October 2003

Biblical Recorder:Seven styles of teen faith formation

October 30 2003 by Mark Wingfield , (Texas) Baptist Standard

Biblical Recorder:Seven styles of teen faith formation

| Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life | YouthFriday, Oct. 31, 2003

By Mark Wingfield

(Texas) Baptist Standard

HOUSTON-American teenagers hold religious beliefs in at least seven distinctive ways, ranging from the conventional to those completely lost to the church, according to a social researcher.These seven categories of youth religion were outlined during the annual meeting of the Religious Research Association by Carol Lytch, a researcher with the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Louisville, Ky. Her report was based on in-depth research among high school seniors related to three Louisville congregations - one Catholic, one Methodist and one evangelical. The study was funded by the Lilly Endowment.Lytch classified the teenagers' views on their own faith development in seven categories: the conventionals, the classics, the reclaimed, the marginalized, the customizers, the rejecters and those lost to the church.Though the data paints starkly different pictures of how teens approach faith, it may provide validation for what youth leaders see in the teens with whom they work, Lytch said in an interview."One of the jobs of the church is to help teens through this formative time when they get a sense of themselves," she explained. Given the variety of approaches teens take to faith, a primary goal of the church should be "helping teens see themselves as in Christ and what that means," she added.Lytch acknowledged she "didn't know what I was going to come up with" when she began the research, but she soon started to see patterns emerge.Here is a summary of the differences she found: Conventionals These teens adhere strongly to the authority of their religious traditions. Their primary circle of influence is their immediate family, with Christian friends forming what Lytch calls "a second ring of intimacy."Conventionals are modest in appearance, Lytch said, although they generally "blend in with their peers by wearing a less-extreme version of what is considered stylish in their reference group.""These teens want to stand out because of their testimony to God, not because they look like nerds," she said.Conventionals structure their belief system around their confidence of spending eternity in heaven. "Among conventionals, heaven comes up as a topic of conversation at least as frequently as God," Lytch noted.The ultimate rite of passage for conventionals is professing faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, although that cannot be considered a passage from youth into adulthood because it generally occurs at an earlier age, Lytch said. "Instead, for conventionals the rite of passage to adulthood is marriage, the formation of the adult family unit. Of all the teens in my sample, conventionals were the ones who exhibited the most interest in finding not just a girlfriend or a boyfriend but a future spouse."Because of this, conventionals face an "extra incentive" to get married, she said. "Unmarried adults, especially the never-marrieds, and most especially the female never-marrieds, occupy an ambigious status" and "are not held in the same high regard as role models to the teens."Sexual purity is the "crucible" of personal ethics for conventionals, Lytch reported. Other major issues for testing right and wrong in the mind of conventionals include opposition to abortion, evolution and homosexuality, as well as living a drug-free and alcohol-free life.ClassicsThese teenagers show respect for their parents but have begun to focus on peer relationships as sources of intimacy, Lytch said. "While these teens respect their parents, they choose to spend time with their friends more often than with their parents."Classics have both Christian and non-Christian friends and struggle to maintain a consistent lifestyle among the two groups. They are likely to belong to groups such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes and to participate in "See You at the Pole" but are less likely than conventionals to "target" others for evangelism.In appearance, classics are "not as uniformly neat as the conventionals" but still avoid extreme displays, Lytch said.In fact, classics may be put-off by Christians who make appearance too much of a focus, she said, citing the story of Jeff as an example. Jeff's mother pulled him out of a Christian school because teachers were criticizing his shoulder-length hair. "Classics distinguish what is custom, like hair style, from what is the classic event, the theology at the heart of the Christian tradition - the focus upon Jesus as the Christ."In theology, classics are open to inter-racial dating, to reconsidering traditional understandings of homosexuality as sin and to finding truth in other religions.Yet classics are "serious about God," Lytch said. "They tend to be disciplined in their study of the Bible. They look at the world, their goals, their relationships and moral issues through the lens of the Christian tradition."The rite of passage for classics is their acceptance of adult-like responsibility for themselves, Lytch said.In moral decision-making, classics are much like conventionals, saying they are guided by the Ten Commandments, the Bible and the values of their parents. The places where classics encounter moral dilemmas are less predictable than with conventionals, however. Lytch cites these examples of classics confronting moral choices: The temptation to drink and use drugs at a party, racism among peers, taking a stand against hypocrisy in the church.While conventionals are more inclined to accept religious traditions the way they are, classics do not see religion dictating uncontested standards, Lytch said. "The tradition attracts them because they believe it is true and because it is open to reformation." ReclaimersThese are teens Lytch said she first thought should be classified as conventionals or classics but who didn't look the same as conventionals or classics. "They dressed sloppily or showed some evidence of rebelliousness." For example, one girl showed up for an interview wearing a skirt held together only by a safety pin."A closer look at these teens revealed they were more than a hybrid type of the conventionals and classics; they shared a common experience that set them apart - they had broken with the tradition in a significant way before reclaiming it."Reclaimers do not consider their parents in their inner-circle of intimacy. Rather, they selectively choose family members to whom they desire to be close.Reclaimers are not close to many of their peers either, Lytch said. Those they are the closest to tend to be those in their non-Christian peer group to whom they actively witness about faith in Christ."Reclaimers have an intense experience of being saved by God, and this grounds their sense" of theological self-awareness, Lytch said. "Reclaimers have first-hand experience of the world as a dangerous place. They have walked to the edge of the precipice, faced the abyss and seen some of their friends destroyed. Their way of being religious has an experiential certainty that comes from being rescued from self-destruction."In a sense, reclaimers already have experienced their rite of passage, Lytch added, and do not look forward to another stage of advancement.In moral and ethical decision-making, reclaimers believe much the same as the conventionals and classics. They tend to see staying alcohol-free, drug-free and sexually pure as "clear moral tests" and opportunities for Satan to "tempt" them.More than conventionals and classics, reclaimers know that "the structures of their religious identity could come crashing down as they have before. Not trusting themselves, they rely on God to shore up these structures," Lytch said.Reclaimers tend to be evangelicals and Catholics but not mainline Protestants, she added. "When a mainline Protestant teen becomes a reclaimer, he or she might switch to the evangelical megachurch because it offers more support for the notion of a distinct 'new life in Christ.'" Marginalizers The attitude of these teens is summed up by the comment of Megan, who comes from a large Catholic family, has attended Catholic school all her life, has marked all the passages of Catholic life by the sacraments up through confirmation and is considered a youth leader in her church."You know, religion is just not a big part of my life," Megan told Lytch in an interview."Marginalizers are believers, but belief in God does not dominate their thoughts, nor does it self-consciously shape their lifestyle or life plan," Lytch explained. "They are pursuing careers defined by the market, not vocations discerned through prayer."Marginalizers accept the church's definitions of belief and practice, even if they don't pay attention to them, she added.Likewise, these teens acknowledge respect for the adult figures in their lives but reserve intimacy for their peers. Most of these friends tend to be a mixture of peers from church and school, sometimes overlapping groups due to a high percentage of marginalizers attending parochial schools.A majority of marginalizers are Catholic, but others are mainline Protestants as well, Lytch reported.Marginalizers are high-achievers, success-oriented, neat dressers, usually athletic in some way. But none of this is based on any religious underpinings.Any sense of security these teens feel comes from their own achievements and physical assets rather than from a well-defined belief in God or heaven, Lytch said.Marginalizers are involved in community service projects as an outgrowth of their concern for moral and ethical issues, but this service has no religious underpinnings, she explained. They perform service hours but cannot say why their work is satisfying. Customizers"If marginalizers are the ones who take the religious institution without the belief, then customizers are the ones who take the belief without the religious institution," Lytch said to introduce this group of teens.Customizers are seekers who are aware of their need for connection to God but are not interested in institutional religion. They may attend a particular church because they have a needed talent, because they like a particular minister or because of opportunities to work with children, but they will fall away if pressured for too much commitment.Lytch quoted one customizer: "Whenever I go to church, it's kind of like I stumble into it more than getting up and going."Like conventionals, these teens talk a lot about heaven. But unlike conventionals, they are just as likely to find theological meaning in "The Velveteen Rabbit" or "Chicken Soup for the Soul" as in the Bible.Lytch told the story of Michelle, who writes poetry about God and has created her own "cleansing ritual" involving candles, music and meditation on glow-in-the-dark stars stuck to the ceiling of her bedroom.Customizers tend to relate to parents as peers and tend to be among the most sexually active teens, Lytch said.Overall, customizers see few boundaries. They dress in more flamboyant ways, are more likely to use drugs and alcohol.Moral action for customizers is "not behavior based in separating right from wrong as much as it is going the 'second mile' by helping others when it is not required," Lytch said. Customizers volunteer many hours in community service and don't care whether they get credit for it. RejectersThese are teens who have been in church but for a variety of reasons have rejected the teaching of the church. Some would classify themselves as agnostics.A commonality among rejecters, Lytch found, is how they conceive of intimacy. "Rejecters consider their intimates those who support them in the values they have chosen as critical to their self-identity."But rejecters limit their circle of intimates by establishing high standards for friendship, she added.These teens are most likely to be non-smokers, non-drinkers, drug-free and vegetarians. They may buy their clothes at thrift shops as a protest of materialism. They may not wear leather because it comes from animals. But they might dye their hair or alter their school uniforms as a means of standing out from others.Rejecters usually substitute something else for Christian symbols and narratives of the faith they have left, Lytch said. "In place of extrinsic sources of meaning, they look to the self as the arbiter of truth."Rejecters also are concerned about global issues but work on them in smaller, local contexts. They are "committed to ideals like equality, respect for all and honesty." The LostTo illustrate this group of teens, Lytch tells the story of Trey, who has been baptized as an infant in the Presbyterian church, rebaptized as a youth in the Catholic church and then immersed in an evangelical church but cannot repeat "The Lord's Prayer." He cannot name a religious song or hymn with which he is familiar, and he has no memories of church at all.Though he shows no evidence of understanding anything about the Christian faith, he considers himself a Christian.Trey and others like him often come from families where they are "underexposed to their religious tradition," Lytch said. "They never had a chance to be formed in the religious identity and practices of their faith because their religious socialization was inadequate. Some of these teens come from families that switch from one tradition to another, sometimes switching more than once. ... They never settle into one pattern of belief and practice that is sustained for a period of time."A common characteristic of the lost teens is the absence of good relationships with their parents, even if both parents remain in the home, Lytch said. "These teens do not reject their parents because they are overly strict or demanding; rather, it is the opposite."Teenagers lost to the church also do not have many strong peer relationships, she noted. "Lost teens tend to report that they have difficulty with friendships."They also have trouble making friends in the church when they do attend, Lytch said, noting specific instances she observed when visiting church youth functions.These teens tend to dress in extreme versions of what is worn by their reference group, she said. "Danielle dresses like a cheerleader, even though she is not one. Trey, the football player, wears athletic clothes all the time, except when he has to wear his school uniform."Security for these teens is not found in religious beliefs or service to society but in future career paths. Yet even these career paths may be unrealistic, Lytch said, because the teens fail to connect risky behaviors of their youth with their future success in life. For example, Alan aspires to be a Marine and then a state trooper, yet he currently is a gang member.The lost have no signposts as rites of passage into adulthood and demonstrate no pattern of moral decision-making. | Home | NewsOpinion | Baptist Life |

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by Mark Wingfield , (Texas) Baptist Standard | with 0 comments



Quality, quantity key to putting kids on a 'media diet' : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

October 30 2003 by Steve Sumerel

Quality, quantity key to putting kids on a 'media diet' : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

Quality, quantity key to putting kids on a 'media diet'

By Steve Sumerel
"You are what you consume." This slight rewording of an old expression invites parents to contemplate the spiritual and emotional results of the media diet a child may consume.

A diet is best defined by the quality and the quantity of what is consumed. Thus, it is very difficult to be a media savvy parent in our consumer-oriented society. We use marketplace standards that are based on our need to buy (consume) without even realizing it. How does the marketplace sway parental decisions on the quality and quantity of a healthy media diet?

Quality

"Sure, I let my child watch that movie. There was really not that much wrong with it...a few bad words, but he hears those at school." This is a statement that I made, and it shows how the marketplace can reverse logical reasoning.

It would be well for parents to ask the better question, "What is the value of this TV show in the development of my child?" If a program is entertaining enough to keep a child occupied, it tends to pass the test for many parents. In the absence of anything that is really objectionable, a parent may think the entertainment value is enough. Because most of it is not "poison," our consumer mentality deems it nutritious.

Quantity

This nation's high standard of living depends on its citizens' desire and ability to consume in ever increasing amounts. The culture reinforces the need to consume in many overt and subtle ways. The results can be seen in the lifestyles of our children.

Often parents will attempt to balance TV viewing by getting new video games. Video habits are softened by more music CD's. This trend helps to keep our economy going, but it does so at high cost to our children.

Happy are those who

are, well, happy

Every parent knows how hard media try to attract children but parents should not make the mistake of assuming that children are the only targets. Marketers know that when children are happy, parents are happy.

Entertainment is the primary commodity of child-oriented media outlets. However, although the entertainment is geared toward children, it is sold to parents. Overexposure to media by children is not primarily a child development issue. It is a consumption problem of the parent.

As parents become unwitting consumers of child entertainment, the marketplace is able to define more of what parents consider valuable. An increasing number of parents have come to expect the same level of glitzy amusement for their children, whether they are watching TV or listening to a Bible story on Sunday morning.

Seeing the problem in the mirror

Parental ownership of the problem puts parents closer to the problem and its solution. A change in consumption habits must begin with the parent, not the child. So what is a parent to do?

1. Parents need to examine their own values. If parents value something beyond entertainment, this should be reflected at home. Media outlets cannot be turned off without creating a void. It is difficult to know what to bring to the emptiness without some reflection on what is really important.

2. Parents should examine their own behavior. How much do parents rely on media for getting needs met? What are the subtle lessons taught by parents through their own viewing and listening habits?

3. Parents should examine the environments they seek for themselves and their children. How much does the marketplace define your space at home, workplace or church? While standing in the arcade section of a roller rink recently, I had an overwhelming thought. "How much emptiness must we feel, to need so much noise to fill it?"

4. As parents go through the self-examination process of the first steps, they reassume their role as gatekeeper.

The walls of a family home are great at keeping out the elements, but they are worthless as a barrier to media messages. Increasingly technology is allowing families to have instant access to news, opinion and information from around the world.

The gate-keeping role is crucial in the information age.

Gate keeping is really two jobs. The first involves filtering the messages that enter the home. Some filtering is more like blocking. Parents may put certain TV shows, networks, Web sites or music groups in a "blacklist." Technological devices can help parents keep control of the on/off switch.

Parents must be careful with such devices, however. Clever as they are, technology is no substitute for parental scrutiny. Blocking media from entering your home is a difficult, thankless job. Parents rightly feel like they are trying to hold back an incoming tide.

Finer filtering methods require more parental involvement. For example, by using a videotape, a parent can allow a show to be seen, while filtering out advertising.

Parents cannot relax their vigilance when commercials come on. Studies have shown that the alcohol industry, for example, targets TV programming that has a high child/teen viewership.

There is no way for anyone to manage the total media exposure of a child and it is easy to give up. Parents should remember, however, that the second function of gate keeping takes up where filtering leaves off.

Media literacy

The most important gate-keeping role is to teach children to monitor their own media diet. Media literacy is a term used to describe the process of learning to filter media messages.

Parents should experience media with their children and interact with the messages together. A child will learn how the parent processes what is desirable or not and then can assume that role on his own.

There are excellent helps for parents in teaching media literacy. A new resource can be found at www.pbskids.org. A review of this site can be found at www.ethicsdaily.com.

Media literacy allows for an ever-present filter of interpretation. It is there when the parent is not and serves as a layer of defense before media messages can pass into a young person's mind and heart.

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by Steve Sumerel | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study Lesson for March 4: Bringing Others to Jesus : Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003

October 29 2003 by William (Mac) McElrath

Family Bible Study Lesson for March 4: Bringing Others to Jesus : Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003
Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003

Family Bible Study Lesson for March 4: Bringing Others to Jesus

By William (Mac) McElrath
Mark 2:1-12
As a Sunday School teacher I've always written lots of cards and letters to members of my class. Most of the messages have been simple: Happy birthday, sorry to hear you're sick, we missed you last Sunday. But a letter written 20 years ago to a teenager in Indonesia had an unexpected result.

A new boy turned up in my class one Sunday. Betty and I had known his family when he was a child, but we had since lost track of him. After a visit in his home, he started asking some serious questions.

A few days later we met by appointment. Then and there that 15-year-old gave his life to the Lord Jesus. Earnestly he prayed for his parents, his brother and sisters. When he made public profession of his faith, two other teenage boys followed him down the aisle from the back pew where they had all been sitting together.

I asked the new believer why he had suddenly reappeared and started attending Sunday School. Flashing his eager grin, he said, "At another guy's house I saw a letter you'd written him. I decided I'd go to your class whether he did or not."

That "other guy" was a church and school dropout who later moved away. What if I had given up on him before writing that one last letter?

When Betty and I went back to Indonesia a year ago, one of the young adults who greeted us warmly was the boy who had responded to an invitation addressed to someone else. He and his wife and child are now building a new Christian home.

There are many ways of bringing people to Jesus. I used one way; four friends who lived in Galilee long ago used another. What method are you using?

Determination: The four friends

(Mark 2:1-5)

Perhaps, like me and many others, you've known this Bible story all your life. I couldn't have been more than 5 the first time I remember helping act it out in Sunday School.

What determination those four friends showed! When they couldn't get through the door to the house where Jesus was, they climbed up to the flat roof. What they did next is easier explained to Indonesian than to American pupils, because roofs in Indonesia - like roofs in Palestine long ago - are fairly easy to open up and then repair again.

When they had lowered their friend on the mat where he lay paralyzed, notice that "Jesus saw their faith" (v. 5). It was the determined faith of all five of them that caused Him to declare, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Antagonism: The religious leaders

(Mark 2:6-9)

Jesus' words stirred up a hornets' nest of criticism. Teachers of the law were sitting there watching. These religious leaders felt that Jesus was claiming powers properly exercised only by God.

They were also thinking: "It's easy enough to say that this man's sins have been forgiven. Who can see whether his sins have really been forgiven or not? In the mean time, the poor fellow still lies there paralyzed."

Authority: The Son of Man

(Mark 2:10-12)

As He often has a way of doing, Jesus then brought out into the open the thoughts that were rankling in human hearts. To those antagonized religious leaders He said, in effect, "I accept your unspoken challenge. I will prove to you that as the Son of Man (a Messianic title He often used for Himself) I have authority to do what I am doing."

Notice that Jesus did things in the right order. (Mark 7:37 says that Jesus did "everything well.") The paralyzed man's greatest problem was spiritual, not physical. First, in response to the faith shown both by the man himself and by his four friends, Jesus forgave the man's sins. Only after that did He heal the man's wasted body.

Mark 2:12 stresses that this was not a miracle performed in a corner. Everybody there that day saw the healed paralytic get up, pick up his mat, and walk away. No wonder "this amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!'" (NIV)

How do you suppose the four friends felt that day?

How do you suppose Betty and I felt last year when we saw our former pupil as the sturdy head of a young Christian family?

How do you suppose you will feel when you experience the joy of bringing others to Jesus?

10/29/2003 11:00:00 PM by William (Mac) McElrath | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for March 4: Faith as Obedience : Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003

October 29 2003 by Ken Vandergriff

Formations lesson for March 4: Faith as Obedience : Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003
Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003

Formations lesson for March 4: Faith as Obedience

By Ken Vandergriff
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-22
Obedient faith is an adventure. Faith should never be boring.

One reason we study the heroes of faith found in the Bible and in church history is to experience their sense of adventure and hopefully to have that sense take root in us and blossom. Abraham exemplifies the adventurous journey that faith can become.

Too often we lose the sense of adventure because we want to know the end at the beginning. When God called Abraham to "go to the land I will show you," Gen. 12:4 states bluntly, "so he went, as the Lord had told him." Although he traveled well-used caravan routes (not blazing a trail through the wilderness), he did not know the destination. He simply followed God's leading. The life of obedient faith became a life of pilgrimage, of following but never quite knowing how the journey would end (Heb. 11:8-9). That's adventure!

Verses 10 and 13-16 are difficult. The writer of Hebrews interprets Abraham's journey in a way that moves significantly beyond the Genesis narrative. According to Genesis, Abraham and his family lived in the land of Canaan, the promised land, but they did not possess it. Only centuries later would their descendants actually own it. Nevertheless, they trusted God's promise that even after their deaths, God would give that land to their descendants.

According to the writer of Hebrews, however, Abraham "looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (v. 10). In the Old Testament, the city founded by God was Jerusalem (Ps. 87:1; Isa. 54:11), but for the writer of Hebrews, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were "strangers and foreigners on the earth," whose real destination and hope were for "a better country, that is, a heavenly one" (vv. 13-16).

Therein lies the problem: throughout most of the Old Testament period there was not a concept of heaven, and nothing in Genesis suggests that Abraham looked for anything other than an earthly home. We might resolve the tension like this: the promises Abraham received from God (Gen. 12:1-3) engendered in him a hope that God would bless him wonderfully. From Abraham's limited vantage point, surely that meant possession of the promised land. However, the writer of Hebrews, having much fuller revelation than did Abraham, realized that Abraham's destination was greater than he could have imagined - a heavenly home. That is often how the adventure of faith turns out - the reality far surpasses what we hoped for.

Another reason we lose the experience of faith's adventure is that we want everything to make sense. But adventurous faith often doesn't. The birth of a child to a hundred year-old man and a ninety year-old woman does not make sense. The writer of Hebrews ignores the frustration voiced by the childless Abraham in Gen. 15:2-3 and the attempt to fulfill the promise of children through the surrogate mother, Hagar (Gen. 16). It is enough that Abraham did not give up on the promise of fatherhood, no matter how ludicrous it seemed. His adventurous faith enabled the miracle to occur.

A third reason we lose the sense of faith's adventure is that we want faith to be safe. It wasn't for Abraham, as verses 17-19 assert (cf. Gen. 22). Obedient faith meant offering Isaac, the son of promise, as an offering to God. Interpretation should proceed with great caution here. What is important is the recognition that faith often places us into uncomfortable, even dangerous, situations. We will not assume that all believers should test their faith in this way, but we will acknowledge that adventurous faith might take our families and us into danger.

There is no adventurous journey without faith, hope and obedience. All three work together, like the three legs of a tripod. When we envision what can be, then trust that in fact it will be, despite any evidence to the contrary, and then live our lives accordingly, we are living out hope, faith and obedience.

A student once asked professor Ralph Wood to state his main objection to atheism. Wood replied, "It is so bloody boring." Obedient faith, on the other hand, is always an adventure.

10/29/2003 11:00:00 PM by Ken Vandergriff | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study lesson for November 2: Experiencing The Gospel's Power : Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003

October 29 2003 by Mary Fillinger

Family Bible Study lesson for November 2: Experiencing The Gospel's Power : Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003
Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003

Family Bible Study lesson for November 2: Experiencing The Gospel's Power

By Mary Fillinger
Focal Passages: Acts 3:1-8, 11-16, 19-20
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples in the upper room (Acts 2) marks the birth of the church, leading to the spread of the gospel throughout the known world.

This is still the greatest need of the church today. A Spirit filled, Spirit directed, Spirit-empowered ministry is the only thing that will meet the needs of a sin sick world. All of us need to surrender our hearts totally and completely to Jesus, to let Him fill us with His Spirit and make us what He wants us to be.

Expecting the Unexpected

Acts 3:1-8

"One day Peter and John were going to the temple to pray, at three in the afternoon ..." (v1). The Jews had two times of prayer, nine in the morning and three in the afternoon, in connection with the morning and evening daily sacrifices. It is interesting to note that the believers continued to participate in these times of prayer at the temple, even after the day of Pentecost.

On this particular day they found a man crippled from birth at the temple gate. The grand gate was added by Herod the Great, between the court of the Gentiles and that of Israel.

When Peter asked the man to look at them, the beggar hoped for a bountiful gift. Peter did not give the man what he wanted (money) but what he needed (a healthy strong body). Now he could work and earn his own living. To encourage the man's faith, Peter took him by the right hand and raised him. Often a little gesture of encouragement will help people in responding to the divine invitation.

The man went into the temple courts, full of excitement, praising God for his goodness. This man had his legs and ankles strengthened. He went into the temple walking and leaping. Until that moment he had never been able to walk nor had he ever learned how. The miracle was both physical and psychological. He had a right to celebrate.

A Good Witness

Acts 3:11-16

The people in the temple courts came running to the east wall of the outer court to see what had taken place. When Peter saw he had a crowd, he began to preach. That was just like Peter. "Why are you staring at us? We didn't do anything, but God did. It was God that glorified His servant Jesus," he said. Peter was probably referring to the passage in Isaiah 52-53 about the suffering servant.

Peter brought a very serious charge against the Jews that day: "You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer (Barabbas) be released to you." That is what every sinner does when he rejects Jesus and holds on to sin. Peter concluded by saying, "By faith in Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong." It was Jesus who healed him.

A True Repentance

Acts 3:19-20

Repentance is often overlooked or misunderstood. However, true repentance is essential for a person to come to a saving knowledge and acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord. The word "repent" means to turn away from our sins and to dedicate ourselves completely to God. Without repentance, salvation is hollow and is nothing more than some nicely spoken words. Jesus is God's appointed Messiah and Savior. He came that we might have an abundant life as we repent and serve Him through faith.

Why is there so little witnessing with power being done today? This type of witnessing can be done only by those who have the power of the Holy Spirit within their individual lives. The tragedy is that the average church has too often concentrated on programs, rather than waiting on the Lord until the Holy Spirit empowers the leaders and the people.

There is no substitute for power, which comes through prayer. A prayerless church is a powerless church.

10/29/2003 11:00:00 PM by Mary Fillinger | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for November 2: The Table Set : Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003

October 29 2003 by John Norman Jr.

Formations Lesson for November 2: The Table Set : Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003
Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003

Formations Lesson for November 2: The Table Set

By John Norman Jr.
Focal Passage: Matthew 26:7-30
Preparing for Passover

Matthew 26:17-19

The observance of Passover has always been important for those belonging to the Jewish tradition. It provides a time to remember the death angel's "passing over" the Hebrews when they readied themselves for liberation from Egypt.

Through the preparation and sharing of the Passover meal, God's act of deliverance is remembered and passed from one generation to the next. The elements of the meal symbolize the hardship experienced by the Hebrews at the hands of the Egyptians, as well as the freedom they were given by the hand of God. The significance of Passover was equally important to Jesus.

However, the life, death and resurrection of Christ gave new meaning to Passover, as he transformed a meal already laden with spiritual significance into a symbol of communion for His followers.

Self-examination is Part of the Supper

Matthew 26:20-25

The implementation of the Lord's Supper recorded in Matthew brings to mind that we should examine ourselves before we partake of the meal. Truly, none of us are worthy to eat at the table of the Lord. Many of us take for granted that we should receive the elements when they are passed.

We may rationalize that we are just as good as anyone else participating in the meal or maybe even better than some of the people participating in the meal. No one wants to be Judas, but the same spirits that infiltrated him are often alive in us -greed, manipulation, jealousy. Being given the chance for self-examination allows us to search our souls for those things that separate us from God and others. It is a time to reflect and seek forgiveness.

Christ's Death and the Forgiveness of Sin

Matthew 26:26-30

"Take, eat; this is my body. Drink ... this is my blood." These words of Jesus should run cold chills down the arms of Christians to this day. When we hear these words we envision the lifeless body and spilled blood associated with the cross of Christ.

The Romans accused the early church of cannibalism because of stories connected with the Lord's meal, but the first century Christians understood these words to refer to the forgiveness of sin found in the sacrifice of Jesus. They confessed that through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, God had taken responsibility for the sin of the world and made a way possible for the world's redemption. The Lord's Supper is a symbol of God's gracious gift of reunification between us and God.

In the film Babette's Feast, a wayward stranger named Babette arrives in the midst of a small Christian community on the coast of Denmark. Fleeing war torn France after the loss of her husband and son, she enters the service of unmarried sisters who work diligently to keep the memory and mission of their deceased father alive. Babette learns the ways of the close community, cooking meals of fish and bread stew and worshipping with them on Sundays. When news comes that Babette has won the French lottery, she determines to prepare a meal for her friends to honor the life of the community's founder.

As the meal takes shape, the pious community members decide to eat the meal out of courtesy to Babette, but determine not to enjoy it. When the meal is served to 12 guests sitting around a table, the feast is so delicious the gathered cannot help but enjoy themselves.

Unbeknownst to the community, Babette served as head chef in one of France's most prestigious restaurants, and has now spent her entire winnings to serve the people she loves. In the midst of the meal, broken relationships between the community members are restored and hope returns. Through the gift of the meal and fellowship around the table, a sense of transformation springs forth anew among the group.

When we observe the Lord's Supper, we once again enact a drama that plays itself out in the world - people starve for spiritual nourishment as well as physical sustenance. Communion should remind us that God cares for us body and soul. Christ fed the multitude with loaves and fish but also offered the crowd the bread of life. As followers of Jesus, we should minister to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness as well as those who hunger for food.

10/29/2003 11:00:00 PM by John Norman Jr. | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study Lesson for March 4: Bringing Others to Jesus : Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003

October 28 2003 by William (Mac) McElrath

Family Bible Study Lesson for March 4: Bringing Others to Jesus : Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003
Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003

Family Bible Study Lesson for March 4: Bringing Others to Jesus

By William (Mac) McElrath
Mark 2:1-12
As a Sunday School teacher I've always written lots of cards and letters to members of my class. Most of the messages have been simple: Happy birthday, sorry to hear you're sick, we missed you last Sunday. But a letter written 20 years ago to a teenager in Indonesia had an unexpected result.

A new boy turned up in my class one Sunday. Betty and I had known his family when he was a child, but we had since lost track of him. After a visit in his home, he started asking some serious questions.

A few days later we met by appointment. Then and there that 15-year-old gave his life to the Lord Jesus. Earnestly he prayed for his parents, his brother and sisters. When he made public profession of his faith, two other teenage boys followed him down the aisle from the back pew where they had all been sitting together.

I asked the new believer why he had suddenly reappeared and started attending Sunday School. Flashing his eager grin, he said, "At another guy's house I saw a letter you'd written him. I decided I'd go to your class whether he did or not."

That "other guy" was a church and school dropout who later moved away. What if I had given up on him before writing that one last letter?

When Betty and I went back to Indonesia a year ago, one of the young adults who greeted us warmly was the boy who had responded to an invitation addressed to someone else. He and his wife and child are now building a new Christian home.

There are many ways of bringing people to Jesus. I used one way; four friends who lived in Galilee long ago used another. What method are you using?

Determination: The four friends

(Mark 2:1-5)

Perhaps, like me and many others, you've known this Bible story all your life. I couldn't have been more than 5 the first time I remember helping act it out in Sunday School.

What determination those four friends showed! When they couldn't get through the door to the house where Jesus was, they climbed up to the flat roof. What they did next is easier explained to Indonesian than to American pupils, because roofs in Indonesia - like roofs in Palestine long ago - are fairly easy to open up and then repair again.

When they had lowered their friend on the mat where he lay paralyzed, notice that "Jesus saw their faith" (v. 5). It was the determined faith of all five of them that caused Him to declare, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Antagonism: The religious leaders

(Mark 2:6-9)

Jesus' words stirred up a hornets' nest of criticism. Teachers of the law were sitting there watching. These religious leaders felt that Jesus was claiming powers properly exercised only by God.

They were also thinking: "It's easy enough to say that this man's sins have been forgiven. Who can see whether his sins have really been forgiven or not? In the mean time, the poor fellow still lies there paralyzed."

Authority: The Son of Man

(Mark 2:10-12)

As He often has a way of doing, Jesus then brought out into the open the thoughts that were rankling in human hearts. To those antagonized religious leaders He said, in effect, "I accept your unspoken challenge. I will prove to you that as the Son of Man (a Messianic title He often used for Himself) I have authority to do what I am doing."

Notice that Jesus did things in the right order. (Mark 7:37 says that Jesus did "everything well.") The paralyzed man's greatest problem was spiritual, not physical. First, in response to the faith shown both by the man himself and by his four friends, Jesus forgave the man's sins. Only after that did He heal the man's wasted body.

Mark 2:12 stresses that this was not a miracle performed in a corner. Everybody there that day saw the healed paralytic get up, pick up his mat, and walk away. No wonder "this amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!'" (NIV)

How do you suppose the four friends felt that day?

How do you suppose Betty and I felt last year when we saw our former pupil as the sturdy head of a young Christian family?

How do you suppose you will feel when you experience the joy of bringing others to Jesus?

10/28/2003 11:00:00 PM by William (Mac) McElrath | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for March 4: Faith as Obedience : Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003

October 28 2003 by Ken Vandergriff

Formations lesson for March 4: Faith as Obedience : Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003
Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003

Formations lesson for March 4: Faith as Obedience

By Ken Vandergriff
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-22
Obedient faith is an adventure. Faith should never be boring.

One reason we study the heroes of faith found in the Bible and in church history is to experience their sense of adventure and hopefully to have that sense take root in us and blossom. Abraham exemplifies the adventurous journey that faith can become.

Too often we lose the sense of adventure because we want to know the end at the beginning. When God called Abraham to "go to the land I will show you," Gen. 12:4 states bluntly, "so he went, as the Lord had told him." Although he traveled well-used caravan routes (not blazing a trail through the wilderness), he did not know the destination. He simply followed God's leading. The life of obedient faith became a life of pilgrimage, of following but never quite knowing how the journey would end (Heb. 11:8-9). That's adventure!

Verses 10 and 13-16 are difficult. The writer of Hebrews interprets Abraham's journey in a way that moves significantly beyond the Genesis narrative. According to Genesis, Abraham and his family lived in the land of Canaan, the promised land, but they did not possess it. Only centuries later would their descendants actually own it. Nevertheless, they trusted God's promise that even after their deaths, God would give that land to their descendants.

According to the writer of Hebrews, however, Abraham "looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (v. 10). In the Old Testament, the city founded by God was Jerusalem (Ps. 87:1; Isa. 54:11), but for the writer of Hebrews, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were "strangers and foreigners on the earth," whose real destination and hope were for "a better country, that is, a heavenly one" (vv. 13-16).

Therein lies the problem: throughout most of the Old Testament period there was not a concept of heaven, and nothing in Genesis suggests that Abraham looked for anything other than an earthly home. We might resolve the tension like this: the promises Abraham received from God (Gen. 12:1-3) engendered in him a hope that God would bless him wonderfully. From Abraham's limited vantage point, surely that meant possession of the promised land. However, the writer of Hebrews, having much fuller revelation than did Abraham, realized that Abraham's destination was greater than he could have imagined - a heavenly home. That is often how the adventure of faith turns out - the reality far surpasses what we hoped for.

Another reason we lose the experience of faith's adventure is that we want everything to make sense. But adventurous faith often doesn't. The birth of a child to a hundred year-old man and a ninety year-old woman does not make sense. The writer of Hebrews ignores the frustration voiced by the childless Abraham in Gen. 15:2-3 and the attempt to fulfill the promise of children through the surrogate mother, Hagar (Gen. 16). It is enough that Abraham did not give up on the promise of fatherhood, no matter how ludicrous it seemed. His adventurous faith enabled the miracle to occur.

A third reason we lose the sense of faith's adventure is that we want faith to be safe. It wasn't for Abraham, as verses 17-19 assert (cf. Gen. 22). Obedient faith meant offering Isaac, the son of promise, as an offering to God. Interpretation should proceed with great caution here. What is important is the recognition that faith often places us into uncomfortable, even dangerous, situations. We will not assume that all believers should test their faith in this way, but we will acknowledge that adventurous faith might take our families and us into danger.

There is no adventurous journey without faith, hope and obedience. All three work together, like the three legs of a tripod. When we envision what can be, then trust that in fact it will be, despite any evidence to the contrary, and then live our lives accordingly, we are living out hope, faith and obedience.

A student once asked professor Ralph Wood to state his main objection to atheism. Wood replied, "It is so bloody boring." Obedient faith, on the other hand, is always an adventure.

10/28/2003 11:00:00 PM by Ken Vandergriff | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study lesson for November 2: Experiencing The Gospel's Power : Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003

October 28 2003 by Mary Fillinger

Family Bible Study lesson for November 2: Experiencing The Gospel's Power : Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003
Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003

Family Bible Study lesson for November 2: Experiencing The Gospel's Power

By Mary Fillinger
Focal Passages: Acts 3:1-8, 11-16, 19-20
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples in the upper room (Acts 2) marks the birth of the church, leading to the spread of the gospel throughout the known world.

This is still the greatest need of the church today. A Spirit filled, Spirit directed, Spirit-empowered ministry is the only thing that will meet the needs of a sin sick world. All of us need to surrender our hearts totally and completely to Jesus, to let Him fill us with His Spirit and make us what He wants us to be.

Expecting the Unexpected

Acts 3:1-8

"One day Peter and John were going to the temple to pray, at three in the afternoon ..." (v1). The Jews had two times of prayer, nine in the morning and three in the afternoon, in connection with the morning and evening daily sacrifices. It is interesting to note that the believers continued to participate in these times of prayer at the temple, even after the day of Pentecost.

On this particular day they found a man crippled from birth at the temple gate. The grand gate was added by Herod the Great, between the court of the Gentiles and that of Israel.

When Peter asked the man to look at them, the beggar hoped for a bountiful gift. Peter did not give the man what he wanted (money) but what he needed (a healthy strong body). Now he could work and earn his own living. To encourage the man's faith, Peter took him by the right hand and raised him. Often a little gesture of encouragement will help people in responding to the divine invitation.

The man went into the temple courts, full of excitement, praising God for his goodness. This man had his legs and ankles strengthened. He went into the temple walking and leaping. Until that moment he had never been able to walk nor had he ever learned how. The miracle was both physical and psychological. He had a right to celebrate.

A Good Witness

Acts 3:11-16

The people in the temple courts came running to the east wall of the outer court to see what had taken place. When Peter saw he had a crowd, he began to preach. That was just like Peter. "Why are you staring at us? We didn't do anything, but God did. It was God that glorified His servant Jesus," he said. Peter was probably referring to the passage in Isaiah 52-53 about the suffering servant.

Peter brought a very serious charge against the Jews that day: "You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer (Barabbas) be released to you." That is what every sinner does when he rejects Jesus and holds on to sin. Peter concluded by saying, "By faith in Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong." It was Jesus who healed him.

A True Repentance

Acts 3:19-20

Repentance is often overlooked or misunderstood. However, true repentance is essential for a person to come to a saving knowledge and acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord. The word "repent" means to turn away from our sins and to dedicate ourselves completely to God. Without repentance, salvation is hollow and is nothing more than some nicely spoken words. Jesus is God's appointed Messiah and Savior. He came that we might have an abundant life as we repent and serve Him through faith.

Why is there so little witnessing with power being done today? This type of witnessing can be done only by those who have the power of the Holy Spirit within their individual lives. The tragedy is that the average church has too often concentrated on programs, rather than waiting on the Lord until the Holy Spirit empowers the leaders and the people.

There is no substitute for power, which comes through prayer. A prayerless church is a powerless church.

10/28/2003 11:00:00 PM by Mary Fillinger | with 0 comments



Formations Lesson for November 2: The Table Set : Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003

October 28 2003 by John Norman Jr.

Formations Lesson for November 2: The Table Set : Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003
Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003

Formations Lesson for November 2: The Table Set

By John Norman Jr.
Focal Passage: Matthew 26:7-30
Preparing for Passover

Matthew 26:17-19

The observance of Passover has always been important for those belonging to the Jewish tradition. It provides a time to remember the death angel's "passing over" the Hebrews when they readied themselves for liberation from Egypt.

Through the preparation and sharing of the Passover meal, God's act of deliverance is remembered and passed from one generation to the next. The elements of the meal symbolize the hardship experienced by the Hebrews at the hands of the Egyptians, as well as the freedom they were given by the hand of God. The significance of Passover was equally important to Jesus.

However, the life, death and resurrection of Christ gave new meaning to Passover, as he transformed a meal already laden with spiritual significance into a symbol of communion for His followers.

Self-examination is Part of the Supper

Matthew 26:20-25

The implementation of the Lord's Supper recorded in Matthew brings to mind that we should examine ourselves before we partake of the meal. Truly, none of us are worthy to eat at the table of the Lord. Many of us take for granted that we should receive the elements when they are passed.

We may rationalize that we are just as good as anyone else participating in the meal or maybe even better than some of the people participating in the meal. No one wants to be Judas, but the same spirits that infiltrated him are often alive in us -greed, manipulation, jealousy. Being given the chance for self-examination allows us to search our souls for those things that separate us from God and others. It is a time to reflect and seek forgiveness.

Christ's Death and the Forgiveness of Sin

Matthew 26:26-30

"Take, eat; this is my body. Drink ... this is my blood." These words of Jesus should run cold chills down the arms of Christians to this day. When we hear these words we envision the lifeless body and spilled blood associated with the cross of Christ.

The Romans accused the early church of cannibalism because of stories connected with the Lord's meal, but the first century Christians understood these words to refer to the forgiveness of sin found in the sacrifice of Jesus. They confessed that through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, God had taken responsibility for the sin of the world and made a way possible for the world's redemption. The Lord's Supper is a symbol of God's gracious gift of reunification between us and God.

In the film Babette's Feast, a wayward stranger named Babette arrives in the midst of a small Christian community on the coast of Denmark. Fleeing war torn France after the loss of her husband and son, she enters the service of unmarried sisters who work diligently to keep the memory and mission of their deceased father alive. Babette learns the ways of the close community, cooking meals of fish and bread stew and worshipping with them on Sundays. When news comes that Babette has won the French lottery, she determines to prepare a meal for her friends to honor the life of the community's founder.

As the meal takes shape, the pious community members decide to eat the meal out of courtesy to Babette, but determine not to enjoy it. When the meal is served to 12 guests sitting around a table, the feast is so delicious the gathered cannot help but enjoy themselves.

Unbeknownst to the community, Babette served as head chef in one of France's most prestigious restaurants, and has now spent her entire winnings to serve the people she loves. In the midst of the meal, broken relationships between the community members are restored and hope returns. Through the gift of the meal and fellowship around the table, a sense of transformation springs forth anew among the group.

When we observe the Lord's Supper, we once again enact a drama that plays itself out in the world - people starve for spiritual nourishment as well as physical sustenance. Communion should remind us that God cares for us body and soul. Christ fed the multitude with loaves and fish but also offered the crowd the bread of life. As followers of Jesus, we should minister to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness as well as those who hunger for food.

10/28/2003 11:00:00 PM by John Norman Jr. | with 0 comments



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