Youth News for Feb 2018

Have you lost track of your New Year's resolution yet? Did you even have one? It seems like more and more the concept of the New Year's resolution is going out of style. Perhaps its the realism setting in that we are in fact, terrible at keeping them. Or maybe it's just a change in our culture from a focus on goal setting to one of lifestyle changes.

This past week I had the opportunity to speak at WCHS to their JumpStart morning devotional crowd. We gathered at 7:30 in the auditorium and I asked them much the same question. "How many of you made a New Year's resolution?" Two hands went up. It was about what I expected. The challenge I made to them that morning was the challenge of a resolution or a lifestyle change or whatever you want to call it, that I think might just counter balance the kinds of resolutions we are in the habit of giving up. Instead of a burden to load onto ourselves and instead of a goal to achieve, I brought before them and now before you a different kind of challenge.

What if this year, instead of taking on a burden to lift, we took on a strategy to make life more pleasant, more satisfying, more fulfilling? What if we took on an extremely Biblical strategy, one that is reflected throughout the writings ofth&Psalms?

Psalm 37:4 wraps up what a great deal of the Psalms encourage us to do in a simple but profound formula: "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Now, consider with me, if our delight is in the Lord, where will our desires be?

George Mueller has a famous quote that I think illuminates this idea more brilliantly than I ever could:

I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished…I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it.

So,what do you think? Are you ready for life to be more pleasant, more satisfying, more fulfilling? Let us delight in the Lord. Let us have our souls happy in Him.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Zach

Youth News for Jan 2018

How does the church reach the masses for the glory of God in our current cultural climate?  According to Alvin Reid, professor of evangelism and student ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of the recent book Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out, the key is authentic relationships.  We know the gospel, we have been trained in its story and its importance, we believe it and live by it, the next step to move into a life of evangelism is not a 10 step evangelism explosion using 3 circles and an elevator pitch.  We need to step away from an evangelism approach that places performance over personality, lists over love, and sales over sustainable relationships.  As helpful as certain evangelism tools may be, our world is craving more than a prepackaged solution to our problems.

Think about it.  We live in a world saturated by sales and advertisements.  Every time we look at our phone, turn on the tv, drive down the road, or enter a public place advertisements scream for our attention, and in all the noise we have learned to tune out anything that feels targeted to get us to buy a product or attend an event.  At the same time, we live in a world saturated by social media, and all of the impediments to authenticity and deep relationships that have resulted from a highly controlled self-branding culture.

Insert the model of Jesus here.  When we read the gospels, one thing is certain: Jesus wasn’t out to sell a product to an unknown consumer.  He was out to know people, to show them that they were truly known, loved, and cared for.  He sought to show them the bread of life, to be certain, but not without getting dirty first.

Think about that.  The God of the universe came down into the dirt of this world in order to bridge the gap of relationship between God and man.  He took on the bleeding, itchy, sweaty, stinky human flesh we all inhabit, and in the process showed us that He knows us deeply and loves us fully.  What if we tried to reach the world that way?

What if we, like Jesus, took time out of our schedule to develop intentional relationships with stinky people?  What if we set aside our aspirations and goals for a few minutes each day and genuinely sought to know people with the goal of sharing the Jesus who has transformed our lives.  What if we modeled the Emmanuel, God with us, love of Christ, by truly being with and for those we encounter each day?  I think we just might see a few hearts and minds changed, a few eternities redirected, and a few fires lit for Christ. 

Want some strategies for making that change?  You might want to pick up Alvin Reid’s book.  It’s a short read, only around 100 pages, and I think you’ll benefit from it.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach

Youth News for Dec 2017

What are we aiming for?  As believers in Jesus, what is the cause that keeps us marching forward into the dark of this world? 

Recently, I began reading through the book of 1 Timothy.  It seemed to me that, being a short book, I would be able to complete my reading of it in about a week or two.  After around a month of coming back to it over and over again, I find myself nowhere near completion.  In fact, every time I read I can’t seem to get further than five verses in!  Even if I force myself to continue reading, the fifth verse keeps pulling me back with the gravitational force of a massive planetary body.  Have you ever had that experience reading through Scripture?  It’s only happened to me a few times to this extreme, but I find that when it does it’s a sure sign that God is showing me something I really need to hear.  Clearly there is more to learn than I have yet grasped.

Paul is speaking to Timothy, his younger protege (in fact, likely around 30 years old, just like me).  He is instructing Timothy on the purpose of his ministry and the teaching they must share with the church.  In this verse we find the core of our role as believers, the purpose for the teaching we receive.  Here’s what the verse says: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5).

Sounds simple, right?  Perhaps, but it is also incredibly foundational, and contains a formula for ministry that I need to drink deeply of and apply throughout my life and ministry.  Let’s take the verse and break it down for a moment.

“The aim of our charge is love….”  That’s the goal.  Is it my goal?  Is it my purpose?  Am I seeking to love, truly love, in all the messy, difficult, sacrificial ways true love demands?  How do we do this?  The rest of the verse shows us three core realities from which this love “issues.” 

The first is this: “a pure heart.”  That is, a heart whose motivations remain unmixed.  A heart whose desire is fully consumed with Christ.  A heart that is not distracted by the sinful self-centered cravings of the “flesh.” 

But how do we purify our hearts?  Clearly we aren’t very good at this.  I think part two helps us here: “a good conscience.”  That is, living in the reality that we are no longer guilty.  We have been declared innocent through the blood of Christ.  Our clean conscience allows us to live no longer out of fear or human effort, but out of gratitude empowered by the work of the Spirit within us. 

But this only happens if we have truly believed the gospel.  This is why finally, and most foundational, the basis for love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience is a “sincere faith.”  When we taste the good news of Christ and trust His provision for us, we are moved toward the ultimate aim of love.  His gospel transforms our conscience, our hearts, and our lives.  Only then will we be able to love as we ought.

What is your aim?  How is the gospel working transformation in your life?  Do you need to trust Him more fully?  I know I do.  That’s why I can’t get past this verse.  Maybe in another month I’ll be able to read the rest of the book….

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach

Youth News for Nov 2017

Over the course of the last 8 weeks or so we have spent time in the first half of the book of Daniel.  Looking into the life and faith of Daniel and his friends during their time of exile in Babylon, and later Medo-Persia, has raised this central question for us: how do we, as Christians, remain faithful to our God while in exile.

Perhaps the first lesson that we all need to learn is this: we must remember that we are, in fact, in exile.  We are strangers in a strange land, awaiting the day when the kingdom to which we belong does away with the kingdom of the prince of the power of the air as Paul calls it in the book of Ephesians.  Knowing that we are not at home in this place raises our awareness and sense of expectation for what is to come.  It helps us to understand that we should not expect to find our viewpoint echoed in the culture we live in, and we should be suspicious of our own faith if it looks too much like the faith popular in this world.

Once we come to understand that our lives are lived in exile here, we can begin to take the lessons of Daniel and apply them to our own situation.  What do we do when pressed into service for a foreign king?  We give our all for the betterment of the world around us, all the while pointing those around us to the God we serve and the kingdom we ultimately belong to.  How do we respond when our culture pressures us into abandoning proper deference to our God for the sake of social acceptability?  We give no ground, not even small ground for a short time, whatever the cost might be.  What do we do when we are tempted to place our faith in the cosmic tree of our government, our institutions, our leaders?  We remember that it is not these that are sovereign, but that it is “the Most High [who] rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.”

In all of this we take courage, knowing that in the end God will vindicate His own, saving them from the fiery furnace and the lion’s den, whether now or in the end when “every knee will bow.”  Whatever this world promises us, whatever pressures it places on us, whatever authorities it puts over us, we can know that our God reigns.  And though we are in exile, God’s power is not limited by foreign kingdoms. 

So, let’s take courage.  Let us face the enemy with confidence and faithfulness.  Let us seek the face of God in a foreign land and place our hope in Him.  Then we will know that He is the Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach

Youth News for Oct 2017

What’s in a remodel? Beginning around mid-October we should be starting the remodel of our youth space. Walls will be torn down, flooring replaced, walls painted, a new cafe built in, and much more. The space desperately needs it (if you haven’t yet done so, take the time before the work begins to check out the current state of the youth area), and the affect this remodel will have on the ministry here will be well worth the cost. I am so excited to see how God will use this space!

In the midst of all of the excitement, however, one thing must be clear in all of this: the youth space is not the answer, merely a tool to be used for God’s glory. The answer for growing a youth ministry, both numerically and more importantly in depth, is the Word of God deeply taught and the people of God deeply loving our youth. The space we are getting ready to rebuild is just an expression of that love. Call it an investment in future ministry.

That said, I want to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you! Thank you for what you have committed to the youth of FBC, both financially and relationally. As you invest your love into this ministry the impact you are having on the kingdom of God, through the power of God’s Spirit at work, is beyond our ability to understand. The echoes of your labor will be felt into eternity, an eternity that you will be able to enjoy with those whom you have loved into the kingdom.

As we press forward with this remodel let me encourage you with these thoughts:

1) Keep praying for our students and this ministry. The partnership of our youth with their prayer champions, and the prayers of everyone for the success of this youth ministry have a deeper impact than any of us fully understand. It is hard sometimes to press forward with what seems so abstract when we are such concrete people, but we trust the work of the Spirit in response to our prayers will be more concrete in eternity than any physical structure or programming we may put together.

2) Keep supporting the discipling ministry of this church. Whether that looks like taking the time to get to know a few students and searching for ways to invest in their lives, or simply encouraging a counter-cultural model of doing ministry that values discipleship over entertainment, we need your support.

3) Keep living out the message of the gospel in front of these young adults. They need examples of what it means to be in love with Jesus, and they look to you as representatives of the church. Never forget that your actions have an impact on these youth that will help to define who they grow to be.

Again, let me say thank you, thank you, thank you for the ways you have supported this ministry and will continue to do so. It is through faithful believers that God has chosen to build His church, and I am so thankful that he has given us so many of the faithful here at FBC!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach

Youth News for Sept 2017

The Rooted Youth Ministries at FBC have launched in earnest for the 2017-18 school year.  With this new school year comes new faces, new opportunities, and a new chance to define and strengthen the core of our calling in this place at this time in the history of FBC and Jesup, GA.  As we have begun our school year we have also begun a study of the book of Daniel, and in so doing the questions have quickly been brought to our attention “who am I” and “whose am I.” 

Daniel was living in exile, torn from his friends, his family, and his faith.  His Babylonian captors quickly implemented a reeducation program for Daniel and his fellow Judean captives that involved training in the faith and literature of the Babylonians, renaming these young men in accord with the Babylonian gods, and applying a dietary regimen foreign to the faith of Israel.  It was in this initial moment with the kings’ chief official that Daniel had a decision to make: where was he going to draw the line? 

Daniel took it upon himself to learn the language and literature, he showed no sign of balking at the new name given him, but when it came to his diet Daniel felt the need to stand up to his captors.  It may seem strange to us, but for Daniel and his people, their diet was a central component of what set them apart as belonging to the God of Israel.  For him, what he consumed defined who he was and Whose he was.

This semester we are learning from Daniel about how to deal with living in a foreign land.  We may not often think of it this way, but we too are in exile, caught between two kingdoms.  Each day we make the decision whether we will live as a citizen of the world or a citizen of the Kingdom of God, and as we do so we either fulfill the missionary purpose God has given us in this world or we fail to live as those who belong to Jesus.

If we take this lesson and apply it to our youth ministry as a whole we can begin to get a picture of our purpose and call in this time and place.  We exist at this time, in this place, not just as a lose group of friends with a common belief, but more so as exiles bound together by a common mission to the foreign land in which we live.  We meet together to be equipped for the purpose of knowing God and making Him known, to uphold and sustain one another in the work of the everlasting kingdom.  We work ever with an outward focus, knowing that in Christ the hope not only of we the exiles but of the whole world is found. 

So when it comes to living in this world “where will we draw the line?”  We, like Daniel, live in the midst of our culture, we learn its language and literature, we contribute our good to it, we even at times accept the culture’s naming of us, but we never compromise on who we are and whose we are.  We belong to Christ, bought with the blood of the Exile of Heaven, the One who became a servant of all, that He might bring us back to Himself.  This is the message we carry.  This is the purpose of our exile here.  May we be known as those who bear the name of Christ and reveal to the world who He is, the One who is the true Lord of all!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach