Achieving Blogging Goals

Today I achieved my main blogging goals for the year.

It’s a day to celebrate! 

At the start of the year I set myself two main goals to achieve by the end of 2017.

Achieving Blogging Goals.png

First, I wanted to write and post more often. Making sure I could achieve this meant I needed to make it specific and measurable. The goal was to average a post a week by the end of the year. This is now my 58th post. I achieved this goal with when I posted about freedom.

Second, I wanted to have double the amount of views this year than I did in 2016. Last year I had 2,567 views. Today I tipped over 5,134! This is awesome news, and very pleasing for all the work I end up putting into this site.

So, it is a day to celebrate.

I can tick off two major goals I sought to achieve at the start of the year. It didn’t come easy. There were times when I didn’t think I’d make it. The regular writing, editing, and posting takes more time than I’d like to admit. But, with intentional focus this year it seems to have worked.

More people are reading my stuff, which often blows me away–that people actually take time to read what I write and occasionally comment. And, for a personal blog that is targeted at quite a niche topic it’s certainly on the improve.

So, here’s to achieving goals!

(Let’s not talk about new goals for 2018 just yet)

 

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Published: What are the Top 5 Books of The Bible You Want Your Students to Read?

So, I’m in a few Facebook groups full of youth pastors and youth ministry practitioners. Someone asked this question of the group and numerous responses came through. I thought about it for a few minutes and jumped in myself. I then made a blog post out of it. It was then published on Rooted Ministry.

“Keep in mind, these aren’t necessarily my five favourite books of the bible. These are what I see as the most helpful pieces of scripture for my students, when it comes to communicating the gospel. It’s an interesting question. You may love Jeremiah, and Amos, and Revelation. Great. Are they in the top five for helping your students understand more of the grace of God and seeking to love and follow Him? Maybe they are.

Of course, no answer is a right answer, but let me outline why I think these are the top five for my students.”

You can read the whole post here.

The Sparkle of a Youth Ministry First-timer

To help transition grade six students into youth ministry I find it helpful to invite them along to our Term 4 program.

I don’t think this is an earth-shattering idea.

But behind this idea is intentionality. There is intention in inviting graduating primary students and their parents to begin attending the youth ministry prior high school beginning.

In the life of the family the graduation of primary school is significant, particularly if it is their first child. It’s an exciting time for the family as they celebrate all that their child has achieved throughout their primary school life. It is also a daunting time, because in a couple of months their child will enter high school, where they start on the bottom rung of the school ladder and desire to find new friends and community.

So, while celebrating the final term of primary school and transitioning to high school, it becomes a good idea to transition students earlier than later. The amount of change going on in the family unit at the start of a new year, particularly when high school is a new step, doesn’t need to be heightened by throwing youth group into the mix. Instead, allowing students to attend early and get an idea of what it means to be part of the youth ministry helps alleviate stress come the new year.

I also believe this helps the parents of the student. Finishing off primary school can be stressful, and this is mixed with various information nights and transition days for high school. With all this going on parents seem pleased for their child to be invited to youth group, and it helps them get a taste for what could be part of the family calendar the following year. Being able to meet leaders, see the program themselves, and watch how their child is adapting to a group of high school students helps in their parenting, and the expectations for their child when they begin high school.

And finally, it is always great to have new people come along to any youth ministry. Inviting new people in Term 4 brings an energy to finish off the year. It lifts everyone to be intentional about their leadership, welcoming, and community-building. And, it’s always terrific to see the sparkle in the eyes of a first-timer.

Perhaps you haven’t thought much about transitioning students between primary and high school? It is worth doing so, and putting into place at least some invitation and communication about this.

Because of this, I have copied my welcome letter to grade six students and their parents, which is sent to them at the end of Term 3. Feel free to use as you like. I trust it will be helpful.

170830 Letter to Parents - G6 Invite Letter - Blog Example

Day 11 – You Are A Slave

“…and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:27-28)

The bible pictures being a servant of Jesus in extremely strong language.

In the New Testament the use of the word servant can often be translated as the word slave. You can see the two uses of the word in the verses above.

One writer has talked about the distinction of a servant and slave in this way,

“While it is true that the duties of slave and servant may overlap to some degree, there is a key distinction between the two: servants are hired; slaves are owned. Servants have an element of freedom in choosing whom they work for and what they do. The idea of servanthood maintains some level of self-autonomy and personal rights. Slaves, on the other hand, have no freedom, autonomy, or rights. In the Greco-Roman world, slaves were considered property, to the point that in the eyes of the law they were regarded as things rather than persons.  To be someone’s slave was to be his possession, bound to obey his will without hesitation or argument…” (MacArthur, Slave, 16-17)

To our modern ears the use of the word slave sounds harsh, ugly, and distasteful.

You're More Than A Number - You Are A Slave

When we think of a slave or slavery we think of someone who is being used and abused for the profit of another. We think of sex slavery, the slavery of Africans for the promulgation of the United States, the slavery of young girls and women for the pleasure of ISIS fighters in the Middle East.

Slavery is not seen as a good thing. Nor has slavery ever been thought of as a good thing. It has constant negative connotations associated with it.

Yet, the word servant, as in being a servant of Christ, can also mean being a slave, being a slave for Christ.

And while we aren’t being used and abused by our perfect Heavenly Father there is a sense of the commitment and identity we now have when we are follower of Jesus.

When we are called and chose to follow Christ we are all in.

To be a believer in Christ is to not just assent to being a Christian of some description. No, to be a follower of Jesus means we sacrifice our whole lives to follow him.

Our all.

Our everything.

Our entire being and soul and purposes are committed to follow Jesus.

There is no turning back.

When Jesus calls his first disciples we read in many of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke particularly, of how he instructed them to “come, follow me”.

The call to follow Jesus is not simply a call to come with me to the shops, or let’s go for a drive, or “c’mon, let’s go to the footy match”. The call to follow me is a costly call.

It is a call to slavery.

This slavery is not the slavery depicted above. This call to slavery is one that recognises that we are now servants to the Most High God. That we are at the beck and call of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Yet, while this slavery is all that and more, it is really a freedom-giving, redemption-purchasing, forgiveness-finding kind of slavery. It is a kind of slavery that places us in a better position than we find our self otherwise. We find ourselves loved, adopted, and saved through being slaves of Jesus Christ.

In this way, our identity has changed from being about self to being about service.

Our identity is not defined by who we are in any way but by who he is.

Our identity is not determined by the failures we have but by the faithfulness of God.

Jesus calls us to follow him and in doing so calls us to a life of service. A life of slavery for the cause of Christ.

FOR REFLECTION

  • What kind of thoughts come to mind when thinking about slavery?
  • Have you thought about the cost of what it is to follow Jesus? What do you think that means for you?
  • How can knowing being a slave for Jesus inspire you to greater works and commitment to follow him?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free
  9. You Are Chosen
  10. You Are A Child of God

Day 10 – You Are A Child of God

“…through faith you are all sons (and daughters) of God in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26)

Have you ever spent time thinking about time before you were even born?

It’s weird, isn’t it?

It’s weird to think that life existed before you were born, and that your parents had a life without you.

You're More Than A Number - You Are A Child of God

As weird as that is, it’s even stranger to think that God knew you before you were born. Before you were even a child in your family, let alone alive and breathing in human form, God knew you and had created you.

Just as we were once non-existent in our own families, there was once a time when we were not considered part of God’s family.

We’ve been reflecting in this series about our identity. And it is our identity, who we are, that changes when we begin to follow Jesus and accept his lead in our lives. But another aspect to this new identity is that we become a ‘child of God’.

In accepting Jesus by faith we find that we are adopted into God’s family and become one of his children. Of course, we continue to keep our own earthly characteristics, such as our name and personality traits given to us from our biological parents. However, we are now part of God’s family and he considers us one of his children. He becomes our heavenly father perfectly leading and loving us as his children.

And being included into God’s family changes everything.

No longer are we on our own.

No longer is our identity resting on self, or upon anyone else’s view of us.

No matter the circumstances we find ourselves in we can know that we are God’s and he is ours. Our identity is no longer based on our family name, our achievements, our job, our test results, our final score, our sporting successes, our failures, our sexuality, our gender, our looks, our fashion, our social media following. No. No longer are we defined by any of those sorts of things. They fall off the cliff into the river of irrelevance.

We are identified, you are identified, I am identified, as a child of God.  

Galatians 3:26 says, “So in Christ you are all considered children of God”.

This is a powerful statement of our identity.

We are all children of someone, whether we have a good relationship with those who brought us into the world or not. Through Jesus and his work on the cross, through our accepting of that by faith, we find ourselves now part of God’s family. And in God’s family we find we are loved, cared for, forgiven, accepted as we are, and given royal status.

I say royal status because becoming part of God’s family leads us to be considered divine royalty.

The only experience of royalty I’ve ever had is through watching them on a screen and reading about them in the news. A few years ago, when young prince George was born to William and Kate, there were plenty of pictures and articles focussing on the new heir to the family. It was celebratory news. It was a highlight for the world, as the royal family not only had a new child but one of significance who would now be in line for the throne in years to come.

In another part of the bible, Romans 8:16-17, we find we are considered royalty, or heirs, because we are God’s children. It reads:

“The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ…”

What an amazing truth! We, who are sinful and in need of being saved and redeemed, are actually considered a coheir with Jesus because of what he has done! We are part of God’s divine royal family! Wow.

FOR REFLECTION

  • What impact does being known as a child of God have upon your life?
  • How does being a child of God redefine your identity?
  • In what ways can you be encouraged today, realising that you are child of God and part of God’s royal family?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free
  9. You Are Chosen

Day 9 – You Are Chosen

“Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)

When I was in school I fondly remember the lunch time sports I used to play. In summer, it was often cricket, and in winter, it was often football or basketball. The way the teams were chosen were through two captains, usually the most out-going, bossy, and controlling classmates, picking person after person to be on their side. The way the players were chosen was based on perceived ability. The best players chosen first, then the mid-range players, and finally, those who weren’t that great but allowed to play were chosen last. Those chosen last were usually the same every time. And soon enough there would be two teams and off we went.

In the bible, we read that we have been chosen by God.

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We read in Ephesians 1 that before the foundation of the world God has chosen us to be part of his holy family. That even before he created the world, and before we were created and knitted together in our mother’s womb, God had chosen us. And being chosen by him in order for us to be holy and faultless in love. That we would be part of his family and he would give us grace and more grace, and love and more love because of who he is. Because of his great love for us he has chosen us and given gift after gift through his Son Jesus.

This choosing was not like choosing a sport team at school. God didn’t choose you to be part of his family based upon how good a person you are. He didn’t line you up and then look at all the good things you would do in your life and pick you because of that. No, God simply wanted to show his love to you, he wanted to know you, he wanted to be with you and you with him. And so, God chose you.

We have been chosen by God!

God himself cherishes and loves us and has chosen us to be with him.

This idea can also raise some questions. Is God playing favourites? Is he choosing some people and then decisively not choosing others? Is this fair?

These are good questions to ask. It can seem like God is playing favourites.

Yet, no one knows whether they are chosen until they know him. From a human perspective God’s grace is open to all. Everyone is called to come and believe. Everyone is called to come and follow. Everyone is called to come and know. In this way, God’s grace and love and choosing is open to all people.

At the end of the day none of us are actually in a position to earn our acceptance by God anyway. No one deserves to be part of God’s family, that’s why it is such a glorious thing to know we are part of his family. Through Jesus, and his death and resurrection, we are able to believe and follow. To know and be known. To trust and be accepted. To cherish and be chosen.

God is God, and we being chosen into his family is such a great and almighty gift to us. Who he has chosen to be our brothers and sisters we don’t always know. But what we do know is that he has called us, and he calls us to call others, into his loving family.

Every few years we undertake local, state, and national elections. The election process can take some time and depending on how certain members of parliament and political parties are doing in their roles will depend on whether they continue to be elected as our representatives. In recent years voting seems to have turned very populist. That is, whoever can market themselves and galvanise people the most will likely tip the votes in their favour. Yet, how long an MP stays in politics and in government is indefinite. Some may spend only one term, 3-4 years representing their constituents. Others may last for over 20 years in office.

For those of us who follow Jesus and know Jesus we can rest assured that we have been adopted into God’s family forever. There is no need to doubt that we are part of his family because God has chosen us to be in it. We don’t simply stay in the family for a short period of time before leaving. We don’t get chosen on the basis of our performance or the basis of popularity. God has chosen us, he has chosen you, because of his great and glorious love for you.

Because of this we can say we have been chosen.

FOR REFLECTION

  • What effect does knowing that God has chosen you have upon you?
  • What kind of questions does this raise for you? Make a list of them.
  • How can you help others realise God’s love for them and his delight to have them in his family this week?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free

Day 8 – You Are Free

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

The movie ‘Room’, adapted from the book of the same name, is about a young boy and his mother who live in a small 2m x 2m room. At the beginning of the book there is detailed descriptions of how the young boy, having grown up in this shed, refers to items within this room as his friends. At night he says, “Goodnight table”, “Goodnight chair”, “Goodnight lamp”, and so forth. The reason he does this is because he knows nothing but life inside of this room. Spolier Alert: His mother was kidnapped a number of years ago, fell pregnant to her kidnapper, and raises the boy in this small secured room. It is a terribly sad and harrowing story. However, when he is five years old they hatch a plan and in the end they both get out and survive. They are freed after so many years, and reconnect with her family and loved ones.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Free.png

As we’ve been exploring who we are we come to the great truth that we are found to be free.

We have found freedom.

This occurs in two ways.

First, we are spiritually free.

Exodus is the second book of the bible and speaks of the liberation of God’s people from the hand of the Pharaoh of Egypt. God’s people have been under slavery for 400 years, being used by the Egyptians to expand and grow their kingdom. While they have worked for Pharaoh the slavery upon them has been exhausting and crushing. However, the time comes for God to liberate his people through the leadership of Moses. God’s hand is upon Moses and his people and enables them to leave Pharaoh and Egypt behind, no longer slaves. The night before they are to leave God instructs his people to paint their door frames with the blood of a lamb. This is so the spirit of death will passover the house and not kill the first-born son. This is God’s final plague upon Egypt and is the one that makes Pharaoh give God’s people their freedom.

In the New Testament, strong connection is made to this story. You might be able to see the connection in the Romans 8:1-2 verse above.

Those who believe in Jesus, and put their trust in him as their saviour, have their sin ‘passed over’. Those who believe are no longer under the judgement of God nor under the curse of the law, nor under the slavery of sin and death. Those liberated and free from the judgement and condemnation of God are those who God has ‘passed over’. That is, Jesus has taken our sin and dealt with it himself on the cross.

Second, we are free from any laws or rules.

Because of this freedom, through what Jesus has done, we seek to follow God’s commands out of a place of gratitude and grace. There are no rules, no matter how many we believe we need to obey, that will help us please God. God is already ready pleased with us because of what he has done.  

Tim Keller, a NYC pastor, puts it like this,

“The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome… religion is ‘if you obey, then you will be accepted’. But the Gospel is, ‘if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey’. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference.”

Some believe the Christian faith is a restrictive faith. But this is not the case. Our willingness to follow the commands of God only come from recognising what he has already done for us. And our following of these are from a place of joy and thankfulness. 

There are no restrictions on what kinds of foods we are to eat, there are no restrictions on what we wear, there are no restrictions on what spiritual activities we have to do to be right with God. No, out of our freedom we choose to follow the commands of God, to love him and others. But, there are no tight restrictive rules given for us in order to make God love us. 

We are given freedom.

This freedom comes from God. 

There’s a great song called ‘No Longer Slaves‘, which has lyrics that speak of this theme of liberation and freedom. It’s a good way to end our reflection for the day with these words. 

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again to my family
Your blood flows through my veins

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

I am surrounded
By the arms of the Father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance

We’ve been liberated
From our bondage
We’re the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears are drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I will stand and sing
I am a child of God.

FOR REFLECTION

  • Have you ever felt trapped, believing you had to do something for the sake of doing something, rather than undertaking a task for the love of it?
  • Do you see how God has freed us from sin through his Son?
  • What is it that makes you willing to follow his commands? Is it out of freedom or out of duty?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved