Category: Blog

Got A Plan?

Vince Scarbrough Minister to Preschool & Children Families
Vince Scarbrough
Minister to Families & Connections

I don’t consider myself to be a planner. It’s not that I am some type of free spirit who meanders through life. I have a calendar, and I make plans, and I carry through with those plans. What I mean is, I am not one of those people who gets up on Monday and starts thinking about what I am going to do the following Saturday, and then goes ahead and puts an agenda in place. It isn’t that I am trying to keep my options open or anything – I just don’t want to put that much mental energy into thinking about Saturday if I don’t have to. When there isn’t anything of a priority on the schedule, I am happy to wake up on Saturday morning and think, “what should I do today?”

Now having read that first paragraph, most of you will fall into one of two groups. The first group sort of sees me as a hero – OK, maybe not a hero – but definitely someone you identify with. Then there is the other group – the group that gets thoroughly frustrated with someone like me. It drives you bonkers when on Monday you ask, “So what do you want to do on Saturday?” and people like me respond, “Saturday? Can’t I just get through Monday first. Let’s just wait and see.” It is amazing how often God puts one from each of those groups together in marriage.

a look ahead

So, planner and non-planner, let me ask you two questions: What is your plan for personal spiritual growth? What is your plan for your family’s spiritual growth? Very often, those are not questions that we ask ourselves. When it comes to our spiritual growth and the discipleship of our children, we often act as if we just expect those things to happen. After all, we come to church, we listen to the preacher, we listen to the Sunday School lesson, we pray before we eat. But is that really enough? Can we grow substantially in our walk with the Lord in just a few minutes a week? When I look into the lives of people with a vibrant faith and passion for the things of the Lord, I never find anyone who is content with sitting in church for a few hours and then waiting for the same time next week to roll around. They pursue God throughout the week – they read Scripture daily, they pray all throughout the day, they meditate on the Word of God, they memorize Scripture, they humbly serve the Lord with every aspect of their life, and they very often pray and fast on a regular basis. They are intentional about their pursuit of the Lord.

One thing that can help most of us is developing a personal spiritual disciplines plan and/or a family discipleship plan. It isn’t something that is overly cumbersome, and you don’t have to write some type of curriculum for your family to go through. It simply requires taking a small amount of time and putting a plan of action into place. In less time than it will take you to plan this summer’s vacation, you can put a family discipleship plan in place that will fit with the natural rhythms of your family’s life. For now, document how you are pursuing the Lord throughout the week. In a couple of weeks, let’s discuss a template for a plan.

 

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One With The One And Only

Jeff Smith Minister of Education & Administration

Jeff Smith
Minister of Education & Administration

This is from Jeff’s new blog, Goodwill God. Read more at GoodwillGod.com.

On the day that it was released, I took my son and his friend to a see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I was as excited as they were. I’ve been a Star Wars fan ever since the first movie, and so I thoroughly enjoyed all the connections that Rogue One had with the original story. I also enjoyed the movie on its own merits, although I do feel that Rogue One has a different flavor than all the other movies in the Star Wars franchise.

I won’t give away any real spoilers, just in case, but I do want to talk about this one intriguing character in the movie called Chirrut Imwe (played by Donnie Yen). Imwe has developed an awareness of the mystical Force that supposedly holds everything together in the Star Wars universe. Of course, as any fan knows, the Jedi Knights and the Sith Lords are the main groups who know, develop, and train themselves in the use of the Force: the Jedi, in order to do good; and the Sith, in order to do evil.

Star Wars

However, Imwe, who is neither a Jedi nor a Sith, has somehow nurtured his awareness of the Force and figured out how to use the Force to his advantage. At certain times in the movie, he chants rapidly (in a most un-Jedi like fashion), muttering, “I am one with the Force, the Force is with me, I am one with the Force, the Force is with me.” And Imwe ends up doing some fantastic things that have no explanation except that he indeed has a connection to the Force.

I think we admire characters with unwavering devotion to a higher ideal, goal, or purpose. And Imwe’s chant to the fictional Force made me think about how all of us have an impulse to be connected to something or someone larger than ourselves. But what struck me most about Imwe is that in the end, Imwe’s union with the Force is completely impersonal. He can be one with the Force, and use it to help his friends (and help the greater cause), but Imwe can’t have a conversation with the Force or have any real relationship with it. Imwe’s relational fulfillment must always come from outside the Force.

Jesus offers something very different to his followers — a union with God’s One and Only Son. This union is powerful but is also deeply relational, fulfilling one’s life completely without having to rely on anything or anyone else. This union wouldn’t have been possible without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins. But Jesus’ death and resurrection  made it possible for those who believe in Jesus to be actually joined with the Spirit of God. They will never be alone, and will always be known by God and loved by God.

“If you love me, you will keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.” –Jesus (John 14:15-21 CSB)

This union with God is admittedly mysterious, and I don’t think anyone (even believers in Jesus) can claim to know exactly how it works or how God accomplishes it. But we can see evidences that this union is real, especially when we see a Christian go through suffering with an undeniable grace and trust in God. When their life appears to be falling apart, they stand fast to the hope they have in Jesus. Such occurrences are an evidence that they are indeed one with Jesus, and that he is giving them strength and peace in their time of trial.

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D-Now is Coming!

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Chase Grubb
Minister of Students

One of the highlights of our student ministry calendar will be here before you know it.  Our Disciple-Now weekend kicks off Friday night, February 24th with registration beginning at 5:30pm and dinner at 6:00pm.

D-Now 2017 – AWAKENING:  Ezekiel 11:19-20

 

DNOW 2017 graphic

What Is D-Now?
“D-Now”stands for Disciple Now. So, a D-Now Weekend is a Disciple Now Weekend. In its simplest form, a Disciple Now Weekend is a weekend retreat for a youth group. Chances are you do some form of a retreat with your students, right?
But there are a few distinctions that make D-Now Weekends different from a normal retreat. D-Now Weekends are an amazing time where a large portion of your church has the chance to play an important role in your students’ lives.  Check out this short video, where we asked members of the D-Now Student Advisory Team to share their thoughts on why Disciple Now is so important to their youth ministry, church, and students.
Components Of A D-Now Weekend
While not every D-Now Weekend is the same, here are a few of the core components that make them such an awesome environment for your students to grow spiritually.
Discipleship Oriented
Whereas some retreat weekends are more about getting away and hanging out (which is NOT a bad thing), D-Now Weekends put a high premium on discipleship. There are Large Group sessions where a speaker can move the weekend’s theme along from a big-picture perspective. And there are super-intentional Small Group times where students go deeper with their individual small group leaders. It’s a focused time of spiritual growth and application.
Host Homes & Small Groups
“Host Homes” are a key feature of DNow Weekends. A host home is where a family in the church agrees to host a Small Group for the weekend. Many youth ministries will bring back former students to lead a Small Group, or use the weekend as an opportunity to plug-in prospective adult volunteers.  Regardless of who’s leading the Small Group, the leader & the students will meet in the host home for Bible Study (when they aren’t at the church for Large Group sessions, or other activities).  Groups consist of similar aged students.  They’ll usually spend at least one night and will eat a few meals with the host home family. It’s an AMAZING way to get a greater portion of your church involved in your ministry.
Church/Community Focused
While it’s not the case in every single D-Now Weekend, the vast majority of them take place at your church, as opposed to a retreat facility. Most D-Now Weekends will see the Large Group Sessions occurring at your church, while the Small Group Sessions happen in host homes. It’s an awesome way to create a real tie-in to your church and your city.

 

 

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Is The New Testament Reliable?

Cameron Debity Pastor

Cameron Debity
Pastor

Here’s a concise version of a talk I did recently for a high school Bible literature class. My hope is that this will serve as introduction to the subject of the reliability of the New Testament to prepare for you questions that you’ll eventually face about it. If you are interested in a more in-depth treatment or are curious about helpful sources, please let me know.

The Reliability of the NT: Can we really know what the original manuscripts said?

How can we know that when we read the Bible that we are reading the words of the original authors? Many people argue that since we don’t have the original autographs that the Bible isn’t trustworthy. Here are some refutations to that line of thinking:

First, we have well over 2,000 Greek manuscripts of the gospels. Compared with other ancient writings, this is a wealth of material. Classical scholars are often forced to rely on a handful of manuscripts of ancient texts whereas NT scholars are overwhelmed with primary material.

Second, many of the gospel manuscripts are quite old and therefore trustworthy. We have a few papyrus fragments of the gospels that date to the second century with more from the third century. Full-scale manuscripts of the gospels and the rest of the New Testament can be dated to the fourth and fifth centuries. Now, this might seem like a significant time gap between the writing of the gospels and the manuscripts we now possess but compared with other ancient Greek writings, the New Testament documents are in a different league. For example, the earliest manuscripts of Herodotus (5th century B.C. Greek historian), Plato (4th century B.C. Greek philosopher) and Josephus (1st century A.D. Jewish historian) are at least 1,000 years later than the time of writing.

Third, though the process of copying ancient documents wasn’t flawless it was quite reliable. Moreover, because contemporary scholars understand this process, and because there are so many copies of the New Testament, scholars can identify scribal errors and changes with a high degree of probability.

Finally, though there are a few verses in the gospels (less than 3%) in which some words may still be uncertain, the clear majority of verses in our critical texts reflect the original writing or something very close to it. Additionally, the disputed words are almost always trivial.

All of this means that when you read one of the New Testament gospels, you can have great confidence that you are reading what the original manuscripts really said.

 

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Different, But Similar

Vince Scarbrough Minister to Preschool & Children Families
Vince Scarbrough
Minister to Families & Connections

Recently on a Sunday morning, I had a great conversation with a five-year-old boy.  He was inquisitive and had a lot of questions about God. There were things on his heart that did not make sense to his five-year-old brain. His first question was, “What happens to us when we die?” After we talked for a few minutes, he seemed content with my answers and without another word he simply went back to playing. Everything was good in his world once again. He just needed some help lining up what he was hearing and what he was experiencing.

A few days later on a Tuesday morning, I had a great conversation with a seventy-five-year-old man. He was inquisitive and had a lot of questions about God. There were things on his heart that did not make sense to his seventy-five-year-old brain. His first questions were, “What happens to us when we die? Are we immediately with God?” After we talked for a few minutes, he seemed content with my answers and without another word he shook his head and we moved on to the next subject. Everything was good in his world once again. He just needed some help lining up what he was hearing and reading.

I have the incredible blessing each week of spending time in a class setting with children on one day and senior adult men on another day. Oh, what fun I have! And the similarities between the two groups are more than you can imagine. Sure, there are a lot of differences: the amount of hair, the color of the hair, the language they use, the modes of transportation (canes and scooters), the ability to get in the floor and then up off the floor. But there are a lot of similarities too: both groups are missing teeth, both groups are rebellious, and both groups like to eat sweet things – one group likes the soft pastry type and the other likes candy. And both groups have questions about God.

As followers of Christ, our faith journey will be filled with questions about the God we serve and the Savior to whom we have surrendered. It is through our questions and the seeking of answers that we grow to understand more about God as His Spirit works in our lives. It is such an encouragement to hear young and old ask questions about God. Both ages often have similar questions – but on a different level. As we age, our questions about God most often take on a more personal note. Rather than understanding mere spiritual truths and biblical concepts about God, we want to understand how those spiritual truths impact us on a personal level; how they will play out in our individual life. We move from, ‘I think I understand what happens when people die’, to wanting to understand ‘what will happen to me at the immediate point that I die?’ As our faith grows, so should the theological depth of our questions.

 

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