Monday, March 10, 2014

The Simplicity of the What the Bible Says

Today, my roommate and I had a very interesting conversation over lunch. We were discussing various aspects of Christianity and how they are displayed in Christian circles. As we were talking, both of us started seeing something in the particular language we were using. Our words were big and complex. What do I mean by this? Mainly, if you told these words to a little kid, they would probably have a very confused look on their face or think you said something really bad. 

So this got me thinking. Why do we as Christians use such large words to convey rather simple concepts? Now please, don't think I am bashing higher level Christian education. I do go to a Christian university. 

Here's what I'm getting at, most Christians I know (and myself included), like to use big, theologically awesome sounding words when talking about Christianity. Sanctification, assurance of salvation, salvation, the Gospel, propitiation, the list goes on and on. Yes, I understand some of these words are in Scripture and I am not by any means disregarding translations of the Bible. 

However, I have started to think that what if when telling someone what the Bible says, we didn't use these complex words and stuck to the simple route. This actually plays a HUGE role in my personal testimony. I was saved at the age of four. Yes, I said four. But here's the thing, I understood the simple concept that sin separates me from God; God sent Jesus to die on a cross to take my sin and pay for it; He rose again on the third day, beating death; and through Him I can have a relationship with God again. 

At the age of four, I didn't even know what the terms salvation or the Gospel meant but I just portrayed them in one (run-on) sentence. Sometimes I wonder... if we as believers used our personal stories and what we simply believe in to tell the loving story of Christ, instead of these articulate and elaborately worded stories, what larger impact we would make. 

As I said before, I am not against these large words, I just think they have a time and a place which doesn't include an initial presentation of Christ. I love how Jesus emphasizes simplicity among His messages. Take the parables for instance. Specific stories directed right at His target audience, with an element of child-like faith added to them. Christ simply and explicitly lived and presented His message. Shouldn't we as believers do that too? 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Why I'm Thankful For My Parents and Youth Leaders

I know much has been written on this topic and the distinction between a parent's role in a teenagers life and a youth leader/pastor's role in a teenager's life has been made quite clear.

But I've never read a student's perspective on this particular topic. And to be honest, I feel like it is very important that teenagers, parents, youth leaders, youth pastors, etc all understand the difference.

In my own walk with the Lord, my youth group was a HUGE blessing. I feel like it was the place where I did the most growing in my eighteen and a half years of life.

 However, my parents are the main people responsible for my walk. They encouraged me to get involved in youth group. They prayed for my heart to grow. They prayed for my leaders hearts to grow. They loved on and encouraged my leaders.

So, if I had to say some things to parents and youth leaders alike, it'd be this:

1. You are first and foremost the spiritual leaders in our lives. You are the ones who decide which church we attend, and what events we partake in. You are the ones who encourage us to get involved. You are the ones who pray for our hearts and ask us about our walks. YOU. God gave us to you for this very reason.

2. Be actively asking questions about our lives. Oh my goodness will we push you away like we never have before. We will ignore you, give you a quick smile and tell you everything is okay when it is not. But keep pushing and poking at us. We may get mad, but believe me, it shows us more than anything that you care and love us. Even if it takes singing the Barney theme song to make us laugh and stop crying (yes, my Daddy did that and it worked) then do it.

3. Don't just tell us you want us to be involved in church, show us how to be involved in church. Be active in your Sunday school classes or ministries you participate in. Show us how to greet strangers and love anyone who walks through the doors. Show us how to differentiate between gossiping and actually showing concern for people's problems. Show us how to lead someone to the Lord. Show us how to pray. The list can go on and on.

4. But most of all, know that we know the Lord placed you in our lives for a specific reason. Know that we are blessed to have you as parents. We may not show that very often (I'm definitely guilty of that), but we couldn't do life without you. Don't beat yourself up when we fall into sin (I'm not saying don't be disappointed or don't discipline. But don't sulk in self-pity and think you are a failure), cause it's going to happen whether you want it to or not. Instead, discipline us in love and show us how to fight sin.

Youth Pastors/Leaders
1. You are not our parents. And please don't try to be. I know that sounds harsh, but the minute you start trying to be our parents, we stop listening to our own. Also, you are all at different stages in your lives. Some newly married, single, have little babies, etc and you aren't meant to be parents to teenagers yet. And that is totally okay. You will stress yourselves out and take on too much which prevents you from being content where the Lord has you.

2. Instead, encourage our parents to step-up, and for us to respect and listen to them. Sometimes, us teenagers are prone to listen to anyone but our parents first and if you are encouraging us to go back to our parents, we will get the point.

3. Let our parents encourage and love on you. They really do appreciate everything you are doing for us. Don't shove them away. Let them in and make relationships with you. They are a few steps ahead of you like you are a few steps ahead of us. These relationships will pay off when times get hard or when joyous occasions happen. You never know what God is doing when He brings people into your lives.

4. Be genuine and honest about yourself to us. Don't try to show that you have it all together. We know you don't and while we might expect you to, what we are watching for is how you react and respond to those hard times. Showing us that you are human and that it's okay to not have it all together all the time speaks volumes. How you show us to rely on God and His promises will help us do the same when hard times come in our lives.

5. Most importantly, don't try to do everything. We know you are only capable of so much. You can't meet one on one with everyone, but those little side conversations after church on Sundays or spontaneous lunches/dinners after youth group mean the world to us, even if they don't happen often. Love us where we are at and be there for us when we need you. Just showing us that you are willing will help immensely.

I understand that not all situations will play out like mine did when I was in youth group. But what I'm trying to get across is that this distinction has a real impact on teenagers. I was blessed with amazing parents and an amazing group of young adults who truly care for the students they work with.

The only reason this all was able to happen was because God moved and is moving. He was steadily at work even when none of us acknowledged it. By fully relying on Him and knowing the differences that must be set, the church will grow and my generation will move.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

One Word

New Years Resolutions are on the prowl yet again. Everyone makes them whether or not they actually admit it. As I sat in my first speech class today, my professor suggested something different.

One word.

That's it. Just one word to focus on the entire year.

A meaningful word, one that will change your lives and the lives around you.

A word that impacts your life to the core and a word that will allow others to see a change in you.

So I was challenged. Challenged to pick one word to focus on. But I have decided to take it a step further. I want to focus on this word throughout The Word. I want to see how each Bible story and piece of Scripture use this word and see how God orchestrates it throughout His book.

What is the word I have chosen? TRUST. Plain and simple. I feel like it is something that I lack in. Trust is something that could and can teach me so many things. I know for a fact that God has much to say about trust and there is so much I could learn from Him. I mean, He sent His only son to die so that we can put our complete trust and faith in Him.

So I challenge you. Choose one word to focus on and incorporate it into everyday life. See how it plays out in the Word. And let it change you.