Most pastors, church staff, and church going parents are familiar with the statistics on youth leaving the church upon graduation.Whenever you hear someone speak on youth ministry at a youth conference or pastors conference these statistics are quoted. As a youth pastor these statistics break my heart. I want every one of my students to continue to pursue a passionate-loving-relationship with Jesus throughout the rest of their lives.

Here are some things that we can do to help students not become a statistic:

1.) Partner with Parents
Parents are the number one influence in a students life. What are you doing to encourage, equip, and minister to parents?
Some ways that i have done this is by having a parent meeting and making it fun! Parents like to play games, have fun, and win stuff!  At this meeting i get info from parents using a survey. I have free resources available for them. I also have some questions they can discuss in small groups that allow them to connect with other parents.

2.)Talk to students about the importance of parents
I always try to remind students that parents will be there for them a lot longer than their friends. Now, I understand that some kids parents are absentee but most kids have at least one parent living with them or a parental figure they live with. When a kid doesn’t have a healthy parental influence in their life or a parent who doesn’t know the Lord i challenge them with this: God wants you to be a witness to them. God gave them to you for a reason.

3.) Expose students to Missions
This one is important to me. We have two mission opportunities for youth each summer. I love exposing students to new cultures, new experiences, and to the needs in our world. Mission trips are a great opportunity for me to get to know students, youth workers, and parents better. It is also an opportunity for students to serve people, share their stories/testimonies, and to share the Gospel. Students usually come back from mission trips with a new desire to share their faith and thankful. Thankful for parents, their church, their stuff, etc…

4.) Expose students to Colleges students doing it right
I love it when i have the opportunity to bring in college students who love the Lord, are plugged into a church, and have a love for pouring into students. I usually try to get one or two for a lock-in, d-now, or as a sponsor to another event. This one is especially good when you are able to bring in an ex-student from your very own youth ministry. The truth is that not all college students leave the church. Find the ones who haven’t and have them come hang out with your students.

5.) Preach about it
We often teach students and hope that the message will challenge them to make a decision for God. Either a decision to do something, not to do something, or to quit doing something. I’ve notice however, that there is not a lot of curriculum out there that challenges/ prepares students in this specific area. There is some stuff for junior and senior students but what about our other students? Wouldn’t it be helpful to begin having conversations with all jr high and high school students about things they can do to not become a statistic?

Below is a 3 week series i have written that i hope helps youth ministries begin the conversation with their students.

resolve_series_web

About the series:
Today, many Jesus loving, Bible quoting, youth group going students head to a strange new land called their “College years” (a land without parents, where students can do whatever they want) and they trade in the things of God for the things of the world. In the Old Testament, Daniel was in the same situation. He was in a strange new land without parents yet, he Resolved to continue to walk with the Lord. In this series, your students will discover what Daniel did to be faithful in a foreign land. My hope is that this series will give students a goal, plan, and desire to live for God throughout junior high, high school and college.

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D-Now is always an exciting time for the students, families, and my church in general. Not only do our students (and their youth pastor) get to be encouraged by the guest speaker but so do our parents.

Who do you usually get to speak?
For D-now i always try to get someone to come speak who is further down the road in ministry than i am. I do this because i am able to glean from them. It’s always a good idea to build relationships with people who have walked where you walked in regards to stage of life, years in ministry, etc…

Why D-now?
I use D-now as a time of intentional discipleship and intentional out reach. During D-Now students are always encouraged to bring friends. Their are many student in our youth ministry that do a great job at inviting friends but some friends just aren’t interested in coming…. but when they hear about our hilarious, talented, exNFL, guest speaker…it’s amazing to see who will attend. At first it’s just to hear our guest speaker but hopefully by the end of the weekend they have met Jesus.

I actually went to church for the first time because a friend told me there was going to be free pizza, basketball, and some of the varsity cheerleaders were in his youth group. I went for those things but kept going because of something greater, a new relationship with Jesus! Super thankful for the youth pastor and all the adult volunteers who were committed to reaching out to students while i was in high school. It is scary to think about where i would be without those adults committed to loving God by reaching out and loving students.

D-now is an opportunity for students who know Christ to have intentional conversations and share their testimonies. They have these opportunities during free time, during their small groups, and also before the church on Sunday morning.

D-now is a time when relationships within our ministry go to the next level. Something special happens when church members open their homes, college aged students give up their weekend to love on jr high and high school students, a church family prays, and students spend a weekend fellowshiping around God’s Word.

Another great thing about D-now is the mission projects. It’s pretty amazing how much students can get done in such a short amount of time. Our students have done things around the church painting stuff, fixing stuff, and also helping people out in the community who allow us to serve them.  I know students love to accomplish the goal of finishing the projects set before them during D-now.

D-now is also a great time to allow the whole church take part in ministering to students and to recruit volunteers!  Some people might not be able to drive a van, attend youth services, lead a small group etc… but they can make food, give scholarships, open their homes for the weekend, help clean up afterwards, or commit to pray for students participating in D-now.

Something New
I did something new this year.  On Sunday morning (while students had their last small group session with their awesome small group leaders) our guest speaker spoke to parents about discipling teens. We had donuts and coffee ready. Then we started off with a few games. Believe it or not, parents like to have fun too! After a few games and prizes our guest speaker encouraged and challenged parents. Something that was surprising is how many grandparents wanted to be apart of this time so that they could learn about discipling grand-kids.  It’s amazing how many parents and grand parents expressed appreciation for this time and also offered to volunteer for upcoming student ministry activities.

What makes you happy?

A rare-book collector met a guy who said he’d just thrown out an old Bible that had been packed away for generations. “Somebody named Gutten-something had printed it,” the man explained.

“Not Gutenberg!” gasped the book lover. “You’ve just thrown away  one of the most famous books ever printed. One copy recently sold at auction for over $4 million!”

The other man was still unmoved. “My copy wouldn’t have brought a dime,” he said. “Some guy named Martin Luther scribbled notes all over it.”

-Tal D. Bonham, The Treasury of Clean Jokes (Broadman)

What would you do with $4 million? Would a large amount of money solve all your problems? Would it bring you unending happiness?  Sometimes it seems like money would solve a lot of problems but we know the answer to these questions and so do the many who have won millions in a lottery. Most lottery winners regret doing so and many admit that their lives are worse after winning the lottery.  You can research lotto winners online but be prepared for some really sad stories.
It’s said that a rich and powerful King told his most faithful servant to go and find the happiest man in the world and bring back to him the source of his happiness. After many moons passed the servant returned to the King bowing low to the ground. The King noticed that the servants hands were empty and became very angry. The King asked, “Why have you returned without doing what you were told!” The servant replied, “Please forgive me my King. I did as you said and found the happiest man in all the world but he had no possessions.”

The King in this story reminds me of the author of the book of Ecclesiastes.

The author of Ecclesiastes doesn’t seem very happy. He actually points out that life under the sun seems pretty pointless sometimes but like the King in this story he realizes that happiness is not found in wealth or anything else under the sun. Here is what he discovered:

“God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please him. This, too, is meaningless–like chasing the wind.” – Ecclesiastes 2:26 NLT

“13That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. 14God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”  – Ecclesiastes 12:13&14 NLT

Scripture is clear that we are hardwired by our Creator/Jesus to need a relationship with Him. We try to replace Him with stuff. We try to find our fulfillment in other places like work, significant others, wealth, prestige, etc… but I think the prophet of old Wayland Jennings said it best, “looking for love in all the wrong places, Looking for love in too many faces…”

Church, Jesus did not die on the cross to give you a get out of hell free card and a license to sin. He died on the cross in your place to have a relationship with you. Jesus wants to be your Savior….and your Lord. Is Jesus the supreme ruler of your life or are you?

Before I knew Christ I enjoyed sin. But since I have entered into relationship with Him my most miserable moments are those when I’m furthest away from Him and His purpose for me. And The happiest times of my life are the times when I’ve been nearest to Him. Let’s seek Him Today and find our happiness in Him.

Titus 2:1-7 says:

1As for you, Titus, promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching. 2Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience. 3Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers.Instead, they should teach others what is good. 4These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, 5to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes,to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.6In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely. 7And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.” 

Whether it’s Jesus and the Disciples, Paul and Timothy, Eli and Samuel, or Moses and Joshua the Bible is filled with verses (like the one above) and examples of mentoring/ discipling relationships.

I am reminded of a story shared by Reggie Joiner in his book, “Parenting Beyond Your Capacity”..  He talks about how he was really close to his son. His son would share everything with him. As a father and son they always had a positive relationship, significant moments together, and lots of conversations about faith. But somewhere during his second year of high school everything began to change. One night after coming home way past curfew Reggie told his son, “You are late coming home from a date, and I just need to know what’s going on. I need you to tell me everything that went on tonight and I need you to tell me now.” The son replied, “Dad, I don’t want to talk about it. I’m not going to tell you about it because you are my father and you make the rules.”

The next day Reggie ended up talking with his mentor and Pastor Andy Stanly. Then Reggie came up with this great idea. When he got home he had another conversation with his son and asked him, “Son , if you won’t tell me, who will you tell?”  His response was easy. He said, “That’s fair. I’ll tell you who. I’ll talk to Kevin.” Reggie goes on to say that he felt a huge relief because Kevin was a family friend. Kevin loved his family, respected him, and had the same values his family had.

I think this is a great illustration of why adults and students need mentors. Reggie was in a tough situation. He needed someone he trusted who could listen to him, pray with him, and give him sound biblical advice. His Son was in need of the same. Reggie’s son and family have benefited greatly by providing their kids with godly mentors who are outside their family.

Here is the whole point.
1.)According the scripture above, Love and Wisdom are taught not caught. We are supposed to be pouring into the next generation.
2.)God’s Word tells us time and again about the importance of discipleship/mentoring and also illustrates it for us.

3.) We need to be about making disciples and being disciples.

-What are you doing to grow in love and wisdom?
-Who is your Paul(Mentor) and who is your Timothy(mentee)?
-Are you apart of a small group?
-If you’re a parent: What are you doing to help your students grow in love and wisdom?
-What are you doing to pour into the next generation?

“1In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God…6God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony…10He came into the very world He created, but they didn’t recognized Him…14So the Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness…” (John 1:1-14 NLT)

I love the gospel of John. John doesn’t beat around the bush. The other Gospels start off with an account of Jesus human ancestry but John gets straight to it-Jesus is God! The very first verse of John is constructed exactly like the first verse of the Bible, “In the beginning…God”- Gen. 1:1. “In the beginning …was the Word” -John 1:1. John declares in the very first verse that Jesus is God. In the beginning means before angles, before heaven, before planets, before stars, before clouds…before solids, liquids, gases or plasma…Jesus existed. Jesus is not a creature, He is Creator!

Was the Word- John could have used many different words for the word, Word. He chose to use the word Logos. This Greek word was quite popular at this time because of philosophers such as Heraclites, Plato, and Aristotle…to name a few. When applied to the universe, Greek philosophers were speaking to the rational principle that governs all things. The Logos is the “Great cause” or “Unmoved Mover of Aristotle” and also the “Highest Form” of Plato. Every one of that time would have understood that John was saying that the “Word” (Logos) is the thing that started everything… the Logos is the God of the Bible. (In the beginning was the Logos, the Logos was with God and the Logos was God.)

John goes on to say that John the Baptist testified about the Logos. Look at these verses Matthew 3, Mark 1, Luke 3 and you will see that the person John the Baptist testified about is Jesus.

John then goes on to say in verse 14 that the “Logos became flesh?” Hmmm…. who could he be talking about? He’s talking about Jesus! 🙂
John clearly states that the “Logos” is God, that John testified about the “Logos” and the “Logos” became flesh and dwelt among us.

The importance of this passage is to show us clearly that Jesus- Is- God. (This is pretty clear in other passages as well: Col. 1:15-20, Heb. 1:1-13, and Phil. 2:5-11 etc…) Also it should motivate us to follow His example. Jesus-the Logos- put on a body and made Himself vulnerable to the sufferings of man. What great sacrifices He made that we might know Him. He invaded the world of sinners to save some. We should be doing the same.

Where is Jesus sending you? How will you be Jesus in the flesh this week?

“Example alone is never enough to tell the Gospel. Even Jesus had to use words and He was a perfect example!”
-Rick Warren

      Did you know that: The average American watches 28 hrs of television per week. The average person today receives more information on a daily basis, than the average person received in a lifetime in 1900’s. Half of what is known today, we did not know 10 years ago. The amount of knowledge in the world is said to be doubling every 18 months. China will soon be the #1 English speaking language in the world if it isn’t already. 25% of India’s population with the highest IQ’s is greater than the total population of the U.s. The world we live in is constantly changing. 

      In Isaiah 6 and 7 Judah was going through a few changes of it’s own. The Great King Uzziah just died, King Ahaz (a rookie) had to step up and be king and a bunch of bad guys thought this would be a good time to take over Judah. This would be a scary time for most people but not Isaiah. 

      Isaiah 6:1 says, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. “

      Changes and Transitions can be dreadful times of worry, stress, and confusion. This passage teaches us on how we can handle transition and change well. Don’t be like Uzziah. He was focused only on the problems. When we focus on our problems, or what could happen, then those things seem to grow. It’s been said that if you hold a quarter just right you can make it block out the sun. Uzziah was letting his problems block out the Son. 

Let’s be like Isaiah. He didn’t focus on the problems. He focused on “the Lord”.  

Where do you look during stressful times? Are you letting the troubles of this short life grow bigger than your Lord?

No matter what life throws at you always remember: Change is not new and God does not change. He was, is and always will be…seated on the throne! He is in control, has a plan, and is worthy of our praise!  -True Story

(Check out the Video Exponential times on youtube.com to learn more facts about our changing world.)

:) :( Feelings :( :)

Posted: April 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

Feelings- Opinion based more on emotion than on reason. The world says things like: “Follow your heart.” or “Do what feels good.” This way of thinking comes natural to our human flesh because it is easiest. This is why so many young people are without fathers, this is why around 1.2 million students drop out of high school yearly in the U.S., and this is why ever 30 seconds an abortion takes place in our country. The easy way out comes natural to us.
The Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” The word used for heart in this verse means feeling, will, and intellect. Feelings are good and apart of how God made us but we shouldn’t make decisions based on them. We can’t trust our feelings because they are misleading and always changing. Because our feelings are “deceitful above all things” I believe Satan tries his best to use them to get us off track.
Look at when and how Satan temps Jesus (Mat. 4:1-11). Satan tempts Jesus three times to take the easy way out, at a time when Jesus was hungry and tired. Jesus did not take the easy way, nor did He do what felt good. He made decisions based on truth. We should be wise and follow His example.
God’s Word is truth. “The Word of the Lord lasts forever.” 1Peter 1:25 “Every Word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” Prov. 30:5 Unlike our feelings, we can trust God’s Word.
Do you feel unforgivable? (1john 1:9) Do you feel that God has forgotten about you? (Ps. 139:17-18. Heb. 13:5) Do you feel like dropping out? (Prov. 18:15. Prov. 3:13) Do you feel alone and afraid? (Isa. 41:10)

How do you feel? What does the Bible say about that?

“Believe God’s Word and power more than you believe your own feelings and experiences.” -Samuel Rutherford

How did we get our Bible/canon?

      The Word “canon” comes from the Greek and means “list,” “rule,” or “standard.” A cannon of Scripture refers to a collection of books that a religious group considers Scripture. This is why some Bibles have more books than others. As a Baptist, I accept the Protestant Cannon as God’s Holy Scripture. Let’s take a look at how we got our Bible Standard and why is it important to have a cannon or Bible standard?

How did we get our OT (Old Testament)?

      Since the Reformation, Protestants have accepted the thirty-nine books, from Genesis to Malachi, as Scripture. Roman Catholics and Easter Orthodox Christians however, have other books in their cannon that were influential throughout the first 1500 years of church history. These books are known as apocryphal or “deuteron-canonical” books.

      The reason we stick with the shorter OT canon (Genesis-Malachi) is because these are the only OT books that the Jews considered Scripture at the time of Christ. When we look at the many writings of the rabbis’ (Jewish teachers) or even 1st century Jewish historian Josephus, we can see clearly what some of the Jewish beliefs during this time were. The Jews never believed the extra books (apocryphal or deuterocanonical books) were the inspired Word of God. One thing we see is the Jewish belief that prophecy had stopped after the time of Ezra, Nehemiah, and the latest of the Minor Prophets.

     We consider the 30 books in our OT as Scripture because at the time of Christ these are the books the Jews considered Scripture and if it was good enough for Jesus then it should be good enough for us.

Well, how did our New Testament come about?

In order for a Scripture to be canonized or become part of our Bible it had to go through tree tests.
1.) Authorship Test- Who wrote it? Was the author an Apostle? (Like Matthew, John, Peter, Paul?) Was the author closely associated to the Apostles? We know from history that Luke hung out with Paul, Peter with Mark, and Hebrews was written by Paul or someone close to Him. Was the author closely associated with Jesus? (Like Jude and James Jesus’ half-brothers) Was it written during the time of the Apostles? Some books claim they were written by Apostles but are dated too late for that to be possible.
2.) Contradictions Test- Does it contradict the teachings of the OT Scripture or that of Jesus or the Apostles?
    Let’s take a quick look at books excluded from the Protestant Canon: 2 Maccabees 12:44-45 encourages the praying for the dead to save them and speed them through purgatory.
No NT, text speaks of the existence of purgatory. Also Paul (Phil 1:23 and 2Cor 5:8) and the thief on the cross (LK 23:43 expected to be with Christ immediately after death. Jesus said He is “the way” (john 14:6) into heaven and there is no other way. Paul teaches “if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
      Another book not excepted into our Bible is the Gospel of Thomas. This writing teaches that in order to get into heaven you must be a man. This is a bunch of nonsense but some people were led astray by this kind of stuff and still are. John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus came and died for all the Whosoevers. Whosoever includes everyone: past, present, and future. The requirement to get right with God has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with what you believe about Jesus Christ. These two books mentioned above have clear contradictions with Christ’s and the Apostle’s teachings.
     Many other writings were not allowed into the Protestant Canon for the same reason.
3.) Ekklesia Test- Ekklesia is the Greek word for church. Has this writing proved useful for a majority of the churches from the earliest generations of Christians? Most , if not all, of the books in the Protestant Canon were already in use and accepted as scripture by a majority of early Christians before any meeting or council took place. We know this by looking at Christian History.

Why is this important?
Jesus saysJohn 10:10 “The theif comes to steal, kill, and destroy but I have come that you may have life and life abundantly.” In this verse Jesus is referring to false teachers as thieves. John 4:1 warns us “…do not believer everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit…For there are many false prophets in the world.” Anyone can write anything, say anything, and dream anything they want and say it is from God. Christians have always had to guard themselves against those who would like to lead them astray to false teachings. While the Apostles were around Christians could go to them for guidance about things. As they began to age and pass away, (According to history, all the apostles were martyred except for John.) having a standard of truth became super important. Having a standard for truth is important because it is a way of separating the Jewels from the Junk. It allows us to test what people say and whether or not it is from God. Having a standard of truth became very important when the Apostle began to grow old and pass away.

      It’s also important to know that our brothers and sisters in Christ, who have given us the standard we have today, knew about and reviewed the many deuterocanonical books and the books of the apocrypha. Some of these books might have put them to sleep, others might have been fun to read, and others may have been good history books but despite whether or not they liked them *they did not consider them to be scripture.
      So, the next time you hear about some finding of a lost or forgotten book of the Bible on T.V. or on the web- Don’t Be Fooled! It wasn’t forgotten. It’s not in our Bible for a reason.
(for more on this topic see my source for this article: Introduction to Biblical Interpretations by Klein, Blomberg, Hubbard)