Engaging Teens


Jeffrey Dean has based his life around serving a population that often gets a bad rap.  He’s got a heart for youth and for helping them learn the truth about God.

As a speaker, ordained pastor, counselor, and author, Jeffrey has spoken to more than 3 million people in a variety of settings.  He gets on their level and keeps them wanting more.  He launched Jeffrey Dean ministries in 1993 and has successfully been engaging teens in a journey towards truth ever since.

One of Jeffrey’s key methods is to be relational and to encourage healthy relationships.  Especially with God.  He shares:

“It’s impossible to know and grow with the Lord more if you’re not spending time with Him.  So we really challenge students and communities to get into the word.”

We’re so grateful and curious about his intuitive pulse on this generation and hope you’ll engage with what he has to share with us today.

What’s coming up?

Be on the lookout for our upcoming episode releases from:

Michael Kelley

Brian Bennett

Bradley Hathaway

And many more!

Have a guest idea?

Contact us:  ashleigh@goodberry.net

Finding Confidence in a Daunting Ministry

Do you often find yourself feeling overwhelmed or discouraged by the ministerial tasks ahead of you?  Sometimes it seems like it’s impossible to keep up with the demands of the positions to which God has called us—making the option to give up look very desirable. Finding confidence in a daunting ministry is not always easy, but you might find it comforting to know you are not alone. 


sandwich

Big World, Tiny Shoulders

When I was nine, I had a mid-childhood crisis.

I came home after school sobbing. It took my parents forty-five minutes to finally coax out of me what was wrong. Through my tears I explained how at lunch I threw away half of my jelly sandwich because I wasn’t hungry. My teacher witnessed this and told me that there were starving children in Africa who would love to eat my sandwich.

I don’t know how I made it through the rest of the school day. All I could think about were those less fortunate kids who just wanted a jelly sandwich. And here I was, with not only a jelly sandwich but also a fruit roll-up and a bag of carrots.

Once I made it home, I couldn’t even function. My parents tried to get me to play a board game or do a craft, but I went to my room crying. I immediately crawled under my bed because I decided I deserved to be in the dark.

It took some time for me to get over the fact that I was terribly selfish and ridiculously blessed. Once I had dried my tears, I was determined to help. But I was nine and didn’t know what to do about hungry children.

That one comment from my teacher still sticks with me and reminds me of how daunting this sin-tainted world is. Sometimes the thought of it still makes me want to crawl under my bed for a while.

twoCalled to a Life of Hardship

The prophet Jeremiah struggled with a lot more than just a misguided reprimand from an elementary school teacher. At a very young age, God told him to never marry or have children, and commanded him to preach to a tough crowd that had a penchant for false gods.

Despite their refusal to listen, Jeremiah cared deeply for the people of Judah. The lack of results paired with the difficulties he faced, caused Jeremiah to sink into a pit of doubt and despair. But through all of the troubles, God assured Jeremiah this was where he was meant to be.

Jeremiah was a prophet in Judah during times of war and conflict. Because of this violence, rulers had a hard time holding the throne and Jeremiah witnessed the reign of five kings. At times, Jeremiah was considered a friend of those ruling, but depending on the ruler, he often found himself persecuted.

Jeremiah was quite young when he was called into ministry. He was also timid by nature. There had to have been others in the community who were much more confidant, better speakers, and highly regarded; however, those weren’t the qualifications God was looking for. God knew the young prophet was frightened and intimidated and he still chose him to preach to the people.

“But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” –Jeremiah 1:7–8 (NIV)

In chapter 12 of the book of Jeremiah, there is a series of verses detailing Jeremiah’s complaints. He is frustrated with the hypocrisy of the people around him. It drives him crazy to hear how people speak as if they are close to God, but the prophet knows God is far from their hearts.

“You are always righteous, Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” –Jeremiah 12:1 (NIV)

The prophecies of pain and destruction discouraged Jeremiah, but God reaffirmed Jeremiah’s position as prophet and answered the weeping man’s complaints and calls. The situation was daunting, the message was frightening, and immediate results were lacking, but with God’s help, this unqualified young man furthered God’s plan and brought glory to God.

“This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.”  –Jeremiah 9:23–24 (NIV)

Even in the midst of hardship, Jeremiah trusted God and found a fullness of life. Through guidance from God, Jeremiah prophesied that power and wealth were nothing compared to the delight and joy found through a deeper understanding of God. Rather than overwhelming discouragement, Jeremiah found overwhelming peace in God.

6-7Finding Your Confidence

We all have days where we have to fight the urge to crawl under the bed and hide in the dark—whether it’s because we are daunted by the tasks ahead of us or perhaps embarrassed by our many blessings we know we don’t deserve. This can be especially difficult when we find ourselves in a position with the opportunity to lead others to Christ. It’s easy to get discouraged and our sinful nature fights our attempts to obey God. Rather than run and hide, spend those moments of hyperventilation in prayer.

When you are called to a position that is frightening, intimidating, or overwhelming, take some deep breaths and remember how God responded to Jeremiah when he cried out—with words of comfort and an affirmation of his calling.

“This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’” –Jeremiah 33:2–3 (NIV)

It’s easy to get discouraged in the midst of hardship, but even in the uncertainty of life there is certainty in Christ. In the same way Jeremiah was able to delight in God while in a challenging ministry, by trusting in the Lord and relying on Him, we, too, can find a new found joy in life—especially during times of discouragement.

For more information on the prophet Jeremiah, check out the book of the Bible named after him or this background information from  Biblica.com.

 

Significant Life


Tyler Braun has a passion for the millennial generation.  He serves as a writer, worship leader, and pastor.

Tyler believes that God has a truly significant life in mind for each one of us.  The message he delivers to his audience?

“Your reality is not your destiny.”

So how do we go about discovering what that significant life looks like?  Join us as we learn how to Journey Toward Significant Life.

What’s coming up?

Be on the lookout for our upcoming episode releases from:

Craig Borlase

Frequency.FM

Don Jacobson

And many more!

Have a guest idea?

Contact us:  ashleigh@goodberry.net

The Unqualifications of a Servant

Think you’re the only one feeling unqualified for where God has placed you?  There is a strong tendency in leadership and ministry to feel like we don’t measure up – like our resumes could be labeled:  The Unqualifications of a Servant.  You might be surprised to learn you’re not alone!  Our new staffer Haley would love to share her perspective and a few stories that might change your mind!

The Bible, history, and our world today are full of examples of unlikely people used by God for His purposes. It’s so easy to look at the incredible stories of those who have drastically changed lives and feel insignificant – to feel as though you’ve got the unqualifications of a servant. It’s equally easy to find yourself in a position to help or lead others and suddenly feel inadequate or out of place. I hope you will join me as I start a series exploring the stories of a few of the many unqualified servants of God who have impacted others in both big and small ways.

My Storypiano 

My mom is an amazing pianist. There isn’t a piece that’s too difficult for her and she even arranges and composes her own music. What’s even more impressive is how she finds time and opportunities to use her abilities to serve others. As I grew up, I watched her accompany others for talent shows, competitions, and church worship, play for weddings, funerals, and school functions, and teach a variety of students all at different skill levels.

But this story isn’t about my mom.

When I was in third grade, my elementary music teacher put together a student choir with the intention of performing Handel’s Messiah in December. I refused to join. My music classes had shown me I was a terrible singer, one of the worst in my grade. And after undressing in the hallway earlier in the semester (a story I’d rather not get into right now), I decided I had filled my quota of embarrassment for the year.

My mom was asked to accompany the choir—no surprise there. I also wasn’t surprised when she asked me to turn pages for her—something I had done regularly in the past. I refused. I don’t remember if I was secretly jealous of my fellow students’ angelic voices or just being your typical difficult eight year-old, but I wanted no part in that choir.

Usually my mom had been pretty cool about letting me make my own decisions, but not this time. She pushed and pushed until I finally relented. After all, I would only be turning pages.

The first day of practice was absolute chaos. I sat beside my mom on the piano bench and watched the music teacher struggle to organize twenty energetic students. Most of the kids were too busy talking or running around to bother taking their seats, and one student, the teacher called her Michelle, wouldn’t even leave the wall. She stood in the back of the room pouting, refusing to pick a chair. I didn’t recognize her and assumed she was new to the school.

It wasn’t until after I was sitting beside Michelle, among the other altos, that I realized what I had done. On the car ride home my mom commended me for befriending the shy girl and asking her if she wanted to sit by me, but lamented the fact that she needed a new page turner.

The Servant Girl’s Storybible

“Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.””–2 Kings 5:2–3 (NIV)

2 Kings 5 describes the story of a highly regarded army commander in the Aram army named Naaman. He was plagued with leprosy and sought out Elisha who instructed Naaman to wash in the Jordan River. When the commander emerged from the water, he found himself completely cleansed. This passage is often remembered as the story of how God healed a man through the prophet Elisha and “seven dips in a dirty river,” but recall how Naaman knew to seek out the prophet in the first place.

Verse two of 2 Kings 5 tells us about the young Israelite girl who was serving Naaman’s wife. She was the one who implored Naaman to speak with Elisha. Very little of this passage is dedicated to the girl, but we can still glean information from it. We know that the girl had been captured in a raid and taken from her home in Israel and she was young. She found herself in a foreign land forced to serve the people who had enslaved her.

“…for your servant [Naaman] will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord.” –2 Kings 5:17b (NIV)

What is so great about this young girl is, as far as we know, she did not have any prior experience with this sort of situation. There is no verse that says she was ready to witness to her captors and felt prepared. Chances are this unnamed girl did not want to be in Aram serving her enemies and she was very uncomfortable. However, something else we know about her is that she believed and trusted in God. When this moment, specifically planned by God arrived, she spoke with confidence, knowing God was with her.

Your Storycalledperson

We all find ourselves in uncomfortable positions, questioning if that is where we belong. Whether we are a church or small group leader, a one-on-one mentor, a Sunday school or catechism teacher, or someone simply striving to be a Christ-like example, we all feel the pressure to be perfect—say the perfect words, quote the perfect Bible verse, prove we are qualified. Helping others in their walk with Christ can be challenging and it’s easy to feel intimidated. The good news is we are not qualified and we do not have to be.

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”” –1 Corinthians 1:27–31 (NIV)

Even when we feel inadequate, unqualified, or outside of our comfort zone, God can still use us powerfully, just as He used the young servant girl.

I’m not saying I led Michelle to God or even cured her of her extreme shyness, but I’d like to think I took away some of her discomfort and later I learned that God doesn’t need His people to be perfectly prepared. I know Michelle and I enjoyed the remaining rehearsals, although I’m pretty sure it didn’t take long for her to regret sitting next to someone with the voice of a toad.

Creativity Is Brewing


Creativity is brewing with today’s podcast guest!  Stephen Brewster serves as the Creative Arts Pastor at Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

He believes that the Church as a whole should be trying to regain the position of leader of the creative frontier.  He shares:

“I believe that at the core we were all created to be creative . . . Whether you are an accountant or whether you are Picasso, God instilled inside of you creativity and curiosity . . . You would never walk into a Kindergarten class and and be like, ‘Ok, who are the creative kids and who are the analytical kids?’  You just put a piece of paper down and some crayons and they all go to town! “

Stephen feels that the church has the opportunity to help guide people in their creativity and to reengage with the way God made them to be.  He’s passionate about leading this sort of experience and creating a space for people to connect with God.

Tune in to learn about his passion and to gain some perspective on what your church could be doing to help create these sorts of environments!

What’s coming up?

Be on the lookout for our upcoming episode releases from:

Tyler Braun

Craig Borlase

Frequency.FM

And many more!

Have a guest idea?

Contact us:  ashleigh@goodberry.net

 

Doug Pagitt, Possibility Evangelist


Doug Pagitt’s business card might read a little differently than most.  He gives himself the title of Goodness Conspirator and Possibility Evangelist.  He is a creator with an entrepreneurial spirit who seeks to find ways to invite people to join in on the desires God has for us all.

Doug certainly wears many hats while serving as an author, Pastor of Solomon’s Porch church, consultant, radio show host, and director of the Cana Initiative.

He believes in humor, taking a different approach, being vulnerable, and finding creative and progressive ways to share truth.  A lot of his beliefs spring from the following:

“We have this great opportunity to make things happen, and what we’re called to as human beings – as people who are alive physically and spiritually, emotionally and mentally – is to generate the kind of world that we want to live in.”

We hope you’ll catch a bit of his contagious spirit as you listen with us today!

 

What’s coming up?

Be on the lookout for our upcoming episode releases from:

Ginny Owens

John Dominic Crossan

Steve Carter

And many more!

Have a guest idea?

Contact us:  ashleigh@goodberry.net

4-Square & Ziplines & S’mores: Why Camp Changes Lives


Wouldn’t you love to have an office overlooking a lake?  Hearing the sounds of children laughing, campfire songs being sung, the zipline going through the woods, and boats driving by?  How about having s’mores every day for dessert?

We’ll today’s guest has landed the dream job.  Jeff Jacobs is the Executive Director of Camp Henry in Newaygo, Michigan.  Truth be told, he doesn’t like marshmallows, but he’ll gladly eat a s’more if you make him one!  Jacobs believes that camp changes lives and is the perfect environment to unplug from the outside world and plug into truth.

Camp Henry has been serving campers since 1937 and provides us with an outstanding model of positive life change, connection to nature, and growing in faith.  This unique year-round camping facility serves youth, families, school groups, youth groups, and much more.

We hope you’ll tune in to learn more about the Power of Camp!

 

Redefining Street Ministry


As the teaching pastor at Vanguard Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Elisha Young teaches how important unity is within our communities.

Through her work with Vanguard Street Ministry, she has been able to help people heal from rejection, and has been blessed herself by the process.

Join us as we talk with Elisha and learn about the radical transformation occurring where she serves.

Leadership: A Tree of Life

Adam Sterenberg has a vision for a school that exists to provide a Christ centered education regardless of their socio-economic situation.

As the principal of Tree of Life School in Kalamazoo, Adam is able to show his love and passion for the Lord through education and the renewing of minds.

Join us as we begin to understand his mission and what makes him a leader that follows Jesus in his faith and love.

Discipleship #005: Challenges and Potholes

Even before Jesus chose his 12 disciples, he said to them “Enter through the narrow gate… For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” He wanted to let them know that the journey of discipleship was not an easy one. Salvation was for those who wished to find truth above all and was not for those who followed Jesus just for the sake of avoiding hell, and therefore, anyone who was not prepared to face and surpass the difficulties along the road would not be able to complete the journey.

Two authors, John Bunyan and C.S. Lewis were well aware of the fact that discipleship was a road full of all kinds and sizes of potholes, and produced 2 books revolving around them: Pilgrim’s Progress and TheScrewtape Letters respectively, which we will mainly use as references to study some of the challenges found in being a disciple of Christ.

A Series of Potholes

  • The Burden of Sin:  Christian, the protagonist of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, is described to be weighed down by a great burden: the knowledge of his sin. With this burden, he sets on a journey seeking for deliverance. However, right off the bat, Christian falls into the “Slough of Despond,” a miry swamp, and he sinks and sinks under the weight of his sins and his sense of guilt. This is not an uncommon story between disciples. Acute consciousness of our sin and imperfectness comes with a sense of guilt, and as guilt turns into shame, and shame into reluctance to face truth, we become separated from God—just like a shadow that cannot bear to be in the presence of light. But let us not forget the existence of grace. A loving God would not want his sons and daughters to fall into sloughs of desponds, He would rather take on the burden for Himself to free them, which is exactly what He did through Jesus. The least we can do is remember that important fact and pull ourselves up.
  • Fake Glory:  Glory is interpreted in the human way as fame and luminosity, but such things are transient. After all, the human fame is something given by fellow passionate humans; and human passions always die away. True glory is something much grander and humbler. According to Lewis in his essay The Weight of Glory, Glory is in reality “fame with God, approval, or (I might say) ‘appreciation’ by God.” The long and painful longing that could never be satisfied by human praise, can only cease the moment God smiles and says “you have done well.” As disciples, we must become children once again. We must recall those younger days when being praised by someone we loved and admired brought feelings of supreme bliss. Only a dependent child of God can enter paradise.
  • All Talk, No Action:  In his journey, Christian also meets Talkative, a fellow who is better looking from a distance than close up. Talkative is very enthusiastic in talking about his faith, but the more he talks, the more it is discovered that he possesses a shallow mentality. Talkative’s question, “Why, what difference is there between crying out against, and abhorring of, sin?” says much about him. Even though he denounces sin by mouth, he does not do so by spirit and action. He is like a carrot with large leaves and petite root. Like Talkative, sometimes we say and think we do not love sin, but we do not act like it. However, that is not faith. “…Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).
  • All Action, No Faith:  On the other hand, acting all the time but not keeping proper faith can be a stumbling block as well. Thinking that good deeds can get one to heaven ignores the grace factor and instigates pride. Surprisingly, mature disciples who know this are more susceptible to this kind of mentality, though perhaps in a smaller scale. Many times we forget that it is for God why we do everything good and that it is thanks to Him that we have anything good, and instead we focus on our holy actions and think ourselves righteous when that is far from the truth. In Bunyan’s allegory, the name of such person is Ignorance. Ignorance thinks of Jesus Christ only as an example and not as a Savior. However, when he gets to the Celestial City, he finds he does not have the “certificate” needed to enter.
  • The Slippery Slope:  Temptations are not always extravagant. The little things, such as small distractions and a fake sense of peace found in routine, can get us just as well. In The Screwtape Letters, a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter, Lewis writes, “the safest road to hell is the gradual one— the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” We have to be careful, be constantly concerned about the things we are doing and why we are doing them, and do them wholeheartedly. Letting our spiritual disciplines become a joyless, superficial, empty habits makes the heart numb and devoid of meaning, devoid of God. To avoid slipping further, we must not wait until we end up in the worst possible situation before turning away. The moment we catch ourselves nodding off, we must wake up.
  • Triple Fear:  Fear of the unknown, fear of pain, fear of death. We all experience those. But in perspective, fear can be good. It can reminds us of our mortality and keeps us careful and humble. However, the problem lies in succumbing to fear and taking no action at all and hiding. It is essential to believe that Jesus triumphed over pain and death through the cross and his resurrection. When Bunyan’s Christian tries to cross The River of Death, the dreadful river that separates mankind from Paradise, he soon realizes that it is deeper or shallower depending on the faith of the one traversing it. Because there is doubt and fear in his heart, Christian has a rough time crossing the river, but with the help of his friend Hopeful he succeeds in crossing over. It is human to fear, but courage can be found in our hope and trust in God.
  • Right to happiness:  When we feel grief, there are times when we feel resentful towards God, because we think that we have the right to happiness. But it is not about having the “right.” Happiness is not something we can demand because we have no real ownership of it (the owner is God). However, we are permitted to it because of God’s grace. Small pieces of temporary happiness are gifts to be enjoyed while our lives last. As it is written in Ecclesiastes 5:18, “This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them– for this is their lot.” The point is to, above all, love the giver and not just the gift.

We can fall into holes, but we can get out from them just as well. The journey is hard. It requires an immeasurable amount of effort to keep going. There will be times we will think we will feel too tired to continue.

But we are not alone.

Indeed, the road of discipleship is full of potholes. It is long and twisty, and many times treacherous. Yet there will be times of pleasure, rejoicing, peace, and strength. It’s important to remember that it’s not just about waiting for the end or some reward far off in the future.  Discipleship has it’s rewards in the here and now and God is with us already and in the not yet.