Happy Birthday Lovebug!

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Today is a very special day…it was on this day twenty-something years ago that my life was changed forever…On this day a few years back, my beautiful bride who would be my helper, encourager, and best friend was born.

I am so thankful to God for allowing me to spend my life with this beautiful person!  Molly is a wise, creative, and caring help mate.  It is a pleasure to do ministry with her…her passion for youth is at times second only to God’s!  She pushes me to do better in ministry through her challenging comments.  I am so proud of her for using the gifting that God has given her to lead students and adults alike in worship!  It was her voice that helped draw me to her in the first place, and it still warms my heart.  I have to say it again, but I’m so proud of her!

As a mother, she is amazing! She has worked a full time job, taken great care of her husband, and raised a beautiful, smart three year old daughter.  I see so much of my wife in my daughter and I am very proud to say that.  She has instilled a love a cooking in our daughter.  She has taught her to sing, but most importantly, she has instilled a love of God in our daughter!  My daughter loves to pray, and even yell at people who won’t pray with her!  My wife is amazing!

As a wife, there is no one even close!  She has taken care of our family famously, all while not asking for any recognition… She has sacrificed so much to take care of our daughter and myself.  It brings me so much joy to be able to try to repay her for the love she has shown to us…She is truly a wonderful woman and I am blessed to have her!

Baby, I want you to know that above all else today that you are loved and appreciated by Nattie-boo and I!  Thank you for loving us back!

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What are we doing? (feat. YEC25)

This has been a hectic, stressful, and tiring week!  But it was amazing! This week was the 25 birthday of an event that is near and dear to my heart, as it is to many in the state of Louisiana.  We celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Louisiana Baptist Youth Evangelism Conference.  This was a record setting year for YEC.  Nearly 7500 youth, pastors, and parents packed into our little coliseum in Alexandria for two days of laughs, tears, and amazing worship.  This year alone there were well over 1000 decisions made.  Students surrendered their lives, plans, and futures to Jesus!  The first night alone, we had to wait for nearly 15 minutes as students from all around our state ran to the front to give their lives to Christ.  It was a beautiful reminder of why we do what we do.  Why we give until there is nearly nothing left in our tank… Why we push our bodies to the breaking point and end up sick as a dog for it…  Why we sit in a freezing car or van for hours talking and crying with a student who can’t see God in the mess he is in…  We do this because it is not about us or even about making the students feel like we love them.  We do this because eternity hangs in the balance! For too long, we leaders of the next generation have not taken that responsibility seriously.  We can plan a mean program and students love us because we condone the wrong in their life by not addressing the issues.  My heart breaks for every student that falls hard and has to learn a lesson through the consequences of sin.  But that is why I am here… To remind them that God is there even in the shame, guilt, and pain. This post was meant to be on the use of social media (or lack there of) in youth ministry, but we do have to be aware that we are not our students buddies…No, we are something more intimate than that…We are their mentors and leaders.  We are the teacher of the Word…the very words of our Lord and Savior…from which all wisdom and power to overcome temptation and sin comes.  This week many made decisions that will change their lives forever, but will we now pick up the mantle of leadership from Clayton and the counselors  at YEC and lead our students even closer to Jesus?  Or will we go back to our programs and games?  Don’t let these students fall through the cracks.  Find other strong Christian adults in your church who are willing to make one phone call a week or buy one cup of coffee and set them up with a student.  Statistics say that students who have an adult mentor, other than their parents or youth minister, to do life with are exponentially more likely to stay with their faith, not just church but the intimate and personal relationship with God, than those who did not have an adult who was willing to speak into their life.  We are working to get a mentor program started in our ministry.  It can be difficult sometimes, but God will raise up great women and men who are willing to invest in the lives of the next generation! We don’t get into this job for the money (what’s that?) or the respect (“When are you going to become a real minister?”), we got into this wonderful ministry because we love students.  Our hearts break for them…  Our prayers are filled with their names… Ultimately, we got into this ministry because God’s heart breaks for them.  Pray for His heart for your students… Pray for opportunities to team up with other ministers in your area… Pray for each and every school in your area that in a few days when these students return to their schools God would give them boldness to stand strong for Him.  We have to be there to encourage them…and catch them when they fall, which they will, but we have to let them know they can get up stronger and run faster after failure! Thank you for loving youth!  Thank you for your countless hours of preparation, prayer, and personal investment!  It can get tiring, but it is so worth it! I would love to team up with you to network and share ideas.  I am on Facebook and Twitter.   I am also a huge advocate of praying for one another, so I would love to hear how I can be praying for you.  There is also a great resource out there for ministers who just need someone to talk to, get advice from, or just pray with.  If you are struggling, burned out, or just don’t know where to go from here… please contact my friend Len at his twitter @SYMSoulCare.  God bless you and I look forward to hearing from you!

Guest Post From My Wife

Today I was gonna share a youth ministry game that I found, but instead I am going to share a guest post from the most amazing person I have ever met…She is a wonderful wife and a superb mother to our daughter, she is my wife and I’m so very luck to have her!  So without further adieu, What Ifs to So Whats by Molly Jo Johnson…my beautiful wife!

There are many of times when I think back on my life and say “what if…”. What if I wouldn’t have done that or said that or made that choice, would I be where I am now? There are plenty of moments I catch myself thinking, if I would have done that differently, I would be somewhere else or in a better situation. I think, as a lot of women do, I think more about what I want, need, or where I want to be,  rather than where I am and what I have.

My life as a teenager was filled with a lot of stupid and ridiculous decision… and those decisions were made wholeheartedly and passionately as most teenagers do. Sometimes you might think, if i hadn’t made those wrong choices back then… would I be in a way better situation now?

Even after my teenage years there were days when I would allow depression to just consume me at times because all of the regrets I had and mistakes I’ve made… times when I let Satan convince me that I didn’t have a way out because of things I done and that it was my fault I was where I was… but…

Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Not only does He just speak it… He declares it. We can’t waste ours living in the past… consuming yourself with the what ifs.. God has a plan for me and a plan for you, He declared it! I did make those wrong decision and I shoulda, I coulda, but I didn’t. I asked the Lord to take hold of my life and God has me exactly where He wants me and He has plans for me, He declared!

It’s never too late to get right with God because He has plans for you… whether old or young… Ecclesiastes 9:4 says, “Anyone who is among the living has hope–even a live dog is better off than a dead lion.” In other words, if you are still breathing, there is hope for you. No matter what you have done or what you are going through God promises hope and has The Ultimate Plan for your life… God doesn’t have an expiration date on the Plan he has for you.

So, I should say… turn your “what if’s to so what’s”. Repent, give it to God, and allow Him to help you move on…  turn to the Father who has plans for you. When you start allowing Satan to bring you down with the what if’s, tell him… So what.. God still has a plan for me!

Happy 2nd Birthday Goose!

Happy 2nd Birthday Natalie,

I can’t believe how quickly you have grown up! It’s difficult for Daddy to see you doing so much for yourself because I know that soon you won’t need me to do anything for you. But always know that I am just a call away. Daddy is never too busy or tired to help you with whatever you need.  I pray that God would help me to point you toward Him in that respect.  Daddy will not be perfect, but there is a Father who will never fail you or let you down.  God is that Father.

Nattie Boo, you are so adventurous.  You have been so much fun to watch learn about the world.  Your fearlessness is amazing!  You are a blast to be with.  Thank you for reminding me to not be so serious about everything.  Life should be fun, not stressful.  You are constantly teaching me to trust God and know that all things are in His hands.

I love you Baby Girl and I thank God for all the love, lessons, and laughs we have shared these last two years and I look forward to many more!

Love you with all my heart!

Your Daddy!

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

As of September 20, 2011, our government no longer enforces their policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

As I looked at my Tweetdeck feed being flooded with the nation’s response of support for this repeal, I caught myself wondering where all the Christians were.  Why was no one tweeting about this.  There was no anger, rebuttals, disgust?  For being such a vocal group, they sure were staying silent.  Then I thought maybe this is good.  Maybe this is what we need to do.  What good will fussing about it do?  If anything, it would just cause those in that group to dislike/distrust us even more.  But this is not the correct response that we as Christians should have.

Jesus Christ came for my sin, just like he came for their sin.  And let’s face it the issue here is not who a person should marry or date, but rather what God says separates us from Him, which is sin.  Look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 HCSB

9 Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: no sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, 10 thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.

Who won’t inherit God’s Kingdom?  It says homosexuals, but isn’t it peculiar that it also says NO sexually immoral people.  What does that say about men and women who partake in pornography.  Or those who go to parties and bars to get drunk.  Or greedy people.  Or liars.  All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

It is only by the grace of God, who lovingly gave His Son and Himself to be the sacrifice for all sin, even the sins that we are unrepentant of, so that we can come humbly to Him and be saved.  Why don’t we model this in our daily lives?  Why do look down on others, both lost and our own brothers and sisters in Christ?  We should love one another as God first loved us.  It was that first love that was supposed to be the model for all of our love here on Earth.

This post is late, I know, but it should be said either way.  Before we pull the speck out of our neighbor’s eye, we should remove the log in our own.

God is my hoodie, I shall not want!

I really like hoodies!  They are awesome because they give you the versatility of a coat and a hat…But I had a problem.  I depended too much on my hoodie.  It was my security blanket. Much like Linus from Charlie Brown, I was useless without it.  My faith was in my hoodie.

As many of you know, I grew up the son of a preacher man…awkward…I gave my life back to Christ at the age of five and was sold out!  I was the neighborhood VBS champ!  I was snatching up the neighbor’s kids left and right and bringing them to church in the hope that they would find the joy that I had.

As a teen I strayed from my Christian walk.  I found that fitting in, being popular, and fulfilling my own desires were more important than living the life I knew God had for me.  I was wearing The World like a hoodie.  I covered up who I really was with The World, just like I cover up my normal clothes with my ten dollar hoodie from Target.  The fact that I have a hoodie on doesn’t mean that I forgot my clothes.  No matter how much I looked like the world, I knew, and battled, with the calling I knew God had on my life.  I never forgot what God called me to do.  In Matthew 28, Jesus gives us a great command, a Commission even.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I knew this as a junior high and high school student, but the hoodie of The World was more important to me.  I did what I wanted for the majority of those six years, but as a Junior in high school, I realized that I was in a huge mission field and I needed to take off my hoodie.  I attended a retreat and continued to pray that God would reveal His will for me.

Before I tell you God’s answer let me share another fact about me.  I, as a teenager, despised youth ministers, pastors, whatever you called it, I couldn’t stand them.  I found them to be nothing more than the kings and queens of Hypocrisy Kingdom.  I saw them as wearing their own hoodies, but reversed…which is just as sad and destructive to the Gospel’s spread…Their hoodies were of the Christian kind, where mine was of the World.  They threw on their hoodies on Sundays and Wednesdays and then lived however they wanted the rest of the time.  Now that you know that, let us continue the story.

As I prayed sitting under a tree in the woods somewhere in Northern Louisiana, God answered my prayer for clarity in His will for me.  His answer was a resounding, “BE A YOUTH MINISTER!”…God speaks in all caps because it is important, not cause he is angry (just to clarify)…I couldn’t help but laugh, but as I thought about it I realized that it was my peers that I cared about and starved to help remove their insecurity hoodies, hidden identity hoodies, and just ignorance hoodies.  Being a youth minister was what God created me to be!  I also realized that I didn’t need my physical hoodie to bring me comfort and security, I had the God of the Universe on my side.  Look at the end of Matthew chapter 28.

“I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

My peace, comfort, and security was with me always.  I encourage you to take off whatever hoodie you have on now, whether it is the hoodie of insecurity, pain, guilt, popularity, or shame, our God is big enough to take care of you.  Romans 6:4 says,

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

If you want that peace and joy, it is so easy and yet so difficult!  Please shoot me an email or call my phone if you’d like to talk some more about this idea of joy and peace.  I would love to share my story in greater detail and hear yours!
*This is my first post, so let me know what you think.  All comments are welcomed.

Social Media in the Great Commission

As youth leaders, and Christians as a whole, we have a responsibility to our students and friends to share the Gospel in everything that we do.

Our youth group recently changed its name to Generation 412.  We are taking this idea of setting an example for Christians that Paul speaks of in 1 Timothy 4:12 a step further to set an example for all men of who Christ is and what He wants to do in all of our lives.  This means that every keystroke, YouTube post, word, deed, and even thought is meant to bring glory to God alone and show the world God’s love.

We are an interesting generation.  We are referred to as the Millennial Generation, Generation Y, or sometimes just those young whipper snappers, but the point is that our generation is the largest in recorded history and the only generation where one post online can reach someone on the other side of the world.  We MUST NOT take this opportunity lightly!  We were commanded by Jesus to

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20)

God has given us these tools to effectively reach the whole world at one time.  God has allowed us to be born in this time for a reason.  As the day of judgement draws near, we must use EVERY opportunity we have to lift high the name of Jesus to a lost and dying world!  We must use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and any other available resource to proclaim the Gospel every chance we get.  After the jump there is a video that a great man of God made to help us understand our social media responsibilities.

Visit Jon Acuff’s blog @ http://www.jonacuff.com/blog/

While there, check out his books.

Lawnmower Worship

Happy Friday everyone! Hope you are having a wonderful Friday!

The bulk of mine has been spend on the seat of my lawnmower. This would usually be a horrible way to spend my Friday afternoon, but I’ve actually enjoyed it. Thanks to my lovely Hillsong Pandora radio station, I have had an amazing time of worship. I’ve lain fears at God’s feet, I’ve prayed for strength and wisdom, but the thing I’ve spent the most time dwelling on is the question of who is like the LORD?  And what is He to me?

I believe it was Meredith Andrews who brought the question to mind with her song “Who is Like You”. 

We hear ministers always say that God isn’t a holy version of Santa Clause, but how many times do we treat Him like that? When will we learn to trust the God of all of creation to provide and care for us. I heard the story of a worship leader whose wife had been diagnosed with cancer, and when asked if she was angry with God she responded in a beautiful, but admittedly not how I would, way. She said that she knew it pleased God to give her cancer. When asked to explain her answer she simply said that through this she knew God’s name would be made much of. She knew that through this good would come. Her mimistry to women, especially to cancer sufferers and survivors, would only grow.

Her response threw me for a loop. How can she be so faithful in the face of such a grim diagnosis? She understood that God’s will included her but did not end with her. If her temporary pain would lead one more person to call out to God as their Savior, then it was all worth it. Today I’ve learned to pray God’s will not mine. To be counted worthy to suffer for someone else’s salvation is amazing and exactly why Jesus took on flesh.

So my question/plea for comments is who is God to you? Why did you choose to give Him your life?

Rapture Day 2011 – Our response

I’m on my way home from Seattle, so this will be short.

As most of us know a man named Harold Camping has predicted that @ 5 PM central the rapture will occur.  For many, this is scary, upsetting, even infuriating. But what should we let our response be? Is marriage more important than God? Is having our first child more important than the returning of our Savior?

First of all, the “prophecy” is incorrect. God’s word is very clear that NONE will know, not even the Son.  Secondly, this man is not a brother, but rather a heretic who demands his followers to leave their home church because all churches execpt his are corrupt. This man has disqualified himself as a prophet numerous times as well. Including when he made similar “prophecy” in 1994.

So what is our response? We must understand that we are not going to know when the Lord is returning. So we should live a life that glorifies God, but we also must live a life that is Commisssion minded.  The Second coming is a HUGE gain for us as Christians, but for the ones who haven’t accepted God’s grace the Second Coming is the most hopeless situation. As Christians, we should be so burdened and anguished for those who have rejected the Lord. This false prophecy should be a wake up call for us all. Earlier today I tweeted a challenge for each of us to share the gospel with at least one person we know does not know Jesus as their Savior and Lord. I would love for you to share your story with the other readers, so leave a comment with your story.
If you do not know the Lord as your Savior, please click on the “Do You Need to Be Saved?” tab and shoot me an email @ Zachary_Johnson@live.com I would love to talk to you. We are not promised tomorrow and we cannot know when Jesus will return to take His Church home with Him, so please do not wait. Choose Jesus today!