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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
By Sherree Funk
note: This blog was written on New Year’s Eve, 2011.
Here we are on the final day of 2011 talking about forgiveness of sins. How appropriate. Everyone wants to start a new year with a clean slate. And forgiveness of sins is the most complete cleansing we could hope for.
Tennent’s book, This We Believe!, is really wonderful on this phrase in the Apostle’s Creed. For one thing, he emphasizes that Jesus’ work on the cross is the one and only event in history which brought about forgiveness of sins. Hebrews 10:4 says it plainly: It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. Tennent stresses that the Old Testament procedures for handling sin – carefully administrated sacrifices of animals on certain days, by certain people – were merely a ‘promissory note’ on a future complete sin removal. Thus, those who trusted in those ancient sacrifices would have their sins completely forgiven only after Jesus paid the price in full. So Jesus’ sacrifice “worked simultaneously back through time as well as forward through time.”
Tennent makes three great points about this:
Read some of these scriptures highlighted by Tennent in this chapter: Matthew 26:28, Luke 24:47, Acts 2:38, 5:31, 10:43, 26:18, Colossians 1:13-14. Each time we take communion, we hear these words of Jesus: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” It doesn’t get any better than that.
It is a great feeling of freedom to realize that all our sins have been washed away, as far as the east is from the west. We can really start fresh after accepting this gift from God. But there is one thing that can keep us from a full realization of that freedom: unforgiveness toward others.
Tennent says, “We demonstrate that we have been forgiven by becoming forgivers ourselves.” Ephesians 4:32 says “Forgive each other just as in Christ God forgave you.” And the Lord’s prayer reminds us: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This can be very difficult. Listen to this wonderful Matthew West song: Forgiveness.
What better way to start the New Year than by forgiving? Forgive those who have hurt you. Forgive those close to you, those far away, those who have already died, and even yourself. Wipe clean the slate. Then ask God to forgive you, once again. Let your new year begin with an open clean heart.
Happy New Year!!!
By Sherree Funk
The mention of the church in this creed is significant. With this phrase, we lift the church “from being a mere human organization with certain functions, such as preaching, discipling, or feeding the hungry.” “The Church is what God is building in the world,” says Tennent, in his book, This We Believe!
All of us have been in churches that were less than perfect. They are often inefficient. Sometimes theologically askew. Sometimes spiritually dead. And yet, the church, even with its shortcomings, is the divine work God is doing in the world. The process of bringing the church into Christlikeness is ongoing and involves us.
The terms used in the Creed to define the Church, “holy” and “catholic,” are important and often misunderstood. Holy means set apart. The church is to be set apart for holiness, for righteousness, godliness, and beauty. Thus when certain things take place in church, we are horrified. The church is to be something set apart, something more righteous than the world as a whole. And we in the church are called to be holy as well. This requires an intention to put off our old sinful ways and become more Christlike. How often do we consider our holiness? Is this why the church is often indistinguishable from the rest of the world?
The term catholic used here is not a reference to the Roman Catholic Church. Many have been baffled by this phrase. The term catholic – small c – simply means universal. It speaks of the Church of Jesus Christ worldwide and throughout time. It unites all believers, regardless of denominational differences. Reciting the Apostle’s Creed, we stand together with the global Body of Christ throughout history. This creed is ecumenical.
“The Communion of Saints” unites us spiritually with that same global group through history. As Tennent puts it, “To be ‘in communion’ with someone means to be spiritually connected with a shared fellowship under the lordship of Jesus Christ.”
Three things Tennent highlights concerning the communion of saints.
I love this part of the creed for making me feel part of something much bigger than my local church. I can recall great pastors I have loved and learned from, who are now in heaven. I can think of my mother and grandmother. I can imagine Christians in Africa, Asia and elsewhere reciting the same creed. It speaks of the invisible bond we have through space and time with all other believers. Thank you, apostles, for including me in your creed.
By Sherree Funk |first published December 27, 2011
After seven meaty affirmations about the person of Jesus Christ, the Apostle’s Creed now turns to the third person of the Trinity. This affirmation plainly places the Trinity in the center of Christian belief. The creed earlier declared that the Holy Spirit conceived the child Jesus in Mary’s womb. We have affirmed the relational aspects of God, the father, and Jesus, the son, and we now state simply that we believe in the Holy Spirit.
In This We Believe!, Tennent stresses that the Holy Spirit is crucial to reconciling ‘twin truths’ about God: God is both high, holy and unapproachable and, at the same time, compassionate, tender, loving and merciful.
Two scriptures speak of this paradox:
Isaiah 49:15-16: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”
Isaian 57: 15: “God dwells in two places: in the high and holy place, and also in the place of humbleness and humility.”
Tennent strongly believes that the Trinity is the highest conception of God. Churches must hold fast to the awe-inspiring mystery of the Trinity in order to keep a proper idea of God. Any imbalance in this understanding leads to oversimplification and trivializing each part of the Trinity.
Three things the Holy Spirit gives to the church are:
The Holy Spirit is very real, not just something we mention in passing. It is in a sense, the substance that gives us access to God the Father and His Son. It is the communication system God uses to speak to our hearts. It is indispensible in a full understanding in the Triune God. Pray to be filled with this Spirit and your life will begin to take on the character of Christ. You will be His witness.
By Sherree Funk | first published December 23, 2011
This may not be the most encouraging piece of the Apostle’s Creed. Many of us would rather not dwell on the subject of judgment. I know I am uneasy. It is easy to be joyful about being saved and loved, but judged?
Start at the beginning: He Shall Come.
This we can rejoice over. As Tim Tennent reminds us, Jesus said, “at that time the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky, with great power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30. And 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16 also tells us, “For the Lord Himself will come down from Heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise first.”
Which part do you look forward to? For me it’s the trumpet sound. Each year during the Christmas season I love to hear Handel’s Messiah…. “The trumpet shall sound!!! The dead shall be raised, incorruptible!!!”
But when Christ returns, we will stand before Him. Romans 14:10 says, “For we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of God.”
In his book, This We Believe!, Tennent gives us three things to ponder about Judgment Day.
Lord, help us to do works in obedience to you, out of a desire to serve, not to be rewarded. And help us to trust you completely, so we need not fear Judgment Day.
Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come!
By Sherree Funk | Originally published December 22, 2011
Ephesians 4:10 says, He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.
Jesus’ ascension is more than just another reference to his resurrection. He ascended all the way back to the heaven he left at the incarnation. And his position in heaven is “at the right hand of God,” the position of any honored guest. But Tennent cautions us not to think of Jesus in a passive role in heaven, sitting in a great throne next to God’s, watching as things unfold in the universe. No, Jesus has three major roles as the victorious second person of the Trinity: Prophet, Priest, and King. The book of Hebrews clarifies much of this activity of the ascended Jesus.
The prophets of the Old Testament delivered God’s word, and then waited to see what effect it had on the listeners. They waited for repentence, for judgment, for prophesied events to unfold. Similarly, Jesus waits. Hebrews 10:12b-13 says, “He sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool.” Just like the prophets of old, Jesus delivered the WORD, (himself) and now waits for the world to recognize its truth. One day “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
This is his priestly role. The priests of the Hebrew people were to intercede for the people by performing carefully designed sacrifices on a particular schedule. They were chosen by family heritage only,their priesthood was temporary, and the sacrifices were performed in an earthly temple, a mere shadow of the heavenly one. Jesus perfectly fulfills the role of priest: “Now there were many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:23-25. I love the thought that Jesus himself is always interceding on our behalf and has been doing this for 2000 years.
This is his kingly role. He reigns. When Jesus spoke to his disciples before his ascension, he said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” “And surely I am with you, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 18, 20. Jesus is in heaven and on earth with full authority. And he is both at the right hand of God and with us always. Wow. A truly divine King. He is omnipresent and available to all, everywhere.
This declaration of the Apostles’ Creed marks our belief in Jesus’ present and continuing authority in heaven. He is seated as God’s most honored guest. How blessed we are to have a friend such as Jesus in a position equal with God Almighty. To remember this is to be amazed and wonderfully grateful. Thank you, Lord.
By Sherree Funk | originally published on December 21, 2011
Hallelujah! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! The central proclamation of the Christian church is this: Jesus Christ rose from the dead and He lives!
Tim Tennent rejects any attempt by the church to shift its central proclamation to anything else. The ethic of Jesus, His exemplary life, His teachings, while important, cannot be the central defining belief of the church without weakening it tremendously.
Tennent says it best:
“Without the Resurrection, the Christian gospel is not really that different from Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism. We would be just another human religion struggling with the transcendence of God, but the difference is that the Christian faith is not merely an human religion. … The great proclamation of the Gospel is about who God is and what He has done. Buddha is in the grave. Mohammad is in the grave. Confucius is in the grave. Jesus Christ is the Risen Lord.”
With this amazing powerful resurrection, Christ demonstrates complete victory over sin, death, and hell. “To believe in Jesus is not simply to believe that he lived, or was a great teacher, or that he could perform miracles. Most Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists would also believe those things.” The Christian’s distinct belief is that Jesus is the Risen, Living Lord.
With His resurrection, Jesus was the “firstfruits” of the resurrection of all believers. Tennent reminds us that God is not simply saving our souls, nor will we be simply resuscitated after we die. In the first notion, our souls are somehow separate from the rest of us – our minds, our bodies, our emotions. Not true, says Tennent. “God redeems the whole person.”
Likewise we are not simply going to return to this body with its human frailties. Jesus did indeed ‘raise’ individuals who had died. Like Lazarus. Like Jairus’s daughter. But those people eventually died. When Jesus rose from the dead, he took on a new resurrection body. With this, we have the assurance that one day we will also be given a new resurrection body in which our ‘person’ will dwell.
I stand on Jesus’ promise to the thief on the cross: “This day you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23: 42-43. The day I die, I’m going to be with Him. My favorite Easter Hymn is also the most traditional, but my favorite verses are these two:
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where O Death is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where’s thy victory, boasting grave? Allelulia!
Soar we now where Christ has led, Allelulia!
Following our exalted Head, Allelula!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!
Thank you, Charles Wesley, for your marvelous lyrics of Christian affirmation. And thank you, Lord, for the resurrection power that raised Jesus and conquered all evil for all time. Hallelujah!!!!