief walk down memory lane and think about other kids I wanted to strangle, kids that are now great men.
Daniel used to interrupt me every Sunday night during my teaching. He would ask hard questions I wasn’t smart enough to answer. I’m not sure he really wanted an answer. I think he just liked showing that he was smarter than me. Sometimes I wanted to strangle Daniel.
Daniel just patented a screw that is going to change the face of medicine and biomechanics and he’s still in medical school. His intelligence is making the world a better place.
When Jacob came to church all he wanted to do was play Halo on Xbox (which at the time was all brand new to us). He was so good at this game and he was sure to let you know. I hated playing with him. It was no fun. Really. And when the church programs were over and I was ready to go home I practically had to drag Jacob and his friends off of the Xbox and out of the door. Sometimes I wanted to strangle Jacob.
Jacob became a member of the team that developed and wrote the Halo game series. He now works for Bungie and continues to use his passion to inspire others and make the world a more fun place to live in.
Zach was a great kid with a dangerous sense of adventure. He literally had no fear. If a frisbee ended up on the roof, Zach would be 100 feet up a tree in minutes. If someone thought of something ridiculous to do Zach would be the first to volunteer (and most of the time succeed). Zach’s flirtations with danger scared me to death. No matter how many times I asked him to stop, he never did. Most of the time he even talked me into trying. Sometimes I wanted to strangle Zach.
Zach is now the VP of a successful clothing line. He and his wife just became foster parents to a young boy who needs a family. They will forever change this boy’s life with their faith and love. He continues to inspire me and those around him with his no-reservations sense of adventure and his fearless faith.
Daniel is better than me. Jacob is better than me. Zach is better than me.
I could go on and on about past students who now are amazing and are doing amazing things. I take no credit for it (how could I?) because they have reached their accomplishments all on their own. The lesson is that “greatness” is in everyone.
Genesis 1:27 says, “God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” Following a long list of things God created, he made mankind last. Mankind is the only creation that bears God’s image.
We bare God’s image. We bare God’s likeness. We bare God’s greatness. Whether you see it or not, its deep down in there somewhere waiting to come out. You have greatness in you because you were made in the image of God.
The person who cut you off in traffic this morning has greatness in him because he is made in the image of God. The waitress that messed up your latte yesterday has greatness in her because she is made in the image of God. The kids who drive you crazy and make you want to strangle them have greatness in them because they are made in the image of God.
Perhaps this is why Paul is so clear in Philippians 2 that if we want to be like Christ we must never “do anything out of vain conceit,” but we must “consider others as more important than yourself.” We can’t just consider others more important – we must know that they really are.
There is no time that we are a more accurate reflection of Jesus than when we consider others greater than ourselves and then treat them likewise.
They are greater than you…
Because they have God’s image in them.
You may be having the most frustrating experience possible with another human being, but you could be having a brush with greatness! You could be part of the development of a real world-changer! I just thought I was working with some over-confident, smart-ass, senseless, smelly teenagers. I had no idea I was working with world-changing doctors, technological masterminds, future world leaders, and Christ-like humanitarians. I failed to see God’s image in them when I needed to. I’m trying to change that.
I’m trying to view people – not for who they are – but for who they can be.
I hope you will too.
Filed under: God, leadership, life | Tags: david herndon, experience mission, melisa peebles, missions, prayer, summer, wesley united methodist church at frederica, youth ministry
Its been a busy summer for me (i.e. I haven’t posted in a few months), but I’m thankful for the busy-ness and a little sad that things are about to slow down. I’ve had the privilege to do a lot of really fun things with a lot of really fun people in the name of ministry. Not a bad gig at all.
It hasn’t been all fun though. The truth is, I have had to do a good bit of hard work. Our youth group took on two fairly large mission projects this summer. Right here at home we helped repaint two inner city churches. We fought heat, humidity, wildfire smoke, and orange thieves the whole time. Yes – one day someone on the street stole a bag of oranges right out of my hands. His exact words were, “Gimme ‘dem oranges.” I guess vitamin C is a hot commodity on the street. Despite the citrus set back, we were able to do for these churches what they could not afford to do on their own financially or physically.
We also traveled to McDowell County, West Virginia. McDowell, in the height of the coal mining boom, was the richest county in West Virginia. Now it is one of the most impoverished in all of the United States. We repaired a couple of homes, but the real work was hosting a Kids’ Club each day for local children. Our skits were not the most entertaining, our songs were not the prettiest, and our crafts didn’t always look like they should have; but we loved on some kids who seldom feel, see, or hear love.
At the end of both projects I heard something amazing that has forever changed the way I view prayer and Christianity. Pastor Newberry, whose church we repainted, said that he had been praying for 8 years that God would send someone to help him restore his building. Being a Pastor is not his full time job. In fact, it doesn’t pay at all. So repainting the building has never been an option for him. So for almost a decade he has prayed everyday that God would send someone to help. As he told our students, “I had no idea that God would send a bunch of teenagers to help me!” We laughed at that remark and then he made a profound statement:
“Because of you, my faith is stronger.”
In West Virginia we were lead by Experience Mission and our Kids’ Club coordinator, Melisa. Melisa shared that the previous weeks had been a little tough, that the groups didn’t seem to be focused on the kids and that the love just wasn’t there. As a result they had more discipline problems, lack of interest, and lack of participation. Before we arrived she asked her prayer team to pray for a team that would love the kids and be excited about ministry. She shared all of this with our students (who did a very good job) at the end of the week, and let us know that we were the answer to her prayer.
“Because of you, my faith is stronger.”
I’m not sharing all of this to pat myself or my group on the back. In fact, when I hear these kind of statements I am extremely humbled. I even want to run away from it. Me? An answer to prayer? Impossible. I didn’t really do anything. It wasn’t even that hard or that grandiose. How could someone like me be an answer to prayer?
I am learning very quickly, however, that we have the power and ability everyday in every situation to increase or decrease the faith of others. We have the ability to be an answer to prayer. We may have to do things that are uncomfortable and put ourselves in situations that are less than desirable. We may have to look downright foolish. We will definitely have to put our own desires and needs aside and place others above ourselves. But if we are willing to be used, we could be the answer to someone’s prayer.
I’m learning that prayer is answered, not necessarily in earth-shattering miracles or in divine displays of heavenly authority, but in community. Pastor Newberry’s prayer for his building was answered. Melisa’s prayer for a good team was answered. The children of Gary, WV pray for love and they received it. The real kicker is that I asked God to teach me about prayer this summer and He has flat out blown my mind on the subject. It didn’t happen in any other way than by living in community, loving each other and serving each other.
“Because of you, my faith is stronger.”
So look around you. Who are the people around you? What is happening around you? Where can you go into action answering prayers?
That simple conversation I shared with Pastor Newberry and the look of relief and joy on Melisa’s face will always be with me. God used me to answer someone else’s prayer. God could snap His fingers and take care of everything, but yet He chooses to use us to serve each other and love each other. He uses us as miracles and answers in each others’ lives. He uses us to increase one anothers’ faith!
The real joy is that once we realize this truth and live in it, our faith grows exponentially! I hope that you will strive to be the answer to someone’s prayer today, that someone might even say, “Because of you, my faith is stronger.”