New Series: VIVID

As the parent of a student, you know the disconnect that often occurs between what teenagers say they believe and the way they live throughout their lives. Adolescents, like all Christ-followers, fight the constant temptation of falling into the trap of saying one thing while doing another. The Book of James clearly addresses this issue.

James puts forth a simple idea: our actions should match our beliefs. This is what it means to live a vivid faith through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In light of this, we are really excited to be launching a new series this week in ignition.  We’ll be digging into the book of James rooted in a study from youthministry360 entitled Vivid: A 6-lesson Study on the Book of James. This study will challenge students to evaluate their faith and their actions, to identify where the two don’t match up, and to make the necessary changes to live a life of a vivid faith. During the next six weeks your child will learn about:

  • the struggle with sin that lives in every Christ-follower
  • the danger of showing favoritism to those who are easy to like
  • the importance of spiritual fruit in our lives
  • the power of words
  • the futility of trying to love the world and God
  • the importance of submitting to God’s leadership

You’ll be receiving follow-up reminders from me as we teach these topics. We want to equip you with overviews of what we talked about as well as some follow-up suggestions you and your student might use to continue this important conversation.

We want to be known as a student ministry who leads students to live a vivid faith, standing as a powerful witness to a watching world.

Our students have immeasurable influence and present-day potential. Let’s unleash them as brilliant lights into this dark and hurting world!

The Making of a King

Hey Parents! This week we launch an exciting new series in ignition: The Making of a King.

Every good story has a hero. Think about it. Superman. Luke Skywalker. Katniss Everdeen. They aren’t just random characters. They’re larger than life. Maybe they’re not perfect, but they’re exciting and they’re brave. And that’s what keeps us interested. That’s why we cheer for them.

Believe it or not, the Bible is full of heroes like that. They don’t have capes and light sabers, but they are heroes who fought giants, built arks, became spies, defeated armies, and saved the day over and over. One of the most famous ones is named David—or maybe you know him as King David. Like many others, David’s life was exciting, epic even. And at first glance it can feel like we have zero common with him. Even on our most exciting days our lives don’t exactly feel heroic. But as we take a closer look at the journey of this shepherd boy turned king, we see it wasn’t always a royal fairytale. In fact, as we discover the twists and turns of his road to the throne, his life begins to look more like ours than we ever imagined.

Remember when you were a kid and you couldn’t wait to grow up? There were probably a lot of reasons, but many of them boiled down to one idea: When I grown up, I’ll be in charge. No one can tell me what to do. It was a nice idea, but that’s not exactly our adult reality, is it? In fact, sometimes feels like growing up has left us answering to more people, not less. And what’s worse is when not all these authority figures are exactly ideal for the job. Maybe you’ve experienced…

  • The police officer who is out of line.
  • The governor you totally disagree with.
  • The boss who seems clueless.
  • The homeowners’ association president/tyrant.
  • The in-laws who think they’re in charge.

Nothing is more frustrating. And in moments like that it can be tempting to employ our go-to response. Maybe you tend to lash out, argue, or respond with harsh sarcasm. Or maybe for you it’s more tempting to ignore them or sneak around their rules. Either way, when it comes to a clash with authority, there is often more on the line than we realize. Overwhelmingly, research suggests that our teenagers’ behavior is more influenced by what they see us do than what they hear us say is best.

In his article, I Spy Daddy Giving Someone The Finger: Your kids will imitate you. Use it as a force for good, Dr. Allen Kazdin, former president of the American Psychological Association, says, “Brain research has demonstrated that there are special cells called mirror neurons. When we watch someone do something, our mirror neurons become active in the brain as if we ourselves were engaging in the same behavior we are observing.”

In other words, when watching our behavior, our students’ brains react and grow new connections that tell them to do the same.

That’s why, even with the most difficult and undeserving authority figures, it may still serve us well to treat them with respect. In doing so, our students’ brains will form connections that remind them to do the same.

This week, pay attention to your interactions with your boss, coworkers, government workers, and even your own parents or in-laws. Now, imagine what you would say if you overheard your teenager responding to people in charge the same way you do. Because, if the research is true, there’s a good chance that one day they will.

There will always be people in charge who frustrate us. That’s true for our students as well. In fact, sometimes we are the ones who frustrate them. So, modeling respect for authority is a huge deal. But that doesn’t mean we have to be stoic. This week try mentioning to your student one situation where you are frustrated by authority and how you’re dealing with it. Say something like…

Sometimes it’s hard not to give my boss piece of my mind. He can be really offensive, but I won’t let his rude tone force me to act the same way.

I really disagree with the politicians who are in charge right now. Some of their policies make no sense to me. I’ll respect their office, but I’ll vote differently next time.

It’s really hard for me to be nice to grandma when she acts like she’s in charge. I know I’m grown and I don’t have to listen to her, but I’m still doing my best to treat her well because she is my mother.

When we acknowledge our own struggles, it gives us credibility with our students.

They see that we are still fighting for relationships even when it isn’t easy. And that may just be what gives them the courage to do the same.

©2015 The reThink Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Jesus and Tough Times: Devotional 3

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand . . . Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.” Psalm 40:1-2, 11-12

Have you ever felt like the guy (King David, FYI) who wrote the psalm above?

Sometimes our troubles are so many we can’t even count them. We can’t even see because it seems like everything is going horrible wrong. Our courage to face a new day is spent. It’s during these times we beg God to be with us. All we can do is ask Him to show us His love and steady our feet on the road as we go forward. In short, sometimes all we have is to cling to Him that He will be with us no matter what.

Do you believe (like King David) that God will be at your side to get you through the tough times? Why or why not?

Read the rest of Psalm 40.

What are you doing to hold onto God during your bad times?

Just for fun... U2 (one of my FAV bands of all time) has put this Psalm to music. Check out one of their original performances at the amazing Red Rocks venue:

Jesus and Tough Times: Devotional 1

While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Hebrews 5:7

Have you ever cried yourself to sleep? If not have you ever been so angry you wanted to punch something, or screamed into a pillow in your room? Think for a moment, “When things are going wrong, what do you do?” Do you scream, hit someone, or take it out on a friend or sibling? You know, Jesus Himself expressed a lot of emotion when HE experienced a tough time.

Look again at Matthew 26: 36-46.

Stop and think for a moment about all that was going on with Jesus at this moment. He was about to be arrested, beat up, spit at, bullied, teased, whipped, and nailed to a cross. After all of that He was going to die a painful death being treated like a criminal when He had done nothing wrong. If you knew all of this was about to happen, how would you feel?No, stop for a moment, close your eyes and think about how you would feel.

It’s fair that Jesus really didn’t want it to happen and that He needed to talk to God about it.

Can you relate when things are going bad for you? Do you want God to “fix” it? At the very least to you want things to change? Are you honest with God during those times about how you are feeling? Why or why not?

Something to think about . . .

  • Do you tell God on a regular basis how you are feeling about life? Why or why not? Have you ever thought about how He wants to hear from us, and all that we are thinking and feeling?
  • Jesus showed us that it’s alright to tell God anything we are thinking or feeling. God also showed us that He helped Jesus deal through His feelings. Do you believe God can help you through the tough times better when you are honest with Him? Why or why not?

March ReFuel Series: Jesus in Tough Times

We are starting a new series tomorrow night called, “Jesus and the Tough Times.” We are spending our time really talking about where the Lord is when things go wrong. It was a great discussion about some hard things.

This week, the lesson is entitled “The God Who Listens” and it focuses on understanding that when we experience tough times, we can and should express their emotions to God in real, honest ways.

We will look at the following Scripture passages:
  • Matthew 26:36-46
  • Hebrews 5:7

This is the recounting of how Jesus talked to God in the Garden right before He was arrested. It’s a powerful example of how Jesus called, cried and was open with the Father about how He was feeling.

Next Steps . . .

Here are some of the questions you may want to be processing for the rest of the week..

  • Do you feel like that it is easy or hard for you to be honest with God about what you’re feeling?
  • Do you feel like hearing more about the way Jesus was honest with God might be helpful? Why or why not?
  • What are you going to do in trying to be more honest with God about the way you are feeling about life?
By asking questions and looking more closely at the things that we are maybe a little afraid of – or that make us a little uncomfortable, we can begin to develop a faith that lasts for our entire lifetime and a relationship with Jesus that is unshakable.

Jesus and Identity: Week 2, Devotional 3

Your challenge today is to simply meditate on this thought:

What evidence do you see in your life that you are remaining in Jesus?

After all, Jesus said if we remain in Him, we bear much fruit. The idea of bearing fruit is a way of saying, “our lives will show a lot of evidence that we’re staying totally dialed in to God.”

So, look at your life. What evidence is there that Jesus is working in and through you? Think about two or three specific ways. Now, here’s the hard question: if there is not a lot of fruit in your life, don’t you have to ask if you’re truly remaining close to Christ?

Spend some time in prayer today talking with God about this concept. Listen to Him as He points out any aspects of your life where you are distant from Him.

Jesus and Identity: Week 2, Devotional 2

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”      John 15:1-2

If a plant could talk, what do you think it would say about being pruned? (You know what pruning is, right? It’s trimming branches and leaves so that a shrub or plant can either take a desired shape, or so that it might grow more effectively.) So, what do you think?

What would a plant say about being pruned?

If we had to guess, you can bet the plants didn’t like it all that much.

Getting part of you cut off is probably a bummer. But here’s the deal: Chances are, the plants would recognize that pruning is good for them. It allows them to grow healthier. It prevents disease. It encourages new growth. And so while pruning means that some of the plant is cut off, new, healthy growth takes its place.

Can you see the parallel in your life?

Jesus says that God prunes you, just like a gardener prunes a shrub. God knows the things in your life that keep you from following Him wholeheartedly. And so God, being a loving gardener, removes those aspects of your life to help you follow Him more.

Pruning isn’t fun. But we have to know that God prunes us because He loves us. Whatever it is He cuts away, we can trust that it was keeping us from being fully devoted to Him.