Saturday, December 20, 2008

Made to Love - By: Toby Mac

The dream is fading, now I'm staring at the door I know its over cause my feet have hit the cold floor Check my reflection, I ain't feelin what I see It's no mystery.
Whatever happened to a passion I could live for? What became of the flame that made me feel more? And when did I forget that...

I was made to love you I was made to find you I was made just for you Made to adore you I was made to love And be loved by you You were here before me You were waiting on me And you said you'd keep me Never would you leave me I was made to love and be loved by you

The dream's alive with my eyes opened wide Back in the ring you've got me swinging for the grand prize I feel the haters spittin vapors on my dreams But I still believe I'm reachin out, reachin up, reachin over I feel a breeze cover me called Jehovah And daddy I'm on my way Cause I was made to love...

I was made to love you I was made to find you I was made just for you Made to adore you I was made to love And be loved by you You were here before me You were waiting on me And you said you'd keep me Never would you leave me I was made to love and be loved by you I was made to love you I was made just for you Made to adore you I was made to love And be loved by you You were here before me You were waiting on me And you said you'd keep me Never would you leave me I was made to love and be loved by you

Anything I would give up for you (nah, nah, nah, nah, nah) Everything, I'd give it all away (nah, nah, nah, nah, nah) Anything I would give up for you (nah, nah, nah, nah, nah) Everything, I'd give it all away (nah, nah, nah, nah, nah) Anything I would give up for you (nah, nah, nah, nah, nah) Everything, I'd give it, I'd give it all away, Oh yeah...

I'm so glad God has a plan, I'm a part of it, and even when I lose sight, get sidetracked, or just plain lose my passion...HE is always there to remind me that I was made to love, adore, and give my life for Him...what an Honor!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mexico Trip

Hey everyone, I want to let you know that some great things are happening here in Mexico!

I've had the privilege of speaking at a Youth Pastor's network in Mexico city, speaking at a rockin' youth group, and teaching some amazing youth majors from all over Mexico and Ecuador.

The interactions and discussions have been incredible, as I seek to learn more about the culture and seek to find transferable principles that cross all barriers, and enable youth leaders to reach their young people.

Thanks for your prayers and support, as I continue with the class for two more days. I'll then take in some sights on Saturday and board the plane to head home on Sunday.

It's so much fun traveling and serving with each of our YMI Missionaries. Every country I go to, and every trainer I work with I realize even more how much of an impact is being made globally.

The missionary I'm working with here in Mexico is Dennis Poulette. Dennis is the YMI Latin America Director, and he oversees the training in Mexcio, Cuba and is currently working on expansion into more Latin American Countries as well.
I encourage you to check out his web site, and be praying for he and His wife Janell and two children as they continue to train trainers in Youth Ministry in Latin America.

I hope you all are having a wonderful Christmas Season, and again thanks for partnering with us to make this training trip to Mexico possible.
God bless,

Monday, November 17, 2008

O Praise Him

O Praise Him
By: The David Crowder Band

Turn your ear To Heaven and hear the noise inside
The sound of angels awe The sound of angels songs
And all this for a King We could join and sing 'All for Christ our King!'

How constant How divine This song of ours will rise
Oh, how constant How divine This love of ours will rise Will rise...

CHORUS: Ohh praise Him! Ohh praise Him! He is Holy! He is Holy!

Turn your gaze To Heaven and raise A joyous noise
Oh the sound of salvation come The sound of rescued ones
And all this for a king Angels join to sing 'All for Christ our King!'

How infinite and sweet This love so rescuing
Oh how infinitely sweet This great love that has redeemed As one, we sing...

Hallelujah, Hallelujah He is Holy, He is Holy

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another Form of Ministry

Lately I've been doing some assessing and evaluating of the things I've been doing in ministry this past year. Speaking, Consulting, and training youth leaders internationally certainly tops the list of things I've been up to, but God has been using another form of ministry this past year as well.

It's a ministry that I've always loved doing, but in the past two decades of youth ministry, I've found very little time to use it, except for through regular e-mails and notes to my youth leaders. What is it you ask (at least I hope you're asking)...It's writing.

Writing articles and encouragements is something I've always loved to do but until recently haven't had or maybe more accurately...made time to do.

So about a year and a half ago, I started journaling and compiling some articles and came up with two different series types. Lesson Learned and YMInsights.

Lesson Learned” - Is a series of articles for Youth Leaders that chronicles some things I have learned as a veteran Youth Pastor that will hopefully encourage youth leaders as they continue to help students navigate through the confusing messages they get hit with every day.

YMinsights” - Is a series of articles taken from my international trips that focus on spiritual insights and challenges that cause us to pause and praise God for His goodness.”

Both sets of articles have been posted on my blog, and can be easily found by going to the tab on the left column under "Categories" section.

There have been some National Youth Ministry sites and publications that have picked up on a few of them as well, and since I'm in "compile" mode these days, I thought I would put them all in one place in a post for those who may want to read through them again or for the first time.

So, I encourage you to check them out if you've got some time, just click on the link title to go to the article, and take a look at the groups that have posted them. There are some excellent youth ministry publications out there, and I'm glad to have had a small part in encouraging a wider youth leader audience through this writing ministry as well.

Articles Posted and Published this past year

1. Simply Youth Ministry posted: Lesson Learned articles

2. Youth posted: Lesson Learned articles

YMInsights Series

3. Youth Ministry TV posted: Lesson Learned articles

4. Vision for Youth Magazine published:Lesson Learned articles

5. Youth Worker Journal posted: Lesson Learned article

As of this writing I've assembled twelve of the Lesson Learned articles and compiled them into a devotional/reflection resource designed for volunteer youth leaders and "rookie" Youth Pastors as well. I'm in the process of "shopping it around" to see if there is any interest in publishing it as a resource of encouragement and insights from a "grizzled veteran" in the world of youth ministry.

If anyone has a contact they could put me in touch with in the publishing universe, let me know, as I would love to make this resource available in the form of a book.

In the mean time, I hope you enjoy the articles because I know I'm enjoying writing them and getting them out there. It's my prayer that they are being used to encourage, challenge and motivate others with the greatness of our God!

Monday, November 10, 2008


  • Well it's been a while since I've written a new post, and for those who know me well, and have been following my ministry, you know that's not like me. I have a good reason (notice I didn't say excuse). The reason is that the months of October and November have been a blur.

    From the moment October hit, it's been a whirlwind of traveling and speaking and presenting the ministry of Youth Ministry International all over the place. In fact, this past year has been the kind of year that amazes you when it's done. As I'm writing this post my head is still spinning from all of the encounters and interactions I've had with people in the US and abroad. God is at work and I'm just hanging on for the ride.

    I've been doing some tallying and, for those who are wondering what I've been up to this past you go...

    Since The summer of 2007 I've spoken to groups in...

    * New Hampshire - 4 Churches
    * New York - 20 Churches, Youth Groups, Networks, Conferences
    * Pennsylvania - 3 colleges, conferences
    * Kentucky - 2 colleges, classes
    * Kenya - 1 camp, 1 college, 1 church, 1 youth group
    * Ukraine - 1 college, 1 youth group
    * Malaysia - 1 college, 1 youth group, 1 regional conference

    Some of these speaking engagements have required more than one message or class or seminar so in doing a little further evaluation I found that in the above mentioned locations this past year God used me to deliver...

    * 39 Messages
    * 13 Class sessions
    * 7 seminars

    for a grand total of 59 opportunities to challenge, inspire, motivate and encourage
    God's people that the world is young (52% under the age of 25) and needs Jesus.

    My life has been forever altered for God's glory through the impact and influence of passionate and professionally trained Youth Leaders, teachers and coaches who loved God and loved young why can't kids around the world have that same opportunity?

    People are responding to the message and are stepping up to the plate to provide resources, funds and prayer for our dedicated team of YMI trainers in East Africa, Southeast Asia, Western Europe, Eurasia and Latin America, and for that I am so thankful!

    I know numbers don't tell the whole story but they sure do help tell some of the story, and the bottom line is that through the ministry of YMI around the world the following has taken place...
  • Total Local churches served by YMI training - 1710

  • Total Youth Directors trained in Informal seminars - 1225

  • Total Lay youth workers trained in Informal seminars - 4260

  • Total students enrolled in a Bachelors or Masters degree - 205

  • Total Graduated with a Masters/Bachelors/degree (as of July 2008) - 42

  • Total number of trained national leaders assisting in training - 68

  • Total number of countries represented by trainees - 25

  • Total number of National Colleges/Seminaries offering YMI degrees - 10

  • Total number of youth in churches impacted by YMI training -131,500

It's been a whirlwind year for sure, but wow what an impact our ministry is making worldwide! Thanks to you and your faithful support, the movement of Training Trainers in Youth Ministry worldwide so that young people (as of right now we know of over 131,000 of them who are sitting under the training and influence of YMI trained youth leaders) are having the opportunity to hear about the life altering truths of Jesus Christ in their culture!!

Please join me and the rest of the YMI team as we trust God for continued growth in terms of formally trained Youth Leaders who in turn will be used of God to reach young people in their country for God.

We're still looking for people who would like to join our support team by investing in our ministry which is all about Training Trainers in Youth Ministry Worldwide. In a word, it's a ministry of multiplication...As we train youth leaders, they reach young people with love of Christ in their country, and on and on it goes. With 52% of the world's population under the age of 25, there's no need to fear a shortage of opportunites anytime soon!

If you'd like to invest in life change through becoming a personal supporter of my role with YMI (I'm a missionary just like the rest of our guys) then send me an e-mail to inquire about some specific ways you can jump on board.

Or, if you would like to make an investment by sending a one time gift or become a monthly, quarterly or annual giver to my support please send your donation along with a note explaining your intention and naming "Carl Ministry Account" as the recipient.

Send the donation to...

Youth Ministry International
1300 Envoy Cir. Suite 1306
Louisville, KY 40299

Upon receipt of the gift you will be sent a tax deductable receipt for your records.

Thank You, God is using you and your investments to change lives worldwide...That's what makes the Whirlwind...Worth it!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Perfect Timing - A Conversation with Brian

Tonight I returned home from an incredible week of ministry through speaking at a bunch of different places in the Hudson Valley region of NY. It's my old stomping grounds and I had a great time speaking in several churches, a retreat, and a youth group.

In seven days I had 12 speaking engagements, so it was truly a whirlwind tour, but wow what an awesome time I had interacting with everyone.

Each group had its own unique special qualities, and each group was so encouraging to be a part of.

I think at each stop along the way I received more of a blessing than I was able to give, as people young and old responded to God's Word and the vision of what YMI is all about, and what we're doing worldwide!

One of the encounters I had this week, that I will not soon forget was a face to face sit down conversation with one of the most amazing guys I've ever met! This guy has had such an incredible ministry of encouragement over the years that every time I'm with him I leave a richer, deeper, better person in the Lord because of our time together.

His name is Brian and besides being one of the most spiritually in tune people that I know, a regular prayer warrior, and an unbelievable truth giver, He also has Autism, Tourette Syndrome and OCD.

He can't communicate through spoken word, but when He sits down at his Dynavox machine, and his mother holds his wrist to calm his movements, and he begins to peck with his pointer letter after letter to form the sentences He needs to deliver...I stop and listen, and listen good!

When I started as Student Ministries Pastor at my former church, Brian asked if he could sit down with me and talk about getting involved in the youth ministry in some way. So he and his mom and I got together and with her help he communicated to me that he had a passion for young people and wanted to serve in some way but with his issues wasn't sure how he could be used.

Well, it didn't take long and we realized that not only could this self taught genius, type...he would type deep, lyrically challenging and soul stirring prayers to God in the form of poems. They were absolutely stunning masterpieces that God used to challenge, inspire, convict and basically pierce the hearts of those who heard them.

So I asked Brian if His ministry would be to write a prayer that we would open up our weekly student worship service with, and get us in the right frame of mind and spirit to enter into the time with God each week.

He agreed and we embarked on an incredible run of prayers, and poems that God used to touch the hearts of many students and adults through the years.

I quickly learned that when Brian had a word, it had depth and meaning and usually was the exact thing I needed to hear. Being around Brian reminded me of the slogan from the old EF Hutton commercials that said "When EF Hutton Speaks People listen", that was so true of him then and is still so true of Him today.

God used him to speak truth, encouragement and discerning words into the lives of many people then and now...not bad for a guy that many had written off when he was younger.

So when I got a message from Brian's mom that He wanted to sit down and talk through his machine, I said "absolutely", and we set the time and day.

You see it's interesting as I reflect on my many talks with Brian over the years, it seems like at almost every major junction of my ministry life over the past 10 years since I met him, Brian has delivered a message of some sort that was dead on with what I was dealing with and what I had been praying about. Looking back on it God used his words in my life at the exact moment I needed them time and time again.

In 2004 when my world was spinning around and around, and all kinds of questions and doubts were going on, I sat down with Brian, and he encouraged me so much.

Right before I left to go to Ukraine for the first time we sat together and he basically said to me that this trip was going to stretch me like I have never been stretched before and was going to change everything in ministry for me...As usual he was right on!

I've written about that fateful year in the article called "Do You Trust Me?" and behind the scenes in many of those situations I had Brian seeking God on my behalf and then at just the right time interjecting truth and encouragement through a machine that delivered the thoughts from the depths of his soul.

Well, as many of you know this current mission journey that I'm on has been an awesome ride that has been filled with many highs as well as many lows. These have been the most faith stretching times my family and I have ever experienced! For those who have followed my writings this past year and a half you have probably picked up on some of that through the words I've written.

Several times along the way I've been hit with some discouraging moments that have caused me to contemplate, and question whether I'm doing the right thing. The article "No AC, No FM & No Regrets" as well as "Do You Trust Me?" were written right in the middle of some of those times. So as I sat with Brian, wondering what He had to deliver this time, I was again absolutely stunned at what he typed.

In a few short sentences that took over an hour of painstaking, keystrokes accompanied with loud outbursts from the Tourette Syndrome, he gave me exactly what I needed to hear and once again at a major juncture in my ministry life, God used him to speak direction and encouragement to my often wondering and wandering was our conversation, printed from his dynavox by his mom.
A message of Hope and Power from a servant of God at the perfect time...

My Conversation with Brian...
Friday October 10, 2008 Brent, Bob, and Brian Young (Mom facilitator)
(Comments in parentheses are Mom's notations)

"I just want to thank you both for praying for me. I have been in the desert again. I don't always like it there. But I know God is with me. I do not like going
through these tumultuous times. God says I have to keep on "trucking".

You guys are so good for me. I miss our times at church. I miss my dad,too. I
know he is doing fine, though. I got to tell him how much God is going to do for
me when I get there. I told him I would be able to speak and sing, and walk and
run without pain.

I am only being what God wants me to be when I type. The autism is getting
the better of me when I don't type. I am sorry I am being so noisy. It is the
Tourette's (Syndrome) that rears its ugly head. I am thinking one thing and the
noises and words just pop out.

(We talked about an autistic young man from Rochester, who made
all the news
when he was allowed to play basketball for the 1st time in his Senior year for
the last 2 minutes in the final game of the year; and he scored 20 points in
that time!)

Yes, I heard about him. There are many like him. (With those kind of gifts)
But I am called to write. I am just so glad to be here. Only I miss being here
in the daytime.

I am just tired now......I want to deliver a message. (Meaning he has a word
from God to tell someone)

I need to let Brent know God has His hand upon his heart. I know of your
feelings of inadequacies. I know of your feelings of leaving your family alone.
I am with you and your family in every single step you take. I have a great
many things planned for you. People are in desparate need of me and you are
chosen by me to touch them. I am your author and your finisher AND you
know this! I am using you to make this confusing world a better place.

The Lord is your heart, soul and mind. I am the Balm for your concerns.
I am the Grace that seals your family. I am the Mercy that comforts you.
I am your God. I am your Salvation. I am Jehovah Jireh. It is My will that
you follow. I am so very pleased with your walk. I AM YOUR GOD."
One of the things I've been wrestling with alot over the past year and a half of support raising is the fine line between stepping out in faith that God will provide the needed funds to continue this ministry and being responsible for providing for my family. As many of you know this has been a constant concern of ours for many months now as we are still underfunded.

One of the things I've been seeking God about is if I should continue this missionary journey and continue to trust Him that the funds would come in, or look at other alternatives. So, when Brian mentioned that God is my "Jehovah Jireh" I almost fell out of my chair. Jehovah Jireh is a name for God that highlights the fact that He is my Provider!

I don't know where the funds are going to come from, as we are obviously in the midst of some trying economic times, but I believe that God will provide. He has done amazing things to this point, and my prayer is that He will lay it on the hearts of some individuals, churches, and groups in such a way that they will join our passionately committed team of supporters and help our ministry get over the top financially so we can continue to train trainers in youth ministry worldwide!
I am so blessed to have Brian praying for me, and using his gifts for God like he does. My prayer is that each of us would listen to the words that Brian typed because they sure do apply to us all, especially the closing declaration "I AM YOUR GOD!"

Thank you God, for having a plan and choosing to use us to implement that plan. Help us all to realize that in the midst of our confusing times, you are always dead on with your message of truth! Thank you for using your servant Brian to hammer it home in my life, as usual at JUST THE RIGHT TIME!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Daddy Date

Tonight I had a great time with my daughter on a daddy date. Since our kids were very young, my wife and I have regularly taken both of them out for a special treat with some one on one time with mommy or daddy.

Tonight, my wife took my son and I had the privilege of spending time with my little girl. I was thinking of the many daddy dates over the years, and reminiscing about how they've gotten progressively more about what she wants and less about what I want, which is pretty cool.

I mean early on when she was a baby, and even a toddler our daddy dates would consist of a stop at Dunkin Donuts, or Starbucks for some much needed caffination for me, and as my daughter kept growing it would include a walk through the mall, a trip to Toys R Us and of course a swing through DQ on the way home.

Tonight was different though, it was pretty amazing when Serena said what she wanted to do for our daddy date. I'll admit I was hoping for something like Outback Steakhouse or Bugaboo Creek, but not this time. Even though her tastes have evolved in her 8 and a half years on this earth, she didn't come back with any of my hopefuls for our date...nope, when asked what she wanted to do for her daddy date she said "I'd like to go to the library!"

It was one of the statements that just spoke volumes about my girl and the kind of character she has, and it really is an attribute that she gets from her mommy that's for sure. She is so sweet, and kind and deeply spiritual. She is just like my wife, and I am so blessed!

In fact in so many ways my daughter is like Bonnie and my son is just like's funny how it works like that some times.

Serena seems very concerned about the future, and Ethan is just the opposite, he lives in the now, and definitely grabs all he can out of every moment.

As I sat there in the library and just watched my daughter read, and thought about how far she has come, and what an amazing future she has before her, I just thanked God for His blessings, and asked Him to continue to lead and guide and protect her.

Now those that know me well, know that probably the last place I'd want to be is in the library. In fact I rarely darkened the doors of those hallowed halls in high school and in college, except for when I was trusting God for a deeper kind of relationship with a girl and I literally prayed that He would lead me to a library girl. Once I actually found the library and went in, boom there she was, and the rest is history!

That was then and this is now, and I'm telling you I had a blast sitting and watching my little girl engrossed in a book. Funny how things change.

As I was sitting there though I had to laugh as I thought about a recent update that my wife wrote to some friends that contrasts the difference between my's what she said...

To Our Friends and Family,
Hi Everyone! I know it's been a long time since I sent an update. Hopefully this one will make it worth the wait - (truth is stranger than fiction sometimes).

First...the family.... Some of you may not know that Serena broke her ankle a week before school started.
She was climbing on the counter to reach our extremely high cupboards, and fell off. And she wasn't even going for anything exciting...just Saltine crackers.
She now has her cast off, and is getting used to walking around without it.

Ethan is loving school. He's such a social butterfly.
The other day, he asked Brent if he could have a "chicken breath" sandwich for lunch.

There is such a big difference between him and Serena. She asked Brent, "When am I going to be old enough to go on missions trips with you?" A second later, Ethan asked, "when am I going to be old enough to play lazer tag?"

Recently, Serena was discussing something very deep and spiritual. At the same time, Ethan was eating a fortune cookie. He pulled the little paper out and said, "oh, look! My lucky numbers!"

It still amazes me how God puts us together. He knows our likes and dislikes, our personality and spiritual gifts. He knows the whole package, in fact he designed us, for His purposes. We're all different, and that's the way it's supposed to be. God is the Master Designer, for that I am truly thankful.

My prayer is that my kids would continue to learn and grow and see God at work in and through them as they progress through life, and that each of us would do the same.
God isn't into cookie cutters, He's into variety, and what He's making is top notch!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Old School

Well, I guess it had to happen sometime, I thought that I was safe, but apparently I was wrong. Being born in the late 60's, living my childhood in the 70's, and being a teen in the 80's all before the age of instant everything (especially photography) I thought I was safe, but again, I was terribly wrong.

Yesterday out of the blue, like a lightning bolt from the past I got a Facebook message that I needed to check out some old pictures from the camp I grew up attending as a child and spent every summer in my teen years on staff as well. Old School pics were now on the internet for all to see.

It was funny scrolling through the photos and laughing at the hairstyles and clothes and Miami Vice suit jackets...I was an absolute dork in those days, but the interesting thing is that I didn't see it that way at all.

Upon looking at the pics I immediately listed my Facebook status as "Brent is realizing all over again that I'm not cool anymore...and according to the camp pics that were posted, It's quite possible I never was."

Anyway, looking at those pics reminded me of some incredible times and also of many of the life changing and direction changing decisions that I made at that place surrounded by friends.

It was pretty amazing to stop and think and process all that I've been through, and what was going on in my life during those summers.

I was dealing with stuff that those guys knew nothing about, and if only I knew then what I know now about how important things like seeking support and encouragement in relationships really is, I just wonder if I could have avoided alot of inner pain.

My teen years were definitely difficult, and full of questions and doubts. As I kept scrolling I kept thinking of all the wresting with God that I did on the shores of that tiny lake in the heart of the Finger Lakes region of NY.

In many ways it was as if my life then was being lived in the wilderness. I was between Canaan and Egypt, kind of wandering and wondering, about God, His Son, The Church, His people, my place within all of it and just basically who I was and why I was here?

Now looking back I can add some more questions...what was I thinking and why was I wearing that?

Well, as I continued my old school trip down memory lane I thought of the lyrics to a song that I've used many times in communicating truths as a Youth Pastor, but now the lyrics reminded me of how I felt as a child and especially a teenager.

The song is called Wilderness by The OC Supertones.

Thanks to these lyrics and some super grainy snapshots from the past, yesterday I was able to flash back to some tough and terrific times all at once. God brought me through the wilderness then, and I'm so glad that when I start to pack my bags and pitch my tent back in it, He uses things from the Old School to bring me back to the present that He is God, and He's still at work!

My prayer is that whether you're in the Old School or the New School, you would realize that every journey has a wilderness...but God doesn't want you to build your house there, keep moving forward with the Master Navigator!

Wilderness, By: OC Supertones

The rain falls on the righteous and the wicked, and mine is not to reason why this is. In this I rest in this I find my refuge, that my thoughts and ways are not His. I spend my life on looking up the answers It’s rare that I can’t find a reason why, but reasons fail at children without mothers His plan is more than I can know.

Have you ever held in doubt what this life is all about, have you questioned all these things that seem important to us? Do you really wanna know or are you a little scared You’re afraid that God is not exactly what you’d have Him be. What should I hold to and what should I do? How do I know if anything’s true? I’m somewhere in-between Canaan and Egypt a place called the wilderness.

I’m not one who always trusts their feelings, I don’t believe in what you’d call blind faith. But faith that you can do all that you promised, and you said it all works for good. It’s safe to say I don’t see the big picture, I can’t see the forest for the trees, and if five hundred lives Were mine to get to know You all could be spent on just this.

God do you really understand what it’s like to be a man? Have You ever felt the weight of loving all the things you Hate? Have You struggled? Have you worried? How can You sympathize?

I have spoken much too soon put my hand over my mouth I can’t contend with You. Your ways are so much higher and we pass through the fire that Christ endured before us when You were in the wilderness.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Immovable - YMInsights Series

One of the things I have the privilege of doing in my ministry is traveling and meeting like minded youth leaders around the world. I love learning and growing with them as we interact around the truths of scripture and the principles of youth ministry.

On my recent trip to Malaysia, I learned so much in such a short period of time it was mind boggling. You see when I teach in the modular program at one of our partner schools, I have to add the dimension of "well, this is how we in the US have discovered ways to do youth ministry, so lets discuss how these tools will work or won't work in your culture."

I love the dialog that ensues, as it is rich, real and full of passion.

In every country I've been in thus far I've witnessed a similar theme among the youth leaders...they love their young people and are tired of the world, culture, and traditions trapping and enslaving them into missing the truths of Jesus.

In this last trip to Malaysia I also heard a reverberating theme of the need for Freedom resounding time and time again.

These leaders are praying about the lack of freedom that exists in their settings.

Countries like Myanmar, Brunai, Sri Lanka, China, India and Nepal were represented in the class, and the cultures and traditions that these youth leaders have to learn to navigate through in order to reach the young people of their culture is just astounding.

Every day I spent with these leaders my heart broke more and more with the lack of freedom they have, but at the same time I was equally fired up and encouraged with the faith and hope they have that Jesus can and will shine through...I'm telling you it was contagious!

The whole time I was there I kept thinking about how fortunate we are in the US with the freedoms we have, and how incredibly privileged we are to be able to stand, sit and kneel whenever we want to in worship of our God.

I did alot of exploring and asking questions, not just about the different religions that are represented in their culture, but actually standing in the very symbols that the people worship in their culture.

One type of temple in particular really nailed me with the fact that everything that it was about, was based on man's belief.

It was the Buddhist temple, and the pictures you see in this post are actually taken from three different temples in a very close proximity to each other. The Chinese Buddhist Temple, The Burmese Buddhist Temple and the Thai Buddhist Temple.

As I was walking and talking with my students I couldn't help but think of a passage in Jeremiah, where the prophet warns the children of Israel against following idols, and the following passage sums up what everything within me wanted to shout to the scores of people who were wandering and worshiping and paying homage to idols and all that those idols stand for.

Jeremiah 10:4-7
4 They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. 5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good." 6 No one is like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. 7 Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.

With everything inside of me, I wanted to proclaim that truth. There is none like the Lord, He is the one worthy of praise and worship and honor and sacrifice and lifelong dedication, not a created thing that has no power.

As I looked around and watched my students, I could tell they were feeling it as well, and I could tell that they had faces and names of individual young people and family members on their minds as we interacted with what we were experiencing together.

Then when we were on top of the mountain at the Chinese Buddhist temple known as Ke Lok Si, I learned an important piece of information that helped solidify in my mind and heart what my faith in God is all about.

I asked why there was half a statue on top of a pagoda and another very tall statue surrounded by supports going up off in the distance. I was told that the goddess of mercy had been swept away by a mudslide and all they could recover from her demise was the top part which was on the building.

The new one surrounded by supports was being built in a more secure fashion.

That was it for me, my mind and heart praised God right then and there as I realized that He is my strong tower, my rock, my immovable force that is as alive and well today as He was thousands of years ago.

He doesn't succumb to mudslides and earth quakes and forces of nature.

He is the force of Nature!

As I was standing there taking it all in and worshiping God on the very mountain He Created, I thought of the song "Strong Tower" by Kutless and was moved to pray for the many people who are facing tough times, hard decisions, soul shaking questions and doubts, like we all do.

I thought about them and how the words of that song speak the truth that He is the strong tower, the one we can go to, and the one who actually has the power to do something about it, because He is God!

My prayer that day, as well as right now is that we would realize that our God is alive, and well and doing His work in the hearts of His people!

He cannot be moved, and is always ready to be our shelter in time of need.

I encourage you to listen to the words of this song by Kutless (actually there are two songs in the here for the lyrics) and both are all about How incredible God is and how awesome it is to stand in His courts, and His Temple in worship of the living God.

I'm so thankful that we serve a Risen Savior who is IMMOVABLE!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Anything Broken? - Remembering 9/11

Well, here we go again, another year, another surreal remembrance of the the day that I will never forget.

It's been a year since I first posted this article, it is also one of the first ones I wrote in the Lesson Learned series, and one of the first ones that Youth posted as well.

I've written about 24 more since then, so I thought I'd post it again as a glimpse into one of the most amazing ministry times in my life that came through the most incredibly tragic times of my life and the lives of the families I worked with.

Here it is..."Anything Broken?" Remembering 9/11...

This morning (9/11/07) was kind of surreal for me, as I join the rest of the world in remembering the 6th anniversary of 9/11. It really hit me kind of hard as I recalled what happened that fateful day, and how I found out...I was sitting in my office getting ready for one of the four bands that we had booked to do a concert on 9/14 to arrive.

We were hosting a huge concert that upcoming Friday with Five Iron Frenzy and Relient K head lining the show.

I was up to my neck in details that needed to be finalized before they arrived. We were the first stop on their fall tour and made a deal with them to give them all access to our facilities for 3 days to set up their lights, sound, and staging, and there was a ton of stuff my team and I had to do to make that happen.

As I was getting my plan together, the phone rang, it was my wife. She said in a panic filled voice "A plane just ran into the World Trade Center!" I said "what did you say?" and she repeated it.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Now you need to understand something, we lived about an hour north of NYC, and many of the students who were in our ministry had parents, aunts, uncles, and extended family members who worked in NYC and some at the WTC in particular.

My mind immediately went from detail mode to "what now Lord?" I hung up the phone with my wife and just sat their in stunned silence, when the phone rang again, this time it was one of my youth leaders who said "did you hear about the planes hitting the towers?" I said what do you mean planes?" She said "a second plane just flew into the other tower, we're under attack!"

I was even more stunned and scared and bewildered than just a few minutes earlier. Many questions were flying through my mind...What was happening in our world? What was happening in our city? What was happening in our church? What were we going to do about it with our students? To list a few.

As I was talking with her, another call came in so I put her on hold. It was a call from the manager of Five Iron Frenzy, the headlining band that we were expecting to arrive later that day. They were getting ready to leave Denver and were sent back because all the flights in the US were canceled due to the attack.

In a matter of about 30 minutes my day went from bad to worse as I sat there wondering what we were going to do. The manager said, hey don't worry about the show, the guys and I talked and we want to be there with you guys and minister to the kids...we're going to rent a bus and drive straight through - we'll see you tomorrow!"

I remember hanging up the phone and thinking "now there is a band who is in it for the right reasons." As soon as I hung up with him I heard a scream from down the hall, it was our secretary who had just heard that the first tower had just collapsed!

The rest of the day was a blur, as I fielded calls from parents, students, bands, concert ticket holders, and newspaper reporters.

I was hit head on with a decision that was the furthest from my mind when I first got the news of the attacks...The decision of "should we cancel the concert or not?"

It seemed like the more I fielded calls, the more irate people got when I answered their question with an honest "of course were going to have the concert."

If you recall there was a period of time shortly after the attacks where everyone was canceling everything.

I mean the Yankees, Mets, Giants & Jets all canceled games (in fact the Super bowl used to be the last Sunday in January but is now in February because they canceled football games).

I was finding out how big of a deal it was for us to go forward with the concert. I got nasty calls, e-mails & conversations from people who couldn't believe that we were still going forward with the show in light of the tragic events that had just taken place.

Over the next two days the bands, roadies, and equipment all arrived by bus (not tour bus, not the Madden Cruiser...Yellow Cheese school bus!).

I couldn't believe soon as the crew arrived I told them about all of the hate filled input we were getting. The guys couldn't believe it either.

Then Reese (the lead singer of FIF) asked "do you think there will be kids in the audience who were directly affected by the attacks?"

We were expecting about 1100 kids at the concert and based on the connections in my own ministry and the feedback I'd gotten from our network of Youth Pastors I knew there would be a large portion of the attendees who either had a relative, friend, or neighbor that was directly affected by the attacks.

So I said "yep, they'll be out in force!"

What he said next totally ramped my respect for him and the other bands through the roof...He said "well then, lets turn this rock show into a church service and minister to the needs of these hurting kids!".

That is exactly what they did. A normal concert usually lasts about 3 hours and consists of some ear piercing music, some cool technology, and you go home. This particular concert saw each band play their hearts out for sure, but also share their hurts with the kids and share the solutions they've found in Jesus with them as well.

Now you might be saying, isn't that what they are supposed to do? That is a good question, and in my observation many Christian rock musicians don't share verbally any more, they let their music do the talking...ok, I can usually buy that but on this fateful night the kids needed more than music to meet their needs.

They needed real life examples of faith and victory from their "heroes", and that's exactly what they got.

It was so awesome to see how each band member was so vulnerable in their testimonies that the real HERO of Jesus Christ came through loud and clear!

Matt Thiessen from Relient K shared his personal faith story and some tough stuff he'd gone through, and each band member did the same.r />
Their new album had just come out that week and they played a song from it that really spoke volumes to the kids. The chorus says...

"never underestimate my Jesus, you're telling me that there's no hope, I'm telling you you're wrong. Never underestimate my Jesus, when the world around you crumbles, He will be strong, He will be strong!"

After that various members from FIF shared how God had been there for them and how He was going to see them trough this as well.

Then for the next hour and a half, Reese had all the bands come out on stage, put down their instruments, turn down the lights and the fog machine and just sit down among the students as he proceeded to tell his story of faith, and trust and ups and downs with the Lord. It was incredible!

I have seen these bands in concert many times over the years, but never have I witnessed such an out pouring of love and truth from these guys to an audience filled with hurting kids who had just 3 days earlier experienced a life rocking, potentially faith shattering experience of losing a loved one in a terrorist attack!

The concert started at 7pm and by the time I finally locked the building and went home and laid my head on the pillow it was 4:30am!

The band members hung out, prayed, cried, hugged and ministered Christ's love to over 1100 kids who had recently found out what it meant to know pain, hurt, questions and doubts.

Because a group of pesky Christian rockers weighed the priority of canceling a show because every thing in the entire country (airlines, Broadway, football and baseball) was canceling, or taking the heat so they could minister the love of Jesus to some hurting kids, we were able to see hundreds and hundreds of lives changed that night through the ministry of the Word, prayer, life change and a few songs.

The next morning as I walked into the church building I was asked THE question that usually faced me the day after any huge event we did in our ministry "was anything broken?"

This time I was able to give an answer that to this day is one of my favorites.

I said "YES, all kinds of things were broken...but because we had the concert many of them were fixed before they got home."

As I remember the 6th anniversary of the terror attacks on 9/11, and every anniversary that is to come...I choose to focus on the truth that God is in control and He calls on each of us to share with others how He has been faithful to us in our lives. He's in the business of fixing broken lives, and nothing is going to stop that!

Lesson Learned.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Kingdom Mentality - Lesson Learned Series

The more I read my Bible and follow the steps of Jesus, the more I realize that His ministry was all about restoration and expansion. Everywhere He went He preached a similar message, a message of hope and repentance to restore us to a right relationship with Him.

I also see that He didn’t settle down in one spot. He moved around and left instructions for His followers to spread the message as well. He was about building His Kingdom, but the only difference was that His Kingdom was meant to be in the hearts of His people, and His people are all around the world.

He truly had a Kingdom mentality that was meant to be expanded, not focused on one people group, in one city, one country or even one continent. I also notice that Jesus used various means, and methods in His delivery, yet His message remained the same.

I mean have you ever wondered why He went with Jairus to heal His daughter when he could have just thought it and accomplished the same outcome. Or how about when He healed the dangling paralyzed guy in the middle of a newly roofless house. Why did he forgive his sins first, and then heal His infirmity? And I’ll tell you what, one of the first things I want to know when I get to Heaven is “why mud in the eye for the blind guy?”

Jesus has a repertoire, and a very creative one at that, He is open to new methods to deliver His message. He modeled it for us in the very way He lived His life on this earth, and He is definitely all about expansion of His Kingdom. So why does it seem that we His children get so caught up with our little “kingdoms” and lose sight of the big picture?

The more I’m around Pastors and missionaries and just about anyone in ministry, the more I see that many times our focus is on buildings and numbers and bank accounts instead of life change that comes through Jesus, whether it be in Rochester, NY or Kathmandu Nepal, life change is life change and that needs to be what our ministries are all about.

The whole method vs. message debate basically is a belief that is lived out when we consciously or subconsciously say something like this…”well, we never did it that way before”, and many times is at the heart of why churches and Christians stagnate and in the process bring the Kingdom expansion progress that Jesus wants, to a stand still. I’ve seen this lived out, I’ve heard those words directly spoken, and if I’m honest with myself, I’ve often thought them as well.

Why is it that our assumption is that “if it worked a certain way in the past, it will deliver the same results now and in the future? Music is one of those things that can either unite or divide. It’s the number one thing that causes churches to split and is also one of the main reasons why people subconsciously sing “should I stay or I should go?”

As I think about this whole idea of Kingdom expansion utilizing the creative gifts and abilities that God Himself gave to us in the first place, my mind goes back ten years to one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in ministry. It took place at a Christian music festival in Lincoln, NH.

Now to fully understand the illustration you need to remember that at that time in 1998, Christian rock was pretty much just that…rock. You had groups like Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, Petra and DC Talk roaming the scene.

These groups were great in what they delivered to the listeners, a message of hope and truth about the one who desires a relationship with His people. For the most part the beat was snappy, catchy, toe-tapping and clearly understandable vocally. These guys were good at what they did and the delivery system had become pretty much standardized.

The only difference between Christian music and secular music was the lyrics, musically they were just as good, if not better than many of their secular counterparts, and sitting atop the Christian music pedestal at the time was none other than “Mr. Friends” himself, Michael W Smith. Smitty had been doing Christian music for decades and was one of the most sought after, respected and extremely revered musicians ever. He was exactly the guy who needed to do what he did that fateful night in 1998.

You see at that music festival on that particular night Smitty was the headlining act. He had been tapped to close out an incredible week of music, fun and life change. So as the time creeped closer for Michael and his band to take the stage, the crowd kept pouring in, and taking their places along the naturally gorgeous landscape of the bottom portion of the Loon mountain ski resort.

The place was packed and buzzing, which was really nothing new for a Michael W. Smith concert, but interestingly enough, this was a different kind of buzz, and as I scanned the audience there were also many people from different kinds of cultures and backgrounds in the audience as well.

As I looked around, I noticed that mingled in with the long time Smitty fans were a new breed of music fan. These guys were hard looking, sported tattoos, dreadlocks, goatees and muscle shirts; they definitely stood out from the rest of the crowd who had gathered to hear the Christian music legend himself.

Come to find out, these fans weren’t there to hear Smitty at all, in fact most of them didn’t even know who He was. They were there to hear an up and coming band that was tearing up the charts and reaching a different target audience all together.

They were there to hear none other than POD. Now, why the concert producers planned an event where, a hardcore, mosh pit, scream your lungs out band like POD was the opening act for “And, friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them”, Michael W. Smith I will never know. But as the buzz kept building in the crowd the more I kept thinking that this was either a stroke of genius or absolute stupidity.

Church music and hardcore don’t mix do they? Everywhere I looked I saw Argyle sweaters and muscle shirts, comb overs and dread locks, Lord’s Gym t-shirts and tattoos, WWJD bracelets and POD stickers, I was either in heaven or Christian bizzaro world!

I thought for sure the church worship leader and pianist were going to get trampled as they got there early to “sit through” the opening act so they could be “near the spout where the glory comes out” with Michael, only to find out that the opening act incorporated a little known phenomenon to Christian music at the time called a mosh pit!

So, as I stood there and observed all of this starting to take place, I began to pray for Michael W. Smith and I began to pray for the guys of POD, and I began to pray for the people who were either going to absolutely love the music or absolutely despise it.

We had a potential cataclysmic event on our hands, as the old and the new were about to converge and the Kingdom was either going to be expanded in a new way that night or come to a dead stop!

I had a great vantage point for the whole thing because I was backstage, peering out on the thousands who had gathered. You see my job that week at the festival was a really cool one. I was the “limo” driver for the bands (actually it was a 15 passenger van)…anyway, my job was to drive to the airport and pick up the arriving bands and drive them to the festival, hang out with them and after the show take them to their hotel or whatever.

I made many trips that week, and drove many bands but the one I will never forget was picking up and driving POD to and from the show. I remember getting my as
signment and asking “uh, who is POD? How will I know who they are? I’ve never heard of them,” which was a new concept for me as I picked up Newsboys, Petra and Supertones with no trouble at all.

The festival director said “oh you’ll be able to pick them out”, and sure enough he was right.

As we drove to the festival I was amazed at how engaging they were, they were excited to play in NH, and were excited to play in front of thousands of Christians. That was kind of surprising to me as I just assumed they played in front of Christians all the time. So I asked, “If you’re excited to play in front of Christians who do you usually play for?”

I was driving so I didn’t see their reactions but sitting next to me was Traa the bass player, and he kindly and politely said, “we usually play secular venues, where the kids that are there need to know Jesus more than anything, in fact after the show is done in NH we’re flying out to join up with the bands that are rocking at OZZFEST!” Whoa, talk about a wide open mission field.

Then they started asking me questions about the venue, about NH and about what I do. I said “I’m a Youth Pastor”, Traa immediately said “really, wow that’s cool….so is Sonny!” Sonny, the lead singer, the voice of POD, the one with the most dread locks and tattoos…is a Youth Pastor, just like me!

I almost drove off the road, that was such interesting news for me to hear. Well, we arrived at the hotel, grabbed some food and went to the venue for a sound check, and for the next several minutes Loon Mountain was literally shaking as the guys tuned up. It was going to be an interesting evening for sure.

Fast forward back to the present, here I am watching from backstage, half scared out of my mind and half excited to see what my new Youth Pastor Buddy and his band were going to do and who they were going to reach.

Then just before POD took the stage, out came Michael W Smith and took the mic to address the crowd. The place went nuts, and for the next several minutes he introduced Sonny, Traa, Marcos and Wuv and basically said “the guys that are going to take the stage now are a new band to Christian circles, they don’t look like what you may be used to and they don’t sound like what you may be used to, but let me assure you they are the real deal. They love Jesus, and are being used of God to impact a generation that I will never be able to reach. When they are done tonight, they are flying out to take the stage at probably the single biggest music mission field that there is…Ozzfest! We need to get behind POD, we need to appreciate POD, and more than anything we need to pray for POD. We need a Kingdom mentality!”

He prayed for them, hugged them and turned the mic over to them, and quietly exited the stage. What happened next was an amazing sight to behold as long time Smitty fans, not only stayed for the concert, they prayed for the kids in the audience, they embraced many of the fans and when it was all said and done, a Kingdom mentality was modeled right before our eyes.

I learned a very important lesson that night, a lesson that has been etched in my mind ever since. God is creative; He has a repertoire that is always adapting based on the audience.

His message never changes, but His methods and His messengers do. We need a Kingdom mentality that is not halted by “we’ve never done it that way before!”

Lesson Learned

Monday, September 1, 2008


Every night before we tuck our kids into bed either my wife or I will sing them a lullaby.

For those who know us well, you know that the singing gifts in the Carl family have definitely gone to my wife.

She has an amazing voice that she uses for God's glory, and has done so for many years, therefore her lullaby's put mine to shame!

I knew that would be the case, so I had to be creative more in the lyric department than the sound quality department with my kids... when I first heard the song "Irene" by Toby Mac in 2001, I knew I had to add the chorus into my repertoire with my baby girl.

Serena was born in 2000 and every night when I'm home I sing a portion of this song to her before I kiss her goodnight. It's become part of what I do with her, and as I came across this video clip recently it reminded me not only of how much I love my daughter, but also about one of the things I find myself doing alot these days...Being a voice of hope to those who have either lost it, or are on the verge of going there.

This song is all about how God knows us, loves us and sticks with us through thick and thin. I encourage you to pay close attention to the lyrics of the song...especially the section below...

Hush little baby, don't you cry, Daddy's gonna sing you a lullaby, Everything's gonna be alright, The Lord's gonna answer your prayers tonight. Hush little baby, don't you cry, Daddy's gonna sing you a lullaby, Everything's gonna be alright, The Lords gonna answer your prayers...I love this song not only because it's a great lullaby. I love it because too many times I'm like Irene. I make mistakes, I feel lost and alone and these days especially for some reason, God is bringing opportunity after opportunity to speak truth and hope into lives that are broken, and in desperate need of an epiphany for some and a reminder for others, that Jesus knows them, loves them, hasn't forgotten about them, and has an incredible plan for them.

Irene I carried you when you were too weak to walk. I took to you when you gave your heart to God. Faithful and True, that's what I'll always be to you, Believe in you, Believe in Me, and these mountains have to move.

You have dreams and aspirations, I knew you before creation, Your foundation is solid, I will build you a palace, restore your soul You'll be up for any challenge, Many storms are on the way better sharpen you faith, Count the cost, take up your cross and wear it everyday Rest in Me and I will give you strength Blessed is she, Irene who seeks my face.
I don't know what you're facing, and what you're up against, but I truly believe everything is gonna be all right, the Lord's gonna answer your prayer...

Time to go tuck in my kids, guess what I'm singing tonight!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Personal Leadership Development Seminar

Taking Care of You...So You Can Take Care of Others!

October 11, 2008

Creekside Ministries
Poughkeepsie, NY

Brent Carl, M.S., BCCC

Come join us as we Prepare for Ministry Impact!

Seminar Purpose:

This seminar will help you discover your own unique style as a leader, and based on the findings, equip you to begin to lead through passion and giftedness. We will utilize proven assessment tools to help determine both who God has designed you to be and what that means as you utilize your leadership style more effectively in ministry.

Personal Leadership Development
is one of the seminars in the "Be the Change" Seminar Series that Brent Carl Facilitates.
Space is limited, register today!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Benefits of being a Global Youth Worker

Ninetyseventhree Guest Post: Dennis Poulette

Dennis Poulette is the Director of the Center for Youth Ministry in Latin America, Youth Ministry Professor at Mexican Baptist Theological Seminary, author of many youth ministry articles, a colleague and friend of mine with Youth Ministry International and the manager of the Los Pollos Locos fantasy football team in the inaugural season of the YMI League (he could use your prayers as he faces my team "BCwreckingcrew"...actually he should be more concerned about my son's team..."Mini-Mzungu").

Dennis has been running a series on his web site called Global Youth Ministry, and I asked him if I could post his most recent article on my blog, as I believe it really captures what ninetyseventhree is all about, what YMI is all about and what I want my ministry to be all about.
Series: Global Youth Ministry

This post is part of a series on Global Youth Ministry. Be sure to check out part 1 - Why Global Youth Ministry is Important and part 2 - What’s a Global Youth Worker?

Some say that apart from church planting efforts, Global youth ministry training should be the top priority in global missions. I believe it’s a ministry that every youth worker should personally be involved in.

Obviously, I believe strongly in the mission statement of
Youth Ministry International, which is “To train national youth workers for existing local churches within the people groups of the world.”

Every youth worker in the United States should be involved somehow in the training of youth workers internationally. Here are some benefits of being a global youth worker:

Five Benefits of Being a Global Youth Worker

1. Personal obedience - everyone should be involved in world missions because God has commanded us to make disciples of all nations. Your participation in global youth ministry will strengthen your personal relationship with God.

2. An example for your students. If you expect your young people to have a heart for missions, they need to see that you have a heart for missions. Being a global youth worker will allow them to see your burden for the nations.

3. An example for your church. I always hope that my youth ministry can be an example to the church. If I am interested and involved in global missions, my students will be an example for the church through their support for global missions.

4. Fulfillment using your gifts in global ministry. You may not believe me when I say this, but you have something to offer. You can pray more specifically by getting to know other youth workers overseas. You can come for a week. You can mentor long-distance. You could even go long term to train others. There are too many opportunities, and there are many different ways you can use your gifts.

5. You can use your experience. Someone once told me that everything that happens to us is just part of the training for what God has for us in the future. You have experience and training that others do not, and this experience and training that you have had in your life should be put to use in the training of others.

If you’re interested in training youth workers internationally, please leave me a comment or
contact me. Youth Ministry International is constantly looking for international trainers, and I’d love to talk to you more about the opportunities there are all over the world.

If you would like more information on Dennis' Ministry in Mexico visit his web site

If you would like more information on partnering with what YMI is doing around the world visit the YMI Blog or contact me as well.

Global Youth Ministry and the ninetyseventhree statistic go hand in hand...Is God calling you to partner with us in some way?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Unthinkable - Scott Rigsby

I love inspirational stories, especially when the spotlight is on the one who enabled the person in the story to excel at what they do. This video clip is about just that.

Scott Rigsby's story is truly unthinkable, but isn't that just how God works in our lives some times?

Doing the unthinkable for the that's inspirational!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

That's My King

Several years ago I had a conversation with some skaters at our weekly skater event called Hang Time. They were asking some good questions about God, Christians and the Church.

It was so cool to sit on a ramp with a slice of pizza and a bunch of very inquisitive skater dudes whose interest had been peaked by this church not only welcoming them with open arms, but actually building them a park, arranging for them to have unlimited access to their gym, game room, and sound equipment...then on top of all that making it a "fee-less" entry policy and even giving them free food and drinks.

They couldn't believe it, and every week it gave my youth leaders and I incredible opportunities to answer my favorite question that we got posed with all the time..."Why do you do all this for us for free?" It gave us such an open door to answer their question with my favorite answer, "because God's love for you is free!"

So as I was sitting there doing ministry with my tools in hand, I got a chance to respond to another statement that was a regular one that we fielded. One of the skaters said, "Brent, I would follow God if I could understand everything there was to know about Him."

Think about that for a second. "If I could understand everything there is to know about God...then I would follow Him."

I thought about that, took another bite of my pizza and a sip of my soda and then said some thing like this..."Hmm, interesting, I don't know about you, but if me and my little pea brain could understand everything there was to know about God...he'd be a pretty lame God and not worth following!"

It was a good little nugget to throw out there for them to think about, and to this day it has caused me to be so thankful that I don't know everything there is to know about God, and I never will...He is indescribable, and is so worthy of our Praise!

I came a cross this awesome video clip taking some excerpts from a sermon by the late S.M. Lockridge, that helps us put the amazing nature of our King into perspective...I don't understand Him, I can't comprehend His ways, I can't fathom His will, He is totally out of my league!

He's My King...Do you know Him?

Friday, August 8, 2008

What's the difference? - YMInsights Series

I've been home from Malaysia now for almost 3 weeks, finally the jet-lag is wearing off, (although to be honest I've been milking that one for a good 2 weeks.) I've had some time to rest up, reflect and try to process what I saw and experienced during my nearly 2 week adventure to Southeast Asia.

While I was there I saw a lot of things that were different than what I'm used to, and had so much fun seeing how they do life on the other side of the world. Things like driving on the opposite side of the road, the steering wheel on the right side of the car and clocks that countdown the time remaining on a red light were some of the things I noticed very quickly that were different.

A couple more things that caught my eye were; the high octane energy drink of choice instead of Mountain Dew or Red Bull is a drink called "Kickapoo Joy Juice", the way to eat an ice cream is in a hoagie roll, and if you do happen to ask for it scooped up in a cone you have to watch out for Monkeys as they are known to be little thieves.

I had such a good time with my students as we compared and contrasted cultures that we saw all around us. I mean everywhere we went there were Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christians and Free Masons. All of the different religions and belief systems made for some very lively discussion and challenged us all to not only know what we believe, but why we believe it. I also encouraged the students that we need to know the basics of what the other religions teach so we can have healthy dialog with others regarding truth.
During one of these discussions we visited a very famous Buddhist Temple called Ke Lok Si which is an incredibly beautiful setting carved out of the side of a very high mountain overlooking Penang and the ocean off in the distance. We didn't have much time, so rather than trek up the very steep mountain trail we decided to drive up the winding road instead (I was very pleased with that decision!)

As we got to the top and looked out it was the most beautifully ornate temple you could imagine. Every detail was intricately designed and every artistic depiction was made with the purpose of honoring Buddha and in this particular location the goddess of Mercy.

We went into one of the many Pagodas where we saw some Buddhist monks doing there duty as they offered daily prayers complete with a banging bongo like instrument and burning incense. Then we walked up some more stairs to another Pagoda area where people were gathered kneeling and offering prayers and paying money for various things. We kept going up and up and up until finally we came to a very fancy lift that was kind of like a gondola that took us up the rest of mountain to where the statue to Kuan Yin the goddess of Mercy resided.

When we got to the top it was so beautiful and peaceful, every blade of grass was intricately designed and manicured to help create a serene and restful atmosphere so that people could take it all in.

The first thing I saw was this statue on top of a building so I asked what that was, why it was on top of the building and why it was kind of smudged up and dirty. One of the students who really knew his stuff, and was an awesome help to me kind of chuckled when he said "um that is the original Kuan Yin, see that bronze statue over there surrounded by all the supports? Well, that's the new one." Of course I then asked, "why are they building a new one and what happened to the old one?" He went on to say "the old one was swept away during a mud slide and was pretty much destroyed except for the top section."

Hmm, the whole time I was trying to be respectful, and not make any verbal observations that might offend someone, so I pretty much just bit my lip and kept my mouth shut, but inside I was fuming as I saw idol after idol and issue after issue that really made my heart break for the people who are trapped in a culture that is built upon man made beliefs. The very fact that a god they worship couldn't stand up to a mud slide was a vivid picture in my mind of how weak and fragile our best efforts to reach God really are.

As we got in the van and headed back down the mountain the discussion we had was so rich, and the passion I heard in the voices of the leaders was so moving as they had kind of a "see what we have to deal with in order to reach young people with the truth" attitude...that was absolutely soul shaking for me.

I mean these youth leaders not only need to learn about youth culture they need to navigate through family structures that are steeped in centuries of traditions that are inter-woven through the fabric of generations. Talk about tough!

As we were leaving though, we had a great time of discussion about the fact that Jesus can break through and break free any and all obstacles, and the very fact that all the tombs we saw at the temples were full and if we could take a "road trip" to the Holy Land we would find nothing where they laid's EMPTY, because our God is alive and well and still in the business of changing lives!

I came away from that mountain and all those temples with a new found appreciation for my brothers and sisters in other countries who desperately want their friends and family members to know Jesus. I also came away with a re-kindled zeal to learn all I can about other religions so I can dialog intelligently about the God who is alive and well, and lives in the hearts of His people. They need to know that He is the one that can be known, will change their lives, give them purpose, and a place with Him for all eternity, and unlike the reclining Buddha in the picture below...He won't zone out on them...He's locked in!
Please join me in prayer for the youth leaders of Southeast Asia as they seek to proclaim God's love, and help their young people understand a key question they face when presented with the truths of Jesus..."What's the difference?"

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Do you trust me? - Lesson Learned Series

 Man it seems like lately God is just nailing me with thoughts, and concepts through the tunes in my mp3 player. He does that some times, I think it's a cool variation that He uses to get my attention with something He has for me to ponder and pray about.

I love my time in His Word, it's always so fresh and new, but it's amazing to me how God in His mighty repertoire can use things like music to get through to me as well.

Recently as I was listening to some music on the way home from a ministry trip to North Carolina a blast from the past came on my player, and in my mind I was immediately transported to a quiet time with the Lord that I was having in NYC...Let me explain.

One of the things I loved about being on staff at the church I was in north of NYC, was the mandate and precedent that my Senior Pastor put on spending quiet time alone with God for each of us staff members.

In fact his rule was that once a month for the same amount of time we would put into our ministry in the church office (9-5) we had to spend that alone with God (now this was of course in addition to our regular daily times, and really sent a message to the church that we were serious about our ministry and wanted God's Power to be driving it!)

It didn't matter where we went, but it couldn't be in the office and it had to be a place where we were focused on God and what He wanted to say.

I always looked forward to those times. I'm a little twisted I know, but I would always spend my day alone with God on a bench in Central Park with my Bible, a notebook and my cd player.

I would take a few cd's for the quick train ride in and then mix up my time with things like, reading the daily Proverb, praying some Psalms, listening to some worship music, praying for the people that I saw go past me, and journaling my thoughts.

I would usually include the discipline of fasting with my day away, and that always added to the realness of what I was doing. I couldn't wait to get up early and hop the train to the city; it was always with great excitement that I would head out to see what God was going to do that day.

As I captured my thoughts, prayers, lyrics to the songs and the words of scripture I then began to look for themes that emerged from what I was experiencing. I guess my attitude was one of anticipation that I was going to really be spending my day with was all about Him, His Word and being open to what He was saying, and I couldn't believe that I was even getting paid to do it!

Well one particular day in 2004 was especially soul rocking and direction changing as I sat there reading, journaling, praying and listening to music that all seemed to have the theme of "Things are going to change, and change big time for you my friend!"

You see I had just come off an incredible spring where our ministry saw 90 skaters come to Christ in a month, one of my best friends and beloved youth leaders pass away (Love God, Love People chronicles that one), and many more events that God was using to get my attention that the comfortable life in Student Ministries that I had grown to love and appreciate was going to be turned upside down on it's ear and things were going to get tough, and quick!

Here are some of the things that happened in 2004 that God was using to get my attention...

1. 90 skaters come to Christ in a month - May 2004
2. Larry passes away - May 2004
3. Hang Time gets shut down after a BMXer breaks his leg (Over 500 in attendance that night) - June 2004
4. I develop Eurlychiosis (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever) and am literally down for a month - June 2004
5. I have a prayer session with 2 very special people who basically tell me that they believe that my upcoming trip to Ukraine is going to change everything for me! - June 2004
6. I have a youth leader tell me that he's praying that God would shake things up for me in Ukraine. - July 2004
7. I get to Ukraine and everything I have prepared to speak about is basically thrown out the window as I find out that over 90% of the audience that I'm going to be speaking to each day for a week has little or no knowledge of who Jesus is (I was prepared for more of a growth level type ministry taking the students to the next level in their faith...well, these guys don't even have a faith to begin with...prayers are being answered...God is shaking things up). - July 2004
8. While helping a missionary move books at the Kiev Seminary I see a sign on an office door that says "Youth Ministry International", I ask him what that was and I get introduced to the world of International Youth Ministry Training (Things are changing). - July 2004
9. I get home from Kiev and say to my wife "Umm...I think God may be calling us to move to Ukraine!" - August 2004
10. I nervously walk into my Sr. Pastor’s office and say “I don’t know where, I don’t know when, but I believe God is in the process of shaking things up in my life, and I think He may be calling me into missions, will you pray with me about discerning His voice correctly?” He was the best during the next several months of listening to God’s leading…never once did he say “Dude, you’re out of here…it’s this ministry or nothing buddy!” He had such an amazing Kingdom mentality! What a mentor! – August 2004
10. My grandmother was dying with Pancreatic Cancer (The same thing that I had just witnessed my friend Larry battle and lose). - September 2004
11. Our ministry had an open door to over 10,000 students in our area through the ministry of a nationally known abstinence speaker and we held nightly meetings at our church where the students who heard his captivating message in school that day were invited to come back at night to hear him explain how he made it through his earth shattering experience of losing his wife and child to AIDS...His relationship with Christ is proclaimed loud and clear! - November 2004
11. Bonnie and I go to Ukraine for a vision trip to see about joining YMI in Kiev, and come back even more confused because we didn't necessarily sense a call to the place, but more to the function of what YMI does. - December 2004
12. We go to YMI headquarters to tell the President that we won't be going with YMI - January 2005

These things and actually many more were all going on and swirling around me like a tornado when I boarded the Metro North train headed to Grand Central that particular day in 2004. I needed to get away; I needed to hear from the Lord in a very real and powerful way. My life was spinning around and I felt like I was on a roller coaster of emotions and feelings, and desperately needed God to step in and tell me what was going on and reassure me that He was in control.

As I sat there on the bench watching, reading, listening, praying and expecting, God used the lyrics to a song accompanied with words from Scripture to tell me exactly what I needed to hear.
The song that He used was "Lord, I don't know" by the Newsboys and as I sat there listening to the words I just broke down and started crying right in the middle of Central Park.

I didn't care, my world was changing, everything I knew and loved in ministry and relationships was changing and God used the lyrics of this song to help me start to make sense of it all. He is in control, and knows what He's doing. Check out the song below and scroll down to read the lyrics...


Lord, I don't know by: Newsboys

You are the
author of knowledge you can redeem what's been done you hold the present and all that's to come until your everlasting kingdom.

As I listened to that phrase “Lord, I don’t know where all this is going and how it all works out, Lead me to peace that is past understanding, a peace beyond all doubt.” I kept thinking of all the “this’s” in my life that needed explaining.

Lord, I don't know where all this is going Or how it all works out Lead me to peace that is past understanding A peace beyond all doubt.

You are the God of tomorrow turning the darkness to dawn Lifting the hopeless with hope to go on you are the rock of all salvation.

Lord, I don't know where all this is going Or how it all works out Lead me to peace that is past understanding A peace beyond all doubt.

Oh, Lord, you are the author Redeeming what's been done you hold us in the present And all that is to come.

Lord, we don't know where all this is going Or how it all works out Lead us to peace that is past understanding peace beyond all doubt.

I mean why did Larry have to die? Why did Hang Time have to get shut down, and over 500 skaters be turned away from their church that just celebrated 90 of them coming in to the Kingdom? Why did God captivate my heart so much on that trip to Ukraine when I’ve been on tons of mission’s trips and never experienced anything like that before? Why did I get so sick in the middle of that crazy summer? And why did the most amazing, God fearing, prayer warrior and incredible rock of my family have to die of Pancreatic Cancer? Why, Why, Why, God I want to know WHY!

As the song played and the tears flowed God began to answer my questions, with a simple reassuring voice that said to my spirit, “I am the peace that is past understanding, the peace beyond all doubt, I know who you are, I know what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, what you’re struggling with, and I am in complete control…the real question is…Do You Trust Me?”

That was four years ago, and since then all kinds of new “this’s” have come my way. “This’s” that have caused me to do a lot of soul searching and even though I don’t have all the answers and the “this’s” keep changing and morphing into new and some times more complicated ones, deep down I know that God knows what He's doing.

I keep thinking about that fateful day in 2004 in the middle of Central Park, alone with my Savior who was totally focused on His child who was struggling, and doubting and questioning and wondering where He was in the middle of all his “this’s”.

The truth of the matter was that today’s “this” will always turn into something else and something else and something else, there will always be “this’s” that’s not the point. The point is do we trust God, that in the middle of all our junk that He is who He says He is, and He will guide us through all our rough waters.

He is the peace that passes understanding, the peace beyond all doubt, and even though I don't always understand Him...I need to Trust Him, He knows what He's doing!

Lesson Learned