Tuesday, July 27, 2010

God can even use Carolina Fans (the story of me, part 2)

For a lifelong Duke fan it is normal to wonder if anything good can come out of Chapel Hill. It's sad but true. At least during the months of December-April. But amazingly God is a God who can use anyone. Even if that person is a Carolina fan...

If you missed the last post about me, you can read it here. Pretty much I challenge my kids to be able to tell how God has worked in their lives and so I felt I should probably be able to do the same. So here is part 2.

Take the end of my last post and fast forward roughly 5 years. I'm a freshman in high school. I wish I could say that life was good but to be honest it wasn't. In middle school my life fell into depression (not severe but rough none the less). I'm not sure why I was depressed but it wasn't good. It was a rough spot to be in and I carried it straight into high school.

In my early years of high school I did the typical high school scene, drinking and smoking. I longed for acceptance. I mean I lived for someone to notice me and show an interest in my life. I was empty. This is where I was. In a dark place with no answers.

That's where God steps into my story. I mean He'd always been there but this is where I noticed. God revealed Himself to me through a preacher on a motorcycle and a UNC fan.

1. Billy Toler - Billy Toler was the pastor at my church growing up and he had a motorcycle. I have to be honest. This fact through me for a loop. Preachers weren't supposed to drive bikes. They were supposed to drive 1986 Buick Regals. He cared for the people of the church and took part in their lives. (he still comes to my grandmother's birthday parties). He would joke around with me and interact with me.  Billy Toler changed my perception of pastors and has unknowingly helped craft me into the pastor I am today. In fact he baptized me twice when I was in high school. He would laugh with me and and joke that once wasn't enough. (although there was a different reason for it.)

2. Jon Hobgood- In 10th grade Jon Hobgood had a Duke-UNC viewing party at his house. Years later he would tell me that I was the most annoying person there. Looking back I probably was. If I could name who God used to impact my life the most it would have to be Jon. At the height (or more correctly depths) of my rough times in life something strange happened. As I longed for acceptance, and to know that someone was interested in my life, Jon did just that. 

On one particularly bad night, Jon asked me if i was alright.  I did what everyone does when asked that question. I lied. I wasn't ok. I was terrible. But I said fine just to keep moving in life. Jon saw right through it. "It doesn't seem like you are fine. You seem pretty upset"  Just so you know, Youth Pastors can tell when you are lying so never try it. With that I unloaded. I'm pretty sure he wasn't expecting it. But he asked, so I told him.

What followed was a year and a half of me learning as much from Jon as humanly possible. He was with me when I bought my first Bible. He challenged me on the type of music I listened to. He took me to my first christian concert (which I spent flirting with a girl from another church). He taught me how to serve others and how to seek after God.  He let me sit in his office for hours on end while he worked. He even called me out because I was dating a girl that we both knew was not good for me. He took an interest in my life when I needed it. He taught me how to see when someone else needed to be noticed and loved. Because Jon listened to God that night he asked me how I was doing, I am a youth pastor today.

I still talk to Jon anytime I need advice or have a funny story. I thank him for all that he's done and apologize for everything that I put him through that now I have endured as a youth pastor. Seriously. I once emailed him for being overly annoying as an 11th grader.

I think that there are people who influence everyone's life. An important part of telling our story is to remember the people who changed our lives. There are a ton more people who have impacted my life but this blog is long enough. Perhaps they will get their own blog one day.

Has someone made a difference in your life? Write a comment telling who they were and how they changed your life....

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Real Me vs. The Fake Me

So I know that there are two of you. There is the real you..... and there is the you that you let others see. I'm on to you. It's ok. I'm that way too. We are all. But why? Why is it that we pretend to be someone else?....

This all started while I was reading a news article online about a singer who had collapsed on stage. This singer is in a band that I used to like a while back and so it caught my interest. I read the article and scanned down to where people can comment on the news. BIG MISTAKE.

It's interesting because the two places that I see two sides of people is online and at church.

In this article the comments went on and on about how the singer wasn't any good anyways and that his collapse probably had to do with the fact that he was a terrible musician... Honestly this frustrated me because I feel like the singer was fairly talented. I wanted to write something mean to respond to those comments. I wanted to show them up. I wanted to belittle them and make them look stupid. I wanted to be....just like them.

The internet allows us to be whoever we want. I can say mean things and rip you to shreds because I will never have to face you. As I was sitting and thinking through the the things I could write, a thought hit me. If this guy was standing next to the singer, would he call him a "no talent hack"? No. In fact, he most likely would stand there quietly and wait for the singer to leave before insulting him.

There are two of each of us. It's sinful nature at it's worst. Paul says in the book of Romans that he struggles with this. He says that he does everything that he DOESN'T want to do and he doesn't do everything that he wishes he would do. He is torn between his two natures.

You and I are the same way. Everyone struggles with this. It is a part of our very being.

Paul goes on to ask, "who can save me from this?" He goes on to say that it is through Jesus that we are saved.

My prayer for you today is that you will understand that we are all this way. We all have two natures that are always fighting each other. I pray that you understand what Christ did for us and that it will help you through times when your more hateful nature begins to come through.

And I pray that God will guide us away from the sinful side of our lives so that our lives can reflect His love. That's my prayer today.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Story of Me (Why it can be good to sleep in church)

A few weeks back I ran across an awesome video on Dan Cathy's Blog (the president of Chick-Fil-A, dancathy.com) and it made me think about my story....check out the video.

Every life has a story. Mine included. I tell my students that it's important to tell your story. It's important to pass on what God has done in your life. That's how we tell others about God. We share God's story and our story together. I wanted to take a minute and do this: I want to tell you my story with God.

Christian camps come in two varieties. Good and Bad. When I was nine I went to one marked, "BAD". Everything about this camp was terrible. Uncomfortable bunks, standard food, and showers that were either frozen tundra cold or  lava hot. it was a week long retreat and I took one shower....on Wednesday. Everything was ridiculously far apart which meant that you had to WALK and WALK and WALK every where. On top of that, this camp used manipulative methods to get kids to accept Christ as their savior. Thinking back on it, I shudder.

This horrible camp is where I met God. 

People ask me if God has a sense of humor. I tell them yes because of this story. I didn't come to know God through any manipulative process or song. I met God because I fell asleep in chapel. See this terrible camp had out of touch speakers who were amazingly boring. Pretty much they were preachers who tried to talk to kids like they talked to adults and they prayed for long amounts of time. On top of that were the aforementioned uncomfortable bunks and lots of walking. Put that together and you have a recipe for sleeping in chapel.

It was during one of the prayers. The guy kept going on and on and sleepiness just caught up with me. I have no clue what he was talking about and so I drifted into a sleepy bliss. The next thing I remember was an arm around me shoulder. It was the pastor's wife. She very quietly walked me through what it took to be a Christian and asked me if I accepted Christ. I said yes. She immediately sat up and said loudly, "Pastor Jonathan Greenhill has just accepted Christ. I opened my eyes. Everyone in the room was standing up and staring at me. Apparently when I fell asleep the pastor finished up his prayer and everyone stood up to sing the closing song. Since had not moved from my 'prayer' posture everyone (including the pastor's wife) assumed I was deep in prayer with God. Nope. I was asleep. That's why she came over and talked to me about Christ. I'm not sue if we would have ever had that conversation if I hadn't fallen asleep in church. God has a funny way about him.

That night I laid in bed and stared out the window. I didn't quite understand what it all meant but I knew my life would be different. I didn't know how, but just that it would. I wouldn't understand that for another 6 years thanks to two other men, one that owned a motorcycle and one that was a Carolina fan. But that's a story for next time.


Leave a comment with your story.....

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What? Me Worry?

There's a lot going on in life isn't there?  I'm preparing for a week long trip with middle schoolers and high schoolers. Mollie can tell you that the day before a retreat is always a terrible day. I'm so completely stressed that I make life miserable for everyone. 

Do you ever get that way? Do you ever become so stressed that people don't like being around you?

I do. That's why I'm sitting by myself at a local coffee shop with a large coffee writing my thoughts out. Alone. I brought a book too. It's called "The Christian Atheist: Believing in God, but Living as If He Doesn't Exist".  You can see the cover of the book right here. 

It's a very good book. (I'm looking to teach a series on it in the fall) I'd recommend getting it. 

But today I was sitting here reading and the chapter was about Worry. I'm a worrier. It's weird. When something is on my mind it will overwhelm me to the point that I can't handle it anymore. I sit and worry. I stand and worry. I pace and worry. When my kids are teenagers I'm in trouble. 

But today's chapter talked about worrying. In a sense it said the following

Worrying is when you don't trust in God. 
Excess of Worry means lack of Faith.

Ouch. That's me. Is it you? 

Do you find yourself consumed with worry when something goes wrong. Perhaps you have a deadline. Perhaps someone you love has cancer? Maybe you don't have enough money to pay the bills. There's a lot we can worry about. But what good does that do?

Jesus asks in the Bible, "How can worrying add time to your life?" Good point Jesus. But worrying is ingrained in my life. It's my nature to worry. 

Phil 4:6-7 says the following:

 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

In other words EVERY time you think about something and begin to worry. Take it to God and pray about it. Pray about the issue. Pray about how you are worried. Ask God for that peace. Do this OVER AND OVER AND OVER, every time you worry. See what God does. See how God works. 

When we can take things to God, we can begin to let them go. 

I pray that worry will not overwhelm your lives. I pray that you will be able to let go and let God deal with it. I pray that you can lead a changed life that trusts God in everything. That's my prayer for you today.