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

Youth News for August 2017

It’s hard to believe that the summer of 2017 is already coming to a close.  School is starting back, the routine is being reestablished, and everything is settling down.  But before we allow the dust to settle, let me recap the ways that God has worked in the summer of 2017 to reshape His people in and through our youth ministry.  As I do, join with me in giving thanks to our God for the work He has done!

             On May 21st we kicked off the summer with a celebration of our high school graduates.  It was a small class this year, with only 3 participating in our service, but filled with excitement and hope for the future.  There is always a bitter-sweet feeling to seeing our graduates go, and we will continue praying for them as the Lord directs their lives in the future.

As we saw them out we also saw the arrival of our summer intern, Katie.  Her ministry here over the summer has been a huge blessing, especially to our girls as they have gotten to know her and see her passion and love for Christ.  The fruits of her work here will continue to be seen for a long time to come, and we trust that she has been blessed by us as well.  I can tell you that she has been very appreciative of the ways that you have welcomed her for her time here and made her feel at home.

June found us out at Camp Hawkins, experiencing the great joy of working with the special needs kids there and seeing God’s love on display through those children and the counselors and staff.  God used our students in a powerful way to equip that camp for success, and our students were able to experience the ways that God can take what may seem small or insignificant acts of service and bring about huge blessing for those being served.

Our middle school VBS was a time of great excitement and fun, but also was filled with the glory of the gospel on display for students who were hungering for a deeper understanding of who God is and how He calls to us.  Seeing their faces light up when we talked about the saving work of Jesus during Bible study was priceless, and witnessing the power of the Spirit to wake up those middle schoolers to the beauty of His Truth was motivation enough for all of the ministry we do here.

The rest of June and July was filled with dive-ins, trips to an escape room in Savannah, and water park fun at Splash-in-the-Boro, and in the midst of all of it we have been able to gain a deeper understanding of 1 Timothy as Katie has led us in a study of it’s incredible insights.  Our students have been encouraged to set an example for those around them through their leadership, through prayer, in the way they live, and how they interact with the world around them and fellow believers.  It has been an awesome summer!

Even as I type this we are preparing to head to Mission Fuge camp to wrap up the summer, and as we head into the school year we look forward to relaunching our Pray for Me Campaign and seeing the fruit of the Spirit at work through His word is a study of the book of Daniel.  Join with me in praying that God would bring an abundant harvest for this ministry as we continue to press forward in faithfulness to the call that God has given us to make disciples for His Name!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach

Youth News for July 2017

“One of the greatest tragedies of the fall is that we get tired of familiar glories.”


During our Middle School VBS this past month we had the opportunity to minister to middle schoolers from all walks of life, many of whom had no real familiarity with the glorious gospel of our Lord. As is always the case with such a ministry, our attendance was sporadic from day to day, ranging from 14 on the lightest day to 24 on the largest. If you are unfamiliar with our Middle School VBS, we run a totally separate program from the rest of our Vacation Bible School, using different material, playing different games, and singing different songs.
This week we went through an adapted version of Matt Chandler’s book The Explicit Gospel. This meant that Tuesday was the most important day, we had the opportunity to dig deeply into the meaning and impact of the gospel on the individual and on this world. It was the best day of the week, the conversations were real and open, the students engaged and interested, and the message clear and beautiful. It also happened to be the day that we had all 24 of our students involved. God orchestrates beautiful things.


VBS can be difficult and frustrating, and I remember by Thursday Katie (our summer intern) and I were about to keel over from exhaustion. I had lost track of the important reality of what we were doing and was focused on simply trying to get through it with a decent level of success. That afternoon, however, Katie stepped into my office with a look on her face that reminded me of why we do this. “Zach,” she said, “We got to share the gospel with twenty-four middle schoolers on Tuesday!” The excitement in her voice reminded me of the quote I had used in my sermon just 2 weeks beforehand. “One of the greatest tragedies of the fall is that we get tired of familiar glories.”


How can we grow tired when the work before us is so glorious? How can the gospel grow old and dull, take a back seat, become just the thing we do instead of the joy of our lives! If you helped with VBS this past June, or if you help with any of the many ministries of this church, and even in your labors to bring the gospel to the world in your workplace and wherever you go, let this be the glory that captures your heart and sets your imagination in motion. We are ambassadors of the gospel. What a glorious calling! Revel in it, thank God for it, and we will never run out of energy for the task ahead.


Soli Deo Gloria!

Zach

 

Youth Summer Dive-In Schedule:

             July 5 - Teresa and Jon Scott

             July 12 - Gena and Joe Ierardi

             July 19 - Sabrina and Eddie Thomas

             July 26 - M-Fuge*

             August 2 - Joy and Lex Kenerly