Here's an update on what we're learning this week at Root Student Ministries. The series is called Amplify, and we're discussing the reality of doubt amidst our faith. Below is a great article for parents from Orange, who writes the curriculum we often use. Please note that I did not write this myself! I am not bold or arrogant enough to think I could offer any parenting tips of my own. Take a minute to read!
We’re Teaching This:
Can God hear me? Does God even exist? Did Jesus actually rise from the dead, really? And what about all the other stuff in the Bible? Did it really happen? How do you know? When it comes to faith, we all have our doubts. Every single one of us. And yet, for many of us, church can feel like the last place we would go to ask questions. Why is that? For most of us, doubt feels like something we should hide, ignore, or silence. If there’s a volume dial, we should turn it down. But is that always true? Does having faith mean I can’t have doubt or does having doubt cancel out the faith I do have? When we look closer we find that amplifying our doubt, turning up the volume on the right questions, may just be the best thing that ever happened to our faith.
Think About This:
Why do we have belly buttons? Why does the lawn mower make that funny noise? Why do I have to take a bath? Every young kid goes through that stage. The one where it seems there is a question about everything. At the time it made us crazy, but if we’re honest, a lot of us wouldn’t mind going back to those types of questions. At least those had easier answers.
As our kids grow into teens, the questions may be fewer but they become way more complicated. It’s harder for us, but completely normal for them—part of maturing is asking questions and pushing back on what has been taught. Especially in the area of faith, this can be really healthy. But, tough questions about faith can leave parents feeling a lot of pressure to have all the answers right now.
Thankfully, in his article, “I Doubt it”, Reggie Joiner suggests that maybe having all the answers isn’t the best approach. “Relax when your children ask skeptical questions. … If you want your children to own their own faith, then you have to let them face their own doubts.”
In other words, letting our students face their doubt doesn’t mean we ignore their more challenging questions, but instead we hear them, and refuse to panic when we do. This alone can go a long way in teaching teens that having doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes just saying, “I don’t know” or “let’s find out together” can be the best response to a tough question.
Reggie goes on to remind parents that doubt is part of a long journey.
You may have a primary role in shaping your kid’s faith, but you will never be able to control what they believe or don’t believe. If you could simply talk your kids into believing what you believe, then chances are someone else will talk them out of it one day. The spiritual growth of your children will take a number of twists and turns during their life. Most of us tend to forget the complicated spiritual journey that has shaped our faith. We expect our kids to skip that somehow. (from http://www.orangeparents.org/i-doubt-it/)
Most students don’t need a parent who has all the answers, but they do need an example of how to live out your faith even when you still have doubts. They need a model of healthy curiosity—the kind that doesn’t give up just because tough questions arise.
Next time a question or a doubt arises in your mind, try mentioning it to your student. It doesn’t have to be very serious or formal. You can begin this way:
We're in the Busyness Business
I have an interesting social experiment for you to try. When you see acquaintances around town, church, or school, ask them this question: "How has your week been?" More often than not, the response will be something along these lines: "Oh, I've been so busy! It's been a crazy week at work/home/school/etc." Or the other response: "I'm so tired. I didn't get much sleep last night, I had so much to do."
How many times have you had this conversation? The world around us tell us if you're not busy, you're not important. And we willingly play along. It's as if there's some sort of glory in being overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion. God forbid we sit down for a minute to catch our breath. Bring on the guilt: the laundry isn't being folded, the weeds aren't being whacked, or our that project isn't getting started. If there's a free block of time in schedule, it means we're not doing everything we're supposed to.
To top it off, we don't know what to do with silence anymore. Silence settles over us like a thick fog. In those moments, it's just unsettling. When's the last time you rode in the car with the radio on? I'm not just talking about auditory silence: smartphones make silence impossible. There's always a text message to answer, an article to read, or, if all else fails, a cell phone game to play (waiting rooms, anyone?).
We're longing for that peace and contentment. We search for it in the busyness of life. We make ourselves so busy with very good things that we forget the best thing. Sitting at the King's table. Or at His feet.
" 38b And a woman named Martha welcomed [Jesus] into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
- Mark 10:38b-42 (ESV)
Which sister do you identify with more closely? Mary, the one who sat at Jesus' feet, or Martha, who ran herself ragged with very good things. Here's the thing that always gets to me with this story: the things that Martha was doing were necessary! If Martha didn't do what she was doing, everyone would be hungry! Jesus doesn't rebuke Martha for doing things that were superfluous. He rebukes her because He knows that Martha's heart was consumed with busyness.
You may be swamped. Overwhelmed. Exhausted. Even if you're aware of this, you may feel like everything you're doing is necessary. And you might even be right! But where is your priority? Are you seeking out the moments of silence and stillness to sit at the feet of Jesus? To soak in His teaching? Are you building time into your full schedule to be with the Lord? Or has your relationship with Christ become collateral damage of the busyness business?
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
- Psalm 46:10-11 (ESV)
Why Does Easter Matter?
For a good portion of my Christian life, I have had an adverse reaction to celebrating specific dates. Picking a random day for the yearly celebrations like Christmas, Easter, and New Years has always felt very... manufactured. The idealist logician in me says, "Well, we don't really know if it happened on that specific day. Besides, shouldn't we be celebrating this stuff all year, not just on one day?" As if both weren't possible! And, you know what? I was partially right. They are manufactured. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't pick a day to celebrate!
It's amazing how often the foundational truths of our faith fly under the radar. Even if we are aware of them, they are certainly unacknowledged. As life happens, we are inundated with things that demand our attention. The phone is ringing. The inbox is filling up. The baby is crying. The TV is blaring. Amidst all this noise, the Gospel - what Jesus did for us - is taken for granted and left on the shelf.
So, yes, we should be celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus every day. But how often does that actually happen? As I've matured, the idealist in me has grown into a realist. The realistic me is aware of how quick we are to forget our first love. If we don't choose to mark our lives with continual reminders of the cross, we are sure to let it fall from our mind.
We may not know the actual calendar date when Jesus rose for the grave (although we're pretty close!), but we don't need to. I am so thankful that we, as the Church, have the entire Easter season as a reminder that Christ died for our sins and rose from the grave to prove He is God. It forces us to acknowledge that essential truth that is so often ignored. As Christians, if we are not focused on Jesus, then what are we focused on? What's the point? As the common saying goes, "Preach the Gospel to yourself daily." What a goal!
Easter is the time when we come together to celebrate the Cross and the empty tomb as the Church. This Sunday, let us rejoice side-by-side in what the Savior has done for us. But may you also rejoice every day in what the Savior has done for you.
Pork Pulling #1
Today was our first of four pork pulling sessions in preparation for the upcoming KIUMC Family Carnival! A huge thanks goes out to John Beever, the mastermind behind this whole operation. John started cooking the 150 lb pig Friday afternoon! That's a slow cook time of about 22 hours!
All hands on deck Saturday afternoon! We had about a dozen people pulling the pork apart and mixing it with John's secret-recipe barbecue sauce. From there, we put the pork in hibernation in the freezer until its shining moment in June. We may or may not have eaten our fair share of the pork after we had finished prepping the meat. (Spoiler alert: it's delicious!)
At the KIUMC Family Carnival (June 5-8), we will sell pulled pork sandwiches as one of our primary fundraisers for our summer mission trips. The other big fundraiser we do is Dinner and a Show - details to come! Mark your calendars for May 22 if you want to be served a delicious meal while our students providing hilarious entertainment.
Also, please be in prayer for our missions trip students. We are already preparing our hearts for what God is going to do on our trips! Our high schoolers are going to Boston, MA from June 15-21, and our middle schoolers are going to Harrisburg, PA from June 29 - July 3. It is going to be an amazing week to disconnect from our routine and reconnect to Christ.
New Series: Amplify
Can God hear me? Does God even exist? Ok, what about miracles—do they really happen? Did Jesus really rise from the dead, really? And what about all the other stuff in the Bible? Did it really happen? How do you know? When it comes to faith, we all have our doubts. Every single one of us. And yet, for many of us, church can feel like the last place we would go to ask questions. Why is that? For most of us, doubt feels like something we should hide, ignore, or silence. If there’s a volume dial, we should turn it down. But is that always true? Does having faith mean I can’t have doubt or vice versa? When we look closer we find that amplifying our doubt, turning up the volume on the right questions, may just be the best thing that ever happened to our faith.
We're starting a new series this Sunday, which addresses the elephant in the room: doubt. Everyone has it, but no one wants to acknowledge it. Heading into Easter, these doubts can be louder than ever. There is so much skepticism in the world regarding Jesus and His death and resurrection. As the Church, we shouldn't be afraid to face these topics head-on. This coming weekend, we'll talk about how owning your doubt can lead to deepening your faith.
What are some common doubts that you hear regarding Jesus? Why do we as Christians feel the need to silence these doubts?
Last Friday, we took a group of high schoolers to see the new blockbuster movie, "Noah." I wanted to post my thoughts on the movie, in case you were considering seeing it or taking your family.
First of all, Noah is rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content. There are a few fight scenes, with injuries and blood shown. It is very on par for a PG-13 movie. Noah has visions from God about the impending flood, and we see bodies floating in the water. At one point, a character falls into a mass grave. There is nothing too graphic about it, but it is clear that there are bodies laying everywhere. There is one implied sex scene, where we see characters kiss and we see, from the neck up only, them remove their shirts. The scene ends there, but it is clear what happens next.
"Noah" admittedly strays from the Biblical text. As with any Hollywood adaptation, there are subplots added for drama, and details made up along the way. The director, Darren Aronofsky, is openly atheistic, but raised Jewish. He is one of the most critically acclaimed directors of the 2000s, so his take on this story is intriguing. He uses the non-Biblical book of Enoch to add to the story. We meet these creatures called The Watchers, which are fallen angels. They are a fictional third class of angels - not God's angels, not Satan's demons, but somewhere in the middle. They are central to the movie's story, but they are not in the Biblical text.
There is one other plot line added in the movie which is not found in the Bible. I can't say much about it without giving away the climax of the movie, but I will say this. In the movie, Noah believes that he and his family are to die out after the flood and be the last humans. This is very contradictory to the Bible. In Genesis, God makes it clear to Noah that he and his family are to survive and start over.
If you are going to see the movie, I highly recommend reading Genesis 6-9 before you go and after you come home. Compare what you saw with what the Bible says.
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. There are creative decisions that I disagree with, and theological points which are completely missed. Regardless, it is a very entertaining movie. Take it for what it is - a Hollywood adaptation by an atheistic director. Don't go expecting a Sunday school story - it is gritty, dirty, and real. The movie itself (as just a movie) is really well done and captivating. It really helps to see Noah as a human with emotional struggles about the task at hand. It does a great job at making the story come alive, even if it adds non-Biblical elements.
If you'd like to read more detail, here are two articles I would recommend:
SDG Reviews 'Noah'
The Gospel Coalition