November 2014

Teens like new stuff. The newest phone, the newest games, the newest music. They consider anything ‘old’ to be less than exciting, less than fun, slow, and not for them.

So how do you teach from the “Old” Testament?

Here are some ideas.

  • Call it the Hebrew Scriptures. Actually when written, they were the only scriptures for the people of God. They were current once, so the name Old testament is just the new name for the old book. Someone decided to give it the name Old Testament only because they wanted to call the new stuff the New Testament. Get it? And really, even the New Testament is pretty old. The Hebrew Scriptures take on new meaning in light of Jesus and the events of the New Testament, which makes them pretty interesting. For example notice how Jesus quotes Isaiah in his first sermon.
  • It’s all about people. It’s all about people and how they understood and related to God. It is significant that when these stories were collected, the bad, the embarrassing, the violent, the stupid were all included right alongside the miraculous, the courageous, the noble, the adventurous, and the faithful. That’s what makes a great story. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The Bible does not whitewash the story, especially in the OT.
  • Sample the Psalms. Right in the middle of most Bibles, the psalms are like a favorite poem tucked between the pages of a journal. Right there in the middle of a long, painful, violent history of becoming a nation, the poetry of the Psalms expresses the gamut of human emotion. You can read psalms of despair and suffering, psalms of praise and thanksgiving, psalms of jealousy and vengeful thoughts. What new book has all that?
  • Every old guy in the Old Testament was a teenager once. Some of them even became king when they were teenagers, or just children. Get your students to imagine what they might bring to a kingdom if suddenly given the throne.
  • People are still people. The stories in the OT are all driven by basic human needs and desires. It’s not that hard to see why people did what they did back then, because we can see ourselves doing the same things. Try to show your teens elements of their own personalities in the people with the strange names.  Moses was afraid of public speaking. David was short and worked with sheep.  Naomi nearly succombed to depression.  Boaz and Ruth were looking for love. 
  •  God is still God. God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So if you want to understand God, and relate to him, the OT is as good a book as any. The hard part is grasping some of the historical context that was the modern culture of the time. But God showed grace to the faithful long before Jesus walked the earth.
  • Creation is the beginning of everything. Kids who are creative want to know where creativity comes from. Show them Genesis 1. God created and he made us creative.

Wow. Thank God someone didn’t throw out the Old Testament long ago.
 

The first few lines of Paul’s letter to the Philippians include this:  “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Phil 1:3

Paul loved the people in the church of Philippi. That included Lydia and her household, a prison guard and his family, a former fortune-teller, and others.  His time there, detailed in Acts 16, had been exciting.  With the help of God, Paul planted a small group of believers there, who became big supporters of Paul’s mission to spread the gospel.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”

In prison when he wrote these words, Paul’s situation was tenuous.  Yet he was thankful.  The rest of the letter to the Philippians includes more gratitude for their monetary gifts and numerous references to joy and rejoicing. Thankfulness is a really good habit. Counting your blessings is a way of shifting focus to the things that are good and excellent.  I can remember my parents saying after any minor disaster, like a car accident or breaking dish or weather incident or job situation:  “It could have been worse.” They always found a perspective that made them thankful.

‘I thank my God every time I remember you.”

Paul ties his thankfulness to remembrance.  Every time he remembered them, he thanked God. Every time.  Every time the Holy Spirit brings someone to mind, what do you do?  I know personally what happens when we put off contacting someone when the spirit reminds us. An elderly friend lost her husband last spring.  I spoke to her by phone shortly after and promised I would come see her soon.  I was in her area all summer.  She kept coming to my mind.  I wanted to stop in for a visit.  I meant to call her.  Weeks went by and life was full of many good things – trips, parties, Bible studies. Towards the end of the summer, I heard she was in the hospital, on the prayer list.  So I called, only to get her message machine.  I sent emails.  In one response, she mentioned she had fallen.  I didn’t know if she was at home or in the hospital.  I meant to find out.  I didn’t ask the right people.  I just didn’t follow through.  And then I heard she died on All Saints Day.  Regret made my sorrow deeper.

Every time we remember, let’s thank God.  Thankfulness encompasses joy and peace.  It completes the circle of blessing.  God gives every good and perfect gift, and when we thank him, the gift is acknowledged and more valued.  Even when circumstances are heartbreaking, there is something or someone for which thankfulness is appropriate.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”

I am thankful for young people.  For old people.  For my adult children and their lives.  For my father, who is 91 and for my mother who is in heaven.  I am thankful to have known that elderly friend who passed away a few weeks ago. I am thankful for my church families, for World Vision, for Asbury Seminary, for my wonderful husband, wonderful friends, for technology, for electricity, for clean water.

Lord, help me remember people and to thank you for them.  Just as you never forget us, let us not forget those you have put in our lives.  Help me call and visit the sick, the forgotten, the unloved.  As Thanksgiving approaches, help me to remember and thank you, every time.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”

Five verses every teen should remember from the New Testament: Ephesians 2: 10, Matthew 28:20, Philippians 4:13, 1 Corinthians 13:8, and Romans 8:28

Teens need some absolutes to hold onto. So much around them seems to be colored in shades of gray. Relative morality, postmodern thought and situational truth often leave young people more than a little confused. And those teens who have some grounding in the faith need a few things that cannot be argued. Teenagers face a daily challenge to their self-worth. They see great problems in the world and in their communities and families, wondering where God fits in. They face temptations to believe that what they have been told is wrong is actually just fine. And they are looking for purpose for their own lives.

These five verses may not be comprehensive for a mature Christian faith, but they should be on the tip of every teenager’s tongue. These verses speak to the issues of self-esteem, loneliness, confidence, relationship, and patience.

“We are God’s handiwork.”

Ephesians 2:10 is a basic verse for teens, because it affirms our identity in the image of God. We are God’s handiwork. And as Rich Mullin’s once said, “God don’t make no junk.” Teens who wonder if they will ever measure up to other people’s expectations should always remember this. One of my middle school Bible study girls sang the Britt Nicole song for her talent show, “Gold.” She gets it. Created in God’s image, each one should never feel unworthy of love.

“I am with you always.”

The reality of the risen Jesus’ presence in our lives every single day is the good news of the gospel. Remembering that God himself, through the spirit of Jesus, is willing to accompany us through anything is reassuring. It can relieve our fears and ready us to take steps into the unknown. For teens, especially any who have felt abandoned by a parent or a friend, this promise is most important. Just reach out your hand and take his. He is there.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

An affirmation of the power of Christ to sustain us through trials, this verse gives believers extra confidence. The emphasis is not on our human ability, but on God’s. It can also be a powerful reminder of the strength Christ gives to resist temptation. Any teenager who feels weak when facing academic or social pressures can take heart with this verse. Any teen facing peer pressure to make bad moral choices will be strengthened if this verse expresses their confidence in Christ.

“Love never fails.”

Absolutes are rare in our world. Yet some, with Biblical authority, affirm God’s ways. This truth reminds us of the greatest two commandments, according to Jesus himself:   Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. And Love your neighbor as yourself. If we love God and love people, we cannot fail. And teens need to remember that such love always wins. God loves all of us in spite of every thoughtless word, every rebellious action, every sin. God is love, and God is eternal. Love never fails.

“God works all things together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”

Teens sometimes cave to the belief that evil people prosper. Sometimes the cheaters and exploiters appear to win. And teens tend to over-dramatize failures. This verse reminds them that God is working behind the scenes. God has ways to work surprising things – things that look really horrible on the surface – together for good. And he does it all the time. By deliberately looking for God’s perspective, teens can be optimistic. Things are never quite as bad as they may seem. God is working his purposes out. And he has plans to prosper us, to give us a future and a hope.

 

Teenagers wonder how the Bible can really help them in daily life. These five verses, with a simple faith in Jesus, serve as reminders of God’s amazing presence and power in our lives.

 

 

 

Here are my top three reasons to lead a group of teens, even if you have no teens of your own.

3. Leading teens prepares you for what is to come. If you have no children, or you have very young children, working with teens can be a huge eye-opener. You will quickly become aware that you don’t know much, but you will be accepted right away for two reasons. You are younger than their parents, so you are not nearly as old and old-fashioned in their minds. Secondly, if you have young kids, you will be popular with the girls, and sometimes boys , who love to babysit.

2. Leading teens keeps you young. If your own children are out of middle school, and you decide to step in and help teach middle schoolers, you are perfectly situated for staying young at heart. The kids will keep you up to the minute on the latest styles and music. You will never be completely snowed by current trends or issues. When I first stepped into youth ministry, teaching Sunday School for 6th and 7th grade, my youngest was in high school. I was truly afraid that I would not be able to connect with the kids, and that it would be boring for them. Do not fear that you will be ignored or considered too old. As soon as they know you love them, they will love you back.

1.  You are the NOT-parent. Every parent of a teenager, whether they know it or not, is hoping that like-minded adults will speak into their child’s life. Christian parents may seem like oddities to kids, especially if they don’t know other Christian adults. So when someone other than their parent seems to care about them, almost like a parent, who demonstrates the same Christian world-view as their parent but is NOT the parent —- the kids respond. Somehow, this reaffirms for them that these values are held by many people, and that their parents are not space aliens after all. It also makes the teen feel more a part of the believing community. So one of the best teen leaders is a not-parent. Somebody who is not the parent of the teen or parent of their friends. Being the not-parent for a young person is usually appreciated more by the parent than the youth at the time. But the influence you may have on that child quite possibly can last a lifetime.

Be NOT afraid! These three words appear throughout the Bible and they apply to you, too. Kids need affirmation and good role models. They need to feel the Christian community is real. They want to belong, not only because their parents bring them, but because they find both friends and leaders who love them.

What church doesn’t need caring adults in youth ministry? Call your youth director today and see if there is a place where you can feel somewhat comfortable to start leading a group of young people. Don’t be surprised when you are asked to provide background checks. That is just how the world is today. But it is worth it. You may be just the NOT-parent your church family needs.

Worship can mean a couple of things. Foremost, worship is an attitude of reverence and adoration. Such reverence is in response to awesome greatness. God is worthy of our worship, but we must first recognize him this way.

Worship can also mean the practice of certain rituals or activities that are directed toward God, such as sacrifices, offerings, recitation of prayers or scripture, or singing praise songs. These actions, unfortunately, can be performed with or without the attitude of worship described above. Going through the motions may look like worship, but what is really going on? Motives of self-promotion, reward, favor among family or friends can crowd out thoughts of an awesome God.

Throughout the Bible people worshiped God.

  • Cain and Abel brought sacrifices, but God approved only one, possibly because the action of that one matched his attitude. “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering,  but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.” Genesis 4:4
  • Abraham worshiped at altars he built along the way to thank God for bringing him so far.  So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.” Genesis 13:18
  • Moses begged Pharoah to let the people go, so that they might “worship God.” (Exodus 8:1) But when they got to the base of Mount Sinai, and Moses was out of earshot, they chose to worship a golden calf. (Exodus 32)
  • David danced on his way to the temple, wrote psalms of praise and played instruments to worship God.  “Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.” 2 Samuel 6:14-15
  • Elkanah and Peninah made annual pilgrimage to worship, but Hannah’s heartfelt prayer was answered.  “Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh,” 1 Samuel 1:3
  • The magi who followed a star and found a poor infant in a manger worshipped that baby.  “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” Matthew 2:10-11 
  • A Samaritan woman at a well wondered if worship had to be done in Jerusalem, and the Lord himself clarified that God must be worshipped in spirit and truth. “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” John 4:23
  • When people were healed by Jesus’ touch, they fell to their knees and worshiped him. “Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.” John 9:38
  • When the women first saw the risen Jesus, they fell and worshiped him.  “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.” Matthew 28:8-9
  • Paul sang praise to God even when bleeding in prison shackles. “When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:24-25
  • Lydia was a ‘worshiper of God’ even before she heard about Jesus. “One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God.” Acts 16:14
  • Cornelius was a Gentile ‘God-fearer’ turned Christian when Peter shared the gospel with him. “He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.” Acts 10:2
  • In Revelation 4: 8-11, John writes of seeing heavenly hosts constantly worshipping God, saying “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

How do we open our hearts to worship? Focus. Recognize the great goodness of the one and only God. The one who created all things, who owns all things, who loves all things, and restores all things. The one who loved us so much that he sent his own son to bridge the divide that we had created. The one who chases us until we turn and see him smiling. The one who offers us grace after every single mistake. The one who throws a party to celebrate finding anyone who is lost.

This kind of worship, a genuine response to the greatness of God, is not limited to church. In fact, this kind of worship pervades our thinking, actions, and life.

Is your heart open to worship?

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1

I Believe in the Resurrection of the Body and the Life Everlasting”

By Sherree Funk | January 01, 2012, reposted November 1, 2014

I Believe in God the Father, Almighty, maker of heaven and earth,

I Believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the dead.

The third day He rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

From there, He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I Believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting.

The final phrase is a triumphant belief in eternal life, the life He came to make available to all.  For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.  John 3:16. 

 Tennent stresses that we as Christians believe in a bodily resurrection, not just a gauzy spiritual world where our souls live forever.  He refers us to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. (1Cor. 15:16)

 These resurrected bodies will be recognizably us – you and me. I will know you when we all get to heaven.  I look forward to long conversations with my great grandmother and grandmother who both died before I was born.  We will not simply be existing on a cloud, perhaps playing a harp (although I have always wanted to learn to play the harp, so I wouldn’t mind this as a heavenly hobby!) The life everlasting will be fantastic, more than just a body that doesn’t get sick or tired, more than just a worship service that never ends.   According to Tennent, in the New Creation, “we will be engaged in all the kinds of industrious work, projects, inventions, and building that we are involved with here, but without the presence of sin.”   Sounds exciting to me.  “We will be unleashed into endless creativity and deeper discoveries about God’s creation.  We will be brought deeper and deeper into the full glory and mystery of the Trinity and His self-revelation.”  We will finally be like Christ in ways that are impossible in this earthly existence.

The specifics of heaven are indeed a mystery, but we have Jesus’ promise, and I am willing to simply believe.  In John 10:28 Jesus says, I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

 

And in John 14:2-3 He says,  In my Father’s house there are many mansions.  If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

 I am thankful that the apostles sat down to put together this Creed – this timeless, yet historically unifying set of scripturally supported beliefs – so that we may all affirm together our unique faith in God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And thank you, Tim Tennent for your enlightening commentary on the Apostles’ Creed.  May this meditation bring everyone’s faith to greater levels in this new year.

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So we conclude this 12-day inspection of my personal statement of faith. It is important for us all to know what we really believe. I hope this has helped you to clarify your own beliefs.