My first church internship was at a tiny church that didn't have a person to lead the youth ministry during the school year. They brought someone in each summer and said, "Do a bunch of things and keep everyone occupied."
My second church internship was at a very large church that mostly shut things down over the summer. They had summer camp, a mission trip, and some sporadic small group outings, but there was no "regularly scheduled program."
I'm finding that the second kind of church is the norm, so I wanted to offer you a few ways that you can continue growing in your relationship with God over the summer.
1) Read the Book
By "the book," I mean the Bible. And I know how this sounds. You've gone through months and months of school and reading already, so why in the world would you spend any time reading something else before you start back to school in August?
Well, there are a couple of reasons. The biggest and most obvious one is that the Bible is one of the ways through God have revealed himself (and continues to reveal himself) to us. The second reason is that the Bible is alive and powerful: "The word of God is alive and powerful...It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires" (Hebrews 4:12 NLT). The Hunger Games is a great series of books, but they aren't alive and powerful. Read the Book.
2) Sing the Songs
I'm not a singer, but I know that there are times in my life when I just need to let it out...so I turn up the volume and sing! There's something about singing that allows you to express emotion better than just talking. This has been a common practice for the people of God for a long time: "You thrill me, LORD, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done" (Psalm 92:4 NLT).
Oftentimes I find that songs actually give me words when I can't find the words I'm looking for. When you're afraid, you can sing about the "God of angel armies" who is always by your side. When you're in awe of God, you can sing about his "majesty" and grace that found you just as you were and changed you: "empty-handed but alive in your hands." Wherever you are emotionally or spiritually, there's a song for that. Sing the Songs.
3) Live the Life
This isn't just about avoiding sin; it's also about doing good. Philippians 2:15 says, "Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people" (NLT).
So be on your guard this summer, that you don't fall to temptation. But also be lookout for opportunities to help someone who needs your help. Be on the lookout for a person who needs a friend. Be on the lookout for ways that you can shine like a bright light in someone's life.
4) Tell the Story
When people know you're reading the book, and they hear you singing the songs, and they see you living the life, they will probably ask you about it: What makes you different?
First Peter 3:15 tells us, "If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it" (NLT). So when they ask that question about what makes you different, you can tell the story of how God enacted a rescue mission to save the world from sin through his Son, Jesus Christ. And you can tell the story of how God saved you when you put your faith in Jesus.
Even if your church is stopping it's regularly scheduled programs for the summer, there's no reason why you should stop growing in your relationship with God. Read the Book, Sing the Songs, Live the Life, and Tell the Story, and your faith will be stronger when you head back to school in the fall.
Reading Sermons Is Good for Your Faith
What Would You Do?
There's an old acronym for team that says:
Together Everyone Achieves More.
And you'll find that that's usually true.
Tiger Woods wouldn't be as good as he is at golf without a coach.
Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh aren't the only players on the Miami Heat. They need other players to share the load.
Steve Jobs may have been the technological genius behind Apple computers, iPods, and iPhones, but he needed guys like Ron Johnson to figure out how to get those products into the hands of consumers like us.
So whether we're talking about sports or business, it's usually true that we achieve more together.
And think about the last group project you had to do for school. You probably got more done together - as a team - than you could have gotten done all by yourself.
The same thing is true in the Christian life. God doesn't call us to be lone ranger Christians who go off on our own to figure everything out and try to accomplish everything he wants for us. Instead, he gave us the church to be a family of people, a team of people, who are striving together to know God and make him known.
We can do better together than we can on our own.
Who's On Your Team?
|image credit: longhollowwomen.com|
"The real children of Abraham...are those who put their faith in God" (Galatians 3:7).
God was gathering his people ("the real children of Abraham") together in a new way. And the only sign that marks out the people of God in this updated plan is "faith expressing itself in love" (Galatians 5:6).
But that claim didn't sit well with some people. These people came from Jerusalem and insinuated that Paul was a compromiser. They told the new converts that Paul was watering down the message and trying to make it more acceptable to people. The problem, they said, was that Paul wasn't really giving them the full scoop.
That's the attack that has Paul all worked up when he writes the letter to the Galatians. And here's his response to that accusation:
"I am not trying to please people. I want to please God. Do you think I am trying to please people? If I were doing that, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10 CEV).
He's justifying his motives. He says, "I'm not a people-pleaser who does whatever makes people happy and comfortable; I'm a servant of Christ."
Here's where each of us should check ourselves. As you go through your day - in the classroom, at the lunch table, on the practice field, on the job - are you trying to please people, or are you trying to please God?
Of course we care about what people think of us, that's fine. The issue is that we don't let what other people think of us define who we are and what we do.
Christian people live for an audience of one.
We live for the approval of God alone.