Series Recap: Beyond Me

explore-2I hope our series recaps will be helpful to you all as we take a look back at what we have been studying in Crave on Sunday nights. Parents, perhaps this will lead to some family discussion for you all as we know the typical response from all teenagers when you ask what they learned at Crave is probably going to be some kind of unintelligible grunt.

Here are some of the highlights I thought might be helpful:

Week 1 (Selected readings from Acts)

  • Church has become far too much about me and my needs. The gospel message was always meant to go “beyond me” and out into the world.
  • The apostles were not superheroes taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, these were ordinary men who were captivated by the message of Jesus Christ and who could not keep from talking to people about it boldly.
  • Charles Spurgeon once said, “Every Christian here is either a missionary or an imposter.”
  • The filling of the Spirit here (in our hearts) will produce the Word of God here (our mouths). Almost every time scripture says the apostles were “filled with the Spirit”, they would boldly be proclaiming the gospel message.

Week 2 (3 evangelistic stories from Acts 16)

  • Acts included three important conversion stories: Lydia–a wealthy business woman,  a demon-possessed slave girl–held spiritually and physically captive, and a Philippian jailer–a high ranking Roman official.
  • These three stories were included to teach us something. Primarily, 2 important principles:
    • 1. Everyone needs Jesus!
      • The gospel is for everyone. There is not a soul on earth that is not in need of the message of the gospel. We all have the same Creator, the same problem (sin), and the same solution (Jesus).
      • We can not make assumptions about people
        • You don’t know that the popular girl that seems to have everything together cries herself to sleep at night because even perfect isn’t good enough for her parents.
        • You don’t know that the guy who is antagonistic toward christianity has been burned by the church and is just waiting for a genuine christian to break down the walls of hostility.
        • You don’t know that the addict who is self medicating is so riddled with guilt and shame they are dying for the freedom found in Christ.
    • 2. To show us how to reach different types of people with the Gospel.
      • The spiritually interested (Lydia)
        • Invite them in! Let God do the work (the scriptures say when Lydia heard the Word, God opened her heart)
        • Invite them to study the scriptures with you
        • Invite them to a small group
      • The spiritual or physical captive (the slave girl)
        • We have to go to them, they will not come to us
          • This is why missions is so important!
        • Pray, proclaim freedom in Christ
      • The antagonistic or uninterested in faith (the Philippian Jailer)
        • Let them see how we respond to pain. Paul and Silas stayed in prison instead of escaping as a testimony to the jailer. They endured suffering with joy and put God on display!
      • Closing thought for week 2: Jesus said the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. There is not a problem with the harvest, he needs workers!***Zakk taught us in week 3 and so I will let him recap week 3. Special thanks to Pastor J.D. Greear and his sermon series on Acts, “Sent”. Much of his material is reflected in the above and was too good not to share!

How to Pray for Your Child

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I think we would all agree that praying for our children is important and something we should do.

But, I bet if we are being honest we have no idea how to do this outside of asking God to keep them safe.

That’s the heart behind this post. We want to equip you as parents to know how to pray for your student. We want to make it easy to know what to pray and even give you some scriptures to use as you pray for you child.

There are a ton of different way and areas you can pray for your child, but what’s presented below is a great way of getting started.

Two quick thoughts before we dive in: 1) It’s never to late to start! Even if you child is in college, they are still you child and you are still their parent. So don’t worry that you haven’t started sooner. You can start now!

2) Let your child know you pray for them. I still remember as a 10th grader seeing my mom’s prayer list and seeing how she was specifically praying for me then, the kind of man I would (hopefully) become, and even for my future wife.
As a 10th grader it was not lost on me on how big a deal it is to pray for your children. And it is all that more powerful now that I’ve become a parent.

I pray that my children would:

  1. Receive and love Jesus as their Savior – I pray that my children will understand that You loved them so much that You gave Your only Son for them, and that because they believe in Him, they will have life forever with You. John 3:16
  2. Commit their lives to make Jesus Lord and be filled with Your Spirit – I pray that my children will recognize that Jesus is the Name above all names and will confess Him as Lord of all. I pray that they will trust Him with all their hears, not lean on their own understanding, and acknowledge He is Lord in everything; thus You will guide them in Your best way for them. May they be filled with Your Holy Spirit to the fullness of Christ. Phi 2:9-11; Pro 3:5-6; Eph 5:18; 1:23; 4:13
  3. Know the true and living God intimately and cherish and apply all Your names – I pray that my children will desire to truly know You, Father. May they love You, know You intimately, powerfully apply Your names, and rely on the character they represent in all their needs. Dan 11:32b; Phi 3:10; Psa 9:10
  4. Learn to pray and praise – I pray that my children will learn to communicate with You, their loving Father. Put Your praise in their hearts and on their lips continually. Lead them to be dependent on You for everything, so they talk with You about all things and give You the honor and glory that You deserve. Mark 10:14-15; Matt 21:16; Phil 4:6
  5. Know who they are in Christ – I pray that my children will know how precious they are to You. Teach them to base their identity and security on Christ. Give them Christ-centered confidence and Christ-centered worth. Give them Your mind about how You see them and how You feel about them. As Your creation, help them to fully know who they are and what they have in Christ and what they can do through Him. Eph 1:4,7,11-14; Col 1:27
  6. Be protected from the evil one by the blood of Jesus – Protect my children by the covering blood of Jesus. I pray that my children will know the power of the blood to defeat all the works of the evil one. By the blood of Jesus, bind the enemy from interfering with Your perfect purposes in their lives. John 17:15; 1 John 4:4
  7. Receive the love of God the Father – I pray that my children will know Your Father-heart and have the assurance of Your great love. Let them know by experience how extravagantly and unconditionally You love them. Father them with Your holy love, so that they know without a doubt that You are always working in their lives in Your love. 1 John 3:1
  8. Love the word of God – I pray that my children will treasure Your word more than wealth. Teach them to love Your word and base their lives on it as their standard of life. Give them understanding as they humbly seek You in Your word. Teach them to plead Your unbreakable promises and to defeat all the lies of the enemy with Your truth revealed in Your word. Psa 119:127-130, 159-162
  9. Learn to hate sin and love holiness, righteousness, and fear of the Lord – I pray that You will write Your word on the hearts of my children, so that they will choose the obedience of hating sin and loving Your holiness. Work in their lives the holy fear of You and the righteousness of Jesus. Help them not to just keep a set of rules, but to desire to please You in all they do. Create in them a pure heart. Make them wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. Move in them to dedicate their lives to You as living sacrifices. Psa 119:9,11; 2 Tim 2:22; Rom 16:19b; Pro 8:13
  10. Grow up in maturity in the Lord – I pray that my children will be built solidly on the foundation of Jesus and grow in Your grace with a conscious sense of Your presence conforming them to be like You. May they continue to be built up with your wisdom, favor, truth, love, life, faith, strength, and thankfulness. Luke 2:52; Eph 4:15; Col 2:6-7
  11. Glorify God in their bodies as Your temple – I pray that my children will honor You by keeping their bodies pure because they are the temple of Your Spirit. Teach them the great price you paid in the death of Jesus for their holiness. 1 Cor 6:19-20; Rom 12:1-2
  12. Respect those in authority – I pray that my children will submit to the authorities You have placed over them as to You. Let them understand that You have established loving, wise covering for their good through parents and others in authority. Cause them to obey and not reserve for themselves the right to choose whether to obey, which You call rebellion. Give them a joyful, grateful heart as they submit to Your ordained authorities. Rom 13:1; Eph 6:1, 3:22-25

 

Here is a PDF version if you would like to print it out and keep it where you have your prayer time or where you’ll be reminded to pray for you child. Praying for Children

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

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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

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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!

IN CHRIST, I am…

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

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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.
Zakk

 

Sex and Dating series Recap

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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

Resources:

 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