It's hard to believe it's already Thanksgiving... Wow! It's finally socially acceptable to listen to Christmas music. As such, I will be listening to Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" on repeat for the next 29 days. I'm actually ahead of the game - I already have my Christmas lights up on my house! What's that, you ask? Did I ever take them down from last year? Uh... I.... um.... that's not the point.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's acknowledge the best holiday of the year: Thanksgiving. No pressure to buy gifts, just way too much food and football all day long. Does it get any better? Amidst the cranberry sauce, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, many families take time to go around the table and share what they're thankful for this year. A great exercise, to be sure!
Giving thanks is a great habit to cultivate, one that shouldn't be limited to one day per year. All month at Roots, we've been talking through this idea of sacrificial service. Risking ourselves for the sake of others. It's not a checklist of actions, but and inventory of the heart. Our willingness to serve can flow from the awareness of the blessings we've been given. God did not withhold even His very own Son from us; how can we withhold good from need it?
This Thanksgiving, may we not be thankful in words only, but in action. Let our thankfulness show in the fruit of our lives. As we discussed last week, when we truly embrace God's love for us, our lives will completely change. If we truly understand the sacrifice that God made for us, thankfulness is not something we will have to muster.
This week, we'll be talking about specific ways to serve in the church. God has given us all unique gifts, abilities, and opportunities, and we must be faithful to His call on our lives!
We're in the middle of our series called "All In," which is all about risking ourselves for the sake of someone else. One of the big themes has been about how, as Christians, we have a calling to live up to. Jesus set the standard for what it means to serve - to risk, to give, to care for others in a selfless way. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that the criteria for getting into the Kingdom of Heaven is clear. We are to put our faith into action by serving the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the sick , the poor.
So great! I can just check a bunch of things off a list: Serve at a soup kitchen, pass out water bottles, be nice to people, donate money. That means I get to go to Heaven, right?
Kind of. There's an important distinction to make, which we'll be discussing this Sunday at Roots. Yes, it's important to do those things. But what gets us to Heaven?
Jesus answers the question very clearly in John 14: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Paul gives us a little more detail in his letter to the Ephesians: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
So what's the point of taking a risk and serving others, especially when it's not convenient or comfortable for us? The Bible says all we need to do is trust is Jesus. Why bother with all the other stuff?
Our key passage for this Sunday gives us some insight. "What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?" (James 2:14). Here's the point: how can you claim to have faith in Jesus if you don't live like He did? How can you say you love God if you don't obey His commands? How can you love like God loves if you're not sacrificial? God's love for us was as sacrificial as it gets. He made Himself subject to life as a human - to the point of death. How can we take that love from God, yet refuse to pay it out to others?
This Sunday, we will open the can of worms that is faith vs. works. Pray for us and our students as we discuss this challenging topic!
We’re Teaching This: Have you ever taken a big risk? I’m not talking about eating your mom’s broccoli casserole after too many days in the fridge. I’m talking about something that could have only ended with a big win or a big disaster. Asking a girl to prom that has never talked to you. Pep-rally dance-off. Stealing second base in the last inning of the playoffs. If you’ve ever gone all in—taken a big risk— there’s only one reason you did it. The payoff. For every risk, there’s the promise of a reward. And if the reward is worth it, if it’s enticing enough, you just might be willing to do things you might otherwise never consider. Did you know that serving the people around you can be risky? Not only is there no guarantee of being successful, of actually helping someone, but serving also means putting our comfort, our convenience, and our reputation on the line. On the other hand, choosing not to serve others has risks as well. Not only could we miss out, but those around us may go without something that they really need. Either way, there’s a lot on the line. So the question you have to ask is: Am I going to play it safe or am I going to go all in?
Think About This:
There’s an ugly word that has been going around. It has been used to describe our students and their generation. Maybe you’ve heard it: Entitled. Of course, that’s not the word we want to describe our son or daughter, but in a culture where nearly every step is celebrated, it can be difficult for our students to fight against the sense that the world really does revolve around them.
Students who grow up with this kind of sense of entitlement often become unhappy and unproductive adults. That’s why it’s so important for us to help them move their focus beyond themselves at this critical stage in life.
In the article Serving Others Will Help Your Teen Thrive from Psychology Today, author Kenneth Ginsburg suggests a possible antidote to the epidemic of entitlement.
Kids who make contributions to others learn to see beyond themselves. Young people who give rather than just receive will learn that the universe doesn't revolve around them or owe them everything they desire. They begin to see beyond their isolated, self-oriented circles. They recognize themselves as part of larger communities.
In the same article he continues...
Young people who understand the importance of service gain a sense of purpose that can build their own resilience and further their own success. Real service opportunities exist everywhere. Your child does not need to build a water purification system in a far away land to garner the benefits that contribution offers. There are needy among us. Some may reside in shelters, visit food kitchens, or be recuperating in hospitals. Others may be our neighbors, whether a lonely elderly woman who needs help shoveling the snow, or a sixth grader who needs just a little more confidence in math and could use help with his homework.
In other words, students who serve others are more likely to have the best shot at becoming adults who contribute rather than consume.
We have a few amazing opportunities for students and families to serve coming up in the next month or so. First of all, the Feed a Family for Thanksgiving drive is next week! We will be collecting food on November 19 and 20 at the Kent Narrows Outlets (the old outlets). On Saturday, November 22, we will drive through the community and distribute the food to families who are in need. What an amazing chance to do exactly what Jesus asks us to do! As Jesus said in Matthew 25: "For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.... And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
Stay tuned for our plans for the Giving Back Project, our annual Christmas project for the homeless.
We had another awesome time at Roots Sunday Night last weekend! I've just finished scrubbing the eggs off the floor... What a fun game! We played "Egg Roulette," where two students went head-to-head with their hair on the line. The two students took turns choosing an egg out of a carton. Here's the catch - eight of those twelve eggs were hard-boiled... but four were raw. They then proceeded to smash that egg over their heads and figure out (the hard way) which was which. Thanks to all the brave students who gave it a shot!
At 8:30, we watched the Steelers and Ravens game together. I promise not to gloat. Even though we had some technical difficulties getting the game to stream properly, we had a great time hanging out and eating some amazing food! Thanks to Kaitlyn Beyer and Shannon Lopez for taking care of the snacks!
Thanks to everyone who came. I pray that Roots Student Ministries would continue to be a place where middle and high school students will connect with God and their peers, and have a great time doing so!