My Time is Very Valuable…

November 17, 2011

From a quick glance at this title, one might conclude: “this sounds intriguing…Either he thinks too highly of himself or he has a good grasp on reality,” or “this will be a blog about him and how someone wasted his time.” Well, you are wrong (if you thought that)! It has nothing to do with me, sort of…you’ll see…

Today, I embarked on my journey from Doylestown, PA to Atlanta, GA for the National Youth Workers Convention. Convention related things don’t start until tomorrow, but I wanted to come a little earlier in hopes of making time to relax and reenergize myself before I partake in this information overload that will be thrown my way in all of the Big Room Sessions, Breakout Sessions, seminars, etc… Don’t get me wrong, those are all amazingly beneficial things, but I’m at a point lately where I need to be recharged.  I went to bed at 2:00 am last night and woke up at 5:45 am to go lead my High School students in a Bible study at a local coffee shop. After that, I took a quick nap, loaded up my truck, and hit the road. What should have been a 45-minute drive to the airport, turned into almost a two hour excursion on account of the rain and the people of Philadelphia’s inability to drive in said rain! I was frustrated! I just wanted to get to the airport, get on the plane, and sleep until I landed in Atlanta. Being that I am 26 years old, you would think I would know by now that I can never get comfortable enough to sleep on a plane. Long story short, I eventually got to Atlanta and then my hotel in the downtown area.

After I unpacked and freshened up a bit, I started walking in hopes of finding a restaurant some friends and I went to years ago when we were here for the convention (Max Lager’s Wood-Fired Grill and Brewery). I found it and the food was just as good as I remembered it being. However, the barbeque sauce was  ten times as good as I remember it being. They must have made some improvements since I was last here. For that, I am thankful!

I bet you are still wondering why this blog post is called “My Time is Very Valuable…”! Don’t worry, I’m getting to it!

When I was walking back to my hotel from the restaurant, I somehow ended up going the wrong way. I was tired, frustrated, and just wanted to get back to my room. Before I go any further, I need to give you some context of this city…

If you know anything about Atlanta or if you have ever been here before, there are a lot of homeless people on the streets. Some of them will play instruments on the side of the road in hopes of passers-by giving them some change. Some of them will just sit there with a coffee can and a sign asking for any spare change. Some of them will sing in hopes that you will give them money. And others will start walking right next to you, show interest in you, and help you get to where you are going. This latter example happened to me when I was here in 2008 and again tonight. The man that I encountered in 2008 made a huge impact on my life. We walked and talked and I got to learn a little bit about his life and why he was in the situation that he was in. As I got to my destination, God was laying it on my heart to help him but all I had was a ten dollar bill, so I gave it to him. I don’t know if it helped him very much, but that encounter really opened my eyes and gave me a new perspective on Matthew 25:35-40…

“35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

In this passage, Jesus teaches that when you help people in need, you are actually doing whatever it is you did for Jesus.

I wish I could tell you that I remembered that guy’s name and that I regularly prayed for him, but I can’t. I did for a few weeks, but then I forgot about him. Until tonight…as I was walking into the restaurant I saw a guy standing near the side of the building who looked very familiar. He said “what’s up, big man?” and I nodded my head and proceeded to go get some dinner. I can’t be certain that it wasn’t the same guy, but the odds of it being him are very low. Regardless though, seeing that man tonight brought memories of 2008’s encounter back into my mind and God renewed those thoughts of wanting to make a difference in my mind.

Now, back to tonight…as I was walking around trying to bounce back from being lost, I walked past a guy who was singing something. And guess who this guy looked like?!? You guessed it, the guy from 2008 and the guy I saw earlier in the night. If it was the same guy, then God was definitely behind that beautiful orchestration. He looked at me and started walking and talking with me. He took note of my Steelers hat and started talking to me about the Steelers…not the Steelers of today, but the champions from the 1970’s. Now, keep in mind, I was lost and frustrated at the time. After a few blocks, we came to a cross-walk and waited for the signal to change that would grant us permission to cross. He asked me which hotel I was trying to find. Because of the frustrated attitude I had, I didn’t want to be bothered so I said “I’m just walking around…” But as soon as I said that, I got a gut check from God that pretty much told me that I’m an idiot and I need to help this man out. So I told him the truth and that I was trying to find the Sheraton Atlanta hotel. He told me that he knew where it was and that he wanted to help me out. Then he proceeded to tell me that besides the singing, he likes to help people like me out when they are trying to get around in the city. I reached into my pocket and gave him whatever money I had in there. It wasn’t much, and I told him that, but he said “that’s perfect!” I shook his hand and found out his name was Timothy. I thanked him and told him to go get himself something to eat!

So, you’re still wondering what this title has to do with anything, huh? I suppose it’s time to tell you. As soon as that guy stopped singing and started walking and talking with me, he went on a little rant that went something like this: “you know, I don’t have a job right now and I’m struggling, but I can sing and so I was just singing for those guys (points back to the group that had just walked away) and they wouldn’t even give me a couple dollars so that I could get something to eat. If they’re going to waste my time, they should just leave me the (expletive) alone. You know? My time is very valuable…” And that’s when it hit me. That man; although he didn’t have a job, money, or a place to live, still had an amazing grasp on reality. His reality was that even though he didn’t have much to offer, he wanted to use the little that he did have to help people. The group of guys that listened to him sing and then didn’t help him out were wasting his time. Time that he could have been using to help other people in whatever way he could.

So the questions that I want to leave you with are: Is your time so valuable to you that you aren’t allowing yourself to be tuned in to where God is leading you in terms of being the difference in peoples’ lives? Are you too busy or too frustrated to allow God to use you to help someone in need?

The reality is that our time is valuable. Not for the purpose of doing what makes us feel good but for the purpose of completing the good works God created for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). We can live by our own agendas or we can live by His, but either way, we only have so much time…

 – paulg

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Story, Experience, and Collaboration…

November 21, 2009

Wow, what a day! I won’t be writing about everything in this one post. That would be way too lengthy. So I have decided to break it up into a few separate posts.

Today was the official first day of the youth specialties convention in Atlanta. I have been here since Wednesday night though. I planned to arrive early so I could attend the pre-convention intensive training seminar that was offered. The one that I chose to attend was taught by Mike Novelli, Mark Novelli, and Kelly Dolan and was called “Story, Experience, and Collaboration.” It was a six hour course (split up in to two three hour courses), thus the term “intensive” before the training seminar! I chose this one because one of the presenters was the guy that wrote the book (Shaped by the Story) that I recently bought and started reading. This new method of teaching has intrigued me for some time now and I was continually told by many of my youth pastor friends to get the above-mentioned book. Whenever I found out the author of the book was leading the seminar, I knew that it was the one for me.

Mike and Mark are twins so half of the time I never knew which one was speaking, which is why I liked when Kelly spoke; it was easy to distinguish who he was! The seminar started off with Mike showing a clip of Louis CK from Conan O’Brien called “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.” The clip was a comedic one that basically stated that we live in a world where everything is amazing (we have everything at our fingertips/disposal) but no one is happy. He showed this to illustrate that this emergent generation are not idiots, but their expectations have changed. How we learn things, how we view the world, and how we interact with each other have all changed. Typical forms of worship, engagement, faith formation, and spiritual community do not work well with these students. As a result, this should change the way that we do ministry.

Mike told us a story of how he noticed that most of his students were very busy, but not very deep. To try to solve this, he tried his favorite method of inductive Bible study (an analytical method of looking at a specific text). In this method, you ask specific questions to learn. Mike then told us a story of one of his students that when asked what he thought about the new method of learning, said: “I like that we are learning the Bible, and I think that it is important that we do, but I don’t think that this is the way that I learn!” This blew Mike away and got him to start thinking: “Is the Bible intimidating, boring, or irrelevant?” and “when do they begin to experience, interact with, and enjoy this story (of the Bible) for themselves?”

At Mike’s next church, he tried a new form of teaching with them that he learned form a missionary in Uganda. He tried a method of teaching known as “storying.” In storying, learning is now the hearer’s responsibility. Storying is not about memorizing Bible stories, but it is about it becoming their own story! They can see themselves in the people in the story and how they should and shouldn’t live! One student’s comment about storying is as follows:

“It made me realize…I need to live for the author! God has a story for my life and I am excited to discover and I want to share it with others. God’s amazing story is what we’ve been waiting for our entire lives.” – Michelle (High School Junior)

Mike saw a breakthrough and that the story was really rooted in these students (like Michelle). The students knew where they fit in to the story and that they are a continuation of that story. Something changed in his students; something lasting…there was formation in it!

This idea of storying has really got me thinking and trying to find ways to incorporate it and use it in my youth ministry. One of the main reasons I want to try to implement this is because of the following statistics:

We retain:

  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 50% of what we see and hear
  • 70% of what is discussed with others
  • 80% of what we experience personally
  • 95% of what we teach someone else

If our students can experience God’s story personally and then teach it to others, imagine how drastically different our youth ministries, churches, and world would be!

– paulg


Prayer: Why Don’t We Do It?

November 19, 2009

Today, I had the privilege of speaking at one of the high schools near my church. The principal there called me months ago and asked me if I would be willing to speak at their chapel. I chose today because it fit best with my schedule. The purpose of my speaking there was two-fold. One reason was because I felt that God opened the door for me to speak, and the second was that it offered the possibility of helping my youth group to grow. I know that may sound selfish, but it’s one of the bargaining points that the principal used when presenting me with the opportunity. He said that he requires his students to be a member of a youth group and that some of them haven’t found a youth group to belong to yet. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the school I spoke at was a Christian school. There were about 50 students present, 3 of which are members of my youth group. It was nice to hear them get excited that their youth pastor was coming to their school to speak!

I spoke on “prayer” and entitled my message: “What’s a Christian to do?” In my initial talks with the principal of that school, he revealed to me that he is ashamed to see that most of the students there don’t pray. I don’t know if he meant that they don’t ever pray, and I also don’t think that he can determine that. But he did know that he rarely sees them pray before lunch each day. So I took what he told me, prayed about it, and ran with it. My main point was that often times; people don’t know what it means to be a Christian. I’ve run into too many people who think that in order to be a Christian, all they have to do is go to church once a week. Prayer is one of the most important aspects of the Christian life (along with the Word of God) and that was the message that I was trying to get across to them.

Another point I hit them with was that sometimes, people think they are too busy to pray. You’ve done it, the principal of the school has done it, I’ve done it (that’s for sure), and I’m sure that most Christians have done it. We live in a society and culture where busyness is the norm. More and more these days, kids are trained to go from one thing to the next. Wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, come home,  start homework, go to a sports practice or game, come home, eat dinner, do more homework, etc, etc, etc… Did you notice that church wasn’t involved in that list? Usually, at least from what I’ve seen so far, homework and sports come before youth group and church. It’s a sad but true reality! Because of this extreme busyness that we all have in our lives, we often leave little to no time to communicate with God through prayer. This should not be the case…at all!

In the Bible, an excellent example of someone who understood the importance of prayer was…you guessed it…Jesus! Jesus was a very busy man who had people to teach, sicknesses and diseases to heal, miracles to perform, an enemy to fight, and a life to live as an example to others. But even though Jesus was insanely busy and had a ton of good reasons not to pray, He still found time to communicate with His Father in Heaven!

Luke 5:15-16 says:

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

This passage is just one example of Jesus’ extreme busyness. Word started to spread about the work and miracles that Jesus was doing and more and more people came to hear what He had to say and to be healed of their sicknesses and diseases. But as we see in the passage, Jesus often “withdrew” to lonely places (this means He went away…by Himself) to pray and spend time with His Father in Heaven! This passage should serve as a great example to us. Jesus displayed a very real sense of closeness with God that I believe we should all try to imitate. Jesus lived and prayed like He believed that prayer worked and it kept Him focused and in-touch with God. The great news is that it can do the same for us!

To illustrate the point that we need to talk to God on a regular basis, I included a poem that I found in one of my sermon illustration books.

“I woke up late, no time to pray, I hurried off to school.

I failed to take advantage of this important tool.

Throughout the day I ran about, I had no time to kneel.

When dinner came, I failed again, to thank God for my meal.

When day was done, I went to bed, to get the rest I needed.

But once again the Bible’s call for prayer was left unheeded.

One busy day my soul was called, to answer for my deeds;

And as I stood, I realized I had denied its needs.

My name was called, and I stepped up to hear my sentence quote;

Yet all I got, to my surprise, was a little paper note;

And on this note God had written a message, oh, so true.

“You always failed to talk to me, why should I speak to you?”

Every time I read this poem, it makes me think back to all the times in my life where I was too “busy” to talk to God. I pray that it did that for all of those High School students today as well!

As I stated earlier, prayer and the Word of God are two of the most important aspects of the Christian life. If you take out the spark of prayer, and the gas of God’s Word, then you will never have a fire!

Now, as I am 37,000 feet in the air (on my way to the national youth workers convention) in Atlanta, Georgia, I was able to do some thinking and I realize that God had me prepare and deliver a message on prayer because I needed to hear it myself! I have allowed myself to become so “busy” that I rarely give God the time that He deserves. That will soon change though.

I want to end this post with some questions that I asked during my talk today. I’m not only asking you this; I’m asking myself as well!

Don’t we believe in prayer? Don’t we know what it could mean in our lives? Then why don’t we pray?

My question for you is this: Do you struggle with this as well? Are you too busy to spend time communicating with your Father in Heaven?

God wants to be our friends. He wants to be there for us through thick and thin. If we don’t talk to Him, our friendship will not grow. We know that prayer is important to our lives, so why don’t we do it?

–          paulg


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