What’s your utopia?

In my last email about Sunday School, I said we were finishing the series “Bridging the Gap,” moving through the book of Isaiah.  I forgot that we are actually finishing this series this Sunday, which is fortunate because this week’s lesson holds the promise of the future for believers under God’s loving care.

We have two discussion sheets for you this week, January 8:

  1. Safe and Secure – this one begins with a discussion on natural disasters, something easy to get teens talking about.  You could even ask them what type of natural disaster they would most/least like to go through.
  2. Free Future – taking a cue from our inner longing for a utopian society, this discussion helps remind us of the perfect future we have with God.

Remember, each link will be active for about a week.

Good Riddance Day

Today I saw an article online about a strange practice I had never heard of before.  It’s called “Good Riddance Day,” and it took place in Times Square.  Read more about it here:  http://www.timessquarenyc.org/events/new-years-eve/good-riddance-day/index.aspx

This event, sponsored largely by Cintas Document Management, allows people to say ?Good riddance!? to their unwanted memories throughout the year.  Pretty inventive idea?well, at least for the Latin Americans who originally started it.  It?s hitting the States with a corporate sponsor, emerging as a marketing ploy.

Nevertheless, as I pondered this new (to me) practice, I thought of the pros and cons of such an activity.  There are some good aspects to it.  For example, God chooses to forget the sins of believers (Heb. 8:12), remembering them no more.  That comes from the shed blood of Jesus on the cross for our sins.  Heb. 9:22 says, ?For without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.?  If 2011 carries some tangible paper memories of our sin, I could see and applaud an exercise where a Christian symbolically destroys it to show that God no longer remembers the sin or holds it against him.  From shedding of blood to shredding of paper?hmm.

In another sense, though, I wonder if this practice is really a healthy one.  The tendency that I see in people is an eagerness to erase their past on their own without actually dealing with it.  Do we want to say ?Good riddance!? to our bad memories, or do we want to deal with and learn from them?

What if we?re simply talking about difficulties we face that are not a result of our sin?  We don?t want to shred those either!  In 2 Tim. 2:3 says to ?endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ.?  Paul writes, ?We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope? (Rom. 5:3-4).  Isn?t that what people are trying to do in the first place ? remove their despair to gain hope?  That doesn?t come from destroying our bad memories.  It comes from holding them up to the life-giving light of the gospel to see that Jesus can redeem even these to give us the greatest hope of all:  We will live eternally with Him and need not fear this world and its troubles!

So don?t try to shred your bad memories.  Learn from them and allow God to take what was evil and turn it into good!

Have you heard of Jonah Mowry?

Recently a video has gone “viral” online.  It is of Jonah Mowry, an 8th grade student who simply sits in front of the screen shares his message by flipping index cards with pre-written messages on them.  How does something so plain go viral?  Because of Jonah’s message and the emotion he shows as he reveals it.  Jonah “comes out” as a homosexual (though he doesn’t fully spell it out in the video), shares that he has been bullied, cut himself, done things he’s ashamed of, and attempted suicide.  It ends with a hopeful note that Jonah is “not going anywhere” because he’s “stronger than that” and he has “a million reasons to be here.”  Watch the video here:

To me, the most important thing we need to realize from this video is not about homosexuality or bullying or cutting or suicide.  Those are extremely important, but I see that the pain Jonah shares in this video is similar to a pain shared by many other teens who haven’t been bullied and who aren’t gay.  They have day to day struggles that weigh them down and make them feel alone and hopeless.  How do we respond to that?

It’s no surprise that as our society continues to drift away from its Christian heritage that people are losing their sense of identity and in the process losing hope.  We have an incredible hope to share with people!  That is the hope of the gospel.  The Apostle Peter says this:  “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it” (1 Peter 3:15).  Are you sharing hope with people?  We have a God who loves us.  He doesn’t ignore our sin or sweep it under the rug; what He does is much more powerful.  He makes it clear that sin is very costly, and then let’s us know He paid the price for it so that we can be fully accepted by Him.  Wouldn’t Jonah benefit from this truth?

Some have accused Jonah of lying. That may be true, but I don’t know that it matters in this case.  Walt Mueller says that it is not a big deal whether Jonah’s story is “real or not in this case,” because “the story is all-too-real in all-too-many real cases. Jonah speaks for a growing percentage of our population.”  (Read the rest of Walt’s blog here).

What are YOU doing to share the hope of the gospel with people?  This time of year you have an even easier opportunity to do it!

Shrek, substitutes, and sacrifice

This is our final Sunday School lesson for 2011, and it finishes our short series in Isaiah, “Bridging the Gap.” This week’s discussion sheet reminds us of the need for a subsitute through an example of our favorite green ogre, Shrek.

Acess the sheet by clicking here.

Remember, each link will be active for about a week.


Wednesday night we talked about Jabez and the way that he hoped in God for blessing, even though his name essentially meant “pain-causer”.

I have 2 copies of a book called The Prayer of Jabez for Teens, and I’d like to give them away.  Here is all you have to do to get your hands on a book:

Memorize Jabez’ prayer in 1 Chronicles 4:10.  Recite it to Kevin to get your book. Hurry – there are only 2 books to give away!

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