Jamaica – Day 8 – Leaving on a Jet Plane

JamaicaMission 2015

Leaving Jamaica is bitter sweet.  We have families, jobs, friends, school and so much more waiting for us when we get back home.  But for a solid week it feels like every step you take and every word you speak has so much more power and impact for the Kingdom of God.  You look at the faces of those that you have worked with night and day for a week and you make plans to return in a year.  Jamaica is great place full of wonderful people.  It is also a very hard and difficult place.  There are no jobs for the people to get so they do what they can to survive.  For some that means picking fruit from the mountains and hoping someone will buy on the streets, for others that means stealing what you need.  Resorts line the coast, on the other side of their walls are people doing anything they can to survive, most of the time with a grin on their face.  Ya mon!

Off we go through security checks and customs.  It takes a full day to get back; a 2 hour drive from Seville, an hour through security, the 2 hour flight home, another hour and a half through USA customs and then the 4 hour ride home from Orlando.  Every mile we try to hang on to what seems like memories getting further and further away.  “No worries” Jamaican friends, we will be back.

By the way, I (Haley) got stopped for a security check at every security check point.

Something really crazy that happens when you return from a mission trip, talk to any one who has been on a mission trip and they will tell you.  Post Mission Depression is real and affects everyone at different times and in different ways.  There is something very emotional and deeply spiritual about pouring your life into someone else for a solid week and then having to say goodbye.  Being in a different place with a bunch of people who are very like minded and working toward the same goal of God’s glorification among another people group and then coming back to the “real” world, your everyday life.

A simple picture of a kid whose smile has brought you so much joy for a week can bring a flood of tears.  Sitting at your desk and looking out the window can take you back to the hillside where you poured out your sweat.  Sitting down in your house and no one being around can make you question what God has your here on earth for.  No matter how it affects an individual it is real and it is God working in your life after the trip.  For our team, take it in.  Your feelings are real and the relationships you made and impacted over the week will ripple throughout eternity.  God has big plan, keep walking where He is leading.

Please pray for our team as they come back to their normal lives.  Pray that the mission doesn’t stop because they came back home.  Pray their hearts overflow with love toward the people around them wherever they are as they remember.

Jamaica – Day 6 – Keys & Good Byes

JamaicaMission 2015

The team woke up this morning with one goal… finish the house.  The whole team went to the top of the hill to work on the house.  The outside boards had to be painted, the inside had to be painted, the windows had to be put in, the vents had to be working, doors put in, locks installed, and everything cleaned up.  We had 3 hours… believe me, it took every bit of three hours.  After a quick lunch, we headed into town to grab some groceries for the new home and propane for her new stove.  You can’t believe how tight the roads are and how nobody cares.  When you look out the window when going down the road… well it’s just best not to.

What a wonderful gift to hand the keys to a home over to someone who probably has never had a home for herself.  But I never realized how much love and practical goodness it actually gives a person.  She has been paying rent, she couldn’t lock her belongings up so she can’t have nice things, there was no place to cook, it means she doesn’t have to worry and concentrate on getting a steady job.  When the biggest surprise is a new 2 burner stove top… I’m not kidding, tears in her eyes over a place to cook.  We got to pray over her and stock her pantry with food.  She also got a new bed and sheets.  What a wonderful gift to continue on the mission that has been here for so long.

Afterwards we went down the hill for a short VBS time with the kids.  Having to say good bye to kids and families that literally have nothing be what you give them is so difficult.  We give them the shirts off our backs and the shoes on our feet, water bottles and suitcases, to make sure they have all we can give them.   You fall in love with these people and want so much for them and know that you can’t give it to them.  We will return to our lives, so far away from these people, they will be on our minds and on our hearts, but what can we do for them but come back, back to Jamaica to show them, to tell them we still love them.

Tomorrow, Friday, the team will spend some time seeing a bit of Jamaica and relaxing, trying to decompress so that adjusting back to the states isn’t so hard.  Pray that the team can find rest for our weary bodies, over worked minds, and hurting hearts.

Jamaica – Day 4 – Seville

JamaicaMission 2015

Jamaicans are great people and a great culture.  Everyone meeting you with a smile and a warm greeting and then want to know what you are doing so they can join in with you.  They all want to help, it appears that in the area we are they are thirsting form for progress.  Our team is building this house really fast and the community has come out in droves to watch.  It is very unusual for the men to come out, but they are showing up, most very shy, but they are there wanting to help.

During a little down time I took a stroll around the village we are working in.  Seville was once the capital of Jamaica, an area of thriving sugar plantations of which you can still see many of the reminiscence of what one was.  Yellow fever swept through the area and everyone left.  What is there now is large houses that were once abandoned and squatters moved in.  Some of the homes have been “bought” from the squatters and started to be remodeled, but that has slowed to a crawl and in most cases to a halt for quite some time.  All the jobs have moved away and most of the people there live on a hillside in shacks built out of anything and everything they could find.  A lot of foundations have been started, but anything past a couple walls is few and far between.  There are no jobs to go to, they have to pay for school after the 6th grade, so life just gets harder and no one seams to care…  So when we show up and start building and building rapidly, they can see progress and completion is near.

I am so proud of our team, as the building is going up, not one person that has arrived on the work site has been neglected.  Everyone is spoken to and many conversations are being had.  Some just breaking the surface, a lot about candy and I over hear chatter of Jesus and salvation.  Pray for us tomorrow that those relationships will continue to develop.  And we are going to the infirmary tomorrow.  The leaders of the mission have told us that we will need time alone to process and recover from the sights and smells of what those walls hold.

Jamaica – Day 3 – The Walls Go Up

JamaicaMission 2015

Roll over, eat an amazing breakfast of Jamaican puff pastries, crazy good fruit, and beanie weenies (yes, I said beanie weenies for breakfast, that are so delicious I had seconds), rub on some sun screen and load up on the van.  The next stop is the top of the mountain with a generator, saws, hammers, nails, lumber, and open hearts.   Waiting for us is an excited lady, she is the one this week getting a new home.  Somewhere that she doesn’t have to worry about falling down every time the wind blows or her stuff getting wet when it rains.

On the trail there, a moment that some of us have been waiting on for months, one of out team members, Leamsy, stopped to yell at the goats so they would fall over… these are not fainting goats!  Once we arrived, our team led by foreman Gregory (a Jamaican) wasted no time.  Within 2.5 hours we had the foundation squared, the walls framed and up and started to put the exterior up.  It was very impressive to see the speed and joy at which we were working.  All the while, Jamaican kids running all around us, helping us and playing with us.  Our girls started to paint the walls and doors and they had plenty of help from the kids.  Of course the paint didn’t just go on the walls, the girls left a pale shade of blue and white.  The most amazing thing to me are the locals who remember the members of our team and run for hugs.  Reunion after reunion of hugs and laughter, it is clear that there are relationships that have been built and are growing.

After lunch we went back to the work site, half of the team went to the bottom of the hill to run a VBS or Backyard Bible Club type event for the kids.  However, I stayed at the top to work on the house.  It wasn’t long before what seemed to be the whole village out to watch and some to help.  I love the Rastafarian men that come to help.  They are so laid back and willing to help and learn.  Where as most of the people say “ya mon” to greet you, the Rastafarian greeting is “respect mon.”  The culture is so cool.

We made a quick trip into Ocho Rios this afternoon for to grab some snacks for the week.  Most of us grabbed some coke to drink.  Its crazy shopping,  the total on my bill for 3 cokes was $263.24 in Jamaican money.  That is just a whopping $2.45 in US dollars.  But to hear the lady behind the counter say, “that will be $2876 for a couple loaves of bread is a shocker.

Be praying that our team continues to develop the relationships with these people.  4 years ago, the village wanted nothing to do with a church.  Now there is a church service every Sunday in the village that was build off of the relationships developed during these trips.

Jamaica – Day 2 – Up the Hill

JamaicaMission 2015

Sunday in Jamaica, what do you do?  Go to church!  After eating a breakfast of the most fresh fruit that you could ever imagine, we loaded up and headed to church.  Girls in long dresses and guys in pants.  Which doesn’t sound like a big deal until you know that the church is an open air church and its 90 degrees with 95% humidity… for 3 hours.  Now, its a great church service and the people are so welcoming and friendly.  They sing and sing and sing and then tell it like it is.  We were so blessed by today’s service.  The pastor called all the fathers up and prayed over them that they would “Rise up!  Rise up to be the daddies they are to be! Rise up to be the husbands they are to be!  Rise up to be the servants they are to be! Rise up and be the leaders they are to be!  And rise up and be the disciples Jesus calls them to be!”

Now, if I told you today was rough, I would be lying, that all starts tomorrow.  For the rest of the day most of the team was in the ocean, on the beach, or around the pool, and wherever they were, they took a nap.  Before dinner, we took a ride up to see the work site.  If you have never been on an international mission trip and seen the way a lot of people around the world live, it literally  will take your breath away.  We walked up to where we will be building a lady and her daughter a new home, the foundation of which will be no more than 12’x16′.  My bedroom in college was 12’x16′.  All around her are shacks, no more than a few pieces of tin leaned together to make a roof.  Power lines (2 wires) are run like a shoe string from shack to shack held up by “power poles” which are no more than a tall stick that someone got to stand up and hold the wires.  Trash is everywhere along with the bare feet of the kids that walk all over it.

I watch a young lady try to sale one of our team members (Ted) her baby to take back to the “States”.  The mother was not being mean, but doing what she could to get her baby out of these conditions.  I know its coming, but I dread knowing that I will be asked the same type question and will have to respond with a “no.”  We will be working with these people for a full week and I can’t wait to dig into their lives and see what God is up to.

Pray for our team, that their sleep is multiplied and their endurance is supernatural.  Pray that they see God’s presence here in a special way that will forever transform their life.  And pray for the lady and the child, that they will know their home was a gift from God and that we are just the hands and feet of a mighty God and a loving Savior.  Thank you for all of your prayers.

How Not to Read the Bible in 2015 – by Matt Smethurst

How Not to Read the Bible in 2015

When it comes to daily (or not-so-daily) Bible reading, January 1 can be a welcome arrival. A new year signals a new start. You’re motivated to freshly commit to what you know is of indispensable importance: the Word of God. Yet this isn’t the first time you’ve felt this way. You were entertaining pretty similar thoughts 365 days ago. And 365 days before that. And 365 days . . . you know how it goes. So what’s going to make 2015 different? What, under God, will keep you plodding along in April this year when staying power has generally vanished in Aprils of yore? From one stumbling pilgrim to another, here are five suggestions for what not to do in 2015.

1. Don’t Overextend

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars!”

This hackneyed high school yearbook quote is bad advice for most things, Bible reading plans not excepted. If you shoot for and miss the “moon” of six chapters a day, you won’t quietly land among the “stars” of three. You’ll just be lost in space. It’s better to read one chapter a day, every day, than four a day, every now and then. Moreover, the value of meditation cannot be overstressed. Meditation isn’t spiritualized daydreaming; it’s riveted reflection on revelation. Read less, if you must, to meditate more. It’s easy to encounter a torrent of God’s truth, but without absorption—and application—you will be little better for the experience. As Thomas White once said, “It is better to hear one sermon only and meditate on that, than to hear two sermons and meditate on neither.” I think that’s pretty sage advice for Scripture reading, too.

It’s easy to encounter a torrent of God’s truth, but without absorption—and application—you will be little better for the experience.

2. Don’t Do It Alone

When it comes to Bible reading consistency, a solo sport mentality can be lethal.  Surely that’s why many run out of gas; they feel like they’re running alone.  To forestall the dangers of isolation, then, invite one or two others to join you in 2015.  Set goals, make a commitment, and hold one another accountable.  Turn your personal Scripture reading into a team effort, a community project.  A daily devotional, too, can function as a helpful companion and guide.  D. A. Carson’s For the Love of God (Volume 1; Volume 2) and Nancy Guthrie’s Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament are two excellent options.

3. Don’t Just Do It Whenever

Every morning we awaken to a fresh deluge of information.  We’ve now reached the point where, I’ve heard it said, an average weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than Jonathan Edwards encountered in his entire lifetime.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it sure makes me think.

It is imperative, then, to set a specific time each day when you will get alone with God.  Even if it’s a modest window, guard it with your life.  Explain your goal to those closest to you, and invite their help.  Otherwise, the tyranny of the urgent will continue to rear its unappeasable head.  What is urgent will fast displace what is important, and what is good will supplant what is best.  If your basic game plan is to read your Bible whenever, chances are you’ll read it never.  And if you don’t control your schedule, your schedule will control you.  It’s happened to me more times than I care to admit.

If your basic game plan is to read your Bible whenever, chances are you’ll read it never.  And if you don’t control your schedule, your schedule will control you.

4. Don’t Live as if Paul Lied

Did you know Leviticus and Chronicles and Obadiah were written to encourage you? That’s what Paul believed, anyway:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom. 15:4; cf. 1 Cor. 9:10; 10:6, 11; 2 Tim. 3:16)

What a sweeping word!  Paul is going so far as to claim the entirety of the Old Testament is for you—to instruct you, to encourage you, to help you endure, and to flood your heart with hope.  Few of you will conclude Paul is simply mistaken here.  Good evangelicals, after all, are happy to take inspired apostles at their word.  But does our approach to our Bibles tell a different story?  Do we act as if Numbers or Kings or Nahum has the power to infuse our lives with help and hope?

Whenever you open your Bible, labor to believe that God has something here to say to meWhatever I encounter in his Word was written with me, his cherished child, in view.  So pursue God’s graces on the pages of Scripture this year. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow everywhere await.

Whatever I encounter in his Word was written with me, His cherished child.

5. Don’t Turn a Means of Grace into a Means of Merit

Your Father’s love for you doesn’t rise and fall with your quiet times.  If you are united to Jesus by faith, the verdict is out, and the court is dismissed.  You’re as accepted and embraced as the Son himself. Period.  To be sure, you’ll desire to hear and follow his voice if you’re truly one of his sheep (John 10:1–30; cf. 8:47; 18:37).  Not always and not perfectly, of course, but sincerely and increasingly.

So as another year dawns, commit yourself anew to becoming a man or woman of the Word.  But don’t overextend, do it alone, just do it whenever, live as if Paul lied, or treat means of grace like means of merit.  Your Bible is one of God’s chief gifts to you in 2015.

Open, read, ruminate, and obey. May you be ever transformed into the image of our incarnate King, and may he alone receive the acclaim.

 

*Original post can be found at The Southern Blog by Matt Smethurst — December 29, 2014

Deer Brother,

Deer Brother,

Deer Brother,

Some things only brothers understand.  I always see pictures, picture frames, and wall art that talk about sister this and sister that.  You never see grown men with wall art about their brothers.  Don’t worry; this isn’t a post about men needing cheesy artwork on their wall.  But, there is something different about brothers.  We have a unique insight probably due to the fact that we grow up in constant competition, ragging and covering up for each other.

Insights that only brothers can pull out of their tool bags to support each other or pull out of their sheath as a weapon to destroy one another.  Brothers know all the right buttons to press, dials to turn, and switches to flip to swing the emotions of the other just where they want them, usually on the edge of an extreme reaction.  We see brothers time and time again in scripture using their insight to both support and destroy each other.  Cain and Able were brothers that jealousy tore apart which lead to Cain killing Able.  Jacob and Esau got in such a dispute that Jacob had to run from his brother.  It took almost an entire lifetime for Jacob to get the nerve to face his brother again.  Jesus tells the story of the “Prodigal Son”.  If you remember the story correctly, the older son holds a grudge against his younger brother when he returns from squandering his father’s money and making a fool of himself.  On the flip side, it was Andrew that meets Jesus and runs as hard as he can to tell his brother Peter.  Then its James and John who leave their fishing company to follow Jesus together.  Jude and James “the younger” were brothers that followed Jesus.  That means half of the disciples followed Jesus with their brother.

Brothers have insights that only brothers can pull out of their tool bags to support each other or pull out of their sheath as a weapon to destroy one another.

I watched my little brother turn to Jesus in the kitchen when he was 12, I soon followed Jesus myself.  But, that’s not the story I want to tell here.

My brother took up hunting about 6 years ago.  I took it upon myself to make sure he had everything he needed.  Cover scent (buying your brother urine to pour on himself, awesome), grunts, rattles, and anything else that it looked like he needed, I got him.  But, I knew nothing about hunting and didn’t have any interest…then he got Lyme disease.  Side effects of Lyme disease include anxiety, fearing what could happen, and feeling like things just aren’t right with your body.  So 3 years ago, I took up hunting so my brother could go out and hunt.  I got all the gear I needed: a rifle, head-to-toe insulated camo, and cover scent (covering yourself in urine, not as awesome).  We hunted within shouting distance for 2 years, texting back and forth.  In the first 2 years of hunting, I didn’t see a single deer!  Not one!  Sitting morning after morning in the freezing cold and then climbing out of tree stands in the pitch black and I see nothing!

Thanksgiving always falls on the opening of gun season and my brother is feeling much better now, almost back to his old self.  So we decided to head out on the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving.  We gear up and hike out to a new spot that he has been scouting and climb up into a 2 person deer-stand.  After sitting as quietly as we can for over 2 hours, he nudges me right at sunset and whispers, “Deer, get your gun ready”.  For the first time in 3 years, I have a deer in my sights!  That deer was so far away and so small that when I put my cross-hairs on it the deer completely disappeared.  However, I instantly knew my brother’s intentions; he was going to make sure I got a deer.

“It’s far off.  I’ll have to be a good shot.  Do I want my first deer to be a doe?  Why isn’t it moving?  Well if it’s not going to move.”  BANG!!!

4:15 am – BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!  Time to get up, sneak out of the house, and drive off into the dark.  Beating the sun to the deer-stand with the crisp 27 degree chewing at the tip of my nose, a feeling that I have told myself now for 3 years is how I am going to get a deer.  My brother and I get situated in the stand right at 5:30 am; sunrise is at 6:23 am.  The first signs of the sun making its rounds have just started; I am surrounded by that funny gray color the world gets in the moments before the sun peaks out from the horizon.  My brother just whispers “deer”, points and then says “it’s a doe, if you think you can make the shot.”  I raised my gun and a black silhouette of a deer is painted against a gray canvas.  Thoughts race through my mind… “It’s far off.  I’ll have to be a good shot.  Do I want my first deer to be a doe?  Why isn’t it moving?  Well if it’s not going to move.”  BANG!!!  I have just shot what sounds like a cannon blast, he leans over and whispers, “I think you got it!  I saw it drop.”  Not 30 seconds later he says, “There’s another one shoot it you have the shot.”  I never saw that deer… All of a sudden there was a barrage of gun blast coming from his rifle.  It sounded like “there was a firefight!”  To be clear, it was only 2 shots, but it sounded like he had just started a war!

“There was a firefight!”

As we sat waiting perhaps for another deer to walk out, he told me that what felt like an eternity of thoughts flying through my head was really a smooth 5 seconds of swinging the gun up, steadying, and taking the shot.  He said it was calmer than he had ever been when he sees a deer. Then this look came across his face.  “Haley, what if you shot a buck?  That was a big body doe, it would be really exciting to walk up and it be a buck.  But, I think we got 2 does.”  We climbed down out of our stand and walked directly to where I shot the deer, but there was no deer, just a drop of blood.  What!  I missed!  And then I saw it just 25 feet away from where I shot it, laying just on the other side of some tall grass where I couldn’t see it very clearly.  My brother ran over to it and started yelling, jumping and pumping his fist like he had just won the World Series, “It’s HUGE!  You did it, you got a BUCK!  It’s bigger than anything I’ve ever shot!”  I didn’t care about that deer at all in that moment.  Don’t get me wrong; sitting in the woods that long, I wanted a deer, bad.  But, my brother wanted it for me more.  I’m not sure if he knew it was a buck or if it really was the biggest deer he had the opportunity to shoot, but I can’t help but think he did.  But, that wasn’t his goal.  His goal was to get me a deer.

Thank you Casey, my brother.

Brothers know what we need, sometimes better than you do.  They understand that fixing something doesn’t necessarily mean fixing it.  Sometimes what we need is a win and brothers know how to make that happen.  They know if they sacrifice themselves for their brother, it will be returned, somehow, someday.

Brothers understand that fixing something doesn’t necessarily mean fixing it.  They know if they sacrifice themselves for their brother, it will be returned, somehow, someday.

Not to spiritualize things too much but as the oldest child, I didn’t have a big brother until Jesus.  He knows what I need way more than I ever will.  He sacrificed Himself for me just as any good big brother does for their little brother.  That gift is free, but He knows as a brother, I will sacrifice my life for Him, somehow, someday.  Romans 12:1, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Jimmy buffet

Not to leave the other brother out (that would turn the wrong crank).  As I am carving the beautifully grilled Thanksgiving turkey, a chunk of salt and spices flies into my eye and I let out a yell of pain and frustration.  As I’m trying to get to the sink to flush my eye out, I see out of the corner of my eye my other brother, in slow-motion, in the air, completely clearing the couch trying to get to me.  He grabs the syringe I use to inject the turkey, fills it with water and begins to flush my eye. (Don’t worry, the needle was not attached or I would have passed out.)  Brothers know what to do, when you don’t.

Thank you Hunter, my brother.

FullSizeRenderBy the way, I killed a 185 pound, 8 point buck from 237 yards away with a perfect shot just behind the front shoulder.  Yeah, it was awesome!

Brothers, I love you both.

Jonathan Haley Uhrig © 2014

Waiting to be Wowed by God

Waiting to be Wowed by God

I have been in prayer for some time now begging and pleading with God to reveal Himself to me, to “show up”, to make His plans known for me.  I just want a glimpse of what He wants for me, which direction He wants me to go… GOD!  Please give me something!  Anything will do!  Show yourself to me!  I am sure you understand the frustration in my voice.  Most of us have experienced at one point or another a time when we need a clear answer from our God.  And there is nothing.  No answer.  No jaw dropping fire from heaven.  Nothing to make us stand in awe of God, though we long for Him to do something that just leaves us breathless, that leaves us “wowed”.

As believers, we long for God do to something that leaves us breathless, that leaves us wowed!

One of my favorite places in the world is my family’s lake house.  So much of what my family does together revolves around that small house.  As much as I love the lake house for the way it brings the family together and is the backdrop for so many memories, my absolute favorite times are the rare moments when it is just me and lake.  Usually, I have to wake up earlier than everyone to grab those few moments before the house becomes alive with movement.  In that time alone before the family wakes up or boats fill the lake, it is really easy to “be still and know that He is God.”  In one of the rare moments, when I was alone with God pleading with Him to reveal Himself to me, to show me His plan…

I looked up and looked around…

In one big burst of color the hills were shouting the praises of God as the leaves changed colors and swayed in the breeze.  The hills rose up only to meet a crystal blue sky declaring with certainty the Lord of all creation.  A fog was dancing with joy, hovering over the water as heat escaped into the air making a clear vision of the Holy Spirit hovering over all the earth.  My eyes filled with tears and my mouth could only utter one word, wow.

Psalms 19:1-4

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.

Without one word, without a single sound God’s creation screams at the top of their voices the glory of God.  All you can do is step back and know that you don’t have to wait on God to reveal himself.  You can sit down in wonder and amazement and know that He has and is revealing Himself, and that He is revealing Himself to you.  We have to trust that when He wants you to know whatever it is you need to know, He will let you know.  How?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that God can do the impossible, surely He can guide my path.  In the mean time, I will let God’s creation proclaim the glory and majesty of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

You are God’s creation, shout his glory with every breath.

Don’t ever forget, you are also God’s creation and as God’s creation you can shout from the rooftops the praises and glory of Jesus.  The rest of creation doesn’t have a voice, but you do.  What are you doing with your life and your voice?

 

Luke 19:40
“I tell you,” he replied, “if you keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

 Jonathan Haley Uhrig © 2014

 

The Lord’s Supper Everyday

The Lord's SupperI need to be extremely clear on something before we get into this.  In 1 Corinthians 11:33 Paul says, “ So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat the Lord’s Supper, wait for one another.”  The Lord’s Supper is meant to be done corporately as a church body.  It is not necessarily meant to be done alone or with just your immediate blood family.  Now that I have made that clear, there is a very practical, everyday way to use the Lord’s Supper.

Eating is a natural rhythm of life, we all do it everyday and most of us eat 3 meals a day.  Now, have you ever considered how normal the elements of the Lord’s Supper are?  Jesus was sitting at the table eating with his disciples when He “took the bread.”  Is there a food that is a part of more meals than bread?  We eat bread with everything!  Bread is at almost every table and on every menu.  How many restaurants give you bread when you sit down to eat; “would you like some more big fat yeast rolls?”  I think that Jesus chose bread specifically because it is so normal.

Jesus chose bread and a cup because they are so normal to our everyday lives.

And then there is the cup.  Don’t get too focused on what is or what isn’t in the cup, remember it is a symbol.  Not too many times do we eat without having something to drink, it is just as everyday as bread.  Jesus is using these elements of the Lord’s Supper for a teaching moment, and then, as recorded in Luke 22, He says, “do this in remembrance of Me.”

The symbolism of the Lord’s Supper is easy to understand, but deep in it’s meaning.  The bread is Christ’s body, broken for us to give us life.  The cup is the wrath of God, God’s anger burns against sin.  The drink inside is Jesus’s blood, that is poured out for the forgiveness of our sin and makes us righteous in Christ.  These symbols are what we are to remember every time we take the Lord’s Supper.  But these elements don’t seem to be all that special, and like we said, we see them almost everyday.  These things, as normal as they are to every day life and as simple as they tell us the gospel, need to be an everyday reminder to us of Christ’s work on the cross, the gospel.

Everyday Remembrance

Let’s put this all together – What would our lives be like if we remembered Jesus and His work on the cross before every meal?  We have all the elements and symbols in front of us, why wouldn’t we remember?  And Jesus did say every time you do this…  Seems to me that I need to be personally thinking about Christ on a daily basis and why not let the elements that Jesus used spur me to think about the gospel – 3 TIMES A DAY!!!

Every time you see bread and a cup, remember Jesus and His gospel.

When we remember Christ’s work on the cross during the Lord’s Supper I divide it into 2 simple sections for our congregation:1)  Jesus died to forgive our sins so we need to allow Him to search our heart for repented sin and 2) Our sins are forgiven because of Jesus so we need to thank Him.  Just think how much closer our relationship with Christ would be if we thought about the gospel and dealt with the 2 issues every time we sat down to eat.  How much more would Christ be on our mind?  How much more would we notice the things of God?  How much more would we seek His Kingdom?  How much more would we be in-tune with what God is doing around us and how we can be used?

 Jonathan Haley Uhrig © 2014

How to Have Great Small Groups – Summer Camp

small groups girls - blog

A youth director friend of mine is gearing up for Summer Camp for his middle school ministry.  He will have 10 groups that will each have 2 leaders.  His plan for this year is to equip his leaders more than they ever have been.  So, he invited me to come and share my “wisdom” with his leaders.  For the next 3 post, I will post  about how to have great small groups.  All three of them will have the same method but from different applications.  This one, yes I said one, method isn’t anything new or radical but it does change the dynamics of your group.  If those in your group will take hold of this concept your small group will not be small for long.  In fact, this method is the fastest way to form new groups from existing groups.  For this post, I will speak about small groups or family groups or cell groups or D-groups or whatever you call them at camp since that was what originally spurred me to write this post.

Yes, you have to have good leaders, this isn’t a magic pill you take that makes every small group great.  Good, trained leaders are always key in the life of small groups, but even the best trained small group leaders usually have times where it just feels like they are spinning their wheels.  Training leaders in this particular method will make those times disappear.  So what is the key to great small groups?  It doesn’t happen in the small group at all…

If you spend time outside of your small group investing into those in your small group you will have great groups.

So what does this look like at camp?

  • Make Small Special Moments

Not long after camp there isn’t much that students remember about camp except what made them feel special.  This is why small groups are so important, because they build relationships and relationships make people feel special.  So how do you build relationships quickly?  Make sure you are intentionally making those in our group feel special.  I mean have laser focus on making those in your group feel special toward you.  This could be as simple as a secret handshake, high five, a song you sing together, a word you both shout out or shout something back in response.  It takes a little time and work and at times some creativity, but that small thing is just between you and one or a few students makes them feel special.

  • Free Time

Every camp has free time, what as a leader are you doing with yours?  It’s time to invest, invest, invest!  I developed a twist to the saying, “people don’t care what you have to say until they know you care”, it’s for youth and has the same principle, but dives into who youth are.  “Students don’t care what you have to say until they know you’re willing to play.”

Students don’t care what you have to say until they know you’re willing to play.

Playing with students is the gateway into their world.  All kids want to play, that’s why sports, video games and bands are so popular, it’s kids playing.  Story after story of kids responding to others just because   Once was playing football with the stud linebacker in the ocean, as he caught the football I committed to the most insane tackle of my life.  I speared him as he caught the football so hard his feet left the ground and I knocked the breath out of him.  I was fully aware that I might be running for my life when he leaped out of the water, but instead he leaped out of the water and exclaimed, “That was awesome!  That’s the hardest I’ve ever been hit!”  He became one of my biggest allies in reaching his friends.  Play, play, play during camp with your group, you can rest next week.  Or for those that work summer camp, you can rest in 2 months.

  • Eat With Them

Talk about a captive audience, make sure you are eating with at least on of they youth in your small group every time you sit down to eat a meal.  This is such an easy time to get into their life and know them more.  If you are taking the time to understand who they are outside of group time, when you sit down for group, you already know where they stand and how to specifically ask them questions.  There is no better place than the breakfast/lunch/dinner table to listen to there stories and share yours.

  • Make A Big Deal of Small Things

Many kids don’t have fans.  What I mean is, they don’t have someone who supports them.  At every baseball game, soccer game, basketball game, and the first 15 times I preached, my mom and dad were there as my biggest fans.  Making over me like I was the best thing since sliced bread and selfies.  I was told how great I did and how to improve my weaknesses.  A lot of kids don’t have this, this is what I mean by fans.  It’s time they had one and as their small group leader, that’s you.  If a student does something awesome, crazy, cool, makes a great play, go nuts!  Let me make sure you hear me.  IF THERE IS A REASON TO MAKE A BIG DEAL OUT OF A KID, LOSE YOUR MIND AND GO BANANA SANDWICHES!!!

If there is a reason to make a big deal out of  a student, lose your mind and go banana sandwiches!

Talk about how cool it is, tell them later how funny that was when they said ___________, tell a group later how proud you are of them in front of them, and make sure to make a big deal out of students when they are are reflecting the image of Christ.  Again, make students feel special.

It all really comes down to the closer you are with your group outside of the group, the better your group will be.  Put in the time outside of your group and when you sit down for your group time, it will be great.

Have fun at CAMP!!!

© Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014