Dug Down Deep 4: How We Change

What would you say if I told you that when I woke up in the morning I got dressed, showered, ate breakfast, then got out of bed.  That’s just not the right order to do those things.  Likewise, there are people who really believe that they need to clean up their lives before God will accept them or before we would want them to join the youth group or church.  This is the amazing thing about God – He sent Jesus Christ to die for you “While you were still a sinner” (Romans 5:8)!  God saves you by grace, and he changes you by grace… in that order.

Everyone’s relationship with Christ is different and we all face different challenges.  Some people make a serious mess of their lives before they meet Christ, and then their lives are radically changed forever.  Others experience a rollercoaster: one moment their faith is strong, the next it’s in the toilet, and back and forth.  Others have the blessing of being protected from ever living through too much messiness (as in, they never partied and might consider their testimony “boring”), and they have a legit faith in Christ but seem to constantly struggle with one particular sin that they just can’t seem to “beat.”

“Sanctification is the process of becoming more like Jesus.  Think of it this way: when we first believe in Jesus, we’re born again – that’s regeneration.  But then just like a newborn baby, we don’t stay a baby.  We have to grow up.  And that’s what sanctification is: it’s growing up as a Christian in our new life in Jesus.” Josh Harris, Dug Down Deep

You see, God calls us to himself just as we are… but He doesn’t leave us that way.  He causes us to believe in Him, to love Him, and to want to be more and more like Him.  Do you desire to be more like Jesus?  If you think being like Jesus sounds lame and you’re not interested, then there’s a problem… maybe you don’t know Jesus as much as you think you do.

I just love Romans 8:12-13, “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”

When you hear “Sinful Nature,” what sin comes to mind?  That’s probably the sin you struggle with the most, right?  It might be alcohol, drugs, lust, sex, anger, gossip, bitterness, or a hundred other things.  Whatever it is – STARVE IT!  If you feed your sinful nature it will grow even stronger.  Think of it as a Sumo Wrestler that you need to do battle with… starve the Sumo for long enough and you’ll have a better chance at winning.  Meanwhile the Holy Spirit is giving you strength to overcome – so you’re getting stronger while the Sumo is getting weaker.

As Christians, we can’t get away with thinking, “I’ll do whatever I want and Jesus will forgive me.”  If that’s the way you’ve been thinking, then maybe you’re not really a Christian – because a Christian is someone who has believed on Christ for salvation and is trusting in Jesus to make him/her more like Christ.  As Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24).

So how can you Dig Down Deep – build your life on solid foundations that will last through the storms of life.

  • Ask the hard questions.  God’s not afraid of tough questions.  The question is whether or not you’re considering yourself God’s judge, or someone who simply has questions.
  • Believe the Gospel.  Jesus died in your place, rose from the grave, ascended into heaven, and will return again.  That’s real, and it makes all the difference in eternity between yourself and God.  But it also makes all the difference in today!  Do you really believe the Gospel with all your life, or just with your head?
  • Read your Bible so your beliefs about God are actually what the Bible teaches!  You don’t want to trust God to do things He never promised to do.  You also don’t want to miss out on promises He HAS given!  Remember, good theology leads to good living; messed up theology leads to messed up living.
  • Trust Christ each day.  You might have some tough decisions to make, some friendships to end, habits to break and new habits to make… but it’s worth it.  Starve your sinful nature, and walk daily with Christ and just watch God at work in your life.

Dug Down Deep 3: How God Makes Us Right

Most of us can think of someone who has done something that hurt us so badly we have a hard time forgiving him/her.  If we’re honest, we can probably think of someone who would have a hard time forgiving us too!  It’s so easy to recognize sin in other people while downplaying it in our own lives.  But isn’t that the very definition of hypocrisy?

When you come face to face with the realization that you are a sinner and that you’re guilty before God… how will you respond?  Will you downplay your sin, as if that will make any difference and suddenly mean you’re “good enough” for God?  Will you try to point out all the good things you’ve done, as if they will outweigh your sins?  What will you do?

“The holy God won’t just shrug off our sin.  We deserve death, and that debt must be paid.  But Jesus has paid that debt for us.  Though he was perfect, he gave his life to atone for us.  Now we get rid of our guilt by receiving his forgiveness.  Yes, we commit ourselves to live better lives, but that’s because we love God and want to please him.  We’re not earning our salvation.  That is a free gift that we just need to receive.”  Josh Harris, Dug Down Deep  

“Atonement” means that “wrongs have been made right.”  The Bible teaches that there’s nothing we can do to make atonement for our sins before God.  But God didn’t throw up his hands and say, “Oh well!  I guess they’ll get what they deserve.”  No!  He sent his Son to become a man, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect and sinless life, and to suffer and die on the cross as our substitute.  On the cross, Jesus suffered and died in my place so that I don’t have to stand before God guilty anymore.  That’s “atonement.”  A very simplistic way to begin to understand it is God took what was separated from each other (us, and God) and made them “at one” through Jesus Christ.

One of my absolute favorite verses in the Bible is Romans 5:8, which says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus didn’t wait for us to “deserve it”… because that day would simply never come for any of us.  Jesus Christ died for you and for me while we still hated him.  When we die, we will all have to face our Judge – will you point to your own righteousness and come up short, needing to pay for your sins yourself; or will you point to Jesus, trusting in what He did as your substitute… and will your life bear evidence of your trust in Christ?

Romans 8:1 boldly declares, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  What an amazing promise!  No condemnation, Forgiven, Innocent, Atoned for.

A number of years ago Josh Harris had a very vivid dream, which he wrote down and published as “The Room.”  You can read it by following the link, or watch the video embedded below.  If you’ve seen it before as one of those email chains that gets forwarded, you can read the story behind “The Room” here.

 

 

 

 

Setting Media Guidelines for Your Teenager

Dictionary.com defines Media as, “the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, and magazines, that reach or influence people widely.”  Simply put, media is everywhere today – on our TV’s, computers, cell phones, iPods, radios, billboards along the highway.  We are constantly being surrounded by messages that are trying to “reach or influence” us.  So how can parents help their teenagers have healthy Media Guidelines?  I think there are a few things we need to explore first:

How Should Christians Engage Media?

If music, movies, tv, websites, books, etc. are all trying to influence us, then Christians need to be discerning people.  We need to pay attention.  Too often, when the screen goes up our guard goes down.  There are a few Scriptures that are really important:

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  When I was a teenager I often felt like adults who “didn’t understand” kept using this verse like a club to judge me for what I was listening to and watching.  If only I could get these thick-skulled adults to understand why my music was so amazing then they’d be alright with it.  Maybe I had a point and they were too quick to judge… but I wasn’t really wrestling with what this verse clearly means and how it should serve as a filter in what I filled my mind with.

Colossians 1:15-16 says, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”  All things (including music, tv, internet, etc.) were created through Christ and for Christ.  The arts and media should be viewed with the goal to see Christ honored through them.  This must influence how we interpret the arts.  Example: Lady Gaga isn’t someone I would recommend listening to.  That being said, there’s a lot in her music that could spark some really interesting discussions about God’s authority, Creation, Human Nature, Christian Sexuality, etc.  As Walt Mueller encourages, “Affirm what you can affirm, and correct what needs to be corrected,” but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

How Much Media are Teenagers Consuming: Is This a Problem?

The Kaiser Family Foundation published a study last year entitled “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year Olds.”  You can download the report for free by clicking the link, but here are some of the most important findings along with some of my commentary (actual numbers are as of 2009, but they’re the most current numbers available):

  • Typical 8-18 year old consumes 10:45 of media every day (increase of 2:12 since ’04)
  • 29% of that media consumption is multitasking (ex: using the computer while listening to music).  That makes the actual time with media 7:38.
  • 8-10 year olds average 7:51 total media each day
  • 11-14 year olds average 11:53 total media each day
  • 15-18 year olds average 11:23 total media each day
  • TV use is still almost double (4:29/day) the next most popular media (Music, at 2:31/day)
  • 71% of 8-18 year olds have a TV in their bedroom (Please Please PLEASE don’t do this. No TVs, no Computers, no Cell Phones at bedtime)
  • Video games are on the rise, averaging 1:13/day (was 49 minutes back in ’04)
  • Reading is down to only 38 minutes each day (that include Bible Reading too!)
  • Only 36% of teenagers have Media Rules restricting their computer time; 30% have rules regarding video games; 28% have rules regarding TV; and 10% have rules regarding music.  (Keep in mind, TV & Music are the two biggest media voices in teenagers’ lives, yet most teens don’t have Media Guidelines… think there’s a correspondance here?)
  • 8-18 year olds who DO NOT have Media Rules typically consume 2:52 MORE Media each day than people who do have Media Rules to live by.

Do I even need to mention the prevalence of Internet Pornography?  Check out “The Stats on Internet Pornography,” these numbers are out of control.  These reveal that we need to have filters in our heart, not just our computers.  But those “filters” won’t get there without parents (and obviously the Holy Spirit) taking action to teach their teenagers and pre-teens how to responsibly interact with Media.

Some Guidelines for Setting Media Guidelines

  1. Practice what you preach.  If you want your kids to live by media guidelines but you’re always in front of the tv/computer, then you’re simply being a hypocrite.  Obviously, you’ll boundaries will probably be different from theirs, but if you don’t have boundaries then maybe you have a problem too.
  2. Try to understand their Media preferences.  Ask a lot of questions (but not so many that you become a nag).  Ask them, “Why do you like this show?” “What is it about this music you identify with?” and “Why is Facebook so important to you?”  Realize when they answer, “I don’t know, I just like it” they probably aren’t blowing you off… they probably really don’t know.  But help them figure it out.  Look at the lyrics to the song, watch the music video (even if it’s painful), watch the show with them, and talk about it with them afterwards without giving a lecture about every fault you found.
  3. Determine boundaries with your teen.  That doesn’t mean you give them the final say, but ask them to put your shoes on for a minute and to consider what boundaries they would put in place for a son/daughter their age.  Have them help come up with the consequences of breaking those media boundaries too – that way when those boundaries are broken they know exactly what’s coming.
  4. With more responsibility comes more freedom.  Trustworthy teenagers should simply be given more trust.  Don’t be blind and only see what you want to see, but recognize that every one of your kids will require different boundaries.  After two strikes, the boundaries get tightened; but after a significant period of responsibility comes a little more freedom.  Remember, your goal is to help them internalize these wise choices when you aren’t there!
  5. Use the Pause button.  If you have a DVR/TiVo… USE IT!  If you’re watching a music video or a TV show or a commercial and you see something that could provide a great “teachable moment” (emphasis on MOMENT) then use the pause button and ask, “Did you catch that!  Where’s the lie?”

This is so important, I’d love to hear from some of you about what Media Guidelines you’ve put in place that have been helpful (and what you WISH you had in place before it was too late).

Dug Down Deep 2: Importance of Knowing God

Have you ever played the game “Two Truths & a Lie?”  You have to come up with, well… two truths about you and one lie, and people need to guess which one is the lie.  It’s surprisingly difficult (especially for people like me who are terrible liars).  It’s tough enough to lie convincingly, but it’s even more difficult to live your life trying to convince a group of people that you’re one person while you’re actually another.

You can fool people for a while, but if you spend enough time with people then eventually they’ll probably be able to see who you really are.  In Dug Down Deep, we saw two teenagers talking about how they were living double-lives: “living for Christ” at church, but then living a completely other way when they were with their friends.

Sometimes people live these double lives because they are intentionally trying to “act Christian” even though they really aren’t that person.  Sometimes I think people live double-lives because they’re personally conflicted: “Which ‘me’ am I?” “I want to live for God, but I don’t know how to do that when I’m not in church.”  If you’re living a double-life, I encourage you to spend some time really thinking about and praying about WHY.

Josh Harris says,

“What you believe about God’s nature – what he is like, what he wants from you, and whether or not you will answer to him – affects every part of your life.  Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong. 

“So if you think of God as uninvolved in your life, then you’ll live selfishly.  You’ll use other people to get what you want and think that God won’t notice.  If you think God exists just to serve your needs and desires, you’ll pray when you’re in trouble but ignore him the rest of the time.  You’ll be angry when he doesn’t give you exactly what you want.  

“Messed up theology leads to messed up living.”

In Jeremiah 7:3-8 God has some strong words for his people, because they assumed their relationship with God was strong because of the blood in their veins (“Hey, we’re the Children of Abraham, the chosen people!”) and because they had the Temple (“I’ll do what I want then just make a sacrifice and God will forgive me.”).  But they didn’t actually live in faithful obedience to God.  They allowed injustice, they oppressed foreigners, and they worshipped idols.  Their messed up theology led them to trust in their genealogy and in the Temple more than they trusted in God’s character and grace.

We live our lives based off what we believe about God.  Your life reveals what you really believe about God.

  • So if you think that you can manipulate God into forgiving you time and time again for things you’re not really sorry for, then you don’t really believe that God is Holy.
  • If you think you need to take situations into your own hands when something goes wrong, then you don’t really think God is Sovereign, Faithful and in control.
  • If you think you can do whatever you want and God won’t notice or care, then you don’t really think that God is Omnipresent (everywhere) or Just.
  • If you make a total mess of your life and think that God won’t take you back or forgive you, then you don’t really believe that God is Loving and that salvation is by faith alone.

So if your life was a theology book, what kind of God would it describe?  Are you living your life based on what the Bible tells us about God, or based off what you think God is like (or what you want God to be like)?

Faith at Home Forum

On Saturday, Oct. 22nd from 9:00am-12:30pm EBC will host its first “Faith at Home Forum.”   This is a great opportunity where Emmanuel families can minister to other Emmanuel families.  The vision for this Faith at Home Forum is to provide a casual atmosphere where families are encouraged and equipped to grow more Christ-centered in their homes.

It’s one thing to know that we should disciple our children from infancy through childhood and the teen years, but it’s another thing altogether to actually know how to do that!

There are so many people at Emmanuel who have successfully (but not perfectly) raised wonderful Christian kids.  What a great opportunity for those parents to connect with other parents – to come alongside them not as experts, but as encouragers and as a resource in the journey of parenting.

The morning will start in the sanctuary, watching a DVD from Paul Tripp Ministries addressing the question “What is a Family?” followed by discussion afterwards.  We will then provide a number of Forums on various topics that would be led by an EBC family.

Schedule:
9:00-10:00 – “What is a Family” DVD in sanctuary
10:00-10:45 – Discussion
10:45-12:00 – Forum Sessions (pick one)
12:00-12:30 – Prayer Huddles

Forum Sessions Include:

  • Starting Strong: The Early Years of Parenting
    Facilitated by Wayne & Pam Curtis
  • Leading Family Devotions: Advice and Resources to Help You Get Started (or Keep Going)
    Facilitated by Bruce & Jenni Cook
  • Setting Media Boundaries and Talking to Your Teen About Music, Movies, and More
    Facilitated by Pastor Mike
  • Influencing Your Adult Children & Grand-Children
    Facilitated by Kathy Fox, Carol Zimmer, & Pastor John

Please contact Pastor Mike with questions.

Adele’s “Someone Like You” & The Love We All Desire

My wife makes fun of me because I like to know most of the songs that are on the iTunes “Top Ten” and keep informed about new upcoming artists.  It’s not uncommon for us to hear some song on the radio and I’ll just roll my eyes and start talking about the song or the artists and she gives me this look that says, “You aren’t a teenager, why do you know so much about this?”  Ahh, life as a youth pastor.

Anyway, one of the artists I’ve been keeping an eye on is Adele (my wife actually bought the CD, so she can’t pick on me for this one!).  Her songs are filled with such powerful emotion and her lyrics are deep and easy to identify with.

“Someone Like You” has broken tons of records and has sold well over 2,000,000 downloads and Adele’s last big song, “Rolling in the Deep,” sold over 5.3 million.  So there’s a good chance “Someone Like You” could stay at the top of the charts for quite some time.  Without further ado, here’s the video:

How can you not identify with this song?  Who hasn’t felt the sting of some heartache and betrayal?  “Someone Like You” is clearly about a guy she hasn’t gotten over yet and is still in love with, but she knows she needs to get over him and find someone else like him.  The song is brilliantly straight-forward, so I don’t feel the need to give too much explanation beyond giving some of the lyrics (find the full lyrics here):

Never mind, I’ll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don’t forget me, I beg
I remember you said,
“Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.”

Nothing compares
No worries or cares
Regrets and mistakes
They are memories made.
Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?

You can just feel the hurt and loss screaming through this song.  And why wouldn’t you!  God created us to love and be loved.  We all want someone to treasure, and someone to treasure us.  When we think we’ve found that and lose it you feel like your world has come crashing down… because it has.

In the midst of this, we have a lover who will never fail us.  Being a Christian and loving Christ doesn’t mean you are immune to heartache and that you suddenly don’t need human love anymore (duh!).  But knowing Christ and receiving his love holds us together in the midst of the pain and loss that Adele is singing of in “Someone Like You.”

Here’s a great and simple website with a bunch of Bible verse on God’s “Unfailing Love,” check it out (though I wish there were verses from the New Testament too).  This doesn’t mean God is our butler who gives us everything we ask for (so if you expect God to give you whatever you want, then you’ll be disappointed), but He gives us all we truly need.

Most of all, to put it simply… we need Him.  As Saint Augustine wrote many many years ago, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

Why Music Matters

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of music in ministry.  Here are a few reasons why music matters:

  1. Good music gets stuck in your head for days.  If the message of that song is good, it can have a serious impact on your mindset and what you focus your thoughts on for those days.  If the message of that song is garbage, then you figure out what impact that’ll have.
  2. Lyrics are memorable.  I’ve never started reciting a sermon I’ve heard or a book I’ve read when I’m in the dumps, but I have been lifted from many dark moments by songs (usually Hymns!) I learned a long time ago.
  3. Music expresses emotion in ways prose and spoken word cannot.  I believe God intended music to lift our emotions and keep us from being flat and boring, but He also intended it to actually convey something meaningful and valuable.  As my friend Kevin says, “To enhance the message.”

What else would you add to this list?

Here’s some good advice:  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)