Kamis, 29 September 2016

Can Satan ‘Devour’ True Christians?

Can Satan ‘Devour’ True Christians?

Satan ‘Devour’ True Christians?
“The badge of the children of God is battle against sin and the devil, not perfection.”
Satan is a prowling lion, an enemy of ours, who is right now seeking to devour Christians. But can we be devoured? Yikes. Or are we safe? And what does that mean anyways? And how can we find shelter for such an unseen threat to our eternal safety? John Piper addressed this important question straightaway in his 1994 sermon on 1 Peter 5. Here’s what he said.
Here is a question.
Can Christians be devoured?
First Peter 5:8 says, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The word is “to swallow whole,” like the fish did to Jonah: It’s the same word in Jonah in the Septuagint. Your adversary the devil wants to just make you disappear, vanish. You are out of here. You are gone. You are going with him to the lake of fire. That is what “devour” means. Now the question is: Can that happen to me and you?
First Peter 5:9 says, “Resist him.” And the reason you are to resist him is because he is trying to devour you. He is trying to devour you. Resist him. Is that a charade? War games. They are blanks. They are all blanks. There are no bullets in the gun. Nobody gets killed in this game. It is just “resist him” because—just do it. Nothing is really going to happen if you don’t, because it doesn’t happen to Christians. Is that right? Well, I think the devouring is real, and it sure sounds serious to me when Peter says, resist him, resist him. It doesn’t sound like a game. It sounds like heaven and hell are at stake here to me.
So, I ask again. Can true, born again Christians possibly be devoured by the devil? And the answer is no, because true, born again Christians always fight. They fight back. That is what it means to be a true, born again Christian. True, born again Christians have the Holy Spirit within them, so that when they see the lion coming, they don’t say, “Ah, nothing is at stake here. I don’t need to fight. I don’t need to stir up my faith. I don’t need to read the Bible. I don’t need to pray. I don’t need to be with other believers. I don’t have to be vigilant over my eyes and make sure that flesh doesn’t get the upper hand—because nothing is at stake here.” True, born again believers do not talk like that. True, born again believers have the Holy Spirit inside and embrace the Word of God that he inspired. They hear the Word, “Resist him now. Fight, because your life depends on it. I will give you the success, but you fight.” And they fight. If you don’t fight, you are probably not born again.
At least, if you go on and on and on and on slipping away from the vigilance of faith and fighting sin and the devil, you have no reason to think you are saved. It doesn’t matter what you prayed long ago. It doesn’t matter what card you signed. It doesn’t matter in baptism. It doesn’t matter what your parents did. Salvation is real. It is real. It is real. It is a work of God in a human heart, and there are effects from it. And one of the effects is, when the lion comes, you fight.
There is a promise in this passage which is just staggering. It is in this passage. It is also way back in chapter 1. In 1 Peter 1:5, it says that Christians are “kept” (or, as the ESV says, “guarded”)—precious word: kept by the power of God “through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”—through faith, through resisting the devil, firm in your faith. If you say, “I am kept, I am kept by the power of God,” and you don’t resist him, firm in your faith, you are contradicting God.
God says, “I am going to keep you by my power through your faith against the devil.” And you say, “I’ll take that, but I won’t believe.” It is like I go into a king’s hall, this great king in some enchanted empire, and he takes the ring off his finger and he puts the ring on my finger and he says, “Sir John, as long as you wear this ring, you will be invincible.” I say, “I will be invincible?” “You will be invincible.” “I will write that down. I will be invincible.” And I walk out. I take the ring off and I sell it, pocket the money and say, “I am invincible. He said. I got it written it here. You will be invincible.”
There is something wrong with that. There is something wrong with hearing God say, “You are kept by my power through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed,” and then say, “I am kept by his power. And if Satan comes, I don’t need to fight by faith, because I am safe.” That is like taking off your ring.
But God will not let the elect—born of God, called—take off their ring. The evidence that you are a child of God is that you keep the ring on. The badge of the children of God is battle. The badge of the children of God is battle against sin and the devil, not perfection. That badge, that crown, that comes later. But the fight, I will fight. I will not lay down my shield. I will not take off my ring. I will not rip off my badge. I am a believer. And he will keep me safe through the faith that he himself works in me.  

10 Warning Signs a Servant Leader Has Become the ‘King’ of His Kingdom

10 Warning Signs a Servant Leader Has Become the ‘King’ of His Kingdom

king leadership kingdom
“Here are some signs that a leader has become the “king.”
As Christian leaders, we are called to serve others even as we’re completely reliant on God. Too often, though, a leader who was once a servant wrongly transitions into being the king of his own kingdom. Here are some signs that a leader has become the “king”:
1. Even if he invites discussion from church leaders, he does not change his mind. The “discussion” is in name only, as his decisions are already made.
2. He sees everyone else as expendable. If he’s worried about church members leaving, you’d never know it. In fact, he can usually hyper-spiritualize the reasons that others leave.
3. He is seldom, if ever, wrong. Kings somehow convince themselves that nobody can do things as well as they can. Everybody else still has something to learn.
4. Staff members tend to stay for only a short time. Kings are good at recruiting strong staff members, but not so good at keeping the best of them. Kings want dependents more than co-laborers.
5. He seldom allows others to preach. The pulpit becomes his platform, and he rarely gives up that position, even for a single Sunday. He’s most unwilling to share that space with gifted speakers he might perceive as more gifted than he.
6. He treats others as “subjects.” That is, people become a means to an end: tools to help him build his kingdom more than brothers and sisters in Christ.
7. He demands unquestioned loyalty. Even the slightest sign of disagreement is considered rebellion.
8. He expands his kingdom broadly, but not deeply. After all, deeply-developed kingdoms require serious discipleship—and genuine disciples would recognize the problem with a king’s leadership style.
9. Often, those who know him best question his spirituality. That’s not a surprise, though. Kings depend on themselves, not God.
10. He does not consider leadership succession. He might talk about retirement at some point, but it’s often just talk. Kings don’t give up their position easily.
Lest we judge the “king” leader too seriously, though, all of us are susceptible to moving in this unhealthy direction. Pride is always a temptation for Christian leaders.  
Chuck Lawless

Chuck Lawless

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on Twitter @Clawlessjr and on at facebook.com/CLawless.

It Might Sound Innocent, but Don’t Let Your Kids Say This Phrase

It Might Sound Innocent, but Don’t Let Your Kids Say This Phrase

It sounds innocent enough, but this is secretly an insidious phrase.
There is a phrase in our vocabulary that nobody has to teach us to say. It’s a phrase kids learn very quickly in childhood. And it’s a phrase you should ban in your household:
“That’s not fair.”
It sounds innocent enough. Everybody wants life to be fair, right?
But this is an insidious phrase, revealing a sin so bankrupt it goes back to the very beginning, back to the Fall of Man. It’s essentially what Eve was told by the serpent. “You’re getting a raw deal. You’re entitled to more. God is holding out on you.”
If you read Paul’s account of the Fall in Romans, you’ll discover that it was this attitude—ingratitude and entitlement—that lit the match of sin, plunging Creation into darkness. And it’s a surefire way to test your own heart, to see where the idols are.
Maybe it seems a bit melodramatic to bring all of this up to my four children, ages 2, 4, 5, and 9. But I fear that if I allow them to embed entitlement in their little hearts right now, their first reaction to someone else getting an extra dessert, a gift from a friend, a new pair of shoes, is “That’s not fair.”
And so we don’t allow this in our home. And when it comes up, my kids know they are in for some form of punishment, which usually involves a long-winded soliloquy from Dad that goes something like this:

First, you are right in saying that life isn’t fair.

Because it’s not fair that little children go to bed hungry this very night, having eaten nothing but a handful of rice and here you’ve just had seconds on french fries. It’s not fair that some boys and girls grow up without a mother and father, orphaned by a war they didn’t start. It’s not fair that some children won’t even see many birthdays, succumbing to diseases we treat with immunizations and routine trips to the doctor.
So if there is a complaining about being fair, it’s you and me and all of us in prosperous, free America on the other side of “Not fair.” So in the line of people complaining about a bad lot in life, we are several zip codes away from the front.
Most of the world is pointing to us and saying, “Life isn’t fair” and they have a much better case.

Second, you really don’t want life to be fair.

We all have a scale of what is just—but the problem is that we are human and not God. He actually holds the scale and the Bible says to us that it’s weighed down heavily in favor of His mercy.
Listen to the words of the prophet, Jeremiah, “It is of his mercies we are not consumed” (Lamentations 3:22).
In other words, because of our sin against Him, it is overwhelming mercy that we are not immediate targets of His judgement. Instead, we are beneficiaries of His grace. We really don’t want God to be fair, but to be just.
What’s unfair is Jesus’ assuming our wrath and guilt on the cross on our behalf so we could be restored to a right relationship with God.
And on a more personal, pragmatic, earthly level, we should ask ourselves: Do we really want God to even out the score? For us in wealthy, rich America, that might mean taking some things away from us and giving them to the less fortunate. Or someone more appreciative.

Third, a heart of ingratitude and entitlement is evident of a deeper problem with God.

This is what worries me most about entitlement. It is saying to God: I do not trust you to be my Father, to take care of my needs, to love me and care for me.
Worse, it elevates self to a god-like position. Ingratitude says: I know better what is good for me. I’m a better god than God.
When we say, “That’s not fair,” we are saying to God, you haven’t distributed things as evenly as I would. Even though I’m a sinful human, I know much more about what is just and right than you. That’s a dangerous position to be in, because we know from Scripture that God is the perfect Heavenly Father, and to trust ourselves to our own care, our own lordship, only spells disaster (Proverbs 14:12; Matthew 7:9-11).
You don’t want to go through life as your own lord, your own god, your own master. You only have to look around at the misery and despair in the world to see that’s not a path worth pursuing.
After this, I then give them three things to consider about their ingratitude:

First, the cure for ingratitude and entitlement is the gospel.

We don’t simply want our kids to “buck up,” but we want them to be sanctified by the Spirit of God.
You see, the gospel cures our entitlement syndrome by reminding us that Jesus is enough. It reverses the curse of the Garden. It answers Satan’s lie about God by pointing to a bloody cross and a suffering Savior.
It says: God did provide all you need. God is your Father. Anything else you think you need is a cheap, worthless, soul-crushing substitute.

Second, the gospel nurtures in us a healthy sense of justice.

You see, there are imbalances in the world, but rather than looking inward at what we think we lack, God’s love teaches us to look outward at the injustice in the world. As members of Christ’s kingdom, we now become part of His plan to heal and restore.
We stop looking at our own lives and saying, “It’s not fair,” and we start looking at others, who are suffering under the weight of the Fall and we devote our lives to getting involved in alleviating injustice around us. When give up our own entitlement for the sake of others, we become a small window into the Kingdom to come, where Christ will fully restore all things.

Third, resisting ingratitude early on helps us avoid unnecessary disappointment and sorrow later in life.

This is not to dismiss genuine, real suffering and pain endured by so many people. However, there is much in the way of trial and hardship that is brought on simply by unrealistic expectations of what God is supposed to give us in this life.
The entitlement mentality is never happy, always looking for what is mine. This is a fruitless, miserable pursuit.
But a gospel-centered gratitude that recognizes God as Father and giver of good gifts helps us enjoy the blessings we already have, to revel in the grace we possess rather than wishing for things we think we are owed. In a sense, it’s the reverse prosperity gospel.
In summary: Don’t let your kids say the phrase, “It’s not fair” about their own situation. It’s the phrase that pays in misery and alienation from God.

The Friends You Need Are Worth the Wait

The Friends You Need Are Worth the Wait

The Friends You Need Are Worth the Wait
Here are five gleanings from my season of waiting for friendship.
It all started when my husband and I sensed God’s call to move away from where we were living, to a new city and a new church. The excitement, expectation and allure of something new overshadowed the fear of the unknown. We eagerly looked forward to what God had in store for us as a family. When there were moments of doubt, we would rehearse Mark 10:29–30 to each other:
“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”
These words from Jesus helped to remind us of the promises of God to those who were faithful to his call.

What About Friends?

Then one day, in the midst of the excitement of selling our home, packing boxes and looking for a new home, it hit me: I can’t pack my girlfriends into a box and move them with me. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have second thoughts at this point. These were women who watched my children, women who would sit at the park with me for hours as our children ran and played together, women who drank coffee and played Scrabble with me. These women were my friends! Did the promises found in Mark 10 apply to friends too? After all, I am a woman and I long for friendship. Did God care about the longing in my heart for close female companionship?
I can honestly say that yes, God did and does care about my need for female companionship, but those friends didn’t come along right away. There was a long, lonely season after we moved. My husband traveled frequently, women at our new church were busy and I questioned whether I would ever have dear friends again. I remember asking God if there might be even one woman who would want to have a cup of coffee together once in a while. The answer seemed to be, “Not yet.”
Oh the waiting was so hard—and yet, so worth it.

When the Call Came

It did feel like I waited forever. Thankfully, I had a dear friend from our previous home that, in spite of the distance, checked in with me. She was a lifeline, an ever present reminder that my friends did not have to be in the same place. To this day, we are still friends, upholding one another in prayer, rejoicing and weeping together, even drinking an occasional cup of coffee together plus getting that game of Scrabble played. That helped, but certainly didn’t feel like a long-term answer to my prayers.
Then one day the call came. “Would you like to be a part of our birthday group? We don’t get together often, but we do celebrate birthdays and were just wondering if you would like to join us?”
Would I like to join them? I remember holding the phone and feeling the tears drip down my cheek. Who knew that this would be the beginning of a group of women that, to this day, I drink coffee with twice a month? Such a sweet providence of God!
In all of this, what have I learned about friendship? How has God encouraged me? Here are five gleanings from my season of waiting for friendship that I’ve found apply in less dramatic circumstances as well.

1. Take a Risk

Many times I haven’t wanted to walk into that coffee shop, but as I walked out afterward, I was so thankful that I did. God brings new people into our lives at just the right time. It may be a lifelong friend with whom you discover new depths, or it may just be a one-time coffee date. Either way, God chooses to put women in our lives to enrich us, both to challenge and encourage us. Without taking that risk, we may miss some sweet fellowship.

2. Forget Age Limits

Multigenerational friends are a great gift. I am thankful for all of the women in my life, whether they are my age or not. I need the insights shared with me from the younger generation as well as those more seasoned women in life.

3. Think Outside the Box

We all are prone to developing set ideas about where we will find our friends. My challenge to you is this: Keep your eyes and heart open. The library. School. Church. Homeschool co-ops. How about the grocery store or the neighborhood park? These are just a few examples of places where God has been gracious in my life to bring me dear friends. Where might he do the same for you?

4. Be a Friend

Someone once said to me, “Having friends is such hard work!” That might be true, but it is so worth it. Of course, the age-old counsel is that in order to have a friend, you need to be a friend. Often we need to take the initiative to be friend-like to someone else before they are friend-like toward us; someone has to go first. And besides, the joy that comes from being a friend to someone is priceless.

5. Trust God

Trusting that God has a good and perfect plan for you in friendship is the bottom line. He has created us in such a way that we long for fellowship, so will we trust that he will provide that female companionship that we desire? I believe he will—even though it may not come when we want it or how we want it.
That friend you long for may be praying for you right now, asking that God would bring a new friend into her life. Don’t despair. Trust that God will do a work in your life by supplying just the right person, or people, in his perfect timing.  
Liz Holst

Liz Holst

Liz Holst lives in the Twin Cities with her husband, Dan, and their youngest, Anders. They have three other children (Anika, Erik, and Mari) and a grandchild on the way. Dan serves as a campus pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

When You Need to Beat Satan's Greatest Weapon

When You Need to Beat Satan's Greatest Weapon

  • Carrie Dedrick
    What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
  • 2016 Jul 22
  • Comments 4

Early in our Christian walks, we learn that Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We’ve found joy in our relationship with Christ, but the Enemy wants to steal that away. He does this in many ways, so we often don’t see our downfall coming.
But Desiring God co-founder Jon Bloom writes that Satan has a favorite weapon to attack believers: Unbelief.
Bloom says, “If Satan can weaken our faith, he can immobilize us. If he can destroy our faith, he can destroy us.” 
How does Satan steal our faith? He tempts us, discourages us, makes us doubt God’s goodness, distracts us, and divides us. These things cause little cracks in our armor of God (Ephesians 6:11). When we wear weakened armor, Satan finds a way in.
Bloom writes that unbelief is a Christian’s Kryptonite. 
“Superman can’t fight Kryptonite on his own. He needs someone to help him escape its power. When it comes to unbelief, so do I. And that helper is the Holy Spirit.” 
When you notice your armor starting to crack, you must call the Holy Spirit to your aid. You can do this in the following ways:
1. Focus on the Lord.
Bloom encourages Christians struggling with unbelief to think of Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:28-31). He only managed this feat when he focused on Jesus. When he doubted, he sank immediately.
If needed, find an accountability partner to help you keep your focus on God.
2. Address your unbelief.
Narrow down what is keeping you from a relationship with God and promise to remove those things from your life. Remember, it may be temptation, discouragement, doubt, distraction, or division. ALL of those things are forms of unbelief.
3. Continue “steadfastly in prayer” (Colossians 4:2).
Bloom tells us that the promises you made in step 2 should be turned into prayers. Allow God to answer your prayers in His way and timing.
“God will answer. But since he usually is doing more in us and through us than we are aware of, we must trust him,” Bloom says.
4. Remember your weaknesses show Christ’s strength.
Scripture tells us that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). God can overcome our unbelief, even when we give in to sin.
Bloom writes, “When you feel yourself wilting, take heart. Through the promises of Jesus, the Spirit of Jesus will help you overcome your enemy’s most lethal weapon (John 16:33).”
In the Crosswalk.com blog “Praying on the Armor of God,” contributing writer Debbie McDaniel says, “God has a plan for our lives. The enemy has a plan for us too.  We just have to decide which voice we’re going to listen to, and who we're going to choose to follow each day.  And chances are, if we don't make a determined choice to follow God, we may eventually fall into the evil one’s trap.”
McDaniel urges Christians to consciously pray to wear the armor of God (Ephesians 6:8-10) daily, for protection against Satan. Her powerful prayer can be read in its entirety here. The following is a portion of her prayer:
“Today we put on the full armor to guard our lives against attack. We put on the belt of truth to protect against lies and deception. We put on the breastplate of righteousness to protect our hearts from the temptations we battle. We put the gospel of peace on our feet, so we’re ready to take your light wherever you send us this day. We choose to walk in the peace and freedom of your Spirit and not be overcome with fear and anxious thoughts. We take up your shield of faith that will extinguish all the darts and threats hurled our way by the enemy. We believe in your power to protect us and choose to trust in you. We put on the helmet of salvation, which covers our minds and thoughts, reminding us we are children of the day, forgiven, set free, saved by the grace of Christ Jesus. We take up the sword of the Spirit, your very Word, the one offensive weapon given to us for battle, which has the power to demolish strongholds, alive, active, and sharper than any double-edged sword.”

Carrie Dedrick is an editor of Crosswalk.com. When she is not writing or editing, she can usually be found teaching dance classes, running marathons, or reading with at least one adopted dog on her lap.

Free Creative Package: “Best Summer Yet”

Free Creative Package: “Best Summer Yet”

CP - Summer
Download these creative elements to support a sermon series getting your students ready for summer.

Free Creative Package

Download these creative elements to support a sermon series getting your students ready for summer.
This creative package includes:
  • 16:9 graphics
  • Social graphics
  • 1/3/5 minute countdowns
  • Illustrator file
  • Logo animation

Get Download Now

Resource provided by RiseUp Resources

Download Instructions: 
Follow the on-screen directions at the download site.
Daniel So

Daniel So

Daniel is the General Editor of ChurchPlants.com and Resource Editor of ChurchLeaders.com. Daniel and his wife, along with an incredible team, helped plant Anchor City Church in San Diego—a third culture, multi-generational church who seeks to join the redemptive mission of God for our city and for the world. Daniel also serves on the advisory board of Justice Ventures International, a non-profit organization working to fight human trafficking and modern-day slavery around the world.

3 Things That Influence How Teens Use Social Media

3 Things That Influence How Teens Use Social Media

Influence How Teens Use Social Media
And what parents and adults can do to help.
Social media continues to hold the attention of today’s youth and provide unique challenges for parents and as well as youth leaders. In this article, taken from a YS Idea Lab Video, I’d like to outline some of the key things that influence how tweens and teens use social media and a few practical tips that you can share with parents. First I’ll go into three things that influence how kids use social media today, then I’ll follow up with three things that parents can do to help.

Three Things That Influence How Teens Use Social Media Today

1. We live in a world with no technological boundaries.

In my generation, we grew up with some really firm boundaries on our technology. Phones had cords that plugged into walls. The internet was only available through dial-up. Big box televisions were the only way to watch TV shows. Those literal boundaries around our technology helped us come to understand who we were outside of it. Today, there are zero boundaries to our technology. This constant, 24/7 access to technology leaves a huge impact on our kids, inviting things like social media to become an important part of their personal, mental and sociological development.

2. Social media becomes a window through which we see and experience the world around us.

This means that apps like Instagram aren’t merely used to post pictures. Instagram becomes a window through which we answer important questions like: Who am I? Where do I fit in? Does my life matter?
We aren’t just consuming answers to those questions through the images we see on Instagram, we’re actually creating our responses. We create images to tell stories of our daily life and then compare it to what everyone else is creating. This is a significant thing for kids who are just starting to figure out who they are and where/if they fit in.

3. The fallacy that everything online is temporary.

Darrel Girardier shared a great post that touched on this. Apps like Snapchat tap into this idea that content on the Internet can be easily deleted. But we know from experience (Snapchap leaks 100,000 photos) that it’s not always the case. Once we post something, we have very little control over what happens to it.

Three Things That Parents Can Do to Help:

1. Recognize that the issue isn’t the technology, but how that technology is used.

Most of the technology available to our kids today, and specifically things like social media, aren’t necessarily evil. It’s all in how the technology is used. When we give our kids a smart phone, we’re giving them technology that comes with a ton of responsibility. We can’t protect our kids from all the bad ways that this technology can be used, but we can help them live into the incredible amount of responsibility that they’ve been given. To borrow from Walt Mueller, it’s all a part of helping students think critically and Christianly about what they post before they post it.

2. Create boundaries around technology.

Sit down as a family to create blackout times and locations in your house where every screen is turned off, and the phones and tablets are put away. Have family game nights, or dinner times when you intentionally connect with one another. Buy an old-fashioned alarm clock to have in your room so that you don’t need your phone at night.

3. Be the example.

Ideally, parents would be modeling healthy uses of technology for their kids. So set boundaries that your entire family can agree on. That way, as a parent, you can be the first one to step away from your phone or tablet. By being the example, you can show what a healthy relationship with technology looks like.

To learn more about the National Youth Workers Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, November 17-20, visit the YS National Convention site here.

[Editor’s Note: While some children are allowed to have social media accounts, many of the social networks have set age restrictions. We’ve written about how to keep your kids safe on a smartphone and included an infographic that lists each social network’s age requirement.]  
This article originally appeared here.
Jacob Eckeberger

Jacob Eckeberger

Jacob Eckeberger is the Content and Community Manager at Youth Specialties, an itinerant worship leader, the spouse of a church planter, and a long time volunteer youth worker. You can find him blogging about social media and digital strategy ideas at JACOBECKEBERGER.COM.

Are Today’s Teens Taking Fewer Risks?

Are Today’s Teens Taking Fewer Risks?

Today's Teens Taking Fewer Risks
The latest numbers might surprise you.
Are kids having more sex than years prior?
Are kids smoking more or less pot?
What about texting and driving?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) just released their brand-new Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a study released every other year asking teenagers about risky behaviors such as smoking, drinking, fighting at school, sexual activity…and even if they wear a seatbelt. The report breaks the numbers down by state, race or grade, as well as providing national averages.
Here’s a few highlights:
• 41 percent of high school students have had sexual intercourse (58 percent of seniors).
• 30 percent of high school students are currently sexually active (46 percent of seniors)
• 39 percent of high school students have ever used marijuana (50 percent of seniors)
• 22 percent of high school students are current users of marijuana (28 percent of seniors)
• 42 percent of high school students have texted while driving a car in the last 30 days (61 percent of seniors)
The report breaks down this data by state. So, curious as I was about the four states that allow recreational marijuana use, I immediately turned to the specific page (page 104) where it listed the states, and of the 37 states that provided specific states results…Washington and Oregon didn’t even participate, and Colorado didn’t provide specific numbers. Alaska was the only one of the four “blazing up” states included in the study.
So back to my opening questions…are kids doing more or less risky behaviors?
Texting while driving? The percentage hasn’t changed even one point in the last five years.
Marijuana use? Down 2 percent (statistically insignificant) since the previous report, and waaaaaaay better than the late ’90s when it was up 8 percent compared to now (again, but no Washington, Oregon or Colorado numbers). Most other studies show marijuana use remaining steady, despite the softening of perceived risks. The National Institute on Drug Abuse shows the numbers to be a little lower (e.g. they show 21 percent of seniors using marijuana in the last 30 days compared to the CDC who shows 28 percent).
Sexual activity? The numbers of high school kids who ever had sex (41 percent) is the lowest ever reported, down 5 percent from the previous report, and down 13 percent since 1991. The 5 percent drop is great (even though the survey is supposed to be accurate plus or minus 5 percent…it’s a significant drop). As for the drop prior to that…there’s more to that story. I researched that in detail four years ago when this report was released. (Is there a chance today’s parents are finally engaging in more than just one talk?)
So are young people actually having less sex? Well…define young people. Millennials (20- to 34-year-olds) are actually 10 percent more likely to “hook up” than past generations (see my break down of those numbers in this post).
I encourage you to take a quick peek at this CDC YRBS report sometime this week. I always like to browse through it, looking at marijuana use, tobacco use and sexual activity. The numbers are fascinating and provide a pretty accurate picture of how common some of these risky behaviors are.
The CDC also provides a handy tool called YOUTH ONLINE which allows you to pull up custom reports on any of this data from 1991 to 2015. In other words, you can choose to look at how many kids currently use marijuana (that means they have used it in the last 30 days) from 1991 to now, by grade, by state (except the three states you want to see), or nationally.
Take a peek and tell me your thoughts.
Do any of these numbers surprise you?  
This article originally appeared here.
Jonathan McKee is the president of The Source for Youth Ministry,is the author of twenty books including the brand new 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; More Than Just the Talk; Sex Matters; The Guy’s Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of 20 books including the brand new 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid, More Than Just the Talk, Sex Matters, Connect, the 10-Minute Talks series, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenagers and The Guy's Guide to God, Girls, and the Phone in Your Pocket. Jonathan speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources on TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori and his three kids live in Northern California. JonathanMcKeeWrites.com / Twitter.com/InJonathansHead (see links at bottom of post)

New Blow to China’s Underground Church: Government Threatens to Bar Minors From College

New Blow to China’s Underground Church: Government Threatens to Bar Minors From College

This legislation will likely cause greater hesitation among Chinese Christians sharing their faith with minors.
Education is a big deal in China. Almost unanimously, parents in China believe their child’s only chance of success lies in education. Which is why a recent government notice in China’s central Guizhou province is causing quite the moral dilemma for Christian parents.
China Aid reports that a local government office gave parents attending a house church (another name for the underground, non-government sanctioned gathering of Christians) an ultimatum on June 23. The article states, “If children do not stop attending church, they will be barred from attending college or entering the military. Additionally, violators of the new regulation will be sued.”
The resistance to proselytizing minors by the Chinese government is nothing new. Official Chinese legislation prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from receiving religious education. This is such a staunchly held belief that even the Christians in China are hesitant to evangelize among minors. They are even more hesitant to do anything to disrupt a child’s education path. So the threat of the government denying education is a new low in this unfolding story.
It is unclear, according to China Aid, whether this legislation was ordered by the Beijing-based central government or was simply a power play by the local officials of Guizhou province. Mou, the leader of the Huaqiu Church in Guizhou province, asked a government official to see the regulations from the central government. The official did not produce any written orders, but instead responded, “The higher level leadership ordered us to do this; we are just doing [as they say].”
China Aid reports the church in Huaqiu was also prevented from holding its services June 28 and July 5.
The Chinese church is no stranger to persecution and strong-arming by local officials. However, this new threat is a low blow to parents trying to lead their children to the Lord while also ensuring a stable future for them through education. Furthermore, it will likely cause greater hesitation among Chinese Christians sharing their faith with minors.
Megan Briggs

Megan Briggs

Megan Briggs is a content editor and passionate follower of Christ. Two things – she believes – that should be linked together more often. Her experience in ministry to youth and parents as well as the extensive amount of time she’s spent in ministry overseas gives her a unique perspective on the global church. Megan is passionate about spreading the gospel and equipping the church for holiness. When she’s not writing or proofreading, Megan likes to run.

Muslims Converting to Christianity at Rapid Rate, Despite Continued Persecution

Muslims Converting to Christianity at Rapid Rate, Despite Continued Persecution

Young female glancing away
Amidst the backdrop of terrorist attacks and intense persecution, the church in Bangladesh is seeing an increase of Muslims converting to Christianity.
Near the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus upends His listeners with the kind of people who are blessed, the kind of people who make up the radical Kingdom of God. And as He closes those opening verses, He tells his listeners that something will come for them. That there will be those who will hate the message they’ve been tasked to preach. And He calls them blessed.
Jesus says:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12
As we fast forward a little more than 2,000 years and survey the world, we see that our brothers and sisters who are in the Middle East, Asia and Africa are becoming the most rapidly persecuted people group in the world because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
One place where persecution is especially intense is in the southeast Asian country of Bangladesh. As a primarily Muslim country, persecution has been on the rise against Christians over the last few years. Yet, in the face of this persecution, in the desperate times of separation from families, the church is seeing unparalleled growth. While conversion is considered apostasy in Islam, more than 90,000 Muslims have come to know Jesus in the last six years in Bangladesh. The population of Bangladesh is around 165 million and it is estimated that there are now more than 1.6 million Christians in the country.
However, since November 2015, pastors in Bangladesh have seen an increase in death threats and persecution from ISIS. Earlier this month, the world watched in horror as more than 30 men and women were taken hostage by ISIS soldiers in a Dhaka restaurant. Twenty of the hostages were killed, reportedly sorted by nationality. Repeatedly, hostages were told by their captors that they would not kill nationals, only foreigners. In the end, the police totaled nine Italians, seven Japanese, two Bangladeshis, one American and one Indian killed. Two police officers were also killed.
Against this violent backdrop, the number of Christian converts rises, and with it, persecution. Many Christians are forced to practice their faith and meet underground for fear of reprisals. And now with ISIS expanding its reign of terror beyond the Middle East once again, Christians face unparalleled attacks.
But their faith does not waver.
Pastor Faruk al-Ahmed, who converted from Islam to Christianity in the mid-’90s, told the British news outlet Express that when he started his ministry, there was only one traditional Christian family in his community of Kurigram. “Now almost 1,500 believers from Muslim backgrounds are glorifying God in this area. Persecution will come more but the believers and I are ready to face it.”
As persecution of the Christian church continues to grow around the world, we must continue to intercede for our brothers and sisters. Especially those who are new to the faith and are almost immediately seeing their faith tested by intense persecution and tribulation. We must look for ways to support them and encourage them as they are on the very front line of preaching the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth.
May we pray for them what Paul reminded Timothy of in 2 Timothy 2:
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 2 Timothy 2:8-10
Carrie Kintz

Carrie Kintz

Carrie Kintz is a freelance writer and communication strategist. She works with ministries and individuals across the country, helping them figure out what to say and how to say it in the digital space. Carrie has also spoken at conferences such as the Best of Social Media Summit and That Church Conference. When she's not writing (or tweeting), she enjoys hiking, time with friends and a good cup of coffee

Small Groups and the Underground Church

Small Groups and the Underground Church

Small Groups and the Underground Church
“I was startled when I heard the Lord speak to me through His still, small voice. ‘Are you willing to be involved in the underground church?'”
During the 1970s I was involved in a youth ministry to the unchurched. One afternoon in 1978, I took a break from youth ministry duties in order to spend some extra time in prayer. I was startled when I heard the Lord speak to me through His still, small voice. “Are you willing to be involved in the underground church?” He asked. The words that I heard in my spirit were distinct, even piercing! Yet, at first I was baffled by what He was trying to tell me.
My mind raced immediately to the Berlin Wall, and the barbed wire fences that then surrounded the borders of many communist nations. I thought of the persecuted church meeting underground in nations that opposed the gospel. It still didn’t make sense, yet I knew I had to respond: I had heard the call of God. “Yes, Lord,” I replied as tears formed in my eyes. “I am willing.” I chose to obey, even though I didn’t understand what it all meant.
Soon after the Lord spoke to me about the underground church, I asked some of my Christian friends if they would be willing to meet with me each week for the purpose of enhancing our own spiritual growth. Two men responded. We began meeting every week for prayer, Bible study, encouragement and mutual accountability. Soon our living room was filled to capacity as this “cell group” grew and expanded. Eventually we multiplied into two groups as more people got saved and needed to be nurtured and taught the Word of God.
New Wineskins for the New Wine
Although we tried to get them involved, the new believers simply didn’t fit very well in the established churches in our community. It seemed clear that there was a need for new church structures enough to relate to converts from a variety of backgrounds. That’s why Jesus said we need to put new wine in new wineskins. “Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:16-17).
So began our church’s adventure into cell groups. We discovered cell groups to be a place where people have the opportunity to experience and demonstrate a Christianity built on relationships, not simply on meetings. In the cell groups, people could more readily share their lives with each other and reach out with the healing love of Jesus to a broken world.
Cell Groups Are “Underground”
In time, I began to understand what the Lord had in mind when He asked me if I was willing to be involved in the underground church. An underground church can be compared to a tree: Its trunk, branches and leaves are only half of the picture. The unnoticed half, the underground root system, nourishes the whole tree and keeps it healthy.
The underground church, I began to realize, was to consist of believers gathered together through a structure of small cell groups meeting in homes to pray, evangelize and build relationships with one another. In this way, each believer is made an active and vital part of the body of Christ.
When every believer is nourished and healthy, the whole church is strong. As water and nutrients feed the tree by climbing up through the root system, so the church is nourished and strengthened by what happens in the “underground” (unseen) realm of church life—believers involved in home cell groups. These cell group relationships are not to be mere appendages of the church; in actuality, they are the church. Meeting together in homes and experiencing relationships in cell group life was just as important as meeting together each week in a larger gathering to worship and receive teaching from the Word of God.
When Jesus cursed the fig tree, nothing seemed to happen immediately; however, the following day the tree withered and died. Probably the roots underground had dried up and died instantly, but it took until the next day for the leaves to wither and die due to the lack of water that came up through the root system. The enemy seeks to destroy the church in the same way—from underground. But when the part of the church that is underground is strong, then the whole church will be strong and continue to grow.
Jesus ministered to the multitudes, but He spent most of His time with 12 men, His disciples. Cell groups give everyone an opportunity to get involved, a place where each person can begin using his or her spiritual gifts. The cell group is the place where he can receive training, instruction and encouragement as he reaches out to his friends and neighbors with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The Lord commands us to follow His example. Whatever He has taught us, we are to teach to others. This can be quite effective through small group ministry. In practical Christianity it works the same way. The most effective way for me to teach a young husband how to love and honor his wife is for me to model loving and honoring my wife. The best way for you to teach another Christian how to have a clear financial budget is for you to show him how you set up a budget. If you believe the Lord has called you to teach a new Christian to pray, pray with him! We teach others by modeling biblical truths with our own lives. And it happens most effectively in a small group.
Paul, the apostle, took young Timothy with him as a disciple (Acts 16). Later, Timothy was sent out to do the same: take the truths that he learned from Paul and impart them to others (II Timothy 2:2). Moses had Joshua as his disciple for 40 years, preparing Joshua for leadership. Elijah found Elisha and became his mentor. The list goes on and on. The Lord is restoring the truth of balanced, loving discipleship to His church today. He has called us to make disciples in a small group setting.
Christianity is not just sitting in a pew each Sunday morning, looking at the back of someone’s head. Christianity is knowing Jesus intimately, reaching out to the lost and making disciples. This must be the motivation of our hearts in order to fulfill effectively the Lord’s purposes for us as believers in Jesus Christ. And our homes are ideal tools for fulfilling the purposes of God.  
This post was adapted from an original article by Larry Kreider titled “The Underground Church,” found on Dove International’s website.

Larry Kreider

Larry Kreider

Larry Kreider serves as International Director of DOVE International, a network of churches scattered throughout the world. DOVE has successfully used the New Testament “house to house” strategy of building the church with small groups for more than three decades. Larry travels extensively to train Christian leaders worldwide.

Worship Leader, Stop Trying to Be Cool

Worship Leader, Stop Trying to Be Cool

Worship Leader, Stop Trying to Be Cool
You don’t need to be the next big thing to serve God well.
I wonder … if Jesus were to evaluate our worship, would cool be a value?
If the Son of God stepped into our Sunday morning services, would impressed be a word He’d use?
It’s time for the worship leaders to arise who care deeply about people and care deeply about the presence of God. A kind of worship leader who knows the people he serves and knows the God he worships.
If you enjoy fashion, that is no problem. But that’s not your strength as a worship leader.
If you have a trendy voice, that is a great gift. But it’s not your strength as a worship leader.
If you are a skilled songwriter, that is wonderful. But it’s not your strength as a worship leader.
If you have a ton of on-stage energy, that will serve you well. But it’s not your strength as a worship leader.
What sets you apart? What makes you a great leader? It’s your ongoing hunger for God’s presence and a deep compassion for people. Period.
I don’t care if you’re 65 and wear baggy pants. You have a place if you have an ongoing hunger for God and a compassion for people.
I don’t care if you’re young and inexperienced. Hunger for God. Compassion for people.
Cool isn’t a value. At times, our drive for relevance has simply left us with a Christian alternative to what the world gives. Let’s pursue transcendence. Let’s recapture the mystery of Heaven on earth.
To be honest, the problem is when we think we’re something. When we carry a pride that leaves us impressed with ourselves and more concerned about what people think of us than the ministry we are doing.
Banning Liebscher, pastor of Jesus Culture, said it well in a recent podcast: Some of us are more passionate about pursuing a dream than we are about Jesus. We are more driven by our reputation than the praise of God.
Instead, let’s be:
– Real
– Biblical
– Compassionate
– Committed
– Worshipers
– Nameless
– Brokenhearted
– Simple
– Christ-centered
– Holy
– Outward
– Teachable
– In pursuit
– Flexible
– Humble
– Passionate
That might not make you known, but it will serve to make the beauty of Christ more visible.

Who Are You Pleasing?

It comes down to who you’re aiming to please. Listen to what Paul says in Galatians:
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
Paul goes so far to say that if his aim was to please people, he literally couldn’t be a servant of Christ. Crazy, huh?
Let me ask you—who are you aiming to please?
Worship leader, do you want to entertain people for a service or lead them to the Fountain that will never run dry? Do you want to raise up worshipers who are dependent on your charisma and talent or a people who can worship in the midst of their storms?
Do you want to be known or to make the Eternal, Glorious God known to as many people as possible?
Are you fostering a local church of fans or true worshipers?
I know these are big questions. This is intense. But the conversation is worth it.
What do you think? Are we trying too hard to be cool rather than biblical? What is your experience?  
David Santistevan

David Santistevan

David is a Worship Pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, PA.