Secret Struggles & Building an Army

Secrets. We all have them. And we’re tempted to keep them private, hidden, concealed. Secrets feed on our fears.Help Me

“If they really knew who you are, no one would love you anymore.”
“People are going to be so disappointed in you when they find out what you’ve done.”
“Can you imagine if they could read your mind!”

There are things we struggle with in secret which consume us. And we go around, wearing our happy-mask… pretending to be ok. But we’re not ok.

When people ask how we’re doing, we tell them, “I’m fine.” But inside we’re crying out for help.

Whether your secret struggles have to do with mental health, body-image, sexual identity, abuse, addictions, pornography, or any other number of things… you do NOT need to struggle alone! Continue reading

Talking About Deflategate With Your Teen

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Well, Deflategate and Tom Brady are all over the news again. And it’s not looking good for TB12.

I’m not interested in accusing or defending Brady, though I definitely have my own opinions about his alleged-guilt and the suspension he received. Instead, I think it’s important to realize this provides a great way for us to talk with teens about some important issues.

Here are some thoughts that may be worth a conversation with your teenager and a few questions to consider discussing together as you chew over the ongoing Deflategate fiasco.

INTEGRITY

  • Integrity means “wholeness.” You are one person, wherever you are. You don’t change from one moment to the next, and you’re not faking it with one group of friends while being someone else around others.
  • Let your integrity defend you. It takes a longtime to build it up, but only a moment to lose it. You generally know whether or not someone has integrity or not. It’s not gained by popularity or public opinion.
  • Integrity comes through a thousand small decisions. We usually pay attention to the big decisions in life, so sometimes they are much easier to get right than the small choices we make when we can think, “No one will notice, this isn’t a big deal at all.” Well, it is a big deal. The small decisions of life will make or break you. Choose integrity in all things.  Continue reading

Jesus as Miracle Worker

Series Intro: “Who is Jesus? Describe him to me”
How do you even begin to answer this question? There are so many ways to describe Jesus. For the next few weeks we’ll be looking at the “Many faces of Jesus.” Last youth group we looked at Jesus as Friend, and remembered that if we ever doubt if Jesus is trustworthy we only need to look at the cross. This week we’re exploring Jesus as Miracle Worker, and in the next few weeks we’ll see him as Servant, and Shepherd.

Many Faces of Jesus

Do You Have Authority?
Moving is really stressful. When my family moved earlier this year we had to make a bunch of phone calls so we’d have electricity and gas and phones. When I called to have our electricity turned on, they wouldn’t let me do it because our account was under Tracy’s name but not mine, so I had no authority to make changes to our account.

Honestly, I argued with them more than they probably deserved, they kept telling me I’d have to wait for Tracy to get off work so she could call and have the power turned on.

It was frustrating to have no authority. But at the same time, I’m glad that only the person whose name is on the account is the one who can make changes. Think about it, what would happen if I called National Grid and asked them to turn off the power at your house tonight. Would you like that? Obviously not. But I can’t do that, because I don’t have the authority to make changes to your account.

We all want authority, don’t we? We want to be able to call the shots and have people listen to us. But it’s good and right life doesn’t work like that.

Which Power is More Impressive: A Miracle, or Forgiveness of Sin?
Would you rather have the power to perform miracles or to forgive sin? What miracles would you do? How would you use that power? How would you choose when to do a miracle and when not to?

As impressive as miracles are, the authority to forgive someone’s sin is even greater. A miracle is an instant, forgiveness lasts for an eternity. Imagine having that authority, to look at someone and to be able to decide if they should be forgive of their sin or not. “Nope, sorry, I don’t like you. You’re still guilty!”

Jesus had authority and power to perform miracles AND to forgive sin, and tonight I want to share one story from the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus’ authority is questioned.

Matthew 9:1-8
“Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . .” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.”

The reason for the miracles: To prove his authority!
Which is easier… to say “your sins are forgiven” or to say “get up and walk.”

It’s easier to say something that people can’t “prove” is false than to say something that can be immediately seen as true or false.

Any crazy guy can say “I forgive your sins!” Not anyone can make someone who was born paralyzed and make him immediately able to get up and walk.

Jesus explains, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, get up, take your mat and go home.” And the man did!

Jesus wasn’t all about the show. He had huge crowds following him, begging for constant miracles. The reason Jesus came was for the forgiveness of sins, to reconcile sinful humanity to the Holy God.

When we pursue God because we want to see his power, we lose sight of something far more important. It’s obviously important that we worship a powerful God whose authority is real and endless… but it’s even more important that we pursue reconciliation with him so that his power is FOR us, not AGAINST us!

IMG_4356Why don’t I experience God’s power?

  1. You’re not living for God, you’re living in sin.

If you’re living with unconfessed and unrepented sin in your life, then you can’t expect to experience much of God’s power.

Can I make a confession: I lied to National Grid. I called them back half an hour later and told them I’m Tracy. Since she’s my wife I could answer all of her security questions as if they were about me. Thankfully, their files don’t say whether or not “Tracy” is a boy name or a girl name.

God alone has authority, and he won’t be manipulated or tricked into doing what you want him to do. Confess your sin, and repent. Repenting from your sin means “to turn away.” It means you’ve confessed it (“God, I admit I’m guilty of _______.”) and that you’ve prayerfully committed to stop sinning and start doing what God wants instead, (“God, give me strength to stop ______ and start doing _______ instead, to the glory of your name.”).

  1. You’re living too safely.

When we take no risks, there’s no need for God to show you how strong he is. You simply don’t need God or faith if you live in a way that you can comfortably live without Him.

If you want to see God’s power, take some risks.

Don’t be foolish and put yourself into situations where you’re “daring” God to rescue you.

Take a risk by standing up for someone who’s being bullied, by speaking up when Christ is being dragged through the mud, and when people who claim to be Christians are making decisions which are firmly and clearly not what God would want.

  1. You rely on your own strength, not his.

Jesus said that he came for the sick, not the healthy. If you think you’re just fine without God, then you can’t expect to know God’s strength. You don’t need it anyway.

I think this is one of the reasons we experience suffering and trials, to remind us of our need for Him. If I never discipline my kids, how are they supposed to know the difference between good behavior and bad behavior? If I never let my kids fail at anything, how are they going to learn how to ask for help?

Ask the Lord to show you your need for him, and start trusting in HIS strength instead of your own.

Trust in God’s Power, Not Your Own
Will you trust in yourself, or will you trust in Him?

If you claim to trust in him, but you never take any godly risks, then you can say you trust him all you want… but you don’t.

If you want to trust him, but you think living for sin is better, then you’re going to live a two-faced, double-hearted life… always wanting one thing and doing another. And that’s a pretty guilty way to live. Eventually, what will happen, is you’ll either repent of your sin or you’ll give up on God so you don’t feel guilty anymore.

I want you to know and experience the power of God.

His miracles aren’t just fireworks to draw a crowd. They are powerful reminders that he has complete authority over both heaven and earth.

The question is… will you confess your sin, your need… and will you trust Jesus Christ to change you and make you new?

If you want to know more about how to be made new and how to be forgiven of your sins, your small group leader or me would LOVE to talk with you.

LWAYG: Prayers of Confession

Confession isn’t something we like doing.  Well, it’s not something we like doing without making excuses for ourselves.  But real and honest confession admits our faults without making any excuses.

When someone wrongs you and then apologizes but makes excuses for why they did it, doesn’t it just bug you and devalue their apology?  “Hey, I’m sorry for not jumping in and correcting that rumor about you, but I figured people should’ve just known it wasn’t true.”  Yeah… right.

When we come before God in prayer to confess our sins we sometimes don’t really know what to say or how to confess them?  How specific should we be?  Do we really need to confess every single little sin or else we might not be forgiven?

I think it’s important for us to remember that we don’t confess our sin to God for HIS sake, but for ours.  When we confess our sin to God, I believe it’s mostly so that we remember how completely we need to rely on God’s grace and mercy and that we don’t deserve anything from Him.  If you are a Christian and have placed your life in Christ’s hands, then your sins are all forgiven.  They don’t pile back up until you confess them again and then they go away until your next confession… they’re all paid for (even the ones you haven’t actually committed yet) because of what Jesus did on the cross and through rising from the grave.

When we confess our sin to God, we’re reminded of how much we need God to transform us.  Take a look at these few verses from the Psalms and what they teach us about prayers of confession:

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalms 51:1–5 NIV)
  • David prayed this right after the prophet Nathan “called him out” on the whole “Bathsheeba incident.”  David recognizes that even while he sinned greatly against Uriah (aka: he had him killed!) and Bathsheeba, he had also sinned against God!  All sin is both horizontal (it affects other people, not just us) but it is also vertical (and is an offense against God, who deserves our worship and obedience).
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  (Psalms 51:17)
  • We are never too far gone for God to love and forgive.  This verse (also a part of David’s prayer of confession after the Bathsheeba incident) even goes so far as to say that the sacrifices that God desires most are hearts that are totally aware of their need for forgiveness!  Don’t ever think that you’re too “bad” or sinful for God to forgive… if you’re thinking that, then you’re not too far away from where you need to be in order to confess and receive forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”— and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Psalms 32:5)
  • God does not want us to pretend that we’re something or someone we’re not.  Don’t feel the need to act holier than you actually are, especially when you pray!  You don’t need to air your dirty laundry to the world, but don’t keep skeletons in the closet either.  Confess your sin to God, not just in broad and general ways, but openly and honestly confessing the ways you need him.  And trust that God has truly forgiven your guilt because of Jesus’ victory over death and sin.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:12)
  • If  you start walking East, you could always keep going forever (if you could walk on water).  God’s grace and forgiveness has completely separated us from our sins.  That doesn’t mean that Christians don’t struggle with sin anymore (obviously, otherwise this whole post would be pretty unnecessary and we’d only need to confess once!).  We continue to struggle to resist sin, but we trust that God has removed the guilt of our sin infinitely far away from us.

So ‘fess up.  As Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  We’re all sinners and in need of God’s grace and mercy.  As a Christian, none of us have the right to think that we’re any better than anyone else because God has forgiven us… you didn’t do anything to earn it, all you did was receive the forgiveness!

We need to confess and repent.  Confession is when we admit our sin to God; Repentance is when we turn away from our sin and commit ourselves to follow Jesus Christ.  “Repent” literally means “To change one’s mind.”  I like to think of it as doing an “about-face” – you stop marching towards sin, stop, turn around, and start marching towards Christ.  That’s what’s necessary for saving faith… Confession (“I’m a sinner, Jesus is God and died for my sins on the cross and conquered death/sin and promises to give me victory by faith in Him.”) and Repentance (“I don’t want to live for myself anymore.  God I trust you and want to live for Christ from today on.”).

When you pray, remember ACTS: ADORATION, CONFESSION, THANKSGIVING, SUPPLICATION.  Remember who you’re praying to (Adoration); Remember your need for God (Confession); Thank Him for his grace and mercy and for all He has given you (Thanksgiving); and Share your heart and your needs with him (Supplication).

Understanding the Lord’s Prayer

Many people can recite the Lord’s Prayer without being able to explain what it means or answer basic questions about it.  I’d like to break it down very simply to help us all better understand what Jesus was teaching about prayer.

It’s a Pattern, Not a Chant. Jesus said, “This, then is HOW (not what) you should pray…”  Jesus gave it as a pattern for his followers to copy.  He did not intend for them to recite it as if they were chanting a magical incantation that would force God to do what they want him to do.  The different parts of the Lord’s Prayer are meant to teach us something about God, prayer, and about our need.

“Our Father in Heaven.” First, we should start our prayers by recognizing that we are praying to God Almighty who is in Heaven.  But at the same time, we approach him as a child approaches his loving father.  God is “in Heaven,” but He is our loving Heavenly Father.  Just as a respectful child approaches his father with humility and love, we also should approach praying to our Heavenly Father with humility and love rather than praying as if God is a “Cosmic Vending-Machine” who is there to give us whatever we ask for.  We should start our prayers by humbly recognizing who we are and who God is.

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