Students

Four Moments I’m Preparing Students to Face

There are moments in everyone’s life where they are pushed to stand for what they believe in or are put to the test through adversity. Four moments in particular are:

1. The semester with the persuasive, atheist philosophy professor.
2. The day their best friend dies in a car accident.
3. The year when they don’t feel God’s presence at all.
4. The day when their fiancée breaks off the engagement, even after they have remained abstinent.

In this article the author tackles each of these moments and how we should be preparing our students to face them.

Four Moments I’m Preparing Students to Face

By Cameron Cole

Ministry to children and youth for both parents and church workers focuses on cultivating followers of Christ with sustainable faith. Basically, we want the faith of our young people to stick when they leave our homes and churches to live as independent adults.

As I listen to and observe the faith journeys of former students and young adults, I often see pivotal moments along the way that constitute “make or break” tests of their faith. Discipling my students, I am preparing them for these four moments.

1. The semester with the persuasive, atheist philosophy professor.

Whether in college or in a coffee shop, every young Christian will meet people who do not believe in the truth of Christianity and can argue persuasively against it. Particularly in college, students will encounter professors with an ax to grind against Christianity and with a desire to use their classroom as a platform against the religion. Many times, students without a deep theological base have their faith wrecked by slick arguments.

I want my students to ask hard questions and to have experience logically arguing for their belief in the veracity of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. So we dedicate much time in our youth ministry to working on apologetics. In particular, we focus on the validity of the Bible as God’s Word, the historical facts surrounding the resurrection, and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies in the life of Christ. I have found Tim Keller’s video series The Reason for God to be an indispensible tool for giving students both exposure to and practice in engaging arguments against Christianity.

2. The day their best friend dies in a car accident.

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12 Reasons You Should Pray Scripture

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By Andrew David Naselli
Andy Naselli is assistant professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, research manager for D. A. Carson, and administrator of Themelios.

12 Reasons You Should Pray Scripture

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m a prayer-expert. I’m not. But that’s one reason I find praying Scripture so helpful (more on that later).

My argument is simple: You should pray Scripture.

Three qualifications:

  1. I don’t mean merely that you should pray. That’s a given.
  2. I don’t mean that you should merely pray scripturally informed prayers. That’s also a given. I’m arguing specifically that you should pray Scripture itself.
  3. I’m not arguing that you should pray only Scripture every time you pray. Rather, I’m arguing that you should pray Scripture itself often.

So why should you pray Scripture? For at least twelve reasons:

1. You should pray Scripture because God’s people in the OT and NT did.

It’s not always logical to argue that we should do something merely because the Bible records God’s people doing it. Sometimes OT narratives or the book of Acts describe practices without prescribing them. But I can’t think of a one good reason that we shouldn’t emulate these two examples.

First, an example from the OT: When the Israelites confess their sins in Neh 9, the Levites lead the people in prayer (Neh 9:5–37). The entire prayer is scripturally informed (e.g., 9:11),1 and verse 17 quotes previous Scripture:

They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies . . . . (Neh 9:17–18, emphasis added)

In the middle of their prayer, they quote Exod 34:6. They apply that Scripture to their specific context.

Second, an example from the NT: After the antagonistic Sanhedrin release Peter and John in Acts 4, how does the early church respond?

And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,

and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers were gathered together,

against the Lord and against his Anointed’ . . . .” (Acts 4:24–26)

In the middle of their prayer, they quote Ps 2:1–2. They apply that Scripture to their specific context.

2. You should pray Scripture because Jesus did.

I need to develop this further because it’s not always logical to argue that we should do something merely because Jesus did. Jesus did a lot of things that we can’t do—like walk on water and forgive people of their sins. And Jesus did some things that we shouldn’t do—like die on the cross to satisfy God’s righteous wrath against sinners. But Jesus did many things that we should imitate, and praying Scripture is one of them.

Both the Gospel according to Matthew and Mark record that Jesus prayed this to the Father when he was dying on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34). That quotes the first line of Ps 22.

We have to be careful here because Jesus fulfills Scripture in a way that we don’t. Jesus is unique.2 My point is that Jesus prayed Scripture. For him to do that, he had to read Scripture, correctly understand Scripture, meditate on Scripture, and then apply Scripture to his specific situation. We don’t typologically fulfill Scripture in the same way that Jesus does, but we can and should pray Scripture appropriately with reference to our contexts. For example, we can appropriate God-breathed prayers in Scripture as they match our own circumstances. God’s people have been doing that with the Psalms for thousands of years.

3. You should pray Scripture because it glorifies God the Father.

Jesus told his disciples in John 15:7–8, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”3 What is the “fruit” in the context of John 15?

I won’t take the time to demonstrate this here,4 but here’s how I understand John 15:4: “Abide in me, and I in you” essentially means “Obey my words, and let my words remain in you.” Therefore, Jesus abides in us (believers) to the degree that his words abide in us, and we abide in Jesus to the degree that we obey his words. Every believer abides in Jesus to some degree, resulting in different degrees of fruitfulness.

So when we internalize Jesus’ individual utterances (i.e., his words remain in us), we will make scripturally informed requests, and God will answer them. So what is the “fruit”? I think that the fruit in this context is the answers to those prayers. That does not refer exclusively to when we pray Scripture; it refers to scripturally informed prayers. But that certainly includes our praying Scripture. When we pray Scripture, we demonstrate explicitly that Jesus’ words are remaining in us.

And when we are bearing much fruit through our praying Scripture, that is a way that we glorify God the Father: “By this my Father is glorified.”

4. You should pray Scripture because it helps you focus on what is most important.

KEEP READING…

Ten Reasons to Memorize Big Chunks of the Bible

Ten Reasons to Memorize Big Chunks of the Bible

Scripture memorization is a great discipline.  We have been challenging our students to simply memorize a few verses ever few weeks.  This article give 10 great reasons to memorize not just verses but big chunks of scripture.  Better yet it gives you a method as to how to do it.

Ten Reasons to Memorize Big Chunks of the Bible

By Jon Bloom
Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) is the author of
Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith and serves as the President of Desiring God, which he and John Piper launched together in 1994. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Pam, their five children, and one naughty dog.

You can memorize big chunks, even books, of the Bible. Unless you’re part of the very small percentage of us who suffer from a traumatic brain injury or stroke or disability, you really can. And you should. But why should you?

1. Because you have a bad memory.

Don’t say you can’t memorize because you have a bad memory. That’s why you need to memorize. I have a bad memory too. I think it’s worse than average — seriously. I forget names of people I know and see regularly! I have to force my faulty, inefficient brain to drive things that matter most into my long-term memory. This only happens by the process of repeating (memorizing) every day over a period of time. You’d be surprised what you can commit to memory if you have a simple system and put forth some effort. I’ve memorized five New Testament books and am working on my sixth. And that’s because I have a bad memory.

2. Because you need to feed your mind.

Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. But how can we do this if we can’t remember such things? General positive Bible concepts are not very helpful. We need specific “precious and very great promises” in our memory to draw on when we are alone and battling discouragement or anger or lust or fear (2 Peter 1:4).

3. Because the Bible is too accessible to you.

It’s strange how having an abundance of something can result in our neglecting it. If the Bible’s always there on our tables, tablets, phones, computers, and on the web we can dip in, read sections, search for key words when needed, but feel no urgency to really internalize it. Memorizing is one way to fight that delusion.

4. Because you have the Internet.

Unfortunately the Internet is teaching us how not to read. We are becoming information scanners, quickly browsing but not digesting very much. We are losing patience for deeper, more reflective reading. Memorizing longer passages of Scripture forces us to reflect deeply on meaning and application.

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Ice Bucket Challenge viewed through James 1:19-27

The Ice Bucket challenge is a national phenomenon.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, that was the IBC. The Ice Bucket Challenge is a campaign started by the ALS Association to raise awareness and donations for ALS. The challenge involves people getting doused with buckets of ice water on video, posting that video to social media, then nominating others to do the same, all in an effort to raise ALS awareness. According to the ALS Association, people can either accept the challenge or make a donation to an ALS charity of their choice, or do both.

ALS is the initialism for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease or classical motor neuron disease. ALS is a neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. Unable to function, the muscles gradually weaken, waste away, and twitch. The disease become progressively worse the ability of the brain to start and control voluntary movement is lost, eventually resulting in death. The cause of ALS is not known, and scientists do not yet know why ALS strikes some people and not others. About 30,000 Americans now have ALS.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has led millions to:

  • Hear about it.
  • Know about it.
  • Care about it.
  • Do something about it.

As we have been studying the book of James, this is the exact message we see in Chapter 1:19-27.  James wants us to:

  • Hear the Word
  • Know the Word
  • Care about the Word
  • Do the Word.

James

Just as importantly he wants us to do all of this with wisdom.  In verses 19 -21, James gives us 5 wise ways to be “Knowers of the Word.

Wise Ways to be Knowers of the Word

  1. Be quick to hear.
  2. Slow to speak.
  3. Slow to anger.
  4. Get rid of sin
  5. Accept the Word with Humility.

Later in the book, James calls faith without works…DEAD.  Knowing the Word is only half of the equation.  In the Ice Bucket Challenge, if no one ever gave money to help find a cure, it would be pointless.  We are called not only to Know the Word but Do the Word.  In verses 22 – 27, James gives us 4 ways to be wise “Doers of the Word.”

Wise Ways to be Doers of the Word

  1. Don’t Forget what the Word says.
  2. Persevere.
  3. Control your Tongue
  4. Care for the vulnerable

The reason I use the Ice Bucket Challenge as an example is because I recently learned that a portion of the funds raised through ALS Association goes to embryonic stem cell research.

Embryonic stem cell research is speculative medical research (it has never resulted in clinical treatments) that is predicated on the destruction of embryonic human life. The process uses stem cells harvested from embryos conceived through vitro fertilization (IVF) that have been donated for research purposes rather than being implanted into a woman’s uterus. The embryos are killed during the process of harvesting their cells and then are discarded afterwards. In 1999, the Southern Baptist Convention issued a resolution expressing opposition to the destruction of innocent human life, including the destruction of human embryos for research purposes.

If you have given money to ALS association, unless you designated specifically that you didn’t want funds to go to this research, a portion of your funds did. I’m not trying to shame you or embarrass you. The reality is that we do this every day.

We make seemingly insignificant decisions that speak to what we believe and support unintentionally that may or may not be true about us. When we don’t use wisdom we say, do, and support things unintentionally that we may not have chosen to if we did use wisdom.

This is a point James is making in this section of Scripture.

So what do we do?

Linked are two great articles on how to approach this movement with wisdom. Included are alternative charities that help support finding a cure to ALS without funding embryonic stem cell research. Much of my research and content came from these two sources.

The FAQs: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
http://erlc.com/article/the-faqs-the-als-ice-bucket-challenge

Why I Cannot Accept the Ice-Bucket Challenge by Nathaniel King
http://www.nathanaelk.com/2014/08/why-i-cannot-accept-ice-bucket-challenge.html?spref=fb&m=1

Just so you know I do not think it is wrong to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge.  I think it is a great opportunity to help find a cure to a horrific disease and an opportunity to highlight research that is not destroying human life.  Please give through one of the links at the bottom of this page.

Please help find a cure to ALS by donating to one of the links below.

The Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center (MSCTC) at the University of Kansas Medical Center
http://www.kumc.edu/msctc.html

Dr. Anthony Windebank and his team
http://www.mayo.edu/research/labs/regenerative-neurobiology/projects/therapy-amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis-als

The Adult Stem Cell Technology Center, LLC
https://sites.google.com/site/adultstemcelltechnologycenter/

John Paul II Medical Research Institute
http://www.jp2mri.org/capital-campaign.htm.

The Gospel Everyday

GospelLast night at our student worship, I spoke on the need for the Gospel to be more than just the starting point in our relationship with Christ.  As J.D. Greear points out in his book, Gospel – Recovering the Power that made Christianity Revolutionary, the Gospel is not just the diving board into Christianity, it is also the pool itself.  We do not move beyond the Gospel, but deeper into it.

Below is an article written by Tullian Tchividjian about this exact same point.  It is my prayer that the students of Lone Oak FBC would learn this and grow in this understanding of the what the Gospel truly means for  believers.

The Gospel Everyday

By: Tullian Tchividjian

Ionce assumed the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, while afterward we advance to deeper theological waters. But I’ve come to realize that ” the gospel isn’t the first step in a stairway of truths, but more like the hub in a wheel of truth.” In other words, once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. All good theology, in fact, is an exposition of the gospel.

In his letter to the Christians of Colossae, the apostle Paul portrays the gospel as the instrument of all continued growth and spiritual progress, even after a believer’s conversion.

“All over the world,” he writes, “this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth” (Col. 1:6). He means that the gospel is not only growing wider in the world but it’s also growing deeper in Christians.

KEEP READING…

 

Fake Love, Fake War: Why So Many Men Are Addicted to Internet Porn and Video Games

Orgasm without intimacy. Adrenaline without danger.  Sounds like the perfect ingredients to emasculate men.

Check out this great article about what some are pointing to as the “Demise of Guys.” This is something every guy or parent of boys should really consider.  How proactive are you at protecting your yourself and your boys from falling into this trap?

“Let’s teach our men to make love, and to make war . . . for real.”

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You know the guy I’m talking about. He spends hours into the night playing video games and surfing for pornography. He fears he’s a loser. And he has no idea just how much of a loser he is. For some time now, studies have shown us that porn and gaming can become compulsive and addicting. What we too often don’t recognize, though, is why.

In a new book, The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, psychologists Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan say we may lose an entire generation of men to pornography and video gaming addictions. Their concern isn’t about morality, but instead about the nature of these addictions in reshaping the patten of desires necessary for community.

If you’re addicted to sugar or tequila or heroin you want more and more of that substance. But porn and video games both are built on novelty, on the quest for newer and different experiences. That’s why you rarely find a man addicted to a single pornographic image. He’s entrapped in an ever-expanding kaleidoscope.

There’s a key difference between porn and gaming. Pornography can’t be consumed in moderation because it is, by definition, immoral. A video game can be a harmless diversion along the lines of a low-stakes athletic…

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3 Ways To Stop Being An Ineffective Youth Leader

Being intentional is a key value in ministry.  A key phrase that always comes to mind is “Not Perfectly, But Intentionally.”  We have to realize as leaders that we are not perfect and are not always doing everything that we should or could to accomplish our mission.  There are things we don’t see or  understand and sometimes we even choose sin over godliness.  Shocking I know.  I’m not advocating that it’s okay, but it’s true.

While we may not be perfect, we can be intentional.  We can intentionally share the Gospel.  We can intentionally build relationships.  We can intentionally serve with excellence.  We can’t guarantee effectiveness, since it is ultimately a work of the Holy Spirit that causes any one to accept Christ, be sanctified, or changed in any way.  We can guarantee a clean heart before God as we intentionally seek to become more like His Son, Jesus Christ.

The 3 ways center around a leaders ability to “BE INTENTIONAL.”

3 Ways to Stop Being an Ineffective Youth Leader

3 Ways to Stop Being an Ineffective Youth Leader

By: Adam Ramsey

Making disciples is harder than you could ever imagine, but simpler than you would ever think. For those involved in student ministry, discipling young people is not really complicated—it’s just costly. You don’t need a doctorate in theology, but you do need to have died to yourself.

What exactly makes someone an effective youth leader?

Here’s an example. Melisa is a youth leader who has been leading a group of junior girls at Mars Hill Bellevue. Each week she opens up her Bible with these ladies, listens to their struggles and questions, and points them to Jesus. She also opens up her life by pursuing their hearts relationally outside of a program or event. And when she was away on a family vacation for a couple of weeks, two of her girls stepped up and led their peers the same way Melisa has been leading them.

Melisa is just one of many examples of a godly and effective youth leader. By the grace of God she is making disciples who make disciples, by sharing the gospel, sharing her life, and empowering young people to do likewise.

Paul reveals some powerful practices in the way he discipled those in the church at Thessalonica. His pen drips with insight and sincerity as he writes, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8).

What follows is the job description of every youth leader at Mars Hill: three simple yet costly characteristics of Paul’s leadership in 1 Thessalonians 2, which we use as a leadership model for anyone serving in student ministry at Mars Hill Church.

1. Be intentional about sharing the gospel

Paul reminded the Thessalonians that the most important gift he shared with them was the gospel: the message about Christ’s finished work on the cross for sinners. An effective youth leader has the gospel on repeat like 90s church kids with a new DC Talk track. When it comes to repeating the best news in the universe, if you feel like a broken record, you’re doing it right.

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The 10 Don’ts Of Leading A Small Group

Small groups are essential to real discipleship.  It is through the context of relationship that we can truly have an impact in the lives of others.  In student ministry having an effective small group ministry will allow your ministry to grow while remaining small.  A persons ability to really know and disciple students is limited to really just a few students.  Small group are essential.  I’ve posted a few other articles about how to improve small groups.  These articles are not groundbreaking.  They are just some practical ways to immediately make improvement in your small group setting.  They can be found here: “5 Things Small Group Leaders Should Say to Parents” and “5 Ways to Enrich Your Small Group Time.”  Below is another such post.  I can admit I have made a few of these “Don’ts.” Check them out yourself so you don’t repeats others mistakes.

The 10 Don’ts Of Leading A Small Group

Being an effective small group leader means doing a lot of things well.

It also means NOT doing a lot of things.

This is a list of what I believe to be some of the most common “don’ts” of being a small group leader. (I’d love to see what you would add.)

1. Don’t play favorites.

This is tough. I think sometimes we do it subconsciously. We will be naturally drawn to some students based on personalities, both ours and theirs. But, we have to be aware of this tendency and work to give each student his or her fair amount of attention.

2. Don’t join with other students in making fun of a student.

Even if it’s good-natured. It’s easy to fall in to this, especially with guys. It starts out with a few guys messing with each other. Seemingly harmless. But the moment your voice is added to the chorus, it changes. You’re an adult. And your words have a lot more weight. Stay away from making fun of a student, even if it’s a joke.

3. Don’t let details fall through the cracks.

This one owns me. I struggle more with this than anything on this list. Just this week I put a mother in an not so great position with her son because I had not communicated as clearly as I should have. Details will kill you. Do not let them slip through the cracks.

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Keeping A Small Group “Dialed In”

Small groups are essential for discipleship.  It is only through relationships can students truly experience biblical discipleship within a student ministry.  This requires committed adults who will invest their lives into the lives of students.  These adults, while committed, may not feel equipped at leading a small group.  One major concern with new or even veteran small group leaders is keeping their students “dialed in.”  The guys at YM360 posted a great article with 6 tips on how to keep students “dialed in” to discussion.

Check out YM360 for other great articles and resources.

YM Essentials: Keeping A Small Group “Dialed In”

by: Heather Johnson

My first attempt at discipleship, years ago, was a bit rocky. My small group was made up of 7th grade girls. They were great kids, but they couldn’t sit still to save their lives.

One particular girl was notorious for bringing some type of toy or gadget to each group meeting.

I specifically remember the week she brought bright colored duct tape. Throughout the course of the meeting she continued to add this touch of flare to the chairs, the walls, and even to the other girls. Toward the end of the meeting (about the time I’m feeling like a total failure), she proceeded to tape her mouth closed. Because this obviously limited her breathing ability, she panicked and ran out into the hallway with all of the girls chasing her and screaming.

I finally managed to regain some sort of control, and we closed the night in prayer . . . one of the only spiritual elements of the entire hour! Though this particular incident was somewhat isolated (and extreme), the students’ limited attention span and lack of focus was fairly common from week-to-week. What I learned with experience is that this is, of course, common in most groups of teenagers, especially younger ones.

What are some key approaches for us youth workers to keep your group “dialed in”?

The following suggestions are by no means the only answer, but simply a few of the principles that have helped me rein a group back in.

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