Youth Groups… Why our family steers clear

Many years ago I had a close Christian friend tell me that her and her family (mom, dad, 2 sons) were looking for a new church and one of their goals was to join a church that did not have a youth group.  Of course, this wasn’t their only requirement (doctrinally sound, etc were requirements) but it had become very important to her.  Honestly, I thought she was nuts!  Her boys were about to be pre-teen… or do they call them tweens these days… anyway, I was thinking her kids are going to need friends when they become the dreaded teenagers (this was back when I thought teenagers had to behave the way the world says teenager have to behave) and what better friends then to have as part of the youth group?

Fast forward a couple year later and we had moved across town and were going to a different church.  I started paying attention to their youth group as my conversation with my friend was always in the back of my mind.  As I watched our youth group (no, I didn’t have any kids of that age yet) it became glaringly obvious that our youth looked no different than the youth of the world.  They dressed the same, they talked the same, they had the same attitude.  We, as Christians, are called to be set apart.

The church was having a potluck one day after the service.  As I was standing in line to get my kids their plates of food I overheard a conversation between our youth minister and a 16 year old girl who were standing right in front of me.  As I listened to their discussion I was, quite frankly, appalled by what I heard and envisioned Natasha having this same conversation in a few years.  Instead of the youth minister kindly but firmly pointing this girl to have this discussion with her parents he engaged her about boyfriends and how important they can be in a girls life, etc.  I realize, to the world this is a completely normal conversation but to someone who desires, more then anything, to raise her children in the admonition of the Lord I was sickened.  There are so many biblical teachings this youth minister could have said to this young girl but instead played into what the world has taught her.

Anyway, I came across the video below that explains better then I can why our family doesn’t attend a church with a youth group.  The video is about 39 minutes long but SO worth it!  He talks about how Sunday school and youth groups started here in America.  Watch to the end when Voddie gives a simple message to fathers and another simple messages to pastors.

 

 

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Seeking The Things Above

A couple of weeks ago a news story came out that was heartbreaking and sadly, a statement of our current society.  A young couple seeking fame and instead faced death.

Please read this blog post by Pastor Gabe.  His perspective is spot on.

Colossians 3:1-4  Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

Colossians 3 describes the believer’s position in Christ.  If you call yourself a Christian you should be seeking the things above, not things on this earth.  I know this is something I struggle to remember but putting on the armor of God everyday by reading His Word and praying I can continue to seek things above more and earthly things less.

Gaylene

 

 

Fountains of Blessings

I love the book My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers.  If you haven’t read this book you should!  It has short daily devotionals for every day of the year.  Today’s devotional focused on John 4:14 The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.  This is the story of Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at the well and Him revealing to her who He really is and that He can offer everlasting water.  By springing up I believe Jesus is talking about abundant life.

That’s the life I want.  Not abundant in material things or money but abundant in being a blessing to others, serving others, praying for others.  As a sinful human I can so easily get caught up in what I want, what I desire, what I need (or think I need) and yet no where in the Bible does Jesus say to focus on what I want.

In his book Oswald says “We are to be fountains through which Jesus can flow as ‘rivers of living water’ in blessing to everyone.”  He compares that to people who are like the Dead Sea… always receiving and never giving because their relationship is not right with the Lord.  My favorite quote from today’s devotion is “Stay at the Source, closely guarding your faith in Jesus Christ and your relationship to Him, and there will be a steady flow into the lives of others with no dryness or deadness whatsoever.”  So incredibly powerful!

I see so many people get hung up on different things of the Bible and I just don’t understand.  There are many things in the Bible that are beyond my comprehension… and I’m ok with that!  I have a finite mind, not God’s mind so not understanding everything in the Bible every time I read it is not a problem for me.  I choose to believe the ENTIRE Bible and trust God with my life.  I’m certainly not perfect at it but I don’t want to be a luke warm Christian and only read my Bible on Sunday or go to church when it’s convenient or a major holiday.  He calls us to be in His word EVERY DAY, to worship, pray and serve others.  Satan loves nothing more then someone who calls herself a Christian yet does not live a Christian life.

Romans 13:12  The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

Ephesians 6:11  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 

Walk worthy in the Light of Christ!  If you call yourself a Christian, understand that everything you say and do is a reflection or a witness of Christ to those around you.

Book Study – God Up Close Chapter 2

What do you think of when you hear the word meditation?  According to the Webster Dictionary meditation is discourse intended to express its author’s reflections or to guide others in contemplation.  I don’t know about you but that definition is not very helpful.  Often in today’s world when you hear the word meditation you think of a new age type focus or eastern meditation.  However, I believe meditation started WAY before any new age movement.

Psalm 64:1  Hear my voice, O God, in my meditation; preserve my life from fear of the enemy.

Psalm 64 is a psalm about being oppressed by the wicked but still rejoicing in the Lord.  In verse 1 David talks about meditating on God and calling on God to hear his voice.

Psalm 119:48  My hands also I will lift up to your commandments, which I love, and I meditate on your statutes.

Here is a table that contrasts between Biblical Meditation and Eastern Meditation.

Eastern Meditation                              Biblical Meditation

Mental Focus                      Empties the mind.                                 Fills the mind with God’s Word.

Content Focus                    Asks participants to repeat                  Asks participants to focus on vital
a single word – a mantra.                      content – God’s Word.

Goal                                     Aids in self-fulfillment.                         Aids in honoring God.

Method                               Visualizes what you desire.                  Prays to God, who controls the universe.

Resources                           The ultimate resources is                     The ultimate resource and power is God.
within the person.

I studied this table for a long while because I see such truth in it.  Truth not just in meditation but truth in the sins of this fallen world!  The world tries to empty the mind rather then deal with stress, job problems, money problems, marriage problems, parent-child relationship problems.  We are taught by our secular society that we are the resource to fix everything.  It’s all within us which is absolutely absurd!  Think of the disappointment when you visualize yourself in that new position at work.  And you visualize and visualize and visualize yet it doesn’t happen.  You become bitter, resentful.  The goals in the table really struck me…. I don’t want to aid myself in self-fulfillment.  My fulfillment comes from the Lord, not my husband (although I have to say my husband ROCKS!  Thank you Lord!), not my children (I’m blessed here too!), not my job, not even my church.  My GOD is what fulfills me!  The goal of biblical meditation is to help me to honor God.

I’m loving this study.  I’m seeing the importance of getting in the Word EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Not just on Sundays.  God’s word is our armor in such a fallen land.  Ephesians 6:1  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

If the Word is not influencing you SOMETHING is – I promise!

God Bless!

 

 

Book Study: God Up Close – Chapter 1

“Oh, how I love Your law!  It is my meditation all the day.”  Psalm 119:97

A few months ago a dear friend of mine said while meeting with her Pastor’s wife, the wife asked who in my friend’s life she looked up to spiritually.  I was blown away when my friend said I was the first one she thought of!  Me??  I have so much to learn and so many ways to grow spiritually.  I remember thinking ‘I need to earn that title.’  So, when I was recently invited to take part in a book study with another friend of mine I immediately jumped at the chance as doing bible studies with this sister in Christ is very encouraging, convicting and refreshing.  She loves the Lord with all her heart and even more, loves to share the Gospel.  She is passionate about her family and ministering to other moms.  She truly is a light in such a dark world.

She came across a book titled God Up Close: How to Meditate on His word by Doug McIntosh.  The book is no longer in print (because, I believe, that it does not tickle the itching ears of the average church in America today) but I was able to buy a used copy on Amazon.  There are about 11 ladies in the group ranging in age from 38 to 86 with many different life experiences and biblical knowledge to share.  Course… being the introvert… I don’t share much!  I’d rather listen!  I’m determined to share next week though!

I’ve read the first 3 chapters twice already and have really been convicted on what are my priorities.  The author, Mr. McIntosh, makes several good points of what we value and love we make time for yet many many Christians do no read their bible and pray every day… many barely once a week.  This book addresses the phenomenon that being a Christian just means being a good person or believing in God.  That’s it… that’s all you have to do…. hmmm.  If you actually read the bible that’s not the truth.

I love this quote in chapter 1: “Meditation is the adoring believer’s interaction with the God of the Bible by means of the Bible.”  I want to be the adoring believer!  Here are the 3 steps Mr. McIntosh uses to meditate on God’s word:

  1. Realizing the truth of God as it is contained in the Scriptures.  This realization comes from reading and study.
  2. Reflecting upon that truth, considering its implications for me personally and for the world.
  3. Responding to God in thanksgiving, worship, and obedience because of that truth.

The author makes a point; if your first question when deciding if you should meditate on God’s word is ‘how long will this take’ then you can’t afford it.  Truly, if I could spend at least an hour every day pouring over my bible and journaling I would!  I love being in God’s word and I love my children being in God’s word.  I can’t expect them to do it if I do not make it a priority.  He also points out that many obstacles present themselves when someone makes a decision to meditate on God’s word.  Satan is not happy about a Christian actually reading her bible and makes every attempt to sabotage her efforts.  Facebook, movies, TV (which is 98% crap anyway), video games all take time away from God; not to mention the effect on our families.

Ok, I’m getting on a rant… I’ll get off my soapbox for now.

Some of the last words of Moses were “Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall commend your children to be careful to observe – all the words of this law.  For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life.” Deuteronomy 32:46-47

Meditation calls for honesty and reflection.  Express your concerns and stresses of this life to God, always with reverence and He will listen.  He’s knows your heart anyway but wants to walk with you through this life.  Reflect on how God has shown His kindness to you or to others.

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2

Another favorite quote from chapter 1 – “Meditation is not a casual activity.  Only those who esteem (delight in) the Word will spend the time and energy required to mine it’s treasures.”

I’ll end with this praise from David from 2 Samuel 22:1-4

Then David spoke to the Lord the words of this song, on the day when the Lord had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.  And he said: The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;  The God of my strength, in whom I will trust;  My shield and the horn of my salvation,  My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence.  I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised:  So shall I be saved from my enemies.

 

 

A Few of My Favorite Quotes From this Past Weekend

I enjoyed the Sally Clarkson women’s conference I went to this past weekend.  Her theme this year was the Lifegiving Home – Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming.  She shared with us (over 1000 women!) how she and her husband went about creating a Godly home where her 4 homeschooled children were taught the Scriptures and to love one another, to be a servant (meaning as Christ was a servant… I’m not talking child labor here), to be confident in who God made them to be and to share the Gospel with passion and conviction with the world.

Her oldest daughter is studying writing at Oxford in England.  Her oldest son is an accomplished composer and plays many instruments. I can’t remember where he studied but he composed a number that the Pope selected to be played at one of his recent events.  Her 3 child is an actor and filmmaker and made the movie Confessions of a Prodigal Son.  Her 4th child completed her bachelor degree at the age of 20.  Joy is taking a year off from college to work 3 jobs, save her money and go to Oxford for her masters degree.  All of Sally’s children are successful adults but what I found most interesting is their love of the Lord and their conviction to share their love of the Lord with the world.

Here a few favorite quotes:

  • God must be the source of life, truth and strength in our home.  Psalm 127:1 Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keep awake in vain.
  • Build life-long routines that bring life, beauty, legacy and love.  Galations 6:9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
  • “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” –Robert Frost
  • Mentors are those who draw our what God has put into His design of the person under our influence.
  • Teach your children to live in a dark world, not to be afraid of it.
  • Let love be the basis of relationships in your home.
  • Accept limitations of their personality and minister to them according to their design.
  • Life Purpose – to glorify God, to serve His kingdom.  Matthew 6:33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
  • Controlling children does not raise Godly children.  Teach them about choices; there are blessings and consequences to all choices.
  • Give children an appetite for work.
  • What we practice we become, what we sow we reap, what we water will grow.
  • Prepare your children for spiritual battle and suffering in their lives.
  • Where are you investing?  What story is your life telling?

And my favorite quote from the weekend is: Right is always right even if no one else is doing it.  Wrong is always wrong even if everyone is doing it.   I find this quote especially true in our current society.  We live in a time when evil is called good and good is called evil.  Without God’s word as our moral compass who decides what is morally right or morally wrong.

What is Repentance?

With the new year I wanted my own personal bible study and devotion to take on a particular theme or direction.  There are dozens upon dozens of ways to study through the bible.  I’ve tried the read the bible in a year thing and still haven’t completed the schedule.  (As a side note, reading through the bible isn’t necessarily the same as studying the bible.)  In the past I’ve also chosen a particular book in the bible to do an in-depth study.  I wanted to study something that would challenge my every day walk with the Lord.  It’s easy to get in a rut and just go through the motions.   After much prayer and contemplation I decided to study the commands of Christ.

John 14:15 says “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”  

In order to keep his commandments I need to know what they are, study them and apply them to my life.  According to the sources I reviewed there are approximately 49 commands of Christ.  Some resources have a higher number but after reviewing the list I feel like several of them are very similar so I’m going to use the list of  49 commandments.

The first commandment of Christ I’m studying is the call to repent.  The Webster dictionary defines repentance as:  the action or process of repenting especially for misdeeds or moral shortcomings. 

Matthew 4:17 “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Jesus calls us to repent of our sin.  Now, for those who call themselves Christian, down play sin and say Jesus was all about showing love to the world how do you handle this verse?  If sin is not really that big of deal why would Jesus call us to repent of our sin?  Yes, Jesus did come to show love to the world but no where in Scripture does it say sin really isn’t the issue as long as we show love (and by the world’s definition tolerance) to everyone around us.  It’s one of the ways many churches all over the world are watering down the Word of God.  Instead of preaching about the hard issues and holding their congregations accountable they want to soften it up and be liked and get more people in the door.

Acts 3:19 Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.  In this verse, Peter is calling on those listening to repent and be forgiven.  Again, if sin wasn’t an issue why would Peter be telling people they need to repent?  Why would forgiveness be needed if there isn’t truly sin in the world.  And, if there really isn’t sin in the world what did Jesus die for on that cross?

II Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.  A Christian is saved by faith but our deeds, both good and bad, will be judged by Christ.  You can’t read this passage and not realize that without true repentance, the judgment we receive will be harsher.  Even if I’m saved by faith, if I sin and do not truly repent I will be judged for those deeds.  It’s kind of like saying “I know God, what I’m doing (fill in the blank) is sin but… it’s ok, you died on the cross for my sin so I don’t really need to repent.”

And finally, Revelation 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore, be zealous and repent.  Again, Jesus is speaking here and specifically says to be zealous and REPENT.  Hmmm…. I’m seeing a theme and the command to repent!

For me and my walk with the Lord, I realized through studying repentance that the almost 16 years I’ve been a Christian I’ve kind of skipped this command.  When I think of repenting I think of those ‘big’ sins… you know… I’ve never killed anyone, I’m not a thief, etc.  However, this past week the Lord has shown me I need to repent of ALL sin, even the ‘small’ ones.  The ugly thought I had about a family member, the cross words I said to my children, the disrespecting comment to my husband, the snarky comment to my mom (Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.  Exodus 20:12), the snarky comments about my mother-in-law.. the list could go on and on.  I need to repent of all my sin, not just if I’m an ax murderer.

Dear Precious Lord,

I’m in awe of your creation; all of it!  I’m overwhelmed with thanksgiving of all the mercy, forgiveness and love you have shown me since capturing my heart many years ago.  I can’t imagine the path I would be on had I not heard your call.  Lord, reveal to me the sins in my life and grant me the courage to confess and repent.  Thank you for the hope I have in Jesus.

Amen!