Monday, December 19, 2016

Reaching the Millennials in our Church


I've been super blessed to be part of a church that has a wide variety of ages in it. It's been so lovely to be in a church family that has so much intergenerational interaction support. Our teens serve at events for our older folks, our older folks babysit for the young couples events, our college group helps with our teens. It's a really wonderful thing to see in a church!

However, many churches I've been in struggle with integrating different generations. The teens hang out with the teens, the older folks only spend time with each other, the college students only do events with...other college students. 

When cliques in the church revolve around age groups, you lose so much. You lose rich opportunities for mentorship and support. Sure, we can talk about healthy marriages from a book-learning perspective with our young married couples, but isn't it more gratifying to have older couples who are willing to invite a young struggling couple over to dinner and support and love on them?

A few months ago, I was picked as a judge for a blog competition, and the entries were amazing. I'll share several over the next few weeks, but one that stood out - as I was reflecting on millennials in the church - was this article from The Light Breaks Through titled:

(scroll down below the picture to see the article on his page!)

The Barna group did a large research study about millennials and religion and discovered some super interesting statistics. Keith Haney identified five tips based on that research to help keep the millennials engaged in church. We have so incredible, creative, inspiring young minds in our churches that will impact generations if we nurture and support them, and I think he has some great suggestions. 

Check it out and let me know what you think. Are the millennials in your church engaged? Do you agree with this? Are we on the right path as a church?



Friday, December 16, 2016

Accepting God's Grace

This morning, as I was driving to work, I saw a sign that said: “Your life is based on the choices you make, always has been, always will.”

Now, as a counselor, I do believe this at some level. Often, there are consequences of the choices we make. Even in difficult situations that weren’t the result of your choices (for example, childhood abuse), how you perceive that situation will often have a significant impact on your life.

However, our pastor has also been speaking about God’s grace as we come up to Christmas. How God takes us in our shattered, sinful state and creates a beautiful new creation. I’m always inspired by 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” It is a powerful reminder that I am a new creation, not because I’m super awesome or I pray a ton, but because of God’s goodness and grace.

I started to think, what should my life be if it wasn’t for God’s grace?

Woman Wearing Black Jacket While Facing the City Nearby Metal RailingsIf it wasn’t for God’s grace, I would have had way more legal issues than I do based on bad decisions I made as a teenager.

If it wasn’t for God’s grace, I would be crippled by my mental health.

If it wasn’t for God’s grace, I wouldn’t have a spouse who loves me in spite of my negativity and criticism.

If it wasn’t for God’s grace, I wouldn’t have a group of people who love me in spite of my moodiness and selfishness.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Giving Love: A way to shift our Christmas perspective

As I scrolled through Facebook this morning, I was struck by the juxtaposition between alternating posts of people sharing gift ideas and talking about “stuff” and posts about people dying in or fleeing from Aleppo.

advent, candle, candlelightI was reminded again that there are children dying around the world, and we are racking up credit card debt on toys and things.

A teen recently told me about her friend’s house that has a hole in the ceiling and snow is falling into it, and radio DJs are talking about people fighting over Hatchimals.

I have clients who are terminally ill, totally isolated, and struggling to find food, and I’m griping about finding time to go Christmas shopping for my kids.

In Matthew 6: 19-20, Jesus told his followers: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (NIV).

I feel like perspective becomes really murky at this time of year. We think that gifts = love. We justify endless spending on things our kids don’t really need, as a way to show our love and connect with them.

But how many of us will be checking Facebook fifteen minutes after our kids open their gifts? How many of us will give our friends, neighbors and teachers gifts, but forget them the other 11 months of the year?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Finding Victory in Christ

Hey everyone! I've been quiet lately due to some exciting things coming up, but I wanted to share this article with you. I first shared it on Uniquely Yours Ministries a few weeks ago, and am now sharing it here for you!
Finding Victory in Christ
Monday morning of this week. My kids started bickering the moment they woke up, my son announced he was completely out of pants (and it’s 40 degrees in the morning here), and I couldn’t find the dress pants I needed for work. I felt edgy, irritable and resentful. I was driving my kids to school, and I realized I was already completely and utterly overwhelmed. And it was only 7:50am.
I dropped off my children and drove to work. As I pulled up to my job, I could barely muster up the motivation to get out of my warm car and venture into the cold. I felt defeated before I even opened the door.
Just as I was getting out of the car, a song came on the radio. “My Victory” by Crowder. As I listened to the lyrics, the last line of the chorus just about knocked me over:
A cross meant to kill is my victory
I was immediately convicted. Was I acting victorious? Was I living each day remembering that Jesus gave his life so that we would have victory over everything? Or was I acting beaten down by my daily struggles?


Monday, December 5, 2016

Day Two: The Wonderful Names of Jesus (Isaiah 9:6-7)

As we come up to Christmas, I've been following the December Scripture Writing Plan. Day Two was based on Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV):

6 "For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this."

There are so many interesting and wonderful things about this passage (just knowing it was written 700 years before Jesus' birth blows my mind), but I especially liked the four names Isaiah gives to Jesus. In one of the commentaries I read about this passage, it says that: "The kings of Egypt and Assyria with whom his nation had been brought into contact delighted in long lists of epithetic names (e.g.,“the great king, the king unrivalled, the protector of the just, the noble warrior.” Inscription of, Sennacherib in Records of the Past, i. p. 25), describing their greatness and their glory."

Isaiah 9:6 reminds us that this child who would be born 700 years later wasn't just a good teacher or a performer of miracles. Instead, Jesus would be born humbly, then return as a ruler who would establish and reign over a kingdom of peace. I love that each of the four names represents a different facet of Jesus, and throughout the different periods of my life, I've gravitated more towards each name. 

1. Wonderful Counselor. To me, the name "Wonderful Counselor" illustrates Jesus' wisdom. As a counselor myself, wisdom is crucial. If I just threw out bad advice to everybody, I could do serious damage. Many times, there are situations where the solution or issue is clear. 

However, there are other times when I'm stuck looking at a situation, and I literally don't know what the right answer is. I'm so incredibly grateful for Jesus' wisdom and teachings in the Bible. I find that his teachings are still relevant today, and represent a balance between love and accountability. When I find myself feeling lost, I will open up to the gospels and read Jesus' teachings on everything from relationships to money to attitudes.

2. Mighty God. During a very difficult time of my life, after my dad almost died, I needed a "Mighty God." I knew that it wasn't a situation that I could simply "fix." I needed an all-powerful Savior. One who could do miracles. One who had complete control over my life and situation, because I felt so lost. One that defeated death. For some of you, you are in a situation that seems like it has no way out. You feel helpless and defeated. Your medical issues or mental health issues are overwhelming

However, Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) says, "The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." Although Jesus came humbly, don't forget that he was also mighty. 

3. Everlasting Father. One commentary that I read said that: "'Father of Eternity' describes the king, not as “possessor of the attribute of eternity” but as one who continually acts as a father to his people." 

Wow. I LOVE the line "one who continually acts as a father to his people." It can be so easy to feel like God has forgotten you when we are in a waiting period of our lives, so I love this idea that Jesus has the title of "Everlasting Father." So many people in this world have absentee fathers, and it can be difficult for them to wrap their mind around a consistent, loving father, but Isaiah shared that as part of Jesus' divinity, he would continually be there for his people.

4. Prince of Peace. Throughout the Bible, there were few times of peace. The Israelites were often enslaved by other cultures, or at war with them. Many had hoped that Jesus would be a warrior who would overthrow the Roman government and were surprised when he entered as a humble servant! 

However, Jesus as the Prince of Peace offers us something politicians, warriors, and governments won't give us. He offers us peace. I think this is especially poignant in today's world where there is war, refugees, displaced humans, conflict and riots. So many people (even Christians) get wrapped up in what politicians can do for us, but ultimately, it is Jesus and his return that will bring true peace in this world.

For some of you this holiday season, you will gravitate towards Jesus as Prince of Peace. You might be struggling with feeling overwhelmed or that your life is full of chaos and uncertainty. In John 14:27, Jesus told his disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (NIV). If you seek him, you will find peace from Jesus. 

So this season, which of his names are you drawn to? Wonderful Counselor? Mighty God? Everlasting Father? Prince of Peace? 

Or is it all of them? That realization that we serve a multi-faceted God who can meet you wherever you are?


In Him,

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Day One: God's Far-Reaching Plans (Isaiah 7:14-17)

Hey all! I'm following the December Scripture Writing Plan schedule, and today is my first post! December 1st starts off with Isaiah 7:14-17:

"14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father's house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah - the king of Assyria." (ESV)

This is a fairly complicated passage in a lot of ways. I've read several commentaries about it, but in the interest of simplicity, I'm focusing on how this scripture illustrates God's long-reaching plans for our lives. (For a really good, detailed overview of this whole passage, check out A Call for Faith and the Sign of the Immanuel by Dr. Allen Ross.)

God's long-reaching plans for our lives.As a girl growing up in a church, I always viewed the Bible as fairly condensed. It was easy to flip from the last page of Malachi (the last book of the Old Testament) to the first page of Matthew (the first book of the Old Testament), so I assumed it was a brief break between the two books - 50 or 60 years at most (which seemed like an eternity as a young child). I had learned about the Messianic prophecies, but didn't think it was that big of a deal. Maybe Isaiah talked about Jesus one hundred years before his birth, right? It wasn't until high school that I realized that Isaiah (and many of the prophets towards the end of the Old Testament) wrote numerous things about the upcoming birth and life of Jesus hundreds and hundreds of years before Jesus' actual birth. 

It is estimated there is 700 years between Isaiah's predictions about Jesus and Jesus' actual birth, so that would be like if someone in 1316 wrote a book predicting someone's birth this week! At moments, the scope of God's power and plans seems unfathomable to me.

When reading for Christmas, it is easy to start at the beginning of the New Testament, but I love that this reading plan starts in Isaiah. For me, I am humbled by how far-reaching God's plan is. Jesus didn't just appear. Instead, God had this incredible plan that was being put into motion over centuries. I sometimes question God's plan when He doesn't do what I want in a six-month span!

So what do we get from this passage? What struck me most is that although Isaiah predicted the birth of Jesus, God didn't give a timeline. 

So often, we want detailed timelines from God. How many months will I wait? How many more cancer treatments before I'm in remission? How many churches will I visit before I can find one that is home? How many years of trying for a baby? We want alll the details.

I can't even imagine how God's people felt waiting. God had shared that he would provide a sign of His love for us in the form of Jesus, but he didn't tell them exactly how many years to wait. 

And yet, 700 years after Isaiah spoke and 400 years after the end of Malachi, a baby is born in a manger. And the entire world would change.

We have to hold onto God's future promises. Don't let the Enemy tell you that waiting means God doesn't care or isn't around. I'm sure there were times where God's people cried out, "Where are you?," but He was there. There was a plan, and it's important to remind ourselves that just because His plans are sometimes not obvious, it does not mean God isn't working. Waiting is one of the most difficult things we do as humans, but God, in his wisdom, always has a greater, longer plan than we can imagine. 

Christmas is a beautiful time for some, but for others, it is difficult. It means the anniversary of the death of someone you love, or waiting for the test results to tell you if you are sick, or struggling financially and wondering how you'll pay your heating bill this month. 

Remember, that as difficult as it feels in this moment, God is there. He was there in the 700 years between Isaiah's foreshadowing and Jesus' actual birth. He is there in those few moments when you are waiting for a life-changing phone call. He is there throughout your whole life, and in the day-to-day stresses. 

He is Immanuel: God with us. All of us.

December Scripture Writing Plan

As you know, I've been writing for Uniquely Yours Ministries every Sunday, and loving it!  They are an awesome team of women writing thought-provoking devotionals and articles to help us as Christians!

They recently shared a 31-day Scripture Writing Plan on their Facebook page for the month of December and I loved that idea. I recently posted about how easy it is to get distracted during this time of year, so I love quick and easy ways to stay focused on God!

Here's the schedule:

I'll be posting the verse and a quick response every day, would you join me? And make sure to swing by Uniquely Yours Ministries' Facebook page to see what others are writing!

You can follow me on Facebook to see my updated posts or follow me by email (just click on the link on the upper right of the blog)!


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