Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How Not To Be A Grinch- Part 3

This past Sunday in Sunday School, the teachers treated the students to breakfast and it was an amazing lineup of food.  Since the Wednesday night series had been tied in with the Grinch, we showed it while the students ate and hung out together.  Then I taught the Sunday School lesson by wrapping up this series.  

After the Grinch hears that Christmas did not end he says "Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more".  We know that the true meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as He came to earth to live among us and rescue us from our sin.  In church we talk about this each and every year, but if we are honest we don't always get it.  Many times we are so caught up in the busyness and the presents that we do not see Jesus.  

I asked the students if they had ever received a present at Christmas that they were disappointed in.  Some students were brave enough to share and I shared an embarrassing story about myself.  Several years ago my wife bought me a nice pair of Timberland boots.  They were very nice, but I'm just not the boot wearing guy.  And so in this moment I became that jerk who was unappreciative.  I don't really remember what all was said (I've tried to block it out of my memory), but I showed my disappointment.  I had become more concerned with the "presents" than the "presence of God" that we celebrate during Christmas.  Matthew 1:23 tells us that His name will be Immanuel which means "God with us".  We hear this often, but need to let it sink in.  Our sin has separated us from God, the sin that began in the Garden with Adam and Eve.  Now Jesus, who is God in the flesh, came to earth and lived a perfect life, died on the cross and arose from death in order to make a way for us to have fellowship with God again.  At this moment in the manger for the first time in many years, God was now with us on earth.  He is here for us to have a relationship with if we will accept Him.  But Jesus was not only "God with us" for his 33 years on earth.  He is forever with us and echoes this promise in Matthew 28:20 telling us that He is with us forever.  What a promise for us to hold on to!

The presence of God is a huge deal.  The question to ask is whether or not it is a big deal to you?  Are you more concerned with "Presents" or the "Presence of God" this Christmas?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

WNW Christmas Party 2011

So last night was our last Wednesday Night Worship of the year and so we had our youth Christmas party.  We began the night with a competitive Bible scavenger hunt where students had to answer questions by finding the scripture reference.  All of the questions were related to the birth of Jesus, but some were details that aren't thought of much, like "Who was the step-grandfather of Jesus?", who by the way was named Jacob and we know nothing about.  After that we sang a few songs.  The first was Happy Birthday to Lauren who turned 16.  Of course we never sing it normal but have Mitchell do his version.  I don't even know how to begin to explain it.  Then next I convinced Belinda to join me in singing a funny duet of a parody of "Baby It's Cold Outside".  Instead of the original creepy version where the guy is trying to get the girl to stay, this version was like I had been kicked out in the cold because I got her a terrible Christmas gift- a toilet brush.  I can't take credit for writing it though- Andy Gullahorn and Jill Phillips do this version which you can watch here.  We then had a contest for the best tacky Christmas sweater/outfit.  This is always fun because the students make their sweaters and they always turn out great.  Hunter won this year with a sweater covered in tinsel and presents.  Then we had our gag gift exchange.  We drew numbers and went in order selecting gifts.  Some of the gag gifts were:  set of fake stick-on mustaches, framed lyrics to "Christmas Shoes" song with "WORST SONG EVER" written across it (that was my gift), a tie that played Christmas music, Pepto Bismol, a country cd, a box of corn muffin mix, and many others.  My face hurt from laughing during this time.  Then before ending the night with cookies and snacks, some students had a gag gift for me- a huge box.  When I opened it, there was another box, and another box, and another- all wrapped and taped together with duct tape.  So after what seemed like 20 minutes I get to the center which was a Casting Crowns CD (inside joke here) signed by some of the students.  We had a great time of fellowship and a great way to end the year.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How Not To Be A Grinch- Part 2

As we continued our "How Not To Be A Grinch" series this week we considered the topic that "Nothing Can Stop Christmas".  We dove right in after a worship set that included:  Here Is Our King, Come and Worship, Silent Night, O Come Let Us Adore Him, and Angels We Have Heard On High.  I showed a clip from toward the end of the movie where the Grinch had made it to the top of the mountain with all the Christmas stuff he stole from the Who's and was waiting to hear their reaction.  What he heard was not what he expected as the Who's joined together in unity and sang and celebrated Christmas anyway. No matter what great efforts the Grinch went to, he was unable to stop Christmas.

We opened our Bibles to Isaiah 9:6 and read one of just many prophecies in the Bible that point to the birth of Jesus.  In fact there are almost 2500 prophecies in the Bible which nearly 2000 have come true so far.  A good reason to believe that all will come true in due time!  With the knowledge that Jesus was coming to save us from our sins, it should not be a surprise that Satan tried his best efforts to stop the birth of Jesus from occurring and ending Christmas altogether.  

In Matthew 2:16 Herod began to kill all male children ages two and under.  If he had been successful in killing Jesus then it would have stopped our reason to celebrate Christmas.  However God did not allow it and warned Joseph in a dream to make the escape to Egypt.  Also in Matthew 1:19 when Joseph first found out that Mary was pregnant he intended to divorce her quietly.  Not only could Joseph have divorced Mary, but by law he could have had her stoned to death which would have also killed Jesus.  I am sure that Satan was speaking lies to Joseph and trying to lead him to follow through with ending her life.  However we see that this did not happen and God sent an angel to speak to Joseph in a dream.

Nothing could stop Jesus from being born and going on to die on the cross for our sins.  God's perfect plan will never be thwarted or stopped.  Satan will try his best to stop the will of God, but it will never happen.  Satan could not stop the birth of Jesus, the Grinch could not stop Christmas from happening, and nothing will stop Christmas from happening this year, unless Jesus returns first.  Christmas, which is the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ will take place this year.  The question though is whether or not you will be a part of it.  Of course you can sing the songs, decorate the tree, etc. but not experience the worship of Jesus.  Many people will miss the worship and celebration of the life of Jesus because of anger, bitterness, grudges, hard feelings, etc. between them and family, parents, friends, or even God.  So my question for the students and for you is this:  What do you need to lay down in order to have Christmas and celebrate the birth of Jesus?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How Not To Be A Grinch- Part 1

This week at WNW we began a Christmas series called "How Not To Be A Grinch".  We began the night with a trivia game that asked the students questions based on the cartoon movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas".  After that we did a worship set that included:  Song of Hope, Joy to the World, Offering, and How Many Kings.

I talked about how it seems that in the month of December there is a wide array of emotions that people experience.  Some are giddy and happy all the time during the Christmas season.  Others are sad because they miss family and friends that have passed on.  Others are greedy because they want everything.  Then there are those who I like to refer to as "grinchy".  I know that is a made up word but I believe it fits here.  Someone who is "grinchy" seems to be in a bad mood, and do not show care for those around them.  It could be because of situations in their own life, but for whatever reason they have a sour attitude.  We see this in one of the first scenes of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" as it talks about how the Grinch hates the Who's. It could have been because his shoes were too tight, or maybe because his head wasn't screwed on just right, but probably because his heart was 2 sizes too small.  The Grinch hated the Who's so much that he was willing to ruin their Christmas by taking it away from them and stealing all of their belongings.

So then we opened up our Bibles to Matthew 2:1-12 and read about the Magi, aka the Wise Men.  I talked about many of the truths in this passage that is often changed in our modern Christmas plays such as: we don't know how many Magi there were but there were at least 2, tradition tells us 3 but the Bible does not say for sure; also the Magi did not arrive while Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were still in the stable but it could have been as much as 2 years later based on the fact that they were now in a house, the word child was used, and that Herod had all boys ages 2 and under killed.  We know that when the Magi worshipped Jesus they presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Many traditions tell us that these gifts each had symbolic meanings, but this is probably not the case.  What we do not normally think about is that in the verses afterward Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were led to flee to Egypt and live for a period of time while Herod was killing all boys ages 2 and under.  The gifts that the Magi presented Jesus would have helped fund the trip to Egypt and help provide for them during this time.  So essentially we can say that the gifts that the Magi gave Jesus helped save His life.

So how does this and "grinchy" attitude all tie together to us today.  Well this was the official kick-off for our upcoming World Vision 30 Hour Famine.  January 27-28 we will fast for 30 hours to gain a small understanding of what hunger is like.  In the time leading to this we will be raising funds to go toward children in need.  Why do we do this?  Because every day at least 22,000 children die of preventable diseases such as hunger, pneumonia, etc.  This means a child dies every 8-12 seconds.  How is it is then that we say that one of the names of God is Jehova-Jireh which means "The Lord provides"?  Well the truth is, God has provided enough food and clean water for the entire world, but there is also injustice and sin that exists because of our sinful choices.  This means that is up to us to help the poor and less fortunate and provide for them.  Luke 12:33 is just one of many verses where Jesus  speaks on giving to the poor.  I watched a video on the story of Katie Davis the other day- you can watch the video and learn about her amazing story here.  In this video she states "Jesus doesn't ask that we care for the less fortunate- He demands it.  When calling ourselves Christ-followers, caring for orphans, the desolate, and the widow are not an option, it's a requirement".  

So here was my challenge for the students.  Just as the gifts the Magi gave Jesus helped save His life, I asked that the students would consider what they could give to save the life of a poor child.  I ask you to consider the same.  What might God be calling you to give up this Christmas season so you can give to the poor.  I challenged the students to consider sponsoring a child through World Vision or Compassion International because not only are these organizations helping physically save the lives of children in need, they are also presenting them the Gospel and leading them to Jesus.  So ask yourself what you can give, and also ask God to search your own heart to see if you have any "grinchy" attitudes or hate within you that will keep you from helping someone in need.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hearts on Fire Video

Here is a video I am showing tonight that we made highlighting our trip a couple weeks ago to the Hearts on Fire Conference.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What I'm Thankful For

Since this week is Thanksgiving I wanted to take some time to think about and share the things that I am thankful for:

-My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I am so thankful that He died for me so that I can have a relationship with Him and live with Him eternally.  I am thankful that He loves me and cares for me the way that He does.  I am thankful that He speaks truth into my life and corrects me when I need it.

-My wife and best friend Belinda.  I cannot explain how thankful I am for her.  I could not make it without her as she is someone I depend on so much.  She puts up with me which is a huge task in itself.  I am thankful that she loves me and cares for me the way she does.  Honestly, she spoils me!  I am so thankful for the ways that she supports me in everything I do.  I am thankful for her godliness that is simply beautiful.

-My family.  My family means so much to me, and I am thankful for them more each and every day.  I am so blessed to have the support in my family that I do.  My family brings such joy in my life.

-This weekend.  God really did some amazing things this weekend for me.  It began with us taking the students to the Hearts on Fire Conference in Gatlinburg where we were blessed to hear David Nasser, Clayton King, and the David Crowder Band.  Our church's Thanksgiving service was Sunday morning and they surprised us by also making it Pastor Appreciation Day.  Deacons and one of our students specifically shared how they are thankful for me, which was such a blessing.  To know that people love you, care for you, and pray for you is truly humbling.  Then last night Belinda and I went to the Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant concert in Knoxville.  We had incredible seats and it was a great night.  We even had time to get gelato before the concert!  All in all, God refreshed me this weekend in a way that I was in much need of, which I am grateful for.

-My friends.  I have a few good friends in my life who care for me, support me, and listen to me.  I appreciate all they do for me.

-My home.  Sometimes I whine and complain about the things that seem to constantly tear up in our home, the squirrels that live in our attic, etc.  But the truth is we have a home to live in.  It breaks my heart that people in this world are homeless.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hearts on Fire Conference

This weekend we took the students to the Hearts on Fire Conference in Gatlinburg, TN.  We had an incredible weekend where we were challenged with Biblical preaching and an awesome concert.  David Nasser spoke on Friday night and did an amazing job.  I have been a big fan of David's for years and have always wanted to take the students to a conference he was speaking at.  He shared how he has been through many fires in his life, but the deliverance that Jesus provided him.  He challenged us with the truth that in order to be saved, we don't need a cleaned up heart, but a complete heart transplant and that when Jesus saves us, we are changed forever!  His invitation was probably the best I have ever seen done.  Instead of him having the worship band play, he had no music and had the house lights turned on.  He then said that if anyone knew that they needed to be saved to stand up.  He gave this opportunity for several minutes, and discouraged applause.  He did this in order for people to make a true decision for salvation and not make an emotional decision.  I was very glad it was done this way since one of my biggest criticisms of youth conference in general is the emotional factor that takes place.  David did an excellent job and I was glad we got to hear him.

Saturday morning started off with a concert by the David Crowder Band!  Crowder is one of our group's favorites and it was especially exciting since the band is hanging it up with their final album coming out in January.  Not only was this an exciting concert, but there was also a great element of worship involved.  

The last session on Saturday evening had Clayton King as the speaker.  I had never heard him speak, but knew of him.  Clayton gave an amazing message as well!  He spoke from John 6 and the different types of belief.  He gave an invitation very similar to David.  Many lives were changed this weekend and I am glad we were able to be a part of it.  I believe God did a great work in the lives of our students, as well as the adult leaders!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

WNW 11/9/11 & 11/16/11

The past two weeks at Wednesday Night Worship the students led the service.  I was gone the week before and that night they split into groups and planned out their services from songs, lessons taught, who would pray, activities, etc.  Both groups did an amazing job and it's always really neat to see how the messages go together without them planning them that way.  Only God could!

Wednesday Night Worship 11/9/11- Group 1 Led by Mitchell
Group 1 was led by Mitchell and they opened the night by playing a game called Zoom-Erk (not sure how to spell that).  I'm not even going to try to explain the game but the "erks" are essentially like roadblocks which tied into their lesson.  After playing a round of this game we sang some worship songs.  They asked the youth band to lead and chose for us to sing:  Enough, O Come All Ye Faithful, Our God, Sanctuary, and Marvelous Light.  After the worship set, Mitchell taught a lesson about the "Erks" or roadblocks that are in our lives that hinder our spiritual growth.  He used several verses to go along with the theme and did an excellent job in challenging us all to identify those things that hinder us and get around them in order to grow closer to God.

Wednesday Night Worship 11/16/11- Group 2 Led by Kaite
Group 2 went last night and was led by Kaite.  They began the night by playing one of their favorites- the human knot/pretzel.  Then we played a couple of rounds of the looking game, where everyone is standing in a circle and look down and on the count of 3 everyone looks at someone's eyes.  If you make eye contact with the same person you are looking at then both are out.  After that the group did their own worship leading and sang: Jesus Loves Me, Go Tell It On The Mountain, and This Little Light of Mine.  Their lesson for the night was how we are all parts of one body and used 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.  Each person in the group read a few verses and then placed a part of the body on a cutout of a person.  It was cool how each student played a part in the lesson about how we all play a part in the body of Christ!  Afterward I shared how it was cool how the two lessons went together in the fact that we have to get rid of the roadblocks in our lives before we can properly function as a body of Christ.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You are Mine!- Isaiah 43

I was reading Isaiah 43 a couple of days ago and am still overwhelmed by God's Word.  I get excited and all mushy when my wife makes a statement similar to the fact that "I'm hers", but the fact that the God of the universe says that I'm His just blows me away.  Even though I fail and let Him down, even though I try to do life on my own sometimes, even though I do not give Him the time He deserves, He still loves me!  Not only does He love me, but He protects me through the fire, and is there with me every step of the way!

Isaiah 43:1-7
1 But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
2  "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you;
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
3 "For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I have given Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your place.
4  "Since you are precious in My sight,
Since you are honored and I love you,
I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for you life.
5  "Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
And gather you from the west.
6 "I will say to the north, 'Give them up!'
And to the south, 'Do not hold them back.'
Bring My sons from afar
And My daughters from the ends of the earth,
7 Everyone who is called by My name,
And whom I have created for My glory,
Whom I have formed, even whom I have made."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Identity Part 5- Child of God

This week at Wednesday Night Worship we finished the series called "Identity" that we had been looking at over the past several weeks.  We opened the night with a funny video about how to fit in and then went into our worship set which included "Dancing Generation", "Holding Onto You", "Son of God", and "I'll Lead You Home".  Right after the last song I showed a video called "Who I Am" that showed four teenagers as they began their day and each talking about how the world is pulling them in many different directions.  The question that they each have to face is "Who Am I?" rather than "Who does the world want me to be?".  I began my message with a quick summary of what we had looked at each week within this series and how basically at times we try to hide behind different identities in life because of what is going on inside of us.  In other words our insecurities lead us to want to feel accepted, and when we act on that it can put us in a dangerous situation where we allow ourselves to be exposed to sin.  I shared a quote by Rhianna that I read recently where she said in regards to the person she is on stage and in the public eye:  "That's not me.  That's a part I play".  In other words she is saying that she is hiding behind that identity, which is very sad to me.

Each topic that we have looked at throughout this series I have said that instead of that identity, we should seek to find our identity as a child of God.  That is a churchy phrase that we use often but what does it really mean?  Well the short Sunday School answer would be that you are saved.  We looked at John 1:12-13 to get a clearer picture of what it means.  We read in these verses that in order to be a child of God, you must be born of God.  You must have believe in Him.  You must have accepted Him as your Savior and as Lord of your life.  Verse 12 says that then we have the right, or we are then given the title of child of God.  We must be born of God in order to be called a child of God.  We can not say we are a child of anyone that we have not been born of.  In addition we will receive the inheritance which means we have an eternal relationship with God.

After identifying what a child of God looks like, we discussed what this identity looks like. You can truly be saved and be a child of God, but it not be your identity.  We looked at these six things that should take place in our lives when we are striving to live daily as a child of God.  There are plenty more but these are six that I felt like we should cover.
1)  You are more concerned with what God thinks about you than what others think- Galatians 1:10.  We covered this earlier in this series as well.  We also believe what God says about us through His Word and do not believe the lies of Satan and others.
2)  You are a bond-servant/slave of Jesus Christ- Galatians 1:10.  Paul refers to himself here as a bond-servant or a slave of Jesus Christ.  This means that we realize that once we are saved, then we no longer own our own lives, but instead we are owned by Jesus Christ and are to serve Him as such.
3)  You have a clear picture of who God is which dictates how you live your life.  We have been talking about this through the "I Believe" study in Sunday School.  What we believe dictates how we behave.  If we have a clear picture of who God is through the Bible, then it will guide how we live our lives.
4)  Your misery in life turns to joy- James 1:2-4.  We realize that the trials we face are a time for us to grow closer to God and be shaped by Him so He can use us.  Our perspective of everything changes and we understand that our trials produce perseverance.
5)  You choose God's will for your life instead of your own- John 6:66-69.  When the people in this chapter heard the truth from Jesus, they chose their own will instead of God's will for their life.
6)  You want Jesus above everything else- John 6:66-69.  The people chose the world instead of Jesus because it was no longer convenient for them and it required a lot for them to continue to follow Jesus.  When you place your identity in being a child of God, then you understand that it is going to be hard at times, but even when it is hard it is so much more worth it than choosing the world.

In closing I told the students that each one of us fall into one of three categories:
1) You are fully seeking your identity as a child of God.  You are growing daily with Him and allowing Him to use you.
2) You are saved- but you are seeking your identity in other things.  You are hiding behind other identities because of your own insecurity and desire to fit it, and are choosing that instead of a close relationship with Jesus Christ.
3) You are lost and your identity has nothing to do with Jesus because you have never made a decision to follow Him.  

You have to ask yourself today "Who Am I?"

Friday, October 14, 2011

Corn Maze 2011

This past Saturday we took the students to the corn maze.  We had a great time as they bounced on this crazy inflated dome thing (I have no idea what to call it), they raced pedal cars, took a hay ride, did the corn maze, etc.  It was a great day and here are some pictures of some of the events.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fields of Faith 2011

Last night instead of our regular Wednesday Night Worship service we joined with other teens in our area for this year's FCA Fields of Faith.  This is a nationwide event for teens to get together and pray, worship, etc.  Since it had been raining the moved it inside to the gym which actually worked our pretty well.  After some pizza and games, there was a time of worship and then three students shared their testimonies which was great to hear.  After that our very own Kaite got up to share her story and how Jesus has influenced her life and how He has called her into ministry.  She then shared that she along with other students would be performing a skit called "Set Me Free" that they will be doing in our upcoming Lucifer's Lies drama and how we all must accept Jesus and allow Him to set us free from the sin in our lives.  Afterward an invitation was given and a few students came forward to say that they had placed their faith in Jesus.  It was a great night and as always I am so proud of our students at Clearwater in how they are leaders in their schools and share the love of Jesus with others.