Some Ideas for Resolutions

J.J.

There are a couple of ways this post can go, but let’s be honest, you don’t want to be overwhelmed with like a million things and end up doing 0 of them. So I’m going to share with you two things that I’m resolved to do in this new year and maybe spur some ideas for you or exhort you to join me.

It has been really cool to see people who are near completing a 365 photo challenge. They have an entire year documented in pictures and that is awesome. So in a similar vane I really want to document my entire year to look back on when it’s all said and done.

1. Jars of Faithfulness.
jars

Besides a great band name, this idea is pretty simple. I’m going to grab 12 jars (1 per month. Yeah I passed a college algebra class. Nbd…) and fill them with notes remarking if/how I saw God work each day. I am constantly reminded of God’s faithfulness and I think that documenting His work in my life can be narrowed down to the day. It will be a good reminder at the end of the year. This was a practice in the Old Testament as they raised Ebenezers and remembered how far God has helped them. It’s about time He get some more credit in my life. This is my first resolution.

2. Journaling the days.

moleskin

This will be a more in depth detailing of my year and will be helpful to look back on. I know a lot of people already do this, but it is something I haven’t done in about 6 years. So I’m going to get back at it and do some journaling. 2015 is going to be a big year and God is going to do some amazing things. I can’t wait to look back on how He works in the coming year.

So there it is, short, simple, and sweet. My 2015 is looking up! What are your ideas for resolutions?

–Andrew “A.J.” Bessey

SDG

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Why You Can’t Make Children’s Ministry About the Kids

J.J.

As 2014 draws to a close and the calendar flips over into January, I will have officially spent 7 months overseeing the Children’s Ministry at Village Bible Church. A lot can happen in this time and a lot of lessons have to be learned. By the grace of God I am still here and able to participate in this ministry. One of the things I learned early and has helped me greatly is simply to not make it about the kids.

It’s actually disconcerting to me how unsettling that sentiment is to some people. Yet before you stone me or slap me for being a heretic, please hear me out. There are several aspects to one main point that I want to share in this post, but what I believe and hold to be true about ministry is something with which many of you would agree.

If ministry is ever about anything except Worshiping and serving God, then it needs to be seriously reconsidered.

Ministry is about God, it’s not about the kids and it’s certainly not about us. I shared this thought with a friend yesterday and really wanted to cement my reasoning behind it.

Although the main argument could be applied to various ministries, let me give you an example of what it looks like in Children’s Ministry through some stories in my own life and then I’ll close with a few examples from Scripture.

At the age of 18 I was directing the T&T 5-6 graders at our Church’s AWANA club. With some help from a couple of other people, this ministry seemed to be fruitful. We had kids coming, learning Bible lessons, and memorizing Scripture. There were kids making confessions of faith and responding to the gospel for the first time. Yet it’s what was happening in my heart that really bothered me. I had spent week after week just yelling at these kids to get them organized and pay attention. No methods were really working and they were a little crazy. It wasn’t until the end of the year that I sat down and evaluated my own heart.

Why was I so frustrated and why was I sinning by not loving these kids as God would? Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn’t doing ministry for God. He made it very clear to me that He wanted my ministries. Although it would have been very easy for me to be confused by that, I knew exactly what it meant. I had made ministry, leadership, and even serving about me. It was never about God and that never flowed into the kids.

It has been 3 years since that realization and no more than 2 weeks go by now before I seriously consider where my priorities are in ministry. Am I serving God? Is my heart right in my service? And am I allowing God’s love to flow through me into the people that I am serving on His behalf?

We just finished our Christmas play yesterday and boy did I need help with that one. I had a great team of people who helped me be able to focus on some different aspects of the kids and the play. During rehearsals and preparation I really wanted to look at the big picture. I wanted to see how my volunteers were feeling, how the kids hearts were in this play, and how God was going to make Himself known through it all. Through much of the practices I learned patience. I learned how God wanted to make Himself known through me and through the kids. Although there were times when I was tired and frustrated, I knew that these kids needed to see God through me rather than just my sinful self. In no way am I saying that I was perfect during rehearsals. God knows that I sinned my great amount and I fell short in so many ways. But in those moments where I was able to realign myself to God and Worship Him through my work, that’s when God worked through me the most.

I hope those two examples make sense and I hope they don’t paint me as some super Christian who is better than everyone, because I am definitely not that.

The first example of my work in the T&T club is one of burn out. I burned out because I was trying to make children’s ministry about the kids and if they would just listen then maybe I could serve them better. That was not the right approach. I was exhausted and didn’t know why until God made it clear to me.

The second example is what it looks like to Worship God in His ministry. There were many times where I did fail, but when I didn’t it was because God was realigning me to Him. I prayed often for God to give me His eyes that I might see what He saw in these kids. Even through something as simple and mundane as a kid’s play practice, we need to Worship God.

Although these are great sentiments, the Bible major in me is screaming for me to back it up with Scripture. So there are a few places that we will go to show that this truth is indeed Biblical.

Matthew 19:13-15

13Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15And he laid his hands on them and went away.

In one of the most famous passages in the Bible about children, we see Jesus working with them. The passage is often quoted too short. We will often just say “Jesus said let the little children come to me” and that is right, but what did Jesus say after that. To such belong the kingdom of Heaven. He was thinking of Heaven, His eyes were set on God’s will because He was Worshiping the Father first. Through God’s eyes He saw that the kids had needs too and that they needed prayer too. Don’t just do kids stuff with them like color, play tag, or have snacks. All those things are great and have their place, but Jesus had a bigger focus. His focus was God given, He saw them as not just an add-on, but a soul that God loved. This can only be done when we set our minds on God and His purposes for these kids.

Colossians 3:23-24

23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

I don’t think it gets much more clear than that. When we serve in ministry it needs to be as for the Lord and not for men. Kids fall under the category of men here. You are serving the Lord Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:58

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Oh how we can feel that our labor is in vain. So many people in ministry go through this constantly, they feel like they are working so hard and all for nothing. I’m not saying that this feeling will go away when we realign ourselves, but when we are steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord, then we should be reminded that we are not working for nothing.

God wants to love the kids that Children’s ministry is serving. When we Worship God and do that first, then His infinite love will inevitably flow to the kids. Isn’t that much better than our finite and imperfect love?

–Andrew “A.J.” Bessey

SDG

10 Things That Inevitably Happen When You Study The Bible (Thursday Humor Post)

J.J.

For a while now I have started to pick up on how people treat you differently when you get some sort of Bible education. I’m assuming that most of this treatment comes from 1 Hezekiah 7:11 which says, “Everyone who studies the Bible must be treated differently.” Okay that was a joke, it’s not really in the Bible. Please understand the tone in this post is not critical, but comical.

1. You will have to pray at every gathering.

At first it is kind of nice. You get a chance to pray with a bunch of people and bring requests before God. How can you complain about that? Then the jokes start. “Oh, you have studied, so you’re probably better at this than I am.” “You’re going to be doing this a lot more, so you’d better get practice at doing it.” I love praying, but an education doesn’t automatically make you the designated prayer. My degree is in the Bible, not sanctification.

2. People will expect you to have a sermon prepared everywhere you go.

“Would you like to share something?” That’s a question that gets commonly asked. And to be honest, yes I would like to share something and yes I do have something prepared. But that’s not the point! The point is that it shouldn’t be expected. Like someone who brings a housewarming gift 5 years after you move in, so should the expectation of having me share something. I’ve done it, and I will continue to do it, but don’t expect it.

3. People automatically assume you love hummus

“You studied the Bible. People in the middle east enjoy hummus. Therefore you must enjoy hummus.” I think that is about as rational as the trail of thought goes. And of course I enjoy hummus. I would have to be an odd person not to enjoy hummus. But it has nothing to do with my education.

4. People will remind you constantly that you won’t be making a lot of money.

“What’s your degree in?” “Oh there’s not a lot of money in that field.” Yeah it’s true. I know it, you know it, society knows it. Bible education doesn’t provide money, but it does cost money. (On a more serious note, I am stoked about not having to care too much about how much I will make. I am confident that God through His Church will take care of me wherever I am at). Also, how do you carry on conversation or correct someone who tells you that without sounding like a jerk? My move is to now announce that I won’t be making a lot of money right after I state my education.

5. If you have any kind of beard, you will be compared to a Bible Character or some Theologian.

“Nice beard, Jesus.” “Hey look, it’s Moses.” “Move over John Calvin.” “Dude, I think that guy is dressed as Iranaeus!” These are all things people will say to you when you study the Bible. I’ve been careful to keep my beard styled and trimmed and I still get told that I look like Moses. Maybe it’s the robe.

6. People will buy you and bring you books.

Nothing wrong with this one. It’s just a fact. It’s something I’ve enjoyed as a book someone loves definitely says a lot about them. People will bring you books and sometimes it’s in the middle of school, midterms, finals, essays, etc. But you know what? I love it. It would be almost impossible to get an education in the Bible and hate reading.

7. You’re expected to know everything about the Bible.

When you don’t know everything about the Bible it shocks people. I’ll never forget the first time this happened. Someone came up to me and said, “What do you think about Leviticus 5:8.” And I said, “I don’t know, what does it say?” Then they gave me that look. The look that a child gives you when you tell them Santa Clause doesn’t exist. That emptiness and hopelessness just overcomes their face. There’s nothing you can do to bring them back. You begin to urge them, “Can we look at it together?” But it’s too late. They run away to try to find comfort in being alone. You have failed them. You are expected to know everything and it can be strange to people when they discover that you don’t know everything.

8. You find out in your first semester that you really don’t know anything.

I probably shared this in another post, but it’s still true. That first semester shocks you. People throw words at you like metanarrative, commentary, library, etc. and you have no idea what category to put them in. So you just use them carelessly in papers. Also you have to write a lot. I mean a lot! This should probably be its own point, but I’ll fit it in here. The Bible major should at least give you an English minor.

9. You have a love/hate relationship with Greek.

Here’s something people won’t tell you. Greek in Bible school is hard. I remember at my first day of Greek, which is supposed to be syllabus day, two bombshells were dropped on me.

1. This is ancient Greek and is way harder than normal Greek. You will not be able to go to Greece and speak it there. This is a dead language.

2. You need to have the alphabet memorized in two days.

To be honest, it wasn’t until my last two semesters that I valued the Greek that had become so difficult in my studies. I still haven’t had a Gyro since I started my Bible education.

10. You fight hard to apply theology and the rest of your education.

This has nothing to do with the curriculum, your professors, or theology at all. When you study the Bible, you need to study theology. When you study theology, you need to apply it. You cannot read the Bible without theology. If you do not have a good theology when you approach the Bible, then you will not be reading it as you should. Yet what can be difficult is that theology can become an end in itself. It is a constant battle to apply theology. My professors have been great at helping me (and the rest of their students) with this exact problem. God is transcendent. He is so far above and so much greater than us. This is a theological truth. Yet if we do not apply this to our lives, then we have made theology an end in itself. Theology without application is a terribly dangerous road. It seems hard to connect the two at times, but the work is necessary for your own sanctification.

–Andrew “A.J.” Bessey

S.D.G.

Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain

Pornography is one of the biggest sin issues amongst Christian men. It is also a struggle for women, but the book primarily focus on the struggle that men have. Author William Struthers discusses how big this issue really is: “The estimated financial size of the worldwide sex industry is around $57 billion, with $12 billion (just over 20 percent) coming from the United States.” Internet pornography, playboy, strip clubs, phone sex, and even sexually explicit ads on every source of media are rampant. Why is this so rampant? How are Christians supposed to combat this? These are some of the questions that Struthers attempts to answer.

Struthers begins by defining the word pornography. He uses the definition from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is rather lengthy but the main part says: “Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties.” Essentially, any sexually explicit images fall into this category. This is important because some people try to make their own sexual addictions acceptable by defining pornography as “extreme sexually Wired for Intimacyexplicit material.” Struthers discusses how the Bible calls for Christians to live lives of purity. We are called to run from any and all sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:13, 18, Gal. 5:19).

Struthers describes the differences between godly/healthy sexuality and pornography/unhealthy sexuality. Godly sexuality results in spiritual unity and emotional bonding. It is focused on the spouse and is God honoring. Unhealthy sexuality is shameful, selfish, deceitful, and is something that you “do to” someone instead of “do with” someone.

He goes on to discuss how and why unhealthy sexuality can easily become a habit. Some of the external factors that may be involved in pornography viewing are inconsistent parental nurturing, parental abandonment, insufficient parental teaching, and child abuse. He also discusses the internal factors that affect sex addiction. He looks at how pornography affects the brain. As a person begins to view pornography, their brain develops neural pathways. These neural pathways can make a person’s thought life become over-sexualized.

Masculinity is another topic discussed in this book. Men are repeatedly told that they need to be more feminine in today’s society. However, they are also taught that showing emotion is a sign of weakness. Even sharing emotions with another man is considered “gay.” Women are taught to be more masculine and independent. So what are we supposed to do? Struthers discusses how this societal confusion has impacted many men and women in a negative way.

Next, Struthers looks at the intimacy that men crave. He talks about how men often fall into sexual addiction because they feel alone. They seek to find intimacy (even a false, perverted intimacy) with the women in the sexually explicit images they see. Struthers argues that even single men can find intimacy with other men. Not a homosexual type of intimacy, but a brotherly intimacy. Another topic discussed is masturbation. Many men claim to “have needs” and that they need times of sexual release. Struthers argues that God has provided that release in nocturnal emissions.

The last chapter talks about ways to come clean from sexual addiction. Confession, discipleship, and daily journals are discussed. Struthers gives a lot of practical advice. The daily journals are meant to help the person understand what things “trigger” their sexual impulses. Knowing those things can help someone flee temptation. He also talks about why so many accountability groups fail. What do we do wrong?

I really liked this book because it explains what things affect sexual addiction. Some men have deep wounds going back to their relationships with their fathers or mothers. Others have hardwired their brain to a point where they feel dependent on pornography and/or masturbation. However, it does not stop there. Too often, these things are used as excuses. “I can’t stop because my brain won’t let me.” Struthers makes it very clear that while your brain may be addicted to sex, you are still in control. Sexual habits can be formed but they can also be healed. At the cross of Christ, there is healing. Nobody is beyond forgiveness. Nobody is beyond healing. 1 John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We don’t just need to focus on NOT doing sexually immoral things. We need to look towards Jesus. We need to understand God’s purpose for our lives, how we are made in His image, and what the process of sanctification looks like. I end this review with a quote from Struthers:

“Can someone retrain their brain to respond in an appropriate manner to sexual arousal? Most certainly, but this must be informed by the mandates of scripture and the wisdom found in the body of Christ. This must be empowered by the Holy Spirit.”

Get it on Amazon

Suffering Love – A Good Word From C. S. Lewis

I came across this quote while reading C. S. Lewis’ The Four Loves. It is powerful, direct and a necessary corrective to remember from time to time, because we are selfish creatures, prone to protect ourselves from anything that might hurt us.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket of coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.