God wants you to fall in love and have sex…in the context of Biblical marriage. I hope that not only caught your attention by introduced well the major topic of this quarter’s newsletter. I am writing this year’s newsletters/blogs about the 12 major issues I think are facing your teens in our current culture.
However, today’s newsletter marks a change from doing monthly newsletters to quarterly ones but it does not change the topic I was planning for this month’s newsletter: relationships, dating, marriage and sex.
I have chosen this subject this month for two reasons, firstly because of its importance, but secondly because we have planned a Summer series on God’s view of dating, love, romance, marriage, roles in marriage etc. called Summers’ Love. I will take the whole of Summer to teach on God’s design in these matters. After each sermon I will open up to questions from the teens which I will answer on the spot.
I tell you all this because this is not a subject I should teach on alone but rather should teach alongside you. So for this series we will make sure that the audio of my Wednesday night sermon is published on the youth group website (here) on Thursday mornings so that you can listen to and then discuss it with your teen before the next Wednesday.
So with that being said I would like this newsletter not to be a comprehensive dealing with the subject matter but rather just one key thought that I have behind my teaching on relationship and sex which is how I started: God wants you to fall in love and have sex…in the context of Biblical marriage.
I have found that most of the teaching among teens in this area firstly does not teach them why God wants us to wait for romance and sex, and therefore secondly gives romance and sex a negative connotation in the minds of our teens. We spend so much time telling them to avoid sex and teen romance/dating without telling them why; that they avoid sex and romance like the plague just because it’s sex and romance to the point they think that sex and romance are bad or God is a kill joy.
In fact, the complete opposite is true. God created love and sex and He wants his children to enjoy it as much as possible, but the best place for them to enjoy those gifts is in the context of marriage. He wants them to enjoy romance and sex not just as individual gifts devoid of meaningful relationship but as part of deepening the highest human relationship (marriage) which exists to express God’s love for His church.
In other words, we need to explain to our teens the why behind the rules God has established: The reason we don’t date around and give our hearts to every person that comes knocking is because we are keeping our hearts pure and getting them ready for the one person we will marry to the glory of God. The reason we don’t sleep around or engage in any type of sexual activity before we get married is because we are keeping ourselves pure for the one person that we are going to marry for the glory of God. The reason we say “no” now as a single person is because we have said “yes” to our future husband or wife and ultimately because we have given ourselves, including our romance and sex, to God. We need to explain that God loves our teens and His commands in this area are not to kill their joy but actually to protect them.
I would like you not just to see your teaching to them about love and sex just as a way to keep them from sin but as a way to prepare them for marriage. Obviously we flee from sin and tell them that, but we flee from it as a young person not only because it is destructive to us and defaming to God, but because we are preparing for marriage.
We need to instill in our teens a positive view of marriage, a desire to get married and prepare them for marriage. Yes, God says we should be content being single if he has given us the gift of celibacy, and yes we shouldn’t idolize marriage but that doesn’t keep us from correctly desiring marriage and preparing for it. I have found that many young Christian people, especially men, see marriage as less spiritual than going to college, bible school and the mission field. So not only do they not pursue marriage, but they don’t prepare themselves for it and grow up. The first thing God did after creating Adam and Eve was marry them. Genesis 2:18, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
We should train up our young people to be content if they are single, but expect to get married so that they prepare themselves for that responsibility. In fact, in preparing for marriage as a single person you are doing all the things that a responsible single person should be doing anyway: becoming independent from your parents, getting training, being involved in the church, making disciples, looking for people of Christian character to be your closest friends.
So this Sumer’s Love series is not only about avoiding sin, although that is part of it, the emphasis is on preparing your teen for marriage…and life. So in preparation for this series which will start on June 8th please discuss the following questions with your teen. Although I will only be discussing sexual sin a little later in the series, this newsletter/blog is the perfect time to give you a link to a teaching I recently heard about Sexual Sin college at the Florida Calvary Chapel Youth Workers Conference from the head of Calvary Chapel Bible College.
1. What are your thoughts about marriage? Do you see marriage as a good or bad thing?
2. Do you think marriage or mission trips are more spiritual? Why? What are God’s thoughts about marriage?
3. Why do we stay sexually pure and protect our hearts until marriage? Are you keeping sexually pure and protecting your heart? How?
4. What is a good day every week this Summer to discuss Sean’s teachings in the Summers’ Love series?
Yeah I said it. I’m attacking the igod! I’ve heard so many people say, I don’t know what I would do without my phone? How about, you’d have a life, you’d have better friendships, you’d have a deeper relationship with God. This is all part of my 2016 goal of dealing with 12 issues that I feel teens most struggle with so that parents and teens can have a Biblical dialogue about dealing with these issues, and this month’s topic that I wish to tackle is phones and devices.
Now obviously I am not saying that all these things are inherently evil, but they can contain evil content, we can use them for evil means and our use of them or over reliance on them can actually be sinful. To give you even more help and information on this topic I would like to first point you to a sermon I heard at the 2016 Calvary Chapel Youth Workers Conference in Florida by Pastor Andy Dean who is the Director of Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta California which would be great to watch as a whole family (it can be watched at this link: http://media.zeop.com/nsplayer.asp?mediaid=2817 ).
I have three major concerns about phones and tablets. One - they keep teens from real communion with God. Two - they keep teens from real communion with people. Three - they can be dangerous in the hands of notoriously wisdom lacking teens.
So let’s start by acknowledging that phones really are a tool that allows people who are not physically with you to interrupt you from what God has you doing at the time. With that in mind we’ll deal with that fact that:
- They Keep Teens from Real Communion with God
Matthew 22:37, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'” Being interrupted with tweets, texts, emails and notifications during your quiet times, Bible study and church services diminishes your focus on God and therefore your expressed love toward Him at the time. It also reduces your concentration on what God is teaching you in that moment. A quiet time constantly punctuated with beeps and replies is no quiet time at all! Who is more important, God or the notification that @crazyboy745 just started following you?
Teens tend to idolize people and things quite quickly. Well people in general have a pretty great propensity for making idols. However, I have noticed that teens can get unhealthily emotionally attached to their phones and devices. It becomes their security and identity. They get obsessed with being updated and updating to the point that they cannot function without their phones. We are supposed to rely on God and find our security and identity in Him. Finding our identity and security in anything other than Christ can be destructive to our lives, our eternities and keep us from experiencing and enjoying all of God and what He has for us.
- They Keep Teens from Real Communion with People
One of the reasons I do youth ministry is because I love hanging out with teens, they’re fun, interesting and talented. But one of the most frustrating things of doing youth ministry is being kept from really getting to know teens and having solid conversations with them because they are distracted by their phones. I remember this one frustrating time a while ago hanging out with a couple teens and they literally sat in front of me texting their friends all night as I sat there trying to talk to them…the crazy thing was they had invited me to hang out with them.
The second most frustrating thing is watching them miss out on real deep friendships with the people sitting with them at youth group or conferences as they text someone who isn’t there. Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Would you want someone constantly texting someone else as you try to talk to them. Or imagine talking to your friend face to face while someone keeps interrupting you in person and your friend keeps responding to that person while you are midsentence? That would be annoying, even hurtful, yet that’s what you’re doing when you’re answering texts from others while you sit face to face with a friend.
But my major concern is that teens are missing out on experiencing true, Biblical fellowship and friendship and find themselves lonely because they have substituted deep, real, intentional and focused fellowship with God and people for a cheap, shallow imitation relationship with hundreds of people they don’t really know. This is the major reason I ask teens not to bring their phones and devices to Retreats and certain conferences; not because I am a kill joy, but because I am a deep joy! I want them to experience full, focused and profound communion with God and people!
- They Can Be Dangerous in the Hands of Notoriously Wisdom Lacking Teens
We wouldn’t let our kids hang out with just anybody at school or just any body off the street, yet we happily give them smart phones and devices connecting them to the entire world. Teens can literally communicate to and with anyone they want. As parents our job is to train them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, which includes instilling Biblical wisdom into them at a stage in their lives where they often lack any. Teens might think they know everything, but that in itself is a lack of wisdom. I mean even as adults we are tempted to do unwise things with our devices and phones!
1 Peter 5:8, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The enemy, satan, is looking to destroy your teens and take advantage of their lack of wisdom. We need to study our children to know if they are ready to be given a phone, especially a smart phone. We need to know who they are talking to on their phone or device like we would want to know who they were hanging out with at school or whose house they would be visiting on the weekend.
Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Not only can people communicating without teens be deceitful, not only can our teens be deceitful to us about the communication they have on their devices, but they can deceive themselves about the substance of the conversations they are having on their devices. They can think they have something under control and it can quickly spiral into something they can’t.
Now I am not saying you have to immediately throw away your phones and devices, I’m saying that you might have to throw away your phones and devices. But what I am really saying is that we have to carefully and Biblically think through how we use our devices and how we allow our teens to use their devices. After watching the sermon I mentioned in my introduction please review the following questions for family discussion:
1. How much time do I spend on my device or phone? Is there ever a time I do not have my device or phone with me? And when was the last time I went a whole quiet time, church service and day without checking my phone?
2. Am I or my teen/s wise enough to handle a smart phone? Do I need a smart phone and would a regular cell phone be better for me or my teen?
3. How transparent are my teens with me about what they view on their phones and who they are communicating with? What safety measures have we put in place to protect our teen from the enemy, evil people and their deceitful hearts?
I hope that title caught your attention! This year I am addressing 12 issues that I believe teens most need addressed and writing my newsletters on them so that parents can have some fodder to engage their teens in discussion. This month's theme is commitment, commitment to anything really, but most importantly commitment to youth group and church. Hopefully this will challenge you as an adult too.
(Disclosure - In this newsletter I am assuming that what your children learn in youth group and at church is a supplement to what they are already learning at home in family devo time or Biblical instruction throughout the ebb and flow of every day life. However I believe that what happens at church is critical to your child's (and your) spiritual development as you will see).
So here is how I want to start…The American Humanist Association's motto is "Good Without God". Humanism is a worldview (and has been described as a religion even by some within it's membership) that teaches that Humans are the highest beings in the Universe and there is no God. There latest Manifesto (Manifesto iii.) explains further, "Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism (without God), affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity."
This may seem harmless enough, sans the "without God" part, however humanists vehemently oppose any thought or idea about God, which ultimately leads to no good at all. Famous humanists include Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss, who recently released a documentary called The Unbelievers, the poster of which pictures two silhouettes of the aforementioned men walking away from the cross. I tell you this only to frame your understanding of humanism if you are unfamiliar with it's teachings.
Samuel L. Blumenfeld writes this in his book, "For all practical purposes, the public school has become the parochial school for secular humanism. Its doctrines pervade the curriculum from top to bottom." In fact Secular Humanism pervades every aspect of our culture and is fed to us continuously via all major media outlets; movie, TV, magazines and internet. My point is that if you children are going to public school and/or watching any media at all (including YouTube) they are being taught a philosophy that completely denies not only God, but the Biblical (the true) way of understanding all of reality. So then how many hours do your children spend in public school and on media compared to at church? What's transforming your child's mind, God's Word or humanist doctrine?
In light of that information, how important do you think whole hearted commitment to weekly attendance of youth group (church) is to your child's spiritual growth and relationship with God? I'd say immeasurably important. But I think that this information should only be a very secondary reason for the commitment of your child to youth group. The primary reason I believe that your child (or any Christian) should be committed to weekly attendance of youth group (church) is because of the importance of the weekly attendance of church. Well what on earth does that mean Sean? Good question.
Let me explain by asking you a question: What is the primary or normal way that God works in the world? Is it miraculous signs in the sky? Is it voices from heaven? Is it visions of heaven? Is it the parting of the Gulf of Mexico? No. Now I'm not denying God could or would do that, He totally can and might, but those are not the primary or normal ways that God works. The primary, the main, the normal way that God works in the world on a regular basis is through the gathering of the local Christians at church, listening to the Word of God, praying, worship, breaking bread and fellowshipping together. Most people will never see a vision, miracle, the Gulf split or hear a voice from heaven, but most Christians will have God work in their lives regularly through the regular gathering of the church. THE MAIN WAY GOD WORKS IN THE WORLD IS THROUGH WEEKLY GATHERINGS OF CHRISTIANS. I shouted that not because I am angry, but because of how important a truth it is to understand and how easily we all forget this, including me.
The main, the primary, the normal way that God is going to work in the life of your teen is through the weekly ministry of their local youth group (church). Where is God going to speak to your teen? Church. Where is God going to guide your teen? Church. Where is God going to sanctify or mature your teen? Church. Where is God going to give wisdom to your teen? Church. Where is God going to speak to your teen about their future? Church. Where is God going to give your teen a Biblical worldview? Church.
Again I am not denying the importance of family instruction or personal quiet times, but it is clear from scripture that the gathering of the saints on a regular basis was the linchpin of God's plan for working in the world. Acts 2:42, "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." God says to the local church at Corinth when talking about the local church gathering together for the instruction from God's Word, "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). The gathered church meeting together is the temple of God and God's Spirit dwells in our midst. Our weekly services, sermons, worship and prayer are the primary way that God is working in our lives and in our world. That is the reason that commitment to regular attendance of weekly church services is so vital to your teen and to you.
We often think that it is more important that our teen is at the Summer Conference or the weekend retreat than regularly attending weekly youth and adult services. That is like making sure our kid is at Thanksgiving but not worrying about feeding them regular meals throughout the year. Camp might be great, but they ain't going to survive, or make it to camp without the weekly attendance of church.
Now I am not saying that we can never go on family vacations because we have to be at church, or that there isn't the odd valid reason for not being at church, but I think we need to seriously evaluate what a good reason to skip church is in light of the magnitude of the importance of the regular, weekly gathering of the saints.
I think we need to seriously ask ourselves is it worth playing a whole season of a sport or instrument if it is going to frequently keep me from regular attendance of church for a whole season? Imagine not eating for a whole season of the NFL, you'd die! Is it more important to finish homework than be at church? (Now I think your kids should finish their homework, but is skipping youth group/church the answer?) Is that season of a TV show worth missing the main way God works? Or how about asking the questions the other way: is the slightly extra busy Wednesday evening (or slightly later Wednesday night, or skipped practice or earlier Saturday night to be awake Sunday morning) a small price to pay for the main way that God is working in my life and in the world?
But the exciting thing to really think about is that this Wednesday night, this Saturday evening, this Sunday morning, God is going to be at work with all His power, and all His majesty, fulfilling His awesome plan for history and our lives as we gather together at Calvary Chapel of Sarasota in the adult auditorium, in the Project Normal Youth auditorium and in the many classrooms of our kids ministry. I needed the reminder, maybe you did too. I want to be committed to be where God is at work, I hope you do too. Hebrews 10:25, "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."
As I said this is only fodder for family discussion. Here are some questions to help get that started:
1. How much of what we believe as a family is from God's Word or is from what has been fed to us through humanist education and media? Do we know what Secular Humanism teaches?
2. Have we ever thought of the local weekly meetings of church as that important? How does this change our approach or attitude toward church?
3. Are we really making being a part of what God is doing in the world at the local church a priority in our lives? What is keeping us from doing that?
"Sean, what sin would you say is plaguing the Christian youth of today?" Lust? Maybe. Sexual Immorality? Possibly. Drug abuse. Perhaps. Although these are definitely areas which our teens struggle with, I'd say the most common sin plaguing the youth of today is LAZINESS. Yes laziness.
This year I have decided to spend each month talking about one topic I believe teens struggle with the most so that parent can dialogue with their teens about them. 12 months, 12 topics. I think laziness is such a big problem with out teens that I it needed to make the top 12 list.
I believe it's so common an issue because it is so under the radar, it's not a "big shock" sin. In fact personal laziness in life, school work, chores and life is one of the most common things joked about by youth when talking about their lives with me and one another. It's almost cool to be lazy, and the more lazy you can make yourself sound, the funnier and more vogue you are perceived to be.
So what is laziness? In English laziness is defined as the quality of being unwilling to work or use energy; idleness. The word for lazy in the Bible has basically the same definition. Sometimes the Bible will translate it slothful. Not exactly the most flattering of descriptions of a person's character. "But hang on Sean, is laziness even a sin?"
Well in the parable of the talents that Jesus told in Matthew 25 he tells of a business owner giving three of his servants some to invest while he is gone as a picture of what the kingdom of God will be like when Christ returns to judge the world. Upon returning the Master addresses the first two guys as "good and faithful servants," because they had got to work. The last servant however, buried the money in the sand, to which the Master replies (in the words of Jesus remember), "You wicked, lazy servant!" (Matthew 25:26).
In fact laziness is spoken against often in the Bible. 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 says, "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat. (In other words if you are lazy you don't deserve to eat.) 11We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat."
The Proverbs speak often of laziness: Proverbs 10:4, "Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth." Proverbs 20:4, "Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing." Proverbs 18:9 (NLT), "A lazy person is as bad as someone who destroys things." Proverbs 13:4 (NLT), "Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper."
So not only does Jesus and the Apostles inspired by the Holy Spirit condemn laziness, the Proverbs warn against laziness and how it will destroy our lives. Sin always leads to death in this life, the same goes for laziness. A lazy attitude and demeanor does not lead to human flourishing, obeying God does.
One of the things that I hear often from teens is they are so tired. Now admittedly their bodies are changing, so there is some chemical stuff going on, but often their love for sleep is just a sinful attitude of laziness that needs to be repented of. Proverbs warns of this too: Proverbs 19:15, "Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry."
Proverbs 20:13, "Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare."
Proverbs warns as much if not more about laziness than it does drunkenness. But why? Well it comes back to God and our purpose. In Genesis 2:15, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." God created us and commanded us to work. To be lazy is to rebel against God's design and authority over our lives. But it's also an imaging problem. We were created to image God; God is not lazy, in fact He works very hard until the job is done. In working for our salvation Jesus didn't die until He had absorbed every last drop of God's wrath and cried, "It is finished." Therefore it is also a gospel absorbing problem and a gospel spreading problem. We have not fully understood what the Gospel have saved us to do.
We were not saved to be lazy, we were saved to correctly image and represent God to a dying and hell destined world. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us…" We are Christ's representatives to the world, and Jesus is not lazy. To be lazy is to poorly represent Christ to a world that desperately needs to see Him.
To be lazy is also to be unthankful to God for who He is and what He has done for us. Colossians 3:16-17, "Let the message of Christ (the Gospel) dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." God has infused meaning and God glorifying opportunities into to absolutely everything we do. To be lazy in anything is so unthankfully not glorify God.
Pastor Carl explained to the interns that the early church understood that the resurrection means that the kingdom of God has come, so let's get to work. Obviously we should not be lazy and get to the work of making disciples, but making disciples means teaching people about Jesus with our lives and our lips. To preach Jesus and His finished work on the cross, but never finish (or even start) the work/labor/school assignments we have been given is to be a living contradiction.
The reason your teen is lazy is because they are a sinner that needs to repent and by the power and grace of God retrain their flesh with the new life they have in Christ. Laziness is a heart problem. The solution is Christ: Knowing Him, loving Him, obeying Him, representing Him, glorifying Him and thanking Him. Christ has saved us and filled us with Holy Spirit power. What will you do with the energy you have been given through Christ?
1. Do you feel lazy? Must you live by your feelings or by the truth of God's Word?
2. If you continue being lazy how will that affect your career, calling, witness and marriage?
3. What is the purpose of your life?
4. Why is sleep and laziness more important to you than the call of God on your life?
What is the most important thing in the world to you? What pops into your head when I ask you that question? Either we will instantly answer that honestly or we will answer with what we know we should say. I think a better way to answer that question is to quietly sit alone somewhere and mentally rehearse your life in your mind’s eye; once you have an accurate picture of what your life looks like, the activities you do, how you do them, what you delight in and what you find rest in, you will more accurately know what your priorities are.
A priority is something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done or dealt with first. Priorities are the things that someone cares about and thinks are important. Last month I said that this year I would talk about 12 things that I think teens struggle with most and would address my newsletters to parents giving them a starting point to talk to their teens about these issue. The first newsletter/blog talked about what you will do with the time you have been given. Priorities are obviously directly related to the time we have been given. Priorities are the things that we deem to be important uses of the time we have been given, somethings are more important and others less important.
I am not going to be able to deal with everything there is to say about priorities, but I would like to deal with some of the larger issues that I think will help you get started in thinking through priorities with your teens.
Firstly God is not the first priority of our life, He is The Priority of our life. What do I mean by that? Well Luke 4:8 when Jesus is battling the devil in the desert it says, “Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'" When we come to know God in a saving relationship, we put Him on the throne of our hearts. It’s not just that now we have more time for God it is that God becomes the One and Only that we live for. Priority problems stem from a worship problem, we have something else on the throne of our heart that we are delighting in or living for that is causing our priorities to be out of whack. As Christians God is our priority, God is our preoccupation and God is preeminent in every aspect of our life and in every second of our time.
Secondly once we meet God and He becomes the priority of our life, He then changes the priorities of our life (or we could say He changes what we do with our time/lives). In Acts 9 the Apostle Paul met Jesus. Acts 9:1b-2 says, “[Paul] went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” On the road to Damascus he meets Jesus and in Acts 9:6 Jesus tells Him, “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." Paul was going to Damascus to persecute Christians, but once he met Jesus he went to Damascus to pray and wait for instructions from Jesus: same destination, new priorities.
Then Jesus tells Ananias to go and pray for Paul in Damascus and in so doing tells Ananias what Paul will be doing with his time now that He has met Jesus. Acts 9:15, “But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” So not only did Paul’s immediate priorities change but the whole priority of his life changed.
Two applications here for ourselves and our teens:
- First when we meet Jesus he completely changes the priority of our life, we live for Him and His calling. We don’t just add God to our dreams, He totally redefines our dreams.
- Second Jesus changes the immediate priorities of our lives: we’re not just going to school to get an education, socialize, promote our agenda, be popular or find a guy or girlfriend; instead we go to school to display God with our character, love the lost, share the truth and disciple the believers. Suddenly our free time isn’t our time, but God’s time.
But the third thing I want to highlight is brought to our attentions in Acts 2:42, “They (the early church that is) devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Once the people that became the early church met Jesus their lives became completely re-prioritized. They were no longer devoted to the things from before they met Jesus, now they were devoted to God’s Word, the church, communion/fellowship and to seeking God in prayer. There was now this whole new life that they lived and a whole new agenda that they devoted themselves too. Once you meet Jesus the things that you may have been devoted to before fall away and a whole new set of priorities move into your life. Suddenly bars, sports teams, Netflix, entertainment amd worldly pursuits either totally disappear or fade into the background (depending on what they are) now that you have met and fallen in love with Jesus.
So I know I haven’t given you a list of priorities. But I hope that this will begin the discussion in your family about what is actually the priority of your life and how that impacts what you center your life around and how you spend your time.
1. Is God The Priority of your life? What is the evidence of this being true or not true in my life?
2. What are the top things on your mind/agenda as you walk into school/work/sports team/band? How can they more align with God’s priorities?
3. How are we making the Bible, church, communion/fellowship and prayer a priority in our family and in our personal lives?
I spent all of last year's newsletters going through the book of Jude. This year I want to use each newsletter to discuss 12 topics that I believe our teens need some instruction on. These topics will include: Time, Priorities, Dating, Sex, Quiet Times, True Salvation, Media, Laziness, Schoolwork Unto The Lord, The Tongue, Sport and Commitment. At the end of each Newsletter I will have three discussion questions which parents can use to engage their teens about each of these topics after they have read the newsletter together.
This month's topic is Time. So what is time? Time is a non-spatial continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future, it is the measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues, is measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years and is a measurement of change. Good to know.
But most fundamentally time is a limited resource. We do not have an infinite amount of time on this earth but we do have an eternity waiting for us after this. Usually however, we live as if the opposite were true; we live as if we have an infinite amount of time on earth and no eternity waiting for us after. The extent of eternity should fuel the use of every microsecond of this momentary world. The existence of eternity does not give us an excuse to waist time on this earth; instead the Bible shows that the existence of eternity gives us the responsibility to be faithful stewards of the time we have been given.
Ephesians 5:15-17 says, "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
Look carefully then how you walk is to be careful how you live. We should not be frivolously and foolishly throwing away hours and days, but instead should wisely pay careful attention to what we are doing with every moment of our lives.
God tells us here to make the best use of our time. He does not say good use, or average use, He says best use. What is the best thing that you could be doing with the hour you have in front of you right now? What is the best use of the year that lies in front of you right now? The answer to those questions lie in understanding the Lord’s will. That is understanding the Lord’s will for human history, the Lord’s will for Christians in general, the Lord’s will for the season’s in life and the Lord’s will for you. This takes wisdom which can only be harvested from the Word of God and applied by the Spirit of God. But at the same time it is not complicated.
A quick list of some things that could be the best use of your time include: Bible reading, prayer, seeking God, worshiping God, actively loving your neighbor, serving your church, developing the gifts, talents and abilities God has given you, working, making disciples, reading and educating yourself, household chores and responsibilities, being involved in the community and sharing your faith.
Teens often tell me that they are so busy but when I ask them what they did during the week they say, “Nothing”, “they slept in late”, “watched a season of something online” and “oh and when I get home I have to finish that assignment for school that’s due tomorrow.”
The eternal God that we serve infuses every millisecond of our lives with meaning and purpose. If your teen finds them self doing “nothing” or being endlessly entertained they do not understand what the will of the Lord is. They need to be carefully, patiently and urgently instructed as to what The Lord has called them to in light of His imminent return. Teens often think that they are wiser than their parents or the Lord, and so need to be patiently shown the foolishness of their ways and the wisdom of God.
Teens need to understand that we have been given a limited amount of time to glorify God. Mathew Henry writes the following about the time we are given, “Of that time which thousands on a dying bed would gladly redeem at the price of the whole world, how little do men think, and to what trifles they daily sacrifice it!”
In 2016 you have been given no more than 365 days or 8760 hours in which to glorify God. If you are reading this in the second week of the year you have already lost 168 hours. If you do nothing until February you have lost 744 hours. So…What Will You Do With The TIME You Have Been Given?
1. How many hours of Netflix, TV, Computer Games and Texting/Snap Chatting did you watch, play or do this week? How did this bring glory to God?
2. What is God’s will for your life and what is God’s will for the season you are in? (What does God’s Word, not your opinion, say in answer to this question?)
3. How have you planned this week in your weekly planner in light of God’s will for your life and God’s will for this season? Do you even have a planner?
The world is burning! Bombs explode. Guns are fired. People are slaughtered. The evils of today rise yet our leaders sit down. But is the church stirred? Is she driven to her knees? Is she compelled to mission? One might say, that such evils have always walked the earth but just in different forms, and this certainly is true. But I do not think it is an excuse for indifference and inactivity, instead it should keep us firmly focused on the brevity of life, the depravity of man and the imminent proximity of the return of Christ. The Christian's life is not lived suspended on the circumstance of this world, but instead lived in the tension between our mission on earth and Christ's soon judgment of earth.
This is the tension that Jude introduces at the close of his letter to the church. In verse 17-19 he continues his assault on the wolves and godless among us. "But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit."
We live in the last days and scoffers most certainly abound. Jude here quotes Paul and Peter. Paul he quotes from 1 Timothy 4:1, "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." Peter he quotes from 2 Peter 2:1, "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves."
It is clear that these scoffers will follow ungodly doctrines and ungodly desires; they will seek to divide not unite; they are led by their hungry flesh not God's Holy Spirit. They will excuse their depravity with "it's only natural" because their soul is not the home of The Super-Natural. Is not this the climate we live in, is this not the spirit of our age and the temperature of our culture. So how do we change the climate, reverse the spirit and adjust the temperature? Jude has a plan.
Step 1 - Build: "20But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life."
We are to build ourselves up in our faith. Christ saves us not to a couch bound spectator spirituality, instead He saves us to active partnership in Divine relationship. In telling us to build, Jude addresses us in plural, dear friends…building yourselves. We are all responsible for our own faith and cannot rely on someone else for our own relationship with God, but our spiritual maturity deepens as we actively seek God with the community He has given us, the church, which grows and builds itself together, each member joined, related too and relying on one another as we grow in the knowledge of God and His Word.
The cement then that holds our doctrine, discipleship and duty together is prayer in the Spirit. The wolves are led by their fleshly desires; unfortunately we can be guilty, in the most holy act of prayer to follow our fleshly desires instead of the Holy Spirit. James writes, "And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrong--you want only what will give you pleasure." How important that we build a Spirit filled church with the cement of Holy Spirit led prayer! That is prayer guided by the Spirit, in line with the truth of The Spirit for the glory of God. This kind of prayer will keep us in the love of God which is to remain in the vine, Jesus Christ, and as we remain in the vine, so we wait for the soon return of our Lord, King and Captain, Jesus Christ, who comes to judge the world, and to bring eternal life to the faithful in Him.
Step 2 - Reach: "22Be merciful to those who doubt; 23save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh."
The church's mission is not only to grow as the pure and spotless bride that Christ has saved us to be, but also to reach out to those that are teetering on the edge of destruction. Jude shows great wisdom as he is inspired by the Holy Spirit to show us that ministering to different people requires different tones and approaches:
- Those that might be doubting God and His Word possibly due to the efforts of the scoffers need to be shown mercy and carefully and gently instructed in the truth of God's Word and the compassion of God's Son.
- Those that are perishing, whom seem to have the flames of hell licking at their souls, need to be clearly, openly and straight forwardly warned of their sin before a Holy God and the Gospel of Christ's redemption which is to be received through repentance and faith.
- To those that waver on the fence, with seemingly one foot in the world and one foot in the door of the church, they need to be shown the mercy of God mixed with the fear of God. We need still to approach them with compassion and humility, but also with the stark reality that they are playing Russian Roulette in the hands of a Holy God.
- Then to us who are reaching out to these souls Jude warns us to hat[e] even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. This is an apt word to the Western Church of today. Large portions of the Western church have become very comfortable with the things stained by corrupted flesh, even loving them to some degree. Jude poses a great dichotomy here for us the church which we far to often have got wrong: we are to reach out to the world but not be stained by the world, we are to love those in the world but not love the world, we are to understand the world but not become like the world. How do we do such a thing?
Step 3 - Gaze: "To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen."
One might lose hope at the condition of the world, at the actions of the wolves and scoffers and at the state of the church but Jude gets us now to gaze at the glory and work of our great God. He reminds us that though we are called to take responsibility for our faith, He is the One who will ultimately keep us and His true church from stumbling, He is the One who will bring us into His glorious presence, not ashamed, but with great joy. God still sits on the throne, God still rules the nations, God still holds time in His hands, God still shepherds His people and God is still is the lover of your soul. Fear not, gaze at Him and walk bravely into the world to do His bidding and will so that God would be glorified and some might be saved.
Church we live in perilous times. History might show this to be nothing new, but may it also not show that the church of the new millennium was found asleep, lamps low, eating drinking and being merry when their Lord returned on clouds of glory or called them home as they lay sleeping in front of their TV screens. Christ is coming. Awake Church! For the love of God Awake!
Over the last couple weeks the youth group interns, Justin and I have been looking at some teachings about end times prophecies. It has been amazing to see how so much of God's Word seems to be being fulfilled in our headlines today - Jesus could return at any moment. Having been meditating on these things I have noticed that my life has begun to focus more on what is actually important and I've had an urgency far greater than before.
Today we will continue in our walk through the book of Jude and in it Jude talks about the coming judgment of God. Let me first remind you however that Jude has been describing certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago and who have secretly slipped in among the Church.
He goes on to describe their coming doom in verses 14-15, "Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him." Jude talks about Enoch who is mentioned in Genesis 5 and Hebrew 11, but here Jude quotes from the book Enoch wrote which was widely read among the Jews in Jesus day but which is not included in the canon of scripture.
David Guzik explains, "Jude did not quote from Enoch to tell us anything new, but to give a vivid description of what the Bible already teaches. This wasn't to proclaim a new truth, but to support an already established Biblical principle."
God will return to judge the earth in power and holiness. He will all ungodly people for what they have done and what they have said. But here Jude is talking about people that have slipped into the church, yet do not display the fruit of repentance. They are wolves and they are known by their fruit.
Jude describes the kind of fruit these wolves bear in verse 16, "These people are grumblers and fault finders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage."
It is interesting to note that their fruit is shown mostly in their words, they are grumblers or complainers, fault finders, they boast and flatter to get ahead. But they also follow their own evil desires instead of the desires of God. What I find interesting is that these people follow their own evil desires yet they still complain and find fault, they inflate themselves, look for their own advantage, yet seem to always be dissatisfied.
Firstly let me say to the wolf who is reading this that the coming judgment of God is almost upon you, Jesus could return at any moment or He could bring you to Him before then, and you will have to give account for your rebellion and self-seeking. It would be foolish to know the judgment of God is coming but do nothing to prepare for your trial - Jesus is your only defense, get behind Him!
Secondly let me say to the Christian reading this. Although our entrance into eternity with God is based on the grace of God received through repentance and faith, our reward in eternity is based on our faithfulness to Christ, our obedience and perseverance in righteousness. But our happiness on earth is also directly related to our holiness.
You may have heard people say that God cares more about your holiness than your happiness. While this is true, let me just say that it doesn't mean that God doesn't care about your happiness AND it doesn't mean that holiness is devoid of happiness, in fact quite the opposite is true. For a Christian holiness is happiness, because it is in holiness that we are most satisfied. Our passionate pursuit of holiness is in fact a passionate pursuit of God and God is the most all satisfying pursuit of all.
In Matthew 5:6 Jesus says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." The wolves Jude was talking about followed their own evil desires yet were characterized as complainers. Jesus says that those who hunger and thirst for holiness will actually be satisfied because holiness is found in God.
Jesus also said in Matthew 10:38-39, "Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it." So the path that God walks is a path of self-denial: to follow God, pursue holiness and ultimately attain true happiness you need to die to everything else you might be chasing after.
I have always wandered about the stories of Christians who sang praises to God amidst the most terrifying torture - how were they able to find joy in those moments? I think it is because they had been stripped of every worldly pleasure and had found something far greater - God Himself. The road to true happiness is death. In order to choose real life, we must choose death.
In the Bible it makes it clear that God’s presence is the defining mark of God’s people. Right away, in the first pages of Genesis, we see Adam & Eve living in and enjoying the presence of God. What an amazing picture. They were able to glorify God and enjoy him forever. At least that was the plan. And it was a really good plan.
But something devastating happened. Adam and Eve traded the presence of God for the ‘pleasure’ of sin. James 1:14 gives us somewhat of an outline of what happened when this choice was made. It says, “…each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” An opportunity to sin was presented by Satan, and they had a choice. They could remember God’s voice that told them the truth about the temptation or they could listen to the lies of Satan which appealed to their evil desires.
Satan is an expert at presenting temptation to us. He has been tempting humans for thousands of years. But what is crucial to know is that Satan cannot force us to sin. He cannot make us give in to temptation. He did not make Adam and Eve choose sin, and he cannot make us choose sin. Sin is always something that we choose. And we choose sin because we are “dragged away by our own evil desires and enticed.” We forget what God says and obey our evil desires. We forget about the presence of God and go ‘enjoy’ the ‘pleasures’ of sin.
James 1:15 (the following verse) gives us the rest of the outline. “Then, after (your own evil) desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Here we see exactly what Adam and Eve experienced. They chose their evil desires, obeying those evil desires resulted in rejecting God, and rejecting God resulted in death. In the garden God promised them eternal life with Him enjoying His presence. But He also promised that if they rejected Him they could not enjoy His presence and would actually face death. And that is what happened. Death wasn’t part of the plan, but Adam and Eve chose it.
It is impossible to enjoy both God’s presence and sin’s ‘pleasure’. It is always one or the other. That is because choosing sin, choosing our own evil desires, is always in rebellion to experiencing and enjoying God’s presence. That is why Adam and Eve had to leave the garden. Because of their choice they could no longer enjoy God’s presence.
What is amazing is what God did next. It truly shows us God’s character, that He is a gracious God. God did send them out of the garden because it impossible for sin to be in God’s presence. But, He could have ended it completely right there. And it would have been appropriate to do so. It would have been just for Him to do so. But God is a God of grace. God is a God who shows kindness to people who do not deserve kindness. Genesis 3:21 says, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” What we see here is God setting the stage for the most amazing display of love and grace that this world has ever seen.
Because God is gracious we have the rest of the Bible and are able to see how God amazingly worked through history to show His grace to all people of the earth. We see Him choosing to make Abraham into a great nation that all other nations may be blessed by. We see Him actually create that nation and bless them with his presence! We see Him walk through many highs and lows with that nation as they often turned away from him, (were dragged away by their own evil desires) and worshipped idols and themselves. We see God promise them a Savior, even after all the times they turned from Him. And finally, in the New Testament we see the promised Savior arrive.
The promised Savior was God’s solution to what happened in the garden. It is through this Savior that men and women of every nation are able to once again enjoy the presence of God. God says to us “repent and believe” in the Savior Jesus. When we do that we are able to know and rely on the Holy Spirit. Those who are saved get to walk with Him each and every day. It is as we trust the Savior and rely on the Spirit we truly get to enjoy God’s presence which he graciously gives us. I want to enjoy God’s presence, not the ‘pleasures’ of sin. I want to rely on the Holy Spirit when my evil desires try to drag me away. I want to remember God’s voice when temptation comes. When I fall I want to be brought back into God’s presence by His grace. I want to be strong in the grace of God. And I want to be devoted to making disciples by the grace of God.
Titus 2:11-14 “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
Summer is done. The fall semester is here. We have a new building. God rules the Universe. I see nothing but opportunity for the spread of the Gospel and the glory of God. I have been taking a walk through the book of Jude in my newsletters this year, but thought that I'd pause this month seeing that it's the start of a new school year and the start of a new chapter for our youth group and church with this new building.
As excited as I am about the new building, my main thought over the last year and especially the last few months has been filling the new building with people. Not just for the sake of lots of people, but for the sake of reaching the youth for the glory of God. My focus has not been on construction, but discipleship.
Now to be completely vulnerable, I have at times stressed about how to fill the building. I mean I've reminded myself that filling the building is God's job, but I am as human as the rest of us and so found myself worrying and then reminding myself over and over.
But this morning I was reading the gospel of Matthew and arrived at the account of the man that was brought to Jesus on a mat by his friends. Matthew 9:2 says, "Some men brought to Him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, 'Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.'"
The first thing that struck me about this verse was that Jesus could see their faith in the action of them bringing their friend to Jesus on a mat to be healed. These guys had Visible Faith. Faith in God always leads to action. If you read the "Hall of Faith" chapter namely Hebrews 11, you'll see lots of faith in action. In fact the NIV titles that chapter, "Faith in Action". And James writes, "Faith without deeds is dead."
I see this new youth building as an action of faith. Now I know that the decision to move forward with this building was bathed in prayer and the guidance of the Spirit, but it was also an act of faith. I am hoping and praying that God sees this building as us acting out in faith, faith in Him, trusting that He will be the One to glorify Himself in that building. He will be the One to do the work to save and sanctify. Yes He will use us, but He will do it.
So can I ask you to please pray with and for me and our youth leadership team, could you call on God on our behalf and present to Him this building as an action of faith based on His faithfulness. Not presuming on God, but trusting God to do what He wants. Please call on Him to save teenagers souls and to help and equip us to disciple them.
The second thing that I noticed in this verse is that although this man was paralyzed Jesus first forgave his sins. Jesus saw that this man's greatest need was not primarily his physical paralysis but his spiritual paralysis and so Jesus forgave the man's sins.
So often we think that our physical and emotional circumstances contain our greatest need, when in fact our greatest need is our spiritual need. Our greatest need is our desperate need for salvation before a holy and just God. The spiritual solution to that problem is Jesus Christ Himself. Only once we have received Jesus and allowed Him to be the solution to our spiritual paralysis will we ever be able to have true victory in our physical and emotional circumstances.
My prayer is that this building will be a place where young people come and meet Jesus, see their great spiritual need and have Jesus be the solution to their great spiritual paralysis. My prayer is that they will receive the forgiveness of their sins and begin to be made whole by Jesus and the power of His Word and Spirit.
But the third thing that I see is that Jesus comforts this paralyzed man saying, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." The man can take heart before He is physically healed because His sins have been forgiven. Even if Jesus had never healed this man physically, but had forgiven His sins, this man could take heart, because His eternal blessedness would be forever sealed in Jesus. So take heart no matter what you are going through, if you are in Jesus your eternal blessedness is forever sealed. I'm not saying life is going to be smooth sailing, but there is eternal hope in Jesus no matter your physical or emotional need.
Yes this is a new school year and a new chapter in our church's history and God is still looking to work His mighty power through people who are willing to take action based on faith in God. Let's be those people this school year. Let's trust God and expect that He would do His will in our lives. Let's expect that He will ask us to do greater things than we are capable of so that He might get the glory.