Defining Success

I care about people. I love them. I love them because I love the God that created them. He’s the same God that created me. He’s the same God that saved my life! So of course I want to help Him save more lives.

I’m focused on success for the same reason. I want to achieve something not only for myself, but for those who do not have. I’m focused on those who don’t have food or clean water. I’m focused on orphans and victims of human trafficking. Imagine being hungry, or having a contaminated water supply. Imagine what happens to children who don’t have a parent to love them. Imagine what it’s like to be deprived of your freedom! These are the lives I want to help God save. This is my definition of success.

I’d love to see this approach to success take root in society. Go find a random person right now, anywhere you like, behind a desk or on a ball field or in a doctor’s office. Go anywhere you like. Ask them if they get up in the morning and set a goal to achieve something. They’ll probably say yes. But then ask them, do they do it in order to help provide for someone who does not have? Most people are going to say no, I don’t think that way when I set goals.

I’d like to see that change.

I think it starts with kids. When we approach kids with the idea of setting goals to help others, it turns out that they love it! I’ve seen it in my work with the Not For Sale campaign and the Something to Eat campaign. In those organizations, I see kids setting goals to achieve something just so they can help save a life. They say, “I guarantee you I can come up with fifteen cents to feed someone.” Or they say, “I guarantee you I can come up with five cents to help with Not For Sale. In fact, I can do chores and I’ll raise a dollar!” They follow through, too, because for them, helping people in need is a priority.

Involving young people in projects like these is the best way to transform society. We’re helping them see that they can live their entire lives as servant leaders. When they think of success as leadership through service, they get really motivated. They decide to be the best at what they do. They work hard to follow their dreams.

They also realize how big they can dream. Be a CEO! Be an entrepreneur! They’ll dream this big when we help them see how powerful it is to be the one to make the rules. One of those rules can be to devote a portion of their company’s revenues to building orphanages, or responding to a food crisis or a water crisis. Or they’ll find a way to put an end to slave labor in their industry.

Showing up to help a person or a community in need is holy. Servant leadership is holy. It really is. The effects are felt everywhere. People know they have been helped, so they want to do the same thing. They know that someone provided for them by setting goals and dreaming dreams. So now they set goals and dream dreams. Now they achieve for the sake of others. Now it goes global.

When we identify as servant leaders, we are motivated to excel in our jobs and our lives. We work harder for success when we know that our success can help God save lives.

It’s great to teach this to kids, but I really hope we can all learn to think this way.

See you Thursday.

Unity Through Dialogue

As iron sharpens iron,
So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
Proverbs 27:17

We need to take action. We need to unify the church. It’s key to the return of Jesus!

Let’s begin with an “iron sharpening iron” dialogue. Let’s come to an understanding. It’s going to be hard, but it’s not impossible. We’re all in this together, after all. We sing differently, we worship differently, and we handle our services differently, but we are all the church. Our differences should not stand in the way of seeking unity. We need a common understanding of who God is and how He works, so Christian thinkers need to come together and start sharpening each other.

By “sharpening,” I don’t mean “competing.” Dialogue is not a competition. It’s not about proving that your words are better than the other guy’s. Dialogue is not, “I know I’m right, and I know you’re wrong.” Don’t be afraid to be wrong. Be prepared to adjust your thought process when you find the other guy makes sense. Right now, I think we’re unwilling to do that. I think we’re afraid of conflict.

Generation Alive works with Spokane-area schools, but we’re also trying to unify the church. We’re working with the youth pastors to build unity. They are doing a terrific job, but it wasn’t like that at first. When we started out, they weren’t getting together very often. In fact, it felt like the churches were involved in a turf war! It felt like they were saying to each other, “Don’t get in our way.” It felt like everything turned into a competition! “When you put on an event,” they seemed to say, “we’re going to hold one at the same time.” Seriously! Unity felt like it was a long way out.

Things have changed now. The youth pastors are doing a great job, and I’m glad to see it. After all, they are the ones who are discipling our young leaders.

If you’re not willing to sit with thinkers and engage in a necessary and sharpening dialogue, you may never learn. Maybe some people are different from you. Maybe they have different lenses. But everyone’s focus is on the same God. Through dialogue, we try on each others’ lenses. And through dialogue, those different lenses could start to make sense. They could start to improve the way we see things. Look at God through the lens of another, and the way you see Him could improve. Let someone look at God through your lens, and the way they see Him could improve.

If we don’t engage in dialogue, we may never know. And if we’re not willing to sit with other Christians in community, we may never be unified.

See you Monday.

Give Them Something to Eat

Generation Alive stages Something to Eat events 2-3 times a month. They are so fulfilling. They give kids a chance to say, “We’re going to help someone who needs to be helped.” That’s the greatest thing. These kids show completely selfless love.

Our first one, in 2011, changed my life. It was an all-day event in January and several hundred people showed up for it. Everyone worked together in teams to package kits for complete meals. Each kid who came was directly involved. One kid would hold a bag under a funnel. Another would pour some protein powder in. The next kid would pour in some dried vegetables, and then the next one would pour in some vitamin powder. The last thing to get poured in was rice.

Next, someone would check the weight of the bag, because it had to weigh a certain amount for shipping. If it weighed too much, they took a little rice out, and if it weighed too little, they added a little rice in. Then the next kid would take the bag and hold it under a heat sealer, and the next one would seal it. Then they’d stack the bags for boxing.

You add this meal kit to boiling water and you get all the nutrients you need for the day. Hungry kids in places like Haiti eat these meals and their health really improves. Their hair and nails grow back, their eyesight improves, and they do better in school because they can think properly. These meals are helping their bodies do what they need to do.

From start to finish, it takes two minutes to make a meal kit that restores life to someone dealing with hunger. Each kid in a group took part in preparing each bag, and each bag held six meals. Twelve kids would touch the same bag, and know that they were a part of all six meals.

We told the kids, “Write whatever you want on the box. Write a positive message.” And these boxes were covered in messages. “God loves you,” they wrote. “We pray for you.” “We love you.” “We care about you.” They drew pictures! It was awesome, just to see them waiting for their turn. They worked hard, enjoyed the work, and wanted to do more.

You just can’t imagine how fulfilling and uplifting it is to spend a day with kids who are willing to work hard to help strangers! A lot of them shared that they want to do this all their lives, and even do it for a living. That makes me think about God’s call and our response. Next time, I want to share some thoughts about that. See you Thursday.

Feeding the Hungry and Figuring It Out

But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God. Acts 5:39

In the Book of Acts we read about numerous efforts to kill the Christians off. In Chapter 5, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who the Bible tells us was an honored teacher, advised the Sanhedrin not to kill the Apostles. He said, “Hey, if this is not of God it’s going to go away. Things not of God will die. They will perish. They don’t work. But if it is of God, then you cannot stop it. You can do whatever you want, but you will not stop it.”

I think that’s what our young people are saying too. I think it’s what they said by working so hard to package meals last Saturday. They are saying, “We love our neighbors like Jesus did, and you’re not going to stop us.” And there’s no reason they should be stopped. What they are doing is a fulfillment of true love. It’s unconditional.

Unconditional love.

Unconditional love.

Those kids did not know one person that would be fed through their hard work. And yet they loved them enough to put meal kits together for them. That’s unconditional love. And when you love someone just to love them, there’s no greater love than that. That’s the love of Jesus. That’s why it’s so important.

Some kids told me, “If we could do this for a living, we would.” It took my breath away! That is just an amazing, amazing deal.

We’re not trying to get these kids to commit to doing this for a living. Our message is, “Do what you’re gifted to do for a living, so that you can do these things as well.” To put it another way, we want to encourage these kids to become successful by using their God-given gifts. That way, they can use that success to serve the least among us. We tell them, “Become successful so you can continue to help build orphanages. Become successful so you can help dig water wells. Become successful so you can help rescue kids from trafficking. Become successful so you can sponsor these meals to help people who are hurting.”

And I guarantee they lay in bed Saturday night and said, “I feel good about myself.” I guarantee you some kids who came on Saturday said, “For the first time in my life, I feel good about myself and what I did. I can sleep soundly tonight and know that I didn’t cause any pain and frustration. I didn’t mess up.” I’m sure some of those kids get told all the time how much they mess up. Well that day, they didn’t mess up. That day, they were fulfilling the dreams of other people. That day, they thought about people who feel like they mess up, and took care of them.

These kids have figured it out. Whether they believe in Jesus or not, they’ve figured it out. Their souls are satisfied.

The Power of the Young

Two days until our Something to Eat event in East Palo Alto! We had such an incredible response to our 2011 event in Spokane. For four hours, 350 young people packaged meals. We were moving all day, working really hard, and we prepared 75,000 meals for the food banks.

Curiously, only one news crew showed up. We thought that was sad. You had 350 kids in Spokane, Washington taking care of people that were hungry, and the news crews had something better to do? I think not! I think that they missed the ball on that.

We weren’t doing it for media exposure, but the community needs to see that young people are acting in a positive way. Those kids definitely didn’t come to be on TV, yet they did such a special thing.

GAThis country needs to see that young people are no longer willing to be uneducated. They will respond when a crisis hits. They’ll hear about something like the suffering after the typhoon in the Philippines, and they’ll respond. They won’t sit there and say, “We never knew that this was happening.” They’ll say, “We know what’s happening, and we’re here to help with that. We’re going to fix that. We’re going to love our neighbor as ourselves.”

The Bible was written to bring complete peace to the world, by teaching us to love God and our neighbor. There’s no law against love. You cannot love somebody too much. You can’t go to jail for loving somebody. No one can hate you for loving somebody. No one’s going to be able to do that. The Bible is a fulfillment of peace, that’s what it is.

And so we need to know about these kids, loving their neighbor as themselves. The human traffickers need to know about them. They need to know that these kids have made up their minds and are saying, “We’re not going to sit back and accept that the chocolate industry is slaving out other kids. We’re not going to be okay with that. Because that’s a lack of respect for humanity, and that’s not how we love our neighbor. And the only way to bring peace to this world is to love our neighbor as ourselves.”

People need to know about the devastation of hunger, and lack of water, and lack of homes. And above all people need to know that our kids are no longer standing for it, and they’re going to fight it. This generation is going to be the generation that does what it takes to bring about a worldwide peace. People need to know.

Young Leaders Fighting Hunger

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12

Timothy was a very young person, and someone encouraged him saying, “Don’t let them look down on you because you’re young. You have good leadership skills.”

I’m looking forward to being with Generation Alive and Youthfront at our Something to Eat event this Saturday in East Palo Alto. I remember our first Something to Eat event, in Spokane in 2011. (Back then it was called “Feed the Hunger.”) The event was a direct experience of the leadership skills of the young. Our young people have really good leadership skills. At these Something to Eat events, they step out in front and they lead entire communities of people.

SomethingToEatAdults follow their lead because they see these young people getting excited about doing something that means selflessness, not selfishness. These young people say, “We want to serve. We want to serve people who are hurting. We want to get outside of our own selfish needs. We want to help other people, because we have and they don’t. We want to help with that.” At any age, fifteen years or thirty-three years, that’s pretty exciting.

The effects of the leadership of the young aren’t limited to just one day or just one event. In 2011, the event inspired a Spokane church to call and say, “Our fourth graders have challenged our high school youth group to a Something to Eat meal kit challenge. Who can package the most meals?” The public schools volunteered to host an event. A guy that worked at a bank stopped in to see what we were doing and said, “What if we got together and did this as a bank?” Well, that’s no problem! We’re mobile. We can go to all these places: churches, schools, banks, and more!

And there’s even more to what these young leaders accomplished. You see, now any time there’s a crisis, they’re going to be able to unite a community. They built faith within their community, and now, if a crisis like the one in Haiti or the Philippines hits and we launch a Something to Eat campaign, the whole community is going to know what we’re doing. They’ll know who we are, and they’ll join together to help.

Those kids back in 2011 really got excited about how good they felt. They brought the money, because they went from house to house. They did whatever they could. Their parents didn’t do it, they did. And now they can say, “We did it. We put 75,000 meals into the food banks. And people were fed.”

It really feels good to see people getting excited about feeding the hungry. The Gospel of Jesus Christ feels good. Our community is finding fulfillment because with every meal we package, we feed Jesus Christ Himself. In January 2011, we packaged 75,000 meals. We fed Jesus Christ 75,000 times! Think about that!

When you feed the Son of the Most High God, you can’t not be fulfilled. The love and compassion that goes into that is your ultimate fulfillment. It’s why you’re here!

The Challenge of Youth Ministry

And God said, Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. (Genesis 1:26)

The word “our” is plural. I do believe in the Trinity – the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and God – and I think when He said “our image,” He meant “our likeness.” He meant, “Who We are.” And I think that we humans are image-bearers based on that. We are to bear the image of God.

Jesus came down to show us what that image looks like. I think that’s why He came. I think youth workers and youth pastors need to take this very, very seriously.

When kids go to church, they look to one person, their youth pastor. They trust him, or her. Why? Because that’s the person their parents or the church have entrusted them to. When they listen to the youth pastor, these kids are saying, “This person cares for me, and is trying to help me and teach me truth.”

IheartYMSo these pastors have to pray hard. They have to truly ask God, “How can I reflect Christ appropriately? What do I do to bear Your image correctly?” They have to do this because for a lot of these kids, if their youth pastor fails them, they’re done. Based on their age and their time of life, their parents may not identify with them very well. Maybe some of the dads have walked out on them. So if their pastor fails them, they are lost.

When youth pastors seek to learn and understand why they’re here with kids, they realize they aren’t here to simply order pizza and play video games and babysit. They realize they’re here to show their kids the qualities and character of Jesus.

Youth pastors are here to say, “This is Jesus. He is the one we are following. He is the one the disciples followed. The disciples were in their teenage years when they followed Jesus. Did you know that? When Jesus called the disciples, they were young kids, man. They were teenagers. And He entrusted the Gospel to them like He’s entrusting the Gospel to you. And like those disciples, we have to know what we believe in, and we have to stand up for what we believe in, and we have to live what we believe in.”

If you are a youth pastor, then God has gifted you to work with young people. Young people are drawn to you for a reason. You have got to use that gifting to teach them and train them in the appropriate way. You have got to teach them how to love, and you have got to model that in your character, in your integrity, and in your personal life.

Kids are going to be around you all of the time. So they know if you fake it. They know if you’re not real. You have got to allow them to see who you are. Man, you have to love these kids with passion! Show them that your focus is to let them know who they are in Christ.

I know there are also a lot of things that kids show us. See you Monday.