Category Archives: Scripture

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!

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?

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!

 

 

 

Healed

“I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near” says the LORD, “and I will heal him.” – Isaiah 57:18-19

I have a friend who is a doctor, and he is a good one too. In fact, if he lived anywhere near Baton Rouge he would be my doctor. Several years ago, he was in medical school while I was in seminary, and we visited often.  He told me about the many different “rotations” that he had to go through as a medical student, which is a process the med schools use to expand each students’ knowledge of the many different areas and concentrations of medicine. My friend had just finished his emergency medicine rotation, and he was sharing with me some of the more “interesting” stories of the ER patients. Some of them were just awful and tragic, while others were humorous. (For the record, ER doctors see a wide variety of people and hear many “tales” of how those patients ended up in the emergency room.)

My friend, being the pragmatist that he’s always been, said to me “You know that when you become a doctor, you take the Hippocratic Oath to do everything within your ability to help a patient in need, regardless of how they came to need that care. But to be honest with you Oren, sometimes I don’t “want” to help them. They did something really stupid (jumping off the roof) or careless (drunk driving) or ignorant (frying a frozen turkey) and their suffering is their own fault. I will help them, but sometimes it’s really hard.” I think we can all relate to that sentiment in some ways, can’t we?

Just to remind you all how God does have a sense of humor, my friend wanted to be a family doctor, but is now head of an entire Emergency room staff. But to the point of his comment to me about not wanting to help people who have done so much to cause themselves harm, I think we can all understand that feeling. It falls under the “get what you deserve” kind of thinking, where people should have to suffer the consequences of their actions. We have all at times seen “that news story”, when a murderer on a rampage is shot and wounded by law enforcement and emergency doctors are expected to do everything in their power to keep him alive. We say to ourselves “This shouldn’t be! He should have to die for all of his murderous ways. He deserves death, he deserves punishment, and he deserves to suffer for his foolishness and carelessness.” I know I’ve thought that way many times before, as have most of us. But. . .

When it comes to our own lives and our redemption as broken people, we must recognize one very important reality: We are the foolish, careless, reckless madman in our relationship to God.  Our “ways” have been outright rebellious, and any punishment is well deserved. As Isaiah writes in 57:18, the Lord has seen the ways of the rebellious man, and yet he will heal him. The people of God (Israel) had become idolatrous and disobedient, yet God promised to lead and restore comfort to those who have suffered shame, guilt, and overwhelming burden of sin. God has seen your ways and my ways, all the way down to the depths of our hearts, and he says “come to me and I will heal you! Trust me and I will give you peace. I will not turn you away because of your past mistakes and sinful actions. Look to me and be forgiven and healed.” God mercifully promises to change our words from hate to love and from disdain to glorious praises (Psalm 40:3). God promises and gives abundant and fulfilling peace in Christ Jesus (John 14:27, 16:33). God heals the brokenness of our hearts, and of our world (Isaiah 53:5). Hallelujah! Almighty God has seen our wicked ways and yet is gracious, patient, and merciful and does not ignore us in our state of death and suffering (1 Timothy 1:15-16)! He intends to heal us and make us whole. As one songwriter puts it ‘Lord you know the hearts of man and yet you let him live.” Why does God treat us with such grace when we deserve none of it?

God’s intent to graciously redeem his people is for the purpose of making us true worshipers (John 4:23-24). Our worship of God flows from hearts that have been mended by his grace, and lives that have been healed by his mercy, and souls that have been satisfied by his love, and minds that have understood true peace.  Whoever you are, far or near, God extends comfort and peace through Jesus Christ to you, just as you are.  The cross on which Jesus hung is the revelation of love and mercy from God to us, as Jesus endured the shame and punishment of our sins so that we might live in freedom and peace.

In a few short weeks, our FBC family, along with countless other Christian churches will commemorate and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is a glorious and beautiful revelation of God’s plan to bring peace to his people. As we journey toward the cross this Easter season, I challenge you to take time to consider your own ways, which have been neglectful and prideful and self-serving, and look to Jesus to restore your soul. Your salvation is secured forever in Christ, and your joy is an everlasting one (John 16:22). Will you join with Christian believers near and far this Easter season as we joyfully celebrate the death of Christ that gives us healing and His resurrected life that gives us peace?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Proven Word


As most people in our church family at FBCBR already know, as do many of my friends and immediate family, I am a big fan of Charles H. Spurgeon. The 19th century world-renown preacher and Baptist pastor of the London Metropolitan Tabernacle stands as a giant in my eyes. His ability to simultaneously preach accurately and expositionally God’s Holy Word and illustrate its power and truth for everyday life amazes me every time I read his works. Recently I picked up a small volume of Spurgeon’s works entitled The Greatest Fight in the World, which happens to be the final book he completed before his death. In it Spurgeon writes to the young men of his pastors college, encouraging them in the proven truth and power of God’s Word, the spiritual armor of the Lord for every believer, and the strength for the Christian in Christ Jesus. Below is a glimpse into Spurgeons heart and mind, as he upheld the life-changing nature and reliability of the gospel while openly challenging the emptiness of worldly philosophy and modern religion:

The weapons of our armory are the very best; for we have made trial of them, and have found them so. Some of you, younger brethren, have only tested the Scripture a little as yet; but others of us, who are now getting grey, can assure you that we have tried the Word, as silver is tried in a furnace; and it has stood every test, even unto seventy times seven. The sacred Word has endured more criticism than the best accepted form of philosophy or science, and it has survived every ordeal. As a living divine has said, “After its present assailants are all dead, their funeral sermons will be preached from this Book – not one verse omitted- from the first page of Genesis to the last page of Revelation.” Some of us have lived for many years, in daily conflict, perpetually putting to the proof the Word of God; now we can honestly give you this assurance, that it is equal to every emergency. After using this sword of two edges upon coats of mail, and buckles of brass, we find no notch in its edge. It is neither broken nor blunted in the fray. It would cleave the devil himself, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot; and yet it would show no sign of failure whatsoever. To-day it is still the self-same mighty Word of God that it was in the hands of our Lord Jesus. How it strengthens us when we remember that many conquests of souls which we have achieved through the sword of the Spirit!

Have any of you known or heard of such a thing as conversion wrought by any other doctrine than that which is in the Word? I should like to have a catalogue of conversions wrought by modern theology. I would subscribe for a copy of such a work. I will not say what I might do with it after I had read it; but I would, at least, increase its sale by one copy, just to see what progressive divinity pretends to have done. Conversions through the doctrines of universal restitution! Conversions through the doctrines of doubtful inspiration! Conversions to the love of God, and to faith in his Christ, by hearing that the death of the Savior was only the consummation of a grand example, but not a substitutionary sacrifice! Conversions by a gospel out of which all the gospel has been drained! They say ‘Wonders will never cease’: but such wonders never begin. Let them report changes of heart so wrought, and give us an opportunity of testing them; and then, perchance, we may consider whether it is worth our while to leave that Word which we have tried in hundreds, and, for some of us here, in many thousands of cases, and have always found effectual for salvation. We know why they sneer at conversions. These are grapes which such foxes cannot reach, and therefore they are sour. As we believe in the new birth, and expect to see it in thousands of cases, we shall adhere to that Word of truth by which the Holy Spirit works regeneration. In a word, in our warfare we shall keep to the old weapons of the sword of the Spirit, until we can find a better. ‘There is none like that; give it me’, is at present our verdict. (The Greatest Fight in the World, by Charles H. Spurgeon)

Praise God for his glorious gospel! What Christ has done on the cross is mankind’s only hope of salvation. May we continue to lean on God’s revealed, proven Word and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Are You Abiding in Christ?

12003984_10154274231750476_7361772779431152739_nI recently returned from KidMin, a children’s ministry conference. It’s always a blast connecting with others that share a similar calling as you, and when that calling is reaching kids for Jesus, you know it’s going to be a fun time.

The theme for this year was abide, with a focus on John 15:1-17.  The conference used yarn to represent vines. All over the conference, and even in the logo, you could see the yarn serving as a reminder of the True Vine.

So, what does it mean to abide in Christ?

To “abide” is to live, continue, or remain. So to abide in Christ is to know and follow Jesus (1 John 2:5-6). More than just checking a box, abiding is personal. Like a branch on a vine, we’re connected, in a living/growing relationship, yet we’re totally dependent on the vine.

The vine comparison reminds us that we can’t bear any fruit on our own, it’s all from the Vine. Yes, we’ll need to be pruned from time to time (see verse 2). But it’s a loving cut to help us bear more fruit.

Next time your family eats some grapes, pull out your phone and do a Google Image search for grape vine. Show your kids how the vine connects the branches, and through the vine, the branches are able to produce fruit.

If your kids have already made a decision to follow Jesus as Lord, talk to them about John 15:10 or 1 John 4:13 and what abiding in Christ means.

If your kids are starting to ask questions, remind them that the branches are united with the vine and read Romans 6:5 to them. (Here’s a simple outline for you to use if your child want to know more about becoming a Christian.)

Suggested reading:

What does it mean to abide in Christ?

What is it to abide in Christ?

Learning to Abide in Christ

What will one answer the messenger of the nation? The Lord has founded Zion, and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge.” – Isaiah 14:32

I’ve been studying the book of Isaiah over the past several weeks and it has been such an incredible blessing to read and study chapter by chapter this beautiful revelation of God and his redeeming love. When I came to Isaiah 14:32, God said to me “Stop! Read it again.” And so I did. He said to me “Read it again, and listen to ME speak.” And so I did. And I read it a third and fourth time and I’ve read it many times more since that day. As I write this short word of encouragement, please understand the depth of this great truth: God is actively working to save, sustain, and sanctify His people for the glory of his name. What’s more is that every circumstance believer’s face is working toward that ultimate goal as well. The book of Isaiah is written to this end and in it we find the great revelation of God’s judgment against the sin of his people tied to the abundant grace of God to sustain his “remnant’ who will carry out his work in this world. At the center of it all is Jesus, who is the Holy One established in Zion as the King of Kings and to whom all the afflicted in this life can run and find refuge. (Psalm 5:11, 73:28, Zephaniah 3:12, Hebrews 6:18)

A little contextual background on Isaiah 14:32 will help us greatly. Isaiah’s prophecy comes at a dark time in Israel’s history, as they are facing the threat of destruction from Assyria to the North. Already, Isaiah has prophesied the future destruction of Babylon (Isa. 14:1-23), as well as the fall of Assyria (Isa. 24-27), who is a “Babylonian type of empire”, who mocks God and oppresses His people. No nation that rejects the Lord God will stand, and both Assyria and Babylon would one day face the wrath of God.  By his sovereign choice the Lord God uses unbelieving nations and empires to correct and refine his people, as HE preserves and sustains his remnant who will ultimately glorify his name (Isa. 10:2-22). The Assyrians to the north were pressing into Judah, threatening to destroy them. The wicked and faithless king Ahaz has disgraced the Davidic line of kings and the once proud Judah is no longer relevant in the eyes of the nations. The Philistines, having once pushed back the Assyrians, will once again face the full wrath of the bloodthirsty empire (Isa. 14:29). So, Philistia turns to Judah to form an alliance against Assyria, their common enemy. Yet the Lord declares through Isaiah that their alliance is with Him, not pagan idolaters. God promises that those who are established in Zion will be safe, and all the afflicted of God will find a place of peace and safety on Zion.

Zion represents the presence and authority of God. Those who are surrendered to God will find hope in the midst of sorrow and peace in the midst of turmoil. The “messengers of the nations” will come to call God’s people into a partnership, yet there is no partnership to be had with those who reject God and who worship false gods. The people of God have always been and always will be safe by faith in God alone. Even those who are severely afflicted will find a true place of refuge in God. I know the word “afflicted” is a strong word, but I believe it is accurate. We are people who are often afflicted by the pressures of life happening all around us.

The Christian life is not, as some would say, “all doom and gloom”. I firmly believe the life we have in Christ is one of joy, peace, and gladness. The most effective Christian witness comes from a believer who is “happy in the Lord.” But we also must be honest with ourselves and our condition; there is much that afflicts us in this life, whether it is from our own sinful pursuits and poor choices, or perhaps another person’s actions have harmed us, or even those instances where something unexpected has occurred and no person is really responsible.  The promise we read in Isaiah 14:32 gives us a clear and hopeful outlook: the people of God who have been afflicted, hurt, damaged, and defeated in this life have a place to go to find true peace. This “place” has more to do with a person than an actual building or location. The refuge we need is “founded upon Zion”, the place that signifies the sovereign rule of God’s Son, Jesus. In Christ Jesus we find freedom and joy and a release from the burdens we carry from our anxieties and concerns in how we will save ourselves (1 Peter 5:7).

Jesus promises us rest from all of that stuff (Matthew 11:28-30). He is all that we need (2 Corinthians 12:9). Do you have sorrows? Run to the refuge of Christ your Savior today, the one who bore all your sorrows on the cross. Do you have regrets and fears? Run to Jesus right now, the one who paid for those regrets and who calms your fears. Is there and pain and shame in your life? Run to the great and glorious refuge in Jesus; the one who heals your pain and who took all your shame upon himself in order to set you free and give you rest (Hebrews 12:2, Isaiah 61:7). Yes, the good news of the gospel really is THAT GOOD! Jesus is our refuge, where all of the afflicted in this world can find peace.

Summer Camp Recap for Adults (Part 2)

4098605868_395724c077_oNote: This is the second in a five part series on devotionals for adults from CentriKid camps. See part one for more information.

Part 2: A Disciple Encounters God Through His Word

To grow as a follower of Christ and child of God, you must know His Word intimately. It is vital that you set apart time to read, meditate on, and memorize God’s Word in order to learn more about what He wants to teach you.

Reflect on the following verses:

2 Timothy 3:16-17, Psalm 119:105, Hebrews 4:12

Read

Read Matthew 4:4.

It is important for followers of Christ to hear the verbal proclamation of God’s Word often, but regular, personal study is equally essential. You must take an active role in reading the Bible for yourself and applying it to your life daily.

Choose a Bible verse. It can be one listed above or one God puts on your heart. Read over the scripture once, consider its meaning for your life, and ask God to teach you something through this verse over the next few days.

Meditate
Read Joshua 1:8.
Meditation is one of the most neglected spiritual disciplines in the Christian faith. With our busy schedules, we rarely take time to completely stop and focus on anything. When is the last time you completely stopped and focused solely on a verse or passage from God’s Word?

Look again at the Scripture you pick up a moment ago. Choose one word or phrase from the verse on which to meditate. Try to think only about the verse and nothing else. Ask God to remove any distractions or worries from your mind and to speak to you through His Word.

Memorize

Read Psalm 119:10-11.

As a child, did you memorize any Bible verses in Sunday school or for Bible drill? Do you remember any of them now? Memorizing Scripture is a way to focus on God’s Word through the day. When you memorize Scripture, you can take it with you and meditate on it whenever and wherever you are!

As you go on with your day, write down the Scripture you picked and take it with you. Place it in your Bible, on your bathroom mirror, in your car, or anywhere you will see it often. Make it a goal to memorize this verse by the end of the week. After you have it memorized, make a commitment to choose another verse and memorize it, too.

Spend some time in prayer, thanking God for providing you with easy access to His Word, and make a commitment to read, meditate on, and memorize Scripture to grow closer to Him.

Summer Camp Recap for Adults (Part 1)

Our kids recently returned from CentriKid summer camp, and it was a blast! You can read all about it in my previous blog post. Each day, campers discovered what it means to grow in your faith. And not only did the kids get a chance to dive into God’s Word, so did the adults. Each day, the adults gathered as well for their own Bible study gathering.

I wanted to share with you some of what we covered in our adult gatherings so that you can talk with your kids more about what it means to grow in your faith. 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 OMC, you can sign up as an adult chaperone for the 2016 camp today!)

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Part 1: A Disciple is a Follower of Jesus

Take a look at the pictures below.

A popular trend is repurposing and remodeling old and broken items, furniture, and homes. The “before” photos are of condemned homes. These homes were forgotten and unoccupied. The “after” photos are of the same homes after someone spent countless hours transforming them back into something useful and beautiful. In order to restore a house well, you must start on the inside and completely renovate the entire structure. In the end, you might recognize a few of the old features, but it has essentially become a new creation. Before beginning a relationship with Jesus and accepting His gift of salvation, you were like one of the broken, condemned homes.

Think about this verse:

Isaiah 59:2 says “But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide His face from you so that He does not listen.“ This was your state prior to Christ’s intervention.

Take a piece of paper or sticky note and write down “Before & After.” Under the word “before,” write a few adjectives that describe your life before you became a follower of Jesus.

Read and reflect on the following passages:

Romans 6:6-11, John 1:12-13, 1 Peter 2:9-10, 2 Corinthians 5:17

Through a personal relationship, Jesus offers the opportunity for you to be completely transformed. Like a condemned house, putting a coat of paint on the outside does no good. Through the power of the gospel, the sin that separates you from God is completely destroyed, and your entire being is changed from the inside out into something new. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a new creation!

Pick up your “Before & After” paper again, and under after, list and reflect on the ways your life has changed since becoming a follower of Jesus. Keep this paper as a reminder of the difference Christ has made.

Thou My Best Thought

psalm-49-money

On Sunday, June 7, we (FBC Baton Rouge) began another summer of teaching through the book of Psalms.  We’ve been working through the Psalms for 12 weeks each summer, and this year we will be studying Psalms 49-60. This is both an enjoyable and challenging task, as the Psalms expose for us the raw nature of human emotion in the context of trials, sin, repentance, worship, confession, friendship, and obedience to God. Each Psalm reflects in its own way just how so many Christian believers feel and think when we consider our relationship with God and the world in which we live. The book of Psalms can help us understand how to worship God properly, even in the midst of difficulty and trouble, as the poetic words guide us to a deeper understanding of God’s grace and sovereignty.

Each week, I will use this space to recap a little of the message that was given the previous Sunday, and then a short prayer guide to help us pray through the Psalms together. I pray that this will not only be helpful for you personally, but that it will also contribute to the fellowship and unity of our church family as we are praying for the same things, for ourselves and for each other.

Psalm 49 – Thou My Best Thought

No amount of worldly gain can prevent the certainty of death. (v.5-9)

While there are a number of ways we can gain and leverage our wealth and accomplishments for our own benefit and comfort, or we can use them to support and advance the spread of the gospel message, there is nothing that our earthly gains will do for us when we face the certainty of death. The Psalmist reminds us in v. 5-9 that death comes to all (wise, foolish, stupid), and there is nothing that any man can pay to ransom his own life or the life of another. What would you pay to God to save yourself from death? Would you even have enough to give to him? The Psalmist tells us that our lives are costly and we don’t have the sufficient funds to pay the ransom ourselves. The warning here is to be cautious that our worldly goods do not lead us to believe that we’ve attained a pardon from the grave.

Our only hope of rescue from eternal death is the mercy of God. (v.10-15)

Because the reality of death is something we can ALL be certain of, we must then deal with the weight of that reality in a reasonable way; and I would say in the only way that gives us any kind of hope. Since we do not have the resources to ransom ourselves from death, we must look outside of ourselves to someone else. The man who does not understand the desperation of his own need for redemption, will die just as certainly as the beasts of the field, yet with the sins of arrogance and ignorance in his heart. This kind of death is not just a physical one, but one that leads to shame and suffering after we die. If we spend our lives accumulating wealth for ourselves and for our own security, the full terror of Sheol awaits. But, there is good news in the face of certain death. This good news is that God ransoms people from Sheol and the certainty of eternal death (v.15). By his mercy and grace, God saves sinners (Ephesians 2:4-6), as we trust in Jesus Christ, because that is exactly what Jesus came to do (Mark 10:45). The result of the ransom payment that Jesus makes on our behalf to make us children of God is rejoicing, praise, and honor of God’s mercy. The result is the glorification of a merciful and gracious God.

While mankind was made for glory, there is glory in only 1 house – the house of the living God.  (v.16-20) The man who pursues wealth and prosperity in this world is seeking his own glory, and he will come to find that the glory he had in this life will NOT follow him to the grave. His glory does not “go down with him” (v.17), and he leaves his wealth and his possession to others. Therefore, he has no glory nor does he have any leverage with God. All he has is himself and whatever he trusted in while he lived. Apart from faith in God, there is only shame. But for those who trust in God, and who believe in Jesus Christ as their all-sufficient ransom from eternal death (1 Peter 1:18-19), they will receive glory. They will experience the glory of God in all its fullness, and they will be satisfied (Psalm 17:15, 73:24). This is our great hope in Jesus Christ.

There is so much temptation and often doubt associated with such high and lofty truths. We can easily be distracted by the things of this world, or we can grow fearful that others are acquiring much material gain and using their wealth to influence those around them. While this has always happened and will continue to happen in this world until Jesus returns, the people of God do not lose heart nor do we fret and worry over the worldly accomplishments of others. We set our hearts and minds on Christ, who is our hope. He is the highest, greatest , and most gloriously beautiful thought that any of us could entertain or conceive.  He is our BEST thought.

So how do we pray through the wisdom and promises of Psalm 49?

  1. Start with who God is. He is the all-wise, always present Lord and King, apart from whom we have no wisdom or understanding of truth. Praise God for who he is.
  2. Pray for your own heart, that you will be able to recognize when you are tempted to pursue worldly wealth and pleasures for the sake of your own satisfaction and comfort.
  3. Ask God to give you strength and faith to trust in him rather than in the things of this world. Recall the hope you have in the gospel and confess to God your need for his redemption.
  4. Surrender to God any self-sufficiency that has taken root in hour heart, which has given you a false assurance of your standing before God. Remember that your worldly gains have not actually gained you anything with God. Death is certain and you cannot prevent it.
  5. Thank God for Jesus Christ, your ransom payment and redeemer of your soul. Praise God that Jesus Christ has ransomed you from Sheol and given you hope beyond the grave. Think about Jesus, and all the ways that he is (right now!) working in your life to make you holy.
  6. Pray for wisdom as you seek to live for God’s glory and not your own. Ask God to help you to develop contentment in your heart concerning the pursuits of this world, so that you do not chase after “things” to justify your life, but rather be content in having Christ and the life that gives to those who trust him.