Don’t Waste Your Summer

Every summer, I have grand plans to spend it bonding with my family. My ideas are going camping, museums and spending time in sowing seeds of faith and wisdom. But, instead I get caught up in schedules, errands and before I know it the summer is over. Then I promise myself next summer I will do better. I will spend more time with my daughter before she goes off to college and we don’t have summers together. 
Summer goes so much quicker than we ever expect it too. We start out with the best intentions when our kids are small to use the some to the best of our abilities, but then life just seems to get in the way. We get sidetracked and we waste the opportunities given to us. Often we as parents forget —God’s given us just 18 summers with our children before they leave home for college. So, don’t waste this precious time. Don’t look back with sadness, not memories, because those days can’t be done over.
Summers are also a great opportunity to talk about your faith as a family, to let your children see how faith and family have been important from one generation to another. Jesus showed us the importance and the impact of spending time together in his relationship with his disciples. He shared life with those twelve who were closest to him. He knew he had just a few short years with them and that he had to make the most of it. 
He modeled to his disciples what a mature relationship with the God looked like. He taught them how to pray, to worship, serve and to live with other Christians. By doing life together the disciples were able to grow in their faith. This idea making disciples of our children made me rethink how I talk and what I do during these summer days. What do I want my kids to learn before they leave home? What memories do I want them to have? Deuteronomy 6 gives a clear instructions to parents as to how to intentionally point our children to the Lord. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut 6:5-7).
From the time we wake them up to the afternoons at the lake, to the long walks and bike rides through the park, we have an opportunity to shape our children by pointing them to Christ, to engage them in conversations about the gospel. If we continue to keep our summer schedule as busy as our school year schedule, we’ll miss the unique opportunities summer gives us to spend extra, unhurried time with our children.

Leaving a Legacy

Last week was a sad one for our church. We lost a long time member and friend in JoAnne. As we grieve the loss, her life is in our lives, we also remember the legacy she leaves. A legacy is much more than jewels, money or even societal standing. These things will fade or go away but a true legacy will last forever. Sharing with others the eternal legacy a belief in Jesus Christ gives us is the most important thing we can do.
JoAnne knew the importance of leaving an eternal legacy. She lived out her faith for all to see. She was a regular church attender. She believed that going to church weekly was important for her Christian growth. JoAnne studied and talked of scripture often. Her children said, at her funeral, she would even mutter verses in her sleep. She acted out her faith in service to others. JoAnne loved to quilt and turned it into a ministry, making over 800 quilts that she gave out to soldiers, children, people in need or sold for charities. JoAnne also sent out dozens of cards each week, encouraging those around her. She knew the importance of Proverbs 16:24 “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”
The Bible shows us that Paul, like JoAnne, gave himself in the service of Christ and in the end, when they both knew their lives were coming to an end, they couldn’t wait to meet their Savior. Paul and JoAnne continued to write and encourage others in their faith throughout their lives. They both left clear legacies of standing firm in their faith, whether it was Paul defending it while in jail or JoAnne’s faith filled joy while dealing with cancer.

Jesus Now What?

It was the summer before fifth grade, in a small white chapel. I sat on a hard wood pew. My eyes were transfixed on the elderly man drawing at the front of the room. He was explaining the story of salvation in a way I had never heard  before. He used paints and markers of neon colors and in his grandfatherly way he made the story come alive. I knew then that Jesus was real. After class he asked if anyone wanted to accept Christ as their savior. I immediately threw up my hand. Outside on a wooden bench, he prayed with me to allow Christ into my heart.
That day at summer camp still fills me with warmth. I made a decision that day that affected the rest of my life. But it took awhile, and I mean a long while, to understand what that decision really meant. For some, they would think that my road to being a Christian was done. In a way they would be right. I believe in one God, that He gave His son Jesus to die for us on a cross, and that after Jesus died, he rose again. Our sins our forgiven through this act. I also believe in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Trinity. That belief secures my salvation, but my story doesn’t end there. Neither does yours.
We now need to start living the life we profess. We obey God outwardly to reflect inwardly what’s occurred.  The Bible lays out guidelines and rules for our lives. It also gives us clear instructions on what our main objective is as Christians. Read more…

Self-Help or Gospel

At the start of the new year it always makes me cringe to hear everyone talk about their newest resolution. Not that I think resolutions in and of themselves are bad, but in today’s society of personal betterment, most resolutions miss the mark. The U.S. self-improvement market was worth $9.9 billion in 2016. It is forecast to post 5.6% average yearly gains from 2016 to 2022, when the market should be worth $13.2 billion.* Society is on a search to make themselves better, or as the old American sayings goes “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” or maybe in today’s verbiage “girl, wash your face”. Now you are asking yourself why is that so bad? This focus on self and change only through one’s own works leads us to a place of selfishness. Even in the so-called Christian self-help books, I see a startling lack of Christian discipleship. First, there is little to no prayer mentioned. There is normally a lot of pages focused on meditation, but that meditation is completely focused on one’s self. Though it is good to have some introspective moments. There is very little focused on prayer or meditation on scripture. Second, our happiness is completely dependent on our own making. We must be on guard and avoid self-obsession. Our happiness is not the focus of the Bible. God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. For our joy comes from knowing Jesus and our relationship with him. We will find joy as we become more like him.

Most books talk about how we just need to try harder, do better, let go of negativity, all on our own. We start to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are the most important thing in the world, that it is our own power that makes these changes. It assumes we have the power to change ourselves. We can change our habits, our food choices and maybe even our waistline but we cannot change our insides without the Holy Spirit. Luke 18:27 “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Finding God’s Joy

Another day of errands. Same cycle every week. Work. Grocery store. Gas station. Pick up kid. Target. I get annoyed on with long days of the same thing. I whine about the fun and exciting things I can’t do because of the mundane tasks I have to do. The more I whine the more it makes my day and those around me miserable. But one particular week, God interrupted my ordinary with the extraordinary. You know, one of those moments when it seems God speaks directly to you … as if He has heard the banter in your head and addresses it head on?
I saw a post on Instagram, where the poster commented that she was finding the Extraordinary in her Ordinary. She stated how she is in a season of errands, chauffeuring and asking herself does she look for the extraordinary in the midst of her everyday. It got me asking; Do I look for God given joy in the midst of my ordinary? I realized No, I don’t. I just want the mundane over so I can get on with my day, week, month. Read more…

Managing our Emojis

Do you use emojis when you type? I am betting this answer depends on your age. If you are over 40, probably not so much. If you are 25 and under, my guess would be you use them all the time. If you are in junior high, you have probably had full conversations using nothing else but emojis. I’m probably too old to really get into the emoji lingo, but I will admit to using a smiley face once every now and then to make sure my email reader knows that my previous comment was lighthearted. Emojis have become such a sensation there is even a World Emoji Day celebrating this mode of global visual communication which, according to Wikipedia, began in Japan in 1999. The Oxford Dictionaries selected the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ emoji as the ‘word’ that best reflected the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015; the first time a pictograph was chosen Word of the Year. In 2016, Bible Gateway even made it possible to use 330 emojis to search the Bible. For example, when the emoji for Read more…

We are called out of our comfort zone

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT) Moses told these encouraging words to Joshua before sending them across to the promised land. They had been wandering in the desert frustrated, uncertain and scared for 40 years. Then God shows the land they were promised. Joshua had to face this new place without Moses, leading these people on his own. To say he was scared may be an understatement. When we follow God’s plans for our lives it will be stepping out of your comfort zone. Joshua had to step out from the comfort zone of Moses’ leadership and embark on God’s plan alone. Joshua had to lean on God’s strength and power to see them across the Jordan. Moses left Joshua with the exact words he needed, that God would go in front of him; that God would neither fail nor abandon him. The Lord is the same today as He was during the Old Testament times. Knowing that God is going before us in all situations allows us to go confidently into the unknown he is leading us to. When we listen to where God is calling us to be it will be outside of our comfort zone. This makes it so we have to depend on him, so His glory will shine through us. If life was easy, we would have no need to trust God. It is often said “God will not give us what we can’t handle” but, in reality that is exactly what he does. He will never send us on a path that HE cannot handle. It is through our trust in His plan that we can be strong and courageous.

Cassi B
Director of Youth Ministries

Dog Days of Summer

The air is damp and hazy. I go to take my dog for a walk and he is panting by the time we hit the mailbox and if I am honest so am I. The “dog days of summer” are upon us. It is August already. This summer has flown past in a blur of activities and work. Right as summer comes to an end we are hit with a heat wave. As the humidity rises, we watch the animals find respite in cool shadows. Their instinct is to rest through the hot days, yet ours is to still go at full speed. Why do we not take direction from nature?
It is a time when we are reminded to rest. God has given nature a way to tell us to stop doing and just rest.
“…he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ Mark 6:31
Our lives are in constant motion, we rarely take time to pause. But, Jesus calls us to rest. In his own ministry he took time to rest and be in the presence of his Father. 
With the hustle of summer, has your Bible reading plan dwindled, has church attendance faltered, or your prayer life seem lacking. Take these days of hazy heat to grab your favorite devotional, your Bible and head out to the hammock. Take the time God has given you to relax and sink into His word.
Fall is just around the corner, which means schedule changes. Before you begin a new routine, why not hit the pause button to reflect on your walk with God?
Director of Youth Ministries

What is Freedom?

Freedom is a word thrown out a lot this time of year. But, what does it mean to be truly free. Webster defines freedom as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” For most of us our understanding of freedom ends there. We use it as a crutch to do and say what we want. 
As Christians we need to see the word freedom through Christ’s eyes. What was Jesus trying to tell us about freedom.  Jesus said that He had come to Earth to “proclaim freedom” (Luke 4:18). And on another occasion, He said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). He was not setting us free to do or say what we want but instead was setting us free to take the path God wanted for our lives. Because, up until that point we were hindered or restrained from God’s path by sin. 
Before Christ’s death and resurrection, we were slaves to our sinful nature. We were quick to believe Satan’s lies and temptations. But once we accept that Jesus is God and he died to set us free from those sins, we are free to live in a new way. Christ’s death on the cross freed us to become the people God designed us to be.
It is not often we consider the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice for us — what it cost him to give us this freedom.  As we honor those who have allowed us the freedoms we enjoy in America, we can see Christ’s death in a bit more tangible way. As soldiers die on the battlefield for people they have never met, who may not even appreciate what they are doing, we see Christ on the cross. 
We can start to see a glimpse of the sacrifice God made for us with His Son, in the families who have lost loved ones in the military. We honor their sacrifice by living out our freedom in our speech, to assemble,  and pray to whom we want. Do we honor God’s sacrifice with the same respect?  
Director of Youth Ministries

Summer Goals

The school year has come to a close for the most of the teens, meaning it’s SUMMER TIME! For most teens this means its a time for sleeping in, hanging out and binge watching shows. But when it comes to your spiritual lives it starts to look like the dusty backpack in the corner of of your rooms.

During the summer, youth group takes a break and vacations make church attendance hit or miss. Without a weekly connection to your church community, the focus on spiritual growth starts to fade.

Throughout the school year, youth group and church gives the youth a place to grow and dig deep into their relationship with Christ. It’s a place where they learn, ask questions and encourage one another. Then summer starts and that all goes away.

So how can you stay connected? Read more…