Saturday Special: Space and Salvation

As I’m writing this particular blog post, I’m sitting on the couch rewatching one of my favorite movies: Interstellar. There are many reasons why I enjoy this movie: the storyline, the acting, the phenomenal CGI, and the attention to detail all come to mind. And while I don’t agree with everything in the movie, every time I watch it, I can’t help but think about why I connect with it so well.

For starters, space and the universe has been a fascination of mine. Books full of facts about the planets and galaxies used to fill my bookshelf as a kid. I remember watching shows on tv which described the mysteries of the universe contained lightyears away. I remember laying in bed at night, pretending I was flying a spaceship that could fly to the most distant reaches. I knew God had created everything and I was in awe of all He had made.

This same fascination continues today. All of creation was meant to point to the Creator. The planets, stars, galaxies, black holes, the vast distances between it all- everything was made to point to the goodness and power of the One who made it.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made…

Romans 1:20

The movie connects with me so well because it gives me a glimpse of a greater reality. As I watch the portrayals of black holes, planets, and stars that Christopher Nolan’s crew brilliantly made, I’m reminded of just how much more beautiful those things really are as they are held in the vastness of space by God. These pictures don’t even compare to the grandeur of the One who spoke it all into being.

The fascination doesn’t end there. In thinking about the greatness of the One who created the universe, we don’t only recognize His power, but His nearness.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Philippians 2:5-7

God the Father, who created all things, sent His Son, who is God and who is the means by which all things were created and are sustained (Colossians 1:15-20), to take on flesh. God came near. Why? In order that we might have our sins forgiven and a right relationship with Him. God is powerful in creation and in salvation.

As I watch this movie about the vastness of space, I’m reminded of how small and insignificant I am. Yet, at the same time, I’m reminded even more of the One who created the stars and galaxies with mere words, upholds them with those same words, and made a way for us to know Him and have a relationship with Him. All He created testifies to His majesty and greatness. All He created testifies to His grace towards us in Christ and our need for Him. He loves us. He cares for us.

This Week’s Top Three (February 26th, 2020)

I’m starting this week off with a short and sweet article from Ed Welch about hospitality. As I think about these issues in terms of the big picture, I’m reminded of just how much of these things are fixed in the small, every day things. Gospel-centered hospitality is rooted in the conversations shared between people. Welch summarizes it well, “The extroverts among us seem to make it look easy. The more shy might be intimidated by the potential awkwardness or silence. But loving pursuit is neither easy nor natural to anyone. All of us need both humility and help from Scripture in order to navigate the early stages of a helpful conversation.”

As I’m just a few months out from my daughter being born, this article really touched me. What does it look like to bless our children before bed? How can we make sure the last thing they hear from us is a word which stirs their heart’s affections for the Lord? John Piper gives us things to think about in this episode of “Ask Pastor John.”

This week, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission released a summary of research conducted by the Barna institute concerning the issues facing many U.S. Pastors (you can find the original report here: The ERLC report helps distill some of the information, but the point is still the same: the biggest concern facing pastors today is a concern over the gospel. If you’re a pastor, or if you’re a church member, this article is worth taking some time to read- the insight into the issues facing pastors is incredibly useful!

Tim Challies shared this on his blog this morning- it’s a great deal. If you need a new Bible, this is hard to pass up!

Why Working with Youth Isn’t As Scary As You Think

Teenagers are a different breed. I was reminded of this fact last week as I got up to begin youth and a middle schooler was creating a goldfish fish tank in his mouth: chugging some Dr. Pepper, then adding the delicious cheddar snack so it might swim around before being consumed. Actions like this (and the overall fear of adolescence) lead adults to alienate themselves from their church’s student ministry. Let me take a moment to convince you why working with you isn’t quite as scary as you might think.

We are all capable of providing the one thing students long for the most- sincerity. Teenagers hunger for an adult who will be genuine and honest. They’re not looking for an act or for someone who tries extra hard to relate to them. It doesn’t take a flawless knowledge of Snapchat, Instagram, or Tik-Tok to earn the right to talk to students. In fact, as I seek to build my adult leadership team, I look for someone who can be genuine.

To get to the heart of the issue, sincerely is something we all desire. There’s something about knowing someone is consistent regardless of the environment they’re in. In the gospel, we see how Jesus’ death on the cross in our place frees us to be honest about who we are. Paul says in Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” What leads us to call upon the name of the Lord? An honest view of ourselves, It’s only when we recognize who we are and stop trying to save ourselves that we find salvation in Christ.

In the same way, once we have received this salvation, we are free to be honest with the sins and struggles in our life. We aren’t honest in terms of seeking to stay in sin, but knowing that through sharing our sins, God purifies us to conform us into the image of Christ. James 5:16 says it this way, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” We are wired to receive healing from our sins when we confess them.

Student ministry can still be intimidating, even for me. But God has already given us everything we need. Still on the fence about serving in your church’s student ministry? Why not give it a try? Be you, and see how God uses you.

This Week’s Top Three (February 19th, 2020)

Here’s an interesting article from the New York Times about the roles of men and women in society. Despite culture’s best attempts to redefine gender roles, it seems there is something wired deep within us which causes men and women to prefer specific roles within the home. Here are a couple highlights:

  • “The fact that home life doesn’t look all that different from half a century ago surprises researchers, because in most other ways, attitudes about gender roles have changed a lot.”
  • “If young people can’t even envision a model of what men’s time at home might look like, that’s evidence that our beliefs about gender are really strong and sticky,” said Joanna Pepin, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin and an author of the recently published study, with Brittany Dernberger, a sociology doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland. “That’s yet another thing that’s getting in the way of social change.”
  • “Norms about what men are supposed to do also have an effect, researchers say — starting in childhood, when boys do fewer chores than girls do. Masculinity is strongly tied to earning an income and avoiding things that are considered feminine.”

God’s truth shines through, even in a time of confusion in our culture.

I love coming across new things which challenge what I’ve always taken for granted in my understanding of the Bible. This article was one of those resources. Pop quiz: Did it start raining when Noah brought the animals upon the ark and God sealed the door? You’ll have to read to find out!

When we talk about “preaching” the gospel in Scripture, does it mean only pastors are qualified to share with others? By evaluating a sermon from Charles Spurgeon out of Acts 8, Denny Burk reminds us that all Christians are to be known as those who proclaim, or preach, the gospel (even students!).

Be a Leader Who Equips Leaders

One of the ways I’ve framed human sinfulness is rooted in answering this question: Whose name will I seek to make great? The Bible is clear that the root of our sinfulness is a desire to elevate our own name above God’s. This temptation hasn’t changed since the garden when Adam and Eve ate the fruit while listening to the voice of the Serpent who told them they would be “like God” (Genesis 3:5).

We see this same desire to make a name for ourselves show itself in the desire to handle things on our own. The nature of the call we’ve been given by Christ is to multiply and “make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20) of the gospel. As a student minister, my job is not only to preach the gospel, but to partner with parents in training their kids up that they might lead the way in multiplying this gospel as they are going to the neighborhoods and nations.

It’s impossible to properly fulfill the job of discipling others if we aren’t using our position of leadership to multiply leaders. For adult leaders, these roles look like small group leaders, prayer partners, and chaperones for trips. For students, it means giving them appropriate opportunities to help shape the culture of the student ministry, helping them see where they are gifted, and then helping them use the gifts the Lord has given them.

Here are three reasons why you should be a leader who equips leaders:

1) Because You Won’t Always Be the Youth Pastor

Even though I just started my position at my current church six months ago, I do try to keep this thought in the back of my mind. It’s not because I always have one foot out the door. Instead, it’s rooted in the reminder that this ministry is a part of a bigger reality: an eternal mission of God for the nations of the world. If I really believe this is true, I have to minister with the end goal in mind for everyone involved in my ministry. This means I need to be serving in such a way that I’m not winning people to my style or preference, but I’m winning them to the Savior who never changes.

Many of us focus in so closely on the weekly details and lose sight of the bigger picture. When the Lord does call us to transition to a new role, we end up leaving without anyone else knowing the practical ins and outs of how we handled the ministry or why we did the specific events in the first place.

In many ways, to be faithful to the ministry is to always be working ourselves out of a job. We need to be training others to understand what it looks like to disciple others. To serve well means that when we leave, we aren’t leaving a huge hole where we were; it means that the ministry continues going seamlessly, as if we were never there.

2) Because Students Need to Hear from Other Adults

I’m passionate about helping teenagers understand their role in the church. I strongly believe that we are doing ourselves a disservice when we separate out our student ministries and never involve them in the programming of the church as a whole (I imagine this topic alone could be a series of posts). One of the ways we can help cultivate an understanding of this reality is by having different trusted voices from within the church speak into their lives.

While this includes times of teaching through the Word during the week and having guest speakers on annual youth trips, I’m also talking using my role as the student pastor to create more opportunities for adults to create meaningful and intentional connections with students. For this to happen, these adults need the chance to lead- whether in small groups, games, annual events, or in other places your ministry may have.

Creating an atmosphere where students are hearing the same truth from multiple voices helps them relate their faith to a community instead of a personality. When they leave the student ministry and move on to college, instead of looking for someone just like their student pastor, they’re looking for a community which teaches the same truths they’ve heard for many years. They need to know how faith in the gospel is not only lived out alone, but in the context of community. Multiplying leaders is a clear example of this truth.

3) Because Ministry is Easier on a Team

I share this point knowing that in one sense, ministry is never necessarily “easy”. As a pastor, we walk with students through some of the hardest and darkest times of their life, in order to be a physical reminder of God’s presence. Yet, I think there’s truth to the fact that when we multiply leaders, it frees us to be more present in those moments.

Picture the difference between being responsible for every aspect of a ministry, down to the most minute details: games, music, and lesson for the youth worship service, planning monthly events (with all of the finances, the sign-ups, and the scheduling), planning yearly trips, fundraising, other outside ministry opportunities, outreach into the community, service projects, and the other roles with the rest of the church staff. It’s easy to see how time can easily be absorbed in those things, with no time to spare for the chance to be present with students.

Now imagine if you have the opportunity to train up people to help with some of those roles. Suddenly, you only have to worry about a lesson for the youth service. Maybe a couple of parents or other volunteers have been trained up to lead the way in fundraising. Outreach events are now planned through small group leaders you’ve trained, in addition to the service projects for the students. Suddenly, the work load is nearly halved, meaning that you can put your time into one of the most important aspects of the job: relationships.

The reality is that in ministry, we don’t need more people trying to play the hero. We shouldn’t be seeking to make a name for ourselves. Instead, we should see ourselves as players in an eternal mission of God for the nations of the world. When we understand this, we’ll see the benefit in being a leader who equips leaders.