Can God Use Someone Just Like Us?

Artists: The Chainsmokers, Coldplay

Song: Something Just Like This

Album: Memories…Do Not Open

By: Brandon Best, Brandon.Best@oakwoodnb.com

Oakwood Church – New Braunfels, TX

Theme: Superheroes and Humanity

Teaching Point: God Can Use Someone Just Like Us

Opening Questions:

Have you ever thought about what your life would be like with Super Powers?  With all the movies on the big screen and all the legends in the storybooks, what movie or story do you see yourself in?  How would your life change if you woke up the next day and had some sort of Superhuman traits that you never had before?  What would your super motto be?  Who would you want to team up with?  Where would you live?  What would you wear?  

SWITCH UP… What if you only had those powers for ONE DAY?  How do you think you would react the NEXT DAY??? Would you be happy to be someone JUST LIKE YOU, or wish you could be back on the Superhero list?

Discussion

There is no doubt that Chris Martin’s smooth voice and the Chainsmokers’ approach to EDM music strike a thoughtful question about humanity and the supernatural.  The lyrics begin with a grand view of a universe filled with myths, legends and modern day imaginations of beings that display supernatural powers.  

While all these stories speak of super strength, strong fists, and great power, the song leads us to a reality check.  When we step away from the stories, we realize we do not make the cut.  We would love to have a life filled with powers beyond our humanity, but the truth is that the normal human being is not on any Superhuman list.

This is not the first time a writer has considered a vast universe with great awe and power, and has concluded that humanity plays a small roll.

Consider Psalm 8:3-5 (ESV)

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,

and the son of man that you care for him?

5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned him with glory and honor.

 

The Psalm Writer looks at the heavens, the work of the Creator, and realizes a powerful thought.  God is mindful of SOMEONE JUST LIKE US. We are the small, the normal, the frail, the fearful, the Unpowerful in many ways.  

However, God is mindful of US.  He places us on a list with powerful, “heavenly beings,” and cares about our normal, everyday lives.  The truth is that we may not be on any Superhuman list, but we are on HIS list, and He thinks about US.

 

Conclusion

The Song writers point to a simple thought that ignores the wishes of superpowers and calls for a normal, attainable relationship.  We can conclude that God has a plan in our everyday relationships as well.  

The truth is, God Can Use Someone Just Like US

Read 1 John 4:12 (ESV)

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

 

His superpower is the POWERFUL LOVE we share with one another in our small, normal, frail, fearful, and UNpowerful, HUMAN lives.  He wants to display His power in our humanity and use Someone Just Like Us.

Reckless, Foolish, Social Media Generation

As we end our Middle School Series talking about Social Media and how it impacts our real lives, I came across one of the most RECKLESS and FOOLISH Social Media stunts I have ever seen that happened this past week!

We have been talking about how God created us in His Image and referenced Ephesians 2:10 in the NLT:

“10For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.:”

We focused on how being God’s Masterpiece is a greater place to find self-worth, than from the likes we get on Instagram or Snap Chat.

We also looked at the fact that it is so much easier to tear down, rather than build up, especially when we are thumbing through pictures and reacting in the moment.  The challenge is to make an impact by being confident in Christ and turning the tide from negativity online to positive encouragement.

This last week in our series, we are looking at a Proverb from chapter 14:

“16 The wise are cautious and avoid danger; fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence.”
Can Wisdom be found on Social Media???  Can we find a way to be cautious and avoid danger that might impact our real lives when posting a fun picture or crazy video?
We definitely found the RECKLESS CONFIDENCE and this video is a great representation on how our Social Media habits can catch up to us in real life!
Our challenge to students is to do three things
PAUSE – Ask, is this the wisest thing to post right now?
ASK – If you are not sure it is wise, ASK SOMEONE.
BACK UP – It’s better to be SAFE than SORRY by backing up and not posting something immediately.
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Generation iY – Tim Elmore

Source: Generation iY – Tim Elmore

One of the most significant discoveries researchers have made on both Millennials and Generation Z (kids growing up since the dawn of the 21st century) is that they have been conditioned to fear failure. Some kids are so paralyzed by the thought of failing, they’ll do anything to avoid it:

  • Quit the team.
  • Cheat on a test.
  • Lie about their results.
  • Never try in the first place.

According to one study, conducted by Bilkent University in Turkey, this fear of failure has gone global in 21st century students. The study found that the “fear of failure at school can negatively affect a student’s motivation and attitude to learn.”

The researchers asked over 1,000 high school and college students to complete surveys about their motivation to learn and the strategies they employed. In the end, they discovered that kids who feared failure at an early age were more likely to create goals to validate their ego rather than help them grow and develop. These students were also less likely to utilize “effective learning strategies” and “more likely to cheat.”

Ouch. Did anyone see this coming?

In 2003, research performed by Wiley Periodicals noted that one of three psychological variables that hinder adolescents’ levels of school engagement was the fear of failure. Hmmm. I think I see a pattern here.

The Golden Gate Paradox

golden-gate-bridge-1081782_1280-417x278

There is a great story that informs how we should lead students through this awful fear and liberate them from it. (I share it in my book, Twelve Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid.) In 1933, when the Golden Gate Bridge was being built, the crew fell behind on their deadlines. One of the workers had fallen to his death causing his colleagues to work more slowly each day for fear it might happen again. Finally, one worker approached the supervisor and asked if a net could be placed underneath the men to prevent them from dying if they fell. The supervisor was apprehensive to take the time to do this because they were already behind schedule. But, alas, he agreed and a net was hoisted into position. Suddenly, the men worked faster and more efficiently—actually speeding up the completion of the bridge. What enabled them to work faster and better? Removing the fear of failure. Suddenly, it was safe to try what they had feared before.

I call this the Golden Gate Paradox. Once the workers were liberated from the fear of failure—they could fall without fatality—they worked and succeeded better than ever. And faster then ever. Without the fear of failure, they failed less. The bridge was finished. The foreman met his deadline. The workers were safe. Everyone won.

In the end, people (especially students) need safety nets in order for them to welcome failure as part of the learning process. Safety nets are:

  • Motivating. (They want to jump in, take risks and initiate action.)
  • Liberating. (They feel free to explore, learn and grow without worry.)

What makes this “safety net” act challenging for staff and faculty is removing student’s fear of failure without neglecting to teach the reality of consequences. In other words, far too often we adults have rescued students from their failures, and they never learn to navigate or face the consequences for their mistakes.

Leaders must be dispensers of grace, allowing followers to fail forward, and not quit or flunk out when mistakes are made. This actually enables them to succeed more often and more quickly. However, leaders must also condition followers to weigh out the ramifications for their decisions and actions. So we must balance both:

  • Safety (It’s OK to fail as you learn).
  • Reality (Every action has an outcome).

Suggestions for Safety Nets

Here are some ideas you can tweak to perform the Golden Gate Paradox:

  1. Start by telling stories of your failures, without celebrating them. Liberate the students by revealing that you failed at some past ventures and lived to tell about it. In fact, you learned.
  2. Communicate the boundaries for their mistakes and don’t remove every consequence. Ease them into the new scenario; let them push the envelope.
  3. Host a course called “Failure 101.” More than one school has initiated such a class especially for students who fear it. It’s all about learning from failure.
  4. When possible, offer second chances for fearful students. Many adults are so angry at Gen iY kids, they remove all second chances. This is ultimately harmful.
  5. Gradually, condition them to welcome failure as part of their learning. Expose them to responsibility as they gain more autonomy. These two go together.
  6. Find out what they fear the most and address it. Perhaps they fear looking bad or disappointing mom. Once you help them identify it, address the cause.

Let’s hoist some safety nets and watch our students flourish.

– See more at: http://growingleaders.com/blog/category/generation-iy/#sthash.6BSOqUpA.dpuf

Beyonce, Black Lives Matter, and her new song

Denison Forum on Truth and Culture (DFTC) exists to engage contemporary culture with biblical truth

She was once a child of destiny but now is a fierce woman on a mission. Beyonce did more than make waves this weekend, she brought the rain with her surprising release of a new song entitled “Formation.” She performed it during her Super Bowl halftime show. Usually performers play their best hits during the show, but when you are Beyonce, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. And that is exactly what Queen Bey did.

But her release was not the biggest rainmaker of the weekend. Rather it was the lyrics and themes within the song that drenched audiences. “Formation” is a four-minute song about the black experience in America. She offered allusions of the perceived injustices inherent within the land of the free and home of the brave. Strikingly, the song starts with a reference to New Orleans, calling to mind the heinous atrocities that happened during Hurricane Katrina.

“What happened in New Orleans?”

Beyonce makes vividly clear the invisible injustices with her loquacious rhythms and hypnotic beats. She audibly brings to the forefront the all-too-often inaudible injustices and pernicious stereotypes that are a part of the black experience.

“I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros
I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.”

Refusing to be imprisoned by the stereotypes, Beyonce speaks them into existence and identifies them for the blanket statements they are. Suffocating the listener with an intimate glimpse into the black experience in America, she speaks truth knowing that the truth never leaves you the same.

“I like cornbreads and collard greens…Oh yes, you besta believe it.”

Queen Bey was not alone in her performance of this likely radio hit. Her “girls” joined her for the show, and they were in “formation.” And in such a formation, she attempted to awaken the listener to the realities of today’s society. She invites all who have ears to hear to be  comfortably uncomfortable with the truth that the lyrics communicate.

While Katrina happened back in 2005, Beyonce alludes to a new type of Katrina sweeping across the American landscape.

“Girl I hear some thunder
Golly this is that water boy, oh lord.”

She, in her fierce and alluring way, performed the song from the ground instead of the stage at the Super Bowl. Her female dancers appeared in formation as well, channeling the look of Black Panthers. The Queen symbolically and literally communicated that fame has not changed her, that she is one of them.

“My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana
You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama.”

“Earned all this money but they never take the country out me
I got a hot sauce in my bag, swag.”

Beyonce is a force to be reckoned with. She is the embodiment of the vox populi, the voice of the people before they even open their mouths. She sets trends, illuminates styles, and is admired by many. Though not an outright protest, her performance advocates for a more perfect union, rid of perceived injustices.

But does this require violent reaction? Some have speculated that her video goes one step too far, admonishing violence against those who have sworn to uphold justice and offer protection. Others, however, have rebutted that they are simply avid readers, reading into something that is not there. Whether they are reading into something, or attempting to read nothing, what is clear is the obvious – Queen Bey demands attention.

While Beyonce has not officially aligned herself with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, this is probably because she is already a movement within herself.

During the fight for civil rights, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a peaceful movement that marched towards the accomplishment of his beautiful dream. His dream was intricately intertwined with the American dream, rooted in the founding documents of the country.  King led a movement that sought to cash a check that guaranteed equality for all and malice towards none.

However, encumbrances and entanglements along the way hindered this beautiful dream from actuality. Dr. King remarked: “The potential beauty of human life is constantly made ugly by man’s ever-recurring song of retaliation.”

King heard and was hindered by one song, but Beyonce now sings a new song that is rhythmically beautiful. This song hopes to rid the world of injustices by awakening the world to action.

Dante believed that beauty compels the soul to act. Edgar Allen Poe tied an encounter with beauty to the presence of tears. The psalmist David, with war against him and unrest within him, asked not for relief but to gaze upon beauty.

Such beauty is perfectly on display in the heavens (Psalm 50:2). Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father, reminds his followers to keep their eyes upon him (Colossians 3:2) so that they might not grow weary of doing good (Galatians 6:9). By doing good, they bring little bits of beauty from heaven here to earth. His beautiful kingdom comes, his perfect will is done, on earth as it is in heaven.

In the coming days, Beyonce will inundate radio waves. Many will joyously sing along, others may be compelled to action, and some will hesitantly draw back. But for those of us who are seeking to make his beautiful kingdom come, may a watching world see our “halos” as we work to make equality and justice a reality for all.

Source: Beyonce, Black Lives Matter, and her new song

Tim Elmore – One thing I do at the beginning of each Year

THE ONE THING I DO AT THE BEGINNING OF EACH YEAR

Yesterday, I blogged about a ritual I perform at the end of every year, for the last thirty years. Today, I will share with you a second ritual I do, as a follow up. It enables me to enter a new year “on purpose.”  After I invest a morning reviewing the previous year, I spend the second half of the day previewing the new year. Once again, I think, I write and I pray as I open a new chapter of my life.

I don’t simply create a list of goals, although some of the items I will list below feel a lot like a “goal.” I like to view it as an “action” list and a “standard” list. What are the actions I plan to take, and what are the standards I plan to live by over the next year?

photo credit: creepyed via photopin cc

Here are the issues I address to create the goals, actions and standards for 2016:

  1. What are my greatest dreams for 2016?  What projects will these dreams require of me? What daily actions must I engage in to fulfill them?
  2. What standards will I live by, throughout the next year:
    • Health Standards
    • Family Standards
    • Financial Standards
    • Friendship Standards
    • Personal / Spiritual Standards
  3. In what areas of my life do I most want to grow in 2016?
  4. What books will I read this next year to achieve those growth goals?
  5. What mentors will I seek out to achieve those growth goals?
  6. What magazines will I scan and file to achieve those growth goals?
  7. What events will I attend to achieve those growth goals?
  8. What podcasts (audio recordings) will I listen to, to help me grow?
  9. What will I do Monday through Friday to be intentional about my growth?

I want to be better in January of 2016 than I was January 2015. To do this, I have found that the issue is not prioritizing your schedule but rather scheduling your priorities. This means I must put into my calendar those things I say are the most important habits and attitudes I can embrace. Our character is simply made up of the habits and attitudes we possess daily.

 

See You At the Pole Campus Prayer Guide

See You At the Pole is THIS WEDNESDAY!

Middle School Parents

everyschool.com campus prayer guide link

Prayer is priority when it comes to campus ministry and outreach. Students, youth leaders, parents, everyone can get involved. A team of praying people will have a significant influence at your school. Below are specific ways to pray.

Pray for students:

The campus is made up of a tapestry of many different students, all of whom have the need to experience the truth of Jesus Christ and be loved unconditionally. Christian students on campus are in a strategic position to communicate this love and truth. Here is how to pray for students:

PRAY…

  • strategic position

    for the safety of the students and faculty at the school.

  • that Christian students will be strengthened in their faith and confidence in Christ, and serve as campus missionaries.
  • that students who have emotional, physical or family needs will be ministered to by the Christians at school.
  • that everyone on campus would have…

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When Life Drags You Down

SoulFuel

When Life Drags You Down

I hate it when life drags me down—don’t you?  The day can start off so very swimmingly, and then within minutes…

…a parent yells at you
…a friend texts with bad news
…you feel a cold coming on
…the car breaks down
…the weather stinks

And before you know it, what seemed like a day that would be a walk in the park turns into a sluggish journey through the muck.

Perhaps that’s what the lads from One Direction were thinking about when they wrote the song Drag Me Down. Check out these lyrics:

We all long for someone to pick us up when we’ve been dragged down.

All my life
You stood by me
When no one else was ever behind me
All these lights
They can’t blind me
With your love, nobody can drag me down

This song was released with zero pre-marketing, and yet it still hit #1 like a bullet. Although much of the song’s success is due to the power of the 1D fandom (as in they would all download a recording of the boys brushing their teeth—right?), there is a common connection that we all have with the need for someone to pick us up when we have been dragged down.

The problem, though, is the fact that everyone on the planet is often in a state of being dragged down themselves, therefore we are depending on the dragged down to drag us up, even though they are in a state of draggedness—what a drag!

So while the song is a very complimentary shout out to whoever is helping Harry, Liam, Louis and Niall out of the grind and strain and drudgery of their circumstances, perhaps there is another source of hope and strength to which we could turn when life drags us down?

My advice would be to ask the person in the Bible who was pretty much dragged as low as any human being could get.  His name is David—who you may know as King David. But did you know he was also pauper David, hunted David and heartbroken David? He hung out with disgusting and dirty sheep, and he reigned as the monarch of Israel.  He was a skilled warrior, but he knew defeat and despair.

And on top of all his life experiences, he was a songwriter who composed a range of poetic refrains that ranged from an overjoyed heart, to music that reflected a heart that had been dragged down into the pit.

You could say that David’s psalms were all pointed one direction!

But the common theme to all his songs was his constant and abiding faith in the God who would never leave Him or forsake him.

You could say that David’s psalms were all pointed one direction!

And here is one of the songs he wrote while under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that I turn to when life drags me down:

I look to the mountains;
where will my help come from?
My help will come from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let you fall;
your protector is always awake.
The protector of Israel
never dozes or sleeps.
The Lordwill guard you;
he is by your side to protect you.
The sun will not hurt you during the day,
nor the moon during the night.
The Lord will protect you from all danger;
he will keep you safe.
He will protect you as you come and go
now and forever
(Psalm 121:1-8, GNT).

What an amazing reminder of this truth from God’s word! Not even the strength of the mighty mountains compares with the power and might of God in our lives, so why would we trust in any single person when the Creator of the universe stands ready to help us?

When Life Drags You Down

I like One Direction’s contention that at the heart of giving them strength is the love of another person. Love is like an all powerful magnet that pulls us out of the yuck and muck of life’s ever changing circumstances, but there is no love on earth that matches the love from the God who made heaven and earth.

So the next time life drags you down, lift your eyes out of your circumstances and remember these encouraging instructions:

Now stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith. He endured the cross and ignored the shame of that death because He focused on the joy that was set before Him; and now He is seated beside God on the throne, a place of honor (Hebrews 12:2, The Voice).

With Your love, Jesus, nothing can drag us down!

Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action

When life drags you down this week, look up to Jesus, who loves us with an everlasting love!

Accelerant: Fuel for THE Cause

Pray: Jesus, thank You even for the times when life drags us down, because it is then we are reminded of Your great love for us. Please give us opportunities to help others out of life’s pits as well.

Read: Jeremiah 31:3.
Long ago the Lord said to Israel:
“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.
With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself…”

Get:  Fearless…Unleashing God’s Fierce Love In Your World. Start you new school year off right with the Fearless student devotional. These 28 days of daily devos in the book of Ephesians are designed to help you grow in your understanding of God’s love, and help you unpack how you can unleash that love in your own world.