Parents, Don’t Give Up!

My wife and I had a great idea. Let’s sit down once a week for a family devotion, read a bible story to our kids, and pray as a family. I asked everyone to join me in my daughter’s room and I opened up the Jesus Storybook Bible (our favorite) and began reading. Fast-forward two minutes and I am angrily telling my son to go to his room because he can’t be quiet, my daughter has jumped off the bed and hurt her self for the 10th time that day, and my wife has that look on her face that says, “This was a disaster.” I honestly felt like giving up, but I knew it was just the beginning of the process.

All of that to say, parenting is hard. Parenting and trying to raise your kids to love Jesus–even more difficult. Being a parent is one of the messiest, most challenging, beautiful, rewarding, stressful, and thankless jobs in the world. Multiply that by 20 if you are the parent of a teenager.

Don’t give up. Just like God is relentlessly pursuing your heart, don’t give up pursuing the heart of your child. Keep challenging them to follow what God has called them to do. Don’t give up modeling the kind of love for Christ you want to see develop in them. Pray for them daily.

You will not get everything right. You will make mistakes. However, you will also teach your teen some incredible lessons about Jesus in the process–especially as you admit your weakness and your own dependency upon Jesus’ grace.

RHBC parents, know you are loved by our Student Ministry Team and we want to partner with you in this process! Look for more blog posts and video blogs coming soon!

Hi, I’m Bart and I’m an Approval Junkie


It is time to recap a few highlights from week 2 of our series Fake ID: Reclaiming Our Identity in Christ. This past week we tackled some common misconceptions about self-image. Here are a few thoughts from the talk. Credit to Kyle Idleman and Southeast Christian Church, whose message and series inspired much of what we have talked about. Here is what you might have missed Sunday night at Crave:

We are obsessed with how we portray ourselves and how others view us. We are all “brand managers”. Selfies are one symptom of our need to manage our image–we want control over how we look in a photo and which photos we put on social media.

We have bought into a huge lie: My self-worth = My performance + Others’ Approval. So many mistakes in our lives can be traced back to wanting to perform or wanting to be loved.

In Ephesians 2, we find the remedy for our image problems.

1. You are not who you were. We are not defined by our failures.

Paul says, in Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead…” In order to get a picture of who we are in Christ we have to remember who we were. He reminds us of who we were, but it is not who we are. We think the truest thing about ourself is our past failure, but that is not the truest thing about you.We do not have to live from our old failures and old identity. Those failures and sins may be true of you, but they don’t have to define you in Christ!

2. You are not what you do. We are not defined by our successes.

Many of us were told early and often our personal achievements build our worth. Our value is defined by what we accomplish. Or maybe we have been told our religious resume is what makes us a follower of Christ.I have struggled with this mindset in my battle with perfectionism. A perfectionist is someone whose standards go beyond reach and reason. Someone who strains compulsively toward impossible goals and who measures their self worth entirely in terms of their performance. Those who are miserably caught up in the trap of their own success–always having to prove ourselves once again, or do better, or accomplish more.

Legalism is also a result of determining our worth by our own religious accomplishment. It is falling into the trap we have to earn our right to stand before God. We have to be good enough to earn God’s favor, or at least, we have to be “better” than the other people around us.But Paul reminds us we are not defined by our personal or religious successes. Ephesians 2:5 says, “It is by grace you have been saved through faith…it is the gift of God, not by works…” There is nothing we can add by our own strength to what Christ has already done and accomplished for us on the cross. There is no sin too great Christ cannot forgive.The world says, you must achieve your worth, Christ says just receive it.

3. You are not what people say or think about you. We are not defined by others’ approval.

Finally, we are not what people say or think about us.

Let me introduce myself. Hi, my name is Bart and I’m an approval junkie. I love to be loved. I am constantly afraid of not being liked. I, unfortunately, often give others the power to define my worth by what they think about me.

How do you know if you are an approval junkie too? Do you get crushed by small words of criticism? Are you afraid to run against the crowd? Is it hard to say no, even when it is wise? Do you lie to make yourself look good?

The solution to our need for approval is to understand no one has the power to label you or define your worth–only the One who made you! In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says, “You are God’s workmanship…” The Greek word for workmanship used in scripture is poiema. It is the same word we get the English word poem from. It means, literally, “something made”. You are God’s design, His creation, and our worth comes from what He says about who you are in Christ, not what others say!

We need to hear these truths about ourselves regularly. They need to be the determining factor for our identity. To wrap up the night, we asked students to go home, take a dry erase marker, and write one of these truths on their mirror. Hopefully, these truths will help you!

1. I am not my failures (Eph. 2:1)

2. I am not my successes (Eph. 2:5)

3. I am not what others think about me (Eph. 2:10)


Fake ID: Reclaiming Our Identity in Christ


Imagine you walk into a room and you had to fill out one of those, “Hello, my name is…” stickers. Seems simple, however in this case, you have to write something OTHER than your name to identify who you are. What would you write?

We asked our students to do the same exercise last night at Crave. Responses, of course, were all over the board. I wrote “Dad” on my name tag because it is an identity I feel a lot of pride in right now. Most students wrote nicknames or what they do (football player, drum major, student). Most people, probably define themselves by what they do. Others, maybe what people say about them and have spoken into their life. Word have power to shape the very core of who we are.

Identity is important. In fact, who we are, or what we think about ourselves, or even what others say about us, often determines our behavior. Who we are becomes what we do. Everyday we live our lives out of the identity we have assumed. If our identity is in our performance, we strive for perfection or achievement. If our identity is found in what people think about us, we strive for popularity and approval. We gut-wrenchingly ask ourselves questions like, “Am I good enough? Do people like me?”

If what we do flows from our identity, we must decide who we are in order to know how we should live. We must know what scripture says about our identity. Last night, at Crave, we looked at Ephesians 1:3-14 and our identity in Christ. I say “in Christ” because that is how the Bible defines our identity as Christians. In fact, scripture mentions the phrase, “in Christ”, or something similar at least 216 times! If I repeat something 216 times to you, you must know it is important!

Perhaps, then, a better question to ask ourselves when it comes to our identity is not “Who am I?”, but “Who am I in Christ? What does God say about my identity?” Knowing who I am in Christ means when something in life is taken away–my health, approval from others, or my ability to perform–the core of who I am is still firmly planted in Christ. I am on a firm foundation and my identity cannot be shaken.

If I were to re-write my name tag based on who I am in Christ, from Ephesians 1:3-14, I would find my true identity and so can you. Here is what He says about us!


Blessed (v.3)
Do you ever feel like nothing ever goes right for you? Do you feel defined more by what you don’t have than what you do have? Well, to put it somewhat bluntly, open your eyes to what you have been given in Christ! In Christ, God has given us everything we need–every spiritual blessing according to verse 3. Time would cease before we could really exhaust the many blessings we are given in Christ. We do not deserve grace, but it has been given! We do not deserve another breath, but God has mercifully allowed us another day of life! We are blessed–maybe not in the way you expect–but so much more!

Blameless (v.4)/Forgiven (v. 7)
It is easy to allow our sins to define us–to dwell upon our failures and all the ways we don’t measure up. If people knew our thoughts and desires, they would know the “real you” is far from God’s standard. We slip into the trap of just giving in to sin or trying to clean ourselves for God. However, according to Ephesians 1:4, we don’t need to work for our identity, we need to work from our identity in Christ. We can’t earn forgiveness that has already been given and our sins don’t define us. In Christ, we can stand before God holy and blameless. Not because of what we have done or will do, but because of the holy and blameless life he lived. Our sins are paid for, forgiven, and they don’t define us.

Adopted (v.5)
To understand the idea of adoption, we must think about the life of an infant in the Roman world. Infants were often placed at their father’s feet and he either picked them up, acknowledging they are his, or walked away and abandoned them. Children were abandoned for many different reasons–wrong gender, physical deformity, and many others. Because it was unlawful to kill a child, they would simply leave them in a public place and let the gods determine their fate. Praise God when he looked at us, even with our flaws and the ways we have been damaged by sin, He looked at us and lifted us up and adopted us into His family! In Him, we are loved and accepted and will never be alone!

May our identity in Christ forever shape who we truly are! Don’t miss part 2 of our series at Crave next week!

The Family Series


This week we at Merge we are beginning a new series on the Family.

I’m really excited about this series because we all come from a family. Good, bad, or otherwise we are all attached to some type of family unit. The good thing about what we will talk about applies to all family dynamics including how students relate to the adults in charge of their lives, how they relate to their siblings, and what God has to say about their family.

I have three specific goals for this series that I want students to walk away with:

  1. I want them to know what it means to honor their parents and have some practical ways of honoring them in the coming weeks.
  2. How students should respond and submit to the authority in our lives.
  3. How students can communicate more effectively with their parents.

Each week during merge we will come up with 2 take home challenges for them do during the next week.

One thing I want to ask you as parents on the front end of the series, is for you to be open to your student looking for ways to change how they relate to you (in a good way). I’m praying that God does something very special in your families through this series and that He turns what can be a challenging time, into something that forever changes the relationship between parents and students.

I will be posting regularly on how the series is going and specifics on what I hope is changing in your home.

As always thank you for the opportunity to serve you and your family.


Sex and Dating series Recap


Two weeks ago, we started our yearly look at sex and dating for our middle school students.

The reason we do this was made so clear to me when a student asked, “Why are we studying this in church?!”

I’m sure many of the other students in the room were wondering the same thing, but he was the only one willing to voice it.

My answer to him was simple. The reason we do this series is because the world around us has expressed its views about sex and if we as the church do not stand up and talk about God’s designs and views on sex, then our student will believe the wrong messages and believe the lie that the world tells about sex.

Attached below you will find my notes from the past weeks. I provide these so I can be as transparent with you as possible. Since these are my notes, it might be hard to know what I meant, or what I was trying to say. Please contact me so I can answer any questions you might have.

Also below you’ll find some links that will help you as you prepare to and talk to your student about sex and dating. There are also some great resources dealing with pornography.

My hope and prayer is that this will help you as you have conversations with your student about sex. I say conversations because we are long past the time where a simple sex talk would do. The sex talk needs to happen regularly.

I told our students that I love them and that even more than your love for them is God’s love for them. He wants them to date well. He wants them to make wise decisions when it comes to dating and sex. He also wants them to marry well.

All of these things are hard to when they have the wrong views of sex and dating.

Please let me know how I can best serve you and your family.

Week 1 Notes

Week 2 Notes


 Tips for Parents on Talking About Porn

What to do if Your Student is Looking at Porn

Your Children and Sex

Pornography and Sex

Books for Students on Sex from Christian Authors


DR Mission Trip Update #3

image image image image image image image imageWell, we are currently sitting in the Charlotte airport–again, haha, for our flight home. Everything is good though as our flight is on time and our flight this AM was smooth. I thought I would take this chance to summarize the projects we did with Pastor Yorbi.

The first construction project was the roof of the church. Our team had to scrape, scrub, and Clorox the roof in order to paint it. It was hard and very hot work but, by the third day, they were able to paint! Our team on the roof were mostly girls which impressed the community around us!

The second project at the Baptist Church was to break apart a concrete slab, dig out about two feet of dirt to level out a floor, and build a shelter to feed kids breakfast every Sunday morning. The work was tough, but our team did a great job of rotating workers and figuring out the most efficient way of breaking up and shoveling the dirt. While we were working, some men from the church welded metal supports for the roof. They put the roof on and the project was finished!

In the afternoon, Pastor Yorbi’s team also did children’s ministry. We had over 100 kids every day come for the program. We used a local shelter with a volleyball court to hold the VBS. Pastor Yorbi’s passion for children’s ministry was evident as he jumped in and helped lead some songs and talk with the kids. Our team was incredibly helpful as they planned bible story, crafts, games, and we even combined bands for music.

At both sites, our teams were shown incredible hospitality and fed very well for lunch each day. Pastor Yorbi had us for lunch in his own home everyday.

Thats a quick summary of both worksites and I hope each post helps spark conversation with your teenager about this life-changing trip!

DR Mission Trip Update #2

I finally have a few minutes of spare time and so I thought it would be great to post an update. I would like to take the chance to walk you through the different ministry opportunities we had this week.image image image image image image image image image

Team Pastor Francis is the team who is working with Oasis Church. Every morning, the team does construction projects and every afternoon we do children’s ministry.

The construction projects were difficult but incredibly rewarding. Our team was split into three groups–two working on building cinder block homes and one digging a well.  The construction of the homes involved moving cinder blocks from the road to the work site, mixing concrete (by shovel not machine!), and laying the block with the help of a Maestro (a foreman). By the middle of our first day many of our students picked up on the process so fast, they could work on their own without help from the Maestro.

The most satisfying part of building the home had to be working with the family who would be living in it. Wilson is the name of the Dad, his wife’s name is Carla, and they have a toddler named Wilbur. Wilson was out there every day, showing us how to build, and getting to know each other pretty effectively despite the language barrier. He was so grateful for the ministry we were providing and impressed with how hard we were working. Leaving him was a bittersweet moment as we really developed a strong relationship as brothers in Christ!

The other project at Oasis Church was our well digging project. One of the church members, Elizabeth, shared with us how she walks over a mile with her kids every day to the church to take showers. Her eyes welled up as she spoke about their need for water. Our well team worked so hard to begin the process for her family to have the access to water she so desperately needs. We were able to get down through the most difficult layers of dirt and roots so that another team will be able to complete the 40-ft well! Elizabeth was so grateful but also spoke of her family’s joy that, despite not having access to water, she knows the One who gives Living Water!

We haven’t even talked about children’s ministry so I will summarize it briefly. We were blown away by the amount of kids that showed up each day for VBS! At Oasis Church we had around 70 kids each day. Our students were responsible for leading the bible story, craft, music, and everything else and they did a phenomenal job of sharing the love of Christ with each kid.

We wrapped up with a big thank you time and we all came away with a sense of humility in the opportunity to serve Christ together and share the Gospel with the community as the Global Church. The church was so hospitable and poured into us, and hopefully, we also poured into them. There is so much more, but little time, so I look forward to tthe conversations we will all have at home!

Here are a few pics from Team Francis and I will update you as soon as I can on team Yorbi!