I often have the opportunity to talk with kids, youth and adults and in these conversations I hear people say things like: I‘m tired! I’m depressed! I’m just really anxious! I’m struggling with suicidal thoughts! I feel so lonely! I don’t feel I am strong enough! I don’t know if I can make it!

It’s hard to exist in a broken world but to be hopeless in a broken world is unbearable. It seems there is a thread of hopelessness in many of these conversations. I think this type of conversation leads to a basic question: “Is it going to get any better?” Hopelessness is rooted in an uncertain future. Being stuck, being miserable in a situation, struggling with sin or wondering is this going to ever might end is a difficult, dark place for many believers? Uncertainty is a heavy burden to carry!

Hopelessness takes our strength, courage, energy, desire and even our faith and love and reduces it to something that resembles our own strength. Hopelessness doesn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hopelessness doesn’t see something better is just ahead. Because of a lack vision of a good future we lose heart. We could be buried in hopelessness or at the very least attempt self-medicated escapes from reality. Crazy things happen when we are without hope!

Just a few days ago I overheard a little boy say through his tears and sobs “No one likes me, everyone picks on me!” Hopeless! NO ONE! He was unable to see the truth in that moment.

In a different encounter I gently corrected and comforted another little boy this week and told him “I love you”, with tears he replied “No one loves me”. Hopeless! NO ONE! He was unable to see the truth in that moment.

If we are focused on the wrong things or looking in the wrong places it’s easy to lose hope.Could I encourage you today with these words?

So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!

Luke 21:28

I know the context of this scripture but I think there is an application that you and I can take away from it. And that is simply this “look up!” Look fully into the face of Christ Jesus. He is our hope!

We don’t serve a God of hopelessness! We serve a God of ALL hope!

But these three remain faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love.

I Corinthians 13:13

Hope is the glue in the middle of faith and love. Hope holds us together! Faith is the substance of things hoped for. Love is expressed when we believe in the hope of Christ. Jesus asked his disciples “Do you believe?”

Hope is the expectation that something good is going to happen. As Christ followers we are certain of the future because of our blessed hope.Christ is the hope, the hope of glory! When He, who is our Hope shall appear, we will be like him!

Don’t give up! Look up!

Campout and Campfire

I’m sure you have met “that one boy”. You know the one I’m talking about. He can’t sit still. He doesn’t listen. He is forever distracting others around him. He is always full of unending questions that do not relate to the subject matter at hand. “that one boy”, I’m sure you have met him, right?

I have met “that one boy” on numerous occasions.

“That one boy” can be quite a challenge. He can make you question your experience and ability as a leader. He can make you question the value of what you are doing. He can make you weigh out whether or not the time off, the expense of getting there and the effort is worth it? “that one boy” can cause you to do some serious self-evaluation!

Wouldn’t it be easier without “that one boy” sometimes?!?!?

Wouldn’t it have been easier for Jesus and His ministry without the needy people, the hungry and sick? Probably, but that would eliminate the very reason that He came.

I recall a time when “that one boy” showed up on a hillside with Jesus. (I’m sure “that one boy” was a Royal Ranger and his mother sent him out for the day, probably to get him out from under her feet) Somehow “that one boy” showed in the pages of the Gospels full of energy and distractions and a part of a miracle.

Jesus wasn’t looking for perfection, he was looking for participation. I think Jesus saw “that one boy” a little differently than others and he borrowed his lunch. Do you think “that one boy” asked for the leftovers?

Campouts and campfires are a lot of work! A little over a month ago I was at an OMN event and “that one boy” showed up again. You could label him “naughty”, “undisciplined”, “difficult” or numerous other things that would describe his behavior at times. He was there and so was I. He would interrupt me, wander off, distract others or ask 1000 irrelevant questions.

It was around a campfire on the third night when “that one boy” was quietly kneeling in the presence of God offering his lunch that I saw a glimpse of his heart. I decided it was worth it! Maybe the miracle on the hillside, the campout and campfires are really for “that one boy”?

Signed, still recovering “that one boy”

Can’t we all just get along?

Matthew 22:37-39 NLTJesus replied, “’You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Conflicts will arise! If you don’t believe that just look around! Relational conflict is everywhere.
Why are there conflicts? Because there are relationships and relationships involve people and people have opinions and opinions sometimes differ and sometimes that difference doesn’t sit well with us, we then form opinions and we act upon that difference in a way that may be unhealthy or detrimental to relationship.
As long as there is relationship there will be conflict.
What are the options when there is conflict? (I’m sure there are more than what I’ve listed)

Ignore it!
Isolate from it!
Minimalize it!
Sever the relationship!
Work on it!

I think the last option is the best option in most cases. The church is made up or built upon relationships. Sometimes we fail at relationships and sometimes we succeed? If Christ can rise from the dead, he can resurrect our relationships!
Relationships matter to God. In fact we were created for relationship.
The real question might be: “Is the relationship something that we value?” Do we deem it “worth it”.
Webster’s defines relationship as:re·la·tion·ship/rəˈlāSH(ə)nˌSHip/noun1. the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.
Our greatest victories come through our greatest struggles.
T-ball championships are not highly celebrated! MLB World Series championships send entire cities into a frenzy of celebration. Why, because of the level of difficulty and struggle.
A key ingredient in relationship is effort
Valuing relationships = valuing people
People matter to God! People should matter to us! Our values should reflect his values and God highly values relationships.
Ephesians 4:1-44 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.

Seeds of discord will never produce a harvest in the Kingdom of God!
Creating or building something is work! Therefore Relationships are work!

Make allowance for each other’s faults
Make every effort to keep yourself united in the Spirit

Our bond is not our common doctrine! Our bond is Christ and our love for one another! Our bond is greater than the parts that are being held together. If you glue boards together and the glue joint is a good joint then you can stress the joint and it will not break the “bond” because the bond is stronger than what is being held together.
The low hanging fruit is to simply point out the faults in others or find fault with one another.
Friends we have a choice: We can be part of the problem or we can be part of the solution. Love covers a multitude of sin! The hard thing is to bear one another’s burdens. Speaking the truth….in love.
The causes of broken relationships are as many and varied as there are people. Broken relationships really point to the very purpose of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. We have redemption and reconciliation through Christ. Our right relationship with God has been restored. I’m pretty sure that if God can restore our relationship with him He can restore any other relationship!
When it comes to relationships we have a choice. What are we going to do? The choice that is God honoring is to work on our relationship with one another. Relationships are not disposable or a one-time use.
Relationships are highly valued by God!
Here are 4 elements of healthy relationship:

Commitment to one another
Love one another most
Forgiveness one another
Don’t quit on one another (notice the “one another”)

Here are some practical steps for broken relationships:

Pray for that person (Don’t pray about them) Pray blessing not judgment
Wash their feet (Show them acts of service)

The question remains:
Are we going to value what He values?
Are we going to love the way He loves?
Are we going to do what God has commanded us to do to give God the opportunity to do what only he can do?
How are we known? By our love and unity or our disagreements and discord?
I pray that we are known for loving God and loving one another and bringing glory to Christ. This is Christ exalting, Christ honoring. This is the reward that is due him.

Have You Ever Felt Like Moses?

You know the picture that I’m talking about: Moses standing on the edge of the Red Sea, arm and staff outstretched, the breeze gently moving his grey hair and beard as the waters are parted to the left and to the right and 2 million Hebrew pass by on dry ground….. You know the story, right? I remember it too because I watched the movie “The 10 Commandments” with Charlton Heston when I was a kid. It was quite epic at the time. Have you ever felt like that? Yea, me neither!
But I think I know how Moses may have felt on another occasion:
The story of Exodus is God rescuing His people from slavery in Egypt and leading them into the Promised Land. It is an incredible story of God remembering his promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Moses saw the affliction of his people and had a failed attempt to rescue them in his own strength. He murdered an Egyptian taskmaster then fled to Midian. Failure marked Moses and he settled somewhere other than where God had prepared him for. I think failure marks all of us one way or another. Moses let his failure define him and he fled. Someone once said “Failure is a bruise that will heal, not a tattoo that is permanent.” Moses may have thought his failure was permanent and that it would define him.
Moses fled but God pursued him! God appeared to him and spoke to him and reminded him of what he had prepared him to accomplish.
In Exodus 3 and 4 Moses gives God 5 excuses of why he can’t do what God has asked him to do. In all fairness, he had already failed! He had already done what he thought he needed to do and it didn’t work out. His passion, dream and purpose had faded in the desert of Midian so he began to make excuses.
It took a bit but Moses finally was honest with God with the last excuse when he said “please send someone else!” I sense the desperation, the pain, the fear and the failure in his statement. He had already failed and he didn’t want to fail again. God wasn’t setting him up for failure he was setting him up for faith. God did not want to send someone else; he wanted Moses. He knew his past, he knew the failures, he knew where he was, he knew he had a temper and needed tempering. God knew and God chose Moses!
In Hebrews 11:23-29 we catch up with Moses again. We do not find anything in this passage about his failure only faith.
Failure or faith? It may take some convincing but God wants your failures and your faith. He’s not nearly as concerned about where you have been as he is about where you are. He does not speak to you where you have been, He only speaks to you where you are. It might not be through a burning bush but it will still be the great “I am” that seeks you out.
Some would say that God could have chosen someone else to do what Moses was called to do. That might be true, but God didn’t just choose anyone else He chose Moses.
You might be saying that God could choose someone else to do what you are called to do. That may be true, but God didn’t choose anyone else he chose you!
Have you ever felt like Moses? I have!

Maybe I Don't Know

November 6th is just around the corner. Millions of Americans will be casting votes for candidates and ballot measures of their choosing. It seems our state and nation is polarized politically, culturally and generationally. It seems politicians and ballot measures promise answers to all the problems. It’s strange that the “answers” that one politician has is in direct opposition to the “answers” from the next. Not only do the “problems” divide us but the “solutions” broaden the chasm of divisions further yet.
Hopefully, you are still reading after the first paragraph with its political overtones. This blog isn’t about politics or solutions; it’s more about problems. I know what Jesus has called me to do is far different than what I hear in sound bites, news feeds or conversations at the coffee shop. Jesus didn’t come to make me a judge of the problem; he came to make me a doctor. He didn’t come for me to be a problem monitor; he came to set captives free!

Isaiah 61:1-3(NLT)
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

This passage from Isaiah that Jesus read in the synagogue 2000 years ago has arrested me on several occasions. I needed to be reminded of this again a few weeks ago. The reminder came in the form of a 7-year-old boy. He was sitting at the back of the chapel; I could see from his body language that something wasn’t right. I put my hand on his shoulder and asked, “Is everything okay?” My question was simple, his answer was complex. He looked right at me with tears in his eyes and didn’t say a word. His look said more in a moment than could ever be expressed in a novel. Nothing more was spoken other than “I love you!”
That little boy in that moment with his tears didn’t care about my solutions, political affiliation, cultural background, ethnicity or even the generational difference. The only thing that mattered to him was that I loved him most.
Maybe, just maybe I don’t know as much as I think I do. Maybe my solutions, my opinions, my ideas, my fixes, my understanding about him and what he needs are limited to my very own paradigm? Maybe I don’t know…. Maybe I don’t have an answer…. Maybe I really don’t understand…. I’m not called to know or understand or have the answer. I’m called to love most! I’m called to set prisoners free!

The Next Generation of Christ Followers

Last year I had the funeral of a lifelong friend. I met him when I was 12. He invited me into his group and we spent time together. We worked together, played together, laughed together and we prayed together. He was an example of a godly man in my life who put his hand on my shoulder and gave me the confidence I needed to be a man of God. I considered him my second dad and later my children were his grandchildren. He loved me and valued me for who and what I was. I needed Jim to mentor me in the kingdom of God. He was willing, he took the time, and he made a difference in my life. He discovered what I was interested in and built a relationship with me around those things. He listened to what I had to say and in time I listened to what he had to say. I wasn’t his son…. but I was his son! II Timothy 2:2

I met a young man 7 years ago; he was about 12 years old. I invited him to be a part of our group. We set out on an adventure together. We worked together in serving our community and church. We hauled people’s trash, helped families move and even delivered firewood in the winter to those in need. It wasn’t all work! We sat around campfires, drank coffee together, worshipped, wept, studied the Scriptures, prayed together, and laughed at one another. We went on fishing, canoeing and camping trips. We hiked and biked, and sometimes were just hanging out. We had quite an adventure together. He is off now serving his country in the coast guard, he hasn’t been around for a while, but he texted me on Father’s Day and said, “Happy Father’s Day”. Someday maybe he’ll be at my funeral. He isn’t my son…. but he is my son!

The experiences that I shared are real-life discipleship. They were not a program or out of a manual. They were authentic relationships that have impacted lives for eternity. These types of discipleship relationships are happening all over Oregon. Discipleship isn’t a program it’s life together. 38 years ago Jim called his group Royal Rangers. Today, Royal Rangers is an opportunity to spend quality time together in a fun, highly relational, and safe environment that is built for discipleship for the next generation.

2,000 years ago, Jesus called some young men into a group. (I consider Jesus to be the first Royal Ranger leader) This timeless method is what God has called us to do. Matthew 28:19-20. Royal Rangers has gone through some amazing changes in the last few years. This isn’t the Royal Rangers that you grew up with. It is now easy to use, affordable, and adaptable to your church. It can be flexible to work how you need it but most of all it’s effective in making disciples. The method of discipleship hasn’t changed but Royal Rangers has and is now relevant to this generation.

Now probably more than ever we recognize the importance of discipleship for the next generation of Christ-like servant leaders. Could I ask you to rethink and reconsider Royal Rangers as a ministry of discipleship in your Church? There are boys who are like I was, waiting for someone like Jim to invite them into the group!