Tates Creek Christian Church

Updates and Insights from Tates Creek Christian Church

Archive for the tag “Youth”

The Power of Faith

“Just stay positive!” Students today are bombarded with this message as they struggle through life to find meaning and significance. In a time when typical supports have been lifted, such as family, community, and even faith, many students do not know where to turn to find the emotional strength to excel. Positive thinking, merely imagining success in life, is the only resource many students have left. Most students see this as the false hope that it is, however.
But we, in the Church, are guilty of this as well. It is too easy to comfort someone hurting by telling them to “just believe” and things will work out for the best. Popular Christian thought seems to treat belief as some sort of magic that has the power to make our fantasies of health and wealth reality.
My faith crashes into reality almost immediately upon visiting someone sick in the hospital. How can you pray for someone when there is so much uncertainty, even from doctors trying to diagnose the problem? This is the situation that the father of the demon-possessed boy encountered in Mark 9:14-29. Jesus’ own disciples couldn’t help him, and the father knew it was only a matter of time before the boy’s fits would eventually take his life.
When Jesus comes down from the mountain into the scrum between his disciples and official scribes, the father had seen all of his options fail. Neither side had a ritual to perform, an incantation to chant, or even an answer. His petition to Jesus comes from his despair, “If you are able, have compassion on us and help us.” (Mark 9:22) Jesus is frustrated by the lack of trust that the entire crowd has in him and corrects the father “What do you mean, ‘If you are able’? Everything is possible for the one who believes.”
(Mark 9:23)
Jesus claims this for good reason. Just before this He had revealed his glory to Peter, James, and John on the mountaintop (9:2-8). Jesus knew that He had the power to heal, so the only barrier to action was the trust that the father put in him. When the father cried out in distress for mercy, Jesus showed it and healed the boy, even in the face of lingering doubts.
It isn’t that our faith has any power in itself to change, which would be worse than magic. Rather, in the face of all our difficulties we put our faith in Jesus, who suffered death (9:30-32), and is now glorified. We don’t have powerful faith, we have a powerful Savior and Lord!

Brad Haggard

The Turning Point

How eager are you to try new food? Last month, as we continued to work through the Book of Acts in our middle school Sunday School class, we came across the story of Peter’s vision of unclean animals that God had now declared clean in chapter 10. I had some sushi ready for the students to try, and many of them had the reaction I expected, shock and fear. Even though I had picked this up at the local grocery, the unfamiliarity with the food caused students to run for the trash can as soon as I opened the box.
But Peter’s revulsion to unclean food wasn’t hindering the spread of the Gospel, it was his aversion to meet with people who weren’t from his “tribe”. It took three direct commands from God in the vision in order for Peter to begin to open up his heart and consider other people worthy of the Gospel message. When Peter arrived at the home of Cornelius, a foreign soldier sent to occupy Judea and maintain tax revenues, he let go of all of his prejudice and let the Spirit lead the way.
What happens next is the major turning point in the book of Acts. For the first time, Gentiles hear the message of the Gospel and the Spirit falls upon them just like when the Church was inaugurated at Pentecost. Peter commanded that they be baptized and accepted into the assembly as full members. Even when the Church in Jerusalem whispered that Peter had met with Gentiles, they met his story of the Spirit’s move with joy. From there on out in Acts the Gospel spreads like wildfire throughout the wider world.
We should receive the Spirit’s lead with the same joy because there would be no Tates Creek Christian Church if it wasn’t in God’s heart to connect people from every tribe, tongue, and nation to Jesus. Peter’s example calls us to joyfully swallow our prejudices and cultural fears as we witness to every person about Jesus. How could we not take this call up in light of the salvation God has offered to us?

Brad Haggard

Middle School and High School Update

With the new worship schedule at the first of the year, we are now offering Sunday school for High school and Middle school during both the 9:30 and 11 am worship hours. This is a great time to have your student dive into scripture for themselves. Both groups are working through the book of Acts, and by the end of the school year we will have studied through the entire book. It is always inspiring to see how the Holy Spirit worked with the early Church to spread the message of Jesus.
Our High school group meets every Sunday night from 6-8 pm in the high school room. We have food, games, worship, and high school specific teaching. Our Middle school group meets Wednesday evenings from 6:30-8 pm. We also have food, games, and teaching directed at middle school students. These are times for your student to make friends with other peers in church, which is the most important factor in keeping students involved as they grow up.
Don’t miss the camp weeks this summer! Middle school will go to C.I.Y. MIX June 20-24 at Johnson University. The High school will go to Panama City for C.I.Y. MOVE June 26-July 1. These are very important weeks for your student’s spiritual growth, so keep them set aside!

Brad Haggard

No Greater Joy

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
3 John 1:4

I have learned that one of the great joys of parenting happens when one of my daughters does the right thing without any prompting. When they show kindness to each other, reach out to friends, give their best effort in school, or lift up their heart in worship, it wells up a pride in me that I didn’t know I had. It makes it easier to sacrifice and discipline when you are able to see it take root. I suspect that pride will only grow as they grow in Christ.

As a youth minister, I get to see this all the time. When students who have considered baptism for years finally make the decision on their own to commit to Jesus and walk through the waters, it not only encourages their parents, but it lifts up all the students in the group. Further on, it’s amazing to see students grow into leaders throughout their time in the ministry. When seniors graduate and you can be confident they will be Christian leaders for the rest of their lives, there isn’t much that could bring more joy to a youth minister.

So, let’s make that our commitment as a church, to see that our children will walk in the truth. It is not a small sacrifice, nor is it a steady road, but my prayer for us as a church this year would be that we would find our joy in leading people to the truth. No matter what trials and uncertainty the next year brings, we can know, as a church, that we will find no greater joy as a family than to welcome in new children.

Brad Haggard

Home for Christmas

Our high school fall retreat this year was a joint retreat with three other churches.  Typically we only go with our group, but I have become convicted that unity means we need to share space and energy with other people and churches.  So, we went along with Southside Church of Christ, Southern Acres Christian Church, and Centerpointe Christian Church.  The most amazing thing was that, rather than being a time where groups clashed and competed with each other for territory, the students quickly gelled.  In fact, our students on the trip said that it was the best retreat they had attended precisely because they got to meet students from other groups!
One of the main draws for Christmas is the time we get to spend with family.  Going home, settling in, and feeling whole with the people that have formed us, is the joy that we have during the Christmas season.  This is what is offered to the world in Jesus’ birth.  Through Jesus we all have a brother who is not ashamed to call us family (Hebrews 2:11-12).  So in a real sense, every church service is a homecoming for us, and we await the ultimate fulfillment of the present offered to us.
This family also extends across racial and ethnic lines (Galatians 3:26-29).  One of the other great joys our students get, is working with Russell Cave Church of Christ to put together Thanksgiving boxes for families in need in the Winburn community.  The feeling that comes with encountering someone who is different, and then finding joy in that difference is what really changes our hearts.
So this Christmas, let’s not just find “home” and “comfort” with those who are close to us, but let’s extend that hospitality to someone who isn’t like us.  That is precisely what God did for us in giving us Jesus.

~ Brad Haggard

It’s Personal

The most difficult truth to accept about sin is that sin isn’t some alien force that works against our true selves, but it is part of who we are. It may seem comforting to think that “sin” separates us from God, but sin has no substance of its own. Rather, each one of us has chosen to offend God and hide away rather than face the consequences.

The story of the Fall in Genesis 3 is sometimes too familiar to us and we skip over important details. We typically think that something mysterious and metaphysical happened the moment that Adam and Eve ate from the Tree, but it’s actually something mundane that changed in their relationship to God. In verse 8 the couple hears God from afar as He was enjoying an evening stroll through the garden. Rather than an abstract notion of “sin” causing the separation between humanity and God, it was Adam and Eve who hid themselves and separated themselves from God!

In teaching calls this is an important point to make for teenagers, because their first response, when they have disobeyed their parents, is to try to hide the offense. It’s nothing that the parent has done or anything inherent in the disobedience. The children themselves choose to hide parts of their lives away from the very people who are protecting them and providing.

It isn’t “sin” that separates us from God. We separate ourselves from our Creator because we want it that way. I don’t think we can ever comprehend the depth of our offense until we acknowledge that truth.

But if the offense is personal, then the solution is personal as well!
There are two words used to talk of forgiveness in the New Testament.
1 John 1:9 gives one of those words, and the idea is a “release” of offense. God will not hold a grudge against us if we confess our sins to Him. The other idea is found in Colossians 2:13. In this verse, God graciously grants us pardon, merely because we are united with his Son. It is purely God’s prerogative, and He takes it personally.

God forgives our sin because He wants to!

Brad Haggard

One Another

Working in youth ministry I’ve seen parents struggle with the new relationship that develops with their children as they move into their teenage years. Teenagers naturally are defining themselves as unique people, and that comes at the expense of the dependent relationship they had with their parents just a few years ago. Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it is easy or simple. Parents, and their children, have to learn to live with each other in a new way, and it requires give and take along with a healthy dose of patience.

This is why Paul takes pains to stress the mutuality of the household relationships that we live with as Christians in Ephesians 6:1-4. It isn’t merely a one-way street for Paul. Children need to obey their parents, but parents do not need to anger their children. In this way, they are submitting to one another. In fact, throughout this passage beginning all the way back in chapter 4 of Ephesians, Paul is stressing that we need to defer and bear with one another within the Church. It comes to a climax with the section on household codes. Husbands and wives need to submit to one another, parents and children need to submit to one another, and servants and masters need to submit to one another.

Perhaps the reason that Paul’s argument reaches its height here is that household relationships are the most intensive areas in which we learn to think less about ourselves and more about the other people close to us. It is in submitting our desires and wants to those closest to us that we learn what it means to take on Jesus’ loving perspective. In fact, the word “one another” occurs 100 times in the New Testament. If we are to grow in Jesus, we need to grow together.

And in that way, we can all take ahold of the promise in Ephesians 1:5, that we all are adopted as sons and daughters of God. God has no grandchildren, and that means we are all on the same plane in His sight.

Brad Haggard

Hearing What the Bible is Saying

One of the most significant challenges for a youth minister is keeping up with the new ways that words are used among students.  This doesn’t just apply to slang, but it even extends to “normal” words that are used in different contexts by students.  For example, what do you think of when you read the word “phone”?  Chances are it is different from the way that a teenager today thinks of a phone.  There is a whole generation of people growing up today who have never seen a landline phone!

If this is true with teenagers, then it is even more true in reading the Bible, a book that was written over various cultures a long time ago in a place far away from us.  When we want to think the right things “because the Bible tells me so” we have to make sure we are actually listening to what the Bible is saying and not importing our received understanding.

But with a book that was written in three foreign languages, how can we hope to bridge that gap?  We bridge it the same way we learn about how young people think and speak, by listening to them!

“…His delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.”   Psalm 1:2 (NASB)

Psalm 1 envisions a disciple who continually reads and re-reads Scripture in order to listen to it more clearly.  “Meditate” in this verse would imagine a student of the Hebrew scriptures repeating a verse over and over in order to listen to the details of the verse and let it sink into the heart.  Our first impulse in reading the Bible should be to listen rather than jump to conclusions or applications.  It is a delight to let the word master us rather than the other way around!

If we aren’t reading the Bible to let it change how we think and how we act, then we aren’t letting it “tell” us anything.

Brad Haggard

Confession

An issue that comes up frequently with youth is that they don’t feel confident praying to God for anything and everything. “How do I know that He will hear me?” “What does it feel like when God listens to your prayer?” “I’ve never had God answer a prayer of mine, so what should I do?” In thinking through those questions, there is one key element that students experience at camp and on retreats which opens up the power of prayer, confession.

In James 5:16 we are encouraged to pray because “the prayer at work of a righteous person accomplishes much.” (16b), but there is a stipulation to the verse. The key to being “righteous” is to “Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so you may be healed.” (16a) For James, prayer simply wasn’t as effective if it didn’t come from someone who had confessed their sins and repented.

This is a huge part of the camp and retreat experience for students. They are pulled away from all of their normal distractions and forced to examine their lives in light of the teaching. If there is a time in a young person’s life where they are most likely to open up about their lives and find support, it is at camp or a retreat.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that the prayers offered up during these times are the prayers that have the most effect in the lives of our students. Hearts are renewed, minds are transformed, and students are called into ministry. It’s difficult to think of a more powerful time of prayer than on these retreats where the group is praying for each other.

Since most of us don’t have regular retreat experiences anymore, we must find ways to make confession to each other part of our regular spiritual habit. Then we can find the true power of effective prayer.

Brad Haggard

Prayer in the Day of Social Media

One of the most interesting things that has happened with social media is how it is increasingly used as an outlet for feelings. Whenever a student is frustrated with school, life, friends, family, or even themselves, the main outlet is on social media. A cryptic tweet, sad photo on Instagram, or a plea for someone to “please text” put out on SnapChat. The idea behind it is that placing these feelings online will be a release and let friends know to check in.

Of course, needing an outlet for feelings isn’t something new to this day and age. Finding healthy outlets for our feelings has been an issue for humanity from the start. Social media just makes it easier to broadcast a down mood in search of support. But where do we go for our primary outlet, whether we are active tweeters or we use other ways to release our negative emotions?
For the psalmists, meeting God in worship is the primary place to release their frustration and hurt. In Psalm 73 the psalmist’s frustration with his life compared to the good fortune of evil people frames the complaint. “All in vain I have kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence” Psalm 73:13 (ESV). This would be a natural thought to post on social media today, but the psalmist gained a new perspective when he went to worship rather than to complain to others.

“…until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end…My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:17, 26 (ESV)

In joining with the great prayers of the Old Testament, we can lay out all our frustrations before God, from the mundane to the deep longings of our hearts. The psalmists call on us to trust God’s hearing. He will be our emotional outlet and will carry us through our darkness.

Brad Haggard

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