The Season of Peace

371042676-Advent-A-Season-of-Peace-In-Emmaus-City-Church-Worcester-MA-2014The holiday season can be chaotic and exhausting right? I mean every day can be like that, but it seems to pick up during the holiday season. Maybe its because the days are shorter or our to-do list get bigger, or maybe both! Either way, the holiday season should be a great reminder for us that what we need most in our lives is peace. I don’t know about you, but I feel my days are always a bit chaotic and unstable. Not much has change since the times during and before Jesus. Leading up to the birth of Jesus, Israel is not in best situation. They had recently come under control of one of the most brutal military powers the world had ever seen. The Roman empire was notorious for their oppressive nature of requiring conquered people to conform to the “Roman” way of life. I can imagine that life was chaotic and unstable. Again, not much has change. However, coming was a king who would bring peace once and for all for not only Israel, but the whole world. Now, the peace Jesus brought was not your normal definition of peace. In fact, he tells us in Matthew 10:22 that the world will hate us. That doesn’t sound like peace is coming to me. However, the peace we get from Jesus comes through him and last for eternity. He tells us come to him and he will give us rest (Matt. 11:28-30). The peace we receive from Jesus comes from our anticipation of the future. While life is still chaotic and full of evil now, we get peace from knowing when Jesus returns, peace will once and for all be restored over all the Earth. Teenagers today are in desperate need of peace in their lives. According to the USA Today, a study on stress found that for teenagers “more than a quarter (27%) say they experience “extreme stress” during the school year, vs. 13% in the summer. And 34% expect stress to increase in the coming year.” Not only that, but the same study found that teenagers do not know how to deal with stress well. That means the bad habits that individuals develop to cope with stress during their teenage years can go on through adulthood. It is important for us to help our teens cope with stress, and who better to help them than Jesus Christ. We must teach and encourage our teens to seek peace through Jesus. Jesus offers to carry our teens’ burdens. Our job is to lead them to accept Jesus’s offer. Let this season be a reminder of the peace that is given now and is coming through Jesus. Let it be a teaching moment for us to teach peace to our teens. My prayer for you, your teens, and myself is that we can seek peace in our lives through Jesus and accept his offer to carry our burdens.

Activity: As a family, have each member write down something that is adding stress in their life. Have everyone go around a share what they wrote, but don’t force someone to if they don’t want to share. Then, as a family pray for God to bring peace over every member and pray that all would cast their burden to Jesus.

Resource: The Fuller Institute published an article recently to help guide parents on how to help their teens deal with anxiety and stress. You can access the article by clicking here.

Verse of the Week: John 16:33 – “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

The Season of Hope

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Tis the season! The holiday season is in full swing now with holiday shopping already beginning. Thanksgiving is passed us, Black Friday has come and gone, and Cyber Monday is in full swing.  This season can be one full of chaos and headaches, but what it’s really about is hope. Stephanie and I spent last week at Disney world with her family. Every night all of the parks closed with a firework show and by the end of the week, the theme of these shows were clear. The themes of every one of those shows was…. hope. Hope for peace on Earth, hope for a great 2018, hope for change on the Earth, etc. That would be the ultimate Christmas gift right? peace on Earth. As much as our world hopes for peace on Earth, it has turned away from the one who brings it. In a world hoping for peace, they have forgotten the one who came to bring peace to Earth. This is not the first time God’s people have done this. God sends his prophets many times in the Old Testament just to warn the Israelites of their ways and how they have forgotten Him. The Israelites kept forgetting about God, even when they were surrounded with reminders. Parents, it is easy during this season to forget the message of Christmas and reminder it is for all of us. We can get so caught up in planning, decorating, and shopping that we forget to share the true message of Christmas with our teens. I know I’ve done it. Our teens need to hear the message of hope Christmas provides for God’s people. Their lives are full of stressful and chaotic situations that can leave them hopeless and lost. Our job is to use this season to show them of God’s never ending desire to bring hope and redemption to his people. This season is about remembering how thousands of years ago, a newborn baby brought hope to a world aching for it. I pray this season is not one of chaos, but of hope. I pray that we use this season to bring God’s message to our teens and provide them with gifts that benefit them in more ways than any physical gift could.

Resource: 25 days of Christmas bible verses calendar.

  • This can be a resource your family can use to make sure the true meaning of Christmas is shared with your teens and kids this holiday season. Each day there is a different verse that ties into the Christmas narrative. I would encourage you to read and discuss these verses with your teens. You can access this calendar by clicking here.

Verse of the week: Zephaniah 3:17

“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

God’s Table

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Yesterday we had our Friendsgiving party at my home. Most people would be terrified to have a bunch of teens in their home, which is totally understandable. However, I loved it! I loved it because seeing our teens fellowship and share a meal together paints a picture to me of what God’s table looks like. One thing I love about our student ministry program is that we have a diverse set of teens. All have different talents, backgrounds, personalities, etc. I look at them and I cannot help but wonder if they would have ever interacted with each other outside of student ministry. Our students are so different, but what brings them together is their love for Christ. To me, this is a beautiful reminder of how God intended the Church to be. People of different backgrounds, beliefs, and origins coming together to fellowship. Jesus also paints a picture of what God’s table looks like in Luke 5:27-32. After calling Levi, Jesus is invited to a great banquet thrown by Levi. Around Jesus are a large crowd of tax collectors and other “sinners”and when the Pharisees and the teachers of the law see this, they were baffled and complained to the disciples. Jesus responds by saying “It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick.” I love that statement. God’s table does not look like a bunch of people who have their lives figured out and perfect. It looks like a bunch of broken people who are joined by their love for Christ. It looks like a bunch of teens crammed into a tiny apartment enjoying a meal. Our teens all have issues and struggles. It can be easy for them to see God’s table as people who are nowhere near as messed up as them or people who are different from them. This can keep them from wanting to come to events, class, or worst, keep them from desiring a relationship from God. However, if we paint them a picture of what God’s table really looks like, they may understand that God invites the broken, damaged, and rejected to his table. Encourage your teens to come to events and class just as they are. There is no need for them to hide their passions, querks, and flaws. If we can get our students to be an open book, our program can be a true example of God’s table.

Walking Testimonies

walking_on_water2If you have gotten to know me well enough, you have probably noticed that I am a introverted person. I have always been this way, even when I was in youth group. I remember one time being forced by my parents to go to Winterfest, which is a youth conference in Dallas. I had just moved to the church and really did not know anyone in the youth group. This is a introverts worst nightmare. A adult volunteer named Travis saw how uncomfortable I was and introduced me to others in the group through games. Travis would end up becoming my mentor through high school and college. What I really liked about Travis was how honest he was with me. He did not have a problem sharing the mistakes he did when he was growing up. After being around Travis for a while, I begin to feel better about my relationship with God. You see, before I met Travis I felt unworthy and hopeless in the eyes of God. I questioned how God could use someone like me. Travis helped me see myself as God did. All by sharing his past failures with me. Parents, we can all think of one or two times in life where we did something that makes us cringe to this day. However, sharing those mistakes may help our teens 1. Not make those same mistakes and 2. may help them see that even you, their superheroes, are subject to failing sometimes. Paul did this multiple times during his ministry. In his Epistles, he frequently mentions his past. One example can be found in 1 Corinthians 15:9 when he states “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God”. Paul is willing to share his past to his followers because he knows his mistakes now make up his testimony. He knows that his past shows God’s love for the brokenhearted. We must be willing to share our testimonies to our teens if we want them to truly understand how God works in His people. Travis helped me realize that God works through everyone, in those who are broken and in need of Him. Be walking testimonies to your teens and in turn, they will become walking testimonies in their own lives. Have a blessed week.

P.S. I am saddened by the news of the senseless killings in Sunderland Springs. Please join me in praying for all those effected in this tragedy.

Verse of the Week: Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

#1 Fan

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As the World Series rolls on, you can start to see the emotional toll it is taking on the players and fans. Take game 5, which lasted 5 and 27 minutes. Not only was game 5 the second longest game in World Series history, but it was an emotional roller coaster for all 5 hours of it. Even when the clock past midnight, there was not an empty seat at Minute Maid Park. Before and after the games, fans being interviewed say the same two things, “Go Astros” and “I’m their number one fan”. I have come to realize that the Astros have a lot of “number one” fans. I sometimes wonder if some of these fans invest their lives in their kids, their wife, and their family as much as they do in the Astros. I guess what I’m asking is… are they the number one fan of their kids, wife, and family? The Astros appreciate our support (they let us know every night), but our teens would appreciate and benefit more from our support. Parents, we need to be our teen’s number one fan because they are your number one fan. A study done by the Fuller Youth Institute found that parents are the number one faith influencer in a teenager’s life. I know that might sound scary, but that is good news. As parents, you have the power to help build and mold your teens’ faith like no one else. This means that as parents, you must be your teen’s number one fan, both through the highs and the lows. In 1992, Derek Redmon tore his hamstring in the middle of his 400m race at the Olympics. Visibly in pain, Redmon continues to limp to the end because he is determined to finish what he started. Then out of stands, Redmon’s father comes out unto the track and helps his son make it to the finish line. If you want to see the video, you can do so by clicking here. Parents, that is what being your teen’s number one fan looks like. It means celebrating with them as they accomplish goals, but also carrying and encouraging them when they hit road blocks. Another example can be found in Jesus’ relationship with the disciples. Throughout the gospels, you see Jesus be biggest fan of his disciples, even when He is harsh with them. Jesus never gave up, never left, and never stopped loving his disciples even when they denied him (check Luke 22:54-62). Isn’t that how He is with us in our lives? Even when we mess up, Jesus is there encouraging us. He celebrates with us in our highs and meets us in our lows. Parents, my prayer for you is that God blesses you and your teen/s with many highs and few lows. Be your teen’s number one fan. If you do, you’ll see growth not only between you and your teen, but also with your teen and God.

The Right Investment

Plant SequenceThe Astros are going to the World Series! If you have been on Facebook, watching tv, or basically not living under a rock, you have probably found out by now that the Houston Astros are going to the World Series. This is huge news for many reasons, but one reason in particular makes this story so sweet. If you have been following the Astros for about the last 6-7 years, you know how terrible they were not long ago. I mean TERRIBLE. It was hard to imagine just 5 years ago that this is where this team would be now. What makes the story of the Astros so incredible is the fact that the core members of the team went through the terrible seasons and great seasons together. Their owner and manager invested in their core players and now are reaping the benefits for their patience and investment. I want the story of the Astros to inspire us to invest in our teenagers. Just like the Astros, when we commit long time spiritual investment in our teenagers, we will see them reap the benefits in the future. Unlike the Astros, their victory is not temporary, but eternal. Parents, our teens are investments. We get out of them what we put in. If we invest time to discuss hard issues with them, mentoring, pray with/over them, etc. we will see them grow beyond the student ministry. In the Gospel of Mark (and the other Gospels), we see Jesus constantly investing in the disciples’ lives. Any chance Jesus finds an opportunity to teach them, he does. When they ask ridiculous  questions, he answers them. What we also see in Mark is the countless times the disciples just don’t get it. Right when it seems like they finally understand all of Jesus and his powers, they do something that makes you (and Jesus) go “oh come on”. However, Jesus does not give up or hand them off to someone else. Instead, he continues to invest in them and as the story unfolds beyond Mark, we see the incredible leaders of the Church they become. Parents, investment in our kids is a life long duty, but the teenage years are the most important time for their own spiritual faith development. We must invest our time, energy, tears, etc. in our teens to see them grow to their full potential in Christ. Just like the Astros and disciples, it may take years and we may see no progress in those years, but in the end we will see them succeed and grow in Christ. Go Astros!

Ideas for investment: Weekly devotional, prayer over your children before they go to school, “joy, junk, Jesus” while at the dinner table, Reading the verse of the week together every night.

Verse of the week: 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. Colossians 3:17

Learning through Grace

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As parents to our fur baby (dog), Stephanie and I are quickly learning that we are not prepared for parenthood. I can’t tell you the number of times we have forgotten to give Oakley her meal or take her out to go do her business. I also can’t tell you the number of times Oakley has made poor decisions and we have lashed out at her. Looking back on it now, I wish we would have not lashed out at her so much. Fortunetly for us, dogs are quick to forget and quick to love again. Teenagers…. not so much.  As parents of teenagers, you have probably noticed that teenagers are prone to making poor decisions. I would know this because I remember my parents having to deal with my sister and I. Also as parents of teenager, you probably have notice how sensitive teenagers are. It is so easy to lash out and correct our teens, but it is so hard to take back the harsh words we told them while lashing out at them. Teenagers are going to make mistakes, it is all part of learning and development. As parents and leaders, it is essential that we not only correct our teen’s mistakes, but also extend grace while correcting their mistakes. Thankfully, in the gospels Jesus provides us with plenty of examples of correcting while also extending grace. One example comes to us from John 8. Here, a adulterous woman is brought before Jesus by the Pharisees. In a effort to trap him they quote the law, which states they must kill her. However, Jesus does something incredible. He says whoever is blameless cast the first stone. The Pharisees and the rest of the crowd leaves, but Jesus is not done. Pay attention to this exchange (John 8:10-11). Jesus does not condemn the woman, but instead extends grace. However, He also tells her to stop living her sinful life. That is how you correct while extending grace. Parents, I know it must be difficult raising teenagers. I know how easy it is to want to shake them until they fix their issues. However, I want to encourage us to fight those urges and instead take a lesson from Jesus and correct while extending grace. I truly believe that the woman in John 8 stopped living her sinful life, at least tried to. I also truly believe that if we extend grace to our teens, you will see them grow closer to you and to God. Blessings.

Verse of the Week: Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”