Good morning parents!
This past week we continued in our Gospel Project Sunday school in Isaiah and talked about the nature of his prophecy in regards to setting up for Jesus. We are going to finish out this curriculum just after the new year! Ask your students for more details to keep the conversation going at home!
In Youth group we talked about the difference between joy and happiness. There are many examples of people who worship in the midst of struggle in the Bible, but we focused on Paul and Silas being throw into prison. Often when we hear that we should be "worshipful" in times of struggle, we write of the idea as idealist, and fail to see how that can be possible. We discussed the conditional nature of happiness and how our circumstance can shift our mood, but it need not shape our worldview. The joy that the Bible points us to is predetermined and unchanging, so we can be confident in the hope of salvation at all times. When times are hard we are encouraged to set our mind on things above and place our current struggles in the light of the Gospel. Paul goes as far as saying that he counts all earthly things as loss for the sake of the Gospel! Its overwhelming goodness pierces the darkness we face in this life. It's a daily choice to keep our eyes fixed above, but its well worth it!
Next week we will have our last programs of the 2019 year! I cant believe how fast this year has gone! Have a wonderful week!
Good morning friends!
This past week we pressed on in our Gospel Project study of the Old Testament! We took a look at the book of Hosea and the parallels that exist between his persistent and unconditional love for Gomer and God's love for us. Hosea is a fairly graphic book of the Bible, using strong imagery of prostitution and unfaithfulness to describe how we "sell" ourselves to things other than God. Your students all have a copy of a daily discipleship guide that might make for an interesting talking point at home!
At youth group we talked about the importance of living in Biblical community. That's a pretty big buzz word right now, because social media makes it easy to feel connected to someone without any depth of relationship. I encouraged students to think about the support that their friends provide. the Bible often refers to us as sheep and God as our shepherd. Sheep are not particularly bright, but they survive much better in flocks, and we do too. Being friends with someone often doesn't require a depth of trust that could lead to accountability and many friendships are conditional, but we need that unconditional love and support. I encouraged students to let their close friends know that they held them in high regard and try to establish that kind of community.
Next week we have our Costa Rica fundraiser on Saturday, and business as usual on Sunday! Thanks for stopping by!
Good morning and happy snow day!
This past Sunday we spent our Sunday School hour in the book of Jonah! Jonah is a character that we usually hear about as children and don't properly revisit later in life. It's a story that causes us to think honestly about how we view God. If the God you believe in capable of having a man live in a fish for three days? If throwing Jonah overboard caused the seas to still doesn't raise any flags, why does the fish?
Furthermore, Jonah is a very relatable character. He is given a mission from God to go and bring God's law to a godless and violent people. He gets scared, and tries to geographically run from God's call. God miraculously stop and turn him around, even as Jonah is fleeing His call. Jonah is not a perfect servant, but God is persistent in making use of him!
Jonah arrives in Nineveh and begins to tell the people about God's law and much to Jonah's surprise, they repent! Jonah doesn't expect God to have mercy on them (ironically, considering God just had mercy on Jonah in his own disobedience,) and gets a little snotty when God doesn't act like Jonah wants Him to. Some people might think of Jonah as a drama queen here, but I think we are often guilty of similar feelings. We all have an idea of how we think God should act, and tend to get frustrated when He doesn't do what we think He should.
We didnt have youth group because of the fall service weekend, which was a huge success! Thanks to all those who came and helped!
See you next week!
Good morning parents!
This past week we spent out Sunday School hour in 2 Kings and talking about Elisha's encounter with the Syrian army! We saw Elisha and his servant looking out at a surrounded city, and Elisha's servant was scared. Elisha prayed for God to open his eyes, and he was able to see chariots of fire surrounding the Syrians. Elisha prayed fro God to strike them with blindness (or confusion) and led them into the middle of the Samaria. Instead of slaughtering them, Elisha told the king of Israel to feed them instead and sent them back home.
Instead of using his power to smite the Syrian army, God demonstrates his power and his mercy! This isn't "fair" though, and we often think of God as unfair in the punishments he dishes out. Rarely do we look at stories like this where God stays his hand and shows incredible mercy where none is deserved. Next week we are moving out of 2 kings and pushing into the prophets!
In youth group we spent some time talking about how God's Justice and our concept of fairness are two separate things.
We spent some time in Matthew 20, talking about the laborers in the vineyard. The people who worked a full day were given the same pay as the ones that worked only a few hours. Depending on what side of the equation you are on, we would feel very differently about that. Salvation often works the same way, and our concept of fair cannot understand God's infinite grace.
Next week we have the service retreat! Thanks for stopping by!
This past Sunday morning we spent some time discussing the succession of Elijah's ministry into Elisha. We are travelling through 2 Kings now, and your students have been challenged to participate in a daily discipleship guide! We spent some time learning about the end of Elijah's ministry and the spirit of God transferring to Elisha. Elisha boldly asks for a double portion of God's spirit and follows Elijah till he is taken to heaven. We discussed the fact that we tend to doubt the spirits power in our lives, and rarely do we truly expect God to do great things in and through us. Maybe we would see more miracles if we believed the Spirit was still with us and capable!
In youth group, we answered another question from the question box. The question was "How do we know that Christianity is the right religion?" I spent a few hours drafting a lesson plan for this one, only to have a close friend point out that Jesus never came to establish a religion, but rather a relationship. He's not wrong. Most of the time when we hear the word "Christian" there are some feelings (whether positive or negative) associated with it. Jesus Christ is often associated with those things as well, but He should not be blamed for his followers shortcomings. So if Jesus didn't call us to religion, what did he ask of us?
Simply, we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus calls us to be more and more like Him as we draw nearer to God. When we ask ourselves if following Christ is the right decision, we find that there is a lot of evidence to support God's existence, and that the Bible is His word. We see all sorts of evidence in history, archaeology, and within the Bible itself. We watched this video made by Ravi Zacharias to get a feel for where Christ followers differ from other major worldviews. Of the major religions that believe that God and the universe coexist, only Christianity speaks of a God who loves His creation and desires to be in relationship with them. On top of that, the evidence that the Bible is God's miraculously preserved word is overwhelming. See this link if you want to read a little more about that.
What it eventually boils down to is faith. If you believe that there is a God, and that He is worthy of worship, only Christ offers a path to relationship with Him. Every other spiritual belief requires works on the part of humans and paints a picture of an angry god who must be appeased. The Bible is unbelievably accurate in the way it describes history, and we can confidently say that it is the most well-preserved book in known history.
God exists, He is good, and the Bible is his word. All our conversation hinges on these assumptions, so it makes sense to revisit them every once in a while!
Next week we continue with The Gospel Project and some more questions from the question box!
This past week I was at the Grand Rapids marathon watching my lovely wife run a half marathon! Ross Slagh took over for me in Sunday school, and the students continued our Gospel Project curriculum! Make sure to encourage them to be diving into their daily discipleship guides!!
Youth Group was a little intense this week. Last week we were answering some questions from our question box, and the concept of election came up. One of my goals as a youth pastor is to try and attack any question our students have in an age appropriate way and in the right context. Generally, this is not a question I would have tackled in a youth group setting, and I doubt I ever will again. It's fairly intense.
Before we can even begin to touch on what election is, we have to agree on three general premises; God is real, God is good, and the Bible is His word. We also have to have some idea of what Calvinism and the RCA believe as a whole so that we can see where election fits in that system. The 5 points of Calvinism are often written as TULIP. That acronym represents 5 tenants that form the basis of our systematic theology.
T stands for total depravity, or the idea that humans are completely dead in their sins without Jesus Christ.
U stands for unconditional election (our main talking point this past week), and simply means that God chooses to save some people without looking for certain qualities as a condition to save them.
L stands for limited atonement (also called particular atonement) and suggests that Christ's blood is 100% effective for all who He intended to save. This means that Christ died for His elect, and though His death is sufficient for all, it is not necessarily effective for all. This is a pretty divisive point.
I stands for irresistible grace, and essentially says "If God's grace is extended to you, there is nothing you can do to resist it."
P stands for perseverance of the saints, reaffirming that those whom God calls, justifies, and accept Him are secured in Christ.
If you want to see these points explained by smarter people with scriptural support, this is a great link!
If you want to see Calvinism compared with the other major (and opposite) view, Arminianism , click here!
All of this conversation kind of tiptoes around the concept of predestination and man's free will, so here is a helpful link looking at that as well :)
I shared this with the students, but its really difficult as a youth pastor to know if certain topics "land" well with students. This is undoubtedly a heavy and heady topic, but when 50% of students are leaving the faith after high school because we don't discuss the hard stuff, this becomes a priority. Even if this only serves as an introduction to systematic theology, and there was 5% comprehension, it was valuable. Every person at some point in their faith journey will encounter opposition or doubt, and it takes a strong foundation to stand in the midst of that. Hopefully this past Sunday was one more piece of that foundation for our students.
This would be a great thing to keep talking about at home! Theology isn't as scary as we typically think and even when it cannot provide satisfactory answers, we can stand assured that God is good and loves us dearly. In the midst of our quest for understanding, we have to remember that if we could completely understand God, He wouldn't be God!
Have a great week!
Good morning parents!
This past Sunday, we returned to our typical schedule, but not our typical location! We are going to be in the FLC until the flooded room downstairs has a new floor! We also started our new curriculum from the Gospel Project in 2 Kings! It's an adult curriculum, but I think that our students are more than capable of handling the material. This curriculum is also unique in that the group discussion guide also has 5 daily devotionals that I have challenged our students to complete. They only take about 5 minutes!
At youth group we spent some time talking about some of the questions that were in our "question box." We talked for a while about what happens to Christians who commit suicide and some other related tangents. These are pretty massive questions, so I hope that you are able to talk with your students about some of the things they might have learned or some things they might be struggling with when they get home from youth group.
Couple of quick things to make you aware of - Our Chili cook-off fundraiser is right around the corner, as well as our fall service retreat! More info and sign-ups are all available under our Trips and events tab!
Thanks for taking time out of your weeks to see what we are up to!
Have a wonderful Tuesday! (Or whatever day it happens to be when you read this :)
This past week we finished up our conversations about worship with Jordan and next week we will begin our "regular" Sunday school again!
At youth group we spent some time playing nine square, talking about life, and learning about temptation. When we see Jesus tempted in the desert, it is clear that Satan exploits Jesus' weakness. He has been fasting for many days and Satan strikes when Jesus is most vulnerable.
We see that same pattern in our lives. We are often most tempted in the places we are most vulnerable, and I suggested that social standing might be the center of most of our student's day-to-day temptation. We do many things we know we shouldn't in order to fit in or feel like we are a part of a group. We desperately want to belong and are willing to sacrifice our values in order to do so.
We also talked about how one of the greatest ways to combat temptation was living in a vulnerable and honest Christian community. All people struggle with "ugly" temptations and fall into sin. The darkness can't stand the light though, and when we take our shame into the light of God's forgiveness and Christian accountability, those sins begin to lose their power. People trapped in addiction and sinful cycles can begin the process of breaking them if they are willing to die to themselves and bring their sins into that light. The only problem is that we are proud creatures, and Satan knows it. One of the hardest decisions a Christian has to make is to struggle corporately. We want others to think good things about us, and admitting our sins is not something that we look forward to doing.
I encouraged your students to find accountability partners and look for ways to be in deep relationships with peers who are willing to struggle alongside them. Its often hard for a high school student to feel a sense of accountability with a parent, but you can set an example by talking openly about the ways you struggle. This flies in the face of common wisdom that says "Parents should be perfect role models," but we all know that isn't possible anyway. The humility that would be demonstrate in you sharing your struggles would be something that would set an example for your students, just like Jesus did when he washed the disciples feet. Both actions lower a figure of authority into a place of humble leadership. Would you be willing to share and pray with your student this week?
Thanks for checking in as usual! Have a wonderful week!
Good morning friends!
This past week we continued in Sunday school with Jordan and spent some time reflecting on theology and its relationship with the liturgy of our worship. I hope that this is something you can attend with your students and keep talking about as you go home! We have one more week of the Worship workshop before we begin 2 Kings!
In youth group we spent some time going over what a burden for the lost looks like. Following up on last weeks lesson, we thought about what a changed life in Christ looks like. I found myself desperately trying to communicate a reality that cannot be known without experiencing it. There is an overwhelming joy and passion that is found in Christ and just like Zacchaeus, a single encounter is enough to radically change a heart.
I challenged our students to examine whether or not they had allowed their encounter with Christ to truly change their lives. How was their day to day different because of Christ within them? Honestly? Specifically, how do you feel about those who do not believe now that you have Christ? I feel like this is a good "heart check" question, but especially in a family context. I think it would be incredible for you as a parent(s) to reflect on that question yourself and then bring it up with your student. There may be some things that you do that your kids may not know about because of your faith. Setting that example and being willing to talk about why you live differently might be a push for your child to dive deeper into their personal relationship with Christ. Spend time in prayer with them. Earnest, beautiful and thankful prayer.
As this year continues, I would love to see students and parents grow closer to God together. I know that a weekly reminder is a good thing, but nothing compares to daily interactions from parent to child. Even if your student doesnt have a perfect relationship with you, or it feels like nothing is happening, I would encourage you to give it a shot. Try praying with your child for a month. Ask them about what they struggle with in life and faith. Push deeper into their hearts and try to understand their world and their thoughts.
I'm still convinced that Jesus is moving in a big way in Zeeland. My heart is full and excited, and I can't wait to see where He takes us this year!
This past week we Joined Jordan for another round of his worship workshop! Two more weeks and we start walking through 2 Kings with the Gospel Project!
Youth Group was great! We are seeing a lot of new and consistent faces and its FABULOUS! We talked about our preference vs God's purpose for our lives. There are a lot of things in life that we (often selfishly) want, but God may have other ideas. For example, I would love to have a brand spanking new 2018 C7 Corvette. I would be over the moon driving that car. Unfortunately, when I die my car wont come with me. Many of the things that we pursue in this life are temporary. We search for a happiness or fulfillment that can't be found in temporal things, and rarely take a long view when it comes to our eternal joy.
We reflected on how God has a purpose for each and every person alive. That person will experience incredible fulfillment and joy when they live into the calling that God has for them. The hardest part about this truth is that discerning God's plan for our life is not exactly straightforward. A fabulous follow up question for you at home would be "What do you feel God is calling you to in life?"
That's a HUGE and very open question but it might lead to some great discussion! I hope you all have a wonderful week!
I'm Noah. I do High School things. Expect this page to update every Tuesday morning!