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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.
“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
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.
Because God made you, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Your middle schooler receives mixed messages related to sex all the time. In the movies they watch, the songs they listen to, the things their friends talk about, the social media they see, and even the education they get at school, the messages on sex are both constant and inconsistent, making it difficult for them to know what to really think about the subject.
Because God made us all,
all of us are valuable.
Though your middle schooler may or may not yet be engaging in sexual activity, they’re definitely growing more curious about sex. But don’t worry! Curiosity is a natural part of growing and maturing—something your middle schooler is doing a lot of in this phase. Understanding their curiosity and not totally shutting it down is key to keeping the conversation about sex open between you and your kid.
1 CORINTHIANS 6:18
Because God made sex,
sexual things matter.
Control can be a sensitive subject for many middle schoolers. They long for more authority in most parts of their lives, leading them to act out of frustration over what they perceive as a lack of control. They also struggle with self-regulation in this phase, making boundaries difficult to set and maintain.
1 THESSALONIANS 4:3-4;
Because God made you,
you are in control of your own body.
Understanding both their value and the value of others may be hard for your student at times. As middle schoolers, value is often based on immediate feelings. If your student doesn’t feel valued by others, it will make valuing that person (and even themselves) difficult to do.
Hey Middle School Parents, have you talked to your son or daughter about the importance of the Virginity of Mary?
This is the Christmas season, why is Pastor Brandon posting something like this to make my life as a parent EVEN MORE AWKWARD?
1. Here’s the deal, we are saturated with a culture that speaks out against this train of thought. If the issue of purity is not brought to the attention of your middle schooler, they may not consider how important it is to God.
2. God’s word points this out, so we should as well.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
Luke 1:32-34 ESV
Consider John Piper’s words on The Virginity of Mary
The virginity of Mary is important for two reasons.
1. She Is Sexually Pure
a) It means that she’s sexually pure. She has not slept with her fiancé, or any other man. That would have been fornication, and God abominates fornication.
Of course, not every woman in Jesus’ lineage is so clean. There was Bathsheba the adulteress and Tamar who seduced her father-in-law. These things can be forgiven, as many of you have discovered. But don’t overlook the importance of Mary. When God chose a mother for his Son, he chose a virgin. Virginity before marriage is important because the recipient of God’s best gifts ought to be pure.
2. She Wasn’t Pregnant Already
Mary’s virginity is also important because it meant she wasn’t pregnant. God aimed to make known that the conception of Jesus in the womb of a woman was owing to no man. So he chose a virgin. And a virgin conceived a child whose Father was God and not man.
In a world of sexting, sexual promiscuity, and curiosity, God’s Word points to a different standard. A standard that allowed Jesus Christ to enter as the greatest gift to humanity.
Purity is the perfect package for the gift of our Savior to our world.
Okay parents, AWKWARD Christmas Challenge: Talk about the importance of the virginity of Mary.
(Go ahead and catch them off guard with it like they spring crazy, awkward questions on you!)
BLESS THE LORD
Read It – Psalm 103 The Message
A David Psalm
O my soul, bless God.
From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
don’t forget a single blessing!
He forgives your sins—every one.
He heals your diseases—every one.
He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.
Number the 6 Blessings in the Psalm.
Draw a picture of yourself – beside the picture of YOURSELF, label how each Blessing would look on you.
What do these 6 Blessings mean to you?
What do we learn about God?
What do we learn about our relationship with God?
How about you? Think about what these 6 Blessings mean to you
Thank God for Forgiving YOUR sins, EVERY ONE.
Ask God to heal your diseases, EVERY ONE.
Thank God for redeeming and saving your life from hell.
Ask God to help you walk in His Love and Mercy.
Thank God for wrapping you up in His Goodness and Eternal Beauty.
Ask God to renew you in His Presence.
PRAY – Think about what you just wrote down in each section.
Ask God’s Spirit to help you live out His TRUTH in your life.
God created us as His masterpiece.
God created us for connection.
THINK ABOUT THIS:
Your middle schooler may hesitate to speak up when it comes to bullying. In this phase, reporting bullying to an adult is viewed as a form of tattling rather than standing up for themselves or someone else.
When you approach conversations about bullying in less direct ways, your kid may be more willing to open up. Questions like, “Did you run into anyone who was hard to get along with today?” may give you the answers you’re looking for.
Reach out to your kid’s school to learn about the programs or policies they have related to bullying. Get involved in any anti-bullying initiatives in your community. Simple things like this let your kid see that you’re taking an interest in an important topic.
Take time to reach out to the important adults in your kid’s life—their teachers, coaches, Small Group Leaders, and more. Ask them how your kid is doing and how they’re interacting with others to get an idea of what’s happening in your student’s life when you’re not around.
Share a story from your own life (preferably in middle school!) of a time you played a specific role in a bullying scenario. Whether you were the bully, the bullied, or the bystander, tell your kid how it made you feel and how you handled it. Don’t ask them to share their own story; just be open to the possibility of the conversation from there!
If your student has social media accounts, make sure you’re following them. Pay attention to the comments made on their pages and read the comments they’re making on the pages of others. This will give you a glimpse into how they’re interacting with the people around them.
For more parenting resources visit www.ParentCue.org
Hey parents! This week we’re starting a new series called Rooted. In this three-week series, we’ll talk about how we can stand firm and welcome whatever change life brings us when we’re rooted in an unchanging God.
This week, leave your kid a note somewhere they’ll see it (on the bathroom mirror, in their lunch, in a text message, etc.) reminding them that God is with them. He never changes.
Share with your student a time you went through a challenging change in your own life. Tell them how your perspective on change was different after that experience.
This week, as you gather around the table for a meal together, ask your kids this question: If you could change our meal into anything you wanted to eat, what would it be?
It’s movie night! Pick an evening to watch the film Inside Out together as a family this week. Talk with your kids about the different emotions the characters experience when they face big changes in their lives.
For more parenting resources visit www.ParentCue.org