The Bigger Story

Finding Your Place in the Bigger Story 

A lesson for youth on freedom and significance

Tonight (10/14/2009) I’m leading our youth group,and want to start talking about “The Bigger Story.” This is actually much more than just what could be accomplished in a single night, much less even in an hour a week, once a week, for any period of time, so tonight I just want to start cracking the door open… seeing where they are, what their expectations and hopes are to what the future holds, and how they came to that “conslusion.” Are we aiming to be what the world has planned for us, what we feel we can accomplish, or what God has specifically designed us to be? That’s not all that hard to answer on a surface level, but down deep, who am I really LIVING as if I’m going to be when I “get big?”

ICE BREAKER – What do you want to be?

  • Give each person in the group two card to write on. On the first card, have them write their name, and answer the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Let them know the question is not meant to ask “what kind of job do you want?” or “where do you want to live,” but “what do you want to be?” It is a very subjective question, and they should open their mind to dreams they might really have in their hearts. On the second card, simply have them write their name on the top of the card.
  • Collect all the cards. Set aside the cards with names/answers on them.
  • Mix up and redistribute the cards with just names, so that each person gets a card with someone else’s name on it. Without talking or getting input from the person, have each teen write down what they think that person has the potential to be (what they “could be”), based on talents, personality, skills, etc. Make it known that any negative or even sarcastic cards will be thrown right out. This is to be a positive experience.
  • Collect the remaining cards.
  • Now, put the cards together by name. Read both answers, one given by the person about themself and the other given by someone else about the person. Have the teens guess who wrote which answer.

Follow up questions:

  • What kind of expectations do we have of ourselves?
  • What kindof expectations does the world have for us?
    • Our friends?
    • Our family?
    • Our church?
  • What about GOD? What kind of things do you think matter to Him about your future?
  • What is it about your life right now that is preparing you to be who God may be preparing you to be 5 years, 10 years, 40 years from now? Can we know?

THE BIGGER STORY – Is there more to “who we are” than we can see?

Talk for a few minutes about common expectations of teenagers.

  • What kinds of expectations are put on you by peers, parents, teachers, etc.?
  • What kind of expectations do you put on yourself?
  • How many of these are in fact helpful?
  • In your own experience, what holds you back? Is it more of a lack of ability, focusing on the wrong thing, or is it a lack of someone “believing in you?”

REAL LIFE EXAMPLES – What holds us back?

Show the video clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngzyhnkT_jY

So… who is Jason Mac? Is he a boy “dealing” with autism? Or is he something more… perhaps even, a basketball player?

Talk about real life examples of people “held back” by low expectations. Do you know anyone like this? Perhaps their parents didn’t think they were coordinated enough for a sport, or they didn’t think themselves smart enough to try that honors class, or someone hiring for a particular job didn’t hire them because they didn’t “look” right.

  • What does this do to your own attitude, when someone else tells you – out loud or figuratively – “you don’t have what it takes.”
  • Do you try to prove them wrong? Do you give up and lower your own expectations? Do you just go a different direction?
  • Where does “dedication” come from?

I’ve had my eyes opened during the past several years to what I’m now calling “The Bigger Story.” The idea that every day, no matter what I do, carries much more significance than I’d care to give it. How I speak to someone who I honestly could care less about. My facial expressions. My words. My actions. They all matter. At the same time, though, I can’t “rely” on myself or others to prove that I have what it takes. It just won’t happen. I can’t “make myself” be who I think I need to be. I can’t prove myself, to myself. My wife can’t prove it to me. My friends can’t give it to me. My paren’t can’t, didn’t, and won’t give it to me. I just can’t “succeed” enough to prove it.

  • Have you been there?
  • What kinds of things do you look to for validation? For comfort?
  • What does the Bible say about this? Is there a model?

Let’s look at the story of Jesus. Throughout His life on earth, he led a group of disciples and proclaimed God’s message with authority. That concept of “with authority” means that not only is he “serious,” but that he can back it up. How could one person – even if He was God – be so confident? Was Jesus just “special” because he was God and man? Or did he have something we don’t backing him up? Did he have something in his life that “proved” to him that he “has what it takes?”

  • Answer the question… what experiences did Jesus have in His life to give him that confidence and assurance to speak with power and authority?

JESUS’ BAPTISM

From Matthew 3:13-17: “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Talk about the significance of this event. Were these words from God the father for Jesus, or for the people present at the baptism? Maybe a little of both, but think about it, what would it mean for you to have God, your true Father, put his hand on your shoulder and say, “______, I’m proud of you. You are my child. You are my son, my daughter. I love you. I’m happy with you. I want you to succeed, and I’m going to help you.”

There are opportunities all around us to receive this affirmation. Many times, though, it just doesn’t happen. A big part of it, in my understaning, is to come through fathers, through men. Not because a mother or a woman can’t encourage you, can’t tell you how great you are… but there’s something about hearing it from a dad. And that’s missing in a lot of our lives, isn’t it? We have dads who are physically gone – death, divorice, whatever… we have dads who are just “distant” – be it work, their own fears and inadequacies… I know, I’m learning… being a parent, being a father, demands something of you, and if you didn’t get it yourself, you’ll have a terrible time giving it to someone else. And that’s what I believe this event did for Jesus. It was that moment in time he could look back to when he suffered, when he was opposed, and say, “No. That’s not true. I am not who you say you are. I am The Son Of God.”

JESUS’ TEMPTATION

What was very next story recorded after Jesus’ baptism? It was his temptation. You know, out in the desert.

Matthew 4: 1-11: Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ” ‘He will command his angels concerning you,and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

  • How did the affirmation from Jesus’ father in the previous verses prepare him for this time?
  • Have you had an experience where God build your confidence, and then it was tested shortly after? How did you fare?

CONCLUSION

Go back to the beginning of the lesson. Is your perspective of what the future holds, of who you might even be able to be today, limited by thoughts of inadaquacy, by thoughts that you can’t succeed, that you aren’t loved, that you don’t have what it takes? We talked about this whole concept of “being fathered by God” a long time ago now, but its so core to all of this I think we have to come back to it, over and over. It’s where our true strength comes from. It’s where our identity is forged.

Think for a minute about what you wrote down originally. About who you want to be. Is that really who you want to be, or is there more. Do you feel like you’re being held in a box, by yourself, by others, by God? How do you get out? How do you break free? And what does that look like in real life? We’ll never know until we quit trying to live up to false expectations, until we stop trying to please people or even prove ourselves to God. We won’t know until we give up, lose control, and let God take not only the reigns, but also the map.

Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

Visioneering, by Andy Stanley

I’m reading a book by Andy Stanley called Visioneering. Excellent book about not just leadership, but finding out who God made you to be, and what He made you to do, and how to get from “here” to “there.” Right now I’m reading all about that “wait and pray” phase that so often is right before the “give up because it must not be God’s will” phase. This post is a place for me to jot down quotes, thoughts, and things I learn from the book.

The basic building blocks of a vision:

  1. A vision begins as a concern.
  2. A vision does not necessarily require immediate action.
  3. Pray for opportunities and plan as if you expect God to answer your prayers.
  4. God is using your circumstances to position and prepare you to accomplish his vision for your life.

And some quotes and lessons as I go through the book.

CHAPTER 1 – A VISION IS BORN

  • We’ve forgotten who we are and where we came from.
  • “Visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be
  • A dream is not a vision. “Vision is a clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be… Vision is a preferred future.”
  • “Nehemiah’s vision didn’t begin as a vision. It began as a concern, a burden. A burden for his nation and its people… So what did he do? Nothing. He did absolutely nothing. He didn’t steal away across the desert int he night. He didn’t fabricate a reason to leave Persia. He didn’t even share his burden with other concerned Jews. But neither did he allow his daily responsibilities to distract him from the burden that had gripped his heart… He chose to waitWhat could be and should be can’t be until God is ready for it to be.

CHAPTER 2 – PRAYING AND PLANNING

  • “What can you do to keep your dream alive? Nehemiah did two things. He prayed and he planned… We see what we are looking for; we often miss what we don’t expect to see… Prayer keeps us looking. Prayer keeps the burden fresh. It keeps our eyes and hearts in an expectant mode.”
  • Dreamers vs. Visionaries: “Dreamers dream about things being different. Visionaries envision themselves making a difference. Dreamers think about how nice it would be for something to be done. Visionaries look for an opportunity to do something.”
  • “Think about this. If God could sway King Artaxerxes to finance the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem, he could certainly change the heart of those who stand between you and the vision God has given you. Humanly speaking, there was no way int he world King Artaxerxes was going to support Nehemiah’s vision. But prayer takes us well beyond human possibilities…Vision normally precedes jus about everything necessary to bring it into the sphere of reality.”
  • “New visions die easily. And understandably so. There is little to go on. Praying and planning willhelp you keep your vision alive…When your vision dies, part of you dies as well… Pray for the people who could help you launch your vision. And while you wait, plan! Develop a strategy. Dream on paper. Find the one or two things you can do and get busy.”

Topics for Youth

Some topics I’d like to cover in youth group…

  • Freedom
  • Fear
  • Promises / Language / Words “Matter”
  • “The Bigger Picture” / Finding your place in the story

Some Resources

  • Games
  • Movie / Video clips
  • Music
  • Stories

More thoughts and comments to come…

A weekend full of rocks – Part 2

This continues a series of events known as a weekend in my life… Part one is here.

So after a long Saturday, we hit the sack for a good 6 hours of sleep before waking up and hitting a Sunday running. We’ve lined up some teenage friends to come home with us after church to ride horses for the afternoon, so it’s going to be a full day.

First things first. We need 2 cars. Between my family, Adam, and the kids coming home with us, there will be seven of us. I’d be fine stuffing all the guys in the back of the truck, but alas… that’s not happening (now that I think of it, did I even bring it up?) So Adam’s going to drive my car in so he can bring the teens back to the house after church. He comes and leaves a little early, since he claims he actually drives the speed limit (good 17 year old). 5 minutes after he leaves, though, the phone rings. It’s Adam. “I think I’m out of gas.” Greeeeeat. Let the ADVENTURE continue! We rush around to get out the door with a can of gas I had in the barn, and set out to find him. Once we get there, I tell Erin to go on ahead. We give her Adam’;s phone, since she forgot hers, so that we can call her if we need her to come back.

Glug, Glug, Glug… this has GOT to be the slowest gas can ever. It takes us about 5 minutes to get a couple gallons out of it, but because the car is sitting at an angle on the side of the road, it’s not picking it up. So we decide to call Erin, have her come back, and we’ll deal with the car later on. And then we discover, I left my phone in the SUV. So she has my phone, and Adam’s phone, and we have no phone. Lovely. We flag down this old lady, make her late for church, and call Erin to have her come back and pick us up.

While we’re waiting, we put some more gas in the car, and eventually get it started. Now we can’t call Erin back, though, to tell her to go ahead and turn around again and head back to churh… again. So we’ll have to flag her down as we pass her, or hope she “gets it” when she gets back to where the car was and it’s not there anymore. All works out, and we’re only 15 minutes late to Sunday School, which, for us, really isn’t that late. Adventure 1 down, what else is to come on this fine day?

After church, we head to  Arby’s for lunch. Uneventful event, although I am fine tuning the story from last night as I’ve shared it at least 3 times by now. Adam’s gotta get gas, and he’s taking Sean and the girls (Tabi and Katie) to the house, so he heads out ahead of us so he can get that done. We pass him anyways. I find out later on that Adam did a bit of speeding due to some peer pressure (or so he says) on the way home. Oh well, we tried.

Now, it’s on to the real adventure. Horseback riding. Sean hasn’t ridden here before, Tabi and Katie are rearing to go again – they were here about a month ago. So we get Jack and Alpine brushed and tacked up, and away we go… to the back yard, that is. Lots of good stuff, but all in all, a few highlights:

  • You can’t really make a horse do anything. Sure, you’ve got a bit of control over his mouth. But comeon, if he wants you off, you’re off. Horseback riding is so much more about convincing the horse to do what you want than making him do it. A lesson we saw put into action several times between all 4 of us who rode.  You can’t make him back up. You can’t make him jump over a log. You can’t make him stop taking a pitstop at the barn after every lap. But you can convince him. How? Talking, touching, speaking his language… convincing him. Tabi and I talked about this a good bit. It’s come back up several times since.
  • Don’t ride with a cell phone in your pocket (Katie!) 🙂 I do this too, but we experience Sunday how long it can take to really search a 2 acre plot of grass (short and tall), dirt, and horse poop. You’ve gotta go over every spot about 3 times apparently, because it finally turned up in a spot  I know we’d already looked.
  • Sean is AWESOME! He set out with a goal to get the horse (“make him,” in his words) to do something. Not really too big of a thing, but just something, like backing up. And he stuck with it. He got it done. And that’s exactly how it’s done.

So that was most of the afternoon, from my recollection, at least. Good times. We’re enjoying having the teens over, and it was nice to have a little different group this time. Erin and I are working on some ideas to make this a bit more regular and fun.

Oh, oh oh… on the way back into town for the teens 5PM youth meeting, I let Katie drive. Until we got about a half mile down the road and I was informed she didn’t have her license on her. So then Tabi takes over.. Learner permit driver, lovely. 🙂 Quite a ride… but not bad, Tabi.

So that’s the end of the stories from this weekend.

A weekend full of rocks – Part 1

This past weekend was full of events, stories, fun, and lessons. I need to get some of them down.

Saturday morning started with a family shopping trip to Menards for material for a new chicken tractor. If you don’t know what those are, you haven’t been to my house and looked out the back window. We have these portable pens for our chickens, one made of 2×2’s (good idea), and one made of 1″ PVC (not so great idea). Each day we move them around our pastures, giving the chickens access to fresh grass, while at the same time fertilizing, mowing, and clearing bugs and weeds out of the way. So the PVC tractor’s life has come to an end… wood is easy to repair, glued PVC, not so much.

On the way home, Erin, Colton, and I took the “messy road,” as my son likes to call it. It’s the state road that’s technically closed right now, but is still mostly paved, and on Saturday, there was no construction traffic, and we were in the truck… ADVENTURE awaits! So we took that road to the Orchard County Store‘s fall festival. A straw tunnel, corn maze, and miniature pumpkin decorating made for a great time.

From there we went on home, waited for Adam to show up, and started our “work day,” which equated to taking nine years of scrap metal, wood, and junk and separating it into an organized mess. The highlight had to be the old reel mower that weight 500-600 pounds that Adam and I more or less flipped, end over end, until we got it to the new “fenced in” scrap pile, and then rolled it up a hill. Such hard labor had not been done in a while. In the end, it finished as all good work days do, with a fire, full of toxic smoke in pretty colors that rivaled a rainbow.

Fast forward to Saturday night, around 10PM. Colton’s in bed, we’re getting ready to head to bed early, when suddenly, the evening goes down the tube. One of our lovely dogs (Ruby), has stolen a round bone from the other dog (Otis) and has been chewing on it. Normal behavior, no big deal. But now she’s done it. She’s got it stuck on her lower jaw. Half of it’s in her mouth, behind her canines, while the other half is stuck under her chin. What to do now… Of course, Chet has the answer… if we can’t pull it off, we’ll hacksaw it off! What a novel idea! I’m sure the dog won’t mind. After about 45 minutes of trying, I give up. After a “pleasant” discource with Erin, we decide that even though we’re both frustrated with the situation, and with each other, the real creature with frustrations is the one standing on 4 legs, waiting for us to do something productive with this mass of bone stuck in her mouth.

So I head into the 24 hour animal hospital, which is about a half hour drive away. After about 15 minutes, and $200, I’m back on my way home. Fun night, but all ended well… except the bank account and my good night’s sleep, I suppose.

So, that’s the first day of the weekend, and part one of my recount of it, as I pile up rocks to monumentalize the wonderful family God has graced me with, as well as friends, experiences, and a life I wouldn’t trade for anything. Stay tuned for Sunday, and more chronicles of Adam, Tabi, Katie, Paige, Colton, and me and my wife… along with probably a few other minor characters.