Week 2: I Am In Christ— Day 1

This week is all about testimonies.

Testimonies are different than biographies. The difference? Who the hero is. In a biography the person is the hero. In a testimony, Christ is the hero. But too often our testimonies sound like biographies. “I did bad things, then I went to church, now I don’t do bad things.”

Testimonies do exactly that, they testify. They testify to Christ being the one who conquers all sin and death, and Satan himself. Testimonies tell about how Christ grabbed hold of our hearts and, in his love and grace, brought us to himself.

Read Revelation 12:10-11

What are two ways the accuser, Satan, is conquered? (By the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony.)

How do you defeat Satan in your life? (By testifying to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf for our sins.)

Parents, this would be a great time to share your testimony with your students. You are a pillar of faith for your student.

Pray and thank God for being the hero in your life and rescuing you from Satan, sin, and death.

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Friday Family Resources #1

Following is a list of great resources that are meant to do a number of things:

  1. Inform parents on the world of youth a little more
  2. Recommend resources for family worship
  3. Articles on current issues to equip for conversations with your student(s).
  4. Recommend resources for youth to grow in their spiritual walk

These resources will range in free to a moderate cost. I will provide links.

On tap this week:

The Washington Post recently published an article about Teen Depression, Suicide, and Smartphone use. This article reports on some incredibly important work. IF you attended 2nd Conference, you may remember Andrew Zwart talking about how teens are less likely to partake in risky behaviors, such as alcohol and drug use, and are less sexually active, but are more depressed. This article will point you to some great research being done. I hope this encourages you to have a talk with your student about tech use and hopefully motivates you to evaluate your relationship with tech.

Link: Teenage depression and suicide are way up — and so is smartphone use

Next is Walt Mueller’s recent post on CPY.org. Mueller offers a take on the recent sexual misconduct scandals and the potential impact it has on our youth. He encourages parents to talk to their students about this issue and not to act like it isn’t happening.

Link: MATT LAUER. . . TEACHABLE MOMENTS. . . AND THEOLOGIZING ABOUT SEXUALITY AND SIN. . . .

Lastly for this week is a book resource. I recently was able to read through Parenting By God’s Promises by Joel R. Beeke. I recognize this coming from a non-parent doesn’t hold much weight, but Beeke does a great job at painting a biblical picture of what parenting looks like. Everything he is pulling out can be pulled out of scripture. I wholeheartedly encourage family discipleship and I think this is a great book to start.

About Dr. Beeke:

Dr. Joel R. Beeke is President and Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, a pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, editor of Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, editorial director of Reformation Heritage Books, president of Inheritance Publishers, and vice-president of the Dutch Reformed Translation Society. He has written and co-authored eighty books, edited fifty more, and contributed 2500 articles to Reformed books, journals, periodicals, and encyclopedias. His PhD is in Reformation and Post-Reformation theology from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is frequently called upon to lecture at seminaries and to speak at Reformed conferences around the world. He and his wife Mary have three children.

About Parenting By God’s Promises

Dr. Joel R. Beeke explores what this nurture and admonition looks like and offers gems of practical wisdom for parents on topics such as instituting and leading family worship, teaching children, modeling faithful Christian living, and exercising discipline. However, he carefully puts parental responsibilities in their proper perspective and guides mothers and fathers to lean not on their own abilities but to trust more fully in the God who knits children together in the first place. Above all, he affirms, parents must look to the one true God, who promises to provide everything His people need and to bless them and their families.

I highly encourage supporting Reformation Heritage Books by purchasing the book HERE but you can also purchase the book from Amazon where you can get a kindle edition or a more affordable used edition.

Week 1: I Am ____? — Day 3

We tend to view our possessions not for their use but rather for what they say about us. This is why many people think that wearing certain brands of clothes, driving beat up cars, or not having the latest tech gadget somehow devalues them.

The root of this problem is not in the mall and the things we buy. It’s in us.

It’s not a sin to buy things and even appreciate and enjoy them. But when those things become the source of our identity, we are guilty of idolatry. The things we own are like the billboards of our lives. They advertise what we value and what we would like others to think about us. What does your billboard say about you?

Read Exodus 20:17

What does it mean to covet? (To intensely wish for, to strongly desire)

Are there particular things that you covet? If so, what do those things say about who you think you are or what you find important?

With entering the Christmas season, how much pressure do you feel to get the right gift for somebody? How much will you be let down if you don’t get the perfect gift?

Pray that God will protect you from coveting by giving your greater love for Jesus (Romans 13:9).

Week 1: I Am ____? — Day 2

You and I were created as worshippers.

As worshippers we are divided into two categories: those who worship the Creator and those who worship created things. We just had a huge worship event for created things this past weekend.

Because of sin, we’re prone to worship anyone and anything other than the God who made everyone and everything. This is what the Bible calls idolatry. In our own lives, then, idolatry occurs when we make a created thing a god thing, which is a bad thing.

Rather than worship these created things, God calls us to worship him. This doesn’t mean we don’t get to enjoy his creation; we just do so as an act of worship to him for his good gifts-not as an act of worship of his good gifts.

Read Romans 1:21-25 with your family, then discuss the following questions.

How do we become guilty of not honoring or giving thanks to God? (The answer can be found in verses 22-23)

What are some things that you put before God? David Dark often talks about how we can find what we truly worship by keeping track of how we use our time and examining our bank statements.

Prayer. Ask God to reveal the idols in your life so you can repent for worshipping them and worship Jesus wholeheartedly.

 

Week 1: I Am ____? — Day 1

It’s no doubt that our students, and even ourselves, struggle with feeling like we have to be somebody else in order to win over those we want to like us. For students, it can be peers at school, on the sports team, and the different clubs. There’s a longing to be accepted and loved. It’s an innate human feeling.

Our kids have to balance multiple identities to begin with — son/daughter, brother/sister, student, athlete, musician, employee, and even Christian — but what happens when within those identities they have to create fake identities in order to feel accepted? The weight gets to be too much.

Unfortunately, it’s much easier said than done when trying to convince a teenager they just have to be themselves, because chances are they don’t totally have themselves figured out. Over the course of this ministry year we’ll be talking about what it means to figure out our true selves — the self God intended.

For today’s devotional, talk to your students about their identities, and even try to see if they will talk about the ones they try to construct.

What we don’t realize is that we can sometimes create a view of God that says we need to put up a front in order to be accepted by him. This can passed onto our kids. Even if we don’t do it, somehow that view can sneak in. When really God accepts us for who we are. No, God doesn’t want us to stay where we are, but he wants us to come with everything we are and have and lay it down at the cross. First, we have to have an understanding of where our identities begin.

Read Genesis 1:26-27 with your family, then discuss the following questions.

We have been created in the image of God. This means that each and every one of us was made to reflect God to others as a mirror reflects our image. Do you struggle with trying to be someone you’re not? Why?

Take a mirror. Have everyone present take a look in the mirror and repeat the following message: “I have been created in the image of God.”

Now ask, “What are the first thoughts that come to mind when you look in the mirror? Are they in line with what God says about you?”

Prayer. Thank God for making you in his image. Specifically ask for help in accepting his truth about who you are in Christ

 

Questions taken from

Driscoll, Mark. “Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ Study Guide with Daily Devotions.” Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ Study Guide with Daily Devotions, Thomas Nelson, 2013, pp. 15–16.

 

Your Student, Their Bible, & How To Use It

This week we will be looking at how we use our bibles. This is a question not often asked when we think about our bibles. We usually just grab it, open it to whatever we are reading or want to read, then set it down. Usually, bibles have built in tools to help enhance our reading of scripture. These tools can lead to deeper and richer understanding of God’s word.

What are the tools? The most common are the little numbers and letters you see next different words or phrases. What do these mean? These reference other scripture verses and passages that are either dealt with in that reading or referenced too. What gets really interesting is when you see how often Christ uses the Old Testament whenever he talks. This tool helps connect all of scripture together as one big story and not fragmented books or stories.

Other tools that can be, but are not always, included are things like dictionaries, articles, creeds, catechisms, confessions, maps, concordance, tables of weights and measurements, study notes, and much more!

My personal bible is the Reformation Study Bible. This bible comes with some of the best resources from top modern pastors and theologians, as well as historical resources from important early church fathers.

Take time tonight to go through the bibles in your home and see what they come equipped with to aid your reading of scripture. Go over your students bible as well so they can being to see what all is in their for them to use.

Monthly Newsletter – Oct/Nov 2017

Hello parents, students, & leaders! Welcome to the new blog resource page. This space will be updated in a few different ways:

Daily: Family devotionals to follow along with our content in youth group.

Weekly: Resource recommendations such as books, blogs, & other helpful stuff. Also, updates on events, date changes, etc.

Monthly: Newsletters, recaps, and posts by me.

If you’re interested in getting these updates directly to your email, you can sign up in the side bar or follow along on our Facebook page.

For the first post, below is a registration form that contains an important medical waiver for your student. If your student hasn’t brought one home to you or it’s been lost, you can print this out & send it with your student. This form is important for participating in any events both inside the church & outside.

2rcregistrationpdf

The second attached document is our monthly newsletter. This one will be for both October & November. The newsletter contains basic information about what is going on and dates to mark your calendar with. Your student will also be given a printed version to take home this week.

octnov17pdf

I’m excited for the school year ahead! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me!

From 1 Millenial to Another

At the request of a friend, I wrote a response to Sam Eaton’s clickbait sensation “12 Reasons Millennials are Over Church.” This is my brief, unedited, response. It took me all of an hour to write, and while I could have spent days on it, this topic has been exhausting for me the last few years and I prefer to keep it as concise and pithy as I can.

I’m aware of some of the argument fallacies I’ve used. For some, I’m sure you’ll be able to see the irony in it if you know the original article.

To build my “cred” I’ll mention I am 23 years old, have been in “contemporary” churches and traditional churches. I was Catholic growing up even. Today, I find myself in a congregation that Eaton would rail against, and probably leave at the first sign of trouble. My response to the issues the church faces is much different than Eaton’s though, as I’ve sought to address them in grace and love and recognizing that if Paul needed the perseverance of the saints, then so do I. To some degree, I’d even raise the question of how mine and Eaton’s responses are informed. Mine is biblically and theologically informed. By no means am I perfect, but it is a much more sound approach. Eaton’s appears to be culturally and emotionally informed. If Eaton ever did see this, which I’m sure he won’t, I’d be open to discussion on this.

My response uses the same numbering and headers of Eaton’s for the reader to follow along with if they read them side by side.

  1. Nobody’s Listening To Us – The issue presented is that millennials don’t feel like their voice is being heard. When a church makes decisions they don’t agree with, they feel devalued and hurt. Well, the news is that the church is always going to make decisions that not everybody will be behind. Your biblical responsibility is to continue to love your church and support it. Above all, pray for your church’s leaders. Speaking of leadership, step up. Are you going through all of the proper channels to give your voice? This is where I believe polity is so important. Are you attending consistory meetings? Have you talked to your elders and deacons about upcoming decisions? Are you attending the congregational meetings where votes occur for large matters? Are you even trying to be an elder (the RCA’s youngest ordained elder at one time was 18, you’re never too young)? Are you putting in the hard work to have your voice heard or are you only complaining with your friends in the hip coffee shop? Even worse, are you just complaining to the internet in order to feel validated?
  2. We’re Sick of Hearing About Values & Mission Statements – Mission statements are not overly-religious. Not every church can have one mission statement. While ALL churches have the same Great Commission, not all can share a common mission statement. These are two separate ideas. Mission statements are based on context, felt needs of a community, and of course the Gospel. Mission statements point us back to our Scripture, then back to how we are to effectively minister to our communities and our people. A church in New York can not have the same mission statement as a church in rural Iowa. These two churches will have two totally separate approaches to how they go out and make disciples. A mission statement merely gives a frame of reference and, well, a mission. Loving God and others is at the forefront, but how do we do this in our contexts?
  3. Helping the Poor isn’t a Priority – This is just blatant overgeneralization. This is taking whatever personal experience you’ve had and then applying it across the board. Even the churches who do not value helping the poor we often do not include them in historical definitions of what a Christian Church should be. How dare you take away from the churches doing work to alleviate poverty? Also, the irony. Talk of self-centeredness and Americanization when at the core of this article is consumeristic, “this is how you cater to me,” language. And the talks of “talk to your people and organize groups to serve or connect them” is quite audacious. Take up your cause and talk to the people in your congregation about going out and serving. Want to serve the local soup kitchen but mad your church doesn’t send people? I don’t know, maybe organize a group of people from your church to go out and do it?
  4. We’re Tired of You Blaming the Culture – You got me there. The church hasn’t been great at this. There is a small number of the church that are thinking about culture much better. They sit in the middle of both extremes. The extreme of condemning culture and the extreme of being so immersed in it that you’re not sure if you’re really a follower of Christ or just a practical Atheist. The writings of Richard Neibuhr is a good place to start. Maybe follow up with some Abraham Kuyper, Francis Schaeffer, James K.A. Smith, Makoto Fujimura, and Andy Crouch. There’s a whole world of Christian theological scholarship on culture and how we engage. So, I’m going to enjoy my new Drake album while I sip my beer and think deeply and theologically about what is being said here.
  5. The You Can’t Sit With Us Affect – The church has hurt people, no doubt. It’s sin and needs to be repented of. With that though, we recognize that “hurting people hurt people.” While it’s not excused, it is a cause for all of us to step back and examine how we engage and treat people. The reason church feels like high school is because it’s filled with the same type of broken and fallen people that are in high schools. Regardless, we have to forgive “70 times 7” times when we are sinned against in order to seek unity. There’s no doubt it is hard, or that community will just automatically happen and be “authentic” (the irony of the Christianese mambo-jambo). Community and relationships are hard work. The hard work is what makes it “authentic” in the end. This goes for everybody and across contexts. Marriage, friendships, family, work, and church. But a calloused culture does not change overnight and requires perseverance to see the cracks starting to form. Help change a church culture or at least be the first step. And again, pray for your church.
  6. Distrust & Misallocation – Most churches hold annual financial meetings. Usually this involves a report of the previous year and then a budget proposal for the coming year. That budget usually needs voting on, but that budget is also open to discussion in that meeting. Are you attending these meetings? Most, if not all, churches will give you a financial report as often as you ask. Some even print weekly reports on the back of bulletins. Are you reading the bulletin or throwing them away? Have you contacted your church treasurer asking for a report? If you attend a church that provides no report or even a budget vote, then maybe find a new church. Don’t paint every church with a broad brush stroke. Never forget to give to your local church.
  7. We Want To Be Mentored, Not Preached At – Maybe check out one of those small groups or bible studies you were just railing against? Maybe in those small groups you’ll form relationships with people and find a mentor or two. Mentorship does not happen quickly or easily. Craving a mentor? Seek one. Does your church have elders? Ask one to be your mentor. Are you a young married couple? Seek out an older married couple. Mentorships come from relationships, and we already talked about how relationships require hard work.
  8. We Want To Feel Valued – First you complain about not serving enough and now you’re asked to serve and you’re complaining you do it too much? I get it, churches tend to abuse volunteers. It’s not a good practice. If a ministry leader won’t accept ‘no,’ see Matthew 18:15-20 for how to deal with those who sin against you. If the Gospel is being preached week in and week out, then you’re being told you are valued. The church may support you, but they are not required to be your biggest cheerleader to chase your big dreams, especially if that dream is not something that falls in line with the Great Commission or even, gasp, the mission of the church. The self-centeredness of this “the church should be believing in me and my dreams” is quite contradictory. What ways are you serving your church? What ways are you advancing God’s kingdom? Did you ever get around to starting up that soup kitchen group? Did you attend those meetings to voice your concerns? Church isn’t about you, and it’s never been about you.
  9. We Want You To Talk to Us About Controversial Issues – Why would we not talk about these issues in the presence of entire families? If we don’t then another generation is going to grow up and be upset about the same thing. All scripture is sufficient for all people to be taught from. Why would we create another bible study or small group when we need to be out there serving in the soup kitchen? Why would we make another program, which requires money, when we need to be giving to the local shelter? Which is it? No more programs created or serving? Or is it only programs that cater to you that should be created? Seems pretty self-centered and American. At this point, we can condense it into “Consumeristic.”
  10. Public Perception – We’d love to serve the crap out of them but you guys are too busy meeting in your newly formed small group to talk about hard issues. Another thing, for the church to be “the aroma of Christ” will repel many. Christ was whipped, beaten, mocked, shamed, and hung on a cross for the things he preached and proclaimed.Centuries of Christian Martyrdom have existed. While we’ve had it comfortable here stateside, it’s not exactly popular to be a Christian in Egypt. “If you guys would just go knocking on your neighbors doors and see how you can serve them better” won’t exactly fly when faced with possible death. Scriptures never tell us that God’s people will be received with open arms, in fact, it tells us the opposite. While we do need to serve our communities, it’s not for the glory of our own public image, but rather for the glory of God alone. Stop being concerned with what other people think of the church.
  11. Stop Talking About Us (Unless You’re Actually Going to Do Something) – I’ll let you see the contradiction in this statement.
  12. You’re Failing to Adapt – Churches do need change. But so do individuals. There is equal responsibility here. Church is not going to become you’re ideal. Again, that’s consumerism. The church is to be a distinct people with distinct marks. The people will always be broken and fallen this side of Heaven. The church, as an institution, is not here to meet your every need. The church exists as a place for God’s people to gather in fellowship and to worship the triune God.The church is referred to all throughout scripture as the bride of Christ. We will sit at the wedding feast with him and enjoy the new creation forever singing “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest!” While you’re feelings tell you church may not be important, the never changing God tells us it is absolutely crucial and central to the Christian’s life to gather with fellow believers in worship. These are your brothers and sisters in Christ. While they have somethings to work on, so do you. We all do. Thats the “real,” “authentic,” truth. We’re all broken and fallen people. We all have to adapt and grow. We all have to put in hard work for community, relationships, and service. None of that happens when either side throws up their hands and says “I told you everything that’s wrong with you, it’s your move!”
    Love your church. Pray for your church. Serve your church. Address the problems in your church. Not for your benefit, not for public image, not to simply put butts in the seats. Do it all for the glory of God. Soli Deo Gloria.

    Thank you for your time.

    Adam