Quick Thought: Don’t Drop the Ball at the 1-Yard Line

How many times have you seen this?

Or this?

Why?!?

I’ve read one article where the author counted at least 26 times in the past few years where players have purposely dropped the ball in celebration without seeing it through.

That got me thinking…how many times do we drop the ball early?

When it comes to kids, we often use the ABC method of sharing the good news of Jesus.

A—ADMIT Admit to God that you are a sinner (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23). Repent, turning away from your sin (Acts 3:19; 1 John 1:9).

B—BELIEVE Believe that Jesus is God’s Son and accept God’s gift of forgiveness from sin (Romans 5:8; Acts 4:12; John 3:16; John 14:6; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 1:11-13).

C—CONFESS Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9-10,13).

I’m thankful we have the opportunity to share this good news with our kids. But why stop at justification when we can celebrate sanctification. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.

Mason was just in my office speaking about the ABCs. “Did we forget the rest of the alphabet?” he laughed. “What about D? DO SOMETHING! DISCIPLESHIP!”

The Gospel doesn’t stop at the 1-Yard Line. The good news is that God continues to work in our lives, sanctifying us, making us more like Jesus.

Parents, you get to be a model for your children to see what it looks like for a Christian to grow in Christ. Seniors, you know you don’t retire from being a Christian…thank you for your years of continued service!

Further reading: Shells

Never Too Late or Too Soon

timeline

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:22-23

I was in line at the grocery store just the other day when I noticed the front cover of LIFE magazine. The cover pictured 6 deceased celebrities that I immediately recognized as world-famous musical artists.   This recent issue of LIFE magazine is entitled The 27-Club: Rock Icons Who Died Too Young. The cover and content of the magazine features 6 musical artists who all died at the age of 27, hence the name 27-Club. These musicians were quite fas-l225mous and known throughout the world for their music; particularly for their contributions to jazz, blues, and rock-and-roll. The 27 club includes musical superstars Brian Jones (1969), Jimi Hendrix (1970), Janis Joplin (1970), Jim Morrison (1971), Kurt Cobain (1994), and Amy Winehouse (2011).

I understand that some of these names may not be familiar to some of you, while others of you are quite familiar with the person and their music. I only had a moment to read the cover while at the register, but since I recognized the names of these celebrities and because I’ve heard about the “27-Club” before, I was immediately intrigued. So I decided to get a copy of the magazine at a later time. As I’ve read the articles and short biographic sketches of the lives of these complex and talented men and women, it has struck me at just how much influence a single person can have on literally millions of other people, and yet in the scope of time and history, each person’s life is so fleeting and fragile (James 4:14).

What I have found most intriguing about this magazine issue is how much these musical icons are praised and exalted for their contributions to the music industry while their personal lives were so incredibly heartbreaking. Their sudden and what some would consider “early” death have led to their lives being dubbed with the “tragic” label since they were unable to have long and productive careers of making music. What is most common among all 6 members of the 27-Club is their struggles with drug and alcohol addiction and many broken and destructive relationships. It makes you wonder how it is that all the praise and fame that comes with celebrity also brings with it despair and unceasing temptations to satisfy the flesh. There is no doubt that these artists truly lived out the stereotype of a rock-and-roll icon, and in each case, it ended their lives earlier than most people can accept. Their dreams of being a serious and respected musical artist, along with the adoration of millions of fans was the real drug they lived for, and it captivated their minds and souls, to the point that they could not find satisfaction in all of their achievements. So they turned to external things to cope with the deep groaning in their souls for significance and peace.

This issue of LIFE magazine also leads me to ask a deeper question. “Who gets to decide how soon is too soon for someone to pass away”? This has always been an interesting thought to me. Who gets to decide when it is time for a person to leave this world and why does age matter? Do we label a person’s early departure from this life as a tragedy because of their worldly achievements? What if these famous celebrities would have been relatively unknown musicians playing in dirty bars and half-empty night clubs instead of in massive arenas or on national television shows? Would we view their deaths in the same way?

I realize that these questions can make us uncomfortable, but considering the difference between how the world and the Word of God view life and its value differently, as well as death and its timing, it is especially important for us to know what we believe. Our purpose and direction in this life are particularly tied to where we find our identity and hope. We are all groaning deeply within our souls in some way for redemption (Romans 8:22-23), but for those who are of faith in Jesus, our groaning has a glorious end, and the timing of it cannot come soon enough (Romans 8:18).

Life and death are God’s prerogative, and he doesn’t often share what he knows with us about the timing of our departure from this world. While this may cause uneasiness in some of us, the reality is that this is NOT bad news for those who know Jesus. There is never a time in the life of a believer in which death comes too soon, nor are the conditions of our passing greater than the glory we behold once we’ve left behind these broken bodies for eternally completed ones (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

In fact, we are to live in this life in in such a way that points others to the reality of the next life for which we long for so deeply. Sadly, the members of the 27-Club lived for the praise of man, pointing others to themselves and looking for happiness that was only shifting sand beneath their unstable feet.

Romans 8:11 gives us this promise: 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. This promise alone should stir in us a deeper love for God and a more serious commitment to make the most the time we have, for the days are short and the mist of our lives will soon pass. Praise be to God that our short time in this life can be of tremendous impact if we would look to him first and always.

I agree that it is sad that those musical artists died so young, just as I would for any young man or woman. It is hard to accept the loss of a life so young. My sadness is not only in that they are now gone, but that their lives ended in such despair and destruction. Their groaning for redemption led them to self-deception and sorrow. One of the 27-Club members Janis Joplin once said “Don’t ever compromise. You are all you’ve got.” But that is simply not true. Praise be to God that I am not all I’ve got! If all I have is me, then I am without hope. My groaning for redemption is incomplete and will never be content in this life if I only look within myself to be satisfied. The best news is that Jesus Christ meets us where we are and fulfills the longings of our souls, to the degree that our perspective in this life and the next is eternally hopeful and filled with joy! Jesus is all I have, and Jesus is more than enough.

Act of Approach – He Is Working

light

Sovereign, Infinite Filler of Souls,

Help me now to always be in submission to you God,

to be dependent upon You,

found on the path where You do walk

and where your Holy Spirit moves,

warning me of my wandering ways

and of growing insensitive to your love.

You do not move men like stones are moved,

rather you indwell them with life

not to give us permission to move without You

but in submission to You, the one who moves first.

O Lord, I am astonished at the difference

between what I have received and what I deserve;

between the state I am in now and my past state of despair;

between the heaven that I am bound for, and the hell I merit.

Who could have caused this great difference in me but you O God!

for I was no more willing to receive Christ than any other man.

I could not have taken the first step toward you,

had you not first loved me;

nor would I have even been willing,

had you not first made me able.

O that such a crown would fit the head of such a sinner like me!

such a glorious position for one as unfruitful as myself!

such joys so wondrous for a rebel so wretched!

Infinite wisdom designs the means and ends of salvation,

established and built on divine purchase and spiritual freedom.

Let wrath deserved be written on the door of hell.

But the free gift of grace on the gates of heaven.

I know that much of my suffering is the result of my own sinning,

but in heaven both will no longer exist.

Permit me by your grace to set foot on that eternal shore,

and to be done with my sailing in this life;

may the powerful winds of your mercy blow me safely into that glorious harbor.

May your steadfast love draw me ever nearer to you;

purify me from my selfishness,

teach me to die to this world,

and make me ready for my departure for my eternal home.

Secure me, Lord, by your grace as I sail across this stormy sea.

 

– Translation from The Mover, Valley of Vision, p.12

5 Things Your Preteen Can Understand About the Bible

bible-983104_960_720Last month, the Barna Group reviled the results of their 2016 Teen State of the Bible research. If you have a few extra moments, I’d recommend reading over the full results. There are many positive responses that can encourage us, but here are a few that may renew our resolve to help kids understand the Bible.

  • Half of teens say the Bible contains factual/historical errors.
  • About 1 in 3 teens say the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life.
  • Only 47 percent of teens say the Bible is a source of hope.

That’s a simplified look at the minds of teens when it comes to the Bible. Now, let’s look at what a preteen mind can comprehend about the Bible. (These come from Lifeway’s Levels of Biblical Learning, something that our leaders are being equipped with as they reach our kids.)

  • The truths in the Bible are without error and will last forever.
  • The Bible is God’s message about Himself and God’s plan for salvation.
  • The Bible is the only inspired, written Word of God.
  • The Bible teaches that salvation through Jesus is God’s gift of forgiveness.
  • The Bible teaches how to live a Christian life by following Jesus.

Parents, help your preteens understand these concepts. Make Bible reading a special time in your home!

Quick Thought: Jesus is More Than a Noun

english-english_dictionaries_and_thesaurus_booksWhen looking for inspiration for upcoming blog posts, I came across a blog topic generator. You insert a few nouns you want to write about, and it would give you the titles of potential blog posts. I gave it a shot and typed Jesus as the noun to use. The results were a little humorous.

5 Tools Everyone In The Jesus Industry Should Be Using

10 Signs You Should Invest In Jesus

What Will Jesus Be Like In 100 Years?

10 Things Your Competitors Can Teach You About Jesus

The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Jesus

7 Things About Jesus Your Boss Wants To Know

It’s a silly example, but how often do we treat Jesus as just another noun…like a person from the past, a place you occasionally visit, or a thing to be studied and put back down.  Jesus is more than that. In fact, He is the creator of all people, places, and things (Colossians 1:16). Jesus is our peace that reconciles us to God. If you want to know more information about going from Jesus as a noun to Jesus as your savior, click here.

 

3 Ways to Start Talking With Your Family About Christianity

I read an interesting fact the other day in Children’s Ministry Magazine. According to Pew Research, 40 percent of Americans say they rarely or never talk about religion, even with their own families.

It’s my hope that parents take the spiritual leader role and Proverbs 22:6 to heart.

Talking with your children about God and our faith isn’t hard! Here are some simple tips and tricks to get you started…

1) Be Learner-Based. We love being learner-based around here. Part of that means knowing which ways are kids learn best. Sometimes you can get a deeper discussion time in by using things like music or art. Ask kids to draw you a picture of what they learned in Sunday school instead of just asking. Review the songs we sang at church and see if kids can tell you why Jason felt led to include those in the service. Even a game of basketball can turn into a discussion of how we’re all one body working together.

2) Know What Kids Can Understand. LifeWay has an amazing resource that can help you next time you talk with your kids. It’s called the Levels of Biblical Learning. It puts kids into six different levels based on age, and can help you know what they can comprehend in 10 different faith-based areas. Use this to help guide your conversations to a level your children can really understand.

3) Family Devotionals. Faith conversations can happen anytime and in any place. Always be on the look out for those moments. But, you can also be intentional and plan family devotional times. There are some good ones out there, including Long Story Short and an audio based one that you play in your car that you can find in our library!

SUMMER CAMP 2016 RECAP FOR ADULTS (PART 5)

Note: This is the fifth in a five part series on devotionals for adults from CentriKid camps. See part one for more information.

STATION 5:  Asking for Peace

Read: Philippians 4:6-7, Matthew 6:11, Matthew 21:22; John 16:24; and James 1:6–8

In the midst of your job, your school, your family responsibilities, and even taking care of yourself, you are here with burdens and needs for which only God can provide. More than likely, there is a situation in your life that is preventing you from feeling daily peace. Perhaps it is choosing a major or deciding what you will do after college.  It might be related to your relationships, your family, your job, your finances, or numerous other circumstances. Regardless of the situation, God can provide peace for you.

Have you asked God to calm that storm? Have you boldly asked your Father for wisdom in these situations? As a child of God, you should feel no hesitation or shame in asking your Father for what you need. By asking God to provide for that need, He can also grant boldness for you.

Think of a request for peace that you want to ask of God:

I’m asking God to provide peace for____________________________________________________.

Now, simply pray. Start by expressing to God what is on your heart. Remember these words from Matthew 7:8:

“Everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will opened.” 

Through prayer, you enter into the presence of the One for whom nothing is impossible, and He alone can supply all your needs. Trust in Him right now to provide for every need you may have.

SUMMER CAMP 2016 RECAP FOR ADULTS (PART 4)

Note: This is the fourth in a five part series on devotionals for adults from CentriKid camps. See part one for more information.

 

STATION 4:  Peace Through encountering God’s presence

One of the biggest detractors from peace in our lives is fear. Every one of us has some sort of fear or worry that creeps in our life each day. It might distract us from our work; it might keep us up at night. You may have fear related to your kids. You may have fear related to your health or your well-being. You may have fear that you will never accomplish your dreams. Whatever the cause or whatever the situation, fear has the power to take away our peace, our happiness, and our hope.

Fear might cause us to have a negative and false view of ourselves, especially when we compare ourselves to the “perfect people” around us.  Ultimately, fear causes us to lose sight of the overwhelming, perfect, and constant presence of God at work in our lives.

Read the following passages:

Psalm 23:1-6, Isaiah 30:18-21, Deuteronomy 31:6, Isaiah 41:10

In Scripture, Jesus directly says 21 times to “not be afraid” or “fear not” or “have courage” or “take heart.” God knows the concerns of your heart and He is battling them on your behalf.

Below is an eye chart. Can you read all of the letters on the chart?

 

Eye-chart

 

Now, read the list of worries below. Count how many of the following are known to worry you:

 

  • Safety of Kids
  • Not reaching my goals
  • Being appreciated
  • The future
  • Job security
  • Acceptance
  • Not making a difference
  • Making the right decision
  • Exhaustion
  • Money
  • The future

 

Try looking at the eye chart again, but this time, take a step back for each worry you had. Did the poster look as clear as it did when you were up close?

 

Each of these worries represents a fear that we all may have at some point in our lives. This eye exam is a reflection of our lives.

The point in this eye exam is more of a test of faith than a test of our eyes. When we look at life through the lenses of fear, our view becomes distorted and not filled with peace.  You must constantly strive to view life through God’s spiritual, corrective lenses so you can see clearly and realistically.  You have the freedom to choose not to focus on your fears, but to focus on God. The steadfast peace of God’s presence is stronger than any fears or challenges that are holding you back.

Read Psalm 121 this week as you continue to focus on the peace of God’s presence casting out your daily fears.

SUMMER CAMP 2016 RECAP FOR ADULTS (PART 3)

Note: This is the third in a five part series on devotionals for adults from CentriKid camps. See part one for more information.

 

STATION 3: Peace Through Trusting God’s Purpose

Grab a sheet of paper and write out some of the labels of responsibility you have in life. (Ex. kids minister, mom, boss, pastor, brother, child of God, etc.)

 

Looking at each of the titles that you carry on a daily basis, do you consider yourself to have peace about where you are in life?

Think back to a few years ago. Were any of these titles part of your goals and dreams?

Many books, sermons, and discussions have taken place around “finding the purpose for your life” and finding “God’s calling for your life.” While these are meant to be motivational, we often end up stressed about our current circumstances and our future callings. Our God promises us that He will never leave or forsake us. He can provide peace about the purpose for your life.

Read the following passages:

Proverbs 16:9, Psalm 32:8, Isaiah 26:3, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 85:8

Some of you are here right now questioning about whether or not you are where you are supposed to be. It is not a bad thing to question where God has you right now, but you must ultimately trust His plan above all else. If you want to have absolutely peace about your life’s calling, you must first have absolutely trust in God’s purpose.

Take some time to pray about where God is leading you in your current situation in life, both personally and professionally or maybe even at school. He may be calling you to make a change, or He could be calling you to stay right where you are. He alone can reveal His purpose and provide the peace to make a decision.

After you pray, write down a few thoughts or phrases related to your goals and where you feel that God is leading you right now on the sheet of paper you used earlier. Now the challenge is to cut a hole big enough in the paper to fit yourself through.

Is there any way? This is like our life when we try to force things or plans that are not aligned with God’s purpose. They just don’t fit!

Now, try cutting the paper like this. We must trust God to mold us and change us so that our thoughts and goals match with His. When we are trusting God’s purpose, we can have the peace that we will always be right where God wants us to be.

SUMMER CAMP 2016 RECAP FOR ADULTS (PART 2)

Note: This is the second in a five part series on devotionals for adults from CentriKid camps. See part one for more information.

STATION 2:  Peace Through God’s Word

Where do you find “the truth?” Do you find truth in what your peers say about you, with what you read on social media, or possibly even your own thoughts? Each day, we are faced with hundreds of statements and beliefs all claiming to be the truth.

With so many different distractors clawing for your attention, the truth could be difficult to discern. As a follower of Christ and child of God, you must always seek to find peace in the unchanging Word of God.  It is vital that we set apart time to read, meditate on, and internalize God’s Word to learn more about what He wants to teach us in order to find the truth each day.

Read the following passages:

Psalm 119:105, Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4, Hebrews 4:12, Psalm 119:162

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Let us imagine that the pictures of soil above are symbols of a life full of the Word of God, and a life absent of the truth of God’s Word.  Some pictures show us what it is like our lives when we set our focus in finding truth in infallible Word of God. The pictures with dry sand is like our lives when we allow the things of this world to fill our lives with stress, filth, and lies.

James 1:21 says, “Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you.”

Imagine a seed. Ask yourself in which soil you desire to have your life rooted. Do you want your life to be planted in the enriching life-giving soil of being rooted in God’s Word, or in dry, barren soil absent of the ultimate truth of God?  Which picture represents where you’re at and where you want to be?

Pray and ask God to give you the desire and opportunity to daily read His Word, meditate on His Word, and internalize His Word.