Anomaly Students Blog
Welcome to our blog! We want to post content here that will encourage and build up the body of Christ to be full and mature. From time to time, we will post content relevant to the greater youth ministry world. We hope all of it encourages you!
May 2nd, 2019 – Reasons Why We Don’t Study the Bible
I recently was at a youth ministry conference and heard Tony Merida talk about some of the main reasons students don’t study the Bible. I found them very helpful in addressing some of the issues that keep us from engaging with the God of the Universe through His Word.
These people don’t think that the Bible is trustworthy or worth their efforts in studying. These people believe that the Bible is just like any fictional writing, on par with Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Shakespeare.
If this is your reason for not studying the Bible, let me share a few things with you. There is so much internal evidence to the trustworthiness of the Bible. The Bible is composed of 66 books, written over the course of thousands of years by dozens of authors, but somehow still has just one main message, is unified, and does not contradict itself. Not only that, but there are hundreds and hundreds of fulfilled prophecies.
There is also ample external evidence. There is a wealth of archaeological support and evidence that shows that these stories really happened and these people really lived, not only that the Bible is the most trustworthy book in all of the modern world. We have thousands of manuscripts, so we can trust that the Bible we read today is the Bible that was written in Jesus time and before. We have thousands more copies and evidence than any old work of literature, yet no one is questioning whether those works are authentic.
More than that, we have ample experiential evidence. There are countless stories of how God changes lives through the Bible. The worst of sinners are transformed by God’s Word every day. All in all, THERE IS BETTER REASON TO BELIEVE THE BIBLE THAN THERE IS TO NOT BELIEVE IT.
These people don’t think that it is possible for them to understand the Bible or to grasp what it means for their life. They have a negative view of the Bible because it has been confusing at some point or not all of it makes sense right now.
If this is one of your main reasons for not studying the Bible, then I would say that you have to let go of your need to understand everything right away. You don’t approach math or science like that. You don’t approach a sport like that. And you don’t need to approach God like that. It’s ok to not know everything. The point of being a disciple is being a life-long learner. I learn new things every day about the Bible and about God and so will you!
These people are around the Bible often, they hear it, they might even read it a little, but being around it so much has led them to become familiar and numb to what is about. These people have lost the sense of wonder and amazement that we can know God our Creator and that He loves us and proved that by sacrificing His own Son to buy us who were his enemies.
If this is you, I would challenge you to not just casually read or just light-heartedly approach the Bible. This past year, I have been in a Discipleship Group or D Group. During the week, there are 5 passages of Scripture to read and study and write about and apply to our lives. Then we meet and talk about what we learned and our lives. It has led to so much growth and has gotten rid of some of the numbness I feel towards God. Because this is my job, I am around it all the time and I can get numb to God because he is so familiar. If you want to get out of the apathy, you need to remember who God is and you need to be challenged to go deeper.
These people have no discipline in their life when it comes to studying God’s Word. They are very disciplined at sleeping, lounging, series-binging, and other forms of relaxation. They are highly disciplined in making sure those things happen. But when it comes to God, it’s just too much to spend a little time reading or praying. These people have no discipline in God’s Word and are lazy.
What I would say to you if you’re in this boat, is that you do have the time. Many times these people will say they just don’t have the time, but it is because they are so committed to laziness and lounging. Anything in your life that you love and is worth anything to you is because you have spent disciplined time with it. God the Creator of the universe is worth your time. He’s worth so much more. And any sacrifice or “hardship” because you don’t get to be lazy is worth it. I have never regretted reading the Bible when I didn’t want to. I have never regretted praying when I didn’t want to. I have never regretted worshipping when I didn’t want to. It’s not possible.
These people have never been taught how to read the Bible and understand nor why they should study the Bible. They are ignorant; they just don’t know. Many times these people will read and study once they are taught. They are hungry to learn, they just don’t know how to do it.
If you’re in this camp, please reach out to me. I would love to help get you connected to one of our Life Groups that meet on Sunday mornings or connected to another resource that will help you study. You can start with this simple method for studying the Bible if you have nothing else to go by.
Lack of Desperation
These people forget that we are in a war. They forget that if we don’t take up the SWORD OF THE SPIRIT (metaphor for God’s word) then we have no weapon in this world. We will be beaten by the enemy. If you think we are in peacetime, then you are deceived. We are in war, and you need your weapon to stand firm. That’s God Word.
These people forget that the Bible is the Bread of Life (another metaphor for God’s Word). Daily bread is studying God’s word every day so that you are filled, nourished and growing. Daily bread is not dessert, but it is just the bare necessity. It’s survival. We forget that we need daily bread just to survive. And this is how we should be with the Bible.
Misunderstanding of Joy & Satisfaction
These people think that to pursue God and to study his Word consistently means that they are giving up any sort of pleasure or joy. These people believe that being close to God will be a drag and will be a downer. They couldn’t be more wrong.
God’s Word shows us that the best life is a life lived with God and close to God. There is no pleasure or joy that is greater than walking closely with God. If we think that we will find joy and pleasure anywhere else, then we will go after that. But if you can see that your best life is not found in anything but a close, growing relationship with God then you are set up for great pleasure and joy!
Whatever your reason is or reasons are for not studying God’s Word, I want you to know that studying God’s Word to know God and love God is worth it. It can be trusted. It’s possible for you to understand it. It’s not something that we should be numb to. It’s something that we should discipline ourselves to do. It’s worth our time and effort because we need it to survive the war and daily life and we need it if we are ever going to find life, joy and pleasure.
January 23rd, 2019 – Proverbs on Sexual Purity
Last night in our youth worship service we talked about Sexual Purity. Solomon addresses his sons in chapters 5-7 concerning their sexual purity. His strong admonition to them is to stay as far away from it as you possibly can. It will destroy you, your family, and everything you have worked for.
I wanted to make the talk available for parents because of the nature of the talk. Below you can find the audio to the sermon, my sermon notes, as well as some statistics about the epidemic of pornography in our modern world.
Parents and students, I urge you to listen to the wisdom of Solomon. Don’t dabble with, flirt with, get comfortable with, or play with sexual temptation. Satan wants to destroy your life. God wants to give you life. Satan came to steal, kill and destroy. God came that we may have life and life to the full!
Parents and students, I urge you to talk honestly with each other about what is really going on. Satan wants to isolate us to make us think that we are the only ones dealing with something. He wants to trap us in shame and guilt. God wants to set us free. When we confess our sin and drag things into the light it no longer has power over us. These are hard conversations, but they are needed.
Parents and students, I urge you to do whatever it takes to fight for sexual purity. It is counter-cultural and against what our flesh wants. But it is ultimately what is best for you and your students!
If you have questions or need to talk to someone, I am always here for you.
February 19th, 2018 – Dating Convictions & The Bible
Dating can be highly confusing, especially as a Christian. When we try to date like the world, then oftentimes we fail and people get hurt. What I want our students to be able to do is to develop convictions about dating based on what God’s Word has to say, not just what the culture tells them is true.
I pulled together some questions and Scripture to work as a guide for students and parents who want to develop biblical convictions about dating. I don’t give any answers to these questions, because those are my answers, opinions and convictions.
You and your student needs to learn to think for themselves about an issue and have the Bible inform their convictions, not just their feelings or the culture.
This list of questions is by no means exhaustive. There are many more questions to consider, especially in light of our modern culture and connectivity. However, I hope this is helpful in starting good conversations with your students!
August 30th, 2017 – Hurricane Harvey RESCUE & The Gospel
I have been moved to tears a number of times watching the devastation happening in Texas from Hurricane Harvey. Not mostly from the disaster, but many times from the humanity and sacrifice that many are making in RESCUE attempts.
We in Huntington sit a couple hours north of Houston and have been hit with rain but not massive flooding. I’ve watched as so many people from our area are rallying to go provide support and RESCUE in Houston and other places. It encourages me and gives me hope in the midst of such disaster.
This whole thing has made think about rescue and it reminds of the simple truth of the gospel.
The good news for those of us who know Jesus is that there is a way to life. Jesus came to free us from our sin and give us life by dying in our place. He came to RESCUE us.
It’s a lot like this hurricane. Imagine that you’re in Houston, Beaumont, or Port Arthur. You and your family are in your house thinking that you’re good and not expecting things to go wrong. But they do go wrong.
The rains come and the flood waters rise and quickly there is no way out. The waters get so high that you either have to retreat to your roof or try to swim through the strong current. Things seem hopeless. You are desperate and know that it will take a miracle to be RESCUED.
Then out of nowhere a boat appears and is heading your direction! They pull up and tell you the bad news first. The bad news is that you’re stuck, and there’s no way out of this situation except for this one boat. If you stay there you will surely die.
But the boat brings good news too. If you get on the boat, you can be RESCUED. Imagine how good that would sound!
You have a choice in that moment. You can accept the free gift of salvation by getting in that boat, or you can stay on your roof and do it your own way. You can be stubborn and try to ride it out on your roof. But who would do that? Who would reject such great news of RESCUE?
If you stay in your own way you will lose your life, but if you give up your own way and hop in the boat, then you will be saved.
That is what salvation is like. The bad news is that if we stay in our sin, we will die. But if get in the boat of Jesus Christ, then we will be saved. It’s that simple!
What a clear picture of the good news of the gospel we see in RESCUE! Praise God that we are not hopeless, but hopeful because of what Jesus has done for us!
May 10, 2017 – 13 Gospel Observations on “13 Reasons Why”
Over the past few weeks, I have been hearing many students and parents talk about the newly popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.”
I spent the last two days watching this Netflix series to see what it was about. What I want to do in this blog post is recap the series (spoiler alert!) and address each of these issues as a gospel person. I want to ask how do we respond or think about this particular issue as as a Christian. There really is no mention of God in the whole show and no hint of the gospel, so I want to help our students and parents think clearly about those issues.
First, some thoughts about watching the series. What we fill our minds with affects us deeply: how we live and what we value.
- Students, be careful. I would HIGHLY suggest getting parent permission first before watching, because…
- There is tons and tons of language in it. Constant cussing, belittling of others, and tearing down with the tongue.
- There are very graphic scenes of violence, sex, rape, drugs, drunkenness, suicide/cutting, and more.
- There is no mention of God at all. There is only a slight sense of morality for a few of the characters. If you aren’t supervised, I would avoid filling your mind with this.
“13 Reasons Why” Synopsis
There is a girl, Hannah Baker, who moved to a new town and a new high school the summer before her sophomore year. The reason the show is called 13 Reasons Why is because of the 13 cassette tapes that Hannah Baker leaves for 13 people to listen to after she kills herself. Those 13 people are the 13 reasons why she killed herself. Those 13 people either did something to hurt her emotionally or physically or they didn’t do enough to care for her when she was hurting. Here are some of their stories to give you context to the gospel observations.
Justin Foley – Hannah got into a relationship with Justin Foley. Justin was a star athlete, super popular, and a bad kid (participated in lots of smoking marijuana, drinking, and abuse). Justin and Hannah sneak out one night and meet in the park. He takes a picture of her that is very revealing. That picture gets sent around through text to most of the school and Justin tells lies about what happened. He said he went farther than he really did with her. So, Hannah gets a reputation for sleeping around. This reputation never leaves her, even though it wasn’t true. That was the beginning of the end for her.
Jessica Davis – She was one of Hannah’s best friends for a while, but then she started dating their other best friend Alex. Jealousy divided them and then ultimately revenge from Alex against Jessica caused deep wounds in both Jessica and Hannah. Alex created a list about who has the best and worst body features among the girls in the school. This deeply wounded Hannah and put a unnecessary target on her body.
Tyler Down – He was an outsider and also the year book photographer. He started stalking Hannah because he liked her and ultimately was shamed, because his secret life was exposed to the entire school. He caused Hannah to fear for her privacy and safety even in her own house.
Courtney Crimson – She was a popular girl, from a good family, and had everything going for her. Her secret was that she was a lesbian, but she didn’t want others to know. Eventually her secret gets out, because Tyler took a picture of her engaging in lesbian kissing. However, she throws Hannah under the bus to save her reputation and causes deep hurt and trust issues with Hannah.
Marcus Cole – He was the student body president who was only concerned with how others viewed him. He tried to make a move physically on Hannah, because he thought she was “easy.” He bordered on the edge of assaulting her and further caused Hannah to hate herself.
Zack Dempsey – He was a popular athlete who really was a nice guy. He got caught up in being liked and popular. He couldn’t really be there for Hannah (even though he liked Hannah), because of fear of losing his reputation. He didn’t stand up for Hannah when she made a cry for help and caused her to believe she was all alone.
Bryce Walker – He was the golden child of the school, super-athlete, and super-rich. He felt untouchable – constantly smoking weed, buying alcohol, throwing parties and getting whatever he wants whenever he wants it. In the show, he forced himself on two different girls – raping them – and didn’t feel like he did anything wrong. One of those girls was Hannah, and this further killed her and caused her irreparable damage.
There are others who hurt Hannah and didn’t help Hannah and ultimately Hannah makes 13 tapes and kills herself. The series shows everything – the rapes, the assaults, the violence, the abuse, and the death. That’s why I don’t urge you to watch it. It’s very heavy. The story is addictive, but the actions being portrayed are evil.
13 Gospel Observations
1 – One of the main reasons for poor self-esteem comes from comparing ourselves to each other.
- All of the characters are caught up in comparing themselves. They are figuring out where they stand on the social ladder. Prettiest? Strongest? Smartest? Best All Around?
- The gospel frees us from having to compare ourselves to feel better about ourselves. We don’t have to compare, because we know our real identity; broken but loved by God!
- We can own up to the fact that we are broken and sinful. However, if we don’t know Jesus, then we have to defend ourselves and compare ourselves to others to feel better about our shortcomings.
2 – One of main sources of drama comes from a greater concern about judging others than dealing with our own junk. This happens when we care about who is with who and who is doing what more than our own problems.
- Every one of those kids had some sort of sin issue. None of them were dealing with it. They were more concerned about blaming others and not owning their sin.
- The gospel takes our eyes off of each other and forces us to deal with the main problem: our sin.
3 – Words matter. How we talk about each other and to each other deeply affects things inside each other.
- Proverbs 18:21 (NLT) – “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”
4 – Actions matter. How we treat one another in front of people and behind their backs deeply affects them.
- The gospel reminds us that when we base our worth on what people say and how they treat us, then we will always be let down. We must know where our value is no matter how people treat us: in the love of God for us sinners!
- Also, we must treat people how we want to be treated, not in a way that makes us look good or better than them.
5 – There is an obsession among youth about not realizing that this season of life is temporary.
- High School and Middle School seem permanent. Reputations feel like they will never end. If you get rejected, you fear that you’ll always be alone or always have a certain reputation.
- The gospel gives us a greater perspective beyond the season that we are currently in. We can see the end of the story and know that all things are working together for our good if we love God. Romans 8:28 (NLT)
6 – The allure of popularity and being liked is overwhelming and will make you do things you thought you would never do.
- The gospel frees us from having to be liked by everybody. We don’t live to please others, but to please God.
- Proverbs 29:25 (NLT) – “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.”
- 1 Thessalonians 4:1 (NLT) – “Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more.”
7 – Those with popularity and power in the school feel like they are invincible and can treat people however they want to.
- The gospel reminds us that we are responsible (held accountable) for how we treat people and how we live.
- It also reminds us that no one really is better than anybody else, so pretending to be better is evil, because we aren’t.
8 – There is a huge desire to date and be loved by somebody early on in life. This desire is so strong that people will do anything to get that, especially by lowering their standards.
- The gospel frees us from seeking our satisfaction and purpose in another person. We know that people will let us down.
- We also know that God has designed us for marriage, but if we rush into it and do it outside of God’s plan then we will bring destruction not life.
9 – Everyone has secrets. No one is good. No one is perfect or anywhere near it. You can’t cover the truth up. Truth prevails and will come out.
- The gospel frees us from having to hide things and live in darkness. We can own up to our mistakes and be freed from the eternal penalty when we trust in Jesus.
10 – Placing your hope in people and your happiness in a person will let you down.
- The gospel frees us from having to find our purpose and meaning in another person. Our happiness is not found in circumstances, but in the everlasting love of God shown in Jesus Christ for us.
11 – There is a huge need to have someone older and wiser in your life that is helping you deal with and have perspective on the issues you are dealing with. Ideally that is your parents, but there are other godly examples around in the church that desire to help you.
- The gospel shows us that we are in need and we can admit that. We need others who have walked the road ahead of us to help us along the way.
12 – The only way to get past your failures is through the forgiveness Jesus offers.
- There is really only one way to get past your failures – Jesus loves and forgives and frees. If your counseling doesn’t lead to that point, then you will always be missing the one thing you desperately need.
13 – Suicide is a tool that Satan uses to convince us that we are worthless and nobody loves us or cares about us.
- If you are feeling like your life doesn’t matter, know that I love you. You have people in your life that love you and ultimately you have a God that desires to love you and be in relationship with you. But we can’t help, if we don’t know that you are hurting or aren’t doing well.
- Those are lies from the enemy. The gospel frees us from pretending that everything is ok. We must admit that we need help.
- Consider how you are treating others. Our words and actions matter. We also never know how deeply they can hurt someone until after the fact.
- Get help if you have been abused or hurt. There are people that care and want to help you seek justice.
- Seek to be careful about what you fill your mind with. Fill it with the truth of God’s Word and with the gospel that frees us from destruction and leads us to life.
- Parents – have invasive, hard conversations with your kids about the kinds of text messages, snapchats, Direct Messages, and pictures they are sending and receiving. They will want to hide, but your job as a parent is to help disciple them out of those deadly mistakes. Help them to walk in the light!
February 27, 2017 – The Great Divide
I am a numbers guy. I love them. They make sense to me! This is why I went to be an engineer when I left high school. But now I work with people and love it!
In youth ministry, I track a lot of numbers though. I want to see growth and more importantly health. I want to make sure we are reaching new students and growing the ones we have in our ministry. I have been addicted at times to seeing the numbers grow and seeing the trend line go up. It makes me feel successful as a youth minister, although it doesn’t always mean we are healthy as a group.
One of the main numbers I track is the distribution of students between grade levels. Once I started to track this, it blew my mind. I had a feeling by looking out in the crowd on Wednesday night we were very young and unbalanced between the young and old. However, when I saw this it confirmed what I felt.
This shows the range and the average number of students who come in each grade level (7th-12th). I’ve always thought that at Huntington FBC, we should average 10-15 students per class to be healthy. This equates to about 10% of the student population in Huntington. We would love more, but this would be a solid group who could really make a difference in their school! Our 7th-10th grade classes average almost 12 students per class on Wednesday night. Our 11th and 12th grade classes average just over 2.
What happens after 10th grade? Where are all of the 11th and 12th grade students? What causes us to move from healthy and vibrant attendance to lackluster and lazy attendance?
It might be a cultural issue.
Is it because they are busy chasing all kinds of other activities, pleasures, and pursuits? Is it because these students have driver’s license and thus the choice to come or not to come? Is it because of the rapid growth of high school students taking college classes? Is it an ever expanding amount of extracurricular activities that are more important than growth as a disciple? Why are students in 11th and 12th grade less committed and active than those in 7th-10th?
It might be a church issue.
Are we not relevant to 16-18 year olds? Am I not doing enough to spend time with that age group? Are we doing a bad job of growing the ones we have when we have them in 7th-10th grade? I am willing to take blame where I deserve blame! I just want to know what is causing this and why we are losing students around the age of 16.
It might be no one’s issue.
Is it just the mix of students in these grade levels and a higher proportion of non-church kids? Is it just the ebb and flow of averages? It is just random?
Likely, it is a combination of all of these root issues. All I know is I am seeing a great divide! 16, 17, and 18 year olds are not here! (This doesn’t even touch the 18-30 year olds who are drastically missing too! If I had the data for our church, I would share it.)
Parable of the Soils
This Wednesday, we are studying the parable of the soils in Luke 8:4-15. The third soil Jesus mentions is the soil which is infested with weeds and thorns. The seed is scattered among the weeds and it begins to grow! However, the weeds and the thorns eventually choke it out and keep the plant from ever being fruitful. Jesus explains that these weeds and thorns are the cares, riches and pleasures of this world which distract us and eventually choke out our fruitfulness as disciples.
As I was studying, I couldn’t help but connect that Scriptural warning to what I am seeing in our youth ministry. I don’t want our students to be choked out because of the cares, riches, and pleasures of this world. I want them to become disciples who make disciples who make disciples. I want them to be committed to the community of believers. I want them to be lifelong learners of Jesus. I don’t want them to give up, because a better opportunity comes along. There are no better opportunities or more worthwhile pursuits than being a disciple of Jesus who makes others disciples of Jesus!
February 16, 2017 – Jesus & John the Baptist
Last night, we studied three of Luke’s stories about Jesus and John the Baptist. In the first story, John is in prison and is wondering if it is all worth it. He has been preaching that Jesus is the Messiah (the Savior, the Expected One, the Son of Man), but he sends some of his boys to go ask Jesus if he really is the Messiah. We talked about doubts that we have about God, Jesus, Christianity, and more. Jesus did two things to help John get past his doubts.
- He performed miracles on the spot. The lame walked. The blind saw. The sick were healed. The dead were raised. The Gospel was preached to the poor.
- He pointed John to the Old Testament to show him that these signs were in line with Scripture. Jesus was the Messiah!
So, how do we deal with doubt in our lives? I think we should do it the same way.
- Look at all that God has done. This includes in Creation but also in changed lives (ours and others!)
- Give Scripture a chance. Don’t just give up on God because of something bad that has happened in your life. Study and press in to seek the answers to your doubts.
In the second story, Jesus clearly shows the crowds that Jesus is the Messiah and John was the forerunner to the Messiah. He preaches to them repentance and belief, which was the same message as John. However, there are two very distinct responses to the message. Some believe and the religious elite are spiritually numb.
I was reading R. Kent Hughes sermons on Luke and he talks about this spiritual numbness. It is a complete lack of feeling and energy to the things of God. It is mumbling through songs that are praising the majesty and wonder of God. It is falling asleep during sermons about the glory of the cross and the shocking truth that God would give up his own Son for us! It is saying repetitive prayers instead of praying prayers to the Creator of the Universe. It is showing up and always being there, but never really being there. Hughes lists 4 main causes to our spiritual numbness.
- Familiarity – We can become so accustomed and used to the things of God that we lose the sense of wonder. We lose our sense of awe. The divine becomes routine. The extraordinary becomes very ordinary. This is a long winding road, but it can lead to spiritual numbness.
- Shallowness – We can stay in the shallow end of grace and become completely numb to the depths of God’s anger against sin, His glory for loving us, and His saving power in the cross. When we don’t think deeply about sin and salvation, then we treat God like another social club. This is a quick road to spiritual numbness.
- Self-righteousness – We can hear a convicting message that was meant for us, but we always assume it is for someone else. We can legitimately believe that we don’t need Jesus anymore and that we can cut it on our own. This is a wide and easy road to spiritual numbness.
- Sin’s Grip – We can be so trapped in some addiction that we can’t even see clearly the God who has saved us. We can be enslaved, entrapped, and completely dead to our life in Christ when we are caught up in sin rather than God. This is a sure fire way to go completely numb.
These reasons really hit home last night! I think that many of us have been there. I know that I have at different points in my life. I don’t want to be like the religious leaders in the Scriptures that Jesus dealt with. I want to be alive!
In our discussion groups after the sermon, the students talked about what has caused spiritual numbness in their life. They also discussed what the opposite of spiritual numbness was. That is a thought-provoking exercise to consider. What is the opposite of spiritual numbness? I guess that my answer would be spiritual life or passion. Whatever it is, I want it! And I want our students to have it!