Pour on the Salt and Turn on the Light!

It’s been a long time since I blogged, so I figured I would get back into it by posting what I teach on for youth group or Sunday school. This morning’s message was on Matthew 5:13-16:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under foot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”salt light

What does it mean that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world?

First, what good is salt? Salt is used in over 14,000 different ways, with 68% coming through the use of industrial chemicals! Salt is one of the most stable compounds in the world and is one of the most abundant minerals in the world, too. As humans, we need salt in order to live because salt balances our body chemically and our muscles need salt to function. However, our bodies cannot produce salt so we must consume salt through water and food. Speaking of food, when it comes to food, salt is mainly used to preserve and to add flavor. Therefore, Jesus is calling us at Christians to preserve the truth (which is found in Christ) and to add flavor to a sometimes boring world. Where is the strength in salt? It’s found in quantity. A single grain of salt is very hard to taste the difference when sprinkled on food, but the more salt you add the more you can taste the salt. So it is with Christians: there is strength in numbers and community and the more we stick together, the saltier we can be to this earth.Salt by Salt Shaker   Original Filename: 6507-000073.jpg

Second, what is the significance of being light to this world? What difference does shining a light make? An important connection must be made to 1 John 1:5, which says “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” If God is light, and Jesus says “you are the light of the world,” then what is the connection? We are God’s representation here on earth and have been given his light to shine brightly for all to see. For when we let our light shine before others, it reflects the light of Christ.

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Is your light shining?

If your light is shining, does anybody notice?

The powerful thing about light is that the darker the darkness, the brighter the light will shine. Additionally, the more lights that are turned on, the brighter it will be! As Christians, we have the power to chose to shine our lights for the sake of others and for the sake of Christ. So turn your light on, don’t hide it under a basket, and put it on a stand so others can see it! There is strength in community – so the more lights that are shining together = more light! IMG_1768

We together are the salt of the earth!

We together are the light of the world!

We together can make a difference in the lives of others!

We together can make a difference for God!

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What’s so great about Water?

Water.

Refreshing. Sustaining. Purifying. Vital for life. Clean.glass-of-water
Water.

Life-threatening. Scary. Chaotic. Dangerous. Dirty.

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Is water life-threatening or life-giving?

This past Sunday, I taught a Sunday school lesson on how water can be life-threatening and also can be life-giving. Water is mentioned often in the Bible and I wanted to give the students in our youth group some ways to think about water in a spiritual context. Water is life-threatening in the sense that the sea and “abyss” are dangerous, deep, and can cause havoc and destruction when storms or tsunamis come. Additionally, water is life-threatening to those in the world that don’t have access to clean water (1 in 10 in the world) as 700,000 children die every year due to to unsafe water/poor sanitation (http://tap.unicefusa.org/)

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(Photo: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/14/my-take-why-people-of-faith-should-care-about-clean-water/)

However, water is life-giving to those that have it, and also provides life spiritually-speaking. In Psalm 23, water is described as restoring our soul. In Psalm 42, our soul is called to pant for God as a deer pants for streams of water. Proverbs 18:4 says “the words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook,” challenging us to think about the quality of words that flow out of our mouths. Are our words life-threatening or life-giving? In Isaiah 43, the promise from God is that “when you pass through the waters, I will be with you,” assuring us when the seas of life are raging, deep, scary, and stormy that God will be with us.

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(Photo credit to Tom Gable)

It would be completely ignorant to not acknowledge the significance the waters of baptism have to do in the lives of Christians. Baptism is a visible sign and seal of the invisible and covenantal grace of God to forgive our sins and welcome us into the family of God. Baptism represents that we have been cleansed in Christ’s blood, buried with him in death so we may rise with him and walk in newness of life. For those that practice infant baptism, the emphasis is on God’s promise towards us where believer baptism emphasizes the believer’s promises towards God. Through baptism, Christ calls us to a new obedience: to love and trust God completely.

Spiritually speaking, water provides life. Jesus Christ, in the gospel of John chapter four and chapter seven talks about “living water,” which only he can provide: “if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). Psalm 1 says “blessed is the one…who is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.”

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(Photo Credit Tom Gable)

In reference to water, the challenges for us as Christians are:

1. How are we relying on Jesus to sustain us and give us life? (Psalm 42)

2. Who or what is “flowing into us?” Is it Christ? Christian friends? The Bible? Or is it negative influences?

2. How can we be “rivers of living water” to other people? (John 7)

3. Do the words that flow out of us breathe life into others? (Proverbs 18)

4. How are we prospering and bearing fruit for Christ? (Psalm 1)

Perhaps I need to drink more water. Literally. I enjoy coffee, pop and gatorade way more than drinking water. Maybe I shouldn’t take the fact that I can drink clean water from the faucet anytime I want (unlike 768 million other people in the world). Here’s to the challenge of literally drinking more water and spiritually relying more on the living water of Christ.

Addicted to Media?

We are in a series called the 7 series at our church and we are challenging our youth group students to participate along with the congregation. It all has to do with creating margins in our lives for kingdom living. Each week has a different focus and then there are 7 challenges each week that we are encouraging our students to do with us. The 1st week was on clothes, 2nd week was on food, and this week is on MEDIA! (How ironic is it that I am posting about media through the use of media?)

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Instead of having students attempt to stop using all forms of media “cold turkey”, we as a youth staff decided to incorporate ways our students can use media for good + offer ways to limit the everyday use of media.

The 7 challenges for this week are:

1. Have the last text or message you send before bed be an encouraging one to someone you haven’t talked to in a while

2. When an inappropriate song comes on the radio, turn the station

3. Choose one social media site to not check for the week

4. Watch TV only with other people

5. Try to go 1 day without telling lies

6. Cut out 30 minutes of media (TV, phone, internet) and use that half-hour for good (play with siblings, read a book, talk a walk outside)

7. Watch a meaningful movie with family or friends and talk about it (here’s some of our favorites: To Save a Life, Radio, Chasing Mavericks, Remember the Titans, UP, Facing the Giants, Evan Almighty, Pursuit of Happiness)

My favorite is #1 and I can’t wait to send an encouraging text to some friends I haven’t talked to in a while! I am also looking forward to doing many of these myself and limiting my use of social media this week in an attempt to spend more time with God and with people!

I would encourage those reading to try these challenges for this week!

Here’s a fantastic yet convicting video on our addiction to phones:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OINa46HeWg8

Can the Youth Pastor do it all?

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After wanting to be a youth pastor for much of my college life, I often wondered, “What exactly is the role of a youth pastor?” Is the role of the youth pastor to be…

  1. the always energetic and super fun person everyone wants to be around
  2. the main spiritual development person in the lives of the youth
  3. responsible for the spiritual growth of the youth
  4. the supervisor and “baby-sitter” of the youth
  5. a Christian role model and mentor to youth
  6. attending student’s extra-curricular events and going to student lunches

I believe parents, youth, and the church might have differing expectations on what the role of the youth pastor actually is. In order for discipleship to happen in the lives of our youth, parents and youth pastors must partner together in teaching our youth what it looks like to follow Christ. Youth Pastors can’t simply expect parents to do all of the discipling at home, and parents can’t expect the Youth Pastors to “fix” their kids for 1-2 hours each week. There must be a partnership where parents and youth pastors collaborate and work together in the process of helping our youth become disciples.

I found this blogpost to be quite helpful: http://seedbed.com/feed/parents-children-youth-ministry-formation-happens/

I will leave you with this quote: “When you make disciples, you always get the church. When you make the church, you don’t always get disciples.”

Bable all over again

Thanks to a good friend of mine, I stumbled across this blogpost this morning and thought I would repost it. I enjoy reading The Gospel Coalition as there are insightful articles on there regularly. This one is in reference to the Tower of Bable, saying if you really want to fall, then get big.

How fitting in this Christmas season that God sent his Son in the lowliest of ways, being born in a manger in a dirty stable, next to nasty animals. Definitely not the biggest way to enter the world.

Give this article a quick ready today:

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/gospeldrivenchurch/2013/12/12/too-big-not-to-fail/

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The Beauty in Simplicity…

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The Christ Memorial Church High School Fall Retreat is something I look forward to every single year. Yes, it is one more thing to load onto the calendar in the midst of a busy fall, but that is exactly why I look forward to “getting away.” With the start-up of school, sporting events, after-school activities, work, meetings, and a new program and ministry year at church, life just gets crazy busy. So, we put a Fall Retreat on the calendar to offer high schoolers a chance to unwind, get away, forget about the stress of school and home, re-energize emotionally and spiritually, make new friendships and strengthen existing relationships all while having fun together at Cran-Hill Ranch!

Breakfast Burritos

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I recently came across this quote and I think it applies perfectly to why we go to Cran-Hill on a fall retreat in the middle of a very busy month of September:

“In the midst of all the noise, all the rush, all the change, all the busyness, and all the uncertainty, people long for simplicity. Precisely because things are so hectic and out of control people respond to simple. The busyness and complexity of life makes simple a great commodity, something desired.” 

Quiet Time

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We long for simplicity, so the goal for this weekend was simple:

Love God and Love Others.

It included: amazing food, great fellowship, quiet time with God, meaningful conversations around the fire, singing worship songs around the fire, playing capture the flag, experiencing God’s nature via canoeing down a river, and encouraging one another as fellow believers in Christ.

Quiet Time

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Once again, I came back from a Fall Retreat absolutely physically exhausted (not having slept much) but, more importantly, emotionally and spiritually renewed having experienced God’s beauty in the simplicity of sharing a weekend with high schoolers and leaders! Cheers to God for an amazing weekend!

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