The End Is Here

Tonight’s discussion was about the final chapter of “Love Wins” by Rob Bell. We have enjoyed our journey through this often challenging book and the way that it has assisted us in asking big questions about our faith journeys.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from this chapter:

“Jesus invites us to trust that the love we fear is too good to be true is actually good enough to be true.”

“Jesus invites us to become, to be drawn into this love as it shapes us and forms us and takes over every square inch of our lives.”

The concluding statement of the book should not be summarized and so I include it here in its complete form:

Jesus passionately urges us to live like the end is here,

now,

today.

love is what God is,

love is why Jesus came,

and love is why he continues to come,

year after year to person after person.

love is why I’ve written this book, and

love is what I want to leave you with.

may you experience this vast,

expansive, indestructible love

that has been yours all along

may you discover that this love is as wide

as the sky and as small as the cracks in

your heart no one else knows about.

and may you know,

deep in your bones,

that love wins.

 

Jesus invites us to experience new life in Him with an increasing sense of urgency. His messages to the people always include a deep sense of urgency and we must carry this into our everyday faith lives. Living for God and Jesus is not a “someday” sort of thing-it is a here and immediately thing.

Blessings on your faith journey!

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Welcoming the stranger

At yesterday’s youth group we spent the entire hour discussing Genesis 18:1-15 and how it relates to our lives today.

Abraham encounters 3 strangers and instead of doing what I would have done (hidden behind my door and waited until they went away) he extends a welcome beyond what anyone would have anticipated.

Middle Eastern hospitality required that one give shelter, food and water to any unexpected guest. However, what Abraham does, goes far beyond that. He tells Sarah to bake bread using 3 seahs of their finest flour. Firstly, this means that Sarah is baking 60 loaves of bread to feed 3 guests. Secondly, this isn’t the flour that is typically used-but a special type of flour.

And then Abraham even goes beyond that! He orders for a calf to be killed and prepared as an addition to the meal he is giving his guests. Meat was not a staple for a daily diet and was instead used for special occasions.

While not understanding that he was, in fact, offering hospitality to the Lord, Abraham went above and beyond anything that would have been expected of him. As a result, he was in a good position to receive a message from God expressed through strangers.

We, then, should strive to welcome the strangers among us with hospitality that exceeds anything they would have expected. When we bless others, we place ourselves in a better position to be blessed by God.

As Hebrews 13:1-3 reminds us, we could be entertaining angels unawares.

Conversations with Rob Bell

For the past few weeks, the Senior High have been reading through “Love Wins” and engaging in difficult questions which prompt a lot of soul searching.

We have discussed different ideas of heaven, hell and what makes someone a follower of Jesus.

We have discussed challenges to our world views and how we can address some of the most complicated issues of our times.

The conversations have been rewarding and difficult.

This week we discussed Chapter 6 “There are Rocks Everywhere.”

The point that provided the most meat for discussion came from page 161. In it Rob states “Paul’s interpretation that Christ was present in the Exodus raises the question: Where else has Christ been present? When else? With who else? How else? Paul finds Jesus there, in that rock, because Paul finds Jesus everywhere.”

So where are we missing Jesus in our lives? Where do we avoid seeing Jesus? How can we draw closer to Jesus without acknowledging His presence in every area of our lives?

Does love really win?

The high school group has recently begun to read through the book “Love Wins.” I decided to alter how our group was doing lessons when I realized that the questions the youth were asking were much deeper than my lessons tended to go.

By reading through this book (which addresses most of the significant questions they have) we are able to spend time dissecting our own thoughts and feelings about the Christian faith as well as our concerns.

Because we aren’t doing deeply structured lessons, we allow the conversation to flow in whatever direction the youth take it. This enables us to address the topics that matter to them and learn more about each other during the process.

These high schoolers are incredibly bright, compassionate individuals and are seeking a faith which reflects how they see the world. It is my constant challenge and privilege to bring Christianity into the 21st century and reveal how a relationship with God truly changes everything.

So blessed to be on this journey with them!

Living Like Jesus-Luke 15

This week in high school we discussed the three parables in Luke 15 and how they reveal God’s heart for the lost. We also talked about ways which we can seek the lost in our community and how we can help them.

We used these parables to learn that God’s love for the individual is so great that he seeks out each individual and rejoices when they have been found.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep:

When someone wanders away from God, He doesn’t just wait for them to return. He actively and deliberately searches for them and yearns to bring them back to join the others.

God is still actively seeking us even now and desires to have a closer relationship with us.

Do you consider yourself to be among the 99 or the 1? Why or why not?

Have you ever felt like you have wandered away from God? What has brought you back to a closer relationship with Him?

The Parable of the Lost Coin

Palestinian women were given 10 coins in a headdress on their wedding day. Losing one of them would cause immense sorrow. It would be similar to losing a wedding ring in its emotional and monetary significance.

Jesus points out that heaven stops and rejoices whenever anyone finds God’s love and mercy. Imagine that! The heavenly creatures take time to rejoice over a single individual who chooses to accept God’s love and mercy and compassion.

The parable of the lost son is lengthy and familiar to most. We spent time looking at its background and discussing how we fall away from God and how it feels to come back and experience God’s love again as if nothing has ever happened.

Who in your life seems lost? Who seems like they need help? How can you reach out to them in kindness and compassion?

Living like Jesus- Risky Business

Once Jesus began his public ministry he attracted a lot of attention with his teachings around Galilee. In Luke 4:14-30 Jesus stated that he was the fulfillment of God’s plan revealed by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah and he explained who he came to save (which certainly was not what the people had expected to hear). We also see how the people who had known Jesus for his entire life reacted to his message as well as how he handled himself.

The people had been impressed with Jesus’ teaching until he began to speak about the non-Israelites helped by the prophets Elijah and Elisha. The crowd was not please that he would bring salvation to the Gentiles and not just the Jews–>that God’s message of love and gracy and mercy was for the entire world, and not just a select few.

There were three main points to today’s lesson.

  1. You are chosen
    1. Do you believe God has a role or assignemnt for every Christian? Why or why not?
    2. What assignment do you think God might have for you and why?
    3. Jesus says that he was sent to save the poor, the prisoners, the blind, the oppressed, those who were in heavy debt. How can we be like Jesus and serve people like that within our own communities?
  2. You are called to go
    1. If you could go anywhere in the world and offer your gifts and abilities to help others, where would you go and why?
    2. What are some close-to-home needs you could help to meet right away?
  3. You are called to speak
    1. When have you positively impacted someone through something you have said?
    2. When and how have you spoken to someone about what God has done in your life or how much he loves everyone?

Being a Christian in today’s society isn’t easy. The people that call themselves Christian are often the most divisive figures in the news. How can we combat this image of Christianity-hostile, out-of-touch, racist, elitist, etc? What can do within our own communities to alter other people’s perceptions of what Christianity is?

Living Like Jesus-Week One

Just like me?

This lesson’s passage from Luke reveals the only picture we have of Jesus’ childhood between infancy and the start of his adult ministry. It reminds us that Jesus grew up like a regular person: mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially. Jesus’ example reminds us of the importance of letting GOd’s Word guide our life in all areas.

We examined Luke 2:41-52

  1. Grow in Wisdom
    1. how do you define wisdom? how do you know when you have met a wise person?
    2. Jesus was God in human form, but he was also fully human, so how did he become wise? What choices and habits helped Jesus to develop wisdom?

Wisdom means developing the ability to learn, ask questions, and apply information and our experiences to our future choices. Jesus chose to study Scripture and spend time with teachers in order to learn more. This helped give him the wisdom he needed to handle situations he faced further down the road.

2. Grow in stature

  1. Why would God care about the way we treat our physical bodies?
  2. Why is it important for you to care about your physical health, now, as a teenager?

When we are young, our bodies grow physically without us doing much about it. But as we get older, our bodies need attention in areas like fitness and nutrition so we can maintain our physical abilities and enjoy different activities. Being physically healthy isn’t about fittin a certain body image promoted by our culture, but about recognizing that responsible stewardship of our bodies is a form of worshipping and honoring God.

 

3. Grow in relationship with God.

  1. Some people seem to have a very close relationship with God-who is someone you know that fits that description?
  2. Why do some people seem to really go deeper in their relationship with God, while others seem to be content having a more distant relationship?

How do we get to know someone? It is difficult to describe exactly, but it begins by spending time with that person. We learn information and characteristics, and then we can interact on a deeper level and even predict how that person will feel about a particular issue. how do we develop that kind of friendship with God? By doing what Jesus did-spending time with GOd, experiencing His story and better understanding who God is.

4. Grow in relationship with others.

  1. Do you think that Jesus was the kind of person who had a lot of friends or just a few close friends? Why?
  2. what are some characteristics of Jesus that would draw friends to him?
  3. what are some characteristics that might repel friends from him?
  4. why does GOd care if we have meaningful relationships with other people?

We all spend time with friends, family members, classmates, teammates, co-workers, and other people in our community. But healthy relationships can be difficult! We don’t always get along with everyone and we have to balance our needs with the needs of others. Relationships are important because they can help us find our purpose in the world.

 

 

Family Communication week 2-Understanding each other

This week’s Senior High Lesson focused on moving beyond merely listening to what another person has to say. We focused instead on what to do with that information-how could we become more understanding once we truly listened?

We discussed Colossians 3:12-15 at length and picked out our favorite words that we wanted to focus on achieving with our families.

We spent time talking about our own failures at understanding our parents and siblings and looked for ways in which we could improve.

We decided to seek forgiveness for a wrong we committed against a family member this week and will discuss how this went the next time we meet.

We engaged in group activities to try and facilitate better communication skills among ourselves and had a lot of fun building a giant Solo Cup structure!

The Art of family communication

Great relationships are built on great communication. Great communication os about listening and having self-control than it is about talking. Jesus teaches us that we need to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Those lessons are crucial to remember when dealing with our family members!

In today’s lesson we read James 1:19-27 and James 3:1-12. Those two passages offered reminders and strategies on effective communication. We are reminded of just how powerful words can be and how important it is to be careful about what we say to others and about ourselves.

Here are a few questions that we spent time exploring:

Why is it so difficult to listen and really hear someone who you disagree with?

What does “quick to listen” mean on a practical level?

What is the difference between hearing and listening?

Think of a time you damaged a friendship because you spoke too quickly or said the wrong words. What changes did you make after that experience?

Who is someone that you would describe as a person who is “slow to speak”? What does that person do that other people do not?

How would your family life improve if you were to slow down your speaking?

What is something that happens in your family that really makes you angry?

How does our anger impact our ability to communicate with others?

How does our speech reveal our relationship with God?

The purpose of the Law

Why should modern day Christians even bother learning about the Old Testament law? Why would we think that it has any relevance whatsoever to our current faith journeys?

 

These were the main questions that we sought to answer during Senior High youth group yesterday afternoon. What follows is a summary of the lesson material as well as some questions to ponder. Remember, if you miss a week of youth group you can always find the lesson basics here!

 

Main scripture passage: Exodus 20:1-20

Intro-Sometimes we think that rules/expectations put on us by our family, teachers, coaches, etc are too difficult for us to follow. But what we must remember is that these (usually) are expectations and rules created to be in our own best interest. Similarly, God always has our best interests in mind and created His Law as a reflection of this. God’s law can help us avoid painful consequences of unwise choices as well as provide a blueprint for our everyday lives.

Main points:

  1. The Law serves as a reminder to remain in awe of God.
    1. We do not become somehow “better” in God’s eyes by obeying the law. Nor does it mean that we are somehow living out our faith more accurately than other people around us. Our relationship with God is only restored through our faith in Jesus and acceptance of His offer of forgiveness. That’s it. Following or not following the law doesn’t alter your standing in your relationship with God one little bit. We can find value in understanding the purposes for the Law because those purposes remain relevant for us today.
      1. What are some of the most awesome things that God has done in your life?
      2. How do you know God was behind those things?
      3. How have you seen God acting in the world around you?
  2. The Law is a reminder for us to make God our top priority in life
    1. How do others know what your main priorities are?
    2. How could you make God your top priority? What would that look like?
    3. What are some things that people worship other than God and how can you tell that those things are what they worship?
  3. The Law reminds us how to treat other people
    1. More than half of the 10 Commandments devotes itself to the treatment of other people.
    2. Why do you think God views our relationships with other people as so important?
    3. When do you find it hardest to love/respect other people? How can you move past that?
  4. The Law reminds us to work towards keeping our motives pure.
    1. When you look at other people’s belongings or new items in stores and wish they belonged to you, what are your underlying motivations?
    2. How can we try to avoid desiring what other people have and being content with what we already have?

I hope you find this helpful and challenging!