October 22, 2010

Romans 8:28

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on Romans 8:28:

"And we know that God causes everything to work 
together for the good of those who love God and 
are called according to his purpose for them."

About four weeks ago, my wife and I found out that after two years of trying we were finally pregnant... but unfortunately the excitement was short lived as just a week and a half later, we found out the pregnancy wasn't healthy and therefore my wife would miscarry. It was such a rollar coaster of emotions. Going from such a high and imaging taking your kids to the park someday to all of a sudden having that stripped away. 

After hearing the news and experiencing the miscarriage, my wife and I were both left questioning God and expressing our hurt and frustration to Him. It was in these times I came to Romans 8:28. A couple of thoughts:

1) "God causes" - it's important to notice what it is that God causes. He doesn't cause bad things to happen but He causes them to work together for good. Many people blame God for a tragedy but that couldn't be further from the truth. Our God is a redeemer and a restorer, not one who brings troubles upon those He loves. 

2) "everything" - there is nothing that escapes God or is out of His reach. Whatever happens in life, no matter how big or how awful, it will not escape the redeeming power of our God. 

3) "for the good of those who love God" - the promise from God is that things will be used for good and we must cling to that promise in the midst of struggles. We can have faith to eventually quote Joseph as he exclaimed to his brothers: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good." 

As I reflected on all these important points, God used a very interesting situation to drive this point home this past weekend.

We had a weekend event this past week for our youth and on Saturday that involved heading into New York City to do some service work. Towards the end of our first location, I realized that one of our girls was upset and on the phone with her mom. Turns out, she wasn't feeling well and her mom was unable to come into the city to pick her up. Because her mom couldn't come, she asked me if we could pick up some basic meds to help her feel better. 

We asked the location where we were at if they had anything around the warehouse and if they could help but they had just given out there last remaining meds. So, that meant we had to stop and purchase something and in order to do that, I had to switch the groups around for our second activity so that she could be in my group. 

We eventually headed out with the intention that our first stop would be a market to get what she needed, thinking it would be easy. Unfortunately, the first three we found didn't take a credit card and no one in my group, including myself, had cash. Finally we were able to find a fourth pharmacy that did take a card and we were able to get what she needed. 

When the girl and I came outside, one of the other girls in my group proudly displayed $15 that she had just found because a runner had gone by and didn't stop once he had dropped it. By the time the girl picked it up, he was too far away. We decided we would spend the money on a lunch for a homeless person when we got to Washington Square park which was our next destination. 

Once we arrived, we promptly began to hand out the bagged lunches that we had brought into the city with us but part of the way through I got phone call from our speaker for the weekend. As soon as I picked up the phone, I knew there was a problem. I could hear the house alarm, where he was staying, blaring. Both the security company and the police had called requesting the "secret code" of which we didn't have. 45 minutes later, after a long conversation with the police department, a call to a church member to go over and help out and tracking down one of the family's older sons to get the code everything was ok. But, by then, it was time for our group to head back to Grand Central to meet up with the rest of our group and head home. 

As we got to the subway station, I began to swipe my Metro Cards and let the students pass through but we quickly realized something was wrong as my cards malfunctioned and only had enough funds to have two people pass...five of us were left on the wrong side of the gate! With my credit cards blocked (MTA only allows the purchase of 2 metro cards per day, per card and I had to use all three to get our students into the city) and no cash we had no way to get everyone back other than walking the 30 blocks...until we realized we had the $15!!

Out of all the "frustrations" that morning:
  • the girl getting sick
  • her mom being unable to come and get her
  • the ministry not having the meds we needed
  • having to switch the groups
  • the first three stores not taking a credit card
  • our speaker dealing with the house alarm
God used each and every single one to put us exactly where we needed to be to find that $15 and ensured that we would still have it in order to get home!! 

October 1, 2010

Lessons at Laser Tag

A few weeks ago to finish out our summer, we took a group of students up to New Hampshire to work at Monadnock Bible Conference for a day and then the day after went to check out an extreme laser tag place called The Strategy Zone. To be honest, it was one of the coolest places I've ever taken our kids (outside of missions opportunities).

The Strategy Zone is not your normal, Chuck E. Cheese laser tag place where you spend 15 minutes in a dark, black light filled room with a bunch of plywood walls around you. That laser tag is fun and all but The Strategy Zone takes laser tag to a whole other level.

For $20, our students got to play for 4 hours on a 50+ acre playing area which was a fantastic deal. Beyond that, the actual laser tag guns came in a handful of sizes - a handgun, a rifle and a sniper fully equipped with a scope that could hit someone 100 yards away. (The site is actually used from time to time to train police officers and military personel.)

Our group really had a blast working as a team to complete missions and running around in the woods together playing laser tag. It was such a fantastic time...

BUT, the whole reason our group was actually able to play was because another youth group from New Hampshire teamed up with us so that we could meet the minimum numbers required. So, instead of having 8 disappointed students, we had 17 of us who had a blast playing a fun game but also making some new friends and sharing life together.

When we were finished and parted ways, I was struck with the huge importance that networking has to play within our ministries. Networking has always been an important focus of mine but it seems that I am still surprised when I witness the direct benefits of working together with our Christians.

Beyond simply being able to play a fun game together, it was awesome to overhear conversations about faith, life, church and school between our students. It was a great time connecting with the other churches Youth Pastor talking about backgrounds and our experience in youth ministry. And, it was awesome walking away knowing we have a sister church up north now to share in other activities together such as skiing, camping or playing laser tag again.

If you don't currently do much networking, I want to strongly encourage you to check out an organization called The National Network of Youth Ministries (www.nnym.com). Creating a profile is free and only takes a few minutes but they will provide some great ministry resources, discounts of conferences and trainings and helps you find a local network in your area (or equips you to start one!) NNYM is such a blessing in my life and I will never do ministry without having a local network for support. It was through NNYM that I found the church to connect with in New Hampshire.

NNYM's slogan is, "We're Better Together," and that couldn't be closer to the truth that when it comes to doing ministry it's so important and beneficial to work with the rest of the Body of Christ!

Our group, along with Calvary Baptist Church, Claremont, NH