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.

Summer Camp 2016 Recap for Adults (Part 1)

A couple of weeks ago, our kids attended CentriKid summer camp, and it was a blast! You can see pictures and a recap of what we did in my previous blog post. Each day, we discovered more about the unseen power of the armor of God and learned how we can be bold with our visible faith.

Like last year, I wanted to share with you some of what we covered in our adult gatherings. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting parts of devotionals from those adult gatherings we had at camp. This way, you can experience just a taste of the great Bible content CentriKid has to offer for adult believers. (Note: If you want to experience the craziness of camp, including OMC, let me know and we’ll sign you up as a chaperone for next year!)

 

STATION 1:  Peace Through Jesus

Begin by reading Romans 5:8-11.

In this passage, we see that by nature, we have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Our sin has separated us from having a relationship with God, but because of His great love for us, he proved that he loved us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross while we were still sinners. A relationship with Jesus Christ brings ultimate spiritual peace between our sinful nature and the perfect Heavenly Father. All other peace is secondary to the ultimate peace through Jesus.

Grab a sheet of paper, or open up a blank word document on your computer. Spend some time in reflection of your life by writing down as much as you can about the topics in each section.

1) What was your life like before Jesus? Where was your focus?

2) What do you remember about becoming a Christian? Do you remember how you felt?

Go ahead and answer those questions before continuing.

 

 

Ephesians 2:14a says, “For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.”

More than likely, you have experienced tension and hostility related to your spiritual life.  Despite our shortcomings and sin, God never stopped loving us. In fact, He desires to be with us and provided peace through His son Jesus. We must continually focus on the peace that Jesus Christ has brought between our sin and the love of God.

In the story of the woman and the well, Jesus tells the woman that he is the living water.

John 4: 25-26 says, “The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (who is called Christ). When He comes, He will explain everything to us. “ I am He,” Jesus told her, “the One speaking to you.”

Like the woman at the well, we often spend our life looking to the future hoping that Jesus will one day fix thing. However, Jesus has already provided ultimate peace for us through his sacrifice, and He is pursuing you right now. You don’t have to be “ready” or “spiritually mature” to experience the peace of Jesus, you just must choose to follow Him freely. Because of the saving grace of Jesus, we are not called to remain stagnant in our faith, but to rest in the peace of having a relationship with Jesus. Because of this peace, we should intentionally set our sights on a life glorifying Him each day.

With the peace of your relationship with Jesus in mind, spend some time in prayer asking God where He is directing your future. Is He leading you to step up in your faith? Is He simply asking you to focus more of your time and energy on Him?

Go ahead and spend time in prayer now.

 

After you pray, add one more question to answer to your paper or word document:

3) How would you describe your life today? Is it calm, busy, or some other descriptor? Is that a reflection of the current status of your relationship with God?

Write down your thoughts now.

 

Finally, we’ll end this part with this…Where do you sense God is leading your relationship with Him? The question is not whether or not God wants to be with you. Instead, the question is, do you want to be in the ultimate peace of Jesus’s love?

CentriKid Camp 2016

We’re back from camp! This summer, we studied the passage of Ephesians 6:10-20 and learned how the armor of God is powerful and real, although it is unseen. Using the idea of airplanes, we learned that God is with us during life’s turbulent times.

The theme of the week was called Unseen. Each day at Timber Creek, we focused on an aspect of the armor of God. The beginning of our week was designed to help campers discover and understand elements of our faith that are unseen. Mid-week we made a shift to discussing how to make our faith visible with boldness as the things of God are not meant to remain unseen.

Here’s a look at what we did:

Day 1: Unseen Strength: Campers learned that we have sinned and it is that sin in our lives that makes us weak. However, we can be made strong through Christ and the power that He gives to each of His followers.

Day 2: Unseen Truth: We know that we are strong in the Lord because of the Truth that he has shown us through His word. By looking at Jesus in the wilderness, we were able to see the power in the Gospel truth.

Day 3: Unseen Peace: As a follower of Christ, we must have Peace to know that God is always in control. Campers learned the story of Paul in jail and how even in that time he was able to share the Gospel with his jailer.

Day 4: Visible Faith: When we trust God, we obey Him with Faith. Faith is the connection between our truth and our actions. When our lives are rooted in Christ, we are able to produce strong faith.

Day 5: Visible Boldness: When the Gospel of Christ is a part of our lives, we are able to carry it with boldness to our family, friends, and anyone who we meet. We looked at how some of the disciples carried the good news of Jesus to people and the power that the message had on those people.

Thank you all who helped us get to camp, both financially and through prayers. We had a great time as you will see here!

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Act of Approach – Delight in God

Sunrise over Ullswater, Lake DIstrict, UK

The Incomprehensible but Prayer-Hearing God,

You are known, but beyond knowledge,

revealed, but unrevealed

My wants and well-being draw me closer to You,

for you have never said, “You will seek me in vain.”

To You I come in my difficulties, necessities, and distresses;

dwell within me

with a spirit of grace and satisfaction

with a prayerful attitude of mind

with access into the comfort of your fellowship,

so that in the ordinary events of life my thoughts and desire may rise to You,

And in committed devotion I may find a resource

that will soothe my sorrows,

and sanctify my successes,

and qualify me in all your ways in dealing with my fellow man.

I worship you that you have made me able to know you

 The author of all being

                Of resembling you, the perfection of all that is excellent

                Of enjoying you, who is the source of all happiness.

O God, draw near to me in every part of my difficult and trying journey

I need the same counsel, defense, and comfort that I found at the beginning.

Let my religious affections be more obvious to my mind,

and more noticeable to others.

While Jesus stands as my representative in Heaven,

may I think on him all the more on Earth,

while He pleads my cause before you,

may I show him increasing praise.

Continue to be gentle to me by the goodness of your character

and whether I am awake or asleep, let  your presence go with me

and your abundant blessing meet my needs.

You have led me on and I have found all of your promises true,

I have been filled with sorrows, but you have been my help,

I have been fearful, but you have delivered me,

I have despaired, but you have lifted me up.

Your promises are ever before me,

And I praise you, O God!

 

Adapted from Valley of Vision, p.18-19

Unfailing

There are many strange, odd, and weird occurrences in the world, some of which we as human beings will go to great lengths to accomplish ourselves.  I remember as a 12 year old at Eunice Jr. High school going with my friends to the school library during my lunch break to read. Now, before you begin to applaud my studious and noble academic pursuits, let me make a confession: We went to the library to read the Guinness Book of World Records. That is much less commendable, isn’t it? Yes it is true; we used the extra time of our lunch break to look up the strangest, weirdest, and most disgusting world records we could find. And we found a bunch.

I revisited my childhood recently by searching the Guinness World Records website to find some of the strangest and most ridiculous world records to date. Here are a few notable selections:

  • Ram Singh Chauhan’s mustache is the longest in the world, at 14 feet, officially measured in Rome, Italy, on March 4, 2010.
  • Charlotte Lee (USA) holds the world record for the largest collection of rubber ducks, numbering 5,631, as of April 10, 2011, while Ann Atkin of West Putford, England has a four-acre “Gnome Reserve”, where she has curated a collection of 2,042 garden gnomes and pixies, as of March 2011.
  • The number of most apples crushed with the bicep in one minute is 8, achieved by Linsey Lindberg of Texas.
  • In 2008, Kevin Shelley set the record for most toilet seats broken by one’s head in one minute by shattering 46 in Cologne, Germany.

These records are no doubt astonishing and undoubtedly strange (Toilet seats? Really?) Meanwhile, the rest of us are hobbling along each day just trying to eat healthier, or not to oversleep, or not fall into a hole (hey that could be a new category, “the most consecutive days NOT falling into a hole”).

Obviously these record holders are people who found something that they are “good” at, and they’ve made it a life-passion to the point that they are known as the best or the greatest or the most accomplished individual who can do something that few others can, or desire, to do. And they will be remembered as such. But they did not achieve these strange records without many failed attempts. In fact, if we took the whole of their lives in seeking to achieve such peculiar records, we would see much more failure than success. So if you thought that you had nothing in common with Ashrita Furman (USA), who holds the records for the fastest mile hopping on a pogo stick whilst juggling three balls (23 min 28sec), think again! How many times do you think Ashrita failed before achieving the record? I hopped on a pogo stick once; it didn’t go well. And I’ve also tried juggling, which was a disaster. To do such amazing things takes a lot of hard work and overcoming many failures along the way, which leads us to the point of this article. (You are probably asking “how in the world will he draw out a spiritual message from this apparent nonsense?”)

We are as followers of Christ still struggling with constant failures. Every day is filled with activity, busy-ness, work, play, family, and friends. All along the way we have inner thoughts and struggles which lead us to sin, on top of the many personal interactions we experience each day. And sometimes, perhaps many times, we fail in our attempts to live “Christianly” in those encounters. While we are not out to set any world records for “most Christian man or woman”, we know that we are also called to live our lives in such a way that others see Christ in us and glorify God as a result (Matthew 5:13-16). So what do we do when we fail? We do the same thing that world record holders do: get up, fix your eyes again on the goal, which is Christ, and take another step toward knowing him.

Your failure as a Christ follower does NOT define you, rather the unconditional grace of God and his steadfast love for you are what identify you now (1 Peter 2:9-10). I don’t consider any of the failures of my life (which are too many to count) the defining aspect of my life. Nor do I consider any achievements or noteworthy accomplishments the identifying mark of my life (Philippians 3:3-7). I cannot care about what I’ve accomplished, I must find my hope, joy, and identity in what Christ Jesus has accomplished for me (2 Corinthians 5:21). The most important fact which others much know about me is NOT what great or strange things I’ve done, but what God has worked in me through the person of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:29). Like the Apostle Paul, I must consider all things as “rubbish” (all the successes and failures of life) compared with what I have in knowing and being  known by Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:8).

So all of my failures at honoring Christ supremely and my constant shortcomings in obedience to His Word will not be my defining mark, neither will those days of soaring faith and Christ-honoring righteousness. But what DOES and WILL define me as a person is the saving and life-changing grace of God in Christ Jesus my Lord (1 Corinthians 15:10). I do not foresee a day when I will hold any world records for anything, but I will be no less recognized and known by God, and that is all the recognition I desire.

And so what if you can’t spin the most hula hoops simultaneously around your body (200) or hold your breath under water while suspended upside down longer than any other person (4min 29sec), you are noticed and loved much, much more. Take heart saints of God, for your heavenly Father holds your life close to his heart, and Jesus your Savior reigns as your great Redeemer King, and the Holy Spirit indwells your spirit and life, compelling you and molding you to look more like Jesus every day (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). God knows you, loves you, and He calls you his own. That is all the reason you need to get up and follow him each day. So let us be confessing, repentant lovers of Christ Jesus and by the power of God we will grow in our knowledge of Him. I will continue to pray for you each day, that Christ would be your great pursuit and his glory will be your greatest joy!