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Amazing Race— Persecuted Church Edition— 7/23/17

Good Monday Morning!

Last night was week 3 of our Amazing Race- Persecuted Church Edition Series. You can check out some pictures  below of Electives and our game of knee volleyball before youth started:

Our featured our country this week was Iraq. Here are some quick stats on the country of Iraq and the conditions that Christians there are living in:

86/100 EXTREME PERSECUTION

Leader: Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi Government: Parliamentary Democracy Population: 38,654,000 (230,000 Christians— less that 1%)

Source of Persecution:
Main Religion: Islam Islamic Oppression

Near Extinction

Christians have lived in Iraq for two millennia but are currently on the verge of extinction. Many have fled areas controlled by ISIS and other Islamic extremists. The overall persecution situation in Iraq is characterized by impunity, the threat of attacks and second- class treatment by the authorities. Historical and Protestant Christian communities are seriously affected by persecution, especially from radical Islamic movements, authorities and non-Christian leaders. Communities of converts to Christianity from Islam are the most severely persecuted, especially by their own families.

To help Christians suffering from persecution in Iraq, Open Doors works with local partners to provide the training, Bibles, microloans, building materials, crisis relief and other support they need to remain as lights in their war-torn nation.

Last night’s Scripture was Matthew 5:43-48NIV:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It’s easy to love those who love us and pray for those who treat us nicely.  This is how the majority of culture operates, but Jesus gives a new challenge here: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. What this means for us today is this— show God’s love and pray for those who bully you, make fun of you, are rude to you, who betray you, etc.

The second part of Vs. 45 says that God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. This means that God is the God of the “good” people and the ones many may consider “bad”. He loves us all equally as much. When we show love to those who mistreat us, we are showing them the same love that Jesus showed us on the cross instead of responding with the same type of attitude like they expect us too. When we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, we are choosing to walk in the freedom and joy that God intends for us to walk in instead of allowing others to control by causing bitterness in our hearts.

Verse 48 tells us to “be perfect”. The Greek word for “perfect” means completeness. Jesus gave us these instructions to help us live in and experience the complete freedom, love, and joy that God offers us through a relationship with him.

If you’re struggling with bitterness towards those who have hurt you or wronged you, I encourage you to choose to love and pray for them. The truth is that people who hurt others are typically hurting themselves. Instead of allowing yourself to be robbed of the joy of the Lord because of bitterness, choose prayer and forgiveness!

Make sure to take about three minutes to watch an encouraging video on Christians in Iraq on how they respond to the persecution they face.

See you next week!

-Pastor Dustin

 

Amazing Race— Persecuted Church Edition— 7/16/17

Happy Monday #teamawakening family!

Last night was week two of our Amazing Race— Persecuted Church Edition Series. Our featured country this week was Somalia.

Jack Felter, one of the high school leaders, gave the message this week as the group looked at Psalm 119:105:

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.

We know that “word” is referring to the Bible. We used this illustration to explain this verse to the students: Imagine you are walking down a dark path in the woods at with a flashlight. The flashlight does two things. First, it acts as a “lamp” to show you what is directly in front of you. Second, it shines further down the path to make us aware of what lies ahead. God’s word does the same thing for us. It helps guide us through the situations and circumstances that we face in our day-to-day lives as well as prepare us for anything we will face down the road in life.

The Christians in Somalia have to rely on God’s word to guide them through some of the dark times and circumstances they face. While we may not be facing the extreme persecution that people in Somalia face, but it is imperative that we rely on God’s word to be our light and guide throughout our lives.

After the message, the students were split into teams to compete in the various challenges that represented some of the games and activities that children in Somalia often participate in.

You can check out a quick clip of Jesse leading the students in worship last night before you go:

Have a great week and we will see you Sunday!

-Pastor Dustin

 

 

 

 

Amazing Race— Persecuted Church Edition— 7/9/17

Our first week of our new series, “Amazing Race— Persecuted Church Edition, was a blast!

Each week, we will look at a different country where Christians face extreme persecution. We will also have team activities where teams will have to complete challenges native to the region we are learning about for that night.

This week’s featured country was North Korea. North Korea is actually #1 on the list of countries. With a population of 25,405,000 people, only 300,000 of those are Christians. That is just over 1% of the population. Christians in North Korea often have to pray with their eyes open because of the constant surveillance they face. Those who don’t comply to worship the Kim Family face anything from arrests, imprisonment, torture, and even being killed.

Tonight’s Scripture was Psalm 119:9-11NIV,
9-11 How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

The writer of this Psalm shows us how to stay on the path God has laid out for us— by living according to God’s word and seeking God with all our heart. Before we can truly begin to know God’s word, we have to spend time in it.

When you look at verse eleven, which was the main verse we focused on, it can seem a little contradictory since we always tell out students to not be ashamed of their faith. The word “hide” in Hebrew means to hoard, protect, or hide. The word hoard means— a supply or fund stored up and often hidden away. This verse encourages us to store up God’s word that we read, that he speaks to us, and the lessons we learn from it. The more of God’s word we have “hoarded” and stored up in our lives, the more we have to help us through the temptations that threaten to pull us off of God’s path of purity for our lives.

Try to imagine what living out this verse looks like to the Christians living in North Korea. They can be arrested for having their Bibles or praying in public. It would be a lot easier to just conform to what the majority is doing and worship the Kim Family. Christians living in North Korea have to make the most of the time they are able to spend in God’s word. They treasure Scripture. Because they have hidden God’s word in their hearts, they are able to take God’s word with them wherever they go!

 

Be Blessed!

-Pastor Dustin

FREEDOM NIGHT— 7/2/17

Good Morning!

We had a blast last night at youth for FREEDOM NIGHT. We were so inspired by some of your backstories on 6/11 that we decided that one
night wasn’t enough, and we wanted to give our students another night to share what God was doing in their live sand laying on their hearts. Our hope for FREEDOM NIGHT is that students began grasp what it truly means to live in the freedom that God desires us to live in.

Freedom is defined as the ability to move or act as desired; release from something unpleasant; a political right.

There were two main verses in last night’s Scripture passage that most of us have probably heard before.

A. John 8:32NIV— “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
B. John 8:36— So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

These verses are powerful, especially when you read them in the entire passage they were written in.

Text: John 8:31-36

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

This passage tells us that we will know the truth when we hold to Jesus’ teachings. The word for “truth” here in this passage in the Greek is the same word used in John 14:6— “…I am the way and the truth and the life…” Jesus is TRUTH, and we can truly know him and his truth and freedom when we hold to his teachings!The people that Jesus was talking to claimed they had never been slaves because of who they were(descendants of Abraham–the father of our faith) and the rituals and ceremonies. This is the same as people today saying, “I’m a Christian. I’ve grown up in church my entire life. How can you tell me I’m a slave to something and need to be set free???” Jesus reminded them that anyone who has sinned is a slave to sin. That means that you and I became slaves to sin the moment we sinned! Just as Jesus said that slaves have no place or inheritance in the family, our sin keeps us from having a place in the family of God. However, there is GREAT news.
God desired us to be a part of his family so much that Jesus gave his life on the cross to erase our label of “slave to sin” and replaced with “Child of God”! The moment we place our faith in Jesus, we are no longer slaves. We are children of God.

Check out the lyrics from “FREEDOM REIGNS” that we looked at last night:

Where the spirit of the Lord is
There is freedom
Where the spirit of the Lord is
There is freedom

Lift Your eyes to heaven
There is freedom
Lift Your eyes to heaven

2 Corinthians 3:17 says, Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is,  there is freedom. We know that, when we have a relationship with Christ that his Spirit lives within us and goes with us everywhere we go. So why would we ever have a situation where we don’t experience the freedom that God has given us? Anytime we choose to do something that goes against the teachings of Jesus, it like we are leaving the Holy Spirit behind and choosing to go forward without the freedom God has given us. Are there areas of your life that you aren’t experiencing freedom in?

Freedom reigns in this place
Showers of mercy and grace
Falling on every face
There is freedom

Reigns—Royal authority; dominion or sway , or influence of one resembling a monarch. To possess or exercise sovereign power. To exercise authority
in the manner of a monarch. When we live under the freedom that we have in and through Christ, freedom rules our life and any situation that we may face!
Showers of mercy and grace— Think of someone who has been in a downpour. Everybody can tell that they have just been in a downpour because they are drenched in water. When God rains down his mercy and grace upon our  lives, everyone can tell that we have been drenched by the presence of God. When we are drenched by God’s mercy and grace, it opens the door for freedom to fall on every face because others want the freedom that we have!

If You’re tired and thirsty
There is freedom
If You’re tired and thirsty
There is freedom

Give Your all to Jesus
Give him all, there is freedom
Give Your all to Jesus
There is freedom

Typically, we rest when we are tired and thirsty, but we really need to give God all we have left. Mark 12:41-44 says,  41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

You may feel like you don’t have much to offer God. The good news is—Whatever you have to offer is good enough!

If your burden’s heavy
He brings freedom
If your burden’s heavy
He brings freedom

If you’re hurt and broken
He brings freedom
If you’re hurt and broken
He brings freedom

Matthew 11:30 says, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  If you’re carrying something that is weighing you down, that’s not God’s plan for
your life!

We gave this challenge to the youth to think about— “God doesn’t just want you to give you freedom in your backstory. He wants to give you freedom in your life story!” God wants doesn’t just want give you freedom a certain situation in your life. He desires to give you freedom in every area and situation in your life!

We closed out the night by having some students take some quiet time while we played the song, FREEDOM REIGNS. Once the song was over, several students and leaders shared what God had laid on their heart, prayed a prayer over the group, and shared about something God had done in their lives.

See you Sunday!

-Pastor Dustin