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There are more than four thousand colleges and universities in the United States. I’m guessing that none of them heard a commencement address quite like the one delivered at Morehouse College yesterday.
Robert F. Smith, a billionaire investor known as the wealthiest black man in America, told the crowd that he and his family would pay off the entire graduating class’s student debt. David A. Thomas, president of Morehouse, called Mr. Smith’s generosity “a liberation gift, meaning this frees these young men from having to make their career decisions based on their debt. This allows them to pursue what they are passionate about.” Mr. Smith’s gift may be worth about $40 million, according to Morehouse officials.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love”
Imagine that you were one of the 396 young men graduating from Morehouse yesterday. I can think of three reasons you might decline Mr. Smith’s remarkable generosity.
You could do so out of a self-reliant determination to pay your debts yourself. You could refuse to feel indebted to Mr. Smith. Or you could consider yourself unworthy of such grace.
Now let’s consider Robert Smith’s gift to the Morehouse graduates as a parable.
The Creator of the universe considers our eternal life worth the death of his Son: “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Our Father loves us unconditionally: “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37–39).
God’s love for us is unwavering: “His steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:26). It “surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). It is inclusive: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).
In short, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).
Anything God has ever done, he can still do.
However, for most of my life, I have struggled to accept God’s grace. It’s not that I think I can pay my spiritual debts myself and earn my way into heaven, or that I don’t want to be indebted to God. Rather, it’s hard for me to see myself as worthy of such love.
I know my sins and failures, my guilt and shortcomings and weaknesses. I know how unlovable I truly am. You may feel the same way about yourself.
It helps to remember that God’s love for us is not based on our character but on his: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). As a result, we can do nothing to deserve or to lose his love.
But there’s another reason our Father values us so highly, one that has gripped me in recent days.
Because God knows us better than we know ourselves, he knows what we could be if we were fully dependent on him. He knows the impact we could make on our culture if we were fully led by his omniscience and empowered by his omnipotence.
He knows that what he did with his first followers, he can do with us. And he knows that what he is doing around the world, he can do in our culture as well.
I’ve witnessed physical healings in Cuba. I’ve met people in Bangladesh who experienced dreams and visions. I’ve worshiped with believers in China who are risking their futures and even their lives to serve Jesus.
Anything God has ever done, he can still do. What he is doing in one part of the world, he can do anywhere in the world. The difference is not in him but in us.
“When I am weak, then I am strong.”
I wonder if the way many of us devalue ourselves is limiting God’s ability to use us. Our performance-based culture teaches us that we are what we do. But nothing we do is good enough to earn the approval of a perfect God.
So, we settle for what we have rather than seeking all that God wants for us. And we wonder why our churches are not more effective in reaching the lost and impacting our culture.
It’s not that our God is too small, as J. B. Phillips warned in his classic book by that title. It’s that we are.
The fact is, we’re right. You and I are too fallen and finite, too frail and flawed to change our broken world. The good news is that admitting our weakness is the key to experiencing our Father’s transformational strength.
God cannot do for us what we try to do for ourselves. But when we admit how desperately we need God, we hear his radical response: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Then we can testify: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (v. 10).
Being “poor in spirit” changes everything
Jesus taught us: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). To be “poor in spirit” is to admit how desperately we need God. When we do, we make him our king and experience the “kingdom of heaven.” And we are “blessed” with his best for us and through us.
Would God say that you are truly “poor in spirit” today, that you are utterly dependent on him? If not, would you pray for a vision of what your Lord could do with your life if you were? Would you then give him all you have to receive all he has for you?
If we are not “poor in spirit” today, nothing will change. If we are, nothing will remain the same.
NOTE: God never spoke of the United States in the Bible. But the principles he set down in its pages are timeless and relevant to you today.
If you want to know the Lord’s heart for our country, the best place to start is by looking in his Word, as I have done in my new book, How Does God See America?
Please request your copy when you give today.
Wednesday, May 29 is our Summer Kick-Off with Middle School and High School in the Student Pavilion 6pm to 8pm
We will have some worship time, Pizza, and some great hangout time, BUT DON’T MISS OUR EXTREME BINGO GAME!!!!! We WILL HAVE PRIZES!!!!
Monday, June 24 – Friday, June 28, 2019
Mission Trip to Medina Children’s Home in Medina, TX~ $115 Early Bird Registration – Must be paid in full by May 8, 2019 | $150 – Regular Registration – Closes on June 12, 2019 | $200 – Late registration – Closes on June 19, 2019
“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young.
Be an example to all believers in what you say,
in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”
1 Timothy 4:12 NLT
Because of the way middle schoolers’ brains are wired, it’s easier for them to see something outside of themselves than it is to see it inside of themselves. For example, it’s much easier for them to talk about the way they see others being underestimated than to actually share the ways in which they may be feeling or experiencing the same.
For many kids in this phase, the struggle is not only to overcome those who underestimate them; it’s to overcome the ways in which they underestimate themselves as well! Middle schoolers are often paralyzed by fear of failure or embarrassment, causing them to hesitate in trying new things because they underestimate their ability to succeed.
Having an older, wiser voice speak into the life of your middle schooler is a big deal. As they may tend to tune out your voice more and more as they move through middle school, they’ll be tuning their ears to other voices around them, making who they spend time with all the more important in this phase.
For more parenting resources visit www.ParentCue.org
Sheep are mentioned over 500 times in the Bible. One reason is that they play a part in relating the imagery of the Shepherd and his Flock to Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The followers of the Good Shepherd are… well… SHEEP. With this in mind, many thoughts about sheep have come about. First off, sheep are thought to be really stupid. Stories I have heard involve sheep mindlessly following the other in front of them, no matter what is going on, so if a Shepherd put a staff out for one sheep to jump over and then took it away for the next sheep, the rest of the sheep would “follow the leader” and jump in the same spot. Secondly, we hear out of Luke 15 that 100 sheep could be doing fine and then one of them might go astray, so the Good Shepherd has to run after that one that decided somehow to just wander off, even though the routine is the mindless following.
So does that make us STUPID SHEEP, and is Jesus greatly placing prominence on Himself and belittling humankind?
Being less and less agriculturally inclined in society today, and not in the business of raising sheep, I discovered what many people may already know. Sheep actually have some distinct attributes that put them at a higher IQ than one can imagine.
- They are right below Pigs in IQ and can be considered the same level as cattle. MOOOOO!!!
- Sheep can actually recognize facial features and remember them for years. Take that iPhone number kazillion and one!
- Sheep can pick up on different emotional states pretty easily. (In a BAAAAAD mood???)
- Sheep can also express their emotional state by the various sounds they make.
- Sheep can self-medicate themselves and graze on needed nutrients depending on their current physical status
- Sheep also can distinguish between voices and know when their name is called.
Wow! Maybe sheep are smarter than we think! With all these amazing facts (and believe me there are more from sheep enthusiasts), maybe Jesus is wanting us to feel more than “stupid.”
John 10 paints a picture of a Good Shepherd that knows His sheep. He calls them by name. He protects them. He gives them abundant life. He oversees every aspect of their lives. In fact, He oversees the deepest part of our inward being. The keeper of the our mind, will, and emotions. The place that we tend to keep hidden behind the outside, natural part of ourselves. Our Souls!
Maybe Jesus is revealing His true heart to us and the heart of the Father for mankind. All we need to do is respond to the call when we hear our name. He willingly lays down His life for US, the SHEEP! Do you know His voice?
or better put… DO YOU KNOW THE SHEPHERD AND OVERSEER OF YOUR SOUL?
Peter was asked to do something by Jesus. “FEED MY SHEEP” Those words must have echoed in his mind for the rest of his life. After denying Jesus on the road to the cross, he finds a place of forgiveness and reconciliation. Then he is given a noble task. To follow Jesus and point others to the Shepherd of the Sheep.
Maybe those thoughts settled in his mind in a way that gave him the wisdom to encourage his flock with these words:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:24-25 ESV
The comfort we can find in Peter’s words lands on the word RETURN. The truth is all of us have strayed away from the heart of the Father. We have something within us that decides to wander away, even when we do a good job of following most of the time. Peter understood the word “RETURN,” and brings comfort in this truth. YOU CAN RETURN TO THE SHEPHERD AND OVERSEER OF YOUR SOUL. Just as Peter did. We all have the ability to RETURN.
Where are you today? Wandering? Following? Listening to the Voice of the Good Shepherd?
YOU CAN SIMPLY RETURN
We are launching our Middle School Grow track through Google Classroom!
The Journey in Discipleship Personal Growth track has gone digital!
If you are a Middle School Student that would like a personal challenge in Growing in your walk with Jesus, Middle School Grow is for you.
HOW DOES A STUDENT JOIN IN?
Step 1 – Go to classroom.google.com and click Go to Classroom. or download the Google Classroom App on your device.
Step 2 – Join a class with a class code that matches your grade below:
- 6th Grade Code – gupp44
- 7th Grade Code – j8d2lxe
- 8th Grade Code – 6t8nsi
- Accept an invitation from Class Creator— Code doesn’t work? Email Pastor Brandon at Brandon.Best@oakwoodnb.com and he will manually invite you through email.
- Click on the Classwork Tab
- Watch the opening video like this one
WE are in launch mode
My desire is to provide students with a Grade Based, personal track, that challenges them to think about their walk with Jesus and gives them steps to walk through it.
We definitely understand that this is a work in progress. We chose Google Classroom due to the fact that students use it at school, it is FREE for our use, and it gives a platform for us to build on in the DIGITAL AGE we are in. We can post videos, devotional content, give links, and track “points” to see how students are progressing.
WHAT ARE THE GRADES?
Grades for the “assignments” mainly fall in the completion category. We also have the idea of challenging students to push hard at certain times of the year with prizes for the leaders in each grade.
Our Middle School Camp is Sunday, June 02, 2019 – Friday, June 07, 2019
Cost: EARLYBIRD: $275.00, REGULAR REGISTRATION: $295.00, LATE REGISTRATION: $350.00
Checkout the Ministry Team: http://glowingheart.org/
When: June 2-7, 2019 (Sunday Leave afternoon, return Friday Late)
Who can attend: 6th-8th grade students (2018-2019 school year)
Location: Focus Point Base Camp in Alba, TX
This post really spoke to me as a parent, as a Middle School Pastor, and as a person seeking to walk with JESUS. The added bonus is the fun idea of a game to find the TRUTH!
This post first appeared on ScottKedersha.com under the title, “What Lie Do You Believe that Gets You Into Trouble?” Check out the Scott Kedersha’s Blog here
6 Ways to Believe the Truth and Not the Lies
I’ve found myself playing a game I don’t like the past few weeks. Not that I don’t love games. This one, however, I don’t really like to play. It’s a game I have to play whenever I struggle with insecurity and comparison.
You can’t buy this game at Target and Amazon won’t ship it to you. The game is called Spot the Lie, and I learned it many years ago from Watermark’s lead pastor, Todd Wagner.
Todd plays the game with his kids. The concept is simple—whenever something doesn’t seem right or promises something it can’t truly deliver, you need to spot the lie, lest you think the lie is truth.
- Snickers promises to satisfy. While it certainly does for a few short moments, the flavor quickly goes away but the calories, energy drain, and sugar crash stick around.
- Those new cars that spouses buy for each other at Valentine’s Day and Christmas? You know the ones that show up in their driveway with a big red bow on them? Those cars are awesome until the first bills come in or the newer model comes out. That new car won’t satisfy your desire for stuff and an extravagant purchase won’t fix your hurting marriage.
- The praise you get for crushing it at work, in the sermon, in the basketball game—fleeting. Great in the moment, but it goes away, replaced by the praise for another or a failure right around the corner.
- Any commercial ever made for any game or toy for your children! They look so happy in those commercials. LIES!
You Must Spot the Lie
In each of these situations, you must spot the lie so you don’t believe something that won’t ever come true.
Another way to play this game is when your brain tells you things that just aren’t right. For instance, you might tell yourself:
- I’m unlovable.
- I’m a fraud and I’m not good enough.
- Or, I’m the worst and everyone is better than me.
- My kids dislike me and my spouse and friends do too.
- This team would do better without me.
- Me, me, me, I, I, I… you get the picture.
For whatever reason, the last few weeks, I’ve really struggled with comparing myself to others. I desire their gifts, acclaim, and praise, and in the process I tear myself down and believe the lies.
Instead of losing this battle, I’ve had to play a lot of rounds of Spot the Lie. You might need to play this game as well. At some point, we all do.
6 Ways You Can Win at Spot the Lie
1. Fight the lies with truth.
Read God’s Word. Memorize scripture. Meditate on Truth. Ultimately, we can learn so much about our identity not from others, not from the world, not from the praise of man, but through God’s Word. Here are a few verses (with a brief synopsis) you might want to check out (and memorize):
- John 1:12 – You are a child of God
- 2 Corinthians 5:17 – You are a new creation.
- Genesis 1:27 – You are made in the image and likeness of God.
- Galatians 4:7 – You are a child of God and a co-heir with Christ.
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – You were bought at a high price.
- Romans 8:1 – There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Side note: You need to know the main reason I write what I write is because I need it as much, if not more, than you do. Reading these verses is good for my soul, and helps me Spot the Lie and believe Truth instead!
2. Pray for change.
Ask God to give you the wisdom you need to stop believing the lies and instead believe truth. Sometimes my brain goes crazy and spins out of control. In those moments, I ask God for His wisdom (James 1:5).
3. Listen to good songs filled with Truth.
A few I’ve listened to the last few weeks:
- Lauren Daigle’s song, “You Say.” I love this new song, and in it Daigle rightly says we should believe what God says about us.
- “Who You Say I Am” by Hillsong Worship. In this song, I’m reminded that I am a child of God, I’m chosen (by God), and I am who He says I am (not who the lies tell me I am).
- The hymn, “My Worth is Not in What I Own.” Recently recorded by Shane and Shane in their Hymns, Vol 1 album. The lyrics remind us to boast in knowing Christ, not in what we own, our wealth, might, or wisdom we posses.
4. Focus on others.
When I start to play the self-pity game, I instead choose to encourage and think of others. When I take the focus off myself, I can encourage those around me. In Romans 12, Paul reminds us to use our gifts. My gift is encouragement, and I love how Romans 12:8 says if your gift is encouragement, then encourage others! Whatever your gift is, use it/them, for the glory of God and for the good of others.
5. Fight the sin of comparison.
Too often we coddle our sin or just think it will go away. I want to fight my sin, whether it’s lust, anger, or comparison. John Owens famously said, “Be killing sin, or it be killing you.”
6. Engage others.
In those moments when I believe the lies, I want to run away and hide. I feel guilt, shame, and embarrassment, and the last thing I want to do is let others in. Rather, I know I need others to speak truth into my life, wound me with love, and encourage me. I need others to bear my burdens (Galatians 6:2) and to shine light into the darkness of my sin and lies.
You might have some other ways you have to fight the lies. Please share them below in the comments section.
On a much lighter note, I do love games. Here are three fun ones I recently started playing with friends and family.
- One Night Ultimate Werewolf – like mafia, but quicker. Great party game.
- Dutch Blitz – super fun card game. Our family loves it! “A Vondferful Goot Game.”
- Psych! – great party game you play on your iPhone. Especially fun if you know each other well. We especially like the “And the Truth Comes Out” deck.
- How do you fight the lies in your life?
- What scriptures would you add to the list above in point #1.
“God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them.
He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say “seeing”? there are no tenses in God
– the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up.
If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him.
Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves