Archives For Jesus


Ah yes. The infamous youth group cliques. If you are a youth leader, you’ve seen this plenty of times. A teenager awkwardly enters a new and uncharted territory to see if this “church thing” is for them. A couple of kids say hi, but they mostly stand in the corner by themselves. An adult woman comes to talk to her for a bit about her day before she takes a seat by herself.

She listens to a story from the youth pastor about showing Jesus’ love to others. But she is wondering the disconnect between what the youth pastor is saying and how her experience has been. She enjoys the lesson, but quickly heads for the exit when the time is over for fear of having to stand by herself for another 5 minutes, which felt like an eternity when she arrived.

She isn’t coming back. And she didn’t meet or experience Jesus.

And those of us in youth ministry have seen this time and time again.

Cliques cause jealousy, hurt feelings, and exclusion. They are the complete opposite to the Kingdom of God.

So how do we stop it?

1) The best idea our group has come up with Continue Reading…



Second Student Ministries: December 19, 2012

Christmas Words: Immanuel


Introduction: Think about a time when you were very afraid or very upset. Were you alone? Who came to be with you in that time and support you?

Word Meaning

  • Immanuel/Emmanuel (spelled both ways) translates to mean “God with us.”
  • Immanuel is a Hebrew word, the language of the Jews, God’s chosen people. The Old Testament is largely a narrative story of the Jews.
  • Appears in both the Old Testament (more than 700 years before Jesus was born) and the New Testament

Part One: “Immanuel” for Isaiah

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a song, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14


Isaiah is speaking to Ahaz, the king of Judah regarding his decision about an impending war with two powerful neighbors.

The climate in Judah was full of fear and terror. Earlier in Isaiah 7 we read, When the house of David was told, Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz (the king) and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.  Isaiah 7:2

God sent Isaiah to the king to give him this prophecy or message from God. He uses the word Immanuel to remind the people of Judah that even in their most fearful, dangerous moment he is still with them. They don’t face the danger or the heartache alone.

Part Two: “Immanuel” for Matthew


Matthew is written 750 years after Isaiah, and the Jewish people are under the control of the powerful Roman Empire. They are being oppressed by Roman tax collectors and officials and don’t have legal rights as Roman citizens.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, and angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means God will us). Matthew 1:18-23

To Matthew, and the Jews living in the first century under Roman control, the word Immanuel meant that God was still with them, even in their time of suffering.

It also meant that God had kept the promise he made in Isaiah, had sent the sign that he was, literally now, with them.

Part Three: “Immanuel” for Us

2012 has been a great year for some of us. Eli Manning and the Giants defeated Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The USA Olympic Swim Team made a video of “Call Me Maybe” and delighted viewers everywhere. Taylor Swift reminded us all that “We are never, ever, ever, getting back together.”

2012 has been a terrible year in some other ways. Innocent people were killed at a movie theater in Colorado, and more than twenty people, including children, lost their lives last week in a shooting in an elementary school in Connecticut. This kind of evil and pain can be so hard for us to process.

2012 brought some of you some personal heartache too. Some of you faced disappointments in your personal life, people may have let you down in some big ways, or you lost someone close to you.

In Matthew 28 Jesus has already been crucified and has risen from the dead. He has appeared to many people following his death. Now the disciples of Jesus are gathered on a mountain and he speaks to them again.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:8-20

The fear and the evil didn’t end for them that day. Most of Jesus’ disciples suffered, and were even killed for their testimony. Jesus didn’t promise that our lives would be free from pain here on Earth.

But his last words on earth were a promise that he would be with us, even to the end of the age. “Immanuel-God with us.”

Conclusion – Bowed heads

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

Doesn’t always feel like God is there in the pain. In the shootings, in the darkest hour of yours.

For Isaiah living in ancient Judah, for Matthew living under Roman control in the first century, and for us in 2012, the word Immanuel reminds us that right in the middle of our pain and fear God is with us.

Think back to that moment you when you were upset of scared. I hope that there were people who loved you and supported you through that. But the message of the word “Immanuel” is that you are never, ever alone, even if it seems that way. Just like he promised, God came at Christmas to be with us. And this Christmas we celebrate Immanuel, our God is with us.

This past weekend at Calvary Assembly, Tom Fishauber shared a great message on worship. He shared that worship is much more than just half of a Sunday service, but is instead about how you live your life. I was thankful for the reminder and thankful for Tom’s willingness to teach our church body.

What I have been reflecting on throughout this week was one piece in particular that Tom talked about for a brief point. He said that, “Being the worship leader is one of the toughest ways to serve in the entire church.” He talked about pleasing everyone’s music styles and hit the nail on the head as he said worship is not about us. Again I was thankful.

So as I reflected on whether or not I thought me serving as our worship leader was extremely difficult, I was struck with memories of my childhood. My father grew up (and still serves 30 years later) a full time worship arts pastor. His road has been filled with so many unbelievable stories of people using their talents to glorify God and great relationships/ministry along the way. He has impacted so many families and lives, I hope to one day follow in his footsteps and do the same. However, he also has been extremely mistreated by both church leaders and people in his congregation. He had to endure what is now known as “the worship wars” -where people held large meetings to decide whether drums were of the devil or not. It seems funny now (and it is!), but back then, it was one of the reasons our church of 800 people split in half overnight.

Not good.

So as I reflected on my experience at Calvary Assembly over the past three years, it has been a much different road for me. From the top leaders of our church to every worshipper God brings through our doors, our church body has been so supportive of me. Additionally, our worship team is phenomenal. Besides their great talent, they also have BIG hearts for God and for others – and are excited about using their gifts to help others come to know Him. Their hearts are in the right place, as are their attitudes (biggest piece for me!), and it comes through in their leading of worship.

This does not mean everything is always without conflict, or that harsh criticisms have not come my way. They have. But they have been addressed with firmness and graciousness, so that the complaining few did not drive the vision of our church.

So what is it like to be the worship leader at Calvary Assembly?

Why? Because our church understands that it isn’t about the latest musical trend or whether or not I am singing off key that week. Our church gets that it is about our hearts, and today, I am thankful for just that.

He has shown you what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.                                                  [Micah 6:8]


I’m thankful God shows us the answer for what he wants from his children. Nothing would be more frustrating than not knowing what your Father desired – and so today I am simply thankful He has shown us.

God’s 3 requirements?

1. Act Justly

2. Love Mercy

3. Walk humbly with God

That’s it.

It doesn’t sound that hard, but man oh man is it!

How does this reminder hit you today?



Photo Credit: Peter Geckeler

I’m not sure if it’s that I only watch my tv shows on Hulu and they only rotate 7 advertisements per year (seriously, Hulu!), or what it is, but after watching the Verizon commercial with the crying Mom try to leave her daughter for the 400th time, it is getting rough for me. In fact, I walked out of the room last night watching it with my wife because I couldn’t take the same ad one more time.

And maybe I’m crazy, but this experience did get me thinking.

In our churches, how often do we “over-saturate”?

Do we over-sell every event or activity the church puts on?

Do the words “life-change” flow out of every announcement we give?

Do we over-hype programs rather than invest in individual stories?

Are we saying the same thing over and over?

Are we driving our church members *crazy* because we continue to over-hype and under-deliver on our promises?

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want to be that annoying advertisement for a church function. But I do want to build buzz for what God is doing. Because I believe more than ever that He is active in our world.

See my tension?

What do you think?




May 17, 2012 — Leave a comment

Do you ever feel like you need a break? Like you need to breathe?

I do too.

I am currently working my way through a book on Spiritual Disciplines. A challenge pierced through my heart and convicted me:

When people ask, “So how are you?” refrain from a litany about how busy you are. This simply reinforces that a revved-up existence is what matters.


How frequently have I fallen into this trap? To believe that Continue Reading…

I was reading a blog post earlier today that asked young adults “what was it about Jesus specifically that attracted and captured you to the point that you decided to follow Him with your life?”

I was struck by Josh’s answer:
April 26, 2012 at 7:49 am #

From the earthly, practical standpoint: In high school I decided to follow Christ, largely because the youth group and youth leaders at my new church were the most welcoming, friendly, forgiving group I had ever encountered. Their warmth and depth of friendship blew me away, as they took me in as a newcomer and welcomed me. As I saw their pursuit of Jesus and how it transformed their lives, I realized for the first time how important it was to follow Christ rather than simply giving a verbal assent to His existence.

The response reminds me of a student in our youth ministry’s story – of knowing all about God – but not knowing God and having a relationship with Him. To now see this student have grown into one of our primary student leaders – who is thriving in their walk with Christ – is incredible to witness.

So I just wanted to encourage you – that what you do each week, month, and throughout the year – really matters in the Kingdom. And I’m thankful for the gifts and call He has given so many of you, my friends, to minister to young people.

Blessings to you as you serve!