Friday, April 24, 2015

Zombies, Death, and Survival

Hello HS Parents!

This past Wednesday night we talked about Zombies. I realize that might seem like a strange subject for church, but zombie movies and zombie culture are really popular among high school students right now. It actually offers a GREAT platform for us to talk about death, the afterlife, and even people who came back to life in the Bible - like Lazarus and, of course, Jesus.

Most of our discussion revolved around the fact that the craze that is zombie culture right now has more to do with survival than it does zombies. The “real” story in all of the zombie movies and TV shows is that the people left alive are trying to stay that way. We discussed that this natural feeling to want to live is strong in all of us. In fact, when we see someone who fears living more than they fear dying (read: suicide), it is painfully clear that something is wrong mentally and emotionally. 

The bulk of our conversation focused on the eleventh chapter of John’s gospel. My main point was that no one that I knew had actually met Lazarus…because he was dead. Well, wait a minute…didn’t Jesus bring Him back to life? Yes, but he died…again. That’s what makes Jesus different than any of the people brought back to life in the Bible - they ALL died AGAIN. But He is the ONLY person in history who died, came back from the grave, and is STILL LIVING!!

If you haven’t done so in a while, give John 11 a read this weekend. Talk about with your students the feelings of Mary and Martha. Talk about what Jesus might have been feeling. If your students are into it, grab a Zombie movie from Red Box or catch World War Z on Netflix. You might find an easy doorway to a conversation about death AND life, abundant life, using something that is a “known” in their world already.

- MIchael

Friday, April 10, 2015

I Like Stress In My Life!

No. I don’t, actually. But if you took a look at some of my decisions you might think I like to be stressed. I mean, seriously, why else would I say yes to some of the things I commit to? Why can’t I say no to things that really should be a “no” in my life? Well…I wish it were that cut and dried. Or maybe it is, and I’m just trying to justify it.

Does any of that sound familiar? If not for you, it certainly is for your students. In fact, I think those of us who feel stressed have something in common: we are not alone. Most everyone I know deals with some level of stress in their lives that seems to be too much to handle at times. It makes us react in ways we later regret. It shapes decisions we make and dictates outcomes for matters that should be completely and totally stress free.

I talked about this with high school students this past Wednesday night. I shared with them that sometimes we don’t “look” like people filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, or self control. And I shared a stressful story with them from the gospel of Mark. Verses 35-41 of the fourth chapter report the time that the disciples were on a boat with Jesus. They were stressed to high heaven because of a storm that came up. Waves were rocking the boat and even spilling into the boat threatening, or so they thought, their safety.

When they go to look for Jesus, they find Him asleep at the back of the boat with His head on a cushion…not a care in the world - again…so they thought. He tells the sea and the wind to take a chill pill - and they do. Then He looks at the disciples and asks them if they still do not have faith in Him.

You may be in a spot right now where you need the Lord to speak some calming tones into your life. Some of the stress in your life may be out of your control. Other stressors in your life could be of your own doing. Take comfort that Christ is well aware of all of them and is able to speak a peace into them that we can’t understand. He is just as much in control when you feel stressed as He is when you feel no stress at all in your life. 

Take a minute or two this week to have a conversation about stress with your students. Ask them what it is that stresses them out. Then share a little bit about your own stress factors. Read that passage from Mark’s gospel and talk about how Jesus feels and desires to speak into those areas of your lives. Personally, I could stand Him to take a look at the wind and waves around me and say, “Peace. Be still.” Let Him speak it to you this week.

Friday, April 3, 2015

It's Not Just "Any" Friday

Hello HS Parents!

I’m sure you have already decided which Easter service you will be attending this weekend. Those of you serving have already mapped out what you’re doing, when you’ll be there and all that goes with that. I’m certain the opportunity to share a meal, a family egg hunt, a nap or all-of-the-above are mixed in those plans somewhere as well. And as excited as I am to celebrate Easter (I like to refer to it as Resurrection Sunday) with you, allow me to talk about today for just a minute.

This is no ordinary Friday. It’s three days before Christ rose from the dead; it’s the day He was nailed to the cross. It’s the day that represents the innocent Son of God who, having never committed a moral or legal infraction, was arrested, mocked, ridiculed, beaten, tried, convicted, sentenced, and ultimately executed. Today.

Naturally, the inability for the grave to hang on to our Lord is the core of our faith. He conquered death and hell when that stone rolled away and he came out of the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. But that history-changing, life-transforming event happened because He was, first, willing to take on your sin and mine. He was willing, knowing all there is to know about your thoughts, actions, jealousies and prejudices - and mine - he was willing to go to the cross. Even after praying to His Father to see if there was another option, He chose to follow, willingly, the will of His Father.

I love Hebrews 12:2 which states, “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

And Romans 5:8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

The ONLY thing the held Christ on that cross was His willingness to endure it. Soldiers, protesters, the Sanhedrin - none of them possessed the power to hold Him captive. It was His heart for those He died to save (you and me) that made Him willingly carry that cross up that hill to His death - so that we might have life…abundant life. I don’t know that you and I are capable of grasping the scope of a love like that.

I love how Max Lucado states it in his book Six Hours One Friday: "Nails didn’t hold God to a cross. Love did. The sinless One took on the face of a sinner so that we sinners could take on the face of a saint!"

As you prepare for Resurrection Sunday, take a moment today to thank God for the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

- Michael